Thursday, March 31, 2011

Whine, whine, whine

Oh, come on. Snow. Again. Will this winter never end? It's a fitting end to this week, which was marked by my acquisition of yet another cold (this makes four this winter) and the unfortunate demise of our dryer. Add to that various sniffles and coughs from the boys, the time unwillingly spent on the necessary chore of doing our taxes, some unwelcome news on the writing front and, if not exactly insomnia, then less-than-restful sleep, and I can safely say I'll be glad when this week is over. The whine analysis:

  • Sniffles. I've been pretty much sick since right after Christmas. I did have a healthy week or so at the beginning of March, but generally, I've been coughing my way through the past three months. Not good for the singing, the teaching or the sleeping. This latest cold has me worried; pain on the left side of my throat and up into my left ear. I hope it's not strep, and I hope I feel better enough tomorrow that I don't have to schlep to the doctor in the nasty weather to find out.

  • Wet laundry. Our dryer has been making some noise for a little while, but seemed to be working okay. Then, on Tuesday morning, the clothes were just as wet when I took them out as when I put them in. Boooo. I can't really complain, because it was 16 years old and didn't really owe us anything. But it's just one more thing. We're getting a new one delivered tomorrow, but first, we have to get the old one out of the way...and up the stairs. Can't wait to tackle that project tomorrow morning.

  • Taxes, schmaxes. It's really not that bad, but our taxes are complicated, since we're both self-employed. We take a zillion deductions (or rather, our accountant does on our behalf) and all those receipts and credit card statements and cancelled checks take time to organize, categorize and total. It's definitely worth it -- even tallying every mile I commuted to gigs -- but it's a crashing bore. At least it's done for this year.

  • Too many eggs in one basket syndrome. I do a lot of writing for Milton Patch, and learned this week that much of what I write is being eliminated or reduced by the powers that be. Fortunately, the editor has been able to salvage some of my stuff, and has asked me to pick up some other regular features, so it's not as bad as it might have been. If nothing else, it's been a lesson that I need to share the love a bit, and approach other outlets with my writing.

  • Twitchy legs. A few years ago, I had a nasty bout with the comically-named restless legs syndrome. It sounds ridiculous, but these crazy legs wake me up in the middle of the night because they can't hold still and let me sleep. I get so annoyed with them. Why can't they just relax, like normal legs?

Now for the good news:

  • Tomorrow is Friday. I have nothing on my calendar (save for the dryer delivery and one phone appointment) and can stay home all day long and work, assuming I don't need to schlep to the doctor. Maybe I could even do some yoga to settle down these legs.

Yeah, that's all I got. But at least it's something. Namaste.

Last Weekend's Column

The Patriot Ledger didn't put my column online last weekend, and I haven't had any time to do it until this very minute. Enjoy.


I’m not the pickup truck type.

Now, many fine people drive pickup trucks, including my father-in-law, who has one for his contracting business. His truck is on the small side, but it does the job, and has been serving as my in-laws’ only vehicle for several months, ever since my mother-in-law’s clunker of a sedan went to that great junkyard in the sky.

Then they were invited to a family wedding in Key West, more than 1,500 miles away. A few weeks before the trip, my husband wanted to talk about it.

“You know how my parents are going to Florida,” he began.

“Mmm-hmmm,” I murmured, deep in a Google search.

“Well, I was thinking,” he continued, “that it might be nice to let them borrow our car for the trip.”

I tore myself away from the pursuit of knowledge and considered his statement. Since we needed the minivan for the kids, I knew he had to be talking about our new-to-us compact. The one with the USB port and the heated mirrors. The one that gets upwards of 30 mpg on the highway.

“Their truck won’t be comfortable for such a long trip, and they’ll save a ton of money on gas if they take our car,” he continued. “So maybe we could just trade cars for the time they’re gone.”

I stifled a sigh. He was right, of course. It wouldn’t really be an inconvenience for us, and would mean a lot to them. Besides, they’ve done so much for us over the years. Of course they should borrow our cute little energy-efficient car for their trip. I nodded my assent, and handed over my keys.

Earl left before dawn one morning to make the switch, returning later with the circa-2003, brown, no-frills, commercially-licensed pickup. He gave me the key, and cautioned that if I needed to adjust the side mirrors, I’d better do it before I left for work, because they weren’t electric. I got in, was pleased to note that at least it had an FM radio, and turned the key.

The truck roared to life. Here was a vehicle with muffler issues. I gave Earl a withering look as I lumbered down the driveway, wondering how such a manly, growling truck could simultaneously squeak like a baby carriage with a bum wheel.

My maiden voyage in the truck took about 20 minutes, during which I developed a new appreciation for my own car’s suspension. The pickup bounced and jounced its way over the proliferation of early-Spring potholes, leaving me clutching the loosey-goosey steering wheel and wishing St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, hadn’t been demoted to “Mister Christopher” some years ago. This Rough Rider could have used some saintly intervention.

Since that initial commute, I’ve gotten more used to the truck and its natural ebullience on bumpy roads. Now, while driving this vehicle that suits me no better than a Harley, I don’t exactly smile, but I do clench my teeth and think happy thoughts. In a few days, my in-laws will bring my car back, and the driving will be smooth for me once again.

Copyright 2011 GateHouse Media, Inc.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tuesday Tidbits

I stayed home from school today, the first day I've done so all year. Timmy was sick and Earl couldn't stay home with him, so it was my turn. It was nice to have a day at home, but I would much rather that Timmy was well. It's doubtful he'll go to school tomorrow, either, but I only have to teach two classes and can come home right after that, so Earl will stay with him until I get home.
MCAS makes for an anxiety-ridden morning for Abby. One down, something like 4 or 5 days to go.
I get really annoyed with students who fart while sitting on my piano bench. Ewww.
I also get annoyed when something I thought was a private email exchange turns out not to be. No harm done, really, but for those of you who are naive like I was until this afternoon: businesses that use Constant Contact for email can track anything you do with those emails. They can tell if and when you open them, as well as whether you forward them.

Constant Contact is a marketer's dream. I'd certainly use if if I had the need. But it left me feeling pretty unsettled when I received an email from a representative of an organization, who stated he knew I'd contacted someone I'd read about in the Constant Contact email. He knew this, of course, because I forwarded that email to the someone in question, with my own message to the recipient.

As I said, no harm done, other than that feeling that Big Brother is watching.
Spring has disappeared. Snow yesterday, fairly chilly today (although I only stepped outside to get the paper, so how do I know?) I console myself with the knowledge that April starts next week. It can't snow in April, right?

Japan. Libya. Yemen. The world's cup of suffering is overflowing.
I have an Irish soda bread injury that is taking a long time to heal. While slicing a homemade loaf last week, the knife slipped, and I've been wearing a bandage on my finger ever since. I blame all typos and wrong piano notes this week on the Irish.
I decided this week that there's no reason I can't make things better while waiting for them to officially get better. There's a change coming in my life that will be a welcome one, and I've been putting off a lot of things until that change happens. It occurred to me a couple of days ago, however, that some of the things I'm postponing don't really need to be postponed. If these things make me happy, why not do them now?

It doesn't always work, but it helps keep me more in the moment, instead of biding my time.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spring Column

We had absolutely beautiful weather the last two days. Sunny, warm -- it was perfect.

It was the kind of weather I was wishing for last week, when I wrote today's Milton Musings.

My writing yesterday was a little different. I took a walk and was inspired thus:

A coat-less walk at winter's end,
And suddenly, the world's my friend.
Therapy and hocus-pocus
Can't hold a candle to a crocus.

Today is supposed to be on the chilly side, but I can handle it, after the dose of sunshine I got yesterday. And besides, I've got a half-dozen crocuses in the yard, until the squirrels discover them.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

They're growing up

I wrote a piece about how the kids are growing up, and how that makes me feel excited as well as wistful. It's in today's Patriot Ledger.

In other news, I left yesterday's pity party and finally put together my three entries for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists 2011 writing contest. I've been thinking about it for weeks, but the deadline is Tuesday, so I figured I'd better get my act together. I had to submit three columns published in 2010, and these are the ones I chose:

The Beach Boys one

The dead rabbit one


The bad eyesight one

Hopefully the committee will get a few chuckles out of them. Maybe you will, too.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Whine alert!

I wish it were a wine alert, but that particular beverage wouldn't be great for this cold I have, which still lingers. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm in my annual March funk.

I have columns to write, that are supposed to be funny. I got nothin'. I'm sick, tired, feeling overworked, overwhelmed and put-upon. I whine to Earl that I don't feel well. I whine to my sister about the weather. I whine to friends that I don't get to have any fun, at least not without rearranging tasks four and five levels deep and/or being in a major time crunch afterwards.

March, to put it plainly, stinks.

I feel this way every year. Yes, the worst of the snow is behind us, and for that, I'm sincerely thankful. But the monsoons come, followed by the sideways rain and the drizzle for what seems like days on end. Then, it will clear up and be in the low 40s for a few days, and then the cycle starts all over again.

March has no fun holidays, except for St. Patrick's Day, which is really a non-event in my house. I hate boiled dinner and won't make it. Blech. I make Irish soda bread, and will do so this weekend, but other than that, and the Christmas Tree Shop shamrock on my front door, St. Patrick's day doesn't bring much cheer to the house.

I also came to the conclusion this week that I'm just doing too much. I also recognize that I can't do anything about that right now. I know this, and have for some time, but it's wearing me down.

There are signs, however, that change is coming. We move the clocks ahead tomorrow night, which means we'll have daylight later in the evening. Crocuses are appearing near my kids' school and daffodils are stretching upwards by my furnace vent. Before I know it, April vacation will be here, then Easter, and then in another blink it will be summertime, when my schedule will lighten up a lot. There is light at the end of the tunnel; it just seems like a really, really long tunnel right now.

And here I sit, in my cozy house with a new roof that won't leak even in these rains, while Japan suffers. Yes, it puts things into perspective, but the funk goes on.

Monday, March 7, 2011

OTC Efficiency

The stinky thing about having yet another cold and having to take Sudafed in order to be able to breathe (or talk, or sing) is that the sleeping isn't so good. I've been up multiple times for the past two nights. No fun.

The silver lining is that I'm not tired from my poor sleep, and I'm getting an awful lot done. Plus I can breathe, which is always helpful.

I can see why stimulants, such as Adderall, are so useful for people who need help focusing and accomplishing their various tasks. I'm usually pretty organized and efficient, but I notice an uptick when I have to take pseudoephedrine for congestion.

Yesterday, for example, I did my three-mass (four-and-a half-hour) church job, including directing my children's choir. I came home and wrote three days of my daily column plus one of my weekly columns. I also helped Abby with one of her writing assignments, supervised her practicing for her recital tonight, made cookies with her (also for her recital tonight), had a short visit from my sister, and did various things to get ready for the work week -- laundry, double-checking meal planning, etc. -- and I did it all without feeling overwhelmed, and getting to bed by 8:15.

Not feeling overwhelmed is the key, here. I usually have to do most of those things (except for the cookies) and often feel resentful, exhausted and oppressed by Sunday afternoon. Not so, yesterday.

Of course, if Earl hadn't been doing a lot of stuff with the kids, I might have been pushed over the edge. But maybe not, with the Wonder-Woman feeling I had.

I am in no way suggesting that Sudafed should be taken for any other purpose than to relieve congestion. But, as long as I have to take it for my cold, I'll enjoy the increased focus and efficiency it brings. I'm off to tackle a teaching day now.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Can you hear me now?

Somehow, lost mobile phones keep turning up at my house. Read about it in today's column on Milton Patch.