Monday, December 12, 2011

Decorating for the holidays

I have a huge section of my basement devoted to Christmas decorations. Over the years, I've amassed quite a collection of "Christmas crap" (what Bill affectionately calls my Christmas decor).

Christmas 2002
When the kids were little I loved making the house festive. And, I think they enjoyed it just as much as I did. Will used to love putting small birds (not live! ha!)  and sugar plums on the stair railing after wrapping it with cedar boughs. Both Emma and Will would spend hours arranging and rearranging the miniature houses in the Dickens's village. Every year we would add a house, or some fencing, or more people or a bridge. And, of course, like millions of people, hanging ornaments on the tree was always special. It was a magical time.

This year, I spent the Sunday after Thanksgiving hanging lights outside - on the bushes, trees and fencing. My adult children waved to me from the comfort of the living room as I teetered precariously on the top step of the ladder. I think they were laughing. Clearly, the magic has gone.

Since no one else seems to care, I haven't done my usual vomiting of greenery, pine cones, miniature trees and ribbons in the house.  I'm perpetrating a fraud: the outside of our house looks like we are all set for Christmas, but, inside all I have done is put wreaths on the front and back doors. When people visit, I'm compelled to make excuses about the lack of holiday spirit.

This year, I don't think I'm even going to put up a tree. Without the kids, and with Bill's lack of enthusiasm, I don't feel like I should do it just for me. It seems like a lot of work just to satisfy my inner elf. Besides, every day I get to work at a beautiful mansion where the Christmas decor is stunning. My co-workers and I decorated one morning in early December: Check out our music room:

CTG at Christmastime

I don't know. There are still a couple of weeks left before Christmas.  I might change my mind. Bill has me booked with various parties over the next 2 weeks so I won't have any time after work to run up and down the basement stairs with my plastic tubs of Santas and garlands.

However, it is Christmas, a time for miracles... Maybe Bill will be infused with the spirit and help me!

Friday, December 2, 2011

In the middle of the road

I drive down Main Street almost every day to get to work. It may not be the fastest route to my office, but it's the most direct and my brain can cruise into automatic pilot, a welcome occurrence first thing in the morning.  I know the traffic light patterns like the back of my hand and I even think my car changes lanes by itself.
Last week I noticed a single black suede running shoe in the middle of Main Street - right where Parker and Amherst and Fillmore come together to create a grid lock every weekday. I sit there through 2 light cycles and often check my email at that point. But, one day last week, my phone was in my purse in the trunk so I was unable to flip through my emails. Instead, I gazed out the window and noticed that the lone shoe was still lying in the middle of the road.  I calculated that it had been at least 3 days that it had been there. 

My mind wandered a bit at the stop light and pondered how on earth that one shoe had found its way to the middle of Main Street. I imagined someone hobbling in North Buffalo with one shoe wondering just what the HECK had happened. Or, did someone get so mad at the grid lock that they whipped their shoe out the window in disgust? It was a perfectly fine looking shoe, so I didn't think it had fallen off a garbage or Goodwill truck. Did someone get hit by a car and an importance piece of evidence was left at the scene? Was someone running away from such a bad situation that going back for the dropped shoe was just not an option? Was a serial killer randomly distributing his prey's belongings? Like I said.... my mind wandered.

Ok, here's a strange bit of synchronicity: The very day that I was pondering about the owner of the shoe, I was also slated to play squash at a downtown athletic/social club. While I was changing into my gear getting ready to play, I overheard one of the fitness instructors telling a humorous story: Early on Thanksgiving morning, she had opened up the fitness area (she is the lifeguard). She noticed a vagrant sleeping in the entrance way to the club. At least she thought he was a vagrant. But, apparently he was well spoken and had nice manners. Turns out he was a college kid who had lost his way from the downtown drinking establishments and had stumble bummed (one of my dad's phrases) into the protection of the entrance of the club. (Aside: The night before Thanksgiving is traditionally one of the biggest party nights in Buffalo - since kids are returning home from college and are anxious to reconnect with high school pals). 

Get this: He had lost his SHOES! BOTH of them - it turns out. Since he was still far from home and his socks were destroyed, Betty (the fitness gal) rooted around and found him some white soled squash sneakers that the club kept as extras. She figured he may still be a bit drunk but at least he could navigate his way home with his feet covered.

So, the black shoe on Main Street probably wasn't this kid's shoe... but, Betty's story added yet another possibility to my list of scenarios. Can any of you think of other possiblities? And, can you posit why you tend to only see one shoe in the middle of the road?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy Birthday, Pauly-P

Today would have been my dad's 81st birthday. He and I were almost exactly 30 years apart. He was fond of telling me that the older the parent, the smarter the child. I took that under advisement.

I adored my dad. It wasn't hard since he was my biggest fan, too. He used to say that he became a member of the "Women's Lib" movement the day I was born. He told me I could do anything I put my mind to. Powerful stuff for a young girl! He taught me how to hammer a nail, wallpaper a room, tell a joke, paint a baseboard, fix a fence, plant vegetables, estimate due dates of pregnant ewes (that involved crouching low and cocking your head to one side),  and drive a tractor. He also taught me the rules of hockey, to appreciate the many shades of green on a single leaf, to breathe deeply and remember the smells of nature, the power of a Shakespearean sonnet, and to always ask for the order at the end of a sales call.  In high school he would discuss my English papers with me until late into the night. We spent a lot of time together talking and debating. He tried to teach me to paint, but, alas, I had zero talent - my brother inherited all the artistic genes. He spent a lot of time with Kevin, too. 

One of the best lessons Dad taught me was not to be afraid of bullies. Although the subject of bullying is au courant, it is truly an ancient topic. I vividly recall the bully on our street: his name was Tommy and he had a little brother named Nicky. I have no idea what kind of horrors Nicky had to endure living with an evil brother, but 3 doors up from them, I was living in fear. My dad told me that I was smart and that I should  use my head when dealing with Tommy... so I did. The last time that Tommy ever bothered me was the day he wouldn't let me pass him on the sidewalk. He held out his arms wide, legs akimbo, and dared me to go past him to get to my house. I remembered my dad's words: I backed up, bent forward at the waist and ran full force with my head into his gut. Tommy never bothered me again. I'm still not afraid of bullies (and, yes they're still around even in my cohort), but now I use my head the way my dad originally intended! 

I had the good fortune of moving back in with my parents after I finished  university. It wasn't a difficult decision - I had no money and I loved being with my parents. It gave me a chance to interact with them as adults. And, I learned to appreciate what it was that the two of them had - a mutual respect and admiration and a deep, abiding love. I still view that time with them (all to myself) as a gift.

My dad and Bill had a tempestuous relationship. It's not surprising - they were very similar.  I knew that I would end up marrying someone like my dad because I loved him so much. Luckily, I found my version of my dad all wrapped in a feisty lawyer from Niagara Falls.

Dad died too soon;  he was only 73. He was plagued by melancholia in his later years. He searched for contentment his whole life and, even though most people would have thought he'd found it, it remained elusive to him. In the end, I think he just 'gave up the ghost' and succumbed to his head problems. He felt things deeply, reacted irrationally and sometimes blew his cork, and would often say outrageous things to strangers just to get a reaction! He was a passionate man to say the least.

But, he taught me how to love unconditionally - by example. I was so lucky to have him as my father. I miss him to this day.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Autumn Leaves - Part Deux

Will is home!! I don't know why he got to come home so early from school, but he is here almost a full week ahead of his cronies.
After a few bear hugs from me (and some eye rolling from him), I put him to work almost immediately.

Those leaves never did get done by my well intentioned husband. He (conveniently?) came down with a cold and has been nursing his throat, etc. for a few days. Which, come to think of it,  didn't stop him from staying out late for a Texas Hold 'Em tournament a couple of nights ago (he came away with the trophy). He completely lost his voice after that night.

Back to the leaves.

A few hours of raking (yes, all those piles are from our house)
Will and I tackled those suckers like seasoned professionals. In about 5 minutes we had a system down that would rival anyone on our block - maybe even any landscaping service. And, we didn't use a leaf blower.  I cannot believe how we motored through all the debris with sheer brawn and determination.

In terms of working in the garden, Will has always been my 'go to' guy. He was the first one to come outside with me during the October storm (Buffalonians will remember October 2006 for a long time) to shake the snow off the Chinese Red Maple leaves, thereby preventing all the branches from snapping. Later, he hauled limbs from the back yard to the front in order to clear out all the fallen trees. He was 14 and indispensable to me. Come to think of it, Bill was in bed with a cold that week, too!

Emma and I spend time in the garden  - drinking coffee and beer and gin (not always at the same time), sunning and reading - but we don't tend to work together. I'm not saying that she doesn't help around the house. She is an incredibly hard worker and keeps things from getting too cluttered or crazed. She has been my life-safer at cleaning out and tossing so many times.

I guess she's my inside man - and Will is my outside man.

And Bill is ... well... in the words of Judy Garland, Ethel Merman, Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald (to name just a few) - "I got my man, who can ask for anything more."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Something's up

Last night I got home rather late. Usually, I am very aware of my surroundings when I pull into my driveway - but the late hour, my aching muscles and tired brain rendered me completely unobservant.  I made a beeline for the door - and subsequently to bed. It had been a tough day.

Had I opened my eyes, I would have noticed some heavy equipment in the neighbor's yard - adjacent to our driveway. Today, in the light of day, and with 8 hours of sleep under my belt, I saw this:

(Notice - my neighbor has not raked HIS leaves, either!)

Bill had not said anything about the equipment when he came in last night (after me) either. Not that I would expect him to notice anything. He had been out to his "Men's Book Club" (read "eating and drinking with the boys club"). Curiously, the "book club" doesn't meet in a salon or a library or even a member's home. No, they meet in a drinking establishment. Last night it was "Mother's."

So... he did not notice this ORANGE behemoth in the neighbor's yard.

Nor did he notice this other piece of equipment located just beyond our garage:

OK, here's the funny part. 

This morning, after I had taken notice of the equipment and snapped these photos, I got into my car and started to pull out of the driveway. Just as I started to back out, Bill ambled out of the front door. He came over to my car, motioned for me to put down the window and said "good morning". We hadn't spoken yet since I had to be at an early morning meeting - I got ready silently so I wouldn't wake him. We chatted about logistics of the day and said good bye. I purposely watched him go back into the house.

Do you know he never even GLANCED at the heavy equipment next door?

I still can't figure him out. It'll be 25 years I've been married to this man (next week) and I cannot fathom how he couldn't notice!! If anyone out there wants to reply with a reason why these neighborhood intruders don't even REGISTER with Bill, please educate me.

I await your responses.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Autumn Leaves

The first rendition I ever heard of "Autumn Leaves" was by Barbra Streisand from her album "Je m'appelle Barbra" . I was just a kid - maybe 7 or 8 years old. I remember staring at the album cover and thinking how odd Streisand looked.  And, what was with those nails?!

We had a "hi-fi" that was a major piece of furniture in the living room. You'd lift the lid, look down onto the controls and place the record onto the turntable. As soon as I learned how to pick up the stylus/ arm and carefully place the needle on the groove of the LP (without scratching) I was allowed to use it. I would sit on the couch and listen to my parent's albums for hours.... staring at the album cover, flipping it to the back, and reading the sleeve for more information.

I know this scene was repeated by kids all over North America.


Even today I can clearly recall Herb Albert's whip cream laden babe (scandalous at the time), the Carpenters sitting side by side uncomfortably on a rock ( I couldn't figure out why Karen didn't line her dress), and a crazy calypso album (Yellow Bird was my dad's favorite song after a trip to Nassau).  After I had learned the words, I would get an uncooked piece of spaghetti, put it to my mouth like a microphone, and belt out the tunes on the records. That high fi created a sound stage for me. I really thought I could mimic Barbra perfectly on 'Free Again'. Lucky Lucky ME AGAIN!!!
Wow, the memory of that embarrasses me to this day.

When Fall comes and the leaves whip down the streets, I can't help but hear Barbra (and my 7 year old voice) in my head.

Last night, Bill and I went for a quick walk through the neighborhood. Most of our neighbors had already moved their leaves to the curb. I had not completed this task yet. Even though the weather this weekend was perfect, I just didn't have the time to rake. Yes, I have a blower that my friend Randy gave me, but I HATE the noise. It's absolutely deafening and I think a huge intrusion into the lives of my neighbors. So, I rake.
But, not this weekend.

As we approached our house, I said to Bill, "Man! Look at those leaves".
"Don't you pay someone to take care of them?" Bill queried.
I looked at him. This is a typical Bill remark. He doesn't take care of any household related items (except cooking and groceries) and is virtually blind to anything that occurs in and around the house (this includes rearranging furniture, anything in the garden, water lines, heating ducts, downspouts, flooding, major repairs.. you get the picture).
"No, Bill - I rake the leaves", I responded.
"Do you want me to do them?" he asked. "I could stay home tomorrow and go in at 10:00 a.m."
I laughed.
If you think you can rake all those leaves by 10 a.m. -  go for it!

As I backed out of the driveway this morning, I noticed that the leaves were still there.

Automatically, the record needle in my brain found the groove line where Barbra belted out "But, I miss you most of all, my darling.... when autumn leaves start to fall".

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

To Sir (Bill) with Love

 I remember when I was in high school I  took one of those 'career tests' - I believe it was called the Kuder Preference Test. The results indicated that I should either be a lawyer, an actor or a teacher. Being rebellious, I chose to study biology after high school.  Those four years of university may have got me slightly off track, but I firmly believe that I had to get it out of my system. It was important for me to prove that I could study the sciences and do well. 

Of course, today I am a lawyer, and I spend a  portion of my time teaching our managers - albeit over the phone using WebEx, but teaching nonetheless. Dr. Kuder was right - I really enjoy practicing law and teaching.  Not so sure about the acting part, though.

Bill has been teaching for eons - I think over 30 years in the management school at University of Buffalo and a bunch of years at UB's Law School. He's masterful. For one thing, he knows the material cold. For another he's got memory that rivals anyone I know. But, mostly it's his depth and breadth of knowledge that makes him special. And, the students can tell right away that he's 'one of a kind'.

Teaching at night presents unique problems - mostly having to do with keeping the students engaged and awake. It's important to keep the lecture lively. I started teaching a evening class to some Human Resource professionals last night at Empire State College. It's kind of involved as to why I'm teaching this, but I'm really glad that I had the opportunity.

As I drove to class, I started wrestling with self doubt. Did I make enough notes to myself; did I cover the chapter thoroughly; should I have prepared more questions?  So, as I drove down the 33 I called Bill - because I  knew he would PUMP ME UP! And he did. He gave me the necessary pep talk and made me feel better. He should probably teach other husbands how to do that. I am so lucky that he's ALWAYS in my corner. ALWAYS!

I was fairly confident about the material but I didn't have a good grasp of how long it would take me to get through it. Between my fast talking and my underestimation, we finished 40 minutes early. I don't think the class had a problem with that. 

I'm ashamed to admit that I enjoyed teaching the class. I liked being 'on stage' and I loved when I could make the students laugh.  Come to think of it, maybe Kuder was three for three.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Love across the miles

It's raining in Buffalo. I was awake at 5:30 a.m. and could feel the cool hand of depression reaching through the windows. I looked over at Bill (who was sound asleep) and cursed my overactive brain. Who needs sleep when you can lie in bed and beat yourself up with the "would've, could've, should've"  debates?

I dragged myself out of bed and decided today I would dress in black (OK - that's pretty normal - I have a lot of black clothes).

Getting into the car to make my short trip to work I spied a  CD that Bill had found and left on the passenger seat.

I had forgotten about this home made CD. Will had burned it for me when he was still in high school. It contains a lot of current upbeat music that he was listening to at the time, as well as some David Bowie and Queen.

OK - one look at the disc and my mood elevated - not so much for the music it contained, but for the fact that Will had made it for me. You can actually feel the enthusiasm in the writing on the face of the disc. (PS - I'm "MamS" to Will).

Will. He is one of a kind. LOVE HIM TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH.

Although he is miles away he lifted my spirits and my heart! THANKS, WILL.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Let me know if you're free...

Do you feel over-scheduled? Given that we are approaching the 'holiday season' I'm guessing that question is rhetorical for most.  

Lately, my outlook calendar is running my life. I have to check it before I commit to ANYTHING. And, God help me if I haven't "synced" my phone with my laptop calendar - I'll end up double booking something using my phone calendar. Which reminds me... I should do that sync thing. Pause.

OK , that process took way longer than I thought. Apparently, I also had to update my phone (for 20 minutes) to software version 5. WHATEVER.

Anyway, the problems multiply when Bill updates me about his schedule and merely TELLS me rather than emailing me the date(s) and having me accept it into my calendar. I cannot tell you the number of times he has told me about his (1) overnight business trips (2) gigs (3) after hours meetings (4) changes to his workout routine (4) golfing outings etc. and I've completely blanked. When I innocently ask him where he's been ...the look he gives me is withering.

I've been blaming my poor memory on those biological changes that inevitably sap some women of their capabilities. But, you know what? I'm sick of that excuse. However, I refuse to just succumb to admitting my brain is mushy. I need a real answer.

Perhaps the reason I can't keep track of my schedule is because I'm just too damn busy. I cannot juggle my calendar with my husband's AND keep track of what's going on in my mother's, daughter's and son's life, too. And truthfully, I barely keep track of those three.

Perhaps I should stop comparing my memory powers to Bill's superhuman ability. To those of you who know Bill, you understand that it's just not a fair fight. He's been playing memory games since he was an infant. That section of his brain that harbors all those dates/names/historical facts is a finely tuned muscle. And, his short term memory is just as well developed.

Scarier still is the possibility that my computer has usurped my abilities to keep track of my life and that by relegating this duty to some software I've effectively stopped using my 'calendar muscle' in my brain. I think that muscle must be drinking martinis in the hippocampus. I have created my own small HAL in my outlook calendar.

If any of you out there in cyber world can help me get control back, please write me your comments. Better yet, if you sympathize, I probably would rather hear that!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Getting to know your cashier

Bill and I have been having WILD luck with checkout cashiers lately.

He was excited to tell me that Kohl's now will give him some huge percentage off just for being 60 years old. He has never shopped at Kohl's but, was excited nevertheless. Yesterday he explained how his double coupons, Tops Bonus Card and buy one/get ones ("bogos") at Tops Market added up to AN INSANE amount of savings. And, the checkout guy gave him some extra type of doubling points on some pasta. The transaction he described was so complicated, I stopped listening. But, he was really wound up and went searching for the receipt for proof. He told me that if you make friends with the cashiers, they will often do you a good turn.

He's right. When I was shopping at Publix last weekend for my mum in Florida, the checkout lady and I exchanged some pleasantries and smiles. She stopped scanning my items at one point and said:

"Oops - you're buying the organic salad - I've got a $2.00 coupon you'll want". And, she waved her scanning wand over the coupon hiding behind her cash register. She winked at me while she did it.

I like to engage checkout people in conversation. Usually, I can gauge whether the person scanning my newly purchased items wants to be bothered trading bon mots with me. I don't press it if they are distracted or clearly cannot do two things at once. However, yesterday  I ran into a young woman who appreciated the value of small talk.

I didn't realize at first that she was "in training". Then,  I noticed her manager was leaning over the cash register as we commenced our (complicated) transaction. The "manager" couldn't have been more than 18 months older than the trainee. In fact, there was no indication that the trainee was a trainee, other than the lurking presence of this other employee.

Anyway, it was a complicated transaction because (1)  I was at DSW where the sheer number of shoes is overwhelming; (2)  I was returning some shoes; (3) I was using a gift card - thanks Jax; and (4) I also had a coupon. OH! and Emma was with me. She was the reason I was returning those shoes. She told me they were ugly and that she wouldn't be seen with me if I ever put them on my feet. I was explaining this as my reason for the return with the young trainee. I could tell right away that she was 'with it'. She got my jokes and knew that I was a bit of a kidder. Emma and I had a running dialogue about shoes and money and fashion while the trainee was examining the wear on the shoe (there wasn't any) and making sure they were both the same size (they were).

Every so often the trainee would interject a comment indicating that she was following our conversation. When she scanned the replacement shoes she told me they were "much cuter" and that I was not making a mistake.

When she did the final total, she started to complain that she couldn't see the amount of change she owed. (I was, for once, using CASH!). For a micro second, I sensed she was trying to do the calculation in her head.

So, I said in a joking manner:
"You don't need the computer to do the calculation since you're a math major."

She stopped in her tracks.
She looked up at me quizzically. "How did you know I was a math major".

I immediately formed a V with my index and middle finger pointed towards my eyes and then to hers. "I'm psychic, I KNOW you".

She completed the rest of  the transaction in silence.

As I gathered my bags, I leaned in and asked her:
"Are you really a math major?"  (I wasn't really sure. It WAS possible that she was goofing on ME!)
She nodded her head.  "How did you know?"
"I didn't. I just knew you were smart".

As she put my purchases in the bag she smiled and said:
"ENJOY YOUR CUTE NEW SHOES"  At the same time, her manager mumbled :
"Strangest transaction of the day"

Next time I go to DSW I will look for that trainee and line up in her line. Chances are, she'll be managing the place!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Come fly with me

I listen to JazzFM on my car radio. Since WBFO screwed up the format, my number one, "go-to" station is JazzFM 91.1.  It's a great jazz station broadcasted out of Toronto. Not only do I get international news (courtesy BBC radio) from a woman with a clipped  British accent at 8 a.m., I also get the weather report for Toronto AND Buffalo. The radio station has figured out that a number of us in Buffalo have left BFO because of the lack of jazz content. The hosts always do a shout out to Buffalonians. Also, the traffic report makes me feel closer to our Emma (who is living in Toronto). Luckily, she rarely has to deal with the Gardiner Expressway jams or the 401 headaches or the Don Vally shut downs on her morning commute. But, I enjoy visualizing those roadways as I fly down Main Street to work ... getting from door to door in 15 minutes.

Anyway, there is always a good chance that during my drive time, the morning host on JazzFM will play a Frank Sinatra song.  And today, he did not disappoint. The classic Come Fly with Me was played at 8:10.  Far Bombay, Peru, Acapulco Bay- I was there! What a great way to start the day. My fingers were clicking as I sang along with Frank. Totally changed my mood!

Coincidentally, Bill was on his way to the airport this morning. Just a quick trip in and out of NYC - nothing as romantic as "llama land". Kind of a coincidence. I think of Bill every time I hear Frank sing. He loves Frank as much as I do. 

But, it was not always so.

Years ago, when we were first married, Frank came to Western New York. Bill got tickets and excitedly told me we were going. I looked at him like he was crazy. I was 27 years old . Frank was a hack! Washed up! For OLD people. I laughed at him.

He took my mother.

WHAT A MORON I was!  I'm still kicking myself. But, I don't kick hard because at least my mother had the benefit of great seats and the company of a fellow Frank aficionado. She ADORED  it. Maybe that was the start of her appreciation for Bill. And, he didn't even have to feed her.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Counting Crows

There's a crow dying in my backyard.

I saw him yesterday standing for a really long time in the waterfall of our small pond. His back was to me and he was clearly not "on alert" as crows usually are. He didn't make a sound. But he did take a few sips of water.

Later, I saw him sitting on the grass by the fading Rose of Sharon. He sat very, very still. I had been in the back garden all day yesterday. The sun was glorious and mum and I decided to read outside. I took the NY Times outside and piled it under my lawnchair. I had to go inside mid afternoon to start Sunday dinner. Yes, I cooked! During football season, I make Sunday dinner because Bill is at the Bill's game.

When I came back outside, the pages had scattered across the lawn. I was afraid to go and pick them up because the crow was sitting close by (the travel section). Tentatively, I tip-toed towards the newspaper and picked up the pieces that were a 'safe' distance from the crow. He didn't flinch.

Crows are fascinating. Fascinating and creepy at the same time. You can feel their intelligence when they look right at you. And, I remember from Biology class that they are considered to be one of the more advanced creatures - brain wise. Particularly because they have a complex social system.

Where I work, there is a line of deciduous and evergreen trees that separates the parking lot from the backyard of a Oakland Street neighbor. At dusk, the crows in the neighborhood all congregate in those trees and have a large conference. I think about them a lot. I see them converge just before I pack up my things to go home and hear them talking when I get into my car. Whatever they're saying to each other, I'm sure it's very important because this conference is repeated night after night.

Anyway, the old, dying crow in my backyard is probably really smart. I think he picked my backyard for his demise because of the new plants I just put in. It's colorful, cheery and  inviting  -  clearly a lovely place to take your last breaths.

I hope he's still there when I get home tonight. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

In the early morning rain- tweet tweet

Waking up too early on a Sunday really makes me mad. It's the one day I'm supposed to be able to sleep in. But, my iPad started up on its own (I had left Pandora running... I think) and roused me enough to realize that (1) I was  sweating profusely; and  (2) my pinpoint headache behind my right eyebrow had grown in size to the point where I really had to get up to take an Excedrin. Suck it up. Bill groaned as I made my way round the bed and grabbed my robe.

So, at 6:15 a.m. I wandered downstairs to eat the last of the dessert and make some coffee.

But, what to do with this quiet time alone?

Only the Buffalo News was on the doorstep. As much as I love Buffalo, I rarely read the Sunday paper - it's heft makes me mad since it's made up of printed ads and coupons. I prefer the NY Times. For some reason, the Times had not been delivered. So, that was out. Besides, my head wasn't quite right for reading, yet.

I looked around the kitchen - I had actually done a bang up job cleaning it last night (after a fantastic baked haddock dinner simmered in cherry tomatoes, basil and garlic  -  a recipe that Bill had concocted.). No need to clean anything.

And, then I spyed my mother's new cell phone. Her old phone had given up the ghost (her words, not mine) so I had ordered another one for her from Verizon. It was really, really hard finding a phone for her that she could use. I was looking for a phone with big buttons, a speaker, blue tooth capabilities and... well, that's about it. She doesn't use the net, text messaging or take pictures. Her only request was that it be pink. I couldn't do that either. Why don't they make phone for seniors that have big buttons and no complications?  And  in fun colors that could be found at the bottom of a dark purse?

Anyway, I spent the next hour programming her phone with frequently called numbers and making everything with a big font. The screen is complicated and it has one of those slide out QWERTY keyboards. Although she is a master typist (or at least she was - in her day) I know she will never use it. She tells me she would like to text - but this is a woman who never figured out how to get her voicemail. The kids and I have learned that there is no point in leaving her a message on her cell since she does not know how to pick it up.  Mum is on our family plan. Her usage is minimal since she views the phone as  means to make only out going calls. Exclusively. Occasionally, she will  pick up a call  - but usually only IF she is in the car.  The dealer set up her blue tooth so the call will ring through the radio. I think the only reason she picks it up is to quell the noise so she can get back to NEWS RADIO. 

One thing that many of her friends don't realize is that she's a total news hound. Since she's come to live with us in the summer she serves as a constant source of amusement when she interjects some newsworthy item into our dinner conversation. At first, we completely doubted her stories - thinking that she was either making it up, was informed by an addled friend or just got it wrong.  We learned. Initially, we double checked her stories  on the Internet. Invariably, she is right about her facts - though they may be a little askew.

I've also learned that she reads the Buffalo news cover to cover after Bill and I go to work. If you start to tell her a story about something you've read, she's already got the inside scoop - because she's supplemented her information with Channel 2, 4 or 7.

Which make me think that perhaps I should teach her how to text. She could parlay that ability and set up her own twitter account. With her nose for news she make be the next  tweeting sensation....

On second thought, if she's tweeting all the time, she won't ever pick up her phone - which is the reason I got her a phone in the first place.

Argh! Well, at least her phone ready for her. She can study it when she wakes up. At least she got to sleep in this morning.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Walking meetings

 With the nicer weather, I started having walking meetings with my co-workers. I work in a glorious district of Buffalo, so it's very pleasant just walking around the (large city) block. We have a couple of rules for these walking meetings: (1) you have to have one specific topic and you cannot veer from that; (2) you can introduce personal stuff only at the end of the walk; (3) it's only efficient if there are 2 participants; and (4) half way point must be the Tim Horton's located inside Women and Children's Hospital by the elevators. 

I happened upon this tucked away Tim's when Emma had her tonsils out last summer. Imagine my delight when I wearily walked to the cafeteria in the early, early a.m. and found this wonderful little kiosk of coffee. SCORE!

Today, I took a walk with a fellow coffee lover. I had finished a delicious coffee that I had brewed at home, but it just wasn't enough caffeine. So, off we trotted to Children's. Yes, we discussed business. Jeez!

It's a little weird going into a hospital just for coffee. Inevitably, the people we pass inside the halls have a range of emotions on their faces: joy, sorrow, distraction, confusion (this is the most prevalent), and that's just the staff! Kidding!

Seriously, it's a good reminder for me to walk that short distance to the coffee stand. It reminds me how lucky I am  -  that I'm not there to deal with some heartache. And, there is so much heartache! Luck is a common theme in my conversations with Bill. Just this weekend, on our walk to Tim Horton's by our house, we competed with each other to determine who was the luckiest. I think it was a draw.

There is a ray of sunshine, however, and she's located  in the Tim Horton's coffee kiosk. Diady Rivera, the manager serves coffee with a smile, a wink and a pleasantry. I told her today that she surely makes a difference in the lives of the patients/doctors/family members who line up for coffee. She told me that it was easy for her. She feels especially for the kids who have to come in early for chemo treatments. She winks and tells them that a free donut will be waiting for them when they are through with their appointment. She says she thinks it helps them get through their ordeal.  I got the distinct feeling that Tim Horton's, the company(doesn't Wendy's own it?) isn't fronting the bill on these donuts...

When I told Bill about Diady he reminded me of the Irish twins who work at Roswell. If you ever had to endure chemo (or accompany those who are part of that endurance test) at Roswell you know who I am talking about. These two gentlemen are the light and life of the chemo waiting area. My mother-in-law actually looked forward to seeing them when she went for her appointments.

Sometimes, hiring managers know what they're doing. Pairing the right personality with a particular job is an art. And making staffing decisions at a hospital can make all the difference to a patient.  A great topic to explore in our HR meetings - but perhaps a little too complex for a walking meeting.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

MY MY Migraines

Be careful what you wish for. I had looked forward to doing nothing on Saturday. But, rather than choosing my leisure activity, I was forced into a dark room with the air conditioning blowing on my face.

I got a migraine Friday night. I was out with Bill and had no medication. I asked the bartender for some headache meds and he gave me some Advil. Of course, it did nothing. I left the dinner party and drove to Walgreen's (it's on the way home). It closed just as I got there.  At 10:00 p.m. What kind of a closing time is that? A car full of Minnesotans were equally disappointed. They asked me if I was "local" and if I knew if there was a 24 hour Target or Walmart close by? (because that's fun on a Friday night)

 "24 hour ? Do they do that?" I asked.  They assured me that some did.

I told them where the nearest Target was located (I'm presently boycotting Walmart), got into my car, sans drugs, and told myself that I could probably sleep through the pain.


I woke up with a pinpoint headache behind my right eye. Occasionally it would radiate above that eye and then wander down my jaw and behind my head (at the neck). But, always that sharp pain behind my right eye.

Finally, morning came and I got up out of bed. It was such a gorgeous day that I decided (a) a  walk would do me good; (b) a Tim Horton's coffee would help; and (c) a stop a Walgreen's for some medication would be in order. And, Bill was up for a stroll.

The pain seemed to dissipate a little as we walked. I had my dark glasses on and I did not need to talk, as Bill kept the conversation going.

I dipped into Walgreen's, got my pills and downed them with a bottle of water that I had carried for that specific purpose. Then, it was on to Tim Horton's. Ahhhhhhhhh. You know how I feel about that coffee.

After we arrived back home, I cleaned the kitchen half- heartedly as I was beginning to feel nauseous and a little jittery. I started to sort some laundry on the bed and decided that the laundry needed to stay in the basket and I had to get onto the bed. I was dizzy, and dis-associated from the rest of my body.

Every so often I would play a Scrabble word on my iPhone as long as I shut my right eye.
Bill came in and rubbed my neck  :) He asked if he should stick around in case I had a hemorrhage, brain tumor or stroke. Humor doesn't really work on a migraine sufferer.

I told him to go.

I got up a couple of times for water and eventually made myself a sandwich. To my great delight,  my mother (who is presently gallivanting along the shores of Lake Huron) left some delicious chicken salad and some lovely rolls. I ate a chicken salad sandwich, 2 glasses of milk and went back to bed for some more one-eyed scrabble.

By about 4:00 p.m the pain had subsided enough that felt I could open the curtains without too much effort. I looked longingly into the backyard.

I grabbed my book, went downstairs and outside. I pulled a lawn chair into the shade and started into the story. And, promptly fell asleep.

Migraines take it out of me.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Will Move for Beer

The original place on Spadina - during Emma's inspection

As I write this, our son is assisting our daughter in moving all her worldly possessions from a lovely apartment on Spadina in Toronto into a small 10x15 storage unit somewhere north of Dupont. Emma was determined to move;  she just didn't quite get the timing right. She gave notice to her current landlord that she would be vacating by July 31... trouble was she didn't have another place lined up to move into on July 31.

She looked at (read "inspected with a microscope") over 40 places in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area), well actually within a very small downtown radius. She couldn't find anything suitable. She had a long list of 'must haves' not the least of which was a balcony. Her living space had to: (a) be within her price range - she was moving out because the landlord had raised her rent; (b) be within a proper (i.e. commutable distance to UofT) neighborhood; (c)  not have any carpeting (her allergies make it impossible); (d)  have off street parking; (e) not be in a high-rise/multi person dwelling; (f) have ample closet space... you can see why she had a hard time.

So, a September 1 move in date was inevitable.

As luck would have it, Will, our son had planned a trip to Algonquin Park with a couple of  his canoeing pals. They had aspirations of taking a road trip to Montreal after their wilderness excursion, but they ran out of money. Emma pounced on the opportunity. "Come to Toronto - I will feed you and house you and take you to some fun pubs (19 is the legal drinking age). All you have to do is a little heavy lifting." She was like a siren with weary sailors. Suffice it to say, they drove down to Toronto last night - game for the challenge.
I think Will help persuade the boys, too. He's a good brother and would help Emma anytime she asked.

Anyway, this a HUGE gift to me: My weekend is now free. I insisted that Bill keep his calendar clear this weekend so that we could go to Toronto to help Emma move. Now, the calendar is CLEAR, and I cannot wait to do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! If you're anything like us, the summer weekends are booked solid by June 1. I cannot even make a date to see my own cousins for dinner! It makes me crazy! So, this weekend is precious!

I just hope that Bill will allow me to do absolutely nothing. If you see him, please don't ask him to do anything this weekend! I really want him to myself.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Niagara Falls, NY - the Same Sex Marriage Capital of the World?

Finally! New York State passes a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. It was a long time coming, and I, for one, am ecstatic that the senate saw the light. Passage had been close before, and I was surprised when it failed a couple of years ago. Now, it has been passed, and I can rejoice.

Never one to miss an "opportunity", Bill has been trying to figure out another way for New Yorkers to benefit from this bill. Besides the obvious one of allowing gay citizens the right to be recognized, he was intent on getting some additional money into the state coffers.

Bill is a native of Niagara Falls, NY. For those of you who haven't been to Niagara Falls, NY since, oh, since Marilyn Monroe and Joseph Cotton made the famous movie ('Niagara'), let me assure  you that it is not the romance capital it once was. It has declined into a state of disrepair and ill repute. There are a lot of well meaning citizens who have attempted to revitalize the area. Most notably, the Seneca nation has infused a lot of cash into the casino business. Unfortunately, the beautiful casino has not generated revenue for the rest of the city: If your destination is the casino, you tend to stay in the casino. You don't leave the multimillion dollar facility to grab a coke at the Wilson's Farm or a meal at the Como. PS - the Como, on Pine Avenue is a fantastic Italian restaurant. Well worth a trip.

The United Office Bldg
But, what does remains in Niagara Falls is Kitsch with a capital K. It was once THE honeymoon capital of the US. Bill maintains that it could reclaim this title if it caters to and targets same-sex couples who want to tie the knot. It has some beautiful art deco buildings (Carl Paladino did a great refurbishment of the old United Office Building) and the beauty and splendor of the Falls is second to none (well, maybe Victoria Falls - but who goes THERE?).

The strip of motels on Niagara Falls Blvd, (The Driftwood, the Sands, The Caravan, The Bit O' Paris), complete with heart -shaped jacuzzi tubs, flocked wallpaper and crushed velvet window treatments, may entice those couples who go for the 1940s glitz and glamour. Tim Gunn may cringe, but I personally know some couples who would delight in such decor! And, the Maid of the Mist? The name alone is made for love!

Bill was so excited about the prospect of the gay marriage bill that he emailed Mayor Dyster (the mayor of Niagara Falls) and proposed his idea. Now, remember, Canada already recognizes same-sex marriages and has completely missed the boat in Niagara Falls, Ontario. They have made it 'family friendly' and 'tasteful'. What if we just gave into some questionable taste and embraced the "over the top" sensibility that is Niagara Falls! We're 80% of the way there.

I think I told you about Bill's "Don't be an asshole" campaign aimed at Buffalo drivers. But, I think this one has legs.  Mayor Dyster: TAKE NOTICE. This is a fantastic idea. Tie the knot in Niagara Falls; make Niagara Falls the gay marriage capital of the world.
And, Bill's slogan?