Sunday, December 8, 2013

Robbery versus burglary

I was told Friday night that I wasn't robbed - I was burglarized. It's robbery if a gun is involved. If not, it's a burglary. Either way, I was traumatized.

The only thing I've replaced so far is my scale - can't live without that - and I had some Avon jewelry that I bought as samples. I dug them out of a box so I'd have some earrings.

2013 Sucked!

Every year I write a Christmas newsletter to let my friends and family know what's happened during the year. It's going to be tough to write about 2013. This year has been one of the most eventful in my entire life, and not all the events were good.

Normally, I organize the newsletter by members of the family and what they're up to. This year, I'm going to do it chronologically.

January - By January 2, I was 35 pounds lighter and feeling awesome.

Then on January 15, 16 days before his 5th birthday, we lost Roc. It was one of the most heart wrenching things I've ever been through in my life. He was one of the most awesome kids ever. His service was beautiful, and friends and family filled the chapel to standing room only. Even the service at the cemetery was filled with family and friends. It ended with a balloon release. On his birthday, January 30, there was a worldwide balloon release. People from So. Korea, Florida, Washington, Colorado, Georgia, and all over Texas released balloons to Roc in heaven. We all had so many plans for him, but God's plans trumped ours.

February - Andy moved to York, Pennsylvania, February 1, so I'm back to being on my own. He's taking online courses, studying to be an English teacher, and he's doing his best to maintain a high GPA. I spent February getting used to living alone.

March - Kaycie turned 31, and Andy turned 29. My babies aren't babies anymore.

We lost my Dad on March 28. He seemed to be getting better, but before we knew it, he was gone. We didn't even get to enjoy having him back in our neck of the woods because he was in and out of the hospital from October until he died. He wanted a simple service, so we only had a visitation and a private burial. I really miss him. He had some great stories, a great laugh and a great sense of humor. He's with the love of his life now.

April - Katherine turned 11! She's taller than me, and she's still making good grades, and she's very busy with extra-curricular activities.

One afternoon, toward the end of the month, I was turning into my street and was rear-ended. My Jaguar withstood the impact pretty well. My lower back and neck - not so much. I visited the chiropractor through May and June, and I was released the end of June. My doctor and I were surprised that I healed so quickly. I think it was because of all the work I was doing on my house, and the fetching and toting.

May/June - I started renovations on my house. It started with new attic vents. After they were installed, we had to paint them, and the paint I picked didn't match the house, so the whole house ended up being repainted. We broke the garage door, so it had to be replaced. Then I decided to redo the inside of the house as well. At the end of May, my house was completely emptied. Except for my dining table, microwave, a blowup bed, and a suitcase of clothes, everything was in a POD on the driveway. We completely stripped the floors of carpet and linoleum, pulled all the wallpaper down, painted the entire house, ceiling to floor, including the trim and all doors, acid stained the concrete, and moved everything back into the house the end of June. I got new appliances and granite counter tops; we painted the kitchen cabinets and added handles. Then we installed bookcases in the front room. I now have the library I've always wanted, and my house is awesome! I love it!

June 2 - Rex was baptized at St. George. My pastor Fr. Ram, who officiated at Kaycie & Jeff's wedding, made the occasion very special with a beautiful sermon. We celebrated with delicious barbeque and cake afterward.

July - Rex turned 1 year old July 9. Kaycie and Jeff had a 'stache party for him. Mustaches were everywhere, including on some of the guests. The invitations were adorable, and the house was packed with kids and friends. Rex had a good time. He's so good natured and absolutely adorable.

The next week, Kaycie announced that they were pregnant, due Feb. 24!!

I spent $5100 on the Jaguar in a month, and when I was driving it home after another trip to the shop, the transmission started acting up; that was it! I lived the dream, and it was now a nightmare. I traded it in the next day for a 2011 Toyota Camry. I was amazed at how smooth and quiet the Camry is compared to the Jaguar. That's when I found out the value of the Jaguar dropped significantly because of the accident, dang CarFax. Now, instead of making me feel like the Queen of Sheba, my car is like every other one on the road. But it has a good service record, and the gas mileage is awesome!

August - Carolyn, my sister-in-law, lost her 5-year battle with cancer. She was 52 years old and bigger than life. She was really an amazing woman with drive, personality plus, and a great sense of humor. We will miss her.

September - It was time to take a vacation! I visited Joyce, a long-time friend, in Atlanta, GA. My visit there was only 3 days, and I had a blast. Joyce is a great hostess, and we enjoyed catching up with each other.

Then I went to Jacksonville to visit with my mother-in-law. I stayed there a week, helping her get ready for a neighborhood garage sale, visiting St. Augustine, shopping, catching up, and playing with her 3 adorable dogs. The school where Carolyn taught dedicated a climbing wall to her because she fought to find it, get it, and build it, and I was there for that ceremony. The things everyone said about Carolyn were inspiring. I began to feel pretty insignificant.

October - Back at the ranch, we replaced the tile in the front entry and the front porch of the house with a beautiful multi-colored porcelain that goes with the walls and the floors. We changed the front porch step into a raised stoop. It really is beautiful.

For Halloween, I went to Kaycie & Jeff's. Rex was the Cookie Monster, and he was adorable. He figured out the routine early on and didn't mind going up to doors to get candy. I manned the candy bowl at their house again. When they returned, I answered the door wearing my Halloween mask, which is clear except for eye make-up and lipstick - really pretty scary. All 3 took a step back, and their eyes were huge.

November - I got back home after babysitting Rex to discover my front door had been kicked in, and my TV was missing. All doors and drawers except in the kitchen and bathrooms had been opened. My dresser drawers were all out and dumped on the floor. A pillowcase was used to take my laptop, Chrome book tablet, TV, all my jewelry, my digital bathroom scale, and my Cabbage Patch doll. I felt so violated. Now I have a working alarm, a new front door and a keyed storm door, plus we replaced the door to the garage. I also had a Strike Master installed in the front door frame to thwart kicking it in again. I feel very safe and secure. I haven't replaced any of the missing items yet. Although insurance replaced the doors, my deductible on the missing items is so high that I didn't get enough to replace anything that was taken.

On November 25, I celebrated 36 years at SwRI. Yes, I'm still working. According to TIAA-CREF, I should work another 7 years - dang! I planned to work 6. Plus I had to add another $200/mo to my account.

I got to spend Thanksgiving with my sister's family and my daughter's family in law. All in all, it was a great day.

It's December, and I'm ready for life to settle down a bit. I put up my Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving, (the usual day after Thanksgiving ritual). It took a week or so to put ornaments on it. In addition to the tree, I decorated a few tables. My grandfather's mounted antlers that are hanging by the front door now have ornaments hanging off them. So cute.

I had to get away from all the sappy Christmas movies I've been watching so I could get something done. I recorded enough to watch for a year.

My social life has picked up a bit. Of course, it's taking some doing on my part. has become my friend. We are all so busy, and if I've learned anything this year, it is that we have to live in the present. We HAVE to make time for those who are important to us.

I set up dinner with a few friends at Zio's, and we had so much fun catching up. It has been more than a year since 4 of us have been able to get together, and that's toooooo long. I invited 5 to join us, but one had the flu, and the other had other plans already. Another couple of friends and I have struggled to get together, so I set up a meeting with them using again. It's a great way to find out when people are available. A high school friend is having a party that should be fun. It's awesome to have a group of people who are the exact same age (within a year) to visit with. We have some of the same histories, some of the same health issues, family issues, etc.

A couple of work friends came for lunch last week, and that's when I realized I have to find all my dishes. I didn't have any glasses to serve drinks because I gave away all the jelly and the 25-cent Walmart glasses, but I forgot to replace them.

I lost 35 pounds between Sept. 7 and Jan. 2, and I've only lost 15 since then. Actually, I've lost and gained the same 5 pounds for 6 months. 2013 was painful, and my nutritionist has been such a big help. She offered wisdom when I needed it.

I don't want to wish the rest of the year away. Life is not perfect, and it can throw a few curve balls, but it's all we have. None of us is going to get out of it alive. I plan to make the best of the rest of the month so I'll have a good start to 2014. I might even exercise.

Thank you for your love and support through this past year. I couldn't have done it without you. Having someone to talk to, spend time with, and share a hug means so much. I am so rich because of my family, my church family, and my dear friends. Let's not be strangers.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

a funny thing happened on the way to church

This past Sunday, I couldn't decide if I wanted to go to the late service (10:45) or not go at all.

Then I started thinking that there probably wouldn't be very many people there because it was cold and rainy, and I did have Bible study between the services . . . So, at 8:01, still in my pjs and getting another cup of coffee, I decided to go to the early service, which started at 8:30.

I went in to overdrive, put on my clothes, fixed my hair, washed my face, brushed my teeth, and was out the door by 8:20. Notice, I didn't mention make up. I figured it was better to be there for most of the service with my natural beauty than to arrive really late.

As I was driving to church, not too far from home, I realized I hadn't put on any moisturizer, and my eyes really need moisturizer in the morning. I quickly looked in the mirror, and I was horrified at what I saw - large bags and even larger wrinkles under my eyes. I looked TERRIBLE! I wasn't going to go back home - I had to do SOMEthing, so I dug around in my purse. The only thing I could find was chapstick. I rubbed the chapstick on my finger and dabbed it under my eyes. Of course, it did NOTHING to alleviate the problems. But I tried.

I decided I wasn't going to rush on the roads. I would just take my time, drive carefully, and get there when I got there. I was only 10 minutes late, so no one really saw my face. Not bad . . .

The good thing is - no one recoiled when they did see me. They probably thought I had a rough night. As a matter of fact, I completely forgot about it and went about my busines like nothing was wrong.

I now know that I need to put some sort of lotion in my car, just in case.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Back on the journey to 135

This has been one tough year. I started going to Perfect Solutions Sept. 7 last year. I lost 35 pounds by January 1. I was ready.

Then life happened, one thing after another, and before I knew it, it's November 20, and I've only lost another 15 pounds.

When I weighed in last Thursday, I had gained 1 pound. I swore to Cecilia that I followed the plan. Then I started some soul searching and remembered that I had 2 ice cream cones, 2 orders of cheddar peppers, and countless Dove dark chocolates throughout the week. Well - No wonder!

I have to do something to get off this merry-go-round that's going nowhere. I seriously considered some options and where I've gone wrong. I decided to cut my calorie intake to 1,000 until January 1 - except for 2 days - Thanksgiving & Christmas.

I've been pretty good at it, as a matter of fact, with all the vegetables and calorie counting, I've actually kept the count to below 1,000 for the most part.

I've lost 2.5 pounds so far, and except for a couple of instances, I haven't been hungry at inappropriate times. That's a good thing.

Weigh-in is tomorrow, so we'll see how well it worked. I would love to be at 170 by January 1. I've been bouncing between 187 and 184 for at least 2 months, probably more.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Reflecting on the robbery

This morning, I was thinking about this experience, and I realized through all this that I take responsibility for what happened. Some people have this experience and blame the other guy. I blame myself. It's something I've done all my life. Maybe it's because when I was a kid, my parents put me in charge. If there was a group of kids, and someone got hurt, my name was the one called. I had to answer for it. So, once again, I view this as "what did I do wrong?" Remember when I saw the front door open - what was my first thought? "Don't tell me I left the front door open . . ."

I made so many mistakes during my remodel . . . I was an open book about the work, I put photos of my house - flat-screen TV and all - online (which I've pulled), I let strangers (who aren't licensed and bonded) help with the work, including loading and unloading the PODS, I let my workers take photos of my house (how can you stop it when everyone has a phone that takes photos?), I didn't set my alarm, and my front door is obscured by the new landscaping.

Take it for what it's worth, but the guys who broke in didn't go through the library books, the kitchen, or the bathrooms. Every closet door and drawer was open or ajar. What they took, a 40-inch flat screen TV, laptop, Chrome book tablet, electronic scale (how can I begin my day without it?), jewelry, a Cabbage Patch doll and a small teddy bear, could easily have been carried in one load to a waiting car. Their entry and exit were obscured by a mature Crepe Myrtle and 3' high boxwood hedge. I can't see the front door of my neighbor across the street, which means they can't see mine. The thieves did not go through the garage or the back door. I feel they would have left them open if they had because they left the front door wide open.

I have had thumb-screw locks on my windows since the day my ex moved out. We removed them because we had the windows wide open for much of the remodel because of dust, paint fumes, etc. Now I don't know where most of them are. I will definitely get replacements for those that are missing. They would not have helped this time, but they may help next time. An alarm would have definitely helped. I maybe would have only lost the TV if the alarm was set. 

Woulda, shoulda, coulda. I have to move on. Actually, the only thing I've lost besides the stuff, which is only stuff, is my sense of security. It will be a while before I stop wondering if someone is watching for when I replace what was taken. I'll probably just rearrange the TVs I have for now and next summer or next Christmas replace the flat-screen. I'm not into the electronic gadgets like some folks. As long as I can see Hallmark and NCIS, I'm happy. It doesn't have to be life size or high def.

Thank you so much for your suggestions. If my experience helps you become more careful, then I'll be happy.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Thinking about the robbery

Someone wrote me that her daughter's house was broken into, and she lost her college grad ring. That reminded me that I forgot about my St. Mary's ring. Another thing to add to the list.

Truly, it's all stuff, sentimental, some valuable. I wish I had protected the valuable more rather than have them mixed in with all the costume jewelry. But what value is it really if I only have it sitting around in drawers? Granted, I wore the rings until I lost enough weight that they didn't fit any fingers comfortably anymore. I planned to have them resized when I met my goal. My birthstone is Alexandrite. Alexandrites aren't being mined anymore (or so I've been told), and they are extremely expensive to buy. I really am upset that they are gone. My Alexandrite rings were some of the most valuable pieces of jewelry lost. My pieces were old, and I miss them the most. 

My mom gave us charm bracelets when we were in our early teens. One was sterling silver, filled with states that they visited, and the other was 14k gold with charms that matched our life activities.

My mom had some beautiful jewelry, but after she died, my ex-step-bitch-mother took it all. It hurt my Dad so much that she wouldn't let go once she had her grubby mitts on them because he wanted my sister and I to have it all. Everyone thinks I should fight her for them. I hope she chokes on them.

I'm still me without the stuff -- maybe even better. It's a sort of purging that I didn't plan. I don't have any photos of my jewelry, so it's my word about what I had and lost. The only jewelry I have left besides the costume jewelry necklaces (still hanging in my closet) is my 30-year gift watch from SwRI, and my 14k gold shrimp earrings my Mom gave me the Christmas before she died. My daughter offered to give me 90% of her jewelry because she doesn't wear most of it. I'm actually thinking of getting rid of the necklaces I still have and replacing it all with some key, awesome pieces instead.

Yes, I have an alarm, and once I call the alarm company Monday to get a refresher about how to set it, I'll start using it again. I've become so comfortable in my home that I didn't feel the need to use it. Well, was I wrong!

My deductible is pretty high, and the insurance agent didn't talk to me about replacing anything yet, so I guess I'll wait until Monday to find out what happens next. 

I may have to move a TV into the living room so I can record all the Christmas movies that Hallmark is running now. I love Hallmark. That's about all I watch lately besides the news, Wheel of Fortune and NCIS. There are only a couple of HGTV shows that I like -- Property Brothers and Income Property. Even with this limited list of TV enjoyment, I manage to waste a lot of time watching TV. Maybe this was a message from God to get a life.

Someone suggested I look at Craigs List. I didn't think about Craigs List. I was thinking pawn shops. 

I did call my friend to ask him if his uncle or cousin were capable of doing something like this. He said they don't even have a car. 

It had to be planned. Whoever did it was able to "kick" the door about 4-feet high. That's really too high for someone to use their foot. The door was so violently pushed in that I don't think it could have been a foot. It was more like a battering ram or something designed for this sort of task.

The thought that they'll be back in about 2-3 weeks to get the replacements frightens me. I'll surprise them with a new door and alarm, and no new TV!

Thank you so much for your healing thoughts. So far the replies haven't called me an idiot for not having an alarm, but once you find out I did and didn't use it, you may. I definitely feel like one. But I've been so comfortable here that I felt safe.

I Got Robbed!

Last week I was feeling sorry for myself because I got swindled out of $150. That's nothing compared to what I came home to last night.

After work, I went straight to my daughter's to babysit my adorable grandson, and after an evening of adventure, I went home to another.

When I pull into my driveway, I always look at the front porch. Last night, instead of seeing my red door, I saw yellow. Hmmm, that didn't look right. I parked in the garage, and went to the front door. Dang! It was wide open!

My first thought was (I'm so danged naive), "Maybe I left the front door open." Then I saw the door latch hardware on the floor, and I realized it wouldn't be good.

Someone had kicked in my front door!

I stepped in to see my cedar chest open and the contents tossed. Then I looked around the corner into the living room, and my TV was missing. CRAP!!!

There was no way I was going to stay in there in case "they" were still there; I high-tailed it out to the driveway and called 911. Misery loves company, so I called my daughter (don't ask me why) to tell her, and then I went across the street to tell my neighbors, hoping they saw something.

My neighbor came over and stayed with me until everything was taken care of. He's so sweet. He felt bad because he didn't see anything. We all keep to ourselves. We felt safe because we're right on the corner of a busy street. The policeman was surprised as well.

Anyway, the police arrived about 30 minutes later, and we walked through the house. My TV and the remote, which was in a drawer were missing. A laptop computer (from work) and its power cord, in another drawer, were gone. Yet, they left a tin bank that was full of coins. The drawers and one of the doors in my china cabinet were ajar and a large decorative box of stationery was open. I don't remember who noticed it, but someone pointed a flashlight at my dagger-like letter opener (very sharp) stuck in the living room wall. Creepy!!!

Then we headed down the hall. The laundry room, front bathroom, and guest room seemed untouched. My office still had the 2 desktop computers, my camera, and the printers (all vintage), and one of the drawers in a dresser in there was open. The doors of armoire in the workout room were ajar, and the door to the CD cabinet was open. It seems they took the 3 Wii controllers and charger but didn't take the actual Wii.

My bedroom, on the other hand, was completely tossed. Drawers were everywhere, my underwear, pantyhose, and night clothes were all over the floor. The drawer that had all my rings, watches, bracelets, and earrings was completely empty. They went through the nightstand drawers, and the drawer to my dressing table was open.

They removed my will from its envelope and left it, my passport and a box of checks. A drawer of paper and receipts was dumped on the floor, an uncased pillow was on the floor, and the contents of containers in my bookcase were all over my bed. It seemed as if they lifted the mattress to see if anything was under it because it was cockeyed. They took my Google Chrome Book and its power cord, which were on one of the nightstands.

After the police and my neighbor left, I put everything back in its place. That only took a few minutes. Then when I was talking to a friend on the phone (still seeking company), I noticed my Cabbage Patch doll and a teddy bear wearing my daughter's infant pjs were gone.

It took a couple hours afterward to settle down enough to even prepare for bed. It was close to 2:00 before I climbed in. I felt so vulnerable for the first time in many years.

My house pops and creaks all the time, and I'm used to it. But when it popped last night as I was just drifting off to sleep, it freaked me out.

Maybe I should get a dog to bark when the door bell rings. But, I don't want to have to worry about a pet. And having big dogs doesn't necessary make your "stuff" safer. A house on my street was broken into, and their 2 large dogs were drugged; they were limp on the floor while the thieves stepped over them and cleaned out the house. Maybe I'll just get a doorbell that sounds like a Rottweiler or Doberman. My next door neighbor suggested I get burglar bars like hers (which is against the HOA). If I feel I need burglar bars to be safe, I'll move.

I've been to the bank to switch my accounts because my checks were in one of the drawers. I won't be tethered to a debit card for about 5-7 working days, so I'll have to think through every money decision. Is it worth going to the bank?

My handy man and I have discussed replacing my front door (which I've been wanting to do anyway); we'll probably do that next week. Although the lock and jam for the door knob still function, the frame is compromised, and we feel it should be replaced. We've all looked for foot prints on the door or some sign of it being kicked in. Until we looked at a profile of the door and could see the indention, we couldn't figure out where they did it. The damage is in the middle of the door, almost too high for a foot. Something else must have been used instead. But what? What is the current trend for crashing through front doors?

Now I have to call the insurance company - dang!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I got swindled!

One of the workers on my house remodel (my friend) came by Saturday to pick up a cement mixer. He had his uncle with him. His uncle saw my dying Mountain Laurel and offered to dig it up and replace it for $350. I thought that was a good price, so I said to give me 2 weeks. He said $300. I said “OK!” and we shook on it.

Then the next day the uncle called to get the directions to my house, and by lunch, they had the tree out and was working on an old trunk/roots that were in the hole next to the tree they took out. I went to the bank and gave them $200. Then he called saying he had a sick daughter (starting to feel suspicious) and he’d plant the tree the next day. I put $100 under the rug like I promised. Well, when I got home, the $100 was gone, and I had no tree.

He called the next day to say the tree would be in the next day. Then he promised because I was a nice lady, he’d have the tree in by Friday morning. Well, needless to say, there was (and still is) no tree. By Saturday night, I’d stewed about it enough, and I was hopping mad. So I called my  friend and asked him why he didn’t tell me I couldn’t trust his uncle. He said I should know better than pay up front for work to be done. Then he started yelling at his uncle. They were all drunk. His drunk uncle got on the phone and told me he’d bring the tree right over. I told him he was drunk and I didn’t want to talk to him and hung up. I was afraid I'd hear on the news that someone was shot because of a tree that didn't get planted!!!

My friend called back and got after me for paying up front. I realized then that my friend’s uncle was a con, and I’d been swindled.

Well, Monday morning, my friend stopped by my office, and we talked about it. I told him that “Birds of a feather flock together.” Because I trusted him, and his uncle was with him, I felt I could trust his uncle. Then I told him that because his uncle was a con, I was wondering if I could trust him any more because he hangs out with a con.
It turns out that the uncle found out Mountain Laurels are expensive and the one he was looking at was $250, so he just blew me off. My friend and I talked quite a while, and he promised he’d pay me back. I don’t want him to pay me back.  I just want a tree.  He feels so bad about the situation that he found a place where he could dig up a Mountain Laurel and transplant it in my yard for lots less. I told him I'd split the cost.
I learned a $150 lesson. It was worth $150 to have the tree removed. That’s not cheap. If only I hadn’t put the final $100 under the rug. Oh well, we live and learn, right?

Then, Sunday, I gave Communion to a friend in the hospital. What a contrast of emotions! I told her I was on a mission from God. It was my first time doing something like this, and I was glad it was her. She was thrilled that it was me because we've been friends for about 7 years.
You never know what life will bring. You just have to have your seat belt buckled and be ready for the ride!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

I Get No Respect

When your self-esteem is low, others can sense it. And sometimes you may not get a lot of respect as a result.

How do you get respect?

According to professor of counseling Dr. Samuel Gladding, we first have to respect ourselves and be comfortable with who we are in order to win respect from others. You have to start by working on your self-esteem. Once you pull your self-esteem out of the pits, you'll notice other people treating you with more respect.

"Respect is something you earn - it's not something that just happens," said Dr. Gladding. Earning respect takes time and effort, he said. It's something you have to work for, but it's definitely worth striving for.

When I started working at SwRI almost 36 years ago, I had been in the publishing field 7 years, and I considered myself a professional. I knew much more about publishing than most of my new coworkers. When there was a question about fonts, editing, or anything publishing, no one came to me. They went to those of my coworkers who had been here longer.

Here are some strategies to gain the respect of others with some tips from Dr. Gladding:

1. Make direct eye contact with people. People like to be acknowledged in a conversation and one way we can do that is by making eye contact with them. You show that you're involved in the conversation psychologically and physically and it shows that you're confident of yourself. If you're confident of yourself, others will sense that and return respect. Self-confident people will always earn respect.

2. Be appropriate in how you treat other people. Whether is's your boss, your assistant or your buddy, you win respect by treating other people as though they have dignity and worth. From the bottom up or top down, letting people know they count is important.

3. Adopt a personal policy of honesty. Those people we admire most are truthful people, such as Abraham Lincoln, who we call "Honest Abe." Even if we don't like what is said, people like to be told the truth as long as it's done without bludgeoning. Others respect an honest and truthful person. But be sure you're tactful when being honest, of course. Honesty will always earn respect.

4. Be yourself with others. That way, people won't think you're putting on airs and they'll respect you for it. Most people can spot a phony pretty quickly, and phonies get no respect at all.

5. Don't be a know-it-all. If you're starting a new job and don't know something, for example, ask for help from someone who does know. Don't pretend you know something if you don't. And don't pretend you know everything because no one does. It makes you more approachable if you're not a know-it-all. People respect someone they can talk to, rather than someone who talks to them all the time.

6. Stay on top of current events. To be conversational, you need knowledge of what's happening in the world. If you have an opinion on a subject, for example, you're likely to be asked why you hold that opinion. If your answer is, "I don't know," you come across as completely uninformed. People respect someone who is up-to-date on things.

7. Be open to the opinions of others. People aren't enthralled with others who are dogmatic, but they do respect and enjoy the company of those who have some knowledge yet are open to learning more. People who think they are right all the time and everyone else is wrong will never earn any respect. It shows you're narrow-minded and intolerant. Open-mindedness is a quality that earns respect.

8. Be prompt when others are expecting you at a certain time. We respect people who do what they say they're going to do. We admire those who start and end things on time and those who make a point of being somewhere when they say they're going to be. It shows that you have respect for other people's time and you aren't going to keep them sitting around wasting their time, drumming their fingers and waiting for you.

9. Maintain a neat and appropriate appearance. This shows you really do care about yourself. You don't have to wear expensive clothing to win respect, but you do need to have a clean, neat appearance that shows people you respect yourself, your body and your clothes. Appropriate means that you wouldn't want to go to a business meeting in blue jeans, unless your business calls for that. Be aware of what kind of dress different situations call for and respond sensitively and sensibly. Also, be aware of how you carry yourself and do so with pride. When you stand and walk with good posture, you  create a positive image that people respond to.

10. Communicate clearly with others. Be specific about what you want or need. That way people know more about you and can, therefore, respond better to you. If you're not clear when you communicate with others, they're left to guess what you're talking about. People aren't mind-readers and expecting them to be doesn't build respect.

11. Do something nice for someone. Do charity work or contribute to a good cause. Help someone who needs help, even if it's something small, like giving directions to a lost out-of-towner or picking up a package someone dropped at the grocery store. This shows you're not self-centered, and it betters your community in the bargain. People aren't enthralled with others who are self-centered.

12. Use humor in your daily life. People respect others who can both laugh at themselves and laugh at a situation. Not everything is dead-serious, so keep a perspective on what really is important and be able to laugh with people and be able to laugh with people and certainly not at them.

As you work on raising your own self-esteem, watch how other people treat you. You'll see a big difference as they sense that you are feeling tip-top about yourself!

The above was excerpted from Why Am I Dancing Alone? by Sue Kovach, published in 2000 by American Media Mini Mags, Inc. Boca Raton, FL

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Day 3 in Atlanta

Today was my last full day in the Tyrone area. I've had fun catching up with my friend and her family. Her daughter was struggling with the kids this morning, so my friend went over there to watch the boys while her daughter caught up on some sleep. I stayed at her house and finished the blog I started last night, caught up on some reading, and tried on some clothes she had in bins to take to a consignment shop.

I have always loved her sense of style. When we were in high school, she introduced me to fashion designers. Before then, all I knew was Sears, K-Mart, JCPenney, and Joske's. I never paid attention to the names of the people who designed clothes. I liked her sense of style even in high school. We were the same size, and I loved sharing her clothes. Mine were either from the stores mentioned above or homemade.

She had 4 bins of clothes that she decided to take to a consignment shop, and I was welcome to try them on and take anything I wanted. Even though I had things to do like check my bank accounts, catch up on email, check in at Southwest Airlines to get my boarding pass, etc., I kept ending up in the room with the clothes. I finally finished my tasks so I could "shop." I was thrilled that most of the clothes fit. A few were large or too small, but most fit. Then I had to decide about how practical they were for Texas weather. I wanted them all, but I left some. Some were just so dang cute! When she returned, we ate a light lunch and headed out.

We tried to pick up where we left off yesterday by going to Senoia. The weather was beautiful today. Sunny, not humid (compared to 96% yesterday) and dry. She showed me the house her daughter & son-in-law used to lived in. We took a tour of Senoia, which is a nice little town. We parked in the square and started shopping. The items in the shops were unique and pretty expensive, so we basically just enjoyed reading the funny cards, smelled the candles, and did the tourist things. At 3:00 we went to Katie Lou's and had a drink, jalapeno poppers, and chicken wings. By the time we finished eating, most of the shops were closed. We were able to check out a couple more. Since it was Sunday, most closed at 4:00.

We toured some more of Senoia then headed to her daughter's house to print out my boarding pass. I got to meet her husband for the first time.

After stopping at the grocery store to get more salad fixin's, we went home to make dinner. I made another pizza, this time with just the cheeses and some turkey pepperoni; we roasted asparagus with olive oil spray, garlic pepper, and parmesan cheese; cut up some jicama, and made a large salad with dried cranberries, avocado, red onion - all kinds of goodies. Once the dust settled, we had a feast! It was so good.

Something we talked about at her daughter's this afternoon was the different festivals they have in this area. One of them is the Cotton Pickin' Fair in Gay, GA. They hold it twice a year - one the first full weekend of October and another the first full weekend of May (3 & 4). I plan to be back for that fair. I didn't get to do any of the Founder's Day Festival this year because of the rain and my short visit. But, if we plan this next one right, my friend will be able to take off work, and we'll be able to do more. This trip was originally planned for a family occasion that I wanted to attend in Florida. I decided since I was going to be this close to my friend that I HAD to visit her. I've wanted to for about 30 years. I figured it was about time, and I told her that even if it was for just an evening, I wanted to see her. I'm so glad we got to visit.

Day 2 in Atlanta

I think I brought the rain from San Antonio to Atlanta! We woke up to a cloudy, very humid day. By the time we were dressed and ready to go, it was raining. That didn't dampen our spirits - we just made sure we had our waterproof jackets with hoods and went on about our day.

Our first stop was my friend's daughter's house so I could meet her kids. They are both so cute! They look alike, but one has light skin, blond with blue eyes, and the other has an olive complexion with dark hair. The 4-week-old baby was asleep, and before we left the foyer, he was in my arms. The older one (3 years old) has been recovering from pneumonia. He was suffering from cabin fever and was glad for our attention. Our being there allowed their mom to run to the grocery store.

Do you remember what it was like to have two little ones? Mine are 2 years apart, and I found it was harder to take care of 2 than twice as hard as taking care of 1. There were the conflicts, touches of jealousy, both needing me at the same time. Yikes! Parents of young kids should be young; that way they can keep up with it all. I can babysit for a while, but not take on the responsibility day after day.

We went to Ruby Tuesday's in Newnan for lunch. I got the salad bar and fish tacos without the sour cream and the sauce they drizzle on it. Even without all the extras, they were pretty good. I loved the salad bar - it had edamame and all sorts of good stuff. I stayed away from the REALLY good stuff like the potato salad and other more fattening offerings. My friend ordered a California something flatbread. She shared a piece, and it was delicious! But, I'm sticking with the fresher foods.

After lunch, we went to Lowe's, and while we were there, it rained cats and dogs. We thought we'd have to spend the day there. It let up a bit, and when we got back in the car, I suggested we just head back to her house and have some wine.

You know, shortly after we settled in at her house and had a couple glasses of wine, the rain stopped. If we hadn't had the wine, we would have tried getting out again, but we enjoyed visiting. We made Ezekiel tortilla pizzas with sauce and mozzarella and parmesan cheese. I had made a large salad earlier in the day, and we had that with the pizza. I thought it was delicious. But I'm used to this food. I don't know what she thought. She liked the salad. She had an Italian dressing that was to die for from a nearby restaurant. Y-u-u-u-m! It was so good, it was probably very bad ;o).

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Flight to Atlanta and first day of visit.

Originally, I planned to park my car in the long-term parking lot at the airport. As I thought about it, I started imagining dragging my luggage to check in. The more I thought about it, the less I wanted to do it myself. In one of my moments of genius, I decided to park my car in my daughter's driveway and call a taxi to take me from their house to the airport. The problem with when I was going to the airport was that it was at 12:55 on a work day, one of my daughter's busiest. They wouldn't mind picking me up when I returned, but they couldn't take me.

I could be at their house by 11:15, so I got online and reserved a taxi to pick me up then. I grabbed everything and headed to their house. Because I was early, I stayed in my car and tried to download a GPS app on my phone. Right at 11:15, I got a phone call from someone with a very thick accent asking me something. Although I couldn't understand him, I did recognize the word taxi. He was in the street verifying that I was there. I told him to come get my luggage out of my car. He probably thought I was nuts, and he started to leave. I said "Don't leave, I'm in the car in the driveway." He turned out to be really nice, and we talked about how SA has grown in the 14 years he's been here. I was surprised at how much the taxi cost. My daughter lives behind the airport, and it cost $28 and change. I can imagine how much it would have cost to take a taxi from my house, 20 miles away.

My flight reservations were through Southwest Airlines, but my flights are actually on AirTrans. Because I'm used to Southwest, I assumed 17A was my position in line to get on the plane. I was pretty excited because I would be one of the first to board. The boarding pass also showed Zone 6; I wondered what that was.

When I was in line for security, I reached for my phone, but I couldn't find it! I started freaking out. What would I do without my phone? I checked my pockets, all the pockets of my backpack, but it eluded me. I told the lady in front of me that I thought I lost my phone. She turned around and commiserated with me saying she would be glad to stay with me until I found it or so I could make a call if I couldn't. She was so nice. Once I got through security and I could put everything down to do a thorough check, I found it! Eureka! She came by to check on me. How nice!

I'm practicing stepping out of my comfort zone, so when I arrived at the gate, I picked the first empty seat I saw and made myself comfortable. I was with a group of kids in their early 20s chatting. Half the time I couldn't understand them because they talked so fast.

When they started boarding wheelchairs, then some other group, then business class, I was so confused. We weren't all lined up to board like all other Southwest flights. Apparently with AirTrans, they call Zones. By the time they called Zone 6, half the waiting area was empty. As I entered the plane, the flight attendant asked me to wait because there were lots of folks stowing luggage and clogging the aisle. I took the opportunity to ask her if I could sit anywhere. I'm still thinking the plane runs like Southwest. She was really nice and told me that I was assigned to Seat 17A, which was a window seat. Awesome! I wasn't going to have to be squeezed between people in the middle like all the other flights before. Usually when I boarded a Southwest flight, the only seats left were the middle. I found my window seat and got comfortable. A guy who looked like he might have been from India sat in the aisle seat, and I thought we were home free.

Then a big guy in fatigues sat between us. He wasn't large, just tall and lanky. He took over the arm rest (I never get to keep the arm rest ;o( ) and half my space. He was all elbows. When he sat down, i detected the scent of a cough drop, and danged if it wasn't he. He sniffled a bit and coughed a couple of times, and he NEVER covered his mouth. As soon as I could, I grabbed by backpack, pulled out a tissue, and held it over my nose as much as I could the rest of the flight. At first I was thinking "Dang him! I don't want to get sick!" Then I realized that I don't get sick. Flight reservations are made days in advance, and he didn't know he was going to be sick. He brought a newspaper, and I swear, he read every square inch of that paper. He folded, refolded, folded, and refolded that paper the whole flight.

The flight was bumpy much of the way. The flight attendants were out and about only long enough to serve the pretzels and drinks, and then they were back in their seats buckled in.

Once we arrived at the Atlanta airport, I decided to walk to baggage claim. OMG! I knew the airport was large, but I didn't know it would be a 5K walk to Domestic Baggage Claim. After the first couple of miles, I was not about to give up. I was on a mission, and I walked the whole way. It took me at least 30 minutes. My friend probably thought I got lost on the tram or something. About 2/3 of the way, I asked an airport employee how many more miles it was to baggage claim. She said it wasn't too much farther. She lied!

Honestly, I think they need mile markers or signs saying "3/4 mile to Domestic Baggage Claim - Grab a Tram while you can!" I was determined to walk the whole way. I even tried to keep up a little swing in my step like it was a walk in the park. I tell you what, though, I was never so glad to see someone as I was my friend. I feel like I conquered something because I went the distance.

The last time I went to the Atlanta airport was in 2006, before my knee replacements, and I rode the tram. It never occurred to me to walk it, even if it would have been a short distance. But this time, I didn't even think about taking the tram (well, maybe once).

When we arrived at baggage claim, my bags were just coming around on the carousel, so it was perfect timing. I grabbed them and off we went.

At my friend's house, I unpacked and settled in and we visited a bit. It was like we'd just seen each other. We have been friends since January 1969, and we've experience a lot of life since them. I was stressed about the weather in San Antonio. I took a minute to call a friend in San Antonio to see if he could do a little flood prevention in my backyard. If someone would remove the bottom board of my fence, the water could flow between the houses like it was designed to do. He said he would take care of it. Now I could relax and start my vacation, and we were off to Big Daddy's!

I loved Big Daddy's. It was quiet, and for a Friday night, that was something unusual. There were lots of things going on in the area, so we had the place to ourselves practically. I promised my nutritionist that I would lose 2 pounds while on my travels, so I tried to be good. I ordered 1/2 dozen parmesan something oysters and a Greek salad with the dressing on the side. I thoroughly enjoyed the oysters and the salad. It was all so good that I wolfed it down, and I started helping myself to the shrimp in my friend's bucket. All in all, I was good, except for the 3 Fat Tires I drank. Dang that was good beer!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The beginning of another adventure

I feel like I'm heading off on an adventure - I'm going to Atlanta to visit a dear friend and then to Jacksonville to visit my "Mom." "Mom" is actually my ex mother-in-law. Although I've only seen her a few times since our divorce, I feel like she's family. I always say I got her and her daughter in the divorce.

Her daughter passed away in August at the age of 52. She fought cancer for the past 5 years and finally succumbed. She did not go out without a fight. So, once again, "Mom" is alone and picking up the pieces after losing a loved one to cancer. My ex father-in-law died of colon/liver cancer at about the same age. My daughter worry about her and hope we can talk her into moving here, where she has family who would love to have her around.

This is the first time I've traveled alone for pleasure. I flew to Chicago last year for training, but I was only there 3 days and didn't get much of a chance to explore.

I signed up for the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards program so I could earn as I go. I printed out my card and had it laminated in our print shop. I was so excited about it that my coworker double laminated it. It looks so official!

This is the beginning. This is my first opportunity to travel and blog about it. This is what I want to do while I'm retired. When I was in Chicago, I wrote about everything that happened, but it was so dry and boring that I never actually put it in the blog.

While I was working on the house, I practiced blogging, and the response was positive, so here goes.

My flight leaves tomorrow at 12:55, and I have yet to pull a suitcase down to pack. The clothes are picked out, coordinated, and hanging in a closet. My night clothes and undies are folded neatly, my shoes are picked out, and I've sorted through my make up. I have some gifts and food to pack, and I'm done.

I was hoping to buy a camera before I left because I dropped my Canon SureShot last spring while cleaning out my garage, and now it goes through batteries like crazy. They only last about 30 minutes. The camera I want costs $170, and I'd rather spend the money on having fun!! Maybe I'll tell Santa what I want for Christmas, and in the meantime, I'll use my phone.

Well, my suitcases aren't going to pack themselves . . .

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Handling loss

Eight months ago today our world crashed and the unthinkable happened. We lost my grandson in an instant. I'm still having a hard time adjusting.

I've been thinking about loss and how people fill the void that is left when someone dies. Although I've lost people that I love very much, I wasn't actually living with anyone who died. I cannot imagine the pain that must be felt when suddenly someone is gone. The emptiness is probably almost too much to bear.

I still wish I could have conversations with my Mom, and she's been gone since 1985! My Dad lived in another town for 9 years, but I could always talk to him when I wanted. But not any more. I couldn't wait for him to move back to town so I could write down some of the stories he told us. But that didn't happen. This cannot in any way be compared to losing someone that you live with, see every day, hug and talk to every day.

It must be so hard.

After Mom died, Daddy invited one of his sisters over to go through Mom's clothes. I felt like it was a bit soon, but my aunt needed the clothes, and they were a painful reminder. I actually picked out 2 blouses that day that ended up being my favorite blouses. I am wearing one in a photo that I run across occasionally, and I still feel guilty about having it. About a year later, Daddy told my sister and I that we could split up my mom's jewelry. Neither of us wanted to do that. It was too soon. We weren't ready to say good-bye.

I know of so many people who have lost a spouse of many years - not just my Dad. My grandparents were married forever when my grandmother moved to a rest home. She was there a while when she died. My grandfather never got over losing her. He wouldn't eat. He died 3 years later of a broken heart.

When I was little, one of my Dad's aunts in Ballinger died, and we went there for the funeral. Two weeks later, we went back for her husband's funeral. He died of a broken heart. That was the first time I ever really thought about something like that. My mother-in-law just lost her 52-year-old daughter to cancer. She's having to pick up the pieces. It just doesn't seem right to lose a child. That's not the way things are supposed to be.

Everyone copes in their own way. For some, the silence is deafening; the emptiness is painful. Some people pour themselves into their work, some into a bottle. We all wonder how God could cause someone to die before their time. But who says it wasn't their time?

According to the Bible, God knows our future while we are in the womb. I guess, all we can do is follow the rules, take care of ourselves and each other, love with our whole heart, let your loved ones know how you feel, and be glad for every moment you have with them.

Right now, all I can think of are the times I could have been nicer and lost opportunities to enjoy another smile or conversation. I worshiped my Dad, and I adored my grandson, and I miss them terribly.

Would you please tell me how you cope with your loss?

My house is wonderful, and the cleaning is easy . . .

Now that the house has been emptied and thoughtfully reloaded, keeping it neat is sooooo much easier! And enjoyable.

I just went through and picked up things in each room that didn't belong and put them where they belonged, picking up things in that room, until the whole house was picked up. It took about 30 minutes. Before, I wouldn't have started because it was overwhelming.

Plus, I figured out the problem with the focus on my camera, and I took photos of the house, inside and out. I posted them and set everything up so I can share them. Now, the batteries keep dying. I think when I dropped it in January, I killed it. It's probably time to get a new one. I like this one because it has a viewfinder so I can hold it close to take a photo. I'm better at that than holding it out and taking a photo. They don't make them like this anymore I don't think. But I'll keep looking.

Putting the photos together was harder than I expected. Maybe it's because of what I do at work. I work on the web, publishing newsletters, websites, etc, and the makeover photos had to be just right. I found myself desperately looking for the external drive that has all of the really before photos so I could show how dramatically the house has changed. I think Betty has more photos of the during than I do. She and David thought about taking photos when I just kept busy. It didn't occur to me to start by taking photos of the before. As much time as I spent watching HGTV, you'd think I'd know to do that.

Oh well, the after is so dramatic and awesome! I LOVE my house. I can't wait to show it off.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My crew has been released

Believe it or not, I'm on my own for at least a month. Except for hauling off some leftover debris like the old kitchen countertop, boxes, and the old refrigerator and redoing my front porch. Then in the fall, when it's cooler, we'll reshingle my roof, fix the patio cover, and replace the fence between my house and the neighbor.

Saturday, my crew chief took care of the final touches around the house like adding the shoe moulding along the kitchen cabinets, replacing the hall door and a couple door knobs, cleaning off the back patio, and touching up some spots on the walls while his assistant and I brought in the boxes of books and filled the bookcase shelves - and I mean filled to the brim! I still have 4 boxes in the garage! Once I have the shelves in my office set up, I'll move some business-related books into my office. That will allow room for another box or 2 of books.

While the first set of books were being dusted, I decided to dust the hope chest my mom gave me when I was 15. As I was dusting, I realized I don't remember ever dusting it except with a feather duster - ever! This was probably the first time furniture polish has touched it in 46 years!

I might have to buy another bookcase or purge. My daughter votes for purging. I told her I've been collecting these books since early adulthood for my library. Her response was that all hoarders consider their stuff collections. After my crew left for the day, I went into my library and lined the books up just like I was taught when I was studying to be a librarian at San Antonio College. I can't help but go in the library and feel a sense of accomplishment. Finally, one of my longest standing dreams has come true.

Another dream was to have a baby grand piano. I've wanted one since I was a child. When I was planning this renovation, I decided this was the perfect time to get the piano, and it would go into the library. I was so excited that I started looking for pianos online and even printed out a few contenders. Then I realized I was over wanting the piano. It was a dream that will not happen. That's OK. I've realized 2 dreams - my library and Jaguar.

My daughter and my grandson visited last Saturday, and she didn't mention Empire once! 

I went around the house taking photos, but they're all blurry. I'll have to try again. I think I do better with my phone than my Canon since I dropped it. Maybe it's on the wrong setting - I'll have to find the manual and troubleshoot. I found all the before photos, and I plan to post them really soon - promise. 

There are still several boxes left to unpack, but all the heavy lifting is over. The cable box is still missing, and I haven't found the external drive that's missing. I asked Time Warner what happens if the box is gone, and they didn't have an answer. I'm paying $10 a month for that box - I guess I'd best find it.

My exercise room has a recumbent bike, a glider like the one Chuck Norris promotes, a Body by Jake (remember those?), and the Nordic Trak that I got 20 years ago. Now, it just needs me in there using everything. When I went to weigh in Thursday, I'd gained 5.2 lbs. The week before I lost 5, now I'm 0.2 heavier. Boy did I get a talkin' to! She told me that I have to get serious again, and she wanted to know when everything would be set up in the exercise room. I promised it would be this week. So, that's done. I guess she also wanted me to use at least SOMETHING.

My open house will be moved back a couple weeks. My 52-year-old sister-by-love (ex SIL) passed away Aug 23 after battling cancer for 5 years. The service was Monday, Aug 26, in Jacksonville, FL. My ex mother-in-law (Mom) asked that I visit her when my SIL's ashes are ready to be spread over the mountains. At this point, I have no idea when that will be. I think it will be a window in the middle of September. I want to see if I can sneak a visit with a friend in Atlanta while I'm in that part of the country. Timing may not be on my side, and that would be such a shame.

I talked to my neighbor about the tree that was growing in the fence line on their side, and he removed it this past weekend. We have a huge tree in the fence line that the neighbor before them didn't take care of, and it infringes on the fence and the branches that jut out in my yard are distorting my trees because they are growing away from it. I've had to pay to have large limbs removed a couple of times over the years. It's a great source of shade for the neighbor, but it's a great source of heartburn for me.

After all this work, drama, expense, and inconvenience, I love, Love, LOVE my house. I like the way it feels and looks - inside and out. I can't wait to show it off.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Refrigerator Elbow?

My new refrigerator seems to vacuum seal itself shut sometimes. The first time I try to open it every morning, I really struggle. We still haven't anchored it because I want to make sure we are done moving it in and out. So I have to hold it back with a foot and yank it open. My right elbow is really hurting, so I must have developed refrigerator elbow. I change it up occasionally and open the door with my left hand.

But wait, I may be wrong. Since I've lost weight, I noticed the arm rests on my chair at work seem to be too far away. My elbows are inside the arm rests instead of on them like before. Today, I noticed that my right arm rubbed the arm rest in the spot where it hurts the most. So I removed the arm rests.

It was weird not having arm rests. I'd become accustomed to using them to adjust myself when I noticed I was slouching, and I rested on them when I needed to think. So, a few times today, my arms flailed as I reached for the missing arm rests. I'm thinking my elbow will improve soon.

If you're wondering how the house is, I'll tell you - it's still a work in progress.

My crew of 2 has painted and installed the bookcases, painted and repainted the brown perimeter stripe, caulked the granite backsplash, and touched up the rough spots on the walls. Except for a few more things, we're done!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Still at it!

We are still taking care of the finishing touches.

The old saltillo tile in the entry of my house was not my style, plus it was chipped from skateboarding and obviously needed to be replaced (it was only 33 years old). So Monday we headed to Floor & Decor to pick out replacement tile. I've been to a couple of places and couldn't decide, so I dragged my crew with me. We picked out a beautiful porcelain tile with brown, red, and gold, that goes with the acid stain, the brown perimeter, and the gold walls, yet it's different enough to keep people from falling off the raised entry. When we picked out the tile, I had to make the grout color decision. Geez, that was a hard decision. Did I want to go light, dark, or in between? I chose an in between color, and it turned out to be perfect.

Tuesday they removed the old tile. It was tougher than expected, and lots of the thinset remained. They worked on removing the thinset the next day, cut the tiles Thursday, put them in place Friday, and grouted Saturday. I love the tile. They're 20x20, so different from the 6x6 I had before.

The bookcases finally came in Wednesday. I stopped by the house about 2:30 after a funeral to see if they were on the front porch. Four 90-pound boxes about 90 inches long, 13 inches wide, and 6 inches deep were placed in front of my garage door! I freaked out! Although I figured they would be safe on my front porch, I never imagined the delivery guy would put them right in front of my house so all the traffic on the busy street could see them. I parked my car as close to the boxes as I could, placed the trash bins so they hid the boxes, and went inside and called the office to let them know that I wasn't coming back.

Once the entry was finished, my crew assembled the bookcases. The website said they were unfinished, but the photos showed a sort of dark finish, so I figured they'd blend in with my walls. Well, the pieces were so unfinished they almost glowed, it was obvious we'd have to do something - paint or stain. Which? Whichever I chose, I'd have to choose a color. Dang! Another dang decision to make. I went to Home Depot and spent at least an hour going back and forth between stain and paint trying to make a decision. I chose a stain color called "Provincial" and was pretty happy with my decision. Then I headed to check out their Formica counter tops to use for a desk in my office. The armoire that I'm using is too small and confining, and I need to do something else.

When I was at the dentist last week having a root canal done, I noticed their counter tops. Very simple - counters on plywood legs. We can do that! I knew Home Depot had counter tops, so while I was there, I checked them out. Reasonably priced, I decided that this was definitely a possibility - maybe 2 pieces that would fit in the corner. As I was leaving the counter tops, I saw the display of vanities, and the colors caught my attention. That's when I realized I didn't want to stain the bookcases. I want to paint them the same color as the trim. I want the bookcases to look built in, and since the kitchen cabinets are light, I think the bookcases should be as well.

One thing that makes my crew chuckle is when I say "I was thinking . . ." They always know this will cost me money and they'll have one more thing to do. When I told them I was thinking the bookcases should be painted, we pictured all the pieces leaning up against trees, bricks, the house, all over the place. It seemed like a daunting task. Then David said "I was thinking . . .", and we laughed. We decided that we should assemble the bookcases, THEN paint. What a great idea! After I saw the bookcases assembled, I got really excited and asked if we could remove the shoe moulding and attach the bookcases to the wall, but I was told that wouldn't work. Then I heard "I was thinking . . ." and we decided to remove the baseboards and shoe moulding behind the bookcases and put the trim down the sides and in front instead so they would really look built-in. They fit in the space, and I'm so excited.

We are so close to being done! Now, just rugs and hanging things on the walls, and the inside is done!

The landscaper is doing a great job outside. He's cleaned up the flowerbeds that were overgrown with weeds. He picked up the old mulch, laid down a weed barrier that is really keeping the weeds under control and finished with a darker mulch. The sage has grown; the Lantanas are really pretty, and I love the way they smell. My grandmother had Lantana and primrose, and I'll have primrose soon as well. At least that what I hope the plant I want is called. We'll plant 3 on the street side of the house, which will help cut back on the amount of grass to cut, and when they're mature, offer some privacy for the windows on that side of the house. We finally worked out a maintenance schedule, and the sprinkler system has been completed. I can't believe how awesome my house is! I just wish Daddy could see it.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Dream turned into nightmare

Since I was 12 years old, passing Motor Imports, a European car dealership on Austin Highway, twice a day, I've wanted a Jaguar. I fell in love with them, their body styles, their power, their colors. My dream for 42 years has been to own a Jaguar.

As I got older, the Jaguars got more expensive. They always seemed to be just out of reach.

I've been blessed to own some great cars. I started out with a 1965 Chevy Impala, 2 door, 3 on the column. It was an amazing car that my parents gave me as a high school graduation present. The car had about 55K miles when I got it, and it had about 130K when I sold it. It had been wrecked 3 times, and I got several speeding tickets.

I wanted something smaller and sportier, so I bought a Ford Pinto. It was the mustard color that everyone called baby shit yellow. It was so much fun to drive. It had 4 on the floor with black vinyl seats that had the amazing ability to get hotter and hotter the longer I sat on them in the hot summers. I hated those black vinyl seats. I was rear-ended twice in that car. Remember when Pintos were catching fire in rear-end collisions because of a bolt that would puncture the gas tank? I was blessed that I only got whiplash. That car was wrecked on 3 sides, and I found a huge bandaid bumper sticker that I put across the damaged front fender. Everyone thought that was so cute. But after a while, I got tired of driving a character car and looked for something more sophisticated.

I bought a 1974 Comet. I loved that car. It was a beautiful bronze color with a vinyl top. That was one of the best cars - just the right size, power, and style. As soon as it was paid for, we traded it in for a used diesel Volkswagen Rabbit. Boy, was that a mistake. The first day I drove that car to work, a rock hit the windshield and in no time, there was a crack completely across. Shortly after that, the electrical system went out and left me stranded on a remote road. I don't think we even had that car a year.

Then we got a Dodge Colt, a cute little 4-door sedan with vinyl roof that was customized for me. I loved that car. After that, we had a different car every other year, and I can't remember what came next. I had a Fifth Avenue, a LeBaron, a second Dodge Colt that was a space-aged looking station wagon, a Nissan (Datsun?) 2-door hatchback, a Corolla 4-door hatchback, a 4-door Ford Escort wagon, a 4-door Ford Escort sedan, a Mazda 626, and then I got my dream car - a 2004 Jaguar X-Type.

The Mazda's transmission was going out; it was never the same after I drove it to Galveston to visit my son. I was contemplating whether to have it repaired or buy another car. Then I happened to check out the Enterprise Car Sales website because that was where I got the 626. I saw the Jaguar, called to see if it was still on the lot, grabbed my purse, and ran out the door. I was so excited - a Jaguar that was affordable.

For 7 years, I felt like the Queen of Sheba driving that car. For 7 years, I felt like people should look at me and think I was special because I was driving a Jaguar. For 2 years, I felt like I was bleeding money into that car.

One of the good things about owning a Jaguar and taking it to the dealer was the loaners I got. I drove brand new Jaguars, Saabs, Toyotas, Mazdas, all sorts of cars. Each time I couldn't wait to get my Jaguar back because I liked the power and comfort. I drove a Mazda6 when the Jaguar was in the body shop when the ceiling tile landed on the roof. I liked the Mazda6 - it was a close second to the Jaguar. The car I drove while it was in the shop this last time with alternator and battery problems was a Camry. The Camry was nice, but I didn't like that it was almost black with dark interior.

When I picked up the Jaguar after the second time in the shop in a month, after plunking down another $1800 dollars on top of the $3300 I spent a month before, the transmission wasn't right. I told God, "I can take a hint." And I cried all the way home. My dream car had become a nightmare.

The next morning, I was in the credit union waiting to see my favorite loan officer. We worked out how much I should consider spending on a car - I didn't want to spend more than $10K, and she suggested looking for something about $15K. Then she suggested I look at Enterprise. Before I knew it, she had an Enterprise salesman on the phone, and I was telling him I'd stop by.

By 2:00, I was walking around the Enterprise lot, checking out all the cars I was interested in. They had several that were close to the $15K price range, a few light colored exteriors with light interior, and a couple with electric seats. I made the salesman stay out in the heat as long as I could. We walked back and forth among the cars, and I was telling him why this car was good and why this one wasn't.

The salesman finally talked me into going inside. One of the things he did was ask me what I was looking for in a car, and I gave him my list of must haves. He got the keys to a couple of cars - the Camry and a Honda Accord. We hopped in the Camry and went for a ride. We talked and wound around the country roads behind the car lot. Then we got to where I could take it on the highway. I really liked the smooth ride, responsiveness, cornering, quietness, and the driver's seat was comfortable and high enough for me.

We talked about the pros and cons of the Camry, then we took the Accord for a test drive. After a couple of miles, I knew the Accord was not for me. It was noisier and rougher, and I didn't even take it on the highway. It did not compare to the Camry. We had also considered taking the Malibu on a test drive, but he said if I didn't like the Accord, I wouldn't like the Malibu, and I didn't even drive it.

While I was test driving the cars, they were looking at the Jaguar. It really didn't matter what they saw, the Car Fax mentioned the rear-end collision in April, and it was all over. That collision, which was not my fault, caused a huge drop in the value and how much they would offer. I could have said "No thanks" to trading it in and sold it myself, but then I'd have to advertise, worry about who would want to meet me to check it out, find the title, transfer the title, etc., etc., etc. So, I whined a bit and signed on the dotted line.

As I was going through the Jaguar, gathering all the personal items and preparing to say "goodbye," I started to cry again. Then, I put on my big girl panties, took one last photo of the Jaguar and hopped in the Camry.

By 5:00, I was on my way home in a beautiful Camry that met all the must haves on my list. ALL the must haves. By the time I got home, the Jaguar had become "that stupid Jaguar." I don't miss it. Like a friend said, I "lived the dream."

I really like the Camry, and from all the reports of my friends, I'll like it for a long time. I won't become really good friends with the service rep because I won't see him/her often enough to develop a friendship like at Jaguar.

It felt sooo good to buy regular unleaded gas. I filled the tank the next day (last Sunday), and after driving around this week, the gas gauge has just hit the half mark instead of being empty like with the Jaguar. I'm not being completely fair because the Camry gas tank is 18.5 gallons (according to the manual), and the Jaguar was 14. It feels weird to not be looking for a Chevron station about now. I'm dying to get gas and check the gas mileage. But even more, I want to see how many miles I can go on a tank, so I'll be patient.

I thank God for leading me to the loan officer who led me to Enterprise, who led me to the Camry.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Kitchen complete!

The beautiful counter tops were installed yesterday. I love them! My nephew and family came over last night, and he installed the sink and dishwasher. With everything going on this week, I forgot to get the garbage disposer, so I had to run to Home Depot one more time. I ended up buying the quieter insinkerator, that can hardly be heard - well that is if there's nothing but water anyway. I haven't tried chicken bones yet.

My sink is 8" deep, and it's like a small stainless steel bathtub! I love it. The dishwasher didn't want to work right last night. It never filled with water, so when they left, I was to call Sears today to see what I could do about the problem.

This morning I read all the buttons on the dishwasher, chose the appropriate ones, and it filled with water! I was so happy. I don't know the difference between last night and this morning, I only care that it works now.

I thought we were done. Then I remembered the foyer. We plan to replace the tile, and I guess I'll find out if my chief is available soon.

In the meantime, I'm going out to see a man about a car.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Waiting on the icing

I can't believe it, but the only thing left to do is install the counter tops in the kitchen - and finish unpacking, well, there's the bookcases for the library.

All the hardware has been added to the kitchen drawers and cabinets, and a bin is on the pantry door to hold the boxes of sandwich bags and wraps. "We" even cut off the labels on the drapes.

The best thing is everything has been paid for. The bookcases are the only things lacking. They'll probably be here in a week or two. I'm thinking the open house will be in August sometime.

Then, in the fall/winter, we'll replace the roof and the fence between my neighbor and me.

So, it seems this blog has come to an end.

Thank you so much for your support and suggestions. It's been fun dragging you with me on this journey.

I'll post photos as soon as I can get them all together. But, photos don't do justice.

Monday, July 22, 2013


When I decided to renovate my house, the best solution for what to do with my furniture seemed to be PODS. I checked them online and found them to be reasonable. For 30 days, according to the quote, I would pay $200.45. Wow! How reasonable was that? They do warn that the quote is good for a week.

When I decided to actually reserve a PODS, the price had jumped to $365. When I questioned why it had almost doubled, the agent said the tornadoes in Oklahoma and flooding in San Antonio had increased the demand for their containers. Dang! They offered a discount, for which I was grateful. The total would be $329. I had already made plans and lined up the workers, so I felt like I had to reserve one. I arranged for the PODS to be delivered on May 30, which meant I would have it until June 30. The agent told me to call at least a week ahead of when I wanted them to pick it up to make sure someone was available to get it. Otherwise, I would have to pay for another month.

As they promised, the PODS was delivered on May 30. But the lock wasn't included. When I called, they said they would bring it by the next day. So I lost a day of being able to use the PODS.

The PODS was so dirty that my packer didn't want to put the furniture on the floor. We put a couple of rugs and blankets down first. We were able to pack quite a few things in the PODS. Between that and my garage, we emptied the house.

The work inside the house took longer than I anticipated, and we hustled so we could empty the PODS and have it picked up. I called the week before like I was told, and that's when I was told that since June 30 was a Sunday, they would pick it up the day before, and I had to have it empty and swept out by 7:00 a.m. WHAT?

Now, I was losing another day! What the heck? Oh, and there would be a $71 charge to pick up the PODS. But I would get a $29 refund because I wasn't storing it.

I asked the agent, who was obviously reading a script, why they told me it would be from May 30 to June 30, and now it was going to be a day earlier. Was there a way they could pick it up in the evening so I'd have the day? She kept repeating the same thing over and over. She said she would request a PM pickup. They would call me the evening before to let me know the time they would pick it up.

Just in case they were going to stick to the 7 am pickup, we hustled to empty it Friday evening. Then I got the call that evening saying they would pick it up between 10:00 and 1:00 on Saturday morning. Since the pod was practically empty by the time I got the call, it was no problem.

On Saturday, the truck picked up the PODS at 11:00. The process was fascinating to watch.

On Monday, I noticed that $187.89 was taken out of my checking account by PODS! What the HECK? When I called, they said it was a mistake and immediately reversed the charge on my PODS account, but of course, it took 3 days for the money to return to my checking account. I was livid. I had that money in my account for my medication, which was cancelled because of the lack of funds.

I had the opportunity to do a survey for PODS. I let them know exactly what I thought about their service and the way they treated me. It probably didn't mean anything to them, but it felt good to get the frustration off my chest.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


This past week, the electrician stopped by Monday to repair the plugs in the kitchen that didn't work. The wire had been chewed in the attic, and I guess when we installed the microwave, the activity in the attic taking care of the wiring may have been just what was needed to disconnect the weak spot.

Superman came over Tuesday, and we moved all the bookcases back into the house. Then Wednesday
we moved enough boxes into the house to clear a space large enough for my car to fit into the garage.

Now, there's only one box left in my room to unpack, and the boxes in the living room and kitchen have been unpacked. There are several boxes of things to give away in the living room and my bedroom.

When I first started unpacking, I had a hard time getting started because each box contained trash, things to give away, and things that I wanted to keep. Once I had a place for each, it was easier to zip through the boxes. I have a few left in my office and the guest room. Other than that, I'm just about done.

The air bed is in the guest room, made up with my quilted bedspread. The green bedspread my son used while he was here is now on my bed. It matches the green accent wall perfectly. I just have to find curtains that go with it. The ones I had in my room before were a warm green instead of a cool green like in the bedspread, which is more relaxing. I think I'll take my time and look for something on sale (what a concept!).

I've gathered everything that hangs on the walls in one place to hang when someone else is around to help me arrange the pieces into pleasing vignettes. I have a couple of my grandfather's mounted deer horns, and I plan to use one of them by the front door as a hat rack with a small mirror below. My grandmother decorated the other set of horns with crushed egg shells, then painted it gold. She went through an eggshell phase. Practically everything was covered in crushed eggshells and painted during that phase. My mom did the same things. They were both artistic and crafty. I digress . . .

When my Dad passed away, we had a photo of him at his 80th birthday party enlarged and framed. I have that photo and one of my grandson that I want to hang. I also want to find a photo of my Mom to enlarge and hang. I used to have a grouping of family photos in the hall until July 17, 1997, (I think) when my family came over and helped me clean up, repair some things, and paint the walls (sort of a habitat for Alana). I can't believe it has already been 16 years since we did that.

I logged in 11,052 steps Saturday, emptying boxes and arranging things in the house. Then I went to a neighbor's high school graduation party, and I ended the evening with a hot bath and started this blog.

It's Sunday, and I can safely report that we only have a couple of things to do, and we're done! We've done so much this week. All the touch up painting has been done, the front door was painted, all the door knobs have been installed, the drapes have been matched up and rehung, I had to move my computer to put it on the right side of the armoire. We encountered a problem trying to use the computer my son-in-law gave me. The USB wi-fi didn't want to connect, so we put it back in the box and brought my old clunker back out. Once I got mine set up and ready to go, I found it to be the slowest, most frustrating thing to use. I mentioned to my son-in-law that we couldn't get the wi-fi to work, so he gave me the one he was using on it before he gave it to me. I haven't set it up again yet. I will soon.

We cleared out the library of the boxes that had been hanging around. I'm expecting 4 90-lb boxes of bookcases, and we'll need the room to assemble them. Bulk pickup is tomorrow, so we cleared the back yard and garage of junk. Most of it was picked up and hauled off before we knew it. There were trucks filled to the brim with metal driving through the neighborhood picking up all the metal they could find.

I can't wait until the counter tops are installed. The counter top people will need a clear path to my kitchen. There are 3 possible ways they can bring the pieces in - through the front door then the library, through the front door then the living room, or through the back door straight to the kitchen. Honestly, I hope they choose that way.

Before Friday, we have to disconnect my kitchen sink, the counter tops, and the tile on the window sill. Then we have to rebuild a platform for the granite window sill.

With all the things I did today, I logged in 15,597 steps!!! I went to church, my daughter's for a quick visit, Target, World Market, back to church to help with Altar Guild, and I was all over the house all day. WOW, I never dreamed I would move that much in a day! I can't wait to show my pedometer to the nutritionist at Perfect Solutions! Of course, she'll probably expect that at least once a week from now one. ;o)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

My Car Is Back in the Garage

The good news is the garage is empty enough that my car fits. The bad news is I still have hundreds (not literally, but it seems so) of boxes to unpack. I'm amazed at the junk and volume of papers I've saved over the years. I have bills and receipts dating back to the 1980s probably.

Every year I start with an empty box in January and fill it throughout the year with everything. Then I tape it up and stow it. Now that I have them all in one place, it'll be easier to go through them. They've been all over the house - my bedroom, the garage, the junk room, the office - everywhere.

Once I have everything put away, I'm going through those boxes. I'm sure there are missed opportunities, good memories, savings bonds, uncashed checks, special birthday cards, and all sorts of treasures mixed with the junk mail that I just didn't feel like dealing with at the time. I can't just throw it away without sorting through it. 

My new counter tops will be delivered and installed next Friday! I'm so excited!

No much has happened in the house as far as construction, painting, etc. My detail painter seems to have abandoned me for a while, the chief has been in the hospital - no, I didn't work him too hard. I think he had heat exhaustion or heat stroke. He's been working in the full sun day after day, and I think it caught up with him. When he's at my house, he's in the air conditioned comfort of my home. I actually miss them, but it's nice to have the house to myself.

Superman and I got the bookcases and the last of the furniture back into the house yesterday, and today we got all the boxes that aren't junk, papers or library books in the house for me to unpack. I found the rest of my dishes, pots and pans, blender, stationery, shoes, and linens. Yea! All the boxes left in the garage are neatly stacked against one wall, so there's lots of room for my car.

I'm hoping we'll finish this weekend. I won't be home tomorrow evening because my sister and I have plans. A coworker is coming back Friday to help me set up my computer and peripherals (I hope).

All I really have left to do is the handles on the kitchen cabinets, finish hanging the drapes and curtains, remove the kitchen window sill and counter top and sink so when the granite counter tops are delivered everything will be in place and ready. I have ordered and paid for new bookcases for the library, so I'm waiting on them to arrive. I have boxes of books to load into the bookcases, and I still have to hang things on the walls - may have to invest in some command strips so I don't mess up these beautiful walls.

Last week I felt like I was losing my ability to make good decisions. I struggled with indecision and regret for decisions made. But, I think in the end, 95% of the decisions I made during his renovation have been good. And I know I will love the results. I'm thrilled about everything so far. It has been a huge learning experience. I've worked with some amazingly resilient people, and I think my leadership skills have doubled during this past 7 weeks!

People have asked for photos of the work in progress. They don't do the house justice. You have to see it in person. I will have an open house and invite you to see the results. And I hope to have some sort of poster with photos of the work in progress - from the ugly beginning to the stunningly beautiful end.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Moving back in!

I finished sealing the brown perimeter last night! Tonight we move the furniture in place, finish the last of the painting and touch ups (I hope), and we'll clear out the garage enough to get my car back into it - I hope!

I truly love the color of my floor and the look of the baseboards, and I'm ready to finish unpacking. The last thing I'll do is hang the objet d'art once everything else is in place. I saw a photo of a photo wall that I plan to copy on my main living room wall. I have a great photo of my dad and my other family members. I just need to have a print of my mom enlarged and hang it along with the other photos and memorabilia. I can't believe how many framed photos I found in closets while clearing out the house. Now I just have to put them all together and decide what to do. The leftovers will be unframed and put somewhere safe.

Anyway, I'm getting excited again. A friend mentioned how difficult must be to live in a construction zone, where I can't leave and have to work around the tools, pieces out of place, and boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff. That's true, and if I had it to do over, I'd probably still live in the "zone," but I'd try to make better decisions.

The good news is I'm moving back in today!