Saturday, August 30, 2008

Checkin' in on Ralph

I spoke to my buddy Ralph Nader today again. He was in his hometown to attend a local cable television show hosted by a town selectman (woman).

We still are not sure whether Ralph is going to be on the ballot in Connecticut - his supporters are fighting for access in 45 states. And that's just so people will have the OPTION of voting for him. Doesn't really seem right.

Anyway, on a spur-of-the-moment sort of impulse, I picked up the phone and called Ralph's sister's house in Winsted. Guess who answered?

He remembered me from our interview in the spring, although he then asked "what was your beat again?" and I had to remind him I'm an editor who doesn't really write... Anyway, our evening reporter was thrilled he would get to speak with him after the show.

I've said this before, but it can't hurt to say it again. Ralph Nader is a really nice guy. He's smart and he is doing something good for the residents of this nation.

Whether he has a chance of winning the election isn't the question - he is fighting for all other candidates our there who are not endorsed by the Democrats or the Republicans. If he succeeds, he may be able to change the narrow-minded two-party system that is brainwashing the American people.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Crazy old-fashioned announcements

American engagement announcements:
"Mr. and Mrs. George X. of Brooklyn announce the engagement of their daughter, Lisa Alice to William Y., son of Lewis and Mary Y. of Freeport, New York. Ms. X. graduated summa cum laude from Smith College, and is a real estate agent with the Towne Home Realty in Brooklyn. Mr. Y graduated from St. Johns University and is a freelance writer. A June wedding is planned."

Swedish engagement announcements:
"We got engaged! Alexandra Johansson, Anders Svensson, Gothenburg, 10/10/07"
"Missing pieces of the puzzle are in place! Alexandra Andersson, Anders Karlsson, Stockholm, 5/8/07"

Swedish wedding announcements:
"A wedding took place in XX church on DATE between Anna Svensson and Karl Karlsson. XX was officiating the ceremony. The bride will now take the name Karlsson."

"We got married at XX on DATE. Thanks to everyone! Anna Karlsson and Karl Svensson. Now we are both named Svensson."

American wedding announcements:
"Mr and Mrs. John Smith (NOTICE, the mother has no first name of her own!) have the pleasure of announcing the marriage of their daughter Jennifer Anne to Mr. John Stevens. The wedding took place in an extremely fancy and expensive location in the afternoon of March 3 and a very wonderful priest officiated the ceremony.
The bride has a master's degree in an undetermined subject and the groom has graduated three times from different schools to earn degrees that will never get him a job. They both work in a city nobody has ever heard of but will reside in Greenwich, Connecticut, after the wedding, where they will start copulating to expand their family immediately."

Well, perhaps not to that extreme, but it's pretty close...

Monday, August 25, 2008

You know you're a serious blogger when... give titles to different parts of your day ("The dinner debacle," "The soda disaster")

...your boyfriend/husband starts giving your tips and requests for blog posts (hence the fart post)

...your co-workers talk to each other about things they read on your blog of your friends asks "are you gonna blog about this?" (you know who you are)

...other blogs link to your site (sticking up for food bloggers made me very popular) plan out your week so each day gets its own blog entry get a tingly feeling each time someone leaves a comment realize that almost anything can become a blog post; it's just a matter of how to start

My 10-year anniversary

Today, my friends, it's exactly 10 years ago since I set foot on American soil.

I didn't come by boat like some of my Scandinavian ancestors, nor did I pass through Ellis Island. I arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport via KLM, the Royal Dutch Airline. It was late in the evening, local time. I had been travelling for more than 12 hours.

Thrilled but somewhat cautious, I clutched a large black and yellow ice hockey bag of my most valuable possessions and my white-bellied teddy bear Björne. At 19, I wasn't quite sure what the world would bring or what I wanted out of life. With open eyes and an open mind, I stepped into the humid New York air and began a new chapter of my life.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


If I ever get homesick, I just go to YouTube and watch Carola sing the national anthem.

Or I can watch a video from the 1983 national music competition, also with Carola. As a pre-teen, I would sing this with a hair brush in front of the mirror in my upstairs playroom.

Farts and tomatsås (tow-maht-soooo-s)

You've read about hejdå-ing, grandma warnings and birthday pranks, but I haven't yet told you about farts.

People pick up on things I say while on the phone with relatives or friends in Sweden. My dad called once when my roommate and I were watching a movie, and I had to pause it. The trick with our DVD player at the time was to hit "play" and "pause" several times, which I explained to dad. My roommate immediately started saying "play-eh paos-eh, play-eh paos-eh," thinking she was making sense in Swedish.

Another time my grandmother called, and asked what I was making for dinner.
"Pasta och tomatsås," I said, and my roommate immediately started saying "tow-maht-soooo-s." Extremely exciting!

(Trying to spell the words phonetically in English is difficult, by the way. I have to write it out on a piece of paper, then run downstairs so Albie can look at it. "How would you say this?" I say. "I know what I want it to sound like, I just don't know how to spell it!")

When Albie came with me to Sweden last year, he - understandably - was able to pick up on lots of words that sounded funny. He now says "slew-tah" when he wants me to stop doing something, and he practices calling the kitties with "ks-ks-ks-ks."

But perhaps the best word Albie has found so far in the Swedish language is "utfart." After a trip to the American Embassy in Stockholm, Albie, my dad and I went to eat at Max - a hamburger restaurant. While pulling into the parking lot, which was part of a giant shopping center, Albie suddently spots a large, blue sign with white letters on it.

"Ut-FART!" he exclaims, and laughs. "Hey, it says FART on that sign! What does it mean?"

Dad and I calmly explained it just means "exit." A few minutes later, we spotted an "infart" sign - which means "entrance." This led to a whole new set of explanations, about how "ut" means "out" and "in" means "in" (simple enough, right?)

Well, if you think about it, I guess it is pretty funny to an American. To "fart out" actually explains pretty much what happens... and to see it on a sign and be able to read it, that's gotta be priceless.

The plates

The license plates for my new car finally arrived in the mail today. I've been driving around with a yellow paper tag in my back window for two and a half months and a hand-written label on my windshield identifying that the car is, indeed, registered.

I even had to go back to the car dealer last week to extend my paper plates, because the Department of Motor Vehicles hadn't sent me the plates in the time they were supposed to.

Firs thing tomorrow, I'll be outside with a screwdriver attaching my light blue Connecticut plates to my shiny new car!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Changes and work differences

We had some surprising news at work today. Our top editor and our city editor both announced to the staff they are leaving at the end of September.

Our newsroom only consists of 13 people, so two people leaving is a big deal. There are uncertain times ahead, but I guess in a few weeks we will find out what happens next.

It made me think of more differences in the workplace. In Sweden, you usually have to give three months' notice for anything - leaving a job, leaving an apartment, etc. Here, you give two weeks. Why is that?

Everything seems to be shorter. Maternity leave is 12 weeks - unpaid. In Sweden, you get 480 days - that's 16 months - for new moms (or dads). And for the first 390 days, you get paid 80 percent of your salary.

No wonder there aren't many nannies or stay-at-home moms in Sweden. You CAN have a child AND a career without losing your mind. After a year or so, most people are ready to go back to work.

Vacation time is two weeks in the United States - 10 work days - unless you've worked at a company for more than five years, when it can increase by five days. In Sweden - and most of Europe, for that matter - you get five weeks of paid vacation. Several of these can be taken consecutively.

One year, my dad had to work during some of his vacation time. His boss had to - by law - make it up to him. The following summer, my dad had 10 weeks off. He didn't work for almost three months - and he got paid for every single day.

Still, I just read a brief in Nordstjernan - a Swedish-American newspaper I used to work for - that Sweden has one of Europe's highest absentee rates at work. Swedish employees call in sick often, and they still get most of their pay.

In order to combat this, large Swedish companies are now offering gym memberships, masseuses and breakfast baskets in the office. Said one Swedish psychologist, "When you're happier, when you're more satisfied with your working conditions, then you perform at work."

I could sure use a massage after a long day in front of the computer...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My three-day weekend

I always get excited when I have a three-day weekend coming up. It always seems like a good idea to cram stuff into it, to get things done. But I forget that the reason I have that extra day is usually because there is already something in my schedule.

In this case, I had a bridal shower to attend, so I took a vacation day on Saturday. While I had nothing to do with planning the event, cooking, cleaning or really helping out with anything, the party wiped me out completely. It was a four-hour affair that started with a thunderstorm and ended in a mountain of ribbons and wrapping paper.

I tried to stay out of the way, but also be helpful. They finally put me in charge of writing down who gave what on the back of each card accompanied with a gift. There were piles of presents, and a ton of people I barely knew. There was lots of smiling and "nice to meet yous." Half an hour's drive each way from my house. You get the idea.

Albie wanted me to stop by his parents' house on my way home to say hi. He was so insistent on it that for a little while I though this might be where he would propose, so then I worked myself up over that. But it wasn't. I finally passed out - before 2 a.m., which is really early in my life.

Plans for Sunday changed from relaxing and watching TV to driving to my friend Beth's house in New York to help with serious damage control after a flood. Remember the friend I helped with organizing?

Well, good thing I did. Most of her stuff was now in plastic storage bins and could easily be moved outside to dry up while we mopped floors and toweled off some furniture. Oh, did I forget to mention that she wasn't even home? She and her husband were in Vegas for a conference, and three rooms of their apartment flooded. Luckily, her daughter was home and was able to throw towels down while the water kept coming in. The damage was contained. It still took 6 hours to clean, though. And when I left, Jamie had plenty of things left to worry about...

Seven hours on Monday were spent working at my second job - what I usually do on Mondays. But because this week will be extremely stressful at the paper, I decided to stop by the office and get some work out of the way. A few hours turned into five hours when we suddenly found out about a meeting and a vote we didn't know was going to happen. Suddenly, the reporter in me just couldn't go home. After making a few phone calls, I wrote two stories. (second here)

And then I was just on my way out the door, and we got a press release from some umpire association. The retired umpire and registered sex offender who got an award last week was going to have to give it back, the association decided. The original story made national news.

I stayed a few minutes longer to throw it up on the Web. I even got to use our new "breaking news" e-mail feature for the first time...

So... weekend? What weekend? It's back to work!

Friday, August 15, 2008

A surprise with paint

Albie painted the hallway leading up to his office area a few months ago. The color - called something "harvest" - turned out to be an undetermined kind of gray, with possible tan hues if seen in the correct light. It was not what we had been looking for. He, of course, blamed it on me and his mom, since we helped pick the color.

After some discussion, we decided to go with Behr's "Desert Camel" instead - a color Albie claimed he had advocated for all along.

The hallway has stayed half-finished since June - much like the rest of our house. On my way from one job to another today, I passed by a Home Depot store and - on impulse - decided to stop by and pick up our new color. Since I would get out of work many hours before Albie, I wanted to surprise him with the "correct" color. It is, after all, in his "office."

Not quite as dark as in the pictures, Desert Camel definitely looks better. Now we can tell there's a color on the wall. I can't wait to see what it will look like in daylight!

As you can see, I didn't have time to finish the room, but I did the biggest wall - finally covering up the previous coat of "bad" gray. And Albie was happy and surprised.

Now, if I'm lucky, he will finish the rest of the room while I am at work Friday!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Hiking with Bill Bryson

Stretching from Maine to northern Georgia, the Appalachian Trail runs about 2,100 miles along the East Coast of the United States. It takes you through 350 mountain tops and beautiful valleys; it features deep woods and glittering streams.

Hiking the entire trail takes about five months.

No, I am not planning on going for a hike - Bill Bryson is. Or rather, he was. He already took the hike, back in 1996, and then he wrote a book about it. I am reading it right now.

In his usual fashion, Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods" intrigues me immediately. I can totally picture this slightly goofy, middle-aged man sitting on his New Hampshire couch thinking one day, "I'm gonna hike 2,000 miles!" His wife, of course, thought it a bad idea from the start.

From the adventure of buying expensive equipment that may or may not be neccessary to finding a friend and partner in crime to share the experience with, Bryson's story brings me along for the ride (For me, it actually is a ride. I don't have to lift more than my arms to hold the book up, and most of the time it is resting against the bed anyway).

The story feels like it could be my own. Not that I would ever go for such a long walk. But if I did, similar things would happen. I just wish I could write about them like Bryson does.

I've often pondered dropping by Hanover, New Hampshire, to see Bill Bryson. It's a small college town - less than an hour from where my host-father's Vermont cabin is. If I ask people around town where Bill Bryson lives, they might know and they might tell me. Perhaps I could drop by for a chat.

I'm not quite sure how well that would go over, though. Although I feel like I know him from reading (most of) his books, I am quite certain he would stare blankly at me and say "who did you say you are again?" And "you are writing an article about me for what paper again?"

Hope is still alive and well that I will get to meet him one day. For now, though, I still have his books. And we've got lots of miles left to hike on the Appalachian Trail.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My evening with penguins

Sometimes I actually do slow down. I'll have some dinner, watch a movie, chat with friends.

Tonight, my friend Lauren and I watched "Happy Feet." For those of you who haven't seen it, it's another penguin movie (in addition to "March of the Penguins" and "Surf's Up," although I think "Happy Feet" came out in between the other two).

Turns out, it's an animated penguin musical. There's singing and dancing throughout, and at times it was difficult to stop my feet from tapping lightly on the floor. And I'm not even a dancer.

Perhaps my favorite parts of the movie were the constant references to sex. Animal sex, of course, since the movie is made for kids. The characters only say "it's time to make eggs" or "let's go make eggs." Totally OK for a G-rated movie, apparently. But if someone were to actually say the word "sex," the movie would have to be rated R for sexual language.

My favorite romantic dialoge:
"I don't need an egg to be happy."
"But what about when all your friends have eggs?"
"Then I'll have you." (aw....)

Overall, it turned out to be a happy and cute movie, something I'll probably watch again. I mean, who wouldn't like a movie where they say things like "you did everything penguinly possible"?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

I'm a Knighthood nerd

A few friends invited me to the social networking site Facebook last summer. In the fall, I recieved several invitations a day. I resisted 'til the end.

When I finally joined, I was amazed at how many of my friends were actually there. I could message with friends I hadn't seen since high school, and I could look up information and see pictures of their pets and boyfriends.

Then I started adding different applications, after friends invited me and encouraged me to join them. It's all a ploy by advertisers, I know, but some of the apps are actually useful. The Pokey dog you have to feed every 24 hours became a nuisance, forcing me to check in frequently and wasting my time. I quickly uninstalled the yellow labrador retriever I had called Moose.

People kept sending me Green Patch requests - and when I finally added that application I found out you can save the rainforest. Still a little cautious, I googled it and found out that it seems to be legit. Sponsors of the program supposedly donate a certain amount of money to save the endangered trees, based on how much the users use the program. Now I send at least 20 fake plants each day to my friends - ranging from pansies and daffodils to Holy Shiitakis and Rolly Pollies. I've supposedly saved 31 square feet of rainforest.

But the application that really got me going was Knighthood.

It started with a request from a co-worker, as so many of these usually do. "I've made you a noble in my kingdom," it said. "Come join me!" I joined.

At first, I wasn't quite sure why I built a castle, a marketplace and a watchtower. But then I realized that I could move my friends around between the buildings and I started expanding my kingdom and upgrading their levels of usefulness. I invited a bunch of my friends, who all became my squires, and then I built as much as I could.

Then I hit a road block. The program didn't ask me to do anything else, and I was stuck. I googled it, and people were talking about attacks and conques and raiding for gold.

"I want to do that!" I thought. But how?

I finally read an Extensive Guide to Knighthood, and by following instructions, managed to add a Garrison and go into Attack Mode. Now I'm at war.

Of course, I realized there were still things I wasn't sure about. What do the little numbers next to the shields actually mean? And how come it says you make people weaker when you attack them over and over again, but at the same time you increase their defenses? And how come I get all my gold and my vassals stolen even though I keep everyone on their defense posts?

Turns out, this really is a strategy game. What I needed was a mentor. One day last week, this mentor fell out of the sky.

"Hi, I'm Jill. If you come join my liege, I can help you get stronger," this girl wrote on my wall - a sort of personal message board for nerds like me. Jill is an advanced player of the game. Originally from England, she now lives in California and (apparently) spends a lot of time on the internet - and on Facebook.

Having broken free from my previous lord - the co-worker who invited me - I was now sovereign and could sign up with Jill's as my liege. She's my new best friend.
I've spent hours in the past week expanding my kingdom according to Jill's instructions, which at first included releasing all my friends who never signed up for the game. They are apparently not very useful anyway, and they disappear after 15 days.
By me being stronger, I automatically make Jill stronger - that's her ulterior motive. But I'm OK with that. She has powerful friends in the game, and today they are helping me rescue one of my trapped knights.
The only problem? Jill is going on vacation for 2 weeks. How will my kingdom survive without her?

I didn't do it!

A few nights ago, I slept over at the office. It was nice, because I could get an early start the next day at my second job.

When I was back at work again on Tuesday, I found out that there had been two break-ins in Torrington and that one of our reporters was doing a story about it. The deli next door had been broken into some time late Saturday night or early Sunday morning. The liquor store on the other side of our building had also been burglarized the same night.

Oh crap! was the first thing that went through my mind. My car was in the parking lot - right in between the two buildings - all Saturday night, into Sunday morning. I hope nobody think I did it!

Second thought: How come I didn't see or hear anything? It would have been really cool to be able to call the cops and say, "hey, there was a green car that sped off down the street around 3 a.m...."

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Feeling like a crazy cat lady

With a 4-pound bag of Iams cat food under my left arm a pint of Häagen-Dazs chocolate ice cream in my right hand, I arrived at the check-out counter at the A&P Supermarket.

I've had a tough two days, working 11 hours on Tuesday and 13 on Wednesday to get two daily newspapers and a 24-page special section to look somewhat presentable. Thursday was better - 6 hours at my other job, then three hours at the paper. But I was ready to go home.

The cats were hungry, my arms and neck were aching, and I just couldn't wait to put my feet up for a while and perhaps tune into a semi-new episode of "CSI."

As I got up to the only register that was open, an average-Joe-looking guy approached the register from the other side. He took one look at me and said, "You go ahead."

I dropped the bright orange bag of Iams and the Häagen-Dazs in front of the cashier. Then I took a step back and looked at my purchases. "Oh my goodness!" I thought. "They're all gonna think I'm a crazy cat lady!"

You know the story: It starts with a completely normal woman. She lives alone. Then she gets one or two cats. Then, feeling lonely, she starts "rescuing" strays and feeds other cats in the neighborhood. She finds comfort in her feline friends. One thing leads to another, and all of a sudden she is 75 years old, and her 40 cats have taken over the house.

The house starts to fall apart. It starts to smell. Nobody dares to go near the home. Nobody even dares to speak the old lady's name. She's become the crazy cat lady.

But wait. I have a boyfriend. I live a semi-normal life. So far, I only have two cats. And who cares what people think, anyway?

"You have a good day, now," the cashier says, smiling sympathetically as she puts my items in a white plastic bag.

"You too," I say, as I pick up my items - head held high - and walk out the front door.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

My grandfather

The following piece, titled "My Grandfather," was published in a literary magazine called "Voyages" when at Westchester Community College in 2000:

My grandfather died when I was 13 years old, but I can still remember everything he told me, and even his smell. He was a tall man with big worker’s hands. His hair had already begun to show some silver gray, even though he was only 62.

When I was 6, I moved in with my grandparents, because my mother got sick and could not take care of me anymore. It was supposed to be just a temporary arrangement, but my mother stayed sick for very long and I lived in my grandparents’ house for more than 10 years.

When I moved in, my grandfather was 55 years old, and he worked part time at the SKF ball bearings factory in our town. As a young man, he had been a baker, with his own big, famous bakery. Now he was baking at home. I remember waking up at 5:30 in the mornings, and he was already in the kitchen making bread.

When I woke, I always heard the slow thumping of my grandfather’s hands kneading the dough, hitting the kitchen table. I got up, and I yelled at him, because he had let me sleep in. He always promised to wake me up at 4 a.m., when he got up, but he never did. Most of the times, it didn’t matter. I got up just in time to start creating nice-looking pieces of bread, and put them in the oven.

There’s nothing better than fresh-baked bread at 7 in the morning, still warm. We would sit at our 10-person kitchen table, my grandfather and I, eating breakfast, with the butter melting on the bread, just waiting for my grandmother to wake up. We didn’t always talk to each other; there was no need for that.

My grandfather was the one who taught me to count. We played banker and customer, and I remember it was driving my grandmother crazy, because we had coins all over the living room. Sometimes I came to my grandfather’s bank to give him money, and he counted for me, and sometimes he came to mine. Of course, I was 5 or 6, and I always counted wrong. He laughed and told me, “No, I gave you thirteen, not five.”

The game got more serious when I got older, at least to me. He said, “If you can count this money, you can use it to buy ice cream.” I just had to learn how to count.

As I grew older, we worked together in the garden. My grandfather showed me how to pick apples, black currants and raspberries. He took me fishing in the lake; he taught me how to row a boat. I helped him carry logs for the fire; I even went with him out in the forest to cut down trees.

During the time we were working together, we started making up songs. They were stupid songs, but they were always right for the moment. When we got home, my grandfather also tried to teach me the songs on the violin, but it took me several years to learn how to play. He never gave up, though. He was always there to help me and guide me.

One day, he had a cold. I went to school as usual, and I walked home together with a boy in my class, because we lived in the same neighborhood. When I saw the driveway to my house, there were five or six cars, and I remember thinking, “Oh, we are having guests, how fun!”

When I walked up the driveway, I tried to figure out who was there by looking at the cars. Some of them I knew immediately, but there were a few strange cars too. Deep down inside, I knew something was wrong.

I got inside, and there were people everywhere – on the couches in the living room and at the table in the kitchen. I started looking for my grandmother. Finally, I found her – crying – in the bedroom, my aunt trying to comfort her. I walked in, and she looked at me and started crying even more. Then somebody told me. “He’s dead,” they said.

“Who?” I wondered. But I already knew.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Reaching 200

Hi all,

Just wanted to write a quick note to say that this is my 202nd blog post! I'm so excited to be over 200 - it's a big milestone. Now I feel like a serious writer (blogger).

Thanks for reading and for commenting.


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sleeping at the office

No, I'm not talking about occasionally falling asleep in front of the computer, although that happens to me a lot, too.

Tonight, I realized I was getting really tired when I opened up files on the computer to search for a photo and read "Long jamas" (as in "pajamas"). It actually said "LoganJames." I also had to do a business tease, and typed in "Palace Aids Fireplace Poop & Spa" (instead of "Pool & Spa").

Time to get some sleep!

In fact, I am sleeping over at the office tonight. My boss used to do it all the time when she had problems at home last year. She hasn't done it much this year, but the futon is still set up with pillows and blankets available in her filing cabinet.

In an attempt to figure out how to get the most hours out of my time off, I am going to work at my other job on Sunday instead of Monday, since my bosses are out of town and I set my own schedule. This way, I will save myself an hour of driving. I will also be able to work all day Sunday, then go home and have off until Tuesday at 3 p.m., when it's time to go back to work. Usually, I work Mondays, which ruins both Sunday and Monday since I have to go to be early, etc.

Anyway, time to shut down the computer now, turn on the office A/C, run to the ladies room and change into my jammies and then tuck myself in with a promotional UConn Husky blanket and rest my head on my princess pillow - a birthday present from last year that got left at the office.

Sweeet dreams, everyone.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The end of Gardening Season

After I complained about my lilies being chopped off, Albie received a very angry phone call from our management company. My letter of complaint did not go over too well, it seems.

I had asked that the "landscapers" replace the three lilies they ruined in our back yard.

"They are not MY landscapers," Ms. X said in the message. "They were hired by YOUR association, and you need to contact the association with this issue."

A phone call later, I had (sort of) straightened out the difference between the management company, the board of directors and the condominium association. Even though the mail is sent to the same address, and Ms. X opens all the mail, Ms. X was apparently very offended that my complaint was addressed directly to her.

I apologized sincerely, she gave me some gardening tips and promised to pass on my letter to the appropriate people.

"The head lanscaper is a very reasonable guy," she said. "I am sure he will replace your lilies."

A week or two later, all unit owners were sent a bright yellow notice titled "The value of conformity." It states that "no unit owner is allowed to plan anything outside the unit either in the front or in the rear" and that all growing things around us are "exclusively maintained by the Association."

"You should not be putting your personal touch on the outside landscaping," the letter states.

It then refers to the by-laws (which I will now re-read), and reminds us that we all agreed to these when we bought our homes. "The objective of value retention is conformity in a condominium setting."

Although I am not quite sure how our value would be retained by careless landscapers who cut down beautiful plants but leave weeds and bushes untouched, it is now clear that all gardening must go through the three-member board of directors first (I discussed my gardening plans with a lady on the board of directors back in May, so perhaps I am in the clear).

I'm still not 100 percent sure my lily letter was the cause of this, and one part of the letter highlights "front lawn & trees," and I know we haven't done anything there. Perhaps there have been others.

Now I am just curious to see how many people will remove "all items located in the above areas" within two weeks - the lady with a beautiful garden on a slope facing her unit, our neighbor with a staggered garden going off her deck, and all residents with American flags on the front stoop.

Two things are for sure: I will never ever lift a hand to water the lawn - front or back. And my garden is staying put.