Friday, August 28, 2015

Our first week back at school

Over the summer Emily asked if she could buy blue dye and dye her hair blue.
She certainly was welcome to dye her hair blue,
just not by herself.

I like Laura's highlighted hair very much, and thought she could use a touch up,
(it's not the initial cost, my mother used to say, it's the upkeep!),
so I booked appointments with Jenny.

That's the backstory.

It takes so long that I made the appointments for two subsequent Thursday's.
Here we are at Laura's, a week ago.

She hoped I would drop her off and come back,
but I had my knitting and nothing better to do. 
I did sit out in the waiting area.

I think instructions are being given here:

I thought "You little minx, those are not roots Jenny is touching up.
This should be interesting!"

She is quite pleased, isn't she.

And was not even offended when I asked if we would be adding leopard spots next time.

Emily last night, same chair, but with her computer programming homework.

The redhead on the right in the mirror is Jenny.
She has red hair this week.

In order to have blue hair, Emily first had to have blond hair.
"And I always considered myself a blond!"
Still studying.

Blue dye applied.

Results last night, except the lights are so awful, we will not post until we have a decent picture tomorrow.

 Everyone at school was expecting blue hair.
They thought it would be home made, and expected the worst.
We must get senior pictures done soon.

This made me smile, too.
Laura has the family habit of keeping notes close at hand.
The school bells were on the fritz today, so she scheduled out the periods on her arm, so as to miss none.

I do not know why her hand is red, unless her ever present hand sanitizer pulled it from the inked on heart.
I know there is a heart because she is in love with a new boyfriend.
Not the same as last year, of course.
PS--her nails glow in the dark.

That's what we did this week at our house. I can't speak to the strength of the women or the handsomeness of the men, but I do believe the children are above average.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

There is no joy in Mudville, but the sun may shine tomorrow

My Rolodex at work.

Yes, I still use a Rolodex. Yes, I have two separate township email programs with a contact list and, wait for it, a calendar! I use a Rolodex. I bought this Rolodex twelve years ago, when I became township clerk. I covet the road super's Rolodex--it's round with a big knob. He's retiring December 31st, and I may get even with him by swapping Rolodexes.

There are twenty one cards before ABC. The first card is twelve years old. It has the township federal ID, its Duns number, the fax number I still have not memorized, the phone numbers to the Road Department and the Zoning Department because we do not have a central phone system. I checked that up once on the theory it would be more professional. But, we are grandfathered into some ancient contract at a third the price of a change, and that trumps "professional".

The first card was the only card preceding ABC for many years. Then, agency after agency began outsourcing its job--to me.

The twenty cards now between my "cheat sheet" first card and ABC contain the names of government entities I access online, weekly, monthly, quarterly, one annually. Some daily. All their web addresses are stored on the computer, and all the passwords, pins, and any other information I need to access the account are on the Rolodex cards.

So, twenty clerical jobs have been outsourced to me.

Some are easy peasy. Paying the federal withholdings takes me possibly five minutes, once a month, including confirming I actually intended to log out. Paying the state withholdings takes about ten minutes once a month. They cleverly hid a dozen or so minute "I confirm this is the action I want to take" boxes that must be found and checked in order to advance. Unlike the feds, they refuse to store the banking information, and it must be reentered each month. I don't understand their refusal. The feds blow off having gobs of data hacked; what's the state's problem.

Paying the local withholdings still has me asking What the Hell on every screen. I must prove I'm not a robot, just for openers. I can't get under fifteen minutes on filing this return. I won't walk you through the rest, the feds and their SAM and IPP and CCR (and I don't mean Credence Clearwater Revival), the Bureau of Workers' Comp and other twenty cards.

Back to the place I left yesterday, the young man who wants me filing and remitting OPERS electronically. I said to him "I will call tomorrow and we can set up the account and PAY the OPERS liability for August."

I called today, asked for the supervisor, told her about Eric's mush mouth and told her she could  walk me through setting up the account and making the payment. We set up the account. The instructions said an email was sent to the email address supplied; check it in order to proceed. The email said "In two or three days you will receive a temporary password in the US mail."

I did not drop an F bomb together with my true opinion of incompetence, and I cannot take it out on the grandkids, or go home and kick the dog or the cat, so the supervisor got cold, steel anger. "Eric said I could do this today and make the payment today." He didn't exactly say that, but he didn't disabuse me, either, and I was already loaded for bear. I repeated the sentence several times. She excused herself, and asked her supervisor, who said they could have a temporary password for me tomorrow.

Her sweet, well enunciated voice went on "But we can go ahead and set up your banking information today." I told her I was too angry to go on. "But we can still go ahead and set up...."

"Are you listening to me? I said I will call you tomorrow. Or not."

I'm thinking I'll just cut a paper check tomorrow. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

A grumpy day

The mail at work this morning included a refund of the last payroll withholding payment I made to the old collection agency (the village changed to a new collection agency on July 1st). It seems, on inquiry, that although our liability to the old agency went through June 30th, they could not “touch that check” because it was dated July 2nd. Though unable to “touch” it they did cash it, and refund the money six weeks later.

With the employee’s June tax withholding back in my hands and consequently late, I called the new collection agency, which I pay electronically. Make the payment for the proper period they said, send them a dozen pieces of paper to prove I made the original payment on time and ask for abatement of penalty and interest.  I did all that and made all the bookkeeping entries on the computer. It was time to go home; I turned off the computer, gathered up and was about to leave.

The phone rang. Now, an overly friendly employee of the state retirement agency was on the line. OPERS—Ohio Public Employee Retirement System. There has been on my desk for a month or so a letter from OPERS telling me my township is one of only two public employers in my county who do not file and pay electronically. Please call them to get instructions on how to do it.

I consider filing electronically to be the same as turning right on red. The law says I may, not that I must. Sadly, the electronic world has closed against me. Now I must. I must pay federal, state and local withholdings electronically. I must file my quarterly reports electronically. If not, there are penalties and interest charged against public money.

Sadly, nothing is uniform. Every payment is a different format, all defying description for stupidity. Gone the time of writing a check, completing a form and putting all in the mail for some highly trained person to input to their computer. Now I am some offshore clerk, doing the work for them.

OPERS remains voluntary, and represents my last stand. Except, I did not leave the building soon enough today, and found myself listening to a young man who did not listen to me. He spoke so fast and with such a teenage mush mouth that I repeated his talking points back to him to be sure I understood him. I told him over and over to slow down, speak up and for God’s sake, enunciate. To no avail.

When I asked what other public employer in my county did not file electronically, he would not tell. He told me there would be no more stamps and going to the post office. I replied I liked stamps and the post office. He bulled straight through to inform me filing electronically would be the easiest thing I ever did. Whereupon, dear reader, I lashed back. He has no knowledge of what I consider the easiest thing I ever did.

“Stop right there!”

I told him probably four times to shut up and listen to me. I told him I would call on Wednesday, when I must make the OPERS deposit, and learn how to set up the account and the electronic payment.

I did not tell him I would be transacting this piece of business with his supervisor, who would be informed of the young man’s inability to speak clearly.

On the way home from work I stopped at the bird seed store. Here is Rex, the lovely Westland White Highland terrier I’ve mentioned. From appearances, he was not having a good day, either.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Late summer color

Next year all my hanging baskets will be mandavilla
Yellow, pink, white and scarlet.
And one hibiscus.

Their blooms trail everywhere.

Lamb's gerbera daisy suddenly began blooming, just like last year.

The August lily hosta.

The foxglove's last stalk.

A patch of maple leaves.


The tree at the pond. Its leaves are covering the surface of the water.
The golf course grass is so brown.
Must be like playing through shredded wheat.

Purple finch.

 And, a picture not worth putting up, except I captured the finch in a tree.
They generally have gone before I find them, let alone focus.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Bird thoughts

I entertained philosophical musings this morning, sitting on the porch and watching the birds at the feeders. I added shelled sunflower seeds this summer, after the quarterly newsletter from the bird seed store extolled the “reduced litter” benefit of serving them without hulls.

Hulls aren’t a great deterrent to this bird feeder whose lawn would never grace a cover of Country Living magazine; the stuff on the ground feeds the squirrels, the chipmunks and the doves, and surely will eventually compost. I used only to serve safflower and niger all summer; the sunflower brought back the nuthatches, the woodpeckers, chickadees and occasional grosbeaks to use the feeders in summer.

At the birdseed store yesterday I bemoaned my inability to put up a suet feeder to be raided by squirrels, which already have enough on the ground. The store owner showed me the display of suet cakes, one of which included hot peppers.  

Bird taste receptors do not recognize hot peppers, he explained; squirrels do. “And, they’re quick learners,” he said, while his Westland White Highland terrier thumped his tail and beamed in agreement. I’ll add suet to the menu this winter.

So, I watched birds this morning while deciding where to hang the suet feeder in the fall. The store owner had remarked we feed the birds so we can watch them. I suppose there is a grain of truth in that, but little more. Feeding birds is expensive, a nuisance, a real chore in winter, and not much less trouble in summer, when I plant and maintain a whole smorgasbord  for birds, bees and butterflies.

Having planted the first Solomon’s seal and hung the first bird feeder, then planted more and hung more, I cannot stop. It would be like assuming responsibility for any animal, then abandoning it.  Since I cannot go backward, I go forward.

The oak tree full of feeders is too far from the porch for quick recognition of the birds, but I do enjoy the gold finch gold, the Cardinal scarlet, the purple finches. I like seeing nuthatches upside down on the feeders, goldfinches shoulder to shoulder on the niger feeder. I wonder why they are so peaceful, when the humming birds seem to expend all their energy arguing with each other.

So, I come back in, to weave a little this morning. This evening I’ll go back out. When it’s dusk and cool, the birds are a real joy. The oak tree is a muted song of bird twitters and cheeps as everyone settles in for the night. It’s a sound from my childhood, when my mother used to say it was time for bed; listen, all the birds are saying goodnight.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Also seen at the township, or, a lament on summer's end

All summer Emily and Laura have helped at the library on Tuesday and Thursdays, and walked from there to the Town Hall to wait for me to be done work.
School starts next week; visitors to the building soon will have empty windows.

Look who scored the Heidelberg shirt!

And her cousin's old boots.
Jackboots eat your hearts out.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

This just in from the township lime bin

I was not at work yesterday, and consequently missed seeing these snapdragons at their peak, said the road super, who pointed them out to me today.
We had plenty of rain all summer, but not a drop the last two weeks.

Snapdragons are perennials, but even so...
Wherever they blew in from, it seems the limestone pit represented the last best hope
before blowing away again this fall.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

An old story

Long ago, in the seventh decade of the last century, my daughters wanted their ears pierced. I asked our family doctor if he would do it, and the unequivocal answer, “If God wanted women to have holes in their ears they would be born with them.”

That was the exact attitude of my husband, too, and consequently my ears were not pierced until the week I told him I was divorcing him. Armed with alcohol, a large darning needle, ice cubes and a set of gold studs, I leaned against the bathroom sink and pierced my ears. The path through the right ear takes such a decided jog, I thought I would have the job professionally done for my daughters.

Male attitudes uncompromising, and ear piercing kiosks unheard of, each got their ears pierced by Dr. Mom. And so we went on for several years, until Beth announced she wanted a second set of ear piercings. Mall piercing kiosks were common then, but the age of majority was 21, and I denied her, reminding her that were I still married to her father, the first set of earrings would not have been, and I considered extra earrings rather vulgar.

We happened to be at a mall one time with my mother, and while I was on one errand, they wandered off. I wonder if my mom would have denied her first grandchild much; she certainly did not deny her permission for more earrings through her ears.  Beth’s smile of triumph when we met again was glorious, and I could only observe “Lovely new studs!”

Emily arrived with earrings through and through, and Laura had her ears pierced before her first birthday here, her eleventh. We had an awful time with her with infections because she would wear any piece of trash she scored from people she liked. Almost a year with no rings in her ears, except possibly in the dark of night before she went to bed, and a ruthless scouring of her earring collection, returned us to a normal family with two earringed children.

At the end of the last school year they appeared as one, with a carefully thought through plan: “Gramma, if we don’t have any birthday presents this year, could we get our ears pierced again?” It was only April or May, and their birthdays aren’t until December, so I smiled and said we would do it before school started in September.

The powers that be caught me unaware; school begins in a week. Time was short to get earrings in and relatively unbothersome. We went today. And, don’t be misled by the banner; piercings are only free with the purchase of earrings, which I doubt they will save to put in until their birthdays. Asked why they wanted more earrings: “They will be so cool, Gramma."

Miss Orange Nails thinks blue hair will be “so cool” too. Fortunately, I know an excellent hairdresser.

 For bravery.

Friday, August 7, 2015

We have met the colleges

Heidelberg, Founder's Hall through an Admissions Office window.

Heidelberg, a long shot across campus.

Heidelberg, another college building.

Heidelberg, outside the admissions building, with the bonus tee shirt.

Hiram, from the Admissions Office porch.

Hiram, Teachout Price building, a new addition nicely annexed to the old building.

 Hiram, Bowler Hall.

The bonus tee. We neglected to take the picture on campus.

 Hiram has more to say on the back.
I got a tee shirt, too.

Emily will apply to both,
but I believe she's already decided.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Promise to our new hibiscus

The red trailing begonia hanging by the steps was quite shabby after four months, so we went shopping and selected this bud laden hibiscus.

Last year I enthusiastically planted an hibiscus in my garden, and when it didn't reappear this year I did some belated research. Hibiscus don't survive below below 32 degrees.

All over town I'm seeing beautiful hibiscus blooming--out of the ground!
Perhaps they have hibiscus fairies dig them up and put them on a shelf all winter.

We promised this hibiscus it will sit on the laundry room shelf,
under a window,
all this winter.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Wisconsin drive-by

I came home Friday last, greeted my cat, went through the mail and turned the calendar page.  I am slammed by August; it will be one wild ride. Laura is in her band camp all week; Emily has marching band practice two nights, and we are visiting two colleges this week. Next week is equally crazy, including a day and a half trip with Linda for each of us to purchase weaving supplies. Then school starts—the upside of this craziness is the children will be out of school by the end of May.

Long ago I had a friend, an engineer, a Polish native. He and his wife emigrated via a trip over the Berlin Wall.  He loved the vastness of this country and delighted in showing the sights to visiting friends. He included the entire country in a week. The Statue of Liberty, the Golden Gate Bridge and back to Ohio via Baton Rouge. “We saw them,” he said. I called it the Stan Dombrowsky school of driving: “Go like hell until you come up on the guy ahead of you, pass him, do it over again.”  

The wind blew lightly all week, and all the crops moved in the wind.

Hay harvesting.

So my drive-by account of my Wisconsin visit to Ann is we drove over half of Wisconsin to visit old friends I’ve come to know in the twenty years Ann has lived there. The scenery was beautiful, the harvest is starting to come in. We visited new restaurants for lunch, and one old haunt. 

This is Perc Place in Hartford.
It is women owned and operated.
It has grown too big for its britches and is moving to a new accommodation next week.
Not to worry; it's just two doors down on Main Street.

It reminds me of another favorite restaurant, Lynn's Paradise Cafe in Louisville, Kentucky.
All the fittings seem to come from you grandmother's house.
Lynn's, sadly, is no longer in business.

The food is nice--wraps, panini, hummus, cucumber cream cheese--all the millennial stuff.

The hall to the ladies and gents has not changed in all these years

Alice down the rabbit hole (?) on one side,

Ladies gowns and hats on the other.

And on the inside:

Yes, that's my cane.

I wanted a peek in the gent's, but Ann would not stand guard.