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Yard Sale

June 27th, 2011 · Stuff

Every year our neighborhood has a mass yard sale. We have never been able to participate before, despite all the decidedly yard-salable goods we have amassed over the years. We have always had some kind of scheduling conflict. This year, however, we were free. I made sure well in advance that that Bob was available to help with crowd control  and haggling and  I set out on a mission.

In the weeks before the sale, I organized and priced and planned for the sale. I worked like a dog. Wait our dogs don’t work hard. They don’t work at all. I worked super hard.

I even coerced Bob into cutting loose some of his treasured baseball caps and T-shirts. This was no easy feat. I borrowed tables and a canopy. I read an article on how to hold a yard sale; accept early offers because that is when the serious yard sale shoppers are out and keep your cash in a fanny pack so no one can lift it when you are distracted. On Saturday morning I was ready to unload piles of electronics, glassware and clothing, all with little price tags. My head danced with visions of dollar signs.

There were clearly thousands of dollars of treasures under that canopy. Analog televisions, old DVD players, obsolete cable boxes and an outdated Direct TV DVR were all for waiting for the hoards of tinkering electronics junkies to take home.

Dishes and glassware and luggage were all prominently displayed for those who prefer the shabby chic of mismatched items.

Bob was at the ready to manage the crowds.

Some shoppers came but the hoards of tinkering electronics aficionados not so much. A cab driver came by and bought an old blue tooth headset and a fax machine. A neighbor furnishing her son’s new apartment took some glasses and mismatched flatware off our hands. But overall it was more of a trickle than a swarm. I may have overestimated the market for obsolete electronics or possibly the yard sale sector of the economy hasn’t rebounded quite yet.

As it turned out the sale was a modest financial success. We had to carry loads of crap right back into the house quickly to avoid a sudden thunderstorm, but most of the day was actually quite nice. We had some drive by shoppers and a couple of guys who hollered from their open car windows asking if we were selling tools (Who sells tools? Have you fixed everything?) Many neighbors stopped by to chat, look at our old junk and some actually bought something. After a long winter hibernation it was really nice to check in with people on our block, especially this newcomer.

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Spring, What Spring?

May 29th, 2011 · Stuff

Maybe if we planned our “spring vacation” for July spring might have actually arrived in Chicago before we departed, but as it was we packed for our tenth anniversary trip leaving lovely 56° temperatures behind in mid-May. The good news is that we were headed to the land of 85° sunny days and mild trade winds, Maui.

We have been to Maui before a number of times, but that didn’t stop well-meaning acquaintances from offering all sorts of suggestions. “You should check out the volcano at dawn.” Um, that would mean getting up at 4:00am to take a bus to Haleakela (no doubt an amazing sight). I do not need to do anything that requires that I get up at 4:00am (except pee) when I am on vacation. “Have you driven the road to Hana? You just have to.” Yeah, we tried that once and it didn’t go well. We made it about a third of the way and bailed. I believe harsh words were said and the ride back may or may not have been uncharacteristically quiet.

I am blessed (on many levels) to be married to a man who likes to vacation the way I do. We like to kick back in the sun by a pool and read and listen to music and make each other laugh. And we are really good at it. Mostly we just mock one another, but we are not above observing (or eavesdropping on) our fellow sunbathers particularly if they speak loudly on cell phones.

Our agendas usually differ when naptime comes around. I like to take a post sun snooze. This is usually when Bob can knock off whatever wanderlust he has. This time around it was the beach. I suspect it had as much to do with the occupants of the beach as it did the actual beach, but Bob was mildly obsessed. I like the beach in theory and I did join him for one beautiful sunset on the beach, but I am not a big fan of sand.

Sand is a pretty standard component for a beach and then there is the salt water and the things that live in it and the inferior washroom facilities.

Beautiful yes, but sandy and sticky. Sorry, but compared to a nice clean swimming pool where I can see the bottom complete with adjustable lounge chairs twenty yards away from refrigeration and clean restrooms, well, for me the pool wins every time.

On the subject of naps, I indulged in a nap every single day. I also slept no less than 10 hours each night. Now I know the sun takes a bit out of you, but seriously I slept approximately 12 hours a day, each day, for seven days straight. I was unconscious for half of my vacation. And honestly I was pretty happy about it. So between all the sunning and sleeping there was little time for paddle boarding or surfing, though this truck claimed to be able to teach even me:

And the top of this truck’s display implied it would to teach Goose and me:

After a week of sleeping and relaxing and eating and watching of sunsets (they have one every single night) we returned tanned and rested to…. more 56° weather. It seems that unbeknownst to us spring was canceled this year. I guess we will just have to hold on to our vacation memories until summer arrives.

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The Un-Thong Song

April 8th, 2011 · Everything else is gravy, Venting

I have a confession to make. I owned a thong bathing suit. I know it was wrong and I am ashamed. The truth is that no one, save actual Brazilian women and possibly JLo, should ever, ever wear a thong bathing suit. I have never had a thong-worthy bottom; not when I owned the thong bathing suit, not before and not now. To be fair I bought it to go on our honeymoon ten years ago with stars in my eyes and a fiance encouraging the purchase by my side. I think I only wore it once by the little hut we stayed in on Kona which was completely private. I am pretty sure that even then I didn’t have the courage to wear it in public.

Which brings me to the conspiracy surrounding my attempts to get fit enough to be happy about wearing a regular old cover-your-ass bathing suit now. We are going to Hawaii for our tenth anniversary and I would like to look like I did ten years ago. Since that ship has sailed, I would at least like to feel reasonably sane in a two piece. That doesn’t seem like much to ask, does it?

So then explain why are there troops of cookie pushers at the grocery store when I go. And if I attempt to exercise some discipline by declining their offers of Samoas and Thin Mints,  the mothers of said cookie dealers shoot me evil disparaging looks. Really, I don’t see you buying all little Ashley’s cookies so she and her troop can go to Six Flags. Yeah, don’t look at me that way. You won’t keep this crack in your house either.

And then Starbucks has to turn on me too. They had plenty of snacks that I had already made peace with, but now they introduce candy coated cake on a stick. And like any good drug dealer the first one was free. I need my coffee people, but tiny salted caramel brownies? Little whoopie pies?  That is just unkind.

Lastly, apparently we as a society have developed a need for cupcakes so extreme that they have employed trucks to drive around the city hawking them. Can’t make it to the bakery on your lunch hour, slim? No worries, we will bring the frosted fat pills to you. You will recognize us in our cute pink truck with the line of ladies outside (the guys are all over at the meatball truck).

So far I have dodged most of these bullets, but I am only human. How is a gal supposed to slim down after a long winter of bulking up against the cold when everywhere she looks are sweets that call her name? The good news is there is considerably more fabric involved in any bathing suit that I am likely to wear on our upcoming vacation. And thankfully for anyone who happens to be at the pool where I will be, my sad not-thong-worthy bottom will be completely covered.

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And there were dogs

March 10th, 2011 · Stuff

We went to a show and there were dogs.

There were lots of dogs.

It was an awesome day!

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March 2nd, 2011 · Venting

I think it has been said by all sorts of maritime authorities, but just for the record: Let’s all stop sailing in and around the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden, shall we? I don’t mean to be insensitive; the tragic execution of the four Americans last week made me sick to my stomach. But this seems to be a dangerous area can we all agree? There are packs of pirates with nothing better to do than board ships and take hostages to negotiate for ransoms. With all this information, I am having a particularly difficult time understanding the logic of the most recent victims of the Somali pirates. They brought their three children with them on this ill-advised odyssey.

I am not a fan of sailing in general so you have pretty much lost me from the start. If I did develop an affinity for sailing, I can guarantee you that pirate infested waters would not be part of my route. Maybe there is the thought that if we don’t go there, the pirates win. I am not pro-pirate, unless we are talking about the patch-wearing parrot carrying Disney version, but I say let ‘em win this one.

This adventure seeking Danish family, who in my mind should be home making wooden shoes or windmills, went so far as to blog that they had “a plan” should they be boarded. Hmmm. And their plan was based on their experiences with which pirates? And the pirates have what to lose? Well sadly as it turned out even the best laid plan didn’t protect them and ….well you know the rest.

My point or rather my question is why would you put your family at risk for a sailing trip? In what mindset do you plan an expedition on which you might run into folks who could potentially cause you and your children harm? What possible reason could there be to need “a plan” should you be boarded? What were these people thinking?

I pray that they come out of this unharmed and that their children are somehow sheltered from what must be a terrifying ordeal. I also pray that their poor choice serves as a warning to other naïve adventure seekers. Climb mountains, hike canyons, go white water rafting, go to Nordstrom during their semi annual shoe sale; there are plenty of adventures that don’t have danger and ransom associated with them (except for maybe the shoe sale at Nordstom).

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I enjoy being a girl

February 21st, 2011 · Animals on my planet

I never had penis envy, sorry Dr. Freud. I never wished I was a boy and never wanted to be a man. That isn’t to say I am a girlie-girl, I have just always thought that God got me right.

And then there are times when I am truly thankful for my gender; most of them involve unpleasant tasks traditionally relegated to men. Equality is great and all, but someone has to kill the spiders.

I have written here before of the wildlife that we have on our farm, I mean yard. It’s like some kind of rabid petting zoo up in here with all the rabbits and field mice and the occasional possum. Recently there have been coyote sightings in our neighborhood because coyotes are indigenous to the north side of Chicago, right? Yeah, I didn’t think so. We have larger lots in my neighborhood, but that hardly makes us the country. The expressway is a stone’s throw away from our house.

Recently with the brutal cold spell, have come the squatters. Usually we know from the delightful little droppings left behind on the floor, the kitchen island and the couch. Ick! If the droppings are green we know that the life expectancy of our guest is considerably shorter than when he arrived. We take no pleasure in this, but we are not running a shelter for wayward mice either. It is our hope that the mice will check out of the inn before they expire, however every now and then one will pass away in some crook or crevice of our house.

This is where the fun starts. If you have never had an animal die in your wall you don’t know what you are missing. They do not make an air freshener that can eliminate this odor. The situation calls for air removal and replacement. And did I mention that this tends to happen in the kitchen wall so it is the kitchen, where we cook, that is fouled.

Last week we experienced the passing of a mouse. We had seen evidence of his visits. Bob even locked eyes with him one night when our visitor boldly glared at him from the kitchen island. So, we busted out the air fresheners and the diffusers, but it was still brutal. It took a day or so to notice that the odor was coming from a heating vent. Once again Bob spied the now ex-mouse behind some ductwork and promptly announced in a whiney voice “I wish I had a vagina”. The only other time he uttered those words there was a partially decomposed possum in the back yard that required removal.

After some initial strategizing and a little more whining, Bob stepped up. Moments later we were down one pair of kitchen tongs and one dead mouse, but Bob’s manhood was intact and undeniable once again. And once again I was glad to be a girl.

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Bear Downer

January 26th, 2011 · Stuff

It has been almost a week and I may finally be ready to talk about it. I don’t know; it is all still pretty raw. The grief that one feels after a loss like this one really requires some time and distance. It has to be put into perspective. I am referring, of course, to the loss of our Bears at the hands of the dreaded Green Bay Packers.

It wasn’t pretty – let me tell you. It was super cold and so were the Bears (bah dum bump). But the real disappointment to me was not the players or the game. It was the fans. I had worried about the behavior of the Packer fans, but the ones I saw celebrated appropriately. On the other hand to hear some Bears’ season ticket holders, you would think that they hadn’t won a game all season. A woman in my section called them “losers” as she left midway through the forth quarter. Had she looked at her ticket, she might have confirmed that she was in attendance at a “championship” game. Chicago sports fan can be completely irrational when it comes to a loss like this.

Then to add insult to injury the fans, the media and even his fellow NFL players turned on the quarterback, questioning his toughness. Really? I know he is not going to win Mr. Congeniality any time soon, but he isn’t running for office. He is a quarterback not the Bachelor. The guy has been sacked something like 58 times in one season, more than anyone else in the league. He was even one of the only three quarterbacks to have the privilege of being pounded into the frozen University of Minnesota tundra a few times. Yeah, he is a total wuss.

I won’t listen to sports talk radio. Even in the best of times it is painful to listen to these sad beer-bellied wanna-be’s second guess a professional sports team’s decisions based upon their experiences from that one season of football they played in seventh grade. In the wake of this loss we should fire the coach (again), axe the general manager (again) and castrate the quarterback. But as it turns out, I don’t have to listen to sports talk radio. I just have to walk into the lunch room in my testosterone filled office. So that’s what these guys do on weekends.

Anyway I sat Shiva. I wailed. I mourned the loss and I came to grips with the end of the season. And now I am done with football until next year. No Super Bowl for me. I am not a fair weather fan, but I am not just a football fan either. I am a Bears fan.

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On Probation

January 18th, 2011 · Good bad television, Stuff

So if it was my job to write here, I might have to fire myself. I haven’t even bothered to call in sick or request a leave of absence. I have just been completely MIA. Luckily, as I am more of volunteer, I just gave myself a stern warning and put myself on probation. I am also a pretty cool boss as it turns out.

Things have been a bit hectic what with the full time gig, the holidays and whatnot. But the holidays are pretty much over and, with any luck, I will remain gainfully employed for the foreseeable future. So my choices as I see them are either make some time to write or bail and bailing is just not an option. Remind me to Google time management later. Do you think that they sell extra hours in the day on Amazon? They sell everything else.

I have found time, of course, to watch the Real Housewives of everywhere, my daily DVR’d dose of The Young and the Restless and many episodes of Hoarders and Intervention. I did draw the line at the Hoarders episode for which the trailer promised an infestation of rats. A possum or two, many cat carcasses and piles of unidentified feces are apparently fair game, but a man covered in rats, not so much. Good to know I have limits.

Speaking of good/bad TV, The Bachelor has returned to prime time and brought with it my car-wreck-gapers-reflex. But other than a fang toothed model, a dentist in a bad gold lame dress (with yellow tulle??) and your garden variety Fatal Attraction gal named Michelle (is it the name?), there might not be enough crazy to keep my interest. Oh who am I kidding? I will watch. I always watch.

In actual news, mah beloved Bears are participating in the biggest football game to hit the Midwest in about seventy years on Sunday and I can hardly eat. We are playing the Green Bay Packers, our (and I realize that I am not part of the team, but I choose to use the collective anyway) arch-enemy, for the NFC Championship title and a ticket to that big game that must not be mentioned lest we jinx ourselves. It is a wonder I have been able to focus long enough to write this. But I am on probation and I wouldn’t want to risk ticking off my boss.

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Giving Thanks

November 30th, 2010 · Stuff

I was thankful on Thanksgiving Day. Really, I was. I was thankful for my family, my friends, my dogs, my home, my job and my health. And these were the blessings that I had planned to spend my Thanksgiving Day celebrating, along with roast turkey, green bean casserole and some NFL football. As it turned out, however, I had a whole host of unexpected things to be thankful for this year.

The night before Thanksgiving Bob and I had assumed our usual positions on the couch and were watching whatever was clogging up our DVR when I noticed that my nose was unusually cold. It was kind of brisk in our family room. I asked Bob to turn up the heat which he did assuring me that it was 68°, a perfectly comfortable temperature. A half an hour later my nose was still cold and so were my fingers. I checked the thermostat and discovered that Bob had been reading the “set to” number not the actual temperature. The actual temperature was 58°. Our furnace was not working. I was at that moment thankful that we had two furnaces and dual zoned heat. So, if anyone is keeping track, I started giving thanks early.

Thanksgiving morning I was decidedly thankful for layers; flannel shirt over sweatshirt over nightgown. It was a toasty 55° in my kitchen, the room in which I would be spending the majority of my day. We called the heating and air company, who had incidentally inspected our furnaces less than a month ago, and they sent us George. I was then thankful that George had opted to earn time and a half over gorging himself on poultry like the rest of us.

Bob ushered George down to the basement to inspect the previously inspected furnace. He summoned us a bit later with the prognosis. He could replace the “board” and that might solve the problem. The motor, he showed us, was also showing signs of rust and might need to be replaced in the near future. Then he threw in a carbon monoxide threat (the heating and air equivalent of weapons of mass destruction) for good measure. Or we could replace the furnace, which of course, is what he recommended. I was no longer thankful for George. I was thankful for restraint.

Presented with an $800 solution and a $5000 solution and no time for any real research, I was thankful for family members and friends who know about this stuff. Bob immediately called his brother, brother in law and a handy plumber friend. They all supported the $5000 solution. I was then quite thankful for home equity line of credit.

When the installers arrived at 4:30 (on Thanksgiving Day still), I was temporarily thankful for them. When it was discovered that the unit they brought couldn’t be installed in the space we had available, I was thankful my carving knife wasn’t in reach. The furnace that would fit in the space, was of course, more expensive. And about then I was glad that I didn’t have access to any firearms.

After promising to return the next day with our new more expensive furnace, the installers left (unharmed). I was thankful that they were gone and that we could finally enjoy our Thanksgiving dinner. I also gave thanks that the meal turned out well, though, no one would have dared to blame me for a dry turkey with all the goings on.

Truly I was all sorts of thankful this Thanksgiving, although I was admittedly a little homicidal too. I did give thanks for my family, my furballs, my friends, my home, my job and my health, as well as my fleece and my flannel. But in the end, I was just thankful that this Thanksgiving Day was finally over.

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Let’s Get Physical

November 11th, 2010 · Stuff

I have suffered with back pain for years. Last year it reached a critical point where I actually went to the doctor. I don’t like to rush into things, as you can see. I went to the doctor seeking less a solution and more something to take away the pain. The doctor, missing all my cues, did not prescribe anything that I found useful. She handed me a prescription for physical therapy. What? No pain killers? No muscle relaxers? No quaaludes? I was more than disappointed, I was pissed.

I have seen physical therapy on television. It involves grueling work to regain some lost motion or activity. There are tears of pain and gritted teeth. Patients with paralysis walk with their hands on parallel bars shuffling their legs along in the hopes of regaining the power to walk. They struggle and sweat, neither of which are enjoyable. Even the name of the company she referred was unappealing: Athletico. This is clearly a company that services athletes, which I am not. I am a relatively sedentary, reluctant exerciser. I am motivated by vanity not competition.

So I tabled the prescription for this physical therapy nonsense and went along my way, my soon to be hump-backed way. A few months ago I began to wake in the middle of the night unable to roll over because of pain. Still I persevered (probably not the right word for stubbornly refusing to seek help). Eventually I began to have muscle spasms in my shoulders and neck and I had to throw in the towel. I went back to the doctor, this time secure in my self-diagnosis of back cancer. No WebMD needed, it was all very clear to me.

My doctor did prescribe muscle relaxers this time, possibly because my upper back muscles had begun to resemble oak or maple to the touch. She also renewed my prescription for, say it with me, physical therapy. Bitch. I took the muscle relaxers and honestly they helped a bit but were no where near as much fun as I had hoped. (Side note: I may or may not have been looking for a martini in pill form which is strange because I don’t think vodka really helps with back pain.) After I had taken all the muscle relaxers (as prescribed) and my back had refused to comply, I had to admit defeat and make an appointment to begin therapy of the physical nature.

Um, why did no one tell me how awesome physical therapy is? Seriously, I would have done this a long time ago if I had known. I don’t know how it is for other ailments, but for my particular issue – I have to have a strong handed young man give me a massage. Sure there is no aromatherapy or Yanni music, but who cares? I am receiving an insurance subsidized back rub. Then, the physical therapist does a little adjusting of my spine, not in a jerking chiropractic way. He gently moves my spine this way and that way to loosen the ligaments that are in a chokehold on my vertebrae. It pretty much all feels awesome, even the parts that hurt. There is a little exercise component to the therapy. I have to stretch which requires very little coordination and do a couple strengthening exercises, but no gritting of teeth, no sweating. And did I mention the massage. I am converted.

I realize that other types of injuries may require more vigorous therapy. I have seen others who have been doing some unpleasant looking exercises, but they all appear to be pretty athletic. As a non-athlete, however, the chances of me sustaining any of those injuries is pretty slim. Even I can’t hurt myself on an elliptical trainer. I have five more weeks of back rubs, I mean therapy and the physical therapist told me that I would probably benefit long term from regular massage therapy. I may love that guy.

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