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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Future Journalist?

Cole showed me his first double-spaced typed essay today. I don't think he'll mind if I do a reprint:

I had a good summer. Even though I mostly just played video games and listened to Green Day on my I-Pod Touch. We went to Kansas City. There was this thing called Magic Quest. You buy a wand and go around the hotel with magic stuff. We went with Dave and Will. When we left, we went to World's of Fun and went on two roller coasters, called the Prowler and the Mamba. The Mamba goes 250 feet high and then you zoom right down. On the Prowler you zoom all around. I liked the Prowler the best.
By: Cole

While there wasn't an extensive use of vocabulary, I appreciated the action and intensity of this writing. Even when indicating companions "Dave and Will," images of bustling motion occur. (Of course, it helps to know these twins.) Anyway, it seems to have all of the foundation of interesting journalism, don't you think? I was quite proud - and a bit hopeful that my son will perhaps consider a career in something that doesn't involve great danger.

Cole - on assignment, playing Magic Quest.
Wait. What if he considers reporting? In places like the Mid-East? No way.  I need to get him thinking...novelist. Action without danger.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Defining Courage

I asked my husband what's the most courageous thing he's ever done. Of course, he told me, "I've never done anything courageous." Liar. I've seen him dance with a bull and fight a sow. He walks through the fields when it's pitch black outside. Some unknown vehicle drives back to our old farm? He hops into his pickup with intentions to who knows what (apparently with his bare hands). The perpetrator could be armed and dangerous for all he knows! And he's never done anything courageous? Ha.

Well, courage has been on my mind today because I'm particularly proud of Alex. (I know, weird for me to be proud of one of my kids.)  Today she decided to audition for a solo part for a choir concert. Now, I'm always trying to talk this kid into "doing this" or "doing that" and she is usually quite perturbed with my ceaseless counsel. (It isn't as if the girls a slacker...she's pretty much a straight A student; however, she just doesn't seem very busy to me. Check out her Facebook page and you'll see what I mean.) Anyway, this audition idea tickled me. It seemed so, so ambitious. And fearless!  But.... gosh Alex, are you sure you want to do this?  What choke?  Okay, I didn't say that to her. I said, "Let's hear you sing." And guess what? She sounded really good! Really. It wasn't just a mother imagining this voice of an angel. I was truly excited for her to audition.

So when second hour rolled around today, I said a little prayer for Al and hoped all went well for her. And that all the other auditions went poorly. Just kidding. Sort of.

Later today...

"Hey! How was your day?" I ask on the phone.
"Great!" Alex says in her typical perky after school voice, as she snacks on something unhealthy.
I wait for her to tell me about the audition. A pause.  Could this mean it went well? Or could she be watching Spongebob with Cole? Finally I ask, "How was the audition?"
"Terrible!" she says. "It was so bad! I came in too late. I sang too quietly and I missed like three notes. It was really bad."
"Oh, it couldn't have been that bad. How did the others sing?"
"They were awesome, Mom. Really, good." Then she giggles. And tells me a little more about the auditions.

The whole time Alex's tone isn't bitter or sorrowful. She's laughing and telling how much better it will be next time. Next time! I'm thinking that I probably would've had diarrhea before and after the audition, then cried all day. And here's my little champion thinking about her next chance.

When I got home that night, she played me a song on the guitar she'd been practicing for awhile. No signs of discouragement whatsoever.  I told her it's time to start singing with the chords.

Courage in the face of failure shows great strength of character.   Today was one of those days I thought, "How did I end up with a child like that?" Amazing. Thank you God.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Calling All Bug-Eaters!

Like every well-meaning capitalistic Americans, Doug and I have traditionally made a past time of brainstorming Get-Rich-Quick schemes.  No need to bore ya'll with our list of fantastical ideas (as I'm quite certain that some will sound eerily familiar to a few of you). And now with lottery clerks master-minding grand schemes to heist from droves innocent Powerball affection-ados, we might as well invest our time and extra dollar in doing something more constructive (in addition to our day jobs, I mean). Like dabble in wholesale bugs.

Does anyone (who graduated in the decade of the 80's) remember a Weekly Reader which had an article giving credence to the nutritiousness of insects? Well, I do. It's one of those nano-pieces of information that remains forever imprinted in my mind. A snippet of my school days came roaring back when the WSJ released an article this week claiming that, guess what? Bug eaters are on the rise. Maybe not so much in Shelby County. But it's a rising trend on the east coast, of course.

Of course, you can buy chocolate covered crickets at hip NYC cafes; and there are kitchens in Brooklyn hosting insect tasting events. I'm not kidding! As a matter of fact, there are websites - Insects Are Food.  Take a look! It's really quite fascinating...if your stomach can take it. Anyway, back to my $$$ idea.

So, we Kramer's live in bug paradise, right? (Doesn't all of Iowa?) All we need to do is get hooked up with the right NYC restaurant to sell our crickets and grasshoppers for a lucrative price and voila! We're in the money. Just a few logistics to conquer:

  • Doug is a bug smasher. I doubt the chefs would like how he would compromise the insect's aesthetic appeal.
  • So, my hubby suggested fumigating as an alternative. But I'm guessing it would tarnish the bugs' zingy taste. And we probably couldn't label them as "organic." Heck, we'd be shooting ourselves in the feet before we got out the gate.
  • What am I thinking? After reading all this Eat Pray Love stuff, I've been feeling a little Hindu lately... I don't like to kill anything, even bugs. So, we should really wait out these insect deaths and hunt for cricket and grasshopper carcass.  We got plenty-o-land to hunt. Sure, it might take some time. Maybe this will be a task for the kids. Heck, maybe this whole idea should be a task for the kids. A way for them to make money...My Dad had a few of these schemes for me.
Grasshopper-you look yummy!
Next blog topic:  The value of hardwork. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sensory Customer Service Techniques

Customer Service. Customer Experience. Customer Relationship Management. I googled each of the phrases in attempt to see if any newer, clever buzzwords were out there I hadn't heard of. So far, no dice.  Anyway, in my past year as CFO I haven't spent much time thinking about customer service. Until last week. Because when you experience outstanding slap-you-in-the-face customer service, it's hard to stop thinking about it. As a matter of fact, it makes you realize how rarely you get pleasure of it.

Last weekend Doug needed to stock up on Levi work jeans since gaping holes have inevitably ended up in the most inconvenient spots for most of his current inventory (and his wife lacks mending abilities). So we took a trip to JC Penney. As the boys went to the men's department, Alex remembered that she needed to tour the cosmetic area. Sounded pretty good to me.

As we entered Sephora, we were immediately greeted by a chic English lady. I'd tell you she was about my age, but that would inaccurately age her...she was more likely 30-ish. Cute as a button. Obviously, she wanted to help us, but help we did not need. With my mish-mash of cosmetics and skincare products, I'm already well-taken care of. And Alex was searching for one thing only...of which I had no idea what that was. She let us be, but I really could have listened to her chat awhile. I do love a good accent.

Meanwhile, I found out that Alex was searching for a bright blue liquid eyeliner, a staple of all awesome 13 year-olds. Now here's where the the customer service story comes in. Even though we dallied a good twenty minutes and only made a $14 purchase, the cute English Lassie spent another twenty minutes giving us each a fragrance sample. And not just last season's overstock. She asked us our preferences, what we liked to wear, yada yada yada..... AND there were other people in the store...looking way cooler than us! Well, cooler than me at least.

Anyway, my point is, I wonder why that English girl is working in Council Bluffs? No, that's not my point. My point is, I'm very anxious to go back to that store. For TWO reasons:

  1. Because of the CUSTOMER SERVICE Ms. Soho delivered. We had an awesome EXPERIENCE. She sure knows something about CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT.
  2.  There's a Culver's close by. Good ice cream. Or is it custard?
Maybe I was just enamored by the accent. And the fragrance! I was hynoptized by the fragrance. It's all so clear now....Note to self: Have tellers start speaking in British accents and giving free fragrance samples.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Labor Day!

Things I accomplished over the Labor Day weekend:

  • Gleefully watched Eat Pray Love with mother and daughter and wondered if I'll ever get to eat pasta in Italy. Or do yoga in Bali. Didn't even consider the fact that I'll never be praying in India.
  • Reluctantly purchased new pillows to replace the superbly-comforting five-year 90% dust-mite- filled pillows gracing our beds. 
  • Lost myself in a dystopian young adult fictional novel. Sadly, I finished it. Started two other books.
  • Toured countryside on motorcycle ride with group of friends on nearly perfect day without once worrying that we were going to get killed. That's a lie.  
  • Painted yet another yellow coat on that damn end-table project I started at the beginning of summer. Target completion date: Thanksgiving.
  • Went to Mass. Bulletin is on the counter to prove it.
  • Wallowed in Borders yesterday afternoon with the family. Purchased four new books to read. Correction - two are "new," two have been read before...but were borrowed copies. Hmmm Could there be somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty books waiting to be read on my bookshelf?   So now I'm reading Eat Pray Love (which I've already read because I want to be a journalist someday like Elizabeth Gilbert and look just like Julia Roberts, the actress who played her because obviously reading the book will make this happen...)
But despite the awesome things I did accomplish this weekend, I have one major regret...I found out that my closest friend was bummed that I hadn't asked her along to Eat Pray Love. We had been sort of planning to go...but when I had brought it up a couple of times the Monday before, I wasn't sensing she wanted to go. And since she has really little kids (sort of the second family that Doug and I didn't opt to follow along with), I didn't want to bug her about it. Honestly, the feeling kind of nagged me the whole night. "Should I have called her?" I had emailed her about a few things the day before, hoping she'd bring it up.  But instead of just asking her, I waited it out, hoping that she would say something first. Since she didn't say anything, I assumed she didn't want to go.  Women are so weird in this way. Then I get the text. "Sort of bummed that you guys went without me."

Amy is like one of my best friends. Apparently, it was too difficult for me to come right out and ask her if she wanted to go. We women pretend not to have egos, but I think we just disguise them differently. What would have been the worst that Amy could have told me?  "No?" Boy, that would've been horrible.

Anyway, the story has a happy we (along with a posse including my sister-in-law and brother-in-law and another friend) got to ride with our hubbies on their Harley's this weekend. (One of we girls favorite things to do!)  And there are no hard feelings. I told Amy how sorry I was. And luckily, I'm willing to attend the movie again. All she needs to do is ask me...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

the basement and the bedrooms

So a friend shipped her firstborn daughter to the U of Iowa about a week ago. When I asked Kathy how the move went, she waved me off with a "can't really talk about it."  Now, Kathy's not really the blow-you-off type of friend. Obviously, she was overtaken with emotion.  I happened to be very empathetic at the time. "I know how you feel, Kathy. We just moved Cole into the basement. I was weepy all weekend. Granted Cole is only nine and still in the same house, it's just another milestone to deal with. Now both kids are in the basement and they might as well be living in Chicago.

When Alex and Cole were babies, sweet little old ladies would always be coming up to me and saying, "Enjoy it, it goes way too fast." I'd be thinking, "Right, whatever. You change their poopy diapers, then."  But just thinking this morning it occurred to me, I'm already one of those sweet little old ladies.  Except I'm probably not very sweet, really. Anyway, back to my point.

While I've had somewhat of an ability to keep my youngest from growing up too quickly, my daughter's a complex story. It's like I gave birth to my mother.

My boys (hubby, son and father) are on an overnight trip, so last night I asked my daughter if she (at the ripe age of 13) would like to sleep in my bed with me. You know, cuddle with her mother, for old time sake?

No response...She's a sweet girl. Doesn't like to hurt her ma's feelings.

I decide to let her off the hook. "You don't have to. Just thought you might want to..."

"Well, I really like to sleep in my own bed," she lets me down gently.

This girl has been giving me the same excuse since she was two years old!  TWO! What two-year-old girl doesn't want to sleep next to her mommy in bed? My independent little Alexandria G. Kramer. God love her.

Anyway, she always has been a little beyond her years, which is usually entertaining and only sometimes makes me truly sad. (To be completely honest, it irritates me once in awhile...that statement will really get her going when she reads this post...) HOWEVER... my mother and I took her to Eat Love Pray last night thinking that she would probably get this movie because she is a wise, young soul.  But when I asked her how she like it, she thought it was only "Okay. Liked the food parts in Italy.  It wasn't nearly as good as Scott Pilgrim vs the World."  Smile.  A Soul Journey Across the World or a Kid Defeating Evil Video Villains.  Okay, so maybe she's still a kid after all.

Rocker Dude!

My Sweet...

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Have you ever been in the middle of something completely awesome and then you get interrupted? And you keep getting interrupted over and over again? And it seems the universe is teasing, always teasing you with this completely awesome thing that you want to finish?

No, I'm not talking of cheesecake or that maple blondie brownie dessert from Applebe's. I'm simply talking about a book. A really good book. A book I've been waiting to read since, like, February, I think. It's the third installment of Suzanne Collin's Hunger Games called Mockingjay.

So far, my hindrances include:

  1. The "pre-order" that didn't arrive until two days after the book was released. What the _*$? Is UPS mad at me or something?
  2. Trimming trees becoming a priority for my in-laws. 
  3. The birthday party that I planned for my son landed on the day that the book arrived.
  4. My conniving daughter who devised a rotating daily schedule. She gets it one day - me the next and so on. (Who convinced her to read these books anyway?)
  5. The sinus infection, taking me out of the reading mood for two entire days. Obviously, I was extremely close to death.
  6. WORK. I HAVE TO KEEP GOING TO WORK. Oh, sure - I can read a chapter on my lunch hour, but then I can hardly think about anything else all afternoon! Will Katniss destroy the Capitol? Will Peeta ever recover? And Gale...OMG?
  7. And then, just when I think I have a free night to The dreaded message on the answering machine."You're on to work for bingo."  ughhhhhhhhhhhhh
Hey! What in the heck am I doing right now? Wasting time while Alex is NOT reading the book? Gotta go. Mockingjay is calling me...and BTW, it's way better than eating dessert.