Saturday, October 22, 2005


Connecticut experienced a long hot summer this year. It started in early June and finished in mid-October, with plenty of swelter and misery in between. Electric bills have been high heading into a fifth month to keep the house cool. Yes, there was the occasional reprieve, but as exception not rule. There hasn't been a frost yet. The result is almost a complete lack of autumn thus far. By the 22nd of October, we should be hurtling toward (if not entrenched in) peak foliage, but things are barely starting to change.

The harbingers of autumn began turning in mid-September, and more than a month later, even they are not even in full color. The heavy rain of the past two weeks has beaten other tree bits off, mostly pine needles and dead leaves from the weak trees. Everything else is holding on for dear life.

Temperatures have started to drop recently, and the transformation should speed up now. But I wonder if it will just be a mass exodus with leaves turning, dying, and falling in an abbreviated period of time. There are predictions that the upcoming winter is going to be very cold and snowy.

I fear the autumn will be lost.

Christmas is only two months away, and I'm way into it. There are still a few gifts we need to get, and I'm finishing up the stocking contents. I've started our annual holiday newsletter, and have even allowed myself to listen to a few Christmas songs on my iPod. It would be nice to prepare on chilly autumn days where shopping trips are punctuated by crisp fall air and drives down winding roads lined with vividly colored trees. I may have to deal with a different reality and adapt accordingly. But I'll miss autumn.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

i got a new toy, oh-ay-oh

Behold, the Boom Box. Our newest toy, it is Blue Onyx Pearl, although it really has to be a fairly sunny day to see that it's not black. A Toyota enthusiast from the time of my first new car, I am excited to get back into one (although the Honda was a fine vehicle!). In the first few days, I discovered a phenomenon.* People love this car!

We parked it at Costco one evening to do our weekly shopping and have dinner at Cafe 150. When we came out, there a family of three walking around it and talking about it ("it looks like it's from a foreign country," she said, to which I had to stop myself from saying, "it is from a foreign country -- Japan!"). We chatted with them a bit, and decided that the foreign country it looked to be from was actually England, and they thought it looked like a British cab. The other curious observation was that there were foreheadprints on each of the windows. Apparently, while we were shopping, someone was trying to see in (it has tinted windows). Too funny.

I have also encountered several fellow xB drivers on the road who cheerily wave at me when we pass. This reminds me of my youth, when other friendly folk waved at us in our Volkswagen bus just because they were in one, too.

It's a fairly straightforward car. Cool standard features like power doors and power locks, but a few luxuries missing (cruise control being the big one). The leg room is tremendous, even in the back seat, although cargo space in the back was clearly sacrificed to get it. It doesn't help that the Bazooka subwoofer in there is actually mounted about a third of way into the middle instead of flush against one side or the other. Not a huge deal, as the seats easily fold down and provide lots of cargo space.

It's a great little car. Shifts nice (yes, I still drive a stick) and has more pep than it should with such a small engine. The gas mileage is better than the Honda (although not yet as good as I've been told by other xB owners), and the insurance is a mere $6 per month more than the Honda. I'm very happy with it.

* Every time my husband hears the word "phenomenon" (or its derivitives), he immediately sings "doot-dooooot-doo-doo-doot" a la the song Mana Mana from the Muppets. Now I can't even write the word without thinking about the doots.


Seeing as I was unable to add as many pictures as I'd hoped to the last post, I'm creating a new one specifically for the cats. Not that I've neglected them in previous posts: they're all well represented here. But these are new pictures. You know, because cats change so much. ::wink::

Above, Schmoo (left) and Sadie (right) relaxing together. As mentioned yesterday, this is major progress for Sadie who, heretofore, has been less than happy about hanging out with anyone except Milo. I'm not sure why she'd wedged herself in between Schmoo's favorite lamb's wool blanket and the wall, but I'm glad she didn't feel cornered when Schmoo showed up.

To the right, Milo (top) and Woodle (bottom) having a nap on the Canadian glider, which we call The Throne. This is a very popular chair with everyone except Sadie. In fact, no humans actually sit in this chair anymore. They could, but at risk of the squashed top cushion and a ton of cat hair on that somewhat disheveled afghan.

Somewhere along the line, the cats came to realize that they didn't have to find other napping spots just because one cat was on the chair. So now, they double up. There's also a gliding ottoman, which also frequently gets use.

I never really imagined a four-cat house, but we're managing very well. On a regular basis, all four cats will now lounge in a single room. Once in a while, it's the bedroom. More frequently, it's the office. The best spot is the downstairs living room, as it's a big room with lots of kitty sleeping spots.

Off to work.

Monday, October 17, 2005

photos return

In hopes of getting my new computer up and running in July, I uninstalled numerous applications and such from my "old" computer, including my photo software. Now that it's October, and I'm still struggling to get the new computer functional, I've decided to reinstall a few things on the old one. My photo capability has returned.

And now for the slide show!

First, Caitlin on the first day of release for the new Harry Potter book. As you can see, she was excited at the prospect of greeting the postal carrier (who was mildly frightened but didn't run away) in full wizard regalia. Somehow, the little black-rimmed HP glasses were lost, and I never knew that wizards went barefoot, but otherwise her ensemble was nearly color coordinated with the book's jacket. Note Caitlin's high regard for the rest of the mail.

That same day, she introduced us to the newest member of their animal clan, Roxy. A beautiful and amazingly loud bird, Roxy is actually just being fostered by Cait's family until the shelter can find a good home for her. She looks sweet enough here, but shortly after this photo was taken, she climbed up Ted's arm and proceeded to attack his head! Needless to say, we have no more pictures of Roxy.

Despite being in New Hampshire several times this summer, we have remarkably few pictures. We'll do our best to rectify that situation in the time between now and the New Year. Meanwhile, we managed to visit our friends, Allison and Paige a few weeks back. Allison was amazed by Paige's swing ability, including her energetic dismounts (of which, no photos are posted here because the speed was so great, Paige was merely a blur).

Then there are the cats. You know, I don't think I'm a crazy cat lady, but with four running around, all indications to the contrary. There's Milo. Eldest male and ever reliable, Milo spends nearly equal amounts of time with Sadie, Schmoo, and Woodle, alternately bathing their heads, pushing them off their sleeping spot, or chasing them. Such a good big brother. Sadie tries to maintain the integrity of her personal space, although it's often just not possible. She has, therefore, mastered the art of not hissing or growling when any cat other than Milo (who she loves) comes within 10 feet of her. This is major progress for Sadie!

Schmoo is still glad simply to be inside, even though it's been four years since we rescued her. She tolerates everything from everyone and just purrs and sleeps and acts cute. And Woodle is completely integrated into the fold now. He still loves to play (he's way more energetic than Milo, Sadie and Schmoo ever were). The difference is now his playmates understand that he's playing. All in all, a happy cat home.

Now, Picasa isn't letting me put in four individual pictures, so I guess I'll have to settle for one picture with all four cats in it. This is a first-of-its-kind! Unfortunately, it's not the best quality in the world, but it will have to suffice for now.

Oh poop, now it's not even letting me put in one more picture. I'll try again later.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

the things that can't be seen

I have a cold. Big deal, right? Everyone gets colds. The drag for me is that a bout with EBV about nine years ago permanently damaged my immune system, resulting in the ability of this little cold germ to hang on for months. If the past eight winters are any indication, chances are I'll be blowing my nose until about April.

Here's a fun Kelly factoid. In 2001, a local grocery store was going out of business. In the process of clearing out the inventory, 3-packs of my favorite tissues were sold for a ridiculously low price. Ever the bargain shopper and deserving of my husband's nickname for me, "Boogie Girl" (which has nothing to do with dancing), I proceeded to purchase every single one -- 108 full-size boxes in all. Several shelves on our storage rack in the garage were dedicated to housing them, and it was the kind of year for me that required regular restocking trips to that rack. Although it was interesting and even a little fun not to have to buy tissues for almost a year, when we did the numbers, we realized that I was going through one family-size box of tissues about every three days.

So, am I doomed to another winter of a constantly uncooperative nose? Or might I be able to shake it in the standard 1-2 weeks?

I need to just pipe down about the itty-bitty inconvenience of a cold that could possibly last six months. As I've said before, if [insert_current_issue_here] is the biggest thing I have to worry about in my life, then I am spectacularly blessed. Still, it's too easy to get caught up in personal minutiae. Since Times Square's Waterford crystal ball descended into the year 2005, life has been particularly challenging for me. A couple months into it, conversations with family, friends, and co-workers uncovered the fact that I was not alone in having a challenging year. With this kind of concurrence, I usually attribute it to the alignment of the stars. Makes as much sense as any other explanation.

Now tsunamis, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, mudslides, drought, the melting ice cap, avian flu, and other various natural disasters seem to indicate that, in fact, the universe itself is having a challenging year. Maybe it really is astronomical. Maybe it's all just cyclical. Maybe there's some greater force behind it all -- hidden to those of us who either experience the pain or witness it.

A few months ago, Ted and I visited a small town in New Hampshire we'd never been to before. It wasn't just a town we happened to drive through, it was our destination. We admired it for the pretty trees and lake, the one-intersection downtown, and the lovely quiet. Last week, in the midst of a long, rainy spell in New England, that town was all over the national news because its lake overflowed, the dam broke, the whole town became submerged in water, and numerous houses literally floated away. Every byline on every story about the weather in New England was from this town. We had nothing to do with that town before our visit, but somehow this disaster feels personal. Our thoughts and prayers are with the residents of Alstead.

Ick. Too much ick this year. I have to go to bed. NyQuil, Vicks VapoRub Cream, and a box of tissues await me.

Real post time 1:17am. No mariachi band tonight. Downright quiet, short of my coughing outbursts.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

the race to adulthood

Once again referring to the list I created when I decided to stop blathering on about the complexities of my life, I'm back to write about one of the topics -- the speed at which my nieces and nephews are growing up.

I'm one of those people who scratches her head wondering how it's possible to be this close to 40 years of age, when I honestly -- genuinely -- don't feel a day over 23. I still listen to brand-spanking-new alternative and indie music. I just bought a car that is not only desirable to teenagers and college students, but is actually marketed to them (and I tricked it out with a $1200 stereo, including a kick-ass subwoofer). I like change. In fact, I not only embrace change, I create it on a regular basis.

Sure, there are hints that I'm not so young any more. Silver hairs ('grey' is such a dull word), creaky bones (rheumatoid arthritis caused by chronic EBV), seven moves in three states (Maine, Washington, and Connecticut), a few newly acquired food intolerances (what could possibly be wrong with eating blueberries?). But I don't feel like a full-fledged grown-up. Maybe it's because I'm not a mother.

That's a story for another day.

So, my nieces and nephews (nine of them, ranging in age from almost-8 to just-turned-19) have been a central part of my life since the first one, Andrew, was born in 1986. They are a big part of the reason I moved back to New England after my 8½ year stint in Seattle (and one of the very few things that could convince me to leave a place I love as much as I love Seattle). I adore them. And if any of them are reading this, don't get a big head about it, you! ;-)

Christmas shopping is a year-long process for me. If I see something that one of the kids will like (in addition to my nine, there are five other kids we buy for), I pick it up and put it into a big plastic container for safe-keeping. The first container is usually full by about June: this year, it was January (my Hawaii trip netted many gifts). By August, Costco (a treasure to any Christmas shopper) begins carrying great gift-type items, and the real shopping begins. As of today, we have five 40-quart storage containers brimming with presents, with a few too-large items stacked on top. Each year, I create an Excel workbook with four pages (family and friends, kids' stockings, work, and pets) to track spending and understand what's left to be bought. I know. It's a sickness.

So, how does all this relate to my nieces' and nephews' race toward adulthood? There are so many great little kid toys that I love, but very few of my kids are little enough to enjoy these types of toys anymore. Thankfully, the three youngest of my non-related kid friends are 5, 4, and 1, so I can still indulge in Playskool and Lego. But for my own rapidly-maturing kid kin, primary colored plastic and gigantic soft fuzzy are out.

Still. There's some great stuff in the containers this year. The content for the stockings is definitely the best yet (although last year's unique Australian contents [coins and candies] were pretty cool). The reality is that gifts for a teenager can be just as innovative and fun as those for toddler.

OK, enough on this topic. Will I continue to reference this list? I veered off course for a bit to address serious topics like hurricanes and frustrating ones like my sucky-ass emachines computer. Perhaps, I can actually pull myself back on track. Or maybe it's just dumb luck.

Real post time 1:47am. And despite the late hour, there is a party going on next door with very loud mariachi music and a crowd of people singing very loudly (and off-key) to it.

Monday, October 03, 2005

emachines sucks rotten eggs

Do I sound bitter? I have owned four emachines computers over the past decade. Until this one, I've been perfectly happy with them. In fact, I've convinced family and friends to buy them. I'm the freakin' emachines chamber of commerce. So, I've been patient through this process. Well, mostly patient. But now, my patience is exhausted.

The second set of recovery disks finally arrived, and didn't work any better than the first set. Technician Karen tried all the same things that Amber, Elvis, Mary, Jody, John, Monica, Linnay, Theresa, and Walter tried. She concluded that something must be wrong with the hard drive, so I should pack up the machine and send it back again.

Customer Kelly politely refused.

I asked to speak to a supervisor (again). (Again) I got Supervisor JT. I told him that this was the end of the line for technical support, and I wanted either a new machine or a refund. Supervisor JT politely refused. He said I could either send the machine back to them, or take it back to the store to see what (if anything) they would do for me.

I might have graciously accepted this option were it not for one comment by Supervisor JT. When I expressed my concern that the store would not do anything because of the length of time since I purchased the machine, and further expressed my frustration that emachines has been (slowly, ineffectively) attempting to fix this problem since July (and, oh by the way, it's now October), his response was simple:

"We have been providing you with solutions all along, ma'am. They're just not the solutions that you want."


I almost laughed at that. Until that point, I was being respectful of the fact that it's not the fault of the technicians or supervisors that this is happening. That said, it is their responsibility to ensure that I, as the customer, receive appropriate service. So, dear Supervisor JT, I must point out that, by definition, solutions should solve problems, and none of yours have done that. I asked to be further elevated, and he said that there was nowhere further to be elevated.

So, I recruited my niece (who works at the store where I bought the machine) to find out the policy there for returning computers under these circumstances, and we will drive our patooties 400 miles to bring it back. Meanwhile, I will write a letter to Mike Zimmerman, emachines' Senior Vice President of Customer Care and Quality Assurance, and give him all the bloody details of this encounter. Maybe I'll include an itemized bill for the long distance calls and the gas required to get to the point where I should have been on July 16th.