Tuesday, April 29, 2008


We have a (fairly-)big screen HDTV in our living room. TV is every bit as important to DH as my computer is to me. A couple of years ago we got a new HDTV. When it is on -- and working correctly -- it does have a beautiful picture. I will grant it that. But, then, so does my computer and the latter is not nearly as much trouble. (At least not when I don't have it all screwed up because of something bone-headed I did to screw it up.)

One problem with the TV is that we have had numerous problems with the cable. Varmints keep digging it up and eating through it or neighbors keep splicing into it. I am not sure which it is, but more often than should happen for what we pay for the service, everything goes haywire and the Cable Guy has to come out, dig around in the yard and declare that he replaced the damaged cable. (I'm never sure I really believe that, but DH loves the Cable Guys and believes every ludicrous thing they tell him.)

The other problem is that we have two separate remotes to operate the TV. I absolutely believe that we should not have to have two separate remotes for the TV. I have to believe if it was set up correctly, we would be able to operate it with one remote. Obviously, I am wrong because the Cable Guys have dictated we need two remotes, therefore it must be true.

That is a problem for me. I can manipulate complex computer programs. I can juggle multiple complex work projects at the same time. I can work and maintain a home and do community service work simultaneously. I can create entire worlds and write complex novels that require concentration and focus. I even learned to program a VCR (until we got a DVR and DH learned to program it) and to use the various functions on my cell-phone.

I cannot, however, operate the fucking TV using two different remotes.

Whenever I try to so much as change the channel, I get confused over which remote to use for which function and I cause everything go haywire. Instead of new channels, I get grey fuzz. Can't change the channel or operate any other button on the remote. DH has to call the Cable Guy to talk him through fixing it. I am sure the Cable Guy thinks I am a total and complete IDIOT ... and he would be totally right.

It is not rocket science, but I absolutely cannot manage two remotes.

What happened to the days when you got up off your dead ass and turned the channel button on the TV? Often you had to adjust the antenna, too, but basically, there was one nob, or maybe two. There were not multiple remotes, each with many buttons. I could handle that. I didn't even mind getting up off the couch and walking across the room to change channels. At least I didn't knock out the TV and require a call to the Cable Guy every time I want to change the channel.

I hate having a TV that makes me feel like a damned moron.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

So Much Fun

I am writing fiction again after an incredibly long hiatus of, what, three months. In the big scheme of things that does not seem like such a long time but it is a very long time indeed to go without doing the work I need to do in order to be who I am!

This week, in addition to working and trying to act like I care at least a little bit about my life, I have been working on a new story. I have written more than thirteen thousand words in less than a week. When you consider that, in addition, I managed to write a couple of blog posts along the way, the output is more along the lines of my initial output three years ago when I started this new phase of fiction writing.

I am inspired and excited. I am also tired. I would love to quit for the day because I've been up since 5:00 a.m. and have been writing a great deal of that time (with interruptions for going to the beach and walking for two hours then walking for another hour plus around the neighborhood, helping DH put up the pool and watching the NASCAR race).

I am home alone tonight, and feel the need to take advantage of the quiet.

Lord, I am happy when I am writing. (But then, again, I'm pretty happy most of the time no matter what I do.)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

It's Just Transportation, People!

I picked up the new car today. It is amazing to me what a big deal people make of new cars. After some internal family discussions, we determined that it would be inconvenient to pick up the new car today. I asked DH to call the dealership and tell them I would pick it up tomorrow. I guess that must have set off red flags in the dealership. Maybe they thought we would welsh on the deal. The salesman gave DH a sob story about how he came in special to deliver the car today. That was a crock. He told us last night he would be in from 10:00 - 4:00... and if we had to wait until after that, the sales manager could deliver the car. Today when we called to say we would pick it up tomorrow, all of a sudden it was a damned emergency we had to pick it up today.

I threw a fit, but ultimately agreed to pick the damned car up today for the convenience of the salesman. (Since when are customers supposed to arrange their schedules around the convenience of the salesperson?????????????).

My assistant dropped me off at the dealership after lunch. I signed the paperwork and took delivery of the vehicle. DH called me and the salesman about dozen times instructing me to bring the car home instead of driving it back to work. I had a million things to do at work, but I'm a damned eejit when it comes to DH and I almost always give him his way. I brought the car home. He played with the buttons and opened the trunk and the hood. I finally insisted he take me back to work, which he did.

At the end of the day, I drove DD's car home. I parked it in the driveway because my new car occupied the honored spot in the garage.

I am amazed and a little freaked out by how excited the people in my world are by my new car. DD, DH, Boyfriend and a bunch of people I work with are all a-twitter.

It's a car, People! Get a grip.

It isn't as if it is something really important like a new book or something way cool like a music album or something totally fun like new clothes.

It's a car. Transportation. Something that will get me from point A to point B, hopefully without the necessity of employing jumper cables or calling a tow-truck.

It's a car that will cost us a couple of hundred dollars a month for the priviledge of driving it. Pardon me if I'm underwhelmed by the excitement of it all. If I had my druthers, I'd druther have decent bus service in this town so I wouln't need a car to get back and forth to work.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What Have I Done??!!

We leased a new car today. A brand new Honda Accord.

My old car died a few weeks ago. It experienced the kind of slow, miserable death that had me considering auto-euthanasia. I was spared that by the fact that the old gal gave up the ghost on her own.

Since then, I have been driving DD's car, which has been totally cool for me, to be honest. It's a really small BMW. Handles like a dream. Zips around in traffic like a race car. Makes me want to buy a pair of leather driving gloves. I always thought BMW's were stupid and pretentious, yuppie-lawyer cars. That was until about five minutes after I got behind the wheel for the first time. From that moment, I understood why BMW owners are repeat buyers.

DD wanted us to get her a new car and let me have the Beamer. Not even!! Much as I love pretending I'm on the Autobahn, it is an old car with a lot of miles on it. Much as I love the way it handles, the fact is we all agreed we wanted a new car with a warranty, and, well, we just can't afford a new BMW... and I wouldn't buy a brand new for her even if I could afford it.

DH and DD sniffed and turned up their noses at my (very serious) suggestion we get an electric car or at least a hybrid. They both wanted a "real" car. For a long time they both wanted a SUV. I managed to hold that idea off by telling them they could have their damned SUV but I would never, ever ride in such an evil, wicked, selfish monstrosity, so they could forget any notions of family outings. Fortunately, I held them off long enough for gas prices to flirt with $4.00 a gallon. Now an SUV is out of the question, thank god.

Recently Honda ran a lease special on Accords and Civics. Our favorite car ever was a Honda Accord which we bought as a salvaged total wreck and drove for another 100,000 miles. Since we can't afford a German car, a Honda would be the next best thing. [Correction: we do have sufficient credit and income to qualify for a loan on a German car and to make the payments. We are, however, much too frugal to extend ourselves that far. Frugal is a good word. Cheap is more accurate.]

DD finally backed down from her insistence that we get an SUV or some kind of ridiculously expensive luxury car. She was willing to go with a Japanese car but insisted we need a full-sized car for when we all go places together (when do we ever do that, I asked??). She said we would do it occasionally if we had a car to go in. I'm doubting that, but, hey, it could happen...

So.... today DH and I visited an actual car dealership. The only time DH ever entered car dealerships in his life was to go to work during a previous incarnation as a car salesman. The last time I entered a car dealership was in 1977. My last car payment was sometime in 1980 upon the termination of that 3-year loan. Walking into the dealership, I was swallowing hard and trying to keep from running away.

We test drove an Accord. I totally freaked. The car was HUGE. I like zipping around in tiny little compact cars. It's been a long time since I've driven a big vehicle. I know I used to zoom around town like so many other Yuppie moms in a full-sized conversion van, but that was a long time ago.

I lost my nerve and felt myself leaning toward the Civic, but ... there was that remote chance that we might take some family outings. So, we went with the Accord.

The plan is for DD and me to switch off. The Honda will be mine during the week and she can use it on the weekends while DH and I use the BMW for our beach- and running-around car.

That is the plan.

I'm considering starting a pool for how long it will be before I am driving the BMW full time and I don't even have a key to the Honda.

Random Observations

  • A very obese women lying on a chaise at the beach with one hand in a half-full bag of Doritos, reading a "Health & Prevention" magazine.
  • A middle aged couple groping each other on the beach like newlyweds, which they probably were, but still.... EW!
  • A bag lady sitting on the curb talking on a cell phone.
  • A young man pushing an old woman in a wheelchair along the side of a busy four lane street where the speed limit is 55 mph (and most people go faster) and there is no sidewalk.

.... just scratchin' my head .....

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Writer's Block

The best way for me to combat the onset of depression is to sink into the negative feelings and let myself experience them. Once I do that, it seems I can work through whatever is bothering me without getting sucked into the quicksand of a depressive episode.

For me, anger is best dealt with by ruthlessly refusing to allow it to get the upper hand. When I feel angry, I acknowledge the feeling and then do something besides dwell on it or express it until I find the energy dispersing. At that point if I still feel strongly about whatever pissed me off, I address it. 99% of the time, once the initial wave passes, the energy dissipates and there is no need to do anything about it. God, how I wish more people handled their anger like that!

This writer's block thing has me baffled. For a while I tried not writing at all. That was not unlike quitting a 2-pack-a-day-cigarette-habit cold turkey. In fact, it was a whole lot like that. Next, I tried writing a whole lot. I started journaling again, I started a new blog, I even looped back and started editing stuff I've previously written. (I absolutely love to edit!) That was fun at first. Blogging is fun and writing essays is relatively easy. Writing good essays is very difficult. At this point I am not shooting for "good"; I am simply shooting for some avenue to get back in the groove. The problem with blogging is that while I'm messing with my blog I tend to buzz around other peoples' blogs. Lord, can I waste a lot of time on that kind of thing! It is fun and entertaining. The theory is that I'm trolling for ideas. The reality is that I am frittering away valuable hours I could spend writing.

So, I decide not to spend so much time reading other peoples' blogs and to get serious about my own.



Um ...


You see I have this writer's block thing going on.

Tee Hee. I guess in trying to write my way out of a block I am standing in a long tradition. I just Googled the words "writer's block" and got more than 2.5 million hits. I the first two I looked at basically said the same thing: write something. Anything.

So, I'm writing about writer's block.

Who says blogging isn't narcissistic?? This is stupid.


Writing about the block worked!! I wrote a bunch of incoherent stuff and came out the other side with a couple of good ideas and a good start on a new story. It remains to be seen if it will pan out, but I spent several hours today writing 1500 words of new fiction! Wahoo!

Out of the Blue

I got up this morning about 5:30 a.m. The day started off drizzly and rainy. It cleared about midmorning and turned out to be a wonderful day to spend out of doors. Since we were off to a late start, and DD had used the car with the beach driving pass, DH and I went to the closest beach for my Sunday morning walk (instead of our usual Sunday place which is further away).

Afterwards we drove by a car dealership to look at new cars. It has been 32 years since I have had a brand new car. I have to confess I am a little excited by the prospect. On the other hand, it has been 29 years since I have had a car payment. That prospect is not so hot. However, when you consider the services included in the lease payments and the improved gas mileage, we think making lease payments will be worth it.

After that, we drove to Deland in search of a restaurant someone told DH had great hamburgers. We found the restaurant, but were unimpressed with the clientele, and I was very turned off by the rude waitress. [It never ceases to amaze me how rude service people are in this tourist area!] What is more, they only served bottled beer. DH and I are draft beer snobs.

We bailed on that joint and went to a nearby sky-diving place. Over burgers and draft beer, we watched dozens and dozens of divers descend literally out of the blue. Some landed fast, some drifted down ever so slowly and gracefully. Most of the divers today appeared to be very experienced. They all landed very near the target zone and most of them landed on their feet. We have been there when divers veered far off course and we have seen some pretty hard landings. [Fortunately, we have never witnessed a serious accident. I am grateful for that. They have a fatality or two a year. I would rather not watch someone die while I am munching a burger...]

Today we watched a lady whose dive was apparently a birthday present. She looked to be perhaps 65 or 70. Her entire family, children and a bunch of grand children were there to watch, wave and cheer. The birthday girl seemed a bit woozy for a while after she landed. She seemed to perk up after while, but at first she seemed not too happy with the experience.

I have to give her a lot of credit for trying it in the first place. You wouldn't catch me jumping out of a plane at any age!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

At the Beach

One of the things I had fun with in my early blogging efforts was blogging about life in Florida. I have decided to add that subject to this blog, too. I am probably breaking all the rules of blogging by writing about so many different subjects, but, I'll deal with that when the blog police come around. In the meantime, I'll continue to do as I damn well please.

Daytona Beach is famous as a great beach for driving. I personally do not like to drive on the beach, but I do like to walk on it. It is wide (at low tide, anyway) with hard-packed sand and it is very level. Usually there are not too many shells. It is perfect for long-distance barefoot beach walking. I don't especially like sharing the beach with cars, prefering to walk on those parts of the beach where driving is not allowed, but at one time or another I have walked the entire 24 miles of Daytona Beach.

I love to watch toddlers or other small children who are either first time visitors or at least not familiar enough to take the beach for granted. Now that spring break is over and the summer family vacationers are not here yet, our visitors tend to be families with preschool children or couples with no children (or grown children). This morning a little girl in a pink bathing suit with a huge floppy sun hat stopped to wave at me as I passed her. That was noteworthy because most of the time really little kids don't notice adult walkers.

Slightly older children will often stop me to show me pretty shells or sand dollars, or to occasionally ask me questions about what something is. I must look like a beach expert. I have been asked questions about the names of shells or birds (I never know those answers), the tides (I check the tide charts before going to the beach so I almost always know the answers to those unless they're too scientific), the names of fish or other beach critters (I sometimes know those).

The best conversation I ever had was a few weeks ago. A little girl ran up to me and showed me a broken sand dollar she had found. She was so excited she was jumping up and down. I explained to her where and how to look for whole ones. I so hope she found at least one.

Adults ask me to take their picture. My husband says no one has ever asked him to take their picture. It happens to me at least once a month, usually more often in the summer.

I don't feel as though I am very approachable. Frankly, I don't really want to be approachable when I am at the beach. I like to walk far and fast; I don't especially like to stop. The only thing I can think of is that I am so happy when I am on the beach, I must forget to throw up that "leave me the hell alone and don't bother me" protective shield I wear everywhere else.

Busy, Busy, Busy

When did the ability to do multiple things at once become a badge of honor? My teachers and my parents stressed paying attention to one thing at a time, finishing one project before moving onto the next. I used to be very good at focusing and concentrating, avoiding distractions. That appears to be an obsolete skill-set these days.

The rules are different now.

Yesterday afternoon at one point, I was on the phone with one person while simultaneously reading an email from another person on a different subject. My cell phone rang. Typically I do not answer my cell at work but this was a call I was expecting from my daughter. I put my business call on hold and had a brief word with my daughter, while continuing to read and respond to emails. When I finished talking to my daughter, I went back to my business call, and moved on to my next email.

Suddenly I realized I had no idea what the caller was talking about because I had allowed myself become too immersed in reading an email that was rather convoluted. How can I concentrate on two different things at the same time? The answer is: I can't, but I have to try in order to keep up.

People in business today expect nearly instant responses to often complex questions. I am overwhelmed by the constant barrage of information (email, telephone calls, faxes, and actual human beings walking into my office) all of which come with the expectation of an immediate response every time.

A lot of people I know are very proud of the fact that they are so busy they need cellphones and PDA's so they can respond to their clients and/or bosses 24/7/365. They wear their constant busy-ness as some kind of badge of honor. On top of work-related commitments they have social engagements, kid-related classes and practices, etc. etc. etc. -- to an extent too exhausting to contemplate.

Not me. I have had to learn to do the "Information Shuffle" at work because it is the way business is done these days but I sure as hell don't like it. It raises my stress level to the red zone and I think it fosters decision-making without due deliberation, which scares me. I have no choice in the matter while I am at work.

During the rest of my waking hours, I make it a practice of doing absolutely as little as possible, in order to counteract the ill-effects of my hectic work-life. While the rest of the world seems hell bent on staying busy and productive during every waking second, I try to spend as much time as I can doing nothing terribly productive... (I prefer to think of writing as "creative" as opposed to "productive").

I know that is a small protest against the madness. It is something. It is what I can do.

Religion Done Right!

Read, mark, ponder ... and give praise.

Kevin Cullen "Doing God's Work Without Celebrity".

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Tortoise & The Hare (sort of)

On the way to work I pulled out on the main drag behind a big pickup truck going very fast, weaving in and out of traffic, passing on the right, accelerating rapidly and then slamming on the brakes.

I drove my usual speed, putzing along. I rush around every place else but on the road. I leave fast driving to NASCAR drivers.

I caught up with him at the first stoplight. He made a fast start and was soon out of sight passing cars and swerving from lane to lane. I caught up with him again at the next stoplight. He was off again, weaving in and out of traffic, and soon out of sight. Then I caught up with him again at the next light, and then the next two. At the next light, he went screeching off straight and I turned to go towards my office.

It took me the same amount of time to cover the same distance, using a lot less gas and building up a lot less stress. Is that kind of behavior absolutely necessary? I think not.

Personally, I'm glad I was behind the guy and not in front of him. (Not that he would have stayed behind me for long.)

On the way home in the afternoon a lady motorcycle cop pulled up behind me in front of the police station. She rode my rear bumper for a couple of miles, giving me dirty looks in the mirror. Like I could get out of the way! Hello, we were on a two lane road! The only thing worse than having a motorcycle riding your ass is having that motorcyclist be a cop who could give you a ticket if you get nervous and make a mistake!! When we turned onto the four lane street, she whipped around me into the left lane. She almost caused a pick up truck to get into an accident. She was tailgating and I think she made him nervous so he cut into the right lane and almost hit a car. Not that the cop cared. As soon as he got over, she was gone. If he had hit the car, I doubt she would have noticed. She must have had to go to the bathroom or something.

I hate to drive under the best of circumstances. Florida's roads are far from the best of circumstances. Sigh.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

On Manners (or lack thereof)

Rather than rant about the deplorable state of manners in America, I will defer to one who says it better than I could.

See Garrison Keilor on the subject of Manners and Grace.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Campaign 2008 - Who's Out of Touch??, part 2

Here's an article that quotes Senator Obama's response to the attacks from Clinton and McCain. The guy is articulate, fast on his feet ... AND RIGHT!

Campaign 2008 - Exactly Who is Out-of-Touch???

The latest dust-up out there on the campaign trail has to do with Senator Obama's remarks that Americans are "bitter" about our government's lack of interest in our well-being and, therefore, many people tend to vote (sometimes against their own economic best interests) on hot-button issues like abortion, gay rights, gun control, etc.

Senator Clinton was quick to accuse him of being "out of touch" with the people, saying that was "not [her] experience." Senator McCain weighed in more or less along the same lines, accusing Obama of being "elitist". I understand that being an "elitist" is a very bad thing in America; I would like to know why that is. I would also like to know what planet Senators Clinton and McCain have been on for the last eight years!! Their responses to Obama's remarks amaze me.

First of all, the very fact that George Bush is in the White House today is proof positive that Senator Obama is right. Many, many people voted for Bush against their own economic best interests which is, like, totally unacceptable from the standpoint of capitalist political theory, but it happened. Middle America voted for Bush because he was not Bill Clinton. They voted for Bush because he was a "good Christian," faithful to his wife and a nice guy. They voted on the issues: abortion, guns, homosexuality, war .... whatever. It seems to me that the majority of people who voted for Bush voted against their own economic interest. His whole economic theory is based on taking from the poor and the middle classes and giving to the rich. Lord knows he was telling the truth about that because it is exactly what this administration has done. Unlike President Reagan, the Bushies don't even pretend that any of that wealth will "trickle" back down to the masses.

The fact that Bush did as well as he did in 2000 was puzzling to me. The fact that he was reelected in 2004 was downright baffling, not to mention depressing. But, it happened! A lot of non-rich people voted for Bush "on the issues".

Frankly, I understand that. I am one of those "bitter" Americans who believes that very few people in Washington (or our state capitals either) care about what is good for us. From my perspective, Senator Obama is right. Americans are bitter. We believe that our government officials don't give a flying fig about our welfare or our opinion. Many people have retreated into a sort of politically defensive mode where they either do not vote at all or they base their votes on issues of religion or morality rather than economics and contemporary political realities. If that is what Senator Obama said, I think his analysis is spot on.

I, personally, find that sad and somewhat fearsome. I think we should be angry to the point of outrage over the abuses our government has committed. In the Sixties people took to the streets in protest over government abuses that pale beside the lies and deceit of this administration. Where is the rage? I think the answer is that many Americans are not merely bitter, they feel hopeless. Our elected officials and their un-elected "advisers" who are running the government are so arrogant they think they can manipulate us into continuing to vote for them no matter what they do, so long as they adhere to "conservative" positions on social issues. Unfortunately, for the last couple of election cycles that has proved to be absolutely true.

It will remain to be seen how well America tolerates Senator Obama's truth-telling. I am not optimistic. Americans prefer politics (and pretty much all other reality) sugar-coated. We don't care for the unvarnished truth about the things that are wrong with our country and our world. That is because once we understand the truth, we will bear some responsibility for doing something about it.

God forbid that Americans should ever be responsible for anything!

As long as We The People continue to abdicate our responsibility for holding our elected officials (the people who work for us) accountable for their actions and as long as we continue to refuse to listen to the truth when courageous people stand up and try to tell it to us, then we deserve whatever happens. As long as we continue to behave like immature children, we will attract leaders who will continue to take advantage of us. Our Republic needs an informed, involved, committed and vigilant electorate. The fact is we have bad leaders because we are lazy, immature, ignorant voters.

I think Senator Obama may be intentionally trying to yank our chains in order to wake us up. Vice President Gore is doing the same thing, ringing the alarm bells and trying to alert America to the reality of the environmental problems we face. Like latter day Paul Reveres they are spreading the word that something a hell of a lot worse than the British is coming. Americans are ignoring the warnings.

All I can say is God have mercy on America.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

An All American Night Out (Cornball warning)

Okay, I am not quite as bad as George Will (see example here), but I like baseball.

I blame it on growing up in Cincinnati during the glory years of the Big Red Machine. In those days baseball in Cincinnati was more religion than sport. Since professional baseball was born in Cincinnati, we held the conviction that Crosley Field was sort of the Jerusalem of baseball. The fact that people in places like Boston, New York and Chicago held different opinions did not matter because: (a) the Yankees and Red Sox were American League teams and, therefore, beneath contempt; and, (b) the Cubs were, well, the Cubs. It was hard to take them seriously but you had to love them and their wonderful ballpark with no lights and people watching for free from the rooftops across the street, so we tolerated their misguided notions and granted Wrigley Field status as a really cool ballpark. I think that was reasonable, particularly in view of the fact that the idiots running the club in Cincinnati had torn down Crosley Field and built that hideous monstrosity called Riverfront Stadium.

I loved going to baseball games with my dad. We only went a couple of times a year, so it was a huge treat for me. One of the things I loved about my now-husband was that when we were dating he would suddenly decide to go to a ballgame for no apparent reason. It had never occurred to me that you could go to a game without making advance plans! We went to many games each year for a number of years. We even shared in season tickets with a group from work one year. Riverfront Stadium was ugly and uncomfortable, but it was in a really cool setting and had great views from the cheap seats. Most of all it was home to some truly awesome baseball moments. Gives me goosebumps to think of the baseball greatness that passed through that stadium.

In addition to going to the ballpark, as a kid I listened to the games on the radio. Radio just does not get any better than broadcast baseball! From the late 1960's through the late 1970's, between April and October, I hardly went anywhere without a transistor radio in my pocket. I wasn't a statistics freak like a lot of the boys I knew. As a girl, I was more likely to know the color of a player's eyes than his batting average, but I usually kept that to myself. In any case, I knew enough about the game and the players to deeply enjoy the sport. Baseball was as much a part of my life as church and school.

After the Marge Schott years, the Strike (when the greed and corruption that had probably always been there broke the surface) and the first rumblings of doping, I gave up on Major League Baseball more or less completely. Today, I might possibly break down and watch a World Series if the Reds by some miracle ever managed to field a decent team and make it to the Series. I quit going to Reds games years before we moved away from Cincinnati. Major League Baseball stopped being fun a long time ago, besides, I always hated Riverfront Stadium anyway. [Now the Reds play at the "Great American" Ballpark, which sounds cool unless you know that "Great American" is an insurance company, not an adjective.]

When we moved to Daytona Beach, I discovered minor league baseball and fell in love with baseball all over again. Granted this time what I love does not have much to do with the team and the players. These are minor league players who come and go; there is no point in getting to know them. I really don't even follow the team's record. For me, minor league baseball is all about the experience of "going to a ball game." The game itself is merely the pretext.

First, there is the venue. Major league baseball has Fenway Park (gag), Yankee Stadium (double gag), Shea Stadium (yawn), a bunch of others ... and the only other baseball park that is still standing for which I have a sentimental attachment (even though I have never been there), Wrigley Field. For a baseball park to be really "right", it has to have been the site of a lot of history. When you walk out of the tunnel and into the sunlight, looking out over an immaculate playing field that is just like every other baseball diamond, if you can't remember every time you walked that way with your dad then you at least have to know that "important stuff happened here." At a minimum, feeling as though you are standing on something like holy ground is a prerequisite for any authentic baseball experience (which is why all the new baseball "stadiums" suck).

The Daytona Beach Cubs (a farm team of the Chicago Cubs) play at Jackie Robinson Stadium. It is the coolest ballpark since Crosley Field. Actually it is probably cooler, but a person's childhood ballpark should always take precedence over all others. It passes the "history was made here" test for sure. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Daytona Beach. By itself, that qualifies as a reason to visit. Decades of kids have come here with their parents. Some of them have grown up and brought their own kids. It's that kind of place. I love it when they have Little League night and all the kids come in their own uniforms.

Once you are inside, it gets even better. The setting is gorgeous, on an island in the intercoastal waterway. Between batters or while new pitchers are warming up, you can watch boats go by on the river. If you go way high up in the bleachers you can see the ocean. The ballpark was heavily damaged by the hurricanes of 2004, and the restoration work has been wonderful. The field is real grass. The grandstand looks like something out of the movie Bull Durham. The bleachers are aluminium (which can be dangerous in the summertime if an unsuspecting fan sits down in shorts). The landscaping is simple but beautiful. The roof of the grandstand is metal and high foul balls often hit the roof with a crack then roll off into the street beyond. They play a recording of glass breaking when that happens. I always hope it's just a recording and not the windshield of some poor schmuck driving by.

The scoreboard is the coolest thing in the world. It is an old fashioned green scoreboard where a guy actually sits on a folding chair on a platform and manually posts the balls, strikes, outs, runs and innings by hanging square numbers on hooks. Honest! I love it. No jumbo tron. No electronic gadgets. Just plain old fashioned white numbers, 1 - 9, on green cards. Talk about retro.

There is a food court with picnic tables outside where you can sit and watch the water. I like that a lot. Frankly, I could sit out there by the river all evening and just listen to the game over the PA system. Both the beer and food are reasonably priced. They don't have Big Red Smokies, but they do have the very best salted peanuts I have ever tasted. Since there are no Big Red Smokies, I have room to eat more peanuts. That makes me thirsty which is fortunate because one wonderful difference from old-time ballparks, where they generally only serve local lager, is that this place has a very nice selection of draft beer, including some wonderful premium beers and ales, to choose from. YUM!

For those who prefer a more truly authentic ballpark dining experience, vendors circulate through the stands hawking beer, peanuts, soda, ice cream and souvenirs throughout the game. Most of them put on a show. The peanut vendor sings. The beer guy in our section the other night was a total comedian.

People-watching is my favorite thing about the baseball experience in any venue. People watching at the Cubbies games is especially fun because the fans are so diverse. You see locals decked out in "Cubbies" regalia. There are also tourists from all over, many of whom wear hats or shirts from their own home towns. I have seen people in Red Sox hats sitting near Yankees fans. (Really!) It is especially amusing to sit near foreign tourists who are totally mystified by the whole baseball thing.

They do silly things: Hot-dog eating contests, kids running the bases, the Chicken Dance, the YMCA dance. The team mascot, Cubbie, is a sort of local celebrity. Cubbie wanders around during the game, signing autographs, shaking hands, hugging kids and leading the YMCA dance. The other night a big group in the bleachers spontaneously stood up and sang happy birthday to somebody and almost everybody else joined in. Saturday night games end with fireworks. Mondays are "all you can eat hot dogs and hamburgers" nights; we like that. Thursdays are cheap beer nights; we like that too.

My husband and I go to several Cubbies games a season. Granted, we do not go with the passionate fervor we formerly reserved for the Reds, but it's a fun evening out for a couple of old farts. At one point on a recent visit, DH bought me a Blue Moon beer (my new "very most favorite beer in the world") and a bag of peanuts. I was in heaven: sipping beer, watching people, making up stories in my head about where they were from and why they are in Daytona Beach, watching a bunch of kids learning the Chicken Dance, eavesdropping on the conversations going on around us, enjoying the breeze from the river ...

My husband leaned over and asked, "Who's winning?" I indignantly responded, "The Cubbies." (It was a wild guess, but it turned out I was right). He looked at me suspiciously and asked, "What inning is it?" I tried to sneak a peak at the scoreboard but he caught me. He suggested I watch the game and quit gawking around. Bah! If I wanted to pay attention to the game, I'd listen to it on the radio where I could focus. When I visit the ballpark, I'm there for the experience. The game is the backdrop.

I think every town in America should have a minor league ball park where families can afford to go out for the evening, in the fresh air, under the stars and simply have fun.... whether the fun comes from focusing on the game, watching the fans, enjoying the "entertainment", eating the food or simply being together with the people you love.

That is why I love baseball. Like America, it has its dark side, but I believe its good qualities far outweigh the bad.

I am going to stop now before I go all philosophical. If you want to read that kind of crap, see George Will.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Campaign 2008 - I Loathe Polls, but ...

I do not like polls. In many ways they are like any other kind of statistic, they can be interpreted differently. Political polls are particularly unreliable because many people are private about their voting practices. I sometimes think that Americans lie to political pollsters to jerk their chain. Elections are the only time when We The People have the opportunity to exercise our power. I love the notion that we like to do it by secret ballot without having the results announced in advance by the media. Misleading pollsters is an opportunity to have a bit of innocent fun with the media.

Anyway, I usually read polls with a huge grain of salt, or not at all. This week I noticed a headline that was interesting, and made me think. Apparently in projecting the current results out to the general election, the pollsters think that Clinton would do better against McCain than Obama, although McCain would probably beat either of them. Here's one version of that data.

Hmmmmm. General wisdom from the letters to the editor and the blogs seems to be that the next president will probably be only a one termer due to the current state of the union (i. e. FUBAR = fucked up beyond all recognition). General wisdom holds that the Current Prez will crawl back under some big ol' rock in Texas and his successor will get the blame for wrecking the country (sort of like Herbert Hoover took the blame for the Great Depression).

The main job for our Next Prez will be to begin the long process of digging us out of the ditch America has fallen into. Since We The People are such a bunch of mindless Eejits who can't remember anything that happened before breakfast, we will blame Next Prez for all the damage that the Cheney Administration has done to our wonderful country (not to mention our Mother Earth and other countries who have had the misfortune of pissing us off or being our allies). The Next Prez will have the hard and bad job of making America face up to what we have done to our country. The Next Prez will probably not have high poll ratings from about five minutes after he/she delivers the Inaugural Address.

Meaning? Meaning anybody who WANTS the job should probably be packed off to a mental institution so Nurse Ratched can take really good care of them.

Nevertheless, for some reason three otherwise sane people actually want the job. Three people each of whom appears to sincerely desire to lead our country back from the edge of the Abyss where we now stand. They each have a different understanding of where we are and what is and is not appropriate for the government to do about it, therefore, they have different plans for what to do next. I agree with some of their positions, and disagree with others but any of them would be a huge improvement over what we have now.

The fact of the matter is, I could go to the polls tomorrow and cast a vote for any of them. I would walk away from that vote absolutely certain that it would be good for America, and, perhaps, the world.

In a way when I look at our country, I feel a lot like I did in 1974, when Nixon resigned and Ford became president. Watergate had torn the country apart. People were raw and exhausted. When Nixon got on that helicopter and flew away from Washington, it was as though America let out a coast-to-coast sigh. Poor Gerald Ford walked into an unholy mess and did his best to begin the healing process. He made a speech which even today makes me weep. It is simple, heart-felt, eloquent... and deeply painful to read even after all these years

He said, in part:

My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.

Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule. But there is a higher Power, by whatever name we honor Him, who ordains not only righteousness but love, not only justice but mercy.

As we bind up the internal wounds of Watergate, more painful and more poisonous than those of foreign wars, let us restore the golden rule to our political process, and let brotherly love purge our hearts of suspicion and of hate.

In a very real sense, I believe our next president will take office under very similar circumstances. We are a country at war. At war with others (whether or not we should be, we are in that one until we can figure out how to get out) and at war with ourselves. It makes me want to laugh to say this but: we need a Gerald Ford. We need a one-term president who will send us to time out in order to cool off before rolling up our sleeves and doing the hard work of getting America back on track. We need a president who will reassure us. We need a president who will inspire us to feel good about America by restoring our vision of the "Land of the Free and the Brave." We need a president who will then inspire We The People to get busy and start putting things back to rights.

Sounds an awful lot like we need McCain, don't it?

While I abhor his stand on the war and a lot of other things, I'm thinking, it might not be such a bad thing to have four years of McCain in the White House, waving the flag and making us feel good about America, encouraging us to take on the hero's challenge of taking back our land from the people who would destroy our freedoms and sell our government to the highest bidder. The next four years, or at least the next two or three years, will not be about programs and legislative initiatives. They will be about restoring our vision and our hope. Senator McCain's patriotism, independent-mindedness, cantankerousness, willingness to work with people "across the aisle" and his integrity may be just what we need while we catch our collective breath.

Meanwhile, Senators Clinton, Obama, and Edwards and others can go back to the Senate and work their asses off on legislation to get things back on track and lay the groundwork for future change. [Suggested item 1: repeal the Patriot Act. Suggested item 1a: Health Care Reform. Suggested item 2: eliminate the department of Homeland Security. ] The Dems could spend the next four years laying the groundwork for an eight-year administration beginning in 2012 which would focus on forward-looking legislative initiatives.

That seems reasonable to me. The problem is that it hinges on:
(a) America focusing on a long term goal; and,
(b) Democrats working together.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Roller Coaster Day

After the repeated episodes of vomiting last night Daughter Dear had a very hard time getting up this morning. She had a ticket on a 1:30 p.m. flight out of Orlando for a weekend in Southern California. She had not even started packing, and I could not get her out of bed this morning. She was no longer vomiting but she was running a low-grade fever. She had had virtually nothing to eat in 24 hours. After all that vomiting with so little fluid intake, she was probably dehydrated. What should I have done in that situation?

I found myself standing in the hall at 8:30 a.m. wondering what a Good Mom would do. What I wanted to do was to pull the plug on the whirlwind weekend trip to Disneyland. My baby was sick. She was not ready for the trip. Forget it. She would just have to reschedule the whole thing. Good moms probably would keep their kid at home and stay home from work to care for the Sick One.

DD is as stubborn as me; she was determined to go on her trip which was a graduation gift from her WBF's family. She was going by hook or by crook. By the time WBF arrived, she was clearly no longer nauseous or feverish, but she was weak and tired. She stayed in bed and issued orders to him regarding packing her suitcase. I decided the better part of valor would be to beat a hasty retreat, so I left for work. They seemed glad to have me leave, but it made me feel as though I really suck as a Mom. Part of me wonders what is the point of staying home with a sick kid if she is (a) no longer sick and (b) determined to go on a cross-country weekend trip regardless of sickness. I left them to their packing. I escaped to the world of work. (Another part of me says I suck as a Mom for not being here in case she needed me.)

For good or for ill, I decided to go to work. I received various text messages throughout the day: "We are in Houston;" "We are on the plane for LA;" "We just landed at LAX." I hate text messaging most of the time but I really love it when DD is traveling. She won't call but she will send me a series of text messages informing me of her whereabouts. Thank goodness for small favors.

After receiving the "Eagle has landed" message, I replied requesting a real honest-to-god phone call. I actually got one. She is feeling better. Tired, but better. Flights were swell. Her luggage (packed this morning by her boyfriend) arrived safely. His luggage is .... somewhere. The airline is supposed to deliver it whenever they find it. Poor kid. He may have to spend the entire weekend in the same outfit. I guess if it had to happen to one of them, better him than her. God help Southwest Airlines if they lost HER bag.

I was okay until I made the mistake of calling my mother tonight. She launched into a spiel about how she admired me for releasing the apron strings to the point I could let her go like that. I did not need to hear that from my mother. I was doing fine until she brought it up. Damn!

Now I have something else to put on my Worry Pile.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Synchronicity and Sickness

It happens so regularly, I have now come to expect it. Every time I say something like this I think of that stupid book "The Celestine Prophecy" that was such a rage a while back; it sounds so corny and far-fetched but I'm going to say it anyway because it is true: Whenever I find myself in a bad patch Life itself hands me a gift as if to remind me that this too shall pass. I have almost begun to expect phone calls, emails or other contacts from long-lost friends whenever I am in the dumps. In the last week I have had phone calls and emails from no less than four people I have not heard from in months or even years. Every one of the messages included at least one reference to an issue I am dealing with right now. Talk about affirmation and consolation!

I am almost willing to start feeling a little better. Maybe.

After work, I went for a walk. I planned to make dinner for the gang. It was to be a sort of celebration, farewell dinner because DD and her Wonderful Boyfriend are off for a weekend adventure with his family, leaving tomorrow after school. The celebration turned out to be a bust.

DH called me on the cell to ask me to come home. DD came home from work sick. She has inherited my propensity for stomach ailments when stressed, sad, excited or happy. She is excited about the weekend. For some of us vomiting is a sort of natural side-effect of excitement. She spent the evening alternating between throwing up and sleeping.

Dinner time was weird. She dozed in her room while I made dinner for DH and WBF. DH was called away from the table by the phone, so WBF and I had dinner together and talked. Lord, he's a nice boy!

DD was too sick to pack, so that job is being left until the last minute tomorrow. Fortunately, I taught her the fine art of list-making. With a packing list in hand, the actual packing should not be too stressful. Double fortunately, if she is better in the morning I will be long gone and at work before the last minute panic packing begins.

I am keeping my fingers crossed she feels better tomorrow. I would hate for her to be sick on the plane. I can't even let myself think about her missing out on the trip altogether.

Mothers will appreciate this. During her last (I hope) bout of vomiting I heard her go into the bathroom and I kicked into my regular sick-kid routine. I followed her into the bathroom and held her hair back with one hand while wetting cold cloths with the other and applying them to the back of her neck. I have no earthly idea if cold compresses have any effect on quelling nausea, but it is what my mother used to do for me when I threw up, and so I do it too. It may not really help the sick kid, but it makes an otherwise helpless mom feel like she is doing "something". I don't know whether or not DD appreciates my being in the bathroom when she is sick, but she's never asked me to leave ... and I've never really given her a choice.

She may be 18 and about to fly the nest, but as long as she's under my roof, when she's sick, she's my precious little one and I will suffer along with her.

That is what Mom's do.

My own mother keeps telling me that it never gets any better, even after the kids have left home. There's another thing for me to put on my list of things to worry and obsess about.

Return to top......

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I Can Hardly Believe It

Tonight my dear husband, daughter dear and I were home alone.... just the three of us (and the dogs, of course). No boyfriend. No other friends. I made dinner and we ate at the table together all at the same time. I attempted to recreate the Thai chicken pasta I had last week at the Cheesecake Factory, and came very close! I even got a "way to go, Mom" from Miss Critical. No hugs ... but, I mustn't be greedy.

In any case, we ate dinner together as a family, just like in the "olden days" before we all started working such crazy hours. After dinner we sat down and watched TV together, sort of. DD was on the computer and texting her boyfriend from the phone, but she was at least in the same room with us and she was also sort of watching TV. We watched "American Idol" and then "Dancing With The Stars". Such highbrow tastes, but it was fun to critique the performances and compare our opinions with each other and with the judges.

The remarkable thing was that the three of us passed an entire evening in the same room and there was not one episode of drama. No arguments. Nobody stormed out of the room in a huff. I found myself wondering at one point if I had been transported to the "Twilight Zone" or something.

We even engaged in some off-and-on conversation, at least until DH fell asleep in the chair and I started getting antsy because I wanted a turn at "my" computer.

Now, everyone but me is in bed. (Why is it that women go to bed after everyone else and still manage to get up first???) It is quiet and peaceful. Everyone is here and safely abed. I am enjoying the afterglow of a lovely evening en famille with no fireworks. It has been a long time since we have had an evening like this. Given the upcoming schedule, my guess is it may not happen again for a very long time. It was an evening worth marking as special.

There was nothing "special" about it. That is what makes it so precious.

I can't decide if I want to be thrilled at being blessed with such a wonderfully unexpected evening or to be sad at the thought that we have so few like it. I am leaning on the side of the former. Particularly since these evenings will probably become rarer and rarer.

In any case, I am spending these last few minutes of my day feeling intentionally grateful.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Campaign 2008 - Another Point for Obama

I recently read in the newspaper (yeah, I love to read actual newspapers, the kind that get your fingers all inky) Senator Obama indicated that he will invite former Vice President Gore to a prominent place in an Obama cabinet, working in on environmental issues. Short of announcing John Edwards as his choice for Vice President or the Comptroller of Wal-Mart as the head of the Office of Management & Budget, that's the best news I have heard in this campaign.

I am still sore at Vice President Gore for suing over the election in 2000. That was uncalled for and un-American. He sort of lost his allure for me in that campaign. I am not 100% sure he has totally redeemed himself, but he is definitely headed in the right direction.

Mr. Gore's credibility on environmental issues is solid, at least to those who believe in global warming. I wish he were back in the Senate pushing through environmental legislation instead of making movies, but he is at least out there doing something.

While I wish he were back in the Senate, my second choice would be to welcome Vice President Gore to a significant role in the Obama Cabinet. Say Director of EPA or Secretary of the Department of the Interior, perhaps.


I am not a whiner. I am a crier, though. I am a big-time, world class, cry-baby. I am what you might call an "all purpose crier." I cry for joy, sadness, surprise, pain, anger, fear, frustration, love, passion, ... and most other emotions, too. (Are there others?)

People have various reactions to my tears. Some people get irritated and end the conversation; I guess they think I'm just an emotionally unstable, hysterical female. Some people try to make me feel better and tell me to stop crying; they don't get it. Some people get uncomfortable and try to rationalize the situation; they try to tell me what to do that will "fix" it. Those people are like Job's friends. They mean well, but their focus is on their own reactions, and they are not helpful.

I love people who ignore my tears and continue the conversation. I especially appreciate it when people cry with me on occasion. Those are the people with whom a person can learn and grow and change. I love to find myself in the company of people who are comfortable with tears, mine and theirs.

Tears are, for me, sort of like the steam valve on a pressure cooker. They provide an outlet for the excess energy that allows the cooking to take place inside without blowing up, melting down, starting a fire or otherwise causing havoc. The steam escapes, the food cooks unseen inside the pot so the results can be enjoyed in due course. That is exactly the way I process life's hurdles. I cry a lot, but while I'm crying, I'm also thinking and talking (or writing) and dealing with whatever is happening in my life. The really good stuff happens late in the process after most of the excess tears have been shed and the internal bubbling settles down to a gentle simmer. In the cooking process, that's when the food gets really, really tender and tasty. In my experience, that is when the real growth happens for me emotionally. People who try to stop me before I get to that point annoy me because they prevent me from completing the work I need to do in order to deal with whatever challenge I may be facing. When I get past the tears, I can look at whatever is going on clearly, objectively, rationally -- and then I can learn from it, make whatever decisions need to be made, and grow and change.

Granted, the revelations that occur at that point or the fear of the next steps I need to take following the decision-making process often kick off a whole new round of tears, but that is just part of the process for me. I have learned that is the way it works for me. My own personal dialectic works kind of like this: Challenge (tears/fears); Processing; Growth (tears/fears) -» New Challenge (repeat process).

The reason I am thinking about this today is because I was privileged to have had a conversation recently with a lady whom I do not know well but with whom I found myself discussing something rather personal. [Isn't it wonderful how women can do that?] She shared something that prompted me to respond with a really candid, nakedly revealing remark about my own similar experience. When I heard what I said, I started to cry. She didn't bat an eye and went right on talking. I went through three or four tissues as we finished our conversation. She shared enough of her story to make me feel less alone and to remind me that this too shall pass. She also provided me with some valuable information. It was one of those brief, blessed moments when two people happen to connect and very quickly reach a place of deep understanding, compassion and caring.

I am so very grateful for that..... and for all my friends who put up with my weepy ways.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

On Blogging v. "Real" Writing

Several years ago I read something in a book or article about writing to the effect that "would-be writers write when they are inspired, real writers write every day." I started blogging that very week. I did not set a word-count goal as some writing experts suggest, but I did try to post something semi-coherent a few times a week. Soon the practice of regular writing empowered and inspired me to the point that I started writing novels. I spent a couple of years working on several novels during every spare moment. I have never worked so hard or slept so little. The result of that effort has been four "completed" draft novels and several good starts on a few others. In the last three or four years, I all but gave up blogging, along with cooking, keeping house, and almost everything else in my life except going to work and exercising regularly.

Recently I found myself mildly depressed (I'm probably a hell of a lot more depressed than that, but that's as much as I'm admitting to because I don't have time or energy for a breakdown), confused, unfocused and rather aimless. Part of it is very likely the accumulated effects of a lot of things going on in my life, some of which I can/have/will blog about and some of which I prefer to keep private. In this frame of mind, I sort of ran out of steam before getting very far with my current novel. Rather than the joy and delight I took in writing the others, I found working on the story had become a chore. I decided I needed a break. Maybe it's a bad story and I need to give up on it. Maybe I just need to take a breather from the daily grind of fiction writing.

I remain committed to writing every day. Blogging was something I enjoyed when I did it before. It helped me muster the courage and inspiration to try my hand at fiction. Instead of wrestling the Muse and forcing myself to continue working on something that felt out of whack, I decided to take up blogging again. It is therapeutic. I am not sure why blogging online is better than journaling privately, but I think part of it has to do with the fact that I am more careful about my writing when I am making it public. Constant focus on writing as well as I can is important to me. The stuff I write in my private journal is usually raw, inarticulate (sometimes borderline incoherent) howling. Forcing myself to write carefully helps me keep my writing edge. (I confess that, in the interest of keeping up with regular posting on current topics, I am nowhere near as careful with word selection and grammar in these essays as I am when I am writing fiction.)

Writing daily helps me grow as a writer. Writing on a variety of topics helps me look at the world through a wide lens. I think trying to focus carefully makes the journaling process even more effective in processing emotional crap. The chance to share and to receive affirmation and support from others is an added, and wonderful, bonus.

My inner-novelist is a bit of a literary snob who thinks that spending so much time reading other peoples' blogs, websites, zines, etc. and then blathering on about it in my own blog is a waste of time that potentially could dilute whatever writing skills I may have. "She" may be right.

Then again, I realized over the weekend that I am out of story ideas. I had to stop with my story because I didn't like the direction I had originally planned to take it but I couldn't think of a better one. I was out of creative gas. This may be rationalization, but I think I'm back to blogging as a means of trolling for story ideas. Looking at the stories I have written in light of my previous blogging, it appears to me that the things that capture my attention enough to blog about sort of sink down into my unconscious and come out later as story ideas. So perhaps I am not wasting my time after all.

Or at least it is not a total waste.

I hope.

A Trip to Orlando

It is Spring Break in our school district. Daughter Dear (DD) went on her class trip last week, so we did not plan a family vacation. Since the Medusa of mother's-guilt has been rearing its head over the fact that I have been way too busy lately, I took a couple of days off to hang out with her. I am not 100% sure she was thrilled about the prospect, but she agreed to be a good sport about it.

Yesterday, DD and her Wonderful Boyfriend (WBF) took me on an outing to Orlando. The plan was to visit IKEA and then have a late lunch. They love to shop and eat out in fancy restaurants. I hate to shop. I am cheap and I consider a restaurant expensive if my husband and I can't eat for under $25.00 -- both of us, including tax and tip. Do you see where this is heading?

The kids thought even I might like IKEA. They were right. I loved the layout. I loved the look of the merchandise. I especially liked the idea that the stuff was all designed for really small spaces. I was crazy about the $0.75 coffee with free-refills. I went there with the intention of getting ideas to spiff up the Old Homestead. I knew full well after about five minutes that I like the idea of redecorating the house, but I will probably not actually do anything about it.

The fact of the matter is that as long as my home is reasonably clean and all rooms other than DD's bedroom are picked up and reasonably straight, I don't really give a damn what it looks like. Lately I've been talking about actually doing some redecorating because, well, it has sort of deteriorated to the point that even I can't ignore it. It's all just talk, though.

We wandered around IKEA for hours, and bought a few things for DD's room. Damn if I know where she's going to put it. I got some ideas. I may someday go back with my dear huband to look at lighting for the living room. I'm getting old. My eyes are bad. I need better light to read by. They have cool lighting. That's not "decorating" it is a matter of necessity.

For lunch the kids wanted to go to a restaurant at the Mall at Millenia. Mind you, IKEA is probably a little upscale for my tastes. Most of the stuff I buy comes from thrift stores and WalMart; when I really want to put on the dog, I visit Target. People like me should not be allowed in places like the Mall at Millenia.

For anyone who may possibly read this who is fortunate enough not to have visited Orlando, Florida, recently, let me explain. The Mall at Millenia was apparently built in an effort to overcome some of Central Florida's reputation as a shopping haven for people who like overpriced tacky souvenir shop crap. The Mall was built as a sort of one-stop shopping location for rich people or people who spend money like they are rich. They sell Gucci bags (real ones), Ferragamo and Jimmy Choo shoes, Cartier jewelry and a bunch of other overpriced stuff in fancy stores I've never heard of. The first time I went to the Mall, I walked into the Jimmy Choo shoe store because I wanted to make sure that DD (who was drooling on the counter tops) did not even think about buying anything. The employees who were standing around pointedly ignoring us made it clear that we were not buying anything there because they would die before they would wait on us. I was sort of grateful for that because it meant that I didn't have to be the bad guy dragging DD out of the store, but I still wanted to scratch the bitches' eyes out.

A few minutes later I walked into Cartier just to see what would happen. The guy behind the counter looked like he was ready to call security. I simply smiled what I think of as my best "Bless Your Heart" smile and walked on.

They do actually have some cool stores where normal people could buy stuff if they were so inclined. They have an Apple store. We played with the I-phones and the new Macs. I managed to keep DD out of Ferragamo. She managed to keep me out of Williams Sonoma because my weakness for cool kitchen gadgets sometimes manages to overcome my cheapness but I always end up with buyer's remorse. There is evidently some kind of electronic gadget store that DD would not let us go near because she figured (probably rightly) that WBF and I would want to stay too long and it was time to eat.

I like the music they play in the Mall. It is quiet by mall standards. For a mall it has a nice atmosphere. I'm trying to say something nice, here....

I give up! The place gives me the creeps. Do people really not have anything better to do with their money then spending it on ostentatious, expensive shit? Do rich ladies have to wear so much makeup, such ugly clothes and such god-awful stinky perfume you can smell half a block away?

Looking at the stores and the shoppers I was reminded of a conversation I overheard on a city bus years ago. An older lady was talking to a young woman who worked in the most upscale dress shop in Cincinnati at the time. The older lady, who not only did not shop in that store but had apparently never visited it, asked what the clothes were like. The younger woman thought about it for a while and said, "I have come to the conclusion that the uglier the clothes and the more expensive they are, the better our customers like them." That describes a lot of what I saw yesterday. Hideous jewelry. Clothes that would have embarrassed a hooker. And let's not even talk about those disgusting stiletto heeled shoes that look pornographic (not to mention painful). I would not have believed people would buy any of that but all day long I saw people walking around the mall actually wearing it.

Since DD and WBF invited me to go with them, I was determined to be on my best behavior. I managed to make it through the entire day without throwing one fit or complaining very much. I even paid for a truly delicious late lunch and proclaimed the cost "not bad". Our lunch cost approximately twice what my husband and I ordinarily spend when we go out for dinner, and I didn't even have a glass of wine (... or the double vodka martini I actually needed after six hours of shopping).

On the way home we got stuck for nearly an hour in Orlando traffic. I kept my mouth shut.

I pretty much hated everything we did all day long, but the opportunity to spend an entire day with the kids was worth the aching back, the tongue-biting and the cost. (I'll worry about the fit DH is gonna throw when he gets the credit card bills some other time.) The kids had fun. I enjoyed spending the time with them.

To top the whole thing off, I even got another hug from DD. I am on a roll!