Mt. Rainier and Lenticular Clouds - Dec. 2008 copyright: JMM

September 30, 2009

Such a long, long time to be gone, And a short time to be there...

The older I get, the more I think about how short life is. I guess everyone pretty much goes through this stage in their 40's. The last 10 years have flown by at a very scary rate of speed. It blows my mind that 20 years ago we were about to go through the worse earthquake in San Francisco since 1906. TWENTY YEARS. In 1989 when we got married, it was only 20 years since Woodstock. Now it's forty years since Woodstock. One of the things that really gets me is whenever I see a cemetery headstone. It usually only contains the person's dates of birth & death, sometimes a little more detail...'beloved husband and father' or 'WW2 Veteran', but not much. Nothing to illustrate how the person was in life. It's like, you go through life and it's all for nothing. And the more time passes, the more people are forgotten. My dad's headstone makes me sad because he was so much more than just a WW2 veteran. And the rest of us have gone on with our lives because there's nothing else for us to do. Death is a certain. I do try to put this stuff out of my head, as it's pretty depressing.

Unfortunately, the other day, I was painfully reminded of this.

I have a lot of Facebook friends...almost 600. So of course it's impossible to keep up with every single person, especially when a lot of the contacts are gamers.

Over the weekend, I was trying to think of some way to help Axe out, and remembered that one of my FB friends, Dani Bonnici, lives in Cape Town. She posted some beautiful photos of a thunderstorm over Cape Town in the spring. I thought maybe Dani would have some ideas of places that might be hiring, or know someone in the arts, as she runs a very popular & successful ceramics shop. I went over to her profile, and ignoring the many wall posts, I went straight to the link to her ceramics shop. It was there that I read this awful message:

"We are sorry to say that Dani suffered a massive stroke and on the 26th of June she passed away, all our love and prayers go out to Dani, her son and her family. Her family would like you all to know that the business will still be open."

To say that I was floored would be an understatement. I went back to her Facebook profile and started reading all of the posts. People are still leaving "I miss you" messages on her Wall. She was very young...not much older than me. I read all the way back to right after she died, about 3 months' worth of posts. I eventually had to stop because I was getting more and more distressed, not just because she died, but also that I had no idea she was gone, and had been for 3 months. Our lives go on and hers was painfully cut short. She will never see all those "I miss you" wall posts and the outpouring of love from her family and friends. If that's not a page out of the "live life to the fullest" book, I don't know what is.

RIP Dani. I'm so sorry that it took me this long to find out you were gone.

September 24, 2009

Being Mr. Monk

I originally had a slide show to post from Photobucket, but it got all screwed up so I have to figure it out this weekend.

Anywho, I'm absolutely BURIED in files at work. Why my boss takes cases when the trials are a month or two away is beyond me. I am hoping to be able to prep some new blog entries this weekend.

But I also wanted to post a friendly reminder to everyone to be a bit more like Adrian Monk this year. Use hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes. Wash your hands a lot, esp. after handling money or blowing your nose. Sneeze or cough into your elbow. If large stores offer wipes at the entrance, use one on the cart handle. Get a flu shot. Get an H1N1 shot, if they become available.

The other day I was thinking about all the common surfaces that the public touches and it made me gag a bit. ATM & debit card machines, door handles and knobs, toilet flusher handles, money.....even items on the front of shelves could have been handled by someone who was sick. I brought in a bottle of Purell for the reception area, and I use wipes on all the common surfaces at the office, every day (door knobs, copier & fax buttons, light switches, telephones, the mailbox handle, etc.). I cannot afford to get sick and furthermore, neither can Brian since he doesn't have any health insurance. If I have to, I'll start wearing rubber gloves and a mask. lol

I am beginning to wonder if the CDC knows something we don't, because the media is being very proactive in getting the word out to sanitize, sanitize, sanitize, stay at home if you are sick, keep your kids home if they are sick, get your flu shot. It's unusually proactive. We even got a message on our answering machine from the Safeway pharmacy, reminding us that they are offering flu shots. We don't even use the Safeway pharmacy; I only get my groceries there. We're getting our flu shots on Saturday at the Bonney Lake Fire Department's annual open house.

Let's get through this flu season together, and hope that it doesn't reach pandemic proportions.

September 18, 2009

Yes this is a real sign

Hat tip to Susan, who posted this pic on Facebook the other night. It's a real sign, off I-75 in Troy, Michigan.

September 15, 2009

Justified or Irresponsible?

Unions are ruining this country. There. I said it.

For the past few weeks, the teachers in the Kent School District have been on strike because they were unhappy with the contract presented to them by the District. This happens every single year in one or more of the school districts in Western Washington. Initially, the parents are supportive, but the more time that goes by, the more inconvenienced the parents become and support for the teachers plummets. Last week, a Judge ordered the teachers back to work or face a $200.00 per teacher, per day fine. Sunday night, they finally reached an agreement and school opened yesterday. I find it rather disgusting that the teachers only agreed to go back to work when the money was coming out of their pockets. At least they have jobs, unlike my husband who is now on Month #13 with no work, and now his unemployment benefits have run out.

A few years ago, the Marysville School District stayed on strike until the last part of October. It screwed the kids over big time, especially the seniors who were relying on sports scholarships and early admission into college. It further screwed the students over because they had to make up the lost time by foregoing school breaks and attending school almost until the 4th of July, and many seniors lost valuable summer work wages.

The biggest sticking point is the "smaller class size" thing. They complain because they don't get enough one-on-one time with the kids, and many of the kids don't speak English. Well we can solve the smaller class size thing by controlling the population. When I was in school there was no such thing as one on one time with the teacher, unless you went for extra help during lunch, study hall or after school. As for our non-English speaking kids, LEARN THE DAMN LANGUAGE. We had an influx of Vietnamese families into my hometown, in the early 80's....or at that time they were known around the world as "the boat people". They integrated into the USA and the kids who attended Sandwich High School learned English. The exchange students learned English. Quit mollycoddling these people, especially those who are illegal, and force them into an English immersion class. Seriously.

I never even heard of teachers going on strike until we moved to Washington. I don't believe it happened in California, and I know it didn't happen in Sandwich. Why are these teachers punishing the kids by going on strike at the beginning of the school year? I realize that they are underpaid, overworked and underappreciated. They take a lot of crap from the many ill-mannered kids and teens. But is going on strike really helping the kids? I don't think so.

A few months back, I posted a question to my friends, on Facebook, asking whether those people with children would be willing to give up their Child Income Tax Credit or their hefty tax refund (b/c they can claim their kids), and have that money be funneled towards their respective schools. The people with children responded, "No". They were not willing to give up their child tax credit or their refund, because they stated that they didn't trust the government to actually give that money to their school districts. I then posed the question, "Is it fair that childless couples see their property taxes go up and up, yet we have no child exemption to claim and our refunds are much smaller?" Surprisingly, not one person who had kids thought of it that way. I really believe that this would help the schools tremendously. I don't see why childless couples have to do more than their fair share for the schools when the people who have kids and need the schools are getting refunds upwards of $3,000 every spring at tax time (where we only get about $500 as our tax refund, IF we are lucky).

I realize why unions were started and yes, there is a need for them. Some of them. Like the garment workers union, to keep them from being worked 18 hours a day in sweat-shop conditions. But teachers? I don't agree with their being unionized. I was in the electrical workers union (IBEW) when I worked at Channel 56, so I have some experience in this area. I felt that our shop stewards were a bit too hardcore and ridiculous, the way they constantly threatened "to file a grievance" for every little thing. I remember one time when one of the news talent accidentally touched or moved one of the studio cameras. Only IBEW members were allowed to touch the equipment. Some of the guys in the studio got super indignant and pretty much dressed down the newscaster and telling them to never touch any equipment again or else a grievance would be filed with our union. I rolled my eyes. Even when I went back to visit in 1991, some of my former coworkers reminded me not to touch the equipment b/c I wasn't in the union anymore. Oh and let's not forget the times when a Director would go to ask one of the crew a question like 5 minutes before we were "on the clock". We would be standing outside studio control, waiting to start work in 5 minutes, a Director would ask a question and inevitably someone would say, "We're not on the clock yet. Ask again at 3:15." Give me a break.

As some of you may or may not know, Washington is home to the Boeing Company. There are several plants where the planes are assembled. Every 2 or 3 years, the machinists union goes on strike b/c they don't like their contract. They want more money. "Mo' money! Mo' money! Mo' money!!", if I may quote from an "In Living Color" sketch. They end up on strike for at least 30-60 days, the planes go unbuilt, the orders stack up or are canceled, Boeing's clients end up going to Airbus, and when everyone does finally return to work, Boeing ends up laying off thousands of people because the plane orders dropped. The Boeing plant in South Carolina has just voted to disband their chapter of the machinists union. This means that Boeing can now move their assembly lines to SC, and tell WA to fuck off. The Boeing workers up here don't seem to be worried about it, but I am worried about it. If Boeing decides to move the bulk of their assembly to a right-to-work state like SC, the economy in Western Washington will really take a hit, and it's bad enough as it is.

So, what say you? Unions: Justified or Unreasonable?

September 11, 2009

Bringing Lady Axe to Brandon's Grave

Last year, I made a promise to Axe that I'd get the song she wrote for Brandon Lee, up to his grave in Seattle. She emailed me the lyrics and I did them up on parchment paper. I added the pic of Axe, then I spattered it with red ink to make it look like blood. It was still missing something, so I took it outside and burned the edges. Pleased with the results, I was ready to head up.

But, due to circumstances beyond my control, I was unable to get up to Seattle in 2008 and then the winter and spring weather shut me down till July, when I was finally able to make it up there.

September 10, 2009

Volunteer Park, Seattle

After I left Jimi's grave in Renton, I headed up to Seattle, to the Capital Hill area so that I could visit the Lees' graves. Despite my having googled all events going on in Seattle at 8 a.m. on a Sunday, when I arrived up there, all the streets were blocked off. I was stunned. I asked a cop what was going on and he told me there was a road race. It figures. I told him where I was trying to go and he told me to just go around the traffic cones b/c the runners weren't up there yet. So I find my way up to the cemetery, only to find the gates closed. I didn't know what to I drove past and saw the entrance to Volunteer Park. I drove in and decided to kill some time till the cemetery opened. I was glad I did.

My Virtual Doggies

This is my little guy, Sirius. Isn't he a cutie? The white dots form the Canis Major constellation which includes the star, "Sirius". When I was a kid, I used to watch "The CBS Children's Film Festival", hosted by Kukla Fran & Ollie. There was a film on that show that I saw, about a beautiful GSD named Sirius.

This is Milk Dud's World. That would be the puppy under the otter. These critters are so adorable and I am wicked sucker for "cute overload", so I collected a bunch of them.

September 8, 2009

My First Attempt at a Photobucket Slide Show

I took a very quick trip to Seattle in July, 2009, on a mission for Axe. On the way up, I decided to stop in Renton to see the Jimi Hendrix Memorial and grave.

September 7, 2009

Hot Head and Her Funny, Funny Man.....

I have a hot head. I mean over and above my volcanic temper which is always simmering under the surface. But seriously, my head is hot. I never wear hats or scarves in the winter because the cold air feels so good on my head. I blast the air conditioning in my car every morning, every season, no matter what the weather, until my face feels icy and my nose starts to run. Then, and only then, will I turn the a/c down or off, and I leave the vents open so that air is still blowing on my face. But the second I am stopped at a light or in traffic and that constant stream of air isn't blowing on my face, the a/c gets cranked back up to 11, till I am moving along again.

Whenever I finish any kind of strenuous exercise - be it the gym (the what now?) or mowing the lawn or cleaning the house - no matter how cool my shower is, I still end up sitting in front of the fan letting it blow directly at my face and head.

I always used to love getting a little drinky-poo when we'd go out to eat; I've always been a huge fan of the Whiskey Sour. I especially loved the beginning of holiday weekends, when I could imbibe a bit in a deliciously sweet Sombrero, or powerful pre-bottled "T.G.I.Fridays" Long Island Iced Tea. But over the years, I began to notice that, not only do my sinuses get hopelessly plugged when I drink any kind of alcohol, but my face feels like it's on fire. The flush starts at my neck and works it's way up to the top of my head. Even my scalp is red. The skin on my face feels hot and tight and I get itchy all around my jaw line, esp. under my ears. It's very uncomfortable and I really feel like if I don't get something cold on my face immediately, my head's going to spontaneously combust. That's when I uncouthly dig into my water glass and start rubbing ice all over my face till it's soaked wet and starts to cool down. Rather than endure this horribly uncomfortable and embarrassing ritual, I just stay far away from alcohol.

Nighttime can be uncomfortable, especially in the summer when our a/c is laboring day and night to keep the house at 68F. The second my head hits the pillow, the pillow gets too warm. I flip it over and enjoy a few precious seconds of comfort before that side gets too hot. Then it's toss/turn, toss/turn till I finally fall asleep. I do get some relief in the winter months because I seal off the bedroom heating vent so that heat never, ever is on in that room. You open the door to the bedroom and it's shockingly icy. We've mused about whether we could cause a thunderstorm in the hallway, by simultaneouly opening the hot, steamy bathroom & icy cold bedroom doors and watching the mini-weather systems collide. But I digress.....

I came up with an idea to help with the nighttime hot-pillow problem. Because we have the world's smallest freezer, I obviously can't jam my entire pillow into it to keep it frozen all day till bedtime. So I started putting a pillowcase in a ziplock baggie and keeping it in the freezer instead. When I go to bed, I put the frozen case on the pillow, and put a new case into the freezer, and then alternate them every night. Brian thinks this is absolutely hysterical. I think it's absolutely necessary. At least the frozen case keeps the pillow colder, longer, so that maybe I can fall asleep.

So yesterday I went upstairs to refresh my Crystal Lite Ice Tea (no more Long Island), and opened the freezer to get some ice cubes. Bright blue caught my eye and I was wondering why Brian would have put a freezer gell pack on one of the shelves, so I looked down. What that a NOTE in my pillowcase bag....?

.....What's it say? I lean in to get a good look.......


Funny, funny man.......

Ed. Note: Do you like the juxtaposition of the Lean Cuisine frozen food directly under the Cookies & Cream ice cream? Now that's "ROTFLMAO"!!

September 4, 2009

Bad New Englandah, No Lobstah

As you all know, I am a native Cape Codder/New Englander. When I was a kid, all I could think about was getting the hell off the Cape and away from the East Coast. "I'm bored. There's nothing to do. Cape Cod is so dull!!!" was a familiar refrain. Yeah I've done some touristy things, but when I think back to all of the missed opportunities when I lived there, I could kick myself.

Yesterday at lunch, I was browsing through "National Geographic Traveler" magazine. They were featuring some of the best driving trips in the world and I was pleased to see that Cape Cod was listed. There was a photo of a lighthouse called Wood End Light. I was very distressed when I realized that not only had I never seen that particular lighthouse, I had also never heard of it. I had to google it to find out on what part of the Cape it's located, and was surprised to find that it's in Provincetown. I'd only ever seen Race Point Lighthouse and had no idea there was another one up there called Wood End. In the list of things to see along the drive around the Cape, it mentioned the Museum of Natural History. Never been there either. Or to Nauset Beach. Or seen Monomoy Island. I've only been to Nantucket once, and Martha's Vineyard twice.

That got me thinking about all of the trips I could have taken......should have taken....when I still lived on the East Coast.

For example: I went to college in Maine for 2 years, which meant that I lived there pretty much full time from Sept. 1982-May, 1984, except for the summer months and winter holidays. My freshman year roomie is from Bar Harbor/Acadia National Park. While she came down to visit me on the Cape for a week, I never went up there to visit her. I've never been to Bar Harbor. In fact, I've never even been north of Lewiston. I've never gone to Cushing to see where Andrew Wyeth painted the Olson farm, including the famous "Christina's World" painting. I've never been to any of the Eastern Canadian provinces. Some kids used to take road trips to Quebec & Montreal, but I never went.

During the summer months, I worked. There was no backpacking across Europe, or even taking ANY time off, for me. Cape Cod's economy, esp. back then, was still driven by the tourist industry, and as a chambermaid at a 4-star hotel, I was busting my ass cleaning rooms, in high heat and humidity, so that others could enjoy their time off. I worked from the day after college got out till a day or so before I went back. Because my dad was the best plumber in the town of Sandwich, he could not take any time off in the summer months b/c that was his busiest season, what with all the old cottages that were now open for business.

In the summer of '84, I was able to finagle about 4 days off to go to Yonkers w/ my parents for a few days to visit family and bring my grandmother up to the Cape for the summer. And let me be perfectly honest: Yonkers is NOT a tourist destination. My maternal family settled there in the early 1900's, and that's the only reason we went. In fact, come to think of it, for all the time we spent in Yonkers back in the 70's, my folks only took me into New York City twice: Once to the Bronx Zoo in 1974, and once to Manhattan in 1978.

I lived in New England for 24 years of my life, and I've never been to Vermont either. My bff Liz went to college there and has remained in Vermont since 1982, but for a few years in the Toronto area in the early 90's. Did I ever visit? No. The only time I ever crossed the border into Vermont was when my dad got lost in New Hampshire and accidentally crossed into VT, where he promptly did a U-turn and went back into NH.

My bff Holly went to college in Toronto for a few years in the 80's too. Did I ever visit? No.

I simply took it for granted that the stuff will always be there so I'll get to see it "one of these days". Then I went to San Francisco the first time and that became my main focus. Getting to the west coast. Now that i live here, I lament the fact that there is so much I didn't do or see, and when I lived there, I had no interest in doing or seeing any of it.

So I guess next spring when I go back to visit my mom, I will have to check out some of these places on the Cape, like Wood End Light and the Museum of Natural History. No excuses.

September 2, 2009

Who can it be now?

2009 has easily been the worst year of my life, the worst year of Brian's life and the worst year of our marriage. Among the general stressors of Brian being out of work for over a year and not having health insurance and a couple of incidents we had this spring and summer, I have been dealing with crushing stress at work. The clients have been absolutely horrible to us. Very, very angry and abusive people. Small wonder their marriages crumble after only a few years. Then of course my being booted off Facebook for over 2 weeks was, I thought, the final nail in the 2009 coffin. I mean, how much worse can it get?

I was wrong.

Besides all of the above, in June, there was a "smash and grab" at my office. Someone came up the back stairs and smashed thru the window of our new attorney's office, and snatched her computer and monitor off her desk. Since times are hard and this is a common occurrence these days, we figured it was drug addicts looking for an easy target like a dark stairway of an office complex that is empty all night.

Then in mid-July, I got a call from my coworker, Deb, on a Saturday, telling me that she'd debated whether or not to tell me, but decided she had to. Our office had not only been targeted again, but this time, they cleaned us out. Computers, monitors, fax machine.....they smashed 2 of the printers to bits on the floor. They took the art off the walls, all of my boss' suit jackets out of the antique armoire, and his little $9 dictation recorder off his desk. They also took my oscillating fan and Deb's magnifying glass. However, they did not take real things of value, like all of the antiques and first edition books in my boss' office. Just the dictation recorder. None of our personal items were stolen or ruined, except the fan and the magnifying glass.

This second buglary devastated our office. So in the days following that robbery, we sunk tens of thousands of dollars into an alarm system with flashing strobes outside and motion sensors inside, all new computers & monitors, all the new software, a new fax machine, etc. We had 3 steel bars installed over the window where the first smash & grab occurred, and we had several very bright lights installed in back that have motion sensors on them as well. All things considered, we were up and running fairly quickly, but it's been a long, hard road back. Many documents and forms had to be rebuilt. Our computer guy was able to recover data through May 31, 2009, so I guess only having to recover 2 months' worth of data isn't that bad, but still.

It's crystal clear that someone is really, really pissed off at one of us. We've kicked around various names as possible suspects, but really, it could be anyone. But who? He thought maybe it's someone from "the internet", which I think was a shot at me because of my Facebooking. But my profile is set to private so only my friends can see it. It used to be set so that my network could see it as well, but I changed the settings several months ago. I don't have that many friends within my network anyway, and those who are my Tacoma-area Facebook friends are people with whom I have been acquainted for over a year, and/or fellow Hatchlings players. I really do not think it's anyone connected with my Facebooking at all. He intimated in July that he was distressed that I put up a status when a client had gone off on me on the phone and then trashed me in an email. But I told my boss that my status said, "Joanne M. Wolf does not get paid enough to deal with the kind of abuse I just took from a client. Bastard made me cry." No names, no locations, no details....just that a client made me cry. I think that's one of the reasons that he insisted on a new server that blocks all social networking sites. Which is fine.....I was spending more time on FB at work than I was supposed to anyway.

The second burglary was very much designed to hurt our business. And it's someone who has to have intimate knowledge of the layout of our office and our personal lives. Why leave all of my boss' antiques and stuff but take his suit jackets and dictation recorder? Why take my fan? Does the person know that I'm always hot and need to use a fan all the time? Why take Deb's magnifying glass? Do they know that she has vision problems and can't see very well?

We were recovering as best we can and thought we had put this all behind us and were moving on. Till today.

I arrived at my office and noticed the back door was wide open. At first, I thought....I hoped.... maybe my boss was unloading some more cases of copy paper. Then I saw the splintered piece of wood under the stairs. My exact reaction was, "ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME????????" I blazed up the stairs and inside, but fortunately nothing was missing this time. The alarm must've scared them off. But the new steel door is completely ruined. The new jamb and all of the super large bolts and screws are torn up and/or shattered. The deadbolt strike plate was ripped right out of the wall and the hinges were torn off as well.

Who the fuck is doing this to us? The Fircrest PD is absolutely useless, although they do think that some kind of battering ram was used on this door, versus someone kicking it in like the last time. And because my boss opted not to pay for the alarm monitoring, no one showed up when the alarm went off. None of the people in the apartments behind our building called it in. And I found out today that the alarm only blasts for 3-5 minutes before automatically shutting off. So what is the damn point? It's clear that the new door and bright lights are not going to deter this person from continuing to harass us. And the police have not indicated if they are going to assign any detectives to look into why we are being targeted and by whom. If only Detective Bobby Goren could look into it. lol

Now we have to pay for a surveillance camera and a second steel door with a steel frame. I am pushing hard for a gate as well. It's the only way to keep someone out. But now I am also afraid that the perp is going to be so angry that they aren't getting to us, that the next thing will be a fire. The steps to the two back doors are wooden. It wouldn't take much to douse them w/ an accelerant and strike a match.

I did suffer some PTSD this morning, but I am not quitting. I will not let this person's actions intimidate me. I am hoping that my boss doesn't decide that we should move the office elsewhere. I remain uneasy, but hopeful that this was the last time we get hit.