Monday, January 18, 2016

Travel Bugs

Travel is my passion.

Over the decades, I often haven't had the right combo of time and money to make it happen. In the last years, I've stepped it up a notch. Finally getting back to it after damn near 30 years. Making plans. Trying to keep it at the top of my list.

I recently received a brochure in the mail for Viking River Cruises. I've never been a fan of guided travel myself, preferring to book a flight, find a room, rent a car and have an adventure with my husband.

But I've always wanted to help my mother fulfill her desire to travel. She'll be 72 this year, and hasn't been out of the country save the occasional pops across the border to Canada and one trip to Mexico. My dad hasn't been that keen on going anywhere, and I don't want Mom to miss out.

Mom had happened to get the same brochure in the mail, and thought it sounded like a lovely idea. Mom and me, sharing a stateroom on cruise up the Rhine. All meals included. Tours off the boat. Sounded perfect for us.

But I'm a problem child when it comes to planning. I'm never satisfied with the first idea. Are there other river cruise companies? Would we like their itineraries better? How good are their reviews? How do the costs compare? What are the extra charges? The answers were yes, mixed, widely variable, and extensive.

Then I decided to look into other travel - senior travel - with a bit of a slower pace for Mom. I discovered Road Scholar. They're a non-profit, offering (to paraphrase their own description) "educational adventures." The trips they plan cover the planet and accommodate all activity levels. From cooking classes in Tuscany, to hiking through the outback, to a riverboat cruise down the Mississippi. Even my dad might be interested in one of these. Mom agreed.

Our son, since reaching adulthood, lives for travel. It was his adventure bug that led to our trip to Rome. Since then, he's gone to France, Belgium and Mexico (Guadalajara) on his own. Next up, Ireland and England. My mom worries, of course, but also thrills at his trips - living vicariously through them.

"I went on Google Maps!" she exclaimed. This is a big step up in web exploration for her. "I checked out Guadalajara. I know where all the hospitals are." Uh-oh. A word of caution? "And then I found the airport, and the lake he's going to. And I went down to street level and looked at everything. It's so NICE! I'm so excited for him!"

Then came the turn in the conversation.

"You know, though, there are plenty of wonderful places in our own country to see."

I'd heard this before. Each time my husband, our son or daughter, or I talked about traveling outside of the U.S.

Mom and Dad are both religiously and politically conservative. Dad more so than Mom. Patriotism, American values and the ardent belief that no matter what, we live in the best country on earth. They watch far too much Faux News. Our little clan (my husband, son, daughter and me) are on the liberal side politically, not religious, and have world views that would give my dad angina. As you can imagine - we tread lightly when discussing religion and politics over the holidays.

Mostly its fear. Fear of terrorists. Fear of the other. Fear of just being outside their comfort zone. Fear, I think, that what they hold to be unquestionably true about life in the U.S., just isn't true when held up to the light of day. And perhaps a little fear they may... actually... like it.

So, for Mom, I backtrack - a little.

"Take a look at the site. See what appeals to you. You and I will make plans. Maybe Dad'll find something that appeals, too? You and I can still take a trip abroad. Just you and me."

I hear her hesitate.

"I'd love that. I really would. Tuscany sounds nice."

"It is, Mom."

Cautious hope creeps into her voice.

"And maybe your father would like to do one of these ones in the states. Maybe it would get him wanting to travel again. So we can see something before we can't go places any more. We're not getting any younger."

"I know, Mom."

And it was that conversation that helped me prepare my answer for the next time she says, "there are plenty of wonderful places in our own country to see." It's not an answer she'll like. It'll scare her. But the truth is sometimes scary.

She's right, of course. There are many wonderful places in the U.S. I want to see - but they'll wait - and here's why.

I have Multiple Sclerosis. For years, I've been incredibly fortunate. I can walk. My energy is good most days. I have little to no restrictions on my every day life. But I know that it can change with no notice. I could lose my ability to walk, to see, to talk, to think. It's much more difficult to travel the world with those kinds of disabilities than it would be to travel domestically.

Last year my husband was treated for cancer. Yes, so far so good on his follow-ups - and we hope that will continue. Our daughter had major surgery, too. We ended up canceling travel plans for recovery. You never know what will happen to change your life and what may stop you in your tracks.

I want to hike Hadrian's Wall. I want to wander Florence. I want taste wine in Germany and drink Guinness in Ireland. I want to see the wide world while I can. I may never lose the ability - but then again, I may.

I'm racing against M.S. Mom is racing against age. I don't want those things to get in the way for either of us. Right now we're good. Let's see the world while we can.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

A Big, Long Look in the Mirror

I know. Blogs are so 2010.

I doubt anyone will read this, but that's okay. I'm considering it more of a writing exercise. For my own edification.

Before I begin, I have to give credit where credit is due. I found this list of questions on That blog, by the way, looks very cool. I'm going to go back to it myself for some good ideas on simplifying and minimizing. It's kind of my theme for 2016.

The list has 50 questions in all. 40 to reflect on the previous year. 10 to think about the coming year.

My 2015

1.What one event, big or small, are you going to tell your grandchildren about?
Our trip to England. It had been 27 years since my husband and I had stepped foot on the shores of Great Britain, and it was a fantastic trip. We'll be back soon. 
  • Driving on the left side wasn't as difficult as driving the massive car the rental place gave us. But it was a hybrid diesel with amazing mileage, and was luxurious to drive - when we weren't concerned we'd take the side mirrors off!
  • Found a beautiful, cozy B&B not far from Cambridge. Welcoming hosts, excellent rooms, and great food.
  • Wandered around Cambridge for a couple of days on foot. Marveled at the history. Enjoyed both the things that had changed, and the things that hadn't changed since we were last there. We love that city!
  • Met some of my husband's family that I'd never met before! I can't wait to see them again!
  • London. London. London. My favorite city. So good to be back. Finally had the opportunity to hit some tourist spots that I didn't get to the last time. Saw some wonderful shows in the West End. Saw more of my husband's family (that I'd met before), and we ambled around London for most of a day together. Just explored and found wonderful places on our own. 
2.If you had to describe your 2015 in 3 words, what would they be?
  • Challenging
  • Affirming
  • Exhilarating
3.What new things did you discover about yourself?
  • I can successfully plan a trip to Europe on my own. 
  • I can manage a lot more stress than I imagined I could. 
4.What single achievement are you most proud of?
  • Getting back to England.
5.What was the best news you received?
  • As difficult as 2015 was, there was a lot of good. One was that our son got a great first "real" job and was able to move out on his own. 
  • Two more things figured equally on the health side.
    • My husband was diagnosed with both gall bladder problems and bladder cancer and had surgery. He was given a clean bill of health in both of his post-operative check-ups this year. 
    • The source of our daughter's agony she'd been experiencing for years was finally discovered as hyperparathyroidism. She underwent surgery to remove a parathyroid gland that was next to her heart. For the first time in years, she is isn't suffering from kidney stones every few months.
6.What was your favourite place that you visited in 2015?
  • I'll lump this under England. I was so taken with finally being there, that I couldn't pick a favorite place out of the trip. 
7.Which of your personal qualities turned out to be the most helpful this year?
  • Patience and calm. I called upon them both in helping the family through all of our medical misery this year. 
8.Who was your number one go-to person that you could always rely on?
  • My husband. He and I are truly partners. 
9.Which new skills did you learn?
  • Park and Rides in Cambridge and the Tube in London. Seriously. The public transit system there, especially compared to the states, is wonderful. 
10.What, or who, are you most thankful for?
  • My family. They are my rock. My husband, daughter, son and parents make all the difference for me. 
11.If someone wrote a book about your life in 2015, what kind of genre would it be? A comedy, love story, drama, film noir or something else?
  • Dramedy. Sad and funny, by turns. 
12.What was the most important lesson you learnt in 2015?
  • No matter how frightening or stressful life is, there's always another day for a fresh perspective. 
13.Which mental block(s) did you overcome?
  • I don't think there were any. No real epiphanies. 
14.What 5 people did you most enjoy spending time with?
  • My husband
  • My son
  • My daughter
  • My mom
  • My dad
15.What was your biggest break-through moment career-wise?
  • Nothing really. My work is the biggest stressor in my life. I love the type of work that I do. I love the team I built and 90% of the others I work with. But the factors that I have no influence or control over are almost overwhelming. I need to find something else in the new year. 
16.How did your relationship to your family evolve?
  • It's stronger and closer. 
    • My husband and I reached our 27th anniversary this year. Not bad for the couple who planned their wedding in three days, huh? 
    • Since our daughter's health issues have been resolved, she's been a much happier and more positive person. 
    • Our son is out on his own now. But I think his daily distance has made our time together more meaningful. 
    • My parents have become more understanding of our ability to visit than in years past. It's made things much less stressful, and actually made us more likely to find the time to spend with them. 
17.What book or movie affected your life in a profound way?
  • None that I can think of this year. Not in a profound way. 
18.What was your favourite compliment that you received this year?
  • That I'm getting "sassy." I'm getting to that pre-menopausal age, and I have to admit that I put up with very little bullshit these days. Approaching the "Fuck-it Fifties" is a great place to be. 
19.What little things did you most enjoy during your day-to-day life?
  • Waking up to positivity.
  • Texting Tony.
  • Sundays with the family.
  • Playing games. 
  • Going for walks. 
  • A good cup of tea. 
  • A good glass of wine. 
20.What cool things did you create this year?
  • This year didn't leave a lot of time for creativity. There were a few things, though: 
    • I created a tracking system for requests for my team at work. It's turned out to be very helpful for us. 
    • My daughter and I, on the spur of the moment, went to a pottery painting place on my birthday. We spent a good two hours making presents for each other. I'm using the darling sunflower-themed tea pot she painted for me. I painted a cute little cup for her.  
21.What was your most common mental state this year (e.g. excited, curious, stressed)?
  • Unfortunately, stressed. It was a year of extremes. Both good and bad. 
22.Was there anything you did for the very first time in your life this year?
  • Learned how to empty urine bags for someone with a catheter. It's not as fun as it sounds.
  • Had both of our kids out of public school. Our daughter graduated high school, and it's wonderful to have her finding her life's path. 
23.What was your favourite moment spent with your friends?
  • Tricky question. My husband and I don't have many friends where we live. It's one of the toughest things about being where we are. I know it sounds sad, but I can't think of a single favorite moment with friends. We had some time with friends, yes. But not enough of them to single anything out as favorite. 
24.What major goal did you lay the foundations for?
  • Traveling overseas every year. When my husband and I started our married life, he was in the Air Force, stationed in Germany. After leaving the military in 1990, we either didn't have the time or the money to travel the world. In 2014, we took the family to Rome and it was wonderful. I made travel overseas at least once per year my goal. This year, we made it to England. Once England is paid off, we plan the next trip. The destination list is long - which means we'll have many places to go for years to come. And I have a lot of pages to fill in my passport. 
25.Which worries turned out to be completely unnecessary?
  • None, really. I seldom worry without need. But I don't worry excessively when I do. Think of it more as planning for all contingencies. 
26.What experience would you love to do all over again?
  • Go to England. Are you sensing a theme here? 
27.What was the best gift you received?
  • It's a tie. 
    • A coloring book from my husband. (Grown-up coloring books are all the rage.) It's exactly what I wanted!
    • A TARDIS handbag from one of our agencies at work. 
28.How did your overall outlook on life evolve?
  • When I'm stressing and feeling frantic, taking the advice I give others. It's all going to be there tomorrow. Go home. Have a glass of wine. Relax. Get a fresh perspective. 
29.What was the biggest problem you solved?
  • There were many at work. Although there wasn't much appreciation for it. 
  • I don't think there was a "biggest" problem at home. It's just life. Just take care of things as they come. 
30.What was the funniest moment of your year, one that still makes it hard not to burst out laughing when you think about it?
  • Wow. That question makes me feel inadequate! Happy moments, yes. Great moments, yes. But I can't think of a funniest moment. 
31.What purchase turned out to be the best decision ever?
  • I'm not prone to claiming anything as the "best," but there were a few good purchases:
    • Plane tickets to England (continuing the theme)
    • A new (used) car 
    • A badly needed new couch
32.What one thing would you do differently and why?
  • I would have planned our England travel earlier to take advantage of lower cost places to stay.
33.What do you deserve a pat on the back for?
  • Planning the trip to England. It went really smoothly. 
34.What activities made you lose track of time?
  • Playing games (boardgames and computer games)
  • Reading
  • Browsing the web (FAR TOO MUCH)
35.What did you think about more than anything else?
  • Time. Again - FAR TOO MUCH. What time is it? What time do I have to take a call? be at a meeting? be at an appointment? be home? etc., etc., etc. Always having to think about the next thing to get done and when. Not enough time to just be. 
36.What topics did you most enjoy learning about?
  • History
  • Travel
37.What new habits did you cultivate?
  • Cultivate. I like that word. It's so much more open than "establish." Sadly, I didn't fully establish new habits. I do fall off the wagon. But I did cultivate several that I'm still working on: 
    • Brushing and flossing twice a day. It sounds silly, but it's true. 
    • Keeping up with my FitBit. I was in the habit of tracking the first few months of 2015, and it helped. But I stopped about mid-year. It's on my wrist now. 
    • Turning work OFF in my brain when I come home. I did better than in previous years, but it wasn't perfect. And as a manager, my company expects that I'm always accessible. Even if I'm not needed, if there's big stuff going on, it's hard to not have the possibility in the back of my mind. 
    • Letting go. This I did a bit better with this year - not entirely successful - but I tried to keep it in mind. Whatever you want to call it. Circle of concern. Gravity. Not stressing over things I have no control over. Trying to affect the things I do. 
38.What advice would you give your early-2015 self if you could?
  • Everything will come out good in the end. The health issues will be resolved. You will be able to meet those goals. Don't be so hard on yourself. 
39.Did any parts of your self or your life do a complete 180 this year?
  • Our daughter's health. Huge, wonderful turn-around. 
  • My husband's happiness. Big changes there due to many factors. 
  • Our son's prospects. Independence, self-reliability, travels all looking up. 
  • Our family relationship with my parents. So much more relaxed and positive. 
  • My dependence on medication for MS. Switching to 3x/wk instead of every day gave me so much more personal comfort and freedom. 
  • Our daughter's driver's license and another car. For the first time in years our schedules were no longer tied to being a chauffeur. 
40.What or who had the biggest positive impact on your life this year?
  • Medical treatments - both medication and surgeries. Some scary stuff - but all to a positive end. 

My 2016

41.What do you want the overarching theme for your 2016 to be?
  • Simplify. Divest our house of what we don't need. Divest our lives of what doesn't move us forward. Declutter. Minimize. Bit by bit. Every day. 
42.What do you want to see, discover, explore?
  • Lots of travel possibilities. We need to plan our next trip over the Atlantic to continue the once-per-year goal. Ireland or Scotland are high on the list. 
  • We would like to go to San Diego and/or a trip up the coast for a wine weekend in Northern California. We have a friend in San Francisco now, too (one of my favorite cities), so it may be a good excuse!
  • We need to make a trip out to see my husband's parents. It's been too long.
  • More short travel in the states. Perhaps Seattle or New Orleans.
  • More trips to my parents' lake cabin this summer to get out of the cities. 
43.Who do you want to spend more time with in 2016?
  • Would love to see a friend out in the San Diego area and another in San Francisco.
  • Family - in England, in the states, and our own little clan here.  
44.What skills do you want to learn, improve or master?
  • My writing. Yes, I write for a living. Marketing writing. But I want to improve it in other ways. I've set a weekly reminder to put virtual pen to virtual paper on my blog once per week. 
45.Which personal quality do you want to develop or strengthen?
  • Organization. I'm good at organizing, once I take the time to do it. Which leads me to the next skill... 
  • Time management. I can fit plenty of stuff into a day, but I often don't think it's the right stuff. I need to be more selective about what I do and focus on what's truly important.  
46.What do you want your everyday life to be like?
  • Relaxed. Prepared. Prepared helps me to be relaxed. Every day I want to be able to: 
    • Keep work in its proper place. 
    • Be active. 
    • Get something meaningful accomplished.
    • Show my appreciation and gratitude for the people around me.  
47.Which habits do you want to change, cultivate or get rid of?
  • Increase my activity level. I sit on my ass far too much for things that don't help me. 
  • Decrease my unproductive web use. This means you Facebook. 
  • Minimize my TV habits. I come home from work, drop my butt on the couch, and watch too much. And if I'm not sitting on my butt, I'm getting necessary things done in the house.
  • Read more. If I'm going to drop my butt on the couch, it'll be to read. 
  • Get away from my desk for lunch. This is a tough one. I know it won't work every day - but I need to do it whether I think I need it or not that day. 
  • Get more "me" time. Real "me" time. It does me good.
48.What do you want to achieve career-wise?
  • I've been trying to make my work place a better place to be for years. This past year I came to accept that this is one of the things I have no influence over in any real sense. It's like bailing water from a row boat with a hole in the bottom. It takes all my effort to just stay afloat that I'm not getting anywhere. I need to find a new job. I want to stay in the same career field, preferably the same industry, but with less stress, less time commitment, and less corporate bullshit. 
49.How do you want to remember the year 2016 when you look back on it 10/20/50 years from now?
  • It was a year of challenges and of accomplishments. 
50.What is your number one goal for 2016?
  • To have our home and lives in order for bigger changes in 2017. If we want to move, travel more, plan for bigger goals, we'll be set for it. By the end of 2016, I want our home completely decluttered, our financial ducks in a row, giving us the options we need for real, permanent change. 

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The WFH Quandry

No. I didn't misspell WTF.

WFH stands for Work From Home. An ability I've cherished for over a decade.

Its opponents would say that it allows unsupervised workers to slack off. Play video games and watch TV instead of earning their paycheck.

It's actually the opposite. When I work from home I'm able to log in earlier, stay online longer, focus better and be far more productive. It also has a dark side, where I've sometimes put in 10-14 hours (or more) in a single day. That's fine once in a while if you're paid hourly wages and getting overtime. Just dumb if you're salaried, like me.

For several years I was entirely WFH. I ran my writing and editing business from my home office. Since I was my own boss, there were no PTO days. When I wasn't working, I wasn't earning. Period. So I worked. A lot. Too much. Work and home were one in the same, and the lines were entirely too blurred.

When I decided to go back to corporate life, I was happy to learn that WFH was accepted.

I started by using WFH for the occasional bad weather days. I've been living in Minnesota for years, and our harsh winters are sometimes unkind and downright dangerous for long commutes -- or even short ones. On days when the roads were treacherous, or the car wouldn't start, instead of being late or absent I'd just log in from home and fulfill my entire work day.

Then, I'd start using WFH for when the kids were sick. If they were going to spend all day sleeping and just need me for the occasional bowl of chicken soup, why not be working? Then, I started using WFH for when I was sick. Instead of taking a day to make myself better, I was up in front of my computer, tapping away, answering calls between sips of hot tea and muting my line while I hacked and coughed.

At least it preserved my few days of PTO that were required to be used for sick days as well as vacation.

As gas prices rose and internet connectivity got better, I was able to establish a regular WFH schedule of one day a week. Usually on Fridays, but it moved dependent on whether or not I was needed in person that day. I had a long commute, and WFH meant I could spend an extra 3 hours working instead of making myself pretty and driving.

After my MS diagnosis 5 years ago, I bumped that up to two days a week. My doctor demanded that I take better care of myself, MS fatigue was a major factor affecting my life, and driving 2-3 hours every day wasn't helping. My job was stressful enough on its own. Working from a home setting 2 days a week was a huge help.

So for the past 6 years, I've been working from home an average of 2 days a week. I'm an associate director now, and manage a team, so some weeks I just have to be onsite. Some weeks I work from home more -- bad weather, health issues, a heavy deadline where I need to cut myself off from everyone. I'm fortunate to have a dedicated and organized home office space that meets all of my needs. What's to complain about?

Two and a half weeks ago, we took a family vacation. A big vacation. Like traveled to Europe for the first time in 25 years kind of vacation.

And boy did I need it. Deadlines and big production releases changed at work. Tough. I made my reservations months ago and those airline tickets were non-refundable, baby. Thank goodness. I prepared my team and director, set up delegates, told them I wouldn't be available by phone or email and took off. I had hardly a thought of work for two weeks.

Our vacation wasn't perfect. In fact, there were a few considerably stressful kinks that came up. The travel day there was an exhausting 32 hours. The trip home was 24 hours. But the good far, far outweighed the bad.

The night before I went back to work, I hardly slept a wink. Anxiety over the hundreds of emails and problems that would be there waiting for me robbed me of any rest. My drive in to work that morning was no better. My stomach was in knots. This wasn't right.

I made a point of getting into the office early, before anyone else. The lights were still off on my floor. All was quiet as I dug into the electronic mess before me. Within a few hours, I was feeling better. Co-workers were happy to see me back. I'd gained back most of the perspective I'd lost in the months of day-to-day work issues. I was able to let the problems and the stressors roll off and take a calm approach in the office.

Until today. Until I had my first day back, working from home.

I was cranky.

What was it? I got up. Didn't have to dress up or do my hair. Logged in early, as usual. Didn't have to fight traffic or make appearances. Just work. Not even the usual litany of endless meetings from 8am - 5pm.

It finally dawned on me.

I'd spent two weeks absolutely separated from work. No emails. No text messages before breakfast and after dinner. No late calls. No 3am wake-ups. No commutes spent worrying and fuming. No missed lunches for back to back meetings.

I spent time focused on my family. Just my family.

After two weeks, logging into my computer at home felt like an intrusion. I found myself wanting to focus on my home and family when I was in my house. For someone who has made a habit of WFH for over 10 years, it came as quite a shock. This morning, I didn't see my established home office as a room apart, but as part of our home.

Don't get me wrong. I don't just cherish the ability to WFH, I need it. But in trying to maintain my european vacation zen, I've become protective my personal space and privacy. And that's okay. In staunchly defending WFH, I'd allowed it to take over my home. That's not okay.

Before the vacation, my life was severely out of balance. Work got the attention, and home sometimes suffered for it. I just need to get one foot firmly on each side of this teeter-totter.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Reflection on 2008

Found another long-lost, unpublished post. Eh, what the hell? Enjoy. 

It's that time of year again. Yes, there are still about 2 weeks left in 2008, but I need to write when I have the time and the inclination!

1. What did you do in 2008 that you'd never done before?
- Played "single mom" for about four months
- Put it more work-week hours than I thought possible
- Became a "stage mom"
- Spent a few days alone in my house
- Repaired my own lawn mower
- Performed in a 26-show musical run
- Called the paramedics for my daughter and followed the ambulance to the hospital

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don't make resolutions. I just look for ways to improve throughout the year.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Not very close, but dear in memory. My high school German teacher, Frau Blecha.

5. What countries did you visit?

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
Very similar to last year:
- Greater peace of mind
- Breathing room
- Time for taking care of the home front
- Traveling for pleasure instead of for necessity

7. What date from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
The day Tony left for Florida. We thought we'd be apart for a year.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Getting a better paying job that encouraged working from home as an option.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Letting that job take over my life when I didn't have it to give.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing much. The usual colds and occasional ooginess.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Plane tickets for Tony to visit us and for me to visit Tony.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
- My husband: for following his dreams, continually striving for improvement, and being there for us when we needed him the most.
- My son: for his focus on his goals and emotional growth as an amazing young man.
- My daughter: for her academic improvement and courage to try new things.
- My kids and parents: for their love and support for both Tony and me.

13. Whose behavior appalled and depressed you?
- Former friends
- Our government and leaders
- The TSA
- A majority of the American public

14. Where did most of your money go?
Technology and travel.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
- My job
- The movie premiere
- The Space Shuttle launch
- Visiting my in-laws (no joke!)
- Seeing Sir Ian McKellan
- Seeing Spamalot
- Seeing my son in his FIRST high school show
- Finding old friends online

16. What songs will always remind you of 2007?
That's a tough one. I really don't know that until I'm past 2007 and hear a song that ends up reminding me of it.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. Happier or sadder?
Happier. Definitely. More content.

ii. Thinner or fatter?
About the same.

iii. Richer or poorer?
In cash or in things that are really important? Friends, love, security, family... richer.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
- Working on the house
- Spending time outside
- Being with my family

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
- Being on the computer (work and play)
- Worrying (job search)
- Being angry over things I had no control over

20. How did you spend Christmas?
Quietly with my husband and kids... playing Rock Band, playing board games, watching movies.

22. Did you fall in love in 2007?
365 times... with my husband.

23. How many one-night stands?

24. What was your favorite TV program?
I think Doctor Who topped the list.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Interesting question. There are definitely those that I dislike, am disappointed in, or am baffled by reasoning, behavior, or choices.

26. What was the best book you read?
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
There was none this year, unless you count rediscovering old favorites.

28. What did you want and get?
- More travel
- Seeing family

28. What did you want and not get?
- Travel to Europe
- Our passports
- A better job for Avindair

30. What was your favourite film of this year?
On the fun side, Hot Fuzz.
On the serious side, Sicko.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
On my actual birthday day, had a nice dinner with my husband and kids. I turned 41.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Having the freedom to be in charge of my own schedule -- when to work, when to play.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2007?

34. What kept you sane?
My husband and kids, my dog, getting outdoors.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Whom did I "fancy"? I don't think I'd go that far. There are those whose work I enjoy or I think are attractive, but "fancy"? Not so much.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Health care

37. Whom did you miss?
- Family
- Penmaster and Raven
- Uncle Dale

38. Who was the best new person you met?
Not a clue.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2007:
Say goodbye to people and situations that are a destructive influence. Life's too short.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
"Always look on the bright side of life."

Review: 10,000 B.C.

I discovered a few drafts that for some odd reason, I'd never quite finished. Releasing them on the unsuspecting public now. Spoiler Alert: This review ends in a cliffhanger. 


Yes. If this movie wasn't already spoiled rotten. So rotten, in fact that it currently holds a 7% on the Rotten Tomato meter.

I confess. We went to 10,000 B.C. with one expectation: to get a good laugh from what we knew would be a hideously bad film. I must say that it did fulfill that expectation -- in spades. One look at the trailer, depicting woolly mammoths building the pyramids, and we were hooked.

Where, oh, where do I begin?

10,000 B.C. follows the meandering trail of D'Leh (who's name is funny enough, but I prefer to call him "NeanderTed") as he stumbles from hunter-gatherer to Neolithic farmer for a chick with bad blue contact lenses named Evolet. Truly a film for the WASP "special snowflake" generation, NeanderTed and Evolet trip over a pile of woolly mammoth dung and are credited with saving civilization.

Once again, I warn you: SPOILERS AHEAD. Proceed at your own risk.

The movie begins with the sweeping vista of a snowy tundra. A small tribe of hunter-gatherers, strangely comprised of dread-locked Inuit, Maori, African-American and European descent people, is bemoaning the lack of mammoths. They find a child with bad blue contact lenses and the medicine woman proclaims that she is a special snowflake who will apparently do everything from finding the cure for cancer to discovering jelly donuts.

NeanderTed loves Evolet.

So. Her family gets killed. Another tribe finds her. A medicine woman says she's a special snowflake and announces that the new leader of the tribe gets to claim her for their own. NeanderTed is supposedly more noble because he wants to win to have her, not to be the leader of his people.

NeanderTed only wins because he accidentally kills the mammoth while running like a little girl and has to be guilted into giving up the prize... and pouts. Once again, the "four-legged demons" show up. Steal people from this tribe, including her. NeanderTed goes after her. NeaderTed, one of a tribe of truly stone age people who make Fred and Wilma Flintstone look brilliant, stumbles his way from frozen tundra to steaming jungle in 3 easy steps.

"You've killed the bad guy, and toppled a mighty civilization. Welcome back to your shithole!"

Let's Try This Again

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post...

Occasionally over the past few years, these emails would drop into my inbox.

Horoscope de cette semaine calcul ascendant theme astral Review my site; voyance par telephone,,

One or two. Here and there. I'd delete them and move on. I hadn't blogged since December of 2009.

Logiciel gratuit d astrologie astro chinoise gratuite my web site; voyance par telephone Comment savoir notre signe astrologique linternaute horoscope 2011 Feel free to visit my web page; voyance gratuite Horoscope 2012 femina 22 aout signe astrologique my weblog: voyance gratuite

Then I started to get 5, 10, 20 per day. Then 40. Filling up my inbox. It was time to turn off comments. 

I couldn't even remember how to login.

After I'd taken care of the spammers, I started reading my old posts. Indulge myself in a bit of nostalgia. The posts weren't anything fantastic, but they weren't bad. And then I saw a mention of Facebook. I realized that the siren song of quick response, soundbite status posts and games had pulled me in. And pulled me away from more real writing.

Not that Facebook doesn't have its place. I've reconnected with friends I thought I'd never see again. Found support for MS across the world. And keep in touch with distant family with more than just the annual Christmas card.

But my writing skills have suffered. And I mean to change that.

I'll be posting to Rhapsody again. It doesn't matter if no one reads it. Just me, exercising my brain and my virtual pen. Oh... and those spammers? BLOCKED.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

If You Can't Get Your Kid to Turn Off the Game, It's Your Problem, Lady

Apparently, there are parents out there who haven't a clue on controlling their kids. Who knew?

A Boston mom actually called 911 because she couldn't get her 14-year-old to stop playing "Grand Theft Auto" at 230am. He also committed other 911-involving acts - like walking around the house and turning on the lights.

For wasting the time of the Boston PD and the money of the Boston taxpayers, I think this woman should be required to take some parenting classes. I mean, really. She could have:

1. Said no and meant it.
2. Unplugged the game system/television.
3. Taken away the game system.
4. Threatened a punishment (grounding, taking away television/electronics/cell phone)... and followed through.

It's not rocket science.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

2009: A Year in Review

I skipped 2008. Time to catch up. Thanks to Avindair for the format!

1. What did you do in 2009 that you'd never done before?

Had an MRI. (To be more concise, about 5.)
Got diagnosed with Multiple-Sclerosis.
Had a spinal tap. (It's really not as fun as the movie.)
Gave myself injections. (Not as bad as I thought it would be.)

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Some I was able to keep. Others, due to circumstances, couldn't be kept. I think of them more as hopes than resolutions.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes. Two co-workers.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Yes. I lost my uncle, Leo, in September. Then my grandmother, Minnie (Leo's mother), in November. It's been difficult, but toughest on my Dad, who's now the only one left.

5. What countries did you visit?

Sadly, just the U.S. of A.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?

Steady health.
Fewer "emergencies of the week".

7. What date(s) from 2009 will remain etched your memory, and why?

April 20
It's the day I went into the emergency room and was admitted to the hospital for the "attack" that led to my MS diagnosis.

December 12
Seeing our son as Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol" and getting to hear him sing! If I'd been standing, it would have knocked me off my feet!

8. What were your biggest achievements of the year?

Recovering from the attack and going back to work full time.
Learning to give myself injections.
Learning to pace myself and listen to my body.

9. What were your biggest failures?

Not that I didn't make mistakes, but I think just getting through this year was a win.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

See everything above! Yes, I was diagnosed with Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. At first, it was a very frightening prospect. My grandfather had MS, although he must have Progressive MS, and every year of his life we watched as his physical capabilities went downhill. From cane, to walker, to wheelchair. But treatments now are so much better than they were for him. There's no cure, but there are options. I just have to listen to my body, stick to my medication, and stay as healthy as I can.

Although I have my good days and my bad, I'm coming to terms with it. My family has been unbelievable through everything. Our friends have been wonderful. My workplace has been incredibly supportive. I can't ask for more.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

My medication (That seems to be doing it's job.)
XBox 360 Elite for Tony's birthday

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Avindair, SportyGirl and MonkeyDude: I don't know where to begin. Their strength and love has seen me through so much this year. Words can not express.

MagicMarmot: For seeing me through getting admitted to my hospital room... and the laughter and tears. I am truly grateful.

Garrett: For watching out for my family that first night. You are truly a friend indeed.

Penmaster and Raven: For showing up on our doorstep and holding our hands through the rocky early days of the diagnosis. We are blessed to have you as friends... but really, you are more "family" than "friend"... but you know that! :-)

My Boss and Co-workers: My boss made sure that work was to be the least of my worries. If it weren't for her support, I really wouldn't have recovered as quickly and returned to work like I did. My co-workers helped carry the load until I was able. I couldn't have done it without them.

My Dad: He's been through so much this year. He was a caretaker to his brother and his mother. Seeing them both through the last days of their lives. His strength astonishes me.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

The usual:
Corporate America
Our government leaders
Americans in general

14. Where did most of your money go?

Hospital Bills

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Small moments (really small, like being able to write my own signature legibly!) in my recovery from the "attack"
Going to see Gaelic Storm again with the family
MonkeyDude in "A Christmas Carol"

16. What song(s) will always remind you of 2009?

I don't think there are any. I'll have to wait until 2010 and beyond to see.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

i. happier or sadder?

Believe it or not, happier. December 2008 was tough, as I recall. Mostly due to work. Plus, I just had a good MRI that showed some small reductions on my brain lesions. So... good news.

ii. thinner or fatter?

About the same. I'm wearing the same pants, at least.

iii. richer or poorer?

Richer. Avindair has a regular paycheck now.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?


19. What do you wish you'd done less of?


20. How will you be spending Christmas?

At home with the family. Maybe light the fireplace. Play some games. See a movie or two.

22. Did you fall in love in 2009?

Over and over... with Avindair.

23. How many one-night stands?


24. What was your favorite TV program?

That needs to be "programs". :-)

"Big Bang Theory"
"Doctor Who"
"True Blood" (except for the season finale - fail)

24b. Shows that let you down?

Mine are all the same as Avindair's.

"Battlestar Galactica" - Final episode EPIC FAIL.
"Smallville" - Dullsville

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

No. People worth hating aren't worth my time.

26. What was the best book you read?

"Orlando" by Virginal Woolfe

27. What was/were your greatest musical discoveries?

SportyGirl can answer that question. I just listen and enjoy.

28. What did you want and get?

- I put work in its proper place.
- I had more time with Avindair and the kids.
- I got perspective and found more joy in the little things in life.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?

Probably "Avatar".

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 43. We picked up Buca's on the way home from work and had a lovely, quiet dinner with Avindair and the kids.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Nothing. Everything - good or bad - had its purpose. Just making it through 2009 is satisfaction enough.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?

Business casual at work.
Casual casual at home.

34. What kept you sane?

My family.
My recovery.
My work.
My friends.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Still a big fan of Ewan McGregor and Hugh Jackman.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?

The health care issue... or lack thereof.

37. Who did you miss?

My Grandma Minnie
My in-laws (yes - my in-laws - I adore them)
Penmaster and Raven

38. Who was the best new person you met?

One of my new co-workers. She's something else! (In a good way.)

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009:

Take each day as it comes.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

"I've paid my dues -
Time after time -
I've done my sentence
But committed no crime -
And bad mistakes
I've made a few
I've had my share of sand kicked in my face -
But I've come through

We are the champions - my friends
And we'll keep on fighting - till the end -
We are the champions -
We are the champions
No time for losers
'Cause we are the champions - of the world

I've taken my bows
And my curtain calls -
You brought me fame and fortune and everything that goes with it
I thank you all -

But it's been no bed of roses
No pleasure cruise -
I consider it a challenge before the whole human race -
And I ain't gonna lose -

We are the champions - my friends
And we'll keep on fighting - till the end -
We are the champions -
We are the champions
No time for losers
'Cause we are the champions - of the world"

-- We Are the Champions - Queen