Monday, March 29, 2010

Love Story

I took advantage of M being out of town tonight to watch a classic romance. His idea of a classic involves aliens in black and white (think The Day The Earth Stood Still...the original one) or in grainy Technicolor (think Close Encounters of the Third Kind). I had never seen Love Story, and my in-laws own it, so I asked them if I could borrow it. I also asked for The Way We Were, which it turns out they don't have, so my FIL compensated by bringing over a whole spate of movies for my selection - thanks Dad! I figured I'd have a nice evening on the couch, curled up in a blanket, relaxing and watching a nice movie.

Boy, was I wrong.

I wound up a sobbing mess, covered in used tissues, wondering (not for the first time, I might add), "Why did they give this to me to watch?!" It's like the time when Zoe was about 3 weeks old and they lent us Flight Plan, a movie where a woman loses her husband to murder and then has her daughter kidnapped on a freakin' airplane. I checked on Zoe about 40 times that night, in between blubbering on the couch and clinging to M while he prayed for a quick end to my post-natal hormonal imbalance.

Tonight, though, it was just me. Just me and good ol' Max, who doesn't care which movie I'm watching and/or crying about as long as he gets to camp out on the couch since M isn't home. Good cat, Max. He passes no judgment.

I don't think I'm cut out for these types of movies. I can't handle them. I don't have the emotional fortitude. I think I should stick with Blues Brothers and Dumb & Dumber and fine films of that ilk. The ones that make me crack up laughing and allow me to not sport puffy eyes the next morning.

One of the movies my FIL brought over tonight is Terms of Endearment. I've seen snippets of that. Enough to know that I will be completely off my rocker if I follow Love Story with that. No freakin' way. I need to put a buffer in there. The Three Stooges or something. Anything with Jim Carrey.

Love Story is good, though. Really, really good. I give it a five-hanky rating.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dan Fans

See that guy in the center there? The one in the rainbow coat who is singing? Yeah, he's the star of the production (the star!)...and he's our cousin, Dan. Like, how cool is that? Being related to the star! The lead! The guy all the girls swoon over!

So I went paparazzi on his butt. This is the best shot I got before I had to quit shooting due to one of his younger fans (my child) insisting on sitting on my lap to get a better view. Every scene that didn't feature Dan meant Zoe would search the stage and then ask, "Where is Danny?" Thank goodness he was in most of the scenes. He was so good that Zoe even set down Hootie to clap. Dude, that means something when Hoot gets second billing.

We've been to many of Dan's plays (he's a regular thespian now) and he just keeps getting better and better and better. We are so proud of him - great job tonight, Dan! I'd say we're your number one Dan Fans, but I think your parents and siblings trump us. We love you!

Thursday, March 25, 2010


A week or so ago I retrieved the mail from the box and found an envelope from Ameren. Not entirely unusual, as the company has been doing work in our area recently to bury power lines (yay!). But this wasn't about the power lines. It was about power. Raw power. Obsessive, unmitigated use of power.

This was a friendly communication from Ameren saying, "Hey, look! We tracked your power usage!'ve got some serious issues going on there in the winter months."

For years (YEARS) M has told me, and everyone, "Oh yeah, the Christmas display uses about as much power as the A/C in the summer." That's typically pretty impressive on its own. People's eyes go wide and they say, "Wow!" Wow is an understatement, my friends. Wow isn't big enough.

Because Ameren showed me the real story. I came into the house and confronted M. "Soooo, buddy boy, how much power does the display use?" He looked wary, "Why?" This is typically not a question that is posed to him in March. I thrust the evidence with all its graphic glory in front of his eyes without saying a word. He looked it over. "Whoa."

That's when the line of BS came out, which is hilarious because M is so not a BSer. Me? I'm a total BSer. Havta be to do marketing. But this isn't about me. It's about M. M and his total BS line of, "It's from the heat we use in the winter. I told you we've been bumping the thermostat up too high." This was followed by a little chuckle, which reeked of, "Is she buying this?"

He was banking on my forgetting/not knowing that the A/C is electric and the heat is natural gas. He was wrong.

I told him this was bloggable. He tried to negotiate. It's non-negotiable. I'm putting it out here for all the world to see. His addiction to power must be shown. It's the first step towards recovery.

And did you see the taunt that Ameren printed right there at the top of the page? "Remember...reducing your usage will reduce your monthly bill!" All chipper-like. As if that's an option in this house where the lone male human spends hours tweaking a spreadsheet to see just how much more power he can add with each successive year.

I also find it ironic that they printed the graph with Christmas colors. It's like they're egging him on. Well, of course they are. We throw the switch every year (or rather, our designated Grand Lighting Marshalls throw the switch) and Ameren calls a company-wide meeting to announce that holiday bonuses will distributed once again, sometime in February. After we pay our January bill.

Special note: I'm withholding my new employer's name not out of any confidentiality issues or whatever. I'm perfectly happy to tell you the company that has hired me. I'm just not gonna do it here yet, where my new colleagues can google the company name, find my blog, and learn just what a crazy person I am before I even start. They'll find that out soon enough. I mean, really. My January energy bill is twice what it is in the hottest months of the year. In St. Louis. Who does that?

Artful laundry disposal

My home used to be boring. It was typically neat and (decently) clean. There are decorations around that we've picked up from our travels. My vintage camera collection, our beer steins, some photographs.

But my house is about a million times better. It has been spiced with the pieces of life only a child can bring. There is a purple bouncy ball in the foyer. The hallway is strewn with plastic golf clubs and balls. In any given room, at any given time, you'll find various beanbag animals and objects: a pumpkin ("Punky"), a small red heart that reads "Kiss Me" ("Heart Says Kiss Me"), or a multi-colored bear ("Rainbow Bear"). Hoot, of course, makes the rounds regularly. Strands of plastic beads hang from every conceivable knob and hook. Small wooden food is underfoot, as are Legos, plastic beads, and trains.

Yesterday, as I checked my e-mail, Zoe amused herself. She had started decorating the laundry chute door with stickers several weeks ago, but last night she really went to town. She stood in the hallway and sang while she worked. Long after I finished my work on the computer, she was still going. I just sat here and watched her (the chute is in the hallway right outside the darkroom door). Such simple pleasure. Lucky me, I get the benefits of seeing it and being reminded of that moment of bliss every time I throw dirty clothes down the chute.

And before now, I never realized just how boring the laundry chute door was. I much prefer the new door.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Another photographic tidbit from Chicago

It's a dog-eat-dog world, and I'm wearing Milk-Bone underwear.
-Norm, from Cheers

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Funny how things work

I'm so so SO excited to report that today I accepted a job offer! I'm the new marketing manager, effective April 5, for the US subsidiary of a French conglomerate. Today I received an office tour, an introduction to an office full of colleagues for whom I will have to re-learn their names in about two weeks, and a glimpse into my new office (big desk, big window, laptop, nice chair, etc.). My boss instructed the receptionist to please order my business cards in between telling me how happy they are that I've accepted the position and that he has a few big projects he'd like to toss my way with little supervision: "I expect you to work take 'em and you run with 'em." "No problem!"

I'm still in shock. This position came because one of my former Red Cross bosses saw my "I'm FREEEEElancing now!" status update on Facebook (I can count on one hand the number of status updates I've posted to Facebook, but I'm really glad I did that one) and put me in touch with another former Red Crosser who is running this US division. The guy had called my friend the day before, "Hey, we're gonna start looking for a marketing any names?" My friend saw my status update and contacted me to see if I was interested ("Hell yeah!") and then passed my info back.

I got the call in Florida...we chatted for a few minutes and it went well, and ended with my promising to send him my resume. Thanks to Uncle Marty's computer, I pulled up my Yahoo account, downloaded my resume from my e-mail box (I had attached it to e-mails sent in applications for other jobs), made a few tweaks, and sent it along that day. Got the interview last week with my new supervisor and the head of their sales team, and was told that I'd be called this week to meet the COO for a final interview. Instead, they called me yesterday and said, "Your interview went so well last week that we decided to just move forward. No need for another meeting. We'd like to make you an offer today..." That was the first time I fell out of my chair.

The second time came when he set forth the salary offer. I'm receiving a 50% pay increase from my last job. Yes, M has already updated our budget spreadsheet, and yes, he's grinning from ear to ear these days. I can't believe it, but he says, "Believe it. You're finally getting paid what you're worth." Sweet boy, my M.

So. There it is. I think the universe knows what's going on at all times and makes adjustments as it sees fit. I'd have never landed this job had I still been employed. Things happen for a reason. You just gotta trust that when they do, it'll all work out.

No image today. Too busy running around doing errands, meeting with the other freelance job I have, seeing old friends, and checking out my new work digs. I did have the camera with me, but nothing presented itself. I suppose each and every day is photographic, but I'm cutting myself some slack given the circumstances.

Gonna be hard to fall asleep tonight!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Here is the church, here is the...

Driving to meet a friend for lunch today (hi Ping!), I passed this scene. Quick glance at the clock showed five minutes to spare, so I swung around and went back.

It's just not often you see a steepleless church. I was glad I had my camera with me. Oh, wait. I always have my camera with me. Comes in handy for steeple-sightings.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Guest Blogger: M, with thoughts about his grandma

Today's post is courtesy of M. He wrote so beautifully of his grandmother that I wanted to share it with everyone who wasn't able to hear him deliver his memorial at her funeral mass. With his permission, I present to you his loving tribute.

Antonette Swearingen was born into this world to Clement and Mary Daddona on February 7, 1918. She spent many years living in Dog Town, near the old Deaconess Hospital, in a couple of two-story flats on Tamm Avenue. She was 11 years old the day the stock market crashed on October 29, 1929, an event that in some ways would shape Ann’s remaining 81 years with us. She married Carl on June 5, 1938 and supported the household when Uncle Sam called him into service for World War II.

She often told the story about Carl’s return from the war and how she walked right past her beloved husband. You see, in the midst of their time apart, his hair had turned snow white. I do not remember if Carl had a side to this story, but if the roles were reversed and he would not have recognized her, I imagine she might have given him an ear full.

When I looked up the term spirited in a dictionary, I found the phrase, "having or showing mettle, courage, vigor, liveliness.” Ann was certainly all of these. While Carl had his hands full with Ann, little did they know that both of their plates were going to get just a bit fuller in the coming years. On January 31, 1949, their beloved Carol Ann was born.

In 1952, Ann became a charter member of St. Clement Church, a devout catholic for her entire life and rarely missing the Sunday collection. In fact, I understand that in lean times where money was tighter than usual, Ann never lost track, playing catch-up later when times were a bit easier. When I looked up the term generosity in a dictionary, I found a one-word antonym that is absolutely perfect in every way, "stinginess," because when it came to family, friends, and her catholic faith, Ann was anything but stingy. Now, if we are talking about the US Government and anything close to some form of a tax, Ann was Mrs. Stingy with a capital S and she was profoundly open about her financial dealings.

Over the years, Carl sometimes worked the night shift at McDonnell Douglas, while Carol attended grade school at St. Clement and continued her studies at Ursuline Academy for high school. Ann kept the household in order, with healthy servings of lasagna and the widest variety of Christmas cookies anyone could want. On one evening, Carol arrived home from her shift at Robert Hall with a guy in tow. His name was Michael and I think we all know how that relationship has turned out…40 years of marriage and going strong. Ann and Michael had many discussions since then, with Michael throwing his arms up in most cases, figuring that although he proved his point, Ann’s stubborn behavior would not let her see his side of the story. When I looked up the term stubborn in a dictionary, the phrase “unreasonably obstinate” was the first entry and I think this might be one of her most memorable qualities. Right or wrong, she rarely backed down from her stance, holding her ground against numerous lawn service personnel, window cleaning companies, and her most favorite adversaries, the US Government and the pesky IRS.

Ann was an avid bowler, volunteering for her league in many roles, including Vice-President, President, and of course, Treasurer. Imagine that, Ann was involved with money even outside her family life. She also volunteered in her later years for the Women’s Auxiliary at the Salvation Army, crocheting afghans and other trinkets that were sold at the annual boutique prior to the holidays. As arthritis limited the motion of her hands and failing eyesight reduced her vision, Ann’s dedication was, as the dictionary describes it, “whole and earnest." Using a walker to get around, Ann made the weekly trip, bumming rides off anyone and delivering her previous week’s work for inclusion in the up-and-coming sale.

Wow, what a strong soul, I guess you have to be if you are 91 years old and still living alone at home. Up until the very end, Ann was scrimping and saving every penny she could, clipping coupons, and fighting the taxman each step of the way. In the unpredictable world we live in, Ann was tried and true in every facet of daily life. In 1995, Ann and the rest of us lost Carl, the love of her life…she was never the same without him, but she maintained her independent way of thinking. While you might not have agreed with her position on one subject or another, or maybe all of them, I found her consistency a refreshing trait. Even as one grandson lit the legs of her dining room table on fire and countless teasing incidents led to many fights, Ann punished both grandsons no matter who was at fault…every time without fail!

As we say our final goodbyes to Ann, a spirited, generous, stubborn, dedicated, and strong soul, let us remember that we are much better off having known her as our mom, grandma, great-grandma, aunt and friend. As a wise man once said, “God has to deal with her now." I think He has His work cut out for Him, because, as we all know, Ann was a firecracker who followed no rules, listened to few, but nonetheless, had a heart of gold.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Naked art

"C'mon, Bug. Time for a bath before bedtime. Can you get undressed, please?"

"Sure." [happily disrobes] "Hold on. I need to do something."

Apparently, "something" is creating art in two different media (photography and markers) while completely naked.

Since I'm not one to stifle any artistic inclinations, I let her go. M said, "Are you going to let her do that?" I replied, "Yep."

And then not only did I let her do it, I documented it. I stayed dressed, though.

How is it that children are so completely comfortable with themselves that being naked is not only acceptable, it's preferred? Zozo loves being naked. She does the Naked Baby Dance before her bath every night. And it's driven by the sheer delight of wearing not a stitch. This, of course, causes her father much consternation, but I reassure him that she won't always want to dance around naked.

I hope.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Florida: redux

I'm king of the wooooorld!
Or something like that.

Real zebras. Not for riding.

Pretend zebras. Okay to ride.
You have no idea how many shots I took to get this.

We played with her Bananagram letters a lot.
She's learning how to make words.

We ate at one of Marty's favorite places.
Yeah, that bread is as good as it looks.

Zozo, whatcha got in your hat?

Oh...good. Well, that's going in the wash.

I waited and waited for the waves to come up and get the bird.
I planned for an in-flight shot.
The bird let the water rush around its legs, over its feet, and didn't move.
Stupid bird.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Beautiful Day

My Irish lass

Yesterday, for obvious reasons, was green and white day in the Bunny room at Zozer's school. Since the only green shirt she owns has candy canes and Christmas trees on it, we stopped at Target the other night and picked up a new t-shirt. The girl is 1/8 Irish, after all. It's important she be properly attired for St. Patrick's Day.

She picked up the beads and the "100% Irish" pin from Grandpa Ray, Great Aunt Joann and Great Uncle Cloyd. I must admit, I was a wee bit jealous. No one offered me any shamrock beads, and I'm a full 1/4 Irish. That's a whole 1/8 more than the Bug. Then again, I'm not small with pigtails and an infectious laugh.

So, a belated happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone. May your beer always be cold, and never, ever green. (Drank enough of that at Rolla, thankyouverymuch.)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

B/W in Chicago

Color in Chicago