July 27, 2006

Ever Had One of Those Days?

* image scanned from some greeting card, props
to the artist and author whomever they may be.


July 26, 2006

This Post Brought to You by the Letters "W" and "O"

Before our recent NYC adventure, I'd never stayed at a nearly $300 a night hotel before. At least not having to pay for it myself. I'm a rube, remember? Actually, I've just been a middle class suburban parent for so long, indulgent hotel expenditures never made it into my budget. My list of "Things That Are Grand About One's Children Being Grown Up" is becoming extensive.

Familiar by proxy with how expensive NYC can be, I didn't even twitch as I made our reservation for the W New York, The Tuscany.

The name put me off. It irritates me no end how the current POTUS has tarnished the letter W. The Boy's middle name, over which I'd agonized endlessly so many years ago, begins with W. Wendy's name prominently features the letter. The letter W should be fun, respected and honored, used judiciously to demarcate people and places that live up to the beauty of all a W can be. I'm pleased to report the Hotel W passed the test with flying colors.

Contemporary, clean, cool, staffed by perky young people who never failed to smile and were eager to serve. And the bed! Oh the bed! Oh the sheets. Oh oh oh those soft enveloping silky sheets and blankets. I could die in that bed and be perfectly happy.

Actually I did die. But it was one of those little deaths, not the permanent kind.

I received an email from the hotel a few days after we got home.
The subject line read "How was it for you?"

Obviously the walls don't talk.


July 25, 2006

Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

I cleaned our home office today. It was time. Actually it was past time. Way past time.

See, I live by the stack. A stack for everything and everything in a stack. Periodically the stacks get unruly and start misbehaving. They mingle with their neighbors or slouch to occupy more room than initially allocated for said stacks. I have little patience for slouching stacks.

I filled the round file to overflowing. Three times. Anything remaining was officially designated a Vitally Important Paper and placed neatly in the pre-existing appropriately labeled files nestled in a precise row in the lower drawer of the filing cabinet. Filing is fun. When it's done.

I don't alphabetize my home files, I categorize them. While searching for wherever in whichever category I had seen fit to file the folder for "Pet Stuff," I came across a manila folder bearing a label written neatly in my best block print: "Mental Health."

"Huh," I thought. "So that's where I put it."


July 24, 2006

♪♫ I Shall Call the Pebble Dare ♫♪

We recently went to see our friend Jackie perform in Godspell at a local community theatre. (She is not one of the butchers, a comment you will understand should you choose to read this entire post. Jackie is a Shining Star and rarely, if ever, sings off-key.)

That musical holds a special place in my heart as it was The Boy's final high school show. He played the role of "Jesus." (We also had "Judas" living with us that year. Life in the suburbs can be weird.)

As recently as this time last year, I don't think I could have gone to see it again. That whole empty-nest-fucking-with-my- head-and-heart mess was still too real, too happening. I've come a long way, my friends. Only took me three years to figure out how to be the parent of a grown-up child. But hey, I did it. Sort of. Yay me?

So anyway, since I am so emotionally mature these days I could attend the show. As each song began, fond memories of students who performed them at The Boy's high school filled my heart. Jenna. Albert. Whitney. Megan. James. Caitlin. LaVonia. Will. Greg. Mandy. Brandon. Karen. (Well, Karen not so much.) I swear I could hear their voices. (Have I always been so sappy?)

The title of this post has been stuck in my head ever since, as it often was back then. It's from a song titled "By My Side" which speaks to me of forward movement, of embracing personal challenges, of finding peace.

In other words, it's about growth. Or so it speaks to me.

The song is a soft female duet filled with delightful, lyrical harmonies. Or I should say it's supposed to be. The two women who sang it that night butchered it.

Thankfully I had Megan and Whitney singing in my head instead:
I shall call the pebble Dare
We will walk, we will talk together
About walking Dare shall be carried

And when we both have had enough
I will take him from my shoe, singing

"Meet your new road!"

Motherhood, I have discovered, is much like being the pebble.


July 23, 2006

What's in a Name?

When I was born, my parents, in their great sagaciousness, opted to give me just two names: a first and a last. Whatever profound inspiration guided their decision, I was forever destined to leave a blank when instructed to fill in either my middle name or middle initial.

I'm sure they meant no harm. Don't get me wrong, I am truly grateful for the names I was given. But being known as "Suzanne (nmn) SecretSurname" is a terrible fate for a child to endure. Yet I kept on keeping on. What choice did I have? Akin to A Boy Named Sue, the lack of a middle name made me stronger, thickly calloused to the stigma heaped upon me by those more abundantly name-endowed.

My eighteenth birthday rolled around. My father, knowing by then how I mourned my dearth of name quantity, offered as his gift the opportunity to choose my own middle name with all the inherent legal folderol.

I was unprepared for my mother's reaction. She was decidedly displeased. But I was almost 18 and, typical of a teenager, more focused on my own desires rather than those of my mother. I accepted my dad's offer.

My search for a middle name began. It was arduous. It was intense. I mean seriously. Think about it. I was to choose my own name? I tried on thousands, from the ludicrous to the mundane. I made lists and crossed things off. I said them outloud and practiced signing them. I asked the opinion of others in my family. I did not ask my mother. She was not of the mind to be a fair judge.

In the end I chose a new first name instead, scooting my former first name over into the no-longer-vacant middle name slot.

Now you know: "Suzanne" is my middle name. My first name is rarely used, most often as merely an initial perching authoritatively in front of "Suzanne." It adds, I tell myself, an aura of panache to my signature and confuses people who know me only as "Suzanne."

My name experience naturally came to mind when I became pregnant. Being in the era prior to routine ultrasounds, we didn't know The Boy was going to be a boy. But since I really wanted a boy, I upped the odds in my favor by telling everyone I really wanted a girl. (Isn't that the way it works? It was for me. Tell not my true desire or it won't come true. I'm certain my strategy influenced the end result. I have since outgrown that approach.)

So certain was I of my success in producing what I secretly desired, I didn't spend too much time thinking about girl names.

But oh how I agonized over a boy name! It must be strong. It must roll off the tongue with a pleasant cadence. It must not lend itself easily to mockery and unpleasant nicknames. It must reflect his heritage and tie him inextricably to his familial genus. An added bonus would be for the first and middle names to be easy to spell and pronounce, considering his SecretSurname was predestined to be butchered in both oral and written forms throughout his lifetime. (Trust me on that. It is an unavoidable reality.)

Now, with wisdom only maturity can bring, I completely understand why my own name dissatisfaction had wounded my mother. If The Boy were to change his name or express displeasure with the one chosen so carefully for him, I would surely snivel and whine.

I don't really know if The Boy likes his name. He's never said one way or the other. Truly he must, as it is perfect for him.

Perhaps I'll ask some day.
Then again, perhaps I won't.
What if I don't like the answer?


July 20, 2006

HVAC 101

When we arrived home late Sunday evening, the temperature inside our house was uncomfortably warm. Oh sure the whole northeastern portion of the United States had been experiencing stifling heat and humidity, but geez. Our home is our indoor oasis and should offer a cool respite from the whims of Mother Nature. It was almost as if the house was punishing us, distressed at having been left behind while we gadded around the big city.

As I hauled our bags up to our bedroom, I glanced at the thermostat. It read a balmy 79°. Felt warmer than that. I knew we raised the setting a bit before we left, but not to 79°. Maybe our housesitter, wonderfully frugal woman that she is, had adjusted it in our absence. I doubted it.

I pushed the little arrow down two degrees and listened for the system to kick on. Nothing but silence. I scowled and decided to give it a few minutes to catch up to itself. (Time fixes many things. Maybe it would fix the A/C too. I am an eternal optimist.) As I unpacked I kept a sharp ear out for the happy sound of the compressor turning on. I'd like to say I waited patiently, but truth be told I was feeling pissier by the moment.

Wendy wandered upstairs. I said, "I don't think the A/C is working." She looked alarmed. I shared the sentiment. We investigated the thermostat together. I switched it off. I switched it on. It stared at me with resolute defiance. I childishly stamped my foot in frustration. Heat makes me cranky.

"Let's go check out the unit in the basement." I shrugged as Wendy looked at me doubtfully. Like we'd even know what to look for. I envisioned us standing there gawking at the machinery, scratching our befuddled heads. Eh, no harm in that. At least it was cool in the basement.

We flipped the circuit breaker. Nothing. We contemplated. I scowled. We scratched our heads as I knew we would. I'd been meaning to change the filter for several weeks, so we decided to do it then. Eh, couldn't hurt. I could at least cross an item off my to-do list.

We have a mega HEPA filter on our HVAC system. The filter gets changed once every four to six months. The furnace folks charge $90 each for replacements, but I found them on the internet for $40. Guess where we buy ours?

As soon as Wendy slid the filter's bulky housing out of its designated position, bam! The unit kicked on and cool air began flowing. Hmmm. Whadda ya know. Clean filter installed, we brushed off our hands, high-fived, and vowed to take our filter-changing responsibilities more seriously in the future.

Have you changed yours lately?


July 18, 2006

Sporks In New York

The day before we departed for New York City, a package arrived in our mailbox. A present! The two titanium utensils gifted from a lady on a mission to spread Spork Love to the world. Far be it from me to stand in her way.

Our shiny new sporks traveled with us on our weekend adventure, in effect bringing yet another blogging couple, sporks and scout, along for the ride. How cheesy is that? Wonderfully so.

We tried to show those sporks a good time. We didn't have any firm ideas of what we wanted to do while in the city and the sporks didn't express an opinion at all. What I really wanted was an icebreaker, an introduction to the city. I got one.

We met eb and Max at the hotel, dumping our suitcases in their room because we had arrived well before check-in time. Off we went, first to breakfast at Penelope. I ate eggs scrambled with asparagus and feta cheese, along with toast. Sourdough toast and a mimosa toast. (Don't worry. I'm not going spell out every meal. Those eggs were just some damn fine eggs and worthy of mention. Simple! Easy! Make them at home! Go. Now. Cook some. You know you want to.)

Suitably fortified, we then explored. On foot. Via subway. A taxi or two. Don't ask me where. The geographic specifics were too much to absorb. It's a blur. Chelsea. The Village. Times Square. Soho. I was too intent on the atmosphere. Enthralling. I'll connect the dots on the map the next visit.

eb challenged Wendy to a thumb war over some random comment and I, as I often am called to do in such thumb-centric circumstances, stood in as my gal's proxy for the conflict. My thumb kicked eb's thumb from one side of Manhattan to the other. She didn't stand a chance.

Wussy thumbs aside, she's one hell of a pathfinder. She didn't even need a compass. Led around like an absorbent little sheep with her happy head in the clouds, I didn't have to worry about what train went where, crossing against which light, when to transfer or turn left and right. I was free to observe, listen, smell and enjoy. To newcomers, such guidance was a true upgrade from making a cold call.

We walked miles, visited the MoMA, entertained sporks, gawked and clicked, observed a plethora of diverse people and places, laughed, ate fine food washed down with appropriate liquid refreshment, slept well and did it all anew the next day.

Oh and we gossiped. Yes that's right. About you. All of you. Don't you feel special now? You should.


July 17, 2006

♪♫ One Night in Bangkok Makes a Hard Man Humble ♪♫

Much in the same way one crazy weekend in New York City will breed more than one blog post. Especially since it involved a tangle of bloggers uniting from three different states. Toss in Max's hilarious niece from a fourth state and two titanium Sporks newly transplanted from the west coast and wow. Just wow. There's a novel in there somewhere.

I'm wiped out. Wiped out like a bug on a windshield. But unlike the bug, I'll recover. Kudos to Elizabeth. Her skills as a travel planner and guide are unsurpassed. As I noticed the first time we met her over a year ago, she's shy and much more demure in person than when she's lurking behind her keyboard. I could be lying but I'm not. Or am I?

For now, I leave you with Bloggers Brunching at Zoƫ. From the bottom left corner, clockwise: eb and Maxine, me and Wendy, weese and her lovely wife.

There is more.
Oh yes.
Much more.
But first, sleep.
Oh yes.

Ladies, y'all are awesome.


Seems Appropriate

via Overheard in New York, Jul 16, 2006:
Hobo #1: Back in the day, lesbians were forced to get married to men.
Hobo #2: So what happened?
Hobo #1: They got jobs and can afford to have girlfriends.

--53rd & 5th
Overheard by: Victor C.

More on New York later.
Right now, I've got job to go to.


July 14, 2006

I Won a Prize for Having a Dirty Diaper

I was excited yet mildly ashamed.
Dirty diapers can have that effect.
Even when a prize is involved.

Last weekend we attended a shower in honor of one of the many buns in the ovens of Wendy's co-workers. The specific bun was the short woman clothed in the green shirt. It was an afternoon filled with conversation among old friends and small talk with virtual strangers. And, of course, celebration of the widdle-bitty baby's imminent arrival into the world.

We are spending this coming weekend in NYC. New York City! The Big Apple. I've never been there, a fact which is, I admit, unreasonably humiliating to divulge. My boss has been mocking me unmercifully ever since he found out. Today as I was leaving the office, he said, "Make sure you pick the hayseeds outta your teeth before you get off the plane, okay?"

We'll be hanging with friends, meeting virtual friends and, it's been rumored, a few strangers. I anticipate new experiences, delightful conversation, cocktails with brunch, and tired feet.

I am more than a little excited.


July 12, 2006

Lost. Must Be Found.

I looked all over for it the weekend we were working on the shed. It was absolutely perfect to wear for that job. The last time I saw it, it was tucked into the toolbox I packed for a trip to my mom's. Hey. Don't look at me like that. Don't you pack a toolbox to visit your mother? No? Well count your blessings while I count mine.

I must have left it there. At my mom's. Because I sure as shit can't find it here. Despite searching high and low, in and out, up and down, thither and yon, here and there.

When working on projects, it's a good idea to have handy pockets. Such pockets should be large enough to easily accomodate an adult human hand yet shallow enough to avoid contorting to retrieve the contents. They should be easily donned and removed, and perch comfortably just below my waist. Such pockets should hang within easy reach in any posture and be constructed of tough material with fortified stitching to withstand pointy objects, intentional pocket overcrowding, and other inevitable physical stressors.

I'm speaking of a work apron of course. Mine is ecru canvas. It has pockets such as those described above. Three of them. It ties with long strings behind my back. It's currently M.I.A.

It was a gift from my friend Tina. The occasion was the opening of the first (of four) high school musicals we produced together. The Boy was a freshman, Tina's eldest daughter a sophomore. The story of how we ended up as High School Musical Producers is long and convoluted with high, high peaks and low, low valleys. But Producers we were, with the scars to prove it. (Oh sure, of course I'm being dramatic. I'm speaking of theatre here! A bit of drama is permitted... Nay, required!)

That evening, we met in the lobby of the high school. The place was abuzz. We were abuzz. Opening night!

That was when she gave it to me. A piece of tape across the front labeled me as Producer in her neat penmanship. Tina had filled the pockets with items she knew we would need to have handy that evening: safety pins, advil, pens, bandaids, rubber bands, masking tape, scissors, markers, and other stuff I've forgotten but she probably remembers. I was prepared for anything.

I've gotten a lot of good use out of that apron since that night. I wear it often. It doesn't look as pretty these days, paint-splattered and dirty. But so, so practical. Oh yeah baby. That'll never wear off.

I must find that thing!


July 9, 2006

Anywhere But There

Our hometown bank is Burke & Herbert, a family-run institution that just celebrated their 150th anniversary. Most of the other smaller banks in this area have been sucked up by the monsters. But not good old B&H, friendly service with a smile.

I frequent the King Street branch, usually twice a week. I was there on the fifth of July making a deposit. The manager smiled at me and asked how I was doing. We exchanged pleasantries as the teller processed my transaction.

"Did you go to DC for the fireworks?" she queried. "Everyone there got so wet!"

"Oh heck no," I said. "My parents took me and my sister downtown for the Bicentennial Celebration. It scarred me for life!"

And it did. Scarred me. Talk about hellacious crowds. Talk about heat. Talk about lines for the porta-potties. Talk about overused porta-potties in the heat. Need I say more?

It was 1976. I was 13 years old. Our family parked our car at the Pentagon and rode our bicycles from there to the National Mall. We staked out a place in the grass, using our bikes to frame off a little area to encourage people to walk around us instead of stepping over or on us. It mostly worked.

Yes the fireworks were spectacular. I do remember that. But it was a long day. The bike ride back to our car after the show was downright terrifying. Mass exodus: pedestrians, bicyclists, buses, motorcycles, planes, trains, automobiles..... it was crazy insane.

I haven't been back since. That's right. I deprived The Boy of experiencing fireworks in the Nation's Capitol. He should thank me.

Where did you spend July 4, 1976?


July 6, 2006

Tools of My Trade

I just finished up the prep work for tomorrow's job. This particular client is a waterfront restaurant and, of historical note, is the first job I landed when I started working for myself way back when. It is a testament to their likeability that I still work there. Outside of the people, what I really enjoy is that they run their business in a businesslike manner. I was truly shocked to discover such is not always a given, particularly in the restaurant business. Oh, what a naive little bookkeeper I was way back when.

Usually I'm at that job site the first or the second of the month, but the holiday delayed my visit. Do I always wait until the night before to do the work? Typically yes. I have procrastination issues. I'm working on that. (Yeah. Sure I am. As soon as I finish doing something else.)

The scope of work includes bank reconciliations. Reconciling accounts greatly appeals to my sense of order. I especially get a kick when everything comes out right on the first pass, although it can be fun to track down errors when something goes awry. Yes yes, I'm a simple woman.

But the best part is that I get to play with what I consider the tools of my trade: colored pencils, highlighters and spreadsheets. I prefer my pencils to be sharpened to a needle point. My keyboard number pad and I have a special relationship. A rather zen-like feeling wafts over me as my fingers click rapidly over the keys and figures fill columns. It's all very soothing.

How about you?
What do you consider the tools of your trade?


July 5, 2006

Of Birds and Automobiles

Years ago, Wendy and I visited her parents in southeast Texas. It was my very first trip to her home state outside of layovers at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. While there, the four of us set out on a road trip, spurred on by my burning desire to see the Alamo.

I am irrationally fascinated with historical places that earned their historical status because of war and death. Particularly death. I am warped that way. It's a dirty little secret. Don't tell anyone.

I made sure to read up on Texas history, particularly the Alamo and surrounding environs, before our journey. No way did I wish to appear ignorant of the state history. Her mother adores history. Must impress her mother. Must impress her mother with how wonderful I am. Must impress her mother to prove Wendy had landed herself a Worthy Woman. I think I succeeded, but who can really tell with in-laws?

We also visited a part of Texas referred to as the Hill Country. It lived up to its name: rural winding roads and glorious green rolling hills. We stopped for lunch in the quaint town of Fredericksburg. It was peach season. Lots of peaches are grown in and around the area. We scored some luscious juicy orbs. I do so adore sweet fresh peaches. So does Wendy's mother. Much bonding occurred while selecting fruit. She also turned me on to mayhaw jelly.

It was in Fredericksburg I saw a sight both fascinating and horrifying. I regret to this day not pulling out my camera and documenting it.

A Cadillac was parked at the curb by the sidewalk. As we strolled past it, something caught my eye. I turned to look again. I stared and blinked. I removed my shades, shook my head and stared some more. It was the back end of a bird. Well. It used to be a bird. But it was just a bird carcass at that point. The front half was imbedded deeply in the grill of the car. I'd never seen anything like it before and rather hope not to see anything like it again. But still. I wish I'd snapped a photo.

Fast forward to last week and a phone call with my mother.
"You won't believe this!" she said before I'd even said hello.

She entered her garage that morning and was greeted with what she described as a horrible stench. Seems a fews days prior she was out on the open road. A bird flew smack dab into the front of her Crown Vic ("Impossible to avoid it, Suzanne. I felt sooooo bad.") She had no idea what had become of that bird before the odor began. Then she opened the hood and discovered what was left of it lodged in the engine compartment.

She tripped on over to the local Ford dealer and a thoughtful grease monkey removed the carcass. No charge. She tipped him five bucks. I said to her, "A measley five bucks to remove a smelly dead bird carcass? I'da tipped him twenty." At least. Maybe even taken his picture and gotten his autograph for my scrapbook.

Shit like that doesn't happen in the city. Or the suburbs. At least not that I've ever heard. I've never seen a bird carcass imitate a grill ornament where I live. Are our birds smarter? More fleet and agile? More savvy to the dangers of Cadillacs and Crown Vics? Do they eschew close flyovers of the freeways and crowded urban roads, content to stay safely near their cozy suburban nests?

More importantly, why do thoughts such as these clutter my mind?


July 3, 2006

Hear Us Roar?

One thing I adore about Wendy is her willingness to be part of a team. Our team of two. As individuals we are strong, but together we are a serious force.

I blogged months ago about our shed project. I was jovial and in high spirits, as I often am at the start of a new project. We spent two days digging in the dirt, hauling and compacting crushed gravel, leveling, adjusting, tamping, squaring, blocking. At the end of those two days, all we had to show for it was a shed foundation.

Two days.
One foundation.
No sheds.

Time flew as time tends to do. The foundation mocked me from the backyard and the boxes containing our shed kits did the same from the carport. Weeks ticked by. An available block of time with cooperative weather was elusive. A friend said (more than once), "Y'all got those sheds up yet? Why don't you just hire Pedro and Carlos to do it? They'd have them up in no time and you can sit and watch them work from the comfort of your porch!"

Our friend doesn't get it. That approach would defeat the purpose. The process of home renovation has not been about hiring folks to do the work. It been about learning, doing, discovering our limitations and working through them. Yes, there are things we will pay to have done, major electrical and plumbing top the list. But grunt work? We'll do it. Installation? We'll do it, be it ceramic tile or ceiling fans. Repairs? Bring it on. Sometimes we get to do things more than once because we don't get it right the first time. Despite the learning curve, the end result always brings a sense of satisfaction.

The financial aspect is not one to be ignored. We can spend more for quality elements when we save on labor by doing things ourselves. Take this shed project. We priced sheds installed on site. By doing the work ourselves, we are getting twice the building for literally half the cost. And the dollar savings translate into opportunity to challenge ourselves. To get off our asses and, as Nike suggests, Just Do It.

The price is physical labor and mental gymnastics. That which doesn't kill us will make us stronger. Or so I've heard. It's held true so far: we are stronger in mind, in body and as a team.

Was the result of this particular project worth the gallons of sweat and agony? (And of course there was agony. There is always agony. We must like it.)

But it was worth it.
Hell yes, my friends.
It surely was.