Friday, July 24, 2015

Friday fragments


Today's Friday fragments is brought to you by the letter W:
  1. Walter - his nickname is "Little One", although he is now taller and longer than Marvin.  Walter turned 1 year old on Mon.  After doing a little reading on when to transition from puppy food to adult food I made the decision to start it last week.  I began by mixing a sprinkle of adult food in with his puppy food.  Over a week's time I gradually adjusted the blend of puppy food and adult food so that on the last day it was just a sprinkle of puppy food.  Now both Marvin & Walter both eat the same food which is more convenient for us.  But its also a reminder that our "Little One" is growing up.  
  2. Weight loss - its been several weeks since I've written anything on this topic, mostly because I've still not reached my goal weight.  For over a month now I've been at or near the same weight, which has been disappointing.  Spouse says that's because its the weight I'm supposed to be, but I believe its because I've been 'cheating' just enough to stay at the same weight.  I'm going to a wedding tomorrow night, but after that I'm going to eat clean and hopefully lose the last 4 lbs to meet my goal weight.  
  3. Weeds - early this spring Spouse & I spent an hour or so pulling weeds and grass from the beds that line our front porch and the sidewalk to the street.  It was enough at the time, but with the full onset of summer the weeds and grass came back with a vengence.  In addition to the beds that line our front porch and the sidewalk to the street, the beds along the driveway, side of the garage, and the side entrance to the house were starting to look like Jurassic Park.  I decided this was just too much work for 2 lazy, 50+ year old men (1 with bad knees) so I hired a teenager to do it for us.  He said he was saving money to go to wrestling camp, so I asked him how much the camp cost.  Rather than paying him the agreed upon amount, I paid him the cost of the camp.  He was absolutely thrilled and so was I.  Surely that money meant more to him that it did to me.
  4. Wedding - tomorrow Spouse & I are going to our very 1st beach wedding.  My good friend Joey is getting married on the beach and then having the reception in a hotel.  Planning a beach wedding in late July is rather risky.  It could be super hot, super humid, or even worse - stormy.  Lucky for them the forecast is great so it should be lovely.  I'm looking forward to my 1st beach wedding!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Heart

I love this:

I've saved this graphic to my computer and will email it or post it on my friends' facebook walls when they lose a 4-legged family member.  I just love it!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Birthdays

Today is Spouse's birthday and Walter's birthday!

I planned a surprise birthday dinner for Spouse yesterday at 1 of his favorite restaurants: Dos Locos.  The owners are also friends of ours and always ensure that we are well taken car of when we're there.  Spouse thought we were just meeting Steven & Thad for dinner, but when we arrived he found our friends Joe P, Bryan, and Thatcher there too.  Bryan brought mylar birthday balloons for an added special touch.

We had cocktails, chips and salsa and queso, and eventually ordered dinner.  We talked and laughed and enjoyed the time together.  Then they brought out the huge sombrero and birthday cake I'd ordered and everyone sang 'happy birthday'.  It was a very nice evening.

When we got home I gave him some early birthday gifts; 'early' since his birthday wasn't until today.  I had flowers delivered to his office today, his actual birthday.
I was hoping the rest of his birthday gifts would arrive today from Zulily.com but they didn't so he'll just have to wait for those.

Today is also Walter's birthday, but he seems completely unaware.  He's 1 year old.  He 'celebrated' by being playful and adorable as usual.
I can't imagine where he picked up this slutty pose.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Becoming Us

Spouse sometimes brings magazines home from his trainer visits.  As I flipped through OUT or Advocate (I can't remember which) I saw an ad for a TV show called "Becoming Us" on the ABC Family channel, with the tagline "Gender may bend but family never breaks"
 I made a mental note of the show's title so I could look for it on demand.

That night there was nothing good to watch on regular TV so I popped over to the on demand menu and found "Becoming Us".  I watched 2 episodes that night, and the remaining 3 episodes last night.

Its a documentary-style show about 16-year old Ben, his older sister Sutton, and his parents Suzy and Carly who are divorced.  Carly is a trans woman who used to be Charlie, Ben's dad.

By sheer coincidence, Ben has a 17-year old girlfriend Danielle whose father Dan is also transitioning.  Also in the show are Ben's best friend Ayton, his girlfriend Brook, and her brother Lathan.

This show isn't really about being a trans person.  It deals with typical family issues like Ben not applying himself in school and Sutton's engagement and upcoming wedding, but also includes the family members' varying reactions and relationships with the trans people in their family.  Its kind of like the way "Modern Family" isn't about a gay couple with a young daughter, although it includes them in a very integrated way.  This is a documentary-style show, not a scripted one, so things don't always work out in the end, but I find it very interesting to have a look into the lives of a family with a transgender parent.

If your cable provider offers ABC Family, you can watch the 5 episodes shown so far on demand or on your computer at their website.  New episodes air on Mon nights.  Let me know if you've seen this and what you think of it.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Weekend recap

Since I'm a Realtor, I normally work on Saturdays and sometimes on Sundays too.  Since I'm a member of a team and we rotate our office coverage, it is possible for me to have a full weekend off now and then.  Most of these off weekends are scheduled for specific events though, such as weekend visits with family and friends.  So, it was a pretty rare occasion for me to be scheduled off both days, have no client appointments, and have no family or friends visits this past weekend.

Spouse & I decided we would tackle a couple of home projects as well as have some fun this weekend.  Sat morning we met up with Steven & Thad for breakfast, then came home a pulled the power washer out.  Our front porch, sidewalk, and lamp post were in real need of cleaning, as they tend to get grey mildew on the undersides where the sun doesn't reach.
Power washing really gets that grey mildew off!
We also power washed the 4 white rocking chairs and 2 small tables that occupy the front porch.  The results were amazing!

Then we moved around to the side of the house where the other driveway and side entrance to the house is located.  We power washed the side entryway, back exterior wall of the garage, and the sidewalk to remove some green algae.  It took about 3 hours from start to finish.

After showering and relaxing for a little while, we met up with Steven & Thad, Joe P, and Betsy & Bob for dinner at Dos Locos, and then I walked over to the Blue Moon to get ready for my performance as Elton John in the Legends show.
The audience was really 'into' the show and many were singing along with me, which was really fun!  Immediately after the show the Legends mix and mingle with the audience for a little while, and I was asked to pose for photos with several customers.  It was great!

Sun morning Spouse & I picked up Steven & Thad in Big Ella and drove to a small car show in Ocean City, MD.  We had breakfast, looked at the cars, and then headed back home.  It was a nice weather for the drive.  Then Spouse & I moved the dining table and chairs out of the dining room so we could shampoo the dining room rug.  That went pretty quickly, and while the rug dried Spouse took a nap and I watched TV with Marvin & Walter at my side.

That evening we decided to have a picnic dinner at the beach.  We met Steven & Thad at 6:00 and shared cheesesteaks, potato chips, fries, and drinks.  (Yes, I went off my eating plan but it was worth it.)  It was a gorgeous evening and we stayed until 8:30.

I really enjoy it when we have a fun and productive weekend.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Walk, walk, fashion baby

I saw a video on facebook entitled "100 years of men's fashion in 3 minutes" that I thought was quite interesting.  Unfortunately its not on YouTube so I couldn't embed the video here, so you'll just have to click on this link to watch it.  The guy has a really nice body, which is a bonus in between the decades of looks.

They also did "100 years of women's fashion in 3 minutes" which I found far less interesting, but you can also watch that here.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Insurance

So yesterday I called our insurance carrier to remove the '06 Chrysler PT Cruiser from our policy and add the '10 Mercedes Benz ML350 to our policy.  It was pretty easy since I had the new vehicle's VIN handy and wanted exactly the same coverage.

Then came the shock...

The agent said our premium would go DOWN by $6.

"How could this be possible?" I asked.  "The Kelly Blue Book value of the new car is literally 10 times the value of the old car!"

As the agent explained, premiums are calculated in part by the frequency of claims submitted by make and model.  Apparently there are a lot more claims filed by PT Cruiser owners than by ML350 owners. 

Still, from a replacement value point of view it seemed impossible that our rate would go down by replacing a cheap car with a more expensive one, but the agent double-checked her calculations and confirmed the lower rate.

So, it costs less to insure this
2010 Mercedes Benz ML350
than it does this
2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser
I was totally floored but accepted the rate reduction.

Monday, July 06, 2015

4th of July

Since Sat was the 4th of July, I got to drive Big Ella in the Doo Dah parade!
This is always fun for a couple reasons.  I love driving Big Ella, people love to look at Big Ella, and she is just a great example of American auto production, and Independence Day celebrates America.

Steve & Thad came over to watch the parade with Spouse, and then the 4 of us had dinner on the screened porch.  Spouse made bacon-wrapped filets, homemade macaroni and cheese, and a broccoli slaw.  For dessert he made a strawberry blueberry peach pie.  Later that evening I slipped away from the group to go perform in the Legends show.

It was a nice day!

Friday, July 03, 2015

New car

Spouse is picking up his new car today:  a 2010 Mercedes Benz ML350.

As I mentioned in this post, we've been looking for a new car for him for over a month.  Our friend Bryan owns a great used car dealership and has gotten us great cars in the past, so we told him what we were looking for.  He found a 2007 ML350 but after having it evaluated by his mechanic he found it had a 'soft cam' issue which is documented on the internet for this year/model, so it was returned.  A few weeks later he found a 2008 ML500 (same body with a larger engine) but after evaluation by his mechanic this vehicle had a transmission issue, so it was returned too.

Finally Bryan was able to get us this 2010 ML350 which has been checked out and given a clean bill of health.

This color combination is Spouse's favorite:  creamy white exterior with tan interior.

I've made Spouse promise to keep this new car cleaner than his old PT Cruiser, which means no food, candy, or gum wrappers AND regular washing and vacuuming.

He's very excited!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Historic day

Well, needless to say I was very pleased with last Friday's Supreme Court ruling that State same sex marriage bans are unconstitutional, effectively creating marriage equality in all 50 states.  Immediately following the announcement couples began streaming to local court houses requesting marriage licenses.  June 26, 2015 became a historical date:  the date love won.

I was at work when the announcement was made but my aunt (who is straight) called me to share the good news.  A couple of my straight colleagues in the office and 2 of my neighbors also shared their concurrence with the Court's decision, which was a nice surprise to me.  I decided to take those congratulatory conversations just a step forward by saying the following (paraphrased):

"I hope the general public really understands how important this is.  You know, its not just about the right to walk down the isle and have a fabulous wedding.  There are so many legal rights and benefits that come along with the right to be married... visiting a spouse in the hospital, making medical decisions for a spouse, inheritance of jointly owned property, receipt of pensions, the ability to be covered by a spouse's medical insurance.  These and many more are things that were not legally available to same sex couples in states where same sex marriage bans were in place.  This ruling eliminates different treatment based on the gender of your spouse and creates real marriage equality, something all Americans deserve."

Some understood this already and simply agreed, while others' eyes widened and they said "Oh wow, I never thought of it that way."

It was a happy day for nearly everyone except the conservatives and right-wingers.  They of course began predicting the end of civilization as we know it due to these new unions which have absolutely no real affect on them.  

The White House celebrated the decision by projecting lights in the rainbow colors across its facade.  Facebook responded by providing a rainbow filter under which users' profile picture could be displayed.

I also liked that the timing of this decision occurred in June, the unofficial GLBT Pride month, and just 2 days prior to the 46th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the unofficial beginning of the gay rights movement.

On my facebook page I posted this photo and caption:
Married in all 50 states now.  Thanks SCOTUS!

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Days of Anna Madrigal

So I finally read this book.

'Hasn't that book been out a while now', you may be asking yourself.  Yes.  I pre-ordered it on Amazon in Oct of 2013, with the knowledge it would be shipped in Jan 2014 when the novel was released.  I received mine as expected, but didn't begin reading it until last week - a year and a half later.

You see, this is the 9th and supposedly final book in the Tales of the City series, which began as a continuing newspaper serial in the 1970s, and was the inspiration for this blog's title.  All the former residents of 28 Barbary Ln are in their 60s now, except the matriarch herself, Anna Madrigal, who is in her 90s.  As long as I didn't read this book, the characters would remain and I would have something to anticipate.  Once I read the book, it would be the end of my time with them.

After successfully putting it off for 18 months, I decided I was finally ready to begin the final chapters of Maryann Singleton, Michael "Mouse" Tolliver, Brian Hawkins, and Anna Madrigal.  I told myself that I'd ration my reading, and only read a couple chapters at a time.  This would help me delay the eventual end of the book.  But despite my best intentions I found myself engrossed in stories and would up reading the entire book in 3 settings.

I won't ruin it for anyone who's planning to read it, but I will say that I loved that the ending was joyful and not as sad as I anticipated.  

While Armistead Maupin won't be writing anymore books in the Tales of the City series, I'm hoping he'll continue writing other novels.  I enjoyed both of his non-Tales novels called Maybe the Moon and The Night Listener; the latter of which was made into a film starring Robin Williams and Toni Collette. I love the way he paints a picture with his words and transports me to a different time and place.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Walter update

A few days ago Walter turned 11 months old and still wouldn't go down the stairs.

Walter zooms up the stairs like a bullet, but wouldn't come down.  Spouse says that several months ago Walter fell down the stairs and has been afraid to go down them since.

For a while this seemed a little bit charming, carrying Walter down the stairs.  Later it became less convenient, especially when I had an armful of stuff to bring down stairs. And occasionally Walter would go up to the 3rd floor to sit on the arm of the sofa and look out the large window, requiring me to go up to the 3rd floor to retrieve him, and then come back down 2 flights of stairs. 

For a couple weeks I'd been suggesting to Spouse that we use treats to try and train Walter to come down the stairs.  I wanted Spouse to sit at the middle of the staircase to block Walter from going up as he'd down before, while I coaxed him down with treats.  Unfortunately Spouse didn't think this was a worthwhile pursuit.  So last Thurs as I contemplated Walter turning 11 months old, I was carrying him down the stairs and just decided to stop 1/2 way and put him on the stairs.  Previous attempts at this resulted in him scooting past me and running up to the top of the stairs.  But this time, he just scampered down the stairs!  I joined him at the bottom and gave him lots of verbal praise and head scratches.  Then we repeated the exercise, to make sure it wasn't just a fluke.  Again he scampered down the stairs with no coaxing and no lure of a treat.

For the next several days we repeated this from higher points of the staircase, all with success.  On Sat I encouraged Walter to come down the stairs from the top, without me placing him on the staircase, but he wouldn't come down from the top landing. So I picked him up, went down 1 stair, and placed him on the stair below me.  He scampered down.

Yesterday I came home from work and Spouse and both dogs were upstairs.  They heard me come in and Marvin came down the stairs to greet me.  The next thing I know Walter came down the stairs to greet me too.  I could hear the water on in the bathroom upstairs so I knew Spouse had NOT placed Walter on the stairs - he had finally decided to go down the stairs from the top landing on his own!  I think his fear that Marvin would get all the lovin' from Daddy was stronger than his fear to get down that top stair.  Once he'd done that, its almost as if a light went off in his head.  "I can do this."  He'd figured it out.

Since then Walter has gone down the stairs on his own several times.  He's gained his freedom, and our "little boy" is now a big boy.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Frank's visit

Fri night Spouse's eldest brother Frank arrived with his girlfriend-du-jour, Anya.

I've mentioned Frank many times here, and usually not in a flattering way.  (Click on the 'Frank' tag at the bottom of this post to see some of the posts.)  I don't dislike Frank as a person; I just dislike the results of his lifetime of bad choices.  Years of chain-smoking, abuse of alcohol, lying, borrowing money without repaying, just to name a few.  To my knowledge Frank has never had a checking account.  For the last 10+ years he's not been able to keep a job for more than a few months at a time.  He would have been homeless on several occasions if not for his mother allowing him to move back in.  Everyone in the family has tried on multiple occasions to reason with him and try to get him to behave differently, but in 60 years none have been successful.

You may be wondering why on earth we invited him to stay at our home.  Well, we didn't.  He invited himself, and his current girlfriend.  But we agreed to the visit because we feel bad for him.  Frank is dying of cancer.

His symptoms began a few years ago but because he's Frank, he didn't go to the doctor.  Instead he would drink the pain away.  Eventually that no longer worked, and thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Frank finally had insurance and went to the doctor.  Over the last year he's had chemotherapy and radiation and surprisingly didn't loose his beautiful, wavy, salt and pepper hair.  But he's lost a lot of weight and can't escape the pain, despite all known measures. 

He's already outlived his original prognosis but no one is foolish enough to think he's okay.  When pressed he told Spouse he's "on borrowed time", yet he still smokes cigarettes and still drinks alcohol even though his doctors directed him to discontinue both.

So when Frank and Anya arrived at 9pm (their original ETA was 6pm but Spouse & I knew better than to wait for him for dinner) we accompanied them to a cute little pub where they both really enjoyed their meals and we had polite conversation.  Sat they visited an arts and crafts show nearby, had brunch, and went to the beach for a few hours on their own.  That night Spouse brought them to see me perform as Elton John in the LEGENDS show, which they both really seemed to enjoy.  They picked up a pizza to enjoy at home for a late night snack.  Sun morning we all had coffee and said our goodbyes.  I had to go to work and they wanted to head back home before the traffic got too heavy.

Their visit was actually more pleasant and less dramatic than I expected.  We had lots of short, topical but not controversial conversations here and there, and of course memories of funny family situations are always good for a few laughs.  But I feel bad mostly for Spouse because I know he is conflicted.  He's mad at Frank for causing so much grief and emotional pain for himself and his family for so many years, including their 85-year old mother.  But Frank is also his brother, his family, and he's dying.  Its a tough spot to be in.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Car trouble, part 2

In my original Car Trouble post I talked about the problems the BMW dealership was having trying to diagnose the source of the illuminated "check engine soon" light in my 2006 BMW X5. 

After believing they had finally fixed the issue, the service tech drove my car over the weekend to make sure the light didn't come back on.  I expected get a call on Mon to coordinate the swap of my car and the loaner, but I didn't hear anything on Mon.  Or Tues.  Finally on Wed they called and said that they had tried everything the fault codes indicated by the light was still on.  They said a similar situation had been resolved by replacing the catalytic converter, even though the fault codes didn't not suggest that, and the light went off in that vehicle.  So they only thing they could think to do at this point for my car was to replace the catalytic converter, but since it would cost over $4,000. they wanted to discuss it with me.

Keep in mind the car wasn't giving me any problems or exhibiting any symptoms at all.  I love my car and plan to keep it, so normally I would be open to repairing it versus replacing it.  But the service advisor offered no guarantee that the $4,000. catalytic converter replacement would solve the problem, so after giving it some thought, I thanked them for their efforts and got my car back, with the "check engine soon" light on.  I decided I would just try and ignore the light since the professionals couldn't seem to get it to turn off.

I drove my car around the next day and everything was fine.  The following day I started it up and noticed the "check engine soon" light was NOT on!  Before celebrating too much I figured I'd better give it some more time.  That was a week ago.  I've been joyfully driving my car for a week now with no warning lights illuminated on the dash!  As you can imagine, I'm really REALLY glad I passed on the $4,000. catalytic converter replacement. 

I don't blame the dealership or the manufacturer, BMW.  Cars are so full of electronic sensors and gadgetry I find it amazing they don't malfunction and turn themselves upside down now and then.  I'm just happy my car's performance wasn't affected and its back to not having any warning lights illuminated on the dash.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Shades of blue

On Sun Spouse & I went to the beach.  It was 1 of those 'perfect' beach days:  warm, sunny, moderate humidity, and a gentle breeze.  Its not always like this.  Some days we sweat our asses off, and other days the wind threatens to turn our umbrellas into missiles.  On Sun thought it was pretty scrumptious.

I couldn't help but capture the day:
I love the way the blue of my chair, the blue of my sunglasses, and the blue of the ocean and sky as reflected in my sunglasses all came together in this photo.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Wank for health

Did you hear that a seminal study found that the more often men ejaculated, the less likely they were to get prostate cancer?  The original study done in 2004 was confirmed by a recent study with the same findings.  And it doesn't matter if you're accompanied or solo, the more ejaculations the better for your health! Check out the complete article HERE.

I don't know about you, but I do NOT want prostate cancer.  Fortunately now I know what to do to reduce my risk!