Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Read this!

Maggie Ross is one of my all time favorite writers, partly because I almost always agree with her (a very rare thing for me) and partly because she's such a wonderful writer.

She recently posted this and this. I love essays that make me laugh, cry and think all at the same time.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Dern, I keep forgetting the key point!

After my whining tirade the other night, I should have known somebody would post something like this. I could probably have guessed it would be RLP.

Call it what you will: "fear and trembling", the "Dark Night of the Soul," the "spiritual desert," "The Wilderness," Wonderland, Oz, or an Existential 'WTF????' moment. Those times when we come crashing up against our limitations as humans are sacred events which we should cherish because it is in those moments we have the opportunity to directly experience the Holy.

We will never 'understand' the Holy, but in those moments we have the opportunity to encounter it directly, usually when it is picking up the pieces of the mess we have made of something that seemed important.

Reminds me of a crazy dog my parents used to own. My mom was an immaculate housekeeper. The kitchen floor was linoleum which Mom kept scrubbed and waxed to such a high sheen it was freaking dangerous to humans and pets alike. They had this incredibly stupid poodle whose food dish was on the floor near the back door. Every day, Mom would put the dog's dinner in the bowl and most days, if Mom or somebody didn't catch her fast enough, the silly dog would go racing toward the dish. Several feet from the bowl, she would "put on her brakes" to stop, but her toenails and foot pads could not get traction on the waxed floor, so she would go smashing head first into the wall, most of the time spilling her food and water all over the place in the process.

Every time that happened, she would look up at my mom with those sad and remorseful eyes as if to say, "Oh my god, I did it again!!!" Mom would pick her up and comfort her. She would put the dog down and patiently (or as patiently as Mom ever got) clean up the mess. The she would carefully set the dog down next to the bowl so she could have her supper.

Maybe the dog wasn't quite as stupid as I thought: She managed to not only to be fed but she also managed to be loved every day as well.

I do that, too. Too often, however, I fail to notice the being loved part because I'm so busy being pissed off about the bashing my face into the wall part.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I hate to be a whiner but....

OK, I admit it. I had a bad day today and I am very out of sorts. I hate to whine and complain, but, geez, sometimes I hate dealing with the public. Correction: almost all the time I hate dealing with the public.

First, it is important to note that I have a very busy, stressful and demanding job. It's a ten-hour-a-day job with few, if any, breaks. I have to keep my nose to the grindstone, plow ahead and hope to hell I'm still standing at the end of the day. It's interesting work and I really love it, but it requires every ounce of my concentration and attention from about 7:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (if I'm lucky).

My wonderful husband does not understand that. His jobs have been sales jobs where the salesmen sit around and talk trash all day. My wonderful, dear, beloved husband also does not use computers in any way. That means that when he needs publicity materials for his business, he expects me to create them. Before I took my current job, I enjoyed that. I enjoyed creating fliers, business cards, newspaper adds and even websites for people. I'd love to have the time to toodle around with that kind of thing now, but I don't. Between my career and my writing, I'm full-up. I have no left-over creativity at all. Nada. Zilch. Squat.

DH does not understand that. This week he needed 300 fliers for a newsletter ad.
He expected me to do the ad. I made the flier and printed off the first couple of hundred sheets. To finish the job we needed more paper and another ink cartridge. (New printer was very cheap. It appears the ink cartridges empty out awfully fast. Hmmmmm.) No time to order replacement cartridges online. DH has to turn ad in tomorrow. (We will not raise the question of "why didn't you tell me sooner?" because it's not worth the aggravation.)

On the way home from work, I stopped at my friendly (ahem) neighborhood Wal-Mart. For me shopping at Wal-Mart is confined to three options only: online (where I bought the printer), before 6:00 a.m. and between 5:00 and 6:30 p.m. I refuse to set foot in a Wal-Mart store at any other time. The plan was to pick up a ream of paper, the ink and a couple of grocery items and get home in time for a walk. I would print out the last hundred sheets when I returned from my walk.

When humans make plans, God seems to have a hard time resisting the temptation to lay pranks.

Wal-Mart had every Lexmark cartridge but the one I needed. The clerk in the Wal-Mart electronics section was evidently a Best Buy reject. All he could do was mumble something incomprehensible and point to the flip book list of cartridge numbers hanging on a shelf.

I abandoned my cart containing two reams of paper in the middle of the store and headed for Target.
Target never lets me down. Surely it would have the cartridge I needed! I'd probably pay more, but I was running out of prime shopping time and I really didn't care at that point. Amazingly, Target did, indeed, let me down. It only had a few cartridges, none of which was the one I needed.

I had not been to the bathroom since 6:30 a.m. and god knows when the dogs had been out, so I made a quick detour by the house for pit stops all around. Then I decided to try the next closest Wal-Mart. I was seriously pushing the envelope. It was almost 6:00 by the time I got there. I was not familiar with the layout of the store. I thought all Wal-Marts would be laid out the same, but I was wrong. I found the cartridge I needed, thanks to the help of a friendly, cheerful and knowledgeable clerk -- if you can imagine such a thing. I have barely recovered from the shock. I needed a few grocery items so I buzzed through the food area as well. It was a nice, clean, well-organized store. It occurred to me that I might want to consider shopping there from time to time ... upon which God ramped up the experience.

I picked up a few things, but kept my total to under ten items so I could use the express lane. What a fucking joke that concept is!!! Have you noticed how the stores put their slowest and most incompetent clerks on that lane?

Silly me. I stood in line for twenty minutes to buy seven items. The cashier was almost blind and appeared to be somewhat crazy. She reminded me of the homeless people on the streets. She had problems with every single transaction in the line ahead of me. I am not a paragon of patience (she says bursting into peels of giggles). Daughter Dear called while I was standing in line. I rarely answer my cell phone when I am in stores or restaurants because I think it's rude. I answered the call because it's even ruder to trap customers in interminable lines that do not move. DD asked me where I was. I told her I was in Wal-Mart check-out hell. She laughed, and did not even ask what I was talking about. She understood.

The clerk must have heard me because she was very rude to me by the time I got to the checkout. That was fine with me. Be as rude as you want, honey, but check me out and LET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE!!! Thanks be to God, mine was the only transaction for which she did not have to do a price check or experience some other difficulty in processing. Mercifully, I eventually made it out of the store with my merchandise and without the police after me for murder.

DH called to let me know his plans had changed and he would be home for dinner. That was consistent with everything else in my afternoon. I was not expecting him for dinner and had planned to dine on cold leftover rice out of the pan standing over the sink, my favorite way to eat dinner because it saves time and dishes.) Turns out both DD and DH were going to grace my my life with their presence and both were expecting to dine
en famille. That happens about once every other month. I ordinarily yearn for family dinners. Tonight making a family dinner was not on my agenda.

Fortunately for me, my family has exceedingly low culinary standards, so I got away with a dinner of spaghetti and canned sauce. ... no salad or sides .... served out of the pots from the stove.
Pace, Martha Stewart!

Before and during dinner, I printed off the last hundred or so fliers. By the time we finished supper (the meal did not merit the designation "dinner"), it was dark. There would be no head-clearing walk outside in the fresh air for me today. My walk was confined to the treadmill on the back porch. I finally finished about 20 minutes before DH packed himself off to bed. He gave me a summary of all the TV he had watched during the evening. We watched the end of today's stage of the
Tour de France. Then he bailed on me.

After a four mile walk on the treadmill at 9:00 p.m., I'm pretty chipper and alert. I should go to bed, but I'm not tired. I'm finally relaxed enough to sit down and have a conversation with somebody but everybody in my house is asleep, including the dogs.

Tired or not, I guess I had better follow suit.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Facing Reality

I can't remember when I started losing my hearing. Actually, I think my hearing was so badly damaged by constant ear infections when I was a kid, I don't think I have ever been able to hear like a normal person. When I was in high school (back in the Dark Ages), an audiologist told me I had the kind of ear damage that hearing aids could not correct. I managed to get along okay until the past few years, but then things went sort of "bad" on me.

About three years ago, I broke down and bought a hearing aid online. It worked for a while, intermittently. When it was working, it was more or less fine. I could watch TV. I could carry on conversations with DH. I didn't wear it while cooking: I discovered that am a VERY noisy cook! I didn't wear it at work because I work in a very quiet environment where it was not necessary: hearing the clicking of the keyboard all day long drove me crazy. What was worse, I couldn't use the hearing aid on the phone. I am on the phone a LOT. When the hearing aid quit working, I did not replace it. That was, in retrospect, a mistake.

At first, that was okay. It helped in some situations, but was mostly an irritation in noisy environments. The problem is that in those situations where it did help, I really, really need the help.

Lately, my hearing has taken a noticeable turn for the worse. Big time!! I drive my family crazy asking them to repeat things. I try to fake it at work, and end up looking like a dork. I know I often make totally inappropriate responses to things people try to tell me, but which I misunderstand. I have reached the point I have difficulty understanding a lot of what is said to me on the telephone, despite the fact that I have the phone cranked up to the highest volume.

Tonight, I broke down and ordered a hearing aid from E-Bay.

One of these days enough of us Boomers are going to have severe enough hearing loss that insurance will cover "real" hearing aids, or, the market will become so huge the quality of the products available will improve. Either way, I will win.

This is one more little reminder that I have turned into an Old Broad. That is not necessarily a bad thing in my mind. I do, however, hate the thought of walking around with a piece of plastic stuck in my ear.

The alternative, however, is appearing increasingly stupid when I try to fake it. I have passed the point of being able to fake it.

So I wear trifocals, support hose and a hearing aid. Not exactly the self-image of the Eternally Youthful Boomer-Chick I have always seen myself to be.

Screw that.

I 'm sick of having to ask my husband to translate every TV show he watches (and not understanding half of what he says when he explains what is going on). I an sick of pretending a work that I understand what people are saying when I don't. I am an Old Broad with an increasingly severe hearing loss. I need to deal with it, instead of expecting everyone around me to deal with it "for" me.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Random stuff

I have been busy and distracted lately. For one thing I am working on not one but two novels. I am a sick, sick person.

Work has been unbelievably busy.

I have had computer "issues" having to do with a new printer that worked for a while and then didn't work, but now works again (thanks to many hours of cursing and reloading over and over and over........).

There was stock car racing in Daytona Beach, which caused distraction, and excitement -- not to mention traffic and general mayhem. [ASIDE: they need to quit calling it "stock car" racing. The "Car of Tomorrow" (or is the the "Car of Today") has about as much in common with the average "stock" car as my Honda has to do with a Ferrari.] That always interrupts the flow of live at the World's Most Famous Beach. [We are very humble here, too.]

I will try to post something soon. Honest. Really. I swear...................

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I swear I really did see this!

I honestly did see this! Today I was walking down the bike path trying to race a thunderstorm home when I saw a black snake out of the corner of my eye. It seemed to be crawling slower than usual. I stopped and noticed that the snake's tail appeared to be up in the air while it was crawling away very slowly.

Looking closer, I realized the end that was up in the air was the head. It had something in its mouth and it was slowly crawling BACKWARDS away from me. Suddenly it swung its head around and shot off (forwards this time!) into the grass at the typical lightning speed you would expect from a black snake.

A cursory search online indicates that snakes are not supposed to be able to crawl backwards. Well, maybe they are not supposed to be able to crawl backwards, but nobody told that particular snake. Granted, he wasn't very good at it, but he was definitely headed in a rear-ward direction.

Personally, I would prefer not to see snakes on my walks at all. If I do see them, however, I do like to see them headed in the opposite direction ... forwards or backwards.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Give me patience -- NOW!!

My 11 year old printer ran out of ink a week or so ago about the same time it began to more or less regularly jam. Rather than spend the money to replace the ink cartridges only to have the rotors poop out, we elected to buy a new printer. The original printer cost more than $250 when it was new in 1997. The new printer cost under $65 including shipping plus two print cartridges.

Tonight I printed off several fliers for DH's business in no time. I printed off an 8-1/2 x 11-inch photo that looks like it came from Walgreen's. Text prints fast, but the photos print faster than I would have expected ... and with AMAZING clarity.

I am amazed and impressed. The printer works like magic from my computer, over a wireless connection, meaning I can sit in the living room and print off stuff in the bedroom.

The problem is that we have two other computers in the house and for which I have not been able to get the printer to work at all, despite four hours of constant trying tonight. I give up -- for tonight. I'm thrilled that I can print from my computer, which is the one we use most of all. I'm not happy that I can't print from the others. I'll figure it out eventually, I feel sure.


The bad news is that I still can't print from all the computers in the house. Bummer.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Little bit of Schizo

Early this afternoon, DH and I drove over to the Speedway to have lunch and wander around the pedestrian zone outside the venue. When we go to the races we always schedule our time to arrive at the last possible second after the traffic has subsided and before the race starts (sometimes we walk a long way and hear the race start from down the road). He was going to the race tonight, but I do not care to attend the really "big" races due to my anxiety in crowds. We have never taken the time to wander around the grounds. I thought it would be fun to walk around, drink a beer and maybe eat some redneck food (i.e. barbecue or hamburgers).

Anyway, we had lunch at a restaurant near the speedway (neither barbecue nor burgers, but I didn't have to cook it and it wasn't Hooters so I'm not complaining), and then we wandered around the grounds.

My DH is a Kyle Busch fan (one of maybe two or three, counting Kyle's mother, I think). I wanted to buy him a #18 tee-shirt or hat, but he said he would be afraid that would get him killed in Daytona Beach. Good point, given the overwhelming Earnhart-mania that seems to infect Daytona during a race event.

It was interesting to see all the souvenir booths and read the clever tee-shirts. As a passionate people-watcher, I loved just walking around taking in all the bizarre-ness. We arrived around 1:30 p.m. and the race didn't start until 8:00 p.m. There were thousands of fans already at the Speedway when we arrived, and they were positively streaming in when we left about 2:30. What in the world were those people going to do out in the hot sun all afternoon? And how drunk would they be by the time the race started?

I almost asked if I could go to the race because I had such a good time last night and DD gave us two tickets. DH has a friend who is a true fan and would enjoy the ticket more than I would have. I probably would have freaked when the place really started filling up, and made my evening and DH's miserable. It was just as well I didn't attempt it, I know. Still, there's nothing quite like a race at Daytona!

So, while DH and DD are off at the race with their respective friends, I spent the afternoon at home with the pooches, revising my query letters to pitch my growing pile of novels. I found an outline for query letters which is different from the one I have used in the past and even my pea brain understands that it's much better, albeit, infinitely harder to write. I have spend the better part of the last five hours revising three letters of three paragraphs each.

I'm drained and exhausted and sweating harder than the folks at the Speedway.

Time to call it a day!

Friday, July 4, 2008

July 4th (Continued)

I began the day today with a walk on The World's Most Famous Beach (yeah, we are humble in the Sunshine State). I wrote about the gutzy little girl who was determined not to let the Ocean get her down. I end with a slightly different story, but one I find no less inspiring.

This evening DH and I went to the NASCAR Nationwide Race at the Daytona International Speedway. I am not much for crowds or noisy environments, but I make an exception for car races -- for some reason I can't explain. We rarely stay for the entire race, but it's fun to stop by and get a taste of the event. This evening we stayed longer than usual. It was a pretty good race, with few wrecks or cautions and a lot of passing.

We like to sit near the entrance to Pit Road where the cars are coming out of Turn 4. There are several reasons for our preference for that spot. One is that lots of wrecks seem to happen in or around Turn 4. Secondly, lots of wrecks happen entering Pit Road. (Did I mention DH likes races with lots of wrecks?) Thirdly, there is a Jumbo Tron directly in front of the section where we sit, so we can watch the racing going on in the parts of the track we can't see. Finally, it is easy to get out of the grandstand and back to the walkover to the parking area.

Tonight, the stands were filled with Earnhart fans, which is more or less normal for Daytona. What was new to me was that many of the fans were women attending the race with other women. NASCAR's marketing efforts to attract women seems to be working, I guess. I find it hard to believe that they could be so excited about every single lap!! As I women I found it embarrassing. I wanted to stand up and shout, "Down, girls." But I didn't want to poop on their party.

There were also a whole lot of families, with children ranging from babies to teenagers. There were three family groups in front of us that were fun to watch. The little kids were excited and having a great time. (I have to note here: Only one of the three families were using ear-plugs for their children. As a person with hearing loss, I find that inexcusable.) One family in particular caught my eye. They had little girl (a toddler) and a boy who was perhaps four or so. Both of them got very excited every time the cars came around. The little girl in particular had a very good time waving two American flags, one in each hand. Her brother became ecstatic every time the cars went by. (Not unlike some of the women in nearby rows.)

And so, another generation of NASCAR fans is born.

Persistence and Courage

I have often noted that small children exhibit an interesting range of reactions to the ocean. Some of them are terrified and won't go near the water. Others run straight for the water and often have to be "rescued" by nearby adults to prevent disaster. Most of the time they come up from an unexpected dunking in tears. Sometimes that unpleasant surprise is enough to to turn the second type of child into the first type, at least for a little while. Every once in a while, I see a kid who makes me want to stand up and cheer. I saw one of them today.

DH and I were walking on the beach this morning when we noticed a little tyke take a hard tumble in a wave. Parents pulled him out of the water, and he immediately began to dig in the sand. He was done.

There was a little girl in the same family group, perhaps she was the little boy's sister or cousin. She appeared to be approximately two years old or so. When she saw the water, she broke into a run and did not even slow down when she hit the water. A small incoming wave almost immediately knocked her down and she landed face first in the drink. Her father (?) pulled her out and set her down on the dry beach. She didn't cry or run away. She shook her head, wiped the water out of her eyes, and took off running toward the water again. Another wave knocked her down. That time she landed face first as the wavelet broke over her head. "Daddy" pulled her out and stood her on the beach. Once again she shook off the water like puppy and made a bee line for the water. "Daddy" stepped in front of her. She altered course, ran around him and almost instantly was face down in the water.

That may not be the best way to learn to swim, but given the plethora of wimpy, whining, sniveling cowards in the world I live in (which often includes me), I was amazed and inspired to watch that baby Amazon doing what appeared to be an impossible battle with the ocean with courage and persistence.

Reminds me of a few crazy guys in Philadelphia a couple of hundred years ago.

Happy Fourth of July!