Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thank goodness for Grace Kelly

I used to be afraid of cats. My parents bordered on animal-phobic, so we never had a pet when I was young.

I promised my daughter when she was little that we would get a pet when we bought our home.

Coworkers urged me to get a cat instead of a dog, because cats are so much easier. With Jim's help, Alison and I chose our first cat from a rescue home, and my daughter named her Kitty.

Kitty was affectionate and gentle, but sadly she died a few years later from diabetes.

Our next cat, Marley, came into our lives from a friend's mom who had him rescued from a tree. Jim came home from work one night and found Marley lying at the doorstep, presumably napping. Except Marley had mysteriously died. Jim said he looked peaceful.

We next adopted Emma from the pound. She has striking blue-green eyes and is timid, never thrilled about being touched. Not long after, Henry, a furry black stray cat with light green eyes and a clueless look on his face, simply showed up on Jim's doorstep. We lived at Jim's at the time, and when I returned home to live, I couldn't bring myself to break up Henry and Emma.

Nowadays, living alone, I have Grace Kelly, who was lovingly rescued at 3 weeks by Jim's daughter, Amber.

Grace crawls onto my chest, lays down facing me, and lets me scratch behind her ears. She closes her eyes, purrs in my face, and tickles me with her whiskers.

Sometimes Grace extends her paws and tucks them under my neck. It always reminds me of the vision of Superman, flying through the air with his arms straight out.

Grace Kelly is my Supercat. She rescues me time and again, never failing to lift me back into the present, and put a smile on my face.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Kindness of Neighbors

Last Thursday I went to see Aunt Millie at the nursing home. She had just returned from the hospital the night before, but was now vomiting, and had to be transported back to the hospital.

She was so disappointed, so tired of all the moves, yet so incredibly strong.

I cried as I drove home, feeling sorry for myself because I had no one to hug me.

A few minutes later, at my lowest moment, my phone rang. It was my neighbor Kathy who must have seen me come home. She asked if I was hungry and whether I would like some lasagna that her husband, Evan, had made.

That simple offer, and amazing timing, lifted my spirit and fed my soul.

The lasagna was pretty damn good too!

Thank you, neighbors, for your random act of kindness at a time that I needed it the most.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Senator Kennedy collapses at Inaugural Luncheon?

Seems that he may have had a seizure. He looked great today. How sad. Hope he pulls through.

The Inauguration

I've already had tears in my eyes while watching the Inauguration this morning. So many people at the Capitol -- it's mind-blowing.

Wow, Al and Tipper Gore following Dan Quayle down the steps to the platform. It took me a minute to remember Quayle's name -- evidence of his lack of an imprint on American history.

George H.W. and Barbara Bush enter. The only exciting thing there is that George is moments away from returning to civilian life, having challenged the entire Middle East with stupid phrases like "Bring it on" and "Shock and Awe." What a maroon.

It's a miracle the world is still intact, in spite of his devastating eight years in a position of power so undeserved and FAR beyond his abilities.

Speaking of inept, Cheney is in a wheel chair today because he hurt his back while moving boxes from his office yesterday. Ha! Karma for shooting his friend while hunting.

Jimmie and Rosalyn Carter, I've always loved them -- epitome of decency.

Bill and Hillary next. Bill's not looking happy, no smiles. You can almost hear his thoughts, perhaps something like "This should be Hillary's and MY day..."

As much as I like Hillary, I hate to admit that if she had won the Presidency, this inauguration day would have been lackluster.

Barack is in a league of his own, able to attract more than one million people on a freezing cold day. The excitement is palpable, the attendance overwhelming.

The military bands and intros of the former Presidents. Their appearances easily emphasize Obama's youth and energy. Nice touch!

The long shot of the mall packed with people is breathtaking.

The moment is almost here, they just announced the Obama girls, what a couple of cuties! And their grandmother. Right on, Mrs. Robinson! Your help as a caretaker paid off in ways you probably never imagined.

Laura Bush and Lynn Cheney, yawn. Nice, but not impressed w/ either. Stepford-like, ya know?

Michele and Jill, the new ladies in charge, looking fabulous! So classy, both of them, and not afraid to share their opinions either...

George and Dick will be next, can't wait to see the wheelchair again. Maybe he'll try to enter walking, out of sheer pride.

Nope, he's being wheeled out and hangs a LEFT to go down the ramp. How sweet is the irony in his being forced to go left?

George makes his last appearance as "President of the United States," or POTUS for "West Wing" fans.

George kisses Hillary, now that's a photo op!

Joe Biden next, looking competent.

The camera takes a peek at Barack as he approaches the entrance and stops to wait for his announcement.

The NBC voice over suggests what a lonely moment this must be for Barack, truly carrying the weight of the world.

Old white guys next, followed by Diane Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi.

Please be quiet and move out of the way. I can't stand it.

Regal trumpet-playing reminds me of a coronation.

And then, an unbelievable ROAR from the crowd, and a shot over the mall of hundreds of thousands little flags waving through the crowd like flocks of birds.

People cry. What a sight for this challenged country's eyes! It is one of the most memorable events in decades.

Diane Feinstein speaks briefly. Love her.

A prayer comes next -- sudden silence.

Personally, I could have done w/o the Our Father--it doesn't belong in politics.

ARETHA, sporting a wild hat with an oversized bow, sings My Country Tis of Thee.

Her finale, "Let freedom ring" brings on another ROAR.

Joe's sworn in at 11:57 a.m., January 20, 2009. Pretty good timing.

Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma, holy cow. Beautiful, moving strings.

Lone clarinet plays 'Air and Simple Gifts' followed by a mix of piano, strings, clarinet.

It's here -- THE OATH! Justice Roberts mixes up the words -- how embarrassing for him. Maybe next time he'll bring the cheat sheet. What was he thinking?

Barack gracefully makes his promise, and the Marine band plays.

I think of my father. Wherever his soul is today, he is watching this with tears in his eyes. He was a very proud World War II, Iwo Jima Marine, 5th Division.

President Barack Obama.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Aunt Millie the Strong

Aunt Millie is hanging on. Her strength is unbelieveable.

She has been through more in the past several months than most of us will ever experience in a lifetime: ruptured appendix, endoscopy, discovery of a stomach tumor, aspiration followed by three weeks of a breathing tube, radiation, chemotherapy, and insertion of a feeding tube because her stomach is blocked by the tumor.

Aunt Millie takes it all in stride, fueled by strong faith and a beautiful family: Uncle Joe, their four children, and grandchildren.

She simply shrugs her shoulders when asked how she's doing, as if it's no big thing.

Aunt Millie has a sense of humor. Her children set up a communication system with her, early on when she couldn't speak. They told her to give them the finger when she wants them to leave.

She's a star pupil, waving both fingers at times, as if to emphasize her wish.

She can't eat or drink anything. I can't imagine that.

One afternoon we visited her, and she was sharing a room with an elderly woman. Lunch had been delivered to Aunt Millie by mistake, and she had to tell the aide to take it over to her neighbor.

Aunt Millie went on to tell us that the meal was a hot dog, and how much she enjoyed inhaling the smell of it.

Aunt Millie has good days and bad days. She refused pain medication until just last week, the final days of her radiation and last chemotherapy sessions.

Now she waits, tired, depressed, hurting.

Please, oh please, give her a miracle. Take away her pain, let her enjoy food again, let her thrill her grandchildren, and give us all the finger(s)!

Mostly, let her share her infectious smile.

We love you Aunt Millie.

Poetic Inaugurations

I was shocked today to learn that only 4 poets have ever delivered a poem at a Presidential inauguration. Obama will be our 44th President.

Mathematically, that's one poem for every eleven presidents.

Intellectually, that's a sad statement coming from what is touted as the most powerful country on Earth.

Robert Frost recited at John Kennedy's inauguration in 1961. I was only six years old. Sadly, what I remember most of JFK's administration was two years later, watching his funeral on television, seeing "John John" salute his father's casket as it passed, and little Caroline standing steadfast by her mother.

Maya Angelou recited "On the Pulse of Morning" at Bill Clinton's first inauguration in 1993. I left work for lunch that day to find a restaurant with a television. I watched Maya's graceful delivery of words so stunningly powerful.

Miller Williams spoke at Bill Clinton's second inauguration, 1997. Can't say I remember his poem or his face for that matter. Sorry, Miller!

Elizabeth Alexander will deliver her poem on Tuesday, January 20, 2009. I know her words will be thoughtful, powerful, inspirational.

As she recites, I will again be glued to the screen, remembering Maya's urging to her new President in 1993:

"Lift up your eyes
Upon this day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream."

Hallelujah to the promise of another great President.

Welcome, President Obama. Bless you.

I Want to Be a Bid Coordinator When I Grow Up!

I process technology bids for a living, specifically, formal bids.

Q: What's a formal bid?

A: It's a document issued by an entity that wants to buy something. Examples of entities include state and local governments, elementary and higher education systems, the federal government, publicly-held commercial businesses, etc.

Q: Why can't the entity just go out and buy the item(s) anywhere?

A: Because some entities are legally bound by a specific bid process, a protocol, so to speak, of putting purchases "out to bid".

Q: Huh?

A: Yep, that's what I said when I was offered the job as a Bid Coordinator.

In a nutshell, a bid allows multiple suppliers to submit cost proposals for consideration by the entity.

The entity must follow the formal procedure by issuing an invitation to bid. It then collects and reviews all responses from the bidders, and ultimately awards the bid to one or more suppliers.

Q: How do you get a formal bid?

A: Snail mail, email, downloaded from a website, or handed to me by my boss. Formal bids come across my desk in a variety of different forms: an Invitation to Bid (ITB), a Request for Proposal(RFP), a Request for Quote (RFQ) are among the most common.

Q: What makes it formal? Does it wear a tuxedo?

A: Nope, what makes it formal is that the bid response (proposal) must be delivered to the entity , by a specific date and time of day.

Q: I get sealed envelopes in my mailbox every day at home. What's the big deal?

A: Sealed bids cannot be opened until the specified date and time. Think of it as a sort of "Do Not Open Until Christmas" rule.

Q: You mean, like my rule for not opening my bills?

A: No, meaning that it's illegal to open a sealed bid until the "official" opening date and time advertised when the bid was issued.

Q: Well, how do you know that someone hasn't peeked to see what's inside, like I used to do before Christmas every year when I found my parents' secret "hiding spot" for my presents?

A: Typically, there are witnesses to the event, so that there's no tomfoolery over who wins the bid.

Some entities go so far as to make a party out of a bid opening by inviting the public to view the procedure.

Q: How come I've never been invited to a formal bid opening?

A: (Actually, it's a question to a question): Why would you possibly want to sit around a room with a bunch of stodgy bureaucrats to hear the mind-numbing details of the proposals?

Q: I don't know, maybe they'll serve cocktails and appetizers.

A: Sorry, the imbibing of alcohol, or any other mind-altering drug, anywhere but inside a closet these days, could be misconstrued by the public as questionable behavior.

Just think, if you're a city employee responsible for opening the bids, and you've had "a few too many" by the opening, what's to say that you don't "mistakenly" drop a bid or two in the garbage, or spill red wine on one, making it unreadable?

Q: What's the big deal? You'd just have less proposals to read.

A: Did I forget to say that the tossed proposals were from competitors of your brother-in-law, the supplier that you want to win?

Q: Oh, I'm starting to get it now. It's like an auction. It has to be a fair playing field, so that every body has an equal opportunity to win the bid.

A: Exactly.

Q: Wow, so what made you decide to be a Bid Coordinator?

A: I thought it would be exciting, you know, like getting a sharp-stick poked in my eye.