Saturday, September 27, 2008

Home Alone

My husband is off on one of his biannual motorcycle trips for a few days, and my daughter left with a friend to go visit a classmate from last year at Mizzou. So I am home alone. Well, except for the dog and he isn't too demanding. It is rather strange yet liberating to be able to do whatever I want whenever I want. It is pretty quiet in the house, but I have enjoyed conversations with my neighbors when Kirby and I do the two requisite walks a day. A bit of today was taken up making a batch of goetta, which is a Cincinnati breakfast dish. My niece turns 40 tomorrow, and while I already gave her the gift of going to see "American Idol Live" with me, I wanted to give her a little something at her party tomorrow. She loves goetta, so I thought I would make some up for her. Because it has steel cut oats in it, the recipe needs to be cooked for five or more hours, so it is rather time consuming. But around the cooking I was able to work some more on my book reference section. I think I now have all I need there, so I will work on the bibliography next. Maybe even tonight, as there is no one here to care what time I go to bed. Yea!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Agony of Defeat

Katie is very involved in Deca, the student marketing and management organization. Last year, she and her partner won 1st place at Districts and 1st place at state, which entitled them to compete at Internationals in Atlanta. I have never seen anyone prepare the way these two did. From the beautiful posters they designed to the trial runs they did of their presentation in front of local business groups, they came across as knowledgeable and polished. Their judge in Atlanta was a 20 something guy from a shoe store. To say he was not interested in their presentation regarding the "greening" of a local cookie company is an understatement. They did not win or even place. I was afraid they would be discouraged and not want to do the big competition this year, but they came home from Atlanta with fire in their eyes and a determination to win this year. At any rate, Katie decided to run for the office of VP for her district so that she could represent this area at the state level. Her campaign slogan was "No pigs. No lipstick. Just business." Competing against her was the son of the district coordinator, who made it a point to introduce him to the judges as her son. It sounds like the whole thing was not handled well, including the fact that this kid obviously spent over the allotted amount of money on his campaign and the fact that Katie's teacher was the only one not allowed in the room for a review of the scores, which were based on delegate votes (our school has the most delegates), a written test, an interview with the judges and a speech in front of the delegates as well as the judges. Now if this kid had a bigger total score than Katie, then good for him. But if the judges were swayed by the butt kissing antics of his mother, then shame on them! Because the students and teachers at our school who are involved in this program are beginning to wonder if it is all worth it.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

Jim and I went to Founder's Day at Busch Stadium today. Season ticket holders were invited to tour the stadium, watch the Cards play the Cubs on the big screens (Cards were at Chicago) and enjoy free food. Taking our hot dogs, nachos, pretzels and ice cream along with our drinks into the stadium, we settled into some seats to watch the game. Before long, it was much more entertaining to watch the crowd rather than the game. What a great place to people-watch. Our next stop was to see the Cardinals locker room, which evidently occurred to everyone else at the same time. We found our place at the end of a very long line. At first it was entertaining to watch how much food was being consumed by the large (in more ways than one) family in front of us in line. Then we were distracted for a while by the teenage couple ahead of them who were discovering each other's tonsils. Thirty minutes later we were no longer amused. A woman from the Cardinal organization stopped to ask us what time we had gotten in line. We told her "3:00." She was looking at all the folks in line behind us, deciding where she should cut the line off for the last tour of the day. She informed us that we still had 30 minutes to go before we would reach the locker room. At this point we were about 20 feet from the entryway, so I thought she couldn't possibly be right. When we got to the doorway, I saw the stairway to hell. It was crammed full of people, and by now the baby in the stroller ahead of us decided he was through with all of this and began to wail. Since the parents had already spent 45 minutes of their life in line, no way were they leaving just because their baby was crying. The further along we went, the more stuffy it became. Suddenly all the free junk food people had been consuming for hours was a REALLY bad thing. Finally it was our turn to enter the locker room. It was very cool, and worth the wait. The man in line behind us joked, "No wonder the Cards lost to the Cubs. They left their uniforms here!" Upon leaving the locker room we were able to sit in the dugout. It was cool to be able to view the field as the players see it. It's a totally different perspective. Play ball!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Wedding Quilt

I finished the quilt for Andy and Megan last night. Taking the fabric squares that I had people sign at the wedding reception, I created a quilt of memories for them. With the design I came up with, I had extra spaces with no signatures. I decided to add copies of the wedding invitation, which was hand made by Megan, and some of their wedding photos to the quilt to fill in the open areas. I am pretty happy with the way that it turned out, and hope that it is something they will both treasure.

Friday, September 19, 2008

New York, New York

My daughter is really interested in attending Columbia College in Chicago. We went on a campus visit last year, and she loved it. They are one of the few schools in the United States where you can get a Music Business Management degree without also being a music major. My husband and I have stressed that she really needs to look at some other schools just so she can be certain Columbia is the way to go. She looked at Mizzou when we took Ji there to college, and she really disliked the feel of the campus. Let alone the fact that they don't offer her program. (Why should either of my children choose a school where we could pay instate tuition?) She has done some analysis lately on the starting salaries of Music Business majors, and apparently it is pretty poor. She is wondering if she could make enough to pay back student loans considering where she would have to live to get a job in her field. (Think LA or New York.) That made her look at the degree of International Business. Now she wants to look at New York University. Oh brother...Let alone a high tuition and room/board rate, the cost of getting her back and forth will be tremendous. I looked up the school and it is rated 3rd in the nation for International Business. She can't make an informed decision without a visit to the campus, and we were the ones who said she needed to see more schools. Trick bag...I'm taking her the first weekend of October for a tour. We'll see what happens, but I decided I will look at this trip as a nice mother-daughter weekend in addition to a school search. Goodness knows there won't be too many more of those in the future.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Close Encounters of the Worst Kind

My husband owns a Victory motorcycle. He absolutely loves to ride, and I have to say that since he got it a couple of years ago he has been a different person. With the stress of three businesses weighing on him. going out with his friends has been a great way of clearing his head. I have always joked that his bike is better than a mistress and less expensive than a sports car, but the latter is not accurate anymore. While I worry about his physical health whenever he goes out, I understand that the benefits for his psychological health outweigh my worries. Until today... Jim went out with two friends late this afternoon as we have picture perfect weather here today. Just as they were leaving, I heard them say they were taking I-44 to the Highway 100 exit as opposed to the original route down Highway 21. Off they went. I was finishing up the wedding quilt I am making for Andy and Megan, doing the last hand sewing on the binding while watching the 6:00 news. Breaking news came on announcing that there had been a fatal motorcycle accident on I-44 near Pacific, which would be where my guys were headed. Just as I was deciding whether or not to panic, the doorbell rang. My heart dropped to my feet, and I began praying there was not a policeman at my door. It was my neighbor, Erin, asking if I had talked to Jim. I said I had not, and asked what she had heard. She had seen video footage of a black motorcycle down on I-44 on a different chanel. Jim's bike is black. I hurriedly called his cell phone, knowing that if he was still riding he would not answer it. He picked up on the fourth ring. They had stopped to eat, which is why he was able to talk to me. I explained what had transpired, and indeed they had taken that route to the restaurant. While I said prayers of thanksgiving for that fact that our group was safe, I offered up some for the family that was getting quite different news tonight.

FAFSA and Other Things

So last night was college night for senior parents at the high school. Hoping to learn that there is a new shift towards awarding money for kids who merit it, I attended with my friend, Carol. We have both been down this road before - once for me and twice for Carol. We know the drill, but you never know when you might pick up a new tidbit. Whenever the discussion turns to the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form, I feel the need to bust out laughing. Big of them to make the application "free", don't you think? The last time we filled one of these forms out, we were told that we could afford to spend $99,999 a year to send our son to college. I'm quite certain that the only reason it wasn't more than that is because there were no more boxes! I'm sorry, I thought the rest of us were still supposed to have a house to live in and food to eat while we send a kid to college. Thinking we had completed the form wrong, we went to a seminar put on by St. Louis University cleverly called "How to Complete the FAFSA." Turns out we had done everything right. As we spoke later with the instructor about our situation, he said that people who own their own businesses are at a disadvantage with FAFSA. The form takes into account your assets, but not your liabilites. Just because we HAVE a lot of heavy equipment and trucks doesn't mean we OWN all of them. Our federal government at work...I have been trying to come up with a clever saying for what FAFSA really stands for, but it is eluding me. Something along the lines of Federal Employees Laughing Their Asses Off as they read the applications. I know, it doesn't work, but you catch my drift. Sadly the FAFSA is required for any scholarships or aid you request, so there is no getting around it. At least I know Katie will be offered a token loan at a lower interest rate, as all students get those. I did get my one tidbit from the night - there are once again more applicants than open slots, so apply early and apply often.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Open House, Close Door

Last night was the parent's open house at my daughter's high school. You know the drill: pick up your child's schedule, commit yourself to a year of volunteerism, buy some overpriced school merchandise to support scholarships, sit through a boring...errrr...I mean enlightening presentation in an overcrowded and overwarm auditorium, and then head to each of your child's classes to meet the teachers and get an overview of the year. I actually don't mind going to the open house, and this year I knew if would be my last one. Exchanging high fives with the other parents for whom this was also the last open house, we reminisced about how quickly the years had gone by (at least some of the years!), college searches and test scores. Because our son went to a private boys high school, I never really had the same bond with the parents of his classmates as I do with the parents I have known for 12 or more years. I found myself wondering how many of them I would see after the kids graduate next spring. Well, there are eight more months to enjoy, and like the Aerosmith song goes, "I don't want to miss a thing." So I will stay active and involved until the door closes on this experience in May.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


The ocular plastic surgeon's office left a message on my answering machine stating that the pathology report was back and "looked good." What does that mean, exactly? Looked good, as in the sample had clean margins? Or looked good, as in there was no cancer? I called the office back, and indeed what the doctor had removed was not a basal cell, or any other kind of cancer. So I did not have a ninth case of skin cancer. That is great news, and I am really happy about it. But there is a part of me protesting the fact that I now have a new hole in my face (which he did not even stitch up after removing what he was certain was a basal cell.) And I am left to wonder if the lump on my eye is really a chalazion, as this doctor insists it is, or a basal cell as my ophthalmologist predicted. I go back to the ocular plastic surgeon next month for a follow up. It will be interesting to see what he has to say about his misdiagnosis. In the meantime, I'll be keeping my "eye" on the so-called chalazion for any changes.

Monday, September 8, 2008

An Eye for An Eye

Today I saw the ocular plastic surgeon. My sister drove me there "just in case." The doctor's office said I would be able to drive myself even if he did a biopsy, but I know after the last thing I had done there was no way I could have driven. It felt like an ice pick had been jammed through my eye and up into my skull. The surgeon walked in, took one look at my eye and said that is not a basal cell, it's a chalazion. I explained that the ophthalmologist also thought that's what it was, until he tried to drain it and nothing came out. This doctor said that's what it is, but this other thing below your eye on your face is a basal cell. What??? I hadn't even seen anything there that I was worried about, and after 8 skin cancers I worry about a lot. So he injected the chalazion with a steroid to break it down, and excised the basal cell and sent it off to pathology. If he is right about all this, I dodged a bullet with the eye, becasue a basal cell on the eyelid usually involves reconstructive surgery. Here's praying the steroid does its thing!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Instant Gardens!

It was an event worthy of Olympic inclusion. Five guys arrived at our home at 6:45 yesterday morning, and planted over 700 perennials, shrubs and a tree. By 4:30 they had the job completely done. The synchronized swimmers have nothing on these men! In movements choreographed through years of working together, they moved from bed to bed, digging holes, pouring in fertilizer and installing each plant. It was a sight to behold. My husband and I carried the plants from the back parking area and placed them in each bed, following the plan which had been designed for us. (Well, I had to stop and organize the plants by species, being the anal-retentive person that I am.) Since we did not have to do the back breaking hole digging, it was fun to be involved in the activities all day. Plus I was able to become more familiar with the plant materials that had been specified for our gardens. The end result is beautiful, and I think even Adam and Eve would enjoy the new outdoor living space. Well - except for the lack of fig leaves!

Friday, September 5, 2008

My Daughter, the Tree Hugger

We had 83 shrubs and one tree delivered today, in preparation for the mass planting this weekend. A crew of 4 guys came this afternoon to do the preparation in the beds, and make sure that everything is ready for 6:30 tomorrow morning when they begin planting. Thank goodness they were here when the delivery truck arrived. They were able to load the plants from the truck into our pickup, which I then drove up and down the alley to the back of our yard for unloading. It was quite a site! After all the men left, I let Kirby, our cockapoo, out in the back yard. A suspicious creature by nature, he immediately decided the weeping cherry tree did not belong in his yard. (Though I suspect it will become his new best friend once he gets used to it.) He literally hopped sideways in shock when he saw the tree and then began frantically barking at it. My daughter is not one to miss an opportunity to tease the dog. She went out in the yard and hugged the tree. In addition to being suspicious, he is also jealous when any of us gives attention to anyone or anything besides him. Her hugging the tree was over the top for him, and he about had a heart attack at the site of her hugging the unknown object. It was pretty amusing, I must say. I can just imagine his reaction when he sees over 700 new items in his yard!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

It's Not Easy Getting a Lot of Green

Last year we put an addition off the back of our house. As remodeling often does, one thing leads to another and you end up doing more than you intended. That is how a new kitchen suddenly expanded to include a new bathroom, and of course we should have a main floor laundry room so I would no longer have to fight the jumping crickets for the washing machine. Then...wouldn't it be nice to have a screened porch off the kitchen? But then all that oak dust...ewwww. Which is how we got the conservatory instead of a screened porch. Off the conservatory went a new deck, which called for new deck furniture. And of course we wanted to access the deck from the dining room, so in went French doors there. So this year we sat looking at all the planting beds around the new deck (and the new sod to replace the damage the construction workers had done to the yard), and we decided it was time to plant the gardens. I should interject here that my husband is a landscape architect. Like the cobbler's children, our yard does not get the attention of my master designer. Instead we hired one of the landscape architects from his firm to do a design for us. In all fairness to Jim, he really is the business/marketing guru for his company, and works mostly on large commercial projects. Carrie does more of the planting plans, so this was right up her alley. She came up with a great design, and today some of the perennials were delivered. 700, to be exact. They arrived from Michigan in a large tractor trailer. We live in an old, historic neighborhood. I consider it lucky that the truck only took down one telephone line on my street. We don't have a driveway, but instead share a private alley in back with 8 other houses. No way was the truck coming up an alley originally design for horses and buggies. So the driver parked at the end of the alley, and we loaded the plants in the back of a small pickup, drove them up the alley, and unloaded them on our parking pad. Up and back. Up and back. All 700. I find myself being extremely grateful that I am not the one who will be doing the planting. We have hired some landscape contractors to do that. I'm not sure when the shrubs and trees arrive, but I would think that when they are all in the ground we should have a pretty instantaneous garden. Which will look great for Katie's graduation party next spring!