Monday, August 31, 2009


I was in Iowa today to get those two machines in Fort Madison up and running again. Gorgeous day, simply gorgeous. The driver's and passenger's side windows are off. I have to remember to grab a towel to wipe off the dew in the morning. It's not supposed to get as chilly; 45 instead of 41.

I went to the clinic and picked up Betsy's ashes tonight. She's home with Rascal and Penney and Shakespeare. I so wanted there to be a face at the back door. I so wanted to see Rascal in the living room window as I pulled in the drive. I wanted to hear the familiar meows of cats complaining because I had been gone all day; leaving early and getting back late; and they were hungry and I'd better do something about it rightnow.

There were more noises over the weekend, little things. Maybe it's Betsy and Rascal saying they are happy. They are with Shakespeare and Penney and Half-Pint now. Betsy and Penney and Half-Pint can find all the spots of sunshine, lie in those and never have to worry about getting stepped on or having to move because the sun moves. Shakespeare can sleep in his very own papasan chair without anyone moving him. And Rascal can sit in all the windowsills she wants and watch for me to come home.

Tonight, I miss them all so very, very much.

Beverage: water and tears


Sunday, August 30, 2009


What is with this weather. It's to get down to 41 tonight.


That's one more than forty and one less than forty-two.

But it's Chicagoland...and we should be cooking eggs on asphalt even with September a day away.

I have had the heat on since Friday night. I just could not keep it off. Chicagoland.

I paid bills today. My electric bill was $54.10 for August. I think it might have been that back in 1985, before rate increases doubled it. I think I ran the AC for 5 days at the beginning of the month. Betsy seemed to do better when the interior air temperature was around 75. We had some hot and humid days and some things you do for your cats, like leave a small portable space heater running in your home office for the entire month of February minus the days you were gone to a convention. That electric bill was...well...astounding.

Off to Iowa tomorrow to fix these machines that won't call in.

Beverage: Huckleberry tea


Friday, August 28, 2009

Kitteh visits

I went to visit Val and her cats. No pressure to take them, no not at all.

"I told Dawn that you were thinking about taking them and everyone at the clinic is really excited. They all think you're awesome and really couldn't think of a better person for them."

Did I say no pressure? HEY! Put that screwdriver away and don't tighten those!

Yes, I have actually considered NOT getting any more cats, at least through the end of the year. There is something to be said for being able to linger in places because I don't feel I have to be home. I look ahead at what I may be doing; Scottish festival in Iowa at the end of September, 30th class reunion in LaCrosse at Viterbo College (yeah, yeah, I know it's called 'University' now, but it will always be 'College' to me), and the thought of using up my vacation days with a visit to my daughter, which she didn't know about until she reads this. Plus, there's Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year's tossed into the mix.

It is undeniable, however, that I am lonely. I nearly had a heart-attack on Wednesday night. I went to bed at my usual time, but I find I am not sleeping well and am waking up at odd hours and noises. I will swear, on any size stack of whatever religious tome you wish, that I heard a cat jump from a windowsill to the floor. If you have heard it, it is an unmistakable sound; feet hitting the floor. At night, that meant someone was coming to sleep with me. I was so terrified I would suddenly feel the weight of a cat on bed and this "cat" then lying on my legs as they were wont to do. I curled into a ball, pulled the covers over my head and fell fitfully asleep. I have no idea what I really heard. I just know my sense of sound heard something that was translated into a memory that couldn't possibly be happening, or could it?

I walked into Val's apartment and one fled. The other looked at me before going behind the futon. She was, however captured and held while I let her smell me. Then, when there were no hisses or spits or struggles to get away, she was handed over. She sort of looked at me and then lay down in my lap. "She's the lap cat," Val said. She stayed for a good 10 minutes before deciding the petting was enough and she jumped off. (That's how we got Shakespeare. He fell asleep in my arms at the pet store where he was. Well, you can't just wake up a cat. He's obviously comfortable with me.)

At that point, Val got the other one out of hiding. She struggled a bit so Val calmed her down and then I offered my hand to smell. She looked at me but didn't want to be petted, so she was let go. Val and I talked about their care and their personalities and then Val got the recalcitrant cat again. This time, she allowed Val to place her in my lap. The ears flicked back for a minute or two but when she realized the ear and chin scratches were offered, she was fine. She only lasted a few minutes in my lap, but she's not the lap cat the other is.

By this day next week I'll either have 2 new friends or be getting 2 new friends. Labor Day weekend is an good time. I am clearing my calendar of any ancillary engagements that I can spend the weekend bonding. My house is empty. I am empty.

They won't be allowed into the basement until they are used to the upstairs and used to me coming and going. I have to wash the kitchen and bathroom floors and one more litter box. Both are quite chunky which neither Betsy or Rascal was which will be quite different, but they do love to sleep with their owner. I realize that is what I miss the most, rolling over to find a purring cat. Pillows are no substitute.

Yes, you can hear the not quite 100% completely sold sure right now in my voice. Am I talking myself into this? I don't quite know. Only Shakespeare was a sure thing. Everyone else was an "am I doing the right thing". There were no regrets once the cat was in the house.

As I huddled under the covers last night (What is this with a night temperature of 53 degrees in August?), the idea that I'd have foot warmers again gave me a better sleep than I've had in several days. I am a cat person.

Beverage: Prince of Wales tea


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The magical 100!

The post below this one was officially number 100 in my brief start as a blogger. I didn't realize that until I checked for comments.

One Hundred thoughts.

And you are still reading this.

Okay. Here's to another 100.

Beverage: nothing. It's time for bed.


This is running through my head today.

Rainy Day

It's a rainy day;
It's a rainy day.
It's raining outside,
And I can't go out and play.
Why do we need the rain anyway?

Rain falls everywhere,
Fills the rivers and streams,
Flows into the reservoirs
Purified and clean.
Water to do the wash,
Water to drink,
Water is flowing
Through the pipes into our sink.

It's a rainy day;
It's a rainy day.
It's raining outside,
And I can't go out and play.
I guess I'll stay at home today.

Every living thing needs water;
Every living thing needs the rain.
Every living thing needs water;
I guess I really can't complain.

It's a rainy day;
It's a rainy day.
It's raining outside,
And I can't go out and play.
Why do we need the rain anyway?

Water to do the dishes,
Water to brush your teeth,
Water to take a shower,
Water to wash the street.

Water for the forest,
Millions of thirsty roots;
Water for the garden,
Flowers, vegetables, and fruits.

It's a rainy day;
It's a rainy day.
It's raining outside,
And I can't go out and play.
Don't you know I love the rain anyway?!

Beverage: Dr. Pepper


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It'll take how long?

My TechTools software order was waiting inside the front door yesterday when I got home from work. Quick blog post. Quick signing onto the game to tell everyone that I was going to defragment my hard drive and I'd be back on when I could. Then crack open the box and get going.

I ran the first recommended scans which took an hour each. Then I did the small scans. After that, I had to boot from the Tech Tools disc so I could run the deep scans and defragment. I fixed file defragmentation which resulted in a gain of 2 GB of disc space. I was falling asleep at this point, nodding off in my chair while watching the graphics on the screen. But then that finished and the next big thing was to completely defragment the main hard drive.

Now, Perry's defragmentation took 30 hours. I have a big guild event on Wednesday and I wanted my computer to be optimized for that. If it's going to be a 30 hour event for me, too, I needed to get started on it.

You get this bar graph and a percentage number before you start which give you an idea of fragmentation. I had bars all over the place and the program said my hard drive was 82% fragmented. Okay. I'm not a computer whiz over here, but that can't be good. Push the button marked "Defragment the hard drive" and off it goes. This was 10:20 p.m. last night. I went to bed.

When I got up this morning, it was done! Just like that. I ran a couple more scans before heading off to work. When I left, it was fixing disc permissions, whatever that means. I noticed I got back another 2 gigs of hard drive space from the optimization. That's 4 gigs just doing this. I'll take that.

When I get home tonight, I need to do more wash. I'm low on pants. Then I can install the free antivirus Perry recommended and I should be good to go again. I have a Mac because it doesn't require much hand-holding. Now that I've done this, I'm tempted to get the new software upgrade, nicknamed Snow Leopard. But let's wait and see what kind of speed increase I get. Maybe I'd be better off getting more memory?

If only that were true for me.

Beverage: Blackberry tea


Monday, August 24, 2009

It will make your hair messy.

It's gorgeous out, simply gorgeous. I put down the top yesterday afternoon in anticipation of today. I had to download the data from the University of Chicago project which meant a drive into the city.

Finally, a real chance to use the visor I got in Seattle at the Museum of Flight. The visor I had for the last 5 years finally creased in the middle to the point that it wasn't comfortable. I always keep the visor as you see, through winter, spring, summer and fall. That way, if the weather proves delicious, it's handy.

The sky was clear blue. No clouds. Lake Michigan was as calm as a broad expanse of water that deep can be. Sailboats were taking advantage of the day and were out on the water. The city was not obscured by haze. There was a light breeze from the south so sitting at a stop light was actually a pleasant experience.

I wore the visor into the city in the morning, but didn't need it coming out. I always think road construction is easier to take if the radio's tuned to jazz and the top is down. Yes, you can get some 'interesting' smells, but feeling the sunshine on your skin can't help but lift your mood.

I have air conditioning. Drive 65 with the windows off.

Beverage: China Black tea


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Working forward

"We think we 'pick out' our pets, but I think they pick us out."

My sister's words in a card to me.

I think she's right. Shakespeare fell asleep in my arms when we went to see him at the pet store. Penney rolled over and let me rub her belly the first time we met her. Half-Pint followed us around my mother's kitchen when we met her and Betsy chose to give birth to Rascal in the junk pile of the people next door to us. I think they all 'picked' us because they knew they would be cared for and about.

All the dry cat food is gone, eaten by the denizens who inhabit the neighborhood. I did find partial bags of treats while looking for something else. I will put those out tonight and they will be gone in the morning. The last cans of Fancy Feast have been sent to where they can be used.

I removed the litter box and used litter and have washed the floors in that room, my bedroom and the hall. I have this office, the bathroom, the livingroom and the kitchen to wash.

I need to start washing litter boxes. I do that by sprinkling Oxy-Clean over the bottom and a smattering of dish detergent and then putting the box in the bottom of the tub into which the washing machine drains. Soak and scrub and it's clean.

I'm still lonely. I could have sworn last night I heard each cat, in turn, making noise in typical fashion. I got up at least 3 times to investigate a noise that was, at turns, familiar and unfamiliar. Was that someone jumping into the papasan chair? Was that a meow from the kitchen at the back door? Was that footfalls in the hallway? It was a fitful sleep until I think I simply willed myself asleep.

The flowers are starting to wilt around the edges. By the end of this week, I will be putting them in the compost pile. By the end of this week, all the floors will be washed. The ache in my heart is still very acute and I can tear up at the slightest memory. I thought of taking down the photos I have of each one, but I think I need to see those, to remember.

The weather is to be glorious for a few days. I'm taking down the top so I can feel the sun and the wind.

"You will eventually get 'picked out' again." Of that, I have no doubt.

Beverage: real cherry Coke


Saturday, August 22, 2009

And there was a knock on the door at 9 a.m.

I'm still in bed, mind you. I've been needing sleep all week for obvious reasons. I'm not sleeping well at night and it's been terribly hard to get up in the morning because, honestly, there's no reason to hop out of bed. No one is demanding my presence. No one has attempted to take a bite out of my chin. No one has drooled on my face or meowed in my ear. I'm sleeping in today.

So who is knocking on my door at 9?

I was worried. What if it was Zeke coming over to say he would be mowing my lawn? I would be horribly embarrassed to get out of bed right now. I heard a vehicle drive away. That was double suspicious. I pulled the covers up around my chin and lay there as quietly as I dared.

After about 15 minutes with no more discernable noises from the front steps, I got up and cautiously opened the front door. FedEx left a sticky. There was a package on the front steps.

Now, I ordered more tea and I ordered TechTools for Mac. My Mac has been running slow lately and Perry suggested I get TechTools and defragment the hard drive. That's probably a very good idea. MacMall had it for $20 less than buying through the Apple Store. (I know that's a duh, but I did check. Comparison shopping is something I just do instinctively.) I did not remember paying for next day shipping, but I might have.

I opened the front door, mindful that I'm in my pajamas. There are some things the neighbors just don't need to see. Oh look what's on the front step.

TEA! It's my tea order. I don't remember paying for FedEx delivery for that, either, but hey, this is very important, particularly if it's going to continue to feel like early October instead of August.

So I brought the box inside.

Yesterday, I ordered pizza for supper. Yes, dear readers, Pam's taking me for dinner made me actually get something other than peanut butter M&M's for supper. I also got garlic breadsticks and a 2 liter of Coke with the pizza. There was plenty left for today's lunch AND supper. I also took the Italian sausage links out of the freezer. I think I have pasta that if I crumble these and cook them, I can have a sausage and pasta supper. I could, in fact, cook again. I know you're sitting down so I can say that without you fainting dead away.

I opened the box and there was my order. No, I have no idea how the Scottish Blend tastes. I ordered it because it was on sale. I'm generally not fond of green tea but "Gunpowder Green" has a bite to it that I like. It, too, was on sale. And, at the far right is the Huckleberry tea I've grown rather fond of. This might be enough, with all the flavors you can just see behind these three, to last through Christmas when I might get more, not that I'm hinting or anything.

This was worth getting out of bed for. I expect the software Monday or Tuesday. I know defragmenting the hard drive is a major event so I may be out of pocket for a day, at least. But if it removes the lag, I certainly have the tea to drink while I go do something else.

Beverage: Assam


Two more photos

Better photos of the flowers sent in memory of Betsy and Rascal.

Beverage: Assam



It's August. They don't call them the "dog days" for nothing.

Last night, it got down to 58. You read that right.

50 + 8 degrees. I have my house windows closed. My feet are chilled to the bone. I have been drinking hot tea like there is no tomorrow.

At 9:24 p.m. on Saturday, August 22, 2009, it is 64.


I don't EVER remember an August this cool. Cool nothing. This is COLD. It would definately be a 5 cat night. In fact, I remember wandering about the house looking for them to cover them with a towel to make sure they were warm. I'm going to have to wear socks to bed.

In August and not because my feet were dry and I had to put lotion on them.

Do I turn on the heat just to remove the chill?

In August?

Beverage: Assam


Friday, August 21, 2009


The email was aghast!

"Peanut butter M&Ms? That's it?"

It's hard, very hard, to want to be in the kitchen when I'm so used to watching where I step or where I back up. The kitchen floor is still slightly messy. Betsy was a very, very messy eater the last 6 months of her life. I don't want to let go of things. It almost feels as if I'm letting go of their memory to clean up the bits of their lives still around.

So, I did the dishes, but that's it. I make tea. I've stopped at Caribou Coffee for their white chocolate black raspberry scones more times this week than in the previous month. I don't want to cook.

Pam knows. In times like these, if you don't take me somewhere, sit me down and stick a menu in my hands, I won't eat or it will be peanut butter M&Ms.

We went to Steak 'n Shake.

I had the bacon cheddar burger and fries with a chocolate banana shake.

It was more than enough to satisfy my hunger and remind me that food is necessary. I have muffins frozen in a couple of large bags in the freezer. Simple to take 2 or 3 out and even if I don't want to eat them at home, they will thaw by the time I get to the office. I'm always making tea. Tea and muffins is a nice breakfast combo.

I love my friends. I'm waiting for Jessie to call and cluck at me, too. "What? Peanut butter M&Ms?"

But they are pretty good.

Beverage: English Teatime


Thursday, August 20, 2009

This is why I go there.

It's not a question you ask when you are out shopping for a vet. At that time, when the new member of the family is little or, at the very least, just new to you, what you don't think about is when it comes to the end of your four-legged friend's time with you. How does that vet treat you and your pet?

In 1986, when Shakespeare was 6 weeks old, I picked Animal Medical Clinic because they were close to where I live.

This arrived at the house for me. While the photo is beautiful, it really doesn't do justice to the flowers. I'll take one tomorrow in the natural daylight. I went out to eat tonight with Pam (which is a blog post, in and of itself, for tomorrow). They were dropped off with a neighbor and I retrieved them when we came back after dinner.

I have received flowers before, for the deaths of the others. You saw the card they sent for Rascal and I received one yesterday for Betsy. They make a donation to the local zoo in memory of your pet.

They don't have to do this and, cynically, I am probably paying for this out of fees charged. But, as the tears flow, yet again, I am reminded that there are people who understand that these weren't merely cats. These were members of my family and grief for them is as real as grief for someone else.

Beverage: water


Baby steps

Last night, I washed all the cat dishes. I had avoided doing dishes because of that reason but they were getting out of hand so they had to be done. I collected the water dish in the bathroom and washed it. We got it for Shakespeare in 2003. The dishes sit on top of the fridge. As I'm going to add new furrballs at some point, I won't get rid of these, not yet anyway.

It was hard to go home last night. I lingered in the office until 4:30. It's garbage day so I was emptying recycling bins into the big container to be rolled to the curb. I would have to close the back door after me or accept the knowledge that a cat would come outside while doing this. I find I still close the door and it feels wrong to leave it standing open.

I did a load of wash Tuesday night. If the upstairs of the house is quiet, the basement is beyond still. Half-Pint and then Rascal used to lie on top of the furnace. There used to be someone always watching me from the stairs hang up the laundry. Someone would be wandering about, poking into nooks and crannies and then come upstairs when I was done.

The litter box is still in the back bedroom and I have to wash floors. I need to make room in my secretary for Betsy and Rascal to sit next to Shakespeare and Penney. Carole took Half-Pint's ashes with her.

I'm not eating well. I had peanut butter M&M's for supper last night. I think about ordering a pizza, but that's as far as it gets and last night, we got some heavy rains and I didn't want the delivery guy to be out in that. I wish Baker's Square was still in Wheaton as I could use pie. And a trip to Steak 'n Shake would be a nice pick me up. Both places require a bit of a drive and sitting alone just emphasizes how lonely I am. It's quite the dichotomy. I don't want to be at home because the emptiness of the house bothers me, yet I don't want to wander around because it makes me feel lonely so I best just go home.

I know these feelings will pass, particularly when I'm ready for more cats. Would that yesterday's rain had not come with lightning. I love to sit in a warm summer rain, one without lightning. I love how it feels on my skin and face. I think sitting on the deck steps with a hot mug of tea while getting soaked would have felt very good.

Beverage: Assam


Monday, August 17, 2009

6 P.M.

What do you see to the left? It's my papasan chair. It sits in the livingroom. I've watched many an Iowa Hawkeye football and basketball game, read many a book, stitched many a counted cross-stitch project, slept many a nap in this chair.

It's empty.

Shakespeare claimed it when I bought it. When he passed away, it became Penney's chair. After she left, Rascal took over.

I've just come off another crying jag. It got to 5 and I was working on a Christmas project. I set it down and started to stand to go into the kitchen to feed the cats.

For 23 years, there has been a cat in this house. For 8 years, there has been a stripey cat sitting in the window of the living room at 4:15 when I got home from work. She quit doing that in May. That was a signal Rascal was not well.

I have tried listening to music. When Rascal died, I played Old Blind Dogs that evening. Now, the music feels like it's covering up the quiet.

I took a 2 1/2 hour nap this afternoon. I cried myself to sleep because there was not the warmth and purring of a cat. I can hear Rascal. I can hear Shakespeare. I can almost see Penney and Half-Pint in the spots where they used to be and I expect to see Betsy in the kitchen looking for me, waiting for another can of cat food to be opened.

There were times when the house was quiet like it is now. After a meal, everyone would settle down and sleep. There would be activity at 9 and Carole and I would find our attention divided by 5 cats. But that too would settle down and everyone would sleep. This is a wholly different kind of quiet. The only thing here is me and my sobs when the grief overtakes me.

I need to eat, but there is nothing I care to eat. I lost 3 pounds after Rascal died. I just didn't feel like it. For all the pots and pans and dirty dishes, the kitchen is empty. I don't want to be there.

I am trying to keep myself active. Work will help in that I have things I have to get done this week. I have done a great deal on this Christmas present today. And I know the feeling that my world is crashing in on me is just that, a feeling.

Beverage: English Breakfast tea


Alone Now, 1996-2009

It's not a good photo of Betsy. She wasn't the most photogenic of cats. She often looked like she had a perpetual scowl. She was tiny, never more than 8 pounds. But she was a lover-cat, demanding of attention.

I made the incredibly hard decision to let her go today. She had deteriorated over the weekend. She did not want fluids and had almost bolted on Saturday. Giving her a pill for her kidney disease made her gag so I quit doing that. She was peeing on the floor. She ate everything but had quit gaining weight, losing what she had gained over the summer.

Part of me thinks she missed Rascal.

Early this morning, we had a bad thunderstorm come through. She was not in bed with me but came when the lightning got bad. She couldn't jump up onto the bed anymore so I picked her up. She immediately snuggled next to me and started purring. This has been our routine since February. She sleeps right next to me, purring both of us to sleep.

But this past week, her sleep had become so deep, I was not sleeping well because I was scared she would pass away at night. Over the weekend, she would come to me and give me a look that almost asked, "Why?" I had no answer.

This morning, she was not in bed when I got up for work. She came running when she heard me and ate everything I gave her. She follows me around, meowing, not pitifully, just meowing. I had a small shard of hope that if we just got everything under control, she could be better. But when I came home to take her to the vet, she was lying on the office rug. She looked at me, but never got up. And as Dr. Labek and I talked, she slept. She was ready however unready I was. I told her I loved her, kissed her forehead and let them take her away. They will call when her ashes are ready for pick up. I picked up Rascal today.

Now my house is empty, really empty. No cats. No daughter. I have not begun the clean up. Her food dish still sits on the floor. The litter box is still in the back room. The towel she slept on with me today still on the bed. I have gone to get tea and find myself looking for her. I had to wait as I don't think she could see very well anymore nor could she hear me well. I looked down to make sure I wouldn't sandwich her between my legs. My face is raw from crying.

This is Shakespeare. He passed away in August of 2005. He was my bud. Everyone loved to pet him at the clinic, which, you could tell, embarrassed him. He was a very beautiful cat.

He was the runt of a litter left at a pet store where we knew someone. He was sickly when we got him but we nursed him to full health. He loved to jump on me when the sun first came up, walk up my body and take ahold of either my lower lip or my chin and bite just enough to awaken me. He always slept on my ankles. He loved to play fetch too, with these bouncing balls we found at a neighborhood pharmacy. He was not a cuddler unless you had food. Then, he was in your face.

These two are Half-Pint, on the left, and Penney, on the right.

Half-Pint was so named because she weighed exactly 8 ounces when we got her. Eight ounces is half of a pint. She was one of the cats at my mom's husband's farm. She was also sickly and we had to nurse her back to health, but she was feisty and very funny. She loved to lie in crazy spots that had sunshine. She would jump on me in the morning and walk the length of my body to put her forehead somewhere on my face and purr, in an effort to get me to get up. She would cuddle but she loved to sit on your shoulders. As this would impede what you wanted to do, we would call out, "I need a 'Pint-en-dectomy!" and someone would come remove her.

As she started life a farm cat, this stayed with her. She was hit by a car when she would not come in one night in April of 2006. I had to go to a meeting for work and I could not get her back inside. I found her in the street when I returned home.

Penney was a stray who turned up pregnant at the sister of our next door neighbor. Once the kittens were born, she was spayed and they began looking for a home for her. She was the most mellow of cats. She was a lover. She wanted to be with me all the time. She wanted my lap whenever I sat down, going so far as to jump up on the table and smash the newspaper when I read it in the mornings. We could never get her untrained from jumping on the kitchen table. She would sit on the edge when I did dishes, meow and reach out a paw to touch my back when I would pass by.

She was 3 years younger than Shakespeare and they were the only cats in the house for several years. They would chase each other through the house. It was okay for Shakespeare to chase Penney, but he would hiss and spit when she did it to him. Once he grew too old for the chasing, Penney and Half-Pint played together.

Penney was a gorgeous gray. Photos don't do her any justice. Light danced off her fur. And, like Rascal's, it was incredibly soft. That she was a lovable cat just made it so much more fun to pet her.

I let Penney go in August of 2007.

And here is one more picture of my Rascal cat. It was a warm spring day and I had thrown open the house to air it out.

Yes, I will get cats again. I had already decided, when Rascal died, that I would take a bit to recover, once Betsy died, but I would get cats again. I will get 2. There are always cats who need homes. Val, from the vet, has 2 she wants to get rid of because she's not home to properly care for them. "Ms. Montague, I can't think of anyone who would take better care of them than you would." But the wound is raw and I don't think I should make that decision right now. It is time now to be just me and my memories and move forward.

Beverage: English Breakfast


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Jessie and Deb go to IKEA

Subtitled: FIELD TRIP!!

There it is, IKEA in suburban Schaumburg, Illinois. For the few readers who might not know, IKEA is a Swedish company, started right after WWII by a guy who tried to put a chair into his car and couldn't because of the legs. Don't believe me? Check out this blog post. It's one of Jessie's favorite stores. I'm okay with it. I find some of their furniture to be cheap in construction, but there is no doubt that it is transportable. Plus, as you can see from where we had to walk to get to the store, and no, I didn't make Jess drive to the far reaches of the parking lot just so I could get a photo; this is where we parked. IKEA is popular. The easily transportable concept means that college students or others who have to rely on public transportation can come to IKEA and get a table and chairs and carry it home on the bus.

Jessie was looking at all kinds of things. She needed a chest of drawers. She needed a new computer desk. She wants a slim table for her front hallway on which to drop mail, keys, her purse, the contents of her pockets when she gets home. We hadn't spent time together in ages so I just wanted to go along to chat. But I would like a new chair for my home office...

I got to meet Momo, her new kitten. It's been 12 years since I played with a kitten. They have a lot of energy. Betsy would not be amused. I won't get Betsy a kitten. It was hot, too. It got up to 93 last Sunday. My Jeep has air conditioning, really, it does. See the photo below. But Jess was not amused by my AC and said, "We are NOT taking your car" so we went in her car.

IKEA is three floors of schtuff (the technical term). You take escalators to the top floor and work your way down. We looked at dressers. We looked at computer desks. We looked at tables. She needed place mats. Oh look! Spoons! For some reason, I'm losing my teaspoons. I bought a package of 6 teaspoons for $4.95. They aren't the greatest and I'll be putting teaspoons on my Christmas list, but they are okay. (Not iced tea spoons with the long handles, regular teaspoons and I'd like a package of 6 or 8 please and thank you.)

We wandered about and Jessie got a thingee (again, technical term) that tilts your lap top up to help keep it cool. And then we found the office chairs. I almost got the one
I'm sitting in here. This one was leather and had arms. It was $50. Actually, it was that fake leather. Then I sat in this one.

It was a hard choice. The left one does not have arms. But the chair I currently use does not have arms. The armless chair was $79.99. The fake leather is $30 cheaper. The fake leather came in white and black. The armless comes only in black. The armless has a taller back and that back fabric is mesh so it will breathe. The leather will be sticky in the summer. The armless chair's seat is covered in fabric which can be removed to wash. If I wanted arms, I could get arms for another $20. Both were very comfortable and could be raised to the height I need to keep my feet more or less flat on the floor, which is where your office chair should be for good posture. It was hard to choose because I don't have a lot of money, but I went with the armless chair.

After making that very important decision, we headed to the cafe to have lunch. Yes, IKEA has a cafe serving a limited amount of food. I got a turkey and swiss cheese flatbread wrap and chocolate cake. Jessie got their "mashed potatoes to die for" and chocolate cake.
Jessie decided to buy a small circular table to go on the patio to her apartment. After eating, it was time to get our purchases. You go down to the first floor and wander about this massive warehouse looking for the aisle number and bin number where your item is stored. We found my chair and found her table and went to check out. They have self-service check outs which do make things faster although, if you're paying by credit card, it was a bit confusing.

Now comes the really hard part, getting it to the car. There is a loading dock area but it's always full with cars waiting. My chair wasn't that heavy so I picked it up and we walked to the car. RAWR! I can carry this.
Now we have to get it in the car. But that's the beauty, if you will, of IKEA furniture. It's supposed to fit in pretty much any conveyance you can bring to their store. Now, granted, if you're coming by bus and there are busses that have IKEA on their route, you can't take home a table top the size Jessie wants for her new desk. You could very easily carry this chair on the bus with you.

See? It fit. My chair side ways with Jessie's new table on top. We were airing out the car, as much as you can when it's 93 with a very hot wind blowing from the south. We hopped in the car and drove back to Jessie's apartment. I had to leave right away as I had promised Carole I'd be home to play Dungeons and Dragons with her and the group. I did wind up being 15 minutes late because I had to get gas.

Currently, the chair sits, still in its box, in my kitchen. I will assemble it this weekend. Yes, that is a blog post.

This is the long post I promised, complete with photos. It was a fun time. Now where did I put the screwdriver?

Beverage: Blackberry tea


Friday, August 14, 2009

Zoom zoom

Today starts Chicago's annual "Air and Water Show". Along the lakefront from Grant Park to North Avenue Beach, the military puts on a show of airplanes. There are also bi-planes and Navy seals and fancy water craft. The airplanes are the thing, though. That's what people come to see.

I've gone once. It's you and a million of your best friends. But with the vast amount of the lakefront utilized, pretty much any spot from North Avenue south will get you a good view of airplanes.

One of the highlights is this group...

This is one of the older planes on display at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. Carole and I visited this museum when I was out there in May.

The year Carole and I went to the show, they had an Apache helicopter, the Blue Angels, a brand new American Airlines 777 that flew roughly 50 feet off the water along the beach. I think there were some fighter jets. I remember bi-planes and one bi-plane with a wingwalker. The highlight was the arrival of a stealth jet. All the noise is behind the jet. We kept scanning the skies for it. When it does show, it appears on the horizon looking like a dark bird. Suddenly, it's 200 feet in front of you and blasting over your head.

The Blue Angels do their "usual" stunts. I put that in quotes because I can't imagine what they do is "usual". If, however, you have seen footage of them or been to an airshow where they have appeared, they do the same body of work; flying upside down, flying straight up, flying back-to-back, flying really fast at one another and missing by feet. It's amazing flying even if you've seen it many times.

If I was in the city between 11 and 2 today, I would get a taste of the show. It's tradition to fly some of the jets around the downtown on the Friday before. The air overpressure from the fly-bys rattles windows in the high rises and can spook people who aren't sure what's going on. Today is absolutely glorious and the weekend will be perfect for a show. Part of me wants to drive the Jeep up and down the drive tomorrow between 11 and 3, when the show is in full swing. Top down, warm summer breeze, blue lake... Maybe I'll weed around the air conditioner tomorrow. That needs to be done.

I remember the first time I saw precision flying. I was 5 or 6 years-old and we had gone to Clear Lake, Iowa to meet distant relatives. I have no idea why but the Air Force's Thunderbirds were at the lake. I can't remember if it was Memorial Day, 4th of July or Labor Day. I remember them flying low over the lake and then up into the air. The planes were gray except for one that was camouflage painted. The country had just come through the Bay of Pigs incident. Flexing military might was important. I remember going back to a cousin's house to take a nap after spending time on the beach at the lake and hearing this loud roar as airplanes flew over the house. As this is not a usual occurrence in Iowa, my dad went outside to see what was going on. He saw the jets and we were hastily bundled into the car and driven back to the lake where I have vague memories of jets flying over the water. In family movies, there isn't anything showing the jets. It's just video of the lake and, I think, my brother, Steve and myself.

Sometimes, participants in the Air and Water Show will park their airplanes at the DuPage County Airport, which is west of me. I'll get to see them fly over as they head toward the lake. I probably could go downtown and watch by myself, but it's so much more fun to grab a friend or two, pack a picnic lunch and park yourself either on the beach or in Lincoln Park and just watch.
Maybe next year.

Beverage: Lady Grey Tea


Thursday, August 13, 2009


Proof. 'Nuff said.

Beverage: "real" cherry Coke


This could be good.

Not to give too much away, but a job from Northeast Iowa landed in our lap for bid this afternoon.

I know exactly where it is and I know the company putting out the bid. When we would go visit my late in-laws, we would go right by the company's offices.

If we get the job, it's going to require at least one trip out there to do some inspections and set up equipment and one trip out there to monitor the initial blast.

I'm excited. It's near my hometown, not that I have anyone I'd visit there other than the graves of my relatives. I know that probably sounds morbid, but I have yet to find my great-great grandmother, Anna's grave. It's in the oldest part of the cemetery. If I have some down time, I should put flowers on my dad's grave and see if I can find Anna's grave.

Plus, if this goes into a weekend, I can watch on local TV my Iowa Hawkeyes play football. Depending upon the time frame, this could happen during the fall when the trees explode in color beyond your dreams. "Autumn in New York" is an old jazz standard. It's nothing compared to autumn in Northeast Iowa. We like to say God made New England first and then made Northeast Iowa to do it right.

Keeping my fingers crossed.

Beverage: Blackberry Sage tea


Why I don't eat green beans.

Perry gave me this great idea for a post.

He and April have not received mail since last Saturday. At first, they thought it was just luck of the draw, that they didn't even deserve solicitations for siding or pizza coupons. They received a notice that their mail was being withheld due to ophidian presence at the front of their house.

A what now?

A snake. A garter snake, to be exact. Seems their postal carrier is afraid of snakes and the garter snake that has been living peacefully under their front porch was out sunning himself Monday when the carrier came to make her delivery. She's scared of snakes.

April called to find out what was wrong and heard the story.

Now they have to serve eviction papers on the snake and tell him to pack up his stuff and move out. That's going to be very hard to do since he has no arms....

But their story reminds me of why I don't eat green beans.

You all know I grew up on an Iowa farm. My parents planted a 2 acre garden every year. We had everything from early lettuce to late season parsnips. Dad would plant a half acre of potatoes, 6 rows of sweet corn, 11,000 tomatoes, and, I swear, 2.5 miles of green beans. Once the beans started to set, it was part of my morning chores in August to go pick beans. I would come bounding down the stairs to eat my Cheerios and mom would hand me a dutch oven and point to the garden. What a way to deflate a day. I would grab the dog (yes, I grew up with a dog in addition to cats) and head to the garden.

We had a way to do this. There was a bamboo pole, the end of which was affixed with a bandana. When you had filled the dutch oven, you grabbed the pole and stuck it in the ground where you had finished picking. That way, when the next day's picking resumed, you picked only where someone had not been.

I would pick up a ball and walk with the dog to the garden. Once there, I would play fetch with the dog, tossing the ball down the rows of beans. He would cut through the plants as he returned with the ball to have me throw it again. We would do this for a good 10 minutes. Then I would park my carcass at the point where the pole was and work away from it. I would sing or talk to myself or just listen to the sounds of an August day as the insects and birds would get moving in the morning air. You wanted to be done by 10:30 or 11:00 because midday in August on a farm in Iowa can be warm.

In spite of my precautions, at least once a week during the picking season, I would part the bean plants and look down into the face of a garter snake looking up at me. The dutch oven would go one way, I would go another, generally followed by the dog who thought we were playing and the snake would slither away, just as startled as I was.

In the summer, the ground around low growing plants like beans takes awhile to warm up. When it does, it also take awhile to release its heat, so the snakes would stay in the beans where it was warm until midday, when they would amble off in search of food or to sun themselves some other place warm.

I would dash into the house yelling, "Snake! Snake! There's a snake in the beans!" Mom would look at me and say, "So where's the dutch oven?" "Um...out there with the snake." "Go get it." "But there's a snake..." "I don't care. Was it full? It needs to be full. Go get it."

Back to the garden I would go. I would try to find a longer stick that I could use to poke at the snake. Of course, it would be gone and the dutch oven mostly emptied of its contents which I then I had to pick up. It would be another 10 to 15 minutes of picking and I could come back inside with the beans.

So, dear reader, I came to quickly associate snakes with green beans. I can see beady little eyes looking back at me. I did, one year, plant wax/yellow beans because I have a sweet pickling recipe for them from my ex-mother-in-law. I didn't have problems picking those, but seeing a snake in my neck of the woods is rather rare.

Therefore, you may have your green beans almondine casserole. I'll be very happy with my sweet sour carrots. I can't be scared of rabbits.

Beverage: Dr. Pepper


Chicagoland, we are finally topless!

After much waiting and watching and wondering, the top finally came off at noon when I ran over to Dominicks to get lunch. I took the windows off earlier but I can't take the top down in the morning because keeping dew trapped against the canvas is not a good thing. I'm out of dish detergent so I had to go to the grocery. I took the top down.

I know. I know. Photos or it didn't happen. I'll take some at home.

I couldn't take it off back in May because I was sick and didn't want the air rushing about my face. Since getting well in June, I have waited for a string of nice days in a row. Although it's harder to put it back up than to take it down, I don't want to take it down one day and have to put it up that night because it's going to rain. The repeated folding is not good for the top.

I know it's to be nice tomorrow and the long-term forecast doesn't call for rain until next Tuesday. Now I need to grab someone and go for a ride!

Finally, a chance to use the new visor I got when I visited Carole in Seattle.

Beverage: Heck, Lunch: Salad, cheese bagels, lemon cookies and Dr. Pepper.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Yes, I'm late. I have this big post coming and I could work on it at the office when I'm waiting for stuff to download or print or I need a break from sorting data. But, it requires the embedding of a YouTube and we can't watch YouTube at the office. So if I can't see it, how will I know it actually works for you?

So, I haven't posted.

That doesn't mean I haven't thought about things. I just haven't organized my thoughts enough. And I like illustrations so I have to consider what I have to go with the post. Nothing with this one because it's late and I didn't want you to think I'd fallen off the face of the earth.

Jesse told me to post about grammar and I could. Let me sleep on this. I have an idea. It just needs to germinate.

Beverage: Coke


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Summer in the city or anywhere else for that matter.

Yes, it is summer in the 'burbs. You can't go anywhere without following one of these. I used to think I wanted one. I do know how to bait a hook and will patiently drown earthworms with the best of them. But I'm not sure I want the upkeep and, with zebra mussels spotted in some lakes, there are boating bans in many bodies of water.

Still, this sight does remind one that it is really summer, even if the temperatures were below normal.

Beverage: Strawberry Sunkist


AWK! Blog post! Blog post!

On Friday, August 7th, I had to go back to Fort Madison to service one of the machines on this highway job. It quit calling out remotely on the 26th. We were having such problems with the communications on all our remote units that we weren't sure if this was a communication problem or if the machine had a problem. It seems the battery on the machine had been drained. That'll do it. Low battery means it won't call out, no matter how hard it tries. It also means a 5 hour one-way trip to fix this. And with the communication problem, we aren't exactly sure that replacing the battery will make the machine call in.

Oh well. It gives me something to do.

I head west. It's a heavily overcast day with the threat of rain. I drive through some spitting showers, nothing major until I get to 40 minutes from Iowa on I-80.

You know these kinds of rains. God unzips the rain clouds and has his angels overturn buckets of wash water. You can't see. Sky, horizon and ground meld into a gray gauze. Instinctively, you take your foot off the accelerator because if anything happens in front of you, you want to be able to stop. Westbound traffic is relatively light so I peer into the immediate distance trying to get some idea of where I am. I have to get off I-80 and head south to Galesburg, but I can't see road signs for where I am.

Too late, the exit for I-74 to Peoria wanders by and I realize I have missed my turn. I push onward hoping there will be some identifying marker that tells me I can get off and turn around, but there isn't one. 10 minutes more and the rain ends, leaving the pavement covered in water. The Mississippi River bridge looms ahead and I am in Iowa.

I take a quick glance at the map and exit at Route 67 south. I have to go south to Fort Madison. The sky ahead is that deep blackish blue of an impending storm. As I am driving south through Davenport, the sky opens again. I unzip part of the window and smell the familiar odor of a Midwest summer thunderstorm.

It's hard to describe it, particularly along the river. There is the smell of the earth, the smell of mud, the smell of water and the smell of humanity. A series of hard storm like this washes away the urban smell and replaces it with a fresh smell. I love to walk in the rain and smell the earth and the water. Even a driving rainstorm, as long as there is no lightning, is a wonderful feeling. Rain water is good for your hair and skin and sitting on the deck at night with a cup of tea getting drenched in the summer is heaven.

I continued south. By the time I got to Fort Madison, the sun had come out on a few occasions and steam was rising from the small woods or hollows visible from the road. I got some lunch and headed to the non-working instrument. One battery change, a 15 minute job, and the machine called out on its own. A crack gauge I had installed on the south side of the house fell off so I had to install another one. We use hot glue to affix it to the brick. A liberal application of rubbing alcohol will dissolve the glue and pop off the gauge.

It took a few minutes because the gauge wouldn't stick at first. Then I didn't have enough glue and it had started to rain lightly again and I was getting soaked. When the gauge finally stuck, I stood up and bent over to pick up my bag. Attached to my jeans was the largest bug I had ever seen. It looked like a june bug on Miracle Gro AND steroids. It was light green with red tinges. I have no idea what it was, but I brushed it off quickly, grabbed my bag and walked smartly to the Jeep, whose passenger door was standing open in an ever increasing shower. The communications center in Atlanta, Georgia called to tell me my machine had called in and done a full download. I hopped into the Jeep and thought, "Dang! That would have been an incredible blog post!"

So, I got out of the Jeep and went to find the bug, but it was gone. I got back into the Jeep and headed home, stopping in Fort Madison for $2.45 per gallon mid-grade blend gas.

That, dear reader, is a synopsis of what I do. The money I'll get for expenses based on mileage will cover the rest of this month's bills AND pay for more blood tests for Betsy to see how much fluids she should get. I used to put 300 miles on a week but I run the office more these days. Part of me misses the time spent in the car on job sites, but most of me is grateful for not climbing in and out of cars and quarries and construction sites. Life is a series of trade-offs. I enjoyed classical music on my CD player while driving through rain storms. It was okay.

Beverage: Strawberry Crush