Thursday, May 30, 2013

Music and Memories

I'm not one to live in the past, but sometimes a specific piece of music or an artist catapults you to a place and time. That can result in anything from a smile to wet eyes.

Some of my favorites that cause mental time travel:

GOOD VIBRATIONS by the Beach Boys: This was my first record - a 45. It brings me back to our house in Forbes Street in Rockville, MD in 1966. I was in 6th grade.

FIRE AND RAIN by James Taylor: Along with any song from his 1970 album Sweet Baby James, James Taylor's music was the soundtrack of my years at Magruder High School in Maryland.

SMOKE ON THE WATER by Deep Purple: This is the song that caused a stampede onto the dance floor at my senior prom in 1973.

COULD IT BE I'M FALLING IN LOVE by the Spinners: I fell in love for the first time to this song, ice skating at night on Northwestern's campus in Evanston, IL in 1973.

YOU COULD HAVE BEEN WITH ME by Sheena Easton: Always brings me back to the early days of my forever romance with Ron (circa 1983) in Dallas. The stereo is cranked up and we're wearing headphones and lying on the floor next to each other.

MARINA DEL REY by George Strait: Ron bought me my first CD player and George's first "best of" album when I lived in my townhouse (my first home of my own) in Coppell, TX in 1987. I had the most comfortable mauve velour sofa. It's OK, it was the 80's.

ONLY WANNA BE WITH YOU by Hootie and the Blowfish: When I hear this or any other song from  Cracked Rear View, it's 1996 and I'm floating in the pool at our house in Las Vegas.

CLARITY by John Mayer: The first song on one of the playlists on my iPod will always remind me of cocktail hour in the front room of our condo in Chicago (2008-2012), relaxing and enjoying the view of the neighborhood.

It's important to me to keep discovering and listening to new artists and musical releases. We need tunes to weave together our memories, and I'm not done with my life story.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Once Crossed

I’m a nice person. Friendly, helpful, caring – I have those attributes. Once crossed, however, the personality my mother nicknamed “Pepper Pot” takes over and all bets are off.

We are making plans to enhance our outdoor space at home with an expanded patio, a fire feature, and a spa. Talking Rock has certain design restrictions having to do with square footage and height of any improvements, to which we are adhering. Having a spa on our lot on the golf course is subject to approval by Harvard Investments, the developer of our community. At their request it’s been designed so that the portable spa will be in a sunken area with added landscaping to obscure it from view from the golf course. It will have a locking cover that meets industry safety standards.
Spa will be obscured by landscaping on the east (left) edge
of the back of the house, away from the "bad " neighbors.
To bolster our case for developer sign off, we were encouraged to obtain written approval of our plan from our two neighbors. Our good neighbors and friends to the east have already provided a letter. Heck, they may spend as much time on our patio and in our hot tub as we will – and they are welcome. The neighbors to the west; well, that’s another story.

Our bad neighbors (who come here rarely for brief visits) are objecting to our patio expansion on the grounds that it will impinge on their privacy.  To my amazement, they are also objecting to our spa, which they won’t even be able to see from their back patio. They think it’s “inappropriate”. It has been made clear that they feel there is no room for compromise.

Although neighbor approval wasn’t a requirement, now that we’ve asked and gotten a negative response we have an issue with Harvard. OK, neighbors.

Now I am challenged to make a case that overrides our neighbors concerns. The time has come to dust off my corporate executive hat, gather data, apply irrefutable logic, and go toe-to-toe to fight for what we want.

Here’s the plan:
> Complete the detailed design that shows property lines and distance from the neighbors’ homes.
> Take photos showing the sight lines from and to the neighbors, showing that their view is unaffected.
> Provide documentation on the decibel levels of the spa when the jets are in operation, and when it is in standby mode.
> Measure the distance from the neighbors patio to the spa area and calculate the decibel levels of the spa dissipated over that distance.
> Use a sound meter to measure current ambient noise levels in our backyards.
> Compare converted decibel levels to measured common ambient noise. Here that includes birds chirping, wind blowing, casual conversation, and golf carts driving by.
> Put together a presentation with all the data and obtain approval.

Game on.

Pepper Pot

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Five Years of Retirement Fun

Five years ago this week, we walked out of our Hilton offices to start our retirement. Within days, we moved from Memphis to Chicago and began to savor our new lives. Since then, everything has changed - for the better. We are endlessly grateful for how much joy has entered our lives. From Memphis to Chicago to Prescott, from hiking to golf, from Italy to Greece to England... What a wild ride so far! Thank you to everyone sharing this wonderful journey with us. It wouldn't be half as much fun without you.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Feels Like Home

While Ron and I were dining out last night, we were chatting with a man at the table next to us. He asked where we were from. When we hesitated and looked at each other, he said, “Where do you live now?” That, we could easily answer. As to where we are from… I grew up in Maryland, but am most recently from Chicago. We’ve also lived in Dallas, Las Vegas, and Memphis. Prescott, Arizona is home now.

"Home is Where the Heart Is”. If that’s true, I have multiple places to call Home, where I have strewn pieces of my heart. Home is a place you look forward to getting back to when you are away. Your pulse quickens when you fly over, or round a corner in the neighborhood. Thoughts linger there, replaying vivid memories.
Yes, Prescott is home now. Our house and our belongings are there. Our friends and community are there. But my heart still sings when I arrive in Chicago. I have history there, as does my father’s family. It’s where Ron and I started our retirement. I can walk through the neighborhood, past the block where my grandfather’s furrier store used to be. When I go to Wrigley Field, I think about Dad attending games there as a kid. I became an adult while attending Northwestern University in adjacent Evanston. I “get” Chicago, and I will always love it in a visceral way.

Mom’s home in Manchester, New Hampshire is also my home. The knotty pine paneling, the jays cawing in the trees, and the tiny, homey kitchen – all Home. Mom’s grandfather, parents, and brother built the house with love, and it oozes from every seam. I’m always happy there.

Ron’s family recently sold the farm and home place in Melvin, Illinois. We haven’t been back since. It felt like Home and an emotional touchstone for years. There are generations of history there, and so many memories of family gatherings. It was hard to let go. The feeling of home-ness in Melvin will fade over time, because we don’t belong there any longer.

Everyone should have at least one place to call Home. If you have more, you are blessed.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Basic Facebook Safety & Privacy Tips

I admit it; I'm a Facebook fan. It has been a great tool for me to keep in touch with far-flung friends since I joined four years ago. Of course it's not perfect. Facebook annoys with sponsored postings and ads, but hey, this is how they keep the service free. I have a highly developed ability to ignore what doesn't interest me. On the positive side, it has helped me stay close with friends and reconnect with so many dear people, and I am thankful for what Facebook has to offer.

I'm not an expert - but there are a few really important basics users should understand before getting too involved with Facebook and it's allure:

  1. LOCK DOWN PRIVACY SETTINGS: Click on the lock icon on the blue task bar at the top of the Facebook screen. "Who can see my stuff?" should be set to "Friends". Unless you are a public figure courting a following, the Public should not be able to see your Facebook postings.
  2. SECURE BROWSING: Click on the little wheel icon on the blue task bar at the top of the Facebook screen. Select "Account Settings". Now, in the column on the left, select "Security" and activate secure browsing. You will see that your URL now begins with "https" instead of "http". Activating this feature greatly reduces the possibility that your Facebook account will be hacked.
  3. CONTROL WHO CAN CONTACT YOU: Facebook facilitates other Facebook users sending you private messages and/or inviting you to connect as a Friend. Click on the lock icon, and then "Who can contact me?" I have mine set to "Basic filtering", but you can be more restrictive by selecting "Strict filtering". Only my Friends can see my email and telephone number. "Who can send me friend requests?" can be set to "Everyone" or "Friends of Friends". I have mine set to Everyone, which has allowed some long lost friends to find and contact me. You can always ignore a Friend Request and even block an undesirable person if you receive stray, random requests from strangers. It happens; don't freak out.
BE AWARE that Facebook can be an intrusive little bugger. If you are logged into Facebook and have another window open to browse the Internet, Facebook reads your cookies (a trail of where you have been on the Internet), and will display advertising content consistent with your implied interests. This is a little creepy.

BE SELECTIVE about pages you "Like". You are opening the door to more postings and advertisements on your Wall. That's not always bad. You can be kept up to date by neighborhood organizations, your favorite band, politicians, etc. I welcome ads for golf products and travel packages that I see because I "Like" Golf. But too much can be too much. You can always "Unlike" a page if it's postings are useless and annoying.

BE CAREFUL about signing up for other applications from Facebook, including games! If you read the Terms & Conditions for use of these fun and convenient apps, you will see that most of them require you to agree to share not only your Facebook data, but your Friends as well! Sorry, Friends, that's why I don't accept your invitations to play online games through Facebook.

Enjoy Facebook with discretion. If you haven't already, go check your Privacy and Account settings. My friends are welcome to contact me for assistance if needed.