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Archive for March, 2010

 We are still working on the bedroom remodel, (yes it is going to be a long drawn out process). We  removed some more molding pulled out the TV and TV cabinet, and no it’s not one of those sleek little flat screens,  oh no my friends it is one of those really heavy monster TV’s that is the exact opposite of flat so it has the bonus of being bulky as well as heavy. 

We removed the baseboards and cut a whole in the back of the cabinet to accommodate the socket in the wall and put up the wall paper like stuff to cover the paneling.  Now the wall looks great the TV cabinet sits further back into the corner and flush against the wall so it takes up a little less room and looks fantastic.

Still my wife and I worked as a team with no issues between us. Wait, there was one small issue.  The wallpaper is pre-glued but the glue has to be activated, so you cut a length you want, (in our case 7 ft long and the paper is 18 inches in width) and then run the paper through a trough of water, each part must be in the water for a good 15 seconds.  There are probably a variety of ways to execute this particular task but we have decided the, ‘Aching arms, sore back stretched out ham strings’ method works best for us. 

Allow me to explain, the trough is 18.5 inches long 3 inches in width and 4 inches deep.  So you can only wet 3 inches of wall paper at a time.  We have a bath sized walk in shower so the trough goes on the floor in the shower, my wife gets on one side and holds (at this point the bulk of the wallpaper) I’m on the other side of the trough bent in half placing the leading edge into the trough and we count 1 one thousand, thousand, 2 one thousand, thousand all the way up to 15 one thousand, thousand.  We found if you rush this step your stick ability to the wall is less than great.  Then I pull up the leading edge 3 inches and my wife hunches down in half and holds the next three inches in the trough and begins the count, then I raise the leading edge another three inches and so on for 7 foot length.  It is a slow process and halfway through my arms are getting tired because holding up wet wallpaper is not as easy as it may sound and 15 seconds multiplied by 7 feet is longer then you might expect. It is hard to ignore the pain in the back and thighs that creeps in as you remain in a bent position for an extended length of time.  

So, we are in position and everything is running smooth, we have about 5 feet of the paper good and wet and then it happens, my lovely wife who is still crouched over manages to head-butt the end of the paper I am holding up.  Did I mention that because you don’t want to ‘loose’ the glue you go through the process with the glue side face up in the water, which means that the non glue side is facing me and the glue side is, well you guessed it, facing my wife who now has glue hair.  Okay it may be that my arms were getting tired and I may have allowed a little slack in the paper and it could be the paper met the top of my wife’s head as she was leaning forward just a little. 

The best part is we were able to laugh.

We were able to laugh even though the future of my job is questionable.  We were able to laugh even though this is my wife’s busy season at work and they are understaffed and under a lot of strain.  We were able to laugh even though our room is in total upheaval. We were able to laugh even though this remodel is going to be a long drawn out process. We were able to laugh even though we have a few pets having some medical issues.

We are able to laugh, and there is nobody who I’d rather be laughing with.

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40

40 posts in, what can I say? I’d like to thank my wife, my family, the academy…

Forty is a milestone, I remember turning 40.  I was depressed for about a month and then I snapped out of it, and it was odd because getting older was never a problem for me.  Two days (ish) before my 40th I was walking around downtown on my lunch break and I noticed a sign on the window of an insurance agency which read, “The average lifespan is 84 yrs old, have you had your investment check up?”  I distinctly remember two thoughts, the first being that I’m almost half way finished and what have I done and more importantly where has it all gone?  And my second thought was, “I want a shiny red sports car.”

I didn’t get the car and I really don’t want one, just the thought of having to bend in half to get into one of those fancy little cars makes my bones hurt. As for what have I done with the time and where has it all gone?  I don’t particularly have a good concrete answer but I’m happy and I’m reasonably sure I’ve done more good than bad so does it really matter? An added bonus is that I’ve had 4 birthdays since and none of them have been a problem.

As I peruse through my older posts I can get little snapshots of some of the ways I’ve spent my time of course you can’t measure 40 posts to 44 years. I do worry a little when I’m sitting in front of the computer and I have absolutely nothing to say and the only thing going through my head is,  HOLY CRAP THERE MUST BE MORE THEN THIS? There must be because 40 times now I’ve managed to figure something out.  Now I just have to figure out the next 40.

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I was asked today how I dealt with stress.  My first thought? I just stuff it down till it’s a burning, churning boiling knot in my gut.  While I admit that does happen on occasion it is not my usual method or is it?  I suffer from Crohn’s and when I think about things that are unpleasant my stomach tends to hurt. For the most part I can tell when its a stress related kind of thing because I can usually will the pain away.  If it is something I’ve had to eat or simply the disease roaring its ugly head willing the pain away doesn’t work.

Lately I’ve been undergoing quite a bit of stress.  My stomach doesn’t hurt anymore then it usually does, but my jaw hurts each morning from clenching my teeth.  So how do I deal with stress?  The question alone is stressing me out.

Does blogging help?  I gave myself two rules when I started blogging, first no rants, second no blogging about work. I have failed on both counts, a few of my posts are metaphoric in nature and not only are they rants, they are rants about work.  It is strangely thrilling for me to tell a story from my life and have it ‘secretly’ mean something else.  I guess its true that the best place it hide something is in plain sight.

So, how do I handle stress? I do have a few techniques.

Breathing!

Many moons ago on the way to the hospital an EMT gave me some breathing techniques.  Just getting more oxygen into your lungs does a body good.  Secondly concentrating on the breathing allows you to focus on breathing and not on the pain.  It’s like a magic trick. When I get frustrated over a particular task, or when things start to come at me all at once I just stop, take a few breaths and bring everything into focus and only then do I continue with the task at hand. 

Hope/trust

At some point I just have to take a leap of faith and know that it will all work out.  I am not fond of flying. But I have hope that the pilot really doesn’t want to die either.   So I’ve shifted the responsiblity to the pilot, doesn’t mean we are not going down in flames but it does mean there is nothing I can do about it so why waste my time worrying over it, right?

I do have an underlying faith that one way or another everything is going to work out.  What other choice is there?

 Yes I know, it’s all so much easier said the done, but then again I have to ask, what other choice is there?

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I was in Barnes and Noble where they are heavily advertising ‘The Nook” which if you don’t know is an electronic book. 

I was passing the information desk when I happened to hear the following conversation between Grandmother and Grandaughter (10 or 11 yrs old)

Grandaughter: “What is a nook?”

Grandmother: “Its a quiet little place where you can go to read”

I love technology and we will be getting a Nook but I really identified with Grandma.

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Today we started re-decorating our bedroom.  We are putting a new treatment on the walls its a really thick textured wall paper like product that covers up the existing paneling. Once we get it on the walls we will paint it and it should, in theory look like venetian plaster.  We are also  putting up crown molding and custom book cases.  I thought this project would give me some interesting blogging material.  So far, nada.  Everything is going smooth.  We took down some molding from around the closet door and ceiling and put up some of heavy-duty wall paper-like stuff in one corner of the room.   Even figuring out how to get the stuff around the window went smoothly.

It really sucks when my wife and I don’t argue enough in these ventures for good blogging material, but this is an ongoing project and this was day one, so I’ll keep you posted.

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My last post got me to thinking about good old INS.  I had one unpleasant experience with them, I won’t go into details but lets just say I paid for a travel visa which they never gave me, and they never give money back, it is simply chalked up to a ‘processing fee’.  Eventually I did get a travel visa but that was part of a whole other process. 

I like INS they are a major player in keeping this country as safe as it is from countries that really don’t like the USA.  obviously I don’t know the inner workings but from what I’ve learned and observed  they have incredibly difficult jobs with limited resources (although they do wield a ridiculous amount of power) they seem to do their jobs well and have always been polite and courteous to me.

As in my last post about INS, this post is not really about INS and it’s not about Sequoia, it’s not even about animals.  It’s about stupid people.

To get the full impact I have to guide you through some of the steps involved with going to an INS services building.  You just don’t ‘show up’  You go online with your issue and fill out the proper forms you find out exactly what documentation you will be needing and you hit send.  Then you wait, and when you are done waiting you wait a little more.  Eventually, in the mail you will get a letter telling you exactly when and where your appointment is and a reminder of what documents you will need and how much it is all going to cost. 

For those of you going through this, or may be going through this in the future here is a tip.  Make an INS file and keep up with it, and bring it every time you go to INS,  even though you may have submitted everything, and they acknowledge that they have it, if you get there and they don’t have it you are screwed.  Doesn’t matter why or who, simple fact is if for any reason it’s not in the file it is your problem not theirs.

If you show up at the INS office without the appointment letter you are not getting in the front door.   I’ve been there in the cold and they don’t care.  You wait in a line outside and they walk down the line and ask to see id and the letter.   They let a few people at a time into the front lobby where you empty your pockets take off your jacket and head through the scanners.  No backpacks, strollers, food nothing extra. 

Once inside you hand your letter to the check in person and they hand you a number and point you to the chairs where all the other cattle sit.  And sit is what you do.  So you may have number 17 and they call 15, alright two away you can already smell home but surprise the next number called is 125. WTF? so you go to the little window woman and before you even open your mouth she says,

“Was your number called”

“No but…”

“Please sit in the chairs till your number is called”

“But they called number 15 and….”

“Please Sir, sit down and wait until your number is called”

“but…”

“Sir, we are doing everything we can to move this along, now please sit down and wait for your number to be called”

“Bu…”

“Sir!”  At this time one usually notices at least one the two officer’s  easing over to you from opposite directions with their gun hand resting on the butt of their pistol.  Most people manage to sit down without any further problems, most people.

The thing is,  while they give out the numbers sequentially in order of arrival, each number is then registered with the department  you need to see.  So you may have number 17 you don’t know which department the other numbers are for. The guy holding  15 may be in for green card renewal, but lets say the 17th guy through the door is in for a travel visa and the 125th person through the door is also in for a green card renewal.  Well  they may be done with 15 so that department has a space open now so 125 gets called before 17.   INS doesn’t tell you this, but it doesn’t take long to figure out and when you do its clear as mud.

Keep in mind if an INS agent thinks for any reason that you are a threat of any kind they can make your life miserable, they can make it so deportation is the least of your problems. 

So there I sat counting the ceiling tiles when out of the corner of my eye I noticed a gentleman stand up and walk towards the counter, but no number had been called, collective gasp!  We watched as he made his way to the check in clerk.  unfortunately I have to say this was after 9/11 and this gentleman happen to be from the middle east, complete with turban.  I couldn’t hear what he was saying but I have a pretty good idea as the check in woman said, ‘Sir, please take your seat” he didn’t, instead he started to argue, again I heard the check in woman “Sir take a seat and wait for your number to be called”  Again this guy argued, clearly he was not about to sit down.  I don’t know if he saw the agents approaching,   I don’t know if he saw two more coming through the door with their fingers wrapped around their holstered pistols.  What I do know is that in less than a minute he was quietly being ushered through some heavy doors and nobody involved looked very happy.

So I ask, how stupid do you really need to be?

 

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Because I am not an American citizen my wife and I get to travel to the City of Brotherly love (Philadelphia) to deal with INS (Immigration & Naturalization Services). The positive side of this is I get to stay in the USA legally and even better we have some pretty interesting stories from these adventures that may end up in these pages.

However this story has little to do with INS and everything to do with travelling with a dog, Sequoia to be exact.

On our last trip to Philly we wound up at the Sofital hotel. The Sofital advertises that you can bring two pets of any size with no additional fee. I wanted to bring an elephant but we don’t have one, more importantly my wife said I couldn’t.

We were greeted by a doorman clad in a top hat and tails which normally would mean we were at the wrong hotel. Inside, the Sofital sported marble floors and countertops, mahogany walls, mood lighting from long chandeliers and really comfortable looking deep cushioned chairs. We were in jeans and T-shirts draggin’ our wheelies behind us with a 55 pound husky pulling at her leash. Talk about feeling out-of-place, I was expecting motel 6.

Just as my senses were taking everything in Sequoia let out one of her famous husky howls. Think Call of the Wild, her haunches went down, shoulders came up, muzzle all stretched forward and her nose high in the air. she was definitely channeling her inner wolf, I’m sure the wolves of Yellowstone heard her call. As expected every eye in the place turned towards us. When Sequoia howls she wants is demanding attention. If people don’t come running over to pet her and tell her how beautiful she is she just keeps on howling, which is exactly what she did, and attention is what she got.

Despite all the people coming over to pay proper homage to Sequoia, asking us questions and making the usual remarks, can I pet her? is she a wolf? oooh look one of the snow dogs, was she in the movie Eight Below? I had a pugh once…we managed to make it to the front desk where Sequoia promptly placed her paws on the marble countertop demanding more attention and perhaps a few treats. While I was dying of embarrassment the desk clerks were giving Sequoia cookies for simply being so cute.

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