Monday, December 27, 2010

Things I won't tolerate

So, I've recently been attacked for deleting comments I don't like. Attacked by someone who hides behind a profile that can't even be accessed. Brilliant.

For the record, "Boy Named Muffin," I do not delete that with which I disagree. I delete that which is hurtful and ugly. Your persistence in insulting me, over the span of literally years now, is not impressive nor welcome. Now you have stooped to lying. It makes you look like a petulant child.

In case I haven't been clear: hurtful and ugly posts will not be tolerated. You will always be deleted here. Your petty attempts to be needlessly argumentative are not welcome. I've lost my patience with it.

You started this issue years ago. It's time to let go and move on. I'm not interested in engaging you in any way.

** UPDATE: Apparently, I don't have to worry about deleting this person's inappropriate and nonsensical comments myself! has automatically identified them as spam, and the posts are going straight to the spam folder. Nicely done,! **

Monday, December 20, 2010

Oh, dammit all!

I started off the day mad as Hell at Ranger. He's lied to me about jobs he's called on. Then, he goes and does something unbelievably kind for me.

Dammit. Dammit all to Hell. Why can't he just pick one or the other and stay there? Then, I can either be mad or not, and get on with whatever the emotion is.

As I mentioned, I've explained about Ranger and I, and our history, to Jacob. Last night, Jacob says, "I can be patient. I don't mind bidding for your heart."

Wow.  Really?.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I have a dilemma

To make a long story short, I have a divided heart. Here's the long story.

I've been with Ranger for two and a half years now. We've had really good times and really bad times. Some of the best and worst of my life. On the up-side, he loves me like no one else ever has. He loves me in ways that I never thought possible. I'd believed that's how love should be, but experience taught me that it just might not exist. It was a figment of my very active imagination and should be confined to the fiction I like to write.

Then, I met Ranger. He had the same concept, and the same problem. So we let each other love and be loved as we thought it should be. And the fantasy came true. That would be bliss.  If only the fantasy weren't partly still a fantasy....

As you know, dear Diary, there's been a down-side, too. He's lost five jobs since I've known him. Granted, two of those have not been his fault. Three have. He's been searching for jobs constantly, but now the search has changed. He doesn't go anywhere in person anymore. He doesn't call unless I prompt him. He searches the same online job sites every other day, submits the same generic resume again and again.

He got a job for a couple of weeks, in October. It wasn't his fault that he lost that one. Technically, he hasn't lost it. They just stopped putting people on the schedule because their business is tanking. But the big point is that he got that one by having face time with the manager. She recognized us as regular customers, so when she had an opening, she asked him about it. The online job searches produce NOTHING. Phone calls and face time do. So, what's he doing? The online boards. Only.

He is paying rent by having a work contract with his landlady. Rent on a tiny 6' x 8' trailer (which is powered by an extension cord from the house) in exchange for working so many hours on the property. He has a small trickling of money from his rock business, but it's tiny and irregular. I help cover expenses, like groceries and storage. We share a storage building, which is mostly my stuff so I don't mind paying that rent. And he only eats one meal a day (two on a good day).

So, yeah, I'm kind of enabling the insufficient job hunt. I'm realizing that. All because I can't let him be homeless and starving. I've been thinking a lot about this for a couple of months because the burden of it (in many ways) is starting to get to me. He's become very sensitive to any suggestion that he do something different; he takes it all very personally and gets seriously depressed over it. That makes talking about things really difficult.

Of course, the fact that he's now a convicted felon doesn't help anything. That's a HUGE stumbling block to him getting a job. It will effect every job he could possibly have.

He also needs to do something about his child support situation, which is really bad and unfair to him. After finally getting a copy of the records his ex filed with the courts, he found several blatant lies in the statement about his income sources and amounts. I've given him leads on men's advocacy groups that would help with the legal side, but he's done nothing.

The persistent dragging of his feet leads me to believe that the plans we've spoken of are nothing more than words now.  He swears it means more than anything to him, but when push comes to shove....  You can see why I'm done believing in that.

I also have the problem of doubt. I constantly wonder about his ability to be honest and faithful. I still have questions.

It's been over a year since his fling with that roommate. Ever since that, I've had that awful "waiting for the other shoe to drop" feeling all the time. That feeling that there's something terrible hidden from view. We've had a couple of arguments about little things that look suspicious to me. It's enough to keep me wondering: is there nothing to hide or has he just gotten better at hiding it?

I think my big hang-up with this is knowing that he's never been completely honest with me about it. I've given him a couple of opportunities to fess up without repercussions, just so I know that we have a clean slate. But no...he hasn't taken them. There's just too many unexplained loose ends with what happened at the park in Utah and with the roommate.

Okay, not unexplained. Just lacking an explanation that actually makes sense. He's given me explanations, but they just don't fit. And hindsight has led me to wonder about another situation, which might have been another fling. But there's no way I'll ever know for sure.

Our lives are unbelievably entwined. How can I detach from that? His life would fold, but is that my responsibility?

Lord, I hate thinking and feeling like this. If he'd just pull his act together. It's getting old and burdensome.

Conversations with Ranger are strangely silent lately. I don't know where his thoughts are. I've seen him like that once before, and then I found out where his thoughts (and other parts) wandered. When he does talk, much of it is suggestive or even vulgar in nature.  His words make me feel so rotten that I stopped our intimacy weeks ago.  It just feels wrong.

So, I find myself back to my original problem, where I was before Ranger and I met. I need a partner. I need someone to share our triumphs and tribulations, and the general burdens of life. I need someone to help me carry the load, and I can help carry his.

I've had this with Ranger, and it saddens me to the bone to see it evaporate.

At this point in time, I feel more burdens being loaded onto my shoulders, and I'm at my limit.

Ranger is aware of my frustration. It scares him a little, that there's a possibility I'll lose patience. Apparently, it doesn't scare him enough to light a fire under him, though. He's growing content with the status quo, regardless.

In the meantime, Jacob enters the picture. In many ways, Jacob does not follow the pattern of the men I've been attracted to. Pierced, tattooed (the only one that shows is this little symbol in the middle of his forehead), 3 inches shorter than me, and 13 years my junior.

Yep, 13. There's that number again.

And I am attracted, for many reasons.

He's highly intelligent, reads and writes the same genres that I do, has the same devotion to Shakespeare, has his priorities in order, committed to raising his daughters right, hard-working at a steady (long-term) job, and is well-respected by his coworkers and peers.

And now says that looking out for my happiness is becoming one of his priorities. He and I have been chatting casually for a few weeks, mostly about single parenthood. He needed some hope that somewhere out there was a woman who would realize that his children have to come first, that he can't throw them overboard just to indulge sexual needs. He's finding that most people don't "get" this idea, just as I have found. To hear me say I understood that and his frustration over people who expected less...well, that was the beginning of our commiserating.

Have I dated him on the sly? No. Have I even so much as held his hand in sympathy? No. We just talk about our commonalities and our troubles. Yes, including Ranger's ups and downs. He worries over how my stress effects me. And lately, he longs to spend more time with me, to learn about me and not just my stresses.

And I've grown fond of him. Am I in love with him? Not yet. Ranger is still in my heart, to some degree. But there is certainly room.

Right now, I wish for that moment when you look back on things and it all makes sense. I'm not sure what's happening, if it's temporary, or where it'll end up. I need one of those proverbial signs, I guess. But when does that ever really happen?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Why Son can't handle lime anymore

Yep, he's a college man now. On the last day that he could turn in a housing application, he decided he wanted to live in the dorms. This was the first glimmer of excitement about anything that we'd seen in a long time, so we hopped on it. Nevermind that it's ungodly expensive.... We're still scraping on that one. But he was excited about something.

So, we moved him into the dorm. It's a nice dorm. New building. They have this "pod" concept now, where several bedrooms open to a common living room and share two bathrooms. Not bad. I wish I'd had that when I was in the dorm.

He has seven roommates: four football players, two basketball players...and one Theater Arts major who is a big fan of "Glee."

In my head, I'm hearing the song, "One of these things is not like the others! One of these things just doesn't belong...." Poor kid. Whoever placed him in that pod should be dunked in hot oil and forced to watch Miley Cyrus videos.

As you might expect, that first week of class, Son's calls home became less frequent. It's painful for Mommy, but he's a big boy of nearly-nineteen (at that point) and should be more independent.

Then, the first Friday night happened.

I got home from a date with Ranger at about 11:30 PM. Exhausted. Climbed into bed. An hour later, my mother comes upstairs and wakes me. And Daughter, who was sleeping in my room because her end of the hallway was "creepy" with her brother's room empty.

"Blogget, wake up! We just got a call from Mrs. Summers from church. Her daughter Rachel and Son are in the hospital. They were fund drunk on campus, and Rachel is barely breathing."

You can imagine what this did to me.

Adrenaline kicked in, and I rushed to the bathroom to find some clothes. All of her words were seeping into my sleep-riddled brain.

"Wait, what the hell was he doing with Rachel Summers?" Rachel is a 15-year-old friend of Daughter's. They're pals from church and school.

"I don't know. Her mom said Rachel was with her friend Maggy. They can't find Maggy, though, and Son and Rachel aren't coherent enough to tell them anything."

Daughter sat up. "Maggy? Maggy H.?"

We stopped. This was the name of Son's ex-girlfriend's little sister. The good girlfriend.

"They're best friends," Daughter said. "It has to be her."

"Yes, it's her," my mother said. She hadn't wanted to worry Daughter about her other friend, too. "Weird thing is, Mrs. Summers was calling us to find out where Maggy lives and what her phone number is. If they're best friends, wouldn't she know that?"

"Do you have her number? Or her sister's?" I asked Daughter. "We should try that." She set on doing this.

My dad drove me to the hospital. We sat in stunned silence. He'd talked to our Bishop, who was also at the hospital. We were getting little bits of information. The two of them had been found outside the dorm. She was passed out and he was incoherent. The police were called, and they issued Minor In Possession (or "MIP," I learned. I don't know this stuff) tickets. An ambulance was called.

My dad was furious. Of course, he's forgetting all of the drunken stories about himself as a teenager. But none of those included ambulances or 15-year-old girls.

Mrs. Summers intercepted me in the waiting room, before I could get to the admitting counter. She's practically yelling at me about "Where's Maggy? How do we reach her parents? She's out there somewhere!" She told me that what she knew was that Rachel, Maggy, and Son were supposed to meet up with Maggy's sister later, but went to this huge party on campus while they were waiting. And they drank. A lot.

I see my dad being taken back to see Son. I have to go with him. I excused myself and headed to the counter.

"One visitor at a time," they said.

"You don't understand," I said. "If I'm not with that man, he'll kill that boy."

By the time I got back there, choice words had been said already. I could tell. Son was in a devastated state. My dad had told him Rachel might die.

"Is she really that bad?" he asked me, as I sat beside him.

I nodded. "Could be. We'll see."

He looked pitiful. Too tall for the bed. Barefooted. Hospital gown over his jeans. An IV. He was still slurring, even though he'd vomited everything in his stomach. He couldn't remember a lot of details. Just flashes of things.

I asked about Maggy. He looked very confused.

"She wasn't with us," he said. "I'd have remembered that. I'm sure we didn't see her tonight."

Soon, we heard that Rachel was awake and doing better. Her waking words to her mother were, "Where's Maggy?"

Her mother stormed into Son's room and started hollering. First, she wanted to know why her daughter's clothes were covered in dirt. Then, she turned to Maggy.

"Where is she?" she demanded, like he'd done something to hide her. "She was with Rachel when they left the house tonight. What happened to her?"

Son squinted as he strained to remember. "No, Ma'am. I'm sure she wasn't there."

"Rachel said you were all waiting for her sister to get done with rehearsal to go do something," she hollered. "So where is she?"

Son literally jumped in surprise. "Waiting for her sister? I don't want to see her sister! And I don't think I'd want to hang out with Maggy."

"I SAW HER WITH RACHEL!" she yelled. My dad escorted her out of the room.

My phone rang. It was my mother.

"We got ahold of Maggy's sister. She's asleep in her room. She's been home all night."

So, Rachel's mother saw her at their house, eh? And her daughter is still asking where Maggy is, through her stupor, even though she knows she lied about being with her?

Wow. That's kinda twisted. Rachel's mother didn't come back to Son's room again. Rachel was going to be fine, but they were keeping her overnight for observation. The nurse came to check on Son.

"How are we feeling?" she said.

"Not so good," he answered. He squinted at her and furrowed his brow. "I remember you."

She laughed. "I bet you do. Well, let's see if we can get you out of here."

Son turned to me. "I'm not going to forget her." He was not happy about it, either. Apparently, when they brought him in, they wanted him to urinate. He couldn't. They said he had 5 minutes to produce something, or they were going in. He couldn't, so they did. She was the one handling the catheter.

We took Son home. Apparently, the missing shoes were somewhere on campus. "I remember mud," he said.

At this point, I have to say that Rachel is known to be a very wild child, and her mother has very persistent blinders on. My daughter is her friend, but is a little bit of a Pollyanna about hoping Rachel will straighten out one day. Until then, she tries to be there for her, but never, ever goes anywhere with her.

As son went to bed, I snagged his cell phone. I read all of his text messages. The boy never uses the phone to actually talk, so the texts are telling. I got a better idea of the real story. Also, Rachel's things were still in Son's car, including her cell. Which had all of the texts from that night deleted from it. Hmmm.... Someone knew how to cover her tracks.

That, along with Son's recollections and the campus incident report gave me a very good picture of what happened. Now, I have to admit that I didn't believe Son's account unless it was corroborated by something else. So, here's what I've been able to put together:

Rachel knew of a big party going on that night, at a house where she and her friends go to do shots after school with the 20-something resident. She was fighting with her boyfriend and asked Son to take her to the party instead. He'd given her a shoulder to cry on, and he had a car. A little while later, she said the party was canceled, but she still wanted to "hang out."

She'd told her mother she was spending the night with Maggy and arranged for Son to pick her up at the end of the street. Son talked to a friend in the girls' dorm and arranged for Rachel to stay there that night. Rachel seemed to have other ideas: her bag contained a sexy camisole and a thong.

A friend of Son's offered to get them some alcohol. Lime vodka. A gallon-size bottle. After Son picked up Rachel, they went to the friend's and got the vodka. Rachel paid for it.

They sat in Son's car in the dorm parking lot, with the bottle and one plastic cup, taking turns at generous shots. In one hour's time, they consumed half of the bottle. They started to feel sick, so Son decided it was time to take Rachel to his friend's room in the girls' dorm.

Note that - Son's big party night lasted one hour.

Son had a thought at that moment that the alcohol could not be found in his car. He loves his car, and more importantly, my father loves his car. It's something they share, and that means a lot to Son. He didn't want to put the car at risk. He'd stash the bottle in his room, then take her to his friend's.

As they stumbled to his dorm, they got stuck in the mud beside the building and lost their shoes. Some guys spotted them vomiting there and came to help. The RA (Residence Assistant) spotted the guys helping her walk to the grassy front of the dorm, and saw Son headed to his room with the bottle.

The RA approached and asked her name, to which she said, "Fuck me," then vomited some more. Son reappeared, and the RA asked about the bottle. Son led him to it, and the guy dumped it out. The police arrived about then. Son wasn't concerned with this, though, because he was vomiting again.

She started to convulse. They called an ambulance. Son remembers falling off the stretcher. Son was coherent enough to give them information on himself and Rachel. That's when they realized she was only 15 years old.

It was about 10:00 PM. At the hospital, her parents were called. Then, they called the Bishop. Apparently, Son's "contact in case of an emergency" list was ignored. Mrs. Summers called my dad at 12:30 AM to find out if he knew Maggy's parents' names and phone number. THAT is how I learned my son was in the ER. The campus didn't call. The hospital didn't call. The Bishop didn't call. My son was left to sit by himself for nearly three hours. To say I'm pissed about that is an understatement.

The next day, he was repentant. He was sick as a dog and very ashamed of himself. He actually came up with his own punishment for this, which was more severe than what I was going to do. He also knew he'd have to go before the Student Conduct Board and have sanctions from the school, and a court date for the MIP.

My mother took Rachel's things to her parents the following day. Her mother was horrible to my mother. Rachel's story is that Son showed up with the liquor and forced her to drink it.

I don't even know where to start with all the things wrong with that story, but her mother isn't hearing of it, anyhow. Her mother said to mine, "I'm getting the transcripts of her text messages to prove it."

Well, I called the carrier. Those transcripts don't exist. Since Rachel deleted the messages, nothing can be retrieved. All we have is what's on my son's phone, and it doesn't paint a pretty picture of Rachel.

Her mother insists otherwise, so my mother asked to see the transcripts when she gets them. We've never heard from her.

Rachel's story has been perpetuated by her mother to everyone we know in common. Rachel even had the gall to pull my daughter aside and tell her she needed to know "the real story." My daughter is pretty disturbed by this, because there's no way Rachel doesn't know that Daughter already knows the real story. Beginning with the lie about Maggy.

Many people we thought cared about our family have now turned their backs, in judgment of Son based on Rachel's story. He messed up, yes. Did he do all she says? No.

I'll have him take the responsibility for what's his fault, but nothing more. The whole experience has been disappointing, in many ways.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Bad, bad, bad Blogget

Go ahead. Flog me. I'm a bad, bad, bad Blogget....

But don't think I haven't thought about you in my absence! I often have and wondered what you all would have to say about what's going on in my life. And I need to get back to reading about yours, too.

I had a few things I was going to blog about in detail, but it became too exhausting. Suffice it to say, I'm tired.

My sister and her kids moved to California. I couldn't be happier. I miss my nephew, mostly, but at the moment, I have no desire to spend any time or energy on my sister. What she did to my life and my relationship with my mother while she was here was nothing short of selfish and mean. My heart still hurts for what I've lost.

Son graduated from high school just fine. I asked him to pick a place he'd like to visit as a graduation gift, so off we went to Vegas. Did he want to see the lights? The casinos? The girls? No. He wanted to see cars. Lots of classic cars. So, we went to the auto museum, and I listened to him chatter happily about all things automobile through 125,000 square feet of classic cars.

We also saw Cirque du Soleil, the Bellagio's fountain show, the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay, and the shop from "Pawn Stars." We ate at "Vegas's Best Buffet," where I promptly got food poisoning. What the heck is it with me and Vegas? I get ill every time! And I don't even party!

One very funny moment: as we got to Vegas that first day, we got stuck in traffic. Yeah, I managed to have us driving into Vegas at 5:00. I'm brilliant, I know. So, I'm staring ahead at the cars inching along ahead, and something comes into view.


Seriously. I nudged Son. "Do you see that?" I pointed.

He squinted. "What's Yoda doing on a billboard?"

As we inched closer, the billboard revealed itself a bit at a time. Until I saw these four wondrous words:


When? The last night we were supposed to be in Vegas.

"Hurry, Mom!" said Son. I can't begin to describe how elated I was to see his enthusiasm for something he knew I would like.

We got to the hotel finally, where the clerk made the uber-creepy comment, "We have you for two beds. Would you prefer one?" Raised eyebrow at me and Son. Oogy man. No. He's my son.

Pause for creepy-shiver.

We rushed to the room. Son whipped out my laptop and started searching for tickets. Yes! Two tickets, on the aisle, close enough to see Anthony Daniels's stage makeup. See? I took this with my phone:

The summer was rough. Son broke up with the good girlfriend. Or rather, she broke up with him. He came to the painful realization that it was mostly because he can be a supreme jerk. He'd say, in tears, "Why did I do that to her? She's such a nice person, and I wasn't very nice."

He spun into a very dark depression. He didn't care if he lived or died. He talked to me for hours, which completely annoyed my mother because she wanted him to talk to her. Get a grip. The thing is, I couldn't be there all day. Neither could my folks. And we did have cause to worry, as I could see him hurting himself.

So, we did two things. First, we went to the doctor. This was the worst of his depressions, but certainly not the first. She prescribed some medication, which eventually helped, but would take time to do so. Second, every day Ranger would get on a bus and come to the stop closest to my house. I'd pick him up, he'd take me to work, and he'd spend the day with Son. Sometimes, all they did was watch TV in silence. Sometimes, he'd convince him to go someplace, and they'd end up bumping along a dirt road to go check out the canyonlands, or some such. And they talked. Just a little and often superficially, but it kept Son moving forward. And Ranger won my mother's undying gratitude for that. Well, she says so, and I hope she means it.

The story of how Son's college career got kicked off will wait for another blog. Suffice it to say...I'm tired.

Daughter continues to be nothing short of brilliant. Stellar. She astounds me daily. We met up with an old friend in Denver, in July. Our friend watched my daughter as she took pictures along the 16th Street Mall one night. Daughter was in rare form, feeling sassy and confident from the top of her fedora to the tip of her newly-acquired 2-inch heels.

"I can't believe she's so grown up," my friend said. She has known daughter since she was a toddler. "I wish I'd had that confidence at her age. Just look at how she carries herself!"

And it's true. I've never seen a more self-confident teenager. She told me a few weeks ago that she'd been thinking about her college career. She loves her art, but knows it won't make much money. So, she wants to go into graphic design and do her art as a hobby. Can we please go visit colleges during spring break?


She's since learned that the local college has a great graphic design program. She sent an email to the professor in charge of it, introduced herself, and made an appointment to go talk to her. She spent two hours with this professor, who later stopped me on campus to tell me how blown away she was by my child. (insert big grin here!) "She's only 15?" she asked. Yep. She is.

Ranger...well, that's another blog, too. We've had ups and downs. More ups than downs, though. We took a few days in October to get away. A little vacation, and it was beyond delightful. Just what we needed at the time. I'll blog more detail on that, too. The week ended differently than we'd planned, but it was still good.

The trouble I'm having with Ranger is the burden of him not working. He had a job for a few weeks, but it didn't pan out. Again. Through no fault of his, I'll admit, but I think he's getting to comfortable with only searching online job boards. The way he got that one job was through having face time with the manager. It never would have happened with just online job boards. But I don't want to feel like he's doing things just because I'm pushing him, you know?

Oh, and his ex has been a nightmare. I'll just say this: It takes a particular brand of woman to try to hurt a man through his children.

So, there you have it. In a nutshell, certainly, but it's the quick run-down. I'll write on those promised blogs as quickly as possible.

Dear Diary, it's good to be back.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

But will it actually help?

I was watching TV late last night and saw an episode of Kathy Griffin's show in which she explored the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy issue. This has been the policy concerning gays in the military for quite some time, and now a repeal is in process.

But as the people with the hidden identities talked about this issue on her show, I had to wonder if the repercussions they fear from having their identities known will actually be alleviated when this policy is no more. Sure, they'll finally be able to be "out," but will they want to be? Will they still face the same bias and prejudice that caused this policy in the first place?

It seems a shame to celebrate the demise of a prejudicial policy, just to find gays are still forced to hide because the underlying attitudes are not impacted after all. I suppose what I'm asking is....will a change in legislation bring acceptance, in a military population accustomed to the opposite?


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Suggestive Skies....

I looked up in the sky today, and what did I see?

I'm just sayin'....

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I started hearing that the annual Employee Appreciation Luncheon was coming, for all the departments under our VP's umbrella. We've been under this VP for about a year, and it's generally been a royally pain in the ass, heavy on the political nonsense. Still, a luncheon would be nice, to hear how she couldn't do all she does without us, even though she makes us feel like we could be replaced with trained monkeys.

So, I get the official notice about the luncheon. It's a potluck.

Does this sound funny to anyone else? As in, "I appreciate all you do so much that I want to have a luncheon about it. So, bring your own food."


While she's making her speech about how the growth of the campus could not have happened without us, my boss and I are looking at each other. We've been told we need to show our "productivity." How do you measure the output of faculty support? Plus, the number of online courses has more than doubled since I started here, a short time ago. I work all the freakin' time! Don't tell me I'm not "productive"....

A couple of weeks ago, she made a comment to my boss that "lots of faculty" are complaining that I'm never here for them. Never here?! I'm here at 7:30 AM, often don't take lunch away from my desk, and she has personally seen me here past 6:00 PM.

Turns out, ONE faculty person complained to her that I didn't do something for her fast enough. Once. And that happened because she gave me the wrong information in the first place. But she has the VP's ear more than I do. Why? Because she has her PhD and my job got in the way of me finishing mine.


So, in the midst of feeling unappreciated by my VP, an instructor comes to visit me.

"My sister came over this weekend," she says. "And we planted my yard." Note: her yard is an orchard.

"And you know what I told her?" she continued. "We have to plant lots of eggplant for Blogget!"

I make eggplant parmesan for my family all summer. And last year, she supplied me with eggplant. Looks like she will this year, too! Any why?

To show how much she appreciates the "above and beyond" things I do to support her online courses.

That's what puts the smile back on my face.

Friday, May 14, 2010

My favorite excuse for a party

Fruita, Colorado loves a good party. The town square is set up for it, with a permanent stage, a lot for food/drink vendors, and a big, grassy lawn. They host four major festivals each year: Fat Tire Festival (celebrating mountain biking and Fat Tire beer), Dinosaur Days (celebrating the rich fossil territory surrounding Fruita), Fruita Fall Festival (celebrating....uhm, cooler weather), and my personal favorite....

Mike the Headless Chicken Festival

No kidding. It's a party for a decapitated chicken. The thing is, Mike survived it. Yeah, really.

You can go read Mike's story (yeah, he has a web site), but here's a synopsis. In 1945, a farmer picked out Mike for dinner. However, his aim was less than true, and the axe took off Mike's head, but left his brain stem. So, Mike hopped off the block and continued to peck for his feed, as though he had a mouth to eat it. "Ah-ha!" said the farmer. "My fortune is made!" He figured out how to feed Mike with an eyedropper to his exposed gullet, and set out on a freakshow tour.

Eighteen months later, in a motel, the farmer misplaced the eyedropper. That night, Mike began to choke, and the farmer had no way of clearing his airway. And Mike died.

But he lived without a head for 18 months. So, now they have a party for him every year.

On the morning news today, I watched the official opening of the Mike the Headless Chicken Festival. At 6 AM today, a man in a chicken costume raised the official Festival flag, and everyone started eating chicken wings.

Over the next couple of days, everyone will enjoy food, drink, merchandise vendors (including Mike the Headless Chicken hats, t-shirts, mugs, etc.), the Chicken Dance Contest, Rubber Chicken Football, and live music. All in honor of a chicken who avoided the dinner table 65 years ago.

Like I said, my favorite excuse for a party. If you're looking for me this weekend, you'll find me in Fruita, Colorado. I'm the one in the wine tent, with the chicken hat.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My friend from the east

I've known this fella professionally since 2003. We belong to the same professional organization, both serve on the board for it. It's a group that is small and consistent enough to let you make good friends, who you enjoy seeing once a year. Oh, it's the same conference where I met South Carolina.

So, when this guy expressed an interest in a position vacancy we posted for my department at work, I was thrilled. To get someone with his experience on my team would be....well, part of a dream team for me. We could really get something done! But I was worried we couldn't afford him. After asking my boss if it was all right, I shared the salary information with my pal. No problem. Woo hoo!

That was last November. My friend balked at applying because of the cost he could have, selling his house on the east coast and moving to Colorado. So, the search committee is looking at our pool of applicants. It sucked. We had one good one, and she'd already accepted another job before we could interview her. I called my friend again. He considered it and decided to apply.

Now, I had a small battle with the search committee. My friend didn't have the required Instructional Design-related degree, but he had 14 years experience in the distance learning field and a doctorate in History. He'd actually been a professor in the UK for awhile. And an archeologist. And the keeper of a castle. His resume reads like a high adventure novel.

So, I had to convince the committee to go ahead and interview him, based on experience and not on his degrees. He blew away the phone interview and was invited to campus. He paid to stay an extra day, to visit with a realtor and to see the area - with me as tour guide. That's okay by me! We've lifted a few together before, so it should be fun.

For the campus interview, I give candidates two courses in our course system, for them to evaluate and redesign, as they would if they were in the job. No sweat. Then the search committee Chair did something I didn't like. He sent my friend a link to the course he delivers online, in his own format and on his own site.

"How would you change my course?" he asks. And I grit my teeth. Why would an applicant want to tell the Chair of the hiring committee what's wrong with his course?

So, my friend comes to town. The Chair picks him up from the airport and brings him to campus for a couple of initial interviews. Interviewing here is grueling. It's a whole day, or sometimes a day and a half, of interviews with different administrators and faculty. Then, you do some sort of presentation. Ugh. At least they feed you.

The Chair brought him by my office to say hello. Now, I hadn't seen my friend face-to-face since November of 2007. He peeked into my office and couldn't have been more delighted to see me! He gave me a big hug, and I realized I'd never seen him in a suit before.

"Yeah, I clean up okay, don't I?" he said, in his thick New Jersey accent. He's a big guy and made the suit look impressive.

The Chair seemed surprised by our familiarity, but I can't figure out why. The Chair doesn't tend to like me much because I actually make him work sometimes.

Later that evening, I met two members of the committee (including the Chair) and my friend for dinner at my favorite Indian restaurant. I was curious to see what my friend thought of the place, since he'd spent so much time in the UK and just loved that food.

The proprietor is a boisterous little man, who always dotes on Ranger and I when we're there. He came to take our order and his eyes lit up when he saw me.

"Hello Blogget! My friend! So good to see you! Where is my friend Ranger?"

I explained why our little group was there that night, and he promised to take good care of us. The Chair turned to me when the man left. "Wow, you do like to come here, don't you?" Yep.

The Chair and I got the same dish. My friend got the tikka masala. The other committee member seemed to fawn all over him about being the keeper of a castle. My friend knows how to entertain a group. He regaled us with stories from his travels, doing the accents and voices of the characters he met along the way.

Our food was spectacular, as usual. The Chair had to ask me how to eat you pour the rice onto your plate? Do you keep it separate? What's this sauce? What are you drinking? (It was hot chai.)

We had an excellent time. We talked about the area and got an idea of what my friend might like to see on Saturday. I'd put him in touch with my realtor, so he as scheduled to talk to her, too.

The next day, he appeared bright-eyed and dapper in his suit again. He found each and every interview to be delightful. He completely won over our hard-ass feminazi VP. Usually, my boss takes candidates to lunch, but he was gone so I did that. We went to microbrewery #1 (of the 3 we have here), even though we wouldn't be drinking during work hours. He forgot his reading glasses, so I had to read the menu for him. We actually discussed the job and the work, saving the social bits for the next day.

The afternoon's interviews went well. I sat in on all of them, as they were mock "consultations" with faculty, much like they'd be in the job itself. Fifteen minutes with each one didn't allow for much in-depth discussion of instructional design, but we got the idea. In the end, each one liked him and was impressed with his knowledge.

Then, he started his presentation on redesigning those example courses I sent. But it got derailed. Why? The Chair decided to ask, "Tell me how you'd change my course." My friend couched his response in the idea of making a site user-friendly for students, and he suggested a different structure for the syllabus.

Damnit if we didn't spend twenty effing minutes on the Chair arguing with him. His current structure was obviously cumbersome, and my friend showed him how he could actually have it both ways. But oh was painfully obvious to all present that the Chair didn't want to hear anything could be changed in his course.

Stupid Chair has slammed my friend at every occasion since then.

Before we all left for the weekend, the VP asked the committee if he was aware of the salary range. Yes, I said. Definitely. We'd discussed it months before, and he expressed he had no problem with it.

The next day was a Saturday. I met my friend at his hotel, just before lunch time. We went to microbrewery #2, but this time we could get some beer. I did this on purpose. Like I said, we'd lifted a few together before. This man is a big, bagpipe-playing Celt, and this trip was the first time I'd seen him wear something that didn't have a Guinness logo on it.

After that, we headed out the back way to the neighboring town. It's about ten minutes away and is known for it's festivals throughout the year. Including one about a headless chicken from there, who lived for about a year and a half after losing his head, to be the delight of the freakshow circuit. There's a sculpture of him in this town. So, we went to see it, and I told the story. And he took pictures, to send to a mutual friend back east.

We got some water and a snack and drove to the Colorado National Monument. It was a perfect day to drive that area, and the spectacular scenery just blew him away. He was genuinely excited about it. We talked about the hiking and biking trails. We stopped for pictures a lot. He took one of me at one outlook point. Heck, even the bighorn sheep came out to be photographed by him! They lined up along the road, looking right at us, and held still as though posing. Amazing!

We headed back to town, in time for a leisurely dinner. There's a new Irish pub in town, so we made ourselves comfortable there, ordered a couple of beers and Irish stew. I've never spent one-on-one time with him, but we didnt run out of things to talk about. He loved the pub, and found out from the server that we have a bagpipe group in town who comes to play there. "So, I can play my pipes here?" he said, completely excited by that idea.

Soon, I needed to get home. I dropped him off at his hotel, promising to make it back at check-out time, to help him find some lunch and get to the airport in time. Which is exactly what we did - lunch at microbrewery #3 and off to catch his plane.

Everyone parted ways satisfied that this situation would work out. The Chair was a stumbling block in talking about offering my friend the job. He'd grudgingly say my friend was competent, then slam him the rest of the time. My boss phone interviewed him the next week, since he'd been away during the campus visit. In the end, it was sunshine all around.

Until they extended the job to him. They actually offered a higher salary that I'd originally told him it would be.

And what did he do?

Said his bottom line was $20,000 more.

$20,000?? WTF, dude?!

And ta-da! I look like an idiot.

"I thought you told him the salary range?" my boss asked. And the VP asked. She already sees me as a peon. I soooo didn't need this.

"Yes, I did! And I have the emails to prove it!" And so I did.

I ended up emailing my boss, the VP, and the committee, with an apology for my part of this fiasco. If I'd had ANY idea the salary would be a problem, I would never have encouraged the interviews. For anyone. I'm not into wasting time and resources.

And because he is my friend, it looked to them like we figured out a way to get my buddy here for a little mini-vacation on the college. Great.

My boss said something about that a couple of weeks later, as we're at a luncheon at a conference. So, I got my chance to say my bit in person. I was completely honest with him.

"I feel personally wronged here," I said. "I stuck my neck out to get him interviewed. I sunk personal time and money into showing him the area. I set him up with my realtor, and wasted her time, too. This really stings. He made me look pretty bad."

My boss looked thoughtful at that. "I can see how you'd be upset," he said. Well, at least he heard me. Maybe he didn't think I'd pulled a fast one anymore. I just really didn't need to be distrusted or to look unprofessional at work. Or look like a fool.

So, I still have to work with my friend through that organization. We're chairs of committees who need things from each other. But....I can't tell you how many different ways I'm disappointed.

Back to square one, in finding help for me at work.

Monday, April 26, 2010

I think we're in Kansas again, Toto....

Well, almost Kansas. That was the last part of the trip. This started at the end of March, when Ranger and I went to Kansas City to see his kids and retrieve the last of his stuff, still in storage there.

We arrived at our home airport at 5:15 AM, to catch a flight to Dallas-Fort Worth, where we had a layover before our flight to Kansas City. Checking in, they offered us a deal on first-class seats between Dallas and KC. So, we treated ourselves to a little more leg room and boarding first. Which I like.

I'm what you might call a competitive boarder. I hate Southwest Airlines because I actually have to sweat my place in line to get the seat I want. And I want close to the front because I hate that "trapped" feeling when you land and people just won't get out of the way to let you off. Yeah, I'm that person you see at the gate an hour before boarding time, sitting on the floor at the little passenger corral, staking out her pole position. And I set my bags so that no one can step in front of me.

On other airlines, I have an assigned seat, which I've checked and rechecked online to see if I can move closer to the front. You'd think I'd feel better about that. No. Then, I sweat getting room for my bag in the overhead bin.

So, boarding first makes me happy. And Ranger likes it a lot when I'm happy.

The flight to DFW was smooth. On time and all. I looked in the pocket in front of my seat and pulled out the paper barf bag. "Dang," I said. "Not the nice plastic ones. I needed more little gift bags."

Ranger laughed. He was there when I actually used one of the plastic ones for a gift for my dad. Then took great delight in telling him how the airlines were giving away those bags to passengers when I last traveled. Yep, right in the pocket for each seat.

I have a sick sense of humor sometimes.

At DFW, we had time to waste. I looked at my phone clock and saw we had another two hours until our flight. We browsed shops. We took our sweet time getting to the next gate. We found a restaurant where we could get something to drink and wait. As we sat down, Ranger lookied at his own phone.

"What time did you say it was?" he asked. I told him.

His eyes went a little wide. "No," he said, showing me his phone. His had updated to the current time zone. It said we had 30 minutes until our flight.

"What?!" I grabbed my phone. Sure enough, it had not updated the time. I was an hour off. Later, I found the setting to change that.

We left the restaurant quickly and crossed over to our gate, which was thankfully close by. I went straight to the Priority Seating queue. Where I was first. We stood there for about two minutes before they called us to board.

Sitting in first class together was special for us. Snuggled into the big seats, with the new travel pillow I bought and Ranger tucking a blanket under my chin. He was like a big kid, playing with all the trays that slid out from everywhere on his seat. Getting the "special" snacks and real glasses instead of plastic cups. He felt doted on, treated to something he never got otherwise. It was fun to watch him.

Besides, he was so excited to be seeing his kids again. It had been nearly two years since he'd been able to afford to travel to see them. And this time, as he put it, he was going to see the most precious people in his life together. I'd met his son before, but not his daughter. Sure, she calls me a lot, but we haven't spent face-time together yet. He could hardly stand the anticipation.

And we were about to spend a whole week with each other. We'd never had a whole week before, and I was looking forward to it.

Ranger's son Jerry picked us up at the airport. When my bag came off the carousel, though, I was a little upset. It was almost new - this was the second time I'd traveled with it. It's bright pink, and I had a carry-on to match. It came off the carousel absolutely filthy and with a hole ripped in the back of it.

I marched it over to the airline baggage office, which was about two feet away. I waited as the poor man behind the counter finished dealing with a man who spoke little English and was looking for a camera he'd left on a plane. Five weeks before. This wasn't going well.

Finally, the man looked at my bag, went to his computer, and printed up a form for me. "Here," he said. "Take this to the counter at your home airport, and they'll get it fixed."

"That's all I need?" I asked.

"Yep, that's it."

I put it in my bag and we were off. Jerry's air conditioning didn't work, so it was a long little drive. We got settled at our hotel and waited for Ranger's daughter Chelsea to call and say she was ready. She was with a tutor.

Picking her up was going to be an event. We had to go to her mom's boyfriend's house to get her, which meant an awkward meeting for both Ranger and me. Ranger has been designing an ecommerce Web site for the boyfriend, and the guy is an impatient ass. And I got to meet the ex. The one who tells her kids my religion is a cult and tries to yank Ranger's chain all the time.

She's been pissed since he met me because he reacts less and less to her yanking. And I have to admit to some fear over this meeting. He hasn't seen her since he left when their divorce was final. He's been nervous about how to handle the situation if she wants a hug from him. He doesn't want to hug her, and I wondered why. I wondered how he would feel, looking at her face-to-face again and touching her. It's easy to emotionally separate from someone when they are far away. What would happen when the woman he was married to for 19 years is right in front of him?

I was honest with him about my misgivings. He understood. He was nervous that she'd pull something while we were there, to disrupt either his time with his kids or his relationship with me. He said he was glad I'd be there, though. He'd also feel better once his storage stuff was out of there. As long as it was there, he felt she had something to hang over him, something she could gain access to and cause a problem for him.

As we drove to the boyfriend's house to get Chelsea, Ranger chatted nervously with Jerry. We turned into the neighborhood. Ranger remarked that it looked nice. One of those cookie-cutter neighborhoods. His ex had bragged about this boyfriend's home, job, and possessions. Funny, we couldn't tell you anything about what the guy was like from what she said, but could tell you all about what he has. What does that say to you?

She opened the front door, and I was struck by her gauntness. She'd had that stomach-band surgery years ago and lost 160 pounds. It was part of the downfall of their marriage. As she became thinner and attracted more male attention, she realized she liked all the male attention and being married became very inconvenient. When Ranger balked at threesomes, she lost interest in including him in extramarital relations.

Okay, that's one thing I can tell you about the boyfriend that isn't about his possessions. He lets her have threesomes, and even finds the other guy to participate. She likes to tell Ranger these things.

"You must be Blogget," the ex said as she opened the door. She shook my hand as I stepped inside. Ranger came up behind me.

"Is a hand shake or a hug appropriate?" she asked him. She had that Cheshire Cat grin, as she reached for a hug. He did the one-arm-sideways hug. He blouse fell off her shoulder, draping almost to her elbow. It was about three sizes too big.

Ranger warned me that she likes to wear clothes that are too big because she likes to draw attention to her weight loss. It's part of her identity, it seems, and she makes it a conversation piece. But I noticed how her collarbone jutted out, like the edges of her shoulder bones, and her sunken cheeks. The weight loss looked like it had gone too far.

We met the boyfriend, who looks like a doughier version of Mr. Clean. Then, Chelsea came at us in a rush. She flung her arms around her dad and squeezed for all it was worth. She was wearing a t-shirt we'd given her. Then, she flung her arms around me and squeezed me for all it was worth. I thought Ranger was going to cry for a moment.

I gave the ex a book she'd mentioned wanting. It was one I'd read and loved. It broke the ice a little, as I hoped.

As Chelsea finished her math homework, we sat in the living room, opposite the ex and her boyfriend. Ranger was uncomfortable. He sat close, but leaned away as he talked to his son. I talked to the ex. She asked about our travels and my kids. She's seen them on Facebook. She kept bringing up "remember when...." things to Ranger, which excluded me and her boyfriend from the conversation.

Suddenly, Ranger wasn't leaning away. He held my hand tight. She looked at her boyfriend and took his hand. They talked a little about his business.

Then, Chelsea was finished and we were off to dinner at a burger place that Jerry loved. It was a great place, I had to admit. We bumped into some of Jerry's friends, who were among those coming to help load the storage into the truck over the next two days.

Something we noticed immediately was that Jerry and Chelsea had lots to say. It was like we'd released a dam or something. They would talk over each other, at times. They were completely starved for attention, for someone to actually listen and care what they had to say. Jerry talked about video games and his tech support job. Chelsea talked about....everything. As a teenage girl is supposed to.

I noticed that Chelsea talked a lot about being bisexual. She talked about her crushes, male and female. Ranger and I have known this about her for months. It's something she only recently decided to risk telling her mother. She fears judgement, and understandably so, but talked openly with us. Ranger commented on that later, being thankful she had an outlet to talk about this part of herself with us.

I got up to get refills for Chelsea and me. "She's a keeper," she said to Ranger, who was beyond delighted.

We returned to the hotel. Chelsea and Ranger went swimming. Jerry and I talked. Well, Jerry talked. About computers, games, our cell phones, and the apps we can get for them.

Jerry, Chelsea, and I have new Palm phones. Ranger is waiting for the time when he can upgrade his. So, the three of us are constantly checking in wherever we go, using Which makes Ranger's Twitter feeds for us go off on his phone. He rolls his eyes. "Gee, I wonder what that could be," he says, laughing at us. Back home, he's still rolling his eyes when he gets a GoWalla message!

Finally, the kids headed home, and we crashed. The day had been exhausting. We laid in bed and talked about the kids and how the day had gone. Spending time with them had been delightful, and they had so much they wanted to talk about. Jerry was quieter than Chelsea, but we saw him opening up more already.

"By the way," Ranger said. "I'm not sure my ex knows what to make of you."

"What do you mean," I asked.

"Well, to her, being thin is the be-all and end-all to beauty," he said.

Let me say that here that we are both well aware that I'm not a Skinny Mini. I never will be. I'm not built for it. I've lost 60 pounds since moving here, which has served to deepen my curves. Much to Ranger's delight. He finds "skinny" to be repulsive. He's a big guy. He wants a woman he isn't afraid he's going to break.

I'm what you might call buxom. Simply put, I've often had the problem of having to say, "I'm up here," to guys when they talk to me because they focus on my chest.

Which is apparently what the ex's boyfriend was doing while we were visiting that afternoon.

"I'm afraid she's going to do something to get that attention back on her," he said. "It's not enough to have just his attention, but she'll want mine, too." He's right. This is the yanking-the-chain thing she does, to see what she has to do to get a reaction from him.

The next morning, that shoe dropped.

A muddled call from Chelsea, saying she wasn't going to school because her brother couldn't take her. Because he was on the way to the hospital. To see why their mom was at the ER.

The story goes that she felt faint during the night. The boyfriend thought her blood pressure dropped. He called her dad to ask what to do and was told to take her to the hospital. Soon, Ranger got a call from his ex.

"It's a pulmonary embolism," she said, calling Ranger while she was alone in her hospital room. "But I don't want to alarm the kids. Just go on with your regular plans. I'll call later and we can tell them when you are all together. That way, you're with them when they freak out."

She went on to say that the doctors were going to do tests all day to find the blockage and decide how to fix it. Now, I'm fully aware of how serious and deadly this condition can be. So, I was completely willing to put off our plans so the kids could be with their mom, if need be. But she said no, so we went along our way.

They picked us up, and we headed into the city. We went to the city market area, which is filled with vendors on weekends for a farmer's market. I love those, but this was a weekday. Our goal was a museum that the kids picked out. I couldn't believe they actually picked a museum! It's a very specific one surrounding an old steamboat, which hit a snag and sank into the Missouri River in 1856. It stayed there for 132 years, until some excavators dug it out of the mud beneath what had become a farmer's field.

You can check it out at the Steamboat Arabia Museum page. This museum was impressive. The boat had to be massive. They brought forth the aft portion of the boat, including the rudder (see right), and thousands of artifacts from the ship's cargo. This cargo was intended for 52 general stores at 17 stops along the ship's route, in addition to the personal artifacts of the boat's pioneer passengers.

This place is miraculous. The things they recovered from the mud, in perfectly preserved condition, are nothing short of amazing. Literally thousands, as you can see below (you can click on these to make them larger). This is just one room of many, behind glass, with items recovered from the cargo hold.

Some of the most amazing artifacts were food stuffs. The excavators actually opened a jar of pickles and tried them. Still sweet and crunchy. After 132 years. This picture includes just a few of these items, including ketchup!

The only casualty was a mule. In the sinking, they didn't have time to save the mule. He died with his proverbial boots on. His skeleton (below) was found with the tack still on it. Kinda spooky, isn't it?

I just love this image of the big paddle wheel. It's at the end of the tour and puts off a beautiful, cool breeze.

Apparently, a bunch of the pioneers on board were Mormon pioneers, headed for Salt Lake City. So, the museum includes a display explaining the Mormons and their trek. This gave me the golden opportunity to explain my ancestors - and that we're not cultists. Thankyouverymuch.

They also have part of their preservation lab open to the public. So, you can watch them working on the artifacts. Which is ultimately cool to a techno-dork like me.

The ex finally called while we were having dinner. She talked to each of them, but she didn't mention the phrase "pulmonary embolism." In fact, she just said they were running tests, and it was nothing to worry about. Later, she told Ranger that they couldn't locate the blockage, so she'd be in the hospital another night.

The next day, we picked up a 26-foot moving truck and the guys started loading up Ranger's storage. The storage room was 10' x 10' and was stuffed to the gills. Wall-to-wall and ceiling-to-floor. Solid.

"I don't remember doing this," Ranger said, staring at the wall of boxes. He'd packed it while reeling from what was happening with his ex. It had been Christmas time. She was suddenly being very loving to him. Was she regretting filing for divorce? Was a reconciliation on the horizon? Finally, they fell into bed again. He was elated. Until she promptly kicked him to the couch after she was done. Then, she informed him of her New Year's date with her mystery boyfriend (his pal), and that he'd have to be home with the kids. He was in an emotional tailspin when he packed his things into storage.

The vast majority was his rock shop inventory. Which is why we needed the big truck, for the weight of the rocks.

We had lunch with Chelsea and Jerry, and Jerry's friends. Chelsea and I spent most of our time running to Walmart for new storage bins (some of Ranger's had collapsed)and water for the fellas, and a good long time at a big bookstore, looking at books and games. At one point, we sat together on a bench, reading books and showing the good parts to each other.

"This is really fun," she said, looking up at me. "Sitting together and reading. This is so great." On her recommendation, I bought a game for us all to play at the hotel.

She spent a lot of time chatting on the phone with my daughter, too. They started making a list of the things they have in common, which is eerily long. We talked a lot about boys and relationships, school, marching band, step-siblings, and siblings. We didn't talk much about her mother because I didn't think that would be fair.

It was painfully obvious that neither of the kids talked to her much anymore, mostly because she had separated herself from them, spending all of her time with her boyfriend. I feel bad for her. Someday, she'll see the chasm that's formed and that regret will be very painful.

The kids went to see their mom in the hospital. Chelsea read "Romeo and Juliet" to her, and Jerry sat by. She told them she'd be released the next day, and she'd go to her boyfriend's so he could take care of her. She still didn't say what was wrong with her.

The next day, we went to the ex's house with the big truck, so Ranger could pick up a cabinet that was in her garage. "I want my father there when you get the cabinet," she said to Ranger on the phone. "So that I'm sure you just get what's yours. You can use the handtruck, but that's mine, so leave it there." It actually wasn't hers, according to the divorce papers, but Ranger left that alone.

As they loaded the truck, Chelsea took me in the house to introduce me to her cat. She gave me the grand tour of all that was important to her. It was really very nice. I enjoyed each moment, and she loved involving me in her inner circle, so to speak.

Before we left, we chatted with the ex's father. He was a nice man, obviously in an awkward position, having to watch Ranger. The conversation turned to the ex's health trouble.

"Did they find the blockage?" Ranger asked.

His former father-in-law gave him a strange look. "Blockage? No, it's not a blockage. She's anemic. Bad enough that her blood isn't carrying the oxygen to her brain and heart right. That's why she's been having so many memory problems. They finally got it righted, though, and she should be able to take care of it."

Ranger knew about the memory problems, which was why he liked to deal with her in email, so it's all in writing. But anemia? And not a blockage? Hmmm.

That night, we played the game I'd bought. At one point, Jerry put his head down and his whole body was shaking with laughter. Chelsea said she's never seen him laugh so hard. We had a spectacular time together. As they left, she commented, "That was really good family time." It brought tears to Ranger's eyes, having us all together like that.

We were leaving on Easter Sunday. I put together little Easter baskets for them. Chelsea got a stuffed bunny and Jerry got a big egg, with Nerds candy in it. She hugged her bunny, while he looked at the Nerds egg and said, "If I eat this, is it cannibalism?"

We hit the road with 9,000 pounds of rocks in the truck. No kidding. And tears on Ranger's face, having to say goodbye to his children again. I promised him we'd make it back sooner rather than later, or bring them to see us.

We had the better part of three days in the truck ahead of us. Because my spine is still healing, we broke the trip into shorter trips, allowing for lots of stops for me. I can tell you this, though, if you're crossing Kansas and Colorado. The Days Inn in Colby, Kansas, looks nice on the outside and is rotten on the inside. And they really don't care. And the Quality Inn in Glenwood Springs, CO, is glorious.

We woke on our last morning together, in Glenwood Springs, to a blanket of snow across everything. It always snows when we travel in the winter. And it always makes me want to make love all morning.

It should be noted here that Ranger's ex hasn't spoken to him since the trip. She's made snarky comments in the background of his conversations with his kids, but she won't speak directly to him. She's mad. He is convinced that he was expected to rush to her side at the hospital, leaving me in the dust. But he didn't. We proceeded through our plans, together.

In other words, she yanked the chain, and he didn't jump.

Normally, this would worry him. He'd fear percussions. But somehow that spell has been broken. She's lost some of her leverage. And the rest he figures we can deal with. Together.

A tad bit of good news

My sister sold her house! Whew! So, after nearly a year of making my life absolute hell, she's moving to California.

Yeah, she still giving it a try with her louse of a husband, mostly because she's built this heroic image of him to her kids while he's been gone. So, they really want to be with him. I understand, though. You have to feel like you've done everything in your power to save your marriage before you walk away from it.

And I don't know how her kids would deal with a divorce. Still, I fully expect him to screw it all up, but breaking their hearts and hers.

We'll see what happens. But for now...she's getting out of my hair. I don't think my relationship with my mother will ever be the same, though. I'm fully aware that the next time my sister is here, my mother can and will turn on me.

I'll never trust her the same way again. She's forced me into a place where I can't care what she thinks of me and my life anymore. I still get twinges of missing how it was. I kind of mourn for that. My most rewarding relationships are elsewhere now.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Stay Tuned.!

I told a coworker yesterday that I feel like my job is one big Whack-A-Mole game. And some of those moles I'd like to whack harder than others.

Life is a little overwhelming at the moment, but I have lots to tell, dear Diary. I've traveled three times since the end of March. I've met Ranger's daughter. A friend came to interview here, and we had a marvelous time...until he made me look like an idiot to the one person at the office who really needs to think I'm fantastic. I've had my annual evaluation at work, with mixed results. I've been to two conferences.

Things are going gang-busters! But I haven't had time to write. I'm carving out that time ASAP. I promise.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

And a good time was had by all....

Daughter and I went to Salt Lake City for her Spring Break. Five days in a nice hotel, with nothing to do but the fun things we planned ourselves. Or rather, that she planned. I let her take the lead on these trips, since this is our third annual trip to what she calls "Mormon Disneyland."

We took our time getting on the road that first day. A stop at Walmart for snacks and drinks. Breakfast with Ranger. Put all of our potential destinations in the GPS's "favorites" menu. Point the car west, and off we go!

Note: I say "Off we go!" a lot. My daughter thinks it sounds like Spanish, so now she says, "Afuego!" (which really is a Spanish word) whenever we go some place. Silly girl.

As we entered tiny little Wellington, Utah, she noticed that the itsy tiny town actually has two Mormon church buildings, or "meetinghouses." See, you get a new church building when you have enough people to fill it. It says something about the LDS population there that a little town has as many meetinghouses as Lubbock, Texas - population 200,000-ish.

So, Daughter made up a new game for traveling in Utah. Instead of Slug Bug, we now have Slug-a-Meetinghouse. We spent the rest of the drive irreverently looking for the distinctive LDS steeples, so we could (softly) punch each other in the arm.

I recently got a Palm Pre. Daughter found a free app for keeping score in Slug Bug games, but we now use it for meetinghouses. How fun is that?

Finally, we arrived in Salt Lake City, at our favorite hotel. It's located on the same street as Temple Square and the Gateway Mall area, equal distance from each. How much more convenient can you get, when those two locations are Daughter's biggest priorities? It is also a block from the theater where we were going to see comedian Brian Regan perform. If you haven't seen him, you must go straight to YouTube and have a look! Good, clean humor, suitable for my daughter. And she just loves him.

Dinner was at the hotel, where they serve a kind of rustic-nouveau cuisine. Daughter had a Caesar salad that didn't quite turn out as she imagined. Long leaves of lettuce, wrapped in fried-to-a-crisp cheese thing, with a mountain of tomatoes, and a drizzle of dressing. We had a tiny table that ended up filled like a puzzle with square and rectangular dishes. Even the manager commented on our "very full table top."

The room was heaven. A lovely view of the city at night. Sleep Number beds, which were a riot to play with. Each morning, we had a good laugh at the Mommy- and Daughter-shaped crevasses we left in our beds.

Daughter had planned many sights to see. Temple Square, shopping at the Gateway Mall (namely, Build-a-Bear Workshop), Hogle Zoo, the Children's Museum, the planetarium, Heritage Park, Pioneer History Museum, and dinner at the Mayan Adventure, with all the hot divers jumping into the water before you, as you have dinner. Yeah, she's not old enough to date, but is gaining an appreciation for quality man-flesh. The Twilight series and their ripped actors have done this for her.

However, a pattern emerged as the trip actually got underway. Not much of this agenda proved to be a big priority. Each day, she's wake up about 10:00-11:00 and start talking. She'd get ready and talk until 1:00 or later. It was like she had stored up all these things to say and discuss when we were alone, without being surrounded by a houseful of prying eyes and ears. It was painfully obvious to me that she felt we had no private place or uninterupted time at home, where she could speak freely, and I could respond freely.

She talked about school, church, friends, family, home, and all of the ups and downs of her daily life. She just talked and talked. Sitting in the hotel room, facing each other on our respective cushy beds, I couldn't think of anything better I'd rather do. I didn't care one bit about what we were missing or what we could be doing out in the city. My teenage daughter wanted to talk to me, and no one else.

How huge of a treasure is that? And I'll always cherish that memory, of just sitting peacefully and listening to her, my lovely daughter. I couldn't be more proud of her.

When we finally left the hotel, we'd look for food first. She had a list of restaurants we simply had to go to, and what she wanted there. We found a new one, though. And it's now on her "have to" list.

It's a wonderful sushi restaurant we found around the corner. She became sushi-obsessed! We ate there twice. Some of it had to do with this delightful thing they had called Ramune soda. It has a marble in it. When you get it, you press on the top and it shoots this glass marble into the bottle, where it's helpd in a chamber that keeps you from swallowing it. It's a light, refreshing soda, too. Are we suckers for marketing or what?

Then, we headed to the Children's museum, which was really meant for small children to pass many hours in hands-on learning play. A friend recommended it to Daughter. She enjoyed it, anyhow, and made her first stop-motion animated film there! It's about three seconds long and ends with a blood-curdling scream. Gotta love it.

Of course, she had to make a stop at Build-a-Bear, a bear. These stuffed animals have become her souvenier of choice when we travel. We sat on a patio and had Ben and Jerry's ice cream, and watched the water feature they have in the Gateway plaza, with Olympic music playing. The water feature is built on the logo from the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake. Kinda fun.

The Mayan Adventure was as fun as ever. Entering this place feels like you're going into a ride at Disneyland. Daughter got a spectacular dessert that actually has fireworks on top. It spews brilliantly for about a minute. It's the only thing that distracted her from the divers.... She took a lot of pictures.

Besides shopping and eating, our sightseeing ended up being Temple Square. That's all, but we spent hours there. Daughter took 79 pictures in that area alone.

Something is very spiritually-nourishing to her, just being there. We like to lay our hands on the temple itself and talk about our ancestors, who helped build it so long ago. And the trouble they went through to be there, and work on it.

Watching her take her pictures, she seemed so small beside this grand structure. I took the one to the right, standing at the base. It's an awesome perspective to me. Oh, I could go on....

Saturday was our big day. She was so excited to go see Brian Regan at Abravanel Hall. So, we woke up slowly that morning. I noticed that it was getting late in the morning, but the usual bright sunshine wasn't peeking through the curtains. So, I opened them. And saw this....

No, not fog. That's snow. You should be able to see tall buildings in this shot. But no....there's snow.

We wandered down the street for lunch, at a cafe by Temple Square. It looked link this:

Again, you should see buildings behind the temple. But it's snow. We just couldn't believe it! We'd had such bright sunshine before that day! And we were to head into the mountains, going home the next day. It was a little worrisome.

That night, after the hilarity of the comedy show, we had dinner at the Garden Restaurant. It's at the top of the building beside Temple Square, and had the creme brullee thatwas on Daughter's list. The dining room has huge windows, overlooking the temple. As darkness fell, the spires of the temple were lit. One at a time, the lights on each spire would gradually start to glow and gain brightness in the dark and fog. When all six spires were lit, I realized again that the fog was snow, as the large flakes were silhouetted against the glow. It was a breathtaking sight.

We took our time leaving the next day, giving Soldier Pass a chance to thaw a little. I'd tried to check the highway cam online to see the conditions, but the camera's lense was covered with snow. That alone told me something.

Finally, we made our way home. Back to the chaos that we call home, anyhow. Daughter was a little quieter on the drive back. But we each carry brilliant memories of our time together. Our special time each year, that I'll treasure always.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

How to make a difference to someone

This person probably has no idea he's impacted my daughter's life as much as he has. I wish I'd get the chance to tell him.

He's the kid front and center in the photo on this post. He's a senior at her school, the lead in the school production of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." He was so phenomenal in the role (including the unicycle riding) that they did not cast an understudy. The comparison would not have been fair.

The entire production was unbelievable, not to mention that a high school did this. The sets were incredible, including the scenes where Augustus gets sucked up the chocolate pipe and where Charlie and hig grandfather are floating around with the bubbles. We were mesmerized.

That said, he's also an award-winning drum major for the marching band. There's a couple of videos on of their homecoming performance. If you want to sit through them (one is short and one is long), you'll see why he's award-winning. He's the tall kid, front and center, in the orange uniform. Born to perform, I swear.

The short one - the Drum Major entrance

The longer one - the performance

Daughter is a freshman. She's new to the drumline. She should fly under his senior-status radar. Or so you'd think.

But no. I first saw him during marching band rehearsals, during the summer. I had picked up Daughter and a couple of friends for lunch, during one of their breaks. This boy pulled up beside us at a stoplight, his car overflowing with other senior friends.

Slowly and dramaticly, he turned a sunglass-topped grin over his should at Daughter and her friends in my car.

"Hey girl! How you doin'?" Which started a small chorus of "How you doin'?" from his pals.

Daughter cracked up at him, which seemed to make him smile, as we left the stop light.

When school started, she was delighted that he was one of the upperclassmen who went out of their way to say "hi" to her in the hallways. Her friends were appropriately impressed that it was the first day at their new school, and Daughter already had friends established. And senior friends at that! Ah...high school society....

After the school-year rehearsals started, the band still spent time doing stretches to prepare for practice. Daughter is quite body-conscious....or rather, self-conscious....and hates doing public stretches. But the band kids must pick a spot on the ground and go to it. She just wanted to shrink into the ground and get it over with.

But here comes this drum major. He picks a spot right beside her and says, "Hey Daughter! How are you doing?"

He engages her in conversaton about starting high school, her classes, teachers, band....then another upperclassman approaches.

"Hey, did you hear about...." he starts, to the drum major. He literally walked into the middle of the conversation and started a new one, excluding Daughter. She assumed she'd just gone by the wayside, being "just" a freshman.

"Wait a minute," says the drum major. "You just interupted my conversation here with Daughter."

The other boy laughs, taking it as a joke. "Yeah. So, did you..." he keeps going.

"I'm serious, man," says drum major. "Can't you see I'm having a very important conversation with Daughter here? You're going to have to wait." He says it with just enough humor in his voice that the other kid isn't offended, but he makes his point. The other kid waits his turn.

And Daughter finishes her conversation with someone who made her feel like what she had to say really mattered.

A lot of teenage girls would develop a crush on someone with this dynamic personality, who made them feel important. Not Daughter. She has a great respect for him as a leader, and a friend. She's watched him help lead their marching band through some tough things this year. His humor and charisma helped keep their pride up.

I don't know if he understands how he impacts others by just being himself. I hope I get the chance to tell him, as this kid heads off into the adult world. I'm hoping it'll be a life lesson he takes with him. I hope the world is good to him.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Whirlwind times ahead

Life is about to get a little crazy, but pretty fun. For the next three months, I've planned a lot of travel with the significant people in my life. It's going to require some frugal living to pull it off, but I'm hoping it'll all be worth it.

Next week, Daughter and I embark on our annual trip to Salt Lake City. She just loves it there and just can't wait for those few days every year when it's just she and Mommy, treating ourselves to a quiet hotel, seeing the sights, and casual shopping.

This year, we're throwing in something new. Comedian Brian Regan is performing at the theater just down the street from our hotel. He's has a family-friendly act and Daughter loves him, so we'll see him next week. Combining that with what we love seeing there anyhow, and it's going to be a nice time together, away from the craziness that is our home right now.

One good thing on that front is that others in the household have recognized the need for a teenage girl to have her own space. So, things have been rearranged for Daughter to have her own room back. I also suspect that my mother was afraid my sister and her brood were getting a little too comfortable, and the feeling was a little too permanent. And they were abusing Daughter's room. Posters pulled from the wall and trompled on the floor. Keeping it filthy with dirty clothes. So, we saved it. And now Daughter is decorating everything with tiger stripes, to reflect her school pride. Gotta love it.

At the end of March, I'll travel with Ranger to Missouri. He has a storage building of merchandise for his online store that needs to be moved here, so he can actually sell the stuff. And I'll get to meet his daughter for the first time. She and I are acquainted over the phone. She calls me all the time, especially when her mother has disappeared to her boyfriend's house for days at a time. His daughter is a year older than mine, and we have a lot in common. Since she's left to her own devices so often and for so long, I don't mind if she calls me in the middle of the night. I'd rather she do that than meet up with a hormone-driven boy....that could be disastrous.

We'll have about five days with his kids. I've met his son already. He's 21 and a techno-geek, so we also have a lot in common. Ranger is afraid of his ex pulling shenanigans with the kids, concerning me. She tries to undermine us getting along, anyhow. I wish she'd realize that you want your kids to get along with a potential step-parent. I've been there when they don't, and it's an unbelievable headache for everyone involved.

He's also afraid she'll try to disrupt our relationship. When I met him, she was really jerking him around. She rejected him, but liked to yank the chain still, to see if he'd jump for her. She likes control. A lot. She bragged to him the other day that she'd gotten her new boyfriend to do something for her that Ranger would never do. Her new boyfriend found a male friend to join in a threesome with them. It was said in the tone of "see how much better he is than you," and was hurtful to him.

Anyhow, Ranger and I have made a pact. No private conversations with her. If she wants to say something privately to one of us, we will make it clear that she can say whatever it is in front of the other one. No secrets.

Mid-April, I have my annual conference in Vail, Colorado. Four nights at a work-paid ski resort, during the last week of the ski season. Ranger will go with me again, like last year. It's so nice to go back to the room after a day of talking shop and being hit up by vendors, to have him waiting and anxious to pamper me and relax me in any way I like. And some ways I didn't even think of on my own! Last year, we had a balcony that overlooked the mountain and the ski runs. Vail is really beautiful, especially with someone who wants to enjoy it with you.

Then, May comes and, with it, the end of my son's high school career. A week after he finishes his classes, we've planned a trip together. It's probably the last time I'll get to do something like this with him.

I asked him what he wanted to see.

"Where's a good car museum?" he asked.

So, we're going to a huge (125,000 square foot) classic car museum in Las Vegas. We've searched all the attractions there and now have tickets to the car museum, Madame Tussaud's, and Circque du Soleil. Woo hoo!

I'm a little nervous about the drive to and from Vegas. Son likes to poke at me and try to get a reaction. In short, he likes to say things to piss me off. I think it's his particular brand of control, really. I just don't want to spend this little holiday pissed off.

Son has recently been accepted to the college where I work. We've been discussing majors and visiting with professors. He's on the cusp of his own life. And I will always miss the little boy he was, and worry a little about the man he's become.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Valentine's for everyone

We celebrated Valentine's Day a couple of days early. I took Friday the 12th off of work, for a couple of reasons. See, I'd planned a surprise for my folks. Our home is overrun right now, and they never do anything for themselves. It's a crazymaker for them. So, for Valentine's, I booked that weekend for them at a nice hotel in Glenwood Springs, which is far enough away to be a good getaway from everything without being a long drive. I also included a gift certificate for a nice Valentine's dinner, so that they could go out without worrying about the price.

I'd called ahead to the hotel in Glenwood Springs, to see if I could get into it early and set up a gift basket, bubbly, and some flowers for my folks. Not only did they allow me to do that, but they'd also upgraded their room to a suite! Woo hoo! My folks never take time for themselves. This was going to blow them away!

So, Friday the 12th, I met up with Ranger early in the morning. We were going to exchange gifts, then drive to Glenwood Springs together to get everything set up before my folks were to arrive.

Ranger gave me the most adorable teddy bear, a giant box of truffles, and three of the sweetest Valentine's cards I've ever seen. We had a unique problem this year -- every card we looked at seemed to say something so true about our relationship. About our history, our struggles, our deepest feelings....there was no way to pick just one. He also wrote sweet notes to me in each one, expressing even more than what the cards could say.

Then, it was my turn. I gave him some hazelnut chocolates (he loves hazelnut), two cards, and the book I mentioned before. You know, the "How I love you" one that you fill in yourself?

First, I showed him the cover. He read, "How I love you," and said it was so sweet.

I said, "But wait! There's more!" I opened the book and fanned through the pages. His jaw dropped as he saw all the writing in it. He took it from me, amazed.

"Is this what you've been saying you're 'working on' all week?" he asked, flipping through the writing.

"Yes," I said. I pointed out the last two pages, which were completely filled with writing. "This is what I was doing when you called last night."

He gathered me in his arms and buried his face in my shoulder. With my arms around him, I felt him trembling as he started to weep. "Thank you, thank you," he whispered.

He took my face in his hands, to look directly into my eyes. "No one has ever, EVER, gone to so much trouble for me," he said. "For just me. To make me feel loved." I wiped the tears from his cheeks, and we sat close as he read some of the book.

Soon, we climbed into the car together and headed down the road. It was a nice drive, about an hour and a half. Soon, snow was falling on us. We watched elk near the road, careful to slow so we didn't hit any. I wanted to call and warn my folks about heading into snow, but couldn't give away where I was. So, I had my sister pretend she'd seen it on the weather online.

Ranger and I picked up some flowers at a shop near the hotel. My mom called about then. "We're on our way now," she said. "I just wanted you to know, we're so excited! Thank you for doing this for us!"

I told her to be careful, then we headed into the hotel. The front desk people were expecting us and gave me the key to the suite. It was spectacular! Full of lovely antiques, with a separate sitting room for them. We set up the basket on the couch, filled the ice bucket to chill the non-alcoholic bubbly, set out two champagne flutes, and the vase of roses. In the flowers, we put a card that said, "Decor by Blogget and Ranger." Then, we made our escape to our favorite restaurant, about a block away.

About 30 minutes later, my phone rings. "You went all-out!" my mother was exclaiming! They'd just walked in the door of the suite and were completely overwhelmed.

"There's a gift basket! And flowers! And some bubbly! Do we get to keep those glasses?"

"Yes, you do," I said, laughing. I don't hear my mother delighted very often, especially not by something I've done lately.

"And they upgraded us to a suite!"

"Yes, I know!"

She stopped. " do you know?"

"They told me when I called about getting into the room early to set things up."

"You did all this! I thought the hotel did! How did you get it here?"

"I drove up. Ranger helped me. In fact, we're still here."

"Here? You're here? You went to so much trouble! Where are you?"

"Eating lunch down the block. Then, we'll head back."

"Be careful," she said. "It's snowing here."

I had to laugh. I was watching it snow, too. We said our goodbyes, and I let them get to their quiet weekend away. They'd been searching travel books for things to do and had planned to explore the area the next day. That night, they'd have their romantic dinner in the same restaurant where I was having lunch that day.

Later, my mother would call me to tell me how incredible it was to them to be able to open a menu and not look at the prices. They'd never done that before. They got all that they wanted, and the bill came to 5 cents over the gift card amount.

The following day was dedicated to Daughter. Son had made plans with his girlfriend, but Daughter doesn't date yet. So, she invited her friends who didn't have boyfriends to a movie and dinner at our house. The highlight of the evening was to be the chocolate fountain. The girls couldn't be more excited!

This is how my Valentine's Eve was spent with the decibel-busting sounds of teenagers in my house. Ranger and I spent the evening in the kitchen, cooking up goodies for the crowd. We were peas in a pod! We daydream of cooking together, sharing the kitchen. It was hard work that night, but close and delightful. The chocolate fountain got a little messed up, but the girls didn't mind just dipping fruit and marshmallows into a bowl of melted chocolate.

Son even got home early and joined in the fun. His gift to his girlfriend kind of touched Ranger and me, too. He wanted to give her a flowering plant. And not just any plant. It had to be the same type of orchid Ranger had given me, just after we met.

"I remember when he did that," Son said. It was nearly two years ago. He had remembered and waited to do that for someone really special to him. That we'd made an impression on him -- that Ranger had -- was very meaningful to me.

Valentine's Day, I gave the gifts I'd picked up for the other family in my house. On a hunch, I'd picked up a little something for my sister. Good thing. As I'd suspected might happen, my thoughtful (not) brother-in-law had stiffed her for Valentine's. I couldn't stand to see her empty-handed, no matter how terrible she's been to me lately.

It was a weekend of happy tears, laughter, hugs, closeness, and sheer delight. I couldn't have dreamed of better.