Friday, December 31, 2010

Crown Me the Queen of the Oblivious

If there was a National Society for the Oblivious, I'd be their poster child.
From the vantage point of my 30+ years on this earth, I can now look back and see those moments when I was totally oblivious to the situation at hand, yet somehow lived to tell about it.
(And yes - I know I'm WAY older than 30. But I'm oblivious to my true age, so saying "50+ years" is not within my capabilities. Got it? Good. We shall never speak of this again.)
I remember visiting my great-grandparents in Hazeldell, Illinois, when I was in grade school. We rode the train - my sister, my mom and my Aunt Lois - and I got to wear my Sunday shoes for the trip. Other than that, I only remember one thing: that the Mayor of Hazeldell let us sit on his horse.
Truth be told, Hazeldell was about the size of Mayberry so the Mayor probably wasn't named Bloomberg. He was probably more like my great-grandparents: loving, hardworking, no nonsense Christian folk who'd rather visit with you on your front porch than gush over your new car.
But heck, I was seven and I was impressed that THE MAYOR let us ride his horse. When I got back, I told that story to anyone in my third grade class who would listen.
Then a few years ago, my mother pointed out that what I got to ride was a MARE that belonged to a neighbor who was the town Constable. Hazeldell, it seems, was too small to have a MAYOR.
Um. . . . duh.
When I was 1o or so, my grandmother had a few apartments that she rented to school teachers. My dad and I were in my her backyard one day when the art teacher who lived above the garage headed to his car with a painting under his arm. He unwrapped it and showed it to my dad and me, telling us that it was the first painting he'd ever sold. I was awestruck. It was the most beautiful painting I'd had ever seen: a creamy, golden sunset filtering through a forest. My dad clapped him on the back and congratulated him. He was less than effusive when I exclaimed "Wow! Is that a paint-by-number??!"
Um. . . duh.
The ensuing years have not bestowed upon me any greater sense of savvy. I'm still as gullible and oblivious as ever.
A few years back, a friend bought one of those new zippy Porsches. A sporty little thing it was, with a push button starter. I wondered how he kept it from being stolen, what with it not needing a key or anything. He explained that the car was SOOOOOO tech savvy that it actually had facial recognition and wouldn't start unless he was behind the wheel.
Wow, I exclaimed. It's a good thing you don't grow a beard in the winter.
Two weeks later, I recounted this story to my dad who gently explained that facial recognition had nothing to do with it - the push button starter only worked if you had the key with you.
Um. . . . duh.
A few years ago, I worked downtown. Every morning, I passed a neatly dressed man panhandling in front of my office building. I appreciated that while his clothes were old and not in the best shape, he always took care to be clean and polite. I could picture him as a tragic icon, an ethical man pushed to unimaginable limits to care for his modest family during his unfortunate unemployment. More than once, I ate peanut butter sandwiches because I'd given him my week's worth of lunch money. But by golly, I was happy to help. In the spring, he'd hand out daffodils as thanks for my modest donation.
Then one day, my boss cautioned me against giving any money to panhandlers - especially that young guy who hung out in front of our building.
Why? I asked. What's wrong with him?
Oh, nothing, she replied. But if you watch him at 9AM, he drives away in a new Lexus and those flowers he hands out are from the city flowerbeds at the back of the building.
Um. . . duh.
My penchant for being oblivious sometimes has immediate and quite public effects. Last week, I was in another building at work and used the ladies room. Now as far as I can tell, I don't think about anything particular while in the ladies room, but I must have had something on my mind this day because I never noticed that the toilets in this ladies room were equipped with automatic flushers.
When the toilet flushed, I about jumped over the stall door. I think I also screamed, because a few coworkers I hadn't yet met came in to see if I was okay.
Didn't you see the flushers mounted on the back of the toilet?, they asked.
Um. . . duh.
Many people make grandiose New Year's resolutions. They want to stop eating so much, or make more money, or learn French.
Not me.
In 2011, I just don't want to take any wooden nickels.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


I fingered the blue wool coat with its velcro straps and eyed Sammy. Bare-tummied Sammy, who is built for long walks in summer heat, not leisurely strolls in winter snow.
Sammy hates his coat. He sees me pondering it and hides under my chair in the living room. I check the temperature gauge tacked to the window. 35 degrees. I peer out at the back yard where all the bushes and trees hold their arms to the still-dark sky. No wind.
"OK, Sammy," I finally concede. "No coat." I pluck his harness off the hook by the back door and sit on the desk chair just in time for him to barrel into my lap.
Ultra-furry Charlie, long strapped into his harness, starts running in tight little circles of anticipation by the back door. I zip my coat, pick up my gloves and check the desk clock glowing in the darkness.
5:15AM. We'll be out the first outside today, before anyone in the neighborhood is up. My favorite time to walk.
I open the back door and two noses push open the storm door. I follow the dogs down the three steps but they wheel back and snuffle at something on the top step. As I reach back to quietly close the door, I notice the yard and driveway are a seamless blanket of white snow, perfect and smooth. Except for tiny footprints that tattoo their way from the back of the house, down the driveway and up our back steps.
I look closer. They look like cat prints, and it seems the cat spent some time on our top step while DaBoys were blissfully pawing their way through doggie dreams last night.
Satisfied that the intruder is gone, DaBoys pull me down the driveway and into our morning walk. Our first visit is to the young maple across the street, where grass stubbles its way up past the thin half inch of snow. From there, we turn west down the sidewalk, out of street light range. I'm the first to blemish this snow, but DaBoys find a scent in the grass and pick up the pace as they sniff and snort along its trail like little detectives.
Further along, the Wilson's uncut straw flowers and ornamental kale make a tapestry of their snow blanket. Two perfect tire tracks stripe the snow from garage to the street, evidence of Cathy's early shift in the ER.
Already, the sky's inkiness has burnished to navy against pinpoints of stars. DaBoys stop to water a fire hydrant.
I listen.
Miles off, a train lumbers away. The last echo of it's whistle barely threads the early morning air. I take a deep breath. Not enough snow to scent the air but enough to clean away the musky smell of fall that lingered yesterday.
Both dogs move on past lawns neat as graves beneath the thin snow. We turn down Parkview, a half-moon shaped street tucked away nearby. Big old trees, manicured flower beds and friendly people make this one of DaBoys favorite destinations for daytime walks. But I like Parkview best just like this. I thief my way through this neighborhood unwatched, while it is still quietly put away for the night.
It's peacefulness is what I'll steal to begin my day.
Almost right away, though, we find evidence of visitors before us. A rabbit has looped it's way from Merrick's hydrangea bed to the woods. The prints it left behind - dots for the front feet and dashes for the back feet - look for all the world like Morse code.
Further on, the Harrold's new cat has made it's way home from it's nightly explorations. It's eyes catch a glow from the yard light as it waits by the front door, puffed and patient as a hunter.
We make our way around the first bend. Houses rise up on our left with their generous lawns spread out before them. At their back are yards that slip down long, wooded hills to the quiet expanse of a city park.
A little gust of wind cartwheels a lonely maple leaf and it stitches its way across the snow in front of us.
In the Simon's driveway I spy a string of pawprints, probably from the family of raccoons they feed in the winter. Along the hedge that rings the Henry's yard are the perfect staccato prints from the deer who wonder up from the park to feast on leftover plantings. DaBoys are unimpressed by how perfectly each hoof print was left in the snow.
Craftier animals have explored the lawns overnight, leaving the snow on the sidewalks undisturbed. The dogs follow each scent through the grass, their noses scooping along the snow as we make our way around the second bend and back toward our street like ghosts.
At the corner, I turn to look back. We have been messy interlopers; there is evidence of us everywhere. My footprints waggle down the sidewalks, crossed by smaller prints from the dogs. Deeper drifts along flower beds are left churned up by snuffling noses. There's a patch by the Thompson's old walnut tree where the grass has been brushed clean. Evidence of our stop there lies securely tied in the poo bag I'm carrying.
We turn toward home, Sammy finally giving in to shivers. I think of his warm doggie coat back home on the table and wonder if he'll ever let me put it on him.
The sky has blued a bit, already bruised by the morning. Soon, it will have the daytime look it carries for everyone to see. Then, lights will go on, streets will be filled and lives will be lived.
But perched here on the tipping point between night and day, the world's stillness is fresh and special like a gift.
We turn down our driveway to join the outbound prints we left in the snow a mere 20 minutes ago. We follow them to our backdoor, up the steps and into our warm house. I hang up leashes, wipe off icy feet and hand out treats. The smell of the coffee I left brewing is too much to bear and I make my way through the dark house to the kitchen. Cradling the steaming cup in my hand, I tiptoe to the living room and open the draperies. Upstairs, Ken is still sleeping. I sit in my chair by the window, holding my cup high until DaBoys settle on my lap.
All the world is still.
The furnace hums on, and then back off.
I listen to the creaks in the bones of this hundred year old house.
Already, both dogs have fallen asleep. I listen to their breathing and sip my coffee.
Outside, the street lights wink out one by one by one.
Up above, the stars are bowing out of the waning night sky.
They leave behind the first blush of a fresh morning, unashamed and hopeful.
It is good.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Small Gestures

My friend, Eileen, lost her best friend and the love of her life this weekend to cancer. Pat was a big guy who loved his Harleys, laughed long and loud and was a total "guy" when it came to powering through whatever ailed him.
Except he couldn't power through this.
I know people who are living relatively normal lives while being treated for cancer, thanks to progress made in the the fight against this awful disease. But Pat had adenocarcinoma, cancer of the sheaths that cover the nerves in the body. It is a cruel and ravenous bastard. In the space of five short weeks, adenocarcinoma brought down this big tough guy, but not before making him suffer horribly.
Thankfully, Pat's suffering is finally over. He's in the arms of the Lord, and things like tumors and morphine and hallucinations are long gone.
But how do you go about easing someone's pain when they've lost their husband?
You say prayers. Thanks to you amazing friends I have online, people who don't even know Pat have been praying for him. We've all been saying them, and I know they work.
Last night, I baked cupcakes and made pasta salad just to keep busy. DaGoils and I will pile into our cars and go visit Eileen this afternoon and I'll take my cupcakes and pasta salad. We'll hug and cry and talk and hug some more. Such small gestures that will be repeated often in the coming months because we know Eileen's suffering won't be over for a long time.
She is no cream puff, either. This is a lady who walked the first twenty miles of the Breast Cancer 3Day Walk with a migraine. If you've ever had a migraine, you can appreciate the resolve and strength of this woman.
Please remember Eileen in your prayers now. The next weeks and months mean adjusting to the worst loss of her life without the one person who could make it all better.
And I know Eileen. She'd sign up for a migraine every day for the rest of her life if she could just have Pat back beside her.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Charlie Video and AllRecipes

I'm having a totally indulgent Saturday.
Not a mani/pedi/massage kind of induglent Saturday; just a work around the house kind of Saturday. The indulgent part is that I can watch Law & Order reruns until my eyebrows start to look like Sam Watterston's and even stop for a quick nap if I feel like it.
Now THAT's indulgent.
Ever notice that the more you dread a task, the bigger and gnarlier it gets every time you think about it?? That's what cleaning the kitchen looked like to me this morning so I tricked myself into being motivated: I took the overripe bananas off the kitchen counter and whipped up some banana bread. Once I had both loaves in the oven, I told myself I would use that 35 minutes to clean the kitchen. 35 minutes and not one minute more.
I've never moved so fast in my whole life, but I got it done! And I have yummy banana bread as a reward.
Cooking dinner sometimes seems like a big, gnarly task to me, too. Oh, I can cook but I have a tendency to migrate toward the same foods, the same meals, the same recipes over and over again especially when I'm pressed for time. But I get out of my rut by hopping over to AllRecipes, a nifty little website I've been using for years.
Anyone can submit a recipe for this site, so some are better than others. I've found some spectacular recipes here (Shredded Brussel Sprouts for one. . . oooh - and Lavender Tea Bread) along with some just okay ones (Apple Pudding) but I've never, ever found one I thought was awful.
But here's what makes AllRecipes a cook's best friend:
AllRecipes has a recipe for whatever you have on hand.
Think about it. It's Thursday night. You've had a crappy week, your head hurts, everyone is cranky and hungry and looking to YOU to put a Giada-worthy dinner on the table in oh, say five minutes.
AND it's the day before you do grocery shopping so all you have in the house is a can of mushroom soup, some macaroni and a couple wrinkly tomatoes.
No problem.
Go to AllRecipes and click on "Ingredients" at the top of the screen. Type in mushroom soup, macaroni and tomatoes under "Ingredients I Want" and click GO.
Tonight you're going to wow your family with Fanny's Italian Casserole.
It's as easy as that.
But wait - it gets even better.
What if you HATE mushroom soup? (Hand up here.) Or what if you're allergic to peanuts or shellfish?
No worries.
There's also a place to list the ingredients you don't want to use.
AND. . .with the click of a button you can adjust the ingredients for the number of people you're serving, save it to your very own Recipe Box, get nutritional information and even have AllRecipes make out your shopping list.
If you have an iPhone, there's even an AllRecipes app, but then that doesn't surprise anyone, does it?
While I've been typing this and waiting on my banana bread to cool, I ground up some Dunkin Donuts coffee beans and brewed my first cup of the day. Mmmmmm. . . my sparkling kitchen smells heavenly so I'm off to have breakfast.
What's that you say. . . ?!?
Banana bread is great for breakfast! It's bread and bananas. Also, bananas are fruit and everyone knows fruit is good for breakfast.
But first, here's the Charlie video. A little background: Charlie is the snuggliest, squishiest little bundle you'd ever want on your lap. But as much as he loves to be picked up, he's never quite figured out what he should do when you reach for him. Usually he just ends up just rolling over on his back and goes limp, which means picking him up is a little like picking up a furry octopus.
Awhile ago, I discovered that I could make him roll onto his back just by talking him. If you have a low tolerance for baby talking, you might want to turn down your volume.
I know we should both be embarrassed.
But we're not.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Scraplexicon insatialis

"Bones, you gotta have something by now, c'mon !"
"Booth, I'm a forensic anthropologist, not a fortune teller. I won't just make up whatever you want to hear."
"But c'mon, Bones. Give me something - anything!"
'Well, we know that death was caused by trauma and was probably instantaneous. Booth, will you help Zack lift this shelf unit so I can examine the victim."
"Great. Now I'm a squint assistant. Bones, I'm FBI. We don't lift shelf units."
"Fine. I'll just see if that reporter over there would lend a hand."
"Alright, alright. Just be sure to lift your end, Zack."
"That's good. . . set it down there. Hmmm. . . victim is a white female, I'd say early 50's. . . less than average height. . ."
"Ew, Bones. . . that's just weird."
"What's weird, Booth?"
"She's smiling, Bones! Don't you think it's weird that someone would die with a smile on their face unless they were. . . you know. . . "
"Actually, many ancient cultures posed their dead with facial expressions they believed would be helpful when they entered their next life. The victim obviously was enjoying something when she died, indicating that the shelf unit landed on her unexpectedly. Zach, I don't know what this"Michael's" store is - find out what they sell here and see if the store manager has anything to say about this shelf unit."
"Bones, what's that in her hand?"
"I don't know. Let me see. . . hmm. . . she's clutching it very tightly. . . maybe it's something she tore off the killer. Wait. . . it looks like a piece of paper. Let me just unfold her fingers. . . .got it. It's . . . a receipt from this store. No - it's a coupon . . . '40% off a single item.'
"Doesn't seem worth killing for, Bones."
"Agreed. However, it is common in some parts of our culture to seek out - even revere - bargains. Perhaps our victim practiced bargain hunting and that somehow led to her death."
"Dr. Brennan, the store manager says this is a craft store and the victim was last seen trying to retrieve something from the top shelf."
"Thank you , Zach."
"Well, Bones - that explains it. The victim was too short to reach the top shelf."
"That explains nothing, Booth. Our modern society has many talented, productive and brilliant short people, millions of whom do not end up beneath overturned shelves. No. . . we're overlooking something."
"What about her fingers, Bones. . .what's that colored stuff on them?"
"It appears to be. . . ink of some sort. Apparently the victim worked with inks of many colors - I count four-no, five-colors staining the nail beds of the fingers of her right hand, indicating a repeated usage over a long period of time. Dr. Saroyan, do you find the same evidence on the left hand?"
"Not at all. The fingertips on this hand appear to be calloused. . .with healed cuts on the palm and thumb, almost like old paper cuts. Judging from the way the victim is dressed, I would say she preferred comfortable clothing. . . wait. There appears to be something. . . sparkly. . . stuck to her shirt. Let me get my forceps. . . there it is. . . what do you make of that?"
"Dr. Saroyan, the store manager said this aisle was where they sold something called "bling" which he described as sparkly things."
"Yes, Zach - that would make sense. Our victim enters the store in search of this bling and even brings with her a sample she needs to match."
"Cam, that doesn't tell us why she died. Look, the FBI needs answers on this one."
"Calm down, Booth. Dr. Brennan and I will get you answers. Just give us room to work."
"Zach, will you get an evidence bag for the bling Dr. Saroyan is holding and see if Angela can work with the store manager to recreate the merchandise components located on this shelf unit. Thank you."
"Dr. Brennan, I see something else quite puzzling on our victim."
"What is that, Dr. Saroyan?"
"It appears to be. . . bites. . . of some sort. . . here on her neck. Do you see them below her ear on that side of her neck?"
"Yes, I do. . . there are several in a grouping. . . and more on her shoulder. Booth, please call Dr. Hodgins over here."
"Geez, Bones. First I'm a squint assistant and now I'm an escort. Hey Hodgins! Get over here!"
"Your raised voice indicates that you are intimidated by Dr. Hodgins, Booth. Perhaps you are in need of a session with Dr. Sweets."
"No, Bones, I don't need a shrink. I need to know how this woman was killed in a craft store!"
"Dr. Hodgins, please examine these markings on the victim's neck and shoulder area. They appear to be insect bites of some kind, do you concur?"
"I do. . . and, wait a minute. . . aha! These aren't just any insect bites!"
"They are not? Are they from a rare insect?"
"Well, I wouldn't call it rare exactly. As a matter of fact, it's popularity is growing exponentially. The World Health Organization placed this little baby on it's watch list."
"And does this insect have a name?"
"Oh, it's not an insect. It's a true bug called scraplexicon insatialis. A member of the infectioso family. Once this baby finds you, you're a real goner. It's not uncommon for victims to be bitten over and over for months - even years- on end. Victims can go for days without sleeping, living on very little food although they do crave Mike's Hard Lemonade. "
"Mike's Hard Lemonade?"
"Yesssss. . . and that's not all. They need a constant supply of paper, sometimes stockpiling huge amounts of stash. Once that sets in, it's only a matter of time before embellishments, glitter, ribbon, all manner of craft items join their cravings."
"But Dr. Saroyan found a 'bling' on our victim. What does that tell you?"
"Bling? Really? Can I see it?. . . thanks, Zach. . . ohhhh, this is amazing! Once onset reaches the stage where you're hooked on bling, you may as well pack it in. There's nothing you won't do to get that next fix. See how sparkly it is? That's what draws them in and makes them really crazy. Poor lady. She didn't have a chance."
"So, wait a minute. You're saying that a tiny piece of sparkly stuff killed our victim? What kind of squint speak is that??!"
"No, Booth. This bling didn't kill our victim. That shelf did."
"But I don't get it. Bones, will you translate, please."
"This all makes sense, Booth. Hodgin's description of the bug is consistent with what we know of the kinds of people that frequent these stores. They come here seeking a fix, and there's nothing they wouldn't do to satisfy their cravings. Obviously, our victim was attempting to retrieve some of this bling and in doing so accidentally pulled this shelf unit over on top of herself, unwittingly causing her death."
"Great. The FBI just wasted an entire afternoon and there's not even a murder!"
"I disagree, Agent Booth. This woman was not an accident victim - she was a victim of something relentless and uncontrollable. She couldn't help herself.The scraplexicon insatialis bug which bit her caused. . . Dr. Hodgins, does this disease have a name?"
"Yes, it does, Dr. Brennan. I believe it's called 'scrapbooking'."
"Great! The FBI just wasted an entire afternoon and there's not even a murderer I can arrest!"
"No, Booth, there's not. But there is something this victim has that we don't get to see very often in our line of work."
"What's that, Bones?"
"This victim died with a big smile on her face."

Lori Keener

Monday, August 9, 2010

Happydancehappydancehappydance. . . .

When I'm old and grey, I'll spend my days remembering all the terrific things in my life and where I was when they happened to me.
For instance, I was sitting on the floor in Ken's apartment polishing my oh-so-cool sandals with the oh-so-high cork platforms when he proposed to me. It's fortunate that I was not actually wearing platforms at the time cuz in my excitement, I most assuredly would have fallen off of them and broken something.
And when I got the phone call that The Nicest Boss in the World asked me to come work for him, I was walking out of Target. (In case the nice lady in the cherry 1965 Mustang reads Scrapinator, I'm sorry I scared you.)
This weekend, I was blessed with yet another terrific bit of news. And while I'll never forget that moment, I don't care if I ever remember where I was when it happened.
Because this weekend I was asked (oh my gosh) to become a member of (I'm jumping up and down now) THE STAFF AT SCRAPBOOK NEWS AND REVIEW!!
What's that?
You want to know where I was when I found out??
Cleaning gooky hairballs out of my bathtub drain. (Ladies, make a note: when you're husband goes bald, you can no longer blame clogged drains on him.)
If you've read Scrapbook News & Review magazine, you know that it's chocked full of the most incredible projects and articles. I have every issue I ever bought, and they're all fringed with post it notes marking fun stuff I've returned to again and again.
If you're not familiar with SNR online, though, you should be. It's a Mayberry-on-steroids kind of website full of the nicest folks, amazing articles, crazy cool creations and some of the most talented scrappers anywhere.
If LeBron James' talent was scrapbooking instead of basketball, he would be SNR.
OK. Speaking as a Clevelander, maybe that wasn't the best analogy but you get my drift. And since SNR won't ever turn it's back on you and leave town like some people we know (cough, cough), you can peruse it's pages - both IRL and on the web - at your leisure.
And you should, because SNR is just that good.
While you're there, if you see a short woman wearing platform shoes wondering around looking lost, that'll be me, the New Girl, trying to find where I'm supposed to be.
Maybe you could just direct me to Lost and Found, pretty please with sugar on top.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

When Things go "Fwinnnnnnggg!"

Spring-y things and I are not getting along these days.

Incident #1:
After carefully using a hand-held claw-like garden tool to break up the soil around my rose bushes, I started toward the garage. As I walked past my car, I noticed a huge-o spider hanging out on the sidewall of my back tire, just grinning at me and flexing its knees like it was getting ready to jump. Without thinking, I tried to whap it with the claw thingy but when the claw thingy hit the hard rubber tire
it shot out of my hand and landed about five feet behind me in - what else? - the rose bush. Five band aids later, I decided to just call Ken next time for spider eradication.

Incident #2:
I retreated to the lunch room by myself last week to spend some quality time uploading more MSW Houston trip photos to our page on Photobucket. As if my life isn't complicated enough, I had taken photos using (a) my camera, (b) my Blackberry, none of which turned out, so I also decided to use (c) my trusty LG Envy which takes FABULOUS pictures. Thanks to the miracles of modern technology, I have toenails bigger than the itsy bitsy memory card in my Envy that holds about a gazillion pictures. I popped open the tiny little door on the side of my Envy to take out the memory card and pop it into my laptop when
the darn thing flew across the table and disappeared between the booth and the wall. I panicked and called Facilities. A very nice guy, Darryl, came over later that afternoon, dismantled the booth and brought me my tiny little memory card at my desk. After thanking him profusely, I went to put it back into my phone but my thumbnail must have slipped because the next thing I know
it's gone again. Fortunately, it just landed in my paper clip dish but I won't be taking it out anytime soon.

Incident #3:
I'd walked DaBoys, fed them and set my hair on hot rollers using those four-inch long, U-shaped metal pins that fit over the roller. Then I showered, checked in online, watered the flowers, made my lunch, read a couple emails on my Blackberry, put on my makeup, got dressed and was standing back at the bathroom counter taking out hot rollers before flying out the door to hit Dunkin Donuts for coffee before getting on the freeway when
one of the pins shot off a hot roller and landed in the toilet. Which Ken had just used and was standing next to, cleaning out my hairbrush.
Fortunately, the toilet had only been "gently used," if you catch my drift but still. . . . .
It is not easy to retrieve a hot roller pin from a toilet bowl using a shishkebob skewer while wearing rubber gloves with a hole in them and holding a wastebasket. Especially when you're laughing so hard your sides hurt.
Fortunately for me, I am of the pinball generation and as such have superior hand/eye coordination.

So, class, what lessons have we learned?
1. Continue to avoid spiders whenever possible.
2. Avoid spring-y things whenever possible.
3. Teach Ken his new mantra: Flush. Close lid. Flush. Close lid. Flush. Close lid. Flush. Close lid. . . .

Lori Keener
The Scrapinator

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Netflix Syndrome

Netflix is cosmically shaping my life.
If this is actually true, I'd better hie on over to my Netflix queue and pick better movies, like ones about getting in shape or discovering gold buried in the backyard.
Lately those cheery little red envelopes can sit for weeks on top of our DVD player and we give them nary a thought. Unlike unread library books, if you request movies from Netflix and ignore them, there's no penalty.
Mom doesn't yell.
There's no board where your tardiness is posted.
Men in trench coats don't knock on your door.
People don't steal accusing glances at you in the church parking lot.
For the procrastination-prone among us, Netflix is the ultimate enabler.
Lately, I haven't been running for the laptop every time I hear of a new movie going to DVD so we are now officially Scraping the Bottom of the Netflix Queue.
Which is how I ended up watching "The Butterfly Effect" and "Final Destination" last week when I started feeling guilty about those unopened little red envelopes.
As I type this, I am on hold with the Dish Network. Or - as I've been calling them for the last 24 hours - @!#$%^&*)_( Dish Network. I am on hold with the @!#$%^&*)_( Dish Network because ever since I popped those two movies out of the DVD player and tried to watch regular television, the feed has been pixelated and it looks like my TV screen has broken into little pieces. Even more annoying is the burps and chirps and clicks in the sound feed, like some African bushman found his way into my house and is yelling at me.
I think I know why this is happening.
It's the Netflix.
All those weird, fateful happenings in "The Butterfly Effect" and "Final Destination" have taken over my TV. It's that simple. And if the human at Dish Network ever comes back on the line, that's what I'm going to tell her.
But if this is my last post on Scrapinator, you'll know that the last Netflix movies I watched took over not only my TV but also my life.
Frankly, I'm a little worried that the next time someone farts in Thailand, I may just disappear from the face of the earth.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Finding My Tribe

Never again will I roll my eyes when I see commercials for those online dating services. I have a new found hopefulness for those friends searching for Mr. (or Ms.) Right on sites like and because last week at this time, I was spending up one of the best weekends of my life with 13 women I'd only ever corresponded with online at My Sketch World.
Truthfully, I had as much trepidation as excitement about meeting everyone. What if they were annoying? Worse yet, what if they found ME annoying? Either one could make for one long and unpleasant weekend.
It's very much like what someone told me about having money - that it doesn't change you as much as it allows you to be more of who you really are deep down. I haven't had the opportunity to test that theory for myself IRL, but I was thrilled, delighted and a tad bit relieved to discover that these 13 women were the same IRL as they are on the boards at MSW, only more so.
What was even more evident was the sweetness, thoughtfulness, talent and hilarity that has always made MSW a great place to hang out.
After our rather loud and joyful meeting in the airport (you've seen the video), Lucy, Nicole and I eventually stopped jumping up and down and took seats to await our flight. A woman across from us asked us where we were going to be in while in Houston, possibly to make sure she went somewhere else. Stating the obvious, we shared that we'd only just met for the first time. Several fellow passengers chimed "We know!" while looking at us as though we were poop-laden infants destined for the airplane seat next to them.
And that pretty much set the tone for the entire weekend, as we proceeded to talk up a storm on the flight, pausing only to laugh until we snorted.
Somewhere on You Tube is another video - a very Blair Witch Project-ish video - taken when the three of us stepped out of the limo at the hotel to greet everyone else. Mostly you see blurry images of feet and shrubbery and mostly you hear ear-splitting screaming.
The ear-splitting screaming continued once we got inside, at which point we realized the hotel lobby was not designed for 14 women creating happy havoc. The hotel staff needed to be able to hear telephone conversations and check in other (unlucky) guests and conduct hotel business.
That's when we fled for our rooms, hoping our floor-mates weren't hoping for a break from their nervous disorders or anything.
Kristin (who is an actual Texas girl) and Kim (who is an actual artist at scrapbooking) and I took off in search of a liquor store so I could freeze up some rooster tails for paryting later. Unfortunately, Kristin's GPS took us to a liquor store that I think was actually somewhere in Arkansas and by the time we got back to the hotel, there was a huge Hummer limo parked out front, surrounded by - what else?- screaming women.
We made our limo driver take pictures with a gazillion cameras then piled inside for a trip to Papacitas, home of what turned out to be the best Mexican food I've ever tasted. You can imagine the stir we made pulling up in a Hummer limo. We also made something of a stir inside while waiting on our table. Kristin tackled the balloon lady for me, though, and I got a balloon hat.
Saturday we descended upon the Archivers Store in Katy, Texas. If you've never been to an Archivers before, I have a bit of advice: leave the credit cards at home and take only cash with you. Oh - and leave your children at home because this store has EVERYTHING that's scrappily delightful and you WILL be tempted to trade your cute kid for bling when your cash runs out.
(I'd never been to an Archivers before and found it to be like a roomier Scrap Happy - my favorite LSS ever located in my hometown of Tiffin, Ohio. If you're ever out that way, you really need to put this store on your itinerary. Scrap Happy's inventory is just as extensive as Archivers, which means my husband thinks it should be put in its own no fly zone.)
The next 12 hours were quite entertaining. Little did I know that I'd be sitting next to Sue the Encroacher. Online, she seemed so. . .so sweet. And she was sweet IRL, but pretty soon her stacks of stuff on my side of the table left me no alternative but to use painters tape to delineate her portion of the table. After that, let 's just say there was a suggestion that I was territorial and then retaping ensued. And somewhere there's video.
Neat-o Kim suggested that Kristin might want to clean up her space. Kristin decided she was fine - she'd just work on smaller and smaller projects as the day wore on proving once again that scrappers are quite adaptable.
Nataliah and Bev brought so much stuff with them I think Archivers was asking them for hard-to-find items before the night was out. But sitting next to Nataliah was great because not only did she bring her entire scraproom with her, she SHARED. (And never once encroached like some people we know.) (I'm just saying. . . )
We also found Sweater Girl. She was an Archiver regular working at the tables in the adjoining crop room. We dubbed her Sweater Girl because even though it was 1500 degrees outside AND raining, she had on a long-sleeved black sweater with a scarf wrapped around her neck. She kept coming over to our room to use the punches, which was fine but she was wearing yoga pants so low they showed her crack. I started throwing peanuts at her backside whenever she showed up. She never figured this out, though, because I am not known for having any LeBron James-like skills whatsoever. However, if you ever scrap with us, please remember that if I see your crack in public, I will try to toss something into it whether you're a plumber or not.
I think I'm the only scrapper out there who's never been to a crop before. You learn so much about people when you sit and scrap with them. We couldn't get over the adorable baby pictures Teresa turned into layouts. Kim was an even more amazing scrapper in person. Suzann - bless her heart - toted boxes of punches and her sewing machine and photo printer into Archivers for us to use. Ginni could make friends with anyone in the world, all while scrapping away. Lisa made pages as lovely as she was - and saved paper like no one I've ever met. Toni is as creative as she is huggable, and that's saying something. Bev is the undisputed Digistamp Queen and Packer of All Things Scrappy. Kristin is cute as a button, and only has to look at me and I start to giggle. She also never met a lawn sprinkler she didn't like. Sherri had the best Texas drawl ya'll'd ever want to hear which is why I kept asking her to tell me about her layouts. Nataliah's boys will have one amazing set of scrapbooks when they're older. Sue's kids are adorable, and her scrapping does them proud. I'm convinced Lucy could turn toilet paper and a gum wrapper into something amazing - the layout she made with her husband's black and white photo was stunning. Nicole knows every song ever turned into muzak, and can boogie down while putting together beautiful, creative pages.
And we got to meet one of MSW's newest members - Carla - who came to join us. She didn't say much at first (probably couldn't find a second where one of us wasn't already yapping) but eventually opened up. Later, she proved she was one of us when she gleefully zinged me good when I suffered a momentary bout of memory card confusion.
As you can imagine, the longer the day went on, the goofier we got. At one point, the entire room was laughing helplessly at Kristin who was helpless with laughter herself. . . . and no one knew why we were all laughing.
It was that kind of day.
Sunday we had another limo pick us up for our tour of Houston and NASA. Our driver this time was a man who never met a curb he didn't like. I don't think we passed a single curb that he didn't run over or park on top of. He also ignored Suzann's instructions about where to take us on our tour deciding for himself to do things like make wrong turns, ignore instructions and oh - run into curbs.
Finally, we asked to stop at a gas station so we could buy some drinks and snacks, during which time he sat waiting for us at a gas pump with the limo running. I think he was pouting because this Valero station had no curbs.
We were only on the road for another half hour after that before guess what? He stopped at another Valero TO BUY GAS.
We seriously thought about staging a mutiny at this point.
But he got us to NASA, which was an amazing place. I was so looking forward to pushing some buttons or flying something, but no dice. Maybe Sweater Girl has connections at NASA. I did get to touch a real moon rock, though. And through the miracle of modern photography, was able to touch the top of a rocket, too.
I call this picture My Moment of Statuesque-ness.
After NASA, we got to visit Suzann's house to see her husband, Bob.
Bob's had some pretty serious health issues this year, so we took him a picture of us so he'd know how much we love him. While there, of course, we got to see Suzann's scrap room which is really an Archivers' Mini Me. We also got to meet Bob's son, Dan, beautiful granddaughter, , and Patsy who is the angel who takes care of Bob (and Suzann).
We spent Sunday night much the same as we spent Saturday night: scrapping and drinking rooster tails. Oh - and laughing. At this point, you'd have thought we'd run out of things to say or stuff to laugh at but no - much to the chagrin of hotel management, we scrappers are a hardy bunch.
The Texas girls among us headed to their homes Sunday night amidst much hugging and lots of tears. That was pretty much the theme for Monday morning, too.
I had decided Sunday night/Monday morning to pack before I hopped into bed. I figured this would save me time because I wanted to be downstairs by 6:30 to say goodbye to Lucy and Nicole, who alas were returning home through Newark and not Cleveland. So I set my Blackberry alarm for 5:45AM. When it went off, I couldn't believe how tired I was. But I dragged myself into the shower, got around and repacked my bag.
That's when I flipped on the TV and discovered it was only 5:15AM.
My stupid Blackberry had not adjusted itself for the one hour time difference and I'd really gotten up at 4:45AM.
By this time, I was afraid to go back to sleep so I brewed six cups of extra strong coffee and set about uploading pictures until time to head downstairs.
Five of us were left to catch the last limo to the airport at 7AM.
Once we got there, Sue and Toni headed to another terminal.
This left just Lisa, Ginni and I. Once we checked our bags and got inside, though, I discovered that my flight was out of a different terminal so I had had to say goodbye to the last of my pals.
I thought about getting one last picture at this point, but there was something in my eye. We hugged like crazy and then I headed out to Timbuktu where my gate was.
Returning from a good vacation is always a let down. But going back home - no matter how much I wanted to see Ken and DaBoys and talk to the kids - was tough. Two years ago, I answered a design team call that led to making friends that feel like family. To get to meet some of them in real life was a privilege, and some of the best fun I've ever had.
After two years online with these ladies, they get me. Which may or may not say something about their character. . .
Back in Cleveland, I grabbed my bag and headed for the shuttle to my car. I decided I'd spend the rest of the afternoon showing DaBoys all my pictures until Ken got home from work.
And then Lisa posted her last picture from the trip. It was taken at the airport, and made me wish all over again that I'd been there when she took it.

Because if we'd all seen this guy together, you just know we'd have laughed until we needed Depends.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

So I'm Sitting in the Airport in Cleveland. . .

. . .waiting to board my flight for Houston to meet my MSW girls for the first time ever. I haven't slept in about a week from excitement, and am figuring I'll just nap on the plane so that I arrive refreshed and rested. Except someone tapped me on the shoulder and my plans went right out the window. I LOVE surprises and this will forever rank as one of the best moment of my life!
Sneaking Up on Lori

Thursday, July 22, 2010

T-1. . . . Blastoff!

There used to be a commercial for toilet bowl cleaner that showed a woman playing tennis, who'd stop mid-serve and exclaim "I'm cleaning my toilet bowl!"
Well, in a small town in northeastern Ohio, I sit blogging and can gleefully exclaim "I'm charging my camera battery!"
Of course, I could also say "I'm charging my laptop!" and "I'm washing my new underwear!" and "I'm letting my hair dry!" because I am actually in the middle of about 4000 things I've got to wrap up tonight in order to get on a plane tomorrow.
Because after months - nay, seemingly EONS - of waiting, tomorrow I finally get to meet 14 women who are as dear to me as my IRL BFF's despite the fact I've never laid eyes on 'em. We all came together online at My Sketch World a couple years back when Lucy Chesna started the site, and we've been scrapping and laughing and kvetching together ever since.
And tomorrow, 15 of us finally get to meet in person.
The only impression I have of what these ladies look like comes from their avatars on MSW. Most everyone uses a cute picture of themselves or their kids or their dogs. I use Calvin up there, mostly because I'm a Calvin and Hobbes freak, but also because I like the sentiment. Not that I expect to play naked in Houston, but who knows? Whatever happens in Houston will stay in Houston.
Frankly, I'll be fortunate to show up with everything I need for our day of scrapbooking at Archivers. Those of you who know me IRL probably have a difficult time picturing me without anything to say so I'm not sure I'm going to get much scrapping done anyway what with 14 new friends to chat with. I'm just packing stuff that I can move around on a page so it will look like I'm scrapping.
We're spending Sunday touring NASA which is going to be FASCINATING. I'm hoping they'll let us push buttons or fly something, but I'm not holding my breath.
However, none of this will happen unless I sign off and start making stuff fall into suitcases. I expect that Ken will be enjoying every bit of silence while I'm gone, knowing that I'll talk his ear off once I get back.
Houston - ready or not, here we come!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Better Angels

She looked like any one of a thousand cute, skinny girls with glasses, bangs and her hair in a ponytail. You know the type - sweet, maybe a hard luck case, just barely out of that gawky stage. Probably 19 or 20. She's the waitress that always smiles and never forgets how you like your eggs, or the nurse's aid you found reading to your mom or the babysitter you just can't do without. She's that girl, I could tell.
They were standing just outside the dressing room in JCPenney's. She had her back turned to an equally skinny guy a little older than her, and was holding up her hair with one hand while he worked the zipper on the back of the dress she was trying on.
He finally managed to get her zipped and she scooted back into the first dressing room. The guy (who was more of a kid, really) shoved his hands in his pockets and tried his best to look comfortable standing in the doorway to a ladies dressing room.
I smiled as I stepped past him and went into the next open stall to try on a sundress.
"Jessie?" I heard him say. "Can I see how you look?"
There was no reply for a minute and then I heard a small voice say "It's so beautiful." A door opened and Jessie must have stepped out in her dress because there was a lot of quiet conversation back and forth. I heard "princess" and "too expensive" and then the door closed again.
I knew the sundress I had wouldn't fit me but I loved the color. I squinted at my image in the mirror trying to make the dress work, and thought about some memorable people I've met in the past five months.
The kid at KMart trying to buy frozen chicken and cereal and bread with a mostly used gift card.
The homeless woman in the bakery having a cup of free coffee but no breakfast.
The tattooed man in front of me at Target, working a pile of gift cards to buy a Wii Fit for his mom who just came home from rehab.
The dad at the cheap movies trying to stretch a small popcorn and a bottle of Sprite between three little kids.
I took off the sundress and put it back on the hanger. It was a beautiful shade of coral. I got dressed, opened the door and headed out into the store. In a corner off to the left stood Jessie and her boyfriend next to a Levi's display for ladies capris. On the shelf was a pile of wadded up bills and some coins. Jessie was searching through her purse. The boy was going through his pockets.
"I've got $22.53," the boy was saying as he dropped another dime and two pennies on the shelf.
"I don't need this dress," she said. "It's too expensive."
"Yes, you do," the boy replied. "You're beautiful."
"It is," she said, eyeing the dress. You could tell from her voice that wearing it made her feel beautiful.
I opened my wallet and took out a $20 bill.
She had a dusting of freckles across her nose and a tiny scar in her eyebrow, and brown eyes that were huge. "Enjoy your dress, " I said and put the bill in her hand. As I moved away, she swallowed and looked at the money in her hand then at her boyfriend. He just stared at me with his mouth open.
"Ma'am, " Jessie called, holding out the twenty toward me. "I can't take this!"
"Yes, you can," I told her. "You looked gorgeous in that dress - enjoy it."
And then I walked out of the store, trying not to grin. Just as I had walked out of KMart, the bakery, Target and the movie theatre trying not to grin.
Don't write comments of praise. Please don't tell me what a good person I am. I owe a debt.
A few months back, someone I don't know did something incredible for me - something kind and generous and meaningful.
I can't pay this person back, even if mere money could equal what I've been given. I can't write a thank you note, even if new words were invented big enough to hold my gratitude.
But I can help the Jessie's of this world when I find them as a sort of honor to someone who was kind to me. I openly admit that there's a selfish element at work here, too, that can't be overlooked. My offering of help is so small compared to the blessing I received but you know what? It gives me that same can't-stop-grinning feeling I had when I first heard about this wonderful person's generous gift to me.
I wonder if they knew they were giving a gift that keeps on giving.
I was raised by a thoughtful and generous family who always found some way to help those less fortunate, even when they didn't have two nickels to rub together. That is how I learned the difference between having money and being wealthy.
Somewhere tonight, a girl named Jessie twirls before the mirror in a dress that makes her feel as beautiful as she really is.
And somewhere tonight is a kind and generous person who showed me once again that there are better angels in all of us.
Both have given me something priceless, and I am wealthy beyond measure.

Friday, July 16, 2010

I Badge You Not

My new job has quite a few elements that are new to me. For one thing, I've never worked at a company so large that I don't know everyone. Another new and delightful element is that I am officially working for The World's Nicest Boss. And this isn't just my assessment - every employee I've met tells me that. And they are correct.
The other thing I'm not used to is having to use a security badge.
When I got my badge, the first thing I noticed was that - compared to everyone else's photo where their heads come up to the top of the picture - I sort of look like I'm trying to peek over the top of something since there's quite a bit of background showing above my head. Other than that, my picture didn't look as goofy as I expected so I clipped it right to the collar of my jacket as soon as I got it and then walked around all day grinning like a fool, wearin' my badge.
I've got Geeky New Girl down pat.
And it turns out there are a ton of opportunities to use your badge when you're the New Girl especially if your penchant for getting lost is as keenly developed as mine is. So far, I've gotten lost between buildings, gotten lost in buildings, gotten lost on my floor, lost in my department and one day I lost the ladies room completely. Since one's badge is needed to get into buildings, onto some floors and into some ladies rooms, having one is pretty convenient.
There's nothing really special about the design of my badge - my name and photo are on a card attached to a clippy thing with a piece of fishing line that winds and unwinds so that you can lay the card against the reader thingy and unlock the door. If there was no fishing line, you'd have to smash your chest up against the wall every time you wanted a door to open, which would actually be pretty comical but also pretty embarrassing.
But mostly pretty comical.
Since my second day, I've refrained from clipping my badge onto the front of my actual person. Instead, I keep it on my desk and just grab it whenever I need it like all the other grown ups
who work here. If I go to the ladies room, I grab my badge. Head out to lunch - grab my badge. Go to the mailroom in the next building- grab my badge. Leave work for the day - grab my badge.
Except for last Thursday.
Somehow, I left my badge lay on my desk when I went home. This wouldn't really be a big deal, except I spent 22 minutes Friday morning cleaning out purses, vacuuming the car, sorting through the trash and checking every room in my house in search of my "lost" badge. Finally, I left for work without it, but phoned Ken several times with helpful ideas about new places he could look for my badge.
Once at work, I figured I'd just stop by Human Resources and tell them I needed a new badge and everything would be fine. It wasn't until I pulled into the parking lot that I remembered - helllloooooooo - I wouldn't be able to get into the building where HR is because I didn't have my badge.
I turned off the car, picked up my Blackberry and looked around. There! There was a guy getting out of his car to enter a building. Quick like a bunny, I hopped out of the car and ran toward him. I slowed to a walk as I got near and sure enough - he badged his way into the building and then held the door for me. This gentlemanly gesture did not bode well for company security as a whole, but it was wonderful for me.
I nodded my thanks and entered the building ahead of him, walking purposefully down the hallway like I knew where I was going. He took the first left which allowed me to slow down to get my bearings. I'd come to some sort of lobby with a very nice, very tall sculpture in it. I was so early that the receptionist wasn't at her desk yet. I remembered that HR was on the first floor, so I poked around for a doorway that would lead me to the HR department. I found a maintenance closet, a training room and coat closet but not HR.
No problem. I'll just find my department, go to my desk and call one of the nice HR people. As I headed back down the hall toward the door, I glanced out the window and across the parking lot at. . . MY building.
If I left THIS building to walk across the parking lot to THAT building, I'd have no way to get in. I looked around hopefully but no one else was nearby who looked as though they were hankering for a stroll.
It was then that I remembered the skywalk. Of course! I'd take the elevator up one floor and just walk across the skywalk to my building. As I left the elevator, I was momentarily distracted by a handsome man in an expensive blue suit who was coming out of the skywalk. His eyes were the exact same shade of dark blue as his suit. I made a mental note that the next time I got lost, I'd like it to be in his department. He said good morning and held the door for me. As I brushed past him, there was an intoxicating whiff of some exotic cologne. I smiled a thank you and then poof! - the door closed and Handsome Man was gone and I was alone in the skywalk.
Right away I noticed two things. It was warm. And it felt very much like a Habitrail with its glass ceiling and walls shot through with bronze beams. I strolled past huge potted plants toward the door at the far end, watching all the cars entering the parking lot between the buildings beneath me. Employees were parking their cars then gathering in little clumps, greeting each other and chatting before heading inside.
I reached the exit door and pulled, nearly breaking every nail off my right hand. The door wouldn't budge. That's when I noticed one of those badge reader thingies next to the door. I looked back down the skywalk to the door I'd come in, and sure enough there was a reader next to it, too. Apparently, this company saw the building of a skywalk as an opportunity to trap intruders and corporate espionage agents like sweaty hamsters with no hope of escape.
I was starting to get really warm. I looked through the walls down to the parking lot and considered banging on the glass till someone noticed. But a vision of Benjamin banging on the glass wall in the church during Elaine's wedding in "The Graduate" popped into my head so instead I whipped out my cell phone. First, I dialed Bev who sits next to me but she wasn't in yet. Then I tried Facilities but they weren't open either. Finally, I called the switchboard and got Mary Ellen, who'd just started taking calls for the day.
After she stopped laughing, she called someone nearby and before too long, another hunky guy opened the door and let me into the blessedly cool hallway.
"You good?" he asked with a grin.
"Fine, thank you," I replied and started off purposefully, wondering around until I found familiar territory and eventually my desk.
Later that morning, The Nicest Boss in the World asked if I was finding my way around okay. I decided not to share my morning's adventure, and assured him I was doing fine.
He picked up my badge and clipped it on my jacket. "Keep that on until you get settled in. Don't want you to get stuck in the skywalk like someone did this morning."
So exactly how do you say "Got it, boss" in hamster speak??

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Easy Peasy Gardening

While at Cedar Point back in the late '60's, my mom noticed a beautiful flowering plant in an impeccably manicured flowerbed next to that big blue slide they used to have. In about two seconds, she had pinched off a piece of that bush, wrapped the snippet in one of her endless supply of mom tissues and stowed it in her white purse. It stayed there for the next 12 hours while we rode, ate and ran our way through the hot Cedar Point sun.
The next morning, there was a bent and dried greenish brown stick in a juice glass on the kitchen windowsill. It looked lonely so my sister and I gave it other sticks to keep it company. Very funny, said mom, and a few days later took her Cedar Point stick outside to plant it. My sister and I made a little marker for it that said "Mom's Stick" so dad wouldn't think it was the kind of stick you run over with the mower. Today, that stick is a bush behind my folks house. We still don't know what kind of plant it is so we just call it the Cedar Point bush.
I don't trust the science of genetics, and here's why: I have a mother who takes dried brown stick things and turns them into beautiful thriving plants. I, on the other hand, can only take beautiful thriving plants and turn them into brown stick things. This is why God made hydrangeas.
You plug 'em in the ground, drizzle some water on 'em and voila! gorgeous bowers of blooms that won't quit all summer. Of course, my mom had hydrangeas, too. When she wasn't looking, we'd take the arm cover off the sofa to use as a veil, cut a cloud of white hydrangeas, kidnap Bobby Henry and make him play wedding with us.
People used to dye their hydrangeas blue and pink by watering them with diluted food coloring. Thanks to the wonders of horticulture, hydrangeas today come in the most beautiful range of whites, creams, pinks and blues. They last a really long time when you cut them which is why I have vases of them stowed in every room in the house. And they are gorgeous when they're dried.
My hydrangeas make me smile every time I look at them. Mostly because even I can't turn 'em into sticks.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Nursey Nursey Me

I've been called upon to be a nursemaid twice this week. Let me just share with you that the sick and ailing of this world have no idea how lucky they are I don't have to do this for a living.
First up was my sister who had some pretty extensive dental surgery last Tuesday and I volunteered to help out. Lin is a nurse so I figured all I'd have to do is maybe rinse out a washcloth or puree a sandwich or something. I am also skilled at hand patting. I didn't grasp the full extent of what she'd be recuperating from, and blithely figured we'd soon be swigging beer and cheating each other at canasta.
Drove her to surgery, picked up prescriptions and got her home afterwards just fine. Later, I went to check on her when she was changing the gauze packing only to find her gaping at the bathroom mirror, checking everything out as eagerly as though she was looking through a 99 cent sale bin at Michael's.
Suddenly, I felt unwell.
When she saw me holding the wastebasket, she nonchalantly tossed in the old gauze. It was about this time that I got hot and sweaty and everything in my vision started turning white. I sat down on the toilet, which Lin took to mean I wanted details. She seemed quite pleased with the state of things and talked on at some length. Thank heavens, I couldn't understand a word she was saying through all the gauze packing she was stuffing in. I put my head between my knees and started reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to myself. Eventually, color returned to the world and I stopped sweating. I was finally able to stagger down the hall behind her and collapse into one of her new leather recliners. Lin took this opportunity to stretch out in the other recliner for a little nap which was fine by me.
I won't go into the rest of the gory details, but all I've got to say is it's a good thing one of us was a tough cookie or I'd never have gotten through the next 24 hours.
Then Sammy (who I know isn't human, but I'm still his dog mom) started acting funny. Sammy is the first one at my feet if I head to the kitchen for any reason. He sits under the dinner table staring at Ken while we eat. Anything that moves in the house or on our walks becomes a toy. In short, the whole world is fascinating to Sammy, and he greets each day with amazing doggie enthusiasm.
But this week, Sammy spent most of each day curled up under my chair or on the floor of the little bath or in his crate. We could occasionally entice him into a game of bouncy ball, but there was none of his typical zoom-doggie mentality. He wasn't at my heels from morning till night, didn't react when I opened the treat jar and just wasn't his normal Sammy self.
So yesterday, we went to see Dr. Jessica. She was so sweet and gentle, and I knew something was up when Sammy allowed his temperature to be taken without trying to curl into a ball as he normally does. He had a slight temperature but everything looked normal, so Dr. Jessica wanted to do some blood work and test Sammy's urine. Since Sammy was doing his best to climb into my armpit and looked so pathetic, Dr. Jessica said Sammy might be more comfortable if I had a role in taking blood. My role would be to Hold the Dog. This was fine by me (and Sammy).
But my role in the urine thing was to Be the Urine Collector.
No problem. Give me a rubber apron, goggles, hip waders and rubber gloves and I can collect anything.
Nurse Bitzi handed me a metal bowl about four inches wide and two inches deep that looked for all the world like it could double as a doggie hat if Sammy ever decided to run away and join the circus. I looked at her.
"It's for the urine," she explained, helpfully.
". . . and. . . ?" I asked, densely.
"Well," she smiled. "You just. . .umm. . .hold it under when Sammy goes. Would you like me to do it for you? We do it all the time."
"No no, " I said. "I've got it." On a good day, Sammy is one shy dog when it comes to his bathroom habits. All I needed was for something to freak him out while he was potty-ing and I'd be making daily appointments for doggie catheterizations.
So out the door we headed. Sammy was quite excited about leaving the vet's office to wander around the yard sniffing and marking all the places other dogs had been.
Except he wasn't expecting his mom to suddenly thrust an upside-down doggie hat at him while he was . . . .you-know-whatting. Poor baby - he jumped straight up in the air as far as his leash would go. His back foot caught the edge of the dish/hat and it went flying toward Charlie, who skittered as far in the opposite direction as he could go.
Suddenly, I'm stretched out like a scarecrow and my shoe is wet.
I gathered everyone up, retrieved the dish/hat and after awhile was able to drag two dogs back into the vet's with our prize. I can't say for sure that we had an audience, but I did notice Bitzi wiping her eyes when we came in.
Fortunately, Dr. Jessica called to say Sammy's blood work was normal. This morning, he fairly knocked me down getting to his bouncy ball and is back to eating and playing and hanging out in the kitchen in case someone drops food. Whatever he had seems to have disappeared.
And I talked to Lin yesterday and she sounded wonderful. What a trooper.
So, let's recap.
In accordance with the Hippocratic oath we medical types follow, I have not harmed anyone and both my patients are doing well.
I did, however, have to throw out one very nice pair of sandals.
And I now know that I never, ever want to hear the words "you" and "dental surgery" used in the same sentence. But if I do, I'll need Nurse Linda, Lapdog Sammy and Sidekick Charlie to get me through it.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Food for the Soul. . .a Shabby Chic Victorian Cottage

The New York Times ran this article by Joyce Wadler about a woman named Sandra Foster, who built a Victorian retreat out of an old hunting shack on her property in the Catskills. That she also lives in a 1971 trailer with a husband who has his own "man cave" (albeit truck-sized and tarp-covered) is another intriguing part of this story.
But oh my - I am enamored with this Victorian retreat. It seems poised to inspire great writing or great painting or . . . maybe just great living.
Every one of us needs some space in our life that's just ours, in whatever unapologetic shape and form suits us best. It's a very Virginia Woolf-ian concept, I admit, but an idea to which I've always aspired. Granted - I'd probably be freaked out worrying that some sneaky snake might be lurking in the corner, and DaBoys would have to come along - muddy feet, doggy hair and all - but still. . . I could retreat across a rock-bridged stream in the Catskills to sit in this cottage on a rainy afternoon.
Couldn't you??

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

If I Have to Explain It. . . .

Here's my take on Lucy Chesna's Card Sketch for June 2010. I'll post a copy of her sketch on my Scrappy Projects page up yonder. You have to click over there for sure and see all the amazing cards and layouts the design teams created.

Banners seem to be one of The Big Things right now. I've discovered they're a little like potato chips - after I made my first banner, it looked like I needed to add banners to every LO or card I made.
So, of course, I put a banner on a layout I did of my Baby Boy when he really was a Baby Boy. Yep - that's my Mattie at six months of age.
Once a cutie, always a cutie.
Or maybe I should say once my Baby Boy, always my Baby Boy because that's what he'll be no matter how grown up he gets. Last Saturday, I just about popped my buttons with pride as I watched my Baby Boy cross the stage in Mershon Auditorium to receive his MBA hood from Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University. Suddenly, I thought of his kindergarten graduation. I remember watching him coming down the aisle with his little diploma from St. Mary School and thinking to myself that this would be just the first of many diplomas my Baby Boy would get.
A mother just knows these things.
Explaining how we know these things is impossible. It's like the Olympic sport of curling: you either get it, or you don't.
So is scrapbooking. I don't waste too much time proselytizing anyone whose eyes glaze over at the mere mention of it. I figure someday their great-grandchildren will be clutching poorly composed photos and crying out in frustration "Who in the hell IS that??!!?"
My great-grandchildren, on the other hand, will look serenely through lovingly handcrafted scrapbooks, sip their cocktails and understand for the first time why their therapists tell them they have obsessive tendencies.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Can You Guess. . . ??

. . . what this is?

Hint: It's not bigger than a breadbox.

It is, however, going to be unveiled tomorrow at My Sketch World so you'll have to pop over there for a looky loo!

And if you're really good, we might stop for ice cream on the way home.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Racing Dreams

It's a beautiful afternoon and I'm doing two of my favorite things: scrapping and watching a race on TV. Not just any race, though. Today is the Indy 500.
Oh, to be Danica Patrick. . . .
Helio Castraneves in on the pole today. Unfortunately, one of my favorite drivers, Paul Tracy, failed to qualify for this year's Indy. I watch for Paul in every IRL race cuz me and Paul - we go way back.
In 2007, Brenda and I volunteered with the Champs Car folks at the Cleveland Grand Prix. We had a blast working behind the scenes the three days leading up to the June race, but the best part was what happened on Race Day.
Our crew of volunteers was told we'd get to escort the drivers on the parade lap. Escort - as in get behind the wheel and DRIVE THE DRIVERS AROUND THE TRACK.
I've never been so excited in my life.
Before we closed up shop and headed over to to the grandstand, we were given strict instructions about not bothering the drivers, not using the air conditioning because it would drip condensation on the track, etc. etc. etc.
Oh, and one more thing.
Whoever drove Paul Tracy was EXPRESSLY FORBIDDEN from doing or saying anything to upset him. Don't argue. Don't ask for his autograph. Do what he says and get him around the track safely. I knew Paul Tracy's reputation as a helluva driver who was passionate about racing and not afraid to express his opinions. I also knew that in 2002, a bogus call by the Indy Racing League left him in heartbreaking second place at end of the Indianapolis 500, a ruling that would have soured anyone. But Tracy was a true Champs star, and right then and there I knew that's who I wanted to drive.
As we pulled up to a long row of Mazdas, Brenda and I could hardly contain ourselves. Right away, I spotted the car designated for Paul Tracy and outran one old lady co-volunteer to get to it first.

After Brenda and I took pictures, I opened the door to my Mazda and hopped in. Outside at the staging area, the temperature was 95 degrees. Inside, it was at least 150. Mazda had not embraced the genius of Ford's pedals forward technology, so I spent 10 sweaty minutes trying to adjust the seat so my feet could reach the pedals. Another 10 sweaty minutes were spent trying to raise the seat so I could see over the steering wheel. I adjusted the mirrors and then sat back and looked around. Off to my right, Paul Newman was talking with his crew chief. I couldn't stand it anymore and dug out my forbidden cell phone to call my dad and play "Guess where I am?" He was as excited as I was and told me to be careful and have fun. Just then a Champs car representative came by to tell us we'd be moving up to get our drivers in three minutes. As he disappeared down the row of cars ahead of me, a rivulet of sweat slid down my back. I leaned forward to unstick myself from the seat. I accidentally bumped something, and all of a sudden my windshield wipers were flapping back and forth in the glaring sun.
I twisted the turn signal post on the left side of the steering wheel.
I tried to push in the turn signal post. Then I tried to pull it out.
I furiously patted the dashboard and armrest for anything that looked like a windshield wiper control.
Opened the glove box for an owners manual.
At this point, the heat of the boiling sun and the lack of moisture under the wipers combined to make the most annoying screeeeeching sound every time they swiped the width of the windshield.
Oh my god.
I was going to pick up Paul Tracy with my windshield wipers on. I could see the headlines now: "Distracted Tracy Loses Major Race, Vows Revenge on Dumb Blonde."
I started to hyperventilate. With shaking fingers, I dialed Brenda's cell phone but she didn't pick up, probably because we were moving along pit row now to pick up the professional race drivers we'd been entrusted with introducing to their waiting fans.
I almost wet my pants as three cars ahead of me stood Paul Tracy, looking hot and impatient in the relentless sun. In a total panic, I began swatting/hitting/twisting/smacking everything on the dashboard in an attempt to undo whatever it was I'd done. Thanks be to the racing gods - the windshield wipers settled under the hood just as I drew up alongside my professional race driver.
I almost cried from relief.
Unfortunately, I'd forgotten to unlock the doors.
My professional race car driver was standing in the boiling sun on pit row, locked out of his parade lap car. I began swatting things again and managed to pop the locks. Then Paul Tracy in the flesh eased himself into the car, looking resplendent in his hurt-your-eyes blue and white racing suit.
"Whew. Hot in here," he said and immediately turned on the air conditioning. I told him about the condensation on the track thing, and he laughed. "Girl, we'll melt in here!" was all he said. I don't remember much as I pulled away behind the string of Mazdas and began to pick up speed except that he wasn't scary or nasty or even impatient. We made some small talk, I think, but I can't be sure because I was trying to figure out if the long wait in a 150 degree car had left me stinky. Mostly I concentrated on not saying or doing anything else stupid.
Then we were up to speed and pulling out onto the track. With a grin, Paul eased himself off the passenger seat and up through the sunroof.
Once I'd maneuvered around the first turn at 65 mph just fine, I let out a long breath and relaxed a bit. I knew I couldn't ask Paul Tracy for a picture, but thanks to my cell phone I snapped this picture of him to remember the best parade lap of my life:

And since I probably wouldn't be driving on a Champs or Indy or NASCAR track again anytime soon, I snapped this pic of the track as we came out of turn three. That's Lake Erie off to the left and the infield on the right. I have no idea who the driver is poking out of the sunroof ahead of me, though:

Way too soon, we were braking to a slower pace and pulling back into pit row. I pulled up to Paul Tracy's spot without hitting anyone or anything and gently stopped the car.
"Good luck today. Stay safe," I said. Or at least that's what I said in my head. Lord only knows what came out of my mouth. All I remember is Paul Tracy thanking me for a "great ride" and then watching his blue tushie as he got out of the car.
I'd just driven Paul Tracy on his 2007 Cleveland Grand Prix parade lap and delivered him safely back to his crew without maiming him, causing an international incident or inciting a tantrum. Most importantly, I'd done it without publicly humiliating myself and without the use of windshield wipers.
I sat back, a stupid grin on my face. Life was good. Very good, indeed.
That's when a big angry man with a red face smacked the hood of my Mazda and yelled through a bullhorn, "Hey, lady! Get the f*** outta here! We've got a race to run!"
I threw the Mazda into gear and did a little fishtail in my hurry to catch up with the other Mazdas way ahead of me down pit row, praying the TV cameras were engaged somewhere else. We wove our way through the back lot to the staging area and parked. I jumped out and found Brenda. No question - this was the best fun ever.
And guess what? Paul Tracy won the Cleveland Grand Prix that year! I was kind of proud that his parade lap was rather uneventful, although he's had to overcome much worse than a hapless parade lap escort to be successful. The very next year, the Indy Racing League took over the Champs Car series and Cleveland was eventually dropped from the circuit. I'm sad the Grand Prix isn't here anymore but 2007's race couldn't have ended better.
When my dogs sleep, they dream of being Dobermans.
Me - I still daydream of being a Ken Block or Matt Kenseth or Danica Patrick. I can vividly imagine what it would feel like to take the third turn at the Brickyard or Darlington or drive gymkhana. The feel of the car, the smell of the fuel, the rumble in my gut as I work my way through the gears using all my skill and strategy to challenge the laws of physics and push my car to the limit and test good fortune.
It'll never happen, but that's okay.
I'll always have Paul Tracy's legs.