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Thursday, March 31, 2011

First Quarter Check In

You may remember that at the beginning of the year I decided to focus my energies on three things:  getting healthier, fixing my finances, and spending more quality time with my family.  It's been a wild ride so far this year, but I realized today is the last day of the first quarter, so I thought I'd post an update.

The family time has definitely increased since Bro moved in. I see a lot more of my nephews, too.  Walker, Bro, and I sit down to dinner together several times a week, which isn't easy considering we all have very different schedules.  Walker and I had a week together in February, on vacation.  I think we needed that.  We've also managed to sneak in a few late lunch dates before I go to work.  It's progress.

The finances are actually ahead of schedule.  In the interest of full disclosure, I need to state that one factor in getting there is the contribution Bro makes to the household budget.  I followed  Gail Vaz-Oxlade's plan to set the budget up, but I based it just on income from Walker and me.  When Bro moved in, I didn't adjust the numbers.  So his contribution is "extra".  I decided not to account for it since I know he'll be moving on soon.  The biggest "Wahoo!" happened in February, when I paid a credit card balance, in full, after our vacation.  I have one more to go, but that one is going away quickly since it's the only consumer debt I have.  I've been working overtime, clipping coupons, and watching sales.  Finances are doing well.

Then there's the "health" category.  Can I get back to you on that one?  Actually, while I don't have a regular exercise program, I've cut way back on my caffeine intake, I'm sleeping better, and we're eating a lot healthier since Bro moved in.  He's a great cook, and he's committed to his wellness plan.  He makes low fat, low carb meals that are awesome.  We also have healthy snacks now.  It's a start, but I do need to get going on the exercise.  Now that spring is (almost) here, I think that'll get easier.  I love to walk outside, bike ride, garden.  In a couple months Diva and I will be swimming every day.  I'll get there. 

Over all, I guess I'd give myself about a B.  Maybe a B-.  Nah, a B.  Can't get everything done at once.  Considering the challenges I've had, I think a B will do just fine.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How to Catch a Leprechaun

My nephew Squeak is nine years old. He's been building leprechaun traps for a couple years now. This year's trap.....well, you'll just have to see it for yourself.  Lets take a tour, shall we?

He started with an ordinary copy paper box.  Nothing ordinary about it anymore, though.  Note the ramp in front.  Squeak assures me that a leprechaun would be curious enough to climb the ramp just to have a peek in the window.  Once he's up there, he'll fall right in.  Why won't he climb back out? Because he's too short to reach the hole and hoist himself up.

Should Mr Leprechaun decide to bypass the ramp, Squeak has a back up plan.  Leprechauns are greedy little buggers, and they love shiny things.  They also love green.  So Squeak baited the top of the trap with trinkets.

In case you're wondering, that dark spot in the upper right corner is a window for Squeak to check his trap.  He covered it with a plastic lid from a container of strawberries.  He didn't want the leprechaun to get out.  I didn't point out that if he can't get out of the hole in the side, he won't be able to get out of the hole in the roof.  Kid logic does not respond to adults.

Anyway: Note the shiny bits and green glass rocks.  There is also a toy fire engine, which Squeak decided would be the perfect ride on toy for Mr Leprechaun.  Why does he need this?  Well, if you look in the center of the box, you'll have a clue.  Squeak decided that while the leprechaun is riding around on his fire truck scooping up baubles, he would never notice that green patch.  And when he rode over it?  Whoops!  Down the hole he goes.  Now, don't feel bad for Mr Leprechaun.  Squeak has provided him with all the comforts of home.  Take a look inside this trap:

More toys and a comfy couch where he can take a nap.  And when he wakes?  No problem!  Squeak thoughtfully provided a snack.  That is, if leprechauns like Cheerios.

Now, you probably noticed the red cup hanging over the Cheerios.  What you can't see well in this photo is what's under the Cheerios.  That, my friends, is duct tape.  The leprechaun will wander over to eat the cereal, get stuck in the duct tape, and while he wiggles around trying to free himself, Wham!

Down comes the cup.  And that, my friends, is how you catch a leprechaun, Squeak style.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Finding Gratitude

I was planning to tackle the basement storage room on Saturday, but then my boss offered me the opportunity to come in to the office for project work, which pays way better than my normal job. I was supposed to work from nine to around midnight, but I know from past experience things rarely go as planned. I decided to skip the basement and take a nap instead. Good thing I did ~ it was nearly four a.m. before I got home.

Working late meant I slept in on Sunday, and the day just kind of got away from me until after supper. My brother and my nephew were playing video games in the basement, and when they came upstairs my brother's allergies had kicked in, big time. Even though we couldn't see or smell anything mildewy, we knew then that something was going on down there. I couldn't wait anymore. The stuff on those shelves is mine; I had to start sorting through it.

When I finally started in on the storage room, what I found made me angry, then sad. I really believed when I bought all those Rubbermaid totes that my stuff inside would be protected from water damage. It's not like we had a huge flood, or a couple feet of standing water. We had an inch or two of standing water that was cleaned up within hours. Regardless, I have hauled two large construction bags full of moldy holiday decorations and gift wrapping outside, so far. At least in boxes, the damage is immediately apparent. The totes not only hid the damage, they hid the mildew smell until I took the lids off. I had no idea I was cultivating penicillin until I opened each container.

Pretty much the whole first tote full of Christmas stuff had to go. I did decide to try to save my Christmas stocking - I have had it literally my whole life, so it's soaking right now in a washing machine full of soap and color safe bleach. It didn't have visible mildew, it just smelled bad, and everything else in the box was moldy. I have no idea if I can save it but I wanted to try. I also saved the Halloween costume my mom made me when I was five. I kept it all these years, hoping I would have a daughter to wear it one day. It actually still fits me - it's a red cape with a hood so it's pretty forgiving. I was Little Red Riding Hood for years, then I turned it into a devil outfit using a headband with horns and a pin-on tail. Anyway - it's soaking in the same bath as my stocking.

I was feeling pretty bad when I was hauling everything out to the trash, but then I started thinking of all the people in Japan who have nothing. Literally nothing left. Some of them don't even have their families. What right to I have to whine about losing some "things" when there are so many people in this world who have lost everything but the clothes on their backs? I feel like a jerk about now.

I'm also feeling like a jerk for trying to find something to salvage in those boxes. I wasn't thinking about my brother's allergies when I stirred everything up. I should have hauled those totes outdoors the minute I knew there was mold in them. I just didn't think.

My not thinking started me thinking about something else: not only do I have too much crap, but I am too attached to it. It's just *stuff*. At the end of the day, what's important cannot be found in a Rubbermaid tote. I need to be more mindful of just how good I have it in life, and stop getting caught up on little things that don't really matter in the end. It's time to let some things go.

That's My Diva!

Believe it or not, there's a kid in there:

Since Cubby and Squeak are residing in Diva's room, she decided she'd spend the night, too, and sleep on the couch.  Can't find her under all that down comforter-ness?  Here's a close up:

Her head is way down at the bottom of the pillow.  I'm always amazed that she doesn't fall out of bed while she sleeps.  She's the flip-floppiest kid I've ever seen.  The only question I have now is, what happened to her pillow case?  It appears to have gone missing.  I hope the story is a good one.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The People People, Disguised as the Entertainment Weekly People

Well, I think we finally have a resolution to The Missing Magazine Saga.  I wasn't totally sure, because, in the response below, you will see they entered the wrong magazine title:

Thank you for contacting ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY Customer Service.
We have reviewed your previous inquiry and the response that was sent to you. We apologize for any misunderstanding which may have occurred.
We are sorry that you had problems with your magazine subscription. We have extended your subscription with our compliments. Your new expiration date is August 08, 2011. We value you as a customer and hope that you continue to enjoy our magazine. If there is anything else that we could help you with, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Now, I decided to ignore the mistake in the magazine name, as well as the blurb about how they "extended my subscription with their compliments" because, really, they didn't do anything complimentary.  All they did was give me what I actually paid for.  Which is what I asked for in the first place.  If they want to pat themselves on the back and call themselves generous, I don't care.  I just want the nineteen issues I paid for, which is what they say they will send me.  Still, I thought it might be too good to be true.  And guess what?

This showed up yesterday.  In my actual mailbox.  The correct magazine, dated April 4, 2011.  It has my actual name and the correct address on the label.  Wahoo!  Now I can go back to the more important things in my life.  Finally.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Disney, Revisited

Last month, as part of our vacation week, Walker and I spent one wonderful day at Disney's Magic Kingdom.  This weekend, we were invited to join some family members back in Orlando about this time next year.

One thing I love about going to Orlando is, it's easy.  We've been there many times, so we know where to go, what to do, how to get around.  What I don't love about Orlando is the cost of everything.  Well, almost everything.  We do get some reasonable motel rates.  But on that subject: when did motels start charging "resort" fees?  I understand why they do it - they want to advertise low rates. Then they charge the fees to generate some additional income.  But to me, if you tack on a non-negotiable fee, it's part of the rate and should be listed as such.

Two years ago we stayed at Best Western Lakeside in Kissimmee, outside Orlando.  The "resort" fee was $3 a night and was supposed to cover the use of the pools and mini golf.  If you chose not to use the pools or the mini golf?  Didn't matter.  You were charged the fee regardless.  Three dollars a day isn't a big deal to us, so we didn't even blink at it, though I do think the advertised rates are deceptive.  This year, though the amenities are the same, the "resort" fee is now $7.50 per day.  The amount still isn't that a big deal but when you think about it, that is a 150% increase, when they made absolutely no improvements.  Imagine if everything went up 150%. Yikes! This fee is the reason, when we were asked about going next year, I scouted around for other motels in that area.  Guess what - every one I looked at had a "resort" fee.  They range from $3 to $10 a day.  If you're staying a week, and you have a couple kids so you get two rooms, that could add up fast.  Especially since they charge the fee before they add on the 13.5% hotel tax.

Are we going back to Disney World next spring?  I don't know yet.  We need to take a look at the budget and the vacation fund, and I want to put a little more distance between me and my cancer treatment before I make any long range plans.  I hope so, though.  I think Walker hopes so, too!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What Round is this Again?

Today, the People people responded to my email dated March 4.  Yep, that's right, March 4.  Their "official" response time is two days.  Ahem.  Anyway, this is what they had to say:

Thank you for contacting PEOPLE Customer Service.

Our records show that you have contacted customer service already.

Denise A

Yep, that's it.  That is the reponse I have waited for during these past 17 days. If I wasn't out almost forty bucks I'd think this was funny.  Losing forty bucks is not funny.  So, you know, I thought maybe I'd help a girl out.  I sent Ms Denise A a few pointers:

Yes, I have contacted customer service already. Like, fifty times or something. But the issue IS NOT RESOLVED. I have not received ANY ISSUES of this magazine that I ordered in September.

You know, your customer service sucks so bad I almost wonder if John Quinones is going to ring my doorbell and tell me this whole thing was a test to see how far you had to push people before they break and start cussing. Well, THIS is how far.

In case I'm wrong, and your customer service just sucks, here is a lesson on how you treat people who send you money and do not get the goods as promised:

Step 1. Apologize for your error.
Step 2. Fix the problem. In this case, correct my address in your system.
Step 3. Fix any problems caused by your original problem. In this case, reset my subscription dates so that I get all of the 19 issues I paid for.
Step 4. Apologize again, sincerely, and ask if there are any other issues that need your attention.

Please do not email me again until you have done steps two and three.  And please include step four in your email.  Thank you.

Another Trip to the Trash Bin

The basement project is coming along, though slowly.  I had decided to work on it during the weekends when my nephews visit, since they spend most of their time in the living room, making it more difficult for me to work on the computer.  It felt like a good compromise.  Today, however, I went downstairs to get some wrapping paper for my nephew's birthday gifts.  The wrapping paper is stored in a Rubbermaid tote designed for that purpose, long and skinny with space for rolls and trays above that to hold bows and tape and so forth.  Well, the lid was on tight but I guess not tight enough because all the rolls in the bottom section were damp.  Damp and stinky. Unsalvageable.   No visible mold, but I'm sure it's coming.  I had to toss it all into the trash bin outside before it triggered my brother's allergies. 

So now I'm wondering what other mildewed treasures I might find.  I thought the stuff stored in plastic was safe, despite finding the box of ruined photos.  Now I know I'll have to unpack, look over, and repack ALL the boxes in the storage room.  It can't wait for me to do a little at a time.  We have four large totes, just for Christmas decorations.  Not to mention Halloween and Easter.  And a whole section of shelving is full of boxes of my late father's stuff.  I see a yard sale in my future.  It's time to do some serious purging.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Maybe the House is Just Haunted

Last week we had plumber number two in to look at our sewer line.  Again, he could not find anything blocking it.  Yet, for no apparent reason, it backs up from time to time.  It doesn't make any sense, as some days we shower, do laundry, run the dishwasher, and everything's fine.  Then the next day, someone takes a shower and there's water backing up five minutes in.  Walker even had the city come out to check the main sewer line in the street.  Nothing.

Yesterday, Diva and I decided to make some key lime bars for after dinner.  We baked the crust, mixed up the filling, poured it over the crust and put it in the oven.  Ten minutes later I was washing dishes and Walker was clearing the table when we heard a snapping noise.  I thought Walker had knocked into something but then I smelled burning sugar.  Walker opened up the oven to discover half my Pyrex baking pan had shattered.

What a mess!  I turned off the oven while Diva ran for a baking sheet.  I was able to pull the remains of the pan out onto the baking sheet before all the filling liquid leaked out but the oven was way too hot to start wiping up.  The filling continued to bake while the oven cooled.  It actually looked pretty good, LOL, but can I tell you ~ it was a sticky, baked on mess by the time it cooled enough for me to start cleaning it up.

Walker was disappointed about the lack of dessert, so he took Diva to the grocery store for ice cream.  I asked him to grab a can of oven cleaner while they were there.  So now, three hours later, I'm waiting for the oven cleaner to work it's magic on the last layer of baked on gunk.  I should have asked Walker to pick up some rubber gloves, too.  My hands are getting raw from all the water and chemicals they've been exposed to during this project.

I have to wonder about what caused this mess.  Pyrex is pretty sturdy.  We didn't knock it around, the pan was warm from the crust baking before we put it in the oven, and the oven was only set to 350*.  No good reason I can see for this dish to shatter like that.  Unless, you know, the evil spirits came out of the drain to haunt the oven.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Max Azria, Please Make More!

Walker and I have a date.  A real date, for dinner and a concert.  A big concert.  Since we both work nights, going out together is a rare and wonderful thing.  Aside from our vacation in February, I honestly do not know when we last went out together like a normal couple.  So even though our date isn't for over a month, I started thinking about what to wear.

I hunted through my closet for something nice to wear but all I have in there are tshirts, sweatshirts, and a couple of heavy, dark dress shirts.  I lost some weight last year, and pretty much everything is loose and baggy.  I want to wear color.  I want to look nice.  I want a top that fits properly.  It was time to go shopping.

We don't live in a shopper's paradise here.  Our town has one rather small mall, and that mall mostly consists of stores geared to teenagers and twenty somethings.  So before I blew an afternoon traipsing through those stores getting worn out and frustrated (can you tell how much I love our mall, LOL) I hit the internet, and almost immediately found exactly what I was looking for:

photo courtesy of Auctiva
Just one problem: it's out of stock.  Everywhere. 

Why, why, why is it still coming up in search engines if you can't buy it anywhere?  Once, I got a catalog in the mail with a really cute outfit on the cover.  I had a wedding to attend a few weeks later and this outfit was perfect.  So I tried to order it.  Not available on the website, not available from the catalog.  I thought, okay, maybe it hasn't been released yet.  So I waited a bit, then contacted customer service.  They told me that the outfit on the cover of their catalog was a "representation" of their merchandise, and was not actually carried by their store.  They didn't know what store carried it, sorry, but wait!  Here are a list of links to comparable items in their inventory.  One was a velour track suit, one was a tube top ~ seriously, this is what they thought comparable to a dressy capri-and-jacket outfit.  Um, not so much.

At any rate, I have time.  I almost wish I hadn't looked at anything before I actually went shopping, because now I that I have an idea of what I want I'll probably knock  myself out trying to find it.  Sometimes it's better to just go flying blind and see what jumps out at you.  Ah, well.  At the end of the day, if my biggest problem is what to wear on a night out I'm doing pretty darn well.

A Special Gift

My mom and I celebrated St Paddy's Day by going out for Reuben sandwiches for lunch.  We went to a local restaurant that used to be part of a big factory.  It's pretty cool how they revamped the building.  The restaurant is in a small part of a very large building.  There are some other businesses in there as well, including a flea market that we participated in last year.

As we left the restaurant, my mom stopped to chat with an artist who was paining a mural in the front hallway.  While they were talking, I took a look at some of the paintings for sale in the same area.  All of them depicted local scenes and were beautifully done, but there was one that I absolutely fell in love with.  Yesterday, Walker bought and brought it home for me.

One of the reasons this first caught my eye was the format of it.  When we travel, Walker and I look for artsy postcards that we take home and frame in groups.  It's a pretty cheap way to make art but we love to have these momentos of our travels decorating our home.  This one was from a trip to Kansas to visit my mom, who lived there for a short time a couple years back:

This one is from the Painted Desert in Arizona.  We visited this area several years ago, when we scattered my father's ashes in a meadow nearby:

This one is my favorite.  It shows several scenes from the San Francisco Bay area.  Walker and I have visited there twice, and have great memories of both trips:

We have a couple more but you get the idea.  Needless to say, I was thrilled to add this home town watercolor to my collection.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Confessions of a Cosmetic Junkie

Five and a half years ago, Walker and I moved into this house.  Before that, I lived in a small two bedroom bungalow with one very tiny bathroom.  I had a medicine cabinet behind the mirror, a long, narrow cupboard above the shower that I used for towels and this little seat that kept Diva sitting upright in the tub, and a small vanity cabinet under the sink.  So I was shocked when we started packing up and I had not one, not two, but SIX boxes of cosmetics.  Six good sized boxes, the kind that copy paper comes in.  Everything from shower gel to lotion to hair stuff to makeup.  You name it, I had four of them.

I have a really bad habit of buying something, using it part way, then buying something else that I "have to" try right away.  Most of what I was unpacking was half gone. It filled three shelves of my new, much larger linen closet, and there was more in the bathroom.  At that point, I went on a "no-buy" cosmetic diet of sorts, determined not to purchase anything new until the stash was used up.  It took about two years.  Yep, two years.  And in the end, some of the products went wonky and I had to toss them.  I felt like I was trashing dollar bills.  I promised myself I would never go back to my old habits.

Fast forward a couple years: my aunt passed away, and in cleaning out her house we discovered a treasure trove of brand new, still-in-the-box cosmetics.  Many of the brands were favorites of mine.  It seems I inherited my love of beauty products from her.  Who knew?  My mom, my aunts, and I divided up the stash.  Into the linen closet went my loot, waiting until I ran out of whatever I was currently using.  

When I got cancer, the doctor recommended Bio Oil for my surgical scar.  Then I bought aloe vera gel, Vanicream (regular and sensitive), and a couple prescriptions during radiation.  When those didn't work, I tried a few other things before I found a winner with Dr Jonathan's Hand Cream.  After radiation I got some kind of weird skin thing, and the doctor recommended AmLactin lotion.  I "had" to get two, they were buy one, get one half off!   The only cream I'm still using is Dr Jonathan.  The rest?  Banished to the linen closet, of course.  Then there are the gifts: knowing I love all things girly, friends and family often resort to bath sets, makeup kits, and gift cards to Sephora when the holidays roll around.  And I love it all.

I came home from work tonight and opened the linen closet looking for a Band Aid.   When I reached up I knocked something over on the shelf. Next thing I knew, bottles were falling into each other like bowling pins and I was scrambling to catch them before they crashed to the floor and woke someone up.  It was time to face reality:  I am a cosmetic junkie, and I'm sending myself to rehab.

So now, I have "clean the linen closet" on my weekend chore list.  It's a task that, frankly, intimidates me.  I have a feeling there are things in the back of that closet I don't even know I have.  I'm also fairly certain that it will become an all-day event.   I hope the boys will stay out of my way.   Sephora, I will miss you.  See you in a couple years.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Another Round with the People People

So last week I emailed the customer service manager at People Magazine, someone named Ajay.  Ajay did not respond; however, today I got an email from someone else in the customer service department.  Take a look at what they have to say now: 

Thank you for contacting PEOPLE Customer Service.We are sorry that you wish to cancel your subscription. Our records indicate that your subscription was entered through QSP Inc. Unfortunately, we are unable to cancel orders placed through an agency and so you will need to contact the agency directly with your request. They can be reached at 1-800-678-2673. In the meantime, we will suspend delivery. Since our mailing labels are preprinted, you will receive a few more copies before delivery stops. Please discard these issues or share them with a friend. We hope you have enjoyed our magazine, and that you will consider ordering from us in the future.  Sincerely,

Janice W

Now, it's  becoming clear that these folks are disconnected with reality.  If they'd actually read my email, they would know that I have never received any issues of the magazine I ordered over five months ago.  Yet, Janice tells me that I will receive several more issues and she hopes I enjoyed it.  Um, enjoyed what?  I NEVER RECEIVED IT!  Sheesh ~ why do they not seem to get that???

I've read several articles lately on how the internet is killing the publishing industry.  Maybe it's me, but I'd blame the crappy service before I'd blame the internet.

A Welcome Sight

I'm not sure how this happened so fast, but this afternoon, when I left for work, I spotted this in the front yard:

A quick look around confirmed that the little guy had lots of friends:

Crocus are very hardy and will often bloom right through the snow piles, but I can only hope these blooms mean Old Man Winter is on his way out. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Help v The Real Minerva

I love to read. I read pretty much anything.  That said, it's not often I read something that gets stuck in my head.  Last week, I read not one, but two novels that I cannot. Stop. Thinking about.  

The Help by Kathryn Stockett follows three women living in Jackson, Mississippi during the civil rights movement.  One is a well-to-do young white woman, while the other two are black domestic workers.  The relationship between these women is not only unusual but downright dangerous in that time and place. 

The thing I can't stop thinking about is, this was the 1960's!  In America, for God's sake!  It wasn't the dark ages.  I can't help but wonder, how would I have lived, had I been raised in that time, in that place?  I like to think that I would have believed what I believe now: that people are people, regardless of their race, beliefs, sexual orientation, et cetera. Reading this, I was appalled at the way the black women were treated.  Of course I'd heard about segregation, but, I don't know, I guess the magnitude of living that way never really sank in.  I can't imagine having someone working in my home, raising my children,  who was not allowed to use my bathroom, or eat from my dishes.  I like to think that I would have challenged those ideas, recognized that they were wrong.  But you know, I didn't grow up in that time and place.  Maybe, had I been raised to view segregation as normal......I don't know.  It bothers me.  I had to keep reminding myself that this happened during the sixties. Only fifty years ago.  It feels impossible to me.  Yet I know it happened.

Right after I finished The Help, I picked up The Real Minerva by Mary Sharratt.  This book also followed three very different women, but this one was set in Minnesota during the 1920's.  The women in this story are complicated and spirited, and their relationship to each other is at turns complex and as basic as breathing.  I was completely consumed by this story.

One of the things that struck me the most was that these women all lived outside of the convention of society at that time.  In very different ways, they tossed aside the traditional roles of women in their respective positions to forge their own path.  It was interesting to see the reaction of the other townspeople.  Two of the women were basically shunned, while the third was held up as a role model of sorts.

Both of these books have earned a permanent place on my book shelf.  I can't wait to read more from both authors. But for now, I think I'll be going for something lighter. =)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Here We Go Again

So this morning, Walker wakes me at 7:30 to tell me that - surprise! - there are puddles in the basement again.  Sigh.  The problem is, we don't know where they came from.  My money is on the water heater (that we just put in around the holidays) but Walker thinks it must be from somewhere else.  Okay, but where?  The water was only in the utility room, so it could be from the water heater, the bathroom, the washing machine, or the floor drain.  Well, nobody did laundry or used that bathroom.  If the floor drain backed up, it didn't leave any sandy grit stuff like the last two times.  And the clean out was clear.  Nope, I'm betting on the water heater.  Walker made a dam of kitty litter all around the water heater.  If there's water inside the dam, we know it's leaking. 

Walker cleaned up the puddles as best he could.  I helped a bit but he did the bulk of it.  Now, we're just waiting for it to happen again, so hopefully we can figure out the source.  I'm not keen on paying a plumber to check everything.

On the plus side, temps are rising, and so are my flower bulbs.  This morning, the snow had melted enough to show me this:  Three inches of tulip leaves popping up in my front garden.  This area is sheltered from the wind, plus it gets sun all afternoon.  That combination creates this little micro climate that makes my flowers bloom a good two or three weeks before any of the neighbors.  I'm so excited for color, I can't tell you.  The last couple years my garden has been very neglected.  My medical issues pretty much took up all my time.  I'm anxious to get out there this year and clean things up.  Come on, Spring!

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Response from the People People

Well, I finally got a response from the People people.  Take a look and tell me what you think, keeping in mind, I have never received a single issue of the magazine that I ordered four months and three weeks ago:

Thank you for contacting PEOPLE Customer Service.
In checking our records, we find the subscription was suspended due to an invalid address. Since a correct address has been received, we are now able to resume delivery with the issue dated April 04, 2011. We have adjusted our records to compensate for any missed issues. Your new expiration date is April 25, 2011. We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconvenience.
Exceptional customer service is our number one priority. If at anytime you feel you're not receiving this level of service, please feel free to contact my supervisor, Ajay Valentine by email at

Scott S FI
Now, I don't have a calendar right in front of me, but if I get my first issue on April 4 and my last issue on April 25, that's like, three issues.  Which means I'll be paying almost $13 for each of them.  This is assuming they actually land in my mailbox.  Does Scott S really believe that he's putting customer service at the top of his priority list?  Sadly, he probably does. 
I have a feeling Ajay and I will be getting to know each other very, very soon.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


This is a very happy Walker.....and his sandwich.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The People People

Right after school started, my nephew contacted me asking if I'd like to support his high school marching band by ordering a magazine subscription.  Of course, I said yes.  I signed up to get "People" magazine delivered, sent him a check, and waited. 

I'm still waiting.

Magazines purchased from fund raisers are notoriously slow to arrive, so I wasn't too surprised when fall turned to winter and I still hadn't received anything.  I did verify that my check cleared, but that was about it.  By the time the holidays rolled around, however, I was starting to wonder if something was up.  "People" did not have a record of me as a subscriber, but they urged patience as the fund raiser subsciptions are delayed for some reason.  After the first of the year, however, I'd had enough.  I started emailing.  It didn't take long for them to figure out that they had my address wrong.  Okay, it happens.  But that was two months ago. 

I'm still waiting.

It's become a regular weekly chore to email the folks at "People", but after the first reply stating that they had the incorrect address, they have not bothered to answer.  Why don't I call them?  Well, I don't have good luck on the phone with customer service folks.  They tell you the problem is fixed, but when it isn't and you call back, all traces of the conversation have mysteriously vanished from your account.  With email, I have proof.  Not that it's doing me much good.

Next week we'll hit the five month anniversary of me writing a check to People Magazine.  In celebration, I sent them an email.  In case you're wondering, this is the first one in which I got snotty.  I started out being really nice.  Then I tried funny.  Now we'll see if irritated gets their attention.  Here's what I wrote this week:

Dear "People" People:
So, it's now been almost FIVE MONTHS since I ordered my subscription to your fine magazine. At least, I believe it is a fine magazine ~ I don't actually know because I HAVE YET TO RECEIVE IT. I have contacted you several times and NO ONE GETS BACK TO ME, except your computer, which sends the standard, prewritten reply telling me I will have a response within two days. Um, you need to fire that computer thing cause the last time I emailed you was last week which, of course, was more than two days ago. So I think the computer must not be giving you my messages. Yep, we'll blame it on him cause I KNOW you would not just blow me off. I'M SURE you value your customers. Ahem.

Now, your may remember that the last time I emailed you, I gave you an out: just mail me a refund and we'll call it done. I'd actually prefer the magazine, but whatever. Just FREAKING DO SOMETHING, because this is no longer amusing. And, in case I have not been clear in my many other emails, I DO expect a reply. From a PERSON. Not a computer.

Thank you ~

Monday, March 7, 2011

Spring Blossoms

Here's a cheery image to start the week off right!  This photo was taken at Disney World last month.  I have no idea what this flowering tree is called, but I thought the blooms looked gorgeous against a perfectly blue Florida morning sky.

To see more Blue Monday posts, click here
To see more Mellow Yellow Monday posts, click here

Sunday, March 6, 2011

MM, This One's for You

MM over at Seaside Simplicity would like to know about our favorite indulgences.  She is prepping for Lent, you see, and is trying to get in a few more goodies between now and the end of Fat Tuesday.  Well, I don't have photos of tiramisu, Key lime pie, or chocolate dream ice cream, but I do have photos of Walker enjoying lunch at Dockside Dave's in Madeira Beach, Florida.  He indulged in three of his favorites: ginormous onion rings, Philly cheese steak, and an ice cold Corona.  And he loved every mouthful!


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Queen for a Day

Walker and Lil Bro took Diva out for breakfast this morning.  Breakfast out is a regular Walker & Diva date, so I was kind of surprised that they invited Lil Bro along.  They don't invite me, even.  Though, I have to admit, I do work late most Friday nights, and am usually still sleeping when they head out. They like to go early. Anyway, they were very thoughtful and brought back a treat for me: French toast.  I was awake when they came in, but still in bed, so they heated it up and served it to me right there.  Little did I know, while I was eating and watching TV from the comfort of my cozy flannel sheets, the three of them were hard at work on my weekly cleaning list.  Yep, that's right: they had the bathrooms scrubbed, the laundry going, the kitchen completely cleaned, and my least favorite of all housework, the dreaded dusting - finished.  All I had left was to change the sheets - when I finally got out of them - and finish the laundry, as Walker will not touch anything delicate or sweater-y.  He's learned the hard way that girl laundry can't just be tossed into the washer at random.   Walker did the vacuuming when I finally got out of bed around 10:30.

You know, I don't know why I say, "finally got out of bed."  I  work nights and don't usually get to bed before 3am.  Getting up at 10:30 is not exactly sleeping in.  Sounds like I need to cut myself a break.  Anyway - how fabulous is my family?  Yep, I think so, too.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Busy, Busy

My office hours changed on Monday.  My new start time is a couple hours earlier, but I've been getting done about the same as I did before.  Overtime pay is always appreciated. =)  So far, Walker and my brother have been picking up my slack at home.  They clean, cook, and go grocery shopping.  Things are working out just fine.

We had rain all night last night.  Rain, here, in March, often leads to flooding.  We still have a lot of snow on the ground, which of course melts off faster with the rain.  The ground is very frozen, so the rain and the snow melt either just sit where they are or run into the streets.  Residents with a storm drain in front of their homes are supposed to keep them clear.  Some people do, but more often it seems, they don't bother.  One problem is the snowplows, which push four to six feet of heavy, compacted snow chunks on top of the drains. You can't even take a snow blower to those piles unless you shovel them down first.  We have a drain in front of our house, and Walker does a great job of keeping it clear all winter.  Two of our neighbors, however, do nothing to keep their drains cleaned out.  Our house sits at the bottom of a small hill - more of a rise, really, so we get all the runoff from above.  With the other two storm drains buried,  our street often floods this time of year.  The funny thing, to me, is that it's the older residents, the ones who you would think would not want to lift and move all that snow, who do their part.  The homes where the drains sit buried have young families in them.  One has a whole pack of teenagers - no reason, in my book, why those kids couldn't grab a shovel and go to work.  With everyone pitching in, it wouldn't take long. Ah, well. Can't change the world.

This weekend, the temps are expected to drop, turning the rain to ice.  I do not like going out in ice.  I will, if I need to, but I think the plan is to hunker down and maybe, finally, cross everything off my to-do list.  My boys have finished all our errands.  We have no pressing need to do anything outside once I get home from work tomorrow morning.

The basement is slowly getting cleaned up.  The plumber did not come this week ~ I don't know why, as he's working with Walker on the scheduling.  We still can't put anything on the shelves (well, we could, but I think it would be a really bad idea until that pipe is fixed) but I'm working on sorting through everything.  One thing I didn't worry too much about during the floods was anything stored in a Rubbermaid tote.  That turned out to be a mistake.  I don't know what happened, but I found a tote full of photos too late to save them.  I thought all my photos were in plastic shoe boxes in a cupboard, out of harm's way.  I don't even know when or how these got put into a tote and left on the floor.  I didn't see any cracks in the tote, either, but somehow, water got in.  Irreplaceable photos, years worth.....gone.  That's what I get, I suppose.  We've lived here about five years and just kind of stuck things in the basement, out of the way, to deal with "later".  Not the best plan, I know.  And I'm sure we're not the only ones who do that.  But you can bet we won't be doing it any more.