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Archive for February, 2010

Tracking Winter

Yesterday morning, I was taking a card out to the mailbox and I was struck by how quiet the neighborhood was.  It’s as if, with the snow and the cold, people stay bottled up in their houses, only leaving through necessity.  But, as I was walking back, I suddenly became aware of all kinds of tracks, evidence that the night had been very, very busy.  Right in front of my house, I saw the tracks below . The  deep ones are deer and I think the tiny ones on the right are rabbit.  See the one on the far left, with the claws?  It’s times like this I wish I was a naturalist.  But I’m gonna guess those are raccoon tracks.

Then I started looking around more closely. It looks like the deer were attracted to the vines around my porch rails.

And, in the vast expanse of ground to the right of my townhouse, I saw these interesting tracks, which resemble a partially-opened zipper.

I had more pictures of tracks, but as I was writing this post, I looked up and, through my window, saw two deer emerging from the woods out back!  I dropped everything, grabbed my camera and ran out the front door.  Here’s one guy debating whether or not to cross the street.

While I was watching them, I saw the smaller of the two look up at me.  I whispered, “Come on!  Just come a little closer!”  Well, guess what? 

He did!

I don’t know about you, but the wonder of this magnificent creation of God just about made my day!

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Thursday Rants…

My daddy often used to say “It’s a great world if you don’t weaken!”  Now that’s a good optimistic viewpoint, but, honestly, sometimes when you’re surrounded by idiots, it’s hard to stay strong.

First of all, there are the damned phone menus. Some are worse than others, and I think I got entangled in one of the worse today.  I was just trying to call my health insurance customer service number to find out if routine eye exams were covered.  I dialed the number and a syrupy cheerful voice said, “Hello!  In order to direct your call more efficiently, we need to get some information from you!  Who is calling?  Say ‘customer’ if you are a customer and ‘health care provider’ if you are a health care provider.”  Do you know how stupid that makes you feel, sitting in your kitchen and chirping “customer” on cue? She then wants your membership number, your social security number and your phone number.  And, heaven help you if you don’t respond clearly.  Then you’ll get, “I’m sorry.  I didn’t understand.  Could you please repeat that?”  Ah, come on!  How “sorry” can she be?  She’s a fricking computer, for heavens sakes! Then you get the list.  “Please repeat the number of the service you are seeking.”  And then she proceeds to list about twelve things, none of which describe exactly why you’re calling.  I read somewhere that if you just start yelling, “Associate,” it will often get you to a human being.  I tried that and, glory hallelujah, it worked!  But by then I had already lost ten minutes of my life in “phone menu limbo.”  And of course, she directed me to two different numbers and I was exposed to the very same hell.  Another company I deal with has a recorded voice of a girl who sounds like she’s in the middle of a party.  She says everything like some rah-rah Suzie Cheerleader and it makes me want to smack her right in the kisser! What’s wrong with human customer service?

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Second, there’s the tendency by government and everyone else to want to run our lives! It’s bad enough that Michelle Obama wants millions of dollars so that she can tell parents and schools what they should feed their little darlings and how their gym classes should be conducted.  Now we’ve got the American Academy of Pediatrics demanding warning labels on foods that toddlers could choke on, specifically hot dogs!  Hello?  Do you honestly think that if a parent is neglectful enough to pop a hotdog in a toddler’s mouth and then ignore them, that they will take the time to read a warning label? That is, if they can even read?  Does that mean there should be labels on everything that could choke a child, from marbles to Bic lighters?  Give me a break!  You can’t legislate common sense.  Just let people live their lives!  The ignorant we shall always have with us.

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And finally, I’m getting royally sick and tired of this. Those piles of snow were shoveled off the driveway personally, by me.

And this wasn’t just soft fluffy “play snow.”  Here is a close up of one of my side piles.

Those big lumps are like mini-icebergs!  I had to crack the ice to get them up.  Such fun.  Such a lovely way to spend a morning!  But, you know what?  I did a great job.  And you know why?  Because of my super special magical “snow shoveling boots!” Good thing I have them!

Let’s just pray I don’t need them too many more times.  I’d hate to have to watch myself go slowly insane!

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Chilling Out…Really!

One of the things I’m working on is trying to learn how to relax.  Yeah, I know that sounds odd, but it’s true.  Before I took early retirement, my retired friend, Kay, told me, “Star, you’re going to have to learn how to take it easy.”  I looked at her, amazed, and said, “I KNOW had to take it easy!”  She then proceeded to tell me how I was always in motion and how she didn’t think I could learn how to be lazy if I tried.  She said that she, on the other hand, had the opposite problem.  At the time I thought she was crazy, but I don’t now.

I have always lived by the motto “get everything you need to get done, done, and then you can just sit back and relax.”  I’ve never been a procrastinator.  I feel that if there is work to be done, ignoring it won’t make it go away.  And I DO feel better relaxing when everything’s in order.  So, am I a Type-A personality?  A perfectionist?  Probably I’m a little of both, but lately I’ve decided that’s not necessarily a good thing.

If we have a snowstorm, I’m always wondering when I can get out there and shovel the driveway.  If I get settled down, all cozy to read, I’ll remember something I needed to do, and pop right back up again.  If I get caught up in a good book or movie for hours, then I feel a little guilty because I didn’t accomplish much that day.  But, darn it!  It’s time for me to let up a little on myself!  So what if I spend an entire day just doing “fun” things?  Life is short, and I intend to start enjoying it more!

As I’m writing this, a couple of days before publication, it’s snowing like gangbusters outside and the forecasters have told us to be prepared for rain, freezing rain, sleet and more snow.  The driveway has disappeared from sight, as have the streets.  This is normally a nightmare scenario for me, but not now.  I don’t have anywhere I have to be.  I don’t have anything I have to do right this minute.  There’s no point in me running outside to shovel while this stuff is still coming down.  Nope, I’m going to chill.  Really chill.

I have a nice hot cup of tea and Michael Crichton’s last book Pirate Latitudes, on my Kindle.  This was a manuscript that was found in one of his drawers after his death, so it will be the last thing I read by him.  So I intend to enter the world of bloodthirsty pirates and just forget the snow.  Then, this afternoon I’ll watch a couple of shows I recorded the past week, “The Mentalist” and “The Deep End,” which are both programs I enjoy.  I seriously doubt if I’ll do one thing that could be described as “work.”

After all, this “being lazy” thing is going to take a lot of practice!  But, I’m going to do my best to make Kay proud!

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A Neat Wallpaper Thingy!

I am definitely a Mac person.  I started in the computer world with Windows, but once my company made the switch to Apples, I was a true believer and Macs are all I own now.  To me, they’re so much more user-friendly than Windows that I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want a Mac once they’ve tried one.  But that’s neither here nor there.  There is one little thing about my Mac that annoyed me and that was the ability to put the time at the top of the screen, but not the date.  Oh, they make widgets that show calendars and I have one, but I wanted something easier and quicker to see.

That’s when I discovered “wallpaper clocks” from Vlad Studio, the brilliant Russian designer who also designed the header to this blog.  In addition to creating regular wallpaper designs, he also offers wallpaper that includes the date and time right in the picture!  I’ve been using them for a couple of days now, and I really like the idea.  First you have to download a clock application and he has one for Macs and Windows.  Once you’ve done that, you’re free to browse the wallpaper clock designs and there are over one hundred!  Some are just for registered users, but he generously offers enough free downloads to satisfy anyone.  Here’s one of the one’s I’ve downloaded to give you an idea.  As you can see, the date and time are always there (as long as you’re connected to the Internet.)

He has everything from sophisticated artwork to fun whimsical styles, like these birds.

Or these friends…

One of my personal favorites is one he calls “the letter eater.”

Well, you get the idea.  I find these so interesting that I put up a new one every day.  So, if the snow or the world in general is starting to get to you, do something fun!  Go to Vlad Studio and download yourself some wallpaper clocks!  Or, if you’re not into that idea, he also has plenty of wonderful plain wallpaper, too.  Life’s short.  Why not make it silly, too?

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Yes, Boys and Girls, it’s time once again for that “marvel of minutiae” known as “Star’s Bits & Pieces,” wherein I upload into your consciousness all of the stuff  that I want to get out of mine.  Lucky you!

First of all, despite the cabin fever and the yo-yo weather, I feel that things are looking up.  On Wednesday I received my state Income Tax Refund and I should be getting my federal today!  I’m upbeat because I made the executive decision that although the federal will be going straight into savings, the state is earmarked for me, me, me!!!! I’m always so “good” about saving, but Lord knows, I’m about due for some treats!  Doncha think?

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I went back to the new doctor on Tuesday for some medicine refills.  I wrote some time ago about how, when I went to him for a physical, he never looked me in the eye or called me by name.  The only reason I returned was because I figured it would be a quick Mickey Mouse type visit.  Well!  When he walked into the examining room, I was sitting there reading my Kindle and I thought he’d have a fi-fi fit!  He was uber-interested.  His wife has a Sony e-book reader, but, as I showed him the features, I think he was pretty much won over by the Kindle.  From there on, things went considerably easier.  He talked TO me rather than over my head.  I even jokingly asked him at one point, “You do know my name, don’t you?”  He said, “Of course!  You have the same name as my wife.  Didn’t I tell you that last time?”  I said, “No, I think last time you thought I was a manikin!”  He laughed, and from then on actually acted like a human being.  Will wonders never cease?”

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You may recall that during the last big snowfall, I created my “Little Miles” by the side of the driveway?   He was such a sweet little guy.

Unfortunately, he apparently got into a snowman fight with some wandering snowman and came out a mere shadow of his former self!

You’ll notice he has but one eye left.  I asked him what happened before I noticed that he couldn’t answer because he had lost his mouth, too!   (That’s that black thing at the bottom of his body.) Oh well, “from snow he came, and to snow he shall return.”

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And finally, last Christmas I got a great deal at Blockbuster Video on some previously viewed DVD’s.  Among them was the whole first season of the HBO series, “Six Feet Under.”  It’s the story of a family who lives in and runs a funeral home called Fisher and Sons.  Each episode starts with someone dying and being brought to the funeral home, but most of the story centers around the members of the family.  It stars Peter Krause,  Michael C. Hall (who stars in “Dexter,”) Francis Conroy, Lauren Ambrose, Freddy Rodriquez, Matthew St. Patrick and Rachel Griffiths (who plays Sarah in “Brothers and Sisters.”) When I finished it, I was hooked!  This happened to me with the series “Deadwood,” too.  Once you enter these special worlds, you just don’t want to leave.  So, I hit eBay, looking for The Complete Series which includes 63 episodes on 24 discs, eight behind-the-scenes featurettes, 25 audio commentaries, deleted scenes, and “Six Feet Under: In Memoriam” commemorative book – in other words, all five seasons of the show.  I’m high bidder in one auction right now, but with eBay, that can change hourly.  Fortunately, there are many, many people selling it, so I intend to bid until I win one.  Right now I’m the “‘Six Feet Under’ DVD Stalker!”  Wish me luck!

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Well, until next time, stay warm and stay safe!

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I’m having quite a bit  of trouble lately loving myself.  You see,  I have a Significant Birthday coming up the first week of March, and while other “milestones” haven’t affected me much, this one seems to have sucked all the self-esteem out of my soul.  Usually at such times I can kick my own butt (a feat requiring some acrobatic skill,) and get myself back to normal, but not this time.

Oh, I know that we all grow older.  It’s unavoidable.  But I think there’s a general tendency among people to always think of “old” as people in the decade ahead of us.

But lately, it’s like age is a rambunctious terrier which has taken me in its teeth and is shaking me back and forth until I drop to the ground as a boneless lump of nothing.

This isn’t like me.  I’ve always been energetic and young at heart.  Unfortunately, my heart isn’t the first thing people see.  Now it’s not like I’ve let myself go and turned into a total wreck.  I’m not at the point where I scare little children on the street.  But it’s the damned little things.  I mentioned in an earlier post how one of my eyelids is slowly being covered by a drooping brow.  It doesn’t affect my vision or anything.  It’s just one more little sign I see every day.  It’s those laugh lines that never went away.  It’s the places on my hands where little veins break, causing a dark spot that takes forever to heal.  It’s a right knee that locks up if I hold it in one position for too long.  Good grief!  I beginning to feel like a Raggedy Ann doll that has been played with too roughly and too long!  But it’s not just the physical things.  As a matter of fact, I’m remarkable healthy, and for that I’m grateful.

I think this upcoming birthday has me reflecting on the losses in my life – the sister who betrayed my trust, the friends who didn’t feel I was worth the effort, and the dreams which will never come true.  When I always pictured me at this upcoming age, I pictured a much happier scenario.  But life is what it is.

Just the other morning, I woke up and looked at myself in the mirror without make-up and you know what I saw?  Flickers of my father when he was an old man – something in the jaw and the eyes.

I’ve always been able to present myself to the word in a way that was, if not optimum, at least acceptable to myself.  But that’s becoming harder and harder.  My friend, Dee, told me at lunch the other day that she doesn’t see it.  But isn’t that what true, blue friends are all about?

I know I have to learn to accept this “new me,” before I turn into Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, who was always the whining pessimist.  And, by God I will!   As of today I’m going to work on devising a strategy to stop hating myself so much.  So I’m not the cute young thing anymore.  I’m still me inside and I try hard to be a good person and an even better friend.  I have to learn to embrace myself as I am.  And, if I’m successful, maybe I really will have something to celebrate on March 3rd!

Wish me luck?

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Kindle Love…

Well, my little Kindle and I have been together for over a month now and I find myself growing more and more in love with it.  It amazes me that someone like me, who loved paper books so well, could have made such a complete adjustment to an electronic book reader so quickly, but I have!

First off, in the past I almost always read hard cover books, as my chock-full “library room” will attest.  And a lot of those books had quite a heft to them!  But Kindy (okay, so I named my Kindle!) is so light and easy to take anywhere.  You can slip it in a purse or a book bag and hardly know it’s there.

When I read in bed, I used to have “nod off moments” when I’d wake up to the book falling out of my hands or worse, falling off the bed.  Then there was the problem of leafing through pages trying to find my place once again.  I prop my Kindle on a pillow on my stomach and, if I go to sleep, it eventually does, too.  But, and here’s the good part, when I wake it up, it will be on the very page where I left off!  You can’t lose your place!  That’s so cool.

My friend Charles told me he has read criticisms of the Kindle, namely that it’s not touch screen enabled and doesn’t show color.  As far as I’m concerned, I don’t WANT it to be touch screen enabled!  I want my screen to be clean and not messed up by fingerprints.  Turning the page of the Kindle simply requires pressing a button on the side (and there’s one on both sides.)  Nothing could be easier or more convenient.  You can hold this book in one hand and turn the pages with the same hand.  For me, it’s extremely user-friendly.  And, as for color, who needs it?  How many people read novels with color illustrations?  If you were reading children’s books, maybe, but that’s not what it’s really made for.

And, if you finish a book in the doctor’s office, you can go to the Kindle Store, which is right there on your Kindle, and order and download a book within sixty seconds.  What’s not to love?

When I first ordered my Kindle, I also ordered a carrying case to protect it when I took it out.  It looks like this.  Maybe it’s not totally dignified, but it is fun!

After I had spent time with the Kindle and found myself becoming attached, there was nothing for it but to buy her clothes a skin.  Here’s what she looks like now:

Now she’ll stay clean and unscratched!  Okay, okay, I know what you’re probably thinking.  You’re thinking, “Well Star, since you’ve obviously gone ’round the bend on this thing, why don’t you buy it a little bed?  And maybe some shoes?”

And I’d tell you not to be ridiculous!  Shoes!  Kindy doesn’t even have feet!

But a little bed?  Hmmmm, that’s something to think about…

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