Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow Day

I'm having my very own personal snow day!

Last night the prediction was for a ton of snow today, and I have vacation days I haven't used, and I am not a big fan of driving in the snow....and I thought maybe I'll take my own snow day. Our office NEVER closes, so any snow day has to be used as a vacation day.

So the alarm went off at 5:30, I came down and let old Pepper out, got on the school closings site, saw that almost every school was closed, and thought I'm taking this day off!. Last night I told Sharon I might take a vacation day today and we agreed that if I did, we'd meet at Jack's deli for breakfast. We both love to go out to breakfast. So while I was up at 5:30, I emailed her that I was indeed taking the day off.

And I went back to bed, setting my alarm for 7:30 so that I could call in to the office. After that, I fell back asleep. How glorious.

Sharon called at 9:30. I said so...are we doing breakfast? She said no, it's too bad out there. And I reluctantly agreed. A few years ago when I took a vacation day on a day like this, the two of us did meet for breakfast. The roads were bad, we were the only ones on the road, and when we got there we laughed at what idiots we were, and then had a nice breakfast.

A few weeks ago when schools were closed because of snow, the pizza place where son Joe works called him at lunchtime and said they were slammed with delivery requests and could he deliver for a while. I thought about it later on and realized all these kids are home all day with nothing to do, and I can see them (or their parents) saying oh, we're not going out, but you can order a pizza if you want. So I'm guessing pizza sales increase greatly on snow days. Especially delivery pizzas.

So I'm here in my sweats, with my coffee, and it's almost 11:00, and I should be reveling in my freedom, but strangely, I'm thinking ok, what now? Could I have cabin fever after only a few hours of being home? I don't remember many snow days when I was a kid - they seem to have a lot more these days, but I remember the fun of going outside in the snow, sledding, coming in for hot chocolate, going out again...

I have a million things I could be doing here but I am not motivated. Maybe I'll go back to bed.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sweet Sunday

I got up early today - the 2nd day in a row. Since my damn alarm goes off at 5:30 AM Monday thru Friday, I so look forward to sleeping in on the weekends. But my body has been aching a lot lately and I've decided it's better for my body to be up doing stuff rather than getting more stiff by lying in bed.

And for some reason, the song "Sunday Sweet Sunday" just popped in to my head. My father, who will be 85 next week, used to sing it all the time. I know it was a love song ("Sunday, sweet Sunday, with nothing to do...Lazy and lovely, my one day with you...") - but I just prefer the lazy and lovely part (not that I don't want to spend my Sundays with David, but lazy and lovely is just very appealing to me).

As a kid, I don't think I fully appreciated what a Sunday could offer. I thought of Sundays as kind of a boring day. Of course in those days, nothing was open on a Sunday, so it probably was boring for a kid.

Now that I am middle aged, but often feel quite old, I take great joy in the laziness of a Sunday. We have kind of a tradition where David goes out and gets hot bagels. There is NOTHING like a hot bagel and coffee on a Sunday morning, settling down to read a Sunday paper.

It's a little off topic, but I will always remember one weekend morning many years ago when my son Joe was a toddler. I was in a bad mood, it was a gray and rainy day, and I made both of us some rye bread toast. I went up to my room to eat mine in solitude. He came upstairs, stood at my bedside with his toast, and announced quite happily "it's nice to eat rye toast on a rainy day." And my heart melted for this little kid who could find joy in such a simple thing.

Maybe it wasn't off-topic. Sunday is a day to find joy in the simple things. I just put up a pot with ham hocks to boil, and I will add split green peas, onion, barley and carrots. Sunday is the day I try to cook something that will cook all day, so that I'm not scrambling at the last minute to put dinner on the table. It is a slow, peaceful day.

I like to read the paper slowly, maybe catch up on magazines, cut out coupons, read my favorite blogs, and read the emails I don't have time for during the week (like the NY Times that comes daily via email). It's not a day to zoom through my tasks so that I can drive off to work. Everything is just in slow motion. I guess these days slow motion is very appealing.

So I'm off to enjoy this Sunday, sweet Sunday. I know I will find things to do, but it's nice that I don't have to do any of them.

And that soup is starting to smell delicious.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

On Facebook

That's me, in the red top in this picture that an old high school friend just posted on facebook.

I decided to join facebook last year. I'm not quite sure why, but it seemed like there might be some interesting stuff on there.

So I joined, and a stranger asked me to be his friend. A good-looking stranger, I might add. Well, I went to college in Toronto and he lived in Toronto, so maybe we weren't completely strangers (although we probably were), but I said ok. My first friend! Then I asked Donna from work to be my friend, and I had 2 friends. Gradually my friends list started to increase, although the numbers didn't approach what my kids have. But honestly, I have started to suspect that the kids just look for quantity, rather than quality, in their friends.

I honestly have no idea how to navigate around facebook, and I don't really have the time or desire to explore it; I just wait for people to befriend me.

Suddenly a few weeks ago an old high school friend asked if I would be his friend. I accepted, and I got on his account and found other high school friends. So the last week has kind of been a frenzy of getting back in touch with people from junior high and high school. I was very good friends with one girl in junior high and she found me (first asking if that is really me, cause my picture is a monkey; something that I'd rather display than the real thing). We then started emailing each other, catching up on 30+ years of what's happened to us.

Incidentally, it's kind of interesting to sum up 30 years of your life. When you are in touch with someone daily, the topics are basically how was the drive to work, what are you making for dinner, listen to what so-and-so did to me, etc. Being in touch after 30+ years is much more complex, and it's almost like you have nothing of note to say!

One of the high school people I found (and befriended) is now an exec at the food channel. My cousin-in-law loves him, so I got them in touch with each other. My cousin-in-law had shared with me that she has a list of guests she would invite to her "dream dinner party" and my high school friend (along with Bob Newhart and some others) is one of them. So she got to tell him in an email herself that he was so honored. He sent a nice email back.

Another high school friend must be very into scanning pictures, cause suddenly old high school pictures are popping up on facebook. I can't believe I was ever that young and carefree. I know I will never be young again, but I'd settle for carefree.

I purposely did not ask my son or daughter if they would be my friend. I recognize they have a life with their friends and they don't want me in it. But funny enough, several of their friends asked if I would be their friend. So I am cool with the friends but not with the flesh and blood.

A few days ago, my nephew decided to un-befriend me. He sent an email to all of the "older" relatives, telling us very nicely that he loved us, but no longer wanted us on his facebook; he was reserving this for friends. Wow, to face such rejection at age 51! My first facebook rejection! But alas, those of us who were rejected have formed our own group of fellow-relatives-rejected-by-the-nephew (not its official name, but it's official purpose).

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Co-Ed Bathrooms at York University

I had decided to go to Canada for college, and I chose York University in Toronto.

So one fine August day, my parents drove me up there, and we loaded all my stuff in my large dorm room. Then my father said he was gonna look for a restroom and I said me too. It was a square hallway. So my father walked around and found a sign that said "Men" and I walked around and found a sign that said "Women." He walked in his door, I walked in my door, and we met in the middle. We immediately went back out our doors to make sure we had read our signs right. We had. It was a co-ed bathroom (although I never did understand why they didn't just label it that way."

Well my dad was surprised, but not outraged. I was amused. I was just so happy to be starting in on this new phase of my life that really nothing could bother me. And I had purposely chosen a co-ed floor. We walked back to the dorm room and my father said to my mother "Lenore, the bathrooms are co-ed!" "No!" she exclaimed. I smiled.

When I tell people about it today, they ask how I could stand having a co-ed bathroom - wouldn't it be weird? Well in my youth, it wasn't.

A few days after I arrived, I walked into the bathroom and there was a guy washing his hair in the sink. "Hello!" he yelled when he saw me through the mirror. "Hello!" I replied back to this shampoo filled head. "My name's Leigh," he said. I told him my name was Bonnie. That night there was a dance in our dorm. I was sitting there with my new friends and a gorgeous guy walked in. We were all murmuring about his good looks when he surprised all of us by saying "Hi Bonnie." I said "hi" in an uncertain tone, having no idea who this Greek God was. He realized I didn't recognize him and said "it's Leigh!" I said "oh!" I hadn't seen him upright yet! What a treat!

The bathroom had two showers with a wall between them that was about 5.5 feet tall. Well there was a guy on our floor named Garth, a very tall professional student. A few times I would find myself taking a shower next to tall Garth. He could see my bright yellow robe hanging and he would yell over 'Hi Bonnie!" and I would think "oh no, I'm taking a shower next to tall Garth, and with his height, he only has to look over and here I am in my naked glory." So I would converse with him as we showered, thinking it would stop him from looking over. I think it worked; I'll never know.

I was on the 13th floor of the dorm, and people on our floor befriended the people on the 14th floor. We were always going up and down those stairs. There was a guy on the 14th floor named Louis. Louis, like many students at York, was from Hong Kong. When the students from Hong Kong came to Canada, they took on American names. But, we American and Canadian citizens decided, someone over in Hong Kong must have had a very old book of names, because the names they took were from another generation - Louis, Arthur... And they never used the condensed version of the names - it was always the full name. Anyway, Louis was renowned for brushing his teeth for 10 minutes at a stretch. So you might go in to take a shower, and Louis would be there brushing his teeth. You'd get out of the shower, and yeah, there was Louis, still brushing his teeth. I still think about Louis and what amazing teeth he must have today.

Those who lived on the same sex floors were used to looking good all the time - they'd look like hell as they shuffled into the bathrooms in the morning and would emerge looking great. Those of us on the co-ed floors were used to seeing what we all really looked like, and it didn't matter. It somehow seemed symbolic in our friendships - we had nothing to hide.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Miss Heather Grace Krauss

Here is my daughter Heather, pictured on New Year's Eve (next to my $8.50 x-mas tree I got from Flower Factory, and yes, I know it looks very Charlie Brownish).

In the TV shows I used to watch when my kids were toddlers, one of the songs went something like "one of these things is not like the other..." and you had to guess what it was.

Well if you looked at our family, I guess you'd have to say Heather is not like the others.

For one thing, she's thin. She was home for winter break and kept a diary of everything she ate. What she ate was mostly low fat soup and no-fat cheese. Who eats no-fat cheese? No one in our house, except Heather! It took me twice as long to buy food at the grocery store when she was home as I had to look for things I never bought for the rest of our family (and never will again). The no fat milk got tossed as soon as Heather went back to school.

When Heather was in high school, she was captain of the varsity girls' basketball team. When I was in high school, they had intramural teams, and 5 of us friends who were equally inept formed a team. I am kind of embarrassed to admit that we had a record of straight losses. Never won a game. And actually never even expected to win a game!

Heather is artistic. She can draw beautifully. She did not inherit that talent from me, but probably from my mother.

Heather has these small graceful fingers. David and Joe have the biggest hands I've ever seen in my life.

I think of myself as being a logical person. I don't know that you could say the same about Heather. She's kind of out there sometimes. I very much look forward to seeing her finish college, start a career, and navigate the basic skills of living - getting her own place, washing her own dishes and clothes. Especially washing her own dishes! I can't wait to see that.

I recognize that sameness can be boring, so it is kind of fun watching this person who didn't seem to inherit much from us, other than her dislike of housework, her sense of humor (and her wonderful laugh). That is one of the reasons I am so happy to see Heather in our family, with all her differences.

(By the way, is anyone out there looking for a cute summer intern who is majoring in business?)

Patty's Portrait of Pepper

For Christmas, my sister-in-law Patty gave me this amazing portrait of my lovely dog Pepper that she painted. I am so impressed!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Joe and Josie

A picture of Joe on New Year's Eve, holding a doll someone made of David after he won a chili cook-off.

My son Joe is a very funny kid. He was hell to raise, but he has a natural sense of humor. And often I'll share things he's said or done with my co-workers. I assume they will listen and forget, as I tend to do with most things. But often they will tell me how they laughed about something I had told them a long time ago that stuck with them.

That happened yesterday at work. Donna in the office next door told me her favorite story was the account of Joe's visit to the doctor. Two years ago, at age 17, we decided that a 200+ lb 17 year old did not belong in the pediatrician's office with all the babies. So he graduated to our internist. I went with him, and we were both sitting in the waiting room, when the nurse came out and announced "Josie Cross." Well, Joe's name is "Joe Krauss" and we assumed that the nurse had slaughtered his name, as people tend to do. So he rolled his eyes and got up to follow the nurse. As this happened, a woman in the waiting room also got up to follow the nurse. It all happened too fast for me to yell to Joe that this woman's name was probably Josie Cross and that she was being called to the waiting room. So here these two strangers started to follow the nurse back into the where the offices are. And I sat there all by myself, laughing at this sight. I could just imagine the nurse thinking that they were together and leaving them in the office together. Well as they set off down the hall, another nurse came out and announced "Joseph Krauss." Fortunately, Joe had not gone too far off into the maze of offices, and he heard her and reappeared, with a very red face. I also had a very red face, because I could not stop laughing, thinking of all the scenarios in my imagination.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Grandma Helen and Grandpa Sid

I recently found a frame for an old picture of Grandma Helen and Grandpa Sid, and as I framed it, I started reminiscing...

Helen and Sid were my mother's parents. Sid owned his own drug store in the days when people lived and shopped in Cleveland (as opposed to the suburbs of Cleveland). What did that mean to us 7 grandchildren? CANDY! Maybe that's how I became the Candy Queen! Every time we went for dinner at Grandma and Grandpa's, we would open the drawer at the bottom of their oven, where Grandma stored every bag they had ever received. And we could fill our bag with candy. Provided, of course, that we finished our dinner. Maybe this is where my weight issues started.

Grandma was a wonderful cook. She made these wonderful Hungarian Nutballs, and Kraut Halushken (cabbage with noodles). She sang in the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus and she befriended conductors and singers who performed in the Pops concerts. As a matter of fact, I was named after one of those singers, Bonnie Murray, and she would always spend time with us when she was in Cleveland. (And we continued to exchange Christmas cards until her death last year.)

Grandma was also really good with flowers, and I remember her marigolds.

In my younger days, my parents would go out on Saturday nights, and Grandma and Grandpa were my baby sitters. Ah yes, I can remember many a Saturday night spent watching Lawrence Welk on TV. I do remember one night, which I have never told anyone about, when I was supposed to be in bed. Something made me want to know what was going on downstairs. I snuck partway down the stairs and apparently Grandma was having chest pain. She did not want to seek medical treatment. So Grandpa just sat there holding her hand, telling her it was going to be ok.

Family dinners at Grandma and Grandpa's, with our aunt and uncle and cousins, were always a wonderful time. After cooking for 13 people, Grandma and Grandpa would clean up while we had fun; Grandma would wash and Grandpa would dry.

If you visited Grandma and Grandpa and it wasn't dinnertime, you would likely be offered cold Vernors ginger ale, with an assortment of cookies in a canister on top of the refrigerator. Their house was a very comfortable house, and I often drive by it, wondering what it looks like now.

Grandma got sick with breast cancer and ended up in a nursing home. Grandpa went to visit her every day. After she died, he continued to work at drugstores as a pharmacist, well into his late 80s, as well as helping our family out. Friday was cleaning day. I remember him coming to help my mom vacuum and do whatever else was needed in the house, including walking Goldie our wonderful dog.

Grandpa's son, my Uncle Buddy, died a few years after Grandma and I can't imagine what it was like for him to bury a son.

I remember Grandpa's beloved cigar. In his later years, he moved in with my parents, who did not want the cigar smell in their house. Sometimes we'd drive up to my parents' house, and there was Grandpa, sitting on the front porch in the dead of winter, bundled up in his hat and coat, smoking his cigar.

One time I came in town for my brother's wedding. I came with my old boyfriend, Larry. When it was time to leave, Larry and I were going to drive Grandpa home. Larry pulled out a cigarette and offered one to Grandpa. To my extreme surprise, he said "oh yeah, I'll have one of those. I haven't had one of those in years...." And I sat there dying, waiting for my very anti-smoking parents to discover grandpa smoking a cigarette (they never did, but the memory still makes me smile).

When I went away to college, Grandpa would send me a little check for "coke money" as he called it. One spring, my parents came to bring me home from college in Toronto. They brought Grandpa with them. That car was so jammed with stuff that when we went through customs, the customs guy never even saw him. He asked my parents and I questions, but skipped Grandpa, who was buried in all my belongings.

Grandpa worked hard all his life. He never complained and always went about his business in a low key manner. He was 88 when he died. I wish my husband and kids could have known him.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Missy and Milo

About eight years ago, we lost our cat Rocky. Literally. I opened the door, she got out, and we were never able to find her. Well, if you read my post about Pepper the dog, you'll know that all of my animals seem to come with baggage. We had gotten Rocky shortly after one of our cats died and we saw an ad in the paper. We went to this old lady's house who lived about 20 minutes away. She loved Rocky but her husband was allergic. We took Rocky home with us. Anyway, we lost her, and I put an ad in the paper with our phone number. I got calls from several well-meaning souls, who told me to call the police and to check with the Animal Protective League (APL) on a daily basis. Then I got the dreaded call from the old lady saying "you didn't lose our cat, did you?" Like I didn't feel bad enough.

So it was time to look for a new one or two. My sister-in-law Mary told us about this lady she knew who wanted to give away a kitten. I called the lady, and she gave me her address, and I set out to meet her, with Heather and Joe in tow, at the appointed time. She lived in an apartment, and when we got to the parking lot, a large lady wearing a mumu and what those of us who were brought up knowing a few Yiddish words would call a schmata on her head. Yeah, she was kinda weird looking. She invited us into her apartment and we all sat down and she brought the kitten in. It wasn't an especially friendly kitten and I began to wonder what is the etiquette in a situation like this - you say thanks but no thanks? We didn't even know if she would offer to give us the kitten, but if she didn't, we didn't really want it. Well that part of the visit wasn't bad enough, but then she asked us if we wanted to see her birds. We said ok, thinking we'd find a couple of birds in a cage. Wrong. She brings us into the extra bedroom, where there were many birds flying through the room! We had to duck our heads to avoid being hit by the birds! By this time, all 3 of us just wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible. So I said we needed to get going, and that we were going to think about that kitten of hers.

We fled to our car, where I said "we are going to the APL today." Both kids quickly agreed (and my kids never agree with my proclamations). So we came home and collected David and headed down to the APL.

We already had a cat at home, but I told David I had heard that the best way to bring a kitten into a strange home is to get 2 kittens together. He did not like that idea. But if you've ever been to the APL, where you can take each pet out of its cage and try it out, you'll know it's hard to come home with only one. Twice in one day, my kids were in agreement with me that we needed two kittens. David finally (reluctantly) agreed.

As we stood in line to buy our new kittens, which Heather named Missy and Milo, there was a dad and his son behind us. The dad was on his cell phone trying to convince his wife that they, too, needed two kittens. The wife didn't buy it, and they were permitted to bring home only one.

So that's how Missy and Milo arrived. And we later discovered that they (like most cats) have an "M" on their foreheads. And they are two of the sweetest creatures I've ever known.

Ya Just Never Know

I just went to Giant Eagle, my local grocery store. I knew I was in trouble when I couldn't find a place to park. I walked in, and the lines were way too long. That's ok, I figured, they will be down some by the time I check out. Wrong. The lines were so bad that you couldn't get past anyone to get in another line. So I got in the first line. It was not moving. It was annoying. I realized I was in annoyed mode - you know when everything and everyone in the world annoys you! (The day started with Heather slowly getting ready to go back to college today, way past the time she and David were supposed to leave...and I'm one of those pack-the-car-the-night-before-and-leave-early-in-the-morning kinds of people). I knew David had a long day in front of him - 4 hours there, 4 hours back, and I always worry that he'll fall asleep. I know I would.

But I digress. I finally got a view of the cashier. He was carrying on a conversation with the bagger-girl. He was scanning as he talked, but he definitely could have moved faster. As each new customer came up, he would ask "and how are you today?" Well, I was damned annoyed! And I thought well how should I respond? "Well, I'm running late"......"Well I'm tired of standing in line..." So meek old me gets up there and he asks how I am today and I smiled and said "fine, how are you?" And he looked at me and he said "I remember you - the last time you were in here, you were very nice to me, and I always remember the people who are nice to me." And I stood there feeling very humbled. And glad that I had not used one of the responses I had planned. I mean, really, maybe seconds would have been saved if he had been a little faster, but not much more than that.

And I started to think to myself "ya just never know...."

Many years ago, we had a client that was known for being very very demanding. And not just demanding, but unreasonable. She asked me to send her something, and I did. Well, she lost it, and she called my boss, telling him she had asked me for something and I had not sent it. Well my record-keeping is pretty good - it's like I anticipate someone accusing me of something, so I always have the back-up. And I showed it to my boss. And he called her and told her the date I had sent it to her. She then went looking for it, and what do you know, she found it. She never apologized; she just told him she had stuck it in her office and forgot about it. Many years later, I was asked to serve on a non-profit board. I looked at the letterhead, and yeah, you guessed it - the "demanding unreasonable one" also served on the board. And I almost declined, just because I couldn't stand being in the same room with this woman. But I thought she should not stop me from this, and I joined. At the first meeting I attended, she came up to me and greeted me like a long lost best friend. I do forgive, but I don't forget, and when I think of this woman, the number one memory will be that call she made to my boss.

I did learn a lesson from that, and that was always to approach the person I felt had neglected me before going higher up, because it could have been a misunderstanding (worse yet, it could have been my own fault).

In December, our local paper had an article with gift suggestions. It included a site where you could order THE BEST CANDY. I'll include a portion of the "about us" part: "Decadent Delights started in 2007 on a dream of a stay-at-home mom looking for a career that would fit around her busy family lifestyle. Decadent Delights has grown from a love of chocolate almond toffee crunch (homemade recipe) to a true marketing company geared for every holiday, special occasion, and corporate event." This blog allowed you to order 2 free samples, if you just paid for shipping. But what caught my eye was a quote that was in both the local paper and in the website, saying that this candy was "like a Heath Bar on steroids." Well I didn't need more of a push than that! So I ordered my free sample, which cost me $4.80 in shipping and handling. A week later, the most amazing 4 pieces of candy that I have ever eaten (you have to be a Heath bar fan) arrived. I was so impressed, I emailed the owner and told her it was the best candy I'd ever eaten. She emailed me back and thanked me and asked me she could quote me on her website (in my email I had referred to myself as the Candy Queen). She would send me a $10 gift certificate for my words. Well, I didn't have to think twice about that one. I really was just trying to recognize the quality of her product, and I prefer to deal with a stay-at-home-mom entrepreneur anyway.

A $10 gift certificate for my favorite candy in the world!

Yeah, ya just never know.