Thursday, July 29, 2010

This is how I feed my love for jewelry . . .

A new blogging buddy down in New Zealand, Janet's Gems, recently asked me to post pictures of some of the jewelry I make. I'm totally inept at photographing my stuff, but here are a few examples for you, Janny. I use sterling silver, cultured pearls, Swarovski crystals, erinite (looks like jade), coral, gold filled beads, onyx, jade, mother of pearl and other semi-precious stones. I also work with teeny-tiny seed beads which make me cross-eyed after a while, but the effect they make in jewelry is worth it. I don't like to see exposed stringing material. There's always a price to be paid, eh wot?! Thanks for stopping by and do visit Janet's blog. She makes some cool fabric pieces, including special dolls for Haitian children. She has patterns and information on her blog.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A welcome coolish front rolled through this evening.
It brought with it dark clouds I hoped would drop some rain and fire works on us, but no such luck.
As I sat on the balcony, basking in the very brisk breeze, I thought I caught a whiff of someones barbecue -- just the hot coals.
Light colored leaves torn from their trees
rolled and fluttered like tiny canaries.
Crows seemed to bask in the power of the wind to hold them aloft with no effort on their parts.
Swallows were less graceful as they precariously swooped,
searching for insects that
probably had taken shelter.
Passengers on planes landing at National were probably experiencing some exciting turbulence though I couldn't see it from my vantage point.
I could imagine those daring passengers who unbuckle seat belts and stand in the isle well before they reach the gate were feeling a little foolish -- for once.
Since D.C.'s ban on plastic grocery bags, I didn't expect to see the one that went wallowing by, settling in a pretty, little cypress bush.
I look forward to the day that no more trees, shrubs or buildings will be decorated thusly.
As darkness descended the night noises started -- little chirpers and peepers.
Haven't seen many lightning bugs this year. Hope that's due to my fading eyesight and not that they are disappearing.
D.C. is magical at night.
The amber colored street lights mellow the white marble buildings that appear so grand during the day.
Townhouses and apartment buildings
lit from within humanize a city that is all business during the day.
Sidewalk cafes come alive, offering passersby savory aromas
and good cheer.
Dogs walk their owners.
Thanks to the low profile of our city, the Washington Monument is
like a beacon
reminding everyone where we are --
Washington, D.C., the Capitol City of the United States of America.

Who's Minding the D.C. Treasurey?

I'm worried that the Commander of D.C.'s Office of Tax and Revenue jumped ship a long time ago. I'll explain. Last January I was shocked to receive an unsigned letter from a "tax auditor" at the OTR. It was to inform me that the department had no record of my every filing D.C. income tax forms! [FYI: Since 1971, I have diligently filed D.C. and Federal tax forms.] Once the angry/nervous hot flashes settled down, I immediately phoned the guy to inform him of his misinformation. I also corrected the spelling of my name which he had spelled two different ways in his letter. Normally, I have no problem talking with people who have an accent. My own Spouse has one. Over the years, I've learned to listen more carefully to folks for whom English is a second language. However -- this guy mumbled so badly I had to ask him to repeat information several times. It was embarrassing! After all that, he did follow-through on my request to put in writing the fact that I had filed jointly with my husband for the past three decades. That letter arrived without a signature or date and without the old OTR office address crossed out. [maybe I'm just being petty about the out-dated letterhead . . ?] Our lovely CPA always does a superlative job for us, so it was a surprise when we didn't get our refund right away. The mystery was solved when I read in the Washington Post that about 3,000 D.C. residents were erroneously sent tax bills including sizable penalties and interest for non-payment. It was because someone had put the decimal point in the wrong place. Our letter was dated June 9th and received three days before this news came out. When I couldn't get anywhere near someone by phone, I immediately responded in writing including copies of pertinent information. I knew it was a D.C. OTR mistake and expected a refund check soon afterwards. Spouse kept bugging me about the refund check so, again, I tried calling OTR last Thursday. I won't go into the ugly details about time spent on hold and being cut-off. When I finally reached a human being, I explained the situation. Of course she grilled me for information and put me on hold again. After holding perhaps 12 minutes, she came back on the line, giggling I'm guessing about what someone in the office had said to her. No apology for the long hold just: "Your refund has been approved and will be mailed in the next 7 to 10 days." WHOOPEE!! I'm left to wonder if OTR would have bothered to correct their mistake if I hadn't called. When I asked about my letter and corroborating evidence, she said there was no record of it having been received. So I'm thinking we'd still be in limbo if I hadn't persevered on the phone. Maybe if OTR had to pay fines, penalties and interest when THEY were late with payment, they'd be a little more careful, eh wot?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Tribute to a Guardian Angel

My college roommate, Mary and I have remained good friends though we seldom see each other. Last summer she brought a French couple over to tour parts of the U.S. When they came to D.C. I had the pleasure of showing them around my favorite city. It always amazes me how we can reconnect as if no time has passed. I wish we lived closer, but her home is in Michigan and I can't imagine leaving D.C. The first time I met Mary was during move-in to the dorm room we would share for two years at a small, liberal arts college in Iowa. We weren't exactly fish out of water, but neither one of us had lived anywhere near livestock. Nevertheless, we came to enjoy the curious dairy cows in a pasture a block from our dorm. As we unpacked I realized I would be rooming with a clothes horse. The saving grace was that she made most of her clothes. She even covered shoes with the same fabric as a couple of the outfits she'd made. I made some of my clothes, too, but it was evident even to non-sewers that I had. On the other hand, Mary's suits, dresses, blouses and slacks looked like they came from boutiques. Was I jealous? Well, yeah! One of my biggest regrets during my two years rooming with Mary was convincing her to start smoking. Once I was free from my parent's smoke-free rules, I let loose, so she almost had no choice. The dangers of cigarettes hadn't sunk in yet, so there were lots of us puffing away in dorm rooms, lounges, hallways, wherever we wanted to, except in classrooms and the chapel. I quit in 1985, but Mary still smokes and it's my fault. Beer drinking was another avenue we explored together. During our second month on campus, we somehow got invited to a kegger at a local guy's house on the edge of campus. Trying to be cool and hip, we quickly chugged 4 big cups of beer from a keg in the middle of the living room. The next thing I remember is lying on a stack of coats on a bed with some guy groping me. If Mary hadn't noticed I was missing and come looking for me, I could have lost a whole lot more than my dignity. Two impossibly handsome brothers -- not college students -- were famous for "breaking in" freshmen women. The brother trying to get into my pants was so angry he pushed both of us out the front door leaving us to stagger back across a major highway and to our dorm. In the late 1960s, colleges had curfews which were probably a good thing for inexperienced, gullible girls like us. I don't remember signing back into the dorm in front of the dorm mother. We must have held our breath doing it because we never heard about it from her. I have to disclose that alcohol was strictly prohibited on our Methodist campus and, of course, we were both under-age, but that didn't stop anyone from binge drinking. Not much has changed over the past 40-odd years. Mary's biggest role was putting-up with my waxing and waning in an impossible relationship I had with an older man. The trauma lasted for a year and a half and she was always there for me. When the break-up finally came, she stopped me from slicing my wrists. She was and is rock solid and wiser than she believes she is. I feel so lucky that she came into my life and remains an important, cherished friend. If anyone reading this has their own guardian angel, I'd love to hear about it.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

My Home Town on Independence Day

The Fourth of July always is special for me because of the fireworks. When I was a kid, the history behind the holiday was strictly peripheral. Real pyrotechnics came to town only once a year. Sure, we lit snakes, those black discs that put out lots of smoke and bloomed into fragile, long tubes of ash. But fireworks that exploded high in the air were forbidden to private citizens. My home town had a large private country club to thank for our annual display. It was a short drive from our house and attracted nearly everyone in town. Club members sat in Adirondack chairs on the huge veranda, served frosty drinks by the help, smoked cigarettes and cigars and schmoozed. We plebeian masses parked the family station wagons on the polo field and sat on old blankets or bedspreads. As the time drew near to shoot off the first shell, excitement among the children had grown to fever pitch. Then it happened -- one big burst of color in the sky followed by shrill screams from the kids and dignified oohs and aahs from the adults. Then we waited what seemed an eternity for the next burst. Only for the finale was more than one shell shot off at a time. Between each one, we'd hear babies crying and the occasional dog howling in terror. In the end, the club members retreated into their clubhouse for more refreshment and socializing while the rest of us jockeyed for a spot in the exit lines. The memory of open car windows, glaring headlights, choking exhaust from hundreds of cars, fussy children and frustrated parents is an indelible memory of the Fourth of July in my home town. Thankfully, now I can enjoy the show down on the Mall from the comfort of our balcony. I even feel a little like one of those high-rollers on the veranda -- sipping a cool drink of my choice, sitting in a comfy chair, then watching the masses as they fight traffic to get out of town.
Happy Independence Day!!