Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Grand Car Parade Part 2

Naive idiot that I am, I thought that getting a car loan would be no big deal. After all, they give car loans to people with terrible credit all the time. My credit is excellent, and I have a large down payment, so I shouldn't have any trouble at all. Right? Ha, ha, little did I know.

We sat down with the loan officer; put all the pertinent numbers into her computer --- and --- red box. What's red box? That's when there's a problem. It seems that while I have excellent credit (fantastic credit even if I do say so myself) I have an unacceptable debt to earnings ratio. This means that, in their opinion, most of my paycheck goes to servicing debts. I was more than a little shocked at this because it is patently false. However, she soon explained that the entire house mortgage was being "held against me" as my personal debt. That, in combination to my student loan, is enough to put me in the red category. I argued that since M was equally on the mortgage maybe they should only assign 50% of the value to me. They countered that if something "happened" to him I would be responsible for the whole thing. I admitted that was true, but mentioned that we have mortgage insurance, so that is not a concern. They basically said that they don't care. They suggested I get a co-signer. Through extreme effort I remained civil.

I will NOT be getting a co-signer. I find that idea so offensive not because I don't trust M*, but because I can't stand the idea that I can't do this on my own. The purpose of a co-signer is to secure a loan for a person who, for whatever reason, can't be trusted to pay back the loan. I have the money for a large down, I have the good credit (I even qualified for the lowest interest rate), and I have a stable paycheck, but that isn't good enough. This seems (to me at least) to be proof once again that unmarried couples are discriminated against on a regular basis.

The end result of all of this, besides my impotent rage of course, is that I will not be getting a car loan. I've never liked paying interest anyway, so I just decided to use what I have and get a slightly less glamorous car. It may mean an older model or a few more miles on the clock, but at least I won't have a monthly car payment. It also means that I get the satisfaction of knowing that I am standing on my own two feet (if you know what I mean), and that I didn't need my daddy or my brother or my boyfriend to help me do it**.

* I trust M implicitly or I wouldn't have bought a house with him. He has been nothing but kind and helpful in all of this, and he spoils me and looks after me all the time. However, a girl has to make some attempt to look after herself!

** All four of those men are dear, sweet people. I know they would cheerfully dig me out of any tough situation, and I am very lucky for that. Nevertheless, I try to slay my own dragons whenever possible.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Grand Car Parade Part 1

Have you ever seen that Ikea commercial for lamps? You see the whole thing from the perspective of a lamp. It gets set out on the corner and then watches through the window as the people get and enjoy a new lamp from Ikea. Suddenly the sad music stops, and the manager of Ikea comes in to say "It's yust a lamp. Go ahead and get a new one." It's a very funny commercial, and they could have made it about me and my current car. I really need to make myself realize that it's "yust" a car.

I've been reluctantly, sorrowfully hunting for a new car for the past few months. I do NOT want to get ride of my beautiful, sporty little car. However, reality is knocking in a way that can no longer be ignored. The car is nearing twenty years old, it is no longer reliable, it is not at all well-suited to ice and snow, and it can only carry two people. In short, I need a new car, I must get a new car, but that doesn't mean I'm happy about it.

My car hunting took me to a huge dealership with thousands of cars to choose from. M came along as I test drove a Toyota Matrix with only 23k and All Wheel Drive. It was a nice car, but they wanted far more than I was willing to spend. We also had a quick look at the Subaru dealership, but there was nothing much to tempt me there. In the end I decided that I liked the Matrix, but I wanted one with a few more miles so it would be cheaper. Thus mostly decided (although still fantasizing about something with more pizzazz) I went off to the bank to request an auto loan. I thought this would be no big deal which certainly shows what I know. More soon.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Snowshoeing with The Kid

As I mentioned in the last post, I picked up Big Niece on Friday evening. Our first stop was REI to pick out new boots and snow clothes. REI is just about the only store, other than bookstores, that Big Niece actually likes to visit. Most stores are sources of terrible torment for her because she HATES shopping for almost anything. However, REI is cool enough to overcome her aversion.

First we had to rent the snowshoes that she would use the next day. She found this interesting, and she became very excited when they brought out the kid shoes because they were orange! I wish I could get that excited about my favorite color. Next we headed upstairs to the hiking boots (you need good ones for snowshoeing), and we found a pair of lace-up, ankle-high ones in, get this, blue and orange! The thrill continues! Next came a pair of fleece socks (doggie print), a hat (blue), gloves (she was very offended that they were toddler-sized, but they fit so well she couldn't argue), convertible hiking pants (how cool is that! They zip off and become SHORTS!), and lastly a pair of gaiters to keep the snow out of her boots. Luckily most of the pieces were on sale, so we got the whole ensemble for less than the price of a coat. I offered to take it all to the car before we went on, but she wanted to carry the shoe box with her.

The next morning she was up at 7:30 (surprising because she's not usually a morning person at all) and raring to go. We kitted her out, tried to feed her some breakfast, and set off with a few of our friends towards the pass. We arrived there around 11am, and after a quick bathroom break we were on the trail. Then we hit our snag. About 3/4 of the way up the hill Big Niece was "Not having a fun time!"

She was hot, coughing a little, and even sort of tearful. I took off her hat and coat (she had many layers) and told her that we could go back to the car and wait for everyone else if she wanted. "No! I do not want to go back!" she said, so we continued on the trail at a slower pace. Soon after, we turned off the main road and onto a side trail that ran along the hillside. We also stopped and had a brief chocolate break. The combination did wonders for her spirits, and she informed me that "I'm having more fun now." After that we were golden.

She led the way for much of the rest of the trip. The pace she set was quite a good one, and I am still not sure what made her so unhappy at the beginning. Scrambling to the tops of little hills became a game with her. We at lunch on top of a tall snow drift, and made jokes about our bottoms freezing to the ground. We finished up with a little saucering near the car. When I asked her if she wanted to go again another time she said 'yes, but next time we should do a new trail so we can see new scenery." By the time we got back to town she was too tired to talk or even eat much dinner, but I can hardly blame her after having worked so hard. She really is a trooper, and we'll certainly take her again. After all, when you have that much cool orange snow gear you just have to make use of it.

Friday, January 26, 2007


I picked Big Niece up this afternoon, and we went shopping for hiking boots (more on that later) and then out to dinner. She's been in a very good, but very funny mood. When we got home this evening she saw a cardinal-shaped candle (left over from the holidays I swear! I don't normally have candles shaped like anything other than candles) and she said something that struck me as very funny. "So I see you're a bird! But you're not a real bird! Good luck with that!" Keep in mind that I was in another room and she was speaking only for the benefit of the little wax figurine. She's definitely one of us.

The Curse of the Golden Flower

The American movie market is begining to look to China for regular infusions of gorgeous, low plot, period, action epics. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was the first for many people, but there have been others both before and after that made a significant impact. Chou Yun Fat is a staple now, and even Gong Li is becoming well-known. Both appear in Curse of the Golden Flower which perfectly fits into the genre.

Based on a sort of morality tale plot, "Curse" is meant to be cinematically lovely, and in this it delivers. Costuming is rich and vibrant, an impressive number of corsetted bosoms heave, and the scenes are artfully strewn with meaningful images (fluttering banners, sprays of water or blood, seas of flowers). I did NOT care for some of the shocking and unlikely colors used on the interior of the palace, but that's just me. The plot was the thing that bothered me the most. It reminded me strongly of a Shakespearean story, and I think it would have been perfect to stay that way. However, the twist at the end left me cold (I won't ruin it for you by telling though). I think I would have enjoyed myself more if they hadn't bothered to subtitle. Then I could have enjoyed the visuals without the interuption of the plot.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Three Novel Cure

Over the weekend I broke down and took the three novel cure. That is, I did not much besides read three novels and drink hot sweet herbal tisanes (so as not to offend R by calling them "tea"). The cure worked wonders, and today I am feeling ever so much better. There is really something great about just feeling normal after being sick. The one good part was that I got a chunk into my omnipresent reading pile. I always have my stack of YA books so I can keep up with the kids, and also my stack of just plain good reads. I stuck with the light and humorous for the cure.

Novel #1 The College Of Magics by Caroline Stevermer

What a sweet little fantasy story! Nothing big-brained or deep here, but an interesting twist on alternative history. The short description would be that an heir to the duchy of Galazon (not very imaginative I admit) is sent to a finishing school that also happens to teach witchcraft. Much adventure ensues. There seem to be a growing number of fantasy books set in either the Regency, Victorian, or Edwardian periods in Europe. They try to preserve the feel of the era, but then weave in magic as just another skills that proper young ladies might learn. There is supposed to be a sequel called Scholar of Magics as well.

Novel #2 The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones

Jones is such a strong author that I read pretty much anything she puts out. Her adult attempts (A Sudden Wild Magic and Deep Secret) are great if you like fantasy, and her childrens' books are edgy and fun. Her Chrestomanci series is quite popular. This is the 8th installment. The world of the Chrestomanci is quite complicated, but it is based in the idea that there are many alternate realities and they are all slightly different. A person with the right combination of circumstances can travel between these worlds, and can even collect the unused lives and magic of people who died at birth. One of Jones' greatest strengths is the way she makes the young characters seem very round and real in a way that really appeals to young readers.

Novel #3: A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

Christopher Moore is one of those very unusual authors. He has such an off-beat sense of humor that he sometimes puts people off. However, he really is very funny, and his books have a wonderful unexpected quality. Short version: Charlie Asher is the ultimate beta-male, so he is very disturbed to suddenly discover that he is a "Soul Merchant" for the dead. Add to that the huge crows yelling insults from the sewer and the four hundred pound hellhounds protecting his infant daughter, and you have one very unusual book. A rollicking good time as they say. Minty Fresh, a character from some of Moore's other novels, also appears in this book.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Home Sick

I cannot believe we finally get a whole day back to school, and what happens? I get sick! I actually had to have a sub today so I could stay home and sniffle. What a huge waste of time! I am always a very grumpy sick person because it annoys me so much to be incapacitated. M just looks pale and stoic, but I turn red and raw and complain all the time. The only bright side I can see is that it's Friday and I should be recovered in time for work on Monday.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I Shouldn't Be Allowed in Public!

Last weekend I was with M at a Starbucks. We were patiently waiting for our drinks along with a small ground of other caffeine hounds. While twiddling our thumbs we noticed a bucket filled with bags of used coffee grounds. Starbucks gives grounds away for free so people can use them as garden fertilizer. M jokingly suggested that we could also save money by using the grounds to make our own fire logs (one of my favorite brands of fire log is made from grounds). I replied "yes, but we'd have to find a way to impregnate them with paraffin first." This was a "throw away" conversation only meant to amuse us while we waited. However, the woman standing in front of us with child took it very seriously. The moment I said "impregnated" her head snapped around as if it were a weathervane. She spent the next couple of minutes staring daggers at me until her coffee finally arrived and she was able to flee from the social misfit. I love being shocking without even trying.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

200th Post

It seems like I was just writing the 100th post message. I'm glad you're still with me through all the odds and ends that get stuffed into this little blog. I promise to complain less, and to try and edit more carefully in future posts.

The melt is finally on for this snow storm! We got up to 42 degrees today, and it really did feel balmy by comparison. You can hear the water in the storm drains, and today I was very excited to see actual pavement in the road outside our house. Maybe one of these days I will actually get to drive myself to work again. M has been terribly kind to take me everywhere, but I am beginning to feel like a child. Daaaaaaaaad, will you drive me to work please?! Bring on the warmth!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Key Word Analysis

When I first began with this blog the only people who EVER read it were the family and friends who got a link. However, as I continue and the archive grows, I am getting more and more hits from "outsiders". How these people end up at my blog amazes me. They search for things completely unrelated to my entry, but then click on it anyway because, well, who really knows. Some of these are one off oddities such as "Pale Baby", but others such as "pfefferneuse" are repeated time and again. Anyway, I have decided to directly answer some of these queries for amusement value and such. I know this makes me a geek as well as a nerd, and I blame my various geeky friends and family for corrupting me. More to come.

Why Cucumbers are Spiky

Keyword analysis entry #4

As far as I know, cucumbers are spiky because this helps to prevent the cuke from being eaten by hungry beasties. Some people are not aware that cukes even have spikes because they are only familiar with the grocery store variety. Most grocery store cucumbers are "tumbled" after picking to remove the spikes. Many are also waxed with an edible (at least reasonably) food wax to give them that lovely gloss. Another possibility for spike-free cukes is finding one of those varieties that has the spikes bred out. This is contrary to cucumber nature, but then again, so are a lot of things.

Classic Phefferneuse Recipe

Keyword analysis answer #3

There are many ways to make this classic German cookie, but this is one of my favorite. I do not hold with anise in this cookie, so I was glad to discover a recipe without.

Phefferneuse/Pfeffernusse Recipe
3 cups all purpose white flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
pinch white pepper (this may sound odd, but please don't leave it out)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
pinch ground cardamom
1/2 cup chopped candied lemon peel (optional but very nice)
1/2 sliced almonds (or almond flour is easier if you can get it)
3 large eggs
1 cup powdered sugar
1 apple slice (not in the recipe, but used later)
1 cup granualated sugar
Grind the almonds to a powder (coffee grinder or blender work). In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, spices, baking powder, and salt. In a mixing bowl beat pour the gran. sugar. Add eggs, lemon peel, and almond powder and blend. Gradually add flour and incorporate. Refrigerate for one hour or more. Dough may be dry and even a little crumbly. Roll out dough onto floured surface to 1/4 inch thick. Tradition is 1 inch round cookie cutters, but do what pleases you. Bake for 15 minutes in a pre-heated 350 degree oven. When cookies are completely cooled put them in a plastic ziplock with the powdered sugar and shake gently to coat. Store in an airtight container with the apple slice. The cookies are best after two weeks of "ripening" time.

Water Leak in your Mazda RX-7 Convertible

Answer #2 in the keyword analysis entries.

When my RX-7 was leaking inside the car without any visible source I searched and searched online for an answer. I could not find anything even close to helpful. Maybe this will save someone else some trouble.

Mazda RX-7 convertibles have excellent tops in that they do not tend to crack or leak. However, the shape of the top does necessitate a series of drains to move water off the top and to the ground without pooling in any unfortunate places. This means that your RX-7 has a little well on either side just behind the door. Each well leads to a small tube that allows the water to drain safely just under the car. If you park your car under trees or you let the car get very dirty these tubes can become clogged. Clogged tubes leads to water backing up the wells and pouring into the seatbelt assembly. This leads to a mysterious pool of water behind your seat. Luckily the cleaning of these tubes is reasonably cheap (about $200). Don't let them convince you to go in for dry-cleaning the carpets. I had only the slightest damp smell and even that is now gone.

So Your Baby is Pale

This is post number one in my keyword analysis answers.

If your baby is pale often or all the time it seems to me that there are three likely causes:

A) (S)he is just naturally pale. Is (s)he by chance a redhead? Does pale skin run in your family? Are you living in a underground bunker by chance? Are you a family of naked mole rats?

B) (S)he is anemic. This means that (s)he does not have enough iron in her blood, or that (s)he is unable to process it properly.

C) (S)he has breathing problems. In this case the paleness would probably be on the blue end of the spectrum.

These are, of course, just guesses, and I am emphatically not a doctor. Perhaps you should go and see one instead of visiting my silly blog. I don't mean to be insensitive, but this is your baby we're talking about here.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

How the Other Half Shivers

We just got home from Seattle proper, and now I see why so many people don't seem to be treating the snow and ice as a very bid deal. It turns out that large swaths of lower (as in elevation) Seattle don't really have much in the way of accumulation. Actually, downtown Seattle seems to have virtually NO accumulation worth mentioning. The combination of weather patters, de-icing agents, and lots of traffic means that all they have is a lot of cold air. Even portions of the east side seem pretty moderate compared to us up here in the foothills (okay, I'm not sure if we are "officially" foothills, but we definitely have the elevation).

Our local roads are still COVERED in ice, and we still have at least three inches of fluffy white snow still in our back yard. Just walking around our neighborhood requires intense concentration or extra equipment or both. The latest weather predictions are saying more snow possible, and no real warming until Tuesday or Wednesday. Plus, get this, they are predicting a NEW ROUND OF SNOW for Friday! I think this year we will just take January and February as our vacation months instead of July and August. That whole "summer" vacation thing is just an arbitrary tradition anyway.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Snow! Beautiful Snow!

Okay, okay, I know I said I was worried about the days added to the end of the school year. With today off and tomorrow likely, that means we will be in school until July 1st. That is, without question, not cool. However, I must confess that when the snow started falling last night I was still ecstatic to see it.

We got a little over four inches here last night, and I went for a walk during the thickest showers. My little PNW brain is still amazed by falling snow. It's mesmerizing, and it's such a strange feeling to be in the middle of a downpour and still have it be completely silent. The neighborhood looked like a Currier and Ives picture with all the trees and yards covered in a white blanket.

Today the blanket remains and the temperature continues to stay low. The sun is beginning to come out though, so we may get a little bit of melting this afternoon. If the predictors are correct we will have lows in the teens tonight, so that beautiful snow may turn to ice by tomorrow. Perhaps I will break out the snowshoes before that happens!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Pins and Needles

The principal sent out an email yesterday afternoon urging everyone to take work home because he thought we would be out the rest of the week. The weather reports were all warning about systems from Alaska, high winds, and 2-5 inches of snow. The kids were completely wired because they were SURE we would have at least one snow day. Now it seems that Mother Nature may have fooled everyone.

This morning when I got up it was 32 and it was snowing, but not enough to cancel school. In fact it was not even enough for a delayed start. The kids are feeling cruelly disappointed. Some are still holding out hope that there might be snow yet, but there are no guarantees. I can already tell that this is going to be one of those days when we check the temperature and look at the sky all day long. For my part, I would rather skip the snow days because if we have any more of them we'll be in school until July. Instead of snow, I am envisioning classrooms full of kids wilting from the summer heat.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The City of Ember

What a great little book! I've been meaning to blog about it ever since we got back from NYC. This book is meant for the YA audience, so it was the perfect thing to take on a trip. Call me shallow, but I find it hard to concentrate on meatier stuff when I'm enduring the discomforts of a plane ride. This book was the perfect combination of interesting, entertaining, and thought-provoking without being too dense.

The City of Ember (no I'm not getting Amazon kick-backs) is the story of a small underground city lit by electric lights, but otherwise lost in a void of blackness. The city is meant to be a comfortable refuge for its people, but it soon becomes clear that life is getting harder and harder as the years go by. The primary means of support for the city is the massive generator and the huge stockpile of canned food and other essentials. Little by little the generator is giving out and the supplies are being depleted. People try to get by through recycling, repairing, and reusing everything, but this becomes more and more difficult. Most frightening of all are the sudden blackouts that occur when the generator fails. The people desperately try to repair the crumbling city, but it soon becomes clear to some that it cannot be fixed. The search for the origin of the city and a way to save its people is on.

This book is, by no means, perfect. The embedded puzzle is a bit silly, and you do have to wonder why the people are so good at some things while being so incredibly stupid about others. The villains are pretty weak as well (in fact I think she should have left out the villains all together and made time and darkness the only enemies). However, the over all story is quite well worth the read. Especially if you are planning on a few hours in an airplane seat.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Happy Birthday Little Brother!

My little baby brother is 25 years old today! Who would ever have imagined that the noisy pink blob would turn out to be a smart and handsome giant. I guess you really can't judge a baby by his grunting. It really does seem like only last week that we were building model houses and setting fire to them. How quickly time flies. Happy birthday J; you're the best of the best.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Hanukah Storm 2006 Part 4: What I've Learned

We are now a few weeks out from the storm and power outage, and I'm really hoping we won't have another experience like that one any time soon. However, with the weather being what it is these days (highly unpredictable) you just never know. While I would not say we were exactly unprepared for the Hanukah storm, I feel like there are many places where we could have done better.

First of all, most of the preparedness people tell you to have a three day supply. Three days worth of water, three days worth of food, three days worth of everything else you will need to get by. However, during this event many people were without power for a heck of a lot more than three days. Not know how long you might be without power was a major problem for many people. Without even an estimate people could not ration things properly. Do I burn a nice big fire now and assume my wood only needs to last a few days? Or do I let the fire go out during the day to conserve fuel? Therefore, my first goal is to have at least a week (or even ten days) of all the essentials.

Second, I need to buy real firewood and not just the fake stuff. Presto logs are fine for making a cheerful glow, but they do NOTHING to actually heat the house. This summer I am going to buy a whole cord of seasoned firewood, and it will not be fir which burns too quickly. I'm thinking maple or spruce might be good. I get the feeling there might be a lot of firewood for sale in the next year or two.

Third, I'm buying a battery-powered or crank radio. I know, I know I should have had one already. It was such a weird feeling to be completely cut off from information. The only way to hear the news was to drive somewhere, and we didn't want to do that too often for fear of running out of gas. A radio would also let us know if more interesting weather was about to come along, and it might also help with estimating how long the power would be out.

Forth, I'm buying three or four more hot water bottles. I know this may sound strange, but since we have a gas water heater this is one source of heat even when the power goes out. I didn't remember about this until our last cold night, but a couple of hot water bottles in your bed will keep you happy for a few hours.

Fifth, I'm becoming The Candle Queen. It's not that we were in danger of running out of candles, in fact we had a good number, but I want enough to have actual light. If you sit in front of the fire with your one little tea light you can't see well enough to do anything, and you might as well just go to bed even though it's only 5:00pm. If, on the other hand, you have five or six nice tapers burning then you can actually read for a little while or play cards (I need more of those too) or do the dishes in comparative comfort. I like the Trader Joe's dripless tapers. Two bucks for half a dozen, and they DO NOT make the kind of mess that you get from emergency candles. Another note, scented candles are nice in a normal setting, but when you are burning several at once it can be a little overwhelming.

Sixth, I need to work out a better way to cook during black outs. We do not have a gas stove, so this is our biggest challenge. The fireplace produces some heat, and you can wrap things in foil and throw them in, but you can't boil water to save your life (when it's 48 degrees in your house a cup of tea IS a question of life or death!). M was very clever about using the alcohol burner on the fondue pot (okay for indoor use!) but it is very slow and the fuel runs out quickly. He also used a camp stove and the BBQ grill outside, but if it had been raining or snowing this would not have worked. Maybe we could work out some sort of hook in the fireplace? Must think on this one.

Okay, I think that covers it. Before I go shopping did I forget anything important? I always try to be prepared, but sometimes it's hard to know what you might be forgetting. What was that wonderful Rumsfeld quote? "You've got your know knows..."

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Congratulations to my old friend, B, and her husband on the birth of their twins! That must have been the most eventful Christmas gift ever. Congratulations also to big brother T and Grandma L. Happy birthday to little April and Logan.

Monday, January 01, 2007

2007 New Year's Resolutions Part 2

Happy New Year! Did you stay up late last night to count down the seconds? Or did you wake up this morning to a completely new year? Either way, let's hope that this is a good one for all. A recent study shows that most Americans thought 2006 was a pretty bad year for the country and the world (Iraq, global warming, Darfur, etc). However, it also showed that most people expect things to change for the better in 2007. It is my fervent wish that this would be true. Personally I've been pretty lucky in 2006. However, I wouldn't mind a really fantastic 2007 either.

As to resolutions, I've combined the U.S. government suggestions (the ones that apply to me anyway) with the sort of left overs from last year's list. I've also tried to be specific and concrete because that is supposed to help you actually keep your goals. Granted, there are a few that are a bit vague, but I will just have to do my best. In 2007 I resolve to:

1. Be fit by going to the gym (or outdoor exercise) at least twice and preferably three times a week.

2. Eat well by consuming no more than 10 grams of saturated fat per day (doctor’s plan).

3. Relax by distracting my brain when it latches onto a pointless worry and goes round and round and round and...

4. Go on a vacation (hey it was their idea, but I'm all for it!) for at least two weeks.

5. Give more to charity by choosing a new one every month.

6. Make more connections with people by really listening carefully to what they say. No glazing over just because the topic isn't my favorite.

7. Spend time every week on curriculum planning. Stay at least two weeks and preferably four weeks ahead of the kids. Do not allow the class to get behind schedule.

8. Create a better filing system for papers both at work and at home. Be more organized and proactive about papers so they don't create teetering piles of shame.

9. Be less judgmental and give people the benefit of the doubt more often (this is especially true at work).

10. Stop and think how lucky I am to have M, great friends and family, good health, a good job, and a comfortable (and electrified!) home.

Once again, happy new year everyone. I hope 2007 will bring you all the good things you've been looking for and more!