Category Archives: stuff i really care about

We’re in debt again. Yay!

Before closing on our house today, we had zero debt.  No credit card debt, no student loans, no car payments, no mortgage.  It felt good.

Now we have a mortgage.

But we also have a house.

This feels better.

Night off

We sort of have the night off tonight.  The kids are staying overnight at the in-laws, as we are CLOSING ON OUR HOUSE TOMORROW.  Can I get a “woo woo”?  I’m too excited for words.  Plus, my mother-in-law is a pretty considerate person when she wants to be, so she got movie tickets for Frank and me to see Mamma Mia.  I think we both probably would have preferred to see The Dark Knight, but a free movie is a free movie so I’m not complaining.  And Mamma Mia was entertaining enough.  Except Pierce Brosnan cannot sing nearly as well as the movie tried to convince you he could.

So we saw the movie, and are now enjoying a romantic evening of sitting on the couch and looking at our corresponding laptops.  Frank’s doing actual work — you know, the stuff that’s buying us that house tomorrow.  I could be doing actual work, like editing some photos I took last month to sell as stock but I apparently would rather blog about gas prices and put a blue clay mask on my face (which startled Frank quite amusingly).  We’re also watching The Daily Show/Colbert Report replays.  I do think this is my favorite hour of TV, even when Big Love is in season.

Tomorrow morning, we have to hit the bank and completely drain our savings account to pay our down payment and closing costs.  Maybe I’ll make Frank do that and I’ll go to the gym.  Then lunch with the in-laws and kids, then we’ll walk next door to our NEW HOUSE and do the walk-through, then go to the closing.  AND THEN, HAVE I MENTIONED, WE WILL BE HOMEOWNERS AGAIN?!?!

Woo woo!

A beautiful day in the neighborhood

I simply cannot resist reprinting this article here. It was originally on CNN.com and put a huge smile on my face. I own the book The World According to Mr. Rogers: Important Things To Remember and absolutely love picking it up and reading through it. Like many, I loved Mr. Rogers when I was young, and as I’ve grown up and learned more about the man behind the cardigans, I’ve really grown to respect and admire him. He was like the Dalai Lama Zen Master of Coolness and Kindness and Tolerance.

In addition to this list, Mr. Rogers gave out full-sized candy bars on Halloween.
I’m not quite sure why the author felt #7, #10, and #13 made Mr. Rogers “the best neighbor ever” but they are interesting tidbits nonetheless.
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15 Reasons Mr. Rogers Was the Best Neighbor Ever

By Mangesh Hattikudur

Mental Floss

(Mental Floss) — Here are 15 things everyone should know about Fred Rogers:

Every one of Mr. Roger's cardigan sweaters was hand-knitted by Fred Rogers' mother.

1. Even Koko the Gorilla loved him. Most people have heard of Koko, the Stanford-educated gorilla who could speak about 1000 words in American Sign Language, and understand about 2000 in English.

What most people don’t know, however, is that Koko was an avid Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood fan. As Esquire reported, when Fred Rogers took a trip out to meet Koko for his show, not only did she immediately wrap her arms around him and embrace him, she did what she’d always seen him do onscreen: she proceeded to take his shoes off!

2. He made thieves think twice. According to a TV Guide piece on him, Fred Rogers drove a plain old Impala for years. One day, however, the car was stolen from the street near the TV station. When Rogers filed a police report, the story was picked up by every newspaper, radio and media outlet around town.

Amazingly, within 48 hours the car was left in the exact spot where it was taken from, with an apology on the dashboard. It read, “If we’d known it was yours, we never would have taken it.”

3. He watched his figure to the pound. In covering Rogers’ daily routine (waking up at 5 a.m.; praying for a few hours for all of his friends and family; studying; writing, making calls and reaching out to every fan who took the time to write him; going for a morning swim; getting on a scale; then really starting his day), writer Tom Junod explained that Mr. Rogers weighed in at exactly 143 pounds every day for the last 30 years of his life.

He didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, didn’t eat the flesh of any animals, and was extremely disciplined in his daily routine. And while I’m not sure if any of that was because he’d mostly grown up a chubby, single child, Junod points out that Rogers found beauty in the number 143.

According to the piece, Rogers came “to see that number as a gift… because, as he says, “the number 143 means ‘I love you.’ It takes one letter to say ‘I’ and four letters to say ‘love’ and three letters to say ‘you.’ One hundred and forty-three.”

4. He saved both public television and the VCR. Strange but true. When the government wanted to cut public television funds in 1969, the relatively unknown Mister Rogers went to Washington.

Almost straight out of a Frank Capra film, his 5-6 minute testimony on how TV had the potential to give kids hope and create more productive citizens was so simple but passionate that even the most gruff politicians were charmed. While the budget should have been cut, the funding instead jumped from $9 to $22 million.

Rogers also spoke to Congress, and swayed senators into voting to allow VCR’s to record television shows from the home. It was a cantankerous debate at the time, but his argument was that recording a program like his allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch shows as a family.

5. He might have been the most tolerant American ever. Mister Rogers seems to have been almost exactly the same off-screen as he was onscreen. As an ordained Presbyterian minister, and a man of tremendous faith, Mister Rogers preached tolerance first.

Whenever he was asked to castigate non-Christians or gays for their differing beliefs, he would instead face them and say, with sincerity, “God loves you just the way you are.” Often this provoked ire from fundamentalists.

6. He was genuinely curious about others. Mister Rogers was known as one of the toughest interviews because he’d often befriend reporters, asking them tons of questions, taking pictures of them, compiling an album for them at the end of their time together, and calling them after to check in on them and hear about their families. He wasn’t concerned with himself, and genuinely loved hearing the life stories of others.

And it wasn’t just with reporters. Once, on a fancy trip up to a PBS exec’s house, he heard the limo driver was going to wait outside for 2 hours, so he insisted the driver come in and join them (which flustered the host).

On the way back, Rogers sat up front, and when he learned that they were passing the driver’s home on the way, he asked if they could stop in to meet his family. According to the driver, it was one of the best nights of his life the house supposedly lit up when Rogers arrived, and he played jazz piano and bantered with them late into the night. Further, like with the reporters, Rogers sent him notes and kept in touch with the driver for the rest of his life.

7. He was color-blind. Literally. He couldn’t see the color blue. Of course, he was also figuratively color-blind, as you probably guessed. As were his parents, who took in a black foster child when Rogers was growing up.

8. He could make a subway car full of strangers sing. Once while rushing to a New York meeting, there were no cabs available, so Rogers and one of his colleagues hopped on the subway. Esquire reported that the car was filled with people, and they assumed they wouldn’t be noticed.

But when the crowd spotted Rogers, they all simultaneously burst into song, chanting “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.” The result made Rogers smile wide.

9. He got into TV because he hated TV. The first time he turned one on, he saw people angrily throwing pies in each other’s faces. He immediately vowed to use the medium for better than that. Over the years he covered topics as varied as why kids shouldn’t be scared of a haircut, or the bathroom drain (because you won’t fit!), to divorce and war.

10. He was an Ivy League dropout. Rogers moved from Dartmouth to Rollins College to pursue his studies in music.

11. He composed all the songs on the show, and over 200 tunes.

12. He was a perfectionist, and disliked ad libbing. He felt he owed it to children to make sure every word on his show was thought out.

13. Michael Keaton got his start on the show as an assistant. He helped puppeteer and operate the trolley.

14. Several characters on the show are named for his family. Queen Sara is named after Rogers’ wife, and the postman Mr. McFeely is named for his maternal grandfather who always talked to him like an adult, and reminded young Fred that he made every day special just by being himself. Sound familiar? It was the same way Mister Rogers closed every show.

15. The sweaters. Every one of the cardigans he wore on the show had been hand-knit by his mother.


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Getting help to Burma NOW

The cyclone that ripped through Burma left tens of thousands dead and a million homeless–a natural disaster made much worse by the failure of the military junta to warn or evacuate its people.

Now, the government has slowed the urgent process of providing humanitarian relief–so Avaaz is raising funds for the International Burmese Monks Organization and related groups, which will transmit funds directly to monasteries in affected areas.

In many of the worst-hit areas, the monasteries are the only source of shelter and food for Burma’s poorest people. They have been on the front lines of the aid effort since the storm struck. Other forms of aid could be delayed, diverted or manipulated by the Burmese government–but the monks are the most trusted and reliable institution in the country.

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/burma_cyclone/77.php

Movin’ on up

I am pretty sure I’d mentioned our interest in buying the house next door to our in-laws, but let me summarize anyway, to refresh or inform any newbies.

Two weeks after we moved up here and into our apartment, the house next door to my in-laws went on the market.  At first we were both apprehensive about the idea of living right next door to the in-laws, but after a while the idea grew on us.  The only problem was that the house was just a little out of our price range, even with the help from Frank’s parents on the table.

The people who are selling the house next door are family friends; Frank was best friends with their son growing up.  Frank broke his ankle in their backyard, the son was a groomsman in our wedding, and the parents attended.  They are nice people.  Unfortunately, they are selling the house because they are divorcing… one of those situations where they’d just grown apart, it seems.  The kids convinced them to get divorced sort of thing.

Frank called the dad, whose name is Mark, and talked about the house.  They came to an agreement of sorts, months back, that while the house was a little too expensive for us, they would still give us the opportunity to match any offer that came their way.

Thing is, though, there have been no offers.  So they lowered the price.  And there were still no offers.  So they lowered their price again.

Gotta love today’s real estate market.

Then came today.  And they got an offer for $515,000 – $35,000 below their current asking price.  Mark called Frank and basically said that rather than haggle with this other guy, could Frank offer him $520,000 for the house and we’d call it a day?  Well, he could, and we are.  It’s not official yet, but soon we will have an official offer in and then, hopefully soon, be under contract for the house.  Probably closing within 60 days.

Can you say yay?  I can!  Yay!!!

Yay!

Yay!

Yay!

The cool thing is, too, that because they’re selling the house because of a divorce, they left a lot of the furniture behind because they both moved into smaller places.  They’re going to give us whatever is still in the house.  None of it is super new, but it’s certainly in good condition and useable if we want to use it.  A master bedroom set, a couple other twin beds that were their kids’, a treadmill, and a big leather sectional in the family room.  I’m also hoping beyond hope they left their dining room set, because it is AWFUL.  I mean, horrendously, cheesily AWFUL.  First, there is a hutch that is like peach-colored either formica or some sort of veneer – I haven’t gotten close enough to it to really inspect it.  But the table set is the coup de gras.  It is a glass table top on a similar-material-to-the-hutch pedestal.  And the chairs.  Oh, the chairs.  They are acrylic.  Clear, perfectly see-through acrylic.  Their whole dining room is just ultra-hip from 1982.  It looks like the kind of thing that would have been in a Vanilla Ice video or something, because he would want to look refined and elegant and rich but didn’t want to appear dowdy.  The set is totally the fishizzle.  Or something.   I just want the stuff because it’s so bad it’s awesome.  I will offer photographic evidence if I get the opportunity.

Good dog

Today is Bailey’s birthday. She’s 42.

Well, in dog years, anyway.

Bailey joined our family in 2002. I’d grown up with dogs but had never had MY OWN DOG, and Frank had never had a dog at all, so we figured we should get a dog of a breed with a reputation to be ‘easier’, as far as dogs go. We went back and forth and decided on a golden retriever. It seemed like a safe choice – smart, easy to train, good with kids.

I wanted to put a puppy picture here, but most of our pictures are in storage, and back then I was film-only. So this is the best puppy picture I can offer for now. The big black dog was my Grandpa Bill’s dog, Rocky.

Dog ownership has had its trying moments. Like for the while when we couldn’t figure out how to stop Bailey from jumping. (Somehow we got the idea to cross our arms, look up and ignore her, and it’s like magic!) Like when she had a spate of urinary tract infections – let me tell you, it is not fun trying to get a urine sample from a dog (but a pie tin, slid under at the right moment, works well enough). I lost more than one pair of beloved shoes to her puppy teething phase. And, as retrievers tend to be, Bailey certainly has her share of dependency affection and hyperactivity exuberance and destructiveness energy, but nothing anyone could call abnormal for a golden. She brought a bit of chaos to our generally quiet and predictable lives, and our days were better for it.

This is Frank and my brother, Mark.

But she has been a great dog. She is really smart, and was a cinch to housetrain. With just a bit of work she learned a lot of other useful stuff too, like sitting and staying and crating up. She’s a great dog for car trips, she isn’t at all anxious in the car, and stays relaxed throughout the trip (with occasional bouts of excitement to be going somewhere).

And then the kids came along, and she has proven her great-dog-ness in spades. In her they have a playmate, a jungle gym, a pony, a confidant, a partner in crime, a pillow, a teddy bear, and a guardian all in one big, furry package. She tolerates every bit of toy stealing and ear pulling and being sat on and and stepped on and laid on and jumped on with the patience of a saint, and still all she asks for return is an occasional cuddle and bowl of food.

With Lane when she was a week old.

With Lane last month.

As fitting for a family member, we will celebrate her birthday in a small way. We ordered her this ‘cake’ – it was Lane’s idea. She picked out the design, too.

Yes, I know, it’s a cat – there was a dog picture in the flyer right next to it. I even pointed it out and said “Don’t you think a dog picture would be more fitting? Bailey’s a dog, after all.” Lane said, “Yeah, but she likes cats too – like I like cats!” I couldn’t really argue with that logic. So, tonight after dinner, we’ll all have a piece of cookie cake and we’ll toast Bailey’s health.

So, Happy Birthday, Bailey! And thank you, for being a great dog. I hope we have the pleasure of your company for another six years.

I walked, yes indeed

So, the March of Dimes walk was good.  My mom’s group had a whole team signed up, something like 12 women to walk.  Well, as the day grew nearer, that number dwindled… and it was only me and one other mom there walking.  Nice.

But in any event, she was a nice woman, and we had fun walking the 5+ miles that the walk covered.  Had the weather been nice I might have taken the kids and walked with them in our double jogging stroller, but the weather was not very nice so I left them home to sleep.  Probably a good thing, too.  The walk was at 9:00, I was at home by 11:30… and Lane was still sleeping when I got home.  I cannot imagine how this child might sleep once she’s a teenager.

Before the event, there were a bunch of speakers welcoming us to the walk, talking about logistics, and whatnot.  One will stick with me though – a mom, whose daughter had been born 4 months premature.   She described the whole experience, and it was quite moving.  It was a good reminder for why we were all there on a chilly, damp morning.