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We hit another vehicle milestone today.

My mate looked down at the odometer and noticed it read 123455. So close, he said.

Unfortunately, it’s digital. That means no anticipation of the rollover, just hey, it’s here! That also means it can be gone as quickly, so when it flipped as I hit the grocery store, I was regretting not having a camera on me and crossing my fingers it would stay until I got home.

It did:

It’s the little things that make life interesting.

Day by day 2012, the July checkup

Many moons ago, on New Year’s Day, resolutions occurred to me and, madwoman that I am, I threw them on the web for all to see. Having done so, I thought a public poke at the results might be in order.
1) Write. Meh. I write almost every day for work. Most days I have no thought of writing anything further.
EXCEPT … I’m pretty decent with dialogue, and it occurred to me that as I craft scenes in my head, maybe I should stick them down somewhere. Eventually a few of them might hook up. Maybe then a few more.
I’m finding myself more inclined to think about drawing than writing. Still a creative outlet I miss, so fine.
2) Read. I did finish the book I got for Christmas. I didn’t quite finish the summer book. I have read two autobiographies recently, both by Russell Brand, whom I adore. He’s quite entertaining with words, so he counts.
3) Read the Bible. I tried, but Genesis and all those 700-year-old people with 70 progeny just wore me out. Also, women were raped or threatened with rape a bit too often for my taste. Maybe a study of a particular book is something I could do at some point, but right now I’m not feeling compelled to absorb every page.
4) Work on earning more money. I did a little of that, then depression body slammed its way back into my life and anything that required motivation ceased to exist. I looked at my spreadsheet and realized I hadn’t bid on anything in more than three months, but I’m back at it.
5) Exercise. The premature (to me; I wanted more than 217,000 miles) death of my car helped fulfill this one. Meetings two miles away that end after the last bus run? Oops, missed the inbound bus by one house length? Some weeks I have walked 10 miles or more.
If I were to write out a list now, it would look more like this:
1) Draw.
2) Read.
3) Work on building a long-term freelance career.
4) Keep exercising.
5) Regain mental health. Everything got torn down, then I got stuck somewhere in the rebuilding process, pissed off for a couple of weeks and now back at it. It is slow going … but it is going, and that’s something.

$5 solution

I have a 17-year-old son who drives. That means my car goes through more gas than it used to.
Most of the time, I pay for the gas my son uses. Usually he’s only going on short trips around town, and I figure it’s a fair trade for having him run errands or shuttle his not-yet-driving sister around.
Then he acquired a girlfriend who lived about 20 minutes away. And then it got a little more challenging.
One night I got a phone call at my office, which is about 5 miles from our home. It was the boy, saying he was so very, very low on gas, and could he stop by and pick up $5 so he could put in a couple of gallons at the nearby gas station and be sure of making it home? Mind you, he also was going to have to pick me up later. Sure, I muttered, and he stopped by for the $6 I had on me.
The breaking point was the night he called asking to meet me in the neighboring town, about 10 minutes away. He could make it to the gas station there, he said, but probably not much farther. So sorry to have miscalculated. I had my husband’s truck, so could I please leave work and drive to the gas station to put gas in my car? Please?
So this was the solution: $5 stays in the glove compartment at all times now. Where we are, that’s enough to get someone from pretty much any point A to point B. If it gets used, I have to be notified right away so it can be replaced.
So far, it’s working for us. What works for you?

Ooh, that sound

It was loud in my living room last night — Stanley Cup playoff on TV, three Xbox Live gamers, three middle school girls semistudying.

Earlier in the day, though, during the time of puttering and gardening with occasional hydration breaks, it was much quieter. My son was in guitar practice mode, and had his Ibanez in his lap at the computer and his acoustic leaning against the basement door frame. I thought it could be a foot or so to the left, but he thought it was stable.
You know how there are distinctive sounds? A bad starter, maybe, or your own baby’s cry.

I’ve gained a few over the years. My cat has an odd, almost musical hairball sound. I’ve added a few car sounds to the aural dictionary, too, including the dreaded blown torque converter.

From the kitchen, I heard the first echoing, stringy thud. I hoped it would be the only one. There were more, creating the new unmistakable sound of an acoustic guitar going down a flight of stairs.

There was panic. There was denial. There was running down the stairs, a few cautious plucks – “it looks OK” – and then 10 minutes of babying on the couch, plucking and tuning and muttering.

This morning the gamers are in crash mode – one of them only about 10 minutes ago – and the guitar remains near the basement door … but about a foot to the left.

This post originally appeared on ourMidland.com, the online home of the Midland (MI) Daily News. Republished with permission.


It was laughable when I looked at my driveway yesterday. Completely aside from the 2 feet of snow drifted by the back door and nearly as much around my small car, I had been way plowed in. But since the 4WD truck already had headed away, not to return for mui hours, I said a small thank you for telecommuting and turned back to my desk.

We have been plowed more this year than any other I can recall. We are on an entirely residential street that is only about a block and a half long, so we ordinarily get plowed two, maybe three times a winter. I have seen salt trucks and plows three times in the last two weeks, with my own eyes. Yesterday, they just left big piles of evidence.

Eventually the truck would return, so I sent the boy for gas for the snowblower. He struggled a bit on the return, one hand carrying 5 gallons of gas and the other controlling 80 or so pounds of Lab puppy, but stomped snow back into the house. Just then our neighbor with the plow strapped to the front of the truck started revving up my driveway.

He had done this once before this winter, but it wasn’t anything we expected. On this day, though, it was especially nice, and I stepped out onto the porch waving. He smiled but wouldn’t stop to talk, and left the neighborhood when he was done.

Into the kitchen and into the basement freezer I headed, packing up homemade cookies and pheasant to leave by his back door. (We’ve given him walleye before, but the fish larder is bare.) It’s not why he did it, I’m sure, but I don’t take his good will for granted and I want him to know it. Why is figuring out the right way to express gratitude hard sometimes?

This post originally appeared on ourMidland.com, the online home of the Midland (MI) Daily News. Republished with permission.

Got back, and that’s enough

Sometimes I joke to the great hunter, “What’d you get? Back?”

I do this because I know he will take it in jest, and also because I learned years ago that the question is not what he shot but first, whether he even saw anything, and then if he had a shot at it. Some days, all you get is back.

I am very glad to be back after about 45 minutes in freezing rain. It was joyous enough to drive to work in the early evening snow, anticipating white crunchiness on the return; stepping out the door of the Daily News shortly after midnight to learn the sleet already had arrived brought new levels of excitement. (You can thank me for the poll on the front of ourMidland.com and guess what my response is.)

So even though it is late and I only had about 5 hours’ sleep, I can’t just fall in after a stint of white-knuckle driving, so here I am. I have the blueberry muffins my daughter baked earlier, a glass of milk and a handful from the box of gumdrops I bought today but forgot to take to work – 24, four of each of the six colors. Woe to anyone who takes one and disturbs the pattern, and this is hereditary – my daughter has similar food sorting obsessions. Then there’s that whole other “relationship with sugar” thing, but the bloodwork absolved me so I’m popping gumdrops and watching the sleet.

From in here, it’s not so bad.

This post originally appeared on ourMidland.com, the online home of the Midland (MI) Daily News. Republished with permission.

Let it … oh, bother

I’m looking out my living room window – which I can’t do without moving my glasses, because I’m farsighted and they make the words on the screen clear and the tree across the street a blur – and snow is pouring down.

I think I would like snow more if I never had to drive in it. It’s pretty, but it could be less treacherous.

Right now, for instance, I can admire it because I’m in my living room, thanks to the blessing that is remote access. (Brief break while my boss calls to tell me I have page A7 today, so you can thank me for the ebola story.) The snow is, from my current experience, distant and attractive, not at all cold or slippery.

This will change. Not only must I retrieve children later, but I must work tonight – actually IN the office – and drive home around 1:30 a.m. Cue Stimpy: “Joy.” And tomorrow night? More of the same.

Slowly I will go. As long as it’s not a blinding storm or there’s not some impatient idiot on my bumper – or both! – I’ll manage. Still, I’ll be wishing we could skip from New Year’s to spring.

This post originally appeared on ourMidland.com, the online home of the Midland (MI) Daily News. Republished with permission.

First time this season

I turned on the floor heater in my car this morning, for the first time this season. There was just a little too much chill without it.

Yesterday I closed windows in the house one by one as the temperature dropped. I keep them open as long as I can, but it was getting downright cold.

I don’t want to have the furnace kick on anytime soon. It’s bad enough when the days get shorter and the morning jackets come out, but I really don’t like the smell of when the furnace comes on for the first time, or the knowledge that stale air will hang in the house for a few months. The humidifier we put on helps, but not like May does.

This post originally appeared on ourMidland.com, the online home of the Midland (MI) Daily News. Republished with permission.

Travel plans

A trip across the UP to go tromping around in the Porcupines? Not at $3.25 a gallon for gas.

Seriously, what is this going to do for Michigan tourism? And if that takes a nosedive this year, what is that going to do for our already troubled economy?

My kids are hoping for a return to Whitefish Point. At this rate, that’s the farthest we’ll be going.

This post originally appeared on ourMidland.com, the online home of the Midland (MI) Daily News. Republished with permission.

The joy of heat, part II

For some reason standing at the stove, seasoning chicken for a later salad, prompted me to think of the nearby calendar and another note I needed to add to it.

So now on the Thursday before Memorial Day – because I work a double shift on Friday and doubt many errands will get done – is the notation, “buy box fans.” This morning, as the furnace generated heat but couldn’t blow it around the house, we lamented having two or three box fans, all with broken blades or other dysfunctions that made them unhelpful. I knew the nearby Walgreens wasn’t stocking box fans recently, and doubted the hardware store would be of any help, either. Even if I wanted to schlep across town to Home Depot – which I didn’t – I likely wouldn’t have been successful. (I have grown smart enough that I would have telephoned first, though.)

In a shortly later flash of brilliance, it occurred to me the neighbors might have a working fan, and I sent a child to check it out. They replied as I sometimes would have: Sure we do, and you’re welcome to it, just as soon as we find it. Which is how my child came home empty-handed and my neighbor appeared 10 minutes later, lugging two fans and sympathy for our heatless situation.

A FOOTNOTE to earlier this week: I did get a battery from AutoZone, and they even put it in for me (yay!). The person at the counter offered without even asking, then she asked the guy at the other end to do it for her.

It got funny. He refused. Another woman offered to check out my car, said she could handle it and rolled the cart out to do so. She explained she really didn’t want to ask the guy to do it, because he had done four already that day, and it was the coldest day this week.

Before she agreed, though, the guy looked at the woman who professed helplessness and asked, “Why do I employ you?” She had no answer.

Understand, I would have done it if I had to. At the price I was paying, though, including $10 to get rid of the old one, I was happy for the offer. I had the same question, though: If you can’t change a battery, how did you get a job at an auto parts store?

She must have been interviewed by the same people who hire for the sporting goods department at a certain very large department store. My advice: Get your hunting licenses at Ace Hardware.

This post originally appeared on ourMidland.com, the online home of the Midland (MI) Daily News. Republished with permission.