Thursday, June 30, 2011

Dancin' the Night Away

The Dancer and I had the first Mother/Daughter dance class that we have done in two years. And I enjoyed it just as much. Which is kind of bad, because I would like to find a place where I can take ballet as an adult, but not an adult who has been taking dance her entire life.

The Dancer has, as she told me, matured, so she understands better that Mom, who has not had years of ballet training and is not as young as she used to be, is not going to be a spectacular dancer. But we enjoy it.

I've certainly not been exercising as much as I could or should, but I must be in better shape than I was two years ago. I was not nearly as wiped out as I remember being before.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Circle Comes Back Around

The Musician is the one who made the choice for her current name on this blog to be: the Musician. I think she picked this name because the big extracurricular interest for her in high school at the moment is the high school marching and concert band. She enjoys being with her friends but she also does want to play her parts well.

I forget what made us get the Musician started taking piano lessons. I think it was because she wanted to take guitar, and honestly, Mr. BTEG and I felt that piano was a better choice to actually learn to read the notes and learn about scales and chords. I imagine we were open to her learning guitar but we wanted her to have a sound musical foundation first. She did well; she even performed in front of judges for a competition, which I thought was impressive considering she was only about seven or so.

Her piano teacher was also a former opera singer. The Musician sang the words as she played some of her piano pieces, and her teacher suggested she take voice lessons as well. She didn't do the voice lessons for long, but to my lay ears you can tell that she did have some training. She also picked up a few extra instruments and played around with them: a flute carved out of wood, a Scottish whistle, an Irish drum. She wasn't a prodigy; we never thought music would be her life, but she did show a musical bent.

So what happened next? Well, she didn't want to practice. I suppose we could have forced her to do so, but it seemed like a really good way to kill any little interest in music that she had left, and it would have been as much work or more for us to make her do it.

She still played around with instruments occasionally, inherited a student guitar from a friend of ours and picked up some chords. Fast forward to public school in eighth grade, when she decides she is interested in learning percussion. We didn't have an extra lot of money lying around, so we advised her to ask her music teacher (from whom she was taking general music) if he knew someone who could teach her percussion inexpensively. He suggested she join concert band and she did for the second half of the school year. She lacked experience but could still read music fairly well and picked up percussion quickly, leading her to being in pit in the marching band, and playing bells and similar in concert band.

Now a friend of ours, who has a musical background, has starting giving her voice lessons after hearing her sing in church. He will also be teaching her how to play the cornet. She borrowed that from a friend whose mother used to play it. She's also expressing interest in playing the organ, although goodness knows how she'd practice. She'll still never be a professional or anything, but her father and I are glad to see a deeper interest in music coming back. And that those piano lessons we paid for were worth something!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Selling Online

I like to surf eBay, checking out the sections that sell stuff that I am interested in. Sometimes I buy something if the price is right. Mostly I just look. I would really love to email some of these people privately and ask them why on earth they have their auctions set up the way that they do. I could probably create a book or a DVD on how to improve your online auctions, but since I'm a giver, I'll share a few tips for free.

1. Rotate your pictures to the correct view. It's really hard to get a good look at an item when it is sideways. I'm not sure what viewer I use to see my photos (hopefully Mr. BTEG will chime in here) but I can rotate pictures there easily. I think eBay even offers you an opportunity to rotate pictures while you are uploading them. Find a way to do this.
2. I am interested in dolls and things related to dolls, which means taking pictures of small things, preferably close up to get a better view. Seriously, if your digital camera doesn't have a macro feature, find someone who has one. Make friends with someone who has a camera with this feature, just because he has it. A blurry picture, or a picture taken from far enough away to keep the picture from being blurry, does not really display your item to its best advantage.
3. Pay attention to the lighting. A blurry picture is only better than a blurry picture taken in the shadows. Some people who sell big ticket items very seriously online, have a photo tent with lights placed at several angles, to get the absolute best effects. This isn't an necessity. Take your item to a window and use the light from that big thing in the sky with which God has blessed us. Use a bright light inside your home, or even two, if it's winter or whatever.
4. Be descriptive. Believe it or not, there are people who sell something like, say, doll furniture, where measurements are really important, who don't offer any measurements in the description. OTOH, if you are selling a well-known brand of doll, you don't really need to give the height of a doll. People generally know what size the goddess of pink plastic is.
5. Pick a good background. People really don't need or want to see everything on your kitchen counters, or all the assorted piles of papers and whatnot in your computer area. There has to be a blank wall somewhere in your home.
6. Pay attention to where your auction ends up. Every now and then I see an auction for a full-sized adult piece of furniture in the doll furniture section, or something similar. eBay does let you search for the right category by typing in keywords, but it is up to you to make sure your item is in the best category, or even the right category.
7. Don't throw stuff into your auction just because you want to get rid of it. I wonder about doll furniture auctions where a doll, sometimes a very obscure or ugly doll, is included with the furniture. Maybe some people say, hey, I'd like to buy a piece of doll furniture for which I have no doll that I could display with it. And I have no preference on what kind of doll I would like. I would imagine this doesn't apply to the majority.

I also have the observation that sales in the doll sections really seem to have decreased. Some items are still popular, and some are absolutely incomprehensible to me. I don't understand why people would pay up to $100 for an outfit for a Titanic doll, especially when there are multiples of the same outfit listed at the same time, and more being listed almost every day. But in general, things are just not selling. You can scroll through a page of almost 200 items where most of them have no interest. I wonder if the auctions for, say, practical items like kids' clothing have gone up as people are looking to save money there.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Saga Continues

Since I'm tired tonight, I will just give a quick update on the Air Conditioning Saga. It was determined that we need a whole new air conditioner. Air conditioner wouldn't even run; it tripped off the breaker every time instead. Fortunately, it has been fairly cool, although rainy, which means running around the house closing the windows when it rains. Good thing the weather has not been too unbearably hot, since the air conditioner is not scheduled to be replaced until July 7th.

Unfortunately, my skin has been unusually itchy. For a while I had some good heat rash going on, but that hasn't been so much of an issue the last few days. Since we're getting rain just about every day, the humidity is high, so I'm guessing it's some sort of outdoor allergy. I'm using cortisone sparingly and looking forward to closing the windows to see what happens.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Good, the Bad, the Not Really There Yet

Today was a difficult day. Some of it was due to... stuff that happens. Like the battery dying in our car, so that the Dancer and I missed her first summer jazz class and our first Mom/Daughter summer ballet class. The Musician not being careful enough with bleach, so my only wear-out-shirt now has bleach spots. But some of it was related to my old enemy, bipolar. It's a difficult line to walk. I'm not the kind of person to just go off her medication. It's not really any fun in the long run. Heck, since I tend to cycle rather quickly, it's not very fun in the short run, either. But the medication does not exactly make you normal. Some of the parts of you that were good can get lost on the medication, and you miss them. I'm going to have a chat with my psychiatrist and see if a change might help. At this point, I'm willing to try a little medication roulette if I can get back some of my energy and enthusiasm for life.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Do you all of you out there know what reborn dolls are? They are mass-produced dolls that are redone using paint (down to tiny veins,) rooted hair, and appropriate stuffing or filling to imitate an actual newborn baby. Magnets can be used to give the baby a pacifier. It's not my thing, but then most people would probably think I was strange for collecting dolls at all, so there you are. But tonight on eBay was a first for me: a reborn baby vampire doll. Creepy! Not to mention, how do vampires have babies anyway? Besides that whole Twilight thing which is probably at fault for a lot of this current vampire craze anyway. I suppose some people would like the sweetness and innocence of a baby combined with the darkness of a vampire--or they want to pretend they have Edward Cullen's love child. It just seems a little too ghoulish for me.

Our culture seems to be ever more fascinated with death, darkness and things that go bump in the night. It may be more of an issue to me because of my illness. If I am not careful, I can get pulled into the abyss easier than most. But thinking of the idea of "the culture of death" that some have thrown around, due to the acceptance, and in some cases encouragement, of abortion and euthanasia, I wonder. Non-Christians have every right to collect a doll created after the Death Tarot card, or be drawn to gloominess and cemeteries. Am I overreacting to wonder if our culture can wonder too far down the path into darkness? What do you see in your world?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hanging On to a LIttle

So. I got a lot of stuff about school out there yesterday. It seems kind of strange and disjointed, perhaps. All I can say is, the feelings homeschool moms have when they are told they are ruining their children or doing something wrong or whatnot? I have those feelings too, but in this case it is about my kids being indoctrinated and not getting to explore their own interests and not getting enough depth, and on and on. Mr. BTEG and I know that we are doing what is best for our family, so I don't exactly feel guilt. I just want to say that there is room, and use, for the basic public school idea. There are a lot of things that could be changed about schools, and I think the addition of charter schools and more freedom for homeschool would be great. But the large school really fits our needs at the moment. It doesn't have to stay "public;" it doesn't have to be the only game in town. But I'd like to see something similar stay around.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Thoughts on Schools

I've been mulling over this article by Zombie and accompanying pictures for quite a while. Taking your students out of school for a day to lobby for higher pay for you *cough*andsocialism*cough*? It's awful, and I absolutely believe it is true. I do see it as a bad sign for our country. I just don't see something this extreme happening outside of self-segregated leftist enclaves. YET. My daughter was in no higher than second grade when she informed us that there was now a camera on her school bus. We of course called the school district right away to find out what was going on and why we weren't informed. Is the Musician a little more apt to notice such things than the average kid? Yes. But with all the kids at that rally, aren't the odds high that there would be some child that came home and told mom and dad, "We went on a field trip today?" If the moms and dads weren't on board with this, it couldn't have happened.

I just keep coming back to personal responsibility. Mr. BTEG and I talk a lot to our daughters, not only about what they are learning in school, but about world events, what we watch on television, what we and they are interested in. We are also blessed that in our school district we do get to see most of what they are learning. The Musician can bring any of her school books home, and so can the Dancer. Projects the girls did were proudly displayed before being taken to school. The Dancer's school sent home piles of completed schoolwork. The Musician did find one of her teachers this year seemed to be a little leftist, but it barely came out during the course of the school year. Neither of the girls was ever told to tell her parents to support the local school levies. If they were told that, they would know we as parents make up our own minds about things. They do get the evolutionist line in their science classes, but they're going to get that everywhere even as adults. They're learning the valuable lesson that what adults tell them, even teachers, isn't always true.

Are there socialists at my daughters' schools? Probably. Are all of them socialists? I doubt it. What are the odds? Do I believe that everyone in this town is a socialist? Despite the fact that we are in a suburb of Cleveland, in some ways this really is like living in a small town. Lots of people who grew up here, stay here and have their own families here. Teachers live in our neighborhoods. Some of them are from prominent families in the area. We get to know them. One of the teachers at the high school has a daughter who takes a dance class with the Dancer. I was very shocked when I and another parent were talking about all the chaos done by the teachers' union in Wisconsin, and his reply was that Fox had just made all that up!! But I don't think he's a socialist. He's just an ill-informed man. Other Parent and I were very quick to inform him how good teachers currently have it. Tenure? Guaranteed yearly raises? Health insurance completely paid for? Retirement pay? Ha! Who in the private sector has seen those things in decades? But I got to have face-to-face communication with this teacher, and tell him where I stand. I doubt that the parents of those children at the rally get the same privilege. If they even want it. We do have to fight for schools that actually teach facts and useful knowledge instead of political mantras and slogans. But we aren't all hopelessly lost out here in public school land.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Something I Like to See

My town seems to really be stepping up and dealing with economic reality. Local teachers have agreed to a pay freeze, step freeze, and paying more for their health care. Police, firefighters, city council and the mayor are also not getting raises for the next year. I'm proud! How many of you or your loved ones have gotten raises any time recently? I don't even remember the last time Mr. BTEG saw a raise. It's difficult for everyone, but if our family's income is not increasing, I don't want to lose more out of our paychecks for local services. That makes sense, doesn't it?

Don't get me started on health care. I will say that I posted a while ago on how adults up to 26 years old will be able to be on their parents' policies. A teacher at our church, who works at a small parochial school, has now lost her health insurance for herself and her daughters because of this. The school cannot afford to pay for the extra people who would have to be covered, so they just dropped health care insurance altogether. We are really helping "the workers," "the little people," aren't we?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I Should Have Known

that the air conditioning issue was indeed going to turn into the Air Conditioning Saga. Repairman came out today, only to find that the unit is shot because it ran out of refrigerant at some point. It is recommended the whole thing be replaced. At least we don't have to pay for that! And speaking of paying for it, the HVAC company somehow managed to not have any records about our landlord, so I had to give the repairman our credit card number. Fortunately, that issue seems to have been resolved already, so we shouldn't even get charged.

The repairman was worried about how I was taking the news because my hands were shaking. I didn't realize it was always that obvious. They have shaken for as long as I can remember, because I remember kids in grade school making fun of me about it. (Everybody remembers what they got made fun of for in grade school!) I think low-ish blood pressure is the cause, although I don't think the medication I am on helps.

I was always a lot of fun when donating blood. I had to wiggle my feet and my toes to get the blood to flow at a reasonable rate. I haven't donated in ages, however. The last time I gave blood, I was completely babied; laid down the whole time, had my cookies and lemonade brought to me. (When you tell them that you passed out the time before, they tend to take it easy on you.) I was still sick for the rest of the day.

Repairman is supposed to come out tomorrow to do an estimate. I will give you updates as they occur!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Looking Around

I hope this doesn't turn into the Saga of the Air Conditioner, but there was a mix-up and we didn't have a repair guy come out today after all. Now we're looking at Wednesday, sooner if someone else cancels. Fortunately, the weather will not be too stifling in the meantime. Sadly, I wasn't feeling too well today, so I won't be posting anything very exciting until at least tomorrow. :) I hate not feeling well so often. It makes it worse when I compare myself to other people, because of course I look at the people who seem to accomplish everything and never have any problems. Then there are certain forums that I visit and I am reminded that everyone's life is not perfectly smooth all of the time. It's a constant go-round!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Cooling Off

I feel normal again today! Our air conditioning unit needs a cleaning/tune-up/whatever. The HVAC guy is finally coming out tomorrow. In the meantime, we've been suffering in the heat. It's amazing how much the high temperatures sapped not only my energy but my interest in anything. Mr. BTEG and I have been seriously depressed this week for no good reason; we can only attribute it to the heat. Today, the outdoor temperature was much more... temperate, and so I think I might make it, after all. I cannot even describe how awful this week has been; it was very surprising. After all, I survived hot summers as a kid, without air conditioning. I don't know what the difference is now, but I will be so happy to be able to have air conditioning back!

Monday, June 06, 2011

Slipping Away

Last week a member of Mr. BTEG's family passed away, and the funeral was on Saturday morning. This man was a first cousin of Mr. BTEG's father, although Mr. BTEG always referred to him as an uncle. This man was also Mr. BTEG's godfather. His death was sad, as death always is. But what made me particularly melancholy is what appears to me at the moment as a sad march through time. It seems not all that long ago that the older generation was passing on: Mr. BTEG's grandparents and others of that generation. Mr. BTEG's own father died relatively young, so he was out of the pattern. But now not only is more of that generation is being lost to us on earth, but we are losing connections and seeing our own mortality more clearly in the big picture of life. This uncle had four children, and they and my husband and sisters-in-law saw a lot of each other as children. It was a happy time when everybody was getting married and starting a life of their own. But that new life also brings new family and responsibilities that change family dynamics. My husband and his sisters weren't sure of all the names of the husbands and wives that had married into the family, not to mention the names of all the children and which children belonged to whom. Grandchildren are even starting to appear.

I thought of cousins and second cousins of my own with whom I enjoyed good times as a child, mostly at family functions. As I married and had my children, I wanted to keep up some of those relationships, and integrate my own family in. But most of these cousins I don't even keep in touch with anymore. Everybody has their own immediate family and their own commitments that involve so much time. I look at my wedding photos and think about how much I miss some of the people in them, and the relationships that we had. But that was when I was a young girl. Now I am a grown woman, and I am moving to the other end of the tier of relationships. I am happy to have my own children, and nieces and nephew, and so it goes.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Another Chapter Ended

The Evil Genius family took to the road this weekend after the death of a family member. Now we're home, and I'm tired, depressed, and thinking about more things than I can deal with. Hopefully my mood will improve tomorrow after a good night's sleep at home, and I will be better able to sort through the experiences of the weekend.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


Mr. BTEG, until recently, worked downtown. I would drop the Musician off at the high school, take Mr. BTEG to the nearby Park-N-Ride, then come home. In the mid-afternoon, I would pick the Musician up from high school. Then, about an hour and a half later, I would go get Mr. BTEG from the Park-N-Ride. I hated the way it broke up my day, and that I had to get up so early (for me, anyway.) But it wasn't until Mr. BTEG got a new job that is not downtown, and started driving our car to work, that I realized how much of a burden our schedule was on me. I feel much happier and freer, even without transportation during the day.

Of course, having one car presents its own difficulties. I'm going to have to drive Mr. BTEG into work and pick him up on the days when the girls have activities. But hey, Mr. BTEG is making more money, too, so we're hoping to pick up a pre-owned vehicle in the not-too distant future. And for what we're saving on bus fare, we can buy more than two tanks of gas. And I can be more productive at my own work here at home!