Category Archives: Uncategorized

I don’t suppose drafts count…

It seems every day is Wordless Wednesday around here. Spirit, the 20 year old Bald Eagle at Boyd Hill, always has words for me when I go into her mews.


 (I’m pretty sure she’s yelling, “It’s Fish Friday! It’s Fish Friday!”)

beetle(A change from the nightly anole, McCloud brought this chafer beetle in to careen about the room until he settled for a picture.)

heron(It’s getting hot when I give the tram tour du jour midday at Boyd Hill, but the gators are frisky now and this Little Blue Heron is a fine specimen to show late season tourists.)

Sidetracked, but taking note(s)


That’s right, today we’re stuffing cats in the microwave.

Alright, so what I really have been doing is getting this brick (!#*!)house ready for sale and that’s why I’ve been too (!!*#ing) busy to post. BTW, I used profanity a couple of posts ago in my letter to Sprint and I heard about it, so now I’ll just use punctuation marks. Posts full of hypotheses and marks.

Yes, no we can’t afford it. Hard times and all. The truth is we can afford it as long as we don’t mind spending 50% of our take home income on the world’s biggest mortgage and high taxes and condo insurance.  More to the point I guess is the fact that I don’t want to afford it. It chafes against every single fiber of my being, essentially paying a monolith rent for a house that is not going up- more likely down- in value, that will not fly off the market the minute I mention selling it and that, as you all know from past griping, does not feel like home. Real estate has always been good to me, starting with my first home purchase at age 24 and now, well, it’s not so good to me. Not that I thought I was different from everyone else in the country. I’ve always bought the smallest but most potentially appealing house with the best yard in a nice neighborhood, put in lots of sweat equity, enjoyed living in my home and then, with children and other life changes, moved on up. Something went seriously haywire with this purchase. This is our city house where we pay the high dollar to live while Rich earns what was our retirement dollar. It’s in a great neighborhood, good schools in the city, wonderful neighbors, architect designed, close to the park , zoo and restaurants. (Remember, every one in Chicago eats out.) In a good economy this place is golden, especially if you like trendy, brick walled, three story atriums and have no fear of heights. Now, not so good. Worse than before. My homes- the places where I think about living my life productively and peacefully- are in Florida and North Carolina. In fact, knowing that the North Carolina house is there, free and clear of mortgage with a giant vegetable garden, birds, wildlife, mountains, rivers- well, that makes this place seem even less like a home. So, long before we might think of being even 2 minutes late on a payment,the brickhouse is going on the market. Where it will most likely sit for at least two years. By putting it on now (technically 6 weeks from now so if you want a great condo deal in Lincoln Park e-mail me quickly) we do it without pressure and strain. Rich, of course, has his work life here and, especially in this economy, he’s working as long and as hard as he can. And I have my good friends and the zoo and surface design classes and so forth. We’re trying to do this sensibly and before we desperately need to and if, by some miracle we sell the place, we’ll move across the street into a closet size apartment and that will be fine, too.

The realtor friend came and by the time she left I felt like one of those 80 year old women who has a pathological hoarding disease. She told me to get rid of everything that, to me, makes this brickhouse tolerable. “Get rid of the taxidermy (okay, well I KNEW that was coming and I concede that point),  get rid of all those books (she said it as though they were shelves full of compost. And the Kindle is on back order until February so I guess they may be…), get rid of the world globes, the pictures of the children and for God’s sake, get rid of the cats.” Yeesh. They’re the cleanest, tidiest life forms around here. She turned to me and said, as sweet as sweet can be, “You know, just get rid of everything that says ‘Vicki and Rich’. ” The theory here, as she explained it, is that people need to be able to project themselves into the space.  I didn’t want to tell her that only a crazed menopausal loon or a guy who didn’t care one whit about his surroundings would project themselves into this place.

The other thing? Empty the closets, please, so it looks as though there’s some storage. Oh, right. There isn’t, which is why we have them packed to the point where we haven’t dared open the doors to any but our bedroom closets for two years now. Compacted- and I’m bragging here- into these few closets are two whole lifetimes, two complete households and two basements, garages and a storage locker full of important memories, baby books, photos and shit. I mean, !*#*. Actually, no, it’s shit. But highly condensed and every centimeter packed square, those closets are a work of storage art. Besides, we already got rid of over half our stuff to move here from Michigan. In Asheville, we’ll have a basement AND a garage but by the time we get there we’ll be all out of stuff. (Here’s a very funny YouTube with George Carlin about Stuff. Either Kenju or Sparky sent it to me.)

I know that lots of people, who I won’t name here, think that dogs who roll in dead deer and have uncomplicated sex lives, be it a human leg or another dog, are quite superior to cats. But face it people. Cats are much smarter. You need to take a dog to the vet to be neutered? “Here pup! Jump in the car! We’re going to the park to play with your balls!” and they’re in like a flash, wagging and slathering. A cat? They know. They know everything. You can hide absolutely nothing- not a thought, a plan, a dream or a plot- from a cat.

sophieblanket(Those eyes and ears know EVERYTHING. She’s camped out on the (shhh) Christmas throw I’m making for Bud out of my mother’s old sweaters.)

I bring boxes in this house quite often. Boxes with groceries, wine, wool. I take boxes out of the house quite often. No problem, no reaction from the fur people.  About three days after the realtor was here I went to Sam’s Wines and brought home some empty wine boxes. Both cats were sleeping, Sophie in her felted bed and Cloudy on the sofa. Each one opened one half eye, closed it and went back to sleep. Where they dreamed that we were planning to sell the house from under them and move everything out of it. When they woke up they stopped eating, stopped drinking,  and hid in the woodwork where they can’t be found. That was a while ago. Cloudy has let his imagination run away with him, so now he’s also convinced, as he squints at me from under the dining table or through the crack in the closet door where he believes he is camouflaged as shoes, that I am only flipping the switch on the garbage disposal in order to shove a cat down into it. The washing machine? I’m doing a load of cats. Put a Christmas CD in the player? It’s the tragic death aria for cats. Rich can’t go to work without Cloudy freaking out. I spend all the time I’m not fighting with the closets talking soothingly to McCloud about sunny Florida with lots of those fun little anoles running around. I’m putting Cranberry Comfort powder in his food- and then running it down the sink later in the day, all dried up and nasty, before re-filling the dish. Why didn’t I think of this before? Who needs to put the fat cat on a diet? Just start packing up the house.

Rich is doing a fair amount of work travel and he’s not really around much so the cats and I are trying muddle through this busy, dreary time before Christmas. I’m trying to get this done right now so Rich can drive a U-Haul full of our stuff to Asheville enroute to Florida in 10 days. Then, the brickhouse will be cold, catless and totally devoid of personality- a realtor’s dream- while we relax in the sun. I’ve always sold my own houses, quite easily, so I’m hoping she knows what she’s doing. She did make a note of telling me our bed had the proper feng shui, given it’s position in the room. I suppose that’s something.

tilley(Only the world’s most perfect, comfortable, best fitting, handsome sun hat. I mean that.)

Yesterday was a very good day, because we needed more stuff. I got my replacement Tilley hat half off because it fell in the bayou in Florida at the end of last year and they are a wonderful, high quality, old-fashioned company that believes in great customer service. They sent me this new one, just like the old one, no questions asked. Buy a Tilley sun hat. It will be one of the best purchases you ever make. And then Rich came back from a business meeting with Hershey, in PA, because, you know in hard times when everything is going to hell in the proverbial handbasket, people get depressed and they need more…


(He lugged all this back in his briefcase. But I’m not complaining; it’s better than hotel soap. Just took care of the children’s stockings.)

I really am going to tell you the very freaking incident I had with HGTV a couple weeks ago. Flipped me right out. And I have a new Christmas story for you, in case you’re tired of Buckminster Fuller, and I’m going to come around and see how you are and leave holiday greetings. That will be it for the Windy City this year; come January I’ll be posting with more regularity from the porch in Florida.

Dialing for dollars is trying to find me

Dear Mr. Hesse-

Here’s the thing, Dan. (I’m calling you Dan because you invite that in those commercials.) You don’t really answer your e-mail or even read it, so the big thing about making Sprint more user friendly is misleading. I took the time to write you two e-mails and no response. They were good, thoughtful e-mails too.

I’ve been a Sprint customer for a dozen years, through thick and thin. Thick and thin translates as “teenage children”, now pretty much grown, who have managed to drop many phones in train stations, toilets, restaurants and run over or had fall from moving vehicles as many more. We’ve been on a variety of family shared plans and most of the time they’ve been busy racking up outrageous extra charges for things we thought were covered, but-read the small print- they’re not. Ring tones. Messaging. They could TAKE pictures with with their phones but not do anything like share them without additional fees. Now we’re on some new (expensive) family plan that gives us total data services so most of the problem is solved. They just need to stop calling directory assistance.

Right now, I’m “under contract” to Sprint/Nextel. Every time someone in the family needs a new phone or an upgrade, I’m sentenced to another two years. And believe me, it’s hard to get a whole family to go two years without needing another phone. It’s gotten to the point where it feels like I almost make it to probation and then, bam! another two years. This is not good business. People don’t like being held captive. They really resent it. And since it is hard to have contact with a real person when calling Sprint, customers never develop that Stockholm Syndrome thing where they think their captors are the good guys. Claire (my virtual customer service representative), btw, was the worst idea, ever. Claire turned me into a foul-mouthed fishwife. LISTEN BITCH, GIVE ME THE FUCKING OPERATOR, DAMMIT! So, the deal is, as soon as legislation passes that makes it illegal to hold everyone to these awful contracts, people are going to drop you like a bad habit. Even more people (I just read your third quarter report).

Before that happens it would be a great idea if your company found a way to develop some company loyalty. If I thought you were paying attention to my family’s consumer needs, rather than taking advantage of the fact that young adults are distractable and drawn to technological gizmos like magpies to shiny beads, that would be a good start. Also, realize that young adults do not understand the concept of “minutes”, only “unlimited”. It’s not costing you that much more if my child talks 100 minutes or 1000 minutes.

Cut out that nonsense where a person has to go two years on a phone before they can get an upgrade. Put a basic and simple phone in your inventory that families can get anytime, consistently, at a low (replacement) price when phones get lost or broken. Call it the “family replacement phone” or something.

Make phones that say, “I’m sorry. You do not have a service plan that lets you a) call a college friend in Sevilla, Spain for four hours at a stretch, b) download 53 new hot ringtones, c) play video games for 6 hours straight in the back of your band’s tour van.” That’s far better than allowing these activities and then charging enormous, unreasonable per minute amounts. The “account holders” of these family plans would be grateful and beholden to you.  If you can have automated voices handling every other aspect of your customer service, you can certainly come up with a phone that triggers such a message before the fact and blocks the activity if it’s not on the plan.

Any time, but especially in this economy, people do not like companies that declare they are user friendly and looking out for the needs of their customers when really, they’re looking at only the profit margin. I understand you have to stay in business but charge the higher prices to responsible adults who earn enough money to pay for things like Blackberrys and Bluetooth while making family plans really functional for families. Around here, where the grownups pay the bill, we use phones that meet our business and social needs. My husband and I each have a Sprint Blackberry. For our children, until they start paying their own phone bills, we need a plan that takes into account the realities of that population rather than one that exploits it. A plan that understands that cell phones drown in the washer and melt in the dryer.

Don’t get me wrong- they’re great kids, doing well in college, building their lives and futures. But they still seem to drop an awful lot of phones. I’ve asked around and so do all their friends. So, my advice, for what it’s worth: rather than telling “analysts that Sprint Nextel plans to work harder to attract new customers during the upcoming holiday season” think about putting the family back in family plan, commensurate with the economy, and keep the customers you have. We need better incentives to stick with you and be loyal to the brand.  As it stands now, I’m not a loyal customer but rather an indentured consumer, resenting every minute of it.

Thanks for listening, if you do.

Regards, VB