Friday, February 26, 2010

take a bullet or a number...

I receive countless 'drum up business' e-mails daily.

Overstock, SmartBargains, Borders, Zappos and LandsEnd; to name a few. Normally I just hit 'delete' and away it goes. Zap. Incinerated into the spam abyss.

Granted, these e-mails more than once have led me to a fantastic deal or two. But most times it's not.

So the delete key and my pointer finger have become quite well acquainted.

But this one caught my eye. The marketing guys done did good.
Marketing: 3 Delete Button: 10,942

$35 covers a complete meal, including tip and mini-spa night with gift from Aveda. Targeting the female audience for a girls night out, the restaurant holds this gig every third Monday of the month. Monday nights must be hurting for biz.

So looking for some compatriots to indulge, I forwarded the spam to some of my local friends. See if anyone else was intrigued with the idea of pampered 'me' time. No children. No spouses or significant others. Just the gals.

Sounds fun, doesn't it? It was. It was grand.

As we sat a talked between courses, and libations to accompany, I realized how wonderful my circle of friends were. Melissa on my right and Eileen on my left, I felt, honoured to be in their presence. They both never cease to amaze me in their awesomness. Who knew Melissa could speak Russian? I felt like Jamie Lee Curtis in a 'Fish called Wanda'...well, almost. But it definitely strengthened my 'girl crush' that's for sure. Eileen is self deprecating, but she shouldn't be. I could listen to her for hours. She, for some reason, has no idea how fabulous she really is.

In my household we've begun experiencing the first, and I'm sure not the last, of female drama with my daughter and a few of her school mates. At eleven, she hasn't had much exposure to what can be the worst of female traits. Cattiness.

She has a 'friend' that one day is her best friend and the next doesn't want her to sit at the lunch table with the rest of the girls. It's horrible. And it's mean. We've had long discussions about the true meaning of friendship. That 'it's not how many people you know, or how popular you are, but the quality of your friends that matters most.' She had an opportunity then to express her friend loyalty and chose to sit with a girl, at another table, that had been deemed unworthy to sit with the rest.

I'm so proud of her.

I'm not good friends with many of the people that I've encountered over the years. I didn't maintain contact. There's a handful here and there, but not many I'd call close. I have acquaintances that know so many people, it's confusing. I wouldn't be able to remember everyone. That's not my bag. I like my close circle of friends. My bubble. Only so many can fit in here at a time. Those are the ones that I count on.

I'll continue to keep my circle tight. I like it that way.

A cohort of mine was filling me in on the latest of her wedding plans over lunch one afternoon, "I've got to cut back the guest list to 400! That's all the hall will comfortably hold." she informed me.

She's been planning her wedding it seems like for a year. Actually, it's probably longer than that. She was planning this event even before she knew her spouse to be. Every little detail is nailed down. Bridezilla? That description fits. God help anyone who's responsible for any detail of her 'most special day'.

My mind was spinning. 400? Seriously? I don't think I even know 400 people. Let alone 400 people with whom I'd want to share my wedding with. But then, this girl has over a 1000 'friends' on Facebook. I like her...but we obviously are so completely different, on so many levels, we probably shouldn't even be friends.

I offer, "Well, please...don't worry about me. You can give my invitation to someone else. Just make sure to save me a piece of cake."

"Oh, Nancy! That's what I love about you!", she gushed, giving me air-kisses across the table.

That sealed it. We really, really shouldn't even know one another let alone be having lunch together. What she doesn't know is that when and if the invitation did arrive, I'd mysteriously have had other plans that I 'simply forgot about but can't get out of...'. Yeah, 'Happy for You!' I am, but I'd much rather just send a gift.

I didn't have the big frou-frou wedding myself. We got married on the beach at sunset at our favorite spot to getaway. My daughter is named after that island as well. My then boyfriend had asked me, "When's your next weekend off?"

"In two weeks. The weekend before Thanksgiving." I worked as a manager in retail at the time and we were just getting geared up for a busy holiday season. No one got weekends off through Christmas.

"Do you want to get married? Go down to the island?", he asked over dessert.

I still think it was the veal. Johnny's on Fulton veal is to die for, but they did something extra to it that evening. We're out having dinner and the next I'm getting married. His proposal was unplanned. Spontaneous. I like that too.

My parents were traveling abroad and I had to wait for them to call before I could give them the news. I'll never forget what my dad said, "I admire your practicality." The ex still contends that my dad owes him $40+ for saving him the big To-Do.

But our wedding was romantic. Special. We shared our moment with just a handful of friends and family who all went down to our 'happy place' on the island. It was perfect...for me. For us. If given the opportunity to change plans, I wouldn't have done it any other way.

No way.

As I sat with my friends at dinner my mind was wandering as the conversation flitted around the room. Years ago I accompanied my ex on a week long excursion to award the high performers at his office. The destination? Costa Rica.

I was excited at the opportunity. I'd never been before and was looking forward to the experience. We planned on staying an extra week and explore the country since we were there. Lounging on a chaise, cool drink in hand, kibitzing with some of the other spouses, I soaked in the sun and my gratitude for the moment. My husband had gone for a walk with one of the firms partners.

I watched them approaching in the haze of the heat, strolling the beach nonchalantly. He waved as he drew closer. As he delivered a quick kiss and he said, "C'mon. Let's go for a swim, I've some news".

Knowing how well business had been for him of late, exceeding all their expectations, I figured this was good news. I was already mentally picking out new furniture.

"I've just quit." he continued.

"What? You what?....." I stammered, "What, pray tell, happened?"

"Yesterday, while looking around the people here that I work with...I realized I wouldn't take a bullet for any of them. So I quit."

Take a bullet.
Putting yourself in harms way to protect another.

I understood. I wouldn't have either given my limited knowledge of those at the firm I'd met over the years. No worries. The new furniture can wait. I'm sure he has his reasoning. I trusted his instinct implicitly. And admired his integrity.

It turned out to be a good move. Things were changing there and not necessarily for the best. There was a company wide shake-up with his departure. It's interesting how some things happen, without planning, that can change your life. If you listen. Are in tune. And react.

As I sat listening to these women surrounding me at the table the other night I thought, "For these ladies, I'd take a bullet." That's how fond I am and how grateful I feel to know them.

It's not the length of time that denotes a close friendship, but the quality of time spent.

I love that.
I love them.

It's good to network and know people, but it's the ones close to you that matter most.
The rest can take a number.

I've only so much time....and I have to make it count.


"As real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out." ~ Walter Winchell

Friday, February 19, 2010

time to go...

Our household contains a plethora of animals.

Two dogs, two cats, one hamster, one beta fish, and who knows how many pond fish. I can't count them as they are blissfully in frozen animation under two feet of snow.

I'd add more to the brood, but I'm already up to my ears in care taking duties. I've always had pets. Many times more than one at a time while growing up. But this is about the largest group of animals that I've had in my lifetime thus far.

There have been many throughout the years.

The early years for me included Tuffy, the sixteen pound tabby cat. Puffy, the Shepard mix dog. Poncho-the Chihuahua mix followed by Poncho2, and Rex the 1st.
Rex was a gorgeous dog. Pure white German Shepard with clear blue eyes. Then Puffy led Rex on a hike and Rex never found his way back home. So we ended up with Rex2. Dad called the APL and they had a white German Shepard. My dad figured that it 'had to be him', went and retrieved the dog. Lo and behold, it wasn't. Still a cool dog, but he growled at my brother anytime he went near him. Rex2 holds a special place in my heart. For five years I got away with tormenting Charles' because I had Rex2 for backup.

There was Elliotto Gozaimashita, Norman, Buster and Max. All great cats that thought they were dogs. Then Aarow (Border Collie), Cameron (Golden Retriever) and Ferris (Bouvier) who actually were dogs. I'd count Cameron #1(Golden Retriever), but we only had him for two days before he started with seizures. The vet said it would be best if he just put the puppy down. I cried for another two days. I thought it my fault, I felt responsible. It was so sad.

Puffy lasted the longest of all the animals I've ever owned. Seventeen years. Probably because she never got in any trouble (except her long walks sometimes) and was a medium sized dog. I was at college when my mother put her to sleep. She had a swollen jaw and found out it was mouth cancer. It took my mom three months to tell me. Only forced to do so the day before I came home for winter break.

"Honey.", my mom purred into the phone, "There's something I have to tell you......"

Dead silence.
My mother was a super sweet woman, but as a teacher, she was the strong lead by example type. Lessons were learned in our house. No smoke and mirrors, everything was pretty point blank. My dad was a scientist so everything was just put out there and you dealt with it. We were an open family with no secrets. So to hear the soft, hushed, smooth over tone in her voice...I figured what she had to say must be a biggie.

"What's that, Mom. What's so important?", I replied. "I'm studying for my finals tomorrow and then I'm driving home." I really needed to concentrate. Tomorrows test were huge. This conversation wasn't helping me.

"It has to do with Puffy...." I felt a sigh of relief. At least no one had died, or was in the hospital. I figured she took one of her walks again.

"We had to put her to sleep, honey pie. I'm sorry."

"Mom! When? What happened?"

"Mouth cancer, dear. The vet said it was the best thing to do. She was in pain." my mother explained. "We did it on Monday."

It was Tuesday evening. I thought, 'Geez. Couldn't you have waited until I came home?'
What I didn't know then that I then learned once back home...she wasn't talking about the Monday past, but the Monday past past past past. Like three months prior past. Like the day after I left for school past.

But seventeen years is a long time for a dog to live.

Cameron lived to sixteen. Strangely old for a big 120 lb. dog. And Ferrris was a grand old age of fifteen when he finally went to the playground in the sky.

The number of pets that I have only lowers itself when one passes on. Over the years I've had to put four cats and seven dogs to sleep. It's never easy. Some were harder than others. I've never given one up for adoption. I know all too well how overcrowded the Animal Protective League is with unwanted animals and can't bring myself to add to it. Most adult animals don't have much of a chance for adoption, they end up euthanized.

That being said, over the weekend one of the little furry friends had to find a new home. There's always a first time.
Misty had to go.

Presently the cast of characters in the house is Stuey (American bulldog), Sienna (Labradoodle), Big Maw (whose real name is Little Miss Cutie-blame my daughter when she was 3 for that one) and Little Maw (whose real name is Misty). The hampster is Butterscotch and the beta is Blue. Can you guess their colors? Yup. Go figure.

Our pond fish all are known by name as well. Stealth, Shark, Bubble and Karat are a few. Google and Yahoo are in the pond as well.

I love my pets. All of my pets. Even the ones that don't do much, like the fish. They are an extension of my family unit. But when one doesn't comply with family rules, then you can't stay here.

Little wasn't listening. She wasn't playing by the house rules.
So she had to go....
And go she did. That ultimately was her downfall.

She went on my couch.
Then she went on Boo's bed. Twice.
And Boo's couch. Three times.

Have you ever smelled cat urine?
It's the worst.
It gives me headaches.
Just thinking about it is giving me a headache and the smell is long gone.

I took Little to the vet to see if it she was having a physical problem. Nothing. I replaced the litter boxes with new ones to see if that would help. Nope. I searched the Internet for clues and suggestions of what to do since this was a behavioural problem. Nothing worked.

So I found her a new home.

I felt badly about it. I wasn't positive who was the culprit. It was a 50/50 crapshoot at best. Was it Little or Big that has decided to use our furniture as an toilet? I never saw when it happened or who did it. But I had a good guess.

It's now been two whole weeks and we've not had another urine incident. Our house remains odor free! So I think I was correct in my deduction.
And I have a new cat.

Not a new cat, really, but Big is a whole new cat now that Little is gone.

She's now uber friendly once again. She had started to get quite skittish. As I think about it now, Little would wait and pounce/attack her when she would stroll into a room. She would do the same to me and I didn't like it, so no wonder Big became so testy.

Last night as I sat watching the Olympics with Sienna under one arm and Stuey under the other, Big jumped up and couldn't decide where to settle. She was purring do loudly I had to turn the TVs volume up. She'd curl up with Stuey and then cross to me. Knead me a few minutes and then rub up on Sienna. She was a happy cat. Very happy.

One big, furry, happy family. Once again.

And the bonus?
No cat urine. For over two weeks. And three animals that all get along.

Life is good.
Now where's that lint roller?


Sunday, February 14, 2010

guilty pleasures...

I broke down and indulged.
I couldn't help myself. I caved.

I figure it's alright though, because isn't Valentines Day an excuse for indulging in guilty pleasures?

I've never been one to shun candy. I love me some good chocolate. Or beautiful flowers. Or extra long kisses...but I don't buy into the whole Valentine's Day "I love you so much that today and only today I'm going to show exactly how much by sending you flowers chocolates and cheesey cards" retail thang.

But I DO love guilty pleasures.

You probably have heard that the northwest got hammered again with snow. Presently, there is about 8-10 inches (and growing) of snow on the ground right outside my door and I don't even live in the snow belt. I like snow, I'm prepared for this kindof weather, so I say, "Bring It." I have a Jeep Commander that loves this stuff, I have a plowing service, a snowblower, I ski, I sled and I have a new pair of snow shoes. So c'mon Mother Nature, seriously, bring it on...

My guilty pleasure, my indulgence, stems directly from this recent snowfall.

Friday afternoon as I was sitting in my office reading my favorite blogs and I happened to hear the sound of wheels spinning. Not uncommon as our plows haven't been able to keep up, but these wheels were really spinning and it sounded rather close-by. It was also accompanied by many four letter words.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzttttttt. "F*ck!"
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzttttttttt. "S*it!"
ZZZZZzzzttttt.Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzttttttt. "F*ckin' F*ck, MotherF*ck'er!"

Now, you must know at this point of the story, I live across the street from an Elementary School.

It's 3pm.

There are little kids and parents picking up said little kids everywhere. If I can hear this inside my home, up on the second floor, in my office, with the windows closed...can you imagine what it sounded like down where this was happening?

I stood up and looked out my window and what did mine eyes perceive? But my obnoxious next door neighbor completely stuck in the apron of her driveway.

Now before you go and get all, "Nancy, that's not nice to laugh at someone else's misfortune." Let me set you straight on what I've had to live with these past two years of her tenancy next door.

My neighborhood is comprised of mostly single family homes with a smattering of duplex's mixed in. The house next door is a duplex. The neighbor is question lives on the first floor. A renter. I think with a male roommate, but there are so many people coming and going, I'm not sure anymore.

They have odd hours. Coming home at 2 or 3am, leaving other days at 5am. I've but talked to them once. They pull in. They go in the house. The come out of the house, get in their car and drive away. I've been out front doing yard work when they've pulled in before and don't so much as get a wave. It's a little odd.

I'm quite tolerant. I've never created a fuss, although this does get a little old. Me thinks she could take her trash can out sometime the day or night before, not at 4am in the morning...dragging it. Making all kinds of noise clanging her bottle recyclables against the pavement all the way down the drive. Did I mention it's 4am? Yeah. Real considerate. Very neighborly.

But as I say, I'm tolerant. Plus I don't want to start a neighbor, 'I'm going to call the police' war. I can see them trying to get back at me by calling every time my dogs bark or the kids play on the trampoline. So I've been patient. And kept my mouth shut.

The other morning they arrived home and woke me from a dead slumber. The music was so loud is was as if I had turned on my own stereo in my bedroom as I slept. I turned and looked at my bedside clock. 2:04 am the damn thing glowed at me in it's ambient blue light.

I got up, wiped the sleep from my eyes and hobbled over to the window. As I peered out the back window into my neighbors driveway three levels below, the music got louder. My neighbor was doing her rendition of a soft shoe, holding a beer, in the driveway next to the drivers open door. Phish. And like most Phish or Dead songs went on forever. Dancing. Soft shoe. In the driveway. 2am Weeknight.

Yes. It was a Wednesday night. Or Thursday morning, depending on how you look at it.

Her house stands between mine (complete with 11 year old daughter) and my neighbors ( two daughters 10 and 13) who both have school aged children. In the summer, although annoying, it's somewhat acceptable. I get that. Summer nights. Heavy drinking. Incoherent, unruly, inconsiderate neighbors...whatev'.

But to err in waking a sleeping child on a weeknight so you can continue your party in your driveway? Hmmmm. Not so acceptable.

They are either just too dumb and young to know that they live in a residential neighborhood. There are responsibilities that go along with living in such neighborhoods.

*We all care for our yards.
*We take out our trash.
*We try not to offend our neighbors.


Oh! They must not have gotten that memo! The one that makes them compassionate human beings? Assets to the community?

Yeah.....that one.

So to see her out stuck in her driveway not knowing what to do?
That was my Valentines Day present.

I enjoyed seeing her upset and flabbergasted.

A good Samaritan pulled into my freshly plowed driveway to try to help. She retrieved a shovel from her trunk and went to try to shovel the blockage from the driveway apron. "Rock the car!", she yelled to my neighbor.

"Whaaaaatttttttt?! Do whaatttttttttt?", she whined.

"ROCK the car.", the good Samaritan yelled back. "You DO know how to rock the car?"

"Ummmmm. Whhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaattttttttt?"

I'm holding my head thinking....'Dear God, How dumb can this girl REALLY be?'

"Here. Let me get in.", Ms. Good Samaritan offered.

So the lady who has stopped to help this sloth out of her situation because she didn't even check the driveway and obviously has no idea to do with the shovel she's just been handed has now gotten into the drivers seat of the dumb ass girls car.

Another gentleman pulls up and in his suit and tie gets out to try to help as well.

Dumb girl stands in her pajama pants (did I mention this is 3:00pm?) and gloveless hands, holding a shovel while two strangers dig her shit out of her own driveway....I stand and watch.

And take pictures.

Valentines Day. Guilty Pleasures.

They unstuck her car. I had sooooo hoped she'd had been inconvenienced for awhile. That would've been fun. A little karmic payback.

But just like chocolates. Guilty pleasures don't last long.
Although I have photos, so I can look at those anytime I want. How fun for me.

That's almost better than chocolate.


Footnote Update: You'll all be happy to know that since my neighbors are seemingly too lazy to shovel their driveway, and not bright enough to hire someone to do it for them, she's been parking in the street. And right now, my Valentines Day bliss has doubled! The snow plows have her buried in the street. Of course, there are LARGE SIGNS posted that our street has a snow ban. Which means you don't park in the street if there is more than 2" of snow...because they WILL plow. And you WILL get buried.

Should I loan her my shovel? My snowblower?

Nope.I'm charging my video camera...


Happy Valentines Day! I hope you can enjoy a few guilty pleasures yourself!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

obscurity bliss...

I've read quite a few blogs of late that have been lamenting 'losing a follower' (or two), not having the time needed to post, read or comment on blogs. There were a couple that recently closed up shop altogether.

Many have been questioning the boundaries of their writing because people they know are now reading their blog and it has stymied how and what they write. "Will I offend someone?... Did I write something that bothered my audience, thus losing a follower?..."

I've had the same mind set of late myself.

When I started blogging, I wasn't clever enough to think up a pseudonym. Honestly, I thought it unnecessary. Other than a couple of friends, I figured no one would care to read my musings. What I write about is real, and if you know me, you probably know who the players are. But for the most part I've tried to not call out people by name. Unless warranted.

I wrote a post a few weeks ago which was followed by a mass exodus of followers. Now, this could have happened from clearing their cue, ridding the blogs that no longer carry significance for them. I've done that myself. But, for some reason I thought that they, the reader, might have been offended by my post. And it bothered me. A little.

It made me edit my subsequent posts more than I had in the past. Trying to anticipate public opinion. I thought, "Is this going to piss anyone off? Rile someones feathers too much?" If then answer was even a wavering 'Yes', I omitted it. Or rewrote to perhaps smooth over the possible offensive content a bit. And yet, I still lost yet another follower.

Then I gained one, lost two, gained three, lost two, gained two, lost one. You get the picture.

What this all boils down to is that damn sign you see posted with thumb tacks on cubicle clerks walls..."I can't please everyone, and trust me, today it's not going to be you."

I'm an inherent 'people pleaser'.
I always have been.

My trying to write to the masses probably won't work. For me.

But it will work out if I continue to write this blog how it started out. It' sole purpose as a medium for venting my thoughts. A creative outlet for what goes on in my head. Of late, I've been overly critical of what I write, and how. Wondering, before I even hit the 'Publish Now' button, of how it will be perceived. How it will be received.

My altered signage?: "I can't please everyone, and trust me, today it might not be you."

I love Lora over at Fever because she is. Is.
She's a little edgy sometimes. That's just her. If it bothers her that sometimes she pushes the envelope, it doesn't seem to show. C'mon...the girl just told the world that 'after her birthday she doesn't shave her legs below the knee!'

SuziCate at the WaterWitches Daughter had a post the other day about how she'd been 'found out' on her blog by those that know her. How it might change her tone of writing. But she worked through that probable change as she wrote...and then ended with "I write because I breathe, I breathe because I must."

Damned be those who don't like it.
Blanket apologies to those people.
Kudos to those that stay around.

I love that.

This morning I read an article which explained a common phenomena in the world of online communication. The article 'In Praise of Obscurity' by Clive Thompson in the February 2010 edition of Wired says: "When it comes to your social network, bigger is better. Or so we're told. The more followers and friends you have, the more awesome and important you are."

Perhaps that's why Julie at 47 and Starting Over left me a comment the other day of "Damn woman, you have 757 followers? I bow to your greatness!!!!" Although that is quite the compliment, I'm not great by any means. Seriously. I just lucked out.

My first two months of writing didn't get any comments whatsoever. I don't' think anyone even read them. Except Chrissy, who's my best friend and who started me blogging in the first place. There were a few comments left by 'anonymous' here and there. And a couple other fellow bloggers who stumbled upon my site accidentally. But I checked their profiles; all those from 12 months ago are no longer blogging, their sites either closed or not updated in the past year. Chris at Knucklehead was the first, still blogging, commenter that I had. And I'm grateful that he is still a reader.

I wrote those posts for me. About me. As blogging should be.

Clive Thompson goes on to state the case of a grad student who had started with Twitter at it's inception. It was a medium for conversational banter. She had a small group of friends. But once she amassed 3,000 followers it was like a little town; with the regulars conversing with each other through their 140 allotted characters. But once she reached 13,000 in the audience, the conversations stopped. The sense of community had evaporated.

"Why? Because socializing doesn't scale. Once a group reaches a certain size, each participant starts to feel anonymous again, and the person they're following - who once seemed proximal, like a friend- now seems larger than life and remote."

They stop talking, or leaving comments. Because they didn't feel they could make a useful contribution to the conversation.

I've done that. I read blogs and although I'm bobbing my head along to what they're writing, I can't think of anything that would remotely 'stand out' to mention it in a comment. I like to periodically read Mr. London Street, but rarely leave comments because the rest of his readers seem so witty. I don't think my two cents would leave an impact. I feel slightly threatened by some, a little left on the outside, if you will. He's a bloggy superstar now with over 1000 followers since his 'blog of note' shout out. I wonder if he feel the pressure of going from 200 to a 1000 within a weeks time? I wonder if it changed his outlook on his posts?

Over the last year that I've been writing and posting it on my blog, I have built a network of BlogBuds (thank you Kathryn for the term) that are my extended circle of friends. I've not met most of them, but have talked with a few on the phone, or exchanged e-mails with many from time to time. I feel certain that if I were in their neck of the woods (or they in mine), I could call upon them and we would share some face time conversation. And perhaps a glass of wine. Or two.

That's cool.

The article in Wired continues to verbalize another thought I'd been having. "As the network gets larger, not only do the audiences feel estranged, but the participants start self-censoring. People start writing more cautiously, like politicians."

If your huge, with a gazillion followers, your social network could possibly generate revenue. But if your small, your just chatting with pals.

Obscurity can be beneficial.

Because your not talking at people, but with people.

That's not just cool, that's awesome.
I love that more.

It's nice to be somewhat obscure, hiding in the shadows so as to not be judged. But known enough in certain circles that your thoughts don't fall on deaf ears. It's a big world out there. Overwhelming in scope.

But it's you BlogBuds; it's the banter, the comments, the camaraderie, the connection with those that I'd not had if not for this blog...

That's what makes all this (gesturing at the web site) worthwhile.
I'd like to say, "Thanks."

Now carry on---you've got better things to do than read my drivel.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

yet another sale sign...

I've noticed a very disturbing trend lately in and around the area in which I live. If it's happening here, I'm sure that it's happening other places as well.

There are buildings closing with large 'For Sale' signs posted. Some of these pieces of real estate don't even wait long enough to sell; they just tear them down and leave a pile of ruble where a structure once stood.

I understand progress.

But it's the idea that another pile of bricks would be Oh! So much better than renovating the existing one, bothers me. It just seems so wasteful. So disposable. So inherently wrong.

Nearby was a plaza that held a Target store, a grocery store, a toy store, a bank, a restaurant and some various other miscellaneous small shops. It was a prosperous, busy little center. Less than a block away was a shopping mall. Westgate when they built it in 1954 was once an outdoor mall touted as the first suburban shopping center in Ohio. It was a big deal. They enclosed it in the late 60's to make it more shopper friendly and compete with two new neighboring 'roofed' malls. Here in the north, snow and rain can make strolling outside shopping malls slightly unpleasant.

Recently Westgate Mall was torn down to put in a 'super plaza'; several strip malls connected by parking spaces and brick walkways. Whoopee. It's sister shopping center further west boasts condominiums above the shops. Both of these have gone back to the outdoor shopping experience of the 50's, although Crocker Park has heated sidewalks to melt the snow in inclement weather.

They tore down the old mall. Built a new mall-ish shopping area and the stores from the old plaza moved to the new plaza and left the old shopping area vacant. Empty. Two of the buildings were torn down, the others remain intact but abandoned. Weeds are growing in the parking lot which is now also vacant except for a few cars with sale signs propped in their windows. Yippee. Now that's what I call progress.

My friend Chrissy and I periodically get together over at Crocker Park. We walk along enjoying the company, perusing the windows, buying a few things and then stop at one of the eateries for refreshment. Our last rendez-vous was right before Christmas. What we pictured was strolling through the shopping area with the seasonal carolers, heated sidewalks and bountiful storefronts complete with soft falling snow. What we got was us quickly ducking into stores with the blustering wind and sleet blowing us into each and every one. In years past we've been blissfully seated in the very front near the windows. But last year the hostess marched to the back of the restaurant. She placed us so far back, tears were streaming from our faces from laughter as we neared the furthest table from the door.

"Where the hell is she taking us? Out the back door?", Chrissy asked.

"Darlin', I think our 'hot chick diva' days must be over. They're hiding us in the back.", I choked while catching my breath.

"Yeah. I suppose this God-damned weather didn't help at all.", she replied. "Can we go to an indoor mall next time?"

Now Chrissy is gorgeous. Rain soaked or not. Me? That brisk walk around Crocker Park left my hair, once bouncy and full, plastered to my head. A little rain might make your skin look moist and youthful, but this weather wasn't achieving that result for me. I'm sure that whomever thought outdoor shopping would be fun wasn't thinking about northern Ohio's temperate climate. I don't understand why the 4 newest shopping areas have embraced this outdoor plan. If you live in Arizona, California or Georgia where the weather is mild most of the time, it's a grand idea. Up here where it's either raining, or snowing at least 6 months of the year? Maybe not so much.

But yesterday I noticed in my little community on the North Coast, there is yet another building on the sale block. A Lutheran church, to be exact. What troubles me is less than a mile down the road an Apolistic church was up for sale. The latter of which has since been torn down. These are just two of many in my community that are closed or are closing.

The parish of Saint James that we belong to (pictured above) has been slated to close with dozens of other churches operating under the Cleveland Diocese. Appeals have been made to Rome to allow our church to remain open. The City of Lakewood is in the process of trying to designate it as a Landmark and over $700,000 in pledges have been collected to help restore and protect the church from demolition.

Bishop Richard Lennon has chosen 50 churches to be closed in the Cleveland area. He has failed to speak publicly on this issue, but has suggested that it is necessary "in the face of a shortage of priests, dwindling collection-basket cash and a change in Catholic demographics."

What will they do with all these closed structures? A rich and wonderful history follows each and every brick or stone placed. The architecture and workmanship can never be re-placed. Yet, there are no plans for these buildings. What were once cornerstones within little neighborhood enclaves are now on the block for sale with their future uncertain.

The Lutheran church with the huge 'FOR SALE' sign once had a thriving school associated with it as well. Now it stands completely empty. The gorgeous Apolistic church that was located across the street from St. James is now...nothing. A fenced in lot with remnants of bricks and mortar that once housed a place of worship. A heavy metal distribution company is trying to buy yet another church for sale, but with the name Hell's Headbangers, all other business's in the area are trying to block it's purchase. They would prefer to have it razed instead.

Is this the wave of the future? This disposable mind-set bothers me. It always has. But in light of the recent changes of real estate of my community, it bothers me even more. Did we really need a Dunkin' Donuts where a church once stood? Another CVS? Another Starbucks or gas station? Did Drug Mart really need to build directly across the street from it's previous location? Sherwin-Williams built a new facility across the street. Tearing down their old building to build a Walgreens. When Walgreens old building is now vacant?

Does any of that make sense?
It's not like these new buildings are that much improved over the old ones in my view. It's just another brick 'box' to house 'stuff'.

The Montessori school my daughter used to attend was in the old Elementary building for Bay Village. The City didn't renew Montessori's lease, so our school moved. They bought what was a closed church and renovated it to their needs. (I thought that was cool.) The old elementary school it once inhabited is gone. It's just a big vacant plot of land where this majestic old brick school stood. A grassy lot with a flagstone walkway that once led to the big double entrance doors. Nothing has been built there. It's not even a park. It's empty. That was 8 years ago.

Explain that to me.
Why can't we use or reuse the buildings that exist? Is it just me?

I have visited many European countries over the years. My cousin was married in a chapel in northern England that was built in 832. I have family members in Hungary that live in a house that's been in the family for centuries. I've taken photographs of the Basilica of St. George and Charles Bridge in Prague. These are all phenomenal structures.

I wish that Americans would embrace some of our architectural history. Granted, at this rate of demolition, we will never have a chapel standing for someone to get married in that is 1200 years old. If it gets to be 100, that's an amazing feat.

Because I'm sure in that 100 years, someone, several times over, has wanted to tear it down.
And build a strip mall.
Or parking lot.


I'm not so sure.

Post Script: To learn more about the plight of Cleveland's Churchs, specifically Saint James Cathedral, you can go here.