Sunday, December 09, 2012

it's holiday time again...

And I'm wishing I could abandon everything and head for Maine.  But I can't.  I have two children who still believe that Christmas is wonderful and lovely, and I need them to still believe that.  I am having my own troubles...  getting grumpy with God again, not understanding whatever stupid crap He allows to happen.  But that's my job.  I'm human.  I'm allowed to have free will and wonder.  And I absolutely plan to have a long-ass conversation with Him about the whys and how-comes once I kick the bucket.  But up to that point, it's pretty much one-sided and my questions only.  Not exactly fair.  However, I don't see events in my life as exactly fair either... so it's once again a crapshoot.

I will do whatever it takes for my family to have a lovely Christmas.

If it's anything like the last couple of years, it will feel like I am taking a bullet.  Hourly.

I need them to be safe and happy.

But I would very much like to be on an island, drink in hand, pretending the calendar doesn't exist for six weeks or so.

Where is that fuckingPowerball when I need it????

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bubble, Bubble, Boil and Trouble...

Dear State of CT,

I realize we're in the hole. Actually, a lot in the hole. And yes, we need to get going on getting out of the hole, so we need more cash.

But seriously? Jacking up the taxes in August, but making them retroactive to January? Who the hell can manage the math for that?

Well, yes, probably most high school Algebra II students. Or maybe Calculus. Whatever, one of those math universes can probably handle this with eyes shut and one arm tied behind. But I don't live there now, and didn't do that well there when I was in high school.

Anyway, given the email that came from the Payroll Supervisor in town today, I am not alone in this misery. Apparently neither the genius squad in the Payroll Dept nor their extremely expensive payroll software system can manage the math either.

And now, with two links to the new tax tables and the new withholding form, we are abandoned to figure this shit out ourselves, and let Payroll know what it should be taking out for taxes.
Yes -- those who are responsible for figuring it out and doing the math have thrown up their hands and said "You figure it out and let us know - then if it's wrong it's not our fault."
How many other people's jobs are like this???? You only have to do it when it's NOT HARD?

Regardless, I did spend 15 minutes figuring it out. I think I have it approximately right. And now I think it will be easier to have the extra cash automatically transferred into my savings account every paycheck and then cut the state a check next February when we do our taxes rather than endure the frustration and bullshit from Payroll as asking them to take out more will not happen in a timely fashion, and frankly will only screw things up more.
And that's guaranteed, just like death and taxes.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

I'm in with the Cybils for 2010!

Very excited -- I made the cut and was asked to be part of the Middle Grade/YA Nonfiction First Round Panel! Our group is asked to read all the nominated books (or at least 50 pages of each -- you're allowed to put it down if it's not worthwhile), argue amongst ourselves, and agree on a short list of titles which is then passed on to the Round Two judges, who have about 3-4 weeks to then decide on a winner.
Here's our list -- ones I have and will be reading shortly are in bold. Hopefully the rest will arrive at some point soon...

Alexis: My True Story of Being Seduced By An Online Predator by Alexis Singer
An Unspeakable Crime: The Prosecution and Persecution of Leo Frank by Elaine Marie Alphin
Basher Basics Math by Simon Basher
Basher Basics Punctuation by Simon Basher
Basher Chemistry by Simon Basher
Basher Planet Earth by Simon Basher
Birmingham Sunday by Larry Dane Brimner
Book of Bad Things: A Sinister Guide to History's Dark Side by Count Droffig
Boys Lie: How Not To Get Played by Belisa Vranich
Bullying and Me: Schoolyard Stories by Ouisie Shapiro
Candy Bomber: The Story fo the Berlin Airlift by Michael O. Tunnell
Captivating, Creative and Unusual History of Comic Books by Jennifer M. Besel
Dark Labyrinths by Michael E. Goodman
Driven: A Photobiography of Henry Ford by Don Mitchell
Fatty Legs: A True Story by Christy Jordan Fenton
FDR's Alphabet Soup: New Deal America 1932-1939 by Tonya Bolden
Frederick Douglass by David Adler
Frenemies for Life: Cheetahs and Anatolian Shepherd Dogs by John Becker
Frozen Secrets: Antarctica Revealed by Sally M. Walker
Get Real: What Kind of World Are You Buying? by Mara Rockliff
Girlology's There's Something New About You by Melissa Holmes
Green Careers: You Can Make Money and Save the Planet by Jennifer Power Scott
Hannah: My True Story of Drugs, Cutting and Mental Illness by Hannah Westberg
Here There Be Monsters: The Legendary Kraken and the Giant Squid by H.P. Newquist
Hot X: Algebra Exposed by Danica McKellar
I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali
Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing by Ann Angel
Journey Into the Deep: Discovering New Ocean Creatures by Rebecca Johnson
Kakapo rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot by Sy Montgomery
Lafayette and the American Revolution by Russell Freedman
Legendary journeys: Trains by Philip Steele
Life as a Knight: Interactive History Adventure by Rachael Hanel
Lives of the Pirates: Swashbucklers, Scoundrels by Kathleen Krull
Lost Worlds by John Howe
Magic Treehouse Research Guide #21 Leprechauns and Irish Folklore by Mary Pope Osbourne
Middle School: The Stuff Nobody Tells You by Haley Moss
Mission Explore by The Geography Collective
Navigators: Dinosaurs by David Burnie
Navigators: Oceans and Seas by Margaret Hynes
Navigators: Rainforest by Andrew Langley
Not Your Typical Book About the Environment by Elin Kelsey
Piece by Piece: Stories about Fitting Into Canada by Teresa Toten
Planet Hunter, Geoff Marcy and the Search for Other Earths by Vicky Oransky Wittenstein
Project Seahorse by Pamela S. Turner
Prowling the Seas: exploring the Hidden World of Ocean Predators by Pamela S Turner
Rae: My True Story of Fear, Anxiety and Social Phobia by Chelsea Swigget
Secrets Girls Keep by Carrie Silver Stock
Sir Charlie: Chaplin the Funniest Man in the World by Sid Fleischman
Skywalkers: Mohawk Ironworkers Build the City by David Weitzman
Sparky: The Life and Art of Charles Schultz by Beverly Gherman
Spies of Mississippi: True Story of the Spy Network the Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement by Rick Bowers
Spilling Ink by Ellen Potter
Starting Here: Doing Hard Things Right Where You Are by Alex Harris
The Bat Scientists by Mary Kay Carson
The Book of How
The Book of Why
The Good, the Bad and The Barbie: A Doll's History and Her Impact on Us by Tanya Lee Stone
The Hive Detectives by Lorelee Burns
The Secret Life of a Snowflake by Kenneth Libbrecht
The Secret of the Yellow Death by Suzanne Jurmain
The War to End All Wars: World War I by Russell Freedman
The World Famous Miles City Bucking Horse Sale by Sneed B. Collard III
Theodore Roosevelt for Kids: His Life and Times by Kerrie Logan Hollihan
They Called Themselves the KKK by Susan Campell Bartoletti
Under a Red Sky: Memoir of a Childhood in Communist Romania by Haya Leah Molnar
Versus: Pirates by Richard Platt
Versus: Warriors by Richard Platt
Voodoo in New Orleans by Stephen Person
Watch This Space: Designing, Defending and Sharing Public Spaces by Hadley Dyer
Zodiac Killer: Terror and Mystery by Brenda Haugen

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

didn't see that coming...

Meetings, nonsense, and general busting my ass in the last several weeks... and then I decide today that after getting the monthly report done, I should clean out the extra file drawer in my desk and get it set up to actually hold files. So I start cleaning stuff out and sorting and filing... and I discover amongst the need-to-file items the legal pad from last summer. It's the pad of paper I used to record all of the meds Kathy was on, and when we were supposed to give them to her, and how much she managed to take every day. I took a few minutes to pull myself together at work, and then went to get the kids and get home, have dinner and some apparently normal time with the family before bedtime. And now, kids in bed, I am slamming down the vino and trying very hard to numb myself into not noticing the avalanche of emotional violence that this pad of paper has unleashed. If I drink enough tonight, maybe the nightmares will be quelled temporarily. If not, maybe I will be up early enough to call in sick. I don't know. This brick in my chest is heavy and it hurts. And I don't quite know how to deal with it...
I saw my father-in-law last week. I guilted him into buying winter coats and snow pants for the kids since he bailed on that last year. And the worst part of our conversation was when I said to him " I have to buy Christmas presents for my kids from two dead people this year. I don't ever want to have Christmas or birthdays again, and I know I have to because I have kids. I can't stand what I've lost, but I can't stand thinking that I could inflict that pain on my children. So they are going to get gifts, and I am going to wish I was far away in some isolated cabin on Christmas."
I suck as a parent.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Back home, and still embarassing my mother...

Well, the internet connections were a little squirrelly on our trip, not to mention the kids made a habit of going to bed much later than they usually do, and therefore I didn't get much "alone" time in the evenings as I had thought I would.
Anyway, we're home, it was a good trip, and the kids enjoyed themselves a lot.

Fast forward to today -- when I had decided to try painting the upstairs bathroom as a trial project before tackling the kitchen. So the kids and I jump in the car and head off to Home Depot, where they have those nice little paint sample containers for about $3. We picked some colors, and waited somewhat patiently for the guy at the counter to mix them for us. Just before he finished up, a rather pinch-faced elderly lady walked up to me, asked "Is that your daughter?" (pointing to DQ, and I'm expecting the usual comment about her curly long hair or something like that, as she's been reasonably well-behaved). When I said "Yes", this woman announced loudly, "She should not be wearing THOSE SHOES. (points to DQ's purple Crocs) They'll RUIN her feet. They are terrible, and you didn't even buy her the right size -- they are far too big for her, and IT'S DANGEROUS. And you bought them for your son, too! (now points to The Boy's red Crocs) THEY'LL RUIN his feet too! I read all about them, and DON'T YOU KNOW you should buy them better shoes?" She took a breath, at which point my mental ability to control my mouth lost the tug-o-war with my pissed-offedness, and I looked her straight on and said in the best fuckyou voice I have, "As if those are the only shoes they have! I don't know you, and you don't know me, and this is absolutely none of your business. Do you have children?" She was more than a little shocked, and just nodded, so I finished up with "Then why don't you go harass THEM?" I steered both kids to the other side of the paint counter, where the paint mixing guy was trying hard not to laugh.

And now I get to choose which blue I like better upstairs...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Roadtrip 2010: Day 2

The Holiday Inn Express in Lewisburg/New Columbia was pretty much what I expected for a Holiday Inn -- a few minor issues, but basically fine for a relatively inexpensive hotel. We had a basic breakfast there, packed up and hit the Dunkin Donuts in Lewisburg since the coffee at the hotel as basically what my dad brews... and I was not interested in earning any bonus points this trip for putting up with that.
We got off a pretty obscure exit, and meandered through picturesque winding hills and farm roads. Very few cars were on the road, and we passed as many Amish horse-drawn buggies as we did cars until we got to Penn's Caves. It wasn't crowded, and we bought tickets for the 11:40 cave tour. When they called us, we walked down a steeply curving path to the steps leading down to the cave. The cool air rising from the cave made us glad we'd put our fleeces on, and the kids trotted right down into the shady area where the boat awaited. It was narrow, not much wider than a large canoe, with a narrow bench on each side for sitting. Flat bottomed, it was actually very stable, even with the odd assortment of people in various sizes in our group. There was a small outboard motor at the opposite end, and I decided we'd be among the last to get in, so we'd be furthest from the motor and whatever smells came out of it... a half hour of huffing gasoline fumes isn't my idea of a fun time.

There were lots of good-size trout in the shallow waters of the cave, mostly gathered near the waiting area, so I guess people must drop stuff in there to feed them. The water was very cold -- near freezing according to our guide, and it was that way year round as we were 100 feet underground. The water came from a natural spring, as well as trickling through the limestone rock above us. Once we motored away from the cave entrance, the only lights were the two giant flashlight/spotlights held by our guide, and it was pitch black otherwise. When we came into one of the main caverns, he flipped a switch to light up the area, and we were amazed at the size of the space and the rock formations around us. I learned that Stalactites have a "C" in them since they grow from the ceiling, and Stalagmites have a "G" in them since they grow up from the ground. In Penn's cave, there is a set of matching stalactite/stalagmite formations that are separated by 6 inches. It will be 3,000 years before they meet and grow into one formation (according to our guide!). We saw the soot left from torches and candles from days when explorers had only those sources of light, and we saw how iron leaching through limestone colors certain formations. It was a really interesting geological experience!
Going back through the gift shop, we picked up goodies for the CT cousins, and bought a bag of what looked like dirt. That was actually an activity -- we took it outside, and the kids panned for treasure in the running sluice outside the gift shop. There were semiprecious gemstone chips of all colors for them to find, so it was fun.

We left there, wandered back to the highway, and got off in Bellafonte to go find some lunch. The sigh on the highway said "Historic Victorian downtown area", so off we went. We ended up finding a Dairy Queen in the corner of a lovely old building, so we had lunch and ice cream there. Pressed tin ceilings at least 14 feet high, fancy old fashioned windows and doors, and a cool restored tile floor really gave the place ambience! We took our ice cream outside, found a shady bench, and looked around as we finished eating. It's a lovely place, and if we hadn't been there on a Sunday, probably more of the stores would have been open. There were some funky little shops that would have been cool to poke around in! We left there around 3, and headed off for the long drive of the day to Ohio.
Most of that went well, at least until the backseat denizens simultaneously announced they had to go -- and not the kind of go you want them to do in a gas station bathroom. We were in a very rural area, and getting off at the next exit led us another 4 miles off course to locate the only open gas station around. We bought some junk food as a silent apology for the fumes in their one unisex bathroom...
And then the junk food mania hit about ten miles down the road, and the drive for the next hour was hell. I don't think anyone will ever have to remind me never to feed them that shit ever again. I'm fairly certain there was green smoke coming out my ears and my fangs and claws left marks in the steering wheel.
Arriving in Wadsworth Ohio, we found a basically brand new Holiday Inn Express right off the highway. Right across the road there is an Applebee's where I had one monster size mango margarita with dinner as my treat for surviving the drive. We are happily tucked into a very nice 3rd floor room with two beds and a couch, plus a nice fridge and microwave. The fridge is good because I've got The Boy trained to fill it with our cooler items and use the freezer section to refreeze the water bottles and cold pack. They have a nice breakfast room downstairs, and we'll check out the pool in the morning while we wait for rush hour to disappear. I think we'll leave around 10 or so and head off on the final leg of this side of the trip. Indiana is beckoning... can't wait for the corn and tomatoes, and the smell of the forest on the farm.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Roadtrip 2010: Day 1

Packed up the Tahoe with The Boy and the Drama Queen, and left about 10:30 this morning for the first leg of our road trip to Indiana and back. After getting stuck in traffic on the Tappan Zee bridge (four car pileup in the left lane causing the backup, not very pretty), the rest of the ride was really nice. We stopped just shy of the Pennsylvania line to get lunch (yes, I caved and we went to McDonald's). Next time we do this, there is a scenic overlook about 20 minutes past that stop that would be an awesome place for a picnic lunch. 80 West through Pennsylvania was a nice, easy drive, with lots of wildflowers growing on the wide medians. Tons of Queen Anne's Lace... made me think of childhood days on the farm.
Tech notes: Steve gave me his TomTom to use, but up against the free Mapquest app on my iPhone, I wasn't impressed. I unplugged it after lunch and switched to the Monster cable for my phone, so I could use the Mapquest while playing my ipod tunes through the stereo system. No problem there, and I got an afternoon of Motown classics while the kids were watching Princess Bride and Star Wars.
The kids did very, very well thanks to the dvd player and the goodies they packed in their backpacks. We arrived in New Columbia/Lewisburg around 3ish, where our room wasn't quite ready, so we dumped stuff and hit the pool.
Dinner was at the Country Cupboard -- LOTS of seniors, so it reminded me of all those buffet places we went to with the grandparents growing up, but the food was fresh and good, and definitely a step above the fast food options around. I had the cashew chicken salad, and the kids had chicken and fries and cinnamon applesauce, and after dinner letting them hit the ice cream bar for make your own sundaes was only an extra dollar apiece. Great deal and lots of fun making the softserve sundaes!
Drove around Lewisburg a little after dinner and saw Bucknell University. Really pretty campus... but it's basically right next to the penitentiary. Cross that one off the colleges for the kids list.
Back at the hotel for another round of wear-em-out in the pool, then up to the room for looney tunes movie and bedtime.
Tomorrow we're headed to Penn's Caves in the morning, then on to another Holiday Inn Express just over the Ohio border.