One measure of the rebounding economy is the demand for durable goods, i.e., major appliances like washers and dryers . This week, I did my share to help the economy along.
We bought our house 17 years ago. My daughter was four months old, I was 40 — and it was the first detached house I had lived in since I was 12.
It had taken us a long time to find a home that (a) both my husband and I could agree on and (b) was priced right. We started the search when I was still in my first trimester. By the time we stumbled upon this one, I did not care that the kitchen wasn’t huge or that the bathroom fixtures hadn’t been changed since the 1960′s — or that the laundry had to be done in the garage. After years and years of apartment life, I was excited just to have counter space! Two bathrooms! And no more trips to the laundromat!
But first, I had to buy a washer and dryer, and I had no idea what to look for. In 1996, washers and dryers pretty much all looked the same: they were big or small, and nearly always white. My sister advised me to find a washer with the largest capacity I could afford. So I walked into Best Buy, scoped out a pair of GE models that were not the most expensive (but not the cheapest, either) and plunked down a credit card to pay. Easy peasy.
They delivered and installed them just before we moved in, and I’ve used them nearly every day since.
They served us well, for the most part. But over the last several years, their performance started to suffer. There have been repairs. And there have been reunions with the laundromat while I waited for those repairs.
I know a lot more about home ownership now. I’ve lived through some exhausting renovations. I’ve replaced major appliances. And this month, I finally put that first washer and dryer out to pasture.Read More
My dreams are as fanciful and weird as they’ve always been – except they no longer feature me in a starring role. Instead, I am a spectator, watching (and occasionally abetting) the adventures of other people. People I do not actually know, or recognize in real life.
I don’t know if this means that I watch too much TV… Or that my life has now progressed to the point where I no longer have anything of my own worth dreaming about.
Or maybe it’s a sign that I should be writing fiction.
I have always been a writer. Whether a good one or not is debatable: Last week, my parents were in town and my dad let me know that he has started reading this space.
“You’re a very good writer,” he said.
I think I’m a pretty good writer. I’m not an excellent writer.
I’m a slow writer. It takes me a very long time to churn out a little 500-word post, and I never seem to be quite finished when I realize my time is up and I have to stop — at which point, I can either hit “publish” or try to pick up where I left off tomorrow… and I usually choose to hit “publish,” because I learned a long time ago that perfection isn’t possible, so you have to let go and move on.
But as practical as that decision is, it means I don’t spend the time I should shaping my work: writing, re-writing, polishing.
My favorite literary quote is: “All drafts are shit,” purportedly said by Ernest Hemingway. And basically, everything I post here is a first draft.
My words do not soar, my thoughts do not inspire, and the cyberworld has expanded to the point where I need to look outward to be part of the blogging community, where a few years ago, the community came to me. I used to field comments. My writing on this blog was my calling card, opening doors to friendships I still enjoy.
It’s all changed.
I’ve changed. What makes me think I should still be doing all the same things?
Writing is what I’ve always done.
We did not have yearbooks in elementary school fifty years ago, but I had an autograph book, and I gave it to my teachers to sign. All of them mentioned the fact that I was always writing. My second grade teacher had some pretty lofty ambitions for me: “I hope to see your plays on Broadway some day.” Apparently, I used to exhibit some imagination.
I liked plays enough to read them for fun. I was a theater kid in high school and majored in it as a freshman in college. But by then, my real ambition was to work in movies and television. I somehow managed to do that. I sold two episodic sitcom scripts, despite the fact that the Tonight Show writers I worked with told me I wasn’t funny. Maybe they were right. Neither script was produced, which has not helped my confidence in my abilities.
It’s been a long time since I’ve felt funny or seen the comedy in situations, or wanted to write anything but personal essays and non-fiction.
And yet, I keep having these wild and crazy dreams that have nothing to do with me.
Yesterday, for the first time in something like 20 years, I had an idea for a sitcom — and I sat down and started fleshing it out, even though there isn’t a chance in hell that I could sell the thing and there are a zillion other things I should be working on.
I started fleshing it out just to see if it was something I could still do.
Because I think it’s weird that I’m not even the star of my own dreams. I need to do something about that.
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I am a member of the Generation Fabulous group of midlife bloggers, which runs a monthly bloghop. This month’s topic is “Songs of Summer.”
Did you catch that viral Stephen Colbert dance video to Daft Punk’s hit summer song — “Get Lucky” — a couple of weeks ago? No? Go look at it now and I’ll refrain from asking you which rock you’ve been living under …
Didn’t that make you smile? I first heard that song back in May, when my daughter had it in her head and couldn’t stop singing it. I liked it so much I actually purchased it on my iPhone, because it reminded me of the stuff I used to dance to back in the 1970′s.
I only recently learned that the “Song of Summer” is a thing now, with newspapers, radio and TV shows weighing in on whether this year’s title belongs to “Get Lucky” or Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” — which I guess means the real winner is Pharrell Williams, who had a hand in both those hits.
And to be honest, I don’t really care for the exercise of picking one tune and designating it THE song of the summer (or any season, for that matter) — not when there are so many wonderful recordings to enjoy at any time. How do you pick just one? I can’t — and so I won’t.
This year’s “Get Lucky’s” disco-tastic guitar riff was performed by Nile Rodgers, who practically invented that sound in the 1970s.
Mind you, I was a KMET listener back then — and if you are an Angeleno of a certain age, you know that means that I was not a fan of Nile Rodgers or his band, Chic. You would not find anything by the Bee Gees or KC and the Sunshine Band in my record collection. But if you were looking for a steady stream of Led Zeppelin, The Who, Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen, I was your woman. (I also spent a lot of time listening to Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan and anything Motown.)
In the summer of 1979, I landed a job at Los Angeles radio station KHJ-AM.
Ten years earlier, KHJ had been THE place you dialed to hear the hits — but by the time I got there, the superior quality of the FM signal had spurred a nearly total migration of music programming over to the other band, where a new hard rock “album oriented” format (AOR) took hold. I should know: from the age of 12 until I graduated from high school, KHJ was the only station I listened to. Then I switched over to FM and never looked back… until KHJ hired me to work in their research department.
KHJ was still trying to be relevant with its one-size-fits-all slate of Top 40 hits, as popular music began a rapid fracture into the different micro-formats we see today. It was democratic: Top 40 stations played disco, rock, country, and easy listening — all back to back. The only criteria was that the songs had to make it into the top half of the Billboard Hot 100.
I was part of a team that conducted listener surveys to measure the popularity of the songs we were playing (and some we were thinking of playing). Personal computers were not commonplace yet. Each day that summer, I was given a printout of random telephone numbers to call. If the person on the other end of the call fit our target demographic and was willing to participate, I would play a tape featuring a snippet (usually the hook) from each of about a dozen tunes.
So I spent that summer tethered to a telephone headset and reel-to-reel tape player along with three other individuals, making phone calls and listening to little snippets of hit songs. We conducted those surveys every day, Monday through Friday, for five hours a day, which meant I listened to those tapes a good 30 times or more each shift. It wasn’t a wonderful job in terms of creative challenge or salary — but it was fun, mainly because of the people I worked with. We supported each other. We hung out together. We became friends.
Popular music was going through an interesting phase that year. The charts were still heavy with the wave of dance music in the wake of the “Saturday Night Fever” phenomenon, but there was a backlash popularized by AOR disc jockeys like Chicago’s Steve Dahl. “Disco sucks” was their rallying cry, and I agreed.
But it was already too late. The taste of the music buying public was morphing. The punk rock aesthetic of high energy, less technically perfect production was coming into its own, commercially. The airwaves still carried a lot of dance music, but there was suddenly room for new sounds, too — from acts like Blondie, the Clash, the Pretenders and the Police — as well as a revolutionary little ditty from an act that called itself The Sugarhill Gang. Little did we know when we heard “Rappers Delight” that it would mark the beginning of an entirely new direction in popular music — which is still morphing today.
Hearing these songs makes me smile and you know what? It’s good to hear Nile Rodgers again.
This is a Blog Hop! Read other Summer Song posts by members of Generation Fabulous:Read More
The last time I went house hunting was 17 years ago, when our daughter was an infant. I fell madly in lust with several lovely models in brand new communities in Valencia, just north of here in the Santa Clarita Valley.
But I worked just outside downtown Los Angeles back then, in the Wilshire district — and the traffic between there and our Sherman Oaks apartment was making me want to pull out my hair. Commuting from Santa Clarita and back each night sounded like something that would downright kill me. We lowered our expectations and focused on older homes in established communities in the San Fernando Valley, and ended up in the house we live in now.
We have some beautiful memories here, but as you would expect from a house that’s 52 years old, it needs things. Expensive things. And so my fantasies center on winning the lottery to pay for a complete renovation… while we all move into a spanking new house in another neighborhood.
I wonder if we would have settled here if Villa Metro had been built back then. For one thing, it is practically across the street from the Santa Clarita Metrolink station, so there would be no teeth-gnashing crawl along the 101 and 405 two times a day. The development has design touches that are reminiscent of Europe — and that’s no accident, according to Joan Marcus-Colvin, who oversees sales, marketing and design at builders, The New Home Company.
“We wanted the community to have a village feel,” she says.
That is one way to describe the proximity of the homes to one another, and it was interesting to learn that the land was originally slated for a 470-home condo development. The New Home Company actually reduced the number of homes to a manageable 315 — with the three different neighborhoods opening this weekend consisting of all single family, detached houses.
I was part of a blogger group invited to preview the models before they open to the public. Everywhere we turned, there were workers frantically putting in the finishing touches on the landscaping, and cleaning crews polishing counters and floors to a pristine shine. It was like being on the set for a glossy magazine shoot; Pinterest-friendly decorator porn in-real-life. And it was beautiful.
Square footage ranges from 1,081 to 1,998 and all feel remarkably roomy — even the smaller models. That can be attributed to the designers’ decision to build in high ceilings and plenty of windows for natural light, with awesome views of the nearby mountains. Throw in the lovely interior design and spacious kitchens, and you’ve got a half dozen bloggy women ooh-ing and aah-ing and wishing they could move in right now.
The landscaping is one of the ways the developers hope to turn the three Villa Metro sections into a village. None of these homes will have an expansive backyard, but all will share common green areas, a good sized recreation room that residents will be able to reserve for parties, what looks like an Olympic sized pool plus kiddie pool and spa and even space for a community garden. The final piece of the Villa Metro puzzle will be its Main Street: 22 “live-work” lofts that will line the entrance to the development, which will allow residents to live above their own light professional personal office or retail space.
Villa Metro is opening Saturday with a street festival, live music, food and prizes. If you’re in the area, the folks at The New Home Company hope you’ll stop by and see their Mediterranean inspired homes.
|Villa Metro, the Newest Neighborhood in Awesometown||New Villa Metro Opening Party in Valencia 8/17||Valencia welcomes the newest home development, Villa Metro||Villa Metro: Dream a Little Dream|
Tuesday night, our daughter asked us what we thought of a particular college she wanted to apply to — because if she wanted letters of recommendations from one of her teachers, she had to get the request in the following day.
Remember, Tuesday was the FIRST DAY of school.
I know the online Common Application went live on August 1, but I did not think it had to be submitted until at least November — and that’s the approximate deadline for early decision. and we’re not able to commit to any private university without some kind of financial package and that can’t be determined until after the FAFSA has been submitted as soon as possible after January 1, which means we have to get our taxes done super early this year, although they will accept an estimate, which is good because I won’t have final numbers until we receive our W-9′s and 1099′s at the end of the month.
This is going to be a stressful year. An exciting one — but agonizing, too.
I was on the phone last night with a friend who has already been through this with one child and is now doing it again with another. She’s only a little bit less stressed than I am, and I don’t know if I should be comforted by that or frightened.
We’ve contacted one of the consultants who were featured at the essay writing boot camp the school held last month. My daughter insists she doesn’t need it. I keep telling her it isn’t for her as much as it is for us. The onslaught of marketing to her by universities, the number of options, the extreme expense of attending college in 2013 (even at our public universities) , the promise of grants and scholarships at private institutions, the expectation by the universities that we should refinance our home to pay their tuition (does that even make sense at my age?), and on and on…
…makes me want to crawl under a rock and wait for it all to be over. Which is not the way to tackle the most important decision we’ll ever make as a family.
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I often marvel that I was able to get through the first 35 years of my life without owning a cell phone. Mind you, these amazing communication devices were neither widely available nor affordable until then. My first handset was bulky, expensive and only good for making calls. Today, I use my smartphone so much it’s essential to be on the lowest price rate plan I can find (while still giving me the coverage and service I need). This can add up to a nice chunk of change when you factor in an entire family.
Which brings me to my daughter. She’s a good kid: she’s really conscious of the fact that we’re not made of money. She’s been carrying around the same basic mobile phone since middle school, and it doesn’t do a lot more than that clunky old phone I bought 20 years ago. She can make calls and text. That’s it.
I had wanted to replace it for a while. She’s ridiculously responsible and has proven she has the maturity to handle having easy access to the Internet — but she has always insisted that she was fine with the phone she had, and to be honest, I let it drop because I wasn’t too keen on adding yet another data account to our family plan.
But it’s getting to the point where carrying around a “dumbphone” is — well, dumb. She borrowed my car a lot over the summer so she could visit friends — and since she goes to a magnet school, those friends are scattered all over the Valley… and she
often once got lost, which had me wishing she had a smartphone with Google Maps, which now includes excellent turn-by-turn navigation.
When she receives a check, I often end up having to make the deposit for her because she doesn’t have the time. It would be so much easier for her to use one of those banking apps were deposits were as simple as taking a photo of the check with your phone.
Having a smartphone in your pocket means you also have a notebook, calculator, calendar, camera, voice recorder and more, at your fingertips.
She wasn’t interested. All I could do was wait it out. She’s had that phone for five years — nothing electronic lasts that long, right?
So I’ve been on cell phone death watch — until this week, when the folks at #cbias Social Fabric gave me the opportunity to try out a new MyTouch Android smartphone through Walmart’s Family Mobile service.
Walmart offers its own cell phone service? Who knew? And how could I be sure that the quality of the service was any good?
Those quality questions were put to rest when I learned that Walmart Family Mobile uses the 3G network from T-Mobile, which has been our family’s cell carrier for the last ten years. They have always given us good coverage in our neighborhood and in most of the areas we frequent here in Los Angeles. And when I’ve compared the cost of their wireless plans, I’ve always felt reassured that we would have a hard time finding anything cheaper.
But a cheap wireless plan from Walmart could be a game changer. I decided to do a little research.
Comparison Shopping for Best Wireless Deal: #FamilyMobileSaves
We currently pay just under $140 per month for our family’s three phones. This breaks down to $80 for talk and text for all three handsets, plus $10 per month for unlimited data on the two smartphones my husband and I use. Additionally, we are making payments of $20 per month for my Apple iPhone, acquired a few months ago. The rest is for fees and taxes.
Adding another smartphone line to our plan will cost an additional $10 per month plus the cost of the phone. The myTouch model for sale at T-Mobile stores is $264. If I choose, I could pay for it over time at $20 a month for 24 months. Let’s say that’s what I do: This will make my monthly bill go up to $170 per month.
Our local Walmart carries a different version of the myTouch phone. The ones at T-Mobile have a slide-out keyboard, and the ones at Walmart do not. But the Walmart phones are just $129.88 right now, which is half the price. New customers also need to purchase a $25 starter kit to activate each line (this is a one-time fee). The monthly cost for the first line is $29.88, if all you want is unlimited talk and text, and $39.88 for unlimited talk, text and web.
Less than $40 a month for unlimited data is CHEAP, and this is a choice I would suggest to my niece and nephew who are no longer on their parents’ family plan.
Additional lines on the Walmart Family Mobile are $34.88 per month. So if all three of us were using Walmart Family Mobile, our pre-tax monthly bill would be a mere $109.64.
Because the third line on our current plan is only $10, this turns out to be comparable to what we would be paying on our current family plan if we did not have to make payments on the iPhone. But I wondered how Walmart Family Mobile stacked up against the prices other major companies were charging for their no-contract plans in my area.
If you look at individual service plans only:
Sprint is the only other major company that offers you unlimited talk, text and data without a contract. But their price for that is $70 per month. That’s more than DOUBLE what Walmart Family Mobile charges.
Verizon offers unlimited talk and text on a month-to-month basis, but not data. You’ll pay $60 per month for 2 GB of data and $70 for 4 GB.
AT&T has a similar plan, with $60 per month for 2 GB of data and $70 for 3 GB.
The Walmart Family Mobile Shopping Experience
Purchasing the myTouch and setting up service at Walmart was super easy. Service is month-to-month, so there’s no need for the credit check required for the major carriers’ contract plans. All you have to do is choose your handset and purchase the additional $25 starter kit to activate service. I opted to do this in-store, but you can also assemble your phone, insert your SIM and activate it yourself at MyFamilyMobile.com.
This is also where you can manage your account. I will receive my first month’s bill via text in 16-18 days from when I activated the service with the first monthly payment due a couple of weeks after that. You have the option of visiting MyFamilyMobile.com to make your payments or to authorize AutoPay with a credit card.
The Walmart associate who helped me set up my new account was friendly and knowledgeable. One of the reasons we stay with GSM type mobile service is so we can use our phones when we visit my husband’s family in the UK. We own prepaid SIM cards from British carriers for each of our lines — this allows us to communicate with our family and each other over there without getting hit with international roaming fees. But most phones sold in the United States are locked so they only work on one carrier’s network.
T-Mobile has always helped us by unlocking our phones for international travel. My Walmart associate assured me I could do that with the new Walmart Family Mobile phone, too. All I have to do is dial 611 and I would receive the same customer service I already enjoy at T-Mobile.
Great Apps Are a Back to School Essential
While I was busy setting up our new Walmart Family Mobile account, my daughter was finishing up the last of her back to school shopping. We met outside the store and I handed her the phone. I repeated the advice of the sales associate: The equipment gets charged at the factory, so it’s still got some juice when you take it out of the box. She could use it right away, but should probably give it an hour or two in the charger once we got home.
She began exploring it. “This says 3G!”
Yes, I told her. You’ve got high speed data on this phone.
“I can get email on it? And Facebook?”
Yes, I told her. And when you need a quick answer on the Internet, you can use it to browse. You can also access Google Play for an entire library’s worth of apps: from alarm clocks to dictionaries to weather forecasting to photo editing… That’s one of the reasons smartphones are so smart.
“How much extra will that cost us?”
Nothing, I said. You’ve got an unlimited data plan.
A few hours after returning home, she let me know: “I’m kind of liking this new phone.”
I had a feeling she would.
My husband leaves for work really early every morning, so I’m used to sleeping through the 5:00 a.m. alarm. But today was different: School has started and once again, my daughter must begin her day with a cruel 7:00 a.m. 0 period. She instructed her dad to make sure she got out of bed at 5:30, which he did. Then he tried to do the same to me.
“I’ve got another half hour,” I mumbled.
This was true. Yesterday, my daughter noted that she would rather not lug a full lunchbox around school until they issue her a new locker — and that may not be for a couple of days. So freed of the responsibility of making her lunch, I made an executive decision to postpone my shower until after I drop her off… which allowed me to stay in bed an extra 30 minutes.
She spent most of Monday finishing up her summer assignments. I remembered that the light was still on in her room when I went to bed.
“How late were you up last night?” I asked.
No answer. That means she only slept for a handful of hours. I have stopped nagging her about this. Of course, she needs more sleep — but between her studies and assignments and that dreadful early period, it’s not possible. That’s why I also took it so easy on her over the summer, when she stayed in bed past noon nearly every day, as if she could bank all those extra hours of sleep for the Fall.
At 6:30, we were backing out of the driveway.
“Did you ever read The Crucible?” she asked.
No. Death of a Salesman is the only Arthur Miller play I’m familiar with, and it’s been a couple of decades since I gave it a good read.
“The first thing we’re doing is taking a test on it,” she explained, “and I’m having trouble keeping track of Putnam, Parris and Proctor. Too many characters beginning with ‘P.’”
So we drove to school in near silence while she tried to create a mental cheat sheet on which character was which.
We arrived at our destination at 6:50 — right on time. There were already several students milling about.
“I will see you at 3:00,” I said before she slammed the door shut and began her senior year of high school.
I drove away, feeling sad that I had not taken a photo of her to commemorate this occasion. I didn’t even try; she put the kibosh on first day pictures years ago. The only photographic remembrance I will have is the senior portrait she posed for last week, and she was not all that happy about doing that. I’m pretty sure the only reason she went along with it is that it was required for the yearbook, and her father and I insisted. We were happy to receive framed senior photos as gifts from each of her older cousins as they finished 12th grade and we plan to do the same.
“I think it’s weird to give people a photo of yourself as a gift,” she said.
Not if those people are your family and friends who love you.
I got home and fired up Facebook and saw all the updates from my friends with kids who will be graduating this year, and I was reminded of the day I walked her into school for the first time, 12 years ago. The PTA at our elementary school had a tradition of hosting the mothers of the new students with a reception they called the “Tissue Tea,” where the party favors were be-ribboned purse-size packets of Kleenex.
I could use one of those right now. I have a feeling I will need a case of them this year.