Bonus!

2012.12.20.bonusBack in August when I started my new job, the biggest bonus was that my employer was actually willing to sponsor me for a work visa. Those of you who’ve attempted to live in a country other than your native one will understand what a tremendous bonus this is.

Of course, because I work for a small, government-funded programme, I realised that pay increases and bonuses would not be in my future. But that’s OK because I enjoy the job—and I make enough to live on so I don’t need a salary increase. (Though I’d happily take!)

So with that in mind, the last thing I expected to receive today was a bonus. But it seems that someone felt we all deserved a little something extra so they dipped into their own pocket to deliver everyone a generous gift certificate to the local shopping centre. (Please note that this was given with private funds, not government money—no tax money was used for this gift.)

Anyhow, just this morning I stood there looking at my latest accumulation of spare change and I told myself that I would use it to purchase a new tablet in the new year—as soon as there was enough of it. Well, it seems to me that this unexpected bonus could be used to help me get there a little bit faster, which means that between the £60 I had in coins and the £100 on the gift card, it’s time to start researching my next gadget!

Of course, by the time I finally get around to cashing in the coins, I’ll have enough for an even better gadget. I can’t wait!

(K)impossible

This is Kim. Kim Possible, to use her full name. She began her life as a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy way back in 2003 and has been serving as my office power back-up since August 2004.

You see, in August 2004 I started working in a Downtown Seattle skyscraper—on the top floor. And my then-five-year-old nephew, Adrian, was concerned about my ability to get out of the building in the event of a power failure. Anyhow, he felt that Kim would be a useful tool for me because her jetpack lights up giving off a little red glow.

So, in his five-year-old wisdom, if the power went out and it was dark, I could use Kim’s glowing jetpack to find my way to the elevators to get downstairs. You know, because the elevators would still work in his mind. Yes, he was a very sweet kid to have given me his toy. Heck, eight years later and he’s still a very sweet kid!

Anyhow, since leaving my job in the States last year, Kim has hung out on a window sill at home, watching over me as I worked on my master’s degree. But today, she made her way to her new home on the desk at my new job. I’m sure she’ll like it there!

Gadget Girl

Yep, that’s me: Gadget Girl. OK, I admit that I’m not the most gadgety of all gadget girls, but I’m certainly the first place contender in my little bit of the world. And I would guess that if I had the income to support it, I would probably be a contender for the world as a whole. Because gadgets are just cool.

My first gadget was a calculator watch that I got for Christmas 1983. I remember the year because I remember going back to school in January 1984 and showing it to my 4th grade teacher, Mrs Vetter—who quickly informed me it couldn’t be used for maths tests. Oh, but it was awesome! It had an alarm clock and a small address book. I wore it all the time. In fact, I wore it so much that I remember taking if off for baths and it being rather slimy and manky underneath. It was disgusting, really.

I don’t recall how it broke—or when—but I remember always wishing I had another watch as cool as it was. Though my next digital watch was pretty neat-o with its blue glow button thingy to see the time in the dark. Again, my insistence to wear it all the time meant it got pretty icky pretty quickly. (Seriously, who wears a watch to bed?)

Anyhow, about a year or so after that first calculator watch, I got my first Walkman. I would use it when I walked around delivering newspapers—and I’d sing along. It was great! And a year or so after that, I got my first electric typewriter. In fact, I used that typewriter to make up little notes to deliver with my papers when I first took over a new route—little notes introducing myself and giving my customers my name and number in case they had any problems or questions. (Yeah, I was am a geek.)

Over the years, my gadget collection grew and I slowly became an early adopter—and a vocal gadget advocate! And, do you know what? I feel good when I have the best gadget in the room. I know it’s silly and a bit vain, but I really do get an amazing ego boost when my gadgets are better than those of everyone around me.

Sadly, since leaving my job last year in favour of being an unemployed student has meant that I’ve been neglecting my gadgety ways. But that all changed today when I picked up a brand new phone. Yay!

Yes, boys and girls, I am now the proud owner of a beautiful, blue Samsung Galaxy S3. It’s the latest-and-greatest Android phone on the market and I own one!

It took me a while to take the plunge because it required a two-year contract and my visa expires on November 11, but I am throwing caution to the wind and will just hope and pray that I get a job that allows me to extend that visa for the entire length of my phone contract—and more! Otherwise, I guess I have to pay a bit of money to cancel the contract. And I hate parting with money so—come on, job!

So, not a bad way to start the second day of my holidays! And now I have something to play with when I’m on the train to Inverness on Sunday.

Happy Gadget Day, everyone!

(And not that I’m a geek or anything, but you’ll maybe notice that I have HAL as the wallpaper on one of my laptops!)

I broke it!

Yikes! Were you on Just Frances yesterday? Well, if you were you may have noticed a 12+ hour period where the site was broken. The main page worked (mostly) but all of the other pages were kicking up an error.

Well, I have it fixed now. It took a bit of head scratching and a conversation via Facebook with some guy I’ve never met but whom I’ve kind of been introduced to by other Facebook friends I’ve never met (but have ‘known’ for years!).

Sadly, that friend wasn’t able to help in a direct way but his thought process—and a comment made by my awesome host—led me to an idea when I woke up this morning.

Anyhow, it’s fixed now. Unfortunately, I had to uninstall a plugin that I really liked to make it work. (I then re-installed to see if that was really the problem, and it was.) I’m not going to call them out just now because I’ll wait to see how they respond to my email—and hopefully they can fix the bug on their end.

But! I’m back now and that’s all that matters.

And how’s that dissertation coming along? Well, yesterday—despite the Just Frances drama!—was a productive day that saw me writing 2,300 words! So, here’s the status:

Current word count: 8,094 (only 3,906 to go!)

Today’s task list:

  • Head up to campus a bit of library time
  • Work on findings section
  • Start putting together my conclusion

And your task list? Simple! Just have an awesome day!

[Photo note: That’s my old, old phone that I broke at the Edinburgh Castle way back in March 2010. You can read the story here if you want to laugh at me retrospectively.]

Doing nothing, online

A little while ago, I told you about my classes for spring semester and how one of those classes included blogging. Well, yesterday I posted my first blogging assignment, and I’m sharing it with you today. (Wow! I can actually hear you shouting with joy over that little fact!)

This post was meant to get everyone used to the blogging environment (yeah, I’ve got that down pat!). We were asked to share something we liked online—a website, video clip, playlist, or even another blog. I thought it would be a bit churlish to share Just Frances, so I chose anther website that I really like.

So, here’s my first academic blog post!

Doing nothing, online

I am a pretty well-connected gal. I spend countless hours interacting with family, friends, and perfect strangers through social media on my computer and phone every day. I Facebook and Tweet daily. I Skype and blog and email and Yelp—and have even recently started pinning.

But sometimes I like to do nothing. Sometimes, I like to put my feet up and meditate a bit. Online. Because that’s what a well-connected gal does!

Do Nothing for 2 Minutes is a great reminder that we all need to unplug and unwind from time-to-time. I admit that there is a certain amount of irony to the site, but I think that’s why I like it so much. And, surprisingly, as someone who may be a little bit a lot addicted to interacting with social media, I am pretty good at sitting still and doing nothing for two minutes. (Though it did take a lot of practice before I succeeded!)

Oh yeah, and when you’re done doing nothing, you’re asked to share your success on Facebook, Twitter, or StumbleUpon. Because what’s the point of doing nothing online if you can’t tell all of your friends about it?

First day, again

Yippee! After a too-long, two-month winter break I have finally started back to school. The new semester began on Monday with classes starting yesterday, but since I don’t have classes on Wednesday, I only got back to the classroom today. And it was fun!

OK, fun might not be the right word, but I really did enjoy it. And I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s class, too.

And back to school means dusting off the school supplies!

So I’ve got fresh ink in my printer (it ran dry when printing course materials earlier in the week) and a couple of new note books for jotting down thoughts when I’m not able to type them out. I also have plenty of Post-Its and page flags for marking pages and taking notes when I’m reading, and highlighters for highlighting course notes and handouts. (I rarely use highlighters or pens in books—that’s a bad thing to do!)

And, of course, I’ve got Little Green, my super-fantastic netbook that I take to class with me. It really is the sign of the modern era, because in my undergraduate studies I had a desktop and laptop computer, but certainly wouldn’t have lugged something to class with me. Now, I power up at the start of each class and I search out further information on the spot (then bookmark the websites for later review).

Oh, and I have some text books, too. I’ll tell you more about them later.

Yeah, I’m pretty excited to be back at school. And once I’ve attended each of my four classes I will tell you a bit about them—because I know you want to know! For now, I have some reading to do for tomorrow’s class so I need to sign off.

But not before I remind you to enter my anniversary competition that I posted yesterday. I’ve really enjoyed the entries so far and would love to be entertained with a few more! (Don’t be shy!)

Times, they are a-changin’

Ah, yes. It’s that magical time of year when the clocks fall back an hour as you sleep. I always liked clock-changing times as a child, though I don’t really know why. Of course, as an adult it’s been a bit of a pain because it means remembering to run all over the house (and cars changing various clocks.

But this year is different. This year I don’t own any clocks (yet) and my computers and mobile phone are all super smart and have managed to update themselves without any assistance from me. And when I first moved into my flat on Monday the clock on the boiler (that’s like a furnace in American speak) was off by 20 minutes so I had to re-set it—and I set it to the soon-to-be correct time so that I didn’t need to remember it today.

Yep. I’ve had a super easy time this go around.

And do you want to know the best part? Of course you do! Well, the best part is that whilst the UK changes times today, the USA doesn’t change until next weekend. And that means that—for the next week—I am an hour closer to my family. (Aw, isn’t that sweet!)

So—Hello family! We’re only seven hours apart at the moment. Yay!!

Not today

I was going to write a post about my first day of classes, but in typical student fashion, I just can’t be bothered. So instead, I’ll just post a quick hello to test out my new post-by-phone application on my gadet-y new android phone.

I promise to post something later in the week though and will let you know how all of my classes are at the end of the week. Deal?

By the sea

Today has been a seaside day. But not just one seaside—three of them! Or, really, I suppose it was all the same sea, but just three different seaside towns.

It started with a trip to Saltburn with one of my sister-in-law’s and her daughter where we took in the fresh sea air, walked along the pier, and enjoyed (of course) fish and chips. Our conversations there revealed that I’d never been to any of the other local-to-Billingham seaside towns (other than Seaton, obviously) and that my niece wanted blue ice cream—a treat we were unable to source at Saltburn.

And so, after departing Saltburn we headed up the road to Redcar (in a silver car) in search of blue ice cream (which we didn’t find) and later in search of the car (which we lost after forgetting where we parked it). Of course, being as we had time to spare, we decided to head up the road again to Seaton Carew where we hoped that we’d find that blue ice cream. Sadly, we didn’t, but they did have other flavours (and colours) of ice cream and a blue cone, which seemed to suffice.

The day wasn’t meant to be a tour of the regional seaside, but it was and I enjoyed it very much. Better still, I enjoyed the company! Better even still is that I know that I will get to enjoy their company more often now that I’m so near. (The bitter-sweet side to that, of course, is that whilst I’m happy to be enjoying the company of my in-laws and Scottish friends, it comes at the price of missing my own family and American friends.)

Oh, and to fill you in since I’ve been a bit MIA these last few days:
Yesterday was spent meeting with several of my in-laws for coffee at Starbucks before heading off gadget phone shopping with one of my nephews—a shopping trip that was hugely successful and saw me purchasing my first-ever Android based phone. And I love it! (I’m sure I’ll be posting updates from it soon enough!)

Tomorrow I’m off running so that I can prepare for my marathon, then the following day I’m heading down to Wakefield to see another sister-in-law. And sometime next week, I’ll spend some time sorting the long to-do list I have that seems to be getting longer rather than shorter!

Right! That’s most everything caught up so I’m off to play with that new gadget a bit more.

In flight

Ah, the modern world. Don’t you love how it’s filled with gadgets and gizmos aplenty and whozits and whatzits galore? After all, it means that I can bring you this blog update from an airplane some 10,000 feet above the ground!

So, here I am somewhere in the air between my home state of Washington and the Minneapolis airport. I’m flying on a standby buddy pass (i.e.: dirt cheap!), so was pleased to have gotten a seat on my first leg without problems. The next leg is Minneapolis to London and I’m hoping for good luck once again. Once I get to London I’m on my own and am travelling full fare, but it’s still an amazing savings.

(A special shout out of thanks to a special friend who sorted my travel. I won’t name her because I don’t want to make her phone ring off the hook for others looking for cheap travel, but please know that she is an amazing woman and whilst I don’t know her well, I feel that she is a true friend and someone I hope to know for the rest of my life! Lots of love to you, my friend!!)

But I digress…

I guess the point of this post is to distract me a bit from this new reality that I’ve yet to admit. It just doesn’t seem possible that I’m finally on my way. I feel as if I’m in a dream world and that this is just a little jaunt to someplace. I’ve been shutting out my emotions so much these past few weeks and I know it!

Don’t get me wrong, I cried when I said goodbye to my folks today (and my sister, two nieces and a nephew who joined us at SeaTac). And I’ve cried a few times since getting through security. But it’s all still a dream.

But I think my meltdown moment will be either when I arrive in Heathrow or when I arrive in Edinburgh and am greeted by Rebecca. (Yes, Rebecca, please expect tears. But please know it’s not you!) Yep, I’m a step closer to the dream and it won’t be long until my future becomes my today!!

[That’s a photo of me with the folks just before I got in line for security. I miss them already… (and not just because of the cooking and laundry they’ve done in the past month I’ve been staying with them!)]

Green means go

Today was Shiny New Gadget Day, which is always a celebratory day for me. And today’s gadget was a Dell Inspiron Mini 1012—a wee green computing machine!

It was a hard decision to get a new gadget as I’m trying to save every penny I can for my year of relative unemployment, but I decided that I really did need it to make my studies easier. My main laptop (a lovely, robust little HP called Happy) is great and will continue to be used, but she’s just too heavy for toting to-and-from classes. And with her limited (3-4 hours?) battery life, there is the added weight of her power cord. Add to that, I will be living car-less which means the long walk to campus, to the library, or to the coffee shop would just be too burdensome with the extra weight.

(Have I convinced you that I really did need to make this purchase yet? Because I feel I need to convince you that I need it so that my guilt will lessen…)

Anyhow, LittleGreen (that’s her name) is lightweight and can run about six hours on a full battery charge. She is quick and speedy and will run my graphic software with ease—though with her small size (just 10”) I won’t use her as my main design friend. I haven’t gotten a chance to bond with LittleGreen just yet, but we will soon. Oh yes, come tomorrow I’ll have set my preferences, downloaded Skype and TweetDeck, installed Office and Adobe Creative Suite, and networked her with Happy.

All just in time to pack up and take to the ocean this weekend!

(Yay!)

On a positive note

Yesterday’s post was a bit sad and whilst I’d love to say that I’m over it and that the world is all unicorns and rainbows and shiny things now, it’s not. It’s going to take a while to get to that point because I have a lot of stuff to go through (mentally, emotionally, and physically) to prepare for my happy future. It’s stressful and overwhelming but I am trying to be positive, really.

One of the things that has me thinking positively is the realisation that once I’ve actually left my job and my house, I will be free to spend time relaxing and sorting things out in my head—something I’ve not really had a chance to do since Paul died more than two years ago. And all of the sudden I’m going to have three weeks or so with no responsibilities. So here’s how I imagine myself spending those three weeks:

First, I have to be realistic and acknowledge that my Dad probably has a list of projects for me to help with around the house. Mom probably has a list, too. But I also know that I enjoy helping the folks (delayed obedience I like to call it) so that’s OK. Plus that, Dad’s projects will probably be great for some cross training (i.e.: free weight lifting!). Of course, the folks aren’t going to keep me busy from dawn to dusk, so that’s where the rest of the plan comes in.

I’m planning to get some training runs in most days and maybe some bike riding for cross training. I’m planning to sit in the back garden with a book (or my Kindle) soaking up the sun. I’m planning on eating lots of good food that my folks cook for me (really, I’ll try to get out of as much cooking as possible!). I’m planning on meeting up with friends and siblings for lunch and coffee. I’m planning to head up to the lake with my book (or my Kindle) to soak up the sun. I’m planning to hang out with my nieces and nephews as much as possible.

Oh! And I’m planning to attend the Eberle Family Reunion at Ocean Shores—with a pre-reunion camping trip with Uncle Mike for good measure. And I’m planning to attend the multi-year Cle Elum Roslyn High School reunion. And I’m planning to sit in front of the local coffee shop with a book (or my Kindle) soaking up the sun, chatting with the other locals in the way that small town locals do. (Might as well enjoy these few weeks of ‘being a local’ once again.)

Of course I know that my emotions will get the better of me from time-to-time and that my relaxing time will also be emotional crying time. But I’m pretty sure that just having time to be with my thoughts—without the pressures of work—will help. I just have to remember not to get bored. Or if I do get bored, I can’t tell my folks because growing up, once you said ‘I’m bored’ they’d put you to work—and you couldn’t take those words back!

[Note to self: I won’t be bored, I’ll be relaxing.]

Music lessons; take three

When my foster daughter first came to stay with me, we fell into a habit of listening to the radio on the drives to and from town, about 30 miles away. We both liked country, so it worked for us. Then in the evenings I would put some jazz or a bit of Christy Moore or Mary Black on the Bose. The kid didn’t care for the jazz but seemed to like the Irish tunes so that became our pattern.

Then one day in October I brought my “The Best Scottish Album in the World…Ever” CD out to the car and we discovered that she loved much of that music.

Soon, we were listening to The Paperboys and The Waterboys. Then we added The Clumsy Lovers and The Saw Doctors. And she loved it all. Really, really loved it.

So when I started thinking about what to get her for her birthday in July, it was an easy decision: An iPod filled with her new favourite tunes.

I gave her the gift a couple of days ago because she is leaving for her new home on the east coast tomorrow morning and I won’t get to see her on her birthday. And it would be fair to say that she loved the gift—especially the engraving on the back that says “[Name] is 100% awesome.”

It’s really going to be hard to say goodbye tomorrow, but I hope that she’ll think of me with happy thoughts when she hears the music she was introduced to during our time together. I know that I will never think of The Paperboys without thinking of the kid, that’s for sure!

I do love teaching kids about music! See what I taught my niece, Flik, here or check out her brother, Haden’s, music lesson!

Music lessons; take two

Back in April I took Paul’s record collection and a turntable to my niece, Flik. This was a much loved gift and she’s since purchased a few new (old) records to add to the collection. Unfortunately, this left her 12-year-old brother, Haden, feeling a bit left out.

But that changed today when I showed up with a dual-cassette ‘boom box’ and a bag of Uncle Paul and my old cassette tapes. I know it’s hard to believe, but the kid was so, so excited to get a stack of Van Morrison and Bob Dylan tapes. Maybe less excited about some of my tapes—Cyndi Lauper, Sylvia, and Belinda Carlisle.

I had to teach him how to use the cassette player and explain how the process works for finding a specific song and flipping the tape over when one side is done, but that quick lesson was enough to get him ready to play. I also explained the concept of mixed tapes and about the differences between 8-tracks and cassettes. He was further cheered when I told him that you can still find cassettes every-so-often. (He’s a yard sale maniac, so he’ll be finding new music all summer, I’m sure!)

Anyhow, we’re now sitting here watching Pete’s Dragon and I think it’s driving him crazy because what he wants to be doing is playing with his new toy.

Yep. I’m still Aunt Awesome!

I’ve been Kindled!

I did it! I purchased a Kindle today. The 3G one. Yay me!

I opted to purchase it from Staples in Moscow because I didn’t want to wait a week for it to arrive from Amazon and because it was $3.40 cheaper because of the sales tax savings. (Yes; I’m that cheap. I mean, I was going to drop of clothes at Goodwill across the parking lot, so it wasn’t out of my way or anything.)

I also purchased my first Kindle book—Ian Rankin’sStrip Jack” for £4.99. Ah! Did you notice that pound sign? Well that’s because the book I wanted isn’t available for customers in America so I had to switch my country of choice to the UK. Which is cool since that will be my country of residence in less than three months’ time.

Anyhow, I need to go read now but I wanted to leave you with a couple of questions:

  • Is there something ironic about naming a book-reading device after a fire-related word?
  • If you purchase a re-furbished Kindle (or re-gift one) then does the Kindle become a Rekindle?
  • If you’re reading something electronically, can it even be said that you’re reading a book?

So, book suggestions welcome. Gifts of Kindle books are also welcome. [Enter cheeky smile here.]

Happy reading!

Selling swords

I’ve sold all of Paul’s old swords—finally. I’d gone through them with a co-worker back in February but hadn’t gotten around to doing much more. I think I was worried that it would be a long and drawn out process, and I wasn’t looking forward to it. Especially when I figured I’d get less than $300 for the lot!

Anyhow, on Friday afternoon I was talking to that same co-worker who told me that she’d been to Clarkston the week before and noticed a sign for a pawn shop specialising in swords and knives. So I did a quick search and found a phone number for the shop—Sid’s Pawn. I called Sid and told him my situation. Then I sent my folks a quick email to see if they’d be heading my way in the next couple of weeks. And less than ten minutes later Dad responded that they could come out that day—a four hours’ drive at the start of Mother’s Day weekend.

All of the sudden I was excited because it seemed like I might actually be able to sell the swords, and had even started to believe in my mind that I might just be able to get my ‘hoped for’ amount of $300. Of course, I was also trying to be realistic and tried to convince myself that I’d happily take an offer of less than that. But I knew I’d be super-happy with an offer of $400.

Anyhow, less than 24 hours after I got the tip I found myself walking into a pawn shop with a stack of swords and walking out with $500!! That was even after taking the most valuable swords out of the collection for my co-worker and Dad, giving a couple to my cousin, and keeping a small one for me. (No clue why or what I’ll do with it, but I felt the need to keep one.)

I’m happy because I didn’t really expect to be able to sell them—let alone for as much as I did. I’m happy because that extra money will help my finances as I prepare to move my entire life 6,000 miles away. And I’m happy because I know that Paul would be pleased that I’m moving forward with this new future—despite it not being the life I’d signed up for!

Of course, I’m sad because it’s another realisation that my world is changing in ways that I never dreamt of. I’m sad because parting with Paul’s belongings—even ones without sentimental value—is a reminder that he will never come back to yell at me for getting rid of his stuff. And I’m sad because, eventually, I’m going to have to sort through the sentimental stuff.

Oh, but more happy stuff is that I am now thinking I may get a Kindle. I mean, I got $200 more than I ever dreamt I would for the swords, so why not? I’m not 100% certain that I’ll get one, but I might. Maybe? Stay tuned to find out if I’ve allowed myself the splurge!

Ten things

Reminder: I’m moving servers later this week and will lose most of my subscriber information. Please click here for more information on re-subscribing! Now… on to the story!

It’s another list day. Yay!

Today’s list is 10 things I’ve not done in more than a year but that I am going to work hard at doing in the next 12 months. So here goes!

  1. Go for a bike ride (Last ride: Autumn 2008)
  2. Plant something (Last planting: Tulip and crocus bulbs in England; March 2010)
  3. Eat BBQ burgers and dogs (It’s been 2+ years which is too+ long!)
  4. Go to Scotland (Last trip: Feb/Mar 2010)
  5. Travel out of state to visit friends* (Last trip: October 2009)
  6. Go to a fair (Last fair: September 2006)
  7. Get a haircut (Last cut: February 2010**)
  8. Buy a fiction novel (Last purchase: April 2010)
  9. Go camping (Last trip: So long ago I can’t even remember!)
  10. Buy a new gadget***

And may I just say how difficult it was to create this list? At first I thought: Just 10 things? No problem! But the problem is that so many of the things I’ve not done in the past year+ are things that I have no intentions of ever doing again! I mean, it’s been more than a year since I last changed a tire, but I don’t plan on changing one in the next year. Nor do I plan on chopping fire wood or making a pinecone wreath.

How about you? Do you have a list of 10 things to share? And if so, how easy was it to create?

* As in to another state within the USA—not as in out of the states, which I’ve done as recently as December 2010.
** Yes, really. More than a year ago. That’s about normal for me. What do I care? It’s just hair.
*** OK, in fairness I bought an iPod Shuffle sometime last summer. But with gadgets, a month is like a year, so I’m really jonesin’, man!

Visa changes: A rambling rant

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned before what a massive gamble this new adventure of mine is. I’m leaving my job during one of the worst economic times in recent history; I’m saying goodbye to my house, my car, and most of my worldly possessions; and I’m destroying my finances and depleting my savings account all for the hope that I’m walking into a brighter, happier future.

If everything goes according to plan, my world will be pretty awesome for the first time in nearly two years. But, as I learned nearly two years ago, plans change—in the blink of an eye. I know that there’s a chance that things won’t go according to plan, but that they’ll still turn out just as good—or better—than planned. But I also know that there’s a chance that everything will fall apart and I’ll be left broken beyond repair.

As I creep closer and closer to saying goodbye to my house and my ‘stuff’ I’m finding myself very stressed and panicked. I’m going from a 4-bedroom house where I can have as much ‘stuff’ as I want and an income that [slightly] exceeds my monthly spending and bills to an unknown living situation where I expect to struggle to purchase groceries let alone drop $500 on a new mobile phone without thinking about it.

I’m upset because I’ve realised that I probably can’t take my golf clubs or bike because I don’t know where I’ll store them—nor can I rationalise the additional costs for baggage. I can’t take my über-gadget scanner because I don’t know if there will be space in my flat [which may or may not be furnished and rat-free] and I can’t take all of my clothes and handbags for the same reason. I’m sad because I’m going to have to take public transportation everywhere because I won’t be able to afford a car—and as a proper redneck American, my car is part of my freedom.

But as much as those material things (and the loss of my comfortable income) upset me, they’re not what’s getting me down today because I know I can store my ‘things’ with family in America or replace them with new ‘things’. What’s upset me today is that I’ve just learned that the most recent changes at the UK’s border agency means the end of the post-study work visa—which played heavily into my future plans because I intended to apply for said visa upon completing my master’s degree so that I could stay on in Scotland if I so chose.

OK, there are still other options including a company-sponsored post-study work visa or going straight onto my Ph.D. studies (which is the ultimate goal anyhow) but one isn’t a ‘sure thing’ and the other is an expensive thing! And I know I shouldn’t think too far ahead and I know that I should be upbeat and positive and I know that things will happen the way they’re meant to happen and blah, blah, blah. But some days, it’s hard.

I want to be positive. I want to be that little Pollyanna person spewing gladness and faith at every junction. But some days I can’t even fake it. Some days, all of the fear and the worries and the grief just gang up on me and make the rainbows and unicorns go into hiding. Today is one of those days. And I really hate those days. And it seems like the closer I get to The Big Move, the more these fears and insecurities come out of the wood work.

To summarise: I’m stressed and unhappy. But I’m sure the Pollyanna attitude with return soon. (I hope?) And thanks for listening to my emotional rant…

Music lessons

It was about a year ago when I first loaded music onto my niece’s iPod. Her mom didn’t (and still doesn’t) have iTunes so her only music was from my collection; which meant her Uncle Paul’s collection, too. We randomly loaded as much music on as would fit and I told her to let me know what she liked and didn’t like and the next time she came to visit we could be pickier about how to use her 8GB of space.

Well, much to my surprise, it was Billy Bragg and Aztec Camera for the win! So at her next visit she got some Morrissey and Deacon Blue. OK, she pretty much wanted all of her Uncle Paul’s music.

Flik is now 13 years old and is very much a fan of 1980s British punk and rock—for better or worse. She also loves her Uncle Paul so very much—as evident by the fact that prior to his death, Paul was the only one allowed to call Felicity ‘Flik’ and since his funeral that is her preferred name. So that may have something to do with her love of the music.

Anyhow, this love for Paul and his music made it easy for me to know what to do with Paul’s old vinyl records. So this weekend I packed up the records and our record player and brought them to Flik. She seems pretty excited about Del Amitri and U2 and The Smiths and The Waterboys and, well, all of them, really. Her mom points out that the excitement is the main reason she cleaned her room today—otherwise there wouldn’t have been room for the new turn table and LPs.

One thing that really made her smile was that included in a box of 45s was a handful of hand-written play lists from back when Paul would DJ at University of Edinburgh discos. She’ll enjoy that, I think.

Of course, now the kid just has another reason to hide away in her room. Which may or may not be a good thing.

A public service announcement

This will be a short post—or rather, a short public service announcement—because I am using my Dad’s netbook as I am unable to get online with my own awesome laptop.

Why can’t I get online? Because my parents got a new Internet service provider. And when the provider came over to set things up they were handed a business card with a long, difficult-to-remember string of numbers to use as the network key.

And like many people, they never changed the code to something they’d remember. And they’ve lost the card.

This is not the first time I’ve run into this problem. And I bet others have run into this problem, too.

So, my PSA to you is this:

Make sure that you know your network key. Because not only can it be a nightmare for your guests, but it can make it difficult to go online with your new gadgets and gizmos if you don’t know the magic code.

No, wait! Just as I typed the last sentence, Daddy found the card with three lines each containing 10 characters. One of these is meant to be the magic code. I guess I’ll go see if it works on my laptop now…

The clutter shuffle

Today is a snow day on the Palouse and I am well and truly snowed in. School has been cancelled; the roads are unsafe; and the car has yet to be found—though I suspect it’s under that big pile of white fluff.

So I’m going through more clutter. Yay! Actually, I suppose that I’m just re-formatting clutter.

Yep, today’s project is to take all of my old 3.5” floppy disks and transfer them to my external hard drive. I suppose the mature thing to do would be to then throw out the disks. I admit that might be hard, but it must be done.

The real challenge, of course, will be to just transfer the files and not read through all of them. Which will be hard because they represent my entire undergraduate career. Yes, from Eng101 to ASL304 and Com207 to Com475 it’s all there. There are even disks from a few of my early freelance projects and my baby sister’s wedding invitations that I designed more than a decade ago—long before I even had a proper grown-up relationship!

Oh, and for some added fun, there are also a couple of disks with drafts of a book I wrote. One day, I’m going to have to see about getting it published!!

I suppose that when I’m done with this I should move on to transferring the work I have stored on CDs and DVDs. Then I should remember to make a backup of my backup drive! And don’t worry—I always keep that backup drive in a fireproof safe! (No, that’s a lie. I tell myself to do that but I’ve yet to actually go and buy a safe. Though doing so is on my to-do list before my move!)

[Note: I am also attempting to do so real work for my real job, which would be easier if my Internet connection wouldn’t keep going out on me causing me to have to log back in to everything. But I guess that just means tomorrow will be busier than expected. But that can be a good thing!]

100 random things

My friend posted a list of 100 random things her daughter wrote about herself out of boredom and I thought I’d give it a shot and create my own list. So, if you’re not already bored, this should help…

100 Random Things about Just Frances

  1. I am the preantepenultimate Cook Girl.
  2. I enjoy showing off my vocabulary skills.
  3. I cringe when I see incorrect grammar, spelling, and punctuation. But I only correct errors when I’m being paid to do so. [To clarify: I generally correct the errors in my mind, but only tell people of the errors when I’m paid or otherwise requested to do so.]
  4. I think that demonstrating the ability to change a vehicle’s tires and oil should be a compulsory part of passing a drivers’ license test.
  5. I wear glasses and will never get eye surgery because I like that the glasses obscure the fact that I don’t wear makeup.
  6. I’m a distance runner. (Well, I dabble in the sport at least.)
  7. I am Catholic.
  8. I joined the school cross country team because the coach asked me after church in front of my dad and the priest. How could I say no?
  9. I have never felt at home in my hometown.
  10. I am proud of my small town red neck roots.
  11. I found my true place of belonging in Scotland nearly 10 years ago.
  12. I am returning to Scotland later this year!!
  13. I am rubbish at math[s] and I don’t care.
  14. I am correct handed (also known as left handed).
  15. I believe that there is a conspiracy in the works by right-handers who are jealous of us amazing lefties. Even pens are made with righties in mind! (But not all of them!)
  16. I have hazel eyes that are more on the green end of the spectrum, but wish that I had truly green eyes.
  17. I pretend to be happy even when I’m sad.
  18. I can’t fake tears; I’ve tried.
  19. I am dyslexic. (Yet I edit things for a living. Ironic!)
  20. I had speech therapy as a child.
  21. I am the co-inventor of the term SUBS Syndrome and hope that one day the term is widely used to describe the condition of sudden, uncontrollable bursts of sarcasm.
  22. I honestly believe that the media is helping to perpetuate ignorance in our society. The biggest culprit being the “news” media.
  23. My master’s degree will be in media and culture, so I’ll get to do a lot of research on this very issue!
  24. I once sang on stage with Pat Benatar who was opening at the Gorge Amphitheatre for the Steve Miller Band. Really. True story.
  25. I’m a little bit country and a little bit rock-n-roll all at once.
  26. I like candy, but I could live without chocolate.
  27. I love to fly!
  28. I prefer the aisle seat on airplanes.
  29. I say a prayer asking God to guide the hands of the crew and to keep us safe in our journey; and I ask that if His plans don’t include our survival that He comfort our loved ones. I do this for every take off and landing because something compels me to.
  30. I try to order low-sodium meals on the plane and drink lots of water so that I’m refreshed and non-puffy when I arrive. I even wash my face 2-3 times on long flights to/from the UK. I think it helps the jetlag. But that might not be true.
  31. I can’t decide which movies I like better: The Godfather series or the Monty Python movies.
  32. I have polycystic kidney disease. It’s a genetic condition with no cure. But some smart people are working to find a cure!
  33. I have a blood disease called idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura. Even the haematologists who study it don’t know much about it. Which sucks for me.
  34. Despite my medical maladies, I think I’m mostly healthy.
  35. I dream that my doctor will one day say “To live a long and healthy life you must eat lots of good steak and salty, deep-fried foods, drink lots of wine, and smoke.” Of course, if I hear those words I know it’s time to find a new doctor.
  36. I cry myself to sleep at least once a week.
  37. I recently ended a friendship that I didn’t want to end. I’m sure it will be one of the reasons I cry myself to sleep over the next few weeks.
  38. I haven’t slept through the night since Paul died.
  39. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever sleep well again.
  40. I thought that I was ugly growing up because one of my sisters told me over and over again that I was. (Funny, we all look alike!)
  41. I thought that I was stupid growing up because a couple of my teachers said I was.
  42. As an adult, I’ve learned to love myself and know that I’m good looking and intelligent.
  43. One of my Paul’s friends told me that I’m a great person and I’ll find someone new when I’m ready—but that I’d have better luck if I’d dumb it down a bit. (Said person has likely never been married for a reason.)
  44. Several of Paul’s friends have become my friends and I don’t think I could have survived the world without him without them.
  45. I didn’t go on my first date until I was 20 years old.
  46. I married my first true love.
  47. We were a month shy of our 4th anniversary when he died.
  48. I try to be happy and enjoy life because I know it’s what Paul wants for me.
  49. I sometimes think that I’ll meet someone new and fall in love and get married again and I know that Paul would be OK with that. But I can’t be bothered to date because no one is good enough for me.
  50. Thinking that no one was good enough for me is what gave me a reputation for being an overly-picky dater in my 20s.
  51. Being an overly-picky dater meant that when I did land a man, I got the best one on the market!
  52. A stupid woman once told me that the reason I can’t have kids is that God thinks I’d be a bad mom.
  53. I have been a foster mom for a little over six months now—so at least the State of Washington thinks I’d be a good mom!
  54. Paul and I planned to adopt two adorable children before he died.
  55. Sometimes I’m heartbroken that I may never get to be someone’s mom.
  56. I have 17 nieces and nephews and 2 great nephews.
  57. It irritates some of my sisters that their children want to be so much like me.
  58. I’ve had green hair. And pink, purple, blue, yellow, orange, jet-black, and bleach-blonde. Sometimes multiple colours all at once!
  59. My favourite colour is green.
  60. My first car was a 1978 Ford Granada.
  61. My friends and I sanded it down, primed it black, and then painted a big yellow smiley face on the hood and flowers and peace signs all over the body. It was awesome.
  62. I passed my driving test on the first try.
  63. I taught Paul how to drive.
  64. I’ve taught some of my nieces and nephews how to shift gears. (But please don’t tell their moms!)
  65. I have a fascination with butterflies and have since I was a young child.
  66. I have a butterfly tattoo.
  67. I played clarinet in the school band.
  68. I am training for the Loch Ness Marathon.
  69. I am a Pisces.
  70. I was born in the Year of the Tiger.
  71. I don’t believe in astrology stuff.
  72. I will be 37 years old on Monday.
  73. I don’t really like to make a fuss about my birthday.
  74. I have read dictionaries and encyclopaedias for entertainment since I was in junior high.
  75. I don’t like romance novels because they make me uncomfortable.
  76. My friends think I am a prude.
  77. I try never to use profanity because I think it’s vulgar and shows a lack of respect. (But sometimes it slips out in a heated moment of upset.)
  78. I taught myself how to knit and crochet but can only make basic things like scarves and afghans.
  79. I like root beer.
  80. I don’t really care for Coke or Pepsi.
  81. When I was in my late-teens and early-20s, I’d hang out at the local 24-hour diner with my friends drinking coffee and eating cheesy fries with ranch dressing. It was awesome!
  82. I am considered a computer and gadget geek by my family and friends.
  83. I love Doctor Who, but I hate SciFi.
  84. I define SciFi as anything I don’t like.
  85. I always like to have the best gadgets in the room. Sadly, some of my new friends are gadget geeks with better incomes so this is hard to do now.
  86. I love my family.
  87. I am going to miss my cat, Schrodie, so much when I move to Scotland.
  88. I am going to miss my family so much when I move to Scotland.
  89. I used to have Mork & Mindy suspenders (braces) when I was a kid and I wish I still had them now.
  90. I loved Weebles as a child. They were awesome they way they weebled and wobbled but didn’t fall down!
  91. I always wanted tassels on my handlebars when I was a kid. But not so much that I got them as an adult.
  92. My favourite toys growing up were a telescope, a microscope, a rocket kit, and an electric circuit board kit.
  93. I don’t like gold-coloured jewellery.
  94. I like dirty martinis with extra olives.
  95. I drink my coffee strong and black with no sugar.
  96. I am excited about starting grad school in September.
  97. I am afraid that I am ruining myself financially by going to grad school.
  98. I am convinced that going to grad school will fix me emotionally and mentally.
  99. I am excited about my future for the first time since Paul died.
  100. I feel guilty for being happy about this new life, even though I know Paul would be happy for me.

Wow! That was hard! Are you still reading? You deserve an award for that!!

Edited to add: Since folks have been asking where/what their award is, I feel it’s fair (OK, not fair but cheap) for me to say the award is knowing me that little bit better. Sorry it’s so lame! (But thanks for reading!)

Challenging music

Over the summer, my friend set a challenge to listen to all of her iPod’s music collection alphabetically. A through Z; every song. Every. Last. Song.

I recall admiring her dedication and I also recall thinking it must have been easy enough since she had less than 1,500 songs and I assumed they were all music of her choosing. I recall smiling as I realised that she was truly enjoying the challenge—and enjoying re-discovering her music. She made several comments about how others should do the same, and I was mildly interested in trying it, but not enough to actually take on the challenge.

Until September 30, 2010.

Yep, that morning I got to the office, plugged in my iPod, and instead of selecting ‘shuffle’ I chose to play every song I had in alphabetical order. A through Z; every song.*

Every.

Last.

Song.

That was 130 days, 4,868 songs, and 313+ hours of play time ago.**

It was fun.

It was boring.

It was mind-numbingly boring at times.

It was exciting.

And it was educational.

So, here are some fun little facts, figures, and musical musings for you to ponder:

  • Letter with the most song titles: “S” with 540 songs
  • Letter with the least song titles: “Z” with 3 songs
  • Number of songs starting with numerals (so, “1” but not One): 21
  • Number of artists: 452
  • Number of albums: 555
  • Number of genres: 34
  • Song I have the most versions or copies of: “N17” by The Saw Doctors (Six copies)

Would I do it again? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe? But I’m not willing to make a promise at this point!

Would I recommend that you do it? Absolutely! It really is interesting and entertaining—especially when you hear long-lost tunes.

* Actually, A-Z plus 0-9, because some started with numerals.
** To save myself from complete madness, I opted to only attempt the challenge whilst at work which means that it took a bit longer to make my way through the collection than it would have otherwise.

Alarmed

I’m in the homeland this weekend, staying at my sister’s so that we can make blagenda. Sleeping arrangements are pretty simple when I’m here: Sis is in her room downstairs; my foster daughter bunks with my 13-year-old niece upstairs; my 11-year-old nephew is in his room upstairs; and I’m in the living room downstairs. This generally works just fine and I wake up with the sounds of children coming downstairs after the sun comes out.

That all changed last night, however.

You see, it seems that one of the upstairs occupants set an alarm for 5:00 a.m. for reasons they refuse to divulge. Which is cool. Only when it went off at 5 this morning they didn’t do anything about it. No one did anything about it. For several minutes.

Begrudgingly, I rose from my comfortable sleeping position and stumbled upstairs (without my glasses which was a bit dangerous) and felt around for the annoying object. Once found, I managed to shut the blasted thing off.

The owner of the alarm clock (who wishes to not be identified) then says sleepily: “Thank you, I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off.”

Well it would seem that all of the occupants of the upstairs heard it and none knew how to turn if off so planned to let it keep going.

My question was: “Why didn’t you just unplug it then?”

Apparently, that’s because it would be too much trouble to re-set the time. Which is a bit funny to me since the clocks go back tonight so it will have to get re-set anyhow!

Stupid alarm clock…

The alarm’s owner defended him-or-herself this morning by saying: “It was dark and I couldn’t find the button to shut it off.”

[Please note in the photo that the clock is still set for 5:00 a.m.!!]

Donald, where’s yer troosers?

I woke up yesterday morning with “Caledonia” going through my head so decided to grab my “The Best Scottish Album in the World…Ever” CD to listen to on the 30-minute drive to town. The kid wasn’t too keen on the departure from our normal car music—the local country western station—so I played a song I thought she’d like (after listening to Caledonia twice, of course).

In the rear view mirror I could see her struggling with the lyrics of the song I chose for her, so I turned off the music to explain that the girls were asking Donald where his trousers were because he was wearing, essentially, a skirt. Once she realized what the song was about, she asked me to please turn the music back on.

Last night when the kid asked if we could listen to “that Scottish CD” I didn’t think anything of it—but had to say no since it was in the car still. After all, it is a regular occurrence for her to ask me to play whatever the last music I had on was.

Then this morning I started the car and she instantly asked if we could listen to “song 16”. And we did. A few times. With her singing along and laughing.

On the drive home this evening it was more of the same.

She is now in her room singing it and came out a moment ago to ask if I thought she had a good Scottish accent (which she sings the song in). And, she is just two points away from earning enough for an MP3 player so she’s asked that “Donald, Where’s Yer Troosers” go on the device along with a handful of others from the CDs such as “500 Miles” and “Shang-a-Lang”.

Yes, folks, I am influencing the musical tastes of yet another child. Also on the list: I introduced my eldest sister’s daughters to disco (specifically the Village People) several years ago. Her husband is still mad at me for that. I’ve also introduced my 13-year-old niece to Billy Bragg and Aztec Camera. Her mom is OK with that, though I don’t think she’s happy that Morrissey has managed to make his way onto her iPod, too. (Oops!)

Hope you have a musical Friday!

Handbag packrat

Ack! It’s happened again! I’ve become a handbag packrat. You know, those women who carry these massive bags around all the time that are loaded with rubbish they don’t need. And the reason they do that is simple: As inhabitants of the western world, we fill the space we have to capacity. (And if that’s still not enough, we just rent a storage unit somewhere on the outskirts of town!)

I am not generally a handbag packratter though. For three main reasons: I don’t wear makeup; I carry smaller, vintage bags most of the time; and I swap out my bags often.

But when I go on holiday I generally carry a shoulder bag so that I can toss my camera and any small purchases into the bag and my hands are free.

Anyhow, when I went to England at the start of the month, I grabbed a larger handbag so that I could have various bits and bobs with me on the plane. And when I got back I entered straight into a crazy world of work and foster mommy-ing and I never had time to switch my bag back over. Which meant that I did what inhabitants of the western world do and I filled the space to capacity.

Well, I’ve had enough and am now cleaning house. Or, rather, cleaning bag!

So, what was in the bag? Well…

  • Money floating loosely: £4.05 in coins; $3.25 in coins; and $6 in cash
  • Two iPods; 1 iPod headphone; and 1 iPod cable
  • A smart phone; a wireless mouse/pointer; and three thumb drives (total storage: 22 GB)
  • Two sets of keys
  • A pack of gum (four pieces of which were out of pack floating loose); a pack of Love Hearts; a pack of Giant SweetTarts; two tins of mints; three lollypops; a tea bag; and an apple
  • Three handkerchiefs; a nail file; a pocket mirror; a pack of secret girly things; and two chap sticks
  • A silver ring; two tooth pick flossy things; five safety pins; and a small container of hand lotion
  • A seashell from Seaton and one teaspoon worth of sand, grit, and coal bits that must have come from the shell floating at the bottom of the bag
  • A large note book; a small Moleskin; two novels; a check book; and a filled check register
  • Fifteen envelopes filled with new bank cards, bank statements, bills, and a fun new art project
  • Four pens; a business card holder; and seven loose business cards
  • Eleven ponytail holders
  • Two empty gum wrappers and a partial wrapper from a pack of Mentos
  • A camera
  • A wallet with: Nine receipts that need to be reconciled; six business cards; a pack of domestic stamps; three international use stamps; eight bits of plastic for banks, identification, and insurance purposes; $11 in cash; and $2.95 in coins

And now, I’ve cleared out the mess and transferred junk into one of my favourite vintage bags: A 1960s wicker bag with teal lining and brass handles and closures. This is a fun bag that I purchased when out shopping with my mommy shortly before I got married.

And its contents are:

  • A smart phone; a 16 GB thumb drive; and one iPod with headphones
  • Two sets of keys
  • A pack of gum; a pack of Love Hearts; a tin of mints; and three lollypops
  • One handkerchief; a nail file; a pocket mirror; a pack of secret girly things; and two chap sticks
  • A tooth pick flossy thing and a small container of hand lotion
  • A seashell from Seaton (I’m taking it to Paul’s grave at the weekend, otherwise I wouldn’t still be carrying it—promise!)
  • A small Moleskin and a check book
  • Four pens and a business card holder
  • Two ponytail holders
  • A wallet with: A pack of domestic stamps; three international use stamps; four bits of plastic for banks, identification, and insurance purposes and $17 in cash

Ah… that’s better. Still a bit too much clutter but much, much less than before! I wonder what bag I’ll pick to use next week… ?

My favourite things

As part of my effort to take back my lunch time, I’ve spent today’s lunch break composing a little ditty on my laptop just for my awesome readers; who are also some of my favourite things. (Yay! for awesome readers! And yay! for reclaimed lunch breaks. And yay! for whatever else you want to celebrate today!)

My favourite things
as interpreted by Just Frances*

Shiny new gadgets and hooker-red nails
Cool vintage handbags that come in the mail
Pretty red sports cars and fun silver rings
These are a few of my favourite things

Movies with mobsters and friends who are so dear
Martinis and pizza and pretzels and good beer
Acting quite silly and playing on swings
These are a few of my favourite things

Books about grammar and good punctuation
Laughing and smiling and Scotland vacations
Songs that are happy, that I like to sing
These are a few of my favourite things

When the clouds come
When the tears sting
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favourite things
And then I don’t feel so bad

• • • • •

[NOTE: Apparently, my laptop is still set to UK English (not proper American English) from working on school application stuff and has therefore insisted that I have favourite things, not favorite things. And I’m totally OK with that!]

* I’m sure you’ve figured it out, but this is to be sung in the tune of “My Favourite Things”. If you need a reminder, here’s a link to a rendition by Pomplamoose. Yay!

Taking back lunch

I’ve been skipping lunch for years. Well, that’s strictly not true. I’ve been eating lunch (most days) but I eat at my desk whilst working. I don’t actually leave my office.

But that’s going to change! Yes, I am taking back my lunch hour!

From here on out, I will get up from my desk and leave the office for a lunch break several times a week. I’d like to declare that I’ll do this every day, but sometimes I really just can’t. So instead I am going to vow to take lunch away from my desk three or more days a week and that I will take at least a half hour for my break—though ideally I will take my full hour.

I don’t know what I’ll do for my breaks. Maybe I’ll eat lunch out.

Maybe I’ll sit and read a book in a little coffee shop.

Maybe I’ll sketch something-or-other in my handy-dandy little sketch book.

Maybe I’ll go to the gym for some light weight-lifting.

Maybe I’ll go for a brisk walk around campus.

Or maybe I’ll just sit somewhere quiet and do nothing.

I suppose it won’t matter what I do, as long as I’m not doing work.

I’ve decided that this will revitalize me for the afternoons, making me more productive for the last half of my work day. And I’ve decided that it will make me realize that my time is valuable and precious and that I shouldn’t just give away my lunch hours. And I’ve decided that I deserve it. Because I do.

I’ve decided that it is imperative for my health because, let’s face it, being overworked and overstressed is bad for your blood pressure and bad for your mental and physical being. And I’ve decided that this will help me reach my goal of being blissfully happy; which is a very, very important life goal so it shouldn’t be neglected.

Feeling inspired? Maybe you should take back your lunch hour, too*!

I’d love to hear suggestions for how to spend my time, or comments on how you’ll get your time back.

Happy lunching!

[NOTE: Today’s lunch break includes posting this from my way-awesome gadget phone whilst sitting in a comfy chair at a little coffee shop drinking mint tea and eating a (probably high sodium) sourdough pretzel. Yay for me!]

* Run the term “take back lunch hour” in your preferred search engine and you’ll see that it’s not just me doing this. It seems that there’s an international movement afoot! Yay for lunch hours!

Leavin’ on a jet plane

I’m on my way to England and had to leave my lovely foster daughter behind for the week. We discussed my trip ahead of time and she had a million questions – mostly about what it would be like to travel on a plane.

She asked that I post pictures from the plane, so this photo-heavy post is for her.

And, thanks to GoGo In-Flight Internet, I’m posting these photos from an altitude of 10,000+. Yay!

View from the window before take-off

View from the window somewhere between Spokane and Phoenix

View from inside the first plane (Spokane to Phoenix)

View from inside the second plane (Phoenix to Philadelphia)

I had hoped to take a photo of my airplane meal, but they didn’t have any low-sodium options left by the time they got to me at the back of the plane. Which means Just Frances is Just Starving. (Yeah, this is what happens when you wake up at 3:00 a.m. I MUST find food in Philly. Cheese steak, maybe?)

OK, that’s me off to play on the Internet ON THE PLANE some more. Ain’t technology grand?

Art?

I wish I was an artist. You know—a really good one. I wish I could draw things with ease and make them look pretty. In my mind I can see myself standing there with a paint palette creating these amazingly-beautiful landscapes or amazingly-accurate portraits. But in reality, I’m actually quite rubbish. Not only that, but it takes a lot of time to create that rubbish*!

But I enjoy using crayons and colored pencils, so I tend to just kick back on the couch and draw swirly things. And even they aren’t all that great, as you can see below. Now mostly I like this, but the top center(ish)-right-hand side has a really out-of-place looking swirl that I feel ruins the whole thing. However, creating this little piece of art kept me entertained for two evenings, and now I’m sharing the results with you! Yay!

(Sorry, this is what happens when you have no cable, a load of colored pencils and paper, and a state-of-the-art color scanner. Expect more silliness in the future. Especially since I’m going to take an online class on The Art of Silliness2! Yay!)

* I know I draw “OK” things and am not looking to have my ego bolstered here. I’m not embarrassed or ashamed of my ability, it’s just that my imagination has a very different appearance than reality!

Remember yesterday

Woke up to the sound of pouring rain; the wind would whisper and I’d think of you. And all the tears you cried, that called my name; and when you needed me I came through.

Oh yeah, I’m totally remembering yesterday* today. It started with a text message from my 13-year-old niece who has found that she loves my music collection. Her text was letting me know that one of her new-found songs from my past put her ‘in high spirits’. The song was Good Love by Poison.

Well, that text made me set my iPod to play Poison. But then I felt the need for a total Hair Band** Fest.

So, I set up my “Hair Band” play list (yes, I have one) and hit play. (What a way to spend a Friday at the office!) Then I let my Facebook public know about my celebration of Hair Band Friday. And they quickly made posts of their own about the new celebration. (Yay! I love being a trend-setter!)

And because I know you’re dying for this information, my Hair Band play list includes:

Yay for music! And yay for Friday Hair Band Fests everywhere!

* The title and opening quote are from Skid Row’s “I Remember You” – in case you didn’t get the reference.
** What I call Hair Band, Paul called Poodle Rock. The ever-knowing
Wikipedia calls it Glam Metal.

Building my library

I posted a while back about my mission to expand my incredibly eclectic music collection, with the goal to fill my iPod Classic to its capacity of 40,000 songs. Since then, I’ve purchased a few CDs and have borrowed CDs from various family and friends.

I am pleased to say that I now have 4,499 songs!

I’m up to 26 genres (from 24) with the top three being rock (109 albums), alternative (80), and jazz/bluegrass (72). Country was third last time, but dropped to fourth with just 56 albums, up from 35.

Of course, I’m also getting quite the collection of podcasts but have been neglecting listening to them all! I currently have 425 in my library including 234 English language ‘tips’ for good grammar and 128 Gaelic language lessons for when I (finally) start learning a funny foreign language.*

Most days, all of the music is set to random play/shuffle when I’m at the office. I figured that I must have listened to most of the songs at least once, but after a quick review, it seems that nearly half haven’t even gotten one play! I sometimes think I should do what a friend is doing and listen to everything in order from A-Z, but I’m just not that dedicated so each song will have to take its chance with the listening lottery.

*I did take two years’ of French in high school, but I didn’t retain any of it. I then took two years’ of American Sign Language at university and now enjoy eavesdropping on ASL users when I’m out-and-about. (Yes, I’m a little ashamed of this – but only a little.)

Green with envy

I got a new toy today. It’s a lovely new, bright, and shiny 4 GB iPod Shuffle. It’s a pretty shade of green with a personalized inscription.

Just Frances
100% Awesome
 

I purchased my first iPod last October. It’s fantastic, but it’s also rather large. I got the Classic (160 GB) with a view toward the future. I wanted to be able to put all of my music in one place so that when (if?) I manage to make it to the UK for my master’s degree I could take it with me and not have to faff around with 100s of CDs.

I totally love the Classic. I take it to work and plug it into my office speakers so that I can listen to music throughout the day. I’ve found that since Paul died, the music calms me and actually makes me more productive. Not necessarily more productive than I was before he died, but more productive than days when I don’t have music playing.

The problem with the Classic, however, is it’s size. It’s just too big for use when I’m running. And that’s why I needed a second iPod.

The Shuffle is great! It’s super small and clips right onto my clothing. It doesn’t hold as many songs, but it will hold more than enough of the “right kind” of music for running. Whilst the Classic is loaded with everything from bluegrass and jazz to rock and classical, the Shuffle is pretty much just for rock, 80s pop, and up-beat country.

Off to create a new play list for tomorrow morning’s run now. I think I’ll start with Jackson Browne’s Running On Empty

Yay for me!

I hope this doesn’t make you too green.

Retail therapy

I’ve been feeling very sad and lonely the last few days so when my neighbor called to see if I wanted to drive into the city today to cheer me up, I was more than happy for the distraction. What I didn’t realize was that I would actually have a successful shopping day, which was an added cheer for the day! I know that Paul would be very pleased that I bought new clothes – and I even think that he’d have approved of some of it!

My retail therapy actually began yesterday when I purchased a new phone to replace the one I broke whilst on holiday in March. Everyone who knows me likely knows that a cool new gadget is almost guaranteed to bring a smile to my face – which is exactly what my new HTC Tilt2 has done. (Windows Mobile 6.5, if you wondered.)

When we took off for Spokane today, I don’t think that either of us actually planned to buy anything. I think we figured we’d check out a shop or two for plants or garden supplies, maybe grab some lunch, then head home. We got to the Northtown Mall and on our way in noticed a good sale and I was gently prodded to look at the summer dresses – so I did. And I found two that I really liked. And they were on sale. So I bought them.

At the next store, it was my neighbor who had the shopping success having found two great pairs of jeans (one of which was just $5!) and a new necklace. (I found a little over-shirt to wear with my pajamas and a small pair of silver earrings.)

On the way back to the car, we stumbled upon a new store in the mall that sells fantastic business-appropriate clothes and we decided that, as we were pretty much shopped out at that point, that we’d come up some other time to find some nice suits. But I managed to find a pair of denim capris and an amazingly-ugly jacket before we left.

With one more store ahead of us, we stopped in for nachos and margaritas for a re-charge session and to rest up a bit. Then we headed across the road to the golf store where I found a couple of pairs of shoes I like (but I didn’t have the right socks for trying on shoes). I also managed to buy a new pair of golf shorts – they are purple and green plaid and are truly ugly. But I’ve decided that I am going to create a golf look for myself of plaid bottoms and solid-colored tops. I know that I should spend more time working on my swing than looking for ugly clothes, but the swing is never going to improve, so that’s OK.

I really did enjoy the distraction of the day, and while it won’t fix the fact that I’ve come home to an empty house, it did mean that I didn’t sit around the house feeling sad all day. And now that I have all this nice summer clothes, I’m going to have to find excuses to leave the house every-so-often to show them off. I just wish that Paul was here to enjoy the benefit of having a gorgeous, well-dressed, sexy woman on his arm. (Yes, that’s meant to be describing me. I’ve taken a bit of creative license on that one, I know!)

Morning Joe

I used the last of my coffee up on Monday and haven’t had time to go buy more beans, which means that for the last two mornings I’ve had to get my coffee on the road. Which means that I have to drive nine miles into the next town (which is on my way to the office) before I get my morning coffee fix.

Generally, I get up in the morning to a freshly brewed pot of coffee (gotta love programmable coffee makers!) and I enjoy a cup whilst making my breakfast of healthy granola, yogurt, and berries and chopping fresh veggies for lunch. I then fill up my travel mug, toss my plastic containers and a banana or two into my bag, and hit the road for the 25-mile commute to the office.

It’s weird how the one missing link changes everything. There’s no coffee, so I skip making the food and just hit the road.

The BAD:
There isn’t any healthy food on my desk to munch on so I end up not eating anything because I’m too busy to run out and grab something or I end up eating junk because I do have time to grab something and it’s going to be deep-fried.

The GOOD:
The café where I get the coffee sells amazingly-large cookies and for just $2.50 I can get a 12-ounce cup of Joe and one of those lovely cookies. I end up getting to the office about 20 minutes earlier than I normally would and, as no one else is in, I’m able to take advantage of the quiet and actually read the paper whilst enjoying my coffee and a cookie… and maybe a bit of music. Starting the day off relaxing with the paper is sort of fun!*

However, I will be stopping off to get some coffee beans after work today. I mean, I’ve spent $5 on coffee and cookies in two days. That’s $12.50 a week if I make it a habit, and I can certainly think of better ways to spend that money.

(OK, you could argue that I spend money on the granola and coffee for the house so it’s about the same, but with the café plan, I also tend to eat out for lunch, so in the long run, coffee at home is cheaper. And my home-brew is better and stronger. Totally worth it right there!)

*NOTE: The paper I read in the office is very much work-related, and one that I probably wouldn’t read at all if it wasn’t for that fact. Great paper, but I prefer “world news” to “industry news”.

Indoor-outdoor cat

Last summer I purchased a slightly-expensive, gadgety cat door for Schrodie. It’s great because it is sensor-activated, meaning that only Schrodie can come and go – eliminating the fears and nightmares of Satan’s evil footmen (that means skunks) entering my home through the door.

The cat wears a little sensor on her collar which activates the flappy-thingy, allowing her access. There are four settings: In and Out; In Only; Out Only; or Nothing. I have it set for In and Out.

She was most certainly an indoor cat when we adopted her at eight months old and Paul and I spent a long day introducing her to the great outdoors the week before he died. It was important to me that the cat continue experiencing the outdoors but as I was at work all day I would need a cat door to achieve that. After the door was installed I showed the cat how to use it but she wasn’t too keen on it – or the outdoors. In fact, the only time the cat would use the door was if you tossed her outside. Then she’d run straight back in faster than you’d imagine!

For the past week, I’ve been finding little bits of nature in the house – twigs and leafs, mostly – and have suspected that maybe, just maybe, Schrodie has finally started to go out whilst I was at work. This suspicion has been even stronger the past few days when she’s not been on the bed when I go to sleep or wake up.

And today the proof came in! For the first time, the cat wasn’t waiting for me just inside the kitchen door. So I walked out to the shop and opened that door (the one where the cat door is) and there she was. Outside. Soaking up the evening air. OUTSIDE!

I am such a proud cat owner today. I almost shed a tear of joy. Almost… but I’m not quite that pathetic of a cat lady. Yet…

Very taxing

I finally filed my taxes. I say finally because I normally have mine completed and filed the first week of February – based on the fact that tax documents generally arrive the last week of January. Yep, a geek to the core I used to love doing my taxes. And this year I tried, but just couldn’t do it through the tears. I think it had something to do with the box that I needed to tick that read: Qualifying Widow.

Instead, I made an appointment with an accountant then spent the weekend getting my files together – something that was more difficult than normal because I seem to have lost some of my over-the-top organizational skills since Paul died. I think having someone do my taxes for me was a good idea though, because I may never have gotten them done otherwise!

But I know what you’re wondering: Did I get a refund?

Yes I did! And a bit more than expected!

Being the responsible person I am, I am using the majority of the money for a major purchase that I’ve been putting off. But because Paul always thought that tax refunds should be used for fun, I will use the rest for something I don’t need.

I will not use the money for a new refrigerator or water heater. I will not use it toward the cost of a new furnace or car repairs. It won’t go toward my student loans or mortgage principal; I won’t roll it into my 401K or my IRA. No CDs or savings bonds. No, this money will be used frivolously – even though that goes against my frugal nature.

I wish I could use it for a trip to my nephew’s wedding in Cuba this June, but I can’t. So I’ll need to think of another trip I can take or useless gadget I can purchase.

A summer trip to California or British Columbia? A flight to Scotland for a friend’s wedding in October? The possibilities are endless!

I think dreaming up ways to spend the money might be just as much fun as the actual spending…

Fone fumble

As much as I hate to admit my mistakes and mishaps, I feel that it’s only fair to share a bit of my humility—and it will help to counterbalance the bragging and arrogance I generally display. Oh, and I also fear that it may hit the grapevine so it’s better to ‘fess up now…

This past summer, I purchased an uber-gadget phone; one that many of my friends and family members mocked me for because they couldn’t understand the need to spend so much money on a phone. (In my defense, I actually do use the majority of the features and it’s easier than carrying a small laptop with me everywhere.)

My 10-year-old nephew, Haden, loves the fact that I have such a cool phone, but has pointed out on several occasions that I’ve become rather clumsy with it. He seems to be there each time I drop the blasted thing, and giggles as he scrambles to pick up the pieces. He then mock-lectures me about taking better care of my phone because it’s so expensive. After putting the phone back together, I’ve always felt slightly superior in telling the kid: “See, it still works. I paid for quality and endurance as much as for gadgets!” (And then the kid rolls his eyes.)

Well, it would seem that my luck has run out. Whilst at the Edinburgh Castle with Mom and a friend of Paul’s this past weekend, I cleverly decided to point something out (with excitement) to Paul’s friend—using the hand my phone was in. My hand quickly became a trajectory device for the phone, sending it flying before it fell to the cobbled stone path in front of us. My first reaction was embarrassment, but also relief knowing that it would surely be fine, just like past times.

Wrong. Apparently, the phone didn’t care too much for the cobbled stones and upon picking up the display portion I could see just how badly shattered it was. Putting it back together (to the sounds of laughter) I was pleased to see that it still worked—it was just difficult to see the information on the screen because of the spider web effect of the shattered display.

Thankfully, Paul’s laughing friend is also a gadget geek and had the same model phone at home sitting un-used after a recent upgrade. Once his laughter subsided a bit, it was offered to me as a temporary solution. So, I have a loaner phone to use until I decide what to do next. I will do my best to not break that one, too. Maybe I need to invest in a little wrist strap for it… or some bubble wrap.

I think this story will entertain Haden very, very much and I’m sure he won’t let me forget it…

The North

After a lovely couple of days in Yorkshire, we made the trip to Teesside on Sunday by way of a few small, back-country roads where we were able to see a couple of twee villages and lovely little farm houses as well as the ruins of a fantastic abbey. It took us nearly four hours to make the trip to Billingham, one that would normally be about an hour’s drive. Our local guide, Paul’s cousin Olwyn, made the trip even more enjoyable. The SatNav on loan from my nephew, Stephen, means we didn’t get lost!

Once we finally arrived at my brother- and sister-in-law’s house, we were off again for Seaton Carew. A perfect start to any visit!

We’ve spent the day touring around Billingham and supporting the local economy at the shops. I found some lovely new wool so that I can start on another baby afghan for the flight home, and even found a bit of new clothes! Mom found some tea and a new mug – and a canvas bag to carry them in. Soon, it will be time to head out to the carvery for dinner.

We’ll load the car again in the morning to begin our drive further north toward Scotland. We have plans to stop along Hadrian’s Wall and Holy Island. We don’t know if we’ll hit the border tomorrow or the next day, but we’ll get there eventually!

Get set…

We’re at SeaTac now. We’ve checked in. We’ve gone through security. We’ve checked our gate number. We’re all ready to go… and are just waiting to be told we can.

I’m taking advantage of the free SeaTac WiFi while Mom uses the free time to catch up on the latest-and-greatest news in the Yakima Herald.

Mom’s mood pulse: Calm, cool, and collected. So she says…

Oh, look… Duty Free. Must go shopping now!

On your mark…

Remember when you were a kid and on Christmas Eve you were so very excited for Santa to arrive that you couldn’t sleep? You’d wish and hope and pray all through Midnight Mass that he’ll have come while you were away. When you finally got to bed you’d toss and turn, certain that every sound you heard was the sound of Santa’s reindeer on the roof. Those excited and anxious jitters were so great!

Remember when you were a bit older and you had those darn SATs that meant the difference between getting into the four-year college of your choice or attending community college? For days and weeks on end you dreamt of showing up at the exam half naked, or that your pencils kept breaking every time you filled in one of those blasted bubbles. Those nerve-wracking and anxious jitters were awful!

I think that Mom is half way in between those two feelings right now as she prepares for her first-ever trip off of the North American continent! Me? I’ve done this journey often enough that it doesn’t have the same effect. This isn’t to say I’m not excited, but I don’t have the jitters.

But we are packed and ready to go. Daddy will drive us to SeaTac bright-and-early tomorrow morning for our flight to the UK (via Amsterdam). Mom is certainly excited to see the family in England again, and equally excited to meet some of my friends in Scotland for the first time.

As a seasoned traveler, I’m almost bored of this journey and wish I could gain access to a teleportation device (or the TARDIS) and just GET THERE, but I imagine that this might be an enjoyable flight for me as I witness the innocent wonderment of a first-time international traveler. I’ve brought several tour guide books for some of the places we’ll visit which will keep us entertained, and I’m even going to ::gasp:: use Gogo In-flight Internet with my gadget phone to blog and Facebook about our exciting adventure! (I bet you thought you’d get a bit of a break whilst I was traveling! No such luck with today’s technology advancements!)

Vinyl issues

I’ve finally gotten around to my first attempt at digitalizing my vinyl collection. Actually, I’ve started with my parents’ collection, as it’s their fancy-schmancy machine. And can I just say it’s a bit of a bizarre world when dealing with LPs is a confusing and difficult task?!

So far, I’ve transfered one record: Roger Miller’s The 3rd Time Around. Now, I don’t know if it’s because it’s an old record, a dirty record, or an overly-sensitive recording device, but I’ve heard more clear sounding music when driving through the Snoqualmie Pass snow shed attempting to listen to KXLE. Yes, it’s that scratchy and crackly sounding!

That’s problem #1. Problem #2 is that the software doesn’t automatically save each song as an individual file. Of course, this may be due to the recording quality and maybe with a newer album – or with a cleaner album – it will work just fine. Problem #3 then is that when transferred to iTunes (and subsequently my iPod) instead of having 12 songs that are approximately two minutes each, I have to play it as a single album of a little more than 27 minutes.

Because I won’t be out-done and shown-up by a simple piece of technology, I will figure these issues out. My first step is to re-learn the art of properly cleaning vinyl. Once I see how the recording works on a clean record, I will make further changes to the process. If Paul were here, he’d have it all figured out already. He was, after all, the music maker in our family. But he’s not here and I’m sure he’s giggling at me from above as I attempt with difficulty what he would accomplish with relative ease.

And because I’ve been told by my young niece, Flik, that Schrodie isn’t getting enough air time, here’s a little video of her playing with the box that the record player came in for you to enjoy!

Stay tuned for more exciting installments of this dynamic and fascinating story…

Music to my ears

I bought an iPod Classic in October because I was feeling down and shiny things normally cheer me up. I had it engraved with the last line from one of my favorite poems, Desiderata (by Max Ehrmann).

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Anyhow, the iPod will hold up to 40,000 songs and my goal is to fill it up. Well, today I noticed that I am at 10 percent capacity! How fantastic is that?

There are a total of 435 albums representing 24 genres. The top three genres are rock (102), alternative – which I define to include all new age and ska (76), and country (35).

I will slowly start working to digitalize (is that a word?) my vinyl collection (and my folks’ collection) which will certainly add to the number of rock albums and may even bring my jazz collection into a running for #3. (Now, if I would classify bluegrass, big band, jazz, and swing into one genre, it would certainly take the #2 spot – if not top billing.)

In addition to my amazingly eclectic music collection (Which, did I mention includes three albums from the Cle Elum Roslyn Elementary School’s Marimba band?) I have 416 Podcasts waiting to be listened to. They include 241 English language and grammar tips and lessons; 143 Scots Gaelic modules (I’ve been trying to learn for more than 10 years now); and 14 episodes of Johnathan Ross’ radio show. Yes, I really must get caught up!

I’m assuming you care about these little details of my life or you wouldn’t still be reading…