Friday, July 31, 2009

This observational life.

New people moving in across from me. That makes family number 8 in that house since I moved into the neighborhood in December of 1983. Is that a lot, Daniel's transitory life notwithstanding? (How's the move, incidentally? Got a couch yet?) I'm used to small town America where your grandparents live in the house they bought after they got married.

There are two giant storage cabinets sitting on the corner of my neighbor's yard. You know these things, metal with the two doors and the chrome handle that moves down to open them. They were there yesterday morning. I guess I can use them as a landmark. I'm the second house on the left after the storage cabinets.

There's a bug collection thingee in a neighbor's yard. It was NOT there yesterday. It's bright yellow with a fluted neck that leads to a blue bag. The bug will fly in, probably attracted by pheromones and then not be able to get back out. Wonder if the homeowner put it there or if the city or someone else did. And I'm not sure what they could be searching for. We have had outbreaks of emerald ash borer. I don't think gypsy moth is here. There was talk of a pine beetle, but that hasn't materialized. It seems not the right set up to gauge the abundance of mosquitos.

Betsy probably has a urinary tract or bladder infection. I came home last night to little puddles all over the house. Instead of dining at an Irish pub, I spent 2 hours scrubbing floors and then washing rugs. I put the rugs on the deck rails this morning to dry. It's gorgeous out. So I nipped home at lunch to flip the rugs over to dry the other side. There are garage sales all over the place. I never had much luck finding deals or selling. I have a friend who finds the most amazing things at garage sales. She got a room size wool "oriental" rug for something like $30. It was quite dirty and I think she said the seller was getting rid of it because she didn't want to clean it and was changing the color scheme in her living room anyway. She spent about $40 having it cleaned and the rug was like new. I'd get the rug that looked perfect but had the carpet moths or the dog barf or something hidden in it.

I have more lilies at the other end of the overgrown flower bed. They should bloom tomorrow or Sunday.

Did you know that if you leave the window in your car open and the rain comes straight down it will still get the seat wet and leave a small puddle under the floor mat? I know who's laughing when they read that.

There should be a line at Subway for moms who decide it's a great idea to take their kids and their neighbor's kids to Subway for lunch. Included in this line is a giant hand that cuffs the whiners on the back of the head. 'Nuff said.

Speaking of being cuffed about the back of the head, if I don't take my allergy medication, how do I expect to feel better?

I still have the rest of the bathroom and the kitchen to clean before I can let April and Perry, Jon, and Richard and Lifcha into my house tomorrow night. I know Perry said they are coming to play games and to see me, but...........

Beverage: Coke


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Is that a smile?

After coming home and sleeping for 75 minutes which puts me behind in cleaning my house for the weekend, I really can't deny any more that I'm wrestling with that 'd' word. It could be argued that this has been a hugely stressful month and, in reality, whatever form that reality takes, I kind of have a modicum of reasons to feel this way. I have blogged about Rascal but I have not blogged about the other over riding stress and that is the people who make up my WoW guild.

There's been too much drama. I find myself dealing, every day, with hurt feelings, in appropriate language (I have kids as young as 7 in my guild. They don't need to be exposed to sexual innuendo even if they can't read it.), people wanting to do their own thing, people wanting others to help them because it seems someone else gets help all the time. (sigh), in short, whenever you get more than 5 disparate people in a group, there will always be minor misunderstandings. And I'm as guilty as the next person in the miscommunication business. I may know English but there are times when it fails me completely.

As my marriage felt apart, the counselor I was seeing admonished me to not rely on others to lift myself out of the rut. There were stages to walking down this road. 1) You see the pot hole, you fall into the pot hole. 2) You see the pot hole, you try to walk around but fall in anyway. 3) You see the pot hole, try to walk around, fall in but try to get out. 4) You see the pot hole, try to walk around, fall in, try to get out and almost make it. 5) You see the pot hole, try to walk around, fall in, try to get out and succeed. 6) You see the pot hole, try to walk around and make it. 7) You see the pot hole and realize it's not as big as you thought so you easily walk around it. And 8) You go down another street.

I'm a very image oriented person. I need the analogy of images to move myself forward. I truly felt and feel now, that I fell into a pot hole. Some times, when I get up in the morning, I can see the hole and do make an effort to walk around it, but can't. Close friends know I have been feeling as if I shoulder way too much, whether real or imagined. I've been told to walk away but where do I go? Right now, this is the street on which I find myself.

"Turn on some music," I've been told. I do and have. "Go read. You like to read," says another. I have been working on the huge stack of periodicals on the end table in the living room. I slept quite peacefully last night until Betsy started yeowling. There was a gentle rain although accompanied by lightning. It didn't rain in, just hit the window sill. I was almost teleported back in time to the sound of rain on the tin roof of the porch of the farmhouse where I grew up. If ever there was a more soothing sound, I have not found it.

I'm not eating other than a bit at breakfast and lunch. I come home and food has no appeal. Yet, there is the stirring that having company will break the malaise because I want to show off. I want the blueberry cobbler to be the best they have ever had. I even discovered frozen blueberries in the back of the freezer. I could make it tonight, but it would be a wee bit soggy by Saturday. Cobbler is best served warm within an hour of making. Oh! Gotta order the Oberweise ice cream.

Betsy is very, very clingy and very, very upset tonight. It's going to be a very long night if I have to put her in the kitchen because she's pacing and meowing. I keep finding ants in various rooms. They must be living in my walls. That's depressing. I did something to my left knee. My mobility is 70% and kneeling to clean is painful. How will I get the bathroom to my specifications? I sent the dating service a comment on the last guy they sent me. I can't get in touch with him and he's not called me. I give up. The drive to find even a companion is a dead-end road. My next door neighbor is a lesbian, nice gal. She had her girlfriend over for dinner tonight. I felt like putting up a sign, "No PDA's within 150' of my property." I have birds singing to each other outside my window. Squirrels chasing each other in the back yard. Everything seems to be pairing up. I know it's my mood and I could go to a movie on my own, but that feels like reinforcing my singleness.

I went out to get the mail and next to the mailbox was this.
It's a stargazer lily. I had planted them years ago. Sometimes they come up. Sometimes they don't. The front planting beds are horribly overgrown and need a thorough digging up. I don't have the energy and my allergies this year would make the pollen from the weeds a huge trigger. I would cough for hours after weeding. The little I've done in the back has left my chest aching from the cough. I'm tempted to cut it and bring it inside. I love these. Their smell. Their majesty. I stood there and looked at it for a good while.

Is this the ladder out of the pot hole? Right now I just want something to make me smile.

Beverage: Flat Coke


Sunday baking

April and Perry are coming this weekend! I think it's been a year since we were last together. Perry was getting some training and was in Downers Grove and we got together with he and his friend, Richard, for food and games.

April has a convention in Lincolnshire and Perry gets to tag along.

On Saturday, Jon, April, Perry, Richard and his wife, Lifcha, will come to my house for games and food or food and games or food and food. I'm excited. I haven't had a reason to cook more than tuna melts. The menu is slated to be hobo suppers, raspberry applesauce salad, cole slaw, potato salad, chips and warm blueberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream. We'll have soda and Perry is bringing bottles of his homemade mead.

I got started on Sunday with chocolate chip orange muffins. I had a bag of mini chocolate chips. The recipe was an old one I had never made and, as I really need a grocery visit, one for which I had all the ingredients on hand. They are good but they need more orange for my tastes.

I also made Fresh Strawberry Muffins. This recipe is, essentially, coarsely chopped strawberries held together with batter. There is a hint of nutmeg in them which makes them so good.

April is allergic to chocolate so I think, once I finish washing the muffin tins tonight, I'll make some Cinnamon Topped Muffins for Saturday.

I love muffins. I love to have lots in the freezer. They make excellent breakfasts and two is plenty to have with your morning juice or milk. And they freeze so well.

Now if someone would answer me this, why is it that when I make muffins, I always get more than the recipe says it makes? I stir just until moistened. The batter is still lumpy. Yet, invariably, the amount of muffin batter can be 1/2 to 2 times greater than what the recipe says it makes. The chocolate chip recipe said it made 18. I got 30. The strawberry one made the dozen listed only because I made sure the cups were filled to the brink.

Technically, I'm not complaining because it means I have more muffins than expressed in the recipe. It's just that on days when I go on a muffin baking binge, I run out of muffin tins before I run out of batter.

MMMMMMMMMMMM. I think couple of warmed muffins with butter would be good tonight.

Beverage: Pepsi


Monday, July 27, 2009

And this is why I like them.

I've been going to Animal Medical Clinic since Shakespeare was a kitten. He was 5 months old when we got him, back in 1986. I had no idea where to take a cat and picked them because they were first alphabetically and I had driven by the location many times and knew where it was. The owner of the practice saw us and, seeing this small bundle of cat sleeping in my lap said, "I'm sorry. We just can't treat wild animals like him. I'm just afraid he'll take my arm off." Okay, these are people I can support.

The following came in the mail on Saturday. I couldn't open it because I've received this three other times and knew what it was.

The inside.

And of particular importance to me, the back of the envelope:

Other vet clinics probably do this, but it means so much to me that they are taking care of all the arrangements to have her cremated and returned to me and they care enough to send a card. Betsy seems lost yet today. I came home briefly before getting the hair cut and she seemed somewhat confused about who I was. But I scooped her up and she put her head on my shoulder and started purring. I think that's going to be our official greeting when I return after being gone. I can't think of a better one to reassure both of us that we'll be okay.

Beverage: Ice cold Dr. Pepper


Gray Watch Month 3

This is a pretty good representation of what it looks like right now. It's kind of shaggy so it's good that I have an appointment after work to get it cut. You can see the streaks of faded brown dye.

It's starting to get noticeable on the sides now. There were always places that I'd miss when covering my hair with dye. They were often distinctive, almost as if it was a natural affect. Those places missed in the February dye job are, at least to me, visible now as almost completely gray.

My stylist said December we'd have it all gone. In some places, I think it will be next hair cut. This Thursday we get the first paycheck with our COLA in it. I should get something for myself to celebrate the over half-way mark to a completely gray head of hair. Dairy Queen sounds good.

Beverage: Blackberry Tea


Sunday, July 26, 2009

2 for a buck

It's hard to type your blog while you're holding a cat. But I need to cut her some slack. I think today it completely set in that she's alone now, that Rascal really is gone.

I had to go to PetSupplies Plus for cat food. With all of Betsy's problems in keeping on weight, I was feeding her, when I was home, every time she seemed to want it. That she would make a mess on the kitchen floor or only realistically eat half of what I'd put down and the rest would have to be thrown wasn't of consequence. It has been all about beefing her up.

Cats know when one is ill and will step aside to let the sick one have more. Rascal had been doing that for months, letting Betsy eat. But the last two months saw Rascal turning up her nose at most anything I put down. I would follow her in the morning or evening admonishing her to eat, even a little, of what I gave her. (Betsy moved from shoulder to lap for easier typing.) It was akin to getting a 2 year-old to eat peas. I went through so much cat food in the last 6 months, it's pretty ridiculous.

So now, it's just Betsy. Today has seen little appetite although she does go into the kitchen and nibble. She ate the last can, or moved it around on her dish while nibbling. I left to get more food, 62 cans equaling 2 of every flavor I know she eats. When I came home, she was sitting in the hall looking into my bedroom, the direction Rascal was on Wednesday. She let out a rather plaintive mew when she saw me and came trotting into the kitchen.

I think there is grief here. I know, from losing 3 other cats prior to Rascal, that cats have to grieve in their own way. Betsy is very subdued today. She doesn't even follow me around every place I go. I'm trying not to see this as "giving up" or that her kidney disease has gone beyond return. I'm going to keep her in my lap where she's currently dozing and purring and hope that helps with the grief. With her here, I know I won't be getting up because it's too quiet to go find her.

Beverage: Dr. Pepper


Friday, July 24, 2009

Day 2 and we move on.

I think it dawned on Betsy early yesterday afternoon that Rascal wasn't coming back. I don't know if she'd gone up to Rascal's body although she was at the back door and meowing at me when I got home on Wednesday. The vet told me, when I had to make the decision for Shakespeare, that having the other cats smell the body is a good way for them to understand the other cat isn't coming back. Animals grieve as we do and it takes various forms.

She was clingy yesterday and stayed in the office with me. We napped a couple of times after I got home and she was content to be next to me in the bed. She nibbled at her food but didn't eat as much as she had been. I guess that's to be expected. I sort of roamed the kitchen knowing I needed to eat but unsure exactly what it was I wanted. I eventually made microwave s'mores but that wasn't really what I wanted. I need to clean out the cupboards and make a comprehensive grocery list. It's time to spend another $183 to forget bananas.

This morning, she followed me all over the house, not that she hasn't been doing that already, but the meow was different. Maybe it wasn't a "Don't leave me alone" meow, but, in my current state, that's how it sounds and it breaks my heart. I'm really hoping the boss leaves early as he is want to do on Fridays because I'm going to the grocery for vittles for tonight's Tempest Keep raid and then heading home and I want to leave early.

I know it's because of my state of mind, but I kept hearing noises that sounded like Rascal Wednesday night and yesterday. I kept hearing things like a cat jumping off the windowsill or out of the papsan chair or her meow from the kitchen or the sound of her footfalls in the hall. I still look for Shakespeare to come up from the basement or Penney to come out of my closet or Half-Pint to walk up my body in the morning to stick her face in mine, "Time to get up. It's light out and I don't care that it's 5:24 a.m." But then, I still sort of expect my dad to call to chat and sometimes, I can hear him clear his throat.

Fortunately, my travels are minimal now so the two of us can be middle-aged ladies living together. I hope the budget allows for her blood work that we can stabilize her. Once we both get through the grief, I have a feeling she should be better. There's no competition for affection or food now and she doesn't go outside without me. Although she gets annoyed with my repeated head scratches, she likes the attention. We will get through this.

I do know that I won't have to share my next Domino's pizza with anyone. Rascal adored Domino's and I wound up getting a large to share the meat with the cat. Betsy sniffs, but she's not interested. Oh! I need grenadine. I need real cherry Cokes tonight and chocolate cake.

Beverage: Blackberry tea


Thursday, July 23, 2009

The next morning.

I'm in the office, at the moment. My boss, who does not like pets, has given me permission to leave as soon as I get done the two things I feel I need to get done.

I followed Betsy around for awhile last night. I gave her a small piece of my chicken tenders from Culvers. She nibbled at it but never ate the whole thing. She's never been one for people food, really.

Her routine didn't vary that much from what it's been. She did come back into the office and sit on the floor next to me. I kept getting up to pet her and tell her I loved her until about 9:00 p.m. when she growled at me. It's kind of humorous in that she was telling me, "Okay, okay. Stop already with the petting."

My WoW guild was wonderful. They were all very supportive and concerned. Pam dropped me off and would have stayed, but I knew I had a world of friends to talk to me throughout the evening. And I know, if I need anything, I can call Pam or Jon or Jessie and ask. Bill was phenomenal. Say what you will about people you meet in a game that you may never see in real life, the people who chose to hang around in game with me last night were caring, compassionate people.

I picked up Betsy and we snuggled under the covers. She fell asleep next to me, purring up a storm. I awoke about 4 and she was gone but all she had done was gotten up and moved to down by my feet. When I awoke, she woke up and she let me snuggle with her, falling alseep together, until the radio came on.

She eats as she's always eaten. She did complain a bit when I headed out the door for work this morning, but she's been very silent since I got home last night. I think about the changes in life now. I don't need to keep the back door open because a cat wants to come and go. Betsy's not doing that anymore. I have all these cat toys and a stack of food dishes.

April commented that the momma cat she and Perry adopted still has kittens at the shelter. Would I want them to bring one when they come? I did think of that, but it's way too early for me to consider adding another cat to my household. Betsy's health problems are still there and I need to get her stabilized and in a routine before I even consider adding another cat, especially one with energy. Let's face it, Betsy and I are middle-aged women and we're pretty set in our ways. I don't think it would be good for Betsers to have a kitten at this point.

So, we will be okay, the two of us. I'll go home and cry my eyes out again, hold Betsy and then do some laundry, work on a craft project, do the dishes, wash the kitchen floor. There's lots of stuff I can do when I'm home early. Life goes on.

Beverage: Blackberry Sage


Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I had to stay late at work today. We are upgrading our Internet to Comcast and they give you this 1-5 p.m. window. We all felt it would be after normal hours, 4 p.m., before the guy showed up. He got lost in the business complex and had to call the boss at 4:20 for directions to our building. I didn't get home until 5:20.

Betsy was at the back door. No sign of Rascal. This morning, she was hunched over in the hall but got up to move to the living room rug. She didn't meow, but it was obvious she was not well. I petted her, told her I loved her and I'd see her later.

I walked into the bedroom and she was dead on the floor. She had not been dead very long.

There is probably nothing that could have been done had I been here. Something was very wrong, something I won't know about and I don't want to know. She gave me 12 years of love and I hope she knew how much I loved her.

She had the most marvelously soft coat and the most interesting yellow eyes. She was an exceptional hunter and I've tossed rabbit, chipmunks and birds out of the house. Up until May, she jumped into the living room window to watch for me when I came home. She knew when 4 p.m. was and, if I came home after 4:30, she would be at the back door to yell at me. For the longest time, I couldn't give her Fancy Feast cat food with fish in it because she'd throw it back up.

Betsy doesn't seem that disoriented. I keep getting up to check on her. She's not as complaining as she has been the last three days. She maybe knew something was awry.

I love Pam because she dropped what she was doing and came to take me to the clinic. The clinic, where we just were yesterday, will handle all the arrangements and I'll get her ashes back. She will join Shakespeare and Penney in my secretary. Pam also drove me to Culver's to get food because she knows I'd come home and not eat.

It's going to be a very long night tonight. Rascal slept with me last night, purring up a storm, although I know she did not feel well. I know, in my heart, that she's playing with Shakespeare, Penney and Half-Pint.

Beverage: Pepsi


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Yes, I think I can do this.

Gasp! Syringes!

Well, they aren't for me, they are for the cats.

Rascal was not well this morning. After agonizing over it all morning, I came home at noon to see how she was. She refused to eat breakfast. I went into the kitchen to make more hot water for tea and she followed me in. She's been meowing pitifully for over a week. I know it's a meow of "Mom, I don't feel well" but there is so little I can really do. I had looked into the ultrasound Dr. Zollinger recommended but I don't have $375.00. Still, her listlessness and complaining tugged at my heart and I decided I should just take her in for a recheck. Maybe there is something they can do which doesn't involve $375.00.

$177.75 later, she's dehydrated but the kidney disease seems to be reversing itself. She's lost more weight and is probably still anemic. The kicker is that the lumps Dr. Z felt in her colon are still there. I knew one of the things that had not been checked was a stool sample and I was going to bring one from home, but the litter box was clear. I opened the door to pick up the cat carrier and there was a distinctive aroma. Rascal had provided a fresh stool sample on the way over. I don't know if I should want them to call me or not. If they call, it's because something's not normal. But perhaps that would be the problem and it would be easily "fixable". On the other hand, if I have to pill this cat...

They gave her fluids and I will get a box of Lactated Ringers from Target. My favorite tech, Val, will help me attach lines to the bag and I'll use the needles shown above to give Rascal fluids. She doesn't get as much as Betsy had been getting so it shouldn't take as long. I can do this. I know I can.

She's sleeping right now. We came home and she ate probably the entire contents of a 3 ounce cat of Fancy Feast. Betsy helped clean up some of what wasn't eaten. Dr. Daly, whom we saw today, said just the fluids alone will help her feel better. She also said the ultrasound is recommended so I breathe a heavy sigh and wonder just where I am going to get the money for it. Betsy needs a full blood panel too to reassess where she is. Dr. Daly invoked the 'c' word for Rascal but said intestinal cancer in cats is, if caught early enough, easy to treat and they can live 5-6 more years after the diagnosis.

Nothing is ever simple or easy. You can't put a price on their companionship, either. Lots to think about.

Beverage: English Breakfast


Monday, July 20, 2009

Could it really be 40 years?

Certainly I'm going to post some recollections on the history of today. 40 years ago, my family and I watched grainy black and white footage on an equally grainy black and white TV of one man gingerly working his way backwards down a ladder to set foot on the moon. I remember the night, and it was night when this happened, being clear and the moon was visible, although I think it was only a half or three-quarter moon. We watched, mesmerized by what we were seeing, and I remember dad got up to go outside and gaze up at the moon, almost unbelieving that we could get live television feed or that a human left this planet to go to another.

He got out the telescope and aimed it at the orb in the sky, hoping to see, for his own eyes, evidence that the television footage was real. But the small telescope we had, which could make the craters on the moon clear, could not show the small size of a single man on the face.

I remember Walter Cronkite's rapt gaze at his monitors. I remember my mother setting down her ironing to sit on the sofa. I remember lying on my stomach on the floor looking up at the TV. We had it placed on top of the upright piano (which my sister has, incidentally). It was a balmy July night. The day had been warm and sunny but the night was perfect. All you could hear, out in the country, was the sound of the cows and the pigs and the crickets and Neil Armstrong's voice, "Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."

About 15 years ago, Carole, her dad and I went to the Cernan Space Center at Triton College. Eugene Cernan, the last astronaut to walk on the moon, was making an appearance to talk about his adventures. We were members of the Center which has an IMAX Screen. At the time, it was one of two in a 500 mile radius. The other was at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Cernan had given Triton College money to build the screen and to fund an astronomy program. We saw a lot of movies there for a fraction of the cost of the MS&I. Plus, they had astronomers who gave monthy sky watching programs. I first saw the rings of Saturn via a January program then did.

Cernan talked about the rigors of space flight, how it felt to be headed to the moon, how it felt to know he would be the last man to walk on the surface and other items about space. He opened the floor up for questions and the first question was about colonizing Mars and the political ramifications of that. The room gave a collective sigh, not audible, but there nonetheless. The woman seemed almost to be baiting Cernan. But he gave a gracious, if long winded and obtuse answer.

Then he looked elsewhere for a question. Spotting Carole's hand in the air, he called on her. "What the ground like on the moon?" she asked. Cernan's face lit up and he spoke directly to her. "It's covered with this very fine gray dust," he said. He went on to talk about sinking into the dust and how they were concerned the dust would clog parts. Someone asked how the earth looked from the moon and he remarked how it appeared to be golf ball size and how hard it was to imagine that was home, where his wife, his kids, his dog and his pool were. It was clear he was profoundly affected by his experience. Carole was thrilled that she got to meet a real live astronaut.

So, I look up at the moon and remember doing the same thing 40 years ago. I remember the popcorn dad made. I remember the Pepsi we had, in glass bottles. I remember the crickets chirping and going to bed in awe of what we were able to accomplish as a country.

Beverage: English Breakfast


Sunday, July 19, 2009

A rose by any other name...

Jessie and I were going to go to brunch today. But she has a social life and I don't and that social life took her to the Dave Matthews Band concert at Alpine Valley last night. She trundled home at the 1:15 a.m. hour and logged onto WoW. Of course I was still online. See yesterday's post; well, this morning's post, actually. She said she was going to be too tired to go to brunch at 10:30. So we have postponed it.

But we were talking about all manner of things with guild members still online at that hour. One of them teased her and she typed, "Oooh, now I'm intriegued." Ever vigilant, I typed, "intrigued". This, of course, got a chorus of hoots and laughter and minor teasing. Jessie called me a "grammar goddess" and then said, "That's what your blog could have been named, "Tales from a Grammar Goddess".

Oh heavens!

When it comes to actual grammar use, I am probably a bit above average, but there is so much I don't remember or, perhaps, never knew.

The bookshelf to the right contains a few handbooks, but quite a few handbooks are not stored in the office where the computer is. If pressed, I would have to actually dig for the proper information. My friend Pam talks about helping her bosses (Yes, she has more than one.) craft business sentences and I admire what she's retained. I certainly wouldn't have caught the small errors she does.

If I could "be" anything, I'd be an editor. I would love to work for a publishing company, slogging through the stack of books every editor gets. I love helping someone "find their voice", as it were. Every editor should edit with an eye toward letting the author speak but helping him make sure "it's" is meant instead of "its".

For while, I took in freelance proofreading, much like some women used to take in other people's wash. I took great pride in being able to turn something around in a maximum of 48 hours depending upon the nature of what was being proofread. Some documents just couldn't be turned around in that amount of time. I didn't make a lot of money at it. It was enough to buy pizza or to pay for museum admissions, but it kept me in the word.

I'll agree with the "tales" part. I have lots of stories. I hope you never get bored. But the "grammar goddess" part? No one will every accuse me of "goddess-ness" and, more than likely, if you drop your participle, I'm not going to notice unless it makes a noise when it hits the floor.

Beverage: Coca-Cola


Only a couple more hours

and the sun will be up. The above photo was taken in 2007 in Columbus, Indiana where I was attending a Highland Games for my clan.

It's just after 2 a.m. and I'm finally feeling tired enough to sleep. I didn't get up until 8:30 but I've been going all day without feeling tired enough to take the body to sleep. I don't have to go anywhere when I finally do get up except the cats will want me to feed them in roughly 4 hours.

I love sunrises and sunsets. I knew this guy from Florida, Bradenton, to be exact. As part of the pseudo-romantic talk some guys indulge in, he promised that "some day", we'd start our morning with croissants, juice and strawberries on the beach watching the sun come up and then drive across the state to have hamburgers, french fries and beer while watching the sun set. Nope, never happened.

My dad was an early riser. He would wake me up in the summer to go for walks into the fields. I remember following him as he plowed through the alfalfa drenched with morning dew. Spittle bugs made their homes in the alfalfa and dad would catch them and the dew, getting his pants soaked but making it sort of easy for me to walk.

Often times, we'd stumble into a deer rut, where the deer were either just leaving or had just left. The deer would come into the alfalfa field at night to sleep instead of sleeping in the woods. It would smash down the alfalfa but the stuff would spring back fairly quickly in a summer day.

What I remember most is the intense musky smell of deer. That is definately an animal smell which could be compounded by dew-laden grass. If we had a ground fog, that would trap the smell. It's not like anything I can describe for you. You know it if you've smelled it.

So what am I doing up blogging at now 2:20 a.m. I don't really know other than I wasn't tired earlier. I miss having someone to wake up with and go to watch the sun rise or set. It's quiet outside tonight and I know I will sleep soundly. I also know, there are days when I'd give my eye teeth to have someone poke me and whisper, "Come on. The sun isn't going to wait for you to get there to watch."

Beverage: Coca-Cola


Saturday, July 18, 2009

I suppose it's never too late.

This is the entrance to the lodge at Starved Rock State Park south of Utica, Illinois. The lodge was build in the 1930's as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps which was, itself, a part of the grand Works Progress Administration designed to put people to work in the Great Depression. The Great Lakes Chapter of the International Society of Explosives Engineers had their July meeting here on the 16th.

Many, many people I know have come to Starved Rock for a vacation. I can see why. It's beautiful location and there's a lot to do. All I did was attend a meeting and then sit on the back patio overlooking a valley along the Illinois River. Bald eagles make frequent appearances in the skies. The sunset was quite beautiful; reds, oranges and purples against a darkening blue sky with bands of clouds. I had driven through a heavy rain storm traveling from Fort Madison to Utica and wondered if it would, eventually, make it to the lodge and we'd get sort of wet if we were outside. But it dissipated or went north or south of Utica. The Great Lakes ISEE will have their July meeting here next year, too.

It's only a 2 hour drive southwest from my home. We never went there when Carole was young. She's been there on her own, but this was my first visit. The room was comfortable and I overlooked a huge indoor swimming pool, jacuzzi complex. There are facilities for horseback riding, hiking, camping, canoeing and organized tours are conducted daily. There are cabins for rent as well as places for weddings. It's a touch pricey. My room for just me was $172 and change for one night. Weekend nights require a full weekend stay and that could get into the cha-ching range.

Yet what a remarkable place to vacation. Where have I been? Walt Disney World; England; Charlotte, North Carolina; San Antonio, Texas; Seattle is now a once a year, if I can swing it, twice a year trip; Portland, Oregon. One year, we took 10 days and traveled all over Northeast Iowa seeing the minor tourist attractions my ex and I grew up with. It never, ever occurred to me to check out Starved Rock. My room windows actually opened and, although I awoke to an alarm, I heard only the birds outside; no traffic, no lawn mowers.

But I couldn't linger. I met Jon in the parking lot and we left around 8:30. I stopped for gas and Dunkin' Donuts, arriving at the office for another day at 10:00.

Yet, I am thinking a recharge of my general internal batteries is only a 2 hour drive away. Utica has the history museums and artist's stores I enjoy. And after a day of poking around, to retreat to a comfortable room with little responsibilities, now that's a way to recharge.

Beverage: English TeaTime


Not quite like this.

Growing up, we had a windmill on the farm. It wasn't like this. It was a metal contraption that creaked and groaned when it worked. These, seen on my way to Iowa Thursday, are solely for the generation of power. Our farm windmill did that, but not with the efficiency that these do.

But then, these don't have much character. Sorry, green fans, they just don't.

See on a farm, you have to be somewhat self-sufficient. Our windmill, with four legs, a flower fan, a rudder that spun the fan into the wind and a gear thingee at the bottom, was designed to do a couple of tasks. Some farmers had their windmill hooked up to a pulley system that would generate power which was stored in the shed in batteries. At any season, these batteries could be recharged to provide just enough power to keep the milk house cool or the fridge cold or the auger on the coal furnace going in the winter so the furnace would keep going and you didn't have to wake up at 2 a.m. to shovel coal.

The other thing the windmill did, and this is what ours did, was pump water.

Our windmill powered a pump that brought water from the well to the cistern. You city dwellers probably don't know what a cistern is. Ours was about 20 feet in diameter, poured concrete with a slightly rounded bottom. It looked like half a capsule of medicine. On the top of the cistern was a hand pump, cast iron. The cistern was also attached to a pump that pumped water into the house. The original house did not have running water. The porch, back entry and bathroom were all added in the 1950's.

I want to say every 2-3 weeks, dad would let the windmill fill the cistern. He, or mom, would go to the windmill and let the blades spin. There was a wooden level on one of the legs. It was held down by wires. You removed the wires and pushed the lever up and that allowed the blades to spin into the wind. It was a great honor to be finally tall enough to reach the lever because that meant you were allowed to go turn on the windmill.

The windmill would run for several hours and then be shut down. The head spun freely and the rudder on the back side of it kept it firmly facing the wind. You didn't want it spinning freely all the time because the parts would wear out and it was, in the late 1960's, getting hard to find people to fix these. I remember many a time dad would let the blades work in a summer thunderstorm, only to have to run outside in a driving rain to shut down the windmill so something wouldn't break. It was noisy when working but that was a small price to pay for knowing it was doing its job.

I saw the inside of the cistern only once. We had a prolonged drought when I was 6, I believe. Water tables on farms dropped and wind powered pumps could not reach water. I remember the fire department brought out their pumper truck filled with water. They started at each house on the road and either topped off or filled the cistern. It took 3 men to take the cast iron pump off and shove the concrete top off to open up the cistern for the water.

It wasn't completely dry; I think about 2 or 3 inches of dirty, smelly water was in the bottom. They pumped that out and then hauled out some gunk with buckets. The cistern was flushed clean with the fire hose and then fresh water pumped back in. I'm thinking there was a moratorium on bathing and I believe mom took some clothes to my grandfather's in town to wash. Grandpa had a wringer washer, which, in and of itself, is a blog post for another day.

I don't remember how long before sufficient rains came to refill the water table. It didn't mean that much to me then.

I look at these tall white, almost silent energy efficient machines and know that they are doing their part to contribute to green energy. But, I have to tell you, I miss that noise from a metal, four-legged wind machine.

Beverage: White zinfandel


P.S. Uncle Walter, rest in peace. I still think Epcot made a huge, huge mistake in replacing your voice with Jeremy Irons.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Stream of Blog-scienceness

I'm currently all alone in the office. I went back to Iowa yesterday to get a remote monitoring device up and running. It refused, much like a teenager telling you how their day at school was. So, that particular machine was pulled and replaced with one that has decided life in the field is better than life on a steel shelf unit with a tag that says, "Modem refuses to work".
After that, I drove to a meeting at Starved Rock State Park.

I love July and August purely for the smell away from the city. Oh sure, when Zeke mows the lawn I just sit on the deck and breathe deeply. But you haven't lived until you're driving down a 2 lane road in the country and you take a deep breath. You can smell the corn. You can smell the earth. You can smell the...

my dad always called THAT the smell of money.

But that particular smell is fleeting and you're back to the smells that, to me, remind me that I'm alive. Fresh cut hay. The Mississippi River. A dusty gravel road. Yankee Candle has all these scents but they don't have those and they never will. Are you going to pay $24 for "Dusty Gravel Road"? "Clean Linen" is nice, but it doesn't smell like sun-baked sheets left on the clotheslines over a hot August noon.

I can probably go home in an hour as I have overtime and the one phone call I was waiting for has come in. I have other things to blog about. I made a list while waiting for the remote unit to call in.

Beverage: Dr. Pepper


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I sleep.

So the North American robin is NOT an endangered species. Given all the publicity about home foreclosures, can I get a sheriff to my neighbor's to evict the robin who made a nest at the bend in her downspout?

Robins generally arrive in my yard between March 8th and March 20th. I didn't see the first robin in my yard this year until mid-April. They like my yard, as do a lot of birds, because of the overgrowth. I don't have that much trouble with the cats preying on birds. We've had a sparrow, 2 starlings, a grackle and one robin brought inside in the 25 years we've had cats at this address. Generally, they go after the vermin.

Robins have a distinctive song. It's loud and once you've figured out which song belongs to a robin, you can pick it out immediately.

They are the first birds to sing with the growing light of the morning. On these lovely summer nights, all the windows I can have open are. In July, these birds will start at 4:15 and no, I am not making this up, 4:15 a.m. to chirp their morning song. Given that the nest is a mere 25 feet off my bedroom window, that makes that bird friggin' loud.

This morning, that chirp was accompanied by the crack boom of an approaching thunderstorm. We had quite the rain from 4:20 to whenever I fell back asleep. And if I get out of bed to remove the screen and shut the window, the cats think I'm up and they think they will be fed. Rascal has been particularly noisy of late and she was very noisy this morning.

So, when I venture out for lunch, I need to take into consideration that I'm very likely to fall asleep at 1:30 p.m. at my desk and I should find something to help keep me awake. What I really need is a full, uninterrupted night's sleep; no cats, no thunderstorms and no robin who thinks the whole world wants to hear him sing.

Beverage: Blackberry Sage tea


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cash for Clunkers

Ju posted a comment in response to my recent column about mistaking "cats" for "cars" in the government car buy-out program. I've thought about the comments over night and did some poking around.

From the official web site for the program:

Important Things to Know

  • Your vehicle must be less than 25 years old on the trade-in date
  • Only purchase or lease of new vehicles qualify
  • Generally, trade-in vehicles must get 18 or less MPG (some very large pick-up trucks and cargo vans have different requirements)
  • Trade-in vehicles must be registered and insured continuously for the full year preceding the trade-in
  • You don't need a voucher, dealers will apply a credit at purchase
  • Program runs through Nov 1, 2009 or when the funds are exhausted, whichever comes first.
  • The program requires the disposal of your eligible trade-in vehicle and that the dealer disclose to you an estimate of the scrap value of your trade-in. The scrap value, however minimal, will be in addition to the rebate, and not in place of the rebate.

Check this site frequently for the most recent updates from the government.

My Jeep was build in 1997 and gets, maybe, 16 miles per gallon on the highway. In theory, it would appear I qualify for a new car based on this. Some additional information from the official site:

What is NHTSA doing to implement the program?

As required under the law, NHTSA will publish rules for the program in 30 days. We are currently working closely with manufacturers, dealers, and disposal facilities to get a workable, effective program up and running.

Do I need to get a voucher or sign up for this program?

No. You do not need a voucher and you are not required to sign up or enroll in this program. Participating new car dealers will apply a credit, reducing the price you pay at the time of your purchase or lease, provided the vehicle you buy or lease and the vehicle you trade in meet the program requirements. The dealer will then obtain reimbursement from the government.

How do I know if a dealer is participating in the program?

The law requires dealers to be registered to participate in the program. We will be moving as quickly as possible to register interested dealers as soon as the registration process begins in the near future. As dealers are registered, we will list them on this website. We will continue to update this list during the life of the program. Meanwhile, you may wish to contact dealers in your area to ask whether they plan to participate in the program. The CARS Act requires that dealers be licensed by their respective state for the sale of new automobiles in order for them to participate in the program.

Is there a cap on the price of the vehicle I can buy or lease under the program?

Yes. The manufacturer's suggested retail price cannot exceed $45,000.

Does the program apply if I want to buy a used car?

No. The program does not apply to the purchase of used vehicles.

What is the amount of the credit?

The amount of the credit is $3,500 or $4,500, and generally depends on the type of vehicle you purchase and the difference in fuel economy between the purchased vehicle and the trade-in vehicle. Different requirements apply for work trucks.

In addition to the credit, will I get the full value of my trade-in vehicle?

No. The law requires your trade-in vehicle to be destroyed. Therefore, the value you negotiate with the dealer for your trade-in vehicle is not likely to exceed its scrap value. The law requires the dealer to disclose to you an estimate of the scrap value of your trade-in vehicle.

I don't drive an American car but I would like to trade in my old car for a newer, more fuel efficient one. Is this program only for American cars?

No. You may trade in or buy a domestic or a foreign vehicle.

I just traded in my old car for a new vehicle last month. Will I get some money back?

No. The program does not apply retroactively.

Is the credit subject to being taxed as income to the consumers or dealers that participate in the program?

The CARS Act expressly provides that the credit is not income for the consumer. However, the credit will be considered as income for the dealer.

Can I use the credit in combination with manufacturer rebates or discounts?

The CARS Act requires the dealer to use the credit under the CARS program in addition to any rebates or discounts advertised by the dealer or offered by the new vehicle's manufacturer. The dealer may not use the credit to offset these rebates and discounts.

Can I combine this credit with other government incentives?

Yes. You can combine this with other State and Federal incentives, such as the hybrid vehicle credit. For information on this credit, go to

Can dealers charge me a fee for buying or leasing a vehicle under the CARS program?

While dealers can charge their normal types of fees, the CARS Act specifically prohibits dealers from charging a fee for purchasing or leasing a vehicle under the program.

What will I need to bring to the dealer in order to participate in the program?

You should bring documentation establishing the identity of the person who currently owns the vehicle, preferably the title of the vehicle, and documentary proof that the vehicle “has been continuously insured consistent with the applicable State law and registered to the same owner for a period of not less than 1 year immediately prior to the trade-in.” The final rule will specify what types of documentation would be acceptable.

What happens to the vehicle I trade in?

The CARS Act requires that the trade-in vehicle be crushed or shredded so that it will not be resold for use in the United States or elsewhere as an automobile. The entity crushing or shredding the vehicles in this manner will be allowed to sell some parts of the vehicle prior to crushing or shredding it, but these parts cannot include the engine or the drive train.

These are the things I see as most important to know about the program. It's slated to start July 24, 2009 and run through November.

Lousy legislation? Well, I see it as "feel-good" or, less charitably, "knee-jerk", reaction that is so typical of our elected officials. First, full disclosure. I voted for President Obama. I felt and still feel that huge change is needed and his administration is going to start that change. Therefore, I am more willing to be patient with the fits and starts of trying to right the ship, so to speak, than someone who did not vote for Obama.

Yet, I don't see this program as doing what it is intended to do. Is the US auto industry in dire straights? Yes and its floundering send shock waves all across various industries. I have one friend who lost his job a year ago in a company that supplied parts to Ford. He has not been able to find work since. Buying cars is one way to put people back to work as those cars will need to be build and repaired.

BUT, here is my big problem with this program. I could, and the operative word is "could", get $4,500 for my car. According to the Kelley Blue Book, my Jeep is worth to a dealer a bit under $3,000. Worst case sceanario, combining the lowest allowed incentive with the lowest suggested dealer trade-in gets me around $6,000 to apply toward a new car. The problem is, a new Jeep is going to cost, assuming a sticking to the manufacturer's suggested retail price, around $16,000. That means, making assumptions here that may not be valid, I have to finance $10,000. I don't have the wherewithall to assume more debt. And that, from my limited POV, is the killer on this program.

The cars that need to be removed from the drive stream are the cars driven by people like me who are scratching and scraping to hang onto what they have. My house payment went up. My dental insurance went up. My utilities have gone up. I have taken a 10% pay cut because I'm not in the field like the guys are. I run the office. No, that doesn't translate into a higher salary. I may be making more money than I have ever made in my life, but all my expenses are up. Just where do I find an additional chunk to make car payments? And then my insurance will go up because I'm driving a newer car. I have to sink more money into the Jeep for repairs. The argument can be made that if you're driving a new car, you don't have the repair costs. But, from where I stand, the average I pay over the course of a year is less than the cost of car payments and increased insurance. How can I participate in a program like this?

I wish I could say that our elected officials are "well-meaning". I just don't think they get it. They assume that people who need a car to drive to and from work have the wherewithall to replace that car just because there is a nice shiny new program trotted out to do that. Some people will and a few cars will be removed from the highway. But it's going to flop tremendously. $4,500 is not enough of an incentive for me to trade in my car, given that mere survival is what I do now. What about those who are worse off than I and drive 1990-era cars? Should we be subsidizing a commodity whose value decreases so quickly?

I don't have answer, never would purport to have answers. This one topic has a myriad of policy ramifications far beyond the simple objection I have. And what if I can't trade my Jeep for another Jeep? I adore the drive in my Jeep. It suits me. I can't imagine driving another car.

This post isn't really designed to start a debate on the merits of the program, pro or con. I'm just tossing out there the one problem I see with it.

Beverage: English Teatime


Monday, July 13, 2009


Perhaps you saw the article about swearing. (This is CNN's Dr. Gupta's commentary on it.) It's been on the news feeds all day. I only glanced at it. April and I had a discussion about its implications today. As it involves language, I've been considering what to say about it.

Essentially, the article says that pain is diminished if one swears. Dr. Richard Stephens, one of the authors of the study says, “Swearing has gotten very bad publicity– it’s a negatively construed thing. But the positive aspect of it is swearing self-regulates our emotions. It can have a beneficial effect.” The commentary states, "...many people find swearing to be incredibly distasteful, regardless of when or why it happens."

I'm one of those for whom swearing is generally not something I do. You can usually tell if I'm angry by what my word choice is.

This view was formulated in a college English class. Sister Celestine Cypress, a formidable nun with a huge knowledge of language, was discussing a short story written by a classmate. I don't remember if the author was endeavoring to write in the vernacular or was just trying to get a rise out of Celly, but he more than peppered the story with invectives. I remember her handing out copies of the article AFTER she had taken her editing pen to it. 90% of the swearing had been removed. We then had a class discussion on the use of language and when cussing and swearing was appropriate. I remember her saying, "If you have to resort to a swear word, your vocabulary is very poor indeed."

This stuck to me like a velcro suit to a carpet. I read. I love the turn of the phrase. I love a good, or depending upon your point of view, bad, pun. Good authors are the ones who can write well, not the ones who sell the most books. At the time of Sister Celly's comment, I was a 20 year-old know-it-all who peppered her speech with the "f" word. I didn't want to be thought of, particularly for an English major, as having a poor vocabulary. Invectives were banished to the dictionary.

And they have, more or less, stayed there. This is not to say the occasional "oh shit" or the even more salty (for me) "goddamn" doesn't escape my mouth. Keep me up all night and then cause me to do something at which I will fail and you'll hear exactly those words I do know. Plus, I work in an industry which provides support services to the construction, demolition and quarrying industries and they have no clue what "invective" means, but they can certainly add "fuck" to the end, middle or beginning of every sentence.

I don't correct. I just don't choose to use. Over the course of my first 2 years of employment, my lack of swearing, even if I dropped something on my foot, caused those I work with to limit what they say around me or to apologize if, in a fit of pique, they called a co-worker an "ass wiping goddamn piece of shit". Look at me, "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to swear around you."

Remember when "shit" was part of George Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words You Can't Say on TV"? Some of those you still can't say. April and I discussed how language has changed, how words once considered verboten don't even register on the ear. She mentioned not being able to read "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck because of the language used. It's integral to the book and you cannot image the characters talking in Queen's English.

But does that make it okay? I'm wrestling with just that question in my WoW guild and this study comes at a particularly prescient time. I have people for whom "shit" and "damn" and "ass" or even "asshole" are as natural a part of their speech as "prescient", "invective" or "construed" are to mine. Does that make me better than them? No. There is a quote and, once again, I can't find it, that says, "I disagree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." That's sort of how I feel. Yet, I don't wish to be subjected to a string of profanity even if that's your modus operandi. My solution in the guild was to create 18 and over chat rooms where anything goes and, if your normal conversation is peppered with "goddamn" you can still use it, just not in the general chat. It's not a perfect solution by any means, isn't this segregating some people, but it will work for the most part.

As language evolves and what was once offensive becomes less so, I do hope there are still controls on just what constitutes civilized speech in public places. I do not want to walk into the grocery and hear Eunice yell across the produce section, "Howard! Pick up some motherfucking corn, will you?" Some things just shouldn't be said.

Beverage: Dr. Pepper


Maybe if I tilt my head sideways.

I'm enjoying reading Perry's Twitters. I don't get the full conversation, but I don't actually mind. Some of the comments are very interesting and can lead an imagination like mine on some very interesting tangents.

Last Friday, he posted "
Looks like neither of our cars will qualify for the "cash for clunkers" federal incentive. Not clunkified and gas guzzelish enough." This is a straight enough comment except that I read "cars" as "cats". Reread the sentence substituting "cats" for "cars" and you can see my confusion.

First of all, Perry and April love cats. They just lost Jenny last month and have adopted Carly in her place. They have Clark, the almost wonder cat, not quite as fast as a speeding bullet. Why would they trade in their cats? And just what kind of lame deal would you get for trading in a cat? To reference an earlier post, you certainly wouldn't get the contents behind curtain number 3.

Secondly, I am generally aware of what's going on in the world, in terms of news, and although I'd heard of the "Cash for Clunkers" program, I didn't think it involved cats.

But, I'm dyslexic. Generally, it involves numbers. I talked about my mild dyslexia back in June. Sometimes, it involves words, particularly words that are very close in spelling, hence the "cats" for "cars" program.

I don't know that I'm ever going to see this "Cash for Clunkers" as what it really is. It's always going to be the program where you turn in cats to get different cats.

Beverage: English Teatime


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Good Sunday Morning!

Hmmmm. I'm minding my own business updating my WOW guild's web site and I hear this vaguely familiar sound.
"Dang, that sounds like a blimp!" says I.
I peer out my office window. No sign of it.
I go to the front door and peer out the front. There is it, the Goodyear blimp flying east.
I'm not sure why it's in Chicagoland. I'm not that aware of anything major going on that requires a blimp.
The blimps that visit Chicagoland are berthed at the DuPage County airport which is west of me. When they want to head into the city, they have to fly over my house. We used to have several come every summer from the Goodyear blimp, which looks awesome at night, to the MetLife blimp with Snoopy on the nose. There is this distinctive sound when a blimp flies over your house.
When Carole was young, we used to rouse her from sleep to watch the blimp go over the house at night. If the blimp comes back after dark, I'll try to take some photos.

Beverage: English Breakfast tea


Friday, July 10, 2009

Knee High by Fourth of July

"There's a bright golden sun in the meadow. There's a bright golden sun in the meadow. The corn is as high as an elephant's eye and it looks like it's climbing right up to the sky."

It rained today and the sun came out which turned outside into a bit of a steam bath. This is corn-growin' weather. Ample moisture, brilliant sunshine and warm temperatures combine to make it grow 3-4 inches a day.
When I was growing up, the phrase "knee high by fourth of July" meant you were going to have a good crop. Now days, with hybrids, pesticides and herbicides, if it's not chest high by July 4th, something is seriously wrong with your corn. This shot was taken between Sabula and Maquoketa and is typical of Iowa corn.
I'm an introvert. All that means is that I get recharged when I'm away from people. Extroverts get recharged when they are with people. Growing up on a farm, in the summer, my favorite place to recharge my batteries in August was the corn field. It could be 98 walking out to the field, but you dive into the rows and the temperature drops a good 10-15 degrees. I would lie down on the ground, on my back, and look up at the sky. You could smell it. You could almost hear it growing.
There are times, when life gets maddening, that I sincerely wish I knew someone who would let me lie down in their corn field. No cell phone. No computer. No "modern life" with me. Just the smell of August in a corn field. Troubles would certainly seem less invasive after spending a couple hours lying on the ground looking up.

Beverage: Belhaven Scottish ale


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Why yes I have a hardboiled egg, a tacking hammer and 15 red buttons in here.

I head off to lunch. We're getting an upgrade to our office Internet service and it's coming through the boss's office so he's gone for the day now. I had to "nip along smartly" to get some viands for luncheon and dashed over to Subway. Two people in front of me in line, one male, one female.
Orders go quickly down the line. Even with the guy wanting his sub toasted, Subway employees pride themselves on getting you in and getting you out with minimal wait time. The guy whips out his wallet, locates his debit card and is finished paying in less time than it takes for me to type this sentence. The woman opens her purse and...




If you are a certain age, you remember Monty Hall and "Let's Make a Deal". People dressed outrageously for a chance to receive prizes. You could trade the proverbial "bird in hand" for what was inside a large box on the stage or for what was behind one of three doors/curtains. Sometimes you got something fantastic, like a complete set of kitchen appliances. Sometimes you got the goat, the real thing. I do believe there were consolation prizes for those getting 15 pounds of composted cow manure, but the whole appeal of the show was who would trade the brand new bedroom set for a 33.3% chance at getting a new car, a trip or a mule. Sometimes, that mule turned out to be an all expense paid trip to Yellowstone, for instance. More often than not, it was a mule.

One of the schticks was to point at a woman and ask if she had three very disconnected items in a handbag. Women used to show up with these almost suitcases bulging with a variety of items in the hope they would be chosen and could then produce the title of this post. As the woman in front of me dug deep into her purse for her wallet, she pulled out, in order, a scarf (looked to be silk or silk-like), a package of dental floss, two packages of tic tacs, one child's light blue Croc shoe, 3 pacifiers including one that looked like the dog had enjoyed it, and the top off a sippy cup. Yes, although most of my life consists of trying to remember why I walked into this particular room, I was astounded that she pulled these items out of her purse and set them on the counter, so I made a mental note that this was, most definately, a blog post.

The errant wallet was under these things. The corners of bills stick out of this wallet, along with sales receipts. She opens it up and a small stack of papers slide out of the wallet and into her purse. She is now fully aware that there are 3 people stuck behind her and this makes her nervous and embarrassed. She picks through the money to get exact change but finding the change part of the wallet empty, she says, "Um, just a sec. I know I have the 53 cents in the bottom of the bag."

I didn't say a thing. I don't think anyone said a thing. But I do believe the universe sighed at the thought of her spending more of our lives rummaging in that bag of holding for 53 cents. I heard the guy behind me fumble in his pants pocket, the jingle of coins clearly audible. Instead, she handed the clerk $10 and started shoving everything back into this purse.

It must be a hold over from ancient times when women had to take the children everywhere with them because men didn't handle child rearing duties. We were not coming back to the hovel any time soon and therefore, needed to take whatever we might need with us. The advent of bags just made carting everything easier.

I used to be a "bag mom". I used to look upon outings as if they were trips to northern Canada where only polar bears and not McDonalds would be. Hence you needed to take anything and everything your child could possibly want in the event she aged 3 years in the 2 hours you were slated to be gone. I took great pride in being resourceful and planning ahead. I was the woman in front of me.

Now days, if I could pare down what I carry, I would. I looked at my purse when I got back to the office. I don't NEED half of what I carry, but there is a security in having it. Carole teased me during my Puyallup visit in May that I was still using the purse I bought 3 years ago. I don't see any reason to change right now. It works. I know where everything is.

I will take what's behind Door #1 but all I can offer is a tea bag, an unused nail file and 4 cherry flavored Ricola cough drops.

Beverage: Coke/Rootbeer mix


Needed something stronger

I know you're wondering how the date went. I have considered just how much to reveal and almost didn't post anything. But I mentioned this event so I need to visit it and, if you know me, I do have an opinion.
I stayed up too late on Tuesday evening talking via my computer with my daughter and with a WoW friend I had not seen in several weeks. Brian is, like my WoW friend Bill, a confidante. Both are pragmatic and have very good insights into the human condition. I have often leaned on them for advice in dealing with the humans who manipulate the pixels that form the characters that congregate in my World of Warcraft guild. Brian's been very busy at work and just has not had time to play. So, when he logged onto the game, one of the first things he did was ask if we could chat later.
And with my daughter playing a character in my guild, I have the chance to stay more connected with her and her life. This situation doesn't lend itself to going to bed at 11:30 p.m.
I called the date to say I was leaving my house. He inquired about my day and I yawned. I admitted I was tired. He suggested we just get together for dinner. I heartily agreed. Although seeing a movie is a nice idea, I prefer to talk to the guy first and decide if he's worth seeing again. We met at the Outback Steak House in Wheaton.
I've never been to Outback, anywhere. It's good food, cooked well, nice selection, very attentive service. They had Key Lime Pie and were happy to give me a side of hot fudge to drizzle over it. (Pam is laughing.) They have a huge warm pecan brownie dessert that's topped with ice cream, whipped cream and hot fudge, but I wanted Key Lime Pie so I didn't get the brownie.
He's made it clear in all our phone conversations that he's a recovering alcoholic and I felt ordering a drink would be in poor taste, so I had tea, lots and lots of tea. He talked and he talked. I finished my appetizer, my meal and my dessert a full 15 minutes before him. I'm sure the steak he ordered was cold by the time he finished it.
My perception? Well, if it goes anywhere, it's merely a friendship. I know I have excess baggage accumulated from a life of hard knocks. He's got trunks. For every comment, there was one a step grander. As a for instance, I mentioned my liking Highland Games. He proceeded to tell me about them. Incredulous doesn't quite cover it.
He appears to be a gregarious person. He knows so many people and has relatives and friends in all sorts of places. For every place that I've been in my life, he's been two or three more places. For every incident I would relate, he had one that was more. There was never a lack for conversation but the conversation didn't seem to include me.
Some of the people in my World of Warcraft guild, who knew I had a date last night, said he might be nervous and so talks over much to hide that nervousness. I think he just likes to talk. He's overly confident that his opinions are correct. I never expressed an opinion in the course of the evening because it seemed certain he either wouldn't hear it or wouldn't allow it to stand.
We left the evening that I will call him. Next week is shaping up to be quite a week for me and, with his work schedule being nights and weekends, any getting together is only going to involve dinner and a movie.
A year ago, I was friends with a guy (met via the service) and that was all we did. He called pretty much every 2 weeks from Mother's Day to Labor Day and we got together for dinner. He did come to the Highland Games last year and we spent an hour listening to the music in the entertainment tent. He made some suggestions about other things we could do. In the Chicagoland area, you can find free entertainment, via local band concerts or festivals, every weekend and we were going to do some of those things. I was excited. I couldn't see a romance with the guy, but I could see a friendship. But we never did anything he suggested other than dinner and he drifted away around Labor Day. Going out to eat or going out to a movie for every date is just not my cuppa.
I came home, poured myself a small glass of wine, and logged onto the computer. A few guild mates and my daughter were online so we talked. While I did enjoy the man's company, I found myself rehashing the things this guy said that bothered me. I should be thinking about the things that are right, not the things that are wrong.
The service has already sent me another name. Maybe they knew they did not make a good match. I need to call this new guy and make arrangements to meet for lunch. I'm not optimistic but I take the tact that these kinds of things get me out of the house. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

Beverage: Huckleberry tea