Sunday, August 31, 2008

Welcome, September

I'm on a break - sort of. It's been another hectic week and I didn't blog (here) and I had about 100 emails to catch up on and a new tool on my job's website just launched and I am basically in charge of running it and my eyes are hurting from my stupid allergeies that didn't come when I was expecting it and I was therefore lulled into a false sense of freedom thinking this was my better allergy year when it was all just delayed until mid-July and continues through right now.

I missed blogging about my kids' first day of school basically because it was all screwed up and it took two days to get it sorted. Daughter had kindergarten orientation on Thursday. She went in for a 20-minute or so tour of her classroom and treasure hunt. She loved it even though she can't seem to remember her teacher's name. That's OK. I keep pronouncing it two different ways myself.

As we prepared to go home, I asked the teacher about all the kids who were there that day. "Oh, it's the first day of school for the rest of the school."

"Excuse me, what?"

You see, the information we got in Daughter's letter from her teacher mentioned that the first full day of school was Friday.

"Oh, that's just the kindergarteners," she said. Yes, of course it is! I hopped on my cell phone while she spoke. "Mr. T. get Son dressed. He's missing his first day of school!"

"It's tomorrow."

"No it isn't! I'm talking to Daughter's teacher right now!"

"But the paper said Friday."

"That's just for the kindergartners. I know. I was confused too. Just get him dressed and we'll switch kids!"

I made sure the office was cool as Daughter and I trotted out to go get her brother. All was well when I brought him in approximately an hour and a half late. "We're just glad he's here now," the office secretary said as she wrote an excused tardy note for him. Funny how she, the principal and Daughter's teacher all had the same it-was-a stupid-mistake-but-we-won't tell-you-that-though-we'll-smile-patronizing-smiles-instead voices. Well, at least Mr. T got confused too. He's as aware as I am when it comes to the kids' needs and school goings-on. At least we were clueless together.

And the next day was no better, I suppose. As we waited for the bus and it didn't come, I called the bus company to make sure the route had not changed. Normally they would be the last ones on, which makes sense since we are close to the school but right at the line between the kids having to get themselves to school (because they are close by) and the school bus being made available. Come to find out, our stop will now be the first stop and we were about 10 minutes late getting there. So, no first day on the school bus pictures for our new kindergartner. I can't care too much. Honestly. There was just so much confusion over those two days and between those two days when our two public school kids came home with folders full of stuff to do and sign and buy (or find in the house). I just needed a break. I haven't really Tweet on Twitter, faced the nation on Facebook, Linked with anyone or socialized on my 3 business networking sites in about a week. What have I been doing? Well, working on my book proposal, which I hope to wrap up tomorrow and chillaxin' with Mr. T whenever possible. I really just needed to do that. Plus my eyes. My tired eyes. My allergic, aching eyes have been plaguing me. But I had to get back here to my neglected blog as she was calling me for days but I've been too busy to answer. I'm here, sweet blog! You're never too far from my heart. I haven't even commented on the Dem convention and McCain's VP pick! You KNOW I have thoughts on those!

I'm kind of glad September is here. It's a fresh month and a fresh start. I can't wait to get started!


Monday, August 25, 2008

Time's Up!

Tomorrow I go get the kids. Summer at Camp Grandma must have been really good because this was the first time ever that no one said, "Mommy, when do you come get us?" They are growing up and getting used to it and I'm glad. Mr. T is too. I know he was happy that he was able to take every overtime opportunity that came at him at work, which is good for the bills but takes away from our time. Still, we found our moments so it wasn't a total waste of freedom. Plus, I got a chance to get my book proposal to near completion. I had hoped to have it mailed out today but I found another expert to add to it and I waited to hear from her and some of the others I had already talked to about being in it. So now I'm shooting to mail it on Friday because I really want it moving before September hits. It will have been 3 months and a week since I last talked to the agent and told her I didn't have a proposal yet but I would do one. On that front, time's up as well.

School starts on Friday and Mr. T keeps mentioning Daughter getting on the school bus. I don't recall him mentioning it quite as much when Son went for the first time but it's probably because she is still the baby and there's that whole father/daughter thing I'm sure. He's right. It's a big step. New school; a public school. Riding the school bus. New teacher (for the school as well). New friends. At least she has Son and that makes it easier for me to handle it. Plus she, unlike when Son was in kindergarten and we were living with my MIL, is getting on at the last stop before they hit school, which makes it the first stop home so I know they won't even have to deal with a long ride. I'm looking forward to the new adventure for her but it conjures up thoughts that time will be up in another way as well - deciding on that 3rd kid.

Yeah, God is in charge ultimately but we're not exactly winging it here. Deliberate decisions would still have to be made but that's OK. We have enough on our plates with kindergarten and having to refinance our mortgage soon. I'll just wait until my 38th birthday at the end of the year and see what's what. I told Mr. T about a dream I had recently that I saw some boxes in a store that had my MIL's name on it. They were baby shower gifts being held for her to buy for us. Surely just a random reaction to a topic that stays at the back of my mind. The first part of that dream was he and I running around France trying to catch a cab to the airport to get back home. The only thing we had were the suits we were born in. ;-) Not likely to happen either, right? So I guess nothing is for certain.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Iota Forever

This weekend I reconnected with my sorority. For some people, my being in one may not fit who they think I am. I can understand that. At the time, I wasn't expecting to fit one either. I went to a small college with a minority population of about 10% at the time. We're talking about 300 of us out of 3,000. Of the traditional 4 black Greek sororities that make up the Super 8, only 2 were represented on my campus (Super 8 = the 4 sororities and 4 fraternities that somehow are expected to fit the personalities of the millions of young blacks who may be interested in such an organization. The white groups, on the contrary, are numerous, as it should be. ) I wasn't close enough to another, larger school to even look into the other two sororities that weren't on my campus. I wasn't interested in the two sororities we had. I wasn't interested in joining a white sorority, which I could have done. I also wasn't interested in the nonsense that came with pledging one; i.e. hazing was the norm. I doubt it has gotten much better over the years.

Then one of the financial advisors asked to speak to me one day - I don't recall how she thought of me. Maybe it was my visibility on the campus. She told me about her sorority, Iota Phi Lambda Sorority, Inc. (emphasis on the Inc. please if you're going to say that out loud), and that she was looking to bring a chapter to our campus. She told me about their philosophies and the fact that they normally don't do undergrad chapters but they were looking to expand their membership base. She told me Iota was for business and professional women. She told they weren't part of the Super 8. (I then earned there are LOTS of us black Greeks out there who aren't part of the Super 8.)

Claudia Logan - that was her name - was the type of woman I liked personally so I listened to her and I considered what she said. I met the other girls she had spoken to and we all had one thing in common - none of us were the sorority type. We liked that, though the irony of joining a group because we DID fit in wasn't lost on us. We liked the focus on professionalism that the group had. We were of similar minds and behaviors, and agreed we liked what we heard - we especially liked being the pioneers for the organization on our campus - so we said yes.

We had fun together. We developed our own language. We worked hard to NOT be what we didn't like in other groups. We participated in a Step Show to show the other groups someone new was in town. We truly became sisters except now I only talk to one of them regularly and she keeps tabs on a couple of the others. But I know if we ever get back together again, it will be like no time has passed.

When I graduated and moved back home to Maryland, my focus was on getting a job and figuring out if I could move out on my own. It was tough. After a year, I'd resigned myself to living at home and being glad I could pay bills and save money. I had just started thinking about the rest of my life - possibly dating a guy I had met nearby, joining the local chapter of my sorority - when a full-time opportunity opened up in Connecticut and of course I had to take it because I didn't want to go to Texas where the other two newspaper opportunities were located because, well, let's just say, if I wanted to visit Mexico, it would have taken me all of 5 minutes to get there. Too deep for me.

When I moved here, I kept in touch with one of the sorors from the Maryland chapter I was considering. I learned that the nearest chapter was either a potentially 2-hour trip away in NY or 1 hour away in Hartford. I had just moved to this strange land and one hour seemed like a trip to the moon, despite the fact that I was driving 5 hours on the weekends to go home with no problem at all.

I wasn't interested in exploring beyond my new town and the surrounding ones just yet. In time, I branched out and expanded my horizon to include the neighboring states but I still wasn't ready to go to NY or Hartford for regular meetings of any kind. I was too lazy to do all that driving and soon too busy with a life and new family of my own. After fifteen years now in this state, and it is only now that I have an urge to reacquaint myself with the group I once loved.

So one Saturday I visited a meeting about 1 1/2 hours away at the house of one of the sorors in Hartford. I told them that I was interested in being reinstated but a monthly drive there would not be happening. Maybe every other month. They understood. We just had another meeting recently to discuss the upcoming regional conference which is being hosted by my new chapter and will conveniently be held in Hartford next year. Sitting there with these ladies, having nothing in common beyond our race, gender and Iota, I thought about a friend's recent discussion with her friend and the need to connect to other people. (My friend was on the pro side of this argument.) It's amazing how being in a sorority tears down at least one wall of suspicion and uncertainty we tend to put up when dealing with strangers, even when that stranger is of the same race as you. Sometimes that wall is at least partially torn down, however, when you are in a situation where there may only be a few of you of like same race. In that case, the fraternity is apparent once again.

The divisions I see now are between chapters but the rivalry is friendly and the feelings are mutual when you find yourself in the midst of women all donned in green (preferably kelly) and white. It was funny to listen as one soror spoke about wearing the apparel whenever we do community events - any event - in the name of Iota. She unbuttoned her jacket to reveal a shirt a new vendor had made. She turned around to show the turtle (our unofficial mascot which is all over the place so I don't know why it's not official yet) and the gasps and applause rose up. I was probably one of the youngest in the room. Some of the older ones were retired. But we were all on the same wavelength. I left there feeling glad I had found them again.

So now, as if I needed to add something else to my to-do list, I am back in the fold. I plan to work hard to keep my involvement on a level I can handle. If I had realized it was my chapter's turn to host the regional conference, I might have planned my re-entrance for another time. But then again, I never got the chance to do a lot of this stuff the first time around. Soror Logan died of lung cancer before we graduated. We were devastated and that made it difficult to stay plugged in like we needed to. But I bet you'd she'd be smiling a high-watt smile if she were here now. So happy she would be to know that the seed she planted was more deeply rooted than even I could have predicted. And I was glad too to know that the feeling wasn't superficial. Iota is still as relevant to my life today as I hoped it would be when I pledged 18 years ago, proving that choosing to join a sorority should not be something done frivolously. One should look beyond the pretty colors and popularity of the members to the meaning behind the organization, the fruit of the women who hail from there, and the possibility of what it can provide for you in the future. This is one family you can choose so why not choose someone of which you can be proud?

If you are in a sorority, feel free to show your pride. :-D

Thursday, August 07, 2008

A Reason to Stay in Business

This does my puzzling heart good. And it's not even our product! But it's always great to see the puzzle lovers are out there. This man lives in England and this puzzle costs about $300. I love looking at it online. I can just imagine how mesmerizing it is in person!

Eric Smith is celebrating after spending the last six months completing the world's biggest jigsaw.

The 73-year-old used 24,000-pieces to complete the huge 12ft by six puzzle, which now stands proudly in his garage.

During the meticulous 179 day process furniture had to be moved out of rooms and a special table built just so Eric had enough room to construct the spectacular jigsaw.

Puzzled: Eric Smith spent six months completing the world's biggest jigsaw.

But after 537 hours the colourful creation - featuring fish, birds, mammals, planets and buildings - was finally completed by the devoted father of two, luckily with no pieces missing.

Eric, from Baddeley Green, Stoke-On-Trent, is believed to be one of just two people in the UK to have completed the giant brain teaser.

He said: 'This is the nicest jigsaw I have ever done and I am really chuffed at how quick I have done it.

'I found all sorts of different animals as I went along and it is very colourful.

It has about 10 or 12 different puzzles inside one giant puzzle, I was really pleased to complete it.

'You certainly couldn't take a photograph that big, so it's a very special picture and I keep finding new animals and things in it.

'I have enjoyed spending two or three hours a night on this one.'

Eric started doing the puzzles as a hobby about 30 years ago and has only ever lost three pieces of a jigsaw.

The biggest puzzle he had previously completed was 18,000 pieces but Eric says this was the most enjoyable.

The retired sales manager, added: 'I just seem to have a knack of doing jigsaw's really well,I can't walk past one without finding a couple of pieces and putting them in.

'I can do little ones so quickly that I'd be getting through one a week. As soon as I see a new big one out, I have got to get it.

'I have done a number of jigsaws from 10,000 pieces upwards in the past but this is the biggest in the world.'

Eric is now thinking of donating the jigsaw to a new hospital that is being built in North Staffordshire but is still open to suggestions from charities who might want it.

He is looking forward to his next challenge and can't wait for a bigger one to come out.

His wife Marion, aged 76, admits she hasn't got the knack for jigsaws but enjoys seeing them completed.

She said: I would rather do a crossword or embroidery but if it keeps him happy I don't mind him doing it.

'I love to see them when they are finished, they're always so colourful.

'Everyone thinks it is marvellous how he does it, because it takes a lot of patience.

'However, it does keep him up late at night if he is engrossed in it. It can be 2am when he comes to bed sometimes.'

Royce B. McClure, the jigsaws designer, said on his website: 'The challenge for me in a puzzle of this huge size was to eliminate large areas where no changes take place.

'This, of course, means the puzzle will look quite 'noisy' when shrunk down on the box or in a brochure.

'I hope that the puzzlers who accept the challenge to do this puzzle understand that if the art looks perfectly pleasing in a small size, then it will drive you mad with boredom when blown up to a huge size then cut up into small single coloured pieces.

'The puzzle comes in four packets, breaking the art up into four vertical sections that join together to make 'Life'.

'I have tried to make each section different enough from the other sections so that you won't feel that you are doing the same puzzle over and over.'

A couple of segments up close and personal.

A Little Housekeeping

I am stalling. A ton of stuff to do and I have no reason to not do them. I don't dislike any of the things I have to do. I just get easily distracted sometimes...or maybe not. I zone in on something and no matter what else I have to do, I just want to focus on that one thing but that one thing may not be the thing I should be doing at the moment - like now.

So I thought I'd see about clearing some old stuff out of ye olde blog and maybe adding some fun stuff. Saw the library feature a few times before so I finally added it but I'm not sure yet if it's keeping up with my list or not. Already there are a few books missing from there. But I'll give it some time. I don't think I'll ever add every single book I've read, though I did add a few past favorites, but it's just something to track the stuff from now on.

Then I thought I'd do a different blog roll. It was acting fishy for a while and there was a lot of back and forth and deleting and canceling, then renaming and rearranging until it makes a little more sense to me now and the stuff I like is now properly divided.

I even cleared out a few things and added some others like a proper slideshow of some of our puzzles! Now THAT will be easier to keep up to date. And there is also some online writing I've done and a recent podcast where BizzyGirl and I were interviewed. Yeah, I know I'm letting you guys a little deeper into my world but how much can I really hide anyway, huh? Actually, I don't WANT to hide, I simply will continue to keep my family as nondescript as possible - save for the millions of pictures I share of my kids because they are perfect. I'm sure I could even add some more stuff if I wanted to but I think I've done enough for one day.

Back to the more pressing tasks at hand.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Setting It Straight

Had to go find a couple of posts I had done. They went to the mobile blog I thought I had connected to this but it seems like it keeps creating new ones every time I used it. It's all straight now. So you can see I was posting recently, it just wasn't showing.

So I've taken the kids South and now I am back, able to go to work early, stay late, work on my book proposal, etc. Am I getting much done? So far, barely. Not even getting as much sleep as I want. But I don't have to listen to he said/she said. I don't have to tell anyone to turn the TV down or to get out from under it. I don't have to feed anyone but me. I don't have to taxi anyone around. It's all very relaxing.

Now that I've re-established myself here, I need to get back to work.

By the way, yes. I now Tweet on Twitter. :-)


Signed up for Aflac at work today. Been wanting to do that since I had my first child and a friend told me she had it which was why she still had money when job benefits would have been running out. My company at the time had hundreds and hundreds of workers but no Aflac. My little current company of less than 50 saw the value. Well, at least I finally get to find out if it is worth it.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Sweet Country Air

I have always loved being at my grandparents Georgia home when they were alive. My parents have since retired and built their home literally around the old place. But the house is still intact from the inside and the porch, while better enclosed, still lets the wind blow through. The field boasts a different harvest but the scene is still pretty much the same from when I was little. Stress cannot survive in a place like this. Time to eat.