Paved Paradise and put in Auto Parts

November 24th, 2007

There used to be a field not far from our house. This was the type of field where young boys brought their dads and had baseball practice. It was the kind of field you remember from your childhood. Tall, rolling grass full of wildflowers, dragonflies, and kids running until their legs were numb. We don’t have that field any longer.

The children have been told to find another field. This field is now going to be an auto parts store. Sure, there is an auto parts store about 2 miles away. However, there must be an automotive need for more of them. Sort of like a Starbucks. Incidentally, our town happens to have 2 within a mile of each other. That’s progress. Get rid of baseball fields and put in more coffee joints and car part chain stores.

People keep saying that children don’t play outside any longer. They see children becoming more and more obese and sedantary. I wonder if these are the same people that need 2 Starbucks within a mile of each other.

I realize that businesses want to grow and expand their clientele. However, at what expense? Will we pave over more fields, parks, and playgrounds to do so? Will future generations be denied the experience of playing hide-and-seek in tall grass or identifying cloud critters while spinning on a merry-go-round? Will they only get to play baseball inside four walls?

Who needs fields full of laughing, healthy children anyway? Everyone knows that selling a cup of over-priced coffee or a bottle of motor oil are what makes the world go ’round. Don’t they?

My Left Foot (and why I should throttle our dog)

November 24th, 2007

First of all, I love my dog. We have a 9 yr. old black lab. We rescued him from the Humane Society 8 yrs. ago and love him to pieces. He is also not very bright. He is extremely sweet and “needy”, but our houseplants are brighter than he is. Although he isn’t the smartest dog, we love him just the same.

Today, I could throttle our wonderful dog. Why? Because I can’t ask him to move and he knows he owns the place. As the weather in Austin was cold and rainy today, I stayed in my pajamas with my family. We look forward to days like this where we can just be “vegetables in pajamas”. Watch a good movie, take a nap, etc.

This afternoon, our family had just watched a movie when I needed to go to the restroom. Our dog loves to be near me, so he was right under me next to the couch. As I didn’t want to disturb his nap (not like he doesn’t take half a dozen of them each day, right?), I tried to step over him. This is when our dog decided that he needed to stand up. My brain quickly realized this and tried to compensate for it by side-stepping. What a mistake! I stumbled and did a “football punt” into the corner of the coffee table. Can you say: “Seeing stars & little birdies?”

*sigh* The reason why I am upset with our dog is that I broke one of my toes. This wouldn’t be a catastrophe normally, except that I am TRAINING FOR 2 HALF MARATHONS! *Urgh!!!!* My toe is completely black & blue. As I have broken various toes 5 times in the past, I am 100% sure that this one is broken. What can I do about it? Tape it to the next toe and not go running for a few weeks.

This just hasn’t been my week. My husband gets laid off, we get an unexpected bill that our insurance refuses to pay (from my husband’s 2 carpal tunnel surgeries earlier this year), and I break my toe and can’t train for a few weeks. Someone once told me that bad things come in 3’s. If that is so, we are looking at brighter days ahead. I sure hope so.

This gets me to thinking…I wonder if there has ever been a study done comparing prodominant sides of the body and weakness. As I am left-handed, I have noticed that the left side of my body sure takes a beating compared to my right. I am constantly hurting my left foot, have pulled my left hip badly, and have gotten shin splints on my left shin. Hmm..I wonder…

As for my dog, he is curled up at my feet right now as I type this. I better ask him to move before I get up again. He will think I am being rude. I know that I am ensuring that my other 9 toes remain healthy and uninjured. Poor dog.

Nice Thanksgiving. Now onto Unemployment.

November 22nd, 2007

We had a great Thanksgiving. Our family came to our house and had a relaxed meal. I was really nervous about cooking the turkey, but everything turned out wonderful. My in-laws spoiled my husband and bought a $40+ turducken (a chicken stuffed into a duck stuffed into a turkey). Needless to say, we had A LOT of leftovers. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a more smooth holiday feast. The food was great, the company was relaxed and joyous, and the games were fun.

With that said, our family now looks at unemployment for my husband. Tomorrow is his last day at Big Blue. When he said good-bye to several people on his team yesterday, most of them had no clue that he had been let go (speaking of a tight-knit team and an informative manager). My husband said that many people were shocked and angry that they let him go around the holidays. Welcome to Corporate America folks. End of the quarter figures are more important than happy, secure jobs.

My husband did get offered two jobs last week. One was a 6 month contract in Maine. Although the money was almost double what he makes now, the job was a dozen states away and not permanent. After getting an apartment, furnishing it, etc., it just wasn’t worth it.

The second job he was offered was also a 6 month contract about one and a half hours away from here. That would cost us about $20/day in gasoline. Hmmm…for the pay, not really worth it.

At this point, I would love for him to find something that uses his talents. He is quiet and some times shy. However, he works hard and is willing to learn new things. I just want him to be happy. When men aren’t happy with their work, it seems like it becomes “them”. You know? A man IS his job. Women aren’t like that.

So….we are hoping that he finds something soon. I would hate to eat our savings account again. I know we have done that something like 5 times in the past. However, it is always hard to recover from. I gave my husband two weeks to find something. If he hasn’t by then, I will go back to waitressing. It isn’t a glamourous job, but the pay is good for a part-time job.

Come on jobs! We could use you!!

Finished 1 Bathroom-2 to go!

November 22nd, 2007

My hubby wrote about our new bathroom remodel. I think he says it best so I will just link you to his site here…

Banning iPods during races? Say it isn’t so!!

November 16th, 2007

I love my iPod and run with it every chance I get. I listen to what my husband fondly refers to as “boom-tisk” music. You know. That quick beat that you get from electronica, house, and techno music. I love that. It keeps me going when my legs don’t want to. Nothing like hearing an extended mix from Depeche Mode to keep my legs running.

I also love my Nano attachment that keeps track of my distance, calories burned, speed, etc. It is sort of a poor man’s Garmin (without the heart monitor). However, I love it. By the end of this year, I will have run over 400 miles in 8 months with it (thanks to 4 months of rest due to a hip injury). I can’t run without it.

Nike armbandWell, after hearing about a recent ruling, I might have to. The USA Track & Field, the national governing body for running, recently banned the use of headphones and portable audio players like iPods at its official races. They state that this rule is for runner safety and preventing runners from having an “edge” on their competition.

Let me just state some points here:

  • World-class runners DO NOT wear iPods during races. Have you ever seen a world-class Ethiopian runner crossing the finish line wearing his iPod? It just doesn’t happen.
  • Race courses are closed to ensure the safety of runners. Paid, off duty police officers are planted throughout the race course to make sure that courses are free of traffic.
  • When you run a big race (i.e. half or full marathon), there are timed signs from the starting line back. If you are a “serious runner”, you will find your average finishing time sign (i.e. 4:00:00 hours to complete the marathon) and go to that area and wait for the starting gun. These “serious runners” are in the front and DO NOT wear iPods. There is no danger to them of running anyone over that is wearing one.
  • Finally, the obvious – people that wear iPods during races are not world-class runners. We are the over-weight, middle aged folks that are running to wear off our “middle-aged spread”. We aren’t going to win any races. We just want to finish. We are the ones in the back of the pack with the strollers, the knee braces. We smell like Ben-Gay and never miss a port-a-potty on the race route. We are doing this just to test ourselves and to prove that we can make the distance.

There are reports that major races will disqualify runners that bring iPods & headphones to races. Hmmm…disqualify me? You obviously think I will be close to the front and outrun the 10,000+ runners that are in the same race. Nope. I am the chunky girl in the back that is huffing & puffing and begging my legs to go a bit further.

I honestly think that this ruling is just about “covering the proverbial backside”. If officials are afraid thatNike iPod running someone will get hurt, they shouldn’t have races. Over my racing life, I have seen my fair share of falls, fainting participants, and vomiting contestants. It happens. I can’t imagine people suing over a fall they had during a race. I certainly can’t imagine someone suing because a runner was wearing an iPod on the course next to them.

Will I run in a race if they ban iPods and threaten me with disqualification? Sure. I am doing this for fun and to keep the “love handles” to a minimum. If they want to disqualify me, go ahead. I will be the girl in the back jogging next to the mom with 2 kids in a stroller. She and I aren’t planning to win. We just want to finish.

No Hugging Allowed? What’s next?

November 16th, 2007

I wanted to write about this last week, but have been swamped. Did you hear that a 13-year-old girl in Mascoutah, Illinois was given detention because she hugged her classmates? When I heard about this on the news, I thought: “Here we go. We have finally gone over the edge!”Kids Hugging

I realize that the public school system has craziness to deal with. Problems such as: Disrespect of teachers, cheating, gang violence, etc. are becoming the norm. However, shouldn’t school administrators concentrate on these problems and the declining grades of our children? Is catching students hugging their friends something that should be treated as “no tolerance”? Seriously, is that really what our taxes are going to – Hugging Monitors?

Makes you kind of wonder where this will lead. Next, schools will be adopting a “no tolerance” for: high fives, hand-holding between boyfriends/girlfriends, talking at lunch, playing at recess, or doing labs with a partner.

Why are we concentrating on something that is good & pure (i.e. hugging) and penalizing students for it? Shouldn’t administrators be concentrating on whether a high school senior can read or even fill out a job application properly? Shouldn’t they be worrying on whether students can balance a check book or know the history of our country? Come on people!

I find this situation totally ludicrious. I can not believe that a student is not allowed to hug her best friends without being treated like a criminal. Makes me wonder how I ever made it through school. I was a hugger. If this rule was in place when I was in school, I would be serving a life sentence in a state penitentiary. I can just hear it now: “Hey, whatcha in for? Murder? Arson? Grand-Theft?” “No, something worse. I hugged my best friend in 6th grade.”

This is yet another example of “the Big Brother system” setting ridiculous rules. Nothing like taking away friendships and camaraderie. Bring on the metal detectors, playgrounds full of “non-threatening plastic play equipment”, teaching to the test, and fenced in school grounds. And people ask homeschoolers about socializing? Oh Please!

Dishonest over .25? *Rolling Eyes*

November 15th, 2007

Yesterday morning, I went online to renew our library books. We usually go to our public library on Wednesday as our music lessons are just down the street. We had two videos that we hadn’t had a chance to watch, so I wanted to renew them. When I pulled up our account, the system said that a book we had returned was still at home. Hmm… This has happened before. Three times before actually. I realize that the librarians miss checking in books from time to time. They are only human.

Anyway, I sent a note to the librarian via e-mail asking if they would look on their shelves. I knew that the book was returned and it must’ve been shelved without being put back into the system.

When we got done with music, we made our weekly trip to the library. For a Wednesday, the place was hopping. All three librarians had folks at the counter. I decided to go look for the book-in-question myself. Sure enough, there it was. Shelved without being checked back into the system.

I took it to the front and explained to the librarian what happened. The librarian (who looked more like a guy that should be riding BMX bikes for a living – more on that in a minute), got a bit “flustered”. “Ma’am, PLEASE don’t go to the shelves. Come straight to us. We have had people sneak in past due books in the past so they don’t have to pay the .25 fee. Not that you were doing that, but we would like to look for the books ourselves.”

Wait a second, did he say that people lie over .25? Why would someone lie oover .25? That doesn’t even make sense to me. I mean, I have had to pay a $5 late fee for library video that was forgotten under a car seat. I have had to pay $25 for a book that got a glass of water spilled on it. Why would I (or anyone other library patron) lie over .25? It truly boggles my mind. Are people that cheap and dishonest? Amazing.

Oh, back to the librarians thing. You know when you were in school and your librarian reminded you of your Aunt or sweet, elderly neighbor? Not any longer. Librarians are younger and more “hip”. At least they are in the libraries that we use in Austin. I am seeing more and more younger (and dare I say attractive) 20-something librarians. Is the Dewey Decimal system becoming a “cutting edge” job opportunity? Are they combing the national colleges for recruits? “Librarians. They aren’t just sweet, elderly women any more!”

Happy Thanksgiving! (You are now laid off)

November 13th, 2007

Why do large corporations think that laying off employees around the holidays is fun? Seriously. What isLaid Off it? Do they get a sick sense of joy by seeing people crushed? Do they love seeing employees pack up their office and turn in their key? My husband was “visited” by his contract firm this morning. His 2 yr. contract is up. His company has decided to cut contractors in his lab. What a wonderful way to say “Happy Thanksgiving”.

When my husband’s co-workers (the permanent employees) found out that he was being laid off, they started to freak out. The reason? My husband is doing the job of 4 employees in a 40 hour week. They laid off 3 other employees 6 months ago and told my husband that he was to get all the work done in 40 hours a week. NO OVERTIME ALLOWED. Now, they are letting him go. He monitors over 300 super computers for all over the world and they are letting him go.

Am I stressed out over this? You bet. We got a loan 4 months ago to liquidate our bills and remodel our 30+ yr. old home. Now, we have 1 bill and some in savings to pay for remodeling. It looks like God had plans for that money after all – to help us survive a lay off.

This is something like my husband’s 5th lay off in about 7 years. I hate the technical industry. They can be so heartless. It doesn’t matter if your fellow co-workers/bosses think you are doing a fantastic job. When the quarter comes around, they let contractors go. My husband’s company hasn’t hired anyone in years and years. Contractors are easier targets. You don’t pay them a severance, insurance, vacation pay, etc. You just say: “Turn in your key. You aren’t wanted here any longer.” *sigh*

With all the craziness in our lives, here is just one more to add to the pile. My husband reassured me on the phone (he waited an hour to tell me – I think he knew I would be a bit “upset”). He is trying to ask his technical friends if there are jobs out there. Of course, the holidays are the worst time to find a job.

As we are a single income family, this is going to be tough. However, I can fall back to waitressing (as a part-time job, it makes the most) again if we need the money. I have done that 3 times before. It has been really tough on our homeschooling and family, but it was necessary. I can do that again. I honestly hate it, but “you do what you gotta do”. Right?

So, here is to friends finding a suitable job that pays the bills (or Monster or the local classified ads). What a week…

2007 Daylight Savings hinders Trick-or-Treating

November 2nd, 2007

Our family lives on a fairly busy road. On Halloween, we usually get between 100-150 children at our door. They come in all sizes. From the adorable “still in stroller” munchkins, to the 18 yr. old high schoolers. We give out glow necklaces and bracelets to them all.

Trick or Treaters As 2007 brought changes to our daylight savings (3 weeks earlier in March and 1 week later in November), my husband and I wondered if it would effect our trick-or-treaters. As we looked outside at 6pm on Halloween to see no trick-or-treaters, we started to wonder. We got our first child around 7:15 (over one hour past the normal time). We noticed that the children that came to our door were older. Perhaps it was because they were out at a later time?

As the evening concluded (just at 9pm), we wound up having about 40 children. Far fewer children then we normally would. Was the fact that the sun didn’t go down until later making the difference? We think so. We had older children at our door and definitely less out trick-or-treating.

I suppose the upside to the story is for the children that did go out. My son came home with 6.5 POUNDS of candy. People were piling on the candy to the kids that did come to their door. My son and his friends also noticed that there were more teenagers out trick-or-treating and threatening smaller children.

I know the government thought that an additional week of light would please most adults. However, I don’t think they thought about the little ones that look forward to dressing up one night a year and asking for candy. Thank goodness there are fall festivals and school parties. Although, our local school doesn’t allow kids to dress up any longer. That is a shame. I loved that day in school when I was young.

Maybe Halloween is becoming an obsolete holiday. I hope not. I really enjoy seeing little ones all dressed up. Yet another bit of childhood joy being taken away. How sad.

Hardest lesson learned

November 1st, 2007

KindnessFor me, the hardest lesson learned in my life was that I couldn’t please everyone. Not that I haven’t tried throughout my life. I have run errands, done charity work, filled a need when no one else would, written letters, and helped everywhere I could. Why? Just to please others. It doesn’t always work. Actually, it is times when you are kind, hard-working, and honest that get people to really hate you.

A perfect example is when I was about 23 yrs. old. I worked for a temporary employment agency. I was hired to work as a secretary for a government research facility in San Fransisco. It was a huge facility nestled amongst trees and fields. It was extremely quiet and the large staff of scientists were cheerful and always willing to direct me. Everyone was kind except one scientist. No matter how fast I typed, fast I took messages to her, no matter what I did to please…she couldn’t stand me. Apparently, my attitude got on her nerves so much, she complained to the facility director. He came to me saying I was doing a fantastic job and that no one was unhappy with me EXCEPT that particular scientist. She wanted me gone a.s.a.p.. As she was a senior scientist at the facility, I was removed. So much for hard work and a great attitude. Thankfully, it all worked out in the end. I found a job with a property management firm and eventually became their marketing director.

Seems like my life has been throwing me “hard lessons” lately. I bought an item on Ebay from a fairly new seller. The communication with them was horrible. After waiting a week for a shipping cost, I sent payment electronically. Ten days later I get a notice that my parcel is being sent out. Two weeks later, I get the parcel. I wasn’t happy with the shipping time, but I was happy with the product. I left positive feedback for the seller and low marks on shipping. The next day, the seller leaves negative feedback for me. Today, I got two “hate e-mails” from them calling me names (i.e. “pathetic loser”, “do your children a favor and send them to public school”, etc.)

I realize that I am naive in my thinking, but let me just run something by here. Isn’t our world full of enough hatred and pain to drum up more? Why can’t people take responsibility when they have made a mistake and say they are sorry? Why do we all have to be so mean to one another? When we see something: beautiful, funny, honest, smart, kind, etc., shouldn’t we treasure it? Why do we all have to be so nasty? I know I fall into the trap of not thinking of others from time to time. That is something I constantly work on. I can say that when I show kindness and a smile, it “usually” makes the day of two people – me and the one that received them.

“Be kind to unkind people – they need it the most” – Ashleigh Brilliant