January 31, 2015

Wishing for sunny days

The weather has been insane.  It was in the 80s for most of the past week, a temperature that confused the yard, as spring flower bulbs sent up shoots, and the grass turned green.  The kids wore shorts to school, and it was glorious for a bit.  Made even more enjoyable by the evening news stories about the blizzard hitting the east coast.

Just in time for the weekend, the temperature dropped 25 degrees and the rain is moving in.  So much for getting any outside chores done.

I try never to wish my life away, but it is so hard at this time of year, to not yearn for a steady stream of warm days.  I abhor the cold.  I would just as soon skip winter and go straight to May.

Truth be told, the thing I find myself wishing for more fervently is the opportunity to move away from here.  As with any long-time home, it is hard to think about leaving.  Family and friends are nearby, there are memories, comfort, and the knowledge of all that the area has to offer. I hope that someday the stars will align and I can move away without guilt, or leaving behind people whose absence would outweigh the joys of a new address.

The Texas Hill Country makes my heart happy, and someday, somehow, I hope that is where you will find me.

Rob Greebon Photography: Texas Wildflower Pictures and Bluebonnet Images &emdash; Bluebonnet Sunset 1 - San Saba County, Texas Hill Country 1

January 29, 2015

Busy Bee

I know I have been lax here, and I miss it.  Taking the time to form thoughts that don't revolve around the things I am immersed in at work is a welcome respite.  Unfortunately, work has consumed me lately.  Tomorrow, a key member of our leadership is retiring for good and I am taking over a number of his duties.

 I say retiring 'for good', as Bob was retired for several years, and then, guilted by his prior 30+ year work relationship with our president, he came out of retirement to help start our company.  He gave it 18 months longer than he had originally agreed, and would likely still be behind his desk for a few years, were it not for an (im)perfect storm of events that have cemented his decision to stop working.

Bob has a bad back.  We all feel some back pain now and then, but Bob has us beat.  He has had several surgeries and procedures over the years to fix scoliosis problems, the effects of shrapnel from his Vietnam days, and a number of peripheral conditions those issues caused.  The only thing left is a major reconstructive surgery.  One that his wife insists he has before they go on a grand tour of a vacation they have booked for this summer.

Bob's wife gave him a 'quit or I divorce you' sort of deadline, which passed last year.  He thinks she is getting serious about it.  And, she has some health challenges of her own that would be better served with her husband around to help.

Bob has gone to many funerals over the past two years.  Bob and his wife were born and raised in this area, and have maintained a group of a dozen or so friends since elementary school.  That amazes me, but also shines a light on how sobering it must be when those people start dying.  Bob shared with me the pain of watching a circle of friends validate statistics.  Half have divorced, they have seen prostate cancer, breast cancer, and heart attacks.  They all need glasses now.  And now, a few have died or are in severe decline.  For a 67-year old that feels young and vital (except for the back pain), it is easy to start wondering how few days you have left.

He's done working, and he will be better for it.  We gave him a 'squirrel gun' as one of his going away gifts.  A handsome suppressed air rifle with a laser sight, to pick off the squirrels that plague his yard.  I wish him many quiet afternoons on his porch, doing just that.  In the meantime, I will be in his old office, up to my eyeballs in work, and dreaming of the day that I get to put my feet up and kill a few squirrels.

January 28, 2015

Head Scratcher

I knew something was amiss when The Princess got in the car yesterday after school.  She had a deer-in-the-headlights look and I dreaded asking her what was wrong.  Sometimes The Princess is a bit of a hypochondriac.

"Lanie* has lice."

Lanie is one of TP's closest friends.  My head began to crawl at the thought.  I was itching before we even got out of the school parking lot, as images of Lanie and TP hugging, head-to-head over school work, and stretched out on the floor together during reading time flooded my mind.  TP told me that another girl was braiding Lanie's hair during recess and saw something crawling.  Those girls went to the bathroom to 'get the bug out of Lanie's hair' and, at some point, realized that it was a bigger issue than just a single mystery 'bug'.

We drove a few blocks from school and pulled into a Walgreen's parking lot in which I checked TP's hair for any sign of infestation.  I figured if we saw something I would be right at the pharmacy to buy supplies.  There wasn't any sign of lice, but I spent a good part of the evening fine combing TP's hair, knowing that if she had been in recent contact, one or two little buggers would be hard to spot.  That is one of the more crappy parts of getting/having lice, it generally takes a full blown infestation before it is detected.

Bless Lanie's heart, as she now carries the stigma of being That Kid.  The one that every parent will ask about when they are handed the Lice Letter from the school nurse.  I fully recognize and understand that lice is just as innocuous as the common cold.  (Bad) luck of the draw.  It isn't dirty kids or poor kids or the greasy haired that get lice, it can be anyone.  And yet, there will be whispers and furtive glances at the poor child.   I encouraged TP to stay in contact with Lanie and be supportive.  We were treated to funny Snapchat photos of the de-lousing process at Lanie's house.  Her poor mother...Lanie has thick, long hair.

The psychosomatic effect of someone else's lice infestation intrigues me.  My head itches as I sit here typing.  Talking to my husband on the phone about it made his head itch.  Every little twitch, itch, or crawling sensation sends me running for a mirror.  If you haven't scratched your head yet, I bet you will soon.  

I am sure that part of my day will be spent Googling the life cycle of lice, so that I can plan accordingly and try to determine when we can breathe easy again.  Until then, I will be vigilant with the head checks, combing, repeating lice prevention advice....and scratching myself bloody every few minutes.

*Name changed to protect the parasite host

January 25, 2015

Another trip around the sun

Today marks another anniversary of my 35th birthday.  I don't always celebrate the same anniversary, but 35 sounded good for this year.

I am not exceedingly vain or morose about the passage of years.  While some parts of me protest getting out of bed in the morning, my mind still views the world from a youngish point of view.  Mind you, I have bills, children, and a number of other responsibilities that I do not shirk - but I am not a stuffy old grouch.

For instance, Friday night, while cringing at the noise level, watching the Cub Scout Pinewood Derby, and praying that my kid's car wouldn't be last (again), I made the astute, and youthful, observation that the event could be markedly improved by a few cold beers.  I hold no hope that youth organizations will embrace this concept, so I really need to plan better and pregame these sorts of events.

As my children range in age from second grade to junior in college, I have many years of youth-associated activities to take in.  The homebody tween and sullen teen in the middle provide whiplash inducing changes of perspective.  But, I still have a few years of papier mache volcanoes and learning to write cursive before I start to bemoan the loss of a real kid in the house.  Of course, the spread in age could potentially provide for grandchildren coming along right as my youngest eschews the trappings childhood.  Or at least that is the justification I use for hoarding baby clothes and toys.

I don't mind the number today, though time seems to be passing much faster than it did when I was 25.  I have long said that I look forward to hitting the magical number and aged appearance that will allow for me to show my true grouchy-and-brutally-honest nature, and get away with it.

January 22, 2015

No SOTU

As has been my habit for the duration of the Obama presidency, I did not tune in to hear him stutter his way through the SOTU.  And, I haven't even read the entire transcript.  I planned to just skip the whole thing, because the man never does what he says or says what he does.  No need to watch his performance art, and I think I might have thrown something at the television, had I been forced to lay eyes on the illegal alien that was a guest of the president.

I mean, really.  Someone who broke our laws, and is in our country illegally, a guest of the president in the House chamber.  What a slap in the face to everyone that has immigrated to our country by the book.

I don't care what Michelle was wearing (though I know it was Michael Kors because that is what the news thinks is important to yak about).  I scanned an article that offered a comparison of Michelle in the suit next to Julianna Margulies in the same suit, as worn on the television show The Good Wife.  Julianna wore it better.  Is it Michelle's posture that is bad, or are her shoulders permanently sloped and forward like that?  She always looks slouchy.

Back to the point.  It doesn't matter what Obama said during the SOTU.  One of the top headlines leading up to the speech was O's track record of keeping/breaking promises made, and he is second only to Ford for not getting his SOTU calls to action enacted as law.  Depending on who you like to believe, that is either because he is a waste of oxygen polluting the White House, or it is because Congress is unruly and uncooperative and doesn't know what their constituents want.

I have concluded that my blood pressure and stress level is better off not listening to anything Obama says.  I am better off watching the countdown-to-election clock, somewhat secure in the belief that no one could be as bad as this president.

January 20, 2015

City Slickers

I live in the town limits of a small town that is north of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.  Over the past two or three decades, more and more city slickers have moved here, wanting their little slice of country, that is still within commuting distance of their downtown jobs.

Six years ago, our long-time neighbor widow decided to sell her place.  Her large property and its pond had been the hub of neighborhood events, and all the kids had a standing invitation to fish in her pond.  She even left her canoe out for them to use.  The acreage became too much for her to take care of, and she sold to a city-family with infant twin daughters.

The first red flag came when the indignant woman of the house came flying out in a rage when two neighborhood kids showed up with fishing poles.  The man of the house owns a fishing supply store and fishes professionally, so I was trying to cobble together some justification for her anger...perhaps he had stocked some precious practice fish or something?  Nope, she was offended at the nerve of those kids, just walking right onto her property and daring to fish in her pond.  She started rambling about liability and insurance coverage, which is when I knew that I should just walk away, rather than try to explain how our former (and clearly ignorant and reckless) neighbor had given the kids blanket permission to fish.

I am surprised that she made it these past six years without installing a fence around the pond to keep kids (including hers) out of the water.  She has taken a dramatic, though no less concerning turn toward 'country living'.  One day last fall, I couldn't get the dogs to come when I called, they were barking at the back corner.  Next-door-lady was brandishing a rifle, determined to get a shot at the coyote that was picking off her chickens.  Watch where you point that thing, lady!

This past weekend, the man of the house, along with his father-in-law, took advantage of the warm weather to take care of some outdoor chores.  Now, we take the opportunities we can, to mulch up leaves over the winter.  With a heavily treed street, there is no sense in being militant about raking - the wind will blow tomorrow and deliver a new batch.  Well, city slicker neighbor thought he would rake up little piles of leaves and set them ablaze.  Along our fence line.  Just as the forecasted 20 mph winds kicked up.

To his credit, the neighbor quickly jumped our fence, put out the leaves on our side that were burning, and raked additional fuel away from the fence.  I guess he thought we wouldn't notice the brief inferno, or the hours of smoke, as he didn't bother approaching us.  Mr. H went over and shared with them the process of checking the fire marshal's website to see if it is an authorized burn day before setting things on fire.  Next time, I will just call it in and let him get the ticket before he burns my house down.

Not surprisingly, we don't interact much with those neighbors, preferring the neighbors on the other side of our property,  Unfortunately, they are going to put their house on the market soon, as age is catching up with them, as well.  I need to go advocate for a much more thorough vetting process so I don't get anymore city slicker neighbors.

January 19, 2015

FOD

Do you ever check in on a site that you haven't been to in a few weeks, and want to re-post everything they have posted?  Keith Koffler's White House Dossier is often a favorite of mine for FOD items, and today when I clicked over looking for the Golf Count, I found these gems that I have to share.





And this Mike Lester cartoon:


January 14, 2015

I need fewer MLM 'friends'

I have vented here before, on my deep seated hatred for multi-level marketing.  There is nothing more insulting to me, than to receive an invitation from a 'friend' or neighbor, promising one thing - perhaps wine and chocolate - only to show up and become a hostage listening to some MLM spiel and getting guilt-tripped into buying something so the host can get her free crap.

When I was a kid the Avon lady came to my grandmother's house.  And, for a farmer's wife living miles from neighbors and a town of any size, I am sure that home-delivered cosmetics were welcomed, right along with the female company.

My mom still uses her Tupperware salt and pepper shakers from the 70's.  Most of the other containers have disappeared over time, but those tall S&P shakers have withstood the test of time, likely outliving the lady that got a free burpable storage set.

Many of my aunts still sport formal living rooms decorated with wares of a home decor MLM, I think it was called Home International or something like that.  I remember tagging along to one of those parties, solely for the appetizers and punch, and watching the ladies scramble to order mass produced 'art work' with complementary wall sconces and fake flowers.  It cracks me up that a local Italian restaurant has a picture identical to one that hung in my grandma's kitchen, I smile each time we eat there.

When I was a young adult, a cousin tried to rope me into her Amway downline.  The pitch included several cassette tapes I was supposed to listen to and see how my life could be changed by roping in all of my friends.  In hindsight, I realize that they had dollar signs in their eyes, seeing all the other young (and naive) Army wives they hoped to sway into shilling some cleaning products for them.

I have sat through Mary Kay, Longaberger, Stampin' Up, Pampered Chef, Shaklee, Scentsy, Herbalife, MonaVie, Nerium, and Advocare.  I can't remember the names of the anti-aging juice, the ugly jewelry, the fingernail decoration, exercise crap, more candles, more decor, clothing, etc..  These days it is Thrive and essential oils.  Sheesh, I don't need any more junk!

It is a sad state of affairs that I have to stalk social media whenever I get an invite to the home of a casual acquaintance, and all too frequently see that what I have really been invited to is a sales pitch.

January 12, 2015

FOD


I am not naive enough to believe that lack of military service accounts for the great and numerable shortfalls in character, integrity, and leadership shown by the last two Democratic presidents.  I do think that there are lessons learned through leadership that are necessary traits of a president.  I do think that the military generally provides those lessons.  There are other life experiences that do the same, but Clinton and Obama had neither the military service or commensurate civilian management experience.

Clinton was at least understandable.  It isn't hard for people to identify with the horn dog Arkansas man child that can't keep his dick in his pants.  We all know a guy like that.  It isn't hard to sympathize with a guy that has a wandering eye, and a battle axe of a wife.  There are some arguments to be made over the deaths associated with the Clintons.  I call them "assisted suicides".  But, the world is full of people that think it is easier to knock off people that could cause their downfall, rather than face the music themselves.

Narcissists are harder to put a point on.  They are so frickin' full of themselves.  They are textbook psychopaths. Egocentric jerks like Obama don't get a pass from those that don't worship him.

Not to be missed is the fact that military service ain't what it used to be.  It isn't all patriotic young men serving for love of country, fighting for the freedom of their friends and families.  It is somewhat more difficult to justify a life given to sit in the sand somewhere, protecting political interests.

And yet, I don't think I would have a problem with prior military service being a presidential qualification.  If nothing else, it would force the president to have walked a click or two in the shoes of people that he ultimately commands.  It would check a necessary box in the 'experience' field, one that 'community organizer' doesn't fulfill.

January 7, 2015

Shaking

Earthquakes are the new thing in my neck of the woods.  My friend in Oklahoma City frequently mentions a little tremblor.  We felt our first one back in 2011, and I can't recall another one since.  All around my town, though, there have been more and more reports of earthquakes.

Yesterday, sitting in line waiting to pick up my kids, the afternoon deejays were freaking out, claiming that they had just felt an earthquake in downtown Dallas.  Their studio was on the tenth floor of a high-rise building, and they were a little concerned.

That earthquake led to several more:
North Texas has been rattled by 11 earthquakes in just over one day. The latest one took place just before 10:00 a.m. and measured 2.7 in magnitude. Another quake about 90 minutes earlier registered in at a 2.6 in magnitude.
There have been 12 total small earthquakes in the DFW area so far this year, all centered around the old Texas Stadium site in Irving.
There is a ghost-of-Tom-Landry joke to be made, but that isn't where I intended to go with this.

The 3:10 pm earthquake that scared the radio folks was notable, and followed by another slightly stronger one:
7:37 a.m. Tuesday                    2.3 magnitude
3:10 p.m. Tuesday                    3.5 magnitude
6:52 p.m. Tuesday                    3.6 magnitude
8:11 p.m. Tuesday                     2.9 magnitude
8:12 p.m. Tuesday                    2.7 magnitude
9:54 p.m. Tuesday                    1.7 magnitude
10:05 p.m. Tuesday                  2.4 magnitude
11:02 p.m. Tuesday                   1.6 magnitude
12:59 a.m. Wednesday             3.1 magnitude
8:34 a.m. Wednesday               2.6 magnitude
9:57 a.m. Wednesday               2.7 magnitude
Earthquakes in Oklahoma and Texas have been blamed on oil and gas drilling and the fracturing processes associated.  That isn't where I intended to go either, but the cause will most certainly be a factor, should this pattern continue.

What I am most worried about today, is living in an area in which none of the structures are built to withstand earthquakes of any magnitude.  And, as such, none of the insurance policies issued for structures include coverage for damage caused by earthquakes.  I don't want to be at the top of Reunion Tower, or driving on the High Five when a stronger quake hits.  

The cynic in me thinks that insurers will (if they haven't already) begin to map and track earthquakes, and then use that information to deny coverage for other things.  There is also the likelihood of an industry of opportunistic construction and foundation businesses that will begin to sell hapless consumers on some manner of supposed earthquake-proofing for their homes.

I know that we are supposed to do everything "bigger" in Texas, but I don't think earthquakes should be included.

January 5, 2015

FOD

Never forget that Obama was elected.  Twice.  The people that voted for him are still very much among us, as is evidenced by the fact that his approval rating jumped up to 48 percent at the end of last year.

I, personally, would love to believe his rating improved because he simply wasn't doing anything but hitting the golf course and lounging in the Hawaiian sun.

Realistically, one has to look at other factors.  The biggest, in my view, is the price of gas.  I am sure that a solid block of Obamabots are no longer feeling pain at the pump, and that has translated to their sudden resurgence of approval for the president.  Un- or under-educated as to the factors related to the price of petroleum, they give all the credit to their White House messiah.

We can't ignore the happy illegals that began the year with new freedoms, despite being in our country illegally.  We also can't ignore those who are excited that we are playing nice with Cuba.

It will be interesting to see what this year brings.  As the spirit of Christmas fades, commodity prices remain high, wars rage on, deductibles start over, and the IRS drags its feet getting people their money back - I wonder if Obama's popularity will wane amongst his sheeple.

January 4, 2015

A slow start

I spent New Year's Day in a macabre flashback to a couple of New Year's past...hunched over a toilet bowl vomiting.  Unfortunately, the reasons were much different.  There was no night of celebratory over-indulgence leading up to the event.  I am still not sure if it was a food borne illness or something viral.  Nevertheless, it was miserable, painful, taxing, and led to me welcoming the new year by sleeping it off and missing out on time with family and friends.

I am nearly back to normal, though my days are still awry.  Midweek holidays tend to confuse me, and trying to spend part of my day at work on Friday didn't help straighten out my sense of time and place.  My kids get one more day of vacation, not returning to school until Tuesday, which will only further the confusion.  And, just when things seem to even out and get back on a regular full-week schedule, Boom will be heading back to college, knocking us back off-kilter, as her absence seems to get harder and harder to adjust to, especially after long periods at home.

It didn't help that it was cold and rainy and gray for days.  Perfect weather to ignore the outside world and stay inside.  Christmas brought several movies and good thick books to curl up with, things to encourage us to ignore any resolutions of activity and exercise.  Though the sun is out today, it is a balmy 27 degrees.

The Christmas decorations are getting packed away today, which really signals the end of the season to me.  It also signals the beginning of our family's annual betting pool on how long it will take a certain neighbor to take his Christmas decorations down.  He didn't do much high-ladder work this year, so I am staking my claim that he will get things put away by Valentine's Day, though the rest of the family is opting for late spring.  I think he may have a child graduating from college this spring, so his wife may well force some action if there is a chance of family gathering for a celebration.

Having ventured out to retail stores, one wouldn't think that Valentine's day was too far off, the shelves of Wal-Mart and others having filled the Christmas void with chocolate-filled hearts and red teddy bears.  Sheesh, let us catch our breath between overly commercialized holidays.