Monday, July 28, 2008

Treasure Hunt

Yesterday we finally started the process of cleaning out Hubs' grandmother's home. It's been a long time coming, especially since she hasn't even lived in her house for more than a year. Everything is as she left it on the day we moved her into the care facility.

We are almost finished with the kitchen, and in the time we were there we made a few surprising discoveries. While I was cleaning out a couple of drawers, I noticed the bottoms were lined with newspaper. I thought about just leaving the newspaper in the drawers but decided I might as well throw it away. I lifted it up and found piles of cash. All totaled more than $500.

As we continued to clean, Hubs unearthed at least eight containers of salt (Millie swore by salt, it was a cure-all of sorts. That, and red meat):

We'd sort of expected to find cash -- we knew she'd been stashing it in various hiding places. And the salt wasn't altogether too shocking. But what came next was more of a surprise; Something like 14 bottles of brandy. Each was wrapped in a brown paper bag and stashed in the furthest dark corner of her cupboard.

We can only guess as to why there would be so much brandy. It's possible it was all purchased when her husband was alive. He died 30 years ago, but it's not impossible that the brandy is that old, considering some spices we uncovered dated back to the 70s. It's possible she bought it for Bruce, her son-in-law, who will occasionally drink brandy. Whatever happened, she must have continued to forget about her ever-growing stash in the back of the cupboard. There were other finds: Large stacks of soap and toilet paper, stashes of plastic bags, towers of empty envelopes, caches of envelopes stuffed with tissues and napkins. One find Hubs found entertaining: dill weed.

Friday, July 25, 2008

My Return to the Land of the Living

Yesterday I had my statistics final. Yes, six hellacious weeks of math (no matter what anyone says - it's math) are over, and my feeling is that I probably passed the class, despite a major hurdle in the middle with our family crisis and my extreme meltdown the day before the final, wherein I frightened my husband by turning into a crazy person. I took the day off yesterday and sat at the kitchen table to compile the page of notes we were allowed to bring into the final (it's front and back). Make no mistake, this took me hours to do. It paid off, big time. I finished the final before anyone in the class (it still took a solid two hours), even the smartypants 14-year-old who's gunning for a 4.7 GPA, title of valedictorian and a scholarship to Harvard. I almost sprained my ankle on the way out of the class, I was so elated to be leaving.

By the way, I make no claims as to the accuracy of these notes. Anyone who knows anything about statistics will recognize it as a rudimentary instruction sheet for someone who is worried they will forget everything they know the minute they step foot on campus, as I am wont to do.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Keeping my promise

I told Christina I would quote her, only minutes ago, and so I am:

"I'll let you get back to your soul-sucking job, but we should really get together and talk about how to make a million dollars blogging our little hearts out."

This on the heels of posts from both of us on fear and realizing one's true potential. And the BlogHer convention, which we really should have attended.

Monday, July 21, 2008

It's my blog, and I'll blog if I want to

Best picture ever, found on SFist:

Why in the name of .... No Name

Today I learned that one of the hosts, "No Name," on the usually obnoxious morning radio show I listen to (Alice 97.3) has been fired. Unceremoniously booted off the show for reasons that go, ahem, unnamed. Pun intended. Now, it was difficult enough for me when the previous co-host, Vinny, was fired from the show about six years ago for being a crackhead who never came to work. I don't deal well with change, especially in the mornings, and in particular on Mondays.
Don't be mistaken. Vinny and No Name were both flawed. Vinny, for example, was a crackhead and found it difficult to arrive at work on time. No Name was sort of irritating in that he seemed to talk mostly about really disgusting things like vomit and poop. Other than that, I really liked both of them. Also, I believe No Name lives in Milpitas, so he was representing what could almost be called my hometown, smelly though it may be.
I am sure the show's producers have their reasons for letting No Name go. Maybe he was demanding more money. Maybe they got tired of the vomit and poop. Maybe there is some kind of listener poll they do that revealed that No Name (aka Mike Nelson) was alienating their target audience, which, judging by Alice's music, is females in their 20s who shop at the Hello Kitty store and write hearts above their "i"s.
At any rate, they're now left with Sarah, the other host who's been on the show for more than 10 years now. The listeners seem to love her. I loved her more before she had kids and started talking about driving them to soccer practice and making coffee on the weekends.
At any rate it at least will be entertaining to see who they end up hiring to replace No Name.
One good thing that has come of this -- I discovered a new blog today that I found kind of entertaining. It was the only source I could find that explained what had happened to No Name.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Stopped by fear

This morning I was reading Money magazine (my, how surprised I would've been to know, a few years ago, that a sentence such as that might escape my lips), and there was an intriguing article that I have yet to finish about Eco Seagate -- a punishing team-building exercise in New Zealand that Seagate employees actually apply to be a part of.

CEO Bill Watkins came up with this crazy thing a few years ago and it basically involves 17 hours a day of the harshest physical activity imaginable. Employees train for months in advance to prepare. Watkins feels that people must be taken out of comfortable situations and made to experience fear in order to open their minds and change.

One thing he is quoted as saying struck a chord with me. It was something to the effect of: "If you knew you could not fail, what would you do?"

I've had essentially the same thing asked of me (by others and myself) in different ways. Most often it comes in the form of: "If you could do anything, what would you do?" Which is sort of like a very la-dee-dah question. Like, oh sure, I would write a book and open my own winery and travel to Italy and learn Russian and the violin and move to Washington state and have lots of doggies and children and raise them to be peaceful and loving and caring and strong. It's a dream-world question and a dream-world answer with no real meaning behind it.

But to ask what you would do if you knew you could not fail is somehow different. It implies that you are being held back from doing what you really want to do by fear. Icy, blue, paralyzing fear of failure. You already know in your soul what is holding you back -- fear, what else?! -- but to be able to concretely say: This is why I have not quit my job and tried to accomplish my dream, my fear that I will fail. I will fail and lose all of my money and then not only will I not have accomplished my dream, I will be broke, and my spouse will also not love me any more because I will have dragged his dream through the dirt, too, and then I will be alone and will probably console myself with copious amounts of red wine and chocolate and then my thighs will reach dimensions previously unknown.

To be able to say that, and know that fear: that is enlightening.

Fear, fear. Even thinking about trying to face that fear makes my stomach rumble.
It would be neat to be able to jump this hurdle and say, I acknowledge fear of failure is what is preventing me from accomplishing my dream. But, as I am not an entirely untalented person, this fear is not completely grounded in reality. Therefore, I shall move forward and ignore the fear and persevere. It would be neat.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

We needs the money

I just found out the government owes me $100! Maybe they owe you some, too!

An "American" dream -- dashed

Without even being granted the opportunity to sing for Randy, Paula and Simon, my sister did her best with "Love Song," but apparently amid the cacophony of other people singing simultaneously, she did not emit the "it" factor and was promptly turned away by American Idol's producers. My grandparents were completely convinced that, with their prayers, she would make it through. Jesus apparently doesn't think it's the right move.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

An "American" dream

On Tuesday, my mom and sister got up at 3 a.m. so that my sister could register to try out for American Idol tomorrow. They are quite excited. What we hear from folks who have tried out before is that your chance of making it depends less on how well you sing (my sister is an amazing singer) and more on your look/personality. We've advised her to play up her diabetes sob story -- show the producers her insulin pump and talk about going into insulin shock. That's good TV!
My mom sent me this story about the registration process today.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Perhaps the start of a lucky streak

We decided, more out of curiosity than anything else, to make a trip to the Apple store last night to see if maybe -- just maybe! -- the line was gone or at least a lot smaller. When we got to the mall, there was a line, but it looked short. We prepared to stand in the back of the line and were quickly informed by a teal-shirt-wearing bouncer that this was just the front of the line. The remainder of the line was outside and the estimated wait time was between 3.5 to 4 hours. We walked outside to check out the line. A couple hundred people were waiting patiently. We decided to call it a day and go home.

Just then, a good-looking Indian couple stopped us and asked if we'd planned to get an iPhone. We answered in the affirmative. They handed us a small square of paper with the Apple logo and some other writing on it and told us to simply take it to the store, show it to the folks guarding the entrance, and they would allow us in to purchase our desired new iPhone. The woman winked at us a couple of times. We had our doubts but thought it was worth a try and started hoofing it back to the store.

We reached the entrance. I was nervous. Hubs took the square out of his pocket and showed it to the woman guarding the entrance. She stepped aside and allowed us in with no questions asked. We guiltily slid into the store and waited in the much shorter line there. Half an hour later, we walked out with a new iPhone.

On our way out, we again walked by the folks waiting in the line outside. We saw a man walking away from the line toward the parking garage, so Hubs called out, "Hey!" He turned around and we secretively revealed the magical square of paper. We gave him the square. He shook Hubs' hand gratefully and headed back toward the store.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Oh, jeebus

I wish I could remember to use the phrase, "Oh, snap," more often. This is a phrase that never fails to amuse me, but I can't recall ever having actually said it. I imagine myself in a number of situations, proclaiming, "Oh, snap," when I find a good parking spot or I successfully withdraw cash from the ATM. An ideal "Oh, snap" situation would involve a couple of beers and a tetherball court or, perhaps, the perfect pair of high heels spotted from across the store.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

So I have this crazy Statistics instructor, whom I ought to avoid blogging about until the class is over and the grades have been given out, but as I've never been one to go with my better judgement, here goes!
He's this very skinny, baggy pants & T-shirt wearing, long-haired dude with glasses. He often mumbles things to himself as he's facing the whiteboard and writing something on it. He's always apologizing for his "horrible" handwriting, when there's nothing wrong with it. He speaks to inanimate objects. He took the class on a field trip to a classroom with better air conditioning the other day. Yesterday he mused out loud about how strange he felt to be the instructor, with all of us paying attention to him. He declared that this was a terrible situation. Sometimes I wonder if he is thinking to himself, "Did I just say that out loud?"

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Reluctant Blogger

Yesterday, after my abhorrent statistics class, I received a sweet little message from Christina, who was asking, on behalf of herself and her funny hubby, whether I have disappeared into some Blogger Black Hole or what exactly is going on to have caused such silence from my end.

The unfortunate answer to that question is that, after a short illness, Brendan's grandmother, Emilie "Milly" King, passed away almost 2 weeks ago now, at the very venerable age of 97. We were very close to her, and aside from Brendan's dad, were basically her whole family. After Brendan's mom passed away two years ago, care of his grandmother fell to him, as her trustee. A little over a year ago, he was forced to place her in a home where she could be cared for. For a while, she improved, and then she declined. In the end, she got pneumonia, and after she did not regain consciousness we could do nothing but sit at her side and wait for her to go. We spoke to her to remind her of all of her friends and family waiting for her on the other side -- everyone she'd outlived. She slipped away peacefully, making sure no one was in the room at the time -- quite the trick, considering we'd been pulling shifts.

We pored over old photo albums in preparation for her funeral, so we could make a collage of her life. We saw a beautiful Milly, starting as a baby on her family's farm in North Dakota, then as a gorgeous young woman surrounded by her sisters and brother. We saw her as a newlywed with her uniformed husband and then we saw her as a proud mother who adored her baby so much. Later, we see her as doting grandmother, among hundreds of photos of her treasured grandson.

We held the service July 1. A handful of people attended and followed to the burial. Life has been surreal ever since. My own emotions range from guilt to relief to grief. These situations bring out the best or worst in the people you love, and we have been dealing with some of that as well.

Every time I considered blogging, I couldn't think of a way to do it that would make it OK that Milly had died and I'm still bitching about my commute or binomials or "The Bachelorette." I almost blogged yesterday, and then received a message from a friend, saying she'd miscarried. It's hard to blog in the face of death, at least for me.

So that's where I have been, some sort of death-inspired writer's purgatory. I thanked my lucky stars I no longer work for a newspaper -- the thought of writing mundane news articles in such a time triggers my gag reflex. I knew I'd have to explain what had happened because blogging without explaining it would feel wrong. So now that I've explained it, I'm back.