Archive for May, 2006

Sitting with Cats

Sunday, May 21st, 2006

On the drive over to my mother’s house last night to perform my cat-sitting duties, I found myself thinking about a pseudo-religious essay I¬†read recently about cats and faith.

Cats are to People, as People are to The Gods, the essay had analogized.

The essayist noted that traveling cat owners think about their cats’ well being¬†during each day of their absence, and¬†expounded on the¬†comparison to query whether cats, when their owners are away, experience themselves to be abandoned and forsaken, or whether they have¬†faith in their¬†owner’s abiding love and eventual return.

My mother’s cats were anxious, when I arrived, and happy to receive some pets and treats.¬† But after a few minutes of attention, and of examining the playful baby in my entourage,¬†they each returned to¬†their prior posts in the bedroom, where my mother had left on a queitly-playing “smooth jazz” radio station for them.¬†

I think Cookie and Yoda are faithful cats.   

Oma's beautiful Yoda as a kitten

Yoda (as a kitten),
originally uploaded by

Stingy Brewer

Friday, May 19th, 2006

Tiring of my usual lunch haunt, I decided to eat today at the 411 Building, the home of my former firm.

While walking there, I passed the Pfister Hotel, a historic hotel in downtown Milwaukee that lodges any celebrity of note during their stay in our fine city.


originally uploaded by benajp.

I was reminded, as I approached the northwest corner of Milwaukee Ave and Jefferson Street, near the Pfister’s entrance, that this corner is often the site of gathered would-be groupies and fans, who always seem to know when they might possibly be able to catch a glimpse of a beloved celebrity hotel guest.

There was a group of people on the corner today, but before I could wonder who might be gracing the Pfister’s halls, I saw a man sprinting in the street with curious determination. I couldn’t help but to stop and watch, along with the gathered people whom I had reached, to see whither he was running¬†and with what purpose.

As I looked on, the man reached his car and opened the rear passenger door. He dove in to retrieve an item with such energy and haste that I wondered if he had suddenly remembered that he’d left an infant or dear pet in there by mistake. After emerging with what seemed to be a paper in his hand, the man sprinted back toward where I stood — still moving quickly — to a grey vehicle stopped at the light in front of the groupie corner.

He approached the driver’s side door with what turned out to be an 11 x 14 photograph, in hand, apparently hoping that the driver, whom he recognized, would roll down the window and autograph it.

But, the driver would have none of it. The light turned green, the grey vehicle sped off, and the man was left, expressionless, in the middle of the street with nothing but the unsigned photo in his hands and, in his ears,¬†the conciliatory “awwws” and “heys” of the onlooking groupies – intoned to convey both sympathy for the fan and reproach for the vehicle’s driver.

Who was that driver, you ask? Why it was Derrick Turnbow РPitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers. Just performing another bit of bad marketing for our hometown baseball team.

Upstairs Neighbors

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

Our new tenants are all settled in and couldn’t be any nicer.

They have renters insurance and baked us a loaf of home-made banana bread!

Can You Afford Not To Watch It?

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

Below is an excerpt from the article Will Your Workers Ever Retire?, by Dallis Salsibury (President and CEO of the Employee Benefits Research Institute), and originally published on Human Resource Executive Online ( 

Looks like I already missed the showing in my area, but I’m going to try to catch it online, where it will be available starting tomorrow:

Television specials sometimes have the power to change public perceptions and to move Congress and presidents to action.

As the Employee Retirement Income Security Act sat stalled by interest-group debates, NBC ran a one-hour special on the pension crisis. Shortly thereafter ERISA became law.

Maybe the same dynamic will begin this week.

For many months, we have been reading of pension terminations and freezes, and of Congress moving slowly towards another “pension reform” bill. The public has been amazingly quiet as Congress, the administration and interest groups spar.

Discussion — or action — may pick up with the airing this week of a PBS special “Can You Afford to Retire?” The subtitle of the broadcast: “Baby Boomers Face Retirement Crisis as Lifetime Pensions Wither and 401(k)s Can’t Keep Up.”

“Is the BIG UNIT Washed Up?”

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

You don’t even want me to say what I thought when I¬†saw that link title on¬†today. . .

And then it turns out to be about a guy whose last name is JOHNSON??!!

You’ve got to be kidding me.

How have I managed not to hear until now about this unfortunate name/nickname pairing?

If civilization hangs in the balance ‘twixt¬†cup and lip, please,¬†gentle women and men,¬†refrain from discussing¬†this man’s¬†coarse moniker over tea.

“Double Amputee Conquers Mount Everest”

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

What a Feat

I must be a¬†cynic.¬†My first reaction to this headline¬†was to wonder “was that really necessary?”

I must be jaded, too.¬† My second reaction:¬†”it must be a lot easier to do when your feet can’t get cold.”

And I’m probably going to H-E-Double-Toothpicks for noticing:¬†”that was quite a feat.” (Pun intended).

Milestone Alert

Sunday, May 14th, 2006

I had heard this day would come. . .

Emma has achieved a new stage of development, and Mom and Dad now have new cause for anxiety.

For the past week and a half or so, now, Emma has been practicing the art of transitioning from a stomach position to sitting, and conversely, from sitting to lying on her stomach. 

I had read that kids are creative, and that they sometimes learn to move around in what seems an unconventional way.

Emma is one of those.

She doesn’t make the lying-sitting move on her side, as you or I might.¬†Instead, being very limber, she moves from sitting to lying, and vice versa, by pushing forward or¬†backward, as the case may be, over her hips.¬† She just¬†does the splits and shifts herself.¬† (She knows that this is quite an achievement, and she smiles and laughs at herself each time she does it).¬†¬†

Well,¬†today, I put her in her crib (on her back) for a¬†nap.¬† Before she fell asleep, two different times, she rolled to her stomach, and then sat up – in her crib!¬†I “caught” her in there sitting up, playing the tinkly tunes that come out of her bear toy, and bouncing to the music!

This¬†is a new stage, and I’m starting to envision her trying to climb all the way out in the not-too distant future.

Good thing we have the anti-cat crib shield installed.

Jimmy  Jimmy


Frankly, we’ve only zipped that up on the few occasions that the crib was¬†under direct cat-attack.¬†

But now, we’re going to be zipping it closed, not to keep cats OUT, but to keep an active¬†baby IN.


Saturday, May 13th, 2006

I’m in a state of disbelief.

I just received word that a prominent, well-liked shareholder at my firm, and his son, were killed in a car accident today. The attorney’s wife was taken to the hospital. Her condition was said to be critical, but the person I spoke with didn’t know more than that.

What a sad, sad reminder that it can be any one of us at any time.

He is only about 53 years old, and funny and quirkly. The kind of guy to always make an odd comment in the elevator and to accidently snort and giggle when he laughs, sometimes. On his last birthday, his secretary decorated his door with black balloons, and put over-the-hill signs in his office, which he tolerated for several days.

He has been enourmously successful in his work. Exactly the kind of guy I always pictured eventually enjoying some very comfortable and satisfied retirement years playing with the grandkids.

This is a guy who has been to China, in recent years, and Dubai, in recent months, on business. No one would have expected him to meet such an untimely, sad end on a Wisconsin highway.

And the son – he was only a junior in highschool. What a tragedy.

I understand he has one other child – a daughter who is a junior or senior in college.

Apparently, most of the attorneys are getting the word by phone over the weekend.

But that’s not going to keep the firm, as a whole, from being shell-shocked and sad on Monday, and in the coming days and weeks.


Saturday, May 13th, 2006

You can really tell that Paul’s a Daddy now.¬† He’s relaxing on the couch, watching a cool movie about Vlad Dracul, the Impaler (also know as Count Dracula).¬† And to keep warm in the cool Milwaukee Spring, he’s covering himself up not with a blanket, but with Emma’s red and white striped hooded jacket.¬† (It’s not very big).¬† 😉

What I Did This Week

Saturday, May 13th, 2006

Can’t think of anything particularly inspiring to blog about just now, but I suppose I have an excuse.¬† Here’s what I’ve been up to¬†lately:¬†

On Monday, I gave a nearly two-hour presentation to some Wisconsin-licensed insurance agents on the finer points of HIPAA health privacy law.¬† It’s hard to know whom to feel sorrier for – me, who has to prepare these things, or them, who have to listen to something that they really don’t grasp at all.¬† This time around, I tried to make the topic more accessible by tying it more into their personal experiences, as health care patients, instead of addressing HIPAA issues that they might encounter in their work so much.¬† And I always try to throw in some cute graphics on the power point slides to keep everyone awake.

On Tuesday, we had a big meeting at work about some major benefit plan changes we need to do, ASAP, for a client.  This comes at a time, of course, when I already have more than one person can really handle.  Luckily, I get to delegate most of this project.  Found out that the Internet access at our house went out Рpart of switching our cable arrangement around because of the change of guard in the tenants, upstairs.  Realized that I have a bad addiction to the Internet. 

Wednesday:¬† Had a conference call, with just me on one end, and two clients on the other, to discuss some revisions needed¬†on their screwed-up, home-cooked¬†(those are¬†legal terms) health plan documents.¬† Found out that some relatives I don’t get to see very often will drive in from several states away for a little visit next month.¬†

Thursday: Attended a lunch presentation hosted by a local benefits group on the topic of the ‘latest benefits developments in DC’ from a Washington insider-type.¬† Decided to¬†do some power networking and invited a guy who sat next to me (and who once interviewed me for a job) to participate in a program my boss and I are¬†trying to line up for the¬†State Bar Association later this summer.¬† Dig it.¬†He said yes.¬†

Also spent two¬†hours Thursday¬†night at the church we belong to (cynics among you: note that I said ‘belong to,’ not ‘attend’) -¬†helping to assist them with revising their Employee Handbook.¬† I got recruited for a little pro bono “HR Committee” work.¬†¬†Missed Emma’s bedtime while I was there.¬†¬†):¬† Came home and proofread Paul’s final paper of the semester.¬†

Friday, I handled another conference call, solo, with two other clients with questions on the¬†health insurance premium differentials permitted under the proposed “bona fide wellness program”¬†regulations.¬† This evening, Paul, Emma, and I, Paul’s parents, my mom, Paul’s¬†brother and¬†his fiance made our second annual outing to the Lobster Boil at Arrowhead High School for the benefit of the many special needs programs the school offers.¬†

While there, three 11-year-old boys visiting from France for the week (Antoine, Thomas, and Maxim) were quite taken with Emma, and made friends with her.  Thomas even kissed her goodbye on the cheek when he left.  Europeans are so smart.  They love babies and give kisses to new acquaintences.  How can you go wrong on either of those?

And we have Internet again.¬† Yay!¬† Now I won’t have to expend my nervous, post-Emma’s-bedtime energy¬†on any other unhealthy compusions.¬†

I’m so swamped with work that I have to be in the office much of the day Saturday.¬†¬†

And then Sunday, will be my first actual, really, official Mother’s Day! I was pregnant last year, but I definitely have more to celebrate this time¬†around.¬†

An all-day nap would be a great gift, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.¬† But a short nap would still be great.¬† And while I’m wishing, I’ll just go ahead and hope for a vacation day, too.¬†¬†

What the H-E-Double Toothpicks !? (as they say in Wisconsin)