Sunday, March 29, 2009

Chicago is so NOT My Kind of Town

Katie and I left for Chicago at 10:00 Friday morning so as to avoid rush hour traffic. Here and there. Figuring we would be heading into town while everyone else was heading out, I thought our timing would be pretty good. We arrived at the outskirts of the city around 3:00 to find the northbound traffic snarled to a stop. It took another hour and 15 minutes to arrive at the hotel, where I gratefully handed off the car keys to the hotel personnel for the weekend. After a little rest in the room (little being the operative word as the kids in the next room were waging a battle of Star Wars proportion), we decided to try a pizza parlor advertised in the shopping guide located in the room. Katie checked the reviews online, and people agreed it was THE place to sample Chicago style pizza. Arriving at 5:45 we were told there would be a 45 minute wait for the two of us. It seemed to be our day of being in the exact same location as everyone else. After 20 minutes we were advised to order our pizza so that it would be ready for us when we were seated. In 50 minutes we were seated at our table, where we received poor service and a pizza that arrived 20 minutes later. So much for the order ahead theory. The pizza was good, thankfully, and we were happy we tried it though we both prefer a thinner crust on our pizza. Facing 30 mile per hour winds (they don't call this the Windy City for nothing!), we struggled to make our way back to the hotel. The heathens in the room next door kept up WWIII until after 12:30, so I was not very perky the next morning as we readied ourselves for the tour at Loyola. The winds had not abated, and coupled with the gray skies overhead led to a less than idealistic day to be hiking around. Warm, comfortable coach buses shuttled us to the campus, located about a half hour away, but after that it was all on foot. Grateful for the fore site to pack my hooded down jacket and gloves, I marveled at the teenage girls tottering around in their high heels and skirts, anxious to impress. It began to rain and then sleet as afternoon turned to evening. By this morning the snow combined with the winds off the lake turned the downtown area into a blizzard. Following a 30 minute wait for my car to arrive from the valet, we trudged through ankle high slush to toss the luggage in the car so we could return home. If this had been my decision on where I wanted to go to attend college, the weather this weekend would have definitely settled things for me. There is no campus or program good enough to convince me to attend college in Chicago. Why weren't we looking at colleges in Florida, for crying out loud? Oh, that's right - it's not my decision.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Chicago is...Katie's Kind of Town?

We are driving to Chicago today for a final (I hope!) look at two colleges. Loyola is hosting a special weekend for students interested in certain majors, business being one of them. We'll have tours on campus during the day tomorrow, and then attend a Scholars Reception in the evening for students who were offered merit scholarships. This will be our first look at Loyola, so I'm interested in seeing what this university is all about. Unfortunately the other Chicago college Katie is interested in is on spring break, so the buildings will be closed. But we have already toured it in the past, so that isn't a huge issue. We'll just take another look at the campus on Sunday before we head home. This whole college search thing is just so overwhelming anymore. When I was a teenager (don't I sound like our parents now?) my dad announced to me that I was going to attend Iowa State. I expressed to him that I wanted to go to the University of Iowa because of their Liberal Arts program. After all, Iowa State's full name is Iowa State University of Science and Technology. You see my problem? Dad said "Your brother goes to Iowa State and that is where you are going". End of discussion. I didn't have to take multiple tests, write essays or drive/fly around the country looking at all the options. In this economy I continue to hear that Washington University had over 23,000 applicants for 1,400 openings in the freshman class, NYU had over 20,000 applicants for 1,000 slots, etc. I'm assuming that most of these kids will be applying for loans in order to pay the $40,000 per year cost of attending these institutions. Is the next financial crisis going to be when these new college graduates can't find jobs paying enough to make the monthly payments and default on the school loans? A scary thought...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Keep on Truckin'

It is great to be able to do business on the web - when it works. We purchased a new tractor trailer for the composting business. First order of business, after getting proper insurance of course (you can take the girl out of the insurance industry but you can take the insurance industry out of the girl), is to license the truck. The Missouri Department of Transportation, aka MoDot, allows you to add a truck to your fleet over the Internet, thus avoiding a drive to Jefferson City. Great! Unlike the MoDot office, the web is available 24/7. I attempted to log on to our account last night so my husband could struggle through the governmental gibberish on the application with me. It would not accept my login or password. Our login (a series of five uppercase letters and two numbers) and our password (a series of seven upper and lower case letters and one number) were assigned to us by MoDot, and sent to us via email in December. You cannot change them. So this morning I called the non-toll free number shown as the "Help Desk" (oxymoron) on the email. After providing some basic information to the lady, she took my name and number and said someone would call me back. About an hour later, an employee did call me back to tell me that I had called the wrong number, and she proceeded to give ma a different one. This one was thankfully toll-free, as I listened to the recording of all my choices and took a wag (wild ass guess) on the correct one for my issue. After I listened to a recording of where MoDot is located, received information on their hours and directions to the office, I was informed that most of my questions could be answered by visiting their website. Not! I was then advised that I was number one in the queue, and then blasted with the worst country music I have ever had the misfortune to hear. Finally a representative came on the line, listened to my problem and said that my password must have expired (sounds like a catch-all phrase). She said she would let someone know and they would reset the password and email it to me before noon.

At 1:45 the long awaited email arrived, and I entered the login (still the same) and the new password. Same error message popped up. I called back on the 800 number, got a different gal on the phone, and she said she would try to login on my account. Well, it worked just peachy for her! I asked her what password she entered, and lo and behold it was not the new password I had just received. It was something totally different. I tried the password she was using, and I got right in. Alright, now we're truckin'! As I began to fill in the online form, I could not get past the first page without getting an error message. Another call to Motor Carrier Services (fourth in queue this time - more crappy country music) to find out that I was supposed to be a mind reader and know what they had entered as my fleet number and the expiration date of said fleet. With this correct information duly entered, I continued with the form until I came to some blanks I needed my husband's help with. As he was unavailable, I figured we could complete the rest after supper. We finished up the form, pressed the submit button and got a new error message. Even reviewing the ten page instruction pamphlet I had printed off gave no hint as to what the program did not like. So now we need to call the office again, and since it is after hours it will have to wait until tomorrow. I love doing business on the Internet. I think I could have been to Jefferson City and back by now.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Three's Company

My husband's younger sister was visiting us from Iowa this weekend. She brought along her dog, so Kirby had a cousin to play with. Neither one of them has another pet in their house, so they are both pooped after a long weekend of keeping up with each other. The weather cooperated, thankfully, so we had a lot of outdoor time. Friday night we had tickets to the Fox Theater to see "Cirque Dreams". Since Katie is out of town for the DECA competition, we invited our friend Dale to go with us as we had four tickets. We grilled the Iowa steaks JoEllen brought down with her, and had a great meal before the show. The production was great, with lots of "guy candy" for the ladies. Wow - that's the first time I have ever seen a true 8 pack on anyone. Thank you, Warren, for the second row seats! The cast was extremely talented, and the two hour show passed quickly. Saturday JoEllen and I went to the Thread and Thimble Quilt Show to see over 300 quilts displayed. It is always educational for me to see what other quilters come up with. That evening she and Jim went to a charity event out in O'Fallon and I stayed home to get some quilting done. They did not get home until 2:30 in the morning! Needless to say, no one was moving too quickly Sunday morning. But we spent a beautiful afternoon at the Missouri Botanical Garden, where lots of trees, shrubs and flowers are already bursting forth with color. What a way to welcome in spring.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Quote of the Day

Freelance writer Rick Zabel commented, "I'd rather criticize myself for something that I've written than to later criticize myself for not having written anything at all." To my fellow writers out there - write on!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Another Last in My Life

Early this school year I wrote in my blog about this being a year of "lasts". My daughter will graduate from high school in two months, and as she is my baby this year has been pretty nostalgic for me. Today I attended my last parent teacher conference. EVER. In the 19 years that I have had children in school, I have never missed a fall or spring conference. I feel strongly that the teachers need to be aware that we care enough about our children's education that we can make the time to attend. Plus I like hearing good things about my kids. And my kids always wanted to know what the teachers said about them. It was with mixed emotions that I headed off to the school this afternoon. Turnout was light, due to the nice weather and the fact that the spring conferences are always less well attended than the one in the fall, particularly by parents of seniors. My last conference was with Mr. Johnson, the journalism and newspaper teacher. He is a bit of a talker, so there is always a wait for him. He ended my parental school career on a high note when he told me that in 23 years of teaching he can count on one hand the number of students who have made an impact on him personally, and Katie is one of them. I wonder if any of my teachers ever felt that way about me? As I left the cafeteria and headed towards the front of the school, I felt this absurd compulsion to run down the halls screaming my head off. Can you imagine the reaction? I'm sad there wasn't a spot for the parents of seniors to gather one last time, maybe for a race to the front door?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Spring Has Sprung

I had to run to the fabric store tonight since I was a little short on the fabric I needed for the main squares on the graduation quilt. I about had a heart attack when I arrived at the shop and noticed there was no more of the necessary fabric on the shelf. I have 57 of the required 70 squares complete, so changing the design at this stage of the game would be a huge problem. But then I spied the fabric on a clearance table. The good news is that it was now only $4.99/yard. The bad news is that there was 1 1/3 yards folded on the table and you had to take the whole thing. I only need 1/3 yard, but I was so excited to find it that I took it all. As we quilters say, there's no such thing as too large of a fabric stash. I'll find a use for the remainder later on. I mention all of this because my favorite fabric store happens to be located near my favorite ice cream store - Ted Drewe's Frozen Custard. This custard is so rich that you consume all of your daily calories in one concrete or sundae. We only go a couple of times a year, usually when company is in town. But today was so beautiful, and the temperature was still 63 degrees. So my husband rode along with me, even braving the female dominated fabric store first - that's how much he loves his TDs. When we arrived at the custard stand, I couldn't believe my eyes. You would have thought George Clooney was there or something. (He is in town filming a new movie.) The place was packed! There were at least 15 people lined up in front of each of the windows. But what a great place to people watch. Families, lovers, high school and college students, dog lovers with dogs in tow, motorcyle name it, you'll find it in line at TDs. The wait never seems long as it is so fascinating to look and listen. And the wait doesn't matter anyway - it is always worth it!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Scenes from the Past

Tonight Jim and I walked up to the high School to see the play "Antigone". A rather deep tragedy based on the writings of Sophocles, the interesting twist is that the play is set in 1920's Chicago as opposed to ancient Greece. As our daughter is taking Tech Theater this year to satisfy her art credit, she worked extensively on the set design. Her crowning accomplishment was the bust of Creon, King of Chicagoland, which also served as a lighting prop. It was interesting to watch her spending hours of her own time placing paper mache over a mask, and then building up the upper torso of Creon. We had quite the mess in the dining room for a week, but the end result was worth it. At any rate, she had given me a primer on the play, and she went to see it with her classmates opening night, which was Wednesday. She came home with a glowing report of the production, so we decided to see it tonight. As I looked at each character when they came on stage, I found myself reflecting on the child under the makeup. There was the kindergartner who came over to play after school, and the boy from second grade who made us all laugh, the redhead now a gray old lady who's dad I worked with so many years ago, the pitcher from our softball team, the boy we carpooled with for PSR, and the girl who excels at everything she does. All those little faces from years ago now transformed not only by their makeup into these talented almost adults. Where will they all be next year? Pursuing dreams on the stage at college? Following other career paths? Who knows, but for two hours tonight, they brought down the house.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Poem to My Mother

While I was going through some of my dad's papers looking for material for the book I am writing about him, I came across a poem he had written to my mom. When she was killed in a car accident in 1989, he had been working on some things for their 50th wedding anniversary. It was two years away, but he was already in the planning stage. He had written this poem to read at their party.

If I Had My Life to Live Over

If I had my life to live over
I'd do the same things again.
I'd still want to roam near the place we called home
where my happiness never would end.
I'd meet you when school days were over and
walk thru the lanes that we knew.
If I had my life to live over
I'd still fall in love with you.

Spring Awakening

People always say that if you don't like the weather in St. Louis, stick around because it will change. We have certainly seen that to extreme this week. We experienced a 50 degree change in the weather from Tuesday to Wednesday. Sadly, it was a downward turn in the weather. I always hate it when we get so warm this early in the year as it messes up the spring plants. The crocuses are blooming, as are some magnolias and daffodils. A huge temperature change can freeze the delicate buds and blooms, leading to a far less colorful spring down the road. Hopefully, these colder days won't last too long.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Name Game is Over

After much research and angst, I just filed the paperwork with the state to form my publishing company. Many names I came up with were already registered with the state. What is it people say? There's no such thing as an original idea? One web site suggested using alliteration in your company name, and that struck a chord with me. That narrowed things down to looking at "p" words. It was also suggested that you try to keep the same number of syllables in each word. So ideally I was searching for a three syllable "p" word. I am excited about what I came up with, which is Provenance Publishing LLC. It was not taken in my state, nor did it come up in a publisher search on Amazon. Provenance means a place or source of origin. As a noun, it is where something originated or was nurtured in its early existence. What better way to describe the process of putting your own book into print? I have an idea in mind for the company logo, and my daughter is working with my rough sketch in Illustrator. One step closer to making this book a reality!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Picture Perfect?

My dad had a lot of photographs from his time in the Army Air Corps. They are now all scanned into my computer - quite the time consuming task. Because they were taken and processed 65 or more years ago, without benefit of a photo lab, they are not in the best condition. So I fired up Photoshop and began the laborious process of photo restoration. Some of them need the services of a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon to give them a face lift, but I am doing the best I can with my modest knowledge of the software. As I study the photos, I wonder about the barely men with their smiles mugging for the camera. What was it like to be separated from their families, literally dropped into a world filled with poisonous snakes, blistering heat or never-ending monsoons, with malaria running rampant? Unlike today's soldiers, they had very little ability to communicate with loved ones back home. My dad and I talked quite a bit about his years of service. Unlike a lot of men of his generation, he didn't seem to mind talking about his experiences. Unfortunately, I did not take the opportunity to label the back of all the the photos stored haphazardly in an old cigar box all these years. So some of the places and subjects in the pictures will remain a secret. But I do know which ones are of him, and after all that's who the book I am writing is about.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What's in a Name?

There is much to learn about self publishing. Most advice leans towards owning the ISBN number that goes on the back of the book. This truly makes you the publisher, and thus in control, of your book. Okay, that makes sense. But you need a name for your publishing company. "Don't name the company after yourself unless you want to look like an amateur," the sages advise. That means coming up with a different name for the publishing company. I have probably invested waaaay too much time thinking about the name. Above referenced sages speak to naming the company the same thing as your website. My House History Publishing Company? What if my next book is on how to do backyard composting? Or the history of Tuam, Ireland? You begin to see my dilemma. I don't want to pigeonhole future books that may be published from my publishing company based on the name of the publishing company alone. It seems like a pretty important decision to be made in mere minutes. Yet my indecision is holding up the process. I need to apply for a tax identification number with the state under the name of my new company. I can't purchase my ISBN number(s) until I know the name of the publishing company. I can't pay for the ISBN numbers until I have a bank account opened in the name of the publishing company so I can keep my records straight for taxes. And so on... As the book cover is in design even as I write this, time is of the essence. Now, where did I put that creative thinking cap?