Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 flashes by

January through March: Last winter was awful. We were introduced to the term polar vortex. Very cold temps and unrelenting snow. For almost 3 months, one could not see our street for the permanent snow cover.   I would go twice a week to the Y. Parking was a problem with all the snow drifts. I learned to run on top of snow. We plotted our escape. In February, we visited my brother in the Bay Area. Relative warmth, spring flowers..I ran along the ocean every morning. Pictured above is Montarra Beach. During our time there, we went over the mountain to the sunny side: Palo Alto with Stanford U and its art museum. We also visited Marin County where we were able to get close to falcons having sex. In March, we went for a reunion for Steve's family in NY. They had a cold winter too though not as bad as Michigan did. In Central Park, volleyball players in bare chests were playing amid the snow drifts. Everyone seemed starved for sun. Above is the Lower Manhattan skyline as viewed from the Brooklyn Bridge Park. Steve and I crossed the bridge on foot as the sun went down.

April through June: Spring very slowly came. For my birthday in late April, we went up north. It was still covered in ice (see above). Huge snow drifts blocked our path into Sleeping Bear Dunes. Late April! I began training in earnest for my bike trip. I also began my gardens. Meantime, lots of grandbaby visits. Pictured above are scenes from Mother's and Father's Day when all the grandbabies were together. Happy times.

July through September: These months were especially busy. Lots of time was spent gardening and bicycling. In late June on one of my bike rides, I noticed a house for sale that I wouldn't mind living in (the living room is pictured above). It was on the outskirts of town surrounded by organic farms, a beautiful lot, a wonderful kitchen, living room and dining room. With the lower tax rate, it would be less expensive to live there than here plus it would be a great investment. Unfortunately inspection unearthed many problems plus the sellers and their agent and our agent (since fired) were dishonest and/or incompetent. . We broke the contract. I went ahead with the summer I had previously planned: my week long bike ride up north (Grand Traverse Bay lined with sweet peas early in the morning is pictured above) and then a trip to Washington DC to see Soulmate and then to Maryland to see my best friend from high school. Tessa, looking like an angel above, was baptized in August.
House hunting continued through the summer and fall with me exhibiting absolutely no enthusiasm for it. I'd see houses I liked, not the same ones Steve liked but there was always some impractical aspect to them. I would have preferred to not look until the next year especially as we had the trip to Italy planned (Steve refused to even participate in the planning until 2 days when we were going to leave, he thought it took away from house searching which again, I wanted to put on hold). Allie turned one.

 October: A very busy and fun month. My friend and I had our annual pilgrimage to Grand Rapids for ArtPrize. Josh and I spent a wonderful Sunday together biking the Trail Town Tour going on the many bike trails within 15 miles of his house, beautiful fall colors all around,. I took Tessa apple picking one day with her preschool class. Then our trip to Italy, which Steve while there enjoyed too. We stopped in NYC on our way back. Extra bonus: for 2-3 weeks after returning, I heard nothing about houses until some time in November I found an email suggesting we go to this open house (!@##@! was my thought..I loved my break).

November and December:

I dreaded these months afraid of slipping into the bleak, cold vortex again. Yes I agreed to go to that open house, the jetted tub of which is pictured above. Steve fell in love with the house. It did not wow me like the Moose and Squirrel house plus the taxes will be higher than the Ann Arbor City taxes. Also the house is pricy so I am trying to tell myself that we will be living in our bank account instead of seeing numbers on a page. And presumably the rate of return will be higher. The house is in a good location and seems to have nice gardens. It even has a waterfall. Also no work needs to be done to it. It is in pristine condition. So I agreed to make an offer as the house hunting business had been causing so much tension between us. Due to a rapid explosion of development near our current house, it will be less fun to live here. And many people target our neighborhood as desirable. Most houses disappear within a week (a notable exception sits right across from us but it overpriced and very ugly inside). Everyone shoehorned themselves into our tiny dining room for Thanksgiving. I did not put up the Xmas tree this year due to the move. Early in December, Steve's family came to stay with us. It was fun. Our family get togethers will be so much easier in our new big space. The sellers let us show the family our new digs. We had our annual Moms party earlier in the month. Xmas, last week was at Josh's. Again all the grandbabies were together.

All and all a good year. There was some sadness when my friend from breast cancer yoga died. I will miss my gardens and certain aspects of my neighborhood. We see the grandbabies frequently and I have good visits with my friends. No new grandbabies this year ( we had new ones in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 and then 2013..almost one a year). Maybe next year. I see the Moms as a group at least monthly and the individual moms much more frequently. I have graduated from seeing the oncologist, a good thing. I am still debating whether I want to see the plastic surgeon to deal with my Picasso chest. My inner nag is happy that I was able to run and bike frequently all year and especially this month. In the last 2 months, bad weather has keep me inside for only 2 days. Next week, I can return to the Y. Inner nag does remind me frequently that something needs to be done about my hugeness. And I really, really want to look good for the wedding late May in California. Where will I go this year? Hard to plan when we don't know what is going to happen with our current house. The Michigander will start in Cheybogan going to Bellaire, Indian River, Traverse City, Harbor Springs and Grayling..not necessarily in that order. Its sort of a combination of the last three years but seems to bypass the very tip of Michigan.

Maya (pictured in a photo I took yesterday, my new favorite of her) should be in school full time next year so hopefully Naomi can make some strides into becoming independent. We are all healthy, ear infections, mysterious rashes not withstanding. To my blogging friends, Happy New Year!!!!!


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Shutting down the shrine

Josh's old room: the only room, aside from the bathrooms, where we have not painted. Still has the original wallpaper and wainscoting. The other 3 bedrooms have each been painted at least twice. Still the same trundle bed he has had since he left the crib. The shelves are loaded with sports equipment. Still has his plastic sword over his bed. He used to sleep with his 'weapons'. I did take down the teddy bed frieze I had when he was a toddler.

I put Naomi's trophies up there too

Lots of basketball posters  and craft projects on the shelves
Monday the realtor comes to assess the house and give us advice on what needs to be done. I am not looking forward to this. I painfully remember when we put our last house on the market. The realtor had brutally dismissed my decorating attempts as 'average' ( I had everything redone shortly before we decided the house was too small to live in) when I thought some of the rooms were especially cute.

When Josh left for college, he requested 'his' room be left as it was. It provided him some degree of comfort. I put Naomi's sports stuff in there too but I was not to take anything out. I don't think I will find a buyer willing to keep all his stuff there and give visiting privileges. This week he was to take everything he wanted to his new house (with its huge basement). He did come over today but did not start the clean-up much to my disappointment. He promised to return without Allie later in the week.

Cold today and even colder tomorrow. But as long as the streets are ice-free, I am happy. I can always wear more clothes.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The difficulty in buying foundation

A double cosmos from my garden. I've been saving flower heads from my cosmos and zinnias to grow in my new gardens
I am no make-up expert. I do use makeup as my eyelashes and eyebrows are quite light. I wear lipstick because old age has made my lips very pale. Although I occasionally use a moisturizer on my face (probably should remember to do this more often in the winter), I no longer use foundation. I used to make my face a smooth poreless expanse. But now, I can't see my pores and I suspect anyone near my age can't either so why bother. I suspect my skin didn't really get better with age but this and many other lies I tell myself helpme get through the day.

I used to get this foundation from a Mary Kay lady. It matched perfectly and I got a much paler variety for Shanna. Mary Kay is a pyramid scheme in my book but much more benign than others. It took some convincing my representative that this is all I wanted from her. No I don't  want to  know the 7 steps of beauty involved in washing my face (hint: it involves buying 7 products). She once tricked me into attending a recruiting seminar exploiting our friendship (our sons are good friends)..a recruiting seminar that I had to pay for. At first I was very angry but then listening to the recruiting techniques was very informative. They were highly misleading. When they gave examples of how much you could earn peddling make-up, they would neglect to subtract the cost of the make-up. So if you sold $100 of make-up in a 2 hour party, your earnings would be less than $25 an hour (make-up was marked up 200% and you'd have to buy off the hostess with gifts. I am not sure why she thought I'd make a good recruit given my lack of make-up, social skills, etc. Also she failed to consider that I might have a job that pays way more than almost any of those saleswomen. We went back to our relationship of me buying foundation from her every few months until she left the business. She gave me the phone number of another representative in our neighborhood that I didn't know.

I gave the new lady a call explaining what I wanted from her (foundation, nothing else). She said she'd meet up with me that weekend right across the street (the condo clubhouse where Naomi married) at an event showcasing new Mary Kay products. I could try them for free, no pressure. And then I could buy the foundation I wanted. Run, Sue, run!!! By this time, Naomi was interested in make-up too so I brought her along promising her a free make over.

When we got there, I was immediately greeted by a woman in her most condescending voice ever, congratulating me on having the courage to change my life. There were no make-up demonstrations; it was just a recruiting fair. I never found the woman I was supposed to meet. We left ASAP.

I left puzzled why people think I must need a job peddling make-up. Don't they realize I was a well paid scientist? And when Naomi was first assigned a public health nurse in her pregnancy, the first question I was asked was whether I had been a teen age mom too. Should I dress better? Speak better? Maybe I am not as articulate as I think I am.

There is plenty of foundation to be had elsewhere. I tried to find stuff just as good but never could. Then my old lady far-sightedness kicked in and I couldn't see what I was covering up.

I was reminded of all this by listening to a podcast last night about Wake Up Now!!-a new pyramid scheme targeting people of color. It delved into the recruiting techniques.It seemed mostly to be a religious cult without the mention of God. The WUN! folks don't call themselves a pyramid scheme; they call themselves a networking market opportunity. They do disclose that only 4% of its participants can afford to quit their day job and only 1% make 'six figures' but give participants every reason to believe they can be that 1%. Dream big! Believe in yourself! Distance yourself from negativity! You can do this!!

Some of their recruiting sounded suspiciously like what I was told. I am always amazed  how effective these techniques are. I refuse to participate even in  most established 'networking marketing' as it is just exploiting ones friends for profit. And worse, convincing people to exploit their friends. I have bought candles, baskets, Tupperware, over priced toys, crystal at friends' parties but I always resented it. Of course the powers that be don't view this as exploitation. They sell it as you doing everyone a favor by exposing them to superior goods. My usual excuse not to throw these parties was that I worked full time and had three kids and have hardly any friends. I do have friends but I don't feel like using them.

About a year or two ago, a close friend of Naomi's joined a similar pyramid scheme with a $1000 up front cost (WUN! is free to join but then you need to pay $100/month to continue). She wanted Naomi to join her (only no $1000 lying around for Naomi to do it, this is where I come in). So I listened to this girl's sales spiel. Naomi could be driving Cadillac in just 3 months of work. I left it at this: when her friend was driving a Cadillac in 3 months, we would revisit. But no money until then.  I was never told what product they actually were marketing. Naomi said she never heard about this scheme again. She does know that no new car was purchased.

The days of warmth are over  but at least the roads are dry.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A field of fish

more X-mas lights in my new town

There is an empty lot I pass when I am crossing town. Recently it was full of giant fish sculptures
More unseasonable warmth..yay! If only winter would stay like this. Back to the bike shop yet again to replace the punctured tube. In less than 10 minutes, it was replaced and I was only charged for the new tube itself. I guess he felt sorry for all the times I've come in just to deal with this front wheel. Twice for broken spokes (eventually the whole wheel was replaced with a sturdier version) and 3 times for flats..all on the front wheel. Meanwhile the bike I finally just gave back to Josh I had taken in only once in the 20 years or so I've had it (and rode on it a lot). But over the last 2 days, I was able to bike 20 miles or so. Come Monday, it probably will be too cold to go back out.

Mystery spots: Naomi has been covered in hives for the past 24 hours. She has never shown any sign of allergy to anything nor has she been exposed to anything new that she can think of. It looks like poison ivy but not likely given the time of year. Poison ivy is my nemesis. My last exposure consisted of me merely grabbing a plant (thinking it was a weed) for a second until I recognized what I did. I washed the oil off immediately but 3 days later, I was treated with an itchy rash for 3 weeks all over my body. The physician was no help other than to give her steroids. My current theory: she is reacting to the metal in her various piercings though she has not changed these piercings for at least a year. Or maybe to the dyes in her tattoos although none are new. She did sleep in new sheets without washing the sizing off. Weird co-occurrence. Both Shanna and Oliver had a rash on X-mas day but it quickly went away.

So much that I should be doing.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Christmas Truce

My anniversary lilies are opening up..a symbol of peace
Lilies are my favorite flower. I was told I'd have lots of daylilies and Asiatic lilies at my new place
Naomi sign in progress by street artist

We've been going through old photos lately. This one of Naomi while she was in high school on top of the Empire State building is one of my favorites. She is holding a street artist's rendition of her name that her uncle had just  had made for her
The name is still in her old room. Note twin towers to the left
Recently I read of the Christmas Truce that occurred between British and German soldiers along the front lines in 1914. Most of the time was spent in trenches with just short outbreaks of gunfire. Why were these young men trying to kill each other? They had so much in common. They started sending messages to each other. Maybe they both should be fighting the French instead who both countries had a long history of fighting against? The higher-ups were gone for the holidays. A truce was proposed. Soldiers from both sides entered  the No Mans Land between the fronts to play soccer and exchange gifts. The good feelings generated continued beyond the holidays. They would not shoot soldiers retrieving bodies; they would not shoot at food supply trucks. There were warnings from each side that when the higher-ups returned, fighting would have to be more intense.

Truces were proposed for the following Christmases but by then, they started to have real reasons for enmity. Poison gas had been introduced into the trenches. Unforgiveable losses started to add up.

Could any of this happen today? I think not. War is much dirtier. "Enemies' do not share a culture. How many of you know the difference between the Shia and Sunni branches of Islam?  I know that there is a big enough difference that makes them want to kill each other.

One advantage of the impending move is me wanting to make winter stand still instead of rush by. So much to do. And so far, winter has been mild, in the 40s for today and tomorrow (hopefully my now flat tire can be fixed for me to enjoy it). While our guests were here, Steve went through boxes and boxes of 40+ year old instamatics to find childhood pictures of his family. They were buried amongst lots of faded waterfront photos. I proposed these be discarded and only the family ones be kept. No way, every faded out of focus sunset shot needs to be kept. You can see how much fun this move will be with him unwilling to part with anything. Part of our Xmas presents was a huge supply of moving boxes. Can't wait to put them together and fill them (not!!!).

Remember when Maya was bald? Her 'fro' these days:


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas 2014

lots of presents

Mission impossible: getting 5 kids to look the same way and smile

Tessa is working hard to unwrap her biggest present

Julie's sister

The rocking hippo

The girls are roughly 1.5 years apart. Although Maya is tall, she isn't as tall as she appears here

Merry Christmas!


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