Hello Grind, It's Me Again

Here I am. Back at it.

The project that was supposed to go out the week I was on Vacation, got delayed, so immediately upon my return, I was plunged into the Deadline Zone working long hours to get the drawings out the door. After having a week of long leisurely days doing a whole lotta nothing, this was a cruel shock to my system.

Vacations are like anesthesia, they should wear off gradually, gently easing a person back into life’s routines. Being thrown abruptly back into stress and chaos effectively erases the week’s worth of serenity you carefully cultivated.

Sitting at my computer at 8:30 pm, working on dreaded elevator details and OR layouts, the memories of this begin to fade.

As I drive home on the dark deserted streets the calmness of Vacation ebbs to be replaced with anxious stomach acid and I have to try to remember this.

Eating dinner at my desk, again, while making sure dimensions are accurate, it’s difficult to recapture the sweetness of this.

Instead of schedules, sketches, lists, and contacts pinned up inside my cubicle walls, I think I should plaster it with these images of Vacation instead.

Vacation was lovely. We had ideal summer weather, which is highly unusual for Erie at any time of the year – even in summer. The beach house we rented came with its very own adorable private beach. The lake was cool and calm for most of our visit and it was such a soul satisfying treat to spend the day bobbing amongst the waves and tiny silver fish.

It was glorious waking up to the sound of waves instead of the sound of an alarm clock. Reading a good book on a beach chair, in the warm sun, with the waves lapping over your feet is truly one of life’s ultimate pleasures. One night we went to a late movie, afterwards returning to thick summer darkness and the ever-present sounds of the water. One evening we ate grilled fish, outside on the dock while the sun set slowly. One afternoon we nosily poked around a dusty, sweet-smelling used book store. We ate fresh corn, and beans, and tomatoes and zucchini from my grandparent’s garden.

We were able to enjoy our friends and family without the burden of time constraints or holiday obligations.

By the end of the week, I was ready to head home, to my own bed, to my fuzz-butts, to my neighborhood and my unfinished house. And I’m happy to be back. I just miss the joyful simplicity of Vacation. The peace that comes from an unhurried pace.


Time for Vacay*

Tomorrow morning at 5:00 (yes, 5 A.-fucking-M.), Danielson and I will be driving the 10 hours to my hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania. Woo hoo!

I am very excited about this for a couple of reasons:

1. I REALLY need time away from my job right now. I've been feeling pretty burnt-out/despondent the past month. I'm tired of deadlines. I'm tired of OR layouts, and ED headwalls. I'm tired of Revit. I'm tired of my office. I just need a break, OKAY!? *deep breath* In through the nose...out through the mouth...

2. We will have an entire week in Erie. This is unprecedented. Typically if I venture to Erie, it is not only during a major holiday, but it is also only for a few days in which I am staying with friends or family, and basically running non-stop in an effort to see everyone. It's always fairly exhausting.

Not this time, my friend. This time, we will be renting a beach house all to ourselves. Sweet. AND we're going at a time when there is nothing else going on. No Christmas. No Fourth of July. No long Labor Day weekend. We will actually be able to spend leisurely days together and then enjoy our friends and families in the evenings. We don't have to make excessive plans in order to fit everyone in...we can just play it by ear. Which is exactly how I like to play it.

Even though it's a long drive, I'm looking forward to it. I like road trips. And, we just bought a new car, so it'll be interesting to see what kind of gas mileage we get. We traded in my old V8 Oldsmobile for a new Nissan Versa (meep meep!). And no, we did not qualify for the Cash for Clunkers program. It was just the right thing to do and the right time (for us) to do it. We'd been talking about getting a fuel-efficient vehicle for a while now and when we test drove the Versa, we just really liked it.

I can play with the satellite radio the whole way there - bonus! Plus, we're breaking up the drive a bit with a brief layover in Columbus Ohio to have lunch with Daniel's brother and nieces (commonly referred to as "Jimnthegirls").

Erie - Here We Come!

* that's for you, honey! ;) (psst! Danielson gets annoyed with "words" like "vacay"...and sometimes it's just too damn hard to resist annoying him by using "words" like "vacay")



Have any of you ever consulted an arborist?

A couple of days ago, Daniel and I had an appointment with an arborist to assess the many trees on our property.

Neither one of us has ever owned trees before or had to take care of them. Since first looking at the place, we’ve noticed that some of the trees look like they desperately need help. We have some covered in vines. Some have ants and tiny holes all over them. Some are covered with lichen. And some look like they belong in a Tim Burton film. Having little to no tree experience, and suddenly having many, many trees to look after, we weren't sure on a course of action. Do some need to be removed completely? Just trimmed? Rehabilitated? And if so, how?

So, we asked an arborist to come out and diagnose our tree situation.

We have 7 Dogwoods. 2 are diseased and need to be removed immediately if not sooner to ensure the disease doesn’t spread to any other trees.

Our Red Bud tree in the front yard looks tortured and is in pretty sorry shape. We’re going to put that one down as well.

Apparently the pine trees with the vines clinging to them are fine. The vines are not strangling, choking or harming the trees, they’re just ugly. So that’s good news.

One of our 80 year old Sugar Maples is covered with ants. But that’s not the problem. The problem is the tiny holes all over the trunk caused by borers. Borers are serious. They kill trees. Our arborist recommends spraying the trunk with some kind of chemical which is harmful to the borers but safe for the tree. And even then, the tree may not make it. Dreadful. It would be a crying shame to have to take this tree down.

We have another old Sugar Maple, ant and borer free, very healthy, but it’s being crowded out by an Ash. Our arborist put it to us plain and simple. An 80 year old Sugar Maple is a highly desirable tree to have. An Ash tree…eh…not so much. So to ensure the continuing vibrant health of the highly desirable Sugar Maple, he suggested we remove the Ash. Poor Ash.

Our Holly tree just needs some deadwood removed, as does the pine at the end of our driveway.

And that’s about as far as we got. We peered down towards the creek, but then turned around and walked back to the house. I couldn't take anymore diagnoses.


Fear of the Unknown

Humans fear change. We do. It’s that whole unknown factor that gives us goosebumps. We don’t like or welcome any variances from what we are used to in our lives. To prevent any variance and maintain a status quo, even if the status quo is not working, there are folks who will grind their heels into the dirt, grit their teeth, shut their eyes, and believe what they want to believe in order to avoid change.

While I’m sure those same people will accuse me of believing any old horseshit the liberal media throws at us, below is a list of the top 5 common misconceptions being passed around about this healthcare reform bill.

Agree with The Bill. Disagree with The Bill. Whatever.

#1: This healthcare bill wants to euthanize your grandma.

The truth: These accusations—of "death panels" and forced euthanasia—are, of course, flatly untrue. As an article from the Associated Press puts it: "No 'death panel' in health care bill." What's the real deal? Reform legislation includes a provision, supported by the AARP, to offer senior citizens access to a professional medical counselor who will provide them with information on preparing a living will and other issues facing older Americans.

#2: Private insurance will be outlawed and you will be forced into a government plan.

The truth: With reform, choices will increase, not decrease. This healthcare reform plan will create a health insurance exchange, a one-stop shopping marketplace for affordable, high-quality insurance options. Included in the exchange is the public health insurance option—a nationwide plan with a broad network of providers—that will operate alongside private insurance companies, injecting competition into the market to drive quality up and costs down.

If you're happy with your coverage and doctors, you can keep them. But the new public plan will expand choices to millions of businesses or individuals who choose to opt into it, including many who simply can't afford health care now.

#3: The new healthcare reform bill will essentially implement Soviet-style rationing.

The truth: Health care reform will expand access to high-quality health insurance, and give individuals, families, and businesses more choices for coverage. Right now, big corporations decide whether to give you coverage, what doctors you get to see, and whether a particular procedure or medicine is covered—that is rationed care. And a big part of reform is to stop that. Health care reform will do away with some of the most nefarious aspects of this rationing: discrimination for pre-existing conditions, insurers that cancel coverage when you get sick, gender discrimination, and lifetime and yearly limits on coverage. And outside of that, as noted above, reform will increase insurance options, not force anyone into a rationed situation.

#4: Senior citizens' Medicare benefits will be cut.

The truth: Health care reform plans will not reduce Medicare benefits. Reform includes savings from Medicare that are unrelated to patient care —in fact, the savings comes from cutting billions of dollars in overpayments to insurance companies and eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse.

#5: Obama's health care plan will bankrupt the United States.

The truth: We need health care reform now in order to prevent bankruptcy — to control spiraling costs that affect individuals, families, small businesses, and the American economy.

Right now, we spend more than $2 trillion dollars a year on health care. The average family premium is projected to rise to over $22,000 in the next decade — and each year, nearly a million people face bankruptcy because of medical expenses. Reform, with an affordable, high-quality public option that can spur competition, is necessary to bring down skyrocketing costs. Also, President Obama's reform plans would be fully paid for over 10 years and not add a penny to the deficit.

Want some more reading material? Here ya go:

"More 'Town Halls Gone Wild': Angry Far Right Protesters Disrupt Events With 'Incomprehensible' Yelling," Think Progress, August 4, 2009.

"Fight the smears," Health Care for America NOW, accessed August 10,

"Palin Paints Picture of 'Obama Death Panel' Giving Thumbs Down to Trig,"
ABC News, August 7, 2009.

"No 'death panel' in health care bill," The Associated Press, August 10,

"Stop Distorting the Truth about End of Life Care," The Huffington Post,
July 24, 2009.

"Reality Check FAQs," WhiteHouse.gov, accessed August 11, 2009.

"Why We Need a Public Health-Care Plan," The Wall Street Journal, June
24, 2009.

"Obama: 'If You Like Your Doctor, You Can Keep Your Doctor,'" The Wall Street Journal, 15, 2009.

"Reality Check FAQs," WhiteHouse.gov, accessed August 10, 2009.

"Obama: No reduced Medicare benefits in health care reform," CNN, July 28, 2009.

"Reality Check FAQs," WhiteHouse.gov, accessed August 10, 2009.

"Reality Check FAQs," WhiteHouse.gov, accessed August 10, 2009.

"Premiums Run Amok," Center for American Progress, July 24, 2009.

"Medical bills prompt more than 60 percent of U.S. bankruptcies," CNN, June 5, 2009.

"Reality Check FAQs," WhiteHouse.gov, accessed August 10, 2009.

"A euthanasia mandate," The Washington Times, July 29, 2009.

"It's Not An Option," Investor's Business Daily, July 15, 2009.

"Rationing Health Care," The Washington Times, April 21, 2009.

"60 Plus Ad Is Chock Full Of Misinformation," Media Matters for America,
August 8, 2009.

"Obama's 'Public' Health Plan Will Bankrupt the Nation," The National
Review, May 13, 2009.

Oh, and if you haven't seen Sicko because you hate Michael Moore, you really should see it anyway. Even the ridiculously right slanted FOX News had this to say about it.


New Furniture

I co-habitate with two felines. Basically, over the past 8 years I have become their obedient servant. Occasionally they reward me with carefully doled out moments of affection, but mostly they ignore me with entitled indifference. Their emotional distance is crippling and bordering on abusive *sigh*. But, I persist in my subservient devotion.

Recently I attempted to buy their affection through the carefully planned purchase of a cat tree.

It arrived last week on our front porch in a giant box weighing 62 pounds.

What emerged, as Daniel patiently put it together, was a 6 foot tall, multi-level jungle gym with hanging toys, a hammock, and a fort with lots of sisal rope posts for their scratching pleasure.

They seem pleased with the humble offering and have gradually accepted, and dare I say, enjoyed this piece of cat furniture.

Gwendolyn couldn’t be bothered posing for any photographs. She thinks photo-taking is nonsense and will not tolerate it.

Addison deigned to allow me to snap his picture as he lounged in the fur covered fort.

I think they may be warming up to me!

Sunday Gravy

When I married an Italian, I knew this day would come.

When I saw the piles of ripe tomatoes displayed on the kitchen countertops this weekend, I knew this day had arrived. And my heart rejoiced.

He cut those tomatoes in half and arranged them in baking dishes, cut side up. He drizzled extra virgin olive oil all over them and sprinkled the glistening half-orbs with finely chopped garlic and onions. Then he threw on salt, pepper, oregano, and tarragon (I think).

The pans went into a hot oven and stayed there until the entire house smelled fanfuckingtastic.

And they looked like this:

We (yes, I helped at this point) slipped the tight skins off and dumped the fragrant innards into a bowl where they got mashed up a little until being transferred to the blender.

After the blenderizing, he dumped it all into a big pot, added some dry white wine and let it simmer, simmer, simmer. Apparently, and I did not know this, there are a few flavors in a tomato which are only brought out by alcohol. Or something like that. Bottom line, alcohol = good.

Then he smothered these golden slabs of eggplant with the tomato sauce, sprinkled it with cheese, and baked it up a bit. And then I died right on the spot from sensory overload.

This man is dangerous. Very dangerous.


I Heart My Neighborhood

This morning I was awoken by a trumpet, or maybe a trombone, or a horn of some sort. It’s difficult for me to clearly ascertain the exact instrument as I untangle myself from bed sheets, wipe drool off of my cheek with the back of my hand and rub goobers out of my eyes as I begrudgingly return to consciousness. My morning self is not a pretty sight. We live across the street from a middle school and apparently the marching band has been gearing up for the rapidly approaching school season by practicing early in the mornings before it gets too hot.

While I am most certainly not a huge fan of mornings, I will declare right here, right now, that I am a huge fan of marching bands. I was never talented enough or driven enough to actually accomplish an instrument, much less ever be a member of a marching band. *sigh* Being awoken by the sounds of a marching band practicing across the street from my house makes me considerably less grumpy in the morning and makes me love my neighborhood just a little bit more than I already do.

I’m looking forward to school starting. I like being in the midst of action and there’s always action going on at schools. Besides the middle school across the street, there’s also the neighborhood elementary school less than a mile from my house, which means many children still walk to school every morning, which means there are plenty of crossing guards. I love crossing guards. In their little orange vests.

I also like that there’s a bus stop down the corner from my house. Weird, right? I don’t even use the bus. I actually CAN’T use the bus to get to work – I already checked the route schedule. And even though I have never used the Nashville Metro Bus service, I like that I have the option. A very convenient option at that. I have never lived anywhere in Nashville before where taking the bus was a viable transportation solution.

In addition to accessible mass transit, I now have the ability to WALK as a means of transportation and/or recreation. I step out my front door and there are sidewalks. Sidewalks that can take me on a leisurely stroll at dusk, after dinner when the streetlights start to flicker, and windows glow with the blue tinge of television sets. Where I can pass neighbors out walking too. Walking their dog or with their kids. Or I can wave and say “hey” to the neighbors not inclined to walking but inclined to sitting out on their porches digesting their evening meals.

These same magical sidewalks can take me for a short stroll down the street to any number of services and conveniences. Like a fantastic deli and grocery that makes the most delicious turkey/bacon/avocado sandwich you have ever eaten and sells perfectly ripe peaches. Or like the coffee shop that makes seriously robust French press lattes made from locally roasted beans, and then sells you their totally addictive Nutter Butter ice cream made daily on the premises. Or like the school of music that offers classes to all ages of nearly any musical persuasion, and then routinely holds free outdoor performances in the comfortable courtyard right next to the community garden.

Also in this same area (officially called Riverside Village) is a dance/fitness studio for all ages, a used furniture store, a sushi bar, a thrift shop, a beauty salon, a pizza parlor (serving amazingly delicious feta cheese sticks), a doggy daycare and grooming salon, an authentic (and when I say authentic, I mean authentic) southern meat n’ three restaurant, a gas station/convenience store, and a chocolate factory. You heard me. A chocolate factory. Where they make chocolate. From beans. All of this convenient neighborhood wonderment is accessible by stepping out my front door and taking the sidewalk along my two-lane residential street about a quarter of a mile.

And here’s the really awesome part. This rockin’ neighborhood scheme is not some kind of Disney-esque, New Urbanism bullshit. The streets are not winding. There are no cul-de-sacs. The houses are old, some are older than others, and the unique ones are mixed right in with the mundane ones, and all are in varying states of disrepair. Mailboxes are different sizes, often crooked and rusty, maybe with a broken flag or faded numbers. Some driveways are paved and some aren’t, and have Mercedes while others have shiny Vespas or lumbering Buicks or ancient duct-taped Volvos.

The folks who live in my neighborhood are as diverse as the physical stuff surrounding our neighborhood. Young families. Old families. Blended families. Multi-generational families. Vegan hippies and soccer moms. Singles and couples. Diverse ethnic, age, and socio-economic striates. Those who have lived there for many generations and those of us who are new to the ‘hood all mixed up together. And I’m sure my neighborhood isn’t perfect, but it seems to work. It feels genuine and just a little bit gritty. And I love it.