Monday, June 26, 2017

Let Birthday Week Commence!

My birthday is Wednesday, but I'll be sweating my ass off in the field in Pinellas County, so my celebration began this weekend.

I finally bought a new TV. I'm very proud of myself, so I'm going to brag.

My old TV was a 42" Samsung plasma flat screen, about 13 years old. It was getting tired, but in recent months the advancing screen failure made it just about unwatchable. So I knew the day would come, and I had been preparing for almost a year, while putting it off until the last minute.

When my phone reached its battery expiration date last fall and started requiring almost endless charges, I stalked a deal that included a Target gift card. Target obliged with an iPhone 7 and a $200 gift card.

I then collected other random Target gift cards for things like buying paper products or cleaning products.

Then, last week, I finally shopped. On Friday afternoon I left work early to meet the FedEx man who delivered my Birthday Present to ME.

I got a 50" Samsung Smart TV, on sale for $549. Minus gift cards, plus a $20 handling fee and tax but with free shipping, I paid about $378. Got an extra 5% for using the Target card to buy it, and another random $5 off from

On Friday night I made a huge salad and cooked a couple of frozen pizzas, my daughter and son-in-law and Delaney came over to help set it up. My son-in-law hauled the faithful old Samsung down to the garage and put the new TV in its place, and I set up all my existing accounts, like Netflix and Amazon, and it was so easy. I'm SOOO happy with this purchase, I can't even begin to tell you. The difference in picture quality, even without the Blue Lines of Death that finally convinced me to do it - holy crap. And this isn't a fancy 4K UHD model, either. All I really wanted was a smart TV with more than one HDMI port. I didn't care about 4K UHD, and cared even less when I read a wise reviewer who returned one of those models and got this instead. He made a good point: your picture will be only as good as your cable/satellite input. In the stores they run a loop of exceptionally crisp images. Your home may not be able to do that. Well, thank you, Random Internet Advice Guy! And I mean that sincerely: my neighborhood is over 30 years old and while Spectrum trucks are here as often as the mail delivery, it's all spot-fixing old infrastructure. It's perfectly fine, this TV picture is fantastic, but it does mean a UHD TV would probably be a waste. The picture on this TV is freaking amazing. I don't think it could be any better on a TV that cost twice as much.

And surprise added bonus: I had to keep access to my beloved Yoga with Adriene. I wasn't sure whether her channel would work the way it did on the Roku stick. It didn't. BUT, her YouTube channel has been rearranged to make it much more navigable, so now I can drop the $9.99 a month subscription (which I still considered a bargain). The YouTube channel plays much better on this TV than the subscription channel, which is now as slow to load and clunky as the YouTube channel was on the old TV. So the new TV unexpectedly saved almost $120 a year, without even considering the energy efficiency difference, which is significant.

All in all, I'm very happy.

And because my birthday falls mid-week, yesterday I kicked off Birthday Week with my daughter's gift to me: a mother-daughter afternoon tea at the Grand Floridian Resort. Her idea; it sounded like fun and we wanted to check it out. We did wonder whether it was worth it; the online menu is a bit vague.

Yes, it's worth it. We were regretting not having enough time to really indulge with add-ons like a cheese plate and champagne. We had other pre-work-week stuff to do and stuck to the cheapest option, which already was too much food and absolutely delicious. The dainty finger sandwiches were quite filling, and then there were scones with toppings, tiny tarts, and that was before dessert! My choice was the lemon-blueberry trifle, which was out of this world. (It's the dish with the GF monogram.)

I didn't take pictures of the tea sandwiches - I know, BAD BLOGGER! I'll never be one of the big kids who get paid to do this. Anyway, the tea sandwiches were also good; there was a triangle of herbed goat cheese on a chewy white bread, an open face cucumber sandwich, a chicken curry, and what we both declared as the best egg salad we've ever had. Must find the recipe. Someone must have cracked the code. While there were family groups with a few children in the room, most of the tables were, as you can guess, women. It's a chick thing. I'd like to do it again, but allow more time and add champagne and the cheese plate. We only ordered one pot of tea apiece, which was truly wasteful as the tea menu was extensive and amazing. But we were stuffed to the point of bursting, and still had things to do to get ready for the work week. This is something worth repeating, and I want to go again.

So, that was Sunday afternoon. I took off Friday afternoon for the TV delivery (FedEx man basically shoved it in the door and took off; the box looked like it had had a bad week, but the TV, thank GOD, was fine.) Friday evening everybody came over to eat pizza and assemble the new one/move the old one, which weighed about 3x as much as this one. My son-in-law is my hero; he wrestled that dinosaur down the stairs to the garage.

Then there was Saturday. I stayed home and cleaned the house like a responsible grownup. While I was deep-cleaning the catbox and hall bath, other stuff was afoot.

I knew my daughter had dog fever. She was missing Dudley something fierce, and though Layla is the best lab ever, she was really missing her smooshy-faced bat eared dog. She was dog shopping online and texting me about it. I did earnestly try to talk her down, telling her to wait until next summer when the whole family will be on a school schedule and have the summer off, but knew I'd lose. The next thing I knew, I got a picture:

Meet Cosmo. He's a 12 week old French Bulldog. The breeder let him go cheap because the original buyers abandoned their deposit, and they drove for hours to get him. He just came back from his first vet visit with our trusted vet, and passed with flying colors. The vet complimented his breeder; his airways are good and his nostrils are normal. (Apparently it's an issue with Frenchies; poor breeding leaves them with restricted airways and nostrils that are barely slits.) She's signing him up for Puppy School in a couple of weeks because he's already very smart, and that brainpower must be channeled for good, not left to invent its own evil. I met him briefly before we went to tea, but couldn't sit down on the floor and play with him at that time, so they're going to bring him over and introduce him to Sophie. Fingers crossed that they like each other and we can do little dog play dates.

It was a full and delightful weekend, and an escape from the sheer awful that America has become. I'm still wrestling with my grief and anger, still engaged in resisting, but damn, it just keeps getting worse. Am I the only person who feels like celebrating the 4th of July will be a hollow farce this year?

Monday, June 19, 2017

Read This Book.

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate.

Seriously. I just finished the audio version, read by the author, and seriously, I plowed through about 12 hours of audio in a little more than 48 hours. It's warm and candid and pissed off and uplifting and snarky all at once, and the part about Ted Cruz alone is priceless. But really, anyone who thought Franken is just a funny guy who ran for Senate as a "stunt" of some sort now must admit that he's Harvard educated and very smart and a total nerd, and a damn workhorse and policy wonk in the Hillary Clinton mold. He confesses the times he screwed up and is upfront about his own weaknesses, and his staff is known to slip him a note that says, "You're being an asshole," when he gets carried away questioning someone on a committee, for instance. I knew he was a very smart guy and I'd read a couple of his earlier political books, but those were written more for laughs (solidly researched laughs, but laughs nonetheless). This is different. It's still funny in a droll, self-deprecating way, but his sincerity and commitment to his job can't be questioned. He shares a lot of insider insight into the grind of the job.

He's not kind about some of his Republican colleagues, (cough, cough: Cruz) but this book, which wraps up with what we are facing in the Trumpistan era, is so deeply warm and real and uplifting, I feel better, and more positive about the future. I'm reminded that we do have some smart and decent people in Washington. They just don't have control of the House, Senate, or Supreme Court, because gerrymandering and voter suppression and some truly vile stunts pulled by the Republicans, but they're working the rigged system they're in, and getting results. Not always results that make the nightly news, but results for actual people.

Then, of course, there are the Republicans. There's nothing new here for any of us who have been paying attention for years, other than confirmation that they really are what they seem. Yet Franken actually worked to forge relationships with a few, and built some bridges across party lines here and there. But not with Cruz. Everybody hates that SOB.

I am not a huge Al Franken fan. His humor is not always my cup of tea. In fact, when he retold some stories about private jokes falling flat among Senate colleagues, I listened and thought, "Yeah, that was kind of an asshole joke, Al." But what struck me over and over was his commitment to the work. He might make bad jokes at times, but he's a nerd and a policy wonk to his bones, and he's open to notes about being an asshole. We as a country are lucky to have him in the Senate.

Friday, June 16, 2017

I still exist. I'm just in a state of overwhelm.

Nothing too dramatic, don't panic, but work is batshit and the country is batshit and I just want to sit quietly and make things. It has rained every day since forever. Yes, it's Florida and it's the rainy season, and don't get me started at how delightful it is when people who HAVE NEVER FUCKING LIVED HERE tell everyone on Facebook about the rainy season, and how it rains for an hour between 4 and 5 or whatever, and THAT'S NOT WHAT'S HAPPENING AND SERIOUSLY THE SUN FINALLY CAME OUT HALF AN HOUR AGO, AT 7:30 PM, for the first time in at least ten days.

I truly feel sorry for the poor souls who saved for years to come to Florida for their Big Disney Vacation last week, because the weather has been as gray and humid and rainy and awful as I've ever known it at this time of year. But seriously, if you live anywhere NOT Florida, please don't weathersplain "typical Florida weather" to Disney visitors whining about the weather. I'm lookin' at YOU, Facebook Disney groups. These aren't the "afternoon showers," you condescendingly describe, as remembered from your week here in July five or ten years ago.

For the past two weeks, we've been waking up to gray skies and going to bed with rain. Tonight is the first night in about two weeks where we are actually seeing a sunset. No, this is not normal for us, Facebook Weathersplainers from elsewhere. We locals are all sick of the endless grayness, because THIS IS NOT NORMAL.

And speaking of Disney - my daughter had let me know a month or so ago that her birthday present to me was going to be a mother-daughter tea at The Grand Floridian. Which does sound very lovely and magical, but today she said would I like a gift card to the new TV? And here I am again, being all practical, but I think what I want for my birthday is a gift card toward the new TV and help hauling the sucker home. I'm shopping Target, because I've saved up gift cards for months toward the TV, but I really also need a stand, and it's a race to see whether the Blue Screen of Death takes over before I have a replacement lined up, because the single blue lines of death are now double lines, and have gone from barely noticeable to distracting and annoying. It may have another month in it, but it's rapidly becoming like watching TV through vertical blinds.

I finished the crocheted shrug and love it so much, I'm working on a second to use up failed afghan yarn selections. Tomorrow I think I am taking the cotton shrug to the local bargain theater with the super comfy seats and meat locker AC to see Wonder Woman on the big screen. I feel in need of a Girl Power transfusion.

Oh, and I think it's less and less likely that we have a legitimate president. 39 states were hacked, and though there is no reported evidence of voting mechanisms compromised by foreign interference, as Malcolm Nance and others have pointed out, you don't hack the voting machines. It's the tabulation that matters. I still think the margin of winning was just so suspiciously small, focused just enough to tip the electoral college, just barely enough.... That, combined with everything that has gone down since, and we are living in very interesting times. And the people still in denial that this is happening at all are either shamefully ignorant, or just shitty excuses for Americans. We need to know what happened. Period. It's not going to be easy, but our country's future hangs on finding the answers. We are in a Constitutional crisis that makes Watergate seem like a fraternity prank.

I'm going to crochet something mindless now. Goodnight.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

My First Grandbaby.

12 years ago (I'm sure it's somewhere in the archives, with these photos) my daughter moved back from Tallahassee, and arrived at my door with a tiny Boston Terrier puppy.

She moved in and got a job and was busy, so grandma was very involved in raising Baby Dudley. He slept snuggled to my side when she was working nights, and when she moved out I was devastated at losing my Granddog. When I saw him, which wasn't that often, he knew me and greeted me like "GRANDMA!!!" Her cat would nip me if I tried to pet him (nasty SOB) but Dudley was still my baby.

Tonight I'm truly devastated. He's gone, and I don't think he even recognized me when I was there.

My daughter had a return visit to the vet scheduled for today, and with that mother's instinct, left work two hours beforehand to spend time with him. She found him basically sleeping in his own poop. He'd managed to get into the bedroom to poop on the carpet, and the effort wore him out. So he got a bath and a return trip to the vet, and then a trip in torrential, hurricane like rain to the veterinary specialists' office. I left work a little early and drove through the same hurricane conditions to meet her there.

Oh God, he was struggling to breathe, his eyes were bulging, and while he gave me a sniff and there was a flicker of some sort of acknowledgement, I felt then that this was the end.

Hours of waiting and positive thinking about maybe a night on oxygen and meds to stabilize him, and pills and special diet thereafter cut short: they put Dudley on oxygen, did an exam, and the tech took a very thorough history. The specialist vet came in to talk to her. Basically, the option was to spend a minimum of $3K for further testing, but they already saw a very enlarged heart, pulmonary edema, possibly tumors in the heart - the vet just laid it all out there, and said that he'd also have to be hospitalized on oxygen for an undetermined length of time, and maybe he had, at best - 9 months? With regular draining of the edema?

My son-in-law brought Delaney to the hospital, and she got to say goodbye. She cried,but pulled herself together. She asked a lot of questions about exactly what would happen, and we answered as honestly as possible, but she wasn't in the room when it happened. Neither was I. Her daddy took Delaney outside to hug her and cry, and my daughter asked to be alone with her baby boy. He was going to the Rainbow Bridge, and Murphy would be there to greet him and God would take care of him.

Maybe I'll be back in a few days to talk about the freakin' political insanity, but tonight, I think I'll crochet something mindless and go to bed early.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Oh, My Granddog.

My daughter and fam spent the weekend at Disney, and boarded the dogs at the vet. No big deal, they've done it many times before. This time when Dudley came home there was a noticeable difference in his behavior, dramatic enough that she had him back at the vet at 4 today. He was lethargic, had no appetite and no energy. He didn't bounce back after a nap, and didn't want dinner. Morning didn't bring any improvement.

Cut to x-ray results: enlarged heart, and his heart murmur is much more pronounced (he was diagnosed with a heart murmur as a puppy), pulmonary edema, and maybe a shadow that might be a tumor in a lung. He's on diuretics tonight (good thing most of the house is tile) and a follow-up x-ray tomorrow. No, this isn't the boarding at the vet's fault. The stress may have exacerbated this underlying heart condition that was always known but never a big deal, and nobody could have predicted that this would be the weekend it would get worse. And even if the "tumor" is a tumor, ain't nobody putting a 12 year old dog with a heart condition under the knife to try to fix it.

So, we cracked many jokes about the old man being on heart meds and a low sodium diet, and I suggested turning on Matlock for him, but never, ever Fox News. My baby puppy first granddog is officially a fragile senior now, but nobody's giving up on him. If the shadow in his lung is a tumor, that would be bad, but we will hope it's a shadow from the edema and wait and see. It will all depend on how he feels after the diuretic takes the pressure off. If the lung mass is a tumor, operating isn't a sane option on a dog with a bad heart. But if the diuretic helps him bounce back, he can maybe have a few more innings on heart meds and a low sodium diet.

I'm turning 59 this month and also confronting the concept that the baby puppy my daughter brought home from FSU is in reality a frail old boy now. Somehow that makes me feel older than doing the math on the ages of my kids.