Archive for August, 2009

FCC – (Cat)ch Me if You Can

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

Truth telling time: I don’t like talking on the phone. That makes it rather a challenge in a long distance relationship when besides email telephones are the only way I have any interaction with Mr. J while he is in his respective domicile.

Even though I totally recommend webcams as a way to stay in touch, both of our computers predate built in webcams.

A few weeks ago I got an email from my mother who had just bought a laptop with a built in webcam. (What on earth does my mother need with a laptop?) And she’s all tricked out with her snazzy built in webcam and an account with Skype. Who knew?

She’s kicking back online talking to her brother and sisters. Then I’m being bombarded with emails from my aunts and uncle full of recommendations on which webcam to buy so I can “get with the times.”

Grousing, I drove to Best Buy and plunked down $45 for a Logitech webcam.

Installation was a breeze and before I knew I was in business. The first thing I thought when I saw myself in the inset window was: Oh. My. God. I look terrible. Scrambling over to my social networking site to grouse about how appalling I looked my friends assured me that everyone looks dreadful on a webcam. Since I don’t have discretionary funds to burn on a plastic surgeon, I decided to believe them.

Once I got past the Haggard Me on the webcam I realized how much fun it was. I could actually see into my parent’s house. It was just like sitting there with them having a conversation with both of them at once. This is way cooler than the phone. I’m totally hooked.

On our weekly call my parents’ cat decided he wanted in the act and jumped up into my father’s lap, effectively getting some “on screen” time.

Hearing a meow coming from my computer, my cat Alex decided to get involved. Up on the keyboard he jumped, claws clicking across my keyboard as he noses the screen.

Then, he is turning and the next thing I know he has provided my parents a full view of his butt. I believe Sharon Stone once called it “seeing all the way to Nebraska!”

“Alex!” I yell as my parents chuckle.

I hear my father’s very southern drawl, “Lara – I don’t know about where you live but sitting in the state that is the buckle on the Bible belt, that sort of thing is illegal!”

Terrific. Just what I need….a fine for indecency from the FCC. On the upside: Alex’s butt was clean and now everyone knows it!

My parting bit of advice about webcams: They are terrific and you should absolutely jump on this bandwagon if you haven’t already. On a cautionary note: be careful that you actually log off once you think your call is complete and/or are fully clothed when you fire up your webcam. You could be displaying parts of yourself (a la Janet Jackson like) that you never meant to.

Anyone have any funny webcam stories to share? I’m all ears (and eyes).


Jameson the Terrible

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Since I have cats not kids, from time to time I’ll be telling you about some of the cats crazier exploits.

As previously reported, Jameson’s elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top. “Challenged” doesn’t even begin to describe what is wrong with this cat.

However, he is 100% adorable (or he was until last Monday night) even if he is the strangest animal I’ve ever met.

He is not only strange but he is also persistent. Jameson has decided that he wants “outside” which is a no-no in my book. My cats are strictly indoor cats. It is safer for them and me. The last thing I want to do is fight off an invasion of fleas because my cats have been outside slumming with their less cared for brethren.

Of course that means that since I won’t allow it, Jameson has decided that he must go “out” every time I open up the door. And his strategy is to flop down and refuse to move whenever I head near the front door, or the door that leads into my garage. I end up carefully (usually) moving his suddenly deadweight carcass aside with my foot in order to leave the house.

On Monday night I was pre-packing the car. I had a lunch meeting the following day that required handouts and props. Right after work I had a hair appointment and as I surveyed what I was wearing on Tuesday I decided I’d better tuck in an extra shirt for the appointment. I knew that red hair dye would be involved and I didn’t want to chance getting it on my favorite ivory sweater.

On my last trip outside, Jameson made a beeline and before I knew it he had zipped into the garage.

It was after 10:30pm and I was incensed.

I have a tiny (okay, huge) problem with insomnia which results in me lying in bed for hours on end trying to go to sleep. Before you say it: allow me to say that getting up after 30 minutes will not help. If I get up and do “something else” waiting for my body to tell me it is sleepy I will end up staying up all night and then be a basket case for work.

Yes I have tried everything: valerian root, Benadryl, brandy, blue light box, warm milk (disgusting!), chamomile tea, and melatonin: drops, pills, you name it, I’ve tried it.

Ambien? Yes. And that drama would require its own separate rant, so let’s just say I did and it wasn’t for me.

In any case, I have it in my head (right or wrong) that I am more likely to fall asleep during certain times. I have a small window of opportunity between 10:15 and 11pm. Otherwise my next window of opportunity is around 1am. Missing that “departure point” I’ll be on full alert until 3am. So at 10:30pm I am not happy to be chasing down a wayward cat.

Where is the first place he goes? Under my car. Because, you know: I can’t.

But what I can do is get a broom.

I’m yelling up a storm, swiping the broom underneath the car like a whip while he hides from wheel well to wheel well, depending on which side I’m coming at him from.

In hindsight it occurred to me that someone standing outside the garage door would have heard some really crazy things as I’m cursing the cat, and WHOOMPING the broom side to side.

When it appears that the broom is not having the desired effect and all that the two of us are doing is running around in circles, I decide to try a slightly different approach.

Back in the house, I lock up Jameson’s brother, Alex, and then I prop open the door that leads back into the house. I figure I can flush Jameson out and hopefully (if he had a brain) he will run for the safety of the house.

Does that happen? Heck no.

Out from under the car he scrambles, lunging toward the small mountain of boxes where we store stuff we cannot get rid of, yet do not use. Up he goes, more nimble than a Billy goat.

When I surge toward him, his eyes roll up in his head, and he is panting like a racehorse, nostrils flaring. His heart is beating so fast I’m worried he is going to have a stroke. Nonetheless, I drop the broom, which clatters to the ground and scares him further.

Jameson is a white cat. Or he used to be. He is now grey.

“You’d better clean that up, Mister.” I say as I march him into the house. He is horribly grubby: front and back paws, and his entire belly.

He looks at me as if to say, “If you’d used that broom with as much vigor on the garage floor as you did on me, we wouldn’t have this little problem.”

He might have a point. And I spend until 1:15am giving it serious thought.

Posted in Cat Capers, LJ's Story |

To Clean or Not to Clean

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

On the off weekends when Mr. J isn’t scheduled home, I struggle with the question of whether or not to clean the house.

In the interest of full disclosure you should know that by “clean” I mean pick up the miscellaneous junk that has cluttered the downstairs throughout the week and running the vacuum cleaner. That does not mean: dusting, cleaning the toilet bowl or mopping the floor. The house isn’t exactly sporting goat trails. Except for upstairs.

What is going on upstairs you might ask. On July 4th weekend, we started cleaning out closets. If I can ever make myself finish that “little” project there’s probably a post about that process in the piles and piles of junk somewhere. Here’s hoping that motivates me to get back up there and dig back in. Bit of a packrat, I am. As is Mr. J, which is a lethal combination: two packrats together, even if they don’t live together.

The weekends he doesn’t come home I think, “Why bother cleaning up? The junk will still be there next week and I can do it all at once on Thursday night before he gets home, thus freeing up my weekend for copious amounts of exercising, reading and writing….and maybe just a tad of home shopping.

Inevitably come Sunday evening I get restless and decide that I need to clean the house (again I refer you to my definition above). Regardless of the fact that I’ll do a deeper clean come Thursday evening, including all the junk I really hate: toilet bowls, scrubbing kitchen sink, dusting and egads: mopping….okay: just kidding on the mopping. Spot removing is more accurate.

At approximately 7pm I decide I need to unload the dishwasher, iron my clothes, change the sheets etc.

And this brings me to my questions:

Why is that Plasticware never seems to dry in the dishwasher? And what makes it magically dry as long as it is stacked upside down (same position as it was in the dishwasher) on my cabinet, draining on t-towels. What gives? On the other hand, maybe that is why it is called a ‘dishwasher’ not a ‘dish dryer’.

Re: the Ironing.
I wear a lot of linen in the summer months, like 95% of the time. Why do I waste my time ironing said linen? So the dashboard in my car knows that I put some effort into my appearance? Because by the time I finish my commute to work (a mere 15 minutes away) it will look worse than it did when I pulled it from the dryer.

And changing the sheets?

I have two cats that live with me permanently. However, they are so wrapped up with each other and in ignoring me that you’d think I was alone in the house. Until I decide to change the sheets. Then Jameson (whose elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top) decides there is no place he’d rather be than in the middle of the bed while I’m trying to put clean sheets on.

Mr. J and I have actually had conversations re: Jameson’s being touched.

Mr. J: “He’s just a kitten.”

L: “No. He’s not. He was over a year old when we got him. He is now over two years old. He is not a kitten.”

Mr. J: “Well, you know, he is developmentally challenged because of the way he was raised.”

L: “Are we really using our phone minutes AND having a ‘serious’ discussion about a cat being mentally challenged???”

Alas, he is challenged (Jameson, I mean.) That cat is more whack than any animal I’ve ever met. He acts more like a puppy ….a very fat puppy…than a cat.

But I digress. Back to the housework: when you do your housework? What motivates you to clean the house when it’s just you there? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


The Well Meaning Questions

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Actually, they aren’t questions. They are statements phrased with just the hint of a question mark and a huge dose of sympathetic disbelief:
“I don’t know how you do it.”
“It must be hard.”
“That would be so lonely.”

Well truthfully, it isn’t what I signed up for. I mean, do you suppose that when I stood before a judge (because we didn’t have a church wedding) and I said, “I do” that I ever imagined I’d be living alone, sleeping single in my double bed (it’s really a queen, but it ruins the lyric) yet still married?

Uh. No need to wait for the Jeopardy music to count down: the answer is no. This was not my lifelong dream.

But if you think I’m going to stand around the water cooler and cry into my coffee about the path my hubby and I have chosen you’re very much mistaken.

Instead I’m going to blog about it. Why just share it with 25 of your closest office buddies when you can spread it all over the world in a heartbeat?

Now that we’ve established that I didn’t jump into the Commuter Couple thing super willingly, allow me to say that I’ve lived through worse things….but those are other stories for other times.

Obviously a commuter marriage or a long distance relationship isn’t for everyone. On the other hand I have a handful of friends who at one time or another were involved in LDRs. Some successfully. Others, not so much.

Over the next few weeks and months I hope to have some of my friends do some guest posts about their experience with being in a commuter relationship. I’m only one person. My story will be uniquely mine and Mr. J’s. Actually it is probably uniquely mine. I’m pretty sure Mr. J has a thing or two to say from his perspective of our journey.

Some of you I’ve already tapped (and you know who you are). Others I’m making the call to now: we’d love to hear your story. Pull up a chair, grab a cuppa, and tell us.

We’re all ears. The one thing I’m personally dying to hear is how you handled the “well meaning question.” With grace? Grinding teeth? A vodka tonic? Do tell.

Comments are love people!

Posted in Coping Tips, LJ's Story |

Nothing Says I Love You Like…..

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Two Fridays ago I walked into my house and found a handsome man grinding up Caribou Obsidian Coffee beans.

And thank God he did. I was almost out of ground coffee and I don’t like dealing with the grinder. It’s messy. (Of course it was Mr. J. Though frankly, I’d be hard pressed to be upset at anyone who is in my home grinding up my favorite coffee beans.)

I have often said I need a nanny. Let’s be clear: the nanny is for me. I don’t have any children. Wouldn’t it be divine to have someone make your coffee, iron your clothes, fix your nutritionally balanced and highly delicious dinner and brush your cats for you?

Hmmm…maybe I need a stay-at-home wife.

The first 90 days after Mr. J relocated I stopped and bought coffee every morning because I’d never brewed coffee in my life. (Prior husband was British so I can brew a mean cup of tea. However, obviously it was not mean enough as he left me.)

I considered knowing how to brew coffee akin to knowing how to deal with the copier at work being out of toner: the less you knew the better. In this case knowledge is not power; it is culpability.

Nevertheless, when I began adding up the cost of my morning coffee I realized that while I might be making Caribou Coffee very, very happy, my bank account was less so.

I am proud to say that I can now make a fantastic cup of coffee (provided someone grinds my beans when he is home every two weeks) but I still disavow all knowledge of the multi functional photocopier/printer/scanner at work.

My point is this: sometimes it is the little things that make all the difference. Those extra bits of kindness that say “I love you” every evening when I’m filling up the coffee maker for my AM java.

With every whiff of bittersweet chocolate coffee I feel like Mr. J is nearby, even when hundreds of miles away.

Posted in Coping Tips, LJ's Story |

QVC: It’s a Guy Thing? Really?

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

I’ll wager I’m not the first person in a long distance relationship to be kept company by the hosts on QVC. Having said that, I’m going to take a swipe at them for their programming this Saturday past.

First of all, who thought that 17 hours of programming aimed at men was a good idea? I’m pretty sure that 90+% of their viewers are women. And I’m checking my calendar and it’s not looking like Father’s Day or even one of the many December holidays are on the near horizon. So what gives?

I’ll wager my 2-lb bottle of Philosophy firming lotion in the ever popular scent “Amazing Grace” that their sales tanked during those 17 hours of pandering to men. Every time I turned off my DVD set of choice for the day they were pushing a ginormous flat screen TV. In this economy? Uh. Everyone who wanted one (or could afford one) already bought one. I’d really love to see their sales figures from the weekend. Like a rock they fell, I tell you.

Why, might you ask, am I permanently turned into QVC? Because I can’t stand the hosts on HSN….ba, dum, dum.

Seriously, the reason is that when Mr. J moved across states lines, I took out the cable.

My drug of choice is the Internet. I saw no reason to pay for 200 channels I’d never watch.

Unfortunately that left me with six channels and public broadcasting. Which is to say: essentially six channels.

Since I’m not a big TV fan, I never got into any of the shows that most people watch, i.e. all the cop shows, CSI, NCIS, etc. (Though I regret not being able to watch The Closer. I really liked that show) that are on the big three networks: ABC, CBS, and NBC.

And no, I do not watch Reality TV. Ever. Period. Unless under the influence or really, really depressed. Then you might catch me watching “Dancing with the Stars”. Okay, Okay, I confess: I am such a sucker for “Dancing with the Stars.” Sue me.

The other three channels I get are: CNN, TBS, and QVC.

Unless I’m staring at Anderson Cooper or Wolf Blitzer, I have no time for CNN.

I don’t mind TBS but the problem with that station is that they show the same movie over and over. I can only take “Wedding Crashers” so many times.

That leaves me with QVC. And I think I know a little something about home shopping. There is nothing like getting a small “gift” delivered to your home as a pick me up. So I was pleased as punch when I got up this morning and the aberration known as “It’s a Guy Thing” was over and QVC was showing some pretty Southwestern Jewelry instead.

The Harrison Ford movie on TBS was an even better gift!

It takes so little to make me happy.


Listen Up Long Distance Relationshippers: Interviewing Don’ts

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

Attention all Commuter Couples: There is a good chance that you or your significant other will have to interview for a job one day if you two decide to live in the same locale. At my job we’re interviewing external candidates for positions in our department. I have sat through hundreds of interviews in my career and this last round has come up with some of the best answers I’ve ever personally witnessed. I thought that you might appreciate some advice on what NOT to say.

One woman had been out of work for an extended period of time. The hiring manager asked her what she’d been doing since her last position. The candidate looked at her as if she were crazy and said, “I have to spend 35 hours a week trying to find a job so I can get my unemployment. That is a full time job.”

Okay. In other words, you’re only here so you can keep drawing unemployment??

Maybe I’m being harsh, but then unsolicited she tells us about a “bill collector” with whom she has struck up a relationship. He calls her regularly since she has been out of work. “I’ve struggled a little bit financially. He suggested that I’d make a good collector because I am so good with people.”

First, we were not hiring a collector so this information regarding her burning desire to change career paths and her not so stellar credit rating was relevant how?

Second, I’m staring down at her absolutely perfect French manicured acrylic nails and then back to my own raggedy, chewed off finger nails. I can’t help but wonder if she should perhaps shift her priorities and instead of paying $35 plus tip every two weeks in upkeep on her nails pay her bills! Maybe she wouldn’t have to talk to that ever so nice bill collector every month. Just a thought.

Regardless of what I thought about the aforementioned candidate, the next one takes the cake. Apologies all around if the under 25 crowd is offended but take it from someone old enough to be your mother: if you are old enough to be interviewing for a job with a corporation then you are old enough to know better than to say what this chick said. Read on:

The manager was hiring into a call center. Her question was fairly straight forward, “How do you deal with a difficult customer?”

Candidate answer, “Well, before I get off the call I like to think that the person on the other end thinks we’re BFF.”

Did she really use the initials? Yes. She did. I had to turn away and stifle a laugh.

The hiring manager continues, somehow keeping a straight face, “Let’s say you get back to back difficult calls, how are you going to shake that off so that it doesn’t negatively impact your next call?”

BFF Girl: “I’m going to get up, go grab something to drink and text my mom. She’ll text me back and tell me how great I am and not to let it get me down.”

She’s going to text her mommy? Really?

Visions of her pouting and sucking her thumb filled my head.

I had to leave the room.

I won’t even regale you with the ones where the candidate provided us unsolicited details of his acrimonious divorce, or how a woman told us she regretted having her baby as it had taken her out of the job market or my personal favorite: the sexual harassment “issue” (air quotes included) which occurred after a crazy night out on the town with her co-workers.

Ironically enough there an article about stupid answers to interview questions was on MSN Careers the same week we were interviewing. Check here for even more fun interview answers you might want to avoid.

I’d love to hear any hilarious interview questions or answers you’ve been subjected to. Comments are love!

Posted in Career Advice |

Uhm….Is that in Pesos?

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Let’s just imagine me going out to the parking lot at lunchtime. I open up a sedan sized door and the humidity ruins my hair as I slip into the broiler also known as my car. You remember? The car whose air conditioner works perfectly?

I start the car and turn on said air conditioner and color me shocked: it only blows hot air!

I run my errands and upon returning to the office I make a rather pointed call to the dealership and advise the service manager of these startling developments in “As the Hot Air Burns.”

He is excited. “Can you bring it right now? Don’t turn it off. Whatever you do: Don’t. Turn. It. Off.”

Seriously? This guy needs to take a pill. I explain that “Hello? I have a day job.” And after I finish Spinning at the gym this evening, I’ll bring it by around 7:30.

This dealership is open for service until 9pm. Surely between 7:30 and 9pm they can manage to insinuate I don’t know how the heck to operate my A/C in plenty of time for me to be curled up on my comfy couch, cavorting with my spoiled-rotten cats watching my favorite AC: AC360.

After pinkie-swearing that I’ll. Not. Turn. It. Off. I go about my afternoon.

Taking into account that I burn 700+ calories every time I Spin, I tuck a Kashi Bar into my gym bag to tide me over while I wile away an hour or so (or so I think) at the car dealership. I also pack one of my favorite author’s books: Bright Lights, Big Ass by Jen Lancaster.

As instructed, I Do. Not. Turn. Off. The. Engine. when I reach the dealership and I am greeted by my service manager: Mark. He makes a call into one of those ridiculous Nextel Walkie-Talkie things which squawks so loud that I jump while he is barking for some guy named “Paulie” and using language like “Stat” and “before the echo dies.”

I am directed to the customer lounge where I lounge. And lounge. And start to chill and sweat from my dropping blood sugar because really? 150 calories worth of a Kashi bar isn’t enough to compensate for the calorie burn at the gym.

I hear someone else “lounging” complain it is after 9pm and I know my nightly date with Anderson Cooper is slipping away from me.

Around 9:30 I hear my name blared across the loud speaker. “See Mark in the service area. Stat.”

Stat? Perhaps I should have delivered that order when I handed over my keys.

As Mark is profusely thanking me for bringing in the car when the problem was actually happening I feel the hairs on the back of my neck rise. Have you ever had a service person act like you’ve just agreed to donate a kidney to them when you’re picking up your vehicle? I smell trouble.

While he’s explaining things that only a mechanical engineer can follow I hold my breath and grip the marble counter top of the service desk. He’s spouting terms like: Evaporator, Condenser, clogged up thing-a-ma-jig. Evaporator and Condenser? Aren’t these types of milk? Mmmmm. Sounds like the fudge recipe my mom used to make.

When he hits me with the price tag for the repairs, I realize how they are paying for the two inch thick black marble counter tops beneath my fingers: $1267.00

Needless to say, I drove home with the windows open.

“Wow,” Mr. J said when I called him with an update. “That’s pretty steep for something they couldn’t even find two days ago.”

Ya think?

“So what are you going to do?” my darling husband asks.

“Drive around like white trash with my 255 air conditioning,” I respond immediately. (Note: in case you don’t spring from white trash: 255 air conditioning = 2 windows rolled down, going 55 mph on the highway)

“Maybe you should consider getting a new car,” he says.

In this economy? Surely Suzie Orman would not approve a new car purchase.

After I stop laughing at him Mr. J says, “No matter what, I love you.”

“I’d rather have a check for $30,000,” I say.

He chuckles but I hear in the ensuing silence that he is waiting for me to recant.

Sigh. “Just kidding, honey.”

But I’m not. Tomorrow is supposed to be the hottest day on record for 2009 to date.

I really need that check.

Posted in LJ's Story |

When Things Go Wrong…..

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

One of the most stressful parts about being in a long distance relationship is when things go wrong: such as car trouble, plumbing issues, sick cats (in my case) etc. I find myself thinking: Good Lord! This is just like being single (which it is) and I have almost zero support around here trying to handle the day to day minutiae of things most annoying!

This week it has been a two-fer: the plumbing and my car.

First of all you have to understand that neither Mr. J nor I have a handyman bone in our body. We are completely unnaturally unable to fix anything. We have no mechanical inclination whatsoever. Even if he had been living here, we’d still have had to call the plumber who obviously knew he was way overcharging me for changing out some ridiculously easy part in the toilet. He felt so bad he offered to dump rock salt into my water softener if I had it handy. I didn’t.

The second hassle of the week was my car. The air conditioner stopped working. Luckily it was a pretty temperate week here so I wasn’t dying of heat stroke but still. In order to have transportation while my car was in the shop, I had to wait until Mr. J returned home this weekend so I could drop off the car.

The guy calls me from the car repair shop and says, “Ma’am your air conditioning is working fine.”

“No way,” I respond. “It didn’t work at all last week.” I had people in my car that could substantiate the lack of coolness.

“Ma’am did you have the dial set on where it was all week because it was set pretty warm.”

Is he really accusing me of not knowing how to operate my air conditioner? Dude – it was 55 bloody degrees last night when I dropped my car off.

“Did you have the air button pushed in so that the light was green?”

Oh. My. God. He is accusing me of not knowing how to turn on the air conditioner.

“Sir. I have had this car since 2001. I’m pretty sure I know how to control the air flow at this point,” my voice icy, even if my air conditioning wasn’t.

“Well I don’t know what to tell you: it is full of coolant and it is clocking at about 49 degrees just sitting here.”

Well I don’t know what to tell you either. And I was even more speechless to find out they charged me $150 to tell me nothing was wrong. Thank you so much.

I’m pretty sure there is now a notation in my file at the repair shop: “Crazy woman might be having hot flashes. Run a diagnostic and charge her double.”

Posted in LJ's Story, Tangent |

The Time Traveler’s Wife….Commuter Couple?

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

Mr. J is a sucker for time travel. Books, movies, TV shows, he loves them all.
I mentioned that the movie The Time Travelers Wife was opening August 14, 2009.

He was intrigued not having heard of the blockbuster book by Audrey Niffenegger.

I read the book when it came out in 2004/2005 but Mr. J claimed I didn’t tell him about it. Zipping over to to read him the “dust cover” synopsis of the book I was startled as I read Publishers Weekly’s review of the Audio book, praising the performer who “ably expresses the longing of the one always left behind, the frustrations of their unusual lifestyle, and above all, her overriding love for Henry”.

That simple line so aptly expresses how I feel about my commuter marriage.

As the person who is “left behind” there are times that the pain of our partings is heartbreakingly fresh. And no matter how many ways I’ve steeled for it, and made plans, as I do on each occasion, there is always a wave of melancholy that washes over me as the door closes behind my husband and I once again am living the single life.

I will now re-read Ms. Niffenegger’s tale of an unusual marriage with a fresh eye, and I suspect with an even renewed bit of empathy for Clare’s predicament. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the book, the movie and whether or not you think I’m now projecting so much that I could see “commuter marriage” in my bowl of corn flakes!

Posted in Reference Material |