Thursday, December 22, 2016

Maybe Santa Wasn't Watching

Considering the Christmas season now starts about the time Halloween rolls around, you would think that I have had time to get ready for it, wouldn't you? This point was hit home yesterday when I was talking to a person on the treadmill next to me at the gym.  She innocently asked if I was finished getting ready for Christmas.  Then she said she was finished in October.   In the moment I sort of hated her.  

It's not that I haven't been in a flurry of activity for most of November and December but I still have a few things to accomplish.  This is the part where I could give you lame excuses about my continued absences of posting to TAOBC.   I will spare you the long version and just say that the halls have been decked and the stockings have been hung at this point.  It pretty much resembles an explosion of Christmas around here in anticipation of the big day. All but a few gifts are ready and waiting.  There will be a mad dash for gift cards for the couple of people that I just can't think of ANYTHING to get them.  NOTHING IS COMING TO MIND! For all of you that are judging me harshly, I can live with your scorn. 

Aside from my struggles with buying the "perfect" gift, there have been a couple other setbacks.  Is anyone else on the verge of a diabetic coma without the component of actually being diabetic?  I have been baking up a storm of goodies and have pretty much eaten my weight in English toffee.  This is not a good thing.  Luckily for everyone involved, family members are due to start arriving tomorrow so I will have to start sharing.

 Despite some of the problems, I have made strides this year as far as shopping goes.  I have been out and about in the shopping centers and have actually (for the most part) enjoyed it.  You might recall that in years past my inner Crabby Pants didn't find the crowds to be one of the great joys of my life.

You long time readers might remember a poem from a couple of years ago that sums up my joy of mall shopping during the holidays. (Isn't nostalgia heartwarming?)

If you are unable to read the print, you should be able to enlarge it by clicking on it.

AND another nice thing that I have noticed. Could it be that  this year more people are shopping on line?   At least in our area,  the traffic is just  "medium" crazy not "over the top" crazy. While there is certainly more traffic than usual the closest I have come to a problem is that I about killed Santa Claus.  Yes, Santa ran a four way stop in front of me yesterday.   He looked to be the real one so I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he has a lot on his mind.  The fact that he is driving a little smart car made me kind of feel sorry for him.  He looked fairly jolly given the fact he looked "stuffed" into the vehicle. Still...I would hate to have to been the responsible party for running over Santa 4 days before Christmas.  I suspect that would really put me on the naughty list.

Besides...I really have to try to be nice to Santa. Leaving him in a smooshed smart car probably isn't the most expedient way to get the things I have asked for this year.  (Coordination, increased optimism and the ability to eat non-stop without ever gaining weight are a few of my requests.)   I am working very hard to be a more positive person in 2017.

Hope you all are getting close to being ready for whatever festivities you are planning for. OR were you ready in October? 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

That Time of Year

Has it really been 3 weeks since I last posted?  Shame on me.   All I can say for myself is that it is "that time of year".

You know the time of which I speak.  In theory it seems that everything should be slowing down a bit as the weather gets colder and the days get shorter.  Of course, that is not reality.  The reality is that while the days may, indeed, be getting shorter as in "less daylight" but the demands on our time seem to remain ever vigilant. preparation rears it's demanding little head, nagging us to be strategically planning for Thanksgiving/Christmas/Hanuka/Kwanzaa and/or whatever holidays you have going for you.

Currently I am sporting a bit of a cynical attitude.  ( I know...shocking isn't it?) I am feeling a bit saddened that Thanksgiving got over shadowed by Christmas decorations and the anticipation of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  While this has been going on for several years, it appeared to me that Black Friday is now usurping the whole meaning of Thanksgiving and hogging the month with weeks and weeks of  PRE-Black Friday deals and steals.

With all that being said, I am clearly in the minority here with my negativity on the subject.  A early analysis of the numbers tells us that 154 million people were out shopping over the weekend.  The fact that since all the pre-black Friday advertising began (supposedly) people have spent around 36 Billion (yea...billion with a B) dollars.   

I have to think that perhaps I am not alone in my inner conflicts.  It seems to me that the whole country talks about the season of love and thankfulness in the same breath as they are spending hours scrutinizing the Internet and paper ads looking for the big bargains that they are hoping to get on more STUFF.

Not to be a total party-pooper, I typically find my holiday spirit in holiday baking, Christmas music, and all the pretty holiday decorations. OH and I do love a lot of the Hallmark Christmas movies.  Sure you can say they are sappy, but I think they are sweet.  I am prepared to immerse myself into holiday movies to remind me that everything about the holidays is about love and joy and has the added bonus of a happy ending.  Not reality you say???

Reality is a thing of the past according to the rise of virtual reality head gear.  I was reading an article about the newest techy devices on the market to stream VR programming.  Let me be the first to say that I would totally embrace a virtual world where children are awestruck by the lights and sounds of the holidays.  I suspect though that just as with many other things, young children are so inundated with the commercialism of Christmas that they no longer even notice how special the decorations are let alone the meaning of it all. The added component of decorations coming out in August (or is it now July?) doesn't help foster awe.

I know this picture is grainy as it is 60 plus years old but this is a picture taken in Kankakee, Illinois.  It was, in fact, taken nearly a year prior to my birth but Schuyler Avenue remained pretty much the same through my childhood.   I LOVED going Christmas shopping and seeing all the Christmas lights.  Sadly, the wreaths that were put on every light pole are not terribly pretty in a black and white photo but to my little child eyes they were magical. It was looking not so differently 17 years later when I got my engagement ring at Edward's Jewelry...also at Christmas time. 

Anyway as I was saying...where is the magic?  If we  now require head gear to live in alternate, virtual reality shouldn't THAT be magical and wonderful???

In the same paper that was talking about the choices we now have for virtual reality head gear there was a separate article about  a virtual reality program that allows you to actually feel what it is like to die in a traffic accident.  Yeah, how much fun is that?  I can hardly wait to ask Santa for some of that escapism....well that is if I can't find it online in a POST Black Friday give away. 

The placement of Black Friday being the day after Thanksgiving seems questionable.

Hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving and have plenty to be grateful for. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Don't Scratch That Itch

I was reading the USA Today and it said that 52 percent of the US population is experiencing stress related to the election. Really?  Only 52 percent?  I would of guessed more but then they didn't ask me my opinion.  Will anyone other than me, be glad when the election is over?

Although...if I weren't being irritated by the landslide of political ads, articles and junk mail telling me why or why not I should vote for or against someone or something, I don't know what I would fill my time with.  I am currently playing on a pretty flat field of "boring".  Autumn lull, I guess.  I am sure that this post will reflect on just how little is going on in my life right now. Yes,  I defy anyone to ask me what I am  currently doing  for fun and expect an answer anytime soon.  If being dull was classified a sport, I am good for the gold.

Autumn around here usually has me working out in the garden getting things pruned, mulched and prepared for the cold weather. The first "freeze"  usually arrives around late October.  This year, however, the cold isn't anywhere to be seen or felt, as the case may be.  Despite the fact,  it has been feeling a lot more like summer than fall,  the leaves are doing what leaves do this time of year. They are falling by the bushel into never ending piles that regenerate as quickly as I rake them up.   In years past, I might say that I enjoy tending to my gardens in the Fall and find a measure of serenity in tidying things up for the winter but this year there is a rub. Actually, it's an itch.   A beyond human endurance kind of itch thanks to an infestation of a nasty pests that go by the name oak leaf mites.  Often they are called itch mites for obvious reasons.

Over the years, I have come to a certain understanding that Kansas is intent on driving gardeners mad in a number of ways.  There are four seasons that are respectively: tornado, flood, drought and blizzard that make growing things a bid tricky here but on top of that, we have a climate where cool weather grasses can't take the summers and the warm weather grasses can't stand the winters.  Are you starting to see a bit of a problem with gardening here yet?

Well...there's more.  Just when good gardeners have done all they can to to add cubic yards of compost to the clay so they might be able to break ground without the aid of a jackhammer and backhoe, and have planted the short list of plants that can survive,  we now are the recipients of an unexpected (and dare I say?...unwelcome) guest....the aforementioned oak leaf mite.

Daily...and I do mean daily..there are articles in the local papers talking about the infestation of these microscopic pests that float through the air and land on people without their knowledge.  Four or more hours later the person (or landing strip  if you prefer), will find a lot of  blistery welts that itch like a mosquito bite times a billion.  Yeah, like that.

According to the articles we should cover up our arms and legs, limit our time outdoors, use DEET products liberally  and shower immediately after coming indoors.  As much fun as all that sounds, none of it is working all that spectacularly.  Of course, it's hard to say if the numerous bites that made their way onto our spot-riddled, itchy hides are just from mites or is it a combo pack of chigger bites, mosquito bites and the oak tree mites.  They all seem to have had a banner year here.

SOOO..with all that being said, these pests are sucking the joy (and body fluids) out of gardening. The up-tick is that the first hard freeze is supposedly going to take care of them.  Should I be happy about their impending demise?  Maybe that makes me heartless.  It most assuredly makes me less itchy though. 

Hope you all are itch free and having fun.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Conversation, May You Rest In Peace

There seems to be an abundance of talking, texting, and tweeting going on as of late but I can't help but notice how little conversation there is.  Frankly, I find it troubling.

As a little girl I spent a lot of time with my paternal grandparents who resided in the South. It was an era when the men would gather at the "filling" station to sit on the bench, drink their Yoohoos and Dr. Peppers and length.  Their conversations were usually pleasant with a lot of head nodding but even when they disagreed, it all seemed friendly enough.  Their chats consisted of stories of the past as well as all the current local news. These men stayed friends for life. Maybe all that sharing bonded them in some way. Those that were still living shuffled their way into his funeral.

The act of getting together to visit wasn't solely a male activity back then.  This was true for the women as well.  Women in that area met for "quilting bees" which was done around a big wooden frame while women hand stitched quilt blocks onto fabric but as they worked they were catching up on all the local stories.  I learned a lot about life listening to the chatter.

 For example: At one point when I was eavesdropping the conversation was about a lady named Sally that lived down the road. Sally had started a little side business "visiting" with men during the day when her husband was working out in the fields. From the tone of the conversation, I gathered that the women weren't enthusiastically supporting Sally's entrepreneurial exploits.  I later asked my grandma why men would want to visit with Miss Sally as she was really scary looking and was minus a lot of her teeth.  My grandma assured me that the men weren't paying to look at her face. 

Anyway....I come from a long line of people that enjoy just sitting around talking. That would be  the long-winded, storytelling, killing time, kind of talking.  I am saddened that it is disappearing. 

Every now and then I see glimpses of this style of conversation but it's becoming rarer.  Usually, I find that conversation, even when spoken out loud as opposed to communicating via devices, it tends to be more likened to a volleying of quips.  Not so much expounding on facts or ideas as much as pitching short thoughts at someone while they try to punt their ideas back at you, often while you are still talking.

If you ever have watched the television program,  The View, you know what I mean.  OR if you watched any of the current political debates, you can see what I am talking about.  Basically, it's an auditory assault more than a two way conversation.

Last week was a busy week for me as I had to spend some extra time preparing for the computer class I teach to "senior" seniors.  We are currently working on how to use our smartphones and tablets.  Part of the struggle of teaching 80 and 90 year olds about this type of technology is trying to explain "why" at their age any of this technology is even worth the effort to learn.

The reason they want to learn it is to stay connected to their families.  One gentleman in the class was saying about the time he had developed a great way to communicate with his grandson through emails, his grandson had moved onto texting.  The boy now has stated he would prefer chat via text messaging.  So  Chuck (name changed as he may not want me talking about him) bought an iPhone and now  is eager to learn the ins and outs of texting.

My heart breaks. I suggested he trade in his grandson but he seems very attached to the one he has and is willing to become a proficient texter.  I asked him the age of this particular grandson and he replied the child is now 18.  I hope against hope that this child will grow into a man and sit down with his grandfather to talk.  I, of course want for them to have  REAL lengthy conversations that grandson can reflect on when he is in his 80s.  Is that too much to ask?

Frankly, I am tired of the art of talking being reduced to status updates.   I am prepared to blame both Facebook and Twitter for  their part in turning the tide on the old relaxed give-and-take style of talking to this "one sided" launching of words into the territory of someone else's "one side" launching of words.  One could always hope that at some point the ideas land together in some meaningful  way to form a conversation. conspires against those of us that long for lengthy, wordy, descriptive talk fests. Just as Chuck's grandson many people have embraced a text only lifestyle that is reduced to shorthand, abbreviated words or even worse.... communicating with emojis.  Take for example: Recently a car company conducted a customer satisfaction survey but asked the participants to answer only in emojis. They have a commercial that shows  a portion of this survey as well.   Visualize me having a sad face.

If I wasn't already a bit peeved at the current lack of expansive and civil conversation, yesterday I received an email from Twitter. It asked me if I know how to Tweet.  I could think that their comment sounded a bit accusatory but they aren't entirely wrong.  While I am surprised that they have missed  seeing my tweets among their millions of users, they seem to have grasped part of the problem with me and Twitter.  I just don't "get" it.

I must not be alone in this, though, because I was just reading an article that said 60 percent of people that signed up for Twitter  never used it past trying a tweet or two.  I initially thought I would be great at Twitter as I am somewhat a twit but it didn't take me long to realize that I am not great a keeping within the bounds of 140 characters.  Nor am I particularly great at coming up with hilarious one liners at a moment's notice.  I am failing at Twitter.  I may never actually accomplish a Twoosh  (a perfect 140 character Tweet but remain secure in my belief  that it doesn't make me less of a person.)
I am willing to confess that I am challenged to say what I want to say when given a mandated character count.

A Twoosh is a Tweet that is exactly 140 characters long.

But that brings me back to my class of seniors that want to board the Facebook and Twitter train thinking that it's taking them someplace fun and relevant.   In my heart of hearts, I think that they have far more to teach the techies than the techies have to teach them.

I hold out hope that lengthy conversations where people share thoughts without getting indignant, offended or feel the need to over-talk each other makes a comeback.   Imagine my happy face. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

I Feel Your Pain

Last week I was meeting a friend for breakfast and we got into a conversation about what situations we deem as our idea of hell.  No, we weren't talking about LITERAL hell but we were talking FIGURATIVE hell.  So just to be clear...for purposes of this post, I am not thinking that our afterlife or lack thereof,  is based on my rantings over an egg white and veggie omelet at  the First Watch restaurant.
How we meandered into the HELL conversation was due to the fact that I mentioned that I had gone to the Department of Motor Vehicles earlier in the week.   My breakfast buddy didn't seem to think this was the most fun a person could have on any given day.   As "fun" goes it probably doesn't make most peoples top 10 or even 50 but for me,  it's not the worst way to spend the day.

I have become fairly proficient (if I do say so myself) maneuvering most of  the bureaucracy that plagues our everyday existence.  I have to admit that probably the 21 corporate moves has provided me with abundant learning opportunities for dealing with all the obligatory things required to "settle in" into any state, county, municipality,  or city. I have on numerous occasions walked through the maze of required paperwork required of me to sign in, sign up, pay up, register, join and  generally be accountable to all the parties that seem to need me in their databases.   This is never a short list. appears that maybe in this one current incident my proficiency level dipped a bit.

Remember last month...we were talking about me getting a new vehicle.  Now I know that most of us probably don't remember the un-fun components that go with buying a car because we are so intoxicated with the "new car smell" and the shiny, pre-dinged doors.  It's only after the fact when you get the papers in the mail that require you to haul ass down to the DMV to pay your various taxes, transfer your plates, and get the title work done.   These are the things that would keep 99 percent of the population from even considering buying a new car if only we remembered how brutal the paperwork part of the car buying process is.  This might be more true for those of us that live in states that pay Personal Property taxes on our vehicles. 

The fault of my being less than efficient on this particular go round of  bureaucracy though,  isn't 100 percent my fault.  Since I last had to go to the DMV it has moved from one building into 2 separate buildings.  It's kind of like those stupid department stores that have a women's store and a men's store...only this time I couldn't easily tell the difference between the two "stores"  so to speak. Without a he or she shoe store to scream out that I am in the wrong store..really who can tell?

As I figured I had a 50/50 shot...I went to the closest Dept. of Motor Vehicles and was told after waiting in line for quite awhile that I was in the wrong building and needed to drive 4 miles on down the road.  They did suggest in a very pleasant helpful tone (NOT) that I should call ahead and get a place in the queue.  As I am a model for  "follow the rules" type of human being, I called only to be told that the queue was full for the day and to call back when it was convenient.  There were no places left in line for me, it appeared.

Anyway...I was not to be deterred.  I figured I had a good book in the car that I was planning on reading during my visit to the DMV when I was still naive enough to think I would have a place in line, so I was prepared to act stupid and do a walk in.  Why not, I say to myself?  Surely not everyone in Johnson County Kansas knows that you have to call in to get your place in line.

So I just high tail it over to the 2nd DMV and walk in.  There before me is a "take a ticket" machine.  I don't know about the rest of the world but I take that as an implied promise that I will get waited on eventually.  Surely they wouldn't give me a ticket if they were never going to call the number. Am I right???

At this point it is around 10 AM and I figure that I can hang out all day if necessary.But...judging from the board I should be out of here by mid-afternoon.  Really, how long can it take to wait on 224 people before its my turn.

At that point in time, I was still feeling pretty optimistic that I was just a mere 4-ish hours from being 100 percent in compliance with all things DMV related on my new car.  In fact, I was rather pleased at how things seemed to be going.  Take that, electronic queue placer!

The thing about me and lines is that I don't mind them at all because I am the kind of person that mysteriously draws people to tell me their life stories.   I am not exaggerating this "talent" of mine in the slightest.  People love to tell me everything about their personal lives.

I no sooner sat down than a man sat next to me asking about how much longer till my number was going to be called.  Of course, upon hearing 4+ hours, he realized he had plenty of time to tell me his entire life story.  He's been married to his high school sweetheart for 26 years, got her pregnant when she was 15, married her when she turned 18, they now have 6 children and 3 grandchildren, he owns several boats, lives on acreage, owns his own construction company.....and on and on.  You get the picture.

I often think the reason that people tell me EVERYTHING isn't so much as I am a great listener (although that is totally true) it's because I am a super great commiserater. (which may or may not be a real word...but stick with the idea here)  I can empathize, console, support, "feel your pain" and short of me being able to absolve you from any wrong doing, I am here for you.

If you really need to unburden yourself from all your bad life choices and rejoice in all the things you have done right...I am your person.  Whether you choose to do this at the DMV, that's up to you but I am available there occasionally for considerable time periods.

OH and BTW...I got waited on at 4:35.  Done and done.  Some of the  time persistence is the clear  winner.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Moving Forward

I was driving to the gym the other morning and heard the last part of a radio talk show that was discussing a recent study about the differences between men and women drivers.  Unfortunately, I missed the beginning of the program where someone might have told me who, in particular, conducted this study.  As many of my longer-term readers have concluded,  I have become a tad (or profusely, you be the judge) cynical over the years and have come to the opinion that studies are rarely believable. I think my mistrust of various polls, surveys, and studies took a real hit when the Gallop Poll people got routinely replaced by  Survey Monkeys.  I just really have a hard time believing statistics brought about by something (at least in my mind) as being conducted by pollster monkeys as being all that accurate. 

Anyway...this study supposedly said that women were generally safer drivers than men.  That isn't exactly news as  most studies say that.  It's just  most MEN  don't say that. Statistically, men get more tickets and cause more accidents than the stereotypical "bad" women driver. Hey, guys...I'm just the messenger here.  Take it up with the researchers. (NOTE: There are a few polls that say women drivers are far worse but the ones that determine insurance rates beg to differ.)

But, I digress...the study the radio host was talking about did point out a couple of interesting facts.
That while men are more aggressive drivers and take more chances resulting in them not faring optimally in terms of tickets and crashes they do better in other categories In particular  the study says that men are more PROFICIENT drivers when it comes to actually maneuvering a vehicle. 

In this study it showed that women are very poor parallel parkers.  Turns out that male drivers (allegedly) have  better spacial perception than women do.  Actually, I don't know about other women in general but this SO applies to me.

I don't know where it all went wrong...there was a time that I could parallel park a car in uncannily small spaces. My first car was a Chevrolet Nova and I could park that car with just inches of dead space in front and behind other cars and do it quicker than the person behind me had time to mouth any disparaging "women driver" comments.  Sadly, those days are long gone.  

I don't really know what happened.  Perhaps the infrequency of having to parallel park caused me to lose my mojo or maybe the fact I have been driving SUVs for a number of years and no longer have any notion of where my back end is. The fact is, I consider myself a pretty respectable driver as long as my transmission  is in D. The R is a little more problematic for me. 

Which in a round about way is where I am driving to.... topic wise.  I decided I needed a vehicle with a rear-view camera in it. 

A few weeks ago, I went in to get an oil change.  For most families this is a routine task that rolls around every 3000-6000 miles or so depending on your vehicle, I guess. On our vehicles it's 3000.  The maker of our cars is one that provides free oil changes and routine maintenance for 10 years so I am pretty diligent to go in and take advantage of their generosity.   

In my case, however,  I have now on four occasions over a number of years taken my car  in for it's maintenance and came home driving a new car.  Don't get me wrong, I don't trade cars all that often but when I do it seems to always be when I am sitting in the customer service lounge  at our car's dealership,  while my car is getting it's multi-point lube and tire rotation.  

Last week, while my now ex-car was in spending part of it's afternoon on a hoist getting whatever it needed I was drooling over the new model of my SUV and was thinking that the back up camera was nearly worth the price of the car.  As you might imagine, the salesman who knows me by my first name (and at this point, probably the birth dates of my children) came over with visions of a commission check floating in his head, said something to the effect of there being "incentives" to buy NOW.  

Clearly, I am a salesperson in my own right so I am immune to most of the sales jargon but that computer screen in the dash and alloy wheels were throwing me off my game.  

After a little of the salesman doing the dance and me doing the counter-dance, I drove the car home to show it to hubby.  

Have I mentioned lately that NOTHING I do surprises or for that matter, upsets hubby.  The man has ice water running through his veins in term of remaining cool and calm.   Totally unphased by my antics.  BUT he does have reasons to be on his toes when it comes to me bringing vehicles home.  

Prior to this most recent purchase, the last SUV that I bought while getting an oil change was a "present" for him.  Hubby was out of town and I was sitting waiting on my car to come down off the lift when an "older" women brought back her SUV claiming it was just too big and she wanted something smaller.  She had put 88 miles on it but now the dealership was going to have call it a "pre-owned"  car.  I smelled a deal.   Like a shark smelling chum, I asked the sales guy how much would come off the list price  

Now you all know that the first words out of any car salesman's mouth is the classic "I have to go talk to the manager."  Total crap...he knows what his margin of profit has to be and how desperate he is to meet his quota that day but I'll dance the dance.  So while he is probably  in the back room talking about how the Royals are doing, I am calling husband asking what he thinks the lowest possible number would be to get a super sweet deal. on a current year SUV with 88 miles on it.   Between us we came up with the most insulting offer two people could possibly devise. 

Salesman comes back with "the manager's best-he-can-do" offer...which isn't nearly the best I am willing to do, so I shoot the sales guy the really horrible "are you kidding me?" offer that hubby and I came up with.  His eyes rolled back into the sockets of his head, so I was pretty sure that one wasn't going to happen.   Well...after numerous trips back to talk to his manager along with  various accusations that I was probably going to cost him his job....I did buy the car.  
  Here's the problem though!  It was a really rainy, cloudy day in Kansas that day.  AND I swear to you that that SUV was a SILVER color.  BUT when I got it home it had a tinge ...OK, OK maybe a bit more than a tinge, of blue to it.  Now that isn't the worst thing in the world, I suspect .....but I had told my out-of-town hubby over the phone that his new vehicle was mention of blue.  I knew that he was going to be less than enthusiastic about a light-ish blue-ish silver kind of SUV. As it turned out he was totally unphased.  It could be that he drove it mostly on cloudy days but I can't say for certain. Luckily for him, we have long cloudy winters here.

Back to the current situation.  After coming home with the  "might be ours" car which was also a silvery kind of color, I probably shouldn't of been surprised that  hubby wasn't overly excited. I am thinking he was beyond taking another chance that the sun would come out and we would have another light blue car.  So we both went back and picked out a color called White Pearl with a lovely back up camera built into a lovely little computer screen so that in the future I might know where my back end is.  That is a wonderful thing.

To be continued ....HELL at the DMV

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Luck, Chance or Happenstance

As luck would have it...I'm back.

Things have quieted down a bit since I last posted.  The remodel (as previously discussed in Closed for Renovation)  is now completed and allowing a much quieter atmosphere in which I can think....for now. As is always the case, one improvement has led to us thinking another few remodeling "tweaks" need to happen.  There is no end to the  madness.

ALSO, since you and I last spoke...hubby and I celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary.  Yeah!!! Crazy!!  Who says that teenage marriages are a bad idea?  OK...possibly everyone.  I see that.

Which brings me to the subject for the day. it real?  Given my past post,  If You Knew My Story,  you wouldn't probably think of me as a lucky person. I, however, do feel extremely lucky and I am not alone in this.  According to a recent poll done by CBS News, 71% of people polled consider themselves lucky as well. with pretty much EVERYTHING...I am conflicted about what parts of my (or your) life are a result of luck as opposed to fate, or destiny or the result of our actions and efforts.  How much of our life's  outcome is just a result of  being in a particular place at a particular time?  Even then you would have to question, how did you come to be in that place at that time?  Was it chance, or luck or destiny?

I was recently watching a segment of CBS Sunday morning that was about the "science" of luck.  Susan Spencer interviewed 4 people that have various takes on "random luck" versus "taking control of one's life".  Three of the four interviewed guests talked about "controlling" your luck in various forms.  One alluded to the use of "lucky charms" or superstitions such as "See a penny, pick it up, all the day, you'll have good luck.".   Another discussed how he creates algorithms to insure positive outcomes and yet another talked about having a optimistic attitude" as a sure-fire way to bring about good luck.  The 4th person interviewed, however, said life is all intrinsically arbitrary.

On the CBS program Dr. Mazur pointed out that the  sometimes  a random act by one person defines the luck of another. He gave an example of a book, Fieldwork, that was written by Mischa Berlinski that was doing OK (not great) when Stephen King (yes, that Stephen King!) picked it up in a Barnes and Noble and was quoted in Entertainment Weekly  saying "This is the great American novel."  The book ended up being a finalist in the National Book Award.  This same set of circumstances could be attributed to every author the Oprah touted as being the "must read".  How lucky for them for her to touch them with her magic success wand.  Well...Maybe not so much James Frey.  She did, in fact, touch his "A Million Little Pieces" book with her success wand but then beat him over the head with it on national TV for taking creative liberties with his memoir.  I guess that is "good" luck that goes "bad". 

Of course, there are theories that nothing is "luck".  It's more about each of us sending out positive energy into the universe with our optimism.  According to Rhonda Byrnes, the author of The Secret,
our luck..good or on us.  According to her, we just have to concentrate, visualize and remain positive in our goals and they will come.

I have to tell you that when I was forced to watch the movie along with nearly every other corporate worker whose employer felt the need to shovel positivity down our throats,  I thought I potentially would be fired due to my involuntary gasps of  "are you shi**** me?" during it's run.  I seriously considered asking for workman's compensation for the eye strain resulting from  the excessive need to roll my eyes when the part  of the movie showing  a  guy sitting in the Bark-o-lounger who was conjuring up his  expensive new sports car.  

I realize I am not the most "positive" minded person in the world but perhaps my pragmatism counters that a bit.

Clearly, I don't believe my good fortune is product of my sending positive thoughts out into the universe but I appreciate all those that look at life as one big hugfest singing Kumbaya  around their metaphorical campfire.  Probably can't hurt, right?

Still...there is no way to know why things happen as they do. What's your thoughts?  Do you consider yourself lucky?  Or is your good fortune due to your good choices or hard work?  Is fate predetermined and out of our control?  Does your free-will alter the outcome?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Positive Side ot Obsolescence

I was reading an article this morning in the USA Today about all the ageism problems in Silicon Valley. According to the article, while the median age of working Americans is 42, the median age over at Facebook is 29, at Google and Amazon it's 30, at Apple it's 31 and at Microsoft it's 33.  It might not surprise you to know that since 2008 150 of the top tech companies have been sued 226 times in age-related discrimination lawsuits.

In the article, there is a comparison  of modern employment opportunities for anyone over 30 to Logan's Run, a sci-fi movie about a futuristic society in which life ends at 30. That idea was underscored in 2007 when Mark Zuckerberg at 22 told an audience at Stanford University the "Younger people are just smarter...why are all chess masters under 30?"

WHOA!!! That surely wasn't the most intelligent thing to say and I have to assume he is even less intelligent today at 32 (according to his wisdom).

Why should I care, you ask?  What does it matter that Google or Microsoft muckity-mucks consider me to be a dinosaur? It's not that I was planning on job hunting anytime soon as I discussed in a previous post The Tough Questions.  I happen to be quite content with my current state of flux between unemployment and pseudo-retirement.   That pesky problem of not knowing which box to check on questionnaires as to my state of employment isn't going to be solved until survey creators add a box  marked "uninspired" or "unmotivated".

But still... articles like that one in USA Today make my aging brain think maybe I should be checking Consumer Reports on the "recommended" walker that I surely will need sooner rather than later. (Yes, for those of you keeping track, that is the same brain that has taken up swearing.)

As it happens, a lot of things have been cropping up lately to reinforce in a rather nasty way, that I am getting (or have gotten) old. I guess the verb tense would be dependent on my level of pragmatism any given day.

BUT there seems to be an upside to going over the hill.  Free or discounted stuff!  Yes, who knew that there was a financial boost to becoming old?  For the last couple of years there isn't a day that goes by,  that we don't get some offer in the mail, or some "unknown caller" type of phone call and even a random e-mail (or 6) offering us some type of product or service that makes promises to us that our golden years can be  blissful and worry free if we would only buy their product or service. AND if old age related bliss weren't enough.... through their extreme generosity they will provide us a complimentary meal. After which, we get to hear a spiel about the aforementioned bliss inducing product or service. No pressure...just like any other date where there is an expensive dinner involved.  (What?  Not even a kiss???)

All of this has me wondering, though.  How is it that all these companies know our ages?    Is there some mass mailing sent out by the Social Security dept.  that gives the name and phone number of every poor slob in America that is turning 62?  That surely is the case because there seems to be a lot of eager people trying to get my attention as of late. I have to assume it isn't my winning personality that is causing them to reach out to me.

DAILY..and I am not exaggerating here...I get offers of free dinners at local restaurants (for two) for coming in and learning more about estate planning, drawing social security, or learning more about my medicare options.  I find that very interesting  (ironically so) that while I seemingly can RSVP to eat my supper gratis at the Cheesecake Factory and learn all about Social Security...I can't actually make an appointment at the Social Security office.  They don't seem nearly as eager to share my company as ABC Financial Planners are.

While I haven't taken advantage of cashing in on any of these offers of free meals, theater tickets, or assorted "exclusive offers just for me!" enticements... I am considering my options. A good friend of mine and I have been talking about having a free evening out every week from here till death and calling it part of our retirement plan.  But, sadly as I am still very wishy-washy about if I am retired, unemployed or just pathetically lazy, I haven't started my free meal plan quite yet.

 I did however, come to the point after I turned 62 when I thought I might go in to talk to someone and ask some questions about when I might want to start drawing my social security.  After a 4 month wait, I did manage to get an appointment. Of course, that turned out to be a bit of a tricky situation because the man wanted to know if I was retired. Not that a person needs to be retired to draw their Social Security but you do have to limit your earnings. Again, the problem for me is explaining myself. When I say things like  "When you say "retired" do you mean "figuratively" or "literally?" That response just seems to confuse people. 

Anyhow...a year ago  hubby and I thought we would get a head start learning about our options for Medicare as hubby was approaching the time that he could unload his pricey individual medical insurance and take advantage of Medicare. While Medicare isn't free it's about 1/10th the cost of individual insurance. Kaching, Kaching!!  With this in mind, we  decided we would make an appointment to go in to ask about our future Medicare options.  But to our shock and awe.... NO APPOINTMENTS AVAILABLE...none....ever.

 When I mentioned this to a neighbor that is a couple of years older than me, she said she started a year in advance in setting up a face-to-face appointment as someone told her it's like planning a wedding.  If you want to book the venue (and in this case, I am talking about a chair in front of a Social Security clerk) you have to start early and be diligent. Since I had only allowed 4 months, I was SOL on actually securing my spot. Even my numerous tries calling into the 800 number to gain a coveted chair to talk to a real person were met with failure. They did mention numerous times that I could sign up online which is obviously the way to go.  It's not like you get a choice so there is that way .....or yeah...that way. Really, it's not difficult to sign up of Medicare online but gawd forbid if you aren't clear on the A,B, C, D,'s of it all.

I figure by the time I am actually eligible for Medicare, I will have it figured out.  How hard can it be?  

Again with the mail, phone calls and emails offering us free information. This time, however, there was an added element.  We started receiving envelopes and cards that looked "official". Mail started arriving in envelopes that appeared to come from the Federal Government with documents to fill out that looked amazingly "important".  Luckily for me, I have super powers. 

I also can read amazingly small print that says "this is not affiliated to the government"

So....while most days I feel like I am a 30ish year old caught up in an older body, I only have to go to my mailbox for a clear reminder that I won't ever get a chance to work in Silicon Valley....but at least my disappointment will be offset by a free meal at Outback while some Long Term Health Care specialist tells me how blissful my old age is going to be.

Still... I can only hope I live long enough for Zuckerberg to have to try to make an appointment to find out about his Medicare...or Mdca.

(Note to my Canadian, UK and any International readers...Hope I didn't lose you on the Social Security or Medicare discussion.  Do you have some bureaucratic equivalent that you need to take care of at retirement age?)

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A Swear Jar Would Bankrupt Me

OK...maybe that title is a bit of a stretch because I don't actually go around the house swearing non-stop or anything.... BUT...I certainly have lowered my standards as far as NEVER saying bad words to being very liberal in both thought and deed. 

I don't think I am alone in my increasing liberal attitude toward swearing.  As a culture that first heard the F word used in a mainstream movie in 1971 (M.A.S.H.) we have progressed (maybe progress isn't the right term) to the current likelihood of watching any cable television show that has at least one "four letter" word inserted pretty much in every sentence. It appears that the general public has collectively become more tolerant of naughty words.

So, while I don't presently have a swear jar, if my attitude keeps on it's current trajectory from tentative tolerance to active acceptance, and now heading into the realm of enthusiastic might say the future is going to require some measure of self-control on my part.

As I see it, this propensity of mine for getting more comfortable with being a potty mouth might, in fact, require a swear jar. With my ever optimistic attitude, I can always tell myself that while my decorum is going downhill, it may in fact allow for a nice vacation sometime in my future.  OR... I could use my jar as a Christmas Club Account and have my holiday fully funded by Thanksgiving. (Given the fact, there is a major election between now and then, I really need to have a plethora of loose change around to fund my jar.)

If I am being honest, though...currently it's not so much as I SAY all that many bad words out loud as much as I think them.  My brain, it seems, is getting more and more short tempered on a myriad of subjects but my mouth seems to mostly remain aware of it's surroundings.  In most cases, as a matter of respect to those around me, I try not to appear as if I have Tourette Syndrome as this would be blatantly unfair to those that actually have that disorder. There is the nagging reality, that I should be able to control my language.

I will confess that the National Nightly News is just bringing the worst out in both my brain and my mouth.  Hardly an evening goes by without me hemorrhaging four letter words in retaliation for the idiocy of  our assorted leaders, or would-be-leaders, or people in leadership roles that can't lead....or just people in the news that generally piss me off.

Of course, I can, justify some of my brain's use of bad language.  I was recently reading a couple of book reviews.  !n Pr@ise *f Pr#fanity, by Michael Adams and What The F, What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains and Ourselves, by Benjamin K. Bergen. Both authors seem to be very "pro obscenity".  After reading excerpts from both books, I am (according to them) doing my body a real service by swearing.  Of course, it really doesn't address the "thinking" bad words versus "saying" bad words but I am prepared to take any and all of the perceived positive effects and call it good. Both authors point out the cathartic nature of swearing, so I am, in essence, by swearing striving for total calm in my life.  
I am sure you have heard people say that swearing is the lowest form of communication and only those with limited vocabulary feel compelled to use foul language. I believe neither of those statements to be true. (My brain just said, "F*** them.")  I believe the real reason that swearing became popular was while there is an unlimited supply of words to convey information, there needed to be words that would convey EMOTION.  Of course, that doesn't necessarily hold true in today's use of swear words.  Now it seems we swear just...well...just because mostly everybody does.  A lot of once taboo words have become "conversational" as opposed to "controversial".  Really...when you think about it...a word is only considered bad if the person hearing it, is offended by it.  SO...if I swear with words you are comfortable with, we are just two people talking.  If I say words that offend you then you will deem me as "foul mouthed".  It boils down to everyone having to size up their audience.

Take for example:  Yesterday, I was having lunch with a good friend. My friend is  older than I am (I think she is in her late 70s)  and I have for the most part curbed my use of colorful language around her because I sensed that she wasn't the type of person that would be open to me or my brain tossing 4 letter words randomly into our conversations. As for this particular friend, she is very political which is tricky for me NOT to throw in a lot of obscene words while talking about either of the current candidates for President.

Anyway, my friend was telling me that she was having some problems with the new car that she bought about a week ago.  The car comes with a built in navigation system.  Upon driving the new car, she realized that the "GPS girl" wasn't talking so she called OnStar to find out if there was a setting to turn on the sound.  I gather that the OnStar person could do that from afar but the problem was that once it was turned on,  the "GPS girl" talks REALLY, REALLY loud and my friend couldn't figure out how to turn the volume down.  So she called back to get help in a hurry before her eardrums exploded.  After several minutes of trying to explain to the OnStar rep what the problem was she finally resorted to saying, "Can you get this bitch in the box to shut the hell up?"

If you think about it, (and I am sure this is keeping you up at night) vulgar words always were comprised by four categories, A. Sexual activities or sexual organs B. Religious concepts C. Bodily Functions and D. Denigrating social or ethnic groups.  In many instances the words associated with the first 3 categories have been reduced to fairly commonplace while the 4th category has probably become even more offensive over time.  (Thankfully...we aren't heathens after least most of us.)

I did find a few interesting facts when I was reading  various articles about the evolution of swearing in preparation to this post.  That there was a time when swearing was a sign of social stature and power.  Makes sense that people in power positions can get by with being profane while lower classes or people in vulnerable positions have to mind their p's and q's.  Take for example:  I doubt that any of King Henry VIII's wives told him to F*** off but he probably deserved that and worse.  (I assume this is the case for at least for Catherine, Jane, Anne of Cleves, and Katherine got to keep their heads...intact.)
Henry the VIII deserved some outbursts but perhaps didn't get them.

So, do YOU ever swear?  Are you more tolerant of others that do, as it becomes more prevalent in our society?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Closed for Renovation

Have you noticed that my timeliness for posting over the weekend has gone off the tracks?  (If you said no, consider me offended that you hadn't missed me but moving on...)   I do have excuses and the major one is that I have lost my mind along with the capacity to articulate rational thoughts or ideas.  (AND...if you said to yourself "didn't she always have trouble articulating rational thoughts and ideas?...again I am offended.)

For the last couple of weeks, I just can't seem to get my act together.
Here's the thing about me....When everything is going really well and life seems to be smoothly humming along, I (apparently) feel the need to park a truck full of chickens on the train track of my life just to watch chicken poop fly about when the train hits it.  I am currently mired in metaphorical chicken poop. 

Last week, when I was talking about my long term love/hate relationship of my job as a Realtor, I failed to mention that when it comes to buying houses, I am, in fact, the world's worst customer and consumer.  Fussiest person ever as far as picking out a house and invariably, whatever house I choose will become a money pit. I have proved this tenancy numerous times.  The very house that had me ooohhhing and aahhhing at  first sight, will mysteriously need a complete remodel the minute I move into it.

While I have proven this over and over again during our 21 moves, the most recent example started about 12 years ago, while living in Dallas, Texas.  During that time,  our daughter was planning her wedding and hubby and I were routinely making the 8.5 hour trip between Dallas and Kansas City for various wedding and daughter related events. While I don't specifically remember how  the conversation of  "Let's move to Kansas City!" came about it  probably went something like this.

 Well...besides the pleading being done by our yet-to-be-born grandsons,  we  were possibly feeling rather vulnerable at both the prospect of our little girl being all grown up and about to be married and the evaporation of our checking account due to the impending nuptials. Somewhere in our fuzzy brains we actively began a plan of relocation. We, of course, didn't ask our son-in-law-to-be his opinion on this matter as he might of reconsidered the whole idea of marrying our daughter.  Who knows if hubby and I might be his "deal breaker" and didn't want to put it to a test as we had already paid for the wedding venue. Anyway...We just forged ahead and found a Kansas City Realtor to start looking around for a house that would "work" for us.

As a Realtor, I recognize these "dipping their toes in the water just to test the temperature" types are a colossal pain in the ass for real estate agents, however I was committed to be exactly that for some unfortunate soul that had the misfortune to pick up the phone when I called into a real estate agency.

From that point onward, every trip we made to KC, we asked to see several homes in various neighborhoods to get a "feel" for where we wanted to live.  Now, I am sure you can imagine how well this plays out for some agent to have numerous (and by that I mean too many to count) weekends taken up while someone is using them for a chauffeur and sounding board for a future move that may or may not happen any time soon...and agents get to do this for free because they work solely on commission.  Yeah, sounds like a perfect job, right???

Well..our agent, Debra started out fairly agreeable only to be worn down little by little over the course of mid 2004 into early 2005.  We weren't purposefully trying to be difficult (it comes pretty natural for us without trying) but it was such a hot seller's market at the time, that by the time something came on the market and we drove 8.5 hours to see the house, invariably it had already sold.  The ones that didn't sell the minute they were listed had a REASON they hadn't sold.

Finally in early 2005 we happened upon a house that had some things going for it.  It was on the market only 1 day, was amazingly clean, and was the size and price that was in our wheelhouse.

Debra who by this time could nearly smell the money of her commission finally wafting in her general direction thought that her payday was close at hand. Not so fast, Debra.   After putting in a full price offer, the sellers decided perhaps they had listed too low.  I mean...really...if there were buyers that would pay full price for it after one day, surely the sellers could of gotten more.   So...these sellers being sellers, AKA  greedy,  countered the offer for MORE than the asking price.  Me...being me, AKA stubborn...and being a real estate agent myself, didn't take this laying down. I said NO.  My thought was that there was no way in hell that I was willing to pay more than asking price with no other offers on the table. I figured in a city of 2.5 million people there had to be at least one other house that I would like, even if it took another year to track down.  Of course, when I mentioned this out loud, Debra  turned an odd shade of green and actually swayed a little bit.  I thought she was going to faint but as luck would have it, the sellers conceded to sell for their original price.

Back to my theory that homes are only perfect until you own them....In the last 10 years, every  single year we have done a MAJOR renovation and/or improvement of some type.  I don't think I am alone in this phenomenon but it appears that the same buyer that claims any house to be PERFECT when initially looking at a prospective home will, in fact, need to change EVERYTHING about it once the closing documents get signed.  

Walls have been removed, floors have been replaced, rooms have been gutted and reborn in somewhat the same manner as a Phoenix but in our case the new Phoenix is rising from the ashes of our money.

As for our current craziness...a couple of weeks ago I had this utterly brilliant idea that one of the bathrooms needed freshened up with some new flooring and paint.  ANY one that knows me at all, of course,  knows that the words "freshened up" is code for "take this sucka down to the studs".

One advantage (and maybe the ONLY advantage) of being a real estate agent is that we know a lot of contractors, plumbers and electricians.  This expedites the time it takes from "brilliant idea" to "let's get crackin'"

One of the guys that has done previous work on our mission of tearing down and rebuilding our house bit by bit,  had mentioned he had a window of availability in late August, early September to do this project.  I am fairly secure in telling you that 5 days into this remodel, he is fervently wishing he had never EVER met me.

Why, you ask?  Because hubby and I are total nut jobs when it comes to these renovation projects.  Poor, Kyle the general contractor of this "freshening up" project is learning fairly quickly that whatever he listed on the quote needs to be tweaked a bit.... AND by a bit I mean changed in it's entirety.

Now that we have added a few (OK maybe more than a few) items to the "to do" list, Kyle realizes that he vastly underestimated both the amount of time and money that he needs to allow for.  I recognize the poor guy is exhausted at this point but I just can't seem to help myself from adding or changing the scope of the project daily. Honestly, he should appreciate that he wasn't here for the master bathroom remodel.  On that one, my husband decided to have the contractor remove a wall that opened up into attic space so the walk-in shower could be enlarged.  I am not at all sure that Kyle can appreciate the fact that I have not asked him to tear down any walls...yet.

I have to say there is quite a lot of stress deciding on materials, colors and quality when it comes to bathroom and kitchen remodels. Hence the craziness on my part.  While you might not be losing sleep at night thinking about the pressure of flush toilets or the depth of soaking tubs but believe me those are REAL concerns.  Do not under estimate the difference between Cararra Marble counter tops and quartz that look like marble.  Soft close drawers and non-slam toilet seats are a "thing" and it would appear that those are things I need.... OK, maybe need is a strong word...but Kyle can make those things happen.

Perhaps, some of you that have already taken on bathroom remodels might already know about "golf ball" flushing toilets but I was clueless until recently on this important feature.  While shopping for new toilets, I realize that a whole line of toilets claim that they are capable of flushing an entire bucket of golf balls in a single flush.  I know...I might not ever NEED to flush golf balls but the fact that it is possible to do it if you wanted to with this toilet is impressive.  Once I realized what a wonderful thing it is to have a golf ball flushing toilet, we ordered 4 of them.  Our other 3 bathrooms do, in fact, currently have toilets but not any with super-toilet flushing powers so all 4 bathrooms are about to get "freshened up."  Hope Kyle doesn't have plans for a personal life any time soon.