Sunday, November 29, 2009

Gotta love the GPS

Most of the time, I don't need a GPS system to tell me where to go. Even if I do use the little machine, I still like to look up directions ahead of time because it isn't always that reliable.

It is convenient to use if I have enough patience to actually wait for it to boot up and find a GPS signal, and then plug in the address, because it can tell me exactly where to turn if I am not sure, and I never have to wonder if I went too far or if I missed the exit.

But for the most part, I just turn it on to get some laughs.

A couple of weeks ago, I was driving on the highway to get to a friend's house. I wasn't sure about the last couple of turns, so I had turned the system on before I left my house to be ready. I am in the left lane on the highway, when a female voice suddenly comes out of nowhere and demands that I "turn left in a quarter mile." There were no exits in sight.

I ignored the command, thinking about all those idiots who have driven into walls or lakes "because my GPS system told me to turn there." You gotta use some common sense, people!

Since the person who gave it to me used the GPS in Torrington, the system frequently wants me to go back north. And lately, no matter where I am or what address I punch in, it seems it just wants me to "turn around whenever possible" or "make a right and then a right" to go in the opposite direction.

Perhaps one day it will come in handy. I'll have to get back to you on that one.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ready for the holidays

On Thanksgiving night, Albie pulled out our Christmas tree from the big box in the basement and started putting it together. It looks even better this year than before with the new floors. I got done early at work Friday and spent most of the night putting up the rest of the decorations (two stockings and lights around the window in the kitchen, Albie's Pharmacy in the window and wreaths and lights on all our railings). Now we are ready!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My reward

The biggest problem with shopping for other people is that I always find things for myself. I usually don't let myself get them - I try to nicely remind myself that this trip is about other people, and I can get whatever I want another time.

This bag, however, was just too good to be true. I had looked at something similar a few years ago when I got my first real job as a journalist. Saturday, it was the first thing that caught my eye as I walked into JC Penney's at the mall.

There it was, on the top rack, just in front of me in its black shinyness.

Looking around to see if anyone else had seen it too, I slowly walked towards it. It was as if it was calling my name.

As I got close enough to see the price, I almost choked out of surprise: $14.97. Thinking there must be some sort of mistake, I peeled the clearance sticker off slightly to see the original price: $140.

After getting confirmation from the cashier that the beautiful bag was, indeed, only $15, I just had to have it. And that was the best part of my Christmas shopping yesterday.

Seeing double

I hate shopping with lots of other people around. The slow-walkers you can't get around, the people who stop in the middle of the aisles without notice, the kids who scream because they cannot take the toys home and the lack of parking - I just hate all of it.

So in an attempt to avoid some craziness, I ventured out on Saturday to do most of my Christmas shopping (the big sales start on Friday - the day after Thanksgiving - known as Black Friday here).

The Christmas cards I ordered last week also came in right before the weekend, so my plan was to get most of the holiday-related madness out of the way so I can spend part of December - Viktoria's Birthday Season - cooking good food and making holiday candy. And maybe even get some relaxing done, while others are out running around like crazy.

I didn't get nearly everything done that I had planned, of course - I never do in terms of shopping - but I think I made out pretty good. Especially in terms of getting things for free because someone screwed up.

For Albie's grandma and for a friend of mine, I had ordered some re-prints of photos at Walmart. I stopped by yesterday afternoon to place the order via a machine in the store, thinking I could go back today to pick up the prints. Of course, the machine was broken and the pictures were never ordered.

Four trips to the store later, I get a call saying "they are all set, you can come pick them up." Credit card in hand, I rush to the check-out counter.
"No charge," the lady says. "You had to wait way too long for these."

I ran out of the store happily - and of course I forgot to pick up the extra wrapping paper I so desperately needed. When I got home, and Albie reminded me I also forgot to pick up the W40 he had asked me to get, I ripped open the photo envelope to show him what I planned to give his grandma.
"Wait a minute!" I said. "There's two of everything!"
And it didn't cost a thing.

A similar thing happened with the Christmas cards. As I was in the midst of the last batch of cards early this morning, I realized the amount of envelopes I had put aside and the inch-high stack of cards left on my desk didn't exactly match up. For some reason, the card company had sent me 150 photo cards instead of the 75 I ordered.

The only problem now is to figure out what to do with all the extra stuff. I really don't want to send out the same cards again next year! Anyone want two?

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Berlin Wall

I don't remember much about the fall of the Berlin Wall. I was 10 years old at the time, and I remember that a few weeks later - probably over the Christmas holidays - a classmate of mine went to Germany with her family and came back with a piece of concrete.

"What's that?" we all asked as she showed it off in school.
"It's a piece of The Wall," she said.

The wall was, of course, one of the stops on my trip to Berlin in 2001 when I went with my friend Jenny (above). Part of it still stands, showing a clear division of East and West that is not easily forgotten.

Apparently, when it happened, I wrote a song about the wall coming down. My grandmother just reminded me when I spoke to her last week. I vaguely remember hitting some keys on our old, out-of-tune piano and trying to compose some ugly notes on a sheet of home-made music notation paper.

My grandmother, who had just been released from the hospital after a back surgery, remembers laying in bed as I played and sang to her from across the room.

"Oh, I wish we had recorded it," my grandmother said.

All I can remember is that I - when I was 14 or 15 - found some badly written piece of pink paper, and when I tried to play the notes on it, it sounded like the theme song to "McGyver." I tossed it on the spot and never thought about it again.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cat massage

My friend and former roommate Bo is training to be a massage therapist. She came over to my house yesterday to give me a massage as part of her training toward her practical exam. However, someone else in my house decided HE was the one who should get a massage.

Before the table was even completely set up, Pip was pacing back and forth underneath and around it. As soon as the sheets went on it, Pip was on the table too. Although his massage lasted only a few minutes, and not the full 50 that I got, he seemed more than pleased when he jumped off and settled back in his regular spot on top of the kitty tower.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The warm welcome

Today I had a letter from USCIS in the mail.

"Your application has been approved," it said. "Welcome to America."

To someone who has received at least a dozen letters from the government on the same letterhead, each listing a case number and an outcome, or a laundry list of missing documents, it was refreshing to get a letter where the overall tone was different.

Not only was the writer trying to convey a warm welcome while at the same time using government-approved sentences, but the bottom of the letter contained phone numbers you can call for help if you run into ANY problems, ANY at all.

All of a sudden, I am getting the VIP treatment. Now, I am almost an American.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Greencard Interview

We had prepared for it for months, starting with the day I sent in the last of my "additional evidence" requested by the immigration authorities.

The night before the interview, Albie read aloud some sample questions he had found on the internet, and we learned that the interviwer may ask where we keep our towels and dirty laundry as well as who feeds the cats and how often, what we had for breakfast that morning and who sleeps on what side of the bed.

All my photo albums were ready to go - from the wedding album to cat and condo photos - and all our joint Christmas cards for the past 2 years were neatly arranged in Ziplock bags.

We got to the interview a few minutes early, found parking right away, and realized the building we were looking for was the courthouse. The metal detector was no problem, except for the paperclip in my shoe, and after we checked in with the receptionist we were seen almost immediately.

Albie had joked that I would be made to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, to which I confidently responded "I don't need to know it - I am not a citizen."

As we entered a small office with glass walls, the immigration officer stopped and asked us both to raise or right hand. "Oh shit!" I thought. Maybe Albie was right.

"Do you swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth here today?" he asked.
"I do," Albie said.
"Yes," I replied.
Which led to a discussion as to what the correct and appropriate answer actually is. We found out that even nodding was OK in this instance.

"So, you guys live in (town name)?" our interviewer's first question was, although it wasn't really a question. "The Magic Valley."
Then we discussed the water quality of the local river (rumor has it that 20 years ago you could develop film in the river).
"And you are both reporters?"
"Well, we both work for newspapers. That's why we are so tired - it's the morning after Election Day."
"I see."

The interviewer looked through our applications. He turned to me, almost apologetically.
"Have you ever been arrested?"
"In any country?"
"I'm just kidding." He laughed. "I know you haven't."
He pointed to the papers.
Ha ha.
"Have you ever been a terrorist?"
"Let's see..." (Looking through papers)
"Is that my background check?"
"Yes. You're good - no terrorist activities."

More flipping through papers.
"So, you guys got married in Vermont?"
"Why do you want to come HERE, if you're from Sweden? You should make your husband move to Sweden!"
"Sure, maybe later, after we have kids."
"Although Sweden has its share of immigration problems."

"Any joint property?"
"Good. This is great."

A few minutes later...
"OK, you are all set. Your greencard will arrive in two weeks."
"What? We're done?"
"Yup. Look for it in the mail."
"But don't you want to see our wedding photos?"
"Yes, sure."
"We've gone through all this trouble."
"That's what everyone says."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

New in the dining room

We used our new sconses on the walls of the dining room for the first time today! It was the perfect day to light candles all around the house, and with daylight savings time being over, everything gets dark really early.

Dinner for three

Sophie and Pip decided to join Albie's mom for dinner now that we actually have a dining room table. Then Sophie fell asleep on a placemat after dinner...

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Royal Party

A few weeks ago, my former landlord - the farm owner - threw us a Royal Celebration party on her farm (coincidentally, right outside the house where I used to live). We were singing, dancing, eating and - best of all - I got to wear my wedding dress again!

Of course, that particular day it was cold and very windy. Her royal highness picture above - when not being warmed up by her husband - was wearing a thermo shirt under the dress and a sweater on top of it.

Most people were freezing their butts off, but the food and company was very good, and after some wine everyone seemed to warm up a bit.

My new to-do list

Before I took the job in Middletown, I had made a to-do list of things to get through during my last week in Torrington.

* Get a haircut
* Get an oil change
* Clean the bathroom

were some of the things on my list. Well, 7,000 miles overdue, my car finally got an oil change last weekend. Still waiting for that haircut, though, and I haven't made it to my chiropractor in over eight weeks. Good thing I still have time to visit the gym once a week so my bad back can keep up with my new schedule!

I haven't had time to do much, yet important things like watching "CSI" usually makes it into my schedule somehow...

Most of the time when I get home, I don't even turn my computer on. And my computer is The Writing Machine. Albie's computer, conveniently located on the landing just by the stairs, is always on. But his computer is for fun things like playing jigsaw puzzles, checking e-mail or harvesting pumpkins on my farm.

I find it very hard to write in such an open space. And I find it even harder to turn my computer on and go in my room and close the door. It's much easier to avoid it altogether.