Tuesday, June 28, 2005


Today, I was invited to become a member of the Board of Directors for the local Rebuilding Together affiliate. I am thrilled! I have participated in a variety of charitable organizations for years, and have always hoped that I would eventually become a Board member somewhere.

My association with Rebuilding Together began in 1992, when it was called Christmas in April. I volunteered to join a group from the Jaycees and Junior Chamber of Commerce in Seattle to repair the home of a disabled woman on Capitol Hill. Some time later, I put together a team of volunteers from my company to work on a project here in Connecticut. That started a tradition, and this year was the fourth time I organized it (with the largest group of volunteers yet -- 45 people!).

The timing is probably bad, given the attention I'll be giving to the Big Meeting that most of my job focuses on (it takes place in May 2006), but I shall try to balance them. Aside from feeling great that Rebuilding Together recognizes my commitment and wants me to be a part of their Board, it's also nice to have something I've always wanted seemingly just show up on my doorstep unexpectedly. What a wonderful surprise.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

rise up singing

A mere two days into the season, and a couple weeks after an uncomfortable and premature heat wave, Summer is here. Ahhhhhh.

On Tuesday, with the windows down while driving back roads (to avoid traffic jams), I realized how much I enjoy my hair blown in the breeze. It can get in my eyes if it wants, as long as it brushes my cheek and tickles my neck. If it were any longer, it would be an inconvenience: any shorter, and it wouldn't even be an experience. The fact that I must tend to it post-tousle is mildly disappointing, as if I were required to erase the inelegant delight from existence. Once home in the evening, the hair had its freedom and enjoyed even the artificial breeze of the fan. Summer exerted its first day power by illuminating the sky past 9:00pm.

On Wednesday, I had a lunch that tasted like summer -- baby spinach and radicchio salad with pine nuts, shaved parmesan, and balsamic vinaigrette. Mmmmmmm. A series of rainstorms scrubbed the air clean and made everything feel new. Worries about not having an umbrella came only after the notion of going outside to splash in the puddles. I thought about all the thunderstorms I've watched with my Mom on the front porch swing, and how our family found fun in cars, tents, or recreation halls when rain thumped its camping song on the metal, canvas, or wood roof overhead.

Today, the temperature was perfect, the sky was a rich blue, the trees were vibrant green, the sun was mighty, and the everso-slight breeze was just enough to animate it all. A bird outside my office window sang joyously for hours on end, never taking a break or flying away for even a moment. I escaped at noon (second day in a row!) to have lunch with my husband, a lovely thing to do made more special by the loveliness of the day.

As seasons go, I've always tended to favor Autumn with its crisp air and outburst of color. I've known so many people for whom Summer is the hands-down winner. But for me, Spring's invigorating, newborn bounty follows closely on the heels of Autumn, and the tabula rasa of Winter has always been appealing despite the cold. If I were to rank them, Summer would be dead last. An interesting notion considering the depth to which I am enjoying it this week.

Ask me again when the temperatures and humidity go triple digits, and I'll reiterate Summer's last place finish (despite central air conditioning).

Verlyn Klinkenborg had a piece in the New York Times this week, one which waxes rhapsodic far more eloquently than my ramblings above. It is here in its entirety (because I fear future access to the link will require payment to read).

The Reward of Good Weather

Weather is not primarily a moral affair. We do not deserve a long, slow patch of hot weather, like the one that sat on the city in early June, any more than we deserve the extraordinarily beautiful evenings that have come with these longest days of the year. Deserving has nothing to do with it. The weather comes, it goes, and sometimes it's occluded. The days of seeing the wrath of God in a prolonged drought or a heavy windstorm - believing that bad weather chastens our bad actions, in other words - are pretty much past. One sobering irony of global warming is the thought that it threatens to make weather moral again in a very different way.

But these are thoughts too puzzling for the fine weather of these last few evenings, when it is almost impossible not to feel that this has come to us by right - as our due after a run of sticky days and as the best of what the month of June has to offer anyway.

These are the nights for stoop sitting, not in long-suffering, as though we felt the curse of Cain on our shoulders, but like the young man and his dog I passed the other evening. Both sat quietly, watching the street. You could tell that what they were really doing was feeling the shape of the cool air around their bodies. It would have been a pleasure in itself, but it was all the more pleasurable for the memory of that hot spell.

On a long, horizontal evening, when the whole sky seems to have slipped westward, New York becomes a different city. The weary tension embedded in a heat wave has slipped away, and a kind of expansiveness comes over the neighborhoods again, as if people could suddenly see and hear each other again now that the stale air has been dispelled.

I took a taxi up Central Park West the other night, and at every block, a small colony of neighbors from the buildings nearby had settled under the trees and on the benches in the park. The temperature was in the mid-60's, and the sky in the west was breaking up in a way that was part Remington and part Turner. A pair of schoolgirls playfully slapped each other on a bench while the boy next to them stared at his cellphone. The light from the streetlamps drifted down upon them.

This is a city of stone and metal, but it's softened by the fact that we live in a world of probabilities, not certainties. When the hot weather squelches us, and New Jersey disappears in the brown fug, it's easy to become grateful for the simple fact that the earth revolves, setting up currents that will eventually blow this stuff away.

Of course, the long, cool nights will blow away too, much as we would like them to linger. And when they do, we will wake to a different city yet again.

A fond farewell this third late evening in a row. Sleep awaits. Zzzzzzzzz.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

more pomp, more circumstance

The second nephew this year is now a high school graduate. Tonight, Ted's oldest nephew, Geno, had his ceremony. I've only known Geno for seven of his 18 years. He, too, is a good egg. Level-headed and thoughtful, he has endured hardships few of his peers have faced. Last year, his father, Bob, had a terrible accident which left him paralyzed from the shoulders down. Geno wasted no time stepping up to the plate to do anything that needed to be done for his Mom and the rest of the family.

Our big fear at the time was that Geno would defer his own dreams to help his family indefinitely. That was allayed when, during his senior year, he began his own wood-chopping and delivery business. He worked hard enough to earn the money to buy a truck. And he seems to be well on his way to entrepreneurship, much like Bob who, despite a life-changing injury, has not only resumed management of his business, but has started a second one.

Geno's 2005 senior portrait
(with emblazoned name, just in case
we forget who he is)

Geno and Jess, Junior Prom 2004

I have a picture of Geno and Jess at the Senior Prom, too, but it is printed (how positively 20th century), and I'm too lazy to scan it this late at night. Perhaps I'll add it later.

Congrats, Geno!

graduations of all sorts

If the last posting was a bit vague, apologies for the confusion. Ethel Merman couldn't possibly have killed a television: her spirit is far too benevolent a force (she's been dead for more than 20 years, which would also make it difficult for her even to wound an appliance). It just happened that the last thing I'd watched on my husband's 54" monster TV was "There's No Business Like Show Business." Later that evening, the sound no longer worked. Ted attributed the death to La Merman's iron lungs.

Through a bizarre series of events (which I shall omit for the sake of brevity), the sound has since returned. See? Ethel only encouraged the TV to take a nice long rest. Nonetheless, the money we earmarked to buy a new TV this weekend is now in an account where it will rest and grow until which time the Big Guy actually kicks the bucket.

While the TV vacation took place, Andrew was being graduated* from high school. The rain -- which drenched Friday and returned Saturday evening -- managed to staunch itself long enough for a dry ceremony. The only real waterworks were from me (and, I suspect, numerous other sentimental relatives). I didn't cry too much, although it was hard to watch three of his classmates stand up to be recognized for going into the military. Especially after the principal spoke of how the class bonded on September 11, 2001 -- mere weeks after starting as Freshmen.

Andrew completed his high school career as a National Honor Society student. He sang the national anthem with a small choir during the ceremony, and he earned two scholarships. He was also a state champion shotputter. He'll spend the summer working like a madman at Sears to make more money for college. He's a good egg, and I'm proud of him (as if I had anything to do with his upbringing).

Andrew (center, with light blue collar) processing to his graduation

In other news of progress with the young ones in my life, Woodle is adapting well. There are still occasional, well, let's call them misunderstandings. But the volume is slowly coming down on those confrontations. He is no longer hiding all day long and just coming out in the evening. He's with us in the morning while we get ready. He's right at the door when we get home. He's even made himself comfortable on our bed -- which has been slightly challenging, given that Milo, Sadie, and Schmoo all have appointed spots there. Is there anything bigger than a king size bed?

My last picture of the night. I was working from home this evening, and Woodle decided to help me. Milo does this on a regular basis, although he's good about spending most of the time on his desktop afghan. Woodle is much more persistent. He sits between me and the keyboard, climbs up my shoulder and stays there for long periods of time, and circles all the equipment (printer, CPU, etc.) to get attention.

I was forced to remove a box of tissues and a stack of mail to make room for him to sit to the left of the keyboard while I worked. Before I did that, I managed to get a picture of him with my make-up mirror. I couldn't capture him actually looking at himself in the magnified side (which he did several times), but this is still a funny picture.

Woodle preens

It's so time for bed. As Tigger says, "ta ta for now!"

* Grammar lesson of the day: "Graduate" is a transitive verb, which means it must have a direct object. Therefore, a person does not graduate; he is graduated (i.e. the school performs the action of the verb upon him).

Friday, June 17, 2005

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

when you wander on the web

My vacation began at 12:00 noon yesterday. Well, actually, it was about 12:45pm before I left my office. And then after I drove home and had lunch, I started working again (from home) at 2:30pm. I had a conference call, launched a post-meeting survey, finalized an attendee list, finished up a few other tasks. So, with the exception of a long lunch, my vacation actually started at about 6:00pm last night.

This morning, despite my intention to sleep in, I arose at 5:30am when Ted left for work. What did I do? I logged onto work and did a little more. I stopped around 8:30am, at which time, my actual vacation commenced.

What a loser I am!

After my burst of work this morning, I proceeded to do precious little. I think some portion of vacation should be about just that, and I succeeded! I watched two movies. One, inspired by my recent car listening (once I start listening to this CD, it's nearly impossible for me to stop), and the other a chance encounter on a movie channel. I can honestly say that Hugh Grant is one of my favorite actors.

I surfed the web a bit and found some interesting things. To wit:

Tomorrow, there is a list of things for me to do. I won't get it all done, but I will do my best to accomplish as much as possible. If motivation alludes me or is fickle, or if I'm somehow able to finish things more quickly than I anticipate, I may well blog again. If I manage to stay focused on my tasks, it will likely be a week or so before I return to this page.

Whatever the case, in the interim, I am posting some pictures that my brother and sister-in-law sent to me. They were included in a long line of email forwards, and thus do not attribute each picture to its photographer. Pity. It would be nice to give credit where credit is due.

Lighting sunset

Mountain blanket

He holds the sun

For more amazing pictures, check out MSNBC's The Week in Pictures. You'll find things like this:

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye. The sun has gone to bed, and so must I. Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

pendulum swings counter

After an initial period during which Woodle hid or retreated, he has discovered (and embraced) his inner alpha.

Woodle, slightly hiding

Milo -- for years the dominant cat in our household -- has been taken to task by the slightly disfigured and considerably smaller Woodle, who now chases him up the stairs and through the house. Now, I've seen all three of our cats run up that staircase, but none of them hit it with the vigor and speed of Woodle. He's like a shot. It's amazing how fast those little legs go!

There has been some unhappy vocalization, with Woodle making a noise at Milo that I can best describe as "spitting." And despite the fact that Milo runs when chased, he is rarely ruffled by Woodle beyond that. Sadie and Schmoo are determined to keep him in line with aggressive hissing and growling, though they make no effort to bat at or chase him. It's the boys who seem to have the biggest rows, which is the opposite of what we thought would occur.

At the moment (as for the past couple hours), I've seen neither hide nor hair of Woodle. Milo, Sadie, and Schmoo are all happily napping in various places around the house. In fact, Sadie is sleeping on the desktop afghan right next to my computer. I think I'll take a picture of her right now with my digital camera, upload it, edit it, and post it here.

Sadie, ten minutes ago

I love technology. In fact, I'm going to take one of Schmoo, too, who is napping on the floor a few feet away. She has commandeered a new blanket we allocated especially for Woodle. But because he hasn't claimed it as his own, both Schmoo and Milo have been test driving it. They find it quite satisfactory.

Schmoo, five minutes ago

Now it's time to start up on the Saturday chores I've thus far neglected. Thankfully, the list is fairly small, so it should be a relaxing day. Sam and Donna join us tonight for dinner (Kirkland Signature chicken bakes) and a game. Tomorrow's wide open. Oh my gosh, a whole day with nothing planned! I'm not sure I'll know what to do with myself.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

august in june

It's been hot and humid here for several days now. But do I worry? No! Why? The joy of central air conditioning.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

loosening up

Woodle is starting to settle in just enough to feel comfortable stretching out. To wit:

I wonder if the catnip on that scratcher had anything to do with his relaxed mood!

Monday, June 06, 2005

the newest member of our family

Last Saturday, our friends arrived with Chester (a.k.a. Woodle), who has officially become the fourth cat in our family.

Woodle arrives

While sweet and lovable, Woodle has been understandably reticent meeting Milo, Sadie, and Schmoo, and tentative about his new surroundings which are quite different (and smaller) than his old ones. He's alternately approached each cat (tentatively, and with a long, high pitched hum that we call the 'Woodle Alarm') and hidden from them. For several hours this morning, we couldn't find him at all. Turns out, he'd hidden under one of the couches.

We feel confident that he will acclimate, and that -- eventually -- all four of them will learn to live in harmony. Until then, we handle each Woodle Alarm individually.

The most recent meeting I was planning at work took place this past Saturday, as well, and it turned out great. Woodle arrived about an hour after I returned home from the meeting, and is a wonderful addition. It's been a productive weekend. I'm tired, but happy.