Saturday, June 28, 2008

Quick Poll

Does anyone else get teary-eyed when that Visa commercial comes on of Mary Lou doing the vault of her life for a perfect 10 and Bela carries her off at the end, or is that just me?

Friday, June 27, 2008

I'm feeling down about my job. I still like what I do and I like the people. My job has a great balance of customer service and programming/problem solving. I love that. I love going that extra little bit to make my product better than what is required. It makes me happy. It makes my clients happy. I get a good reputation that I'm good to work with. It always surprises people when they find out I'm not at the supervisory level, but still at the worker-bee level and my work is that good. But there still is a spot of depression about my job.

I've been in my current position for six and a half years. When I was hired, I was the only one on the team besides the head programmer for the project. Now there are two of us that do what I do and the rest work on the hardware & network side of the staff.

I've seen people come and go and I'm still here. I've been here longer than my current branch chief. I've out-stayed the section chief, G. He just left this week, he got a promotion to a branch chief in another part of our agency. He had been the section chief over both sides of the house, but mostly the hardware/network side. I'm not that ambitious as far as making the most money I can earn here in the government. I'm really happy doing what I'm doing so why go and mess that up by getting a job supervising people in an office I'm not familiar with? So I haven't applied for any section chief positions in many years.

I when I found out G was leaving, I thought about wanting the job but dismissed it because I didn't want to be responsible for the hardware & network, but would like to be responsible for the programming and clients. Then I got to thinking about working for Phil, who would be the other possible person to get the job. I've mentioned him before, young whiz-kid techno-genius. Zero in the customer service department. I don't want to work for Phil. So maybe I should see about getting that job, huh?

Yesterday I talked to my branch chief about the position and when it's going to be open for application. It's not. The job will be filled by someone lateraling over. Get this: someone who is not savvy on the hardware & network side. Not. His. Forte.

I'm crushed and feeling down about my job now. I'm wondering why my branch chief didn't consider me for the position if he was going to pull over someone else who wasn't strong in hardware and networking. I could understand it if this guy was, but no. I'd hate to think it's because I'm a girl. In an all-boy office.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Random Stuff

AM is in London with Mark and their respective kids. My other walking friend, L, is in Florida on business so I have to walk alone in the mornings. It's so tempting to stay in bed but I've made it out twice this week without them. Yay me. I've taken my iPod and walked to tunes and have tried to keep up a fast pace. I think when the three of us walk together we tend to slow down a bit and it takes us more than 30 minutes to complete the circuit, but this morning on my own I noticed I finished it in just under.

One of my motivating factors to keep walking is that my weight is hovering at or above my Mendoza line. I hate that. It was below it for so long, and now, I just can't seem to get it to budge. I'm not even eating that much junk!

I've had this pain in my neck for a while and have been under the care of an ENT. I could feel a lump and he put me on antibiotics to clear up what he thought was a chronic infection in a lymph node. The lump is gong but recently the pain is up higher, right under my ear in the crook of my jaw. And it's sharper. So now I'm using Nasacort spray. The pain is better, but not perfect yet. Then just this morning, I realized something: the nose spray has steroids in it, and don't steroids have a side-effect of weight gain? Uh-huh, I thought so. So I'm trying to be at peace with my weight level for now.

If my daughter reads this, OK, she'll know the secret in advance. I upped her message allowance for her mobile line yesterday afternoon. I didn't go all out with unlimited, but I think the number will be plenty. It better be.

I got the promised sixteen Cadette Girl Scout vests delivered on Monday evening and last night I got everything ironed on in the proper places to all of them. Now I have to stitch over it all so it stays put. I got two more vests delivered last night and an email from another lady who wants to drop off her daughter's vest tonight. All these 19 vests need to be done by July 7th because all these girls are going to Savannah to the Juliette Low House. (Birthplace of the founder of the Girl Scouts, in case you didn't know.) I don't want to turn away business, but it's getting close to that point, time is getting tight.

Fern helped me out last night by getting the badges and numbers ready for me to iron on. She might be ready and willing to learn how to do the sewing. She's motivated byt the idea of me paying her to help. Two things concern me: my not-so-new-anymore, expensive sewing machine and teaching her to use it without either one of us driving the other crazy; and her attention span to finish the work she says she'll complete. Following up on a half-finished job can take as long as doing yourself in the first place.

I'll just do the nineteen vests myself, I'd be too nervous to let her learn on them. And I'm pretty sure I can get them all done in the next two weeks. Except next week the kids are going away to camp and Dan and I will be going to Vegas to get married. So I really don't have two full weeks. Yikes. Maybe I should take a picture of my sweat shop for you to see.

My Dad is having his knee replaced today. Pray the hospital food doesn't kill him.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

On Birthday Shopping

Fern will be 13 in a couple weeks. What happened to the cute little bundle of joy that was crawling around here a few weeks ago, I ask you?

Anyway, this is what Fern wants for her birthday.
No, not the girl.
Not the dress.
Yes, the shoes. Her friends tell her she can't pull them off. Her father tells her to loosen the laces.

She also wants a new phone, a slider phone with a keyboard for easier texting. Two years ago I wrote this post about her birthday present that year. Go ahead, read it now, I'll wait. We got her a phone and a two-year contract. Which means the contract is almost up and it means she is eligible for an phone upgrade. I guess I don't mind getting her a new phone, but I really really don't want to get her an upgraded service package that would go with a slider phone with keyboard. sheesh. Our monthly bill is almost $100 now, as it is, with three lines and the data package for my iPhone. Currently, she's allowed 200 messages per month. Two days after the start of this most recent billing cycle she was up to 87. I guess I just gotta bite the bullet and let her have an unlimited texting package. And I'll go kicking and screaming all the way to the store.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Busy Sewing Machine

Remember this? I posted this picture a couple weeks ago asking for help about the block lay-out. Each of these hexagon blocks are stuck to a large piece of flannel, just like the flannel board your teacher used back in kindergarten.

I did nothing with this project since then and finally gravity took over. The blocks started falling off the wall, so many that I wasn't sure where they went without comparing it with the pictures I took. So I just put them back any ol' way that looked OK. Then I took more pictures, swapped a few, took more pictures, swapped more and finally started sewing them together. I found looking at the pictures of the wall instead of at the wall directly helped me see it differently. The areas that didn't "work" popped out and were easier to fix.

There are 11 vertical rows of blocks to sew together, but with this pattern you sew the half hexagons together with the pieces above and below it, then when you sew the strips together, and the hexagons are reunited. That means there are 22 vertical rows to sew and I got 13 done over the weekend. Whew. I felt I made a lot of progress and am anxious to continue when I get home from work, I want to keep up the momentum.

Then, I got an email this afternoon. A local troop leader wants me to prep 16 Cadette Girl Scout vests for a bridging ceremony in July in Savanah. Sixteen. Wow. She is going to pay me $160 and then the parents can pay me the $15 each for the rest of the year if they want. I'm feeling good about this little business of mine. I seem to be getting good feedback from content parents and leaders keep passing my name along.

I guess I get back to the quilt when the vests are done....

Friday, June 20, 2008

Day Trip

Tuesday afternoon I took the kids to the zoo. And I took the "big" camera. It's hard to take time to set up good animal shots when the kids want to keep moving, but here are my attempts.


prairie dog

papa lion

This tiger was gnawing on and playing with this burlap bag. I'm not sure what was in it, maybe catnip. I don't usually see zoo animals actually moving, but I managed to capture him mid-jump. I'll work on the focus later...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Of Course

Summer's here, the kids are out of school. But day camp hasn't started yet for Kevin. Somehow the county recreation commission didn't schedule day camps this week leaving Kevin without care. He's aged-out of other programs but the county has the teen camp for special needs kids. But not this week. Or the week right before school starts, either. Of course. Grrr.

Anyway, Dan and I are splitting the days to be with the kids. One of us works 7-12 and the other 12-5. That way we don't have to take so much vacation leave. Monday Dan took the early shift at work and I had kid duty. He called mid-morning to tell me the corolla, on which we just had $2600 of repairs made, gave him trouble on the way to work. Then he called at noon to tell me it won't start, when he's supposed to be driving home. sheesh. So I met him in the garage and he took the new car home and I got a ride home with a fellow Bowieite.

After the repairs a month ago, I got a customer service call from the dealership asking if everything was OK with the work done, and I reported we still had trouble starting it, you have to find the "sweet spot" with the clutch or it wouldn't start in the mornings.
Can you bring it back in?
Well, no unless I can get a loaner car.
Well no, because we don't know what's wrong with it so you'll have to wait while we look at it. sheesh.
I'll call you then, when we have time.

So, I called the lady in customer service back on Monday and told her it won't now start at all and it's stuck in a garage 20 miles away and what is she going to do about it? Nothing, apparently, that they don't have to. They work with a towing company, of course, that will come get the car, and take it to the garage. If it was the shop's fault, which it never is, they will pay for the tow.

Tuesday morning, I get a ride to work with the fellow Bowieite for the 7-12 shift and call the tow company when I get there. When the driver gets there I get him through security and over to the garage to get the car. Except he's in a flatbed truck too tall to get in so we push the car out of the spot and I pop the clutch on the ramp and get it started. At that point I could have driven it to a local shop, but didn't and sent it back to Bowie instead.

Dan and I are expecting the worst at this point, having to scrap around and get to work and care for the kids with one car and buy another car all at the same time.

When they finally get around to calling me, my "service tech" (service? pul-eeze) said it was the starter, which was fine when they checked it a couple weeks ago, of course. Which means they won't pay for the tow. And because I didn't go through AAA in the first place, I have to pay the overinflated dealer kick-back price. Of course. Total bill: $630. Better than another $17k, I suppose. But still. Maybe I'll call the general manager today and complain about the whole thing. Something is just fishy.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


This is the new "member of the family," my little ball of sunshine....

It's a five-speed Honda Fit.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Travel Log

We had the best room ever. Too bad Fern wasn't with us. Somehow we scored a deluxe suite with a large kitchen area, living room area, two full beds AND a king bed in separate room; three of us in a room that could have slept eight.

When we planned this trip we talked about allowing Fern to invite a friend along, but as it turns out, this friend had a birthday sleep-over and Fern opted to stay home and attend the party. Come to think of it, it was the first time we went away with out her when she was not at camp or with grandparents.

Anyway, our semiannual trip to Great Wolf Lodge (Williamsburg, VA) was good. I missed Fern, but Kevin had his usual great time. I think the best time to visit the water park is first thing in the morning as soon as it opens. I noticed everyone seemed to be well-rested and in a good mood, the kids all seemed to be well behaved. And the lines are short. Later in the day, early evening, the kids are all tired and cranky and the parents, in general, are irritated with these cranky kids. We arrived about 6pm last night and Kevin and I stayed at the water park until about 9 when Dan brought us dinner. Kevin is never cranky, he's so happy to be there, he's polite and doesn't cut in line. At one point he even stacked up some of the tubes nobody was using.

Since our last visit they changed the door locks from key cards to electronic wristbands so you've got your room key with you at all times, no chance leaving it in your other pants. You need to have a wristband anyway to get into the park so this is a great addition. The clerks at the donut shop even scan it for a purchase. Cool. (I wonder why Williamsburg took so long to get them, the GWL at the Poconos had them when we were there in January of '07.) Upon check-out I let them know it was the best visit yet because it was the first time our room was ready when we got there and because of our room upgrade. I think they were glad of my complement.

Oh, and we put a couple hundred miles on the new car.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Over the last several weeks the van has been acting strangely, shuddering, the engine racing with no power, check engine light flashing. Wednesday night I didn't make it home after quilt meeting. Luckily I pulled in to a church parking lot before it died. I called the dealership and told the service guy the symptoms and he told me it sounded like I needed a new transmission and how much it would be. Ouch.

Oh well, you gotta do what you gotta do.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Big Money

Any guesses?


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I hate lunch. I mean I like to eat it, but I'd rather just have someone give it to me than to have to think about it and plan it and prepare it and remember to take it to work with me and then remember to eat it.

I tend to not think about food until I'm hungry. (I think this is one of my major faults as a wife and mom—meal planning. I said one of my faults)

I went grocery shopping last night for the family, we were out of a lot of things since we were away for the weekend. I even put on my list "lunch stuff for mom" and aisle after aisle, nothing interested me. I forced myself to purchase single serving microwave soups and salami, but if I don't plan, I'm scratching my head at 1:45 every day wondering why I'm hungry.

We went to Birmingham for Dan's friends' wedding over the weekend. We stayed over an extra day and went to the DeSoto Caverns. The cave was the main attraction, but they built other things to do. Dan said it was kinda like what he imagined Grubby Gulch to be, if you remember your Lizzy McGuire days. I had more fun than I expected in the squirt-gun maze and ran out of water too quickly. I need to do that again.

The mini-golf was brutal. There was a creek that ran under the course and every hole gave you the opportunity to lose your ball in the drink. I did pretty well until the 8th hole when I lost my ball and didn't recover it until I ran back down to the 3rd hole. I wondered if I was supposed to play back up the hill again, or just walk. It was a good day even though it was HOT!

Teenage Attitude

Bride and Groom

hand-held shot of the light show in the cave

Kevin and Fern enjoy the pedal go-carts

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Remains of the Cake

I'm sitting on the terrace of the Park Lane in Birmingham feeling quite stuffed. The food was too good. It was mostly hors d'oeuvres buffet style. The bride even chose to have a shrimp and grits bar. We don't get shrimp and grits in Maryland.

I can see the bride through the window dancing with her friends and the groom working the room. They were dancing a slow number a few minutes ago.

The cake became self-serve after the initial rush, and I was the lucky one to get the next tier servable by removing the support plate and crumbs from the decimated layer above. I was just trying to get myself a piece and before I knew it, there were six people wanting pieces next to me.

Fern was quick to find and hang with the posse of new friends, children and cousins of the bride and groom, and of course embarrassed to have parents dancing close by. Oh well.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Snow Day

This morning as I head towards AM's house for our morning walk I hear "Ma'am!" I look around. It's the lady who lives in the house with the pretty back yard. It has gotten so many beautification contest awards they've asked her to stop entering, or so I hear. I stop to answer her and instantly become mosquito breakfast. she tells me to watch out for the fox, she'd just seen it on the side of her yard chasing a squirrel. I need to be careful.

I look around and realize this is the house where I saw the deer running by on Tuesday. So I ask her about them. There are three, and she sees them all the time. They are comfortable in her backyard and often tip-toe back there and lie down. OK, she didn't say tip-toe, but she described how they carefully walk across the street and they live over near the railroad tracks. They come most mornings about this time. Hmm, I've only ever seen them once, and that was Tuesday, so it can't always be this time. At which point I slap at a couple mosquitoes and look around again for the fox and bid this woman a good day.

I meet up with AM and relay the exchange to her. She then tells me schools are closed today. We had some horrific thunder storms roll through yesterday, three separate cells, and a lot of schools are without power, so they closed the whole county. Monday is the scheduled last day of school, but the kids won't be attending. So are they going to make it up on Tuesday? She doesn't know. Later I found out they are not going to make it up, which I'm happy and sad about. They pushed Kevin's graduation ceremony from today to Monday and now he'll miss it. I'm very bummed. (See my husband's blog for pictures of our storm damage.)

We bought thank-you cards for him to give to his teachers. Now I just have to get him to write them out. I hope he can get this last thing done for him before the summer break.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Things that make me go "hmm?"

Yesterday morning during my walk I saw a flash of brown, a big flash of brown, like the size and color of a great dane. I instantly feared for my life. I have dog issues, I'm not ashamed to admit it. It started when I was in kindergarten. My mom would visit a neighbor who had a german shepherd. It would be tethered to its doghouse and would bark incessantly and jump at me when I'd walk over there after school to find Mom. I was too frightened to walk around the perimeter of its reach to the house.

I froze in my tracks, looking where I'd seen the flash of brown and following the trajectory of where I might see it again. It was a deer, two deer, in fact, running through the neighborhood. They were pretty far from the woods, several streets away. Rabbits? yeah, they are a common sight, but deer, in our neighborhood, on the side close to the highway? Wow.

All my machine quilting skills can be summed up briefly: straight lines, or meandering. Before spring break I bought two books on machine quilting by Diane Gaudynski. I've been wanting to be able to do more than that because straight lines and meandering gets boring. I have a stack of quilt tops waiting to be worked on and I don't want to do the same kind of quilting over and over. I've been reading the books, but it's time to try it out. So, the other night I drew up a practice feather wreath and did something new.

This is my first attempt of quilting following Diane's instructions looking at the back of my piece:

Not too bad, right? That's because I had white thread in the bobbin. This is the top where I had pink thead:

Yikes!!!!! The pink thread shows every mistake, every wobbly line. It's not very encouraging to see this side. A year and a half ago I bought the mid-line Bernina 440QE sewing machine. It came with a stitch regulator, a BSR, a gadget that reads how far the fabric has moved since the last stitch so it knows when to take the next one and all the stitches are the same length. Consistent stitch length is a goal of quilters, so the BSR is a helpful gadget. I've quilted several quilts with it in the meander style and it is great. It's like learning to steer a car without having to learn how fast to drive. The faster you move the fabric, the faster it sews, you don't have to worry about the foot pedal.

Last night I drew up another practice piece and quilted it without the BSR so I had to steer the fabric and control the machine speed at the same time. Somehow, it worked a little better. Go figure. I'll keep practicing. I'll be comfortable enough one of these days to work on a "real" piece. Maybe.