Thursday, November 30, 2006

Journey's End

When I committed to posting daily for NaBloPoMo, I also decided to venture out into the blogosphere and see what other people were talking about. I went to Fussy's website, which listed the participating blogs in alphabetical order.

I chose to post a comment daily on someone else's website. Just to be different, I started at "Z" and worked my way up the alphabet. I figured that would be better motivation for sticking with it and completing that task, too. My strategy worked pretty well, as I found myself going through one letter a day ... pretty much. Today I found myself with a few to do at the end of my list, so I whipped through them just now.

What a sense of accomplishment! I wrote something here everyday for 30 days. I also stepped out of my comfort zone and explored a new world. I met some interesting folks along the way, some of whose blogs I now visit regularly. To those who've commented back,

Welcome to The Testosterone Zone!

I'm glad you're here.

To the NaBloPoMo officials: I want my prize! I deserve it for diligence in my own blog and for supporting a different blogger everyday. I want a coffee thing or anything from The Purple Moose.

I close with a quote from Sir Winston Churchill, from a speech he gave in 1942. My high school class president closed his graduation speech with this pearl of wisdom some 26 years ago, and it has stayed with me since.

"Now this is not the end.
It is not even the beginning of the end.
But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

NaBloPoMo This!

It is the 30th of November, the last day of National Blog Posting Month. I have posted every single day this month. Hooray for me!! I didn't think I'd have pithy things to say everyday, and I didn't, but I wrote a little everyday. Maybe there's more of a writer in me than I dare admit.

Next month's challenge is Holidailies At Home
. I must be crazy to do this, since our Decembers are filled with tons of concerts to rehearse for and perform in, holiday parties, school obligations, and, of course, illness.

On another note, WineGuy called me this morning to report his father experienced abnormal heart rhythms after prepping for his colonoscopy today. The GI doctor in Fort Lauderdale put FIL in the ER for monitoring and likely admittance to regulate the heart rhythm. FIL did not have his procedure, but his doctor reported feeling a hard mass in the colon. WineGuy, who is also a gastroenterologist, reports that it's likely cancer in the sigmoid colon. OMG. More acute illness. Just when I thought we might turn the corner. MIL is over in the ER by herself, and we cannot go over there (even though it's only a 2-hour ride). WineGuy's health is still so fragile.

On a small good note, our local shoe store had a pair of men's slip-on sandals to fit WineGuy's swollen feet. They're 12EEEEEE, and they're adjustable. He got them on his feet, and he was happy. At least his feet will be covered.

Perhaps more later. I went grocery shopping this morning, after not having been for 2 weeks. I spent $450.00, way more than my usual, and I still have a dozen bags to unload.

FIL Update: FIL's heartbeat eventually converted back to a normal rhythm. The docs still admitted him to the hospital overnight for observation. Apparently, he did not stay well hydrated while doing his bowel prep for his colonoscopy. The GI doc ultimately scoped him and found nothing remarkable. He ordered a CAT scan to look at that hard spot in the abdomen. FIL's internist thinks it's probably old scar tissue from a minor surgery a couple of years ago. Thank goodness.

In other health news, I smashed my finger in a classroom door this afternoon. It bled profusely as I tried to pick up Moose. His teacher gave me a couple of bandages and offered to call the school nurse. Forget it. I fixed up my finger and went home. It finally stopped bleeding and throbbing after dinner. WineGuy looked at it and said my fingernail was fine, but it would be badly bruised.

Time for a manicure!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Germ Warfare

As if life weren't complicated enough, I woke up this morning with my throat nearly swollen shut. I could hardly swallow, and I felt like I was going to choke. This was at 6:00 a.m. when the door chimed as WineGuy was returning to work. [tick, tick goes the bp] I drank some water and sucked on a lozenge to see if that would help my throat. By 7:00 a.m. I sounded glottal, like Kermit the Frog. What was I going to do if I couldn't yell at my kids? ;-)

I beeped WineGuy and told him I needed to see a doctor today. He sent me to his internist and even set up the appointment for me. I got the boys to school and ran a couple of errands. I arrived at the doctor's office early and filled out all the forms. Dr. H called me in, ran a quick history and physical: no ear infection, no breathing problems, just a raging case of

STREP THROAT


Dr. H prescribed prednisone to bring down the swelling and a Z-pack to kill the germs. His nurse called the 'scrips' into the pharmacy, which had just filled two new prescriptions for WineGuy. Because his blood pressure was still dangerously high. My BP? Also high. It's no wonder considering the stress I've been under. And, sitting here just now, I'm getting lightheaded.

My germs and I need a few minutes' rest before we pick up the viral offspring from school.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Chillin'

Things are still crazy around here. I spent the morning disposing of things: broken TV and microwave to the county recycling center; books returned to the library; clothing returned to the store.

WineGuy is home for yet another day. I'm pleased he's taking it easy, but he's always looking for things for me to do: stuff to fix, errands to run, "projects" to complete. The only time I've had to myself was in, ahem, the bathroom. He goes back to work tomorrow. We had a small row over that, but he's adamant to return to work. Nevertheless, his partners changed the call schedule around so he would not have to take call this weekend. At least they're being sensible.

I should be rehearsing my music for an upcoming concert. Instead I spent some time reading one of my Blogs Of Note, Antarctica. Glass artist, David Ruth, won an Antarctic Artists and Writers Grant from the National Science Foundation. The award came from the Office of Polar Programs and "provides opportunities for scholars in the humanities (painting, photography, writing, history, and other liberal arts) to work in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. These visitors will be able to make observations at U.S. Antarctic Program stations and research camps and in wilderness areas. The purpose is to enable serious writings and the arts that increase understanding of the Antarctic and help document America's antarctic heritage." National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs.

David Ruth traveled to Palmer Station on the peninsula of Antarctica to examine the geology of ice in its many forms. The abstract states "His research in Antarctica will allow him to gain an understanding of how best to duplicate and synthesize the look of Antarctic ice in cast glass. ... Ruth's project, Antarctic Ice: Sculpture in Cast Glass, will focus on Antarctic ice and how it can be imitated, resulting in a large-scale sculptures that will give public viewers a more realistic sense of the scale and texture of Antarctic ice formations, typically only seen in photographs. The artist's work will allow viewers the opportunity to experience large ice-like formations first hand."


The Antarctica blog is filled with fascinating pictures of the prisitine ice caps at the bottom of the world. Ruth's photographs make the ice seem organic. Ice textures differ depending on source or origin. The varying light of the polar summer makes the ice sculptures take on different forms. The artist is even trying to re-create some of these amazing sculptures in a permanent medium.

Ruth provides his reader with astute commentary on his surroundings. There are even a few pictures of the requisite penguins – hard to resist after seeing "Happy Feet" last week – and some black-and-white dolphins. His travelogue is also a wonderful read. I even recommended this blog to Wild Thing's teacher. The class is studying polar regions right now and will read the blog daily with the teacher.

OK, I'm feeling better now. I still need to rehearse my music because I have rehearsal tonight. Guess I'll have to clean my desk tomorrow.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Today's Meme

Today's meme (pronounced MEEM) is brought to you by the word "me". Thanks go to the House of Socks for the inspiration. I've taken artisitic license with some responses.

The One Word Meme

Yourself: Stressed
Your partner: Denial
Your hair: Ponytail
Your Mother: Aesthete
Your Father: Jovial
Your Favorite Item: iMac
Your dream last night: Frightful
Your Favorite Drink: Champagne
Your Dream Car: Convertible
Your Dream Home: Lakefront, mountainside
The Room You Are In: Office
Your Ex: Spouse = none; boyfriend (decades ago, also a doctor)
Your fear: Death
Where you Want to be in Ten Years: Solvent
Who you hung out with last night: Spy (online)
What You’re Not: Thin
Muffins: Cranberry nut
One of Your Wish List Items: Laptop
Time: Evening
The Last Thing You Did: Wash dishes
What You Are Wearing: Capris and a t-shirt
Your favorite weather: Sunny autumn
Your Favorite Book: The Year of Magical Thinking
Last thing you ate: Turkey meatloaf
Your Life: Unsettled
Your mood: Crabby
Your Best Friends: Blessings
What are you thinking about right now: WineGuy's blood pressure
Your car: Minivan
What are you doing at the moment: Hiding from my family
Your summer: Boston
Relationship status: Married
What is on your TV: Jeopardy
What is the weather like: Partly cloudy, no moon
When is the last time you laughed: Days and days ago

I ran errands and fixed more stuff today, per WineGuy's request. He sat at home and quietly caught up on professional journals. His BP is through the roof again. I am convinced they released him from the hospital too soon. He plans to go back to work in two days. It's a bad idea.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Handicapped Zone

In politics and public life there is often talk of people playing the "race" card to gain the advantage. WineGuy played the "disabled" card to get his way today. He's been nagging me for months to fix this, that and the other thing around this house. Today, he conned me into fixing everything. He couldn't possibly climb the ladder, and he certainly doesn't know how to maintain the electrical and a/c in this house, so the tasks were mine. (They always are.)

It started with his innocent request for me to change the light switch on the storage room. I got my tool box, my supplies, cut the power, and changed the switch. Turned the power on and voila! The light worked . . . for about three seconds. Got electrocuted, turned the power off and decided I needed to buy a new switch. I made my hardware store list and fled to Lowe's. Walking the equivalent of a 99-yard touchdown, I finally found everything, paid for it all and left. Back home again. Installed the new switch. The light did not work properly, even with a new switch and lightbulbs.

On to the next project: I replaced all the lightbulbs in the garage: four in the electric openers and two 4-foot fluorescent bulbs in a ceiling fixture. Those fluorescent tubes were a major pain in the backside. It took me forever to install them, and THAT light fixture did not work. (If I ever see the builder of this house again, I'm going to sock him.) I dragged the 8-foot ladder down to our mailbox lightpole and replaced the bulb in that fixture, too. You need to realize that the ceilings in the garage are at least 12 feet and the lightpole is probably 14 feet high. I felt like I was mountain-climbing all afternoon. But, my work was not done.

You see, when the pediatrician diagnosed the boys' virus on Friday, he recommended I change my a/c filters. Probably a good idea since they're supposed to be changed monthly, and I don't remember when they were done last. We put the 8-foot ladder away and dragged the 10-foot ladder into the house. The first-floor ceilings are 14-16 feet high. I gathered my filters and climbed up to the a/c return. It was covered in dust and fuzz. Ew! I climbed down again, fetched the canister vacuum, changed the attachment and hauled it up the ladder. A shower of grey dust and fuzz rained down on my head and shirt when I opened the vent. The filter was disgusting, so I climbed down again and installed a new filter. Climbed up the ladder again, replaced the filter frame, closed the vent and vacuumed the hell out of it. Climbed down the ladder again and dragged it into the master bedroom. I repeated the process and was again rewarded with a shower of nasty dust and fuzz. Wizard begrudgingly helped me haul the ladder back out to the garage and put it away.

But, that was not all. No, that was not all. I grabbed my tool box and more supplies from Lowe's and clambered up the stairs. Changing the upstairs a/c filter was far less arduous because the air handler is at ground level. However, that filter was grosser than the other two put together because of a concentrated hash of carpet fiber, cat hair, and boy-dander: an utter defilement. Cleaned that mess and proceeded to replace two electric outlet face plates which were clearly labeled "unbreakable". Yeah, right. They haven't met Wild Thing. That boy can break anything. I replaced a bulb in his new lamp and put away my tools.

I finally crawled downstairs in the late afternoon. I announced to WineGuy that I was showering for a long time. No sooner was I clean and dry than did WineGuy wander in and ask "what's for dinner?" I really wanted to say "take-out," but with his new, self-imposed low-salt, low-carb diet, that was out of the question. We found some stuff in the refrigerator to heat up, cooked some rice and sliced some veggies.

Then we sat down to a nice (not) dinner with our three wonderful (not) boys and proceeded to lecture them for 45 minutes about personal responsibility. And then I did the dishes. And then I helped Wild Thing and Moose shower. And then I watched 12 minutes of television. And then I took the boys upstairs for story and bed. No story tonight: their rooms weren't picked up like they said they were and they hadn't laid out school clothes for tomorrow.

I came back downstairs and ate six pieces of Norman Love's chocolates. THEN, and only then, did I feel better.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Happy Boys

What a difference a day makes. I'm sitting here watching Wild Thing zoom up and down the street on his bicycle. He has the biggest grin on his face, not a care in the world. He's such a cute boy when he's happy: dimples, dancing dark brown eyes, looooooong eyelashes, and a funny gap-toothed, second-grade grin. He just came in and asked me to figure out how far he rode this morning: about 1.5 miles! Pretty darn good for a 53-pound string bean.

Wild Thing is one of those kids who needs to get out and run or exercise everyday. No sloth for him. Wizard, OTOH, is entirely different. He could sit around all day reading books, watching TV or playing on the computer. Takes after me, that one does. However, the other day he asked me to drop him off near the entrance of our neighborhood so he could run home. He ran that far and more, maybe 2 miles in all. A great accomplishment. Moose also needs a lot of exercise, but he's not one for running laps. He'll ride his bike or play outside for hours, but organized activity does not interest him much right now.

They are all feeling a little better today. I took them to the pediatrician yesterday afternoon and insisted on antiobiotics for all. The pediatrician was incredulous upon hearing about HIB, but he agreed that we need to kill this bacteria. I made three trips to the pharmacy yesterday. I'm now on a first-name basis with the pharmacist and the techs there.

WineGuy came home from the hospital yesterday afternoon. I was leary they discharged him before he was perfectly well, but they were finished with the IVs and he was anxious to come home. We had our Thanksgiving dinner one day late, and that was nice. WineGuy was tired out and turned in early. He had a restful night, thank G-d. He's doing pretty well today.

I welcome the calm.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Germs Ahoy

If I don't post a quick note now, I won't get back to the computer today.

My house is filled with germs. Moose vomited in his bed last night. Instead of waking me, he just changed his pajamas and went back to bed. Sweet, smelly boy. Never mind, though, I woke up at 4:00A and didn't go back to sleep until almost 6:00A. Wild Thing woke me around 7:00 to tell me about Moose. Wizard still has a bad sinus infection. Wild Thing is complaining about his ears.

WineGuy called from the hospital to say that he still expects to be released today. His white blood count is n
ormal, but his kidney function is worse. They think that the source of the bacterial infection is in the kidneys.

The bug is
Haemophilus influenza B (pictured), usually found in children under the age of 6. (Thank you, Moose.) HIB can cause ear infections, upper respiratory infections, and pneumonia, amongst other things. It spreads by droplet through coughs and sneezing. Let's see, Moose has been coughing all over everyone and everything and has had a runny nose. WT had a cold and was coughing all over everyone. WineGuy had been sneezing all over everything, too, when he had a cold recently. Eeny, meeny, miney, moe, catch a snotface by the nose. Sometimes HIB can cause meningitis or sepsis (bloodstream infection).

Here is a list of childrens' symptoms I found online. For my own benefit, I note who has had what.
  • unusual irritability – Moose, Wizard
  • difficulty sleeping or staying asleep – Moose, Wizard
  • tugging or pulling at one or both ears – Wizard, Wild Thing
  • fever – Moose
  • hearing difficulties – Wizard, but they all have "selective hearing" ;-)
  • ear pain – Wizard, Wild Thing
  • nausea and vomiting – Moose
  • diarrhea – Moose
  • decreased appetite – Moose, Wizard
  • congestion – Moose, Wild Thing, Wizard
  • runny nose or cold symptoms that last longer than 10 days – Moose
  • nighttime cough – Moose, Wild Thing
  • occasional daytime cough – Moose, Wild Thing
  • swelling around the eyes – Moose has "shiners"
  • complaints of drip in his/her throat from his/her nose – Moose
  • headaches – Wizard, Wild Thing
  • facial discomfort – Wizard
  • bad breath – Moose, Wild Thing
  • cough – Moose, Wild Thing
  • fever – Moose
  • sore throat – Wizard, Moose
  • child keeps his or her mouth open – Moose, Wild Thing

WineGuy displayed many of these symptoms, too. Who knows how long this has been lingering around our house.

If I could spray Lysol over everything animal, vegetable, or mineral in this house AND if I could Clorox the rest, then maybe we'd be rid of the germs. I sure as hell better not get sick, because I can't afford to be sick.

Pass me the orange juice and the vitamin C tablets.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Long Day's Journey Into Night

What is it about a crisis that makes me wax literary? No clue.

Brief summary of yesterday: WineGuy has bad pneumonia in the left lung, dangerously high blood pressure, abnormal kidney tests, badly swollen feet and legs, a fever, and a violent cough. He spent the better part of yesteday in the ER and was transferred to a room around dinnertime. They dosed him with antibiotics, blood pressure medicine, and some industrial-strength diuretics. I saw him last night, thanks to my good friend, Calvin (a woman), who called and said "I'm coming over now." Thank G-d for her. WineGuy was doing a little better last night.

I went to see WineGuy again today. More thanks for good friends, L&H. WineGuy is doing better today. His fever is gone. His blood pressure is now merely elevated instead of dangerously high. His white blood count is nearly normal. He is coughing less, feeling better, and that is all good news.

His feet and legs are still badly swollen. He tested gram-negative for bacteria in his blood (blood culture grew bacteria), which means the infection spread to the bloodstream. He is on heavy antibiotics to kill the microbes. His kidney function is also still elevated, which they're attributing to the systemic infection.

WineGuy claims they're going to discharge him tomorrow. I'm not too sure of that, but we'll go get him whenever they set him free. He's a bit bored sitting there, but he's getting some peace and quiet -- forced rest.

His partners cancelled his schedule Monday and Tuesday, and he was annoyed with that. He's still annoyed with me for even saying anything to anyone, but I know I did the right thing contacting his office. He's had a few visitors again today, including his faithful nurse, S. She is a truly outstanding individual and has helped us immensely in so many ways.

The boys didn't have much of a Thanksgiving. They played over at our friends' house this afternoon while I was at the hospital. They had fun there, and then we went to see "Happy Feet," which they loved. They weren't hungry for dinner, after all that popcorn and soda, so they're just hanging out now. I missed Thanksgiving, and I did not. I'm exhausted and ready to have WG come home, knowing full well the work it will entail.

Now I understand better what my mother went through all those days and weeks my dad was in the hospital. It wears on the body and the soul. Maybe tomorrow I'll post the things for which I am thankful.

[NB: When I chose the title for this post, I wasn't too familiar with Eugene O'Neill's play, "Long Day's Journey Into Night," other than the title. In reading summaries of the play, I am a little spooked by the coincidence of WineGuy's cough and the character, Edmund's, cough and tuberculosis.]

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Best Laid Plans

WineGuy has had a lingering, mild cough for weeks. This morning he woke up with a violent cough, wheezing and could hardly breathe. About 9:00 this morning he asked me to take him to the emergency room at the hospital downtown (the one where he practices).

They admitted him to the hospital this morning with pneumonia in the lower lobe of his left lung. I asked his nurse to have one of his partners look over the medical record and advise me what's going on. Dr. L. just called to say that WineGuy's white count is elevated (sign of infection) and that his creatinine (kidney function) is also elevated. She just spoke with the ER doctor, who has ordered a CAT scan of WG's chest to see what's going on with the lung and kidneys.

We cancelled our Thanksgiving trip. It's probably for the best since the kids are sick, too: Wizard has a sinus infection and an ear infection. Moose had an ugly virus which still lingers. WG's partners have cancelled his Monday and Tuesday schedules next week to give him time to recuperate. Now I have to unpack all the suitcases and see if I can find a sitter to watch the boys sometime this afternoon or this evening.

Men are terrible patients. Doctors are terrible patients. Male doctors are incorrigible! We welcome your good thoughts and prayers.

(Apologies to the AugustMoms for the cross-post.)

“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.”
~ from "To A Mouse," by Robert Burns

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Viral Load

The viral load is at maximum capacity in this house. I had to keep Wizard home sick from school today. Apparently he has an ear infection, a sinus infection, and a bad throat. Wild Thing has been hacking and coughing for days. Moose vomited twice last week and still has a touch of diarrhea. Yuck Quotient = 100%. WineGuy has been walking around here for weeks with a nasty cough; he refused to take anything or see a doctor, of course.

The fun part is that we are supposed to fly to St. Louis for Thanksgiving tomorrow. My in-laws will be so pleased with the biohazard that is our family right now. When I took Wizard to the pediatrician this morning, I was looking for any medical excuse not to go. However, he said he could get the kid fixed up enough to fly. Damn! I really wanted WineGuy to take WT and Moose to St. Louis and leave me here with Wizard.

I hate traveling at Thanksgiving. That's why we normally have Turkey Day here and go to SIL and BIL's for Passover in the spring. We switched holidays this year to make it easier for them to host their daughter's Bat Mitzvah in late spring.

So, I'm off to the castle tower to pack three suitcases for three boys. Then I get to pack my own, and then I have to run to the bank. I have 4 hours to accomplish all this. Ready, set, go.

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Meme A Day . . .

Keeps the Blog Police away. Even though I spent a lot of time online earlier today, I managed to not post a thing. So, in the wee hours before bed, though I should have retired 30 minutes ago, I'm dashing off a meme I swiped from Kismet.

1. What can I learn about you in under 5 minutes?

I am bright, outspoken, verbose, brutally honest, moody, and occasionally funny.

2. How do you use blogging to build friendships?

Blogging has helped me know some dear friends better. For example, I never knew how funny Old Blue Socks is. She has this wonderful dry, wry wit that I never got to see in person. Blogging gives others a window into the insanity that is my life.

3. Who do you read every day, rain or shine?

Old Blue Socks, The Family Blender, Torrey Pines Reflections, and Are We There Yet?

4. How would you describe your writing style?

Tight narrative with a tendency to be long-winded.

5. If you could spend time with one person who would it be?

My grandmother, Frieda, whom I miss all the time.

6. What don't you write about? Anything considered a no-no in your book?

I do not write about intensely personal issues between me and WineGuy. Nor do I write about very private personal issues or sex.

7. What is your favorite thing that you wrote?

Here are a couple of favorites: Weekend In New England and Die, FPL, Die.

8. Are you and your blogging persona the same person?

Absolutely. I have no time or desire to play games.

9. Have you ever anonymously posted on a site to flame them?

No, that's cowardly.

10. If you had a super power, what would it be?

To turn back time.

I deleted the rest of the meme because that biographical information is found elsewhere in my blog. Maybe tomorrow's post will be more inspired.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I Ate The Whole Thing (Dinner Party, cont.)

Surprisingly enough, I had one comment to my quick Dinner Party post yesterday. MLL thinks that "CIA-trained" means the chef was trained by the Central Intelligence Agency. Bwahahaha, but no. ChefB has an Associate's degree from the Culinary Institute of America, the USA's foremost culinary school.

ChefB and her long-time beau, Dr. J, host dinner parties several times a year. They are coveted invitations, extended only to local foodies who also happen to be their friends or colleagues. We've been part of this clique for several years. Each dinner party has a theme, and last night's was South American food. ChefB and Dr. J took a gourmand's tour of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil last year and were eager to share their experiences with us.

WineGuy and I arrived right on time and were treated to homemade caipirinhas. The caipirinha (kye-pee-REEN-ya) is Brazil's national drink. It's made from sugar-cane brandy, cacha├ža (ka-SHAH-sa), poured over a muddled mixture of fresh lime and sugar. The drink was very potent but delicious.

Eight of us sat down to dinner. For the first course, ChefB roasted and skinned whole piquillo peppers and stuffed them with goat cheese. She served each person one warm cheese-stuffed pepper, drizzled with olive oil and sea salt. It was wonderful: oozy, peppery goodness that slid down the throat. The alcoholic limeyness of the caipirinha was a good complement to the pepper. The next course was a lightly dressed crab salad served in half an avocado. ChefB shredded King crab finely and tossed it with a hint of mayonnaise. She placed two dabs of Thai chili sauce on the plate; the sauce did not enhance the dish at all. Dr. J served an Argentinean Viognier with this course. It was "hiney-wine" ... bad.

The third course was baked empanadas. These were savory pockets of dough filled with highly spiced ground beef, chopped hard-boiled eggs, and olives. ChefB served them with a blend of two commercial chimichurri sauces. Chimichurri is a condiment made with parsley, garlic and olive oil. Two of the guests liked the sauce so much they wanted to sip it. Heathens -- yuck.

We saved our chimichurri sauce to go with the next course: rib-eye steaks grilled to perfection on a charcoal (not gas) grill. Dr. J grilled each piece of "moo" to order, and each steak was done just right. [All meats taste better grilled over charcoal than over gas, IMVHO.] ChefB served a twice-baked potato with the steak. Yummmmm! Cardiac arrest on a plate: a hunk of beef served with a potato mixed with cream, bacon, cheese, and salt. Our hosts served the meat course with an Argentine Malbec wine. I didn't bother to taste it because I didn't like the nose. In fact, I dislike most South American wines for their imbalanced flavors. Guess that makes me a wine-snob.

The night marched on. Our bellies were full. The room was filled with drunken stories and laughter, but dinner was far from over. You see, ChefB's true calling is pastry-making. Dessert was a sonata in two parts: homemade chocolate truffles and Argentinian cake. ChefB presented the truffles with a quiz: what flavor is the filling. The first truffle I ate was coated in a dark chocolate powder. It tasted like black cherries or blackberries or currants. "Nope," said ChefB. "Think outside the box." I strained my alcohol-infused brain and came up with "beets." Wrong again. It was balsamic vinegar! Not that ordinary crap on the supermarket shelf, but 25 year-old aged balsamic straight from Modena, Italy. Sublime. The second truffle was coated with a light chocolate powder and flavored with cinnamon. Again, not your typical McCormick's cinnamon but some extra-fancy Vietnamese Cassia cinnamon that had a strong flavor. Very exotic!

ChefB crowned the evening with the most delicious chocolate cake I've ever had. It was a single-serving moist chocolate cake with alternating layers of meringue and whipped dulce de leche (like soft caramel), and covered with chocolate ganache. Unbelievable! It was orgasmic, over-the-top, divine. But, I was so full, I couldn't finish mine, so WineGuy helped me out.

It was late, and I was exhausted, having driven back from Tampa that morning and run around the rest of the day. We said our thank-yous and good-nights and left the dinner party with three doggy bags: one with truffles "for the boys" (not); one with an extra chocolate cake; and one with WineGuy's left-over steak.

Grab the Rolaids and reflux be damned: bring on the next invitation!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Dinner Party

Just a quick post to say we attended a terrific dinner party this evening. The host is a physician friend of WineGuy, and the hostess is a CIA-trained chef. Too tired to say much more right now, but I'll post details tomorrow. I didn't want to miss a NaBloPoMo day.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Make-Up Whore

I am a make-up whore. I have too much make-up, yet I am still inexorably drawn to any free make-over/make-up session offered to me. Take last night, for example. I finished with my course then found a perfectly awful sushi restaurant in which to eat dinner. I found myself with a couple of hours to kill before "Grey's Anatomy," so I ended up at the mall across from my hotel. I figured I'd replace a singular item of make-up at Saks and go back to the hotel. Wrong! Even though a sales rep. found the powder I sought, the counter was out of a facial scrub I enjoy.

As I was waiting for the woman to tell me the item was backordered for weeks across the country, I wandered over to the perfume counter. Big mistake for a recovering perfume addict. Back when I was single and my parents were younger, they traveled alot. Mom always brought me back perfume from the duty-free stores. I had tons. After a while, I purged all but two or three scents and was content. Then I moved back to Florida and found those fragrances weren't right for me anymore. I've been on the hunt for "just the right thing" in a daytime scent. I seriously contemplated buying Narciso Rodriguez's new fragrance until the neon "SUCKER" sign illuminated on my forehead. Enter Kathleen, a rep. for another cosmetics line, Sisley. She brought me Sisley's new scent, Soir de Lune. That was IT: the fragrance I'd been searching for. It was a more sophisticated, floral version of that old Ultima II scent, Maroc, with a hint of citrus. There's just something about tuberoses and sandalwood that speak to me.

It was 7:20 p.m. The night was young. Kathleen asked whether I had time for some make-up? Does a soap opera addict have time for Luke and Laura's second wedding on "General Hospital"? Damn right, I did! She escorted me to a tall chair by the Sisley counter and proceeded to -- try to -- convert me to the wonders of Sisley cosmetics. I must have sat there for an hour, chatting with her and her associate, Belinda, a funny lady. Kathleen cleansed, toned, primed, moisturized, enhanced, and painted my face. I must admit, I looked very pretty when she finished.

Time to talk turkey. What products did I want to buy? All of them, of course, but I restrained myself. I chose the few (too many) things I felt I should add to my make-up collection. Fortunately, I thought to ask the price of things. The moisturizer I liked? $300. OMG! I leveled with her and said I would never, ever spend that kind of money on make-up. I edited my Sisley purchases to a facial scrub, a lip gloss, a liner, and the smallest perfume ... and new after-shave for WineGuy, and the pressed powder. The bill was slightly obscene, but I had such fun.

Before they would allow me to leave the store, Kathleen and Belinda loaded me up with dozens and dozens of samples of perfume, men's cologne, moisturizers -- enough to fill a small shopping bag. There must be hundreds of dollars of product in there alone. What struck me the most was the friendliness and sincerety of the salespeople at the Saks in Tampa. They couldn't do enough to make me comfortable: a bottle of water, change the make-up color, what-have-you. I never get this kind of attention from the cosmetics employees at Saks in my corner of SW Florida. The sales help there is snooty and barely acknowledges you unless you're a size 0 or you wave your credit card in their faces. I finally waltzed out of Saks at 8:30 p.m.

Guess where I'm going tonight? Back to Saks! Seriously. For more make-up. I am not kidding, but it's just for make-up application before I meet The Tampa Mom, Her Man, and The Lakeland Mom for dinner. Girls, if you read this before I see you tonight, you'd better tell me I look fabulous!

Ta.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Ziggy Day

A Ziggy day is one where it only rains under your umbrella. I had one of those days yesterday. The kids were late getting ready for school. Their rooms were disasters, even though the housekeeper was coming to clean that day. I got them to school and then ran a few errands in preparation for my trip to Tampa, Florida that afternoon. WineGuy kindly offered to have me bring the kids to his office immediately after school so I could make the 160-mile drive in some daylight. In the end, that turned out to be a blessing, although it likely was a burden to him.

The key errand of the morning was a trip to Costco in lieu of my weekly trip to the grocery store. My list of seven items turned into an entire cart of stuff: enough produce to feed the local zoo, meat, bread, books, holiday gifts, b-day gifts, you name it. I hauled everything home, unpacked it and put it away.

Then I jumped on the computer and posted "Prison Talk" because I am NOT going to miss one day during NaBloPoMo. [Not even today, when I am posting, during my lunch break, from the Apple Store in International Plaza in Tampa.] The housekeeper kept asking me, "Are you packed yet?" No, but I finally got around to it ... after Mr. Hillbilly appeared at my front door again, for the 5th day in a row. He is so stealthy. I told him, "Put the swale in the middle and fix my yard, too." He said, "I'll put my own swale on my own yard b/c I'm not going to pay to fix your yard," which turns out to be in violation of code, too, but not cited. We discussed putting the swale in the middle, but that I needed a price. I needed that price last week, but he didn't get one. Suddenly, he's ready to call his dirt-guy and graders lickety-split to get a bid and let's get this done. "No, I'm leaving for Tampa this afternoon, and I have work to do." Yes, jerk-face, some people actually work for a living and some people actually raise their own kids. "I'll have a figure for you in an hour. Can you give me your high limit, and I'll work with that?" he countered. "No, I'm not giving you a decision today." And, I finally, gently told him off: "You've been building this house for 18 months. Not once during that time did you bother to introduce yourselves or talk with us about arranging the swale on the property line. You went ahead and finalized your landscaping and got the county to sign off on it, even though you knew you were in violation of code. Your contractor screwed up. I caught it, and now you're rushing me. You're going to have to wait until I get back. On Saturday. Maybe late in the afternoon." With that, I bid him adieu, ran inside and packed my things.

I get to school and pick up the boys. We drive downtown to Wine Guy's office. He's just finished with patients, so he's ready to take the crew. I kiss everyone goodbye and drive off. Into rush-hour and construction traffic in my town. The first route out of Dodge was bumper-to-bumper traffic. I turned around and chose another route out of town. It moved, but the normally 20-minute ride to the interstate took 30 minutes in heavy traffic. That was the overriding feature of the drive to Tampa: heavy traffic. I hit rush-hour in the next suburban area north for about 30 minutes. Smooth sailing up to the next urban area. More heavy traffic for another 20 minutes. Smooth sailing across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge -- beautiful at night and less stressful driving because you can't see the water. [I have this thing about driving across causeways. That's another post.] Smooth sailing until 3 miles from my exit in Tampa. Traffic crawled, but at least I didn't sit there for long. I navigated my way towards the hotel and nearly had a nervous breakdown: deja vu from taking the Florida Bar exam here 19 years ago. Staying in the hotel next door to the one where I stayed when I first took the Bar. Woogawoogawooga (how else you describe the willies?). I called my BFF and left her a message where I was.

My hotel was just down the street. I parked and checked in. Or, at least I tried to. The agency coordinating travel arrangements for this continuing legal education course insisted I make hotel reservations through them. They mixed up my room request. I was tired, crabby, and in no mood for a crummy room. The clerk and I reached a truce, and I went up to my room. It has a nice view. Of Tampa International Airport.

I called home to check in with the family. No answer. The call went to digital voice mail, which we do not use. Uh oh, problems with the phone. Dial WineGuy's beeper. He called me back, and he was in a foul mood. Phone, Internet, and cable TV were out. Caput. The kids' rooms were trashed. He growled, "Can't you get them to clean their rooms?" Frankly, no unless I threaten them. I said nothing. He complained that Moose was coughing badly, nearly croupy, and he didn't know how to use the new humidifier or the nebulizer. Hello? You do not need an engineering degree to use a humidifier. I told him how to fill it. However, you do need an engineering degree to use the nebulizer, partly because the I have different mask kits and partly because I have the components in 4 different places. That, I admit, was a tactical error. WineGuy was not interested in hearing how to work the neb or having Wizard put it together. We grumped at each other for 2 short minutes and said goodbye.

The next call was to Comcast. My experience was decidedly not Comcastic. It was nearly reminiscent of my dealings with FPL in an earlier post. When I finally got through to someone with a pulse, he told me the earliest service appointment was in three days. NFW! I ripped his ears off and demanded to speak with a supervisor. No supervisor was available, but one called me back a few minutes later. He arranged for an "all-day" appointment today, which meant someone would have to be home all day. I'll be surprised if they show up; they didn't the last time I had an all-day appointment. I'm still waiting for Comcast to call my cell phone, so that I can beep WineGuy to tell him they're coming. I also called the local Technical Operations Supervisor, whom I got to know well during the months of digital cable mess. I may ring him again today. The last call I made was to WineGuy to tell him Comcast was coming out. He said Moose was doing better, and WineGuy sounded better, too. At least I would be able to sleep.

My BFF called me back to chat about Tampa hotels and bar exams. We had a good laugh and called it a night. One of these days, I'm going to post about her and how much she means to me. Maybe around Thanksgiving time. A hot bath, a book, and bed. I slept OK and had room service for breakfast. It's one of those little indulgences to which I treat myself when I travel alone.

The wonderful people at this Apple Store welcomed my poaching this iMac for nearly an hour. Thanks, Apple folks!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Prison Talk

Before we lived in Florida (the second time), we lived in a little town, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Population: approx. 5000. Lewisburg is the county seat of Union County, Pa. The total county population is about 41,000. The total bovine population of the county is over 100,000. More cows than people!

Lewisburg is on the west branch of the Susquehanna River, about 65 miles north of Harrisburg and about 25 miles south of Williamsport, the home of Little League Baseball. Lewisburg is the home of Bucknell University, a small, well-respected liberal arts college. Between Lewisburg Borough and Williamsport thousands of acres of fertile farmland lie against the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains in the Appalachian chain. It is peaceful, pastoral country. It is also the home of some of the country's most notorious, vicious, and violent felons.

A little known fact about Central Pennsylvania is that it's the one of the United States Department of Justice's favorite areas for federal prisons. USP Lewisburg is a maximum-security facility housing all kinds of drug dealers and other violent male offenders. Further up the road is Federal Correctional Facility Allenwood. Allenwood is a 1,000-acre complex that's home to a penitentiary (maximum security), a medium-security facility, and a minimum-security facility that was fondly known as Club Fed. Allenwood is about 20 miles north of Lewisburg. There's another facility in Frackville, about 50 miles southeast. There's a facility near Penn State in Moshannon; that's about an hour west of Lewisburg.

Why am I thinking of prisons today? Because former lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, is being shipped off to serve his sentence today. I am curious where he'll be a "guest" of the DOJ. Forbes reports that Abramoff will serve his time at the Federal Correctional Institute at Cumberland, Maryland. It's a medium-security facility.

Enough prison talk. I wish Mr. Hillbilly would go there.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Tale of the Swale

Another entry in the ongoing saga of The New Neighbors, who shall henceforth be called The Hillbillies.

After three days of meetings and phone calls with county code enforcement, the water engineer, the lawn guys, my BFF (a land-use lawyer), and a developer-friend, I now have all the information needed to tell The Hillbillies to go screw themselves. Long story short: instead of siting and marking the property line before they graded and landscaped, The Hillbillies did it after the fact. Now the property line reveals that they installed their sprinklers and sodded on my side, nor did they provide for drainage on their own lot.

"No, no, no," said the County. "That's not allowed. You must drain your own water."

Strike One.

"No, no, no," said the Water Engineer. "That's not allowed. Your water must drain to the rear of your lot, not to the front, and not on someone else's lot."

Strike Two.

"No, no, no," agreed the lawyers (me and BFF). "They can't install sprinklers on your property. That interferes with your property rights and clouds your title."

Strike Three, Hillbillies. You're O-U-T!!

To cap it all off, Ms. Developer -- a Jersey girl through and through -- exclaimed this morning, "They #$%^-ed up, and they know it. You tell them to fix your lot and grade theirs properly or you'll see them in court." A girl after my own heart. The lawn guys agreed. They took one look at the messed up swale between the two houses and said, "Fix it or your yard will be a swamp."

Newsflash: As I was sitting here typing this post, Mr. Hillbilly came sauntering up my driveway with his son, Tim or Tom or Tad, from his first marriage. He brought my garbage can up to me and rang my doorbell. If I hadn't been sitting here facing the front of my house where he could see me, I would not have answered the door.

Mr. Hillbilly: "Do you have an answer for me?"

Me: "No, sorry, not yet. I just finished speaking with everyone this morning. I'll have to call you tomorrow."

Mr. Hillbilly: "Gee, we'd really like to get going. You know, call the county off."

Me: "I understand your concern, but I need to talk to WineGuy. I won't speak with him until later tonight. I'll call you tomorrow."

Mr. Hillbilly: "OK. Do you have my cell phone number? Here it is."

I wrote down the cell phone number and thought to myself, "Yeah, sucker, I'll call you. When I'm good and ready." Actually, there were a few expletives in there, but I deleted them.

Buh-bye.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Movie Tag

Swiped this idea from someone else, too. I am a cyber-thief!

1. Popcorn or candy?
Movie theater popcorn, totally. No butter, no extra salt, but lots of popcorn. Wild Thing, 55" tall and 55 pounds, can eat an entire bucket of popcorn at the movies. I don't know where he puts it.

2. Name a movie you've been meaning to see forever
"Casablanca". I've seen portions. The one time WineGuy and I went to see it in the theater, I fell asleep. Oops.

3. You are given the power to recall one Oscar: Who loses theirs and to whom?
"Chariots of Fire" loses its Best Picture Oscar in 1981. The award goes to "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

4. Steal one costume from a movie for your wardrobe. Which will it be?
Anything that Rita Hayworth wore in "Gilda," particularly that black strapless dress with the long black gloves.

5. Your favorite film franchise is...
The Indiana Jones movies: "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Indiana Jones And The Temple of Doom," and "Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade." Also, the "Abbott and Costello Meet The Monsters" movies.

6. Invite five movie people over for dinner. Who are they? Why'd you invite them? What do you feed them?
Harrison Ford because he's handsome, brooding and skilled in more than just acting. Barbra Streisand for the voice. Steven Spielberg for his creative genius and for remembering his Jewish roots. Paul Giamatti for his creative genius. Thelma Schoonmaker, editor of Martin Scorcese's films, to learn about her craft and because she's also a Cornellian, like me. If they're coming here to SW Florida, then we feast on local delicacies like stone crabs and snapper and tropical fruits. Otherwise, we feast on sushi because it's my favorite.

7. What is the appropriate punishment for people who answer cell phones in the movie theater?
Electrocution or death. Realistically, the theater should confiscate the patron's phone and hold it until the end of the movie.

8. Choose a female bodyguard: Ripley from Aliens. Mystique from X-Men. Sarah Connor from Terminator 2. The Bride from Kill Bill. Mace from Strange Days.
I choose Ripley.

9. What's the scariest thing you've ever seen in a movie?
Linda Blair's possessed, green face in "The Exorcist". The movie and the book scared the living daylights out of me.

10. Your favorite genre (excluding comedy and drama) is?
Adventure movies, esp. old James Bond films and the Indiana Jones movies. I also love the really old horror flicks like "Dracula," "Frankenstein," and "The Wolfman."

11. You are given the power to greenlight movies at a major studio for one year. How do you wield this power?
I agree with the prevailing opinion of making films out of my favorite books. I'd like to see any of Anne Rice's books made well into a movie. That crummy one with Tom Cruise does not count. More movies with roles for women in their 40s+, more pithy roles for women of color -- not including Rosie Perez, because I can't stand her voice.

12. Bonnie or Clyde?
Bonnie, no question.

13: Who are you tagging to answer this survey:
Old Blue Socks, Torrey Pines Reflections, Are We There Yet?, The Family Blender, The X Facta, and The Purple Moose.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Stealing Ideas

Even though I purchased Mighty Girl's book, No One Cares What You Had For Lunch Today, and read the whole thing, I still find myself motivated by some ideas I've encountered in my daily perusal of NaBloPoMo blogs. When I committed to blogging daily for this month, I also decided it would be a good idea -- neighborly? -- to post a comment daily on someone else's blog. I started with the "Z" blogs and am working my way backwards through the alphabet. I've encountered some interesting folks, btw.

Today was "O" day. I found Lisa Otter's year-long testament to 365 people who shaped her life. [Frankly, I clicked on "otter" because I thought it had something to do with my favorite animal.] What a wonderful idea! Apparently, a guy named Dan started this trend. I'm not going to commit to my 44x365. Instead, I'll tell about a former English teacher who had a profound impact on me.

Harold White: a/k/a "Old Weird Harold" to the ragamuffins at Cabin John Junior High in Potomac, Maryland. He taught at least one of my older brothers, so I was destined to be in his class, too. The man was beyond eccentric and brilliant. He was a master of English grammar and usage. Very "old school." We studied grammar from a Warriner's textbook. We diagrammed sentences as long as paragraphs. He insisted on precision, precision, precision. No dangling participles, no mixed metaphors, no misplaced prepositional phrases. No abbreviations in essays or formal letters. Just tight writing.

He taught me to be precise in the written and spoken word. His lessons carried over into my mastery of Spanish and study of other foreign languages. He showed us that form and substance are important, otherwise you sound -- and look -- like an idiot. Even when I was actively practicing law, I insisted that every contract, pleading, letter, envelope be absolutely perfect before I signed it. My secretaries thought I was nuts. No, just being precise.

Another memory of OWH was the merciless way he teased students. He would never get away with this today, but 30 years ago things were less uptight. I remember him teasing Gary L. about using comics to cover his textbook. "You think you're a funny guy? Come on Gary, stand up and tell us a joke." Forget it. Gary was very shy and turned three shades of red that day. Another time, he called on Danny K. to answer a question. Danny needed to turn around in his chair but couldn't because he got his foot stuck in the rack under another chair. White teased him for 5 minutes or more about not being able to answer the question. Only then did White realize the kid was stuck, and then he teased him for another 5 minutes about that! I laughed so hard that morning that my belly hurt for the rest of the day.

The most indelible memory is diagramming sentences. That nitpicking, daily exercise taught me more about English grammar, parts of speech, and proper modification than anything else. They don't teach diagramming sentences today, but they should.

Mr. White, wherever you are, thank you.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Tribute to Family Veterans

Thanks to a prompt from The Purple Moose , I'd like to pay tribute to a couple of veterans today. For a largely pacifistic family, we've had a few members serve in the U.S. armed forces over the years.

Let me first acknowledge that my very favorite uncle, Ozzie, my father's brother, served in the U.S. Army during WWII. He served active duty in Africa and Italy and came home, thank G-d, to his wife, my favorite aunt, Mary. Uncle Ozzie was a smart, sweet, gentle man, a great husband, a wonderful father. A real mensch. He passed away 9 years ago, and we all still miss him. His absence makes Aunt Mary all the more special.

My dad served in the U.S. Navy at the tail end of WWII. He did his basic training in (I forget where), but there he met a man who would become the father of a close college classmate of mine. Small world. For years, my mother kept on her dresser a black-and-white photo of my dad in his Navy uniform and sailor's cap. He was the most drop-dead handsome, barrel-chested, son-of-a-gun with a Pepsodent-white smile. I think Mom still has the photo. I must ask her for a copy. Dad hasn't been too well lately, but he's doing better.

Two of my older brothers survived the Vietnam War years without getting drafted. However, Doc Bro (son #2) enlisted in the U.S. Navy to pay for his medical school education. He was fortunate to serve time in the Mediterranean on a ship and then at the National Naval Medical Center (Bethesda Naval) for part of his residency. That was fortunate because Bethesda, MD was our hometown. Doc Bro finished his service and went into private practice medicine. He's a great bone doc; he loves it so. Works way too hard, and he knows it. My third older brother missed all the armed conflicts we've seen in the last 20+ years: too young for Vietnam and too old for the Persian Gulf War.

I have family members who have served the Israeli Defense Force with distinction. Four of my oldest brother, The Egg's, eight children were in the Israeli army. His oldest, a son, managed to weasel an exemption. NephewO just finished basic training and is now leading a tank unit. He was a fearless child, and his platoon just commended him as an excellent leader. I pray for him daily. My niece, NieceAv, did a stint with Israeli intelligence. She's beautiful and bright and will be a great lawyer one day. Her twin, NieceTl, served providing child care in national service as does another sister, NieceN. NieceTm also served, although I don't know in what capacity.

So, I salute our family's veterans and those serving active duty in the IDF. I do not approve of Bush's war in Iraq, but I support the troops. They are following orders, as defective as they may be.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Hanukkah Gifts Spoiler

If you're a family member or my BFF, stop reading now. I'm in the mood to talk about children's holiday gifts. Everyone else's kids, that is. I have no idea what we're getting for our boys.

NieceS: 12 year-old girl, beyond brilliant, has discovered fashion. And boys, I guess. She wanted, and will receive, a shirt from her new favorite store, Abercrombie and Fitch. Shopping for the shirt was sheer torture: loud, thumping music; cloyingly sweet fragrance throughout the store; extremely poor lighting; insolent help, and clothes that were ridiculously overpriced and undersized.

NephewB:
Brother of NieceS, is almost 10 years old. Also beyond brilliant: does adult-level, extremely hard Sudoku. Get the picture? The kid has read everything in the library and probably the local bookstore. This year he's getting two board games: Risk and Lost Cities. Wizard chose these for his cousin. Wizard would like to have both for himself, just in case Grandma and Pop-pop are reading this.

NephewA: Also cousin to S&B, is a 13 year-old boy. He is a really nice kid and very bright. I have bought him books in the past, but I want to choose something different. We got him an iPod Nano for his Bar Mitzvah this year. I'm thinking another iTunes gift card or maybe that Lost Cities game.

NieceR: Sister of NephewA and not the scholar he is. She's 11 years old and quite into girly stuff. A real social butterfly. I found a set of Sisters Grimm novels at Target a few weeks ago. They look like great stories about the madcap adventures of two sisters descended from the famous Brothers Grimm.

NieceAr: A 15 year-old superstar. She's an athlete, an accomplished singer and a brilliant student. I'm going to make my life easier and buy her the same kind of A&F shirt I got for NieceS. These girls are not related, thank goodness.

NieceL: Sister to NieceAr. A 12 year-old girl with an extraordinary brain and a great singing voice. I'm stumped! Help me out here, people. She'll be Bat Mitzvahed in June 2007, and we'll get her an iPod Nano then.

NephewE: The E-Man is 9.5 years old and brother of NieceAr and NieceL. Also beyond brilliant and reminds me a lot of Wizard, although less mature. He's getting Battleship Command, which looked great in the store. However, the reviews on Amazon are less than stellar. Oh well, I hope he likes it. He and his brother will share the new "Over The Hedge" DVD.

NephewJ: Brother of E-man and the two sisters, is almost 8 years old. He's just a few months older than Wild Thing. He is also a brilliant child, but I don't know him as well. I figure he'll like what WT likes. I got him the new "Cars" DVD.

NieceAl: Is almost 15 years-old. She's cousin to NieceAr (and sibs) and is three months younger than her. This one is a completely different child. An average student, an avid theater buff, a sweet child. I'm thinking of getting her a shirt from A&F, too, although she's not really into clothes. I may have to email her older sister for ideas.

FriendA: Another 15 year-old, a boy who's the son of my BFF. Another brilliant talented kid. He just had a birthday, so the iTunes gift card I just bought will be his b-day present. No idea what to get him for Hanukkah. This kid has everything, but he's also a sports nut. Any ideas?

FriendE: Sister of FriendA. She's a 9 year-old girl, who's a real tomboy. I got her the same set of Sisters Grimm books I bought for NieceR.

And then there are my own children, who did not receive Hanukkah presents from us last year. Why? Because they weren't taking care of their things. Because the younger two destroyed stuff in the house and ruined toys. Because Wizard was going through a horrendous lie-and-manipulate stage and was intolerable. I wasn't going to buy them presents again this year, because WineGuy bitches that the boys "have too much stuff, don't take care of anything, don't need any more crap" etc. However, WineGuy's mother called and instructed me to buy presents for the boys and send here the bill. What to do ... what to do.

What are the children you know getting for the holidays?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

New Neighbors

For the last 15 months, "these people" have been building a house next door to us. I say "these people" b/c, in that time, neither of the owners ever came to introduce themselves, to apologize for the noise and inconvenience we would experience, or to leave a phone number if there ever were a problem. Not once. Ever. In the last 15 months. Their GC came over and gave me his number; he's been pretty nice. I've had a conversation or two in the last month with their landscaper; he was nice.

Two weeks ago, I saw them grading the lot in order to lay sod. I asked the GC and the landscaper, "Are you sure you've got the grading right? Are you sure this is being done in accordance with county code?" Typical male contractor's reply, "Yeah, yeah, sure, sure, lad
y, we got it." I wasn't convinced, so I called the manager of our homeowner's association. He said call the county. I called County Code Enforcement, and they said they would send out an inspector. Well, it must have taken Code Enforcement 2 weeks to get here b/c this morning all hell breaks loose.

I'm unloading my groceries, and three men approach me in my garage. Scared the crap out of me. Suddenly, Mr. New Neighbor
is there, flashing a big smile, pumping my hand, "nicetameetcha". I introduce myself and say hello to the GC and the landscaper. Instinctively I knew what was coming. "A landscaping issue?" I queried. There's a problem with the swale between the 2 yards, and, basically, it's my problem and my dollar. Instead of plotting the property line weeks ago -- before they graded, sodded and landscaped the entire acre -- they just did it this week.

Turns out the swale, which they graded and sodded last week, is
entirely on my property. They can either excavate half their side yard and re-grade their yard so it drains properly (and screw mine), or I can agree to have them re-grade just the swale and have both yards drain via my property. If I choose the former, I'm going to have to bring in probably 6 dump trucks' worth of fill dirt and have the whole side of my lot re-graded. Wouldn't be a bad thing b/c then I could finally landscape our lot properly. Think $$$$$. If I choose the second option, I am then responsible to the local water management district for the two lots' proper drainage.

Oh, and by the way, they need an answer by this Monday because this is holding up their Certificate of Occupancy. Then they trot out Mrs. New Neighbor, wife #2 and 13 weeks' pregnant with fertility triplets, to say they really, really, really want to move out of their villa b/c it's just too cramped with them and their 4 y.o son. She's barely nice. I try to be nice, but I'm just not that into it.

But that's not all. Their landscaper -- not them -- cam
e to me last week and asked to remove 3 big (80') pine trees from my property b/c they were a hurricane hazard to both houses. They offered to replace them with some shade trees, which they did. We need those trees to block THE PLAYHOUSE FROM HELL. These hillbillies installed freakin' Country Bear Jamboree in their backyard. Every time I look out my family room windows, I see this giant, blue playhouse, perched atop a shanty and a G-d-damned 6' tall bear.I saw a picture of this #$%^! thing in last month's Costco magazine; it was selling for $9000. Who the hell spends $9000 on a playhouse? Sam's Club sells the playhouse for over $5500, not including delivery or installation; the bear retails for $2500. The awful thing is that Moose is inexorably drawn to TPFH.

I just called my lawn and landscaping guys. They need to come advise me what to do. I would desperately love to re-landscape my yard. It was done poorly and incorrectly to begin with. I can only imagine what a total re-do will cost. Way more than WineGuy will ever agree to spend. I sure wish he had a patient in the landscaping biz.

Look up the definition of "obdurate". You'll see my picture there.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Disrespect

Note to self: do not leave blogging until the end of the evening. Write during daylight hours.

Not a great day today. I attended a charity luncheon as someone's guest. She couldn't make it b/c her new baby was hospitalized with a fever. I met some other friends there. All the women were skinny bitches in size 0 designer clothing. Although I was dressed, made-up and jeweled well, I felt like a hippo. Someone even mistook me for some fat, snotty realtor who always wears a hat. [Hats in the garden was the theme of the luncheon.] Lovely.

After the luncheon I rushed home to change clothes and write a thank-you note to the (absent) hostess. I picked the boys up at school and problems with Wizard the whole way home. He was being nasty and disrespectful. Wild Thing followed suit. Moose fell asleep on the way home. Once home, Wizard continued to be a problem, so I told him to sit outside until he could act nicely. He tried to jam the garage door as it closed. The little (big) snot.

I finally got WT and Moose started on their homework. This required my full, divided attention. Yes, "divided attention" b/c I had to direct Moose in handwriting practice and keep reminding WT to do his work. Wizard kept interrupting us asking me to use the computer to type up an assignment. I made him wait. I finally got to him well into the time I should have been making dinner, so he was petulant.

Dinner was the next problem. I expected to reheat some chicken and pasta I made last night. There was tons left over when I left for chorale rehearsal. I look in the container and see approx. one serving. Someone ate nearly the whole G-d damn thing. It had to be WineGuy, who wasn't supposed to be eating b/c he's on another one of his crazy-ass diets. Don't even get me started on that. It's an entirely different post. So, someone was going to get leftover baked chicken and a little pasta and someone else was getting grilled cheese and tomato soup. I gave WT the choice since he worked so hard on his schoolwork today: grilled cheese and soup. I heated up the leftovers first and served them to Wizard, who promptly turned his nose at the food. He was still fuming and having a silent tantrum -- think Edvard Munch's "The Scream" -- as I served WT and Moose their dinner. Wizard then launched himself into a full-blown passive-aggressive fit: not eating, mumbling, crying, huffing and puffing.

"Get out." I said. "You don't want to eat good food that I made? Then get the hell out of this house." He refused until I got in his face and sent him out the front door. He comes back in a few minutes later and apologizes. Liar. Still tantrumming. WineGuy is sitting reading the newspaper, while I'm trying to corral 3 kids to eat dinner and try to eat something myself. I turned to WineGuy and said, "Help me out now!" He finally gets up to deal with Wizard. In the meantime, WT and Moose finished their dinner, had some fruit and some Halloween candy. They went upstairs, brushed their teeth and changed into pajamas so they could watch "America's Funniest Home Videos". Good boys. I stayed away from the kitchen thinking WineGuy was talking with Wizard and clearing things up.

We watch the videos in my room while WineGuy is still reading the papers and watching election coverage on TV. Wizard comes in and sincerely apologizes. I send WT and Moose to say good-night to their dad and go to bed. Wizard now wants to talk to me. He says I've been ignoring him and playing favorites with his younger brothers. He doesn't like it. I set him straight, reminding him how he sucked the life out of me and every other member of this family for months on end earlier this year with his not doing schoolwork and lying about it and everything else to everyone. I told him that WT needs a lot of help with his homework right now, and that's a priority. Moose also needs lots of guidance with his work, too. Wizard should work independently. I think he got the point. He then asked to finish typing his assignment on the computer, and I consented.

20 minutes later, I shoo Wizard upstairs to bed. [Notice the spouse's complete lack of assistance in bedtime tasks? A whole other issue.] Then I hear WT banging something in his room. Loudly. The whole ceiling is shaking. WineGuy asks, "What's he doing?" I reply, "I don't know." I'm thinking, "Get off your butt and go upstairs to find out." That doesn't happen. Wizard comes back downstairs and complains that his brothers are bouncing around and not in bed. WineGuy finally gets up and hollers for WT to get downstairs. WT takes his sweet time, further enfuriating us. He finally shows up. We give him an instruction to do something, and he refuses. Instruction again; refuses again. This happens once more.

Let me tell you something: we expect absolute obedience from our children. Saying no is not an option. WineGuy now tells WT to go outside until he's ready to calm down and go to bed. WT refuses. WineGuy drags him out on to the lanai. WT is screaming bloody murder. I haul him back inside, ready to lose it. WineGuy then screams at WT, who finally listens. WineGuy then orders Wizard downstairs and bellows at Wizard, who deserved it. Wizard got the message loud and clear. I hope WT did, too. Now, there is no TV or computer for them for one week. I told Wizard there will be no computer for school assignments either. He'll have to tell his teachers he does not have access to a computer at home.

I'm convinced most of this behavior is a repetition or reflection of what they hear at school: rich kids acting entitled to the world and not respecting anyone or anything. Whatever our faults are, WineGuy and I are respectful to each other, even though we disagree on some things.

Disrespect is a dish best served not at all.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Elections, briefly

Some small good news for Dems from Florida: Bill Nelson defeated Katherine Harris for the U.S. Senate seat. Ron Klein beat Clay Shaw for the U.S. House seat along coastal Broward and Palm Beach counties. Shaw had held that seat for years and years and was actually projected to retain the seat. I guess the condo commandos came out in force for "the tribe". ;-)

Yet, and still, Florida remains a red state. Charlie Crist won the governor's race. I didn't vote for him b/c I don't like his running mate. I didn't want to vote for the Democratic candidate, Jim Davis, either b/c I personally know his running mate, Darryl Jones, and I really don't like him. I went to law school with Jones. He was in my year, my class and my section. I knew him well. He was slick and manipulative, and it killed me to cast a vote for him, despite his being a Democrat. Oh well. Hopefully, his political career is over.

Now, if my friend, Ruben King-Shaw, Jr., ever runs for office, I'd support his campaign financially and cast a vote for him. I don't know if Ruben has political aspirations, but he is one brilliant, talented, man.

Update: Dems take control of the House. Woohoo! Nancy Pelosi as Speaker ... hmmm. I wonder if she'll be able to build bi-partisan support. Who ever would have predicted that the nail-biters would be the Virginia and Montana Senate races. I heard on the news this morning that there were some vote tabulation problems in Fairfax County, Va. (suburb of DC). That seems quite unusual b/c those folks are always on the ball. Apparently there were software problems with the voting machines in Montana. When they finally resolved the glitches, the machines set their counters back to zero. I guess they're hand-counting votes now.

The current question: what is your opinion of electronic voting? Should a voter receive a printed receipt of her vote? Some jurisdictions allow early voting (in person) -- should they all? Or, should all jurisdictions provide for mail-in ballots, other than absentee?

Speak up!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Books That Made a Difference

It took me all day to come up with a topic to write about today. I finally came up with two and decided on this one. What books have you read that have made a difference in your life?

For me, there are two: Gift From The Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh and The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion. I read Lindbergh's book years ago and have probably re-read it once since. I just finished Didion's book and was so moved by it. Lindbergh's book helped me appreciate what I had in life and take the time to be happy with my world. Didion's book is a testament to the endurance of love. She describes how she coped with her husband, John Dunne's, sudden death and the subsequent illness of her daughter. It's about coming to terms with life and death and getting on with one's life.

I'm a voracious reader, but I do not re-read books. Gift From The Sea and The Year of Magical Thinking have had such lasting effect on me that I will read them yet again.
I might add Mitch Albom's Five People You Meet In Heaven to that list.

What books are on your list?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

eBay Annoyances

Like half the rest of the world, I've been shopping on eBay for years. I don't buy a lot of stuff, but I've had good luck with all my orders until now. About a month ago, I placed an order for 2 Yu-gi-oh cards that Wizard wanted as a reward for a good report card. I found the cards he wanted, bid on them, and won the bid. I never heard from the seller, so I sent him a message twice. Never heard anything, so I went ahead to PayPal and paid for the cards. To date, I still haven't received them or heard a single thing from the seller. Now what? Guess I'll have to file a complaint with eBay, call the credit card co. and charge-back the charge and get into a hassle. Why can't people just do what they're supposed to do?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Upcoming Elections

Here in the nauseatingly reddest part of the red State of Florida -- Republican gubernatorial candidate, Charlie Crist, called it "Republican heaven" -- early voting closes today. I was extremely glad to see long lines out the door of the public library -- lots of people eager to vote. However, it appeared very few of them did their homework. We have an 18-page ballot: lots of judicial elections and retention elections, several constitutional amendments and county referenda. I can't imagine going into that ballot cold, without having read and thought about my vote.

At any rate, I was unable to go up to Sarasota last week for a live taping of NPR's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," the news quiz show. We listened to it this morning, and I wanted to share a couple of the panelists' humorous predictions for the mid-term elections.

Roxanne Roberts predicts that Katherine Harris will lose the Senate election and that Harris and Mark Foley will establish the Former Florida Representatives' Defamation League. Bwahahaha.

Paula Poundstone predicts that, for a change, all of Florida's votes will be tallied accurately. So. Not. Funny. In a related story, the Collier County Supervisor of Elections claims that this Tuesday, unlike in the primaries earlier this year, the county's votes will be tabulated efficiently and in a timely manner.

Regardless of my politics, get out there on Tuesday and cast your vote for yours.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Halloween Treats?

The boys came home from trick-or-treating with buckets overflowing with goodies. There is lots of chocolate, fruit candies, sour candies, etc. But, I found a few really strange "treats" in the stash:
  • sugarless hard candy
  • granola bar
  • a few pieces of that nasty bulk Brach candy from the grocery store
  • packet of green Nestea, made with Splenda
... and the all-time strangest thing: a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Huh? Wild Thing actually chose that one from the goody bin in front of a neighbor's house. I don't know what bothers me more: that someone put this out as a treat or that my kid was actually dumb enough to take it. Things that make you go "hmmm'.

Despite the mountains of chocolate here, I find I'm raiding their buckets mostly for those Sweet Tarts that are packaged to look like Smarties. I liked Smarties a lot, but I love Sweet Tarts.

What's your favorite Halloween candy?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Blue

Not color. Mood. Feeling very depressed today. Not sure why, although I suspect it's hormones. No one ever tells women that hormonal surges and mood swings worsen significantly after age 40. I'm sure it's heightened by some muggy, dreary, cloudy, drizzly weather around here.

This morning I attended a brunch for the mothers of Pre-K children at our school. The house was on the bay, beautifully decorated; the interiors looked professionally done. Everything was immaculate. It made my house look like a slum, with its damaged walls, peeling paint, and non-existent landscaping. All the moms there were slim and beautiful, well-dressed, made-up. I had an OK time chatting with the women, most of whom I knew. When I left, I thought, "I used to be beautiful, but I'm not anymore. I used to care about dressing well and wearing make-up, but I don't anymore. I used to be young and vibrant, but now I'm a hag."

Why do I feel and act like a hag?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

NaBloPoMo

I know. You looked at the title and said, "What?" It stands for National Blog Posting Month. One of The Moms put out the challenge to us bloggers, so I bit. I'm supposed to post something everyday for the month of November. Hopefully, I'll have something meaningful, or at least interesting, to say.

Wizard got back from science camp just fine. He seems to have returned without my flashlight but with everything else and a pound of sand, too. My floors were a nightmare. I don't know where he went wading, but his sneakers were rank: stinky, smelly, nasty, polluted the whole house. I had him wash them outside with a hose and spray them repeatedly with Lysol. They are still a biohazard. Apparently his room is, too, according to my housekeeper. He had a great time. He went snorkeling, wading at night, swimming in the mangroves. He caught a spiny lobster and saw an eagle ray. I need to have his photos developed.

The other kids are doing well. Wizard's first report card of the year was all A's, one B+, and very good marks for effort. Wild Thing's report card was filled with "M"s, as in "meets expectations." There were quite a few "N"s, needs work, on everything important like following directions, editing your work, writing neatly, and using punctuation. WT did get a few "E"s (exceeds expectations) for things like conduct and kindness, but not self-control. I'm so happy we're spending $XXXXX to send him to private school. Moose didn't get a report card yet. I need to schedule the meeting with the teacher. However, Mr. Moose is now reading. At age 4. Really reading! Amazing kid.

WineGuy and I just "celebrated" our 14th wedding anniversary on Halloween. It was more like "marked": we did the t-or-t thing with the kids, passed out a ton of candy, and opened cards after I got home from a chorale rehearsal. He did, as usual, buy a cute card which he made hilarious with his editorial comments. Mine are never as funny as his.

I shouldn't write too much today, since I'll need something to say tomorrow.