The Road to Farley

The Road to Farley

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How Do You Measure Grief?

Merriam Webster describes grief as deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement. And to be bereaved is to suffer the death of a loved one.

This week, I have been wondering if all grief is the same or if some grief is more poignant than others. As a nation, we mourn the deaths of 20 children and seven adults in the shooting rampage in Newtown, Connecticut. For the families who are burying their loved ones this week, particularly as the holidays approach, it seems that no loss could be worse.

Yesterday, I lost my beloved Sheltie, Bailey. She passed away while we were driving to Farley. Her death wasn't completely unexpected. She had just celebrated her 13th birthday the day before, and she had been battling heart disease for over six months. I dreaded the thought of losing her, but in my mind I always assumed she would get to a point where her quality of life had deteriorated, and I would have to make the painful choice to put her down. My sweet girl spared me that decision. She was sitting next to me in the front seat, as she had done hundreds of times before in the 11 years we were together. I knew I was losing her, but I was happy to be there with her, comforting her, talking to her, stroking her hair and rubbing her belly, just like I always did. She slipped away in a matter of minutes. I was devastated.

As I sat at home later watching TV, there were numerous updates on the latest with the Sandy Hook tragedy. While I was crying over the loss of my dog, families were burying their six and seven year olds. Did I have the right to really be that sad? I would tell myself no and shake myself out of it. But, later, when I would think of going home to an empty house, the tears would flow again.

Today, I found a little Christmas ornament that I bought last weekend. I had put it with some other items and totally forget about it. When I unwrapped it from the tissue paper, I remembered that I bought it "for Bailey." It was a little slate that read, "What part of woof didn't you understand?"

I'm still conflicted. Driving to Indiana today, I was listening to NPR when they carried coverage of President Obama's press conference appointing Joe Biden to a commission to identify ways to reduce gun violence and keep our citizens safe. I thought he delivered a very important message, especially when he recounted several additional deaths as a result of gun violence that have happened since last Friday.

I don't have any answers. Maybe there aren't necessarily different degrees of grief. Individually we all respond differently. I just know that I will miss my Bailey terribly. She was an awesome dog that was full of personality. This picture was taken less than two days before she died. I called it her birthday picture.




Saturday, December 15, 2012

The World is a Mess...

The tragedy in Newtown, CT is just over 24 hours old and some are already using this horrific event to advance their personal causes. I read just a short time ago the names and ages of all the victims -- 20 of them were children ages 6 or 7. I cannot begin to imagine how frightened and confused those children must have been. 

I saw a post circulating on Facebook last night that said something like, "Dear God, Why do you allow so much violence in our schools? Signed a Concerned Student. Dear Concerned Student, I'm not allowed in schools." Come on... this tragedy has nothing to do with the presence or lack thereof of God in public schools. If you read and believe in the Bible, Joshua 1:5 states, "No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you." That tells me that wherever I am, so is God. If you are a believer, I think it is safe to say that God was present at Sandy Hook Elementary yesterday and was with every school employee and child. 

There are a similar number of posts about stricter gun control laws and a ban on assault weapons as a way to prevent future tragedies of this nature. I am not a member of the NRA, I don't have a license to carry, and quite frankly, guns scare me. But, I have plenty of people in my family who are responsible gun owners. I don't think the presence of their guns necessarily makes me feel any safer, but I also don't believe that restricting their ability to purchase or carry guns will prevent any future events such as the shootings in Newtown. News reports indicate that the guns used by the shooter were legally purchased by his mother, who was a gun enthusiast. Throughout history, when laws have been enacted to prevent access to something,    criminal elements step in to meet the demand. It's really simple economics -- did anyone really stop drinking in during Prohibition? Have tougher drug laws stopped drug use. I am ready to stockpile incandescent lightbulbs if the government puts legislation in place to outlaw them in favor of fluorescent bulbs. 

The common thread in all of these mass shootings is mental illness. No one wants to have the tough conversations about how we treat mental illness and how mentally ill people are marginalized in our country. 

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I tried to finish my Christmas shopping today. I made progress, but didn't finish. I don't get too excited about it. It always gets done one way or the other. I don't actually have that many presents to buy. My problem is that the first several outings each holiday season become shopping trips for me! 

While I was out today, I stopped at Petland in Iowa City to pick up some dog food and a birthday treat for Bailey. My girl is going to be 13 on Monday, December 17th. 


     
That old rule of thumb about 1 year of a dog's life being equal to 7 years of a human isn't quite accurate from my quick search on Google. That ratio apparently decreases as a dog ages. So, instead of being like 91, it appears that Bailey is more like 77 or so. I'll have to be careful, then, about calling her old because that would make her about the same age as my mother. 

But, back to my trip to Petland -- I got very annoyed when I was there. The place was packed with people swarming over the puppies for sale. Business appeared to be booming. It was all I could do to contain my irritation and not scream out "WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE? DO NOT SUPPORT THESE PUPPY MILL PROVIDERS! IF YOU MUST HAVE A PUPPY, FIND A REPUTABLE BREEDER. OTHERWISE, PLEASE GIVE A WAITING DOG IN A SHELTER OR RESCUE GROUP A HOME. 

Look at my sweet Bailey. She was rescued from a puppy mill, and I got her from a rescue group 11 years ago. You can find any breed of dog in a rescue or shelter. I think people who shop for a dog at a pet store are uninformed and lazy! And, that's all I'm going to say about that. 


Friday, November 9, 2012

Fiscal Cliffs and Partisan Bickering

2012 marked the ninth presidential election I have voted in. I am a liberal and a staunch Democrat. I have voted for Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton twice, Al Gore, John Kerry, and now Barack Obama twice. I'm not saying I would never vote for a Republican, I did vote for Chuck Grassley once because I couldn't believe how unimaginative the Democrats were putting Roxanne Conlin up against him.

My hard drive on my laptop crashed about 10 days ago, so I was kind of blissfully disconnected from social media leading up to and during the election. I say "kind of" because I did go rogue a couple of times when my Facebook withdrawal flared up, and I snuck a peek on my work laptop. I retrieved my laptop from the Geek Squad last night and got caught up on the days of posts I missed.

It's funny to me how divisive our elections have become. Perhaps it's just me. To be honest, I can be very apathetic about many things. Or, maybe I just don't take anything all that seriously. I make it a point to only discuss my political leanings with like company. I have many fantastic debates on the subject in my head, but really I don't want to be bothered with all the rhetoric because I'm not going to change my mind. I do try to understand the other side, but I just don't get it most of the time.

Case in point - here is a post that a friend/acquaintance posted on Facebook last night. It is true that this person is one of the very few people whom I call a friend and who is as devoted a Republican as I am a Democrat. 
OK...the election is over and hopefully the immediate emotion has passed. I've stayed pretty quiet but needed to share a thought. I'm not disappointed in the people who voted for Obama if they voted their convictions. We shouldn't criticize a person for exercising his/her opinion. I am disappointed that our country could re-elect a president, irrespective of party affiliation, who has added 75 people to food stamps for every job he's created. Perhaps more disappointing is the realization that this likely signals the last time we'll see a true two party system for the indefinite future. How do you overcome 46 million automatic votes? Does the next Republican candidate really have to promise to add 150 people to food stamps for every job he/she creates to have a chance? Is it really based on who hands out the most? I know that is a bit simplistic but not sure it is completely inaccurate. Again, I don't begrudge Democrats who voted their consciences but it is worrisome that a candidate with Obama's 4 year record could get elected. If we took just his credentials and took the name and party affiliation away, I don't think he'd get a vote from either party. Oh well...it is what it is. Now we have to hope our country can survive without becoming a much larger version of Greece. For everyone's sake, I hope Obama can change the direction the country is heading or the next recession will make this most recent one seem like a vacation.
I've highlighted the statements that really irked me. He makes it sound as if people are being added to the food stamp program for the fun of it or as a reward. Don't even get me started that more people were actually added to the program under former President Bush than under President Obama. I don't know what he is trying to say when he says, "How do you overcome 46 million automatic votes?" What it tells me is that he is sadly out of touch with the people who actually receive assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is what the program has been called since 2008. A few facts on the 46 million beneficiaries of the SNAP program:
  • 47% percent of recipients are less than 18 years old
  • 8% of all participants are age 60 or older, 73% of whom live alone
  • 16% of all households include an elderly member
  • 20% include a disabled member
  • Nearly 40% of SNAP households receive the maximum allotment because they have little or no income
  • Nearly 20% of households have no gross income
  • Another 19% have no net income
  • The maximum benefit for a family of four in fiscal year 2012 is $668, or less than $1.90 per person per meal.  
You can see that the argument isn't much of an argument. Approximately 21.6 million of the SNAP recipients aren't even old enough to vote. Receiving SNAP benefits is not a badge of honor. Recipients don't run down the street shouting "I WON! I WON!" when their EBT card is reloaded. Most of the people I have known who received benefits were embarrassed to need assistance. I'm also not sure how much the person who posted this comment spends on groceries for his family of five, but I know that as a single person, I can easily spend nearly $400/month on groceries, and I don't even keep all that much food in the house. Receiving SNAP isn't a money-making venture.

As a lifelong Democrat and bleeding heart liberal, I don't expect the government to take care of me. I don't feel entitled to anything. I happily pay my taxes -- without the benefit of deductions for a bunch of kids or a mortgage or unreimbursed business expenses -- and add on the school tax surcharge for my local school district, even though I do not have kids in school. It really annoys me when conservatives make references that imply "we expect the government to take of everything." No, we don't. It's just not true. I remember my mom making a comment when I was younger that we probably would have met the guidelines for free or reduced lunches at school because my dad was a self-employed farmer (and not that successful at it). But they didn't apply because they were too proud for that. I had several close friends who went through long periods of unemployment after the recession of 2007-2008, they hated being on unemployment because it made them feel like losers, and they did not apply for SNAP benefits, even though they would have been eligible.

I'm not saying that Obama is the shit. I'm not sitting here in awe of what he has done during the past four years, but as I commented in a prior blog, I personally -- and many of my family and friends -- am better off today than I was four years ago. I see steady progress. I see an overall resolve that there is more to do and that we should not be resting on our laurels. Had John McCain won in 2008, I honestly do not think our progress would be that markedly different.


 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Political Buzz

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a died in the wool Democrat. My grandma was a Democrat, and my dad was an active Democrat and local politician at one time. I got my political leanings from them.

As the years progressed, and I became older and wiser, my tolerance for political rhetoric has gotten very low. I suppose it started during the Clinton administration. While the country seemed to be prospering, those on the other side of the aisle put up numerous roadblocks to getting the business of running our country done -- to the point that there was even an unprecedented government shut down. I recognize that Bill wasn't exactly doing a lot to help his cause, what with "that woman, Monica Lewinsky" and the other numerous alleged transgressions.

After the disappointing outcome of the 2000 election, with hanging chads and Supreme Court decisions, I would have been all set to complain about everything President Bush did or said until September 11th happened. Certainly, history has shown us that not all of the decisions made that day or in the days, months, and years that followed were the right decisions. But, who can say, if faced with similar challenges, that anyone else would have acted any differently.

Fast forward to 2008 when the Democratic field was filled with many viable candidates. I was partial to John Edwards. I had met Elizabeth at a book signing she did at Prairie Lights in Iowa City, and her story of surviving the death of their son, followed by breast cancer, and the longevity of their love and convictions spoke to me. We know now what a sham that all was.

Now, we are in the midst of one of the most vitriolic campaigns in history. Honestly, I am not impressed by either side and part of me wants it all to just go away. I heard snippets from the Republican convention this week during news stories on NPR. I am compelled to respond to a particular comment from Mitt Romney's acceptance speech last night.
"But this president cannot tell us that YOU are better off today than when he took office."
Well, actually, Governor Romney, for me and for most of my family, I can truthfully say that, yes, I am better off today than I was when President Obama took office.

In 2008, when President Obama was elected, I was living in my friend's basement following the disastrous Iowa floods of June 2008. I had no flood insurance and the meager amount of money available to me through FEMA barely covered a new bed and sofa, which were destroyed when 3 feet of water inundated my home. With a little time and perseverance, I replaced my lost possessions and my home life returned to a normal pattern. In my career, I obtained a professional certification, received a promotion, and am now earning more than I ever have in my career. I have survived two company take-overs. And, for full disclosure, if "Obamacare" survives, 2013 will likely be my busiest and most rewarding/challenging year of my professional career.

Also since 2008, my sister who was a casualty of the economic downturn in the automobile industry, finally landed a permanent full-time position with a Fortune 500 company.

Five of my nieces and nephews graduated from four-year colleges and are now gainfully employed with jobs in their chosen fields. Five of my nieces and nephews, all under age 30, also became homeowners since 2008.

My retired parents are able to live comfortably, thanks to steady income through their pensions and Social Security. My father's numerous prescription drugs and health needs are covered through a combination of a Medicare Advantage Plan and VA benefits.

So, yes, Governor Romney, I am better off than I was four years ago. I know there are a lot of people out there who are not. But what irritates me about all politicians is the constant negativity.

I would like to see the Democrats win this election because they support the social issues I find important: same-sex marriage, a woman's right to choose, insurance coverage for birth control, access for women's health at organizations such as Planned Parenthood. But, Democrat or Republican, I have little faith that either side will live up to the promises they are spewing now to "fix" the economy, address our national debt, and secure the future for every American. Oh, don't forget ensure world peace, end global hunger, and stop global warming...just for good measure.  

Everyone should just go sit down, shut up, and get some work done.

Monday, July 16, 2012

I'm a Terrible Blogger

Eighteen months ago, when I was really serious about being a blogger, I had great expectations for being witty and relevant and followed by thousands of devoted fans. I thought I was one viral blog away from my 15 minutes of fame.

As you can see, I'm awful. I haven't posted a thing in over three months. Truth is, my life is pretty dull. If I am bored to death, why would anyone in their right mind want to read about my life. I can see now why reality shows are scripted. Life -- normal day-to-day, getting up and going to work, buying groceries, and doing laundry kind of life -- is tedious and not exciting.

Until early May, I was very busy at work with a proposal effort. That's my non-blogging excuse, I was too busy. After we got it submitted, I was too burned out to consistently write anything else.

Now, I have no excuses. Oh, I suppose I could use the "I'm focusing on my long-term genealogy project and family reunion planning" excuse, but I could still write if I was so inclined. I think it is the excessive heat and drought we are experiencing. Walking from the air-conditioned office to the car and back into an air-conditioned house every day is exhausting. My health club has been closed since May 31 for renovations. I don't even need an excuse not to work out. So, lazy has become my middle name.

I'm thinking snow and invigorating, cold, sun in my eyes, wind in my face kind of days. This is exactly why I did not stay living in Texas. The heat is not for me. I'll take winter any day. (Remind me of this in January when it is 20 below.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Road to Good Customer Service is Not Well Traveled

In the past week, I have experienced both good and not so good customer service. I'll start with the good experience. For my birthday, a friend gifted me with a Kindle. Now, I always considered myself "old school" when it came to books, and I may never have purchased an eReader on my own. But, having received one as a gift, I was not one to look a gift Kindle in the mouth. I have to say, I grew to love the Kindle. They are great for reading on the treadmill or stationary bike at the gym, slip easily into your purse or laptop bag during travel, and are "open" 24 hours a day for new purchases.

While on business travel last week, I was flummoxed when I could not get the damn thing to turn on while waiting for my flight at Reagan National Airport. Upon my return, I did a quick Google search and found a recommendation to do a "reset" to fix my frozen Kindle problem. Well, that didn't resolve the issue. I opted for an online chat with an Amazon customer service representative.

I gave a very short description:
My Kindle is frozen/unresponsive and the screen is filled with lines. I have tried several times to reset it by holding down the power button for 20+ seconds. This has not resolved the issue. I don't know what to try next
After confirming that I was referring to "Carol's Kindle" on my online Amazon account, the representative replied:
If you prefer I'll able to provide a free replacement device for you.
Well, shoot. That was almost two easy. Here it is, two days later, I have my new Kindle, it's booted up, and my previously purchased books are restored. Now, I just have to put the busted Kindle in the box, attach the free pre-printed shipping label and that issue is resolved. Yay!

Now, the not so great experience. When I landed in Cedar Rapids last week, after leaving Reagan National with my busted Kindle, I met the breakfast crew at Eggy's for a late dinner and a beer. Much to my chagrin, my debit card was denied! I was perplexed. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am still one of those dorks who balance my checkbook to the penny each month. I knew I had money in my account and chalked the denial up to a faulty magnetic strip. Ha! Fat chance.

When I got home, I promptly accessed online banking at Dupaco. Imagine my surprise to find that a $172.27 debit purchase made the previous Saturday had cleared my account for $1,722.27. The next day, I called both the credit union and the merchant to correct the error. When I explained the situation to the merchant, the initial response was to laugh. It's not so funny when it's your money, and you have payments that are bouncing all over the place because you have $1,550 less money in your account than you thought. They submitted a refund, but it took from Friday until Tuesday before the credit showed up in my account. Kudos to Dupaco for waiving all the overdraft fees and for continuing to pay the automatic payments that were set up to come out on those days. When I was called back (by the receptionist - not the owner I initially talked to) and told the credit was processed, instead of getting an "Oh my God, we are so sorry." I got a "we don't know how that happened." Really? I've worked in retail enough years to know how it happened...someone miskeyed the credit card payment amount and evidently they do not balance their receipts at the end of each business day. Any retail establishment I worked at required you to totally balance out the cash drawer at the end of your shift and identify any errors. In addition, this merchant is literally across the street from my credit union. Here's an idea -- how about expediting the return of the funds by taking a check across the street instead of processing a refund that takes five days.

My friends took pity on me for my frozen fund state. They are the best! I got my new Kindle and my missing $1,550 on the same day. Oh, and Rick Santorum is going away. All is almost right with the world.
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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mental Health Days and Retail Therapy

Don't get me wrong, I am blessed to have a stable job that provides a comfortable salary, benefits, challenges to keep me on my toes, and a somewhat flexible work schedule. Additionally, knock on wood, I am blessed with a pretty good immune system so I rarely suffer from colds, the flu, or other ailments that keep me away from the office. While I do find it very easy to use up all my vacation days, I am always left with more sick days at the end of the year than I am allowed to carryover.

When I woke up at 5:15 this morning and was hoofing it around the block with Bailey, I seemed even more tired than normal. Now, this was sort of odd because I had actually gone to bed at 9 p.m. last night. Who knows, maybe I've got some freakish system where I function best with only between 5-6 hours of sleep (my usual). I vaguely remembered that I had NO meetings scheduled for today. Therefore, with a huge project looming that will keep me up nights and weekends, I zipped off an e-mail to my boss and advised I wasn't going to be in today and that I was taking a mental health day. In a word, it was divine.

I went back to bed after feeding Bailey and got another four blissful hours of sleep. Then, I rolled downstairs and lounged on the couch for another two hours catching up with Kelly and the women of The View, all while sipping my pot of coffee. (Yes, somehow in the last year or so, I've become addicted to my morning coffee.)

Next, I met one of my besties for lunch and a few laughs. Then, off to the mall for some retail therapy. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I really do not like to shop; however, I am really bored with my clothes for a couple of reasons.
  1. About 80% of of my wardrobe is from Talbots. I've decided all their clothes kind of start to look alike.
  2. About 70% of my wardrobe is more than eight years old. Stuff is starting to look a little bit dated and frumpy.
  3. Lately, I feel fat...OK, make that fatter, since I've been practically off the BMI chart for years. Nothing fits quite right and pulls in all the wrong places.
The clothing gods were with me today, I actually found a few new things that I liked. Sadly, I am still fashion challenged when it comes to putting together a wardrobe. I should have added "80% of my wardrobe consists of solid colors." I'm trying to break out of my rut...I wish I was wealthy enough to hire a stylist who would shop for me and throw together perfectly coordinated and accessorized outfits. C'est la vie... I'm still happy with today's haul.


I read an article not too long ago in which designer Michael Kors related the top 10 things every woman should have in her wardrobe. Let's see how I stack up after today:
  1. Black pants suit: Hmmm, I have a gray pants suit and a black suit with a skirt (of course that suit falls into the greater than 8 years old category...in fact, it is more like 14 years old. AND, both are from Talbots).
  2. Crisp white blouse: Check...just bought a new one about a month ago (from Talbots!)
  3. Black sheath dress: Check minus. Two contenders here, again no surprise, both from Talbots. I have a black sheath dress that is lacy (worn to my niece's wedding) and a black/gray herringbone sheath dress that is actually one of my favorites. I'll work on this one.
  4. Black pencil skirt: Check. Although, at the moment it is a wee bit snug. (Check minus because it is also from Talbots.)
  5. Neutral-colored cashmere sweater: Denied! I have only one cashmere sweater, which is a not exactly neutral moss green. It was a gift. I have a hard time shelling out the bucks for cashmere...plus, it makes me hot. And, with frequent hot flashes, who needs it!
  6. Fur vest: Sorry, not my style.
  7. Classic trench: I could use this! The all weather coat I have been wearing is 10+ years old but at least I can say it is NOT from Talbots.
  8. Dark fitted jeans: Check plus. I bought a black pair (from Talbots) about a month ago and got a pair of dark navy today from Coldwater Creek.
  9. Nude stilettos: I'm going to be frank...I have bad feet. No shoe in my closet will ever fall into the stiletto category. The majority of all my other shoes are black.
  10. Cognac leather satchel: Like my shoes, all of my bags are black too.
I'm not sure when the shopping bug will hit again, but my quest for patterns will continue...as will my quest for a body like Stacy Kiebler...or at least one like a trimmed down Kirstie Alley.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Recent Annoyances

We are a full eight months to the presidential election, and I have already had it up to here with the negative campaigning, political posturing, and name calling. The latest items to irk me:
  • Rick Santorum calls President Obama a "snob" for having the audacity to think that every American should be able to go to college.
  • Rush Limbaugh calls a Georgetown college student a slut and suggests she posts her sexual encounters on the Internet for everyone to watch simply because she expects that her health insurance should cover contraception.
  • Mitt Romney states he doesn't care about poor people.
  • A Congressional hearing to discuss whether contraceptives should be included in health care coverage does not include any women.
  • News reports circulate that Girl Scout cookie sales are funding abortions.
  • The Susan Komen Foundation pulls funding to Planned Parenthood then restores it after a huge backlash.
I could go on and on. It's insane. I like to think that I am a pretty average American, but I don't see myself represented in any of the candidates. Despite being a die hard Democrat, even President Obama bugs me most days.

I want someone to explain to me why:
  • They want to block insurance companies from covering contraceptives but no one has brought up that we should similarly block coverage for Viagra or Cialis.
  • They want less government yet they want to pass constitutional amendments to oppose same sex marriage and go back in time 40 years to overturn Roe v. Wade.
  • They don't want to consider any tax increases, yet want to offer additional tax credits for children. Don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to children but that is a choice, too. I'm all for it if I can get a tax credit for my dog.
  • People are up in arms about increasing gas prices but no one wants to talk about how we have been spoiled for years, paying significantly lower prices than they do in Europe or Australia. If you have visited there, you will note that people aren't driving big gas guzzling pickups and SUVs.
OK, I'm done with my rant for now. I'm convinced being President is just an ego thing. All the candidates are full of hooey. They aren't perfect, they can't solve all the problems. I want them all to just go away.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Heaven is for Real

I finished reading the book "Heaven is for Real" yesterday. If you haven't heard of the book, here's a brief description:
Heaven Is for Real is the true story of the four-year old son of a small town Nebraska pastor who during emergency surgery slips from consciousness and enters heaven. He survives and begins talking about being able to look down and see the doctor operating and his dad praying in the waiting room. The family didn't know what to believe but soon the evidence was clear.
Of course, my Catholic upbringing taught me about heaven and purgatory and limbo and hell. I don't know...I'm not sure I ever was that convinced about it. But, the story of Colton will make you question your beliefs, while giving you hope of one day seeing your loved ones again. Personally,  I cannot wait to see Grandma Scherrman again, not to mention to finally meet my Grandpa Scherrman.

Today, I also learned that someone I was once very close to died. He was only 55. The obituary said simply that he died at home. I hate that. I understand that it is a private matter for the family. To anyone who knows the person who passed away, you are just left wondering what happened. A whole host of scenarios played out in my mind. Mostly I was wondering why I let 10 years pass without making an effort to reconnect with him. We parted ways for reasons that seem awfully insignificant now. I suppose the mundane dealings of ordinary life and our own self-righteousness got in our way.

Even though we had drifted apart, I'm saddened to hear of his passing. He was a unique spirit, full of life, and ready to share a laugh. We became friends after I moved back to Dubuque as an adult. He was a colorful soul in homogeneous Dubuque. As I reflect on our friendship, though, I sense there was a quiet sadness to him also. It makes me think of the Clown's Prayer, which I recall was read at Chris Farley's funeral (useless trivia, my mind is full of it):

As I stumble through this life,
help me to create more laughter than tears,

dispense more cheer than gloom,
spread more cheer than despair.

Never let me become so indifferent,
that I will fail to see the wonders in the eyes of a child,
or the twinkle in the eyes of the aged.

Never let me forget that my total effort is to cheer people,
make them happy, and forget momentarily,
all the unpleasantness in their lives.

And in my final moment,
may I hear You whisper:
"When you made My people smile,
you made Me smile."

Rest in Peace, Michael

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Geek at 50?

I have to take a minute to brag about myself, even at the risk of jinxing myself in my future PC troubleshooting endeavors. Over the course of the last four weeks, I have had to perform a series of tune-ups on my laptop for a variety of reasons. I am pretty darn proud to report that I managed to handle these on my own and (knock on wood) everything still seems to be working fine.

First issue was that I was lounging on the couch one night in my typical TV watching fashion with my laptop on my lap (duh). My Internet connection blanked out. This has periodically occurred before. My usual fix, go unplug the modem and wireless router and let it reset. I did that numerous times to no avail. Then I booted up my work laptop just to see if it was something specific to my laptop. Nope, it didn't connect either. My first troubleshooting effort was to unplug the wireless router and plug the modem directly into the laptop. Yes...that works, so obviously my router has crapped out. (Wow, so spoiled now. It really sucks having to be confined to one room with an Ethernet cable connecting you to your modem.) Off to Best Buy I go, where some helpful child (OK, young man -- but seriously he looked to be about 12) asked me a couple of questions and sold me a new router that I successfully installed and secured with only one slight glitch (that was really a result of some bad technical writing in the instructions and no issues on my part or the part of the hardware).

The next problem that cropped up was when I was trying to prepare my 50th birthday party playlist and wanted to get some new music from iTunes. I hadn't logged in to iTunes for months, so of course the first thing it told me was there was a new version of iTunes available to download. Did that, but then I couldn't actually get into the iTunes store. Grrrrr...totally annoying. After about an hour of googling this issue, I came across a YouTube video (again from someone who looked like a child) that explained how to downgrade to a prior version of iTunes. I successfully restored my previous version of iTunes thinking that would solve the problem. No! Dammit. I then determined it was my virus software preventing me from getting to iTunes. I was using the free software provided by the cable company. I guess you get what you pay for. I could see that it was blocking my outbound attempt but could not figure out how to override that. I bit the bullet and purchased some new virus software. When I first downloaded and installed it, however, for a brief moment of panic I thought I really effed things up because EVERYTHING disappeared from my desktop and I couldn't even get to the start button to reboot. Whew, after doing a hard shut-down, everything was restored.

Next issue occurred when I plugged my new Kindle into the laptop using a USB cable to charge it. The very next time I tried to go online, my laptop would lose Internet connectivity every five minutes. I couldn't even see the list of available networks. Again, I booted up my work laptop and that worked just fine. The laptop would "troubleshoot" and each time it would give the same message:

Specifically, it kept telling me that the Microsoft Virtual WiFi Mini Network Adapter was having driver problems. So annoying...having to reboot every five minutes. I kept going back to the fact that this happened after I had plugged the Kindle in. I spent the next week searching the web every night to figure out how to resolve the problem. Last night, I finally happened on a forum where someone described the same issue I was having. The person who posted the comment said that the Microsoft WiFi Network Adapter was designed to create a virtual network off your own laptop if you wanted to allow others to access the Internet through your device. Hmmmm, OK, the wifi feature was turned on when I plugged the Kindle in. The blogger noted that there was no way to remove the Microsoft WiFi Network, but he gave two commands to turn the thing off using Command Prompt. I followed those two lines of instructions to the letter and "voila" problem solved.

While doing all the research to resolve that annoying problem, I saw a fix for a long-standing problem I had with my Dell printer being incompatible with my HP laptop. Now that problem is also fixed!

Who needs Geek squad? The key to success is A LOT of patience and persistence. The answers are usually all out there. Of course, I'd much rather that everything just work perfectly without any human intervention on my part.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Road to 50 is Well Traveled

I had a great birthday. I didn't think I could top my 40th birthday celebration in Jamaica. I mean, who wouldn't love 85 degrees, white sand beaches, clear blue sky, warm azure waters, fantastic sunsets, and all the Red Stripe you could want delivered right to your lounge chair on the beach in the first week of January. It was all for the pleasure of my mind.

As I approached my 50th birthday, I toyed with the idea of again jetting off to a Caribbean island and basking in the warm sunshine (with my SPF 30 of course) for a few days. It is clearly a sign of aging when what you really want to do on your birthday is be around family and friends.  

Turks & Caicos will have to wait for another day. I spent my actual birthday in Indiana, where we did a little gambling, had some cocktails, and enjoyed some wonderful meals. Note to all the smokers out there, you can still smoke in a bar or restaurant in Indiana.


My official birthday soiree was at the Black Horse Inn at the Sherrill Mount House. It is a gorgeous old inn from 1856 that has been painstakingly renovated into a lovely bed and breakfast with five guest rooms. The night started out pretty well. We were all proper having wine and appetizers.


We had a lovely dinner.


I got presents.


We played Catch Phrase.


My Carter was there. (Yes, he *is* wearing a Burberry sweater. He's stylish that way at age 4.)


We stayed respectable until the parents left.


Then...things might have started to go downhill; or, maybe uphill depending on your perspective. We made a trip to the local night club, "The Barn." Lots of cocktails, a few shots, and much dancing. There might even have been tears of joy! Suffice it to say, we were the life of the party in Sherrill that night.



Safely back at the Black Horse Inn, the die hard partiers kept it going a while longer.


Ummmm, yeah....I think that picture pretty much says it all. Time check....


Yep, that's 4:10 a.m. That was way, way, way past my normal bed time. There you have it, the perfect 50th birthday celebration. It would have been made only more perfect if all my family members could have been there. Of course, I cannot say that the day after the blowout was perfect. I was tres fatigue (two of the few French words I remember from Madame Hornsby's class my freshman year of college).  

40  -- 50 --  I'm already thinking of how I can top them at 60.

Shout out to my family and friends who made the night a great one. Love you all!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me!

Go shawty, it's your birthday
We gonna party like it's your birthday
(Fifty cent)

And I'm sure you will agree
It couldn't fit more perfectly
Than to have a world party on the day you came to be

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday
(Stevie Wonder)

Yes, people, I am now officially 50 years old. Technically it happened at 7:46 this morning, even though I started celebrating at 12:07 a.m.

I don't feel any different. Of course, it's 9:35 a.m., and I am still in bed. So, that seems to be helping A LOT! Maybe I should start every day like this....oh, plus the three pudding shots I just did by myself. Why not pudding shots for breakfast on your birthday.