Thursday, July 27, 2006

Screening....or screaming?

Even with the house having been for sale for quite a while, we still putter around finding things that could look better. When Venise, our Realtor, was here in the spring, she helped us clean the kitchen and she also took down the screens on the kitchen bay windows so we could clean them. We didn't think there was any hurry to get it done, because the view was even clearer without the screens, and we knew we wouldn't need the screens back up until the weather got hot enough to open the windows.

The time of warmer weather finally arrived, and Ed dutifully cleaned the screens and put them back up.

When I got home from work, I was just about to congratulate him on a job well done, when I noticed something....well, strange. There was white fluffy stuff attached to the screens at various places.

"What's that?" I asked, taken aback.

"It's cotton balls," Ed replied nonchalantly. "There were holes in the screens, so I plugged them up so the bugs can't get in."

I was appropriately aghast. "You're plugging screen holes with pieces of cotton balls?" I repeated, my mind just begging him to reassure me that I had misunderstood.

Oh, no, I did not misunderstand. There were the screens, and there were the pieces of white cotton balls. We had a house for sale, and there were pieces of cotton balls in our screens.

Surprisingly, this did not seem to bother Ed a bit. I pulled myself together and said, "Well, don't you think we need to get the screens replaced?"

Ed said, "Nah, they'll be fine."

"BUT THERE ARE PIECES OF COTTON BALLS IN THE SCREENS!" I couldn't help it. My incredulity gave way to massive irritation.

Ed tried to pacify me. "The bugs won't come in," he said. "We can also put CamphoPhenique on them, if you want to take extra precautions. Those bugs can't climb through that stuff."

I tried to breathe deeply, then lowered my voice. "I don't care about the bugs. Well, I do care about the bugs. But mostly I just care that THERE ARE PIECES OF COTTON BALLS IN THE SCREENS! Remove the screens this instant! We are taking them immediately to Sunrise Glass to get them replaced!"

It was at that point Ed looked sheepish. "I can't take them out," he said, eyes averted. "When I put them back, I got them mixed up and put them in the wrong windows. I got the left one stuck and now I can't get it out."

Well, that's just marvelous. How were we to explain this to prospective house buyers?
"And over here, we have beautiful bay windows...oh, look! It's snowing!"

Fortunately, Sunrise Glass sent someone over with window/screen experience, and he retrieved the screens effortlessly and took them in to be replaced. We picked them up in a couple of days, and Ed managed to insert them properly this time, thank goodness. I like swimming fishies, and I like soaring planets, but a cotton ball is not a screensaver I can live with!

Friday, July 21, 2006


Because Ed is a retired minister, we receive a subscription to The Circuit Rider, a magazine that deals with theological and practical issues of the United Methodist Church. Its most recent issue concentrates on the ritual of Communion, The Lord's Supper, or whatever term one wants to use. I was struck by one comment: "Use bread that looks like bread, preferably baked by members of the congregation, and in quantities that speak of grace, generosity, and the joy of a banquet."

When I was growing up, it was cracker pieces and grape juice. That representation gradually evolved into real loaves of bread. (But still with grape juice. We were Methodists, after all.) At one point Ed and I became Episcopalians for a while. During those years, we were given dry little wafers and real wine. I even served on the Altar Guild for a short time. The ladies there taught me how to use a sixth sense to figure out how many people to expect for Commuion the next day, so we could anticipate the correct number of wafers to leave out for the priest to bless. I think it was the highlight of the week for those faithful ladies when their guess came close to the actual number - kind of like using number-picking skills to win the lottery.

When Ed became a minister and we were assigned to various churches, we were thrust from receivers to givers, in that we had to make sure there was enough grape juice (back to the Methodist way) and bread or crackers to go around. You didn't want too much, but you didn't want too little. The Holy Meal was supposed to be a banquet, and who comes to a banquet with the idea of a limited quantity of food? Better to err on the side of abundance. Rationing at Communion was just not acceptable.

As a participant of Communion or any other meal, I am pleased when I see unlimited quantities of food. Not that I eat it all, of course. The fact is that I can't really eat a large quantity of food at one time. I hardly ever get my money's worth at a restaurant buffet, for instance. Still, it gives some degree of satisfaction to see the food there in abundance. Don't worry, folks - there's enough to go around.

As I was reading the Communion article, I thought about our new house, specifically how small it will be. Going from a 4000-square-foot house to a 1500-square-foot house will be quite an adjustment, and not just physically. Emotionally there is something freeing about the idea of abundance. Whether it be space, money, food, time - it means plenty. The Thanksgiving symbol of the cornucopia, the "horn of abundance," is so full of good things that it literally can't contain them and its contents spill out and over.

As I age, I am acutely aware that my abundance of time, though still allotted to me in 24-hour increments, is limited in years. Money is not as plentiful as in the past, and soon our space will be limited also. Certainly we don't use this huge Victorian house - that's why we are trying to sell it - but it has been nice to say to friends and family, "Come on up and visit. We have tons of room for everyone!" Abundance, more than enough, brings a sort of contentment, banishes worry (unless you worry about losing your abundance!), and most of all, allows you to share. For sharing abundance is the most fun of all, isn't it?

I guess this means there is a "down side" to "down size." But, as Ed reminds me, there is abundance and then there is abundance. The root word for abundance means overflowing. Maybe it's time to think in terms of abundance as less a condition of concrete things, and more a condition of abstract things. We will have less space, but we will still have the abundance of love of friends and family, the richness of our precious memories, the plentifulness of our gifts, the bounty of our dreams.

Gotta love that abundance. Pass the bread, please. I assure you, there's plenty to go around.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Something's fishy

Screensavers are intriguing. Even they are no longer technically necessary, we still use them.
On the helpful site how stuff works, they describe how the early screensavers were "designed to protect computer monitors from phosphor burn-in." Now that we no longer need them, why do we still use them? The site gives multiple reasons:

Here are the main reasons why:

  • Entertainment - The most common reason we use screensavers is for the fun of it. Watching that macaroni dance across the screen to the tune of "Hey Macarena" can be a great diversion for a few minutes.

  • Security - By setting up a screensaver with password protection, you can walk away from your computer and feel comfortable that nobody is going to be able to see any sensitive information.

  • Uniform look - Many companies require all employees to use a particular screensaver. This creates a uniform and perhaps aesthetic environment and ensures that no inappropriate screensavers are displayed.

  • Advertisement - Companies, particularly retail businesses, that have computers in areas accessible to customers will often have a screensaver that promotes their business or product.

  • Information - A lot of screensavers provide either static or real-time information. A screensaver may cycle through a series of trivia questions. Another may pull stock information from a Web site and stream it across the screen.

  • Distributed computing - Another form of screensaver takes advantage of your computer's inactivity to process data from another source. A good example of this type of screensaver is SETI@Home, which is currently utilized by thousands of computer users. This screensaver displays a graph of the radio spectrum and processes radio-signal information received from the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) servers. It sends back results based on the data processed. By using the combined processing power of all of these computers, SETI is significantly reducing the amount of time it takes to sift through all the signals received from its radio telescopes.
At work, I upload a few pictures from my home computer and cycle them, so I have maybe 5-6 recent pictures of my kids and spouses and Caroline and Charlotte circulating at any one time. Fine for work, but for home I had a little more difficulty. I asked the screensaver to go to my 16,000+ photos and choose pictures at random. It sounds feasible, but the "at random" part was a little too random. It had no sense of choosing appropriate pictures. Every one of the over 16,000 pictures was willing and able to pop itself on the screen. Not all were suitable. I'm not talking indecent, by the way. I'm talking aesthetically pleasing.

For the last few years, I have documented everything. I documented the porch being rebuilt, former co-workers whose names I cannot even remember, pictures of things I'd rather forget, other people's dogs, and photos of furniture I had for sale. I do not necessarily enjoy having such pictures as a desktop decoration, even for a few seconds. My screensaver program also had a way of trimming my good pictures, so that I had a headless person on the screen.

For all the above reasons, I figured it was time to get another screensaver. I perused my choices that are built into my iMac, but they didn't impress me at the time. I decided I would like to try an aquarium screensaver. What fun it would be to see fish swimming around! I'd have the enjoyment of an aquarium without the hassle. I asked Matt for help, and he steered me to a list of aquarium-themed screensavers made for Mac.

I downloaded one with 2 fish. Apparently, if you want more fish, you have to pay for the privilege, and I was using a limited free download. The whole thing was so cool - I chose the "depth" of the water and the method by which it entered the "tank." I could set my choice as to whether I wanted the fish to stay on the screen continuously, or whether I would allow them to move off the screen and come back on. Yes, I had the POWER! I chose all my settings, and as soon as I could see my 2 little fishes were swimming happily around the screen, I figured it was fine, and I left the room to do other things. Unbeknownst to me, the screensaver came with real aquarium sounds. And, apparently, I had forgotten to mention my new "toy" to Ed.

So Ed was in the kitchen at the sink, and when he turned the faucet off, he was alarmed to hear that water was still running somewhere. Oh, that's just great, he thought. We have a pipe busted - just what we need! So with trepidation, he quickly searched the house, finding nothing out of the ordinary. He finally went to the master bath, looked around, couldn't find anything amiss. He thought that I might have been filling the tub. He claimed the running water sound even confused the dog Babe (but that's his excuse for a lot of things: "Hey, Babe even was worried/scared/upset/excited too, just like me....").

Well, he finally traced the water sound to the computer, and there they were, my 2 new fishies, rolicking in the tank, figuratively speaking. Ed was none too pleased. He had been duped.

Of course, I thought it was hilarious.

Anyway, suffice it to say, the fishes have been terminated. I never did get to pay to download any of their colorful friends, either.

So, taking my cue from my journey to simplicity, I left the Internet and decided to use one of my built-in screensavers. It's outer space pictures - galaxies and such. Ed loves them. They are beautiful, and seeing the Milky Way reminds me that my nagging life problems are not so big after all.

I do miss my fishies, though. And I do enjoy freaking out Ed sometimes. Hmm...I wonder if someone sells downloadable asteroids?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

It's not my fault

I beat my little sister.
Oh yes, I swear it’s true.
I’ve tried to stop, but really,
It’s impossible to do.
I only beat her once a year,
So please give me a break.
It hurts me more than it does her,
It makes my heart just ache.
But beatings shall continue
Up until the day we die.
September means I’m one year older,
Hers is in July.
July precedes September,
Yes, it’s factually true.
But alas, the difference in our ages
Always will be 2.
I beat my sister age-wise.
I beat her every time.
She’s always 2 years younger.
She’s always in her prime.
Here’s to my little sister!
She’s 50 years today!
No matter how she ages,
I will always lead the way...


Friday, July 07, 2006

The Name Game

In an ongoing attempt to sell or give away what we don't need, I came across a set of videotapes about grand houses on English estates. There is a tape devoted to each house, and the names are quite engaging. Penhurst Place. (I like the alliteration.) Goodwood House. Broadlands. Breamore House. Stratfield Saye. Arundel Castle. (Finally, a house that admits its true identity. I think all the others are really castles and won't admit it. Kind of like the Bar Harbor mansions calling themselves "cottages.") Wilton. Sutton Place. Chartwell. Finally, one of my favorites - Uppark. (I read that as "You Park" and it sounds like a downtown garage in Bangor.)

It takes creativity to name a house, that's for sure. When we bought this house, we had lived in parsonages for 8 years, and the whole idea of owning our own home again was exciting. The fact that we bought the house and didn't move in for 1-1/2 years added to the mystery and intrigue. The house existed more in our memories and imaginations than it did in our daily lives.

I wanted to name it, of course.

My first thought was Snowflake House. The Victorian gingerbread, painted white, reminded me of snow, one of the reasons we were moving to New England. Something was lacking with that name, however. It never flowed easily off my tongue, as if every time I started to say it, I had to think for a moment what it actually was.

My next name was a good old English manor name - Addington. Now, that had a stately ring to it, didn't it? Addington. Of course, nothing could be so clear-cut in origin, and the reason I chose Addington was my assertion that "we were adding on to the house and it was costing a ton." Well, that didn't stick either, probably because I knew that every time I said the word, I would be reminding myself of all the expense, and who wants to be reminded of that? Anyway, as much as the house has been reduced to its cost and selling price in the last couple of years, I'm glad I ditched "Addington" because it degrades the house somewhat, carving its identity out of dollar signs.

We finally did agree on a name, though. It wasn't long after we moved in 10 years ago. The chosen name was short, succinct, full of significance, and came easily to the lips. We called it Home.