Monday, April 27, 2009

Raindrops Kept Falling on My Head

Usually I work out at a women's fitness club first thing on Monday mornings. With an eye on the weather forecast and a glance at the yard, I decided I better mow the grass instead. I had no sooner gassed up the lawnmower when it began to sprinkle. To mow or not to mow, that was the question. Deciding it was nobler to at least make an attempt (and mow the parkway which my husband had missed last Thursday during the first of two mowings that he undertakes each season), I scurried along behind the mower to the front yard. Though it was raining a little harder, I wanted to try and get the entire front yard done today. We have a fairly large lot, but I was game. It was at this point that I realized I had now become one of the idiots I scoff at who mow the grass in the rain. With a race against the predicted one inch of rainfall, I managed to get the back yard done as well. On the plus side, I was not hot as I mowed today.

I ended this rainy day by taking the graduation quilt over to my friend's house. Kathy has a twelve foot long-arm quilting machine, and I have hired her to do the finish quilting. This is the largest quilt I have ever made, and I would really have to struggle to do the quilting on my sewing machine. Since this quilt is for someone else, I want to make sure it looks professional. When Kathy is done, which will be in two weeks as she has other quilts ahead of mine, I will just need to add the binding and it will be ready to give to the graduate's mom. Hopefully, a few days ahead of the deadline. Now I need to start on my own graduate's quilt...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Warm Weather, Warmer Thoughts

April is nearly over and my daughter and her friend informed me last night that they have fourteen days of school left. "Including exams?", I queried. Yes, indeed. My mind raced through the field not of dreams but nightmares as I contemplated all that I need to accomplish in this short time frame. Let alone the not yet completed graduation quilt that I felt compelled to donate at last year's auction, I have many resposibilities remaining as memorabilia co-chair for the all night graduation party. I have copied, scanned and received by email over 500 photos. These will all go the DVD we are preparing for each student, on a series of 8 boards to be displayed at the party or perhaps both. As I studied the photos I watched precoscious preschoolers become young men and women living their high school years to the fullest through not only their class work but also the sports, clubs and other activities that have woven their lives together like threads on a loom. While they may night appreciate the finished blanket, and in fact are anxious to pluck the strings binding them to the high school, in the future they will realize how this time period in their lives has shaped the people they will become in the future. Some of the threads will never be broken.

I wasn't in the "IN" crowd in high school. Instead I was part of a number of different groups - the precision drill team, drama club, track club, girls' glee club, etc. I did have three close friends that I spent all of my free time with, though. I keep in touch with two of the three on a fairly regular basis. Our 35th high school reunion is this summer. I have attended all the reunions in Des Moines except the 5 year, which I felt was much too soon after graduation to get together. The classmates I most cared about had attend my wedding the year before, and frankly at that point the rest I had no desire to catch up with. Each reunion had a different feel to it. At the 10 year, a lot of people were still in the dress for success mode, trying to impress with the number of kids they had or the jobs they were doing. The 15th reunion was much more casual, and as such brought out classmates that hadn't attended in the past. By the 20th everyone seemed much more comfortable in their skin, if you will, and the same was true of the 25th. By the 30th we mourned the death of fellow classmates, but the relaxed atmosphere led to more conversations with people you didn't know all that well in high school. Rumor has it that this year one of our classmates and the band he played with in high school will be performing at the reunion. The band was inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008. That should be a kick, as we flash back to the music of the '70s.

So in May I'll watch my daughter walk across the stage, and in August I'll take her off to college and then get together with the people who walked across the stage with me back in 1974. Full circle...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Is That a Perm?

My nephew Joe is a really funny guy, and I can always count on our holiday gatherings being even more lively when he shares a story. He works for a municipality west of the St. Louis area, and the pranks the employees play on one another are just outrageous. As are the things that happen to him in real life. Last Saturday night, his stepson got married in a rural area in Missouri. Following the wedding in a local church and the reception at the local fairgrounds, Joe and his wife went to join another family member in a bar at the nearest town. For one drink.Well, you know how that goes... Around 1:00 a.m. Joe went into the men's room. He was standing at a urinal when another guy, complete with a cowboy hat, came into the room and took his place at the urinal next to Joe's. Cowboy began staring at him. "Staring at you, as in checking out your equipment?", I asked. "No, just staring at my face." When Joe inquired as to if something was wrong, the not-so-urban cowboy said, "I ain't never seen a white boy with a perm before." Does that mean he's seen other non-white boys with perms? But I digress. Joe explained that it was not a perm. Cowboy then wanted to know if Joe lived in the area, and he told him that he lives in St. Louis city. "They let you get away with having hair like that in St. Louis?!?", Cowboy incredulously exclaimed. At this point my nephew decided he needed to finish his business and get the heck out of Dodge. I told him he should just be glad that Cowboy didn't decide to check and see if Joe's hat matched his purse. If you know what I mean.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Tax Man Cometh!

Today is April 14th - one day before tax D-day. Our taxes are always complicated due to owning multiple businesses, one of which is an S corp. That type of corporation always makes estimating taxes a bit more of a challenge. For the first time in many years we are actually filing on time and didn't need to request an extension. Our accountant has already filed our taxes electronically, and all that is left to do is write the big check. Did I mention it is a BIG check? Apparently last year they underestimated what our quarterly payments for 2008 should be and thus we owe a LOT on money. I am not happy!!! Jim is not happy!!! Especially since that would have entered into his consideration on buying a new motorcycle right now. Work more, work harder, to pay more taxes. We operate one of our businesses just to pay our income taxes. Where is the motivation to keep the company going? Why not just shut one down and put eight more people on the unemployment line? That is what all the Washington bureaucrats never take into account when they keep raising taxes on people who operate small businesses. If we wanted to be non-profit we would have set the company up that way and at least gotten the tax benefits from it. Okay, enough griping...this cold, dreary day has not enhanced my mood. But as Annie always says, "The sun will come out tomorrow..."

Friday, April 10, 2009

One Butt, Two Bikes

Now that sounds like a fine start to a country song - "One butt, two bikes, so much more to add to my wife's dislikes..." Anyway, my husband is down in Memphis picking up his new motorcycle. Yeah, you'd think in a city the size of St. Louis, especially in light of the economy, he could find one here. But, noooo, let's add a nice long drive to the mix. I'm sure he was thinking of the great ride he would have on the way back home.

He already has a Victory motorcycle which he bought new in 2005. I'll admit that motorcycles scare me, and I told him right away not to put a seat on the back because I'll never get on it. I was the one who encouraged him to get a hobby. Owning three businesses was really taking its toll on him. All work and no play made Jim a really stressed boy. But I was thinking along the lines of woodworking or fly fishing. He told me that he didn't want a hobby that created more projects to complete since he deals with that every day. So I bought him a really nice digital SLR, before they became so popular that everyone carries one in their pocket. He had fun with that for awhile, but he spent more time surfing than shooting. On the web, that is. And so began the search for a motorcycle. The path to the devil's door is paved with html, don't you know.

He has embraced this new hobby with both gloved hands, and it has made such a difference in his disposition! The back roads are truly his escape from the businesses. So while I worry about him each and every time he goes from four wheels to two, I know this is something that he needs to do to clear his head. Which brings me full circle to one head, one butt, what's up with two bikes? The Victory bike is great for day rides, so I'm told. It just is not designed for long road trips, like the one he is taking this spring with three of his biker buddies. They are trucking their bikes out to California, and then riding back via Route 66. All of a sudden this has become a very expensive vacation. But I have a feeling the worse is yet to come. Where is he going to park the new bike?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Update on My Book

So, I thought I would do a little recap on where I am at with my book on researching house history. The writing of the text is done and I am looking for an editor. I've had peer review on the book from a number of people, but now I need someone to look at the voice and flow of the book, and to make sure I've dotted all my i's and crossed all my t's. (That probably isn't even grammatically correct but it didn't look right without the apostrophes.) Four people are preparing quotes for the back of the book, but I am still trying to find the right person to write my Foreword. The lady I would most like to do it is so immersed in her own projects that she simply doesn't have the time. Worst case scenario, I just won't have a Foreword.

One last major thing I have to do for book content is to gather up my illustrations, for lack of a better word. I need to photograph books I reference, such as the City Directory, and get legible copies of documents such as census records, deeds, obituaries, etc. I have the book cover, and the interior layout is being designed. I have formed my own publishing company, which I named Provenance Publishing LLC. Provenance is a place or source of origin; where something originated or was nurtured in its early existence. It seemed appropriate for a book publishing company. I have registered the name with the state, opened a business account in that name and am working on a company logo. Once the logo is designed, I will come up with letterhead and business cards. Yesterday I ordered a block of ISBN numbers from Bowkers, along with one bar code for the first book. My new company is already about $500 in the red. How American is that?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Back to Chicago

The college decision has been made, and its back to Chicago for Katie. She liked Loyola when we visited, but said she just could not picture herself there. So she has come full circle and settled on Columbia College Chicago. We visited Columbia in October of 2007, and she decided then and there that it was the college for her. She didn't even want to look anywhere else. As time went on she began to investigate the employment opportunities and starting salaries of graduates in her chosen field, which at the time was Music Business Management. When she determined that she could earn as much being a secretary with no degree at a record label as she could as an employee with a Music Business degree, she decided she better look for a different major. She thought about International Business, thus the visit to NYU, but the study abroad programs did not offer what she was looking for, especially at Loyola. So she has settled on Marketing and Communications at Columbia, and I have to say that it fits her in a number of ways. She has been active in Junior Achievement and DECA while in high school, and her electives have mostly been in the area of marketing. Columbia is appealing in its curriculum in that they immerse the students in classes of their major right away. Katie will never sit in a classroom of 350 students "learning" about western civilization. She will get the core business classes she needs without ever having to take trigonometry. I have friends in Chicago in the marketing and media fields, and they concur that Columbia has a good reputation in the Chicago area. In fact, they said that the graduates they had hired from Columbia walk in the door knowing how to do their jobs. So...the decision is made, the pressure is off, and the deposits have been sent off. Now we can concentrate on the graduation celebrations.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Wild Things at the Zoo - Inside & Outside the Cages!

My great niece asked me if I would go on a field trip to the zoo with her first grade class. Seems they were short one chaperon, and the trip would be cancelled without another adult. No pressure...Upon hearing that I would meet them at the zoo and not be required to accompany them on the bus (been there, done that!) from Illinois, I agreed. My sister decided to go with me since I would be driving and she wouldn't have to navigate the maze that is Forest Park, let alone the Highway 40 construction and the resulting closure of the Hampton Avenue entrance to the zoo. This time of year I imagine most days at the zoo have busloads of students arriving for field trips, but I was amazed at all the kids pouring into the entrance of the Living World building. The noise level built to a crescendo in a room designed more for looks and traffic flow than acoustics. Cordy's bus arrived about 20 minutes behind schedule, so her classmates were particularly ready to get outside and enjoy the sunny, albeit cool, day. We divided up into our little groups and headed off to explore all the zoo has to offer. Well, as much of it as seven year old legs coupled with 50 something and 60 something year old legs could handle. Despite the blue sky and bright sunshine, there was a bit of nip in the air, so we welcomed the forays into the inside exhibits. Except, of course, the penguin house which is kept at 45 degrees or so year round. The cold coupled with the stench of a fish market kept our visit with the penguins fairly short. Overall it was a nice day to spend with my sister and my great niece, and a reminder to be thankful that I no longer have to go on field trips with my own children!