30 June 2008


A few weekends ago, I devoted myself to the making of some strawberry jam. I went out and picked the berries (in a rainstorm, of course, I live in Ohio.) and made the jam in my very own kitchen. Jarred it, too. I ended up with 15 half-pint jars, which looked so very pretty sitting on the counter to cool. I had the idea that I'd take pictures of the whole process, but that didn't happen. Typical.

When I was a little girl, my mother canned all sorts of things. Jams, both strawberry and pear-apple. Soup, her homemade tomato. Tomato sauce. Hot peppers. Sometimes, she did this with one of her sisters. Other times with a friend. Canning is hot, heavy work, and it is helpful to have another set of hands.

During my sister's undergraduate days, she started canning to save money, and she inherited all of Mum's canning supplies. I have no problem with that, she'll use it more than I ever will. It is just tough to borrow it when it is in New York City.

Proper tools for any job are essential. But in a pinch, improvisation works too. I don't own a particularly deep stock pot. Nor the rack that submerges in the boiling water that holds the jars. I didn't think I'd have a problem, as I used little jars, but it was very much a pain in the persqueeter.

It did work, though. As I removed each jar from the boiling water, I set them on a kitchen towel laid out on the countertop, just like my mother used to do. There's a little "pop" sound that the jars make when the seal is sealed, peculiar to canning. DH was upstairs while I was working on this project, and he called down to me, "What's that noise? Is it supposed to be happening?" I had to laugh; my mother always said that was the sound of successful canning. So yes, it is supposed to be happening, and is, in fact, desirable.

The jars were so pretty lined up on the countertop, like I had jarred rubies rather than strawberries. I was worried about it "setting" properly. Jam is supposed to be jammy, not runny, and I wasn't sure it was going to work. I'd called my mother for advice, and she told me she'd always used the recipe printed on the inside of the boxes of pectin she used. Well enough, I pulled out the paper and read the directions for "freezer canning" "pressure canning" "sugar-free canning" and about 10 other variations of fruit jam recipes. None of them, of course, that related to the amount of berries I had on hand, and they weren't easily scalable.

I improvised there, too.

My mother had warned against experimentation, as she knows I'm prone to do so, and the pectin boxes had dire warnings about using the exact amounts of sugar and pectin called for in the recipe. Meh. The amounts of sugar suggested were appalling. I did more than cut it in half; I sweetened the crushed berries, tasted them, added more berries and sugar until they were just a little more tart than I thought they should be (as cooking the jam intensifies the flavors) and prepared it from there.

It worked, and it worked beautifully. The jam is NOT the over-sweet stuff you find in the grocery store, in fact it is about perfect if you ask me. It jelled nicely, too. I've given away about 11 of those half-pints, so excited to share it with friends and family. DH had asked WTH we were going to do with 15 jars of jam, and I thought perhaps I'd save 'em to give as holiday presents. Nah, that's too long to wait!

I had intended to sweeten some of the jam with raw honey, but forgot at the crucial moment to separate out a portion of the crushed berries to experiment with the honey, and the next thing I knew, the whole batch had been sugar-sweetened. Ooops.

That just gives me an excuse to go pick more berries, and try again.

I just hope next time that the regge song, "jammin'" stays out of my head, because that's all I was singing the whole time I was making the batch.

28 June 2008

Overly Sensitive

I'm spending more time than usual walking around outside. We don't need to get into where, or why, suffice to say that I'm in the out of doors more than usual. (This is NOT a complaint. I like walking around outside.) In the summertime, even when the weather is cloudy, I wear sunscreen. Yes, every day. Usually 30 or higher. I'm not in the habit of re-applying, but now that I'm out more often in the daytime, I probably should.

For the days when I forget the sunscreen, or when the Oh-hia-ia sun peeks out from the pervasive grey skies, I've been thinking about buying a parasol. Yep, just like the Victorian ladies carried. Although the one I've been looking at is Oriental, not frilly Victorian lace. Lacy-frilly-frou-frou is so not my style, and worthless for sun protection anyway.

I do have an umbrella that I've added to my bag o' stuff that I carry around every day, which changes from day-to-day. Most of those bags o' stuff are too large to be called purses. Because you never know when the skies are going to open up and pour torrential rain down on you. Why not use that? I don't know. Perhaps because it is counter to my inclination to buy more stuff. Or perhaps because it looks like an umbrella, and I get all sorts of weird looks when I carry it when it isn't raining. Honestly, I don't care what people think, my comfort of being both cooler and not sunburned is more important to me. I think a rice-paper parasol with cranes painted on it might be less.....what? Noticeable? Not. Conspicuous? Not. I don't really know what I'm thinking there.

(Acquisition? Maybe? Perhaps? An excuse to shop? Ya think? ~editor)

I know that this would be looked on with less disdain and amusement if I lived in Miami or Los Angeles, heck, any of the major cities it probably wouldn't get a second glance. Here in the rustbelt, where the skin cancer epidemic is treated with the "that's never going to happen to me" attitude, yeah, it looks strange.

Being sunburned sucks. I've been there, done that, often enough to know. Several very bad burns in my teens served not only to increase my awareness, but also to exponentially heighten my risk of skin cancer. Every bad burn you get only makes it worse. I'm so careful with the sun that I rarely even end up with pinken-ed cheeks after a day on the water. I don't think of color from the sun as adding a "healthy glow".

Am I pale? Yeah. I like to joke that ya just don't get much whiter than me. Scandinavian, Slovak, Danish, Czech, and British heritage basically means that my skin is really fair. Fair enough that I have a hard time finding concealer, powder, foundation make-up to match the tone of my skin, even if we just drop the I'm-allergic-to-everything-in-the-whole-world part of the equation.

So carrying a parasol ought to really be a forgone conclusion. Plus it is pretty. The last thing, though, is something that my vanity doesn't want to allow me to admit out loud. My hair is very thin, and I've actually had a sunburned skull. Hats are fine, but I think the parasol would be more fun.

27 June 2008

Boom de ah da

Once again, the Discovery channel has a commercial that is pretty unforgettable, in an annoying, stuck-in-your-head-but-its-kinda-cute way. Yes, "boom de ah da" is what they're saying in that commercial, the one that is nearly indecipherable to mostly deaf in my left ear me. I looked it up on their website, so the wording is accurate. Part of their "the world is just awesome" marketing campaign. Damn, they're some smart folks! That campaign is bloody brilliant.

(Do you want to watch television commercials on your computer? I don't, but what do I know? You can watch the commercial, should you be inclined, at discovery.com)

What strikes me every time that I see the longer 30 second spot, is how much fun Mike Rowe and the weapons guy, Mack, have with what they're doing. Mack, in particular, is looking joyful as he's blasting the hell out of something.

I've never been a proponent of the military, or of weapons in any form, but I find myself ceasing channel surfing when Future Weapons is on the Discovery Channel. He's got this whole bald, body-builder thing working for him, which makes the show not hard to watch, even sans sound. But WITH sound....oh, be still my heart! He's got a fabulous voice. Soft and growly, but still tough as nails.

I've been noticing voices a lot lately. Listening, really listening to tone, timbre, pitch, as I have not since my early teen years when I was studying voice with thoughts of operatic glory dancing in my head. I've got a passable singing voice, but I figured out that I'd never be Maria Callas, so I got a practical business degree in college instead of studying music. Silly me, why would I have wanted that?

I'm feeling like the world is indeed awesome these days. I'm still taking my Wellbutrin XL every. single. day. even though I'm feeling good enough most days to think that I might not need it anymore. Believe me, I know that just quitting taking it would be dumb, dumb, d-u-m-b. That's not the path that I am to tread in this life, apparently.

During a discussion with several friends who have been walking this same road with me the other day, the topic of "needing" versus not needing the meds came up. At the moment, I'm OK with the fact that I need the meds. To function. To not give up on myself entirely. To be able to breathe.

I've gone through phases with it; sometimes I want to quit them cold turkey, walk away from the treatment that is working for me. Why? Because even as I preach against it, the thought is still out there that taking anti-depressants makes you weak. Means something is fundamentally 'wrong' with you, something that you ought to be able to just brush off, ignore, move on from, but you can't. Therefore, you're weak, not as strong as "everyone else" who doesn't need them.

Here's a tip, honey.

You've got to do what works for you. Period. If that includes taking the meds, so be it. I can tell you (with no hesitation, embarrassment, or bravado) that without the meds, I would not be alive today. I was never suicidal, don't misunderstand me here, this is vital. I mean that I'd have retreated so far into the disease that I wouldn't be here, where I am now. I think I'd be in some kind of catatonia, in some ward.

Friends tell me that they can hear the difference in my voice as things have improved for me. I don't know how they can hear it when we're talking on the phone or IM-img. That prompted the listening more closely, trying to figure it out. And that listening has proved fascinating, addictive. Typically, though, listening to HOW something is being said sometimes makes it hard to pay attention to WHAT is being said.

I don't mind so much asking people to repeat themselves, anyone who knows me knows I'm hard of hearing. But it does make me look very silly, I think, because it looks like I'm listening sooo intently....and I am, but not to the actual message....and I still can't hear what's being said. Hence the inability to distinguish the "boom de ah da" from the nonsensical syllables of the song.


Human nature, not just the world, is awesome. Fascinating. I'll be listening.

26 June 2008


Seen on the back of a black SUV, similar to the ones President Idiot rides around in all the time:

01/20/09: the end of an ERROR!

oh, how I love chance encounters with other random liberals.

25 June 2008

Lead. Follow. Or GET OUT OF THE WAY.

It really frosts me that the older I get, the wiser my parents become. They actually knew what they were talking about when I was a teenager. Who knew?

The above title is something that was on the wall of my father's office, for as far back as I can remember. He clipped it out of the Wall Street Journal in the late 70s or early 80s, from a quasi-cartoon feature they had called "Graffiti." When he retired last year, that yellowed clip was put in a box with pictures of my sisters and I, and a collection of stuff he'd accumulated over 30-some years of running a business. He had pointed to it often, in conversations with customers, employees, vendors. He said it often at home, too.

Now *I* say it. All the time. The phrase means a couple of different things to me, but mostly it is this: it is time for SOMEONE to make a decision when I say, "Lead, follow, or get out of the way."

I know that as most people age, they hear the things that their mothers used to say, or a nagging grannie, and it horrifies us when we hear ourselves saying things we swore we'd never say. This phrase was never one of those for me, but I find I hear lots of things that my dad said coming out of my mouth. Dad-isms. Another favorite was "Everyone has 24 hours in a day." That one was pulled out in response to my sisters or I whining that we didn't have time to do something, and glorr-eeee, did that one annoy me. And now? I say it to people frequently, in response to their lack of time-management skills.

Ahh, time management. I feel like I've suddenly got lots less time, because I'm spending more time at work. As if someone has sucked at least 4 hours out of my allotted 24. I'm not writing as much as I'd like, nor am I exercising as much as I ought. I'm tired, quite a lot, and I know that'd get better if I could get to the gym, but it isn't so much happening. I set the alarm, and it goes off at 05.15 every morning; just about once a week I'm able to haul my butt out of bed to get to the gym. I did make it to a yoga class at another gym last week, at a very, very early hour, and felt great that day. It isn't as nice of a gym as my YMCA, but they offer about 10 times more yoga classes than the Y does.

Spending my days in an office means that an old shoulder injury acts up when I'm in a chair for lots of hours. I have excellent posture (if I do say so myself) so it isn't because I'm hunching over the computer screen whilst sitting at my desk. I try to get up, move, stretch often, but despite doing all of that, the shoulder tightens up and the only remedy that ever works is going to see Mr. Magic Fingers, the massotherapist. Which also cuts into my available time.

Vicious cycle!

I wish I could find that scrap from my dad's office, because I'd put it up in my office too. It was little, but it spoke volumes.

24 June 2008

Reciprocal Pain

DH and I were out to dinner, at one of the many family-owned Italian restaurants in the area. Amid clinking utensils and glasses, I began to inadvertently eavesdrop on a nearby table. Inadvertently, because I heard a few words, and then tuned in to the rest of it.

They were behind me, so I could not see either speaker. They were both women, and the reason a phrase caught my ear was that it had to do with one of my old jobs, at Ye Olde Evile Bank. I did estate work there, where my clients were the stiffs. I handled the closing of bank accounts, the transfer of car titles, the filing of the last year of life 1040 tax return. (What, you thought you were exempt from taxes when you're dead? Hahahahahaha. Uncle Sam has other ideas.) I handled many, many final details at the end of someone's life. Canceling credit cards. Transferring the title of the house into the name of the surviving spouse (if there was one) or into the name of new owners. I found a lot of what I did there fascinating. I'm very nosy, and I was in to every. single. detail. of the decedent's lives. Sometimes fascinating, sometimes sad, sometimes downright eerie, like the husband and wife who were married for 68 years and died within an hour of one another.

I digress.

The two women were talking about the title of a car, a vehicle that needed the title transferred. I wondered why, and ran down the mental list of reasons why you transfer a car....sale....gift....death. Sure enough, the next phrase I heard was "funeral home" and my attention was hooked. One speaker sounded like she was either crying, or had a tremor in her voice. The other was calm and rational, a list-maker, someone I identified with!

This had to be a recent death; not only because of the mention of a visit to a funeral home to pay a bill, but also because they were opening condolence cards. The more they talked, it became clear that the lost loved one had been a life partner of the speaker with the tremulous voice. Her pain was still raw, visceral, almost tangible.

It crept from their booth to mine, tapped me on the shoulder, and announced its presence. Like a cut that doesn't hurt until you notice the blood, I was taken by surprise with this stroke of grief. My losses aren't that recent. Auntie died in October. More than six months have passed since she died. My cousin's death was in May of 2005, three long years ago. Both still hurt. Yes, they hurt less, but they still are the first thing that comes to mind whenever anyone talks about death and dying.

We got up from our booth and walked past the table en route to the exit. I looked, of course, wondering if I'd be able to match voices to faces. It wasn't difficult. The trembly voice belonged to a woman approaching 90; the calm list-maker was in her late 40s. Mother and daughter, maybe, but more likely mother and daughter-in-law or niece. As we walked outside to the car, the sun was shining brightly in the parking lot, and I looked down at my shadow on the ground. Shorter and squatter than I am, it made me think of how fleeting our lives are, the brief moment in time that we're here.

I wondered, too, as I got into the car, if I'll ever stop thinking of my aunt and my young cousin when someone mentions a recent loss. Part of me hopes not; I'd like to be able to tell my cousin's daughters stories about their cool mama, when they get old enough, which will require me to remember those stories of adolescent mis-behavior. Likewise, I'd like to tell stories to Auntie H's two grandkids (my second cousins) about her.

Right now, I can't tell much of a story about either of them without at least tearing up somewhere in the middle. Hell, I can barely write about them without being emotional. My therapist claims that this is very normal, that my progression through the stages is grief ought not be measured by time. "It isn't a race," she reminded me gently. "Grief takes time to heal. Sometimes a long time. There isn't a set schedule."

Sure, sure, sure. I feel like I ought to be further along in the process, though.

22 June 2008

Bad pop rant, and weather randomness.

I am a pop culture junkie. When we're listing our bad habits, i.e., drinking too much caffeine, eating too much chocolate, those sorts of things, I add to my list the fact that I'll read the gossip columns, watch E!, read People magazine. Other than being part of the MTV generation, I'm not sure what fuels this. I do know that often, the antics of Brit-Brit, La Lohan, and Paris make MY life seem....well....normal. Or as normal as any of us ever is.

I don't, however, listen to commercial radio. Ever. Ev-er. I despise it. Hilariously, though, that's all DH listens to and as we're in his car together more frequently than we are in mine, often I'm subjected to large chunks of time listening to exactly the sort of crapola I can't stand; "morning zoo" types of early AM programs. The rotten afternoon-drive stuff that plays the same ten songs over, over, over, over again. Ugh.

I like all kinds of music, but there's a certain group of current pop that really bothers me. I realize that this is going to make me sound like quite the curmudgeon, but it is just so much dreck. And this will probably bring her fans out in droves to flame me, but the song is so obnoxious that I can't take it anymore! I can't stand Jordin Sparks and her awful "No Air" song that she sings with Chris Brown. I'm not even sure why I've developed a nearly irrational distaste for the song, other than its prevalence every-freaking-where.

Then I heard an Ashlee Simpson song that made me shudder.

But this phenomenon isn't limited to the music spectrum of the pop-culture world. I've read some stuff lately that I have wondered about: how did this crap get published? You know that television has been a kvetch of mine for a long, long time....there're reality shows galore that I wonder...who green-lighted this stuff? Is there some television executive genius that listens to pitches for things like "Farmer wants a wife" and says, "Right on, man, that's going to be a big hit! Let's make that show!" Really?

I'm setting completely aside the definition of 'bad' that means immoral, I'm just talking about poor quality.

In Sam's Club the other day, I picked up a cookbook by a popular television cook, one who uses a lot of butter and has a pronounced Georgia drawl. I like the show; like the cook, too. But the book remained on the shelf for one reason, and one reason alone. It has terrible readability. Not bad grammar, but bad form. I don't know how anyone ever typed it up without their word-processing program having fits; every single sentence had a word or three with the ends clipped off. Reading became readin'. Watching became watchin'. I couldn't read it, after two paragraphs I set it down and walked away. No matter how compelling the story, or what fun the recipes might be, I can't read 300 pages of "I was goin' to the store."

I think it very sad that this sort of thing slips through the cracks. We don't complain about it, we just shrug and ignore that which we don't agree with, not voting with our dollars but rather endorsing things through our terrible apathy.

Wow, what a little ray of sunshine from me, eh?

Let's talk about something else before I bring everyone to all sorts of ire.

The weather in Oh-hia-ia is nothing if not changeable. We had some unexpectedly hot days in early June, unseasonably hot. Then that disappeared into chilly days where I pulled out several warm shawls for the part of my daily commute that involves a long walk. Our late spring was surprisingly devoid of typical Midwestern thunderstorms. Grey skies aplenty, but lacking in big thunder-bumpers.

Yesterday, the date of the summer solstice (Glad Midsommar, y'all!) we had a thunder-and-lightening storm that came out of nowhere, a bruising, crashing, noisy thunderstorm. I celebrate the Swedish holiday of Midsummer here in America because I want to; in Sweden, it marks the start of their very short summer, and is a leftover from pagan rituals. Here in the US, for me, it is just an excuse to gather some friends, drink some Southern Comfort Punch, stay up far too late on the longest day of the year. Unfortunately, we greeted the Midsummer evening by having a hail storm.

Our big thunderstorms have never frightened me. I revel in a wild thunderstorm. Last night's storm came up so suddenly, though, and the hail was out of nowhere. I've been through several tornadoes, seen funnel clouds that didn't touch down (thankfully, b/c I never want to see a tornado up close and personal) but since we moved to our current residence, I've never thought that I might need to seek shelter in our closet under the stairs until last night. (We lack a basement here at Chez Arin.)

Thankfully, the storm moved along, but not without a few casualties. My carefully cultivated garden, which is teaching me patience at long last, lost a handful of tomato plants. As an inexperienced gardener, I probably have too many plants crammed into a a space that is too small for them, but I'm still bummed about the loss of even a few to something that is beyond my control.

Something is eating some of the plants, too. Marigolds, which I thought that pests disliked, clipped most efficiently. But my lettuce is unharmed. Herbs, left alone. Sunflowers, completely destroyed. What gives?

19 June 2008

These are the days (of the WEEK)

File this under the "unanswerable questions" heading.

My entire life, I wondered why the calendar started on a Sunday. If weekends are week-ENDS, why are they divided between two weeks? That's never made sense to me. When I arrived in Sweden, the calendar on the wall in the kitchen of my host family's house had Monday as the first day of the week. When I eventually was able to actually read it, my first thought was FINALLY! Someone, heck, a whole country of someones had it set up the way I'd always thought it should be.

I never looked back from that moment, I've used calendars that showed the week starting as Monday. For a while, I got paper calendars from Europe. Then, eventually I got on the digital bandwagon. Electronic calendars allow you to set up any day of the week as the first day of the week, finally, someone was tinkin'! I've even encountered more people who use Monday as the beginning of the week as Crackberries have become more prevalent.

I have a whiteboard calendar that has followed me from job to job for a while, that I purchased because it has Monday as the first day of the week. Setting up the new office, I put the calendar on the wall with assistance from someone, who immediately called the REST of the office in to see my "weird" calendar.

A mild-mannered row broke out among my colleagues about whether Sunday or Monday is the first day of the week. Clearly, Monday is the start of the work-week for most people. When I was in college, working for a restaurant, our work-weeks started on Tuesday, because the place was closed Sunday and Monday, that was our "weekend". But when you're in the 8-5 daily grind, working in the business world, it seems patently apparent to me that the week should begin with Monday. Or whatever day is the first working day of the week.

While I was vastly amused at the mild-mannered row in my office over where the week really begins, I have no plans to change no matter what anyone's opinion on the subject is. I wasn't in the minority, either, I'd call it a pretty even draw. For perspective, imagine a discussion over the merits of silk vs high quality cotton, conducted by the editors of Webster's dictionary.

When and where does your week start? And why?

Oh, and I apologize if Natalie Merchant's song, These are the days, is now running through your head. A little.

17 June 2008

Want it OR Delayed Gratification

My last job left me very, very poor. That whole commission racket? Sucks big hairy goat balls. I had less money in the last few months than I had when I was working part time and attending school full time in my early college days.

I know, talking about money, my money, your money, any money that isn't tax dollars, is kinda verboten in contemporary American society. I don't care. Much.

Hilariously, every time I've been back to Sweden since my exchange year, I've been asked how much money I'm making. I think that's funny because when I asked my best Swedish friend how she was doing after the death of her dad in 2002 when I visited in 2003, there was a collective gasp in the room and an awkward silence. Oooookay, then. Asking me how much money I make is OK, asking you how you're dealing with an incredible loss, not OK. I get away with doing things like that because I'm not Swedish, they forgive me the intrusion because they know that Yanks are a wee bit more open then they are. I had prefaced the question by saying, "I know y'all don't talk about this, but I'm going to ask anyway..." but even so, every other conversation in the room ceased, and all heads turned my way.

I felt bad for embarrassing my friend, because she didn't like being the center of attention, but I know everyone else in the room wanted to ask, and couldn't. We moved to another room for a more private conversation, and she told me she was doing OK, giving more detail that she might have otherwise given someone else. I apologized for putting her on the spot, and the subject was not brought up again during the remaining time I spent in Sweden.

When they've asked me about money, I'm never embarrassed, just usually shocked into silence for a second, until I remember that this isn't a taboo subject there. And then I need to do some quick mental math to figure out how much the figure is in kroner. I consider the folks in Sweden family; and I don't care if they know how much money I make. Besides, they answer honestly when I turn the situation around and ask them.

Suddenly, with my new job, I've got a little more of it than I have in a loooong time. (OK, we get it, you like your new job. Get over yourself already, will you? ~ editor)

And since I have more, I want to spend more. There's a bunch of bento accessories I want, since I'm using my bento box daily. Rice molds, sauce bottles, egg molds, a sushi mat, teeny-tiny cookie cutters....oh, and I'd like a few more bento boxes, just because they're so cute.

I'm really vain, and I want to have my teeth whitened. I know, I know, that's a very silly, very expensive, and very vain thing to do. But. I had a professional portrait taken recently, and was appalled, really appalled, at the color of my teeth in the picture. I asked the photographer to whiten them with his neat-o digital photography tools and he obliged me, thankfully, because I didn't want my teeth showing at the color they really are.

I want to go to a con later this year, and that costs money too.

Plus there is a credit card I want to pay off, all sorts of "stuff" I want for the house: a self-winding hose reel, because doing it manually is a pain in the ass, new lawn furniture, a new bed, a new dishwasher, a new stove, and I'd like a cleaning lady....of all of those, only the dishwasher is something that we need. Our current one is dying a slow, painful death. It works, but it takes several hours (more like 8) to run the basic wash cycle.

Oh, and the car needs new tires, the current ones are so bloody noisy and crappy. Not to mention a new car is in the future, a year or two down the road.

But I can't just go and buy all that stuff willy-nilly. I need to save, take some time to build my savings back up.

I'd be doing my part to stimulate the economy, true, if I did rush right out and buy all that stuff, but growing maturity and perhaps the fact that my parents retired recently has me thinking about needing to save for my own retirement. Going to work for a new company means that I've had to fill out all the paperwork for a 401(K) all over again, and at some point, I'll have to get my act together and get the little bit of money from the old job rolled into an IRA.

Y'know there's a good reason I'm not working for the financial industry anymore. 'Cause jeebus, that stuff is dull! Thank goodness I have someone I can rely on for that stuff; I could do it myself, yes, but I don' wanna.

Retirement savings are the ultimate in delayed gratification, no? You're working, you're working, you're saving, and day-to-day, you don't think about retiring. You don't think much about the future. Most of us don't think much beyond tomorrow, or next year. But especially for women, this is a vital issue. Not that you boy-os don't need to think about it, but in general, you make more money than we do, and in general, you don't live as long as we do. So you've got more money at the end of your working life, and you don't need it for as long. Sorry. Them's just the facts.

Are you saving enough?

14 June 2008

I mizzes you!

Once upon a time, I kvetched that returning to work full time after being laid off last summer was going to cut into my available blogging time.

And then some!!

Now I'm not only working full time, I'm staying late at work, working through my lunch time, excited about what I'm doing for a living, into a routine that has me not spending any time at all on the 'puter in the evenings. I'm behind on a whole lot of correspondence, both real-world and webby.

I miss my writing. I miss working on the book, which I haven't done since March. That's a whole 'nother story....but y'all know I luurves me a tangent.

My fears of being less prolific a writer when I'm in a better mental state turned out to not be unfounded. I think, unfortunately, that when I'm in a bad mental place, I'm a better writer. There's a fine, fine line between depths of despair and that place where I was churning out 10-15 pages of the novel a day, though. This past winter, I was perhaps more of a mess than I was in the spring of 2007, when I admitted that there was a problem and I needed some help.

Doc gave me an additional anti-depressant this past winter to add to my med regimen, and it helped, but not a lot. I couldn't write, hell, I could barely get out of bed. The days got longer, though, and the sun returned from its winter hiatus. I started to feel better, the job situation started to look like it might change (I think the old job was at least 85% of the problem) and suddenly, whoa, I was feeling like I wasn't worthless any more.

But the creative spark hasn't come back from wherever it disappeared to at the end of last summer. Writing here on the blog has never been a problem. The problem is that the fiction writing isn't happening. The novel writing came from nowhere, and disappeared back into nowhere. I miss that, but I accept it (well, mostly), because I no longer feel so horrible.

I also miss writing a daily update here on the blog. I regret that I haven't had a lot of time for it since I started this new dreamy job. My dad has something that he's said my entire life that I mostly am annoyed by, although it is true. Dad says, "Everyone has the same amount of time. 24 hours in a day. It is about what you choose to do with that time." Lately, I've been choosing to sleep a little more and blog a little less. I like sleep! And I'm managing it without nightly sleeping pills. I do still take them, but not every night. Thankfully, because I think they're more dangerous for the potential of dependence than the anti-d's.

I'm constantly thinking of ideas for blog posts, thinking about ways to turn the things I see and think about into snapshots of life, stories that I can tell. But by the time I get home each night, I'm wiped out, in need of sleep to face the next day. There are posts galore sitting in my mental queue, even a few that I've scribbled ideas into Google Docs, but they haven't been finished. I miss it, I miss reading everyone else's blogs, I miss all of ya!

Still here, doing much better, working! But that doesn't mean I'm not thinking about you. I am. More soon.

09 June 2008

Vär har du varit?

Where have you been?

You might not believe me if I told ya. Here, there, everywhere, back and forth across the entire state of Pennsylvania, twice, as I drove to New York City to visit my sister and home again.

Ahhhh, adventures. This one came about in a random, backwards, hurry-up-and-wait fashion, but I'm so glad I did it.

I sent out a blast e-mail about two weeks ago to inform the world at large that I HAVE A NEW JOB (wooooooot!!!) and my Swedish Mama responded to my 3 paragraph English ramble by saying, "I understand the part that you have a new job, but WTH are you doing? Don't understand the explanation in English."

Of course, I popped an explanation på Svenska right back to her, but she got impatient in the meantime and called me to find out.

We had a lovely chat, and as we were wrapping it up, I said, "Oh, wait, before you go, I saw on Little Swedish Sister's Facebook page that she's coming to New York. When? Where in New York, does she mean New York City?"

Here's the part that irks me ever-so-slightly. BOTH Swedish sisters were headed to New York City, something that they'd planned several months ago and the first I heard about it was about 8 days before they got here. Hello??? New York is roughly 3,000 miles CLOSER to me than Stockholm is. Plus that pesky ocean isn't in the way. I adore my Swedish sisters, and would love any chance to see them, no matter how briefly, and will make every effort to get to wherever they are when they're on American soil, but I do need to know this information in advance.

Anyway. As we say in Swedish, skit samma.

I texted the girls, asking if they'd like to possibly meet up with me and my New York City sister over the weekend they were here, maybe dinner on a Saturday night? A flurry of Swedish texts back and forth followed with answers in the affirmative, plans were made, and I began searching for plane tickets.

There is a small regional airport here in Oh-hia-ia that has two flights a day to NYC, and often, tickets to New York can be had for about $60 each way. *If* you make those plans in advance, that is. I took myself over to the airline's website, and was both astonished and disgusted to discover that my $60 each way tickets balloon to the outrageous price of $234 each way when you want those tickets now, RIGHT NOW. That's just a weee bit beyond my price range, so I searched all the travel websites, from William Shatner's to much more obscure ones, and the bad news was that I couldn't touch a plane ticket to any of the three NYC regional airports for less than about $300. Ouch.

OK, Amtrack, then. I love trains, riding them, listening to them, and I've done the train to Penn Station. It can be fun. Unfortunately, the train tickets were $200, and would have involved a grand total of at least 18 hours transit time for the there-and-back-again journey. Hmm, not so much keen on that.

Driving it was, then. Even with gas at the ricockulous price of $4 a gallon, I could drive there for less than $300, and far quicker than 9 hours each way.

Now, the true dilemma was not getting to New York, nor was it really *IF* I would see my Swedish sisters once there. 'Course I would. The real problem was walking in to a new job on a Monday morning and announcing that you'd like to have Friday off, thankyouverymuch.


Now, there are some words that I live by, and I think that Mark Twain was the sayer of these wise words, "When in doubt, tell the truth." But I really wasn't sure how The New Employer was going to react.

Over the course of several interviews to get the job, I had told them a few things that were honest, but not perhaps the best thing to tell a potential employer. Things like, "my family comes first, regardless of what else is going on." and when asked where my creativity comes from, I responded by explaining that I think time off, away from whatever you do for a living, is vital to being able to keep things rolling. The joke is kind of on them here: they hired me ANYWAY, in spite of that.

So in one of my very first ever conversations with my new boss on my first day of the job, I explained the situation, about how close my real sisters and I are, and how I've stayed in close contact with my Swedish family, even though it has been 17 years since I was an exchange student. (*wince* again...has it been that long?) And how NYC is closer than Stockholm.

I was pleasantly surprised when they said, sure, take Friday off. Have fun. Drive carefully. Oh, and take something with our logo on it to give to them, pens or what have you from the supply closet.

Excuse me? What? Could you run that by me again?

Have I mentioned how much I'm hearting this job?

New York was lovely, albeit fucking hot, hot, hot. Hot enough that whatever clothing you put on, it was sweated completely through before you reached the end of the block once outside. I hate the heat.

I managed to spend most of the day Friday with the Swedish girls, Saturday night we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge together (a MUST do, IMHO) and gabbed, gabbed, gabbed in Swedish. Ate 'en massor' of not-good-for-you food, and had a drink or three. I did some touristy things that I don't normally do in New York, which were fun for the sheer fact that I don't normally do them, hanging mostly with my sister and her friends in her Brooklyn neighborhood when I go there.

Now everyone is back in their respective homes, not without a comedy of errors happening along the way. Even though the weekend was hot, Friday evening was fairly cool, and I gave my Big Swedish Sister a shawl to wear to keep warm. Guess where my shawl is now? Stockholm.

I just might have to run over there to retrieve it, ya know?

03 June 2008


I don't write about what I do for a living. That's a good way to get yourself blackballed in whatever industry you happen to be in. But I do share snippets and stories that are work-related from time-to-time. Today's one of those times.

I have an actual office, a real office, not a cubicle, at my new job. With! A! Door! Ahhh, when I was working for Ye Olde Evile Bank, I would have given a kidney to have my very own office. Not to mention a door that I could close when two of my cubicle neighbors would be throwing paper clips at each other, or loudly discussing confidential information about our clients. Good times, good times. NOT!

The new office is large, and it had all a girl could want; computer, phone, desk, bookshelf, second desk, table, boxes of crap behind the door, heaps of copies of stuff with outdated logos...no, wait, someone with OCD does not want heaps and piles of unusable junk. The two desks, particularly, boggles the mind. No, the office did not have two occupants previously. Plus there is a table that is as big as a desk, THREE guest chairs, a bookshelf, too much 'stuff' in that space!

I spent about 2 hours of my first day re-arranging furniture and bringing things to other staff members and asking, "OK if I throw this away?" I did get it to a point where it looked like the spacious office that it is, but there was one problem. My back was to the door, no matter what I was doing. On the computer, working on the desk's surface, talking on the phone....eventually, it gave me the heebie-jeebies, I was looking over my shoulder every ten seconds.

So the second day on the job, I'm re-arranging furniture, for the second time in two days and I'm sure my co-workers have decided that I'm bonkers. Will she do this every day? they're wondering.

The answer to that is a decided no.

Moving 'my' desk, a huge L-shaped monstrosity, wasn't much of a problem that first day. Sure, it took me a while, because I'm a stubborn fool, and I didn't ask for help. It is heavy, it has to weigh at least 150 pounds. Solid wood. But I quickly figured out that pushing it instead of pulling it worked better, and that the office is longer than it is wide. Not a lot of maneuverability, y'see.

I wasn't in the office for more than an hour the second day when I decided that the back to the door thing wasn't going to work for me. Damn! I just got all my pencils sharpened to exactly the same length and placed in neat rows, the sticky note pads put in a careful pile of smallest on the top and largest on the bottom, like goes with like...and now I've got to unload the whole freaking desk again because full of files and whatnot, that sumbitch weighs 400 pounds if it weighs an ounce.

Moving it the second time around was a challenge. A big challenge. Took me forever, and while the furniture is now in a place where I think it will stay, along with the overflow moved someplace other than my office, moving it left me drenched in sweat, wishing that there was a shower stall in the restroom, because I would have showered in a second if there had been one. The fact that I would have had to put the sweaty clothes back on.....well, we don't need to think about that in our fantasy world of what the perfect office would be like.

I hurt after manhandling the desk twice. A little achy here and there, letting me know that I don't hit those muscles during my workout sessions and need to improve. DH has an appointment this week with my magic massotherapist, and believe me, I'd steal it in a heartbeat if it wasn't for the fact that he's done something to his shoulder that is making him miserable. 'cause I think the phrase for this week should be

Ohhhh, my aching back!

02 June 2008

Dawn of the Day

With the days getting longer, and the sun showing its face here in Oh-hia-ia, it makes me wonder how I was having so much trouble getting out of bed and on my feet all winter.

I start my new job today. I'm a little nervous, a lot excited, and as usual, running late, so you'll have to forgive the brevity of the post.

My biggest problem this morning?

I don't know what to wear.