Saturday, October 31, 2009

Spirit Tales from a Rational Mind, Part I

Inside, Looking Out

One Autumn evening in my Minneapolis apartment, a domino-like sequence of thuds startled me from the silence I was enjoying. The disturbance emanated from my hall closet and I assumed InstaPurr was to blame.

InstaPurr was my tiny, fearless feline who stopped at nothing to get what she wanted. She opened doors by balancing atop the doorknobs and working them with her paws—much as a logroller does with timber in a river. I headed toward the closet, expecting that upon entering it, I’d find InstaPurr jumping off a shelf or hanging onto a coat.

But before I reached the door, Purr was at my side. I stepped into the walk-in closet to find all the books and records lining its shelves in disarray. Some had fallen in place; others had fallen to the floor. I reorganized them, apologized to Purr for making assumptions, and chalked up the matter to . . . weirdness, I guess.

Days later, as I crossed the living room, several newspapers from a stack on the floor swirled and fluttered, as if I’d just turned a powerful fan on them. Yet, there was no draft, no open windows, no working fan or air conditioner—and Purr could hardly be blamed for such a show. I chalked it up to . . . nothing. There was no explanation for it.

Several days on, I came home from work to find five noticeable “ripples” down the wall between the dining room and the galley kitchen. The marks looked like someone was pushing a hand through the painted wallpaper—from the inside of the wall outward.

Now I was nervous.

I asked the apartment manager about the building’s history. She said it had been a grand residential hotel in the ’20s, but a terrible fire nearly destroyed it.

Aha! I was living with a former tenant who was still trying to escape a gruesome and untimely death. I wanted to help my ghost, but didn’t figure out how before I moved to Chicago with my future husband.

It was my first encounter with uneasy spirits. Yet it wouldn’t be my last.

More Spirit Tales to come . . .

Get Your Ghoul On

It's here at last: that glorious day of the year reserved for us to be whatever we're not or whatever we secretly are or wish to be. I don't have a costume today, but I do have some tales to tell. I'll get them to you bit by bit.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Noshing on Jack-o-Lanterns? Mmm Mmm Good!

Keepers at Brookfield Zoo provided a pumpkin feast to some creatures this week. Check out the video to see the tiger playing with his snack before savoring it.

This makes me wonder what happens to all the pumpkins that don't get sold at the corner lots and supermarkets. If vendors don't already donate them, seems like zoos would be grateful recipients of the bounty.

Widening the Net of Potential Careers

If you're on the dole in Illinois, you're required to set up a profile on the Illinois Skills Match site. Which I did after my first visit to the unemployment office. This amounts to finding the list of skills related to your previous job (or the job you want) and selecting the range of years that best describes how much experience you have with a particular skill. For instance, how many years' experience do you have in using a personal computer? Less than 1 year, 1-3 years, 3-5 years, more than 5.

Recently, I poked around further on the site and discovered that I could include skills from other career sets. For instance, my few years spent teaching high school students granted me a few more skills to add to my profile. This makes me more employable.

The point of the profile is to attract Illinois employers who are perusing the Web site. Ideally, the system works like Realistically, it's a different story.
Imagine my delight the other day when I logged on to find 4—count 'em, FOUR—jobs awaiting my reply! Not one was directly relevant; one was truly a dangerous fit. "CHEMIST," it read.

Chemist? Yeah, based on the fact that I'd successfully taught a remedial biology class for a few months while the science teacher recovered from surgery. Worse, I failed the one and only chemistry class I took as a youngster. I asked more questions than the teacher had answers for and simply couldn't move forward with the material unless I understood it. Could I have just memorized the equations and conducted the experiments as my friends suggested I do? Could I have just not cared so much and not thought so much and aced the class like my lab partner did? Sure. But I didn't. I kept trying to find context to the lessons.

Now, looking back, I think I probably could have bluffed my way through the class. But I refuse, no matter how desperate I become, to bluff my way into a job. Especially a job in which I could blow up a room.

Sigh. Honesty has its drawbacks when jobs are scarce.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

You Say "To-mah-to" and I Say "To-may-to"

Last night, much like every night this past month, it rained. Drizzled, really. Enough that I put a coat on the pooch before I took her for her last walk before bedtime.

Though my husband might disagree, I assure you I am not one of those crazy women who dress up their dogs. I put a raincoat on the canine for two reasons: 1) She hates the rain; and (more important) 2) I hate the way she smells when she's wet. We both win when she wears a coat.

As we turned into the last leg of our walk, a neighbor we often see came toward us. No matter the season, this particular neighbor always remarks that the pooch wears a built-in mask (referring to her brown head)—"She's ready for Halloween!" he exclaims. With Halloween rapidly approaching, I took a deep breath in preparation for the banter I knew was about to start.

Except it didn't. Instead, the man chided me for not putting the pooch in boots. "She needs some galoshes," he said.

Only he pronounced galoshes "ghoul-oshes"—emphasis on the first syllable. I smiled at his joke and before I could respond, he pressed: "You know, she could get sick if she doesn't wear any ghoul-oshes."

Hmmm. It wasn't cleverness I was hearing after all. Merely a mispronunciation enveloped in concern. I assured him that once snow hit us, I'd have the pooch in boots.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Catching Up on Old News

I know, I know. I haven't been writing because I've been knee-deep in cancelled checks, IRS forms, and various ephemera saved over the course of 20+ years in preparation for my court date yesterday. I've also been talking to lawyers, chewing my fingernails, and learning that fighting evil is no job for the faint-of-heart. I'll detail the recent events later.

For now, I'd like to share what gave me a much-needed chuckle in the midst of my ongoing attempts to jump through every hoop my landlord's lawyer throws my way. Duke—a former "savage stray on the edge of death" as his blog
describes him— made a PSA that aired last month in Malaysia for the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (you may have seen it already—I'm a month behind apparently). It's an important message that needs to be communicated in every country. Sorry I couldn't get the video embedded here.

If, on the other hand, you could use a good cry, there's some old footage on YouTube of a canine rescuing another 4-legged from a highway. Compassion certainly wasn't in the drivers' seats of the vehicles that drove by that day. Shameful humans. We can be a contemptible lot, can't we?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hanging on by "The Skin of Our Teeth"

Words to remember from the mind of Thornton Wilder:

"I’ve never forgotten for long at a time that living is struggle. I know that every good and excellent thing in the world stands moment by moment on the razor-edge of danger and must be fought for—whether it’s a field, or a home, or a country."

Just How Just Is Our Justice System?

id you think I wasn't coming back? That I got past the 100 mark and then slacked off?

Sorry to make you wonder.

It's just that it's countdown time now to our upcoming court date and we've been unable to talk to our lawyer and his assistants. "Unable" only because, I think, they're all so overworked that they don't know whether they've returned calls or not (though the latter is likely frequently the case), they don't know who's doing what on the case, and we're an odd case and maybe have them stumped. I don't know why they're so uncommunicative. But how can anyone get mad at people who are volunteering their time? People who help those less fortunate—who fight slimebags because it's the right thing to do?

On the other hand, my little family has a lot to lose in this one case and it has us feeling over-the-top anxious and sick.

We were in our neighbor's apartment yesterday when her phone rang. She let the antiquated answering machine pick up. (Yeah, just like in the movies—because it's such a sea change to make the switch to voicemail.) The voice said, "This is _______ _________." It was our landlord and nemesis. His very name made my heart race. Funny how our bodies act on their own without any cerebral persuasion. I took a couple of deep breaths and practiced a mindfulness exercise.

I got past the moment and my blood pressure relaxed. However, being in court with the monster and his mouthpiece won't be easy. I'm trying to prepare for it.

But honestly, I feel like my husband and I are two lone wooden pins at the end of a bowling lane and someone is about to lob a heavier-than-regulation bowling ball at us. Where will we fall? Will anyone help us up? Will we ever get to play the game again with people who follow the rules? (That visage at the right is a clear bowling ball. Can you imagine a tournament with nothing but skulls making strikes?)

Who knows? Everything that's happened in my life this year brings to mind this quote of hope:

"It’s hard to tell our bad luck from our good luck sometimes; hard to tell for many years to come."
—Merle Shain

Perhaps, regardless of how Monday ends, my husband and I will look back at this from our future lives and see it as an extraordinary turn of good fortune. We just can't see that far ahead right now.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Lull Logs 100!

t's official: Today marks a small milestone on Lull. This is the 101st post.

True, I've not posted every single day; yet some days I've provided multiple articles and tidbits.

If you're new to Lull, you may be interested in:
Why I started this blog
The reason I don't post every day
Why I use a pseudonym

You also should be informed of the topics you'll probably never find on Lull. Here are 5:

1. Scrapbooking & Stamping
While I admire the creative outlet and output of these (mostly) women, it's not something you'll ever find me doing. Truth be told, I can't cut straight. Not even using a straightedge. (You can ask the graphic designers I once tried to help during a particularly hellish period of production in the marketing firm that employed us. My inability stunned them. They could not reconcile this newly discovered side of me with the gifted and anal side that kerned 6 point type, found mathematical mistakes in annual reports, and maintained language continuity throughout each marketing campaign. I can't explain it. I've just learned to accept it.)

2. Motherhood
I don't have any kids now. I most likely won't have any in the future. I may mention kids or mothers at some point, but they're not the focus of Lull or me.

3. Jesus, The Bible, & Home-schooling
Somehow these three topics are often intertwined. I've already written about Jesus once; I may do so again. And I'll post quotes, but they probably won't be taken from a holy book. When I was a nanny, the couple who employed me considered having me home-school their children. After all, I was certified to teach. Horror of horrors! I had been trained to teach high-schoolers, not small children (and SIX of them, no less). I felt hugely unqualified to take the job, though I'm sure I could have muddled through. But many of the home-schoolers who blog about it could/SHOULD scare the wits out of people who care about language. These makeshift educators don't spell or write well or indicate any kind of expertise in academic subjects. Which is not to say that they won't be able to instruct their children, but they're coming out of the gate with a handicap.

4. Sports
Don't watch. Don't play. Not interested. Nuff said.

5. Recipes
I don't cook. Not anymore. And I'm not a foodie, nor do I need to eat fabulous food. However, I like to smell it, see it, read about it, think about it, talk about it. But I don't often indulge.

All of these topics are extensively covered on many fabulous blogs and on many lame blogs, some with hundreds of Followers. And if my only aim was to get more Followers (even angry adversaries), I might take on such topics.

Instead, here are some topics you'll certainly come across on Lull:
1. Job-Hunting, Loss, Motivation
2. Books, Libraries, Reading
3. Editing, Language, Writing
4. Animals, Conservation, Plants
5. Workplace Culture, Leadership

New or not, I hope you stick with Lull. I'd like to think that I'm not alone in this passage of life, and that soon, all of our fortunes will change for the better.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I'm OK, You're OK—OK?

Tania Khadder over on Unemploymentality brought my attention to a column run by Glamour magazine called "Hey, it's ok!" Its inspirational aim is to make readers feel better about their less-than-appropriate or irrational feelings and behaviors. Like, Hey! It's OK if . . .
. . . You use the address labels a charity sent to you without sending them a donation in return.

The jobless Khadder decided to create a list for her fellow brethren, the unemployed. Here's one example:

Hey! It's OK if . . .
. . . You don’t make your bed. Especially if you never really get out of it.

For a smile, check out her 2 October 2009 post. Better yet, send me your own ideas and I'll publish them on Lull.

Friday, October 16, 2009

It's National Boss's Day

t may surprise you to learn that National Boss's Day originated here in Illinois in the ancient year of 1958. The woman behind the idea was trying to honor her father, who just happened to also be her boss.

It's a holiday that clearly excludes the unemployed. Today I am neither a boss, as I once was, nor do I have a boss. (Well, I suppose the government is my boss, which in turn makes every American my boss, but I'd prefer not to think about my circumstances that way right now if you don't mind.) However, as a member of the jobless ranks, rather than honoring a boss I may or may not have any respect for, I am free to simply reflect on the bosses I've had.

For some reason, most of the jobs I've held have been in small, family-owned companies. That should give you an idea of the dysfunction levels I've dealt with over the years.

I've answered to a family member (or several) and I've been mandated to hire family members (or their latest paramours or distant cousins or in-laws).

The Respected Tyrant
I had a boss for whom I had great respect in spite of his tyranny (if he walked past your desk while the phone was ringing and you failed to answer by the third ring, he'd yank the phone from the wall and your name from the org chart) and odd instructions (every switchboard operator had to sound like a phone-sex provider—he wanted customers to feel like they'd just had an orgasm before they got transferred to their brokers). He made a ton of money and he shared it with every employee. He rewarded every great idea he heard no matter who had it—gave credit where it was deserved.

The Thoughtless Leader
My next boss made me aware of what leadership really is. He wasn't aware he was doing this and had no intention of doing it, largely because he was a terrible boss. He found reasons to fire people or cut their hours if they used their health insurance for a surgery or cancer treatments. He allowed customers to scream expletives at his employees. Though he was visionary in purchasing the newest technology and selling its services to customers, he refused to spend money training employees on how to use the technology (thus disappointing customers and blaming workers for their failures).

The Accidental Sexist
I had a boss whom I liked very much though he had a bad habit of making decisions "on the fly" about my division—without including me in the discussion. Many of the discussions took place in the men's restroom—not by design, just by happenstance. I wasn't happy about this but couldn't seem to get my point across. So my husband, who at the time was creating props for Steppenwolf Theatre Company, handily sculpted a large, wooden cock for me so that I could be included in "The Boys' Club." I didn't make a big deal about it. My desk was just outside the men's restroom, so all I had to do was display my new appendage on my cubicle wall for it to draw attention. Curiously, the women loved it; the men got squeamish and embarrassed and could hardly look at it (regardless of their sexual orientation). My point was made.

"A leader is a dealer in hope."
—Napoleon Bonaparte

The Best
My last boss (who was not, by the way, responsible for my layoff) is one of the nicest human beings ever to grace the Earth. He's honest, positive, accessible, funny, understands numbers, shows compassion; he was the social glue that held our division together and best of all, he officiated at my office wedding. Need I say more? (Well, yeah, I probably do. But my wedding details will have to wait for a future post.) The owner of the company restructured my division after my departure and never understood the value of my boss, never let my boss use his strengths on the job. It's the company's loss.

Being a good boss is hugely challenging—and rewarding. It's a colossal responsibility because of how much time people spend at work. Which is why I believe the books and newsletters I produced with my staff were meaningful: We taught people how to be better bosses—not just for the sake of a company's profitability, but for the sake of every life they touched. Being a boss is about more than business. It's about humanity.

For my bosses who were true leaders, I salute you on this special holiday.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Pre-Halloween Visitor Comes A-Calling

Our downstairs neighbor asked for our help yesterday. A bat was clinging to the inside of her back screen door and hissed at her whenever she tried to open it.

Sounded like a rescue mission to me; my neighbor obviously saw it as pest eradication.

When I was a kid, bats came to our yard like clockwork every evening. We had a swimming pool and lots of trees, which meant we attracted a lot of mosquitoes and other great flying appetizers that bats crave. As the bats' choreographed hunt unfolded in the air, a keen eye could observe the iridescent threads of color in their wings. My favorite moment with the bats of my childhood was when one swooped toward me, hit my hand, and swooped away. It was the closest I'd gotten to a bat until about 13 years ago.

At the time, we had three cats. The eldest had been known to catch bats as gifts for my husband-to-be, but those years of agility were long past her. Any hunting prowess was left to the younger cats, whose idea of hunting went something like this:
1) Notice a scary thing (bug, mouse, bird, bat).
2) Run to a person and get their attention (mew, cry, paw at them, herd them).
3) Lead them to the scary thing (this may take a lot of running back and forth between the person and the scary thing to get the point across).
4) Laud it over the scary thing that it's about to become history.

One night, the younger cats initiated the hunting routine. Turns out a tiny baby bat was clinging to our decorative fireplace. So we sequestered the felines in a bedroom and my husband-to-be rigged a blanket tunnel and lighting system from the front of our apartment out to the open back door. The baby flew away, the cats checked to make sure it was "history," and our little world shifted back into place.

Yesterday's operation promised to be simpler. The bat was already outside. We just needed to encourage it to rest elsewhere.

Of course, I've met with enough of life's challenges to know that nothing is ever simple. At least, I SHOULD have known.

I tried to get the bat to hop onto my broom. (I know: Halloween symbolism everywhere.) Nothing doing. Then I tapped the screen with the broom, hoping to rouse him (or her—I've no idea). I did, but not to budge; only to hiss.

Then my husband joined me. He handled the broom duties while I held the door open. After much nudging and coaxing on our part, and hissing, chattering, buzzing, and clucking on the bat's part, it fell to the ground—on its back. Every time my husband righted it, it did a backward somersault and flopped onto its back, wings spread wide, and its tiny mouth opening and closing like a baby bird waiting for chow. I wanted to cry.

I went back into our apartment to find a box. My husband slid the bat inside and then we disagreed about where to put it.

Our neighbor asked, "You're going to put it in the Dumpster, aren't you?"

"No," I cried. "I'm not sure where we'll put him, but it most assuredly won't be in the trash."

I wanted to take the bat to the park, but my husband worried that the bat could meet some unknown trauma there. So the box was placed in our gangway, with an opening for the bat to escape once it recovered.

And it did. Happy ending.

Our neighbor is moving out of the building after living here for some 20 years. She bought a house because "living here isn't the same now that Mr. Sandin is gone."

She's right. Our previous landlord lived in the building, too, and made it clear that we were like family to him. A bad heart took him early from the Earth and our sense of community has never recovered.

But it occurred to me this morning that as Mr. Sandin's birthday approaches (Halloween), and as my neighbor prepares to move, perhaps our little winged visitor was Mr. Sandin incarnate—reminding us to keep his memory alive wherever life leads us from here.

It's the story I'm sticking with. But don't worry, Mr. Sandin. As much as I enjoyed yesterday's bat escapade, I don't need a reminder to think about you. You're always in my heart.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Saving the World, One Click at a Time

I've been on the Free Rice site numerous times, yet every time I've been so focused on the language questions that I never noticed there were other topics to choose! Duh!

It reminds me of how I feel in that recurring dream I have: My husband and I and our menagerie live in tight quarters for years and suddenly one day we realize that the middle door in the hallway opens to an additional spacious wing of the building that's all ours. Or the stairway we never use leads to a large, lush garden that's ours alone to enjoy.

So this weekend, for the first time, I tested my art knowledge. I was pleasantly surprised by how many items I got right, irritated by the ones I missed. (Rembrandt, for goodness' sake. How could I get Rembrandt wrong?)

Anyway, please click over to Free Rice and feed the hungry. There are enough topics to match anyone's interests.

But don't forget to click on the purple button to the right and feed the animals.

No matter what misfortunes befall us, we can still make a difference in the world with a click.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Need A Lift?

Trek over to Move That Mountain for some advice on handling (or barreling through) life's challenges. It's a new site written by a former colleague of mine, Deborah S. Roberts. I love this quote she uses to open her "About This Site" section:

“I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable,
racked with sorrow,
but through it all I still know quite certainly
that just to be alive
is a grand thing.”
—Agatha Christie

Pausing for a Brief Message . . .

If you're like me, you're always coming across a turn of phrase or a bit of trivia in your reading that you'd like to remember. But marking up your book is out of the question, and Post-it Notes can be cumbersome.

Enter Levenger's "Margin Tape." If you've never seen the Levenger catalogue or Web site, you're in for a treat. They carry all sorts of nifty tools for readers.

This tape would be better if it were transparent and I could place it directly over a passage or sentence. But still: The tape doesn't harm the page and that's something to get excited about.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Are There Self-Help Books for "Caregivers to Elderly Canines"?

It's nearly 3 o'clock in the morning and my pooch and I are playing "Bet You'll Never Guess What I'm Trying to Say to You."

I've rearranged all her beds, turned on a fan in case she needed more air circulation (and to veil some of the noises that might be waking her), taken her down our three flights of stairs to go outside—where she wouldn't step off the porch, fed her a little in case those tummy rumblings she had going were hunger pangs rather than digestive troubles—yet she's still fretting about something.

Last night was the same story, only I think the cause of her nighttime pacing had more to do with our new night-owl neighbors.

Tonight, I've no idea what she wants me to do for her. But tomorrow I think I'll set up a bathroom just for her, with doggie pads. And Monday I'll make an appointment for her with the "Hippie Dippie" doctor (as a friend of mine reverently calls the healer). Maybe we'll also appeal to an animal communicator to help us figure out how to get some sleep during the night.

Ah! Now the pooch is resting. But she's making some strange noises, too. Do I dare try to return to my bed? Or do I just wait for the next round of "Bet You'll Never Guess What I'm Trying to Say to You"?

Friday, October 9, 2009

How Do You Encourage Unwelcome House Guests to Say Goodbye?

As I was making my coffee the other morning, I noticed that I had company.

At first glance, I thought it was a huge daddy longlegs, which brought back a rush of fond childhood memories. On closer inspection, I realized it was not.

It had long legs alright, but it also had pronounced yellow and black stripes on its body just above the legs and it was in the middle of a construction project. Were I to allow it to continue its task, my kitchen would soon become a mere element of the spider's grand design. I had to act quickly.

I grabbed a nearby freezer bag, enticed the creature into it, and escorted it outside. It took a bit of bag-shaking to encourage the spider to leave—it had continued its web construction inside the bag. But I succeeded.

This confusion of habitat happens with every change of seasons. And I prefer to gently remind the confused that their habitat is outside mine.

But I have to confess that the heebie-jeebies some critters give me make me murderous. Clothes moths, for instance. See an infestation of those in a favorite cashmere sweater and you'd know what I mean. I can't kill those guys fast enough. I'm itching right now just
writing about them. The other icky things that I'm not nice to are silverfish and those million-leg bugs.

I'm sorry, truly sorry that I don't have it in me to be kind to all the world's creatures. But these three freak me out (which is why they don't get accompanying photos in this article). Last night, out of the corner of my naked (sans glasses) eye, I noticed what I thought was a mouse in the bathroom. I thought it odd that it was in the tub, so I moved in for a closer look.


It was one of the million-leg critters! I ran to the kitchen, picked up a tea kettle of water, and drove him toward the drain in a torrent. Every little leg curled up and I considered the mission accomplished.

Fast-forward to this morning: same bathroom, same flash out of the corner of my eye.


The mouse-sized bug had recovered. I ran from the bathroom because the tea kettle was whistling. And because I didn't know what Plan B would be.

Still don't.

I'd read once that the larger those bugs are, the older they are. This guy must have a few thousand years on him. How can I wipe out all that history? (Ha! I'm trying to imagine something good about the bug and in my mind's eye suddenly saw it posing for a women's footwear ad, each little leg snugly fitting into a different couture shoe.)

I'll let you know if I figure it out.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

What Would Lincoln Think?

t last I was granted a conversation with a lawyer today about my eviction case.

Not the lawyer assigned to my case, naturally; that would be too much to hope for. But someone who at least has appeared in court before.

I asked her what our chances are of winning the case should we pass on the lame offer made by the landlord's attorney.

"50-50," she said.

50-50? That's it? Yet another WTF moment in this alternate universe of black robes, obfuscatory language, and incomprehensible formalities.

As my husband notes, Why not just flip a coin? Why go through the court system at all?

Furthermore, why do we bother having any housing laws in Chicago if landlords don't have to adhere to them?

As if our former governor wasn't evidence enough, today's conversation with counsel certainly points out that it pays to be crooked in the Windy City.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Lowdown on the Lowlife Who Is My Landlord

h, when will justice prevail?

It's 62 degrees in my apartment as I'm writing, a temperature clearly in violation of the Landlord-Tenant Rights Ordinance of this city.

It's occurred to me this morning that perhaps one reason my landlord bought each of his buildings under a different company name is so he can wiggle out from under the lame mandate of the Ordinance, which pertains only to owners of a certain number of units. On the other hand, my landlord doesn't appear to feel bound by either the legal system or social mores, so it probably never crossed his mind. The string of names he uses for purchasing buildings and the other string he uses for managing buildings are more likely employed to circumvent some tax issue.

I got a call on Monday afternoon from one of the paralegals in the pro bono agency that's handling our eviction case. She gave me a list of demands from the landlord's attorney:
1. Pay rent for September and October immediately in the form of a cashier's check.
"What about August?" I asked. The paralegal didn't know. In fact, she said the landlord's attorney had made a mistake on the Order and listed September twice; she assumed he meant September and October, but she'd look into it. Well, Jeepers! All I've been trying to do is pay my rent for the past two months and no one takes my money.
2. All of my cancelled checks from the duration of my tenancy.
I've lived here for 11 years. Even my bank doesn't cough up checks from beyond 7 years. Each check costs $6 to retrieve from the bank. But to be able to request the check, I first have to know the check number, which could be ascertained from my statements—unless, of course, I don't have the statement, in which case I have to pay for that too. This demand alone could cost me about $1,000.
3. All of my check registers from June 1 to the present.
Why is this necessary if I'm presenting the cancelled checks? Not to mention the fact that they already subpoenaed my bank account and had this information in hand before Monday.
4. All of my statements from June 1 through the present.
Actually, now that I'm reviewing my notes, I'm not sure about this one. My notes read "June, July, August, September." I didn't bother detailing this because the paralegal said she'd e-mail the list to me and as soon as I'd reviewed it, I was to call our lawyer.

Of course, I never got an e-mail.

However, yesterday afternoon, I received another call from someone at the pro bono agency who started to tell me what I thought were the same things I'd heard the day before. So I interrupted her to say as much.

She knew nothing about the previous call, told me when asked that the affidavit we'd signed was useless at this point and she didn't know who would have initiated such a move (the lawyer did, I told her!), said a few other things that were in direct opposition to what the other paralegal had said, and then said a few things that raised my blood pressure until she confessed that she didn't know anything about our case really.

But here's the real reason she called: The attorneys had bumped into one another in court yesterday and the landlord's mouthpiece told my mouthpiece that the landlord would "let" us stay until Spring as long as we paid rent.

There are so many things wrong with this "offer" I hardly know where to begin.

1. We have never NOT paid our rent.
2. We have not broken the lease.
3. Our lease ends on 30 April 2011.
4. "Letting" us stay until Spring doesn't GIVE us anything. We still lose a year's time on the lease while the landlord gains increased rent from that period.
5. By taking this "deal"—which remains open to us only for a 7-day period—we still get screwed and we still look like we were in the wrong. The landlord walks away with a future income increase and his reputation intact.

(Pause for deep breathing...)

On the other hand, I could take this offer as a sign that finally the landlord's mouthpiece realizes that his smarmy client isn't on the right side of the law. He needs to wrap up this case before we have a chance to present our documentation to a judge and jury. At least, that's the bright side and one I'm sticking to until I get a chance to meet with my mouthpiece. No more paralegals filled with misinformation.

Grrr. I'm off to the bank for cashier's checks.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Windmills of My Mind

I've been trying to catch up on some long-neglected chores, one of which is to wash my dog's lambskin rug. Months ago I found what I thought might be the perfect cleaning agent and so ordered a sample of it from the company. After weeks of waiting, the sample arrived but I didn't have the time or inclination to deal with it. Of course, now that I'm ready to tackle the project, I can't find the sample.

This brings to mind an unattributed quotation that stares at me from the tiny notebook I keep next to my bed:
For every minute spent in organizing,
an hour is earned.

While this may sound true, it's also flawed. Case in point: Think about how you organize your computer files and folders. Or better yet, let's think about how I organize mine.

I have a single folder with my name on it in which I keep a variety of folders: job hunt, eulogies, books, etc. My husband has his own folder, then there's a shared folder containing matters relevant to both of us—one of which is $$$$. This is where I chose to file my list of books I'm selling or giving away. Why not file that under "Books," you ask? Why not, indeed. And here is where my attempts at organizing can go wildly off-track.

How my mind categorizes items one day may not be apparent to me on the next. I'll end up wasting time trying to understand my strategy. And though I love a minimalist approach to desk-keeping (everything out of view, color-coded, easily accessible), the cluttered everything-in-view usually works better. And it has the added benefit of revealing things I'd forgotten about.

This brings to mind an A. A. Milne quotation sent to me on a card by the very same person who gave me the tiny notebook:
One of the advantages of being disorderly is that
one is constantly making exciting discoveries.

Given the choice between saving time or making a discovery, which would you choose?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Flipping through History

s the library cull continues, I've happened upon some pieces of forgotten history trapped in the books.

Sometimes I find an ancient newspaper article about an event in my hometown; sometimes I find old love letters written to my husband (mostly by me, once not). But most of the ephemera are cards sent to me by my sister.

My sister chooses her cards carefully—from museums, artists, and letterpress shops—and I think I've saved every one. They become bookmarks, and I, in turn, carefully choose which one best complements the content of whatever books I'm reading.

We weren't prolific letter writers. But rereading her cards is like seeing a timeline of the events in our lives.

So I continue saving them. I flip through each book before surrendering it to the sale shelves to make certain I haven't missed any cards. They're beautiful, functional, informative, and they keep me connected to my sister every time I pick up a book.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

It's the End of an Era

There are many moments and milestones in our lives that forever serve as markers of "The Before Time" and "The After Time." This morning, as I made my single cup of coffee, I realized I'd just crossed over into The After Time.

I have a single cup (well, to be honest, it's a pretty BIG cup) of espresso-strength coffee every morning—typically in one of the Italian handmade cups my husband surprised me with years ago for an anniversary. Since we got the pooch, this morning ritual has included the feline furball. It's her "Alone Time" with me and she's insistent about it.

Here's how it works: I wake up, or the feline wakes me, and (we) head to the kitchen to fill the tea kettle with water. At this point, I'm supposed to pick her up and cradle her in one arm. This means I can never wear some luxurious, silky gown from which she could slide off. No, no, no. I must think of her safety. And her comfort. (Not to mention the claw factor that can devalue any lovely garment in seconds.) So I keep two dedicated robes for coffee-making, one for summer and one for winter.

She's to continue being cradled until the entire coffee production is completed. Sometimes I multitask and manage to get in a few leg exercises while we're waiting for the water to boil. She's not crazy about this aspect of the ritual, but she tolerates it.

When the kettle whistles, she vocalizes to make sure I know what to do next. She remains in my hold throughout the grinding and measuring of the beans, through the pouring and heating of the milk, through each careful pour of the tea kettle across the black powder mound in the filter.

When the warm milk is combined with the brew, it's her cue to part ways with me so I can drink.

This is how my days started until the furball succumbed to a cancer that swept her little life away in a matter of weeks. It caught us all by surprise—the pooch is still bewildered by it. The furball was a month shy of her 24th birthday; I'd had her for all but 4 months of her life.

I've continued the ritual sans feline: same mug, same sequence, more leg exercises. And she's always on my mind.

However, on Friday the equation shifted. My beloved tea kettle, another gift from my husband, showed signs of its inevitable demise.

The kettle is sleek in its design: all one material with a handle that rises from the side as if it's all one piece of shiny stainless steel shaped into a kettle form. And it very nearly is. The handle is merely spot-welded onto the vessel. And therein lies its design flaw. The spot welds had worn away and the handle was hanging precariously by a single weld, poised to drop the boiling water at any moment. It was time for a new kettle.

Fortunately, I didn't have to sift through tea kettle designs for a replacement. I already had a backup kettle given to me by my father. Its aesthetics don't compare, though. Constructed of two different materials, it doesn't have the same visual flow. However, it's 100 times lighter than my favorite kettle and more balanced when I lift it to pour. All in all, safer and less muscle strain for me. (And now that I'm AARP-aged, those are things I must consider.)

And so it goes. My morning ritual continues, but it's laced with sadness and a memory of the headstrong, brain-damaged, undersized feline who dominated and defined it for so many years.

Raise a mug with me, won't you? To my dearest furball and the end of an era.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...