Sunday, May 27, 2012

Heading East

Looks like I'll be heading east again this summer to visit my son. Though I love visiting him and I miss him terribly because he lives so far away, staying in hot hot Quantico for the whole two weeks has no appeal to me whatsoever. If I want to be THAT hot, I can melt outside my own home in my own town's heat and humidity. 

However (if I had a mustache, I'd be twisting it now) I have a plan: He wants to take the kids somewhere fun – hopefully NOT in Virginia. I'd rather go north, far north, than stay in that hot and humid state. One very hot and humid summer day last year, we went to an amusement park in Virginia and I had to jump in the kids' water play area to prevent myself from dying. 

Seems we can never enjoy a perfect temperature. One holiday season we went to New York City and took a horse and carriage ride through Central Park, shivering the whole time. We had fun, but I'd like just once to have really nice weather when I visit him with his kids.

This time, because it's so hot this season, I'd like to visit some place a little further north. Woodbridge, New Jersey, is only about four and a half hours from where my son lives if we go through the New Jersey Turnpike. The kids would enjoy Kids Village, the Children's Museum of Somerset County, or (and this is the one that appeals to me the most) the Crystal Springs Family Aquatic Center in East Brunswick, which is the same distance from his home. 

Central New Jersey offers so many places to visit. If the weather is cooler, we can visit the Bamboo Forest at Rugers Gardens or Carteret Waterfront and Veteran's Park. Keeping the kids occupied won't be a problem. And who knows, maybe we'll run into Bruce Springsteen or Jon Bon Jovi, both New Jersey guys. Or John Travolta strutting to Staying Alive

OK, reality check here – I doubt we'll run into any of them, but because we will be so close to Central New Jersey and because they offer so many attractions, getting out of Virginia greatly appeals to me. And I love those Jersey accents!

As I write this blog, today is the day before Memorial Day. I'd like to wish my Marine son, who has served his country for a decade now, including four tours in Iraq, a Happy Memorial Day. I honor you for your service, and I pray for all those families who, like me, suffered through years of torment, but who, unlike me, don't have a son or daughter to visit. Semper Fi, Greg! I love you!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Help! I'm Being Bombarded With Hot Dogs!

Yesterday I drove to Danville, Illinois, with my youngest daughter (Brittney) so she could get her hair done. While her sister-in-law, Laura, highlighted and cut her hair, I watched her children (my grandchildren), Audery, Nolan, and Avery, as I awaited the arrival of their other grandmother who, when she arrived, would take them and her three other grandchildren, Noah, Isaiah, and Joshua (Laura's boys), with her on vacation to Indianapolis.

Brittney had brought along a bag of cheese popcorn, her only meal for the day so far. She asked me if I wanted some. After taking a bite of it, however, she discovered that it was actually spicy cheese popcorn. Not wanting to deprive her of her breakfast and lunch, I decided I would try just one. She handed me the bag to taste. Yes, a little spicy, but good. I asked Noah, who was sitting next to me, if he wanted to try it. 

But instead of asking Noah, "Would you like some spicy cheese popcorn," I asked, "Would you like a spicy hotdog?" 

Don't think about that for too long. I didn't even realize I had said it (as usual), but fortunately I have a daughter who pays attention to every mistake I make. Brittney noticed.

Had she not been standing next to me at the time, I might have questioned Noah's polite refusal as he smiled the kind of smile that said, wow, that was weird, but Brittney, always aware of my screw-ups, noticed immediately what I said and enjoyed bringing it to my attention.

On the way home, I said something else that ended up being hotdog instead of what it should have been, and we both laughed and discussed this strange oddity that has now, for reasons unknown, become part of my life.

WHY? OH WHY AM I FIXATED ON HOTDOGS? I don't even like hotdogs, unless they're grilled and covered with all kinds of toppings. And then I remembered that Brittney had bought me a hotdog at Audrey's practice game the night before. Yeah, that must be why I can't stop accidentally talking about hot dogs (roll eyes).

What is it with me and hotdogs, I wondered aloud as Brittney drove me home. And then I forgot about it until I arrived home. As serendipitous as it sounds ;) hotdogs again became the focus of my attention when I noticed I had received a message from Lindsey, one of my other daughters, asking me how long she should boil hotdogs since she was used to just grilling them and now had to boil them for children who apparently ate only boiled hot dogs.

Again, with the hotdogs!

STOP, Universe, I found myself screaming! Why are you slamming me in the head with hotdogs lately? Is some subliminal message hiding inside these hotdogs? And why am I now calling everything a hotdog?

My brain is flooded with images of hot dogs. I remember one of my grandchildren, Sarah, when she first visited me as a little girl after I moved into a manufactured home community. She noticed the shape of most of the homes and wanted to know why some people lived in cracker houses and others lived in hotdog houses.

Just this morning I received a message from a dear friend of mine who talked about George Bailey (from one of my favorite movies, It's a Wonderful Life). And what did George Bailey say every time he walked into the store after he said, "I wish I had a million dollars"? – you guess it – Hot Dog!

The informal version of the words, "hot dog," or "hotdog," according to the dictionary that came with my Text Edit program on my MacBook Pro, is that hot dog is (I would say "was" since I haven't heard anybody since George Bailey use the word in this manner) used to express delight or enthusiastic approval. It also means a person who shows off – as in one who performs stunts or tricks.

I think of my friend Katherine (God rest her soul) who would say to me, what do you think the Universe is trying to tell you? Well, Katherine, I've decided the Universe has fast-forwarded to the end of time and is now sending me weird messages that make no sense, like, "You must now eat hotdogs for the rest of your life," or "Start hoarding hot dogs." Maybe, if I think about this positively, the Universe is saying, "You will now be receiving a million dollars – hotdog!" (I kind of like that last one.)

But maybe it's just the wiring in my brain that's screwed up, because I confuse all kinds of items. Why else would I refer to a peacock as a penguin, the dishwasher as a microwave, and popcorn as a hot dog? Sometimes I wish I could upload a program to fix the problem. 

Then again, I'd miss out on so many blog opportunities, like the ones below:

Whatever it is, hot dogs became fodder for this blog, so thank you for visiting my hot dog (I mean my blog). 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Better Way to Pay for a College Education

Saving for a college education for yourself or your children? Financial aid is probably a necessity. Should you get a student loan? Should you apply for scholarships? How do you navigate through the process? Read this:

Navigating the financial aid system infographic by Southern New Hampshire University, SNHU.EDU
Brought to You by SNHU.EDU Online College Programs

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Accounting Technique Saves Money but Scares Business Owner

When my youngest kids were still in grammar and high school, I worked as a designer for a small printing company. I loved that job. I could sit at my desk, erase the world around me, and focus on design (play) all day long. For hours I would get lost in my work, rising only to use the wash room. I rarely left for lunch, because I ate at my desk.

One day the boss came up to my desk and asked me if I would mind taking over the books. Sure, I told her, "as long as you don't mind if I use my own special accounting techniques."

She looked quizzical. 

"I like to add buffers," I explained.

At this point I couldn't tell if she was confused, concerned, or scared, so I continued, "Say, for example, I write a check for $21.25. I'll write in $21.25, but I'll subtract from the balance $22, so I have a buffer of $.75. And if I receive $21.25, I record it as $21.25, but I add only $21 to the balance so I save $.25."

She stood there for an uncomfortably long period of time while my co-worker (her son and a very good friend of mine) snickered. She finally shook her head in frustration and muttered, "Never mind."

big news for small business owners 1099 K Infographic
Brought To By
I could probably have saved her some grief by directing her to, an online accounting tool, but it didn't exist back then. Too bad. She could have organized all of her small business finances in one place, taken advantage of all kinds of tax deductions, from depreciation on her business vehicles, to healthcare and retirement, and I would have enjoyed the extra income. 

Outright even has an app for that.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Family Photographer – Grandma Paparazzi

One of my favorite and most treasured purchases is a camera I bought in the 1980s. I followed my children around capturing their cute expressions and more or less stalked my kids. 

And then I had grandchildren – lots of them – and the camera took on special significance. I discovered that when they are young, grandchildren don't yell at you with comments like, "GRANDMA PUT THAT THING DOWN!" or, "GRANDMA, STOP ALREADY!" like their parents do.

No, they quietly go about their business as I hide behind couches and stand at entrances to rooms where they play, oblivious to my paparazzi-style photo taking.

I was doing quite well until little Avery was born. Perhaps it was purely coincidental, but I wonder…

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Poor Dumb Bird Sisyphus

When I visited my daughter and her boyfriend in their new apartment, I saw a bird sitting on the hood of Lindsey's car.

"Yeah, I know," Lindsey said. Lindsey walked outside and removed all the twigs from the windshield. 

Within seconds, the bird was back with more twigs. And again, Lindsey walked outside to remove them. In the midst of moving and rearranging furniture and other items, Lindsey would return to her car occasionally and remove all of the twigs the bird placed there.

After a while, we had to go shopping. Lindsey removed all the twigs – again – and we were on our way.

When we returned, the bird immediately flew onto the car and began building her nest again again. Like the Greek god who was condemned to the eternal task of carrying a large boulder up a hill that repeatedly fell down the hill, the bird I've named Sisyphus seems to be forever condemned to building nests in the hoods of automobiles (she also uses neighbor's cars), where the nests get destroyed again and again by the auto's owners and poor little Sisyphus must rebuild her nest again and again – forever doomed to building nests.

Perhaps we should have placed food for the poor thing in the back yard.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Surprising Revelations

Clare and I were having dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings this past weekend when I told her that my oldest daughter has been experiencing excruciating pain from a problem that involved her clavicle being separated from her shoulder.  Clare empathized and told me that she too had experienced the same problem years ago.

Curious, I wanted to know, "How did it happen?"

Clare was uncertain about how the separation occurred. She had always attributed the separation to one of her pregnancies when she felt so much pain she could only guess that the weight of her belly had been responsible for pulling her clavicle away from her shoulder. 

Because of the relentless pain, though, Clare made an appointment to see a doctor who took an x-ray and showed Clare the results of her x-ray. The separation was so immediately obvious, it surprised Clare. I told her that Keeley, too, was surprised by how obvious the separation showed in her x-rays.

While the memory of that long-ago time blossomed in her mind, Clare suddenly cocked her head to one side as if another related memory had just slammed into her brain. Her face filled with a sense of wonder, she exclaimed, "I think I know how it happened! It must have been that time I got hit by a truck!"

Whoa! Wait! What? I, who am not at all capable of repressing laughter, exploded with it (though I did apologize to Clare for laughing at her expense), but I had to know, "How could you not remember being hit by a truck?"

With her surprising revelation, Clare detailed the event. She was 18 and walking to the train after work. She was also wearing high heels. When the snow storm hit she was paying such close attention to the snow under her feet that when a truck appeared suddenly and knocked her down, she blacked out. She awoke in the back of the truck with about 50 onlookers who wondered if she might be in a coma. Nobody called 911 back then (it didn't exist), and, more embarrassed than hurt, Clare got up and just walked away.

Years later she had 5 children, one of whom she blamed for the pain in her shoulder when she was pregnant with her. Not until this past weekend did she realize that the pain was actually caused by a truck hitting her. 

Clare is now 73 years old and in better shape than some 20-year-olds I've seen. The pain in her shoulder is gone, and her memories just keep getting funnier (to me).

Want to read more from this author? See the upper right hand side of this blog.