Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween 2012

Ungood, at first.  One of THOSE kids actually came over and asked if our boy could come trick-or-treating with the rat kids and that mean, rotten punk behind us.  He came over more than once, asking.  I find that deeply troubling.  And then, when the rats, the punk, and the older brother of those kids came over, they kept asking how our boy was, where's our boy?  And the topper?  When our boy (being tailed at a discreet distance by his father) reached THOSE kids' house, he was invited to go to an archery range (part of his costume was a compound bow) on Sunday.  Yikes.

These kids blew our boy off for months.  Literally NO contact, though they were, daily, outside with the rats and the punk behind us who are so scary.  They viewed our boy as an absolute last resort, after all other play options were exhausted.  EVERY time they came over (before they just stopped coming over at all), it was followed by very pointed, "Have you seen my iPod?  I think I left my phone here.  Have you seen my wallet?"  The younger of the two boy is a liar beyond any pathology I've ever witnessed--I have never, in my life, met a kid who lies so often about so many things.  He just makes stuff up on the fly for no apparent reason, other than trying to be impressive.  You have a new car?  His grandpa has a new ROLLS!  You have theater butter popcorn?  He has real theater popcorn specially shipped in from a real theater in New York City!  You have a new phone?  His step-dad has an experimental iPhone SG78, which is only approved for use by NASA scientists!  Worried about the noise of a sleepover?  No worries--he has a special ELECTROID CURTAIN that muffles all noise, even from inches away!  It was funny at first, but it quickly became so damned irritating it's near-impossible to be around him for even a minute or two.  And now they want to hang out at an archery range with our son?  And then what?  They want to come into our home again?  With the lice?  We can't have our boy at their house because those other kids are a constant presence there.  You remember, the kids who plan ambushes against other kids?  The kids who kill small animals?  The kids who ditched our boy and have since treated him like hell?

I don't trust this.  Not even a little bit.  I don't like it.  And, of course, our poor boy wants it to be sincere.  Even though he knows it's not.  

Our boy carved both a pumpkin and watermelons.  The flesh from the melons is going into homemade watermelon sorbet.  

My idiot face just hoovered a good dozen "fun-sized" peanut M&M bags.  Go, diabetes girl!

The crowds were pretty thick--at least we didn't run out of candy like we did last year.  It was close, though--we went through two GIANT (the mega-packs) bags of Mars candies, plus two regular bags of Snickers.  More little kids without costumes than I would like--even the most broke can slap a kid in his parents' clothes or put on a funny hat and some "hobo" makeup from mom's makeup bag.  Oh, well.  Some very cool costumes, and some very, very polite kids.  Not TOO many "you're too old for this" types, though the rat kids across the street's 20-something year old brother was out sucking for candy.  Ew.

The high point?  When a MOST excellent and enthusiastic young ballerina, who wished me a VERY happy Halloween, turned to her mom as they walked away and said, "She's a NEAT lady!  She is the NEATEST lady!"  Hey, you know what?  Neat is good.  I like neat.  Thank you, sweetie.

Oh, they took the dog trick-or-treating.  Only one small barking contest with another dog, otherwise he was great.  Calm, enjoyed the kids, an all-around good doggie.  Next year, when hubby does Dorothy from Wizard of Oz, Charlie will be Toto.  

Leaving the decorations up (against my better judgment) so the Niece-in-Law can see them.  We didn't do our full-bore usual, no fog machine and strobe, and only about a third of our usual headstones and webs.  We had one day to do it--see, we were afraid the kids on the street would tear it up if we left it up for weeks like we usually do.   We had put up a few headstones and some webs as a test, but wound up having to pull it down because of the hurricane.  It looked pretty good, but nowhere near our best effort.  Hopefully those kids won't tear it up between now and tomorrow night.

All that aside, the boy seemed to have a good time.  Because he's just magic that way.

Bye-bye, Sonata!

So, the tow company that was supposed to come on Monday (but we knew wouldn't be here) showed up this morning.  Picked up the car with a strange and magical tow truck contraption I've never seen before.  No hooking, no chains, just backed up with a "tow-T" and voila!  Like magic, the car was attached and off they went.  What is that, magnetic? 

Hubby's been hassling on the phone (and in person) all morning with insurance adjusters and liability folks, trying to figure out the car repair.  They're saying three grand.  They're SAYING we'll have to pay five hundred out of pocket for the deductible.  But the paperwork they gave states we owe the full amount, which really, really, really concerns me.  As we all know, what people SAY and what's WRITTEN DOWN can be two entirely different things, and what's in writing is what stands in an argument.  The last thing we need to do is hand that car over to a shop, have them fix it, and then have them refuse to hand it back without the full amount.  Which, of course, we do NOT have.

All of my hurricane path friends are accounted for.  That's good.  The pictures coming out of the lovely Jersey shore?  Terrible.  Wrenching.  Devastating.  My heart goes out to them. 

Out to put the Halloween decorations back up.  We had put up only a few to test the rat-children, and no damage was done (though I brought them back in for Sandy).  So now we're going to go full-bore and put up the lights and all.  Cross your fingers that the kids won't do a number on us.

Niece-in-law (hubby's nephew's wife) is going to be in DC tomorrow, so we'll have her over for dinner tomorrow night, then show her around the next day.  It'll be great to see her, she's a very nice young woman.  Wish her husband could be here, too--he's a marvelous guy.  I'm very fond of them both.

And that's that.  Nothing of great import to say.  Election almost here, hoping folks will remember that Mr. Romney wants to do away with FEMA.  It's good to know where you stand, should the worst happen. 

Bye-bye, car!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

And so . . .

We came through Sandy pretty okay.  I haven't checked the basement yet, but the back yard isn't under water so I'm confident the basement came through okay.  The trees are still standing, though the ground is pretty solidly saturated.  Our power stayed with us all the while--thank you, NOVEC! 

Sadly (but not surprisingly) they did not come for the old car yesterday, which means we're short on the deductible for the repairs on the new car.  Hopefully, they'll be here before then. 

Spent awhile talking to my dad on the phone today.  Just letting him know we're okay. 

Ordered a crank radio/two-way/flashlight/cell phone charger.  It's a cheap brand, Dad let me know, but it'll do for now.  I know, barn door and all that, but we'll have it for next time. 

Not sure what to do with the sandbags.  Leave 'em up?  Dunno.

I am very sad today.  A relative gave me some shocking and awful information about our Grandpa, and it's really chewing at me.  I'm not obsessing, but there's a pall.  Not even sure why--while I adored him, fact was my exposure was limited, and the last time I saw him I was 17, and he cut all ties when he moved to Ohio to live with my Dad not long after.  In fact, when he was 80 or so, he received some honor from the State of Ohio and mentioned only my Dad's "new" kids as his grandkids--left out my three cousins, my sister, and me.  Even so, it's hard, learning something awful about him.

I'm very tired.  Glad the worst of the storm went on by, sad for the folks in New York and New Jersey (and that little boy in Montrose).  Being on guard for a couple of days is emotionally draining.  But we're better prepared than we were, and the next one will be easier because we've already so much pulled together. 

Did I mention the dog finally shat?  Yeah, late last night he finally did his business outside.  We were starting to worry he would explode.

Monday, October 29, 2012


Note the impressive cinematography skills--I made the whole world SIDEWAYS!  No, wait--that was the storm that did that!

Hurricane Sandybags

Manassas announced on their Facebook page that they're handing out sandbags today, so we headed straight out and grabbed our little allotment (ten) and dragged them out back in hopes of keeping the floodwaters out of the basement.  Cross your fingers, huh?

Rain is coming down in earnest now.  It's getting darker out there by the minute.  The dog won't go outside to do his business.  Have all the electronics plugged in (the camera battery plugged in AGAIN) so that, if/when the power goes out, we'll have those phones and such.  We did pick up an old-fashioned CORDED phone so that, should the power die we'll still have a land line.  Last load of dishes going because who wants dirty dishes laying about?

Bad news on the "fill the tubs" front.  Turns out neither of them is really water-tight.  Slow leak, losing an inch or so every few hours.  Great.  Worse news?  The atheist-hating neighbor (remember?  "No forgiveness, NO forgiveness!") has left a large portable steel and canvas gazebo up in her back yard.  Wind is buffetting it about already, and we're nowhere near maximum winds yet.  Prevailing wind's gonna toss that thing right at the ass end of our place.  Goodness.  Losing power--lot of flickering. Real quick, here's the atheist-crushing gazebo of Antioch:

Wind is really picking up.  Hoping NOVEC comes through and keeps the lights on. 

Well, it's started

It's funny--this is my first hurricane as an adult, and it's feeling a lot like labor and delivery.  It's not too bad yet, but I know it's going to get dramatically worse, and there's no way to back out.  The rain has upticked pretty impressively in the past twenty minutes or so, and they're predicting 6-8 inches in our area.  With the way our back yard takes on water with even 1-2 inches of rain, I don't see any way that basement's not going to flood.  No flood insurance, of course.  Maybe we'll get lucky.


Made all my "love you, if you don't hear from me for a few days it doesn't mean things are awful, it just means the power is out and cell service is disrupted" calls yesterday.  Then spent the day prepping--pulling together the last bits of emergency bins, clearing the closet to put them, taking care of chores that can't be done with no power, making sure the electronics are fully charged, etc.  Sadly, we only have a dozen spare D batteries.  Hopefully, we won't need more than that.  Also convinced hubby to put the garbage cans in the shed--didn't want some 70 mph gust to send them flying.

On the bright side (and speaking of garbage), they came through to pick up garbage this morning.  Poor guys--while it rocks for US that the HOA-contracted company works in a HURRICANE, it sucks for them.  Bet county didn't do pick-ups today.

Thanks, guys!
I'll be checking in when I can.  Our boy said he's "strangely excited" by the storm, and wanted to know if that was wrong.  I don't know if it's wrong or not, but big storms have always done that to me. 

Here're my first and second videos--nothing exciting:

First video--not much wind, a little rain.

Second video--you can't tell, but that wind ripped the door out of my hand, though I caught it before it could bang against the wall.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Very Quick

Just a quick note--went to BJ's, grabbed some deals, still not sure who we're going with, though their hours and happy taking of coupons will likely sway us in that direction.  Putting together an emergency bin tonight--batteries, meds, first aid kit, waters, etc.  The dilemma?  Where to put it?  Upstairs, well away from any water (but possible gone with high winds), or in the basement, safe from wind but possibly under water?  I think I'm going to compromise and shoot for the closet in the hall on the main floor.  Close to where ever we need it, can haul it to the car if we need to evacuate.  I don't think we'll need to, but I am scared to death we'll wind up with a flooded basement.  No, we don't have flood insurance. 

Wondering if our auto insurance covers flooding?  Wouldn't it be hilarious if our new car wound up under water?  All flood damaged like the last one?  Oh, yeah, that would be a RIOT.

Noticed that Dominion has got wire reels and equipment distributed throughout the area, getting ready for the potential disaster.  We're on NOVEC, and we're hoping that, like with the big derecho storm that swept through in June, we won't lose power here. 

Anyway, I have to go start packing bins.  Anyone have suggestions for family photo albums?  I have a million of them, and they're too big and heavy and bulky to pack.  Shoot.  This is complicated.

Friday, October 26, 2012

More on "Deathicane Sandy"

Oh, a big thank you to the folks over here who've informed me, advised me, and given me the wonderful phrase "Deathicane Sandy!"  No, laughing at it doesn't make it any less likely to flood my utterly non-flood-insured basement, but it does make the waiting a lot easier.  Deathicane Sandy?  No worries, New Jersey--no way this things gets past my web of crappy luck.  Prince William County, Virginia is gonna be where this storm starts, lingers, and finishes.  Right over my head. 


Also, I forgot to post this little Halloween beauty.  It's brought me joy every year since I discovered it, and I want you to have some joy, too!

Jonathan Coulton--Eat Your Brains

Hours later--went to Wegmans for the usual shopping, plus to grab some extra waters for Deathicane Sandy.  They were almost out of waters--luckily, we've already got a fair bit, so only needed a couple of packages.  It was Halloween Trick-or-Treat at Wegmans, so the store was crawling with little kids in costume.  During checkout, a poor woman with three little princesses lost one.  Little Courtney, who is only six, had poofed, and her mom was increasingly panicking.  I don't blame her--our boy's done that to us more than once.  I asked her who she was missing, and then offered to watch her other two (who were a very small four and eight) while she looked for Courtney.  At one point, I saw her running to the customer service desk, frantic, and I started to really worry.  I had been asking people as they went by to keep an eye out for a little girl in a bright yellow princess dress, but no one had seen her.  After about ten minutes, Mom came back with a very teary and contrite Courtney.  I was very happy--almost crying happy.  Because crappy things happen and this needed to not be one of those crappy things.  I'm happy that Courtney is safe at home with her Mom and sisters. 

Because the FUN Never Ends!

Let's go ahead and give the GOOD news first, huh?  My Dad and Step-Mom sent 200 bucks to help out.  We thought that would pay for our boy's Hapkido and put a little toward the car payment. Nice, right?  Plus, my Epinions check came.  There's the rest of the car payment plus my dentist appointment in ten days.   Wonderful, huh?  Frees up some money for Christmas.

Or the $500 deductible because the brand new car, with  my husband in it, got hit by a damned semi.

Okay.  Obviously, I've wandered into the BAD news. 

Hubby had taken the car out to the Vienna Metro Station because he was running late and missed his local bus.  He was on his way home last night, merging onto the 66.  Traffic wasn't much moving, just a few miles per hour.  An opening appeared in front of the semi.  Hubby looked up, the semi came to a complete halt, so hubby slipped in.  And then the semi hit the gas and beat the hell out of our car.  The driver claims he didn't see my husband, and I'm sure that's true.  And that's the crux of the disaster for us--the cop (who didn't want to give any tickets but buckled because the trucker said he had to be able to show his employers a ticket) decided that, since hubby could see the truck but the truck couldn't see him, the ticket would go to hubby.  Even though the truck wasn't moving and hubby was merged enough that he was hit by the center of the semi's bumper, not the passenger side edge, as you would expect with a merging hit.  It's only a thirty dollar ticket for improper lane travel, but betcha it costs us a hell of a lot more than that in the long run.

So, the new car.  The driver's side tail light assembly is shot--cracked lenses, bent frame, etc.  The driver's side rear quarter panel is a mess--badly dented, plus a deep, all-the-way-through rent in the metal.  The gas cap door is bent and scraped.  The cop said "under two thousand," but I'm thinking probably around two grand, perhaps more with the paint.  Oh, and the five hundred dollar deductible coming out of the rent paycheck.

What a mess.  It really doesn't ever stop.

On the bright side, my husband didn't get sandwiched between the semi and the vehicle ahead.  Believe me, that's the thing I keep trying to focus on.  Instead of thinking of the Christmas that just got blown to hell or the summer camp promises that just took a ding.  I'm scared to death this is going to do a real number on our insurance premiums, especially since we JUST made a claim last week for the windshield.  Two claims in a week on a new car?  Yeah, that's going to go over great.

Have no idea if the trucker's insurance/employer is going to try to ding us--hubby says there was nothing more than some small scratches on his bumper, but who knows if that's going to turn into something bigger, claims-wise. 

Plus, the ticket?  The "$30.00 ticket?"  Is actually a $92.00 ticket because of the "convenience fee."  What the HELL?  Just now figured that out.  "Convenience?"  I gotta tell ya, this doesn't feel at all CONVENIENT to me.  In fact, it feels like a giant, aching, throbbing BOIL in an incredibly INconvenient spot!

I'm trying to be positive here--this is a first accident on an otherwise totally clear record.  No accident claims against this policy ever, and the policy has been in effect for almost 18 years.  Oh, please, we just need a break here!

Oh, AND?  HURRICANE SANDY!  Yes, because the good stuff always comes in waves (and high winds, and heavy rains, and . . . you get it).  Gonna get a radio, batteries, and a little more water.  Wish us luck!  Pictures to be posted as they happen.  Within reason, of course!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Degrees of Inhumanity

I've been reading a lot about the Pakistani girl who was shot for championing education for girls.  Thinking about how brave she is, and about how brave her family must be, to stand up in the face of such ass backwards violence.  I also came across the story of a young Afghani woman whose nose and ears were cut off because she "shamed" her husband's family.  Then I look at the poll of 21 countries around the world, asking who they would support for President of the United Stated of America.  All but one country supports our President, Barack Obama.

The one that doesn't?


I find myself wondering where that line is?  You know, the line between "political differences" and "human rights violations."  In candidate Romney's camp, we have people who actively fight against wage equality.  THINK about that!  Romney surrounds himself with men who don't think it's important for women to be paid the same as men for the same work.  We have people in Romney's group who actively oppose making birth control easily and affordably available, even though we all know that improved access to birth control makes for fewer unplanned pregnancies, fewer abortions, and fewer welfare/housing/medicaid/food stamp claims.  Romney's camp has made no secret of the fact that it will cut student aid.  Who hurts the most when you put this all together?  Women, especially poorer women.  Pay them less, make college less attainable, limit their access to reliable, affordable health care, limit their access to affordable birth control.  Oh, and don't forget to remind them that issue borne of rape?  Is a "blessing," and it's all some deity's "plan." 

Are we there yet?  Seriously, how far does this have to go before we can agree that it represents a concerted attack on women and the gains they've made since the 1960s?  Remember, this is a party with members who support abolishing federal education mandates.  "Leave it to the states!"  How long before some backwards, backwoods holler decides that girls can stop going to school at 12 instead of 16?  That girls can marry at 12 instead of 16 or 18.  Hey, it's not a far stretch--Alabama already allows 14 year olds to marry, and many states allow girls to marry younger than boys.   

My son looked at me the other day and asked, "Is this how it all falls apart?  Will my daughters be allowed to vote?"

I don't know.  I'd like to laugh and say, "Hey, this is America, that's not ever going to happen."  But then I look around and I'm not so sure.  "Idiocracy" doesn't seem all that far-fetched anymore. 

So, Pakistan supports Mr . Romney.  I'm going to go with the more civilized places.  They're solidly in my President's camp.

Speaking of which, someone stole the firefighters next door's Obama/Biden sign.  Nice.

Anyway, that's all of that.  I don't tend to go too political here (I smear Facebook with that), but I was really stricken by the symbolism of Pakistan backing Romney.  I think it says something.

I won't even get started on corporations buying/establishing "scientific thinktanks" to challenge real science.  If you don't think that's ever happened, just look at the history of tobacco research.  And then look at climate change research.  Then follow the money.

Dang, I got started.  And now I'll stop.

Oh, real quick--looks like the weather's going to go on us in a big way.  Some talk of a hurricane meeting a cold front and producing an "epic" storm.  No telling if it will hit mid-Atlantic or farther north.  But it looks and feels like winter out there.  It's not cold, it's just a taste and a feel.  It looks grey, and it feels like it's not summer anymore.  I mowed, weed-et, filled the bird feeders, and put up the suet.  Not sure when I should overseed--when it's more reliably cold, I'm thinking? 

Even though it was 80 degrees this week, it tastes like it's going to go bad.  Gonna pick up some spare batteries and extra water this weekend.  Yay!
Looks grey.

One of the few pansies that made it to fall.

Crepe Myrtle--was in full bloom just last month, going autumnal today.

My mums tipped over.

The back--still needs work, but it was a weed lot with garbage strewn through last year. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Birthday Camel is Watching You!

I awoke this morning, after only three hours of sleep, chewing on a memory.  I repeated it aloud a few times so I wouldn't forget, but only really succeeded in waking myself up beyond the point of re-nap-ability.  So here I am--8 am, dishwasher unloaded and reloaded, load of laundry in, Hapkido uniform washed and hanging, just sweaty enough to feel gross.  And I'm thinking about the Birthday Camel.

I think we all have parenting failures.  I think that, often, they arise from that mix of personalities, the clash of different ways of thinking and feeling.  You see, our boy, especially when younger, didn't really respond to reason.  It wasn't possible to explain why he shouldn't do something.  He's on that "spectrum," you see, and so he fixated, reverberated, and often boiled over without ever really hearing us.  The one thing he DID respond to?


I know, I know--all the "wow, you suck at parenting" things you're thinking?  I thought them all myself.  But when reasoning, pleading, wheedling, and bribing fail, you're left with three things--punishing (like time out), threatening, and beating.  Since the first never worked (not allowed to use duct tape on five year olds, and he wasn't inclined to go alone with time outs otherwise), and the third isn't an option, we landed on the second.


Santa, of course, was great for much "get in line or lose out" fodder.  Yes, we're atheists.  Yes, we went the Santa route.  I remember once cruising the local "Christmas Village" with my sister, her now-ex, and their kids, who were perhaps five and six.  They were (or actually, my sister was--her atheist husband was rolling his eyes) making a very big deal of waiting until our boy, who was then five years old, was within earshot, then pointing out that Santa isn't real, but baby Jesus is.  We made an equally big deal of telling our boy that the jury was still out on Santa, but that everyone knew Odin and his mythological pals were just fun stories from a long, long time ago.  Nothing like family to make the holidays warm and fuzzy.

So, the Santa threats worked.  Yes, there were many calls to Santa, letting him know our boy was misbehaving.  And every one of those calls had the desired effect--they diffused otherwise pitched situations.  Understand, Santa calls were always a last resort.  After everything else, including the confiscation/sequestration of toys, failed, we'd call Santa.  The problem?  Santa is a seasonal thing--he works great, maybe October through December, but in March? 

Not so effective. 

I don't know where the Birthday Camel came from.  I was caught in the throes of a particularly wowser boy-meltdown, grounding him off toys and activities wasn't working, and from some weird corner of my mind, I belched out, "Keep this up and the Birthday Camel's gonna trot right by on your birthday--NO presents for you!"

And it worked.  Just like that.  The eyes widened, the screaming stopped, and he said. "But . . . I'm sorry!" 

Now, you're probably wondering why we didn't just give him "cooling off" time.  The answer is simple--he didn't cool off.  As I said, he reverberated, he escalated, even when we refused to engage.  There was no way to put him off by himself--he would refuse to disengage.  Telling him to stay in his room or sit in a chair?  Fruitless--he'd follow, screaming, shouting, and sometimes more.  On rare occasions, he would require physical restraint to keep him from doing us harm.  I know, sounds horrible, and, at the time, it was.  He grew out of it.  Thank goodness, huh?

So the Birthday Camel galloped (gallumphed?) to our rescue.  Thank you, Birthday Camel!

On a different note, we cruised by Costco last night--they were closed (lousy hours!), but we wanted to check the gas prices.  We'd heard stories of their amazing petrol prices, but they were only three cents cheaper than the station we normally go to.  So much for imagining the gas savings would pay for the membership.  That leaves me leaning toward BJ's because their hours are markedly better and they accept manufacturer's coupons.  Plus, they hand out free 60 day trial memberships.  I'll have to see what BJ's return policy is like--Costco's rocks.  The next step?  Go to each place and write down prices. 

The boy's alarm just went off, but I'm not going to force it.  We were up playing Monopoly and bad 60s/70s music until after 3 am.  I'll give him another couple of hours.

Speaking of that boy (which is really all I've been doing all morning), I think we'll be signing him up for the next programming course through  Coursera.  If you haven't checked them out, you should.  They rock.

Oh, and also--the horse-head mask came yesterday.  For reasons completely beyond me, our boy saw one online and absolutely had to have one for Halloween.  Go figure. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I was right to worry

So, my concerns about letting our boy wander about the neighborhood? 

Dead on.

Hubby and I were out cleaning out the old car when we witnessed a near massacre--ten or so kids trying to lure the rat-children across the street off to a place where they could beat their asses.  Listening to the rat-kids, it became clear that they (and the punk behind us) had ambushed one of these kids and, at close range, knocked him around and shot him with their Airsoft guns.  This was the attempted payback.  It got ugly, and the rat-kids' mother came out and shouted these kids (some of whom were mid-to-late teens) away.  Then we were treated to an hour of listening to the rat-kids plan their revenge.  Serious stuff, talking about baseball bats and sneaking around to flank one boy while he walked to the bus stop.

I was chilled, listening, because it's exactly the sort of thing I feared when I told our boy that, no, he may not just wander around the neighborhood hoping to find someone to hang out with.  These kids will start in on him--we already know that, they've already done it.  But away from home, where there's no safe haven?  I have no idea what might happen. 

The lice kids, after months of completely blowing our boy off, have started showing up again.  Always, when turned away, they head directly over to the rat-kids' house.  No art, no attempting to be smooth.  They come over from there and return there when turned away.  One of them actually came over after dark and asked if our boy could come out to "hang" when the rat-kids were standing right on the sidewalk, waiting. 


Sadly, with the car situation, it's looking like moving away from here next fall isn't likely to happen.  Hopefully, the landlord will rent to us for another year.  If he doesn't?  Wow, I don't dare even think about it.

Considering a Costco or BJ's warehouse membership.  Have a free 60 day membership to BJ's, went once to take a look.  Some things markedly cheaper than Wegmans and Walmart, some not.  Costco may have better prices, we don't know--they aren't offering free trial memberships.  BJ's accepts manufacturer's coupons, whereas Costco does not.  However, Costco sells gas, and they do it for around 30 cents less a gallon than the local gas stations.  BJ's doesn't sell gas.  So we're trying to decide what to do here.  If anyone has any money-saving warehouse tips that might help us make a decision, please share!

Speaking of cheap gas, if we want to drive 44 miles to Front Royal, gas there is 40 cents cheaper a gallon.  But it would take over two gallons to get there and back.  But we have an 18 gallon tank.  Which means it would cost $6.78 in gas to get there and back.  We would save $7.20 over local prices to fill the tank.  Add the wear on the car that comes with smacking an extra 88 miles on it a week?  Not worth it.  But it sure is a pretty drive, huh?

Our boy downloaded a new game on the computer last night, which riddled our machine with malware.  Game was called "Slender," and wow.  Browser hijacked, "adware" everywhere, homepage hijacked, even ads showing up on my blog, which is a concern because I'm not supposed to have competing ads on my blog.  I don't know if those ads were showing for anyone else (I should have three ads--one top, one body, and one bottom) or if it was just for me, but I'm hoping it didn't screw up my ad deal.  There was no "uninstall program" under "add or remove," so I ran Malwarebytes (it found 8 registry key entries and four malware/adware programs), isolated and deleted, rebooted, and manually deleted the game files.  Hopefully, that'll cover it.  The ads and browser issues seem to be cleared up. 

A sad day, thus far.  Hope it gets better. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hope, Hope, Hope

Just got off the phone with my Mom.  She spent the day zipping (in as much as her almost 80 year old self "zips") from place to place trying to figure out the taxes.  They were NOT filed.  Deep breath.  Keep calm.  Yeah.  Anyway, so she wound up at H&R Block.  Dropped $140 to have them do her taxes.  She owes nothing, but is out 140 bucks.  I told her to keep Christmas to herself, no sending checks for us.  She'd better listen, too.  140 dollars may not sound like much, but to her it's a couple weeks worth of groceries. 

From there, she hit the attorney's office.  They faxed the tax forms to the Trustee, and, according to them, all is well.  Ohhh, I do hope that's the case.  I'll keep an eye out for her this next tax season, get her set up with the free tax preparation.   What a mess.  Let's hope the disaster has been averted!

Just julienned one of the gigantic farmer's market carrots to go with pasta tonight.  ONE carrot made enough for everyone!  A shout out to Romanza Italian restaurant in Wendover, Nevada's Montego Bay Resort--had we not eaten there, we'd never have thought to julienne veggies and mix them with our pasta.  Never would have thought to course-grind Parmesan and asiago and then bake it into amazing little crisps, either.  Of course, we've added our own spin (via herbs and the like), but the ideas came from you.  So thank you, Romanza! 

Our mega-carrot, all cut up for pasta.  That's a half-gallon of apple cider for scale.  Whole lotta carrot goin' on!

What an Up and Down Day

So, yesterday rocked--when it wasn't busy sucking. 

A few weeks ago, my Mom got a letter from her bankruptcy Trustee.  A letter telling her that, because she had failed to file her income taxes, her case was being tossed and she would be open to collections from her debtors.  My nearly-80 year-old Mom.  Panicked, she called me.  I told her to call her bankruptcy attorney.  She did, and she was told not to worry--after all, she had filed her taxes, so it was obviously just a hiccough (not an uncommon one) in the Trustee's office.  She was told to gather up her paperwork and bring it on down to the attorney's office, they'd take care of it.

That's good, right?  That's easy.  One problem, though.  She can't find the paperwork. 

She calls the IRS.  They can't find the paperwork, either.  In fact, they say she didn't file.

Not a problem, I figure--just call H&R Block, right? 

Wrong.  My Mom didn't use H&R Block this past year because she couldn't afford the two hundred bucks they charge her.  No, she let my SISTER do it. 

Jesus wept.

I asked my Mom a bunch of questions and, as best as I can figure, my sister used an online program of the Turbo Tax variety.  But instead of FINISHING (which involves confirmation emails and digital signatures), she got as far as submitting the initial forms and then quit.  Figured it was "good enough."  Instead of reading the directions and fine print, she hit "submit" and then walked away.  Our poor Mother is utterly computer illiterate--no way she could have known that there was more to the process.  Ma wrote a four dollar check (what she owed) and . . . who knows?  Did it get mailed?  I have no clue, and neither does my Mom.  I've told her to check and see if the check was ever cashed.  Here's what I'm thinking--even if it was mailed, it's lazing about in a dead-check bin at the Ogden Service Center.

What to do?  I don't know!  You'd like to think that the Bankruptcy folks would take pity on an almost-80 year old woman who made a mistake but had the best of intentions.  You'd like to think they're not going to lay her open to her creditors and let her sink.  After all, she's made her bankruptcy payments on time and faithfully for over a year.  You'd like to think they're not going to bury her because her daughter didn't read for comprehension.

You'd like to think those things.  But fact is, not only do I not know, but I can easily see her sinking over this.

When I first discovered that my sister had done the taxes, I moaned.  I knew what that meant--it meant receipts weren't printed out, confirmation numbers weren't written down, forms weren't printed and filed.  Because that just comes with the territory.  I didn't dream that the taxes hadn't even been filed.  One year--I leave for ONE year and this is the disaster that comes down.  I'd have warned Ma in advance, but I had no idea she was going to let my sister do her taxes.  She's always used H&R Block.  I've told her NOW to use the free IRS seniors help or the other various "free tax prep for seniors" programs around, but barn door, you know?  Too little, too late.

On the bright side, my Dad and Step-mom sent us two hundred bucks!  Just to help out, said they'd pitch in when they can!  I can't even describe how unexpected and needed it was!  Just in time for the new car payment.  Thank you!

After agonizing with my Mom on the phone, we took a drive back up toward Shenandoah and Front Royal, with a stop at Sky Meadows State Park.  While the colors are just a bit past peak, it was still a gorgeous and wonderful drive!  We saw a gorgeous red-tailed hawk on the way out of town, walked along the Shenandoah River (Charlie, our Cairn, even got into the water a bit on his own--no encouragement!), and adored a whole flock of Amish folks at a convenience store in Front Royal.  Place wasn't so convenient, though--ladies room was closed and men's room had no toilet paper.  So we put our purchases back on the shelves and went elsewhere.  I did take a moment to warn the lovely young Amish women about the loo situation.  I'd forgotten about their wonderful accent and sweet nature.  It was great to hear them speaking to one another in their Pennsylvania Dutch.  I love it here.

Red Tailed Hawk

Shenandoah River (yes, you can sing along with John--I was)

Front Royal in full fall regalia.

We came home just in time for "Once Upon a Time," ate Catalan and homemade brownies, watched our boy pound at that programming homework until just before the deadline (he scored 100%!), and then played Mancala and crashed.  Mostly a good day, but oh, my poor Mom!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Waxing Political and Religious

Oh, I know, run away, right?

I came across a story this morning while perusing the online news sources.  All about the Catholic Church and how it's dropped over a million bucks to fight "gay marriage." 

Over one million dollars.

I couldn't help but ask myself, what else could the Catholic Church do with one million dollars?  Let's see, shall we?

For one million dollars (we'll forget about the over-a-million leftovers), the Catholic Church could:

*Fund the construction of approximately 20 Habitat for Humanity homes in Charleston, South Carolina. 

*Provide approximately 333,333 public school lunches.

*Pay for around 1,000 adults to transition from illiteracy to literacy and obtain a GED.

*Fully cover tuition, fees, and most books for fifty students obtaining a four year degree at Weber State University in Utah.

*Fill ten thousand cavities (that's including exam and x-ray with 1-2 surfaces, mercury amalgam).

The list goes on, but you get the point.  Instead of doing something worthwhile that actually makes a difference for Americans, the Catholic Church instead is dedicating millions toward interfering with the private lives of others.  You could call it "attempting to legislate their faith."  This from the same folks who've spent years sheltering child molesters.  Golly, yes, that's EXACTLY who should be playing arbiters of morality for America.

Okay, there's that rant over.  And now here's this, because politics doesn't have to be enraging: 

Eye of the Sparrow

Enjoy, and happy Thursday!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Not in a Thousand Years

Would I have expected this.  Wow.

After much agonizing, we decided that fixing the car just wasn't feasible.  It wasn't reasonable or realistic.  A 900 dollar repair that might not fix it, the possibility of a thousand-plus repair on top of that, and all for a fading, ten year old car that is a FLOOD SALVAGE.  No.

No, no.

Of course, with our credit as abysmal as it is (not for late payments or delinquencies--no, we're current and always have been, we've just got a lousy available credit to debt ratio), there's no way anyone would give us a car loan.  Heck, we tried to get one a year-and-a-half ago, when our credit was markedly better.  Facing a future without wheels, we called a local used car lot, Shannon Autos, and they said that, sure, they'll finance us with bad credit--if we put FIFTY PERCENT down. 

Rigghhht.  Like that's going to happen.  Thanks for exactly nothing, folks. Completely crestfallen, we started kicking around renting a car on weekends so we could do our shopping and errands.  We'd just do without during the week.

While looking over used cars online, I noticed on the Brown's Hyundai (Buy Happy!)dealership site (Brown is where we took the car to find out the module on the SRS was bad), they said, "Bad credit doesn't matter." Of course, my first thought was, "Oh, bull--it totally matters, don't say that."

It didn't matter.

We did a little phone tag, then drove down to the dealership with ZERO hope.  In fact, I kept saying to our boy, "This isn't going to happen, don't get psyched."  I intentionally went sans makeup so that, when they turned us down, I wouldn't wind up with tear streaks and mascara runs. 

How's that for pathetic?

We told them we wanted to keep it to under ten grand.  The nice young salesman showed us a number of cars, including a Saab, a couple of Fords, and a few Hyundais.  We were eying an ugly little Hyundai Accent (a 2007, I think), and thinking to ourselves, "It's just temporary."  Of course, at 8 grand (ten after all the fees and such), it's not so temporary.  He kept trying to edge us up just slightly, price-wise (not obnoxiously, mind you--very nice guy).  Then he showed us a 2009 Sonata.  He said (and he's right) that a lot of lenders balk at financing cars with high miles--this one had a little over 60,000, which is a little high for the year, but not devastating.  It's a nice silver/grey (same color as my old Mustang, pretty much), and is an automatic.  It also has an iPod port and CD changer.  Makes the hubby happy.  It was $11,214, which was a little higher than I thought we could afford with any comfort.  Certainly more than anyone was going to finance us for.  Like anyone was going to finance us at ALL, right?  So, of course, we test drove it, just to guarantee the sharpness of the pain when they eventually turned us down (which I was certain they would).  It drove quite nicely.

They sat us in the little cubicle and asked us questions.  Wrote things down.  Asked about the Sonata we were hoping to trade in.  Asked if it had a "clear title."  Then mentioned things that would make a title not-clear--like being a flood salvage.

Yeah.  Obviously, we were totally honest with him.  And that was that--they didn't want our car.  Period.  I thought that was it, since, without the trade we had only $500 as a down.  I actually picked up my iPad and started to stand.  But he kept talking.  So I sat back down.  He asked what we wanted our payment to look like.  He walked away.  Came back. Walked away again.  Asked for our insurance card.  Copied it.  Walked away. 

Then another guy came.  Very nice.  Wanted to talk about payments and terms.  Then left to talk to his "higher up" finance person.

All the while, I was convinced this wasn't going to happen.  No WAY it was going to happen.  Even as the terrifically nice woman in finance was printing out contracts, I was sure something was going to fall through.  Even as I was driving the car home, I was thinking, "They said they were letting us drive off the lot 'pending completion of the particulars.'  They can still take it back."

Well, that was Tuesday.  It's now very early Thursday morning.  I guess I can maybe relax a little.  Not a lot--it's a used car without a warranty, so I can't really relax.  But I can maybe sleep now.

The payment is going to wipe us out--no more jaunts and lazy shopping.  We can do it, but it's not going to be the happiest.  The lesson I'm hoping anyone reading gets out of this?  It can't hurt to try.  The worst they can do is say "no."  Yeah, that would have been pretty bad in our case, but we'd have survived.  So don't think your credit's too awful, don't decide not to give it a shot.  No, I'm not encouraging folks to rack up debt, but if you're stuck like we were, give it a try.  Someplace like Brown's might come along and surprise you. 

Hyundai old (right/blue) and new (left/silver)

Oh, and a quick "oh, hell, that can't be good" before I go--talked to my step-mother yesterday.  We chatted for a good hour.  During the chat, she asked me about my diet.  I said I was slipping up, but that my blood sugar was still good.  She said, "Well, you're father's developed quite a paunch . . . he says the doctor says it's just a cyst, and I'm going to believe him."  Oh, damn.  That doesn't sound at all good, does it?  I'll be talking to him today or tomorrow.  Not sure if I dare ask.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

We're Toast

So here we are, the car is toast.  SRS module.  That's around 900 bucks.  We could almost swing that, we're close.  Problem is, they say that there's no way of knowing if there's also a problem with the airbags until they replace the module.  They say that's a very real possibility.  Translation?  We drop the 900 (which would likely involve a small payday load), and they discover it's going to be another grand or more.  We're out the 900, and the car still won't pass inspection.

Our credit is abysmal.  We're not in arrears, we're not delinquent, but the move put our "available credit to debt ratio" in a bad place.  We make our payments, but that doesn't seem to matter these days.  So we're in a bad, hurting place with no way out in sight.

We're going to hit a used car place.  But it's got to be something that is already inspected and emissions tested.  We can't risk getting into a "new" car only to have it turn out it won't pass inspection, which puts us right back where we are right now.  Oh, what a mess.  What a sad, sorry, stupid mess. 

I don't see any way out of this.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Bad Dreams and Aunt Helen Jean

Napped this afternoon--hoped the down time would do something about this vicious headache, but I should have known better.  Headaches like this don't just go away--they're borne of wowser stress, and only go away when the scary stuff resolves.  Hopefully tomorrow.

I dreamed about my Aunt Helen Jean.  I do that a lot.  Dreamed about Hallstead, about her house, and about the barn across the way--an old business converted to stable, arena, and office for my Uncle Bob's and Aunt Helen Jean's Arabian horse biz.  As usual, my brain twisted up the geography of Hallstead and the house/barn.  It's funny, because Hallstead is ingrained in me, yet I always dream it different.  I always dream it with the old steel bridge still spanning the Susquehanna. 

In this dream?  Helen Jean was dead, and we all knew it.  She knew it.  So we (hubby and I) were at her house, waiting for my mom and sister to show up so we could all get together and have one last meal.  I went to the kitchen to get a glass of water while Helen Jean reclined on the sofa.  I noticed she had been cleaning out her cabinets and fridge (being dead, she wanted to leave the place neat).  I noticed meat and other perishables in a bag on the counter.  I called out, asked if she wanted me to put them in the fridge.  She said she didn't.  I pushed, not wanting things to go bad.  She heaved a sigh and rose from the sofa, wandered into the kitchen, and began putting things away.  I protested, said I was happy to do it, she should rest.  She refused, continued restocking the fridge with those painfully thin, pale hands.  I said, "Helen Jean, please--please let me do this for you.  Please!  You've never let me help, you've never let me do for you--let me do this.  Please." 

She refused. 

So I sat there on a kitchen chair--a chair at that same kitchen table where I had so many wonderful meals when I was younger--and cried, watching her pained efforts. 

Doesn't that suck? 

My Aunt Helen Jean (sometimes known as just "Helen") died late March, 2011.  No one called.  No one wrote.  No one emailed.  I found her obituary quite by accident while checking the Hallstead area news online one day.  I hadn't spoken to Helen Jean in a little over three months--since right before Christmas.  Her health had been deteriorating one miserable thing at a time since my Uncle Bob (my mom's brother) had died a few years earlier.  She was quite obviously contracting in on herself, had asked that we not send Christmas or birthday gifts anymore because it was too difficult for her to get out and about to return the favor.  Of course, I told her she didn't NEED to return the favor, but Helen Jean took her social niceties very seriously, and the idea of receiving a gift and not reciprocating rankled. 

Upon learning of her death, I cried.  I cried a LOT.  I had so hoped she would rally, had hoped she would get that last trip to Sonoma in with her niece (her sister's daughter).  I hoped that we would get moved back east to be nearer her before she died.  I hoped my son would get a chance to more than meet her a few times.  But it didn't happen--her health nosedived, and she died hard. 

Know what did happen?

Some of the foulest, lousiest, most ill-mannered meanness I've ever encountered.

Rather than hurl accusations or yell at not being called, I ordered flowers and a card for Helen Jean's sister (the aforementioned niece's mother).  I sent a letter expressing my sorrow and sympathy.  I also mentioned that, via my Grandpa and Uncle Bob, Helen Jean had been in possession of many family photos, mementos, clippings, etc.  These are things related to my mom's side of the family.  I said that I would be very happy to pay for the shipping, or, if the niece and her mom wanted to keep them, I would be glad to pay for the making of copies.  After all, while these things aren't related to their family at all, we considered them part of our family.

I thought I was being nice.  Reasonable.  Sympathetic.  Kind, even.

I got no response.  Nothing.  After months, I dug around online and found my Aunt Helen Jean's attorney's number and called.  They were thrilled to hear from us, because, according to them, Helen Jean's family was being completely uncooperative when it came to finding me, my sister, and my mom.  I gave them our information, and then asked if there was a problem, if perhaps that part of the family was struggling somehow.  The attorney's secretary?  Laughed and said something on the order of, "No, they're just not very nice."  She recounted a dust-up in the attorney's office that involved shouting and name-calling.  Certainly NOT the way I remembered Helen Jean's family.  However, Helen Jean was very close to her niece, and I could certainly understand being distraught and emotional at such an awful time.

I waited a while longer, then wrote another letter.  In the mean time, my sister began trying to call.  She actually got a kid on the line who yelled, "Mom, it's for you!"  She heard a woman ask, "Who is it?"  When he gave my sister's name, there was some whispering, and then the boy said, "She's not here."  That happened more than once.


Understand, I've had no bad experiences with these people.  In fact, I remember my Aunt's niece fondly from when I was a teen.  So this was a shock for me; I was blindsided.

My sister did finally get through, after months of trying.  The answer she got?  My Aunt's family was so traumatized by her death that, even a year and change later, they hadn't gotten around to going through Helen Jean's home.  When they did, IF there was anything there they felt we had some claim to, they'd let us know.  And then silence.

The other letter?  No response to that, either.  There may have been another letter, I don't remember.  But then I decided to try writing my Aunt's sister again, since the niece was so obviously unwilling to engage.  Again, my letter was the picture of politeness.  I even mentioned that, now that my family was on the east coast, I would be happy to come up to Hallstead and lend a hand in anything that needed to be done, save them the heartache and stress.  What I got in return?

Amazing.  Devastating.

I got a letter from the niece.  A letter admonishing me to not drive up to Hallstead and break into my Aunt and Uncle's house.  No, she didn't use the term "break in," she said something like, "do not enter the premises."  Seriously!  Like I ever would!  She made it clear that she STILL hadn't gone through the house (I cringe to think what must be going on in my Aunt's beautiful home after over a year-and-a-half of standing unoccupied), and also hinted that she didn't think there was anything there--that my Aunt may have thrown it all away. I was then instructed to never contact her mother again--that any and all contact, should there be a need, should be with her.  Period.  I can't even describe how insulting it was.

Understand that this whole experience has really poisoned my memories of my Aunt.  Learning that she had her animals (she had many) all destroyed upon her death hit me hard.  Wondering what she may have said to her niece and family to make them treat me this way?  Devastating.  Even so, I know one thing--there's no WAY my Aunt would have thrown away family photos and mementos that weren't hers to dispose of.  She took being proper and being correct way too seriously to do something that awful.

Not that it matters.  We're clearly not ever going to get these things back.  Understand, I only have a couple of pictures of Helen Jean, and only a few of my Uncle Bob.  I have only a couple pictures of my Grandma and Grandpa, and only one of my Grand Uncle Herbert.  I have NONE of my Grandpa and Herbert's siblings or parents, nor of my Grandma's family.  These are things I will never be able to share with my son or niece and nephew.  There is no other family that might have these things.  They were in a chest in the guest bedroom (used to be my Grandpa's bedroom) at Bob and Helen Jean's house.  The chest was brimming with my family's history.  I feel robbed.

Do I have legal recourse?  Who knows?  I can't even afford to get my car legal, how can I afford an attorney?  It's not like there's a big payoff here, I'm not after the house, I'm just after a chest with family photos and the like in it.  Plus, the niece is an attorney.  So that's that.  I'm out my family's history, I'm out my happy memories of my Aunt Helen Jean.  It is breathtakingly sad.

2003 Hyundai Sonata and Terror

Well, it happened.  Everything on the car passed except one of the most awful, expensive things.  The airbag light isn't working properly.  That's a hundred dollar diagnostic (we have that--we've actually saved up 800 bucks just in case the car needed work), and possibly up to $1,600 for repair.  That's not possible for us.  There is absolutely no way.  We could save that up in a couple of months, but we don't have a couple of months, we have two weeks.  No rich relatives, no possibility of taking out a short-term loan (other than a payday loan, and that's insane). 

So we may be totally screwed.

We already went out and hubby followed the mechanics instructions to disconnect and reconnect all the wires under the front seats, but that didn't fix it.

Already cried, will likely cry again.  Taking the car back down to have them run the diagnostic in a few minutes.  Oh, please!  Cross your fingers, huh?  I have no idea what we're going to do if this goes worst case scenario on us.  Damn!

Update:  Took the car back for the diagnostic, they said their equipment can't scan our particular car.  Hubby's on the phone with the dealership, and that's almost always disastrously expensive.  More as we know.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Postcards to Nowhere

So, a year ago (plus a month) we moved from Northern Utah to Northern Virginia.  It was for a job--a job hubby had been angling for for over three years.  We really wanted out of Utah.  Being a federal employee, hubby, of course, makes over 125 grand a year, and the tax payers forked over for the very best professional movers . . . NOT!  Yeah, contrary to the crap propaganda forwarded by the right these past couple of years in their quest to vilify federal workers, fact is most don't make that much money (we don't see even half that after taxes, actually), and not one dime of our move was covered by the feds.  No, we forked over for that baby ourselves, and we're still drowning in the bills.  We self-packed, loaded a big ol' Penske truck with the help of wonderful friends, and stayed in a series of Motel 6s (including one in Mars, PA that was so scary we nearly left in the middle of the night).  Determined to keep a promise made to our wonderful niece and nephew (my sister's kids), we bought a gaggle of post cards from various spots along the way.  Being, as we were, exhausted, we spaced sending them until our last night on the road.  I filled them all out--postcards for the kids, for my sister, for my mom, etc.  I then set them on the table so I could dig up my sister's address.  Hubby, not knowing I hadn't addressed them, slapped stamps on them without looking, and dumped them into a mailbox. 


I didn't realize what had happened until my sister said the cards had never arrived.  I asked hubby if he'd addressed them. He said he thought I had.  So I guess those fancy, picked out special for each kid postcards are sitting in a bin somewhere in a PA post office, collecting dust.  Sorry kids--they were really cool cards, a good half-dozen of them.  You'd have really liked them.

We put up a few tentative Halloween decorations tonight.  Scared to death those rat kids across the street and that asshat punk behind us will tear them up or fill them full of Airsoft pellets.  Heck, we had to yell at one of the rats Thursday night for shooting at us from an upstairs window while we were unloading groceries from the car.  We found pellets in our grocery bags while putting things away.  This is going to keep escalating, and I don't know what to do.  What a mess.

Speaking of messes, the punk from behind wrote on the pavement, "Max is stuped."  Someone had crossed out "stuped" and replaced it with "stupid."  This kid is thirteen, certainly old enough to be able to spell "stupid."  And worse?  He made the same mistake on his Facebook page a few months ago, and was corrected by a number of people.  So maybe he really is "stuped."

The car goes in for inspection tomorrow.  If it costs more than $850 (including registration), we're utterly screwed.  We're given the option of registering for two years.  Does that mean we don't have to have the car inspected for two years?  Probably not, but wouldn't that be cool?

Our boy's struggling with the University of Toronto Python programming course he's taking online.  He's getting the material (though it is very challenging for him), but he's got no concept of meeting unyielding deadlines.  He submitted his first assignment yesterday and only got 18 out of 41.  After much grief and digging through things, we figured it out--he actually got 36 out of 41, but they knocked off FIFTY PERCENT of his score for missing the "soft" deadline.  Ouch!  So we're working harder on getting things done on time.  On the bright side, he is grasping the material, and that really is the point.

Walgreens keeps sending me emails telling me that I have a script due for refilling.  Except I don't.  I've called them repeatedly, but they don't know why the email keeps being sent--it's apparently for a script that has no refills.  Irritating.

Epinions ( has revamped its payment and income share schemes.  Hopefully, that will be to my benefit and not a smack.  It's not a lot, but I enjoy writing, and it's nice to have a little something to show for it. 

I dreamed my old neighbor Judy died.  Not good.  Of course, I also dreamed I was a super-spy who blew up a roller rink and was hiding in my neighbor's bathroom waiting for the chance to take out a rival spy.  So Judy's probably okay.

Cross your fingers on the car inspection.  I need less stress. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Butterfly for Bucky

If you don't get the reference, forgive me.  If you DO get it, forgive me even more.

9 am found the whole family at our new optometry office.  Eyes dilated, puffs of air, this-one-or-this-one?  I'll let you in on a little secret--I love the optometrist's office.  Always have, ever since I was a kid.  I have no idea why.  I wasn't even given a driver's license until I was 27 because, according to the public schools, I was close enough to "legally blind" as makes no odds.  The sad/funny/enraging thing?  I'm not anywhere near legally blind--in fact, at the time, my vision was 20/20 in the right, 20/23 in the left.  But I've astigmatism and really struggle with small letters.  11 years I was denied a license!

While a vicious eye infection (which the clinic doctor insisted I didn't have, which left me without treatment for a week-and-a-half) did a number on the vision in my left eye (20-125 instead of 20-23 now), my overall vision is still good enough that I don't require glasses to drive (according to state law).  Plus, I have this cool monocular-type thing going on with my eyes, where my left eye is crap for distance vision but great for close up, while my right is fabulous for sharp, clear distance vision and lousy for close up.  Together, even at my age, I can see great distances AND still read most fine print.  It was so refreshing to have an optometrist say to me, "We could fit you with glasses, but why?  I just charged someone five hundred dollars for contact lenses that do exactly what your eyes do right now!"  So the whole visit was ten bucks, and she says my eyes look amazing--optic nerve nice and tight, no glaucoma, no degeneration, all healthy and happy.  She offered to write a letter to the DMV removing my "needs corrective lenses" notation.  In more good news, our boy's eyes are perfect, and even hubby's eyes have leveled off--maybe even improved slightly.

After the eye-doc's, we went to the farmer's market in Old Town.  Brussel sprouts, ears of corn, Winesap apples, carrots, and amazing bread and rolls.  But still no Muscadine grapes!  What is UP with that?  We found them a month or so ago at Walmart . . . ONCE!  None anywhere since.  I'm feeling very put out about that.

Came home to find a Tim Kaine campaign flier on the porch.  I need to call them and tell them not to bother--we're already voting for him, so no need to drop the pennies on trying to convince us.

Here are some carrot pictures:

No, Charlie doesn't get to have the carrots!

One of the monster carrots from the farmer's market--no, that's not a miniature water bottle.

Not a lot of fall color yet, though we did see some spectacular, blazing trees over by Vint Hill near Gainesville.  Here's what I have in my yard, though! 

My wonderful mums!

Love it here.  Scared to death about the car inspection, but still love it here. 

Oh, and if you were wondering about today's title's reference?  Here ya go, but I advise against it:

Friday, October 12, 2012

Green, Green Grass

So the grass seed we put out a few weeks ago?  Still alive, still green, still sprouting.  Despite my best efforts, I find myself getting weirdly excited.  What if it works?  What if, next spring, we'll finally have green grass?  I'm planning on heavily overseeding next month, hoping to see a real difference next year!

I'm proud of Vice-President Biden.  A little surprised, sometimes his mouth is a problem, but proud. But more than anything, I want the stress of this over--I want our President re-elected and I want to stop worrying about it!

Speaking of worrying, the car is due for inspection, and I'm scared to death.  Added to the worries inherent when you own a nine year old car that was once submerged in a FLOOD is this gem, presented me by my husband--what if the mechanics decide they don't like our political bumper stickers?  I know, it sounds paranoid, but I've been floored by the number of Romney/Ryan folks who pull up behind us, then swerve out and around so they can get in front of us to display their Romney stickers.  Worse, they speed up so we can't merge, they slow down to prevent us from changing lanes--it COULD be coincidence, but it doesn't FEEL like coincidence.  It feels like aggression.  So now I'm worried about that, too, especially since our usual shop is closed for remodeling.  We're trying a new place near Old Town Manassas, and hoping for the best.  A devastating inspection could sink us, and there's nothing we can do about it.

Went shopping at Wegmans last night.  Turned out to be a lot more expensive than I had hoped.  How does that always happen?  I try to be good, thought I had been.  Dang.

Used my new "Clean and Clear Morning Burst" face cleanser last night, only to have my neck break out in a vicious rash.  Emailed the company, but no response.  I see a review shaping up.  Speaking of reviews, Epinions is switching over to Paypal for payments.  Some folks are very upset about this, but I'm thrilled--no more missing checks, no more iffiness on the timetable.  I'll KNOW when my cash is coming, and I'll always have access.  I'm happy.

I used to have a link to my Epinions reviews here, but I worry that somehow clashes with my Google deal, so I pulled the link.  Wish I had a clearer idea of how that works, because I liked having my reviews associated with my blog.

Oh, hey, Glade has a wonderful spray out right now, it's a limited release called Autumn Harvest.  It's smoky, sweet, spicy--really nice.  Even the hubby likes it.

Just got back from the local Halal market.  Hubby needed tea, but, of course, we wound up with the sweets, too.  The usual ma'amoul, plus fancy baklava.  Blood sugar, shlud sugar, huh?  Hoping to hit the farmer's market after tomorrow morning's eye appointments--on a quest for muscadine grapes.  They were so plentiful last fall, but we've only found them once at the store this fall. 

And out I go.  Not a lot of substance today, just a lot of worry.  The neck's been nicer to me the last couple of days, but the fingers have been a mess thanks to an all-out war with a marinara bottle's lid. 

Have a marvelous today!

**Updated to say that Johnson and Johnson, the makers of Clean and Clear, did get back with me.  They emailed, I called, they had me talk to a nurse, dug around for symptoms/medication clashes/reasons, and then they refunded my money.  It was a good customer service experience. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My Poor Boy

So, the saga continues.  Our boy has no friends, and the prospect of sending him out alone to try to find some?  Terrifying.  Yet that is exactly what he wants to do.  He wants to wander the neighborhood beyond our street to try finding new friends.  Just wander around the streets hoping to meet someone.  Oh, damn, my heart breaks for him.  My poor boy.  He's smart, he's funny, he's handsome, he's got a good heart and loves to have fun, and he is alone.  And me?

I'm afraid to let him wander this neighborhood alone with those scary kids here.  We've got four registered sex offenders with child victims living within easy walking distance.  I've wracked my brain, trying to think of anyplace where teens that don't include the awful kids on our block congregate, and there's not one place.  This isn't a "kid-heavy" area, there aren't older kids out playing or hanging out.  I checked Boys Club, but for his age group this time of year, there are only volleyball and basketball tryouts, and those are skill-based determinations AND he doesn't play either sport.  There is an atheist homeschool group, but the only folks with kids his age aren't open weekends (AND are interested in doing things we don't have the cash for right now).  No, atheism isn't a requirement, but not caring about our atheism is.

Next summer, there's Camp Quest.  Next spring there's the flying club.  Next year is volunteering, maybe at the ASPCA or a like thing.  We thought Smithsonian, but it turns out he has to be 16 or older.  But right now?  Hapkido three nights a week is the extent of his time with other kids, and he wants more. 

I feel responsible for this.  Only I would pick the one place in the state where these particular kids with their animal killing and scary violence hang out.  I wish I could make this better for him.  He's a happy kid, but this is a hole in his life that we thought was filled when he started hanging with the kids in the neighborhood.  But that fell apart, and now that emptiness is there again. 

My poor boy.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pain, Plants, Slugs, and Embarrassment

So, my back is absolutely killing me.  So's my neck.  I've got a bit of a "buffalo hump" starting back there (not a dowager's hump, which is down farther and caused by tipping/crunching vertebrae).  This is caused by sitting with my head/neck craned forward, which, it turns out, I do a LOT of.  I had no idea.  I knew my posture was a mess, but I hadn't realized just how abysmal it really is until I started trying to tuck that chin and straighten that back. 


So, the temps were supposed to dip down low, which necessitated a hauling in of the plants.  That was day before yesterday.  Imagine my horror when I came in that night to find our kitchen table crawling with slugs.  SLUGS!  Uncalled for!  I cleaned them up, but ew, you know?

Speaking of plants, I went to a neighbors to warn her about the upcoming cold temps and to ask for some cuttings from her Wandering Jews (  She was happy to give (she has many, many plants), but was bothered by my dainty, tender snipping of stalks.  She said, "Just grab a handful and yank."  I didn't want to ruin her plant, so I gave a little tug.  She rolled her eyes, stomped down the back steps, and grabbed an ARMFUL.  She YANKED, and there she was with a brimming armload of plant.  She handed it to me and shooed me out the door.  Told me to come back tomorrow for whatever else I might want.


Scheduling wound me up not having a chance to go to her house the next day.  When I got home from taking our boy to Hapkido, there was a GIGANTIC plant, pot and all, on the front porch.  This one Moses in the Cradle (  Unlike the Wandering Jews, the Moses in the Cradle is toxic, so we couldn't just let it hang out on the floor or on the kitchen table like we did with the WJ (which, along with my lavender, is now occupying the entire kitchen table!).  We wound up taking it upstairs to hubby's office, where it's sitting quite prettily on a stool in front of the window.  Hopefully, it will fare well.  I'd love to have it outside, come spring!

Now, the embarrassment.  My neighbor's house is frightfully clean.  Like spotless.  No prepping for guests, no catching her off-guard--the house is always spotless all of the time.  Even with her two grandsons living there now.  It's . . . humiliating.  My house isn't filthy, it's not awful.  It's usually presentable, and a couple of times a week it's really good (except for the computer desk, of course).  But when compared to hers?  Oh, shame.  So today, my arthritic joints and screaming back cleaned.  One of those BIG cleans, where all the knick-knacks get pulled off the media towers and dusted.  Where shelves that have been the landing spots for all sorts of dreck for a year get sorted and rearranged.  I mopped, I scrubbed, I swept, I vacuumed.  And now? 

I hurt.

I hurt, and it still doesn't look as clean as hers.  But I think she could come in and not feel panicked at the clutter.  And that's going to have to be good enough, because I don't have any more in me this day.