Thursday, December 18, 2008
And there's different brands of stupid. Right now, I'm dealing with teacher stupids, school administration stupids, controlling IT stupids, helpdesk stupids, OfficeMax stupids, professor stupids, and busy-body stupids.
As you know, Son has been struggling with "mood problems." Some days, I can't even get him out of bed. He's also been out with dental problems. This has resulted in spotty attendance at school. He came home last week MAD. One teacher had been hassling him about his absence the day before. "So, are you just playing hooky?" she said. "Do you fake sick and get your mommy to call in for you?"
This ass-load of judgment on the teacher's part, without bothering to find out the situation, humiliated him. It made me mad, too. So, I wrote an email. It went to all of his teachers, the principal, the vice principal, and the junior counselor. In it, I laid it all out on the table. I told them the struggles we're having, and how such comments do nothing but make a difficult situation worse. I didn't name the teacher, but she recognized her words.
She wrote back and told me that "chiding" a student will motivate them. And that I should realize how lucky we are that she's been cooperative with Son and his absences.
No, lady, we're not "lucky." Being cooperative with excused absences is school policy. Stupid.
School administrator stupid:
So, Son will be homeschooling. I go to the district office and register him as such. They give me paperwork to give to his school. "Make a copy and give that to them," they say. "Don't give the school your original." See, they have experience with these people.
I go to the school. "No, we don't need that paperwork," the counselor lady says. "Sign this checkout sheet and he'll get his teachers to sign off on it at the end of the semester."
So, Son goes to get the checkout form yesterday. "You can't have it," she says. "Your mom has to sign it."
He texts me about the same time the counselor lady emails me. "Son tells me he's going to start homeschooling," she says, like it's news to her. I've already talked to her about it twice.
"You need to register him as a homeschooler with the district and bring the paperwork to me," she says. "And you must come sign a checkout form."
Uhm....you mean the paperwork I tried to give you last week? And the form I signed last week?
I write and ask. I call and leave a voicemail. Silence for awhile. Then the backpedaling commences. Stupid.
Controlling IT stupid:
Someone in particular in our IT department is very controlling. When I first started here, I was placed in her office temporarily. She seemed to think she was my boss. "Where are you going? For how long? Who are you meeting with? What about?" Uhm...we're not even in the same department. In the hierarchy, we're on the same level. Back off, lady.
Still, she wants to approve and control what I do with our online courses. I'm sorry....that's the heart of my JOB. Don't fuck with it.
So, I get a request from a prof to re-use his course materials from Spring 2007. I go looking for it and can't find it in the online system. That means it's been archived. I look through all of the archive materials. No Spring 2007 courses exist anymore.
I write to two people in IT who deal with this, including the controlling lady. The other guy doesn't know where they are. She tells me that it's all on the IT drive that I can see. Nothing is there.
"Am I to assume the courses are just gone?" I ask.
The guy says yes. They're just gone.
On his heels, the controlling lady says, "It's on the server. I've restored it to the system for you to use. Whenever you need an archive, ask me to restore it."
Hmmm. Strange. I know how to do this, but she's saying she needs to do it?
"Where did you find them?" I ask.
"They're on the server," she says. "You can't see it."
That's the sound of a comment not going over well in my office.
"You can't see it." The slow boil in my blood begins. She is withholding a tool I need to do my job. No reason exists for her to withhold it from me. If she doesn't want me mucking around on the server, fine. Put the archive with the others, where I can find it. Where I can do. my. effing. job. And don't tell me how to do it, either.
I'm resisting my kneejerk reaction to tear the bitch a new one. I'll consult with my boss and make sure I don't overstep my bounds. But this is majorly pissing me off. Stupid asswipe woman.
This one really gets me. I'm actually going to do something official about this.
So, Daughter has saved up almost all the money she needs for a laptop of her own. We've been looking for a deal on one. The brand-new Sunday ad comes out and there's our deal. A laptop with the right specs, a Bluetooth mouse, and a 4-in-1 printer for $599. My folks need the printer and want to pay a fair portion to keep that. So, off we go to OfficeMax to get our bundle deal.
They've been open two hours. There's like three cars in the parking lot. No rush happening here. Mom and I walk in that ask a guy working about where to find it.
He makes an abrupt stab at the ad with his finger. "I'm out of those."
"Which?" Mom says.
"That." Another stab. "The bundle."
"You've been open two hours and it's all gone?" Mom asks.
"Yeah," he says. "And I can't order it. I tried for someone who was here earlier."
"So, you haven't had them at all?"
"It's in today's ad and you don't have anything available?"
"No," he says. And he makes a fatal mistake. He smirks. "You can get the laptop by itself. For $599."
"For the same price as the bundle?" I ask, incredulous.
Anyone else out there smell a bait-and-switch?
It gets better. We decide to go look it up online. It's there! We add it to the cart and click to checkout.
"This item has been discontinued."
Discontinued?? You can buy the individual pieces, for a higher price, but the bundle is "discontinued."
I wrote an email.
I got a response.
From an idiot.
She says they still have bundles available, if I want to order it. My response: How? Your store doesn't have it. They can't order it. Your web site says its discontinued. Huh?
She says that they stock individual stores with enough to meet the need. Sometimes, they sell out. My response: On the DAY of the ad, they didn't have it and never did. And couldn't obtain it. But we could buy one piece, for the same price.
She says that it's not unusual for technology to be discontinued. "New technology becomes obsolete in 4-6 months," she says. "This is an industry standard."
An industry standard?? My response: Listen, fuckwad, I'm no flunky here. I work in the "industry." Discontinuing an item does not happen on the same day it's advertised. And the technology is still available. How does a bundle become obsolete? (Okay, so I didn't actually call her a fuckwad....yet.)
Stupid ass OfficeMax. I don't have another response yet.
This is an ongoing thing. Some people think that a PhD means they never have to follow instructions or fill out a form again. Everyone else has to, but not them. And they think I'm the one who needs to do it for them.
I'm in administration, sweethearts. I'll eat your course for breakfast, if you want to be snotty with me. I don't like to pull my position over them, but I will if I have to.
So, I sent the form I need. They send it back incomplete. I send it back again. They send it back incomplete. I send it back again. If they want their course posted, they can do this the right way. I don't create a form if I don't have to, but sometimes I have to. Idiots.
I did a bad thing the other day. Not on purpose, but it was definitely a screw-up on my part. I was backing up in the parking lot, to go home. As I shifted into drive, I heard a big thunk!
Oh crap. I hit something. I checked the rearview mirror. I couldn't see anything behind me. WTF? I pulled forward slowly, still looking in the rearview.
And there it was. On it's side. A motorcycle. One of those crotch-rocket things.
I backed up and swung into a parking place, so I could fish around for my briefcase and something to write on. I finally found a pad of paper and pen, wrote a note, saying I bumped the bike and please call if there's damage. I gave my name and office phone number. I couldn't right the bike on my own, so I tucked the note on it and went home. Cursing myself for doing something so stupid, and figuring out where money for motorcycle repairs would come from.
The next day, the bike's owner called. Nice kid. A student. Totally over the moon that I left the note. No damage. Thank God!
But guess what? The local police called him that day. I seems someone said they say what happened and reported it as a hit-and-run.
A hit-and-run! I left a note and someone pulls this crap? I mean, I didn't go more than 15 feet away from it!
So, the kid told them that I left a note and no problem. Go away, police.
And I have a certain finger for whoever reported that. Stupid.
Okay, rant over. Until a new rash of stupids comes along.
UPDATE ON OFFICEMAX SITUATION 12-18-09: I didn't hear back from the idiot for two days. So, I wrote and asked for a response. She replied: "You said you didn't know if you wanted to order the item. I've been waiting to hear." WTF?!?! She ignored everything else I said and only focused on the sale. Brilliant.
I wrote back: "I would like a response to each question I asked in that email. So far, none of my questions have been addressed. In my last line, I asked why I should consider doing business with OfficeMax. Please answer."
Her response: "I will not debate those issues. You've made your decision. As far as OfficeMax is concerned, the matter is closed."
Can I get a resounding "fuckwad!" here? I've spoken to her supervisor and forwarded all communications. If I don't hear from him soon, I'll just go up the ladder.
She. Pissed. Me. Off.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Whew. It's not fun.
He's been back and forth with the "don't call me unless it's about the kids" thing. She gets nasty and awful, and he goes back to that. Then, something happens with the kids and she's back to calling again.
I've done the same thing. I understand.
The trouble is that he's become her personal counselor. She has dating trouble and calls Ranger about it. She doesn't understand why men are only interested in sleeping with her, and not in relationships. They send her clear signals that they aren't interested in anything but the "benefits" (not even the "friends" part), but she still pushes for more and is upset when she doesn't get it.
And this is what Ranger is hearing over and over. It's disturbing for him because this is the woman his teenage daughter looks to for an example of how women should behave with men. His ex makes no effort to separate her dating/sex life from her mom life.
She's been asking questions about me. She saw our profiles on MySpace, where he refers to me as the love of his life. She sees our pages on Facebook. She actually added me as a "Friend" on Facebook. We're all one big Friends list now, with Ranger, me, her, their kids, and my kids. My daughter and his have fun chatting.
Kinda weird, isn't it?
His ex laments, though, that it's not fair that he found the relationship she thought she was going to have, once she divorced him. See, she divorced him because she started having an affair with a friend of his. She fell for him and decided that it was what she really wanted. So, she divorced Ranger. And the new guy backed off. He still doesn't want a relationship with her, but they still see each other.
She left Ranger all alone in Utah. Ripped his world out from under him. Shattered him. And didn't care one wit how he'd deal with it. Now, the irony has come home to roost. She turned him loose, and he found the kind of love he'd been missing all along. She is the one alone, dealing with an impressive series of mistakes.
It's not fair, she says.
Here's where I get antsy, though. These personal counseling sessions are happening very often. Sometimes, they are lengthy conversations. He never answers when we're together or on the phone already. One night, I told him to answer because she called and left a voice mail about their son. It was an urgent need concerning his children, but she was surprised I "let" him answer the second call. Why wouldn't I?
She's a little surprised by me, by how open I am. I apparently caught her really off guard when I called during the trouble in Utah. I was a little too resourceful in finding her number, it seems.
Anywho.... The thing is that, well, I'm afraid. I'm scared that she'll call before me in the evenings and hear about his day, then he won't talk like that with me. This happens with my son. The first person to talk to him gets the whole story, and no one else does. A few nights, Ranger has been fairly silent, and I've wondered if it's because he's already talked out.
So, I told him this. He assures me that's not the case. He's making an effort to not answer each call from her. He doesn't want her to feel like he's there for her at all times. He's making sure to tell me about each conversation. Still, I worry. This is someone he has a long history with. Children with.
"I'll never go back to that," he assures me. "You've shown me how love should be. You've allowed me to love with abandon, and you love me back that way. I could never go back."
You all know my history, though. So many times being bitten in the ass by this kind of thing. My fears aren't really rational, but they are there. Maybe it's a matter of unlearning what I've learned from bad relationships, to truly believe a good one is here to stay.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I've added a link to the left, to Matsi's photo album. I've added a bunch of snow pics there now. It's neat to see her from her first pic, before she was "ours", to how she is now.
Apparently, snow is to be eaten. And it has toys hidden in it! Okay, so it's fruit from the trees, covered in ice (which makes it hard to hang on to!). I've added a video here, for you to see her in action. You see her checking out the tree first, then finding what she wants in the snow.
Click here for the video (at YouTube)
You also get an idea of the slope of my backyard. We've put hay bales at the bottom, in case someone decided to go sledding when we're not around. That happened last year. And you get to hear my early-morning-stuffy-head voice. Yay.
Monday, December 15, 2008
In the meantime, I have to brag on my kiddo. He's had such a hard time lately that this is truly a ray of sunshine.
Son got his PSAT scores today. Now, they've gone and screwed it all up and changed the scoring from how it was when I was a kid. But they were nice enough to make it easy to convert to the "old" scale for us clueless parents.
The old scale was based on a possible 1600 points. Just for perspective sake, I got 1140 on my SAT. And I graduated with honors in high school, so I like to think I'm no intellectual slouch. On most days. I've had kids since then, and they make you wonky. Anyhow, my ex got like a 900. My dad got a 1200-some-odd.
Son got a 1450.
I'm over the moon, I tell you! He missed one question on the math portion. One.
The new scale is based on 20-80 points per section. And there's a new writing section. We just had to deal with two sections, but these kids now have three sections of scores. All in all, his "new" score was 205. The national average for juniors is 147. They're saying this puts him in the 3% range, and within the range for National Merit Scholars.
Can I get a big "Woo Hoo!" for my kiddo? With all of his struggles lately, this was a very much needed boost. I hope he takes it to heart and finds inspiration in it!
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Finding a vet is not easy. I've known bad vets. Ones who care more about the money than the pet. So, I asked people who have dogs. I did a Yahoo search and read reviews. Then, I started calling and pricing vaccinations, County licensing, and spaying.
Planned Pethood Plus has $70 spaying clinic, but they are booked for December and are forming a waiting list for January. No clue who the vet is.
PetSmart was $250 plus $25 if she's in heat. Vaccinations would be about $30. Office visit would be $34.
The extra fee for her being in heat was a surprise to me. I've never dealt with a dog in heat before. I always did the Responsible Pet Owner thing and had it done at 6 months. So, I kept calling.
Vet #1 was $250 for spaying plus $35 if she's in heat. Vaccinations would be $45 plus an office visit fee.
Vet #2 was $250 to spay, but it went up to $270 if she's over 60 lbs. If she's in heat, it's another $35. If she's ever had a litter of pups (and the doctor would determine this on the spot), it's another $85. They could also do a laser treatment on the surgery site to reduce inflammation and pain. For another $15. Vaccinations are $59 plus an office visit fee. The County license is included in that, but they didn't give me the breakdown of the cost.
Vet #3 was $160 to spay (for dogs 40-61 lbs), plus $35 if she's in heat. But the assistant said the vet doesn't like to do spaying while the dog is in heat. "The risk of excessive bleeding is just too high," she said. "He'd rather wait until it's safer."
Hmmm. That was interesting. No one told me that before.
"The vaccinations run $45 plus the visit if we don't do it with the surgery," she said. "And that includes the County license. It's not mandatory, but the pound will fine you if she's ever picked up without it. It's just 10 bucks to have a license on file."
This lady was full of information. "It's the first of the month, so call the Animal Shelter. They have a few certificates each month for $35 off of spaying. Just call and see if they have any, then go pick one up before they run out." She gave me their phone number and directions to the shelter. No one else had told me about this certificate.
Guess which vet I picked?
So, Matsi went for her "New Pet Exam" yesterday. The assistant held a treat so she'd sit still for her picture (to keep in her file). Matsi sat very still and pretty.
"What a good girl!" the assistant cooed.
"She'll do 'shake' and 'down,' too," I said. The assistant tried it and Matsi happily complied. More treats.
The assistant scanned her for a microchip. I held my breath. It seemed inconceivable that a dog this well-trained would not have a chip.
No chip. Hoorah!
More treats for Matsi for holding still.
The vet came in and made a joke about Matsi's panties. She licked his hands as he examined her.
"She looks good," he said. I told her how skinny she was a week ago. Yesterday, I had to loosen her collar. She's filling out!
He checked her teeth. "She's between a year and two," he said. He looked again. "Closer to the two mark, I'd say." He ruffled her ears. "She could be full Lab, but something in her face seems different. She might be some kind of mix." I don't really care. He explained about the "heat" process and what to expect, about waiting to spay her, and then we scheduled that for January 9th.
She held still again for her shots. More treats. The whole office was falling in love with her, too.
The vet walked out to the receptionist's desk with us. "Just the shots and tag today," he said. She went to the computer and removed the office visit charge. Gotta love this vet.
"This is why I work for a vet's office and not the shelter," said the assistant. "Here, all the animals already belong to someone else. At a shelter, I'd be taking them all home!"
So, home we went. This pooch is showing more smarts each day. She cracks me up, too!
Matsi was asleep under the coffee table. Something startled her and she raised up, smacking her head hard on the table. As we cooed "Oh no!" and "Is she all right?", she brought her head out from under the table and literally put her paw on the top of her head, where she'd smacked it. I've never seen a dog do that before! Except in cartoons.
The other day, I took her outside to...well, use the outside. She wanted to play, but I'd left her ball inside. She went barreling down the hill to our two fruit trees - a peach tree and an apple tree. The peach tree had a low-hanging branch with a peach still clinging to it.
Matsi ran to the branch, grabbed the peach and pulled until it was free. She turned around a ran back up the hill. Straight to me. And dropped the peach at my feet, wagging her tail and waiting for me to play fetch with it.
We did, until it fell apart. Just before bedtime, we went out again. She disappeared in the dark at the bottom of the hill. And re-emerged with an apple. And dropped it at my feet.
Again, no kidding.
This morning, my mother was home sick. I said goodbye to Matsi and left to take the kids to school and go to work. Just after the garage door closed, Matsi went to my mother in her room, whining and whimpering. Mom put on slippers and took her outside, assuming that's what the fuss was about.
Matsi didn't need to "go." She ran back and forth in the yard, whining. She went to the fence by the driveway, looking to where I park and whimpering. She carried on for some time, until Mom took her back in the house, where she whined at the garage door.
Mom is convinced, Matsi was looking for me.
That just makes my heart melt, you know? From an empty belly, alone out in the freezing wet and cold, to a full belly with lots of love and a wood-burning stove to snooze by every night. And for us, a void filled by someone who focuses all of our positive energy, and gives so much of it back. We're all having a Merry Christmas already.
Monday, December 01, 2008
In my original post, I forgot to mention my Daughter's reaction to this pup. Thanks for reminding me, Muse! My mother went to pick her up from school that day. I stayed home with the dog, who didn't have a name yet. Everyone was very careful to not spill the beans, so we could all see her reaction at once.
On the way home, my daughter spotted a "lost dog" sign in the neighborhood, for a Black Lab (no signs for Matsi, even today). She said to my mother, "I really wish we could have a dog." My mother visited with her about the responsibility of it and the commitment it takes to care for a dog. They pulled into the driveway.
As I heard the door opening, I went to the kitchen to greet Daughter as she came in. The dog followed me, peering around the corner between me and the wall. My daughter walked in and said Hi to me. She didn't look down.
"Hi," I said and pointed down.
Daughter looked down into the dog's big brown eyes.
"Awwww!" she said, making the cutesy face. "Who is that?"
"She doesn't have a name yet," I said. "We wanted to wait for your input before naming our dog."
Daughter's eyes went wide and she looked at me, not sure I was being serious.
"She's ours," I said. Daughter's smile said it all. Ear-to-ear and so excited that if she could have smiled more she would have. She dropped to a knee and started petting her.
We went to the den, and Daughter whispered in my ear. "Are we really keeping her?"
"Yes," I said. She giggled. "Be sure and thank your grandpa when he gets home."
So, we told the story of how she came to be part of our home. We batted around name ideas before finally settling on Matsi.
The kids are sharing the duties with her now. It's been good for both of them. Son is excited, too. The other morning, I heard my dad talking to Matsi as he got ready for work. Yeah, he's warming up to her quickly.
Thanksgiving about put Matsi on sensory overload. Too many smells, people, and activity. She barked twice, which is out-of-character for her now. I took her outside to play and she settled down.
Here's a picture of one of her favorite things to do. She plants herself on the stairs and looks through the rails, to spy on people in the kitchen.
We've discovered a few things about her. She doesn't beg. She will play outside, but not in the house. She knows some basic obedience commands. She comes when you whistle. And...she's not spayed.
Her first appointment with the vet is tomorrow. So, guess how we figured out this last tidbit? Oh yeah, just our luck. She came in heat. Dang, that's nasty.
So, now, she has pants.
Boys' boxer briefs, to be exact. They work nicely and are less expensive than the doggie-panties you get at the pet store. Oh, is she hating it! But she's a patient dog, and puts up with us fussing about this.
I could just kick someone's can for not having this done already. Ugh. Poor dear. I hate to put her through it, but I don't want to go through putting boxer briefs on a dog again.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
The neighbor has her watch their dog when they are out of town. Daughter is in heaven, taking her for walks, feeding her, and playing with her. "She needs a dog," says my mother.
We went to see "Bolt in 3D" on Friday. She sat by Ranger and made "I love dogs" noises the whole time. "She needs a dog," says Ranger.
"She needs a dog," says Son.
"She needs a dog," says Drama Queen.
"Over my dead body," says my dad. He's sure the hassle will become his. He gets mad when we bring it up. "No dogs."
I miss having a dog. I miss my Labrador.
Yesterday, I woke up nauseous. I stayed home. Son wouldn't get out of bed, so I needed to be there to keep an eye on him anyhow. My mother took Daughter to school and promptly came home again. Her back was hurting badly.
I'm slowly getting ready in my bathroom, and I can hear getting-ready sounds from my folks' bathroom downstairs. Then I hear a god-awful racket.
A dog crying in pain. I think it's the dog next door, until my mother calls up to me. "Can you come help me? There's a dog stuck in our fence."
On one side of our house is a low fence. About hip-high on me. Looks like this pooch was trying to jump into our yard and her paw got stuck between the slats. As we approached, she freaked out. Desperately afraid of us. Growling and yelping, she yanked her foot free and ran to the neighbor's front fence.
She stayed there, close to where she could see and hear their dog in their yard. She was dirty and thin. She was pale in color, through the dirt, and a Labrador mix. We could see the ridges of her spine and ribs. If we stepped close to her, she'd bark and start to run away. We backed off.
No lost dog signs in the area. My mother called all the shelters. No one has been looking for a Labrador. We could take her to the no-kill shelter. "We don't have room today, but will in a couple of days," the woman said. "It's going to be 20 degrees tonight, though. Can you hang on to her until then? I don't want the pound to get her and she could freeze."
Okay, we developed a plan. Maybe if we fed her, she'd stick around in our yard until they had room for her. My dad would have a cow and a half, but we can't just leave her and not try.
My mom took a bowl of water, but the dog started barking when you got about 15 feet from her. She set the bowl down there. I ran and bought a small bag of food. We put some in a pie tin and set it by the water. She came close, but still barked. She wanted that food. We backed off and she scarfed it down. Poor thing was literally starving.
Next, we opened that little gate and set the food inside there. We backed off and she scarfed that food, too. She watched us, snarling as she ate if we got close. I was able to shut the gate. From the inside, though, she got a foothold and jumped the little fence.
I put a blanket by our porch, in a sheltered area, and moved the food and water there. I went in the house. A few minutes later, I checked. Much of the food was gone, but the gate had closed itself. She was at the neighbor's fence again. She watched me as I opened the gate and propped it open with a big rock.
As I placed the rock, I could see her approaching cautiously. She stretched her neck to sniff the rock. Then, she licked my hand.
I talked sweet to her and walked back to the food tin. She followed. I sat on the porch. She sat at my feet, and she let me pet her. A lot. When I moved, she followed. I'm a dog whisperer. Always have been. What can I say?
I called my mother to come out. She sat down and the dog approached her, too. We could both now pet her. She stuck close to us. This is the pic I took at that moment.
You can see how skinny she is.
The shelter called back. "We decided we can go ahead and take her," the woman said. So, we started trying to figure out how to get her in the car. I asked for Son's help, and explained what had happened.
"Can we just keep her?" he asked.
My mother stopped. "I don't want to take her to the shelter," she said. I didn't, either. But how on earth could we get around my dad? Oh, he'd be piiiissssed.
I had to call him. It had to be me. So, I did. I started explaining.
"Oh crap," he said. He knew where I was heading with this.
"We've talked," I said. "We've worked out dividing the chores and the schedule and how to do this."
"If it was up to me, I'd say no," he said. "But it sounds like I've been outvoted."
"We get a vote?" I said, laughing. He laughed, too. We couldn't believe it. He gave in.
And it was done. We have a dog.
Her name is Matsi. It's a Blackfoot word, meaning "sweet and brave." And she just hit the doggie jackpot.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Then, he was all hot and heavy to see me at the conference....but canceled quickly. Yes, I know -- budget cuts. But you gotta wonder now....
His Facebook "relationship" status changed to "In a relationship." Last week. (Okay, so I'm slow to notice these things!)
I asked about it, since he wasn't volunteering any information. You see this coming?
Yep. He's trying to get back together with his ex-wife. Not the smartest of moves, in my humble opinion. But if that floats his boat and makes him happy, then so be it.
He said he's not completely sure about it, but she wants to try, so he will, too. I told him to be careful and be happy. He hasn't replied.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
I know. Earth-shattering revelation, isn't it?
Some of the key players and impressive drinkers weren't at this year's conference. I missed them because they are wonderful characters in my life, and I only get to see them once a year. One guy drinks Guinness like it's water, but I've never seen him drunk. I identify with that. Big Celt from New Jersey and all-around nice guy.
Each year at this conference, there's a particular woman who is always in his shadow. I've never seen him acknowledge her, but she's glued to him. Interesting because I just learned she's married. I spent a little more time with her this year, at our meals and excursions. We'll call her Shelly. I don't know if she deliberately keeps her wits about her when the Big Celt is there, but she really cut loose this year, like I haven't seen before. Frankly, she scared me.
Then there was Mark. He's the one I danced with when we all went out last year, and the one who was so happy to see me this year. The one who said "You're so cool!" about my presentation. The one who is married.
And I also had a roommate this year. My co-presenter. She's an eternal optimist. We took a wrong turn and ended up in scary East St Louis. Know what she said? "Hey! I've been to Illinois now!" She's a good friend. We have a great time together. We'll call her Candi.
So, I spent Friday evening at Union Station in St. Louis. Cool place. Wonderful architecture that's been restored where the hotel is. The rest has been converted to shops and restaurants. I was feeling great. Presentations were over. They were a smashing success. I'd been referred to as an "expert" in my field. I was riding pretty dang high.
Candi and I went shopping. I actually found a Texas Tech tie for Son. It's a really nice one, too! He told me he wouldn't wear a C3PO and R2D2 tie, so I went with Texas Tech. Candi said, "Save it for Christmas!" No way. This thing will actually make him look forward to going to church each week! You can click the image here to see the pattern.
(Which reminds me. How 'bout them Red Raiders?! My alma mater is doing well! Someone at the conference asked if I used to be in Texas. I said I was at Texas Tech, and one of the men nearby turned around and said, "Now, THEY are playin' some football!" Oh yeah.)
Anyhow, we made our way to the Hard Rock for dinner. It had been pre-arranged through the conference. Many of us were already there, so finding a table in our area wasn't easy. We found an empty one, and were soon joined by Mark and Shelly. We checked out the drink menu. I wanted to take home a Hurricane glass, so I got a Long Island Tea in one. Mark got something...blue. Very blue. It reminded him of what we had at the bar last year. But when it got there, he didn't like it. So, it became mine.
Shelly ordered something to drink, too, but it seemed she'd been at it already. We noticed one pal was missing from the gathering. I knew why. It was our friend's 40th birthday and she was celebrating with her husband.
"It's a BIG birthday for her," Shelly said, rolling her eyes and emphasizing BIG. Now, I don't know how old Shelly is, but she obviously considered 40 to be old. I mean old.
I let a grin spread across my face. Not only was she about to stick her foot in it with me, but I knew Candi's age. She looks about 17, but she's 46. "A BIG brithday, huh?"
Shelly nodded and whispered, conspiratorially. "Yes, she's forty." And she curled her lip when she said it. Curled her lip.
"Ah," I said. "I did that in August."
She about crapped her pants, I swear.
"No way!" she said, eyes wide. "You can't be 40!"
Candi was smiling. "Yeah, I did that six years ago."
Shelly about fell in the floor. Mark was laughing his ass off.
Candi was telling Shelly about her teenagers, and about mine. Mark leaned over to me and whispered. "I turned 40 in July." Poor fella wanted to hide it from Shelly. I raised my drink to him and he was happy with that reaction.
So, I'm shopping in the Hard Rock store. I find out I've earned a $20 credit that I can use on my member card there, and here's comes Mark. He's holding a highball glass. A blue liquid is in it. No ice.
"Here," he says, holding it out to me. "Drink this. I don't like it."
"Blue isn't your friend," I said, taking the glass. "It looks like toilet bowl cleaner." The cashier giggled.
Shelly rounds the corner and shouts, "Let me have one more sip!" She takes one, gives it back to me, and says, "Woo hoo! That's strong!" I messed with her by drinking it down in one swallow. It tasted like Kool-Aid. Strong, my ass.
We made a brief, very chilly stop at the base of the Arch. Many people ran up and down the stairs under the Arch. Me and my bad knee admired the moon, and took this pic. It was a lovely night, chilly and all.
I understand that a large group went out drinking after we got back from our excursion. Being the party animal that I am, I put on my new pink-and-black cotton jammies and went to bed. I couldn't get my Internet access to work right. Oh, maybe we watched TV. Woo hoo.
Candi and I woke up for breakfast and went back to sleep. We were still full from dinner the night before. Ugh. And I knew what was going to happen to me that day. I imagine it's like Dr. Jekyll felt when he knew he'd turn into Mr. Hyde. The transformation started as soon as I looked at the clocked.
The countdown started. The silent auction would close in four hours.
Soon enough, I showered and made my way downstairs. Found a cup of "Refresh" tea. I could see the doors to the auction room. It was calling to me. Once I put my name on an item, I become a woman obsessed. The thing is, if someone outbids me, then I must outbid them. It's dangerous. I might even have decided that I don't want something anymore, and I have to fight the compulsion to outbid.
I'm not usually such a competitive monster. But give me a silent auction, and I'm a mess.
People were teasing me. "I'm going to go put one more dollar on everything," one man said. Another actually did that on one item, just to watch me sweat. Nice. One lady tried to be a serious competitor with me, but I got the better of her.
There at the end, all my conversations went like this:
"No! I got outbid!"
"Do you really want that?"
"Yes. I'm sorry."
"What are you going to do with that pen?"
"Are you serious?"
As it was, I came out of it with way too much stuff. But do you know what I thought about all the way home? The one item I didn't get. It hurts. Still.
So, I got stuff for everyone back home. A shirt from Ole Miss for Ranger. Golf balls, pocket knife, and hat for Son. Hoodie and two stuffed animals for Daughter. Even some socks and a travel mug for Drama Queen. And a cool hoodie for me. Which saved my ass the next day, when Candi wanted to go to the Arch and Busch Stadium when it's 30 degrees outside.
Now I'm broke.
We had lunch. Closed the conference. Said goodbye to old and new friends. Promised to email, to keep in touch. We do okay at that.
I keep having moments of nervousness. I'm now in charge of a Board committee. All on my own. I hope I do as good of a job as my former co-chair. I've volunteered for a Best Practices committee. I have one more year on the Board, so I need to run for election again.
It'll be okay. That's my new mantra.
Candi and I loaded up in the rental car with Not-So-Nice Faculty Person. We'll call her Jane. Even with Ranger's GPS thing, it took us an hour to get to Union Station. Damn road construction. See, Jane had stayed at the hotel instead of going with us the night before, so we revisited it for her. Candi wanted to show her the architecture. She wanted to see the shops, too. And that's what we did. Marveled at old buildings and shopped. I decided that something from the Budweiser shop probably wouldn't be a great souvenir in my Mormon household. Ah well.
It was cold outside. We crossed the street to get some refreshment at Maggie O'Brien's Irish Pub. That made me smile. It's an authentic place, with a pic of Grandma Maggie by the door. Gotta love it. I had an Irish Coffee. A strong Irish Coffee. Even the coffee part was strong. Yow. Irish Coffee and toasted ravioli. It was a good afternoon.
Getting back was much easier. Jane was still scowling and folding her arms. Candi looked at me and said, "You know, should a Catholic and a Mormon be getting along so well?" We laughed.
Jane was confused. "You're a Mormon?" she asked Candi. She shook her head and Jane got more confused.
"I didn't say I'm a good one," I answered. That made Jane laugh.
I called Mark and found out where the remaining conference-people were. We made plans to meet up for dinner later. They were all watching the LSU-Alabama game at Ozzie's. when Candi, Jane and I got there, the game was over and everyone on the LSU side needed to drown some sorrows.
Part of the group went to the Mexican restaurant. Part went to the Sushi restaurant. Jane folded her arms, scowled and said, "I don't like Mexican food and I already had Sushi." See, the hotel is in a complex with four restaurants, a night club, and a jazz club. No one was wandering far.
"We'll stay here," said Candi. She wanted to get done and go pack. She ended up having an enlightening evening, once Jane had a few glasses of wine. Wow. Been there with Jane, and "Wow" is all I can say.
I went to the sushi place with Shelly and Mark. I haven't had sushi before, but I'm an adventurous eater. Shelly, not so much. She went for the martinis. She took a sip of mine and didn't like them, so yay for me! I had something called a Flirtini and a Pomegranate martini. Gotta love that.
And gotta love sushi. Dang, that was good stuff. I really liked the eel. No kidding. Mark bought and I told him I'd make it up to him by getting his drinks at the next place we went. Deal.
Shelly was a raving idiot, though. She'd had a couple of martinis and a shot of saki. She called her nine-year-old daughter to say goodnight, then talked to her husband. "Are you drunk?" he asked. I can only imagine what she sounded like to her daughter. Kinda scary.
We wandered to the Mexican place and found the LSU people, and a few other. I sat and chatted with the new president about where I live. Her brother used to teach here. He died right before I started my new job. And I watched Mark and Shelly have a few shots of tequila, with some couple they met at the bar. Yikes.
Then, we were off to the Jazz Club. It was two-for-one cover, so Mark covered me. I had no cash. We all found a table, including Shelly's boss. He was worried about her. He needed to go pack and sleep, but he didn't want to leave her alone. He told Mark to keep an eye on her and make sure she's okay. Mark promised. The boss made him promise again before leaving. And he called a few minutes later, to make sure.
And I think he had cause to worry. I think he put the fox in charge of the hen house.
Shelly ordered a drink. Mark gave the waitress a recipe for the blue drink he had in Utah last year. It's called an AMF...short for "Adios, Mother Fucker." Which is what Shelly started shouting at the top of her lungs when she heard Mark order. Dang, that little woman has some big lungs. So, I ordered one, too.
I had to laugh when the drinks came. Mark sipped his blue drink and said, "I don't think I like that." Cracked me up. Predictable. He finished it, though.
Shelly saw the couple from the restaurant bar and went to say hello. On the way, she introduced herself to every table. A drunk woman introducing herself to every stranger at a bar. What a great idea....
Mark looked at me and said. "So, you've had as much to drink as Shelly has," he said, exaggerating. "So, why aren't you acting like a lunatic?"
"I don't," I said. "I've never been drunk."
He smiled big and rubbed his hands together.
"Oh, no, you don't!" I said. He just laughed.
Shelly had been gone too long. She was still standing by that couple, so Mark went to check on her. He brought her back to the table and sat her down.
"Shots," he said. "They were doing shots." He turned around and she was gone again.
Before he could ask, I pointed. On the stage, about six inches from the frontman's nose was Shelly.
Mark went to retrieve her again.
She was protesting when he sat her down again. "I jush wanned him to play shum rock 'n' roll!"
It's a jazz club. But they took pity on the poor drunk girl and played "Jailhouse Rock." She danced in her seat. Mark seized my hand and we danced to it. Great fun!
We returned to the table to find Shelly telling the new president-elect that she (the president-elect) would have a hangover in the morning. The woman was stone cold sober. It was time for me to go pack and sleep.
I made my way back to my room to find Candi had fallen asleep reading, with the TV on. I changed into my jammies and hauled out the suitcase. Candi woke up and we chatted about the enlightening time she'd had with Jane. I told her about Shelly. My phone rang.
"Hey, we're going to my room to watch YouTube," said Mark, too loud. Too drunk. I could hear Shelly laughing hysterically in the background. "Wanna come?"
"Uhm...no, I think I'm going to pack and sleep," I said.
"No! You have to come to my room and hang out with us."
"Shelly and me. We got some drinks, too."
Does this sound like as bad of an idea to you as it sounded to me?"
"Wait!" he hollered. "We'll come to your room! What's your room number?"
"No," I said. "Don't do that. Candi is asleep already." Candi gave me one of those what-you-talkin'-about-Willis looks.
"We'll wake her up! What's your room number?"
"I'm not telling you. She doesn't want you to wake her up."
"Okay, we'll just knock on all of them. Are you on the fourth floor?"
"No, I'm not. Don't knock on anything!"
And he gave up. They headed to his room, and God knows what.
The next day, after the nice lady at the airline counter didn't charge me for my 56-pound suitcase, Candi said to me, "I wonder if Shelly woke up in time this morning?"
I laughed. "I wonder where Shelly woke up this morning."
And we headed home and back to normality.
I gotta find a sushi place around here.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
It's bigger than my hand.
This is a "Mint Kissed Whoopie Pie." But it's not a pie. It's two big chocolate cookie, with whipped cream and peppermint squished betwee.
Bigger than my hand.
Oh, I think I'm gonna be sick just looking at it....
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Every Fall, I go to the same conference. I have since 2003. This is my sixth year there. I serve on the Board. I'm Chair of a Committee, and just volunteered for another one. I met South Carolina there last year. I love this conference. The personal and professional contacts are incredible. Simply love it.
This year, attendance was down. A bunch of people went through last-minute budget cuts. Including South Carolina, as I mentioned. I missed a lot of people, but still enjoyed those who were there.
I've presented sessions at each of these conferences, since 2003. Someone came up to me this time and told me they still use the handout we gave in the first session I did for them. That's a nice warm-fuzzy! This year, though, I really wanted to fly under the radar. No presentations. No nervousness. No stress. I let the proposal deadline pass.
Two weeks later, my phone rings.
"Blogget," says a familiar, authoritative voice from the organization having the conference. He's been with this group since the beginning. "The Conference Committee noticed you didn't submit a proposal this year. Do you plan on doing that?"
"Uhm...no," I mumbled. I felt my short flight under the radar coming to an end.
"Would you consider it, please? I have topic ideas for you. I'll even help, if you need it."
Sigh. Ok. I agreed. I'm such a sucker. Then, do you know what I did?
I volunteered for two of them. Two. What's wrong with me? I mean, really.
The first one was based on an idea the man who called me had. See, I published a journal article last year, on a topic I'd once presented on. I gathered a panel of others who have done the same, and we had a discussion about it. The PowerPoint had five slides. Pretty easy and informative, too.
The second one was all me. It was Jedi-themed. I went nuts with the media. Audio and video. Made my own background. I got a faculty member to go and present with me, so that helped. We gave away Star Wars toys. Our presider gave us lightsabers. How cool is that? Mine is above my monitor at work now, with my Darth Vader head. See?
Smashed that one out of the park, lemme tell ya.
Before we started, the guy presenting next door comes to me. "I wanted to come to yours, but they scheduled me at the same time," he said. "I just had to come say....You're so cool!"
Yep, we were identifying the dorks pretty fast. This is the same guy I danced with last year, who greeted me at the opening reception this year and said, "It's really nice to see you again. I mean really." And he wiggled his brows for emphasis. Yep. Dork. He's married.
The first night, a bunch of us had dinner at Ozzie's (owned by baseball great, Ozzie Smith). Two of my faculty members actually came with me, and one went to dinner with us that night. We had a long table of happy people. This faculty member walked in with her arms crossed and her scowl in place. She's hard to please.
She sat down at the opposite end of the table from me. Soon, I went to make introductions. "It's okay!" said an old friend. "We've all met. We're having a good time! We're taking good care of her!" And sure enough, the wine was flowing and a good time was being had by all.
I watched her during the conference. Each session, she sat scowling, arms and legs crossed. The last night, she told my other faculty person, "This is the rudest conference I've ever been to." Uhm, no, sweetie. You were the rudest person at the conference. I watched them try.
The general theme of the conference was "Route 66." The opening reception was decorated pretty cute, with St. Louis and Route 66 stuff. The host school was a university in Illinois, so some of their people drove up with spouses to help them set up. The Nice Faculty person (my roomie) and I arrived and found a seat. We were joined by Gossip Gal and her husband. Remember her? The one who gossiped about South Carolina and her coworker? I learned something about her at this conference.
She really and truly is a complete moron.
And she looks like Droopy Dog. See the pic? Yep. Years of frowning, I think. You laugh, but I'm not kidding!
Anyhow, she picked up this cute St Louis postcard that was on the table and said, "What is this? Why do we have these? I don't get it."
No, really. On the 12th floor of a building in the middle of St Louis, she doesn't get why we have St Louis postcards.
Right before the conference starts, we have an annual face-to-face Board meeting. All the others are via phone, but this one is in person. On the agenda each time is to decide where the proceeds from the silent auction will be donated. We've donated to Hurricane Katrina Relief and the families of the miners killed in Utah, in past years. We opened the discussion for suggestions.
Gossip Gal piped up. She's from the host school. "I think the money should go back to our school. We're not making enough on this conference."
[insert crickets chirping]
Wow. She really missed the boat on the brains AND common sense. I repeat: Moron. Just in case you couldn't tell how I feel about her.
After knocking the presentations out of the proverbial park, I went on about my very relieved and much happier business.
I got a little concerned when one of my favorite people pulled me aside. "I have to talk to you about something," she said. So, I got serious. Turns out, they've pegged me as an "expert." They want me on a panel to professionally evaluate their university's distance learning courses. Me. An "expert." Woo hoo!!
Ranger is already making plans to go with me, and show me some things in Nevada and California. And I repeat: Woo hoo!
When I told my folks, my mother turned to my dad and said, "She's making a name for herself, dear." Is that what I've done? Really? Gotta love that.
I attended the remaining sessions, engaged in each discussion along the way. I was a force to be reckoned with this time. I also attended the silent auction. Okay, so attended isn't the right word.
I circled like a shark. I obsessed. I apologized, but still outbid those who seemed to want to challenge me. Silent auctions bring out this horrible competitive side of me. I've been known to stand beside a competing bidder (or even a potentially competitive bidder) and say, "No. No. No." like it's a chant. I've talked people out of stuffed animals by convincing them it's a choking hazard. I'm awful. I say so up front, when the doors open. Everyone is fairly warned.
And after six years of this, I have a reputation to uphold. And each year brings a new packing challenge for the return trip. Last year was easy; I drove. This year, I flew, and they're charging for additional bags. Crap.
For the record, I got it all in one bag. One 56 pound bag.
So, I'm explaining to someone why the Wolfpack Wolf (University of Nevada at Reno) must go home with me. It's for my daughter. She needs one on her bed. We love wolves! You should see all my wolf stuff.....
beep! beep! beep!
It's my cell. I actually have a Picture Mail. The subject line says, "What size do you wear?" and the picture is....
I couldn't have asked for a better timed piece of evidence, concerning my wolf obsession. Who else would wear such a thing?
Uhm...Ranger. He got a matching pair.
During the last session of the conference, I'm sitting in a big discussion meeting about college distance learning. I'm in front of the speaker, but it's about lunch time. I'm starving because I slept through breakfast.
I check the time on my phone.
Dang, the screen is dirty. Let's clean that.
On my pants leg. It catches the seam and...
wheeeee! Off it skitters across the floor.
I'm sitting between Nice Faculty, who is trying not to laugh her damn fool head off at me, and the speaker, and the new president of this organization. And I have to retrieve my phone from across the floor. Brilliant.
So, I do. Trying to duck and dodge and keep out of the way as best I can. I finally make it back to my seat. Crawl back into it. The new president has written me a note and is sliding it across the table to me.
Oh no, I think. Here is comes. The reprimand. Well, the new prez is my friend. Maybe she won't be bad on me. So, I open the note with a little embarrassment and trepidation. It says....
"U R a dork."
I smiled proudly.
And that about sums it up.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
But I'm getting ahead of myself. The last week has been rough with Son. He's been pleasant enough to me, but he's spiraling apart, I think.
The problem is that Son doesn't handle the stress of school very well. We do okay at the beginning of the school year, but around Spring Break time, he's starting to lose it. The stress hits and he gets angry, moody, and difficult. He starts hating certain teachers and not doing the school work, which gets him in trouble, and the vicious circle continues. He gets discouraged. I have trouble getting him to school. Now, we have a new thing. He just starts ditching classes.
As I said, this usually starts around Spring Break. The trouble is that only one quarter of the school year has passed now, and he's already hit this point. And beyond. It's gotten much, much worse. I've been seeing some signs of depression now. I mean clinical depression. It's really bad.
But here's the thing. Remember, Son is my adopted child. His birth mother is my sister. He is aware that my sister has depression problems. He knows nothing of his biological father. I do, but I won't share this information until he's an adult. One of the things I'm not sharing is that his paternal grandmother committed suicide. His biological father was discharged from the Navy after suicide attempts. You can see why I'm hesitant to talk about this and plant that seed in his thinking.
And his mood swings are getting bad. Especially with his grandmother. He will scream and curse at her one minute, then be pleasant and "happy-go-lucky" the next. His school day drives him up the wall. "I could get the work done if they'd just shut up," he says. "I understand and they just keep talking and talking. Shut up so I can do some work!" He's very angry most of the time.
If there's one thing I know, it's distance education. Homeschooling is becoming a real possibility with him. He likes the idea. It suits his learning style. And it avoids a truancy problem, which is screaming up on us.
So, the education issue I can handle. The depression and mood swings, not so much. We went to the doctor. On Halloween afternoon. We went in really hoping to get some answers and help with his moods. The doctor asked him a bunch of questions, and Son mentioned that he had trouble sleeping.
"You could have insomnia," the doctor said. She gave him some things to read about helping you sleep without drugs. "Let's get your sleep in order and then see how your depression does." Sounds reasonable, especially since Son is currently set against taking any medication. But I think Son expected more from the doctor, more on the depression front. So, he left a little disappointed and not sure focusing on the sleep problems was the best idea.
But the evening could be salvaged. When the doctor asked what things he looked forward to, what he did that made him happy, he said, "Watching Texas Tech play football, and watching Ghost Hunters."
I had no idea he loved those two things so much. He'd been talking for two weeks about the 7-hour live Ghost Hunters on Halloween. He wanted snacks for it. He talked about giving out candy to trick-or-treaters. He was excited!
So, we got home. Drama Queen came over. I was going to meet Ranger for dinner, then watch Ghost Hunters with him. We'd all been planning this for a couple of weeks.
I'm headed down the road, nearly to Ranger's house. My phone rings. It's my mom, stressed to the gills.
"Can you come home?" she said. "Pick up Ranger and just come home. Son and DQ are arguing and it's getting bad. I don't know what to do."
Apparently, DQ announced that she wanted Son to take her trick-or-treating. He hates this. He thinks that going door to door for candy when you're old enough to hold a job is stupid. And he's been planning on this thing for weeks. He's so excited.
But no. DQ wants to trick-or-treat. Or go to a movie. Anything that's NOT what he wanted to do. My mother tries to talk to her.
"Son has had a hard day," she says.
"I've had a hard day, too," says DQ.
"But he's really been looking forward to this. He's been talking about it all week."
"I don't really like that show," says DQ. Yeah, right. She's been watching it every Wednesday night, and NOW she doesn't like it. Right. The thing he's been looking forward to is due to start in 10 minutes, and she's changing her story. Genius.
DQ goes to talk to Son, and starts yelling at him. My mother called me. I called Ranger.
"Our plans just got turned upside down," I said.
"What's wrong?" he asked. I explained.
"So, do you mind coming to the house with me until I figure out what's going on?"
"Babe, I don't mind at all. I just want to be with you. But I wish you weren't under so much stress." He paused. "I had something planned for you. Can I tell you what it was?"
I agreed that he could. Then, as he described the evening he had planned. After dinner, he would have two things ready for me. A container of warm water, scented with bath salts, and my favorite lotion warmed up. And Ghost Hunters on the TV in the bedroom.
I was to undress after dinner, and stretch out on the bed. As I watched Ghost Hunters, he would soak a washcloth in the warm, scented water and wash me, from head to toe. Then, he'd massage me with my lotion, until the stress was melted away.
It was so sweet. And so ruined. I started to cry. I pulled up to his house for a moment, and he held me while I cried as much as I'd let myself. Then, he got his car and followed me home.
At home, I went straight to the argument. They were staring at each other, angry. I said, "Okay. My plans are now to sit on this couch and wait for you two to cut this crap out. I'm giving you a few minutes to figure out what's going on now, and let me know. I'm not sitting here all night."
Ranger sat on the couch, talking to my folks. My mother was visibly relieved that I was there. The minutes tick by. I'm getting pissed. I head back to Son and DQ. At least the hollering has stopped.
They've made peace. He's just told her what the doctor said. I walk in and she says to him, "See, I told you your doctor is a quack." Then to me, "There's no way he has insomnia."
I lost it.
"Our doctor is certainly NOT a quack. She's doing the best she can with what he told her. She's listening to him and trying to help. I don't appreciate you undermining the help he's getting."
DQ is frozen, glaring at me. See, she has an agenda. She wants Son to see her psychiatrist, and only her psychiatrist.
"Furthermore, I'm sick of waiting around for you all to get your act together."
"We want to rent a movie," she says.
"Oh really? And watch it where? I hope you're not planning on using the TV because I've been planning on watching Ghost Hunters, and I'm not letting you hijack more of my evening. These are plans that we've had for weeks, and now it's changing and I'm not sure why."
Son is pointing at DQ behind her back.
"But I've had it. You've hijacked enough of my time tonight."
DQ is texting. She looks up. "It doesn't matter now," she says in her best drama voice. "My mother is coming to pick me up now."
"Fine," I said. "Son, do you want to have dinner with Ranger and I?" He said yes. We waited for DQ to leave and the three of us went to dinner.
Son's mood improved almost as soon as she left. Ranger opened up to him over dinner about his own depression problems, just after his ex filed for divorce. He explained the medication he'd been on to get through that time. Son listened. They threw ice at each other. It was a good time.
We went home. We watched Ghost Hunters. We gave candy to little children. Son got his evening, as he'd wanted it, but without DQ. And you know what? He didn't miss her....or rather, her drama.
Later on, Son looked up some things about insomnia. Guess what he found out! There's several types of insomnia. And his symptoms match one of them. Not such a quack after all. Shut up, DQ.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
He's bummed. He sent me a message the other day, saying, "I'm so bummed! Who is going to spend the late nights listening to music with you? Not that hand-sanitizer guy!"
Okay, so he G-Rated that because it was a public message. And the hand-sanitizer guy is my old boss, who is rather OCD about germs. He also attends this conference. But you get the point. SC is bummed. So am I, but it gets me off the hook for some awkward situations!
I'll miss seeing him. We do have an "understanding," of sorts. But my heart belongs to Ranger, and I don't want to jeopardize that.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
With boughs of....pumpkins? ghosts? tombstones?!
Yup! These houses might look decked out for Christmas, but it's Halloween decor! I was amazed by this last year, and am amazed again this year. Folks here actually decorate their homes and yards with the same zeal for Halloween as they have for Christmas!
See, you gotta understand that I come from West Texas. The "buckle" of the Bible Belt. Lubbock, Texas, to be exact. This is the town whose over-zealous churches pooled their resources to take out a full-page ad in the newspaper, proclaiming....
"HARRY POTTER IS GOING HELL!"
No, I swear. Really, they did. Yup, they actually outlined why a fictional character was being banished to the Netherworld.
And when I did the calendar for my kids' elementary school, I was forbidden to embellish October with ghosts, witches, skeletons, jack-o-lanterns, "boo!", candy corn, or anything even hinting at Halloween.
When trick-or-treating, the kids there can expect to get at least one person who drops a pamphlet into their candy sack, about the evils of Halloween. That's a popular house, lemme tell ya....
So, to see these brightly decorated homes just bowls me over. Gotta love this town.
I just wish my sucky phone took better pics for you....
Friday, October 24, 2008
It started last Sunday night. Daughter complained of pain behind her shoulder when she was going to bed. "It could be her stomach," my mother said. "I've hear that stomach problems can refer to pain to the shoulder."
My mom really should have gone to medical school. She would have loved it. She used to drive doctors crazy with us kids because she'd already researched what the problem could be before setting foot in the office. I've seen more than one doctor try to melt into the floor when he didn't make his escape in time.
So, Monday morning, Daughter comes to my room at time-to-get-ready-for-school time. "Mommy," (yeah, she still calls me "Mommy" and I love it!), "my shoulder still hurts and my stomach hurts, too." I told her to try showering and see how she feels. The hot water might do the shoulder some good.
After her shower, she got dressed and felt a wee bit better. I told her I'd rub in her shoulder to get more relief. As I started rubbing with the balm, she leaned against the counter and said, "I need to sit down." When she turned, I became alarmed. The color had drained from her face. Her lips were ashen.
She sat. I made the executive decision that she'd stay home from school. Slowly, the color returned to her face. I retrieved fresh pajamas and was helping her into them when it happened.
Hey, Jen - the Queen of Poo -- I'm now Blogget - the Queen of Barf.
I cleaned her up and tucked her into my bed, near the bathroom. I called school and work to let them know we wouldn't be showing our faces that day. When Daughter was finally asleep, I left to go to the bank and go to the grocery store for the good ginger ale.
And here's a Blogget Household Tip: for the treatment of nausea, I recommend Reed's Extra Ginger Brew. Sipping on this stuff really helps settle upset tummies!
So, I do my quick running and while I'm in the car, my cell goes off. It's Son.
"My stomach hurts."
Oh good God, no.
I chat with the nurse and head to his school. Poor fella looks terrible. We get about a block from his school, and I'm crowned Queen again.
A big apology to anyone using the Art Center parking lot in Grand Junction that day. He really couldn't make it any further.
For those of you out there who don't have kids, aren't you glad about now?
And that, my friends, was my Monday. And Tuesday. They went back to school on Wednesday.
My Thursday and Friday were booked with teaching workshops at my college. I do this once a term, teaching those who teach how to teach online. It's on the whole a completely frustrating experience, and have been told by observers that I display to patience of a saint. I'm not so sure about that, since they don't hear the rants I go on once I get ahold of a listening ear.
But my experience had a new nuance this time. I woke up Thursday with serious nausea.
I had no choice. I had to teach. No way around it. I had to take the dreaded Phenergan. This is the stuff that Old BF refers to as "the trade your head for your ass" medicine. It's the stuff that knocked SC for a loop, the first weekend that I met him. So, I took just half of one so I could retain half of my head and half of my ass, in their proper places.
No food or drink in the classroom? Screw that. I packed ginger ale.
I arrived at work at 7:30 AM. It was freezing outside. Literally. 32 degrees. I gathered my things from the car, to start my across-campus walk to my office. I overestimated my ability to balance and....dumped my ginger ale all over myself.
Damn. That was a cold, cold walk.
I had a three-hour break between sessions, so I retreated to Ranger's house. He had the place ready for me. He tucked me into bed, with a mattress warmer to make the covers cozy. He had ginger ale, Jell-o, and chicken soup waiting. I ate a small amount, sipped on the ginger ale, and went to sleep. As I slept, he cuddled up against my back and watched over me, gently waking me when it was time for me to return to reality. I opened my eyes to look into his blue eyes, tinged with worry for me and sorry for having to wake me.
I survived the rest of the day and made it home to crash for the evening. And got up to do it all again on Friday. Rinse and repeat.
My head and ass are slowing getting back to normal. Hopefully, dear Diary, I'll get back to blogging normal, too!
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Your result for Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz...
You Are a Marilyn!
Marilyns are responsible, trustworthy, and value loyalty to family, friends, groups, and causes. Their personalities range broadly from reserved and timid to outspoken and confrontative.
How to Get Along with Me
- * Be direct and clear
- * Listen to me carefully
- * Don't judge me for my anxiety
- * Work things through with me
- * Reassure me that everything is OK between us
- * Laugh and make jokes with me
- * Gently push me toward new experiences
- * Try not to overreact to my overreacting.
What I Like About Being a Marilyn
- * being committed and faithful to family and friends
- * being responsible and hardworking
- * being compassionate toward others
- * having intellect and wit
- * being a nonconformist
- * confronting danger bravely
- * being direct and assertive
What's Hard About Being a Marilyn
- * the constant push and pull involved in trying to make up my mind
- * procrastinating because of fear of failure; having little confidence in myself
- * fearing being abandoned or taken advantage of
- * exhausting myself by worrying and scanning for danger
- * wishing I had a rule book at work so I could do everything right
- * being too critical of myself when I haven't lived up to my expectations
Marilyns as Children Often
- * are friendly, likable, and dependable, and/or sarcastic, bossy, and stubborn
- * are anxious and hypervigilant; anticipate danger
- * form a team of "us against them" with a best friend or parent
- * look to groups or authorities to protect them and/or question authority and rebel
- * are neglected or abused, come from unpredictable or alcoholic families, and/or take on the fearfulness of an overly anxious parent
Marilyns as Parents
- * are often loving, nurturing, and have a strong sense of duty
- * are sometimes reluctant to give their children independence
- * worry more than most that their children will get hurt
- * sometimes have trouble saying no and setting boundaries
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Week before last, I learned that a dear friend from high school had just lost her husband. Apparently, he went into the hospital for heart surgery and had such severe complications that he never came home again. In her own words, he was her soulmate. I can only imagine her heartache and grief. I offer to "be there" for her, but from this distance it's difficult. Still, I try and want to do more.
This morning, I get an email from another dear friend, letting me know that another friend's son has died. She sent me his wife's blog and it's just too heart-wrenching to read. He was in Iraq and had to undergo an appendectomy. He collapsed while on the webcam with his wife and little daughter. How agonizing is that? She couldn't see what was happening, but heard people calling for help and someone counting like they do for CPR. Someone tells her he's not okay, and twelve hours later, two men in uniform are on her doorstep.
Can you even imagine that kind of devastation? I just can't.
His mother is a good friend of mine. His aunt is a good friend, too. My heart is breaking for my friends in Texas, and I'm too far to put my arms around them and let them cry.
In my business, we bridge distance with technology. Sometimes, it's still insufficient, and it's frustrating me.
Yesterday, I went to work late. When I left the house to take the kids to school, it was....brrrr....26 degrees outside! Yikes! I took my frozen toes to where I knew they'd get warm -- Ranger's bed. He has a heated mattress pad and an electric blanket. And warm feet.
I got warm feet, too! Unfortunately, this plan might have backfired. Ranger woke up sick this morning. Dangit. I'm taking Airborne like candy today to try to keep it from taking hold in my system.
Walking to work this morning, I saw some pretty leaves and had to share. Autumn has arrived on campus!
Son had his first "formal" school dance over the weekend, for homecoming. Drama Queen had a lovely royal blue dress, so we got a matching blue shirt, new dress pants, and a perfectly matched tie (which I am still patting myself on the back for finding!) for him. He looked so handsome! Even with his Peter-Tork-Monkees-hairdo.
Drama Queen's mom wasn't happy with their choice in dinner spots. They wanted to go to the nice little Indian restaurant we have downtown. The proprietors are now friends of Ranger's and mine, so we knew they'd be treated extra nice. But DQ's mom tried to push it to her own tastes. A noisy, throw-the-peanut-shells-on-the-floor steak place, which is about twice as expensive as the Indian place. And I was footing the bill for dinner, so she didn't mind upping the price. Her idea got vetoed. The kids went where they wanted.
I left them alone for dinner. When I got back to pay the bill and take them to the dance, the proprietor hollered my name when I walked in. "Blogget," he exclaimed. "I told them, 'Go ahead and go! I know Blogget! She come pay me anytime!" He didn't realize I was their ride, but the sentiment was sweet.
He asked, "This is your boy?" I nodded, proud of him. He was being a good gentleman that night. He told me to say hello to Ranger, and we were off.
They stayed at the dance a couple of hours, then wanted to come back to our house. Why? Because I'd gotten a special treat for that evening. A chocolate fountain. We all sat around, dipping fruit and cookies into the luscious flow of rich chocolate, and laughing a lot. It was a lovely evening. Both of them thanked me profusely for helping make it so. That was nice to hear!
Of course, then, last night, DQ is in tears over how much attention Son pays to his new laptop instead of her. So goes the rollercoaster that is adolescence.
I saw a video out of Lubbock, Texas, yesterday. This is my former hometown, where many friends (and Greg) still are. Here it is, and it's just too sweet. Funny to me that it made the national news, though!
Click here for the Weatherman Proposal Video
That's about all I have this morning, dear Diary. We'll see what the week brings!
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
(By the way, this post was to have some GORGEOUS pics in it, but they're trapped in my $1500 computer-paperweight at the moment. Ranger is a brilliant photographer. Maybe I can update with them later.)
My house sits on a big hill, overlooking the area where the airport runway is. When I take flights from there, I can see the back of my house from the runway. So, when we heard the airport would host a big air show, we were overjoyed. When we heard it was $20 a ticket for one day (it was three days long), we were overjoyed that we could just use our lawn chairs.
And so we did. It started on a Friday night. The same Friday that Ranger and I argued. When the dust settled, he asked if I wanted to go watch the fireworks at the air show. I asked if he wanted to watch them from my backyard. It was a date.
Ranger arrived with his camera. I've mentioned before what a shutterbug he is. We watched a World War II bomber circling overhead. My ex is a WWII plane buff, so I learned a few things like what a B-17, a B-25, and a B-29 look like. This was a B-25. Mitchell. I'm proud of myself for knowing that, actually.
We all ate dinner outside. Grilled cheese and tomato soup. Yum! As the sun started setting, we settled into our lawn chairs, with pieces of Black Forest Cake, and waited. We saw the planes going up, but we lost them in the darkness.
Suddenly, streaks of light blossomed across the blackness of the sky. Planes left brilliant trails of color and fire, dropping traditional fireworks along the way. Different type of planes, different sizes and different speeds. Astounding! This went on for an hour or so. Ranger took some beautiful pics, leaving the shutter open to get a different effect. They look like dragons over our mountains.
Throughout the evening, he constantly touched me in reassuring ways, saying "I love you very much," in every small moment. He uttered promises constantly, knowing I was unsettled by the day. "I promise, I'm never leaving you again," he said. "I know better now. You've shown me a better way."
See, here's the thing. It's what's made that day pivotal to us. Ranger learned how I argue, and it's very different from anything he's ever experienced before. As a result, he's amazed by how it changed us, and he's amazed by me.
In his past, arguing meant being belittled and reminded of his mistakes, being made to feel stupid and unworthy of forgiveness and love. It meant being stomped into the ground until he submitted to the will of another. Submit or be punished. And anything you said or did was a weapon to be used against you another day. He's learned to duck and cover, to run away until the storm blows over.
With me, the storm gets worse the longer it's let to brew. By worse, I mean I start feeling abandoned, and that hurts me and pisses me off. Insult to injury, and the hole gets deeper.
But when I argue, even though I might be angry and/or scared, I still have the ultimate goal in mind -- how is this best resolved? How can this be salvaged? What do we learn from it? How do we change and grow, together. I want us both to arrive at the same place, where our anger is soothed and we feel we're moving forward from what we've been through.
"I'm so not used to that," Ranger told me. "But I understand it now. And it makes me love you so much more. And I'll never scare you like that again. I promise you, on all I hold holy."
In all this, I see how he's been hurt. I see his fears and his vulnerabilities. I see how he needs to be stronger. But he also sees my hurt, my fears, and how he can make them better or worse. The realization that he really does have something new and different here, with me, and that he almost threw it all away is a big "wake up call" for him.
We had begun to take each other for granted. We would go several days without seeing each other. Now, we seem determined to make sure the other one feels special in each day. We seem to have crossed a threshold, and made it to a new level of understanding each other.
Saturday morning, I woke early and lay in bed, thinking about what was happening with my relationship with Ranger. We were still treating each other tenderly, as though the wrong word or touch might break the other one. I looked forward to spending some time with him that day, watching more of the air show. The Blue Angels were going to fly that day.
This is a busy town, I have to say. In addition to the air show, we also had a car show of some 200 cars in the downtown area. Drama Queen was determined to get Son to the Fruita Fall Festival, in nearby Fruita, CO. She and Son officially met at this event the previous year, but truth be told, Son would rather watch football on TV.
And we had Ranger's #1 priority for the day: The Greek Festival. The Greek Orthodox Church was holding their annual festival, with a whole menu of Greek food. Ranger has a special love affair with Greek food, but we don't have a Greek restaurant here. So, today, we'd get our fill of baklava and gyros.
My phone rang. "Good morning," said Ranger's sleepy voice. "What are you doing?"
"Laying in bed, being lazy," I said. We talked sweet nothings about wanting to be curled up together in my soft, warm bed, watching the Food Network or the Travel Channel (our favorites), and planning our day together. Two hours later, we were still doing the same thing. And I loved every minute of it. I love these kinds of domestic fantasies....especially with someone who loves the same fantasies and really wants me in them. The only thing I'd love better is to be in the same bed, having a cozy start to our day together.
"Sweetie?" he said, drawing my attention from the show we were watching.
"I need you to know," he said. "I'll never hide anything from you again. I'll never run from you again. I'm so sorry I did that. I know better now. I should have known then that you're different, and you wouldn't have judged me like that. I understand better. And you've shown me that we can stand and fight together."
"You really scared me," I said. Truth be told, I was still scared.
"I know," he said. "And I'm really sorry. I promise to never scare you like that again."
I could hear my family stirring. The smell of breakfast cooking. I reluctantly hung up the phone and got myself ready for the day. Ranger was doing the same thing, on his side of town, and getting ready to come to my front-row-seat backyard.
With such a busy weekend, this town still hasn't managed to get information out very well. We couldn't find a schedule for the air show anywhere. To go in person would cost $20 per person. Can you believe that? I mean, there's seven of us, including Ranger and Drama Queen. So, $140 to go walk around the airplanes and watch what's in the sky. And that's for just one day, and not the whole 3-day show. Ugh.
So, we pulled up our chairs on the backyard hill and waited. We watched a bi-plane, a wing-walker, various military jets, and the WWII planes. There was a P-51 Mustang flying side-by-side with modern fighter jets. Too, too cool. And they'd all fly right over my house! The kids ran all over the hill, trying to see where they were coming from and where they went.
Then, we had a break. Looked like everyone landed for lunch. So, Ranger and I took off for the Greek Festival. We stopped at the ATM to have cash enough to get one of everything. We were prepared to bring back a veritable feast of Greek yummies, and wait for the rest of the air show.
We got to the festival site and parked, walking up the street hand-in-hand. We met the owners of the mailing centers where he works. They asked how his son was doing.
"So, you didn't have to leave town?" they asked. I was puzzled. Then it dawned on me. I was hearing the story he told to cover his sudden departure the day before.
"No," Ranger said. "He's all right. He has a broken leg, but he'll be okay. They decided I didn't need to be there. And they decided the other driver was at fault."
He turned to me. "I forgot to tell you. My son was in a car accident." I reacted appropriately. As we walked away, I asked about the story. "Actually, it's true that he was in an accident," he said, and told me the details. "He didn't break his leg, though. He's all right. They just needed to see it as an urgent situation."
I understood, but I felt bad. In all the stress Ranger and I went through the day before, he was also dealing with a crisis with his son. I wish I'd known at the time, but I suppose he didn't have a chance to tell me that, amid all my panic.
Then, we entered the festival. The smells from the "food court" were amazing! We filled our plates with one of everything available. Sometimes, two of what was available. It was amazing!
And I was a little daring, too. Ranger showed up with a small cup of a clear beverage. I could tell from his grin that it was not water. It was ouzo. I've never had ouzo, but I like licorice, so he thought I might like it, too.
I knocked it back in one swallow. The burn was tremendous. My stomach toyed with the idea of rejecting it....but then my tongue went numb. I think my stomach followed suit. Ranger just laughed at me and handed me a breath mint.
At home, we divided our haul onto two plates and returned to the backyard. Just in time.
The Blue Angels roared overhead. Ranger abandoned his plate for his camera. I'll really have to post pics here because they were so close. Sometimes, we could see the pilots as the planes went by. The roar as they approached our hill was indescribable. I felt the power through my blood, in my bones. I threw my head back and closed my eyes, letting it all course through me. I opened my eyes to find Ranger watching me. "I love you," he mouthed, in the din.
Ranger took pictures of the planes, the formations, the pilots, the kids, my folks, and me. Hundreds of pics. I really need to rescue them from my stupid laptop and post some here.
Eventually, we returned to our mini-feast. Ranger was stuffed and satisfied. It was a glorious day, and I was sad to see it end.
The following day, Son and I were driving up to Aspen to attend a College Fair. Drama Queen wanted to go, too, but Son refused to invite her. He wanted the time to be between us, mother and son. I was touched! Things have been so different since his oral surgery.
I woke up that Sunday morning in the middle of a dream. I don't know what it was about, just that Ranger and I were together somewhere, as it faded away and the morning light invaded. My room was chilly. The window was open and a breeze was blowing the trees. It was a good dream, and I was enjoying the residual emotions of it...when suddenly....
WHAM! It felt like my heart was seized in a powerful grip of panic. I was flashing back to that Friday. The argument. Trying to find Ranger. Afraid of what he might do. The heartache. The panic. The fear. I started hyperventilating, and sat up in the chilled air to catch my breath.
I've never had a panic attack before. I've never had an emotional flashback like that before. I don't like it. I went to the shower and cried. This is where I go when I don't want anyone to know I'm crying. And the odd thing is that I wasn't really sure why I was crying, just that I really felt like I needed to. I don't like crying, either.
I got ready for the little trip Son and I were taking that day. It's about a 3-hour drive. He was getting ready while I went to get gas in the car, and snacks and drinks for the trip. I called Ranger and asked him to meet me at the store. He left a package of baklava at my house, and God knows it wouldn't last the day if left with my family!
I was looking at the display of cold beverages when I felt his breath on my neck. I smiled. He wrapped his arms around me from behind and kissed my neck. We chatted as I tried to find the snacks my son wanted. The panic attack sat in the back of my head, though. My eyes felt puffy still. I was worried about it. And Ranger could tell.
"Babe, what's the matter?" he asked. "You seem distracted. Something's wrong."
I sighed, and I told him about my dream. Then about waking. Then....
"And then all I felt was how scared I was the other day," I said. The tears were welling up. "And how I thought I was never going to see you again. And how you were leaving and not fighting for me. And...."
"Baby, baby....no," he was saying, hushing at me. He cradled my face in his hand and wiped my tears with the other. "No, no....don't be scared. I'll never, ever do that to you again."
"But I don't want you to think I'm just rehashing and making you 'pay' for it again," I said. I knew this had been a problem and I didn't want that perception. I couldn't explain what happened that morning, but I know he'd rather know about it than not.
"I don't think that," he said. "I know I scared you and that you need to know it won't happen again. It won't. I'll make sure. I know you're different than anyone I've known." He paused. "The weird thing is that I think we're closer now. I've never had that happened before. Argue and get stronger. I didn't know it could work this way."
"You need to know," I said, leveling my stare at his eyes. "Thinking I'm better off without you is never the best option."
He nodded. "I know that now. I'm never leaving you again. I swear. You're the best thing that's ever happened to me, and that's worth fighting for."
And for a few moments, he held me, kissed my head, and quieted my fears.
Right there, between the cereal aisle and the meat department.