Must. Blog. More. Often.

Well folks, it’s been so long since I’ve written anything for my blog that the pressure is on to be clever and brilliant. Alas, I have become rusty for lack of practice. Yet despite my blog absence (attributed to travel, work, life), I’m flattered and humbled that several of you continue to visit me anyway, patiently awaiting whatever crazy or trivial thing I will have to say next. For you, dear readers, I must find a way to make time for this blogging adventure. And for myself, too. I derive much personal satisfaction from the act of putting words together and forming those little stories and miscellanea that will live on in posterity.

So without further ado, here’s the list of the things going on in my life that I might have blogged about in recent weeks, if only I had found the time:

  • God
  • My darling husband
  • My adorable kids
  • My busy, busy, busy job
  • My unprecedented travel schedule
  • My fabulous cruise vacation
  • My klutziness
  • Our new bicycles

And probably a million other things that escape me at the moment. Voting is officially open. I’ll write about any or all of these things. Whadaya wanna know? “Other” is a suitable option too, as long as you fill in the blank.

Just askin’…

Does anyone know where I can find a good clone?

Your dash

Since my last blog post, I have been to Nashville and back. Before my next blog post, I will have been to Michigan and back. Then a few days at home before I am off enjoying some well earned R&R for a full week aboard the Mariner of the Seas. I normally don’t have such a hectic travel schedule, but it’s piling up this year for some reason. My goal is to give myself a week or so after returning from the cruise to catch up on work, then get myself back into a regular blogging schedule. I sure miss it, but I just have too many irons in the fire right now. The blogging suffers, but only temporarily.

In the meantime I leave you with this thought from a keynote speaker at last week’s conference which hit home and has really stayed with me.

When you die, your gravestone will have two dates. Your birth, and your death. The whole rest of your life is represented by nothing more than a small dash. The tiniest of lines. Yet packed into that single piece of punctuation is your entire life story. All your accomplishments and disappointments. Your successes and failures. The relationships you have built with the people around you. What will YOUR dash represent about you? What will it signify to the people you leave behind? I know what I want mine to say about me. 

Tragedy strikes

Friends, a moment of silence, please. We had a great tragedy occur in my household yesterday, and I need all the sympathy you can muster. I have discovered… I can’t say it… give me a minute… a gray hair! My darling husband confirmed, perhaps a little too gleefully, that the offending hair was, indeed, gray. Gray! I say was, because that lone gray strand did not survive my wrath. The objectionable eyesore could of course not be allowed to remain—I yanked it right out of my head and dare it to try to grow back. The fight is on!

A letter to my readers

Dear readers,

My sister called me last night to tell me I need to blog more often. I assure you all, I have not given up blogging, nor do I intend to! Please forgive my absence in recent weeks; unfortunately, it will likely continue over the next month or so due to work obligations and personal commitments that are consuming quite a bit of time. Also squeezed into the next month are a work trip and a long-planned family vacation. That’s no excuse, I know. I started this blog to write, and writing is what I should be doing. I will continue to post and visit as I can, but for the next short while, it will be less frequently than normal. Unless someone can figure out a way to add a few more hours to my day. In the meantime, blog on, everyone, and I’ll rejoin the ranks just as soon as I possibly can.

The end of an era

It’s been rumored for years that at the end of the 10-year lease on our current office space, we’d be moving. Now it’s official. Most likely within six months’ time, our operation will be relocating to cheaper (and smaller) space. No more penthouse office suite. I am afraid, my dear readers, that this means I’ll be saying goodbye to my luxurious corner office with a view. The unique shape of our building makes corner offices an easy commodity on the upper floors. I’m not special enough to warrant such deluxe accoutrements in more typical configurations.

Based on top-secret information from reliable sources that we’ll remain in the same building, a few of my enterprising staff did some reconnaissance and discovered which floors in our building were vacant. Their undercover research suggests we’ll be slumming it in the dim dungeon that is floor number 3. If I’m lucky, I might still get a window. But on the third floor, my view won’t be of any lakes. I’ll probably overlook the parking garage. Or the construction next door. Not that it matters, since I rarely take the time to enjoy the view anyway. On the plus side, fire drills will be a piece of cake. No more jello legs for me after walking down 18 flights of stairs!

Just call me ruthless

Car buying is never a pleasant experience, but I’ve discovered the secret formula to making it about as painless at it’s ever going to get. Internet shopping. We’ve bought our last two cars like this, and I’ll never do it any other way again.

This round of car buying began last weekend when I lost heat in my vehicle at exactly the coldest point of the year so far in Florida. My thin-blooded nature has already been documented in this blog, so there’s no way I was going to drive around without heat for one second longer than absolutely necessary. Combined with several other smallish problems that I had been holding off on, the accumulated repair estimate was $1900, not including replacement of a damaged fender. Yikes! We decided on the spot to cut our losses, and my week of intensive research and ruthless negotiation began (which, incidentally, explains why I’ve been so silent here, as my attention was otherwise diverted to my homework effort).

We pretty much knew what we wanted, so I began at my favorite car buying website, edmunds.com. Edmund’s, for the uninitiated, is a wealth of information on how to shop for a car, new and used car reviews, every pricing detail you could ever want on both new and used models, and current manufacturer incentives and rebates.

Once we had our trim level and options selected, I hit the websites of all the local dealers within driving distance to view their inventories online. After narrowing it down to a few who had exactly the features we wanted in stock on the lot, I contacted them via email for price quotes. That’s when the fun began. I pitted the quotes against each other and was able to make substantial headway with one dealer in particular, all via e-mail. Although their quote was not initially the lowest, they moved to make it the lowest and earned our business due to the sales agent’s honesty (I could spot the lines of bull from some others thanks to my Edmund’s research) and responsiveness. He’ll be getting rave reviews on the dealer survey.

We walked onto the lot this weekend knowing everything but what they would offer on the trade. Even then, I was prepared. I had the Kelly Blue Book estimate. I had a written appraisal from CarMax. And I had a verbal appraisal from another dealer. However, since we negotiated such a good deal on the car price, I feared the dealer would try to make up for it by lowballing us on the trade. So I was pleasantly surprised when their first offer came in above either of the other two appraisals. So much so that I felt guilty about asking for more, but ask we did. I’m ruthless, I tell you! And they were putty in my hands, because they caved. I feel like I stole that new car, we came out so well. All at 0% financing, thank you very much.

Do you ever get the feeling that some things are just meant to be?

  1. Show extreme apathy and disinterest in all things sports-related.
  2. Abstain from participating in betting pools of any kind for at least 8 years on the job.
  3. Allow yourself to finally be coerced, against your will, into writing your name in some boxes on a spreadsheet at $1 a pop.
  4. Don’t even pretend to understand the complicated scoring rules that determine who wins.
  5. Don’t go anywhere near a TV during the actual game.
  6. Don’t bother checking the score when you get home later that evening.
  7. Wait for someone to tell you on the elevator the next morning (with a little jealousy in their voice) that you are the big winner.
  8. Voila! Your $5 investment becomes $40 and you treat your family to a lovely Mexican dinner with your earnings.

Anyone need investment advice? I only charge a small commission.

Game day

Today’s the big game day!! I have an afternoon full of "Don’t Break the Ice," "Operation," and other such lined up for our family entertainment.

Oh wait, is there a football game today? Rats. Sounds like a good excuse to me for a marathon of sappy and women-in jeopardy Lifetime movies. Alas, that’s not to be as hubby will be glued to the tube. But no need to fear for my boredom this evening, dear readers. I have a super top secret plan for extricating myself from the role of captive audience. I’ll be out of the house altogether, away from the pressure to watch against my will.

I just have one request. Will someone please tell me if the commercials were any good?

One of the things I love about Kent’s family is how close-knit they are. Four generations of extended family turned out for one of the games we attended last week, for the dual purpose of visiting with us traveling Floridians and cheering on the star basketball player. It was a riveting game, even for this normally apathetic viewer. Kent’s nephew played with finesse (to my untrained eye) and sank basket after basket. His reputation preceded him, with the opposing team working hard to shut him out. They were not successful. He was once again the dominant scorer, leading his teammates to victory — with a couple of college scouts in the audience to boot. It also just so happened to be his 18th birthday. A great day all around and I’m glad we were there for it.

A favorite highlight of all our trips to Tennessee, though, is always the visits with "The Aunts." They crack me up with their squabbling and their teasing and their stories! It’s like being thrown smack in the middle of an episode of The Golden Girls, only with no script, y’all.

Aunt #1 is the "Rose" of the bunch, regaling us with tales of growing up as one of five hillbilly sisters in a log cabin in the mountains of East Tennessee. She is always the first visit on our list; the aunt we spend the most time with and the one most likely to catch us up on all the family scuttlebutt. She’s also the one who amuses us with oddities like reading the obituaries to see if her own name is there yet. And laughs at herself for doing it. The best way to get in good with Aunt #1, I’ve discovered, is to inquire after her "stories" — the soap operas she faithfully records and watches every day. Treating her to lunch at her favorite restaurant, the one with the legendary BBQ, earns a fast ticket into her good graces, too.

Aunt #2 is a pistol. The "Sofia" character, if you will. As the oldest of the Tennessee-dwelling sisters, she’s the de facto matriarch. 81 years old? Emphysema? Trifling details that do not keep her from enjoying life and saying exactly what she thinks about everything. I remember the first time I met her. Kent warned me in advance to wear lipstick, because she had once chided the girlfriend of some family member or other, behind her back, for not wearing any makeup. Not even a bit of lipstick. The story has reached legend status in the family, and I still quake in fear at the thought of Aunt #2 catching me sans freshly applied coloring on my lips. But I’m not the only one who lives in mock mortal terror. My sister-in-law reached for her own lipstick at exactly the same instant I did, just as we were pulling into the driveway of #2’s house for a pre-arranged date to take The Aunts to the aforementioned mighty fine BBQ joint (after the requisite Friday visits to their respective beauty parlors, of course). Kent and his brother had a good laugh at our pretense, but it is their fault for striking the fear in our hearts in the first place. I’ve learned over the years, though, that like Kent’s late mother, Aunt #2 is all hilarious bark and no bite. We apply the lipstick just so we can tell her we did it ‘specially for her.

We sometimes wonder why these two, both widows now, don’t just co-habitate since they are together so much anyway, but spend a little time in their presence and you begin to understand why full-time companionship might not be the best idea. They do much for each other, but they bicker, a lot. It’s quite comical, in that sitcomy way, and the rest of the family serves as the built-in laugh track. This trip, the funniest line occurred while visiting at the house of Aunt #3 (the level-headed "Dorothy" of the trio), when the subject of Aunt #1’s fudge came up. She makes it every Christmas and confided that this year, she tried something new. Pineapple fudge. The words were barely out of her mouth when Aunt #2 quipped, with perfect timing and just the right combination of charming southern drawl and affected disdain, "It wasn’t any good." Everyone, including The Aunts, busted up laughing. No one ever said they lacked for opinions. They have ’em, and they aren’t afraid to share ’em.

Those aunts of Kent’s are tough but loving and lovable southern mountain girls to their very core. They might call themselves hillbillies, but I call them born and bred entertainers. They certainly have an appreciative audience in me!

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