Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Year New Job and a Goodie Bag!

Up until November I was getting severance pay from GM, and when that stopped I applied for unemployment benefits, since I'm eligible. Part of that process is to fill in a resume-type questionnaire in the Michigan Works job database. Shortly after I did that I started getting calls from recruiters who were looking for Instructional Designers, which is the title of the job I was doing for the last year and a half that I was with GM.

I went on an interview, and I thought that it went well but then didn't hear back about it for over 2 weeks. Then the recruiter called and said they were doing some shuffling and wanted to interview me again, with different people. So I put on my black suit and drove all the way to Troy for the second time. This one went well also. The recruiter called the next day to let me know they were offering me the job.

I had to take a drug test (they mailed my pee to Idaho!) and fill out a bunch of paperwork but now everything is a go to start on January 5. I like it that I've had a nice long time of knowing that I have a job but not needing to go and do it yet. The pressure was off, what a Christmas present!

I feel like I am lucky to have this all happen so easily. I have many engineering colleagues who have been out of a job and searching hard for a long time. The word is that there aren't very many jobs in that field right now in this area, and that the competition for them is fierce. So my recent, kind of random foray into the field of Training Development might be the very best thing that could have happened.

If I want to torture myself I could second guess what it would have been like if I'd stayed at GM. I heard they are going to be getting raises soon, and I had a lot of vacation days and other perks built up after all my time there. But I knew that I really wanted to leave and I just got paid to have the most wonderful spring, summer and fall, and the opportunities for that don't come along very often either.

So this new job is temporary (6 months) and the pay is much less than I had worked up to at GM. I will be a "contractor" to the company I will be working at, and get paid for overtime but not for holidays or vacations.

If I were to do a straight comparison with where I would like to be in my career at this point in my life, this job offer would seem like a major disappointment. But given the circumstances, and the economy, maybe it is more like a blessing.

Also, I was really feeling like I wanted to go to work. Once the kids got launched back in school, I liked being at home but I started to realize that I wasn't learning new things or meeting new people anymore. As much as I enjoy the low stress of not commuting and having enough time to keep up with things around the house, I started to feel like I should be going somewhere. I started noticing that everyone else seemed to be going someplace and doing something important, and I was just making the beds and filling up the dishwasher every day. I was ready.

So on January 5 I will start this new assignment. I get to go someplace. Learn new things and meet new people. And...today when I went to the consulting company to fill out the paperwork, they gave me a goodie bag! I LOVE goodie bags!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Time Out

A few months ago both of my two watches stopped working. Or, more accurately, their batteries ran out. In the past I have had a heckuva time trying to get new watch batteries, so I put it on my to-do list and then started living a life of not always knowing what time it is.

Since I left work, I have found that I don't really need to know. I'm no longer rushing to meetings or stressing to get things done, or wondering how long until I get to go home. And I went through the summer without getting that obnoxious tan line on my wrist that is impossible to cover up when I want to dress up without the watch as part of the ensemble. Thick bracelets?

Well I've finally been off long enough to reach the lower echelons of my to-do list, so I plopped the watches into a plastic baggie and put it in my purse.

Since I live out here at the edges of civilization, the most frequent place I go is our local Meijers. They sell watches, and batteries, but refuse to open the watches up to replace them. They are afraid of getting blamed for damaging them.

I have tried, and I cannot get the backs of the watches open myself. Maybe there is some magic secret trick to this but I don't know it. Please share if you do.

Once I ventured further from home I also asked at Target and some jewelry places at the local mall. Wouldn't touch it.

I stared to do mental calculations. How many people in the world own watches that have batteries that die after two years or less, and where are they all going to get them replaced? Do they just give up and buy new ones, giving the watch-making industry incentive to continue to design inpenetrable backplates?

Then last week I was at the Somerset Collection (mall) to meet some friends for lunch. I got there early and went to Macy's, where they would typically sell the kinds of watches I have. (Anne Klein) The man at the sprawling watch counter told me that they don't do that, but he did offer the name of some place that they go, some jeweler out in Rochester. Not helpful.

As I continued to browse and shop around the mall (collection) I had to keep digging my cell phone out to check the time, so I wouldn't miss our meeting time for lunch. Somehow it always ended up underneath the baggie of watches.

I made it over to PF Chengs a little early, so I walked on past and encountered a store with a giant watch-face on the front of it. Since the battery issue was now on the top of my mind, I ventured inside. The place was gleaming with a sort of reverent hush. It was a little like walking into a grand church. There was an image of a watch face projected onto the ground from some unseen source, and many rows of glass cabinets with glittering watches artfully displayed.

One of the very polite salespersons asked if he could help me, and, feeling lucky, I asked if they replaced watch batteries there.

"Yes, we do." he told me and I think I jolted a little in surprise. "It costs $15 each." I calculated that the $30 probably exceeded the current value of my two watches, but not the cost to replace them. I pulled the baggie out of my purse and handed it over.

After lunch I went back in there to pick them up. The man pulled out this velvet folder and gracefully laid out the two crumply old watches for me to inspect. I leaned over and peered at them. Yes, the second hands were moving around once again.

I paid the man and asked for something to put them in, since I didn't know where that baggie went. As he looked for an envelope, I suddenly tuned in to the conversation going on between another salesperson and a customer standing nearby.

"That's an extra thousand with the diamonds." The customer was holding two watches, trying to decide. This isn't my usual kind of store.

So now I have the time of day ready on my wrist whenever I should desire to look at it. But there was still something I was wondering about.

I looked up the name of the store on that envelope, TOURNEAU. The website shows the prices for those fancy watches I was in the presence of, you can search them by price in ranges of up to $10,000+.

Then I saw it: "Free Lifetime Battery Replacement." It's true that you get what you pay for.

Wreck the Halls

FOTF (friend of the family) artist Tom Allen is doing his hilarious 12 days of Christmas where he posts photos of Christmas trinkets found at the thrift store. Hard to explain, you'll just have to see for yourself.

Go here:


Thursday, December 10, 2009

What a Day

In the mornings I send the boys off to the bus stop together. Skinny little Jeffrey will be zipped up into his winter coat with his enormous backpack stacked with books weighing down over both shoulders and buckled around his waist, and his large trombone case slung on top of all that. He staggers along like an ant carrying a load that quite possibly exceeds his own body weight. Tim, meanwhile, saunters along with his arms swinging by his sides, hands empty and free.

Yes, I have tried to get Tim to help out his little brother, and he did, once.

What gets me is how their appearance is such an accurate analogy for their school experiences.

Jeffrey has a lot of homework every night and has to work hard to get it all done. Tim almost never has any work to do at home. Tim happened to have what appeared to be an easy schedule the first semester. I was pleased when he requested a more difficult set of social studies classes for the second and third terms. I want him to have to work hard in school because I think that is a good quality to learn. And it would help justify my explanations to Jeff that his efforts in Middle School will pay off when he gets to High School and the classes get really challenging.

Well now Tim is a week into the new semester with his challenging schedule and still isn't bringing any work home. I quizzed Tim about what he did in each class today, and here is what he said:

Biology - colored. (something about filling in a diagram of an eye)

Band - went through Christmas music for the concert.

Economics - played a game

Spanish II - did a crossword puzzle (the words were Spanish)

Language Arts - watched a movie

Jeff complained that Tim's day sounded a lot like Kindergarten. I had to agree.

Friday, December 4, 2009

What's for lunch?

Today the boys have the day off from school. Since this is a good opportunity to diverge from the usual lunch choices, I made tuna fish sandwiches, something we hardly ever have.

We were sitting at the kitchen table eating them when Missy the Cat came marching into the room, her little nose held high in the air, sniffing like crazy. She looked up at Jeffrey eating his sandwich, and then suddenly swung around and stared into the goldfish bowl that she is always trying to get into. Once she saw that the fish were in there, she went back to her sniffing and walking around.

Silly cat.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Those Crazy Cranes

Lest you fret that Melinda2Mindy has gone all commercial on you, I thought that today I would post something that I haven't mentioned for a while.

Yesterday was yet another better-than-average weather day for November in Michigan. Which, if I may complain for a moment, does not to me make up for the worse-than-average weather we had in August. There's not a whole lot to do outside here in November, but when it's 50 degrees at the beach it puts a real clinker in the enjoyment. (OK, I'm done, just had to put that out there for Mother Nature in case she's reading this too.)

Anyways, the sun was shining so brightly on the water (not ice yet!) and the cranes were standing right out back behind our house, perfectly framed in our kitchen window. I have yet to get past my fascination with looking these giant birds. They make me feel privileged to have to have the opportunity.

So I grabbed my camera and went out there and took these nice close-up pictures. Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Winner of the Pie Dish

The random drawing for the winner of the pie dish has taken place. For those of you who are interested in fairness, you will like to know that I printed the eligible comments, cut them into strips, folded the strips into little squares, and had Jeffrey pick one from the pile. And he picked...Aunt Kathy! So a box from cookware.com should be arriving in Fort Lauderdale sometime soon. Thanks to everyone who participated, this was fun.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pie Dish Giveaway!

You wouldn't think that someone who doesn't know much about cooking would write about it very often, but apparently I have. Somehow, the people from cookware.com found my blog and decided that it would be an appropriate place to host a giveaway of something from their collections. Imagine that!

I looked back and I guess I have written about food and cooking quite a bit. Between describing my own attempts, working with the kids at theirs, or just ranting about the changes to Sanders Bumpy Cake, it has added up.

Which makes sense if you think about it. Food is such a central part of our lives, of course we are talking about it in addition to preparing it and eating it. (I might have been doing a bit too much of that last one lately!) And, as I've mentioned before, cakes are at the heart of just about every celebration and event we seem to have. I've got the pictures to prove it!

Also, cakes can also be funny! If you haven't already, check out cakewrecks.com. You will sit there at your computer laughing at cakes. Hilarious.

So for this giveaway I got to pick out one fabulous item for one of you lucky readers to WIN. I selected this adorable covered apple pie dish. Just think how awesome you would look walking into a party holding this cutie, regardless of the appearance of whatever lurks inside. It would also look good as a decoration in your kitchen. Because I said so. You know you want it.

All you have to do is leave a comment on this post, and from those I will randomly select a winner. You could write about a favorite cake or food of yours, provide a recipe, or just say hi. (US and Canada only) I'll pick the winner at the end of the month, Monday, November 30. Good luck!

Thanks to Jamie from CSN stores for making this happen. Check out their sites for Christmas Decorations and Dining Room Furniture

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A happy little video to watch

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What to do about Jeffrey

Last night I went to Parent-Teacher conferences at Jeffrey's Middle school. He seems to be doing really well and I was looking forward to his teachers telling me all about it.

They had all the teachers lined up at tables in the gym, and the first one I got to was the teacher he has for both Science and Social Studies. Since she has him in two classes she has probably gotten to know him pretty well, and he has a solid A in both classes. This should be a good one, I thought.

She was sitting there looking prim and proper in a tidy little suit, and I smiled big as I walked up and proudly announced to her that I am Jeffrey's mother.

"Oh, Jeffrey!" she said. "What are we going to do about Jeffrey?" This was not what I was expecting to hear.

"What do you mean?" I cautiously inquired.

"He's obviously very intelligent." Normally those are words I love to hear, but she wasn't making it sound good. "I call him the 'absent minded professor.' He can't seem to focus."

I asked her for an example of what she was talking about, and she showed me his grades so far. He had A's for every test and assignment, except for five Cs.

She tapped at them with her pen. "Those were LATE assignments, five is a very high number."

I pointed out that he still received As for the quarter. She said "I know, the lates don't really affect the overall grades very much." She seemed a bit disappointed about that.

I know that Jeffrey did all of his homework as it was assigned, but he didn't always get it turned in, either because he forgets or it gets mixed up in the jumble of doodles and papers he carries with him. I told her that I would see to it that Jeffrey gets more organized, and I'll try harder to work with him to turn things in on time. Then she went on:

"The real problem with Jeffrey is that he doesn't seem like he's paying attention. He usually has a spacey look on his face, and he often puts his head down on his desk as if he's sleeping. I try to catch him by calling on him to answer questions, but he always gets it right."

I felt like I should offer something here. "So, what you'd like is for Jeffrey to look more alert during class?"

She agreed, and then looked at me expectantly.

So I said "I will work with Jeffrey to help him look more like he's paying attention."

She seemed pleased with that and I thanked her and went on my way. Except...I have no idea for how I can help him to do that. Out of my two sons, he is already the perkier one. I decided I would at least mention it to him, and remind him before school, that he needs to sit up and look straight at the teacher when she's talking. I figured that maybe we could practice, somehow, like we did for his career project speech. Maybe I could play a CD of some slow music, like they use at the end of yoga class, while he looks in the mirror and tries out alertness expressions. Too bad he's not a girl, I could put his hair into really tight braids so his eyes were stretched open. I wondered if I could blame his food allergies for this. Was his restricted diet causing daytime lethargy? Does he need to eat more protein? Maybe I should introduce coffee to his diet in the morning. Or expresso. Should he take Ritalin? Everyone else is.

Well the next morning I didn't get to try out any of my ideas because for the first time ever the alarms didn't go off and our entire family overslept by an hour. Jeffrey got whisked out of bed in confusion, handed a pop tart and zipped away in the car with Larry while I got everything together to drive Tim. Poor Jeff probably wasn't looking very awake at all today.

And then just now I saw something over on the kitchen counter. I'm pretty sure it's his Social Studies homework.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Somewhere over the rainbow way up high

There's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby

Last night they were showing "The Wizard of Oz" on cable, and I got the boys to sit and watch it with me by allowing them to stay up late. They have seen the movie in bits and pieces but we've never actually sat and watched it from beginning to end, together.

Tim sprawled on the loveseat with Missy perched on the back, and Jeffrey and I snuggled on the couch with our bowl of microwave popcorn. I told them how when I was young they would only show this movie on TV once a year, and it was a big event because there wasn't very much good to watch back then. I described to them how my sisters and I would pile pillows on the floor in front of our large console TV that was low to the ground and make air-popped popcorn to watch it.

This movie has become so iconic that I've forgotten some of the little surprises in there when you're seeing it through fresh eyes. I'd smile when they would say things like:

"Isn't the wizard the same as the fortune teller?"
"Hey, we played that song 'Over the Rainbow' for our band concert in 7th grade!"
"Those are the ruby slippers we saw in the Smithsonian this summer!"
"Flying monkeys - cool!"
"The balloon got away! Now how's she going to get home?"

They were curious about how old the movie was, and it being close to the invention of color in films. I told them that came out in 1939.
"Guess who was born in 1940?"
"Grandma!" Tim figured that out first, and then,
"Hey, do you think this movie is the reason they named her Dorothy?"

I said that it probably was. I liked the idea of them imagining their Grandma as a baby, and thinking about their great-grandparents, who they've never met, naming her.

The whole movie is just so good, in so many ways, every time you see it, and it was wonderful seeing it with them, and of course reinforcing that idea that "there's no place like home."

Just as the movie was winding to its close, I told the boys to promise me that someday they will watch this movie with their own children, and remember the time that we sat here in the year 2009, sitting on our couches watching it on our flat-screen TV, controlling the commercials with the DVR remote, and streaming the sound through the stereo speakers.

Jeff said "Sure, but by then they will be watching it with strap-on virtual helmets or something! And chewing popcorn flavored gum!" We all took a moment to try to visualize what the future might hold. There's no way to know. The only thing for sure is that this movie will still be around.

Somewhere, over the rainbow, skies are blue. And the dreams that you dare to dream Really do come true.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Go to Scout

My cousin Pammy has opened a new store in Royal Oak. You can read about it here, or go check it out in person. She always has the best stuff.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Nanner Muffins

After I complained on FB about how my attempt to make banana bread resulted in a pile of mush, my friend Darrin sent me this:

Nanner Muffins - Grandma McAlister's Recipe

OK so this is a recipe I got from my Mom's Mom (my Grandma). She used to make these for all the grandkids for their birthdays. It took Sue and I about 2 years to make them "exactly" like her since the recipe was all in "pinches and dashes and handfuls" of ingredients. Don't have Bananas? Chop up apples and use apple sauce instead and add a "dash" of cinnamon.
Don't throw away any bananas - if they turn too brown for the kids (or you) to eat - pop them in the freezer and save them for when you want to make these muffins. Just pop them in the microwave long enough to soften the skin and thaw the inside a bit.
So... here it is...

2 1/4 Cups flour
3/4 Cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 Cup shortening or margarine
1 1/2 Cup mashed bananas (brown are best - use about 2 large or 3 smaller nanners - don't through any away)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Put in paper muffin cups in a muffin tin or just a greased muffin tin and bake at 375 for about 20 minutes (until browned on top). Remove and cool for a few minutes then place in a tupperware (or anything to cover them and keep the moisture in... this is part of the secret and the reason it took 2 years)

Good Luck! - If they are good, you owe me a muffin!

I thought it was cute that he called his Grandma "Nanner" but then then I thought about it some more.

So I made the muffins, substituting egg replacer for the eggs. I also added walnuts. They came out great! They could probably be a little sweeter, I think that might be a function of how brown the bananas were, so I'm going to try to make another batch and see. But these were definitely the best LOOKING thing I have ever baked, so I took a picture, check it out:

Friday, November 6, 2009

It Adds Up

Yesterday one of those things happened that seems like a small thing, but because there was some coincidence involved, it seemed like a signal to take notice.

Jeffrey was home from school because he complained of a stomach ache. By the end of the afternoon he was feeling better so we agreed to go to Rite Aid to buy vitamin water and then pick Tim up from school. When we got to Rite Aid Jeffrey remembered that he needs a calculator for math class, and that they have the kind he needs there.

The reason he needs a new calculator is because last year I bought a nice new one for Tim that did all the advanced functions needed for his math class. I was very pleased to get it at a good price on clearance, just after the back-to-school sales. Within a matter of days, it was GONE. I got really aggravated with Tim because he said that he must have left it in class or somewhere, and then it was stolen. I insisted that he check the lost and found and ask his teachers if any calculators had been turned in, and then I went on a rant about who would steal a calculator, and why wouldn't such a person consider the feelings of the person who had lost it and turn it in?

Well the darned thing never turned up and Tim got through the year using the app on his cell phone or old cheap calculators we have laying around the house. The kind you get for free that look like credit cards.

Then this school year started and Jeffrey needs a good calculator for his 6th grade honors math class. I hadn't gotten around to buying one yet, partly because I hate to pay full price for such a thing at Rite Aid. But there we were, and Jeffrey was asking for it, so I pulled it off the hook and put it in our basket.

When we got to the high school to pick up Tim, he saw that we had bought the calculator and said that it was funny but he found a calculator on the floor during band class earlier in the day.


I asked him what he did with it and he said that he turned it in to the teacher. He told me that it was an expensive graphing calculator, and that whoever lost it would be upset to lose something that cost about a hundred dollars. And, he added, he knew that I would notice it if he suddenly pulled out something like that to do his homework.

The Quinky Dink part of this is that I know when his band class is and it is quite possible that the very same moment he was picking it up from the floor, I was pulling the new one off of the hook at the store.

The thing for me to notice about this small incident was that when faced with the decision about what to do with the found calculator, Tim did the right thing and turned it in. That decision was at least partly influenced by his memory of what I had said in the past, and how he anticipated I would react if I found out he had kept it.

I think that might boil down to the goal of all parenting, which is that you hope you get your kids to do the thing you would want them to do even when you aren't there to tell them what that is. It feels even better than the things I don't truly influence but am always at the ready to take the credit for, such as my kids being good looking, musically talented, or good at math.

But then, as I wallowed in my smug satisfaction, the thought occurred to me that the "right thing" in this situation is relative to my own perception of what "right" is. Where I got this perception could have been from my own parents, or church, or even from watching all those Brady Bunch episodes. It occurred to me that what I think is right is sometimes different from what I might actually do. And, that other people might have an entirely different perspective on the situation, and their reaction to their kid pocketing a found calculator could be "Way to go! Now we don't have to buy you one! Check around the floors tomorrow and see what else you can scoop up!" It still meets my definition of successful parenting. even if that person's kid passes my kid up in the corporate world, or excels in sports, or politics.

Maybe what we parents really want for our children is not for them to fear us, or please us, or to be just like us. We want them to be...better.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Doll Show

My sister Becky asked me to go with her to a Doll Show in Hazel Park. I agreed, because these are always interesting. This time I brought my camera so you could enjoy it too.

There were the usual collections of dolls that you might expect:

Classics like Shirley Temple

Kewpie dolls that remind me of the expression Jeffrey used to make when he was a baby:

Barbies Displayed in boxes

Barbies in bags

Barbies with great outfits
Lots of Madame Alexander Dolls

I had this Alice in Wonderland doll. In fact I still do, but she is not nearly in this good condition:

I think that this is the Cinderella that my friend Susie had. I thought she was the best.

This doll had pansies, I thought she was so pretty:

We wondered if our cousin Pammy ever had these Pebbles and Bam-Dolls. If not, she would have wanted them.

For the guys

Some collections such as these

Paper Dolls too!

There were collections of shoes

And arms. (I know, kind of disturbing!)

And, of course, there was the weird:

At the end I bought Becky a doll for her Christmas Present. She has to wait until December 25

Halloween 2009

Jeffrey was a Banana


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Put a Lid on It

We got a new roof put on the house yesterday. It was just not enjoyable at all to have to fork over such a large chunk of our dwindling savings for something that I really don't notice very much. I know, I would notice it quite a bit if it was raining on my head, but still a new roof just isn't my idea of fun.

I felt all gross yesterday because I didn't take a shower. The roof guys got here pretty early, and I just felt weird about showering while there were all these strange men crawling all around outside. Maybe that's paranoid of me but that's how I am.

At one point in the morning the doorbell rang and it was a man from the roof crew asking to use the bathroom. I told him no, because I really didn't want to be letting these guys in the house, and because Jay, the project supervisor, had told me that I didn't have to do that when we met with him earlier.

Jay is a very large man who wears a bright orange and black jacket. He came to the door and asked me if I wanted him to take pictures of the roof while they were working on it. I couldn't imagine why I would want pictures of that, but since he was asking I figured that must be a standard procedure for insurance purposes or something. I figured that I could at least share them with my uncle Tom who is retired from the roofing industry, in case he had an interest.

It was nerve-racking, to say the least, being in the house with all that stomping and hammering going on. Poor Missy the cat was beside herself, rushing all around and meowing pathetically. I wished that I could explain to her what was happening. Then I found out that Kendrea, who lives across the street, had to listen to her dog Tucker barking in unison with the hammers all day. Even worse!

Later in the day another neighbor, Gretchen, sent me a message that she liked the new color of the roof. I realized that she probably notices our roof a lot more than I do since she can see it from the windows of her house. I'm glad that she gets some enjoyment out of this!

I sat down at the kitchen table to have a snack and noticed one of the workers walking through the back yard into the woods. At first I wasn't sure what he was doing but then I figured it out. Ew! I averted my gaze. My fault for not letting them into the house, I suppose.

That happened one more time and then I saw the black and orange of big Jay heading back there. Not you too Jay! I was about to lose all respect when he stopped short of the woods and looked down at our little frog pond. He spent kind of a long time looking in there, and I watched him go get a stick and then poke around a bit, just like all the kids do. Then he looked up and shouted to his crew "There's like five frogs in there! I counted them!" He had such a look of delight on his face that I just had to smile. A great big kid. I'm glad that he got to enjoy that.

Finally the roof was complete. We handed over the check and Big Jay gave me the pictures. I thanked him and then he told me that's a new thing he's doing for the customers, we're the first. I don't know what anyone else will do with their roof pictures but I do kind of like mine. So I'm posting them here for you to enjoy:

This one shows the view of the lake from our roof, (and part of the newly fertlized woods)

And here's the view of Kendrea's backyard from up high. Too bad it didn't capture Tucker out there barking, that would have been cute!

Now that it's over I can relax. I am glad that we were able to get this done. Not everyone these days even has a roof over their head. I am going to enjoy knowing that I have a nice new one.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Let's go Wildcat!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Retroactive Want

I came across another thing to want, except this one requires a time machine. It is something that I want to be invented back when I needed it, since it does me no good going and existing now when it's too late.

The object that I speak of is this cupcake holder from Tupperware. I was at a Womens Expo last week and there they were. Totally cute little plastic totes for individual cupcakes. They keep the frosting from getting mashed. Pure genius. And about a decade too late!

The reason that I needed this is because of my son's food allergies they are unable to eat cake or most other desserts that show up at celebrations. So for every birthday party, holiday or social event we would be the family showing up with the ugly little container with two "safe" slightly mashed cupcakes squished inside. Themed birthdays, formal occasions, beautifully set tables, they all were graced with the ziploc tub with the masking tape on top explaining what it was. Now that they are older they usually just skip the dessert, or we offer to make it for family parties.

If only I'd had the cupcake keepers, everything would have looked so much better. If only someone had gone and invented this sooner. If only it had been me.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Stuff to Want

Now that I'm not working I get a lot of curious people asking about "How it's going." I sort of supsect that what they really mean is: "How are you possibly managing to survive with so much less money?" or, even more bluntly put: "Are you miserable yet?"

Well, the fact is that my severance package continues through next month. So thus far I have been having the experience of getting paid but not going to work, a situation that's difficult to complain about, in all honesty.

But there is that nagging sense of the unknown future, and the significant drop in income that is yet to come. So I am trying my best to be frugal in my purchases and lifestyle. You know, confucious says the key to a happy life is to "want what you have." I can do that!

But then the Sunday ads come along, or I run across some products on the internet, and next thing you know, the Wanting What I Don't Have starts to kick in. You may recall last year around this time I started wanting the Do-nu-matic. Just the coolest thing ever and after some serious hinting and a strongarm from the Glenmoor Gals to Larry, there it was under the Christmas tree in all its greasy glory.

But with getting there comes more wanting. Now I want donuts all the time, which is bad for the expanding waistline that I don't want. A neighbor recently learned of my possession, and since she happens to be a pastry chef she generously gifted me with a tub of the actual chocolatey substance that is used on the top of real chocolate eclairs. So as I sit here that tub is in my refrigerator, and I'm trying not to want it, even though I already have it. Oh the conflict!

Here are some of the recent items that have caught my attention this year:

Garage Door Open Indicator

I found this one on the internet, and immediately wanted it because we do have this problem at our house of forgetting to close the garage door. There's nothing worse than getting all snuggled into bed and then having to get up and check if the darn thing is closed. Or worse yet, finding out in the morning that it had been left open all night long, inviting any lazy burgalers or murderers out there free access to come in and stab us as we slept, and then walk out with the don-nu-matic or whatever other of our valuables they may desire. I was all ready to buy but then I noticed that this wasn't exactly an ad for a product but a set of instructions on how to construct and wire one of these yourself. Since I don't know how to rewire a transformer and probably can't now afford an expert to put this together for me, this wonderful invention is off the list.Cruzin Cooler
Maybe you've heard of this, it was in the paper a couple of weeks ago, just in time for football season. It retails for around $450 or so. What I can't get over is the mental image I have of the scenario in which it got invented. Can you just imagine a group of drunken tailgators fooling around by their beer storage saying "Dude, look at me on the cooler! Wouldn't it be fun if I could drive this thing? Yeah, that'd be great!" And then somehow, incredibly, the thing is in existence and people are buying them. Unbelievable.

Bushmaster Shaggy Suit

This was in this week's Meijer ad, and I just couldn't stop staring at it. Look how happy he is, the man in the shaggy suit. It appears that this is intended for hunters, but I can quickly come up with some alternative uses:

1. Camoflage. Just wear it walking around outside! You could be invisible! Imagine the possibilities for getting real close to animals for spying on them. Or even people. No one would know you were there.

2. Fashion statement. Nobody else will be showing up in that at a party! Just think of the compliments for your originality.

3. In lieu of fat pants. I don't know about you but there are days when maybe I've just had a few too many donuts recently. No worries about a little extra on the hips when you can just slip on your Bushmaster Shaggy Suit! I'm sure it hides it all.

Best of all, it's only $69.99 on sale at Meijers. But then again, I must ask myself is this a want or a need?

So, it looks like none of these things are going to be under my Christmas tree this year, but they are good exercises for me to try to control my Wanting. Maybe I should also be examining my wants of being safe, having fun and becoming invisible. I'll let you know how that goes.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


The past several days have been just beautiful. It almost makes up for all of the unusually cold days we had this summer. I know that so many more chilly days are on their way, so I'm trying to soak up every moment of glorious weather while I can. Since we had so much rain this year the lake still has enough water for me to launch the kayak, and I've been so I've been going out for last few evenings when the sun is low in the sky and the water is nice and calm.

Today I paddled along the shore where the land from the park juts out into the lake into kind of a point. I know that the paths through the park don't come near here and so it is where the deer like to spend a lot of their time. You can tell because of the way the brush has been eaten and there are little paths to the lake where they go for water.

I like to watch the deer and it is interesting how they do things in patterns. They tend to follow the same paths, and I know that they travel along the edge of the lake right after the sun sets. That is when we see them crossing through our back yard with their fawns, if we remember to look.

Anyways, there I was paddling along and I was looking into the woods to see if I could spot any of them in there. As much as I like to watch the deer when they walk past my window, I still like to see if I can "catch" them in their normal activities, like a spy. I was staring deeply into the woods as I paddled around the point so I was completely startled when I was suddenly looking face-to-face with a big doe that was standing on one of those paths right at the water's edge.

I stopped paddling and we both just stayed there, frozen still, looking at each other, not more than six feet apart.

As I looked I thought "You lucky free wild thing, you can go anywhere, do anything you want."

The doe looked back at me as if it was thinking: "You lucky human thing with the opposable thumbs, you can hold that paddle and go anywhere you want!"

Well, ok so I don't know what it was thinking, but we definitely shared a moment, and for me, it was magical. I know that some of you think of a deer as something to shoot at, or hit with your car, (Patty) but to me they will always be something of wonder and beauty, every time we meet.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Back to School

The kids went back to school today, so I can finally get near enough to the computer to write in my blog again!

Although there's plenty to say about them starting school, I want to tell you about this past weekend when I went back to my old alma mater, Michigan State, for a football game and reunion of the MSU Tri-Delta sorority chapter.

The boys hadn't been to a Spartan Football game since they were too young to remember, so I thought this would be a good opportunity for them to experience all of the spirit, fun and hoopla of it, as well as inspiration for Tim now that he is in a Marching Band. Since it was so early in the season the weather was gorgeous, and they were playing Montana State (another MSU) which isn't so good of a team so there was lots of scoring by our Spartans.

Of course they loved it all. We had a good view of the student section and how much fun they were having. They looked a lot more organized that the drunken chaos I remember from attending games when I was in school. As I gazed over at them I couldn't help reminiscing about what it was like to be a freshman standing there at my first football game with the brother floor, cheering and dancing around. It was certainly different than where I sat right now with my own family and nearly 25 more years of living behind me. But what struck me is that although I obviously look different, I still feel like the same person, looking out through the same eyes at the big bright spectacle that is Spartan football. It's still me in there.

I can't imagine what the 18 year old Mindy would think if I could see me now, but I can still so clearly remember what it felt like to be a freshman in college. I was nearly overwhelmed with all of the changes happening in my life so quickly, but hopeful about the big uncertain future ahead of me. Maybe that's because at this point in my life I'm going through a lot of the same things, in a different way.

After the game my family went home and I spent the evening with my tri-delta friends who were gathered there for the brunch reunion the next morning. We had dinner and several pitchers of margaritas at the East Lansing Mexican Restaurant called El Azteco. We were there for hours laughing and having fun, and then decided to stop at the hotel to refresh before heading out to hit the bars. I felt really tired and announced that since it was so late maybe I would just go back to the room to sleep. What time was it anyways?

"Nine o-clock you dummy!" They scolded. So I changed into my orthopedic walking shoes and joined back in the fun. I was worried that we would look ridiculously old going in these college bars, but it turned out we were nearly the only ones in there. I remarked that the bar scene must be different nowadays, but then my friends reminded me that the students don't even go out until around 11:00. Oh, yeah.

After making the rounds we landed at a place called Dublins that was featuring live music with a band that night. We found a table out on the patio and could hear the music coming though the wall from inside. They were playing good songs that we remembered from back in "our days." Madonna, Prince, the B-52's: good stuff! Eventually we went in to dance and I had to laugh when I saw the band, the lead singer was in a pink tutu and the band had on polyester track suits and plastic sun glasses. It was a retro 80's theme and they were making fun of...us! Or the old us, anyways. That didn't stop the old new us from taking over the dance floor. It was surreal to be there, in my old college town, with my old college friends, dancing to the same exact music as when we were there as students. And to add even an even more surreal and bizarre touch, we were joined by "Johnny Spirit" who happens to be the brother of one of the women in our group. You know him, he's the guy who paints his body green and goes around the stadium leading cheers in his pajama shorts. It was crazy! It made me tired.

I found out that my comfy shoes are really fun to dance in, and I went back to the room at the not-so-late hour of 10:30. Even though I still feel like the same person on the inside, my body likes to remind me that it is a quarter of a century older now. I need every second of beauty sleep that I can get!

I guess that what I learned on this trip "Back to School" is that although the past is a nice place to visit, I wouldn't want to live there.