Sunday, December 12, 2010

My Christmas 2010 letter

If you're interested, this is my Christmas card insert for 2010!

2010 started on a run…literally! On January 9, Barry, Amy,Kayla and I ran in the Disney Donald Half Marathon. Barry completed the Goofy Challenge by also running the MickeyMarathon on the 10th. The girls beat me (of course!) but I was thrilled to finish. Kirk (my older brother) joined us, and two of his kids – Julia and Carl – were cheerleaders.

For those keeping track, Amy’s abroad resume added Turkey to France, Peru, China, and Japan. She returned early after a difficult employer experience. Before coming home, she traveled through Turkey, Syria, the Greek Isles, Athens (during the riots!) and London. Nordstrom’s gladly rehired her, and Amy pursued and obtained aChicago teaching job. Amy and I made the massive moving drive with the over-laden van. This effort was overshadowed by the subsequent IKEA trip and exhaustion from assembling all her furniture. She teaches Spanish at a Charter school on the South Side, and enjoys city activities, Rotaryact (the Rotary club for young adults), and living near her family and friends.

Kayla is now half way through with her senior year in Athletic Training. She has decided to attend graduate school, so we are waiting for the decisions. Kayla is a Delta Gamma, and was one of the Lacrosse team captains for Albion’s first varsity squad. My mother and Idrove over in April to see her play two games and Barry was able to fly in the following weekend for another. Kayla stayed in Michigan for the summer, completing clinical hours at sports camps and working full time on the Albion maintenance crew. She came home for jury duty and was almost chosen for a murder trial – much pleading resulted in being excused and returning happily to Michigan.

Christopher is a high school senior. We took a summer tour of Mid-western engineering schools and later flew to Atlanta for Georgia Tech. He is in at GT and Purdue, hoping to study biomedical engineering. Chris is a leader of his high school community youth group; substitutes as an accompanist at church; participates in the school scholar group; and in general keeps very busy with homework and friends. As Chris did NOT run the Donald half marathon last year, he signed up and is training for 2011. Chris won a local piano scholarship competition and is his school’s nominee for the Silver Knight award in music.

Barry traveled more than usual with Kraft’s acquisition of Cadbury. On the positive side, we are well stocked with Trident/Dentine and chocolate. He enjoyed the annual Clearwater golf/fishing weekend with his buddies and brothers. He is training for the 2011 Goofy. Barry took me to his end-of-year work celebration in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina, treating me like a queen – international first class…did you know they had seats that lay flat for sleeping??

In a moment of insanity and medal lust, I registered for the Goofy Challenge. No, I have NOT run a marathon before! I did run three 2010 half marathons. In for a dime… does anyone have a dollar? Still a small group bible study leader – Romans, this year. I’ve been singing with another Catholic Church’s choir as a…gasp…soprano! That’s what they needed, so that’s what I am (except for those pesky high G’s, I’m not so bad!).

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year. May the light of Christ guide, encourage and comfort you through 2011.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Amazon recommends

My life is aptly reflected in my "Amazon recommends for you" list.

Apparently I need... athletic trainer exam review book (Kayla, this spring!).

...a great variety of AP exam review books (Chris has 7 AP exams in spring). releases of youth videos (Kayla has a love of all things animated and young - recent 'treats' from mom include Toy Story 3 and How to Train a Dragon).

...philosophy/theology books (I was on a used Peter Kreeft book binge - I mean, come on, if I can get it for $3, why not???).

...romance novels (not reading them so much these days, but a few cleaner authors still pique my interest).

...things to do with boats (Barry), cameras (Amy), Xbox (Chris).

...classic literature (Periodically buying books for Chris - the short stories of James Joyce, The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene, and Hamlet, by what's his name, the English guy who was in Shakespeare in Love).

If Amazon REALLY employs any psychological foundation for their recommendations, I must make them NUTS! OR...I AM nuts. OR both are true. They're not mutually exclusive.

In reality, Amazon LOVES me. Every time I sign on, they rejoice. "There she is! Our golden ticket to early retirement!" They are so happy someone still reads and wants to own books. I'm a sought-after anachronism!

If I don't post again, Happy Thanksgiving from your video watching, game playing, exam studying, high-brow literature reading, romantically foolish, sailing into the sunset, philosophically questioning, theologically content, athletically healthy, photogenically preserved friend....

Monday, November 15, 2010

Is it wrong to love a small appliance?

I posed this question on facebook a few days ago, after using my NEW food processor to make PERFECTLY sliced potatoes. Truly, they were lovely. Works of culinary art. I was terribly impressed. Nearly moved to tears by their uniform, perfect circles. An ode to the sliced potato.

OK, a bit of wine was involved in my romantic soliloquy. Specifically, Cameron Hughes Lot 141. Do you know about Cameron Hughes wines? He's a reseller - buys up excess of great vintages and then bottles and sells for significantly less than the original. He can't reveal the origin of the wine, but gives hints, and frankly, I've never had even a mediocre bottle. Sam's Club and Costco occasionally get shipments (if you sign up for the mailing list they'll notify you when new stock is delivered). For example, I got an email that a good Malbec (Argentine red) was going to be stocked at the Miami store. Since his South American sojourns began, Barry loves Malbec, so I trooped over and bought a case. The only problem is lack of storage space - I have Malbec tucked in multiple kitchen locations, giving the impression to the innocent visitor that I'm hiding bottles like a veteran alcoholic.

With or without the help of inebriation, I do love a good appliance. When I grew up, Mom had a portable mixer for cakes, but otherwise stirring, slicing, dicing and blending was all powered by the magic and skill of human hands.


Appropriate wonderment, murmurs of awe.

She LOVED the line "I have THREE dishwashers - Ann, Kirk, and Kim." Ha ha and ha.

After my marriage, Barry's parents gave us a food processor. I don't remember using it too much, except one fine holiday dinner when I thought "hey, I bet this would make GREAT mashed potatoes!" I did not fully appreciate the power of the processor. Rather than hitting pulse multiple times (pulse is the processor's friend), I turned it on and watched it go.

We had potato soup-ish yuk as a side dish that year.

Chris was helping me prepare for Home Made Pizza Night last Friday. In a special, touching, mother-son-passing-the-torch moment, I allowed him to be in charge of "The Pulse". And, I was (cue to wipe away sentimental tear) amazed at his ability to chop pepperoni, onion (ok, maybe the onion was almost goo), and peppers like a pro. AND, as a bonus, his lingering twitch has diminished - developed from my, ah, insistent kibitzing "NO! Stop!...ok...wait...a little more....STOP!...ok,, patient...just a few more...STOP!"

My second most favorite appliance is my Kitchen Aid Mixer! Mixer-o-mine, how do I love thee? Now HERE is a device that makes mashed potatoes without any disaster. Cookies? Ingredients, mix, slap on the sheets, into the oven - VOILA! I got it for my birthday about 15 years ago, and I remember sharing the thrill with my friend Maryann. She was less than impressed and I believe lectured her husband about NEVER giving her a small appliance as a gift. HA! Bring them ON I say! My friend has all the attachments - she uses her Kitchen Aid to grind meat, make pasta, and change the oil on her cars. IT'S AMAZING!

And what about...the Blender? Who can say enough about the sweet, sweet blades that blend frozen strawberry mix, rum and ice into a magical moment on a weekend afternoon? We survived a tragic day yesterday. While putting together our traditional Football Sunday frozen drink and special snack (this Sunday: fudge cupcakes - done baking before they are "done" and are eaten warm with gooey, leaking chocolate - RAPTURE!), the blender DIED! Mournfully unresponsive, the useless motor base was crowned by the glass carafe awash with cubes and mix, all floating, miserably unable to transform. We wept, then, dehydrated, we were forced to drink - prepare yourselves! - ice WATER. However, we managed to pull ourselves together by indulging in a second cupcake.

Our ability to cope with domestic crisis is legendary.

Do NOT panic!!!! Macy's is having a ONE DAY sale on Wednesday. Well, it's a ONE DAY sale on TWO days - and I'll be there bright and early on Tuesday for the early bird blender special.

And so Ann's World continues to turn:)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Yes, Julia, There is a Blog for You

Attended the graduation of my niece, Julia - she received her Master's degree in Occupational Therapy.

How could I have a niece with a Master's degree? To freeze time and preserve my youth, I will studiously ignore her age and education just as I have attempted to ignore that my other niece has a doctorate in Pharmacy, and is currently Head Pharmacy Resident in an Indianapolis hospital...and that Kayla (daughter #2) is a college senior applying to graduate programs...and that Amy (daughter #1) has been out two years, traveled the world, teaches in Chicago and is currently IN graduate school...and that my son Christopher completed six college applications in order to study biomedical engineering...

Wait...with a wave of my hand...voila! They are all toddlers again!:)

How long can I retain my delusions that "the kids" are still kids? I"LL TELL YOU! As long as I DARN WELL want to!;)

NOW...who wants to play Mickey Mouse Yahtzee? Junior Monopoly? Go Fish?

Maybe I do have to close my eyes to keep the fantasy. Or look at the photo albums.

And then I am sad.

The sadness is counterbalanced by the amazing adults these beautiful children have become. They truly are bright, beautiful, caring, ambitious, giving young people. And even though I know the aim of parenting is that exact result, I yearn to be back in the process (with the caveat that I get to skip the 15 - 18 year old ages...shiver, cringe, pale). I miss the simple joys and intimacy of that time.

Julia is married to a lovely young man named Steve. At one point after the ceremony, I was texting Amy, and Steve sat down next to me and gently reminded me never to text while driving.

See, this part I like. Christopher does the same guy putting his hand on my back to guide me through hazardous airport pedestrian traffic or reminding me to drive carefully when I go out. It's nice, in a weird, role-reversal kind of way. My mom has told me she had (has!) a struggle relinquishing the caretaker role for care-receiver. At her age, a lot of things are becoming physically, and sometimes mentally, quite challenging. I'm in sort of a comfortable middle stage - the girls (women) still ask for advice, but they also give it, because, I acknowledge, they are more current on certain issues (technology, music, exercise)(cosmetics, clothes, foreign countries)(who isn't more current?) than I am.

I met a 68 year old woman on the plane (accompanied by her two shitzus and husband - blog post to follow!) who lectures on cruise ships, teaches part time at the university (she is a professor), writes, and rebuilds foreign sport cars.

Now THAT's the inspiration I need to contemplate!

Moments like Julia's graduation force me to question and think - what do I want the NEXT 50 years to look like? I need to set some goals and challenge myself. I've felt a heavy burden of "endings" lately, but as my darling brother pointed out - commencement means beginning. I need to decide how I will begin again as my life continues in this new direction.

So, dear Julia, daughter of my Auntie-heart, congratulations on another new beginning. Many prayers and blessings on your new ventures as a compassionate, effective (evidence based) occupational therapist!


I thought you were my friend!

I've blogged before about my enamourment with Jen Lancaster - her books and blog, Jennsylvania.

In order to appreciate her particular perspective, I'd strongly advise reading her books, memoirs of the last few years. She has a delightful, biting sense of humor. Ms. Lancaster mocks herself and the world around her. To read her is to get to know her, which, as a recent blog entry revealed, can be problematic:

Caveats, Conversation, and Conservatism

To summarize, Jen had not written a blog entry in some time. She was busy, writing a novel and another memoir. She received an abundance of email, complaining about the lack of blog, as well as presumptuous requests for lunch dates, meetings, travel, etc. Some people railed against her weight (she has a BOOK about fighting her "Pretty Fat"), her conservatism, and other personal issues - issues she has openly shared in her books.

I would guess this is a common problem for women of fame - especially those who put their lives our there as part of their entertainment product. After I moved to Miami, I was in a real funk. I still don't have the social life/network I did in Chicago. I began to personalize my relationships with my "TV friends". I SWEAR I believed I could be best friends with Ellen Degeneres, Martha Stewart (I know she's tough, but I'm laid back enough to take it. Come on...she has her own SHEEP and CHICKENS. We could declutter my closets and then make PIE! Who wouldn't want her as a friend?), and Judge Milan from the People's Court (Marilyn - as I like to call her - lives in Coral Gables! I have a shot at this one.). I love the humor and presence of Paula Poundstone on "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell me!" OH, and Joyce Meyer, the minister - I LOVE her!

Each of these women (or those you each love, like Oprah, Whoopi or Rosie) is charismatic and appealing. That's the attraction, and that's the trap. We know, but we don't know these people. We have an attachment to them,'s the hard part...they don't have an attachment to us. In a broad, general way, they do - we're their audience. We ARE the people they relate to - otherwise, they wouldn't be successful. Yet, it must be hard to work diplomatically around the intimacy we feel, which might be quite intense, and the fact THEY DON'T KNOW US FROM ADAM.

I haven't stalked my favorites, haven't written any personal appeals for lunch, money, or board games (Ellen? Want to come over Friday??). But during the more lonely times, I could see how easy it might be to cross the line between being entertained and being deluded.

I guess I'll end by saying that I appreciate these women's willingness to put themselves out publicly - whether for entertainment or evangelism. It's their calling, and while it is glamorous and exciting to be famous, there's a downside. We have to respect the boundaries between personal and public life. We need to acknowledge, maybe a little wistfully, that we most likely will not have the opportunity to nosh with Oprah, or glue gun with Martha, or talk a little Romans with Joyce.

Repeat after me: Reality...Entertainment....Reality...Entertainment.

Chose REALITY. Enjoy entertainment!

P.S. Martha, Paula, Ellen, Joyce, Marilyn, Jen - call me! I'm open for lunch...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Viva la elección!

As elsewhere in our fair country, Miami is focused on the upcoming November elections.

My phone rings four to five times each evenings with the dire news that Sink (D) has wasted MILLIONS in some bureacratic miscue and that Scott (R) ran a company that had numerous fraud citations from the government.

Pretty normal stuff for a governor's race. Inspires confidence in the quality of our democratic process. My absentee ballot confronts me each time I go into the kitchen, but I cannot motivate myself to mark either of the candidates.

In a unique, more Miami-flavored incident, one passionate candidate allegedly chased down a truck carrying his opponent's negative campaign literature, ramming his car into the truck in order to stop delivery (umm...did you think this out? The literature was not destroyed and now your opponent can print more pamphlets about your stupidity!). In an interesting aside, he did this on the "crazy freeway", focus of much humor and frustration in Miami. Here, as the 100 mph Mercedes drivers weave through the 35 mph clunker cars, driving takes on new excitement and edginess. Live where I do, and you truly can't avoid this excellent test of reflexes and sanity.

I had two charming little boys come to my door and inquire if I would put a sign in my yard for their dad.

"Who is your Dad?"

"Jim ________," replied child one. He had a gap from his missing front tooth. They were wearing dress pants and ties. The cute, guilt factor was overwhelming.

"What is he running for?"

"County commissioner," replied child two, with a sweet lisp.

Be strong, I told myself. "If your dad wants to talk to me, or give me information about his views, I'd be glad to consider it. BUT I can't put a sign in my yard when I don't know anything about him." (except that he has cute kids and has no compunction in using them as electioneering WEAPONS OF MASS APPEAL).

Maybe this speaks to his fearless, clever nature?


Kids look confused, but shuffle away to the waiting mini-van - from which no woman or man has emerged to monitor our interaction. I get a little agitated, and consider stomping up to the van and berating the driver...but, as they open the door, I can see it's an elderly Latino woman. I immediately go inside, write down the candidate's name, and swear not to vote for him.

Gees, leave the kids and granny or nanny out of this!

Some local politicians DO know how to get my vote. Just this week, Barry and I received separate puffy envelope packages containing...


Who wouldn't sell his vote for a pen and a stamp?

I'm always on the hunt for a good Bic basic black pen...and now we have TWO!

And, if I have any hesitation voting for someone who would WASTE thousands of dollars mailing me a PEN AND A STAMP (the nice man was "helping" me fill out/mail my ballot), I am an unappreciative Miami resident who knows NOTHING of the local political game.

Who do you think I am? I'm not your typical CHEAP vote! If you want MY vote, pony up! Hint: Gift certificates make great, neutral, untraceable bribes.

On the other hand, they were cool stamps. I got Kathryn Hepburn and Barry got Cary Grant. I'm saving them for a special occasion mailing.

I also received a small American flag in a mailing tube. I pulled out the flag, but, oops, never pulled out the flyer. Sorry, whomever came up with THAT brilliant campaign strategy.

I will vote. So should you. Do you need a pen?

Monday, October 4, 2010

I'm on a Boat!

In the previous post, I gave the Midwestern in Miami Tip of the Day as:

Make friends with a (generous) boat owner!

Today's Tip of the Day follows an enjoyable Saturday made possible by our generous boat-owning friend:


Second, ancillary tip:

One application of sunscreen does not permanent protection make.

Third, ancillary tip:

SPORT sunscreen does not mean you can engage in water sports and not re-apply. I'm not sure what SPORT means. Perhaps it's a marketing lure for manly men and athletic women: "Hey, sunscreen is cool, dude! Wear some!" I thought it meant the sunscreen was extra-sticky. Hmmm...maybe I'm not as bright as I think!

After applying Sport 40 sunscreen, We headed out Saturday morning with Brant for a day of snorkling. The sky was blue. The air was clear with a tinge of Miami autumn (defined as the temperature stays below 90 degrees and the humidity is low, 65%-ish). The ocean was smooth as glass. Brant knows all the local coral mounds scattered throughout the ocean near Miami.

If you've never snorkeled, I hope you get an opportunity. I know some people can't travel far - but if you take a cruise and a snorkel activity is offered, it is worth the expense. When we went to Hawaii with the kids (all on Barry's accrued travel miles and hotel points - he stayed up until 1 a.m. 354 days before the event to be first in line for the frequent flyer seats to Kauai - what a man!), we rented snorkel equipment the first day and carried it from beach to beach. IT IS AMAZING! What looks like plain, dark water is...

FULL OF FISH! Red fish, blue fish, yellow fish, green fish! I'm not Dr.-Suessing you here for nothing! The coral is beautiful as well, all different shapes and colors. In Kauai, we went to a beach famous for sea turtle grazings and swam next to HUGE sea turtles eating seaweed!

Snorkeling is easy - you don't have to be a good swimmer. The water is typically shallow, though you cannot put your feet down near the coral, because it is delicate and easily damaged. You float and flip the flippers and breathe through the mouthpiece attached to the snorkel. That's the only anxiety-producing moment - I feel like I can't breathe because my nose is blocked. I actively think, "Relax, breathe slowly, through the mouth." After a few minutes, I'm used to it and it's a go!

On this trip, we saw Parrot fish and small grouper, and lots of other fish we couldn't identify. Brant had one of those plastic fish identifier sheets, but not for "pretty" fish...for "EATING" fish. HE HAD A SPEAR GUN! Barry and I are "la, la, la, la...ohhh...pretty fish!" and Brant is (play theme from JAWS in your head) stalking dinner.

We're in and out of the water maybe four or five times, floating on our stomachs, the sun reflecting off the water, and I don't think once, "Hey, my back's up on top, getting FRIED!" NOPE, I'm just enjoying the cool waters, fresh breezes and thinking I'm UNDER water when I am ON the water.

Barry noticed my back about switch number four...he reapplied sunscreen, but too late.

According to the national Skin Cancer Foundation, "A person's risk for melanoma--the most serious form of skin cancer--doubles if he or she has had five or more sunburns." I don't know about you, but considering that when I grew up the 'best" skin protection was Coppertone Sun Lotion (SPF maybe TWO), I've had at least five sunburns, and I'm worried it's double that, including Saturday's fiasco.

Barry picked up aloe lotion at CVS, and while I found it cooling, refreshing, and massively sticky, I don't think it made much of a difference to the burn's intensity. I still can't wear a bra (my apologies for the unpleasant visual).

Doesn't matter. I was thrilled by our day on the Atlantic. No pain, no gain!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Martha, Martha, Martha

I'm SURE you noticed that I haven't posted in over a week.

I KNOW you are becoming obsessed, wondering, "When will Ann post again? What is GOING ON??"

Ahhhh...ok...maybe not.

This did happen to a blogger I follow - Jennsylvania - where Jen Lancaster shares funny life moments. You might recognize her name - she, unlike ME, is a published author. Jen hadn't posted in a couple of weeks, and received an avalanche of email demanding an entry.

ME? I got squat from the five of you that read my posts.

Still, you may now be thinking, "Hey, she's right! She HASN'T posted in a while! I have had an extra five minutes every couple days to think happy thoughts!"

You are WELCOME, by the way.


I decided to have the neighborhood friends over for a landlubber boat picnic. BIG TIP for Midwesterners in Miami - make friends with someone who owns a boat! Patty (who was in Seattle for the stem cell transplant) and her husband Brant kindly include us in many boat picnics. We meet up at the marina with other friends with boats, speed out to the quiet of Elliott Key, and swim, ski, and share goodies until the sun is close to setting. LOVELY!

Patty cannot go on the boat - the ride to Elliott Key is even in calm seas quite choppy. With compromised blood counts, it's not recommended. SO, I said, let's do it without the boats and the ocean!

I love Martha Stewart. With every glue-gunning, pastry rolling, faux finishing bone of my body, I love this woman. I get Martha Stewart Living, and in contrast to popular assumption, the projects are practical, well-explained, and GORGEOUS. I was watching her TV show, and got a couple new menu ideas. (Full Disclosure: I also love the Barefoot Contessa, Michael Chiarello, and Bobby Flay). For my birthday, Barry gave me a food processor. I'm totally tooled up for the occasion.

Here's the thing - in order to "effortlessly" host a party, one must EFFORTFULLY knock oneself out for two days prior to the event.

First - house prep. I keep a decently clean house, but having guests who will be all over the kitchen and bathrooms means special due diligence.

Clean the bathrooms. Notice the grout is grody in the kitchen and Chris' bathroom. Chris uses the "cabana bath" - bathroom with an outdoor access so swimmers can come in without tracking water all over the tile. Guests will use this bathroom. I knock myself out with bleach applications and scrubbing. Back out and am eye level with blinds on the cabana door. Did you ever notice that you live with the window blinds every day and they seem totally fine, but when you look at them through the eyes of "having company", they are disgustingly dusty.

Clean the blinds.

What are all those spots on the windows?

Clean the windows. Light floods the family room!

Oh my goodness, who has been touching the television cabinet after plowing a field?

Super scrub/dust all the wood furniture. From knees on the floor notice...

Why are all the walls exactly at cat/dog height stained? We bathe these animals regularly (Aiden swims daily!).

Squat walk around the house, cleaning every doorway. Notice floor corners dark - Hand wash all the corners and baseboards.

HOURS into this, after accepting that I am soon to be the target of health inspectors who will condemn my house, I decide to lock all bedroom doors and prevent anyone from wandering into the UNCLEAN ZONES.

Second, the meal: It's not as if I don't know that Martha or any Food Network show has 14 people in the background chopping, slicing, and dicing so it looks effortless on screen. I KNOW this. But then, I'm fooled looks so darn effortless! I've got the blender, the food processor and the mixer lined up like mechanical soldiers. I have great knives. Multiple cutting boards. Bowls. Scrapers. Trays. Every recipe has 2,700 ingredients that must be prepped before they are effortlessly put together. For example, a simple spinach salad:

Cook bacon, cool bacon, snip bacon into little pieces (tip: buy PRE-cooked bacon at Sam's)(NO, no bacon bits, they are gross!)
Cook eggs, cool eggs, chop eggs.
Dice onions.
Make Spinach salad dressing: Involves more diced onions, diced cilantro, multiple saucey type ingredients.

I'm 45 minutes into meal prep, and all I've got is a salad! And a mess...because if you can chop and dice and shell eggs and NOT get it all over the floor and countertop, I bow to your superiority.

Last thought: I remember LOVING my mother and grandmother's food. BUT how did they successfully cook without cilantro and extra virgin olive oil - because CILANTRO and EVOO are in EVERY STINKIN' RECIPE I try from the network or magazine. COME ON! Is there something magical about cilantro? Where did it come from? I don't even think it existed in 1975! Or, for that matter in 1995! It's new, but apparently absolutely ESSENTIAL to a well-flavored dish.

Oh, yeah...the party was great. I was the relaxed, consummate hostess. I only had to cook one dish (the risotto), and must have look intriguingly chef-like, because my method attracted a lot of appreciative ohh's and ahh's (or maybe after a hearty round of appetizers and mojitos, people were feeling an over-the-top alcoholic-induced generosity). I did manage to do the job without spraying my kitchen with spices and rice (pre-measured, pre-chopped, PRE PRE PRE PREPARED for assembly!).

It goes without saying that I was exhausted, but isn't that what good entertaining is all about?

Sitting in my clean house and planning to use the leftovers for dinner, I say, "Happy Sunday!"

Monday, September 20, 2010

Exploding Waterworks Batman!

Fact: I sometimes act impulsively without the thoroughness that would result in a task completed in a quality, thorough, and safe fashion.

Fact: I am not particularly intuitive when it comes to household tasks.

Fact: In a completely unrelated tangent, a beautiful orange bird is flitting around my bougainvillea right now, but it is very amazing and distracting. OHHH...another orange bird is in the palm tree.

Fact: If you google "Florida Orange Bird", you get thousands of images just like this one:

Do not be concerned for my mental health. This is NOT the bird I "see" in my tree.

Back to the story:

Working outside. LOVELY days this weekend...Igor sucked the humidity out of Florida (technical meteorological terms) and it was high 80's and pleasant. Sunday, I am cleaning the pool while Barry is chopping down the weeds that are attacking the previously mentioned Bougainvillea. It's rainy season, so we have to lower the pool water every few days. If the water is too high, the ickies on the top don't skim off through the pump mechanism do-hickey (more technical jargon...try to keep up!).

In order to lower the water, I attach this blue, flat, heavy plastic tubing to a pipe with a valve on the pump. I have a circle clamp that goes on first, then I wiggle the blue tubing around the pipe and under the clamp. I tighten the clamp, unroll the tubing (so the water drains toward the road), then open the valve and VOILA!

Voila or BOOM!, depending on a small detail....

I unrolled the hose, but didn't straighten it. It was flipped over several times especially near the far end away from the pump. I THOUGHT the force of the water would fill it and it would just unroll. This DID not happen. The water built up at the flips, sort of like a twist in a balloon. I ran down (accompanied by my happy dog, who thought I might want to play) and tried to UNTWIST the hose, but of course each untwist motion put an EXTRA twist in the areas further down that had semi-filled with water. I start to try to flip faster and faster and BOOM the hose EXPLODES in a SHREDDED MASS OF PLASTIC showering the dog and I.

Barry walked by, hauling weeds. He looked at me, the dripping dog, the gushing water, and the shredded hose and shakes his head. In a resigned voice, he comments, "I guess we now have two hoses, a short one and a long one."

THAT'S my guy!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Feral Fun


Digging her nails into my legs, the cat leaps off the bed. The dog jumps up. I fall out of bed screeching "eowwwrrhhh" (sounding remarkably like a participant in the outside melee) when I hit my head on the bedside table.

The feral cats are having a rumble. I curse the cats, and try to get the dog to stop whining and come back to bed. It's easier to let Aiden run out, check the backyard for feline intruders, and mark the grass (hedge/table/bush/planter) to warn them he's on patrol.

When we first moved into our home, we would glance out the back window and see two or three cats draped around the pool, sunning and cleaning themselves. Oh, how swweeetttt, I thought...

Later we learned that our neighbor has been feeding these cats since after Hurricane Andrew. I use "these" loosely. Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992. We have lived here three years and only two of the cats we first spotted still frequent the area. Plus, new kittens show up every four months. I don't want to think about why our little local population never increases beyond 10, although I reluctantly note I have seen a hawk scoping out the local fauna.

The neighbor occasionally goes through an "I'm going to get rid of these cats!" phase. He sets cat-traps, then takes the cat in to a special vet that neuter/spays the animals for minimal dollars. He usually catches one cat. I picture the other cats, visiting it in the wire prison. "Psstt...Harry...pass it on. The tuna's stale and the treat is a trap!" These savvy street cats hiss and purr the word along, and neighbor Bob can't catch another cat for six months.

Currently, we have a preponderance of orange cats. it's quite the morning sight...six or seven orange, orange and white, and calico cats spread languidly across his driveway. So you can make fun party conversation, I'll share that it turns out most orange cats are male - over 75%. Who knew?

We have a lot of songbirds, and I've only found a mound of feathers twice , so the birds must be very aware of the cats. The mockingbirds are great - they dive bomb the cats (and dogs and people) when nesting. Fierce!

I didn't have much against the cats, except for the fact they kept leaving "presents" under the tree mulch (which for whatever bizarre and disgusting reason Aiden thinks are amazing dog treats), until a cat in heat made Paco girl crazy and he started marking all the windows and doors. If you have EVER had this problem, you know what a miserable, awful, unstoppable, horrible, stinky experience this is. EWWWWW!!!! Curse you Cute, Homeless Kitties!

Don't worry, I worked things out with Paco. He gets outside time to "let the ladies know he's available", if you know what I mean. Yes, he's neutered, no worries there. Just feeding the masculine ego -

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Birthday Reflections

In case you were wondering...


This is a good, solid number. My mom likes to tell everyone she is 29. I kind of like who I am for


so, don't mind disclosing the number. My favorite birthday mantra: It's better to get a year older than not get a year older.

I took a spinning class this morning, and totally tromped the younger woman on the next bike - you call that a climb? Crank it up sister! After class, I saw her pick up her toddler and baby at the childcare. Fine - don't sleep, chase kids all day, AND come to spinning. Gees. I'll need a nap in an hour...

I did run four half marathons in the past calendar year. I get a little mad at myself for all the years I said I couldn't run - one of the curses of growing older and wiser is becoming more aware of time wasted thinking about why I couldn't or shouldn't do something, instead of jumping into the activity and just DOING it ($2 to NIKE every time someone reads this blog). I guess that's what 'bucket lists' are about. I don't have a bucket list, because it makes me think about the 'bucket' part, and I'm not comfortable going there. I'm just going to try to do new things and not let age or fear turn me into a big "woulda, coulda, shoulda" woman.

In an attempt to make me feel better about being


(although I don't particularly need cheering up) Amy pointed out that at least I didn't own any light wash, belted-at-the-waist blue jeans. To those of you who do, apparently this is the fashion kiss of death. Run to the store, fast! And while you are there, you will, like me, learn a new word: Jeggings. These are leggings that are of jean-ish material. Jeggings. Write it down somewhere, and then throw it into a conversation. You'll be the cool old-person on the block. After living through the '90's legging era, I'm not too keen on going back, so no jeggings in my birthday bag.

By the way, I love facebook. I love all my birthday greetings. I'm telling you, it's my Mayberry. I see you on the street, you say Happy Birthday, and I feel connected to this bigger community and it is good. Then I go home, have some cake (my cake is always a peach pie)(it's my birthday and I'll eat pie if I want to...), and Barry serenades with his guitar on the porch.



Next stop, the big

5 - 0


Friday, September 10, 2010

La Cucaracha!

I think I've mentioned before that my best Miami friend, Patty, has been in Seattle, WA for a stem cell transplant.

After 4 1/2 long months, Patty and her husband Brant are coming home! Praise God!

While they've been gone, Chris (my 17 year old son) watched the house and Pepper the cat. Chris went over each day for an hour or more, sometimes spending the night. The object was making sure Pepper didn't go cat crazy without human companionship. I checked on the house and watered the plants once a week or so.

I had noticed a few Palmetto Bugs (Florida Giant Cockroaches clearly affected by a government covered-up nuclear event) in late July, but Brant came home and sprayed, so I thought all was well.

Today, Chris drove straight from school to a friend's house, then to the big rivalry football game (Jesuits v. Marists - who would God root for?). I went over to spend time with Pepper. While I was there, I noticed a few dead Palmetto bugs. Maria, Patty's friend who picks up the mail, came over with a broom. She had seen several bugs yesterday.

We chatted as we swept. Maria was puzzled - there was a lot of cockroach doo-doo in the bathroom, but no roaches. Earlier, Brant informed her that the roach problem was a result of the showers not being used, and to run the taps. Maria turned on the taps in the tainted bathroom and...


20 (MILLION) Palmetto Bugs came POURING out of the drain.

The horror!

I KNOW I will have nightmares tonight.

I ran into the garage and found bug spray. Several bugs seemed to sense trouble coming, so started climbing the shower walls to hang from the ceiling. YUUUCCCKKKKKK. Maria opened the shower door and I sprayed poison with maniacal fervor.

DIE, DIE, DIE you bugs of disgustingness!

Maria is a woman of great courage and a strong stomach. After the bugs finished convulsing, she scooped them up with her broom and gave them a dignified burial in the garbage can.

I contributed by squealing, "GET THEM OUT! GET THEM OUT!"

When I finished wiping the remains from the shower basin, I pointed at the large roach still clinging above. We mutually decided to give him a chance to make a run for it. I carried Pepper into the bath and said, "ATTACK!" leaving her perched on the bathroom sink, twitching her tail and licking her lips.

I won't worry if Pepper's food stays untouched tonight.

Is it okay if I end with one last, "BLLECCHHH!!!!!"?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Rain, rain, rain

Google Miami - go ahead, I dare you!

OK, it probably isn't dare-worthy.

You will pull up multiple, beautiful images of sunny skies, blue-green water, boaters, and babes (of both sexes...there's something for everyone!).

I will not deny that winter in Miami is a paradise. PARADISE. Blue skies, mild temperatures, balmy breezes. Since we've been gone from Chicago, their winters have been nasty, and ours have been lovely. Well, there was a lot of complaining last winter about the extended "cold" (we had the heat on for a week! Horrors!) - and it did cause significant plant damage as well us some concussions related to dropping iguanas.

"Dropping iguanas??" you ask.

"Why, yes!" I reply. Iguanas are not native to Florida. When it gets cold, they sort of instantly hibernate, and fall out of the trees.

As all responsible pet owners know, if you can't take care of your pet and it seems warm enough outside for them to survive, by all means, let them go into the wild. I'm sure it's the course most recommended by PETA and the Humane Society - NOT.

This is why an alligator was recently caught in the Chicago river, why iguanas plummet from trees during cold spells in Florida, and why 150,000 Burmese pythons are destroying the everglades. We've nearly destroyed one of nature's most abundant habitats (Want to cry? Do some research about initial experiences of the Everglades - bird flocks that blocked the sky, the Florida Panther, abundant wildlife - then compare to today). This is why six feral cats are relaxing in my neighbor's driveway right now. I've been trying to get a picture for you, but whenever I approach, they scatter - which is odd, because when Aiden and I walk by, they stay in their weird I'm-cleaning-my-privates-with-my-tongue poses and stare him down.

hmm...that last tangent has confused me - oh, yeah, Miami weather. In the summer, it is hot. HOT, HOT, HOT. It is also rainy. Sometimes, it rains and rains and rains and rains. It has been raining, and raining, and raining for the past week. I'm a little crazy with it (ha! like I'm not crazy the rest of the time. It feels good to have an alternate excuse to hormones). We have had to lower our pool water twice and it is currently lapping at the top. SOOOO...if you are thinking of visiting Florida in the summer, be prepared! BRING AN UMBRELLA! But leave your iguana at home...

Monday, September 6, 2010

Do you ever...??

Do you ever try to find out something that you really have no business knowing but you figure, "Hey, why is there an internet if not to stalk my neighbors and find out if they got a divorce?"

I'm a terrible person.

Don't try to talk me out of it.

I am.

I know it.

BUT I was wondering, and I did think, "It can't be private if I can find it on the World Wide Web...and I don't want to ask anyone because that's gossip...and I don't want to ask my neighbor because that's snoopy and wrong and could hurt her feelings..."

Bad, uber-rationalizing me.

By the way, whoever said all information is accessible via the web may be right (did anyone ever say this?), but didn't say anything about the proficiency of the operator attempting such data-mining. Such skill appears to be critical. If I was Chloe on "24", I would tap a few keyboard keys and be able to control Russia while at that same time invading innocent people's privacy.

Other than Google, I did not try anything else. So, I have no clue. And I am embarressed and shamed.

In contrition, I decide to plaster my evilness on the web for all to know and mock. I turn myself over to you, the guardians of all that is right and good, for appropriate chastisement.

As an aside, I realized that we do this with celebrities all the time. I have now vowed never to click on the TMZ link. If I don't click, if you don't click, then TMZ will eventually not be able to pay the crazy photographers that chase these people around so that we can see if they look fat on the beach and can feel better about our own out-of-shape behinds. May God protect me from the day that my abs are worth an international uproar or I do anything Web worthy (other than this blog THAT YOU LOVE!).

Don't you hate it when...

Don't you hate it when...

  • Getting out of the car at the grocery, you step on gum and four garbage cans are 50 feet away! Either a consumer is leaving his/her vehicle and cannot manage to keep the gum in the mouth long enough to make it to the cans OR s/he passes the receptacles on the way OUT of the store and suddenly realizes s/he cannot POSSIBLY chew that piece of gum for a second longer and MUST spit it out despite the obvious inconvenience to shoppers walking across the lot.
  • You see someone pushing the grocery cart and s/he sneezes multiple times over the handles. By the way, if you DO NOT use the antiseptic wipes to clean your cart when entering the store, this is a major mistake!
  • No matter what line you pick at the grocery, the person in front of you has an issue. More than once here in Miami, I have been in line when the woman in front of me unloads her cart, remembers she needs another item, LEAVES (strolls, not runs, mind you), and doesn't return for five minutes.
  • You walk into the grocery while it is sunny and bright, you walk out when it is pouring rain. This is a typical Miami rainy season occurrence - you think I'd learn and always carry an umbrella. I have sort of learned - I have one in the car! NOT GOOD ENOUGH!
  • The cashier is tired and THROWS your apples down to the bagger and then gives you a "crazy lady" look when you object to taking home bruised fruit.
  • You bought four of those handy environmentally friendly bags, but you never remember to put them in the car (topped only by putting them in the car and not remembering to bring them in the store!)

Don't you love it when...

  • You return from the grocery store and your dog greets you like you've been gone for a year.
  • Ice cream is on sale buy one, get one free AND you have a coupon! It's like winning the lottery!
  • A really cute baby is in front of you in the checkout line (although this is love/hate for me, because the current climate does not let legitimately innocent cooing and playing with the baby without the mom believing one is a psychotic middle-aged kidnapper woman).
  • The store has taste booths that feature chocolate, wine, or both!
  • The roast chickens have just come out of the oven at Sam's Club. YUM YUM YUM.

Happy Labor Day!

Friday, September 3, 2010

I've got nothin'

Determined to stay on point with this blog...must make nothin' nothin'...HEY!

Did I tell you about the time I got the bikini wax?

No?? Great!

OH, you are yelling "NOOOOO!" as in, please do NOT write about this.

OK. OK. It is an interesting topic, if want you want my opinion.

This is big business in Miami. Salons set up just for waxing, nothing else. My attendant's name is Kathryn. She is from Puerto Rico and has worked for seven years as a waxer (waxologist?). I love her accent. She makes big bucks, even with the economic downturn (Hey, we got beaches and pools here! Some things cannot be sacrificed). I can tell this because she wears clothes I have only heard about on TV or seen in my dentist's office's fancy magazines (Why does he subscribe to Vogue? Or does one of the hygienists? Maybe his wife? Do dentists make as much as wax technicians? Probably not in Miami.).

I could talk about something mundane, like pedicures, but wouldn't you really rather hear about bikini waxing?

Hey, you don't need to shout! I get it! NO BIKINI WAX talk.

If I confessed to a lack of personal boundaries, would you be surprised?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

That Darn Dog!

Do you walk your dog?

I know a lot of people who don't. I've always been a dog walker. It's good for the dog and home preservation. I've only had two dogs - Buddy Mae, a 90 pound giant Airedale (sweetest soul) and Aiden, a 55 pound (most likely) bearded collie. Young, bored and full of pep, Buddy Mae once chewed off half the baseboard molding in my bedroom. Aiden is a...busy dog, if not properly exercised. He would gnaw shoes, raid the cat litter box, and occasional steal my dirty clothes from the hamper and shred them. Outside, if left to his energized devices, Aiden has dug holes the size of small moon craters and carried the dirt on paws and face across the patio and into the house.

One of my pet peeves is the "I don't pick up my dog poop" people. I HATE mowing my lawn and finding deposits made by other dogs. EWWWW. ERRRR. ARGGHHH! I have to pick up my OWN dog's poop - why would I want to pick up YOURS!? I was recently walking Aiden and a neighbor's dog pooped as we were chatting. I offered her my pocket bag and she said, "Oh, no, its biodegradable, why bother?!" Because it's gross and disgusting and simple common courtesy to do so!?

After getting her border collie, Lucy, my friend Nancy joined "Dog Scouts". Are you laughing? I would never laugh at Nancy and the Dog Scouts (tee hee hee). One of their promises was to always carry TWO bags on walks. Even if I giggle, I'm committed enough to the no-crap-left-behind philosophy that most days I started to double carry.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: Be careful what you bitch can bite you in the behind!

SO, my IPOD is persnickety, and I have to turn the headphone wires around and around until I hit the sweet spot of sound. I was fiddling with this for the first five walk minutes, and must have inadvertently dropped the single bag out of my pocket. I discovered this when Aiden pooped and felt terrible leaving behind the mess, but grateful my dishonor was probably hidden - the offended home had foliage covered front windows. Hopefully, there's no Gladys Cravits peeking out at my canine faux paux. THEN, you guessed it, the great dog double doos, and I am now a marked woman in the neighborhood, the one with "THAT DOG" who leaves her messes on only the best lawns.

Mea Culpa. It will not happen again. Double Dog Swear.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Feminine question

Recently, I've been in two store bathrooms (hey, weak sue me!), and the "feminine product box" next to the toilet has been taped or bagged shut. What's up with this? What's a woman with a need to dispose of a...ahem...product of a delicate nature supposed to do? Is this a Miami area occurence, or an introduction of widespread muliebrous mayhem? (look it up! IS GOOD FOR YOU)

They're asking for some clogged toilet, if you want my opinion! Anyone else witnessed this bizarre trend?

I had a dream!

I dream a lot, so normally I wouldn't post a dream report. Sharing dreams is tricky business. What seems so amusing and amazing to the dreamer doesn't translate well to others over the breakfast table. I woke up chuckling, so today I'm giving it a shot!

I lbelieve my dream was brought on by my friend's move back to Chicago. Congrats on getting the house you wanted, Nancy! I had checked into to see the house, then spent a little time ( hour? Yikes!) cruising other listings.

In the dream, we were house-hunting. On entering the house, I see avocado walls, wallpaper, decorations...even the baseboard is painted avocado. I think, "Ann, you said you'd be willing to renovate. Keep an open mind!"

The house does turn out to have good bones. Soaring ceilings, beams (oddly reminiscent of the Tiki Singing Bird hut in Disney World), a big, if extraordinarily dated kitchen. Avocado, avocado, avocado. This could work....

And then Mr. Sandman twists the dial to weird, weirder, weirdest!

I open the door to the downstairs bath, and there is a man in one of those sort of square, handicap access deep tubs. The shower is raised behind the tub. The only way to the shower is through the tub. He proudly tells me this was a recent renovation.

I haven't found a toilet or bedroom, so I tell the realtor I want to go upstairs. At the top of the stairs are a large set of mirrored doors. "Oh!" I exclaim. "Storage!" Opening the doors, I find a large room with a few chairs along the walls, and a huge expanse of floor. The lights come up and IT'S A SKATING RINK!

Tub Man speaks from behind me. "How do you like it?!

Amazingly, I missed the SNACK BAR and skate rental desk to my left. Tub Man is working behind the counter.

"Is the rink open for business?"

"I only keep it open part time now that I've retired." Tub Man flips on the switches for the nacho cheese heater and popcorn machine. "But it's a town tradition, and important to all of us." He emphasizes the last words, giving us a pointed look. Apparently, purchasing the house means inheriting the rink.

Further down the hallway I find a dentist office and barbershop...what the????

The beep-beep-beep of the front door opening and closing wakes me up. It's 5:50 a.m. I have to laugh. I've seen some strange things when house-hunting, but nothing to compare to my Dream House!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Typhoid Barry

Preface: Barry demands that this post undergo fact check and has subpoenaed Publix video surveillance footage for the time in question. He demanded blog space as well to rebut my versions of the event, but was informed that he should get his own blog. My blog, my version...and until such time, here's the story.

Barry and I go to Publix (a major Florida grocery chain). I don't like shopping with Barry. My cart inevitably fills up with unnecessary items. Barry claims they are necessary. Trail mix? He runs, but doesn't hike. ice Cream Drumsticks? "Not for me!," he exclaims innocently. "For Chris! A boy needs his ice cream." $10 small hunk of cheese? "I had this in Brazil - it's GREAT!"

We unload the groceries at the register and Barry takes out his credit card and is holding it in his left hand. It's a busy day, and the bagger persons are in short supply, so we don't have one on our aisle.

"AHHHH-CHOOOO!" Barry gives out a mighty sneeze - directly on his credit card.

Barry then tries to hand the card to me saying "I'll bag the groceries."

"I don't want that card! I'll get my own out!"

"I didn't sneeze on that hand! I sneezed on my right hand!"

"Both of your hands went toward your face. I WILL NOT TOUCH THAT CARD!"

The cashier is watching us. We are now her moment-of-the-day to share in the break room.

Insulted, Barry huffily swipes his card through the payment device. I refuse to touch the device and grab a bag to load up some groceries, because I am not touching the bags he is now touching with his diseased hands. Barry signs for the groceries and stomps out of the store, denying all the while that he exposed anything or anyone to his germy germs.

We'll see. I'm logging on to the CDC to see if they have a "public endangerment" online reporting device. If the Pinecrest Publix is covered in a tent and surrounded by biosuited federal workers, you'll have Barry to thank!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Shout outs

Shout out to...

Nancy, my Miami friend and co-leader (co-member! - we never did have a membership drive) of the Kraft Wives Club. Nancy is returning to the North. We had some great times exploring Miami. Our first trip was to Little Havana. I was expecting bustling streets with Cuban music, colorful characters, and sidewalk cafes. Maybe a couple of women strolling around with Carmen Miranda-esque costumes and headpieces. Not so much. But, we went to Frommer's "have Cuban coffee here" cafe, and I had a cup. I don't drink coffee, but since the small cup had about 1/8 coffee, 3/8 milk, and 4/8 SUGAR, I found it spectacularly enjoyable. The post-sugar/caffeine crash was intense, but worth it. At other times, we visited Fairchild Gardens, Deering Estate, and Vizcaya, along with the usual Mall lunches and shopping. Miss you!

Father David Zirilli, who is leaving St. Louis Parish to become Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Miami. Father David came to St. Louis as a new priest, 2.5 years ago. He is an amazing, dedicated young man. I can see why he was chosen to speak for Vocations - I remember one homily when he spoke about the call to the priesthood, and he said he knew seven or eight young men in the congregation right then would make great priests. My son looked at me, shrugged, and said, "Maybe...maybe". Hmmm!

Patty, my friend who received a stem cell transplant in May. She is scheduled to return to Miami in September! I miss our walks and chats! If you aren't aware, a stem cell transplant is a rigorous and difficult procedure, with the same risks as any organ transplant. Sign up as a donor - it is like donating blood - a little longer procedure, but no more complicated.

I'm off to Sam's Club and the grocery. Got a cookbook out of the library 'cause I am BORED with what we are eating. This is always dangerous and somewhat expensive, because I end up buying things like "chinese chili paste" and "fish sauce" and a LOT of cilantro. What did we do before the world discovered cilantro? I swear its in EVERY recipe on Top Chef!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Blessed Sunday!

I like to do a "long" run on Sunday. During the summer, that means five miles. Even in the morning, it is 80 plus degrees and 80 plus humidity. If you run, you know those are tough conditions.

So, on Sunday, I set the alarm for 5:35 A.M.. It's brutal. Ridiculous. Bizarre. It's SUNDAY! But, I do it because on weekdays, I feel the need to be home between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. for Chris. He's 17, but I want him to feel like we are there for him. Time enough to do for myself when he goes off to college next year. I could go after he leaves, but by 7 a.m., the dog desperately wants his walk. Although I see runners out, It's too warm for me at that point.

Today, the alarm goes off at 5:35 a.m.. I was awake as the dear cat yowled and purrupped until I let him onto the porch about 5. The bathroom light shines directly into the master bedroom, so I have everything set up in my closet. Last week I ran six miles, so this week I'm totally stoked to do seven. This means I have to glide up (it's a special running lubricant, in a deodarant like stick form). When I run more than five, friction under my arms and other wobbly areas - I'm 48, for goodness sake! - can rapidly lead to skin burns. Prep takes about seven minutes, then I let the dog out ("Do it! Do it!"), feed the cat, queue up the IPOD, and I'm out the door at 5:47!

5:49: Smattering of raindrops. Analyze sky. See clear patches, cloud patches. Must be one of those 'rainy' clouds that drifts by occasionally. No big deal.

5:55: I am nearly a mile out. Begins to rain. Begins to rain heavily. Begins torrential downpour. Hide under an oak tree.

5:56: Getting soaked under tree. Decide to turn back.

5:57: Shoes soaked. Stupid rain, these are expensive running shoes! Clothes soaked. IPOD tucked in water belt, hopefully dry. Watch is waterproof. Cannot see, blinking so much to keep water out of eyes.

6: Think I see a van that might be ours. Did Barry get up to rescue me? It drives by before I can figure it out. I turn into our neighborhood. A man is outside, in the dark, barefoot, smoking a cigarette, walking down the middle of the road. I freak out and begin to sprint.

6:03: Home. Barry not home. Van gone. It WAS Barry in the van! My hero - or attempted hero! Water is pooling in my shoes. Barry comes home, but had trouble seeing in the dark and rain. He earns extra spouse points and wins next three arguments by default.

Blessed Sunday! Stay warm, dry and at peace with Christ!:)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Meet Gracie!

As noted, Barry arrived home from Brazil in the very early morning after all night flight. After working for a few hours, he helpfully agreed to drive me to IKEA. IKEA is in Sunrise, about 50 miles north. For the Prius, its a $5 Drive. For the van, $10...

Why, why why am I returning to IKEA after it stole years off my life in Chicago two weeks ago? OHHH, you don't know about that do you? No, it's not in the blog...yet! I started writing about moving Amy to Chicago, and it turned into pages and pages. Let's just say that after moving Amy's current possessions (which filled my van and the "turtle" on top) into her apartment, we then went to IKEA and re-filled the van with do-it-yourself assembly furniture, baskets, kitchen items, and curtains and moved THESE new possessions into said apartment.

The Chicago IKEA is in Shaumburg, about an hour from Hyde Park, Amy's neighborhood. After we had unloaded her new items, we discovered that the curtain rod was too short (do NOT ask me why we didn't measure. DO NOT!) and one of the dining chair covers was a bar stool cover. Now this was NOT my fault. The bar stool cover was in the dining chair bin (If you've never been to IKEA, many items are on display in the showroom, and then the shopper picks them up in particular aisle/bin/shelf warehouse storage). I acknowledge that it might have been prudent to check all the packaging, but we didn't so do NOT judge me! Since it was late in the evening, a return to IKEA trip was out of the question.

I brought home her receipt and the cover and rod. After ascertaining that my IKEA did indeed have the desired dining chair covers in stock (I'm learning!), we drove in to make the exchange. This went smoothly, and Barry and I only spent an additional $150 buying items we don't need. IKEA is like Sam's Club - you go in with the best of intentions and a well-thought out list, but in the end, you always end up spending $100 or more. It's just the way it is.

On the drive, Barry got a call from a guy doing some work for us on our Clearwater condo. Barry was told to call a woman named Francie to pay for a cabinet. Even though he called immediately, he suffered from an old-brain episode and asked, "May I please speak to Gracie?"

The woman responded, "There's no one here by that name - I'm Francie."

Barry replies - WITHOUT ANY HESITATION - "Oh, my fault! Gracie is my grandchild and I was just speaking to her."

WHAT? I have a grandchild and no one told me! AND Barry's been chatting with her behind my back!? I am hiring a P.I. to find this unknown child and satisfy my granny-lust once and for all!

I haven't seen Barry lie very often, and when he does, he does it very poorly. IF this was a lie, he did it darn well, and with little necessity! Suspicious, suspicious...

I recently discovered that a stained glass box I had for years is missing - all that's left is the lace doilie it rested on to prevent it from scratching the living room table. Everyone denies knowledge of the demise of said box. I suppose they are all going to deny knowledge of Gracie as well!

Never fear! This is JUST like an episode of Burn Notice. I'm hiring Michael Weston (on the show, he lives in Miami) to find my Gracie AND my box!

Friday, August 27, 2010

5:15, 5:25, 5:55

5:15: I wake up when Chris deactivates the alarm. Beep, beep beepedee beep. We've been using the alarm regularly since a friend's house was broken into a few weeks ago. As I roll over, pulling my pillow around my ears, I grudgingly admire Chris' dedication arising so early on a school day to run. He is doing the Donald Half Marathon with us in January and is training. I sleepily think, "maybe I should get up and run, too." I'm not only running the Donald Half, but the Mickey full the following day.

No, I do not know why I am doing this.

Yes, I do.

Barry did it last year and he got THREE shiny medals embossed with Mickey, Donald, and Goofy (it's called the Goofy challenge).

No, I have never run a marathon before.

Considering this, I really should get up and run.

Nope. Mentally chant: "Relax. Fall asleep. Fall asleep." Failure - must empty bladder. Trip to bathroom excites dog and cat. Cat begins to yowl. Let cat out on porch. Back in bed..."fall asleep, fall asleep, fall...."

5:25: Key in lock, rattle, rattle, rattle, turn, turn. Since door was unlocked, Barry, returning from his business trip, locked it, then unlocked it. Dog goes berserk, crying, whining, wiggling in paroxysms of ecstasy. His daddy is home. I give up. Might as well run. Barry is annoyingly perky after grabbing what must have been uncomfortable sleep on his flight home from Brazil. After giving me a hug (all signs appear to indicate he is quite happy to see me, ahem), he is out the door for his run. I follow, a bit more slowly. I'm stiff, so spend my first mile trotting like an old lady, then pick it up for the next two.

5:55: I'm praying there's a nap with my name on it today.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Morning Madness

The account of my morning will not nearly be as exciting as the title might imply, but I've never been good at titles.

Warning - tangent alert!

I wonder who comes up with book titles - authors or the publisher? I've recently been trying some new authors - Jennifer Weiner, Candace Caprice, Jen Lancaster. All good writers - easy reads, entertaining. I like Lancaster the best, she's snarky and fine, and in Chicago! They have cute titles to their books - "Bitter is the New Black" as an example.

Warning - another tangent!

Continuing on my new author pursuit, I'm listening to "What the Dog Saw" on CD in my car. Since I'm not in the car much, this has been an agonizingly slow process, but I LOVE the author's voice - Malcolm Gladwell - reading his own work. Gladwell is SMART and has great insights and a compelling voice (writing voice, not speaking)(I'm enjoying his speaking voice as well). One of the essays was about this man, Nassim Taleb, a trader/finance man and his particular theories of investment. The story was great and, while entertained, I learned a lot about options trading. THEN, two days ago, I open the Wall Street Journal and there's a feature story on Taleb! I felt so well informed. "Ah, yes, of The Black Swan...of course, you know what he's referring to, right?" (read in snooty, intellectual voice).

Back to our Heroine...

SO, big storm this morning. Opened the door to let the cat out into the porch and IT WAS COOL! Cool for Miami in August - maybe 78? But the storm had washed the humidity out, ahhhhh. Aiden and I headed out for our walk (mercifully mosquito free - we've worn out that topic). Aiden was crazy frisky, because he's gotten his hair cut and it was cool, so we were moving along.

We turned a particular corner, and I could see a small boy walking a 20-ish pound dog at the end of the street. His mom was calling for him to return to the house, but puppy had other ideas. Puppy saw Aiden. Puppy began to run pell-mell in our direction. Rather than stopping and planting his feet (I'm not sure that would have worked either), the boy ran with the dog. Puppy outpaced the boy and jerked the leash away, causing the boy to take a facer into the asphalt.

Aiden, 60 pounds of pure submissiveness, quails in the face of this friendly onslaught. FIVE children and FOUR adults roil out of the house, with a cute but intimidating two year old girl, yelling "NO NO, NOOOO!" as she ran toward us.

I grabbed the puppy's leash and handed it off to an older child. The mom was chiding the fallen boy, "What? You couldn't hold on to that little dog?" GEES, mom! I quickly explained what happened and helped the boy stand, and made a fuss over his slightly skinned knees and hands. "You did really tried to keep the puppy back!" This had the intended effect of re-directing mom from scold to hold, and Aiden and I went on our merry way.

UNTIL we saw two loose dogs barking and bouncing outside of a yard with dogs. UNTIL said dogs saw Aiden. UNTIL with joyously intimidating barks they sprinted down the road, hackles raised, and crowded around Aiden. Aiden tucked his tail and if dogs had thought bubbles his said, "WHAT THE HECK?" (it would be trendier to say, "WTF?" but I don't use the f-word)(except sometimes in my head when I am driving). Both were young - one a small, leggy half grown puppy, the other a very large mixed breed dog. Clearly they wanted to play, and after getting to know Aiden from behind, the large dog became quite affectionate and kept licking Aiden's mouth. Watch the PDA buddy-roo!

After five confusing minutes (where is Cesar Millan when you need him?), a huge pick-up truck screeched to a halt at the next corner. A woman yelled, "GET OVER HERE!" and my happy dog friends galloped over, ignored the opened rear door, and leaped their very wet bodies over the driver's seat. She waved, "Sorry!" and Aiden was rescued.

He'd had enough - I had to run to keep up, and we fled home, where he was comforted by a big milk bone and a nice cuddle!

Woo! Life's a never-ending thrill ride here in suburbia!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bug off!

I'll continue on yesterday's mosquito rant and share more about Miami's insectdom (when I first wrote that word, I wrote incest-dom. Now THAT would have drawn in the readers!). I don't have any family here, so I wouldn't know about the incestdom situation (ew, ew, ew).

"What did Ann do about the mosquitoes?" If that question kept you up all night, let me end the suspense. I called mosquito control and waited on hold for 15 minutes. Isn't it amazing how long, or short, 15 minutes can be? Time wasted watching SVU reruns - flies by! Time napping...where did it go? Time on hold...endless. One thing I love about modern technology is speaker phones. I popped it on speaker - washed the bathroom floor and tub, switched the laundry, and put away the items that hopped out of drawers, cabinets and closets to scatter themselves around the house.

The 411 Miami help line personnel are polite, but I cannot imagine doing this job - call after call after call of complaints, requests, and reports. I have called 411 only once before, when my waste collector (garbage man) came to the door to report my waste collection cart (garbage can on wheels) broke during pick up. I received a new cart within days. Efficient government services still exist!

"Address?...What can we help you with?" I can hear typing. "Do you have a pen?" He waits while I find one. "Okay, here's your ticket number..11222112211. Thank you very much."

I am overwhelmed with confidence that mosquito abatement is just around the corner (2012).

I've never seen mosquito abatement occur in Miami. When we lived in Jonesboro, Arkansas, the spray trucks came around late at night. The first time we woke up and observed a truck with flashing lights slowly moving around our driveway, we freaked. When we figured out what it was, I was impressed. We lived in a neighborhood with very large lots - three or more acres (our choice boiled down to golf course lot, minimal land, maximum ducking or the 'you-can-keep-horses' neighborhood). Ours was wooded along the front border, with a center drive that came in, circled in front of the house, under the porte cochere, then around the garage. If they didn't come into the lots, the fogging would have been ineffective, but still, I thought it was great civil service, and managed the mosquitoes fairly well.

Each night, I take the animals outside and they play for an hour while I swim and do my version of water aerobics in the pool (walking from one end of the pool to the other - I keep a glass of wine on each edge. It's incredibly motivational). When I stepped out, I noticed the cat and dog were covered in mosquitoes. It was disgusting. My dog was confused why I was petting him by smashing my hand on his body. Ew, ew, ew.

HOWEVER, good news to report! This morning when we walked, the mosquito presence was minimal. Score one for Miami. I feel like calling 411, waiting on hold, giving my ticket number, and asking the agent to enter an addendum: The Bakers and their animals say thank you!

Monsters in Miami

Summer in Miami means just one thing to me...

That's not true, it means a lot of things. Heat, boat picnics, heat, humidity, pool time with Aiden, bufo toads, rain, heat, humidity....

Aside from all of that bliss, it means MOSQUITOS.

It's not as if we haven't lived in fear of malaria or West Nile virus before. The minute the sun started to set in Arkansas, giant pterodactyl mosquitos emerged, occasionally eating a small dog or cat. Midwestern summer evenings often end with a run inside to avoid the dusk descent of the little buggers.

Miami though, is as with many things, a whole different story.

Starting when the summer rains begin, I douse myself with Deep Woods Off before venturing outside for anything more than fetching the morning paper (and I've got bitten for my lack of diligence). I spray my head and shoulders if I'm going into the pool. If I don't, I'll get bitten on the cheek or ear. I'm terrified I'm going to die of DEET poisoning. The mosquitos swarm around Aiden as we walk, and if I've missed even the smallest piece of skin, I'll get a bite.

I'm bringing this up because yesterday when the dog and I started out, a new mosquito-ish bug was swarming around him. It had a heavier body, and moved slowly. I wasn't even sure it was a biting bug, or simply another swarming pest. I killed a couple that landed on me, and brushed Aiden off before letting him in the house.

Searching with Google, I found it was the Tiger Mosquito. I didn't realize how many mosquito varieties existed and commonly tortured area residents. Today, the tribe clearly had matured and gotten its bearings. Covered in Off, we started walking. Aiden was immediately swarmed. When I stopped to chat for 30 seconds with a neighbor, I was bitten on the knee and the hand - she did not have repellent on, and after several bites, turned back home, defeated by the little monsters. I can't imagine how itchy Aiden must be!

I read that people with "sweeter" sweat get bitten more than those with "salty" sweat. I'm not sure of this science. As a runner, I have had more than the usual opportunity to taste my sweat (especially trying to keep up the miles in Miami), and it seems plenty salty - but I like the idea of being vulnerable because of my sweet nature. Awww....

Monday, August 23, 2010

First Day of School

It's a big day in the Baker house!

Amy will teach her first elementary class today in Chicago. All I have to say is, those students are lucky ducks.

Kayla begins her senior year in athletic training at Albion and her search for a graduate school program. Between that and her sorority, and Craig's (boyfriend) fraternity activities, I'm sure she will have a full and happy year.

Chris beings HIS senior year at Christopher Columbus, and his search for the perfect college. Piano starts tonight, and Life (youth group) within the next couple of weeks. I have Parent Senior meeting soon, to learn all about CCHS and senior year.

While on my walk with the dog, I saw a parent with her two young children, waiting patiently at the bus stop. How many lifetimes ago did I experience that wait? The fun and anxiety of new teachers, friends, and activities? I miss those days - Amy called from the train, and while she is the teacher, she has new teacher nerves. After he drove himself to school, Chris texted me: "I made it to school." Kayla? She'll be busy today, but maybe I'll hear about her classes or training work.

I'm melancholy, in case you didn't notice!

The Miami traffic will triple during the hours of 7 - 10 a.m., and 2 - 6 p.m.. We will change are driving patterns to avoid school zones. Chris and I have an attack plan for the school supply list - I wish high school teachers would post required items on edline. That trip should make for a fun post!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Turn Off the PHONE!

I'm in church.

I'm in church every week.

I'm in church every week and some body's PHONE starts ringing, typically during Eucharist or Eucharistic Prayer.

Do you know where my phone is? My phone is in the car. OR my phone is at home.

Yeah, yeah, I I won't be making sainthood anytime soon just because I leave my phone in the car!

Still! I can't help it:

YOU DO NOT NEED YOUR PHONE AT CHURCH (exceptions for firefighters, detectives working on critical cases, and doctors). But I don't see doctors, firefighters, or detectives looking for their phones and, when the phones ring, running out to solve murders and insure the safety of all Miamians, unless they are really undercover. I see women, pawing through their purses. I see men, slapping at their belt bags. I have seen said people not simply turning off their phone and blushing with embarrassment. I have seen them ANSWER their phones, and mutter quietly, "I'm in church...uh, huh...uh, huh..." I know, Christianity is about not judging, but really....really...even if I don't judge you, could you PLEASE not bring your phone into church?

I would like to include a plea to silence or turn off phones for other venues as well: public lectures, libraries, bible study, missions...feel free to add your preferences.

I promise you will be able to contact whomever you missed about whatever their concern as soon as the event is over. I PROMISE you will have a voice mail or "missed call" notification. Whatever cultural change has led us to believe we must be available every minute of every day, it is an erroneous assumption. You CAN turn off the phone. You CAN leave it at home. You CAN skip checking your email for one, if not several days (I personally think that's CRAZY TALK, but since its my crazy talk, I'll have to give it some credence).

Let it go. Try for some quiet. Quiet with yourself. Quiet with your family. Quiet with God.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Facebook and Me

I recently returned from my 30th High School Reunion. Click here to view a homage by Steve Sicula, creator of the comic "Home and Away". Steve is one of our class alumni:

Oh, in adding this link, I discover you can't simply type the link, you have to use HTML. Wow. It's like when I first started using EBAY and to create an ad you had to know HTML. I felt like such a pro, learning to center, make headings, and change the font color with opening and closing tags.

Back to the reunion...I was the class geek/nerd...what's the current term for smart, not dressed fashionably, anxious-to-make the-wrong-move-person? That was me. I was in theater and choir. I've helped put together all three reunions (10, 20, 30), but was not a class officer. This time last year, I was chatting with my friend Nancy, who was attending her 30th. She recommended using Facebook, so I opened a personal account. This somewhat irritated my middle daughter Kayla, who feels adults (defined as older than 25 with jobs) are sticking their noses in where they don't belong! Of course, now businesses, charities...well, basically everyone has usurped facebook from her and her peers' little college hands. She hasn't mentioned if there is something "new" (like when everyone migrated from myspace to facebook), but she wouldn't would she? Except maybe in a Facebook posting, lol.

Back to the reunion...I was stunned to already find a number of classmates on Facebook. I was friending them all and trying to get input on what participants might like in a reunion. Turns out, some of the earliest on Facebook were a little...odd...sorry guys...and I started to think it wasn't such a good idea to use my personal page for the reunion. I created a page for our purposes, and voila (I always want to write that word as "WAH LAH" or voile, which is a fine fabric), we were cyber-connected.

I love Facebook - it's fun to see what people are doing. No one writes letters anymore, and if they do, its only to close friends. Facebook maintains the loose connection I'd have if I lived in Mayberry (a lifelong dream), and saw Andy or Aunt Bee on the street and chatted for a few minutes about canning pickles, or Ernest T's latest antics, or Opie's grades. Now, I live just down cyber street from the people I grew up with, my extended family, and friends across the country.

The reunion? It was fun, more fun than the others. We didn't have a dinner - appetizers and drinks. People chatted and laughed and moved from group to group. In the past, I felt tied to my table and found it awkward to approach other tables to chat. I looked...pretty darn good, if I do say so myself...well, as good as a person attending her 30th can look when she didn't skip any grades.

If you're not on Facebook, give it a whirl. You might be surprised who you find and what they're having for supper tonight!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Marshall Madness

I had to go to Marshalls (the discount store) today. I knew this was risky - its prime pre-college days. That's why I haven't returned Amy's items to IKEA - its also a time-sucking building of doom during August (to be fair to Marshalls, IKEA is ALWAYS a time sucking building of doom, only this time of year it devours eras versus hours).

It was crowded, especially in the housewares section. Of course, my shopping list consisted of pillows, sheets, and blankets. We have a condo we're trying to sell (yes, in Florida)(stop laughing). Naturally, we have to rent it instead. One bedroom had a daybed, and the rental agent recommended switching to two twin beds. I need to pick up the linens before Barry heads up to get everything in order. I struggle through the aisles filled with mothers and daughters (oddly, no sons here to pick out matching pink polka dotted comforters). They squeal with each new find, from towels to the perfect coordinating pillows. One couple is particularly effusive and blocking the blanket/sheet aisle, so I begin with bed pillows.

I have two questions. One, why are Marshalls carts so tiny? By the time I put in two pillows and the blankets, it was full. I needed an additional set of pillows and sheets - I stacked these precariously on top of the first pillows, so I had to move the cart with one hand on the tower of bargains and the other hand pushing and steering. I would think bigger carts would encourage bigger spenders. I didn't continue browsing because I didn't want to deal with the difficulty of transporting any more items. You LOSE Marshalls! I could feel a spending spree coming on...those gooseberry preserves from 2006 had my name on them!

My second question is why don't they let the carts leave the premises? As I'm juggling items between cashier and cart, cashier and cart (pillow up, pillow back...sheets up...not so fast), she begins to bag the sheets and blankets. I'm all into good plastic bag environmental responsibility (I really need to get a life), so I protest and say "Oh, don't bag it, I'm going straight to the car."

Cashier responds, "You can't take the carts past the door."

I've seen the warning signs a dozen times, but never had a big enough load to worry about this. What's up with this? Well, the parking lot is small - and most Miami lots do not have cart corrals (WHY?), so the carts pile up in the lot. This makes parking difficult and carts unavailable to newly arriving customers (unless a shopper would bring one from the lot...hahhahaha...oh, I AM funny!). Marshalls probably doesn't have the staff to deal with gathering the carts every hour or so (they barely have the associates to keep the cashier line moving). Maybe they also had a big cart theft problem. I might have the urge to dump the whole cart in the back of the van, rather than unload. You never know with the Crazy Gringo.

Still, I'd like to have some sort of option to get my stuff to the car. They sell furniture, for goodness sake! How is a savvy Miami shopper supposed to wrestle two dining chairs out to her car, especially wearing high heels and talking on her cell phone?

I have to stop before the front door and make a carrying to the car strategy. This is when I get an attack of the clumsies. After tucking and clasping most of the items, I drop a blanket. While picking it up, one of pillows slides out of its plastic bag to the floor. I pick up the blanket and the pillow and the bag, but drop the diet coke I bought while dehydrating in line. I will now have to wait 14 hours to open it so I don't fizz all over myself and the car.

Half of the lot is cordoned off due to resurfacing. It's 12:30 p.m., so cars are circling and waiting for places. Three cars stack up behind my place as I walk to the van. My clicker key chain hasn't worked in months, so I have to drop all of the items next to the van before I can find my keys and open the door the old-fashioned way. It's 98 degrees out. I'm sweating. I'm nervous because of the hovering shoppers.

Throwing item after item into the side door, I'm grateful nothing is breakable. I drive home, and fall into bed for a nap - a privilege for the peril I've endured. (Yes, Barry, thank you for working full time and yes, I know, you don't ever get to nap. xxoo)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Complicated Mess

The federal government has proven what many already know: I am a complicated woman (mess?). I picked up the mail (delivered by the United States of America) and the following content is offered as proof:

Martha Stewart Living (I don’t care what people say – she is the original and the best!)…oh…I’ve never been to Maine but now I love it!

Boston Proper - hot sequin dress on cover (still in post reunion don’t-mind-looking-hot-as-a-cougar mode)

L.L. Bean women – flannel, cotton, - hey, I’d look good in these when I visit Maine!

Victoria’s Secret – Sundress with boots – can’t say that I would, but can’t beat the bras (cougars need support if no implants, and I’m not going there).

Jo-Ann fabric and craft stores mailer – my box valances need some trim.

Every Day with Rachael Ray – I can’t really claim this, though I own two of her cookbooks. When Amy and I were pre-move shopping, she signed up for three 3-month subscriptions. I’ll have to mail this to her….later☺.

And the conclusion is? I'm not sure, except that I understand why my husband looks at me with some confusion, even after 26 years, and why my friends sometimes speak slowly to me while leading me to the nearest chair. :)