Tuesday, September 30, 2008
"There's a pumpkin stand! Turn there!" and I'm pointing up ahead.
Joe isn't very spontaneous, so he flies by with his usual dismissal and a "We'll hit the next one" which is supposed to pacify me.
"But there what if there isn't a 'next' one?" I'm yelling now. "They had pumpkins! And apples, Joe! Turn around!" I'm nearly having a cow. Then Em and Caroline start chiming in and before you know it, Joe is turning the big rig around in some almost-ditch kinda turn thingy, and we are actually heading back to the old house with a "Pumpkins for sale" sign on the road. Yes! We are stopping for a pumpkin and maybe a gourd or two. It's fall--you gotta stop for stuff like that at these stands. Buying a pumpkin at the Walmart might be cheap, but it lacks the fun, the adventure.
The tires were crunching and creeping along the rocky driveway, and Joe was trying to find someplace to park. It was a dilapidated old Victorian house, the upper floors destroyed by fire, and the yard didn't fair much better. There were ramshackled outbuildings that had seen better days, an old tractor that rusted itself in place, an old car on blocks, and assorted junk piles that proudly displayed fruits and vegetables for sale. It looked deserted, but we manuevered around to an awkward spot next to the tractor. God knows how we were going to turn around to leave.
As we slowly opened the doors, we noticed a cute little dog barking his head off at us. He was short, like a beagle, but it was red and looked kind of like a fox. He was going dog crazy at the sight of us, but backed off instead of approaching. He looked more terrified than fierce, but we didn't get more than a few feet out of the car when we heard this old voice.
"He ain't gonna bite 'cha" said the voice, and we noticed this old shrivelled up guy sitting there. He almost looked like a scarecrow with his worn blue jeans, flannel shirt, and John Deere baseball cap on his head. He was perched on a rickety old stool amongst all of the other junk that was strewn about. Apparently someone had been hurling furniture and whatevers out of the house as it was burning, and the remains have stayed in their landing place since then--and I don't think it was too recently by the size of the weeds growing around them. And there he sat--smack dab in the middle of it, selling his crops. Like it was perfectly normal day in his front yard.
"He had a mean ol' owner and he doesn't come to anyone but me." he continued, "But he won't bite 'cha." And then he started the "cane tour", which entails him still sitting there, pointing out with his cane the various fruits and vegetables that he had to offer. He swings his cane to the right for the pumpkins and tosses out some prices for the different sizes. He swings to the left, showing us the acorn squash and tomatoes. Directly in front were the peaches, apples, and indian corn. He was swirling and twirling that cane like a pointer, and it was a good thing we weren't too close for fear we would have been pummelled by the darn thing. He may have been old, but he was good with those arms. The dog took off with that note--I'm thinking he may have seen the bad end of that cane once or twice in his day. Maybe that dog knew something we didn't.
We started to peruse the merchandise, picking up pumpkins, comparing the merits of this one or that one. Oooh, a cute gourd that looks like a duck caught our eye and made us laugh. Joe heads over to the apples and is making conversation with the old guy. I'm snapping photos of the old house and junk that surrounds it. Em is swatting bugs that keep biting her legs, and Caroline heads towards the peaches. We find a grasshopper and stoop to get a closer look.
It is roadside stand heaven until we all start swatting the bugs. It started out slow--first a bite on the leg, then an arm, and maybe your neck. They were tiny things, but geesh, they were all teeth. I smacked one on my arm and looked down to see they were only gnats, but they were evil gnats. Flesh-eating gnats. Gnats that were eating us alive.
We made a beeline for the pumpkins to grab a couple so we could get back on the road, but it wasn't fast enough. Em was swinging her arms like a fool and screaming about being bitten. Caroline picked up a peach and stirred up a plume of angry gnats that encircled the property. There were thousands.....millions......no, cajillions...........maybe zabillions of these beastly beings! We screamed for Caroline to drop the peaches. It was the scene from Monty Python's Holy Grail---"Run away!"
I start screaming at Joe to pick his "damn apples" and let's get going! He is just starting to swat and doesn't realize that we are being swarmed over by the tractor. The old guy apparently cannot move, so he asks Joe to put the squash on the scale for him and I'm running back to the car to get our produce bags. Em and Caroline throw their miniature pumpkins on the scale and head for the car too, unknowing the power windows are down and they cannot escape the cloud of deadly biters. I have never been eaten like this in years of camping--it was suffocating and scary to be so overcome by pests. And it HURT like the dickens!
The girls were in the backseat, screaming, and Joe and I were trying to pay the old guy for our purchases. He was ssssllloowwwwllly adding up the amount out loud, and Joe and I must have looked a sight, jumping and dancing, swatting and hitting, hopping and yelling the whole while. The old dude wasn't fazed in the least. His tough old leathery farmer skin was oblivious to the hell unleashed on us city folk. He sat there as if it was perfectly normal to have your flesh eaten off your bones by miniscule demons. Me--I wanted to rip my hair out. My hair was infested, Joe was shaking his shirt out--they were everywhere and there was no stopping them. There was no part of your body that those bugs did not want.
It was then that the old guy decided to chat. He couldn't hear for a lick and his ability to speak was apparently compromised in the years of onsetting deafness. Not that anything he said at that moment was as important as "Get the hell out of here!", but we were polite, albeit swatting and dancing like complete idiots. He actually told us a whole story about his divorce, or something that sounded like divorce" with a honeybee on his nose. Never even swatted it off. I don't think it fazed him in the least. Maybe that's why he didn't seem to notice the cloud of Satan upon us.
We wrapped it up with polite conversation and some "good lucks", threw a $20 at the man, and ran to the car. We sped off--I don't even remember turning around in his drive. We were all screaming and itching. Em was crying in the backseat, freaked out by the amounts of bugs crawling all over us. I was yelling at her to stop. Joe was yelling at me for making us stop there, and Caroline was suffering in complete silence--the bug pain had rendered her mute.
Joe pulled over the side about half a mile later, and we scrambled out of the car, yelling and screaming. Em pulled off one of her shirts to get the bugs out, and I was rubbing my legs to ease the pain. Caroline was silent, but miserable. Joe was hopping all over itching his arms. We could't stop the pain or get rid of the taggers-along. It seems the whole car was infested as well.
We finally hopped back in, only to stop again. We repeated the scene twice--and only after we hit some major speed, did the car rid itself of the evil hitchhikers. I gave the girls lotion to ease the itching and the biting, and it was then that we couldn't figure out if they were still amongst us or if it was phantom biting. We were pyschologically freaked out by these pests, as well as physically hurt.
It took us probably a good 45 minutes to get back to semi-normal, but it had done its damage--we were crabby and hot after such an adventure.
Later, we all started to laugh about the experience. I kept calling the place "Satan's Lair", Joe said that the old guy was really a ghost who died in the fire. Em chimed in by saying he and his dog lured us in with the temptation of pumpkins to only kill us later. Caroline said he was like that fish with the little light on the end of an appendage that lures in smaller fish for dinner.
When we finally made it to the campus and settled in with the band parents, we told of our harrowing experience. Somehow, we got absolutely NO sympathy. As I repeated excitedly about flesh-eating gnats and horrendous pain, they all pretty much just stared with blank looks on their faces. "Gnats?" said Maggie. "You got bitten by gnats?" was all she could say. I don't think they got the "HELL" part or the "We nearly DIED" part.
Maybe I ought to change the gnats out for something like wasps or bees..............
Monday, September 29, 2008
We fought the last time we drove out the WIU. As usual, I go one way, Joe goes the other. We are complete and total opposites, and if we head out somewhere, it will nearly always end up in a heated discussion on which way to go. This time was no different.
"Last time we took 80" he starts, "and you were mad." Yeah, I was mad. Taking I-80 totally misses the point in taking a fall drive. It is a 4-lane mega-highway with the nearest farm 2 miles away. There are no cows to wave to, no chickens darting out in the street, no townies to smile at. The countryside is corn, corn, corn, soybean, corn--all flying by us at 65 miles per hour. It is a blur that puts my eyelids on "heavy". All there is to see is the back of semi's and maybe stop at some lame rest area once or twice. It is closed up windows with the air conditioning on. Yuck.
Fall scenic drives scream 2-lane roads to me. Blue highways. Getting close to the folks and their farms. It is looking at cows up close and mooing like idiots at them. It is driving fast enough to make some time, but slow enough to have your windows open with your hand doing that "flying" thing. It is whipping the apple cores out into quiet corn fields. It is smelling pigs up close and stopping at roadside stands to buy pumpkins and indian corn. It is actually seeing farmer's laundry on the line and coming to a rural stop sign out in the middle of nowhere. That's the trip I wanted to take.
So, the last time we fought like the dickens, and this time, Joe succumbed and took 136. And he liked it. The 3 hour and 45 minute drive turned into a whole morning adventure. I'm not sure how long it took us to get to our destination, but who cared? We stopped at Dixie Trucker's Home for a few crack-ups. We were stopped in the middle of some major cornfield acreage to wait for construction trucks to do whatever nearly a half mile away. We nearly lost our lives at the roadside stand, now lovingly referred to as "Satan's Lair" (but more on that later). We laughed and reminisced. We felt the warm breeze and drove slowly. We actually bought apples. And pumpkins. We breathed smelly pig air and forgot about the time.
When we pulled into town, warm and happy from the adventure and the experience, Joe turned to me and smiled, "We're takin' 80 home" were the words from his mouth. Ugh.
Friday, September 26, 2008
I'm off licking my wounds in Western Illinois, home of the alma mater and the birthplace of love for Joe and I. Em and Caroline will be forced to endure more love stories, boring rememberences of days ago, college hoots, and recalls of dorm antics. It is the Tour of Love II, which picks up where the first tour left off two years ago. Poor Em had to endure it alone last time, this time she drags Caroline for company while she sighs and eye-rolls in the back seat.
Saturday finds us in the stadium for most of the afternoon and evening for major marching band competition and grilled pork chop sandwiches at the concession stand. The whispers in the marching band world have the Astros taking the whole thing. We'll see.................
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Petula sent me this cool award and meme to try and figure out. I'm not a big meme person, although I admit to enjoying reading others and learning about the true them. I never answer these things, but I gave it the old college try today and I was surprised on how I answered the questions. I hope you give it a try too. Humor me, okay?
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
"Just scan it and send it to Laura" was the directive tossed innocently at me. I stood there like a deer in headlights, unsure of how to go about that one. Ok--so I have a printer/scanner at home that I was pretty competent on, but I don't think she was talking about that. I think there was a head nod in the direction of the copy machine, and I think I saw Laura do something like that on hers. Hmmmm.......do you scan and send on the copy machine now? Wow. I know Laura sends things from her computer to the copier, so I am assuming it works the other way too? I just kind of answered a "Uh, huh. Let me finish this first" and worked around that one for the rest of the morning.
I can do the computer pretty well, although my Excel abilities are certainly lacking. I was watching Sue whiz about her spreadsheet, calculating columns and "merging" with other forms. I was mesmerized. I am such a loser, I thought. I have created the most lame spreadsheets for the Boy Scout fundraisers and inventory for the store, but this was impressive. I didn't know the capabilities of such programs, and I probably stood there with my eyes and mouth wide open, soaking it all up like a sponge. Shut up and learn, I kept telling myself.
I admitted my shortcomings to Eileen yesterday when she introduced herself. She had already pointed me in the direction of the restroom and office refrigerator, somehow knowing what I was looking for without expressing those words. She smiled nicely and moved some things around in the empty office so that I had room to work. She explained the office perk of a provided lunch everyday, so she suggested not to bring a lunch. And when I told her of my scanner dilemma, she told me she would help me if I needed it. "I've been there," she says politely. Yeah, but she is only about 22 years old. She can't possibly know how stupid I feel. Anyway, I latched onto her like a sailor to a piece of driftwood in the sea of stupidity.
I'm sprucing up the wardrobe, trying to at least look the part. The head honcho actually said the words "You look like a bright girl" to me, so I must be fooling them on that part. After proofing a quick report, she also mentioned needing me to write something for the company newsletter. I hope the panic inside didn't show, but I did express my concern about my naivity about the food industry. Can I possibly write about something I have no idea about? Can I pull that off? Will all of Frank's creative writing assignments of fantasy, strange scenarios, and off-the-wall suggestions help me out here? Time will tell.
It's scary getting back into the working world. I feel old, out of touch, and unsure of myself. It's the new me--working woman, writer, commuter, multi-tasker. It is stressful and scary, but at the same time, exciting.
And do you know what hasn't changed in 16 years? The office refrigerator. It is STILL disgusting.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
It's the Autumnal Equinox! Ohhh, I love those words. They sound so nice together. I love to say those words and I have been, all day. And I LOVE fall, it is my favorite season. The season of cool crisp air and the smell of burning leaves. (Well, not so much anymore since everyone decided to get asthma. Bummer.) But anyway--I love the sweet smell of leaves decaying, the bright colors on your drive about town. I can't wait for snuggy sweaters and the chance to wear my new fall coat. I like not having to paint my toenails cuz' now nobody sees them. I can wear blue jeans and see my breath in the morning. I love the fading periennials and the goodbyes to the hummingbirds. I like falling leaves on the roads and watching my neighbor trying to figure out whose leaves dared fall on her yard. Only she can determine wayward leaves on her property.
I'm not looking forward to the long dark winter, but that's a ways off. In the meantime, I'll be having bonfires to toast the cool weather and lovely hues.
Monday, September 22, 2008
It felt good to be back in the action of Marching Season and we were decked out in our finest orange-wear. Thank goodness the weather was downright marching-band-balmy considering we've been at far too many competitions fashioning winter parkas, boots, hats, gloves, and numerous blankets. Anything above freezing is a blessing in this sport.
We sat for 6 hours on our stadium chairs, whispering and commenting on our favs and our not-so favs. We saw incredible precision marching and lovely colorguard flags. There were crazy nutty parents hooting and hollering like it was the Superbowl and tons of really talented kids. I'm stiff from the damp and the sitting in bleachers for too long, but I can't wait for next weekend and the Western Illinois Marching Contest in Macomb!
Sunday, September 21, 2008
I've been knee-deep in the fish medication category this week. Aloysia, girlfriend of Sharkbait and mother to his endless finned spawn, is not doing very well. She is a lovely faintail goldfish that lives in our pond for the summer, and she has been a member of the family for the last 4 years. We lost her friend, Freddy, this summer to a terrible infection that I could not save her from, in spite of $15 worth of medications. Goldfish are dependent on their friends, and ever since we lost Freddy, Aloysia has not been herself. She lost her feeding buddy, her floating friend, her sunning companion. She likes Sharkbait well enough, but Freddy was her BFF.
So, now Alyosia hasn't been well. I found her hanging in the shallows, avoiding the cool deep water, and getting stuck in the plant roots. Not a good sign. I scooped her out of the water and found that her fins were ragged and torn. Into the house for a good salt dip and treatment she goes. Sounds simple enough--but the fact that I found this at 9:00 at night when we were all but settled for the evening, doesn't tell you the whole story.
Joe and I debated for minutes on what to do. Can't let her die out there. If we left her in the shallows, she would surely die. Shallow water makes her vulnerable to possum, raccoons, cats, and possibly one of those behemoth beasts.........the frogs. So, instead of making lunches, Joe's got to put that aside to pull the car out of the garage, go into the attic, and retrieve the winter tank for the goldfish. Now we are assembling the 50 gallon tub with the filter, skimmer, and endless trips to the pond for water--all before 10 p.m. We have to use the water from the pond so we don't shock her. Neither of us was thrilled with 20 trips from the pond to the laundry room with buckets of green-tinged water. But, we did what we had to do to save this 7 inch gold and white friend from the deep. As a mom, I am committed to making things better.
The next day finds me online trying to diagnose the patient's symptoms, carting over to the Petsmart, and loading up on ultra-expensive fish meds. One packet alone cost me $15 and it wasn't nearly enough to treat the darn thing. Aloysia has fin rot, which is exactly what it says--her fins get ragged and break off. It can kill her if left untreated and it also makes for some silly swimming, I might add. It is a result of another mysterious primary infection, but treating this usually treats the other, so it is mostly curable. The problem comes in when it takes numerous treatments to cure it. The dollar signs are ringing as the dotty fish floats and sinks around the sick tank deciding whether to live or die.
Daily I have to add numerous packets of fish medicine to the water. There are the odd days when I have to drain 25% of the water and refill. Then I add some more medicine. Being that I don't have a small sick tank, I have to add too many of these expensive packets to the water to properly treat her. And it causes the tank to foam up some disgusting yellow ick on top of the water. So, I scoop, strain, change the water, add more water, add medicine, over and over again. Day in, day out. For nearly a week now. And I check on her--constantly. To make sure she is still alive. And that she is eating. Or maybe she is getting better by chance.
I weigh my options--if I quit with treatment, she will die. If I continue with treatment, she might die too. Or she might live. Either way, I have to try. As a mom, I cannot give up on the ones I love--even if they are fish. I am committed to life. Although, I admit that I did encourage her out loud to "go to the light" at one point. It is exhausting to give such care. I would not be a good nurse.
As of today, we are up to $75 in fish medications. I'm not even counting the water changes or time I have spent on this. At what point do you quit? I don't know. She is alive and, I think, eating. Which is a good sign. I watch her with my flashlight to see if the fins are returning. And then I remember--I did this years ago for another fish, Keith, who actually went on to grow fins again and live a very fulfilling fish life. You forget what you do to save a life. As a mom, I make things better, or try to anyway. I don't always succeed, but I sure get points for trying. And spending large amounts of cash in the meantime.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
After all of that, I love her dearly. And when the kids were little and they would ask "Who do you love more? Me or Emma?" (or vice-versa) I would always reply "Grace!". I think they asked that just to see if the answer would change. Never did. I mean, you can't kick the kid off the bed and expect them to return minutes later completely forgiving you. Only Grace. She is definitely the favorite child.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
It is getting darker earlier now. Hen is on his blankie on the couch at almost 7:00 p.m.--much too early for a chubby kitten. If I sit with him for more than 5 minutes, my pally is up on me, making biscuits on my tummy. We are heading for many long winter nights where we sit together--just me, Hen, and his blankie. It's our special way of hibernating.
When we start our hibernating process, we settle in for the long haul. I always feel guilty asking the cat to move if I have to get up for a drink or take a potty break, so I end up sitting there for way too long. He always looks so disgruntled, so perturbed by the thought of having to rearrange, that I ususally just call for someone to get me whatever I need. This leads to long hours on the couch--and really, really bad television watching. I end up watching junk that I otherwise wouldn't spend time on. But, here I am, flipping through hundreds of channels, trying to find something to keep my eyeballs busy.
I found myself doing that this weekend, you know--with the cold and all. And I came to the conclusion that I loathe those families that have like a hundred children. I don't know their names, but I think one is the Duggars. They are the ultra-religious, the girls-only-wear-long-hair-and-dresses, and our names all begin with one letter--which right now I can't remember which one it is. Geesh, I hate these people.
They go on and on for an hour about how wonderful it is to have 16 kids. They smile and pray. Everyone chips in willingly on laundry and cooking. The big kids raise the little kids, the little kids don't even know who the parents are, and everyone is so darned happy. They sew their own clothes, and make their own house. They go to church--a lot. They all smile a lot too. And do you know what I am thinking the whole time I watch this show..........
When do they have time to make all these babies?!
Realistically, with all of those kids in the house, there can't be any private space, is there? And aren't they tired from all that kid-raising-chasing-smiling crap they do? When do they find the time?! Aren't they afraid the kids will hear them? I'm really trying not to be crass here, but really--how do these people do it?! And why?!
I saw another family on another show that had something like 13 boys and 1 girl. The parents looked goofy from all that baby-making. What is it about these folks that make them smile like fools? Maybe if I was getting all that action, I'd be smiling too. Maybe that's the secret. But, geesh--how about some birth control? And why are these people always religious fanatics?
Now, I don't mind that "Jon & Kate plus eight" show. They're kind of cute cause they fight a lot, like Joe and I do. Not serious fighting--just the stupid stuff like "Where are the kids' shoes?" and "Why did you leave that there for me to trip on?". They don't have the wacky hazy smile plastered on their pusses, and I don't think they even get to church. Love that. And someone is ALWAYS crying on that show. That's the show for me--reality big time. I just have to turn the volume down on all that crying--cause it is just to realistic sometimes.
So, Henry and I will have to start searching out some better TV to watch or it will be a really long winter. I'm enjoying my usual Wednesday night visit with Tim Gunn and Project Runway, can't wait for Survivor and The Amazing Race, and peruse the uncommon channels for something interesting. I always seem to find something funky to watch. Thank God for cable! I don't think he cares as much as I do about what's on, just as long as it holds me in one spot for more than 20 minutes. Thank goodness for remotes!
Monday, September 15, 2008
Battles can be small as well, but that doesn't diminish their importance.
Aloysia, my last remaining female fish, has taken ill. She is hanging out in the shallow water, not wanting to eat. Her fins are torn and she is still. She is a fish, granted, but her life force is great. I help her in her battle to survive. I am not always successful, but my encouragement is loud.
Em battles the middle school on a daily basis. There is a band of thugs terrorizing the purses and personal belongings of the nice girls at school. This group of disenchanted aggressive girls are creating chaos not only in the purses they are pillaging, but in the security of the hearts and minds of those who are there to actually learn something. Em and her friends have lost confidence in the teachers and administration who refuse to get involved, and is frightened of what will happen next. I prepare her by teaching her to put her money and valuables in her bookbag, but I am dismayed at the thought of having to outsmart these bullies.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
It is raining. Again. Well, it hasn't stopped in 3 days. I'm not sure if this is Gustave or Ike, or just rain. And lots of it. It is coming down in droves, non-stop, and it is driving us crazy.
The cats are so bored, they actually wanted to go sit in the garage this morning--just for a change of view. They usually go outside first thing in the morning, and even Henry wouldn't budge past the doorframe for this mess. Usually very tolerant of water drops on his fur, Hen wants no part of sitting outside, even under the porch roof, for a little fresh air. Grace doesn't even get to the doorframe--she just knows it is raining and doesn't even get off the bed to look at outside.
I opened the garage door halfway this morning so they could hang out in the safe confines of dry while looking out at the world. I left the house door opened a crack so in case they changed their minds, they could come back in to their comfy couch. I checked on their status a couple of times, as Hen and Grace usually can't be within a yard of each other without some confrontation. But, there they were, Grace sitting on the hood of my car, and Henry crouched by the open garage door, peering out to endless streams of water. Neither too thrilled with the lame attempt to entertain two bored kitties. I hope I get points for trying anyway.
Joe and the kids are bored too. If I hear one more episode of Spongebob on TV, I might kill someone. They are flipping between homework and TV--bored to tears by both. Emma has got her science project nearly done and it isn't due until the end of the week. The planets were expertly handpainted and sit, waiting, for their orbits to be created with wire. Colin has written, and re-written, his language paper 14 times already. Joe went to work on Saturday to "catch up", all because there was absolutely nothing to do at home. And to top it all off--there was NOTHING on TV last night that was even worth watching.
I'm nearly dying, or wishing to, and trying to sew Em's new vest. I'm not a big garment sewer, so I'm suffering through 3 pages of instructions and sneezing. I iron and blow my nose. I plug and unplug the Viking a dozen times, going back and forth on whether or not I feel like sewing or just taking another nap. I keep looking ahead in the instructions, hoping they wrap up soon. I don't enjoy making clothes.
Even the frogs out in the pond have had it with the rain. Day 1--the frogs are digging the drops on their bodies. They climb out of the water and sit in the downpour. Maybe it is akin to a frog shower or something, I don't know. But they like it. There they sit, eyes blinking away the drops, smiling like fools, enjoying the gloomy weather.
Day 2--The two goofs are a little slow in clambering out of the pond this morning. Do frogs "sleep in"? I wonder. It takes them until mid-morning before I even see their beady eyes breaking the surface. They are both fat from eating all of the bees and flies that are visting the last flowers of summer. Or they ate another bird. I don't see feathers, so I assume there are a few less insects in the world today. Afternoon brings them out onto the flagstone to bask in yet more water. And we spot a teeny frog that emerged from tadpole stage, finally. He is about the size of a quarter. I hope he makes it, as those two mooses out there will eat him if he isn't careful. Frogs can be cannibalistic, and personally, even I don't stand too close to these two.
Day 3--The frogs are actually trying to get out of the rain today, if that is possible. One is hanging tight to the palm plant, avoiding the endless pelts of rain. The other is keeping his head "dry" under the ridge of the skimmer. I don't think they have smiles on their frog faces anymore. This isn't a good sign when even the frogs are tired of the rain. I heed the warning and hang out in the jammies until almost noon. We aren't going anywhere today. At least I don't want to.
The forecast isn't looking good--they are saying we haven't even experienced all of Ike yet. There is more rain coming. Uh oh. The yard is saturated and starting to flood in the back. I'm not concerned--we are pretty high and it has never come close to the house. Even years ago, there was a major flood down the next street and it never came near to us. But, even without the threat of flooding, it is the dreariness from days of rain that is getting to us. Add the fact that I am downright miserable with the cold, and you've got some unhappy folks stuck in the house together. For days.
Henry's picture says it all. Except minus the sunshine on his belly. I have nearly forgotten what the sun looks like.
Fortunately (or unfortunately), I made it through the night and will continue to post through my illness. I have been visiting millions of new blogs lately and am amazed at what is out there. I joined a blogging community called Mom Bloggers Club a week or two ago and I have been lost in the wormhole of blogs ever since. It is amazing the people you find and the stories they tell. Wonderful writers, funny postings, and really humorous looks at life, family, motherhood, and god-knows-what-else. Oh yeah, there are also tons of moms selling stuff too. Hate that. I could spend days and nights going through the masses, it is hard to stop. Hours go by and you don't even know it. The only thing helping me get off the blog-browsing train is the stations of I-have-to-sneeze or I-need-to-blow-my-nose. I encourage you to shop for new venues--it is very inspiring to read, comment on, and "meet" some incredible people and their blogs.
Be like Demarcus Douglas--put a little of yourself out there. Spread your writing, not your germs, to the world. Send your signal (As Jon Katz would say) and let your story be told. Tell everyone who will listen. And even those who won't. Paint, sing, quilt, play, and express yourself in any way you can. There are people out there searching it out. Find a community in which you grow and find new readership. Branch out to see what others are doing and learn new things. See what you like and don't like. Be adventurous.
Friday, September 12, 2008
I found The Dan Band a couple of years ago and it totally cracks me up! Dan Finnerty and his back-up singers are known for performing songs that are sung by women and they do their own spin on them in what is known as the "I am Woman" Tour. He curses some, but most of it is bleeped so I hope you can overlook that part of it. I hope you find it as funny as I do!
It is not necessarily a good thing to think differently from others, although I don't know why. It gets you into trouble. It confuses others who don't know where you are coming from. It makes people angry because you don't "go with the flow". Most people stand there, looking blankly, trying to figure out what the heck you are talking about. And they think you are nuts.
It is not like I try to be different or think differently, it just comes naturally. I am eternally the contrarian, which I am seriously working on. I think outside the box, which is okay, but it is the vocalization of difference that causes the problems. I like opinions--even if it is not mine. I love people who are controversial and are not afraid to voice their thoughts. These are not popular folks, but I admire them. It takes courage to voice what you think or believe. But why is that so frowned upon? Why do I catch such crap for being different? Why are others so intimidated by those who disagree with them or bring up another view point?
Just recently, I was in a conversation regarding watching the Olympics. I did not watch the Olympics, as over the years I have become disenchanted with the networks choice of sports in which to cover during prime time. Oh, I tried. Really, I did. Who decided that women like gymnastics or ice skating? Okay, I understand that a lot do, but really--do I have to be force-fed that junk every night? The group looked at me like I had committed a crime--not like ice skating?! How can that be? It's lovely. The costumes, the music, the flowing of skaters against the icy backdrop--"I LOVE it!" is the usual responses. Then I get the "Well, what do YOU like?" with condemning question. And that's where I lose them.
I like weird sports, the ones nobody really knows about. I like the biathalon--where the athletes cross-country ski until their hearts nearly explode, and then they have to stop, pull out their rifles, and shoot at targets. It is the very difficult combination of gross and fine motor skills. It is extremely difficult to do, but I'm not sure anyone really stops to watch and learn about such intricacies. I like dressage, synchonized swimming, boxing, and my personal favorite--curling. What other sport can you be a chubby middle-aged woman sweeping like a fool and be called an athlete? I'm thinking I might start training soon. These are sports most people won't turn the channel to--too much thinking, too much learning, too "boring". I guess that's what I like about them--you have to learn what the rules are, how they score it, and what it is about. I like that nobody else knows about such sports--it makes it all the more attractive to me. It's funny how just talking about these odd sports makes people ruffle. They start to squirm and fuss about the crammed-down-your-throat sports and how truly "wonderful" they are. Yeah, they're wonderful. But, do I have to watch just that EVERY night? Hey--let's try something new.
This all leads to the posted band photo. I chose this picture because I envy these kids who do this. They can march in formations, lines in unison, going straight and diagonal, backwards and forwards--all the while playing their instruments. There is no room for individuality. They are all dressed the same, march the same, and stay within the lines. I so admire them for that. Sure, they are very a very artsy group--you should see them outside the band perimeters. I love that they can put aside their own creative needs and reel themselves in to be in a very strict performance of perfection. They pride themselves in not standing out amongst the group--albeit for even for a short performance. No one member stands out front, nobody plays louder than others, no flag is tossed higher, nobody stands out of line. Amazing. It is the beauty of cohesiveness and the lack of individuality. I'm not sure I could do it.
Maybe it is my lacking of conformity that makes me love watching the band so much. Maybe that is why these kids do this--for the challenge of conformity. Either way, I love to watch it. And I'll be curious to see how Em does next year when she joins in.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
A bunch of us wild girls went to New York last year for a weekend of god-knows-what. Oh yeah--that and lots of drinks. We were pumped for fun and it was a weekend to behold. I don't remember for a very long time seeing the clock at 3:00 a.m., then 4:00 a.m., and yes--5:00 a.m.! It was quite the time. There were broadway shows, ultra-hip bars, the diamond district, the Statue of Liberty, and shopping. Lots and lots of shopping. There were incredible restaurants, Times Square, Central Park, and purse dealers--everywhere. Oh! Did I happen to mention it was Fleet Week? You know--when EVERY man in uniform congregates to New York City? Like tons and tons of extremely good-looking men in every type of uniform looking for fun? Well--for us it was clean fun. Just some talking, dancing, drinking, and a cazillion photos of Cheri with all of them celebrating her 40th birthday. Geesh, it was a weekend!
Snuggled in between cocktails and shopping was our visit to the 911 memorial. Well, just the temporary one. It was located right at the subway entrance directly below where the World Trade Center Towers once stood. There wasn't much to see anymore as the hole was already being rebuilt with foundation of new buildings coming. There were fences surrounding the vicinity and construction vehicles and equipment that blocked any view of impending progress. Instead, there was a small area with photos, stories, memoirs, and lists of the names of those that perished on that sunny day in September. Lists and lists. Too many lists. It hurt my neck and my heart to see so many names on those lists. It gave reality to the great number of innocent people that died that day. It was heartbreaking.
We mulled about with many others, looking at the photos, reading the stories, and remembering that day. People were crying, others were hugging each other, and we pretty much stood there dumbfounded. I could not believe that so many years had passed, and yet we could still cry real tears. I could not look to my friends. I knew that if I did, I was a goner. I would have been there drowning in tears for the loss in all of our lives. Fortunately, I did not know anyone personally that died that day, but something in all of us died too. We lost our freedom. We lost confidence in our country to keep us safe. We lost innocence. We lost peace of mind. I stood there, looking upwards to an empty sky, wondering if we will ever be safe again.
It was a sobering visit that day in May. We took our time, said a prayer, and headed across the street to St. Paul's Cathedral. It was the very old church that survived the crashing towers and to it's doors came the rescue workers to seek relief. That, too, had a memorial inside. What an incredible experience we had. Throngs of people, in complete silence walking through the church remembering. Words do not honor enough the people who died, assissted in the rescue and clean-up, or bore witness to such horrendous events. It has imprinted me forever, and I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to pay my respects.
We talk about the events that happened with the kids--they were really young and didn't quite understand what was happening. It is weird to me that they don't remember it like I do. They know to refer to the event with somber acknowledgement, but they don't feel what I feel. They don't remember being scared or unsafe. They don't remember life before 911 when you could go to Disney and not worry about safety. They don't remember life without Osama Bin Laden. They don't remember a day when the word "terrorist" wasn't in the news daily. And they don't remember New York City without referring to 911.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
One day as we were driving to work, Laura and I are stuck at a very busy intersection. There are 6 lanes of traffic in every direction, and ever since they installed one of those red-light-enforced-photo-it's-gonna-cost-you-big-time thingies there, we stopped on the yellow light. Stopping at a yellow light in Chicago is like guaranteeing that you'll be sitting at an intersection for what feels like an eternity.
So, there we sat--chatting and watching the other cars turning. Then we spot him. Both of us at the same time and totally cracked up.
"Oh, god! Look at the old guy!" Laura points him out first.
And there he is--this old guy about 217 years old. He is this very tiny, very skinny old dude crossing traffic. I think he weighed about 86 pounds with cement shoes and lead vest on. The poor thing was walking all crooked-like, popping 2 canes out with every step he took. They weren't the kind of canes that hooked onto his arms--they were just regular canes with the curvy handle at the top. He stood out to us because he was walking as slow as a turtle, wobbling this way and that, poppin' those canes out in front of himself as fast as he could. Gosh, he was struggling. On his head was this very blue fishing hat, and on his face--determination. You had to see him.
Now, we weren't laughing at the dude because he had canes and struggled to walk. Nope. We aren't that mean. We were dying because he was crossing probably the busiest interesection in all of Chicago suburbia at what amounts to a snail's pace on a slow day. And did I mention that it was at 7:20 in the morning?! My god, where was he going?! Laura did a make-believe picking him up by the scruff of his neck and lifting him across the street. We were dying. We were absolutely cracking up. Now that I think about it, I hope nobody saw us laughing at the poor guy.
We were making bets on how fast the light was going to change and would he make it? These cars had revving engines and no time to waste. If the light changed, homeboy was going to be mush. But there he was, pokin' and cane poppin', wobbling across one car front and then the next. His little blue hat bobbing across the line of traffic waiting for the green.
The light started to change and we could see he was almost there. Yes! He made it! We both breathed a huge sigh of relief. Whew! I was actually glad he was okay. But then, just as we started to get going, we noticed he stopped and turned. Oh no! What was he doing?! Where was he going now?! After his long crawl across 6 lanes of traffic, he had turned and was now going to cross another 6 lanes. This time in another direction!
I couldn't bear it! I nearly wet my pants from laughing. I think he was heading for the White Castle for a cup of coffee and a slider. My man was soooo determined! All that for a cup of Joe! Amazing. What effort! What exhausting effort!
So, after all that laughing I couldn't believe what a hero that dude was! Here we were laughing at him, but if only I could be so brave. I was laughing at the sight of him--not at him, per se. He was a hero. He could hardly walk, but here he was--crossing all that traffic--twice!!! And god knows where he came from?!
All for a cup of coffee.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Saturday, September 6, 2008
We'll be enjoying a bonfire tonight with fellow band parents. Imagine 35 parents, all dressed in orange sweatshirts, hanging out in my miniscule backyard munching on s'mores and popcorn. Add a couple of cocktails and you've got yourself a party. Can't wait.
Friday, September 5, 2008
It is the single best thing my child has ever took part in. We've been through t-ball, soccer, baseball, ballet, chorus, basketball, and every you-name-it-we've-been-in-it that kids belong to when they are little. The most fulfilling, the most incredible, and the most fun to watch is, by far, the marching band. I don't think the kids love it as much as me, but who cares--they're doing it. Quit complaining and march!
There is no crowd like the band parent crowd either. There are masses of them that show up for the home football games. Not to watch the game, of course, but to watch the half-time show. We are the dorky dedicated that pay the admission, sit for endless scoreless minutes (hours), and just wait for the half-time show. Losers. I know, I never thought that would be me when I was a cool teen (was I ever cool?!). No way! Band was for nerds. And worse than band kids were band parents! Ultra nerds. Yep! That's me! And darn proud of it.
I LOVE that the stadium at contests are packed. I mean PACKED! There isn't one inch between butts on the bleachers. These contest hosts soak us--it is anywhere from $10 to $20 a piece to get in to watch. It is about $25 on average for us as a family to go. Crazy! But, we hand it over, with me mumbling the whole time, and prepare for the event of a lifetime. Hours of marching bands competing by class and school size. There are incredible shows by every imaginable school and band. There are huge bands where the colorguard numbers exceed our band size. There are the "up north" schools that have endless budgets for the arts that completely blow you away. Their lines are perfect. Their uniforms are brand-spanking new. Their buses and their trailers are stenciled and painted with their fancy names and jazzy logos. It is like a gathering of rock bands almost. And that includes their groupies. Parents, I mean.
There are the teeny tiny we-can-only-form-the-letter-L sized bands that are just as incredible to see. These are schools with numbers and budgets that are so minute, the effort alone should be given an award at the end of the night. The sound that comes out of these kids are something to behold. Add that to the you-can-hear-a-pin-drop silence in the stadium, and you've got some big time entertainment. Goose-bump kind of stuff.
Oh, did I mention that the band parents are NUTS? They wear the school colors. They yell, scream, ring cow bells, and wave giant flags--all for their band of allegiance. This is all when the band approaches the field and takes their starting formation. The man on the microphone asks the drum majors if they're "band is ready" and we're off. There is complete and utter silence that descends on the dewy field. The crowd is still, as they won't allow you to even leave your seat during a performance--it will distract the band. And there are very strict monitors in the stands that enforce this. (Imagine band parents with power--scary!) The world stops for those 7 or 10 minutes, whatever the rules are. Everyone sits holding their breath, whispering comments on this or that, sitting on their hands from pure excitement or the fact that they are nearly freezing the death. The band marches in lines and circles, or diagonals, forwards, backwards, all the while not bumping into each other. It is a rarity if someone trips or slides. Colorguard girls are flinging irridescent flags here and there. White rifles are tossed high into the air in complete unison. Sometimes there are even the sabres--but they just remind me of pirates, so I don't like them very much.
Oh, gosh, the pagentry. The drama. The music. I can't wait! We anticipate anxiously for the awards ceremony at the end of the evening. There are awards for colorguard, drum majors, drum lines, music, showmanship, and I can't even remember what else. All of the drum majors line up on the field, and when their school is called for an award, they do their little bit and then step forward to accept the award. They rehearse their "bit" for weeks. There is some saluting, arm-twirling, steps thingy that is kind of a dance. It is their presentation and I have to admit, the first time I saw it, I totally cracked up. It reminded me of the "Zoom"(Channel 11 tv show in the 70's) thing where the kids would twirl their arms without all tangling them up. It's kind of quirky, but hell, it's band kids, remember? There is a lot ear-hurting screaming from the crowd when someone wins something and it is just downright embarrassing to see these parents. (Oh--did I mention that we win a lot and I usually come home hoarse?) We jump up and down, hoot and holler, and act like fools. I actually thought of making a flag this year. It's official--I'm a loser.
Tonight kicks off the first football game of a very, very long season. I am a volunteer tonight and I get to wheel the band equipment onto the field for half-time. I will wear my orange and brown, and cheer on the band from the sidelines. I will ignore the loser football parents who think they are better and cooler than me. I will chat through the whole game, never watching or caring about a play, and suck my teeth when they lose---again. Did I mention that I can't wait?!!!
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Ahhhh, friends. As my son will tell you, I am obsessed with making sure everyone has one. I never realized how much I focus on that until he told me that one day. I'm always asking "How's school?", "How are your classes?", and "Who did you eat lunch with today?", and pretty much in that order. Having friends is right up there with getting good grades and doing well in school to me. And I drive the kids nuts when I ask about their friends.
The realization of how much I focus on this is when we released our giant frog last year into the wild. Well, it was more of a local forest preserve lake that was loaded with other bullfrogs. As my frog continued his summer quest of reducing the bird population in the yard and increasing it inside his little tummy, we came to the conclusion that he had to go. He was much too large for our small pond and I don't think he would have had enough birds in the cooler months to keep him alive. I was not about to bring him in and feed him mice. Oh no. I draw the line at that one. So I searched area lakes and ponds for him to be released to.
When we finally settled on the perfect place--with lots of bullfrog boys and girls, lots of shallow water and cattails to hide in, we packed up the big guy and took him for a ride. It wasn't easy to let go, I LOVED that frog. He was really a sweet friendly guy that would sing me to sleep on many a summer night. His deep chug-a-lug twanging throughout the night would signal his deep longing for a sweetheart. I knew he would be better off in a deep slough full of promising frog relationships. And after the Great Frog Disaster '08, I knew I had made the right decision to relocate my friend. Had I found his lifeless body amongst the victims, I would have been mortified. Instead, I dream that he is alive, happy, and making tadpoles with some frog babe. Or babes.
As I released my friend, I shook his strong frog hand and told him to "go make friends". Colin nearly died.
"Mom! Will you quit?!" he was adament.
"What?!" I didn't get what I had done to aggravate him now.
"Quit with the friends thing! You are always harping on having friends! Frogs don't have friends! Just let him be!" He was on a roll. I hope we weren't making a scene here at the forest preserves. I'm sure the frog in my hand is thinking "Just put me down, lady!".
He was right. I never realized how much I harped on that. It took me 16 years to figure out that the one thing I nagged about incessantly was having friends. Or making sure they had them. It was then that I realized that I bought fish friends for my fish. I was happier knowing the frogs had other frogs to hang with. I even planted flowers in numbers--do they need friends too? I knew better that to get friends for the hamsters, though. Experience taught me that hamster friends led to bitter fighting or lots of babies hamsters. Hamsters do NOT need friends. I'm okay with that.
Now that I am aware of my obsession, I try not to voice my concerns as much. Oh, they are still in there, but I'm just not as vocal about it. I silently worry about Col, as he is a loner, doesn't need people like I do. I just watch quietly now whenever we are at school, making sure he is talking to people and mingling with others. I am relieved when I hear him tell stories of people he knows or how he jokes with this guy or that girl. I don't worry about Em as much--it all comes too easy for her. Although I do make sure she is choosing the right kinds of friends.
All of this leads to the pond. (Doesn't it always?) I've had this big frog in my pond all summer who I don't really like. I think she has chased all of the other frogs out, as she seems a little aggressive to me. So, that makes me mad. There is one tiny frog hiding out in the top waterfall, but lately I haven't seen it and I wonder if she ate the darn thing or just scared that one away too. But my heart softens as I look out one morning and see that there are two big frogs out there! A friend! My beastly frog has a friend! Somehow she seems a little less beastly to me now, and she is seen hanging out with her new found pal all of the time. On the planter. In the hyacinths. On the rocky edge. Maybe that is all she needed to turn her life around of meanness--a friend.
Maybe I'm not so wrong after all.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
We decided to get out of Dodge on Sunday and what lovelier a place than Arlington? It really is kid-friendly and there is a lot of excitement going on. Well, every 26 minutes anyway. The track is approachable and it is actually unbelievable how close those horses are when they are racing. We especially love when the gate is moved to directly in front of us and you can see the wild eyes of a thoroughbred as he is loaded into the tight space.
The paddock is a respite from the hot sun and we head there periodically to bask in the cool shade and to see the jockeys saddle up for the impending race. The kids love this spot for this up-close view of the riders and how unbelievably small in stature they are. Colin was mortified that the jockey on my pick was the tallest of the bunch. Not a good sign. It is bright colors of the silks, high stepping geared-up horses, and a bee-hive of activity in the paddock. It is a great place to see your picks up close and watch them saddle these beasts. But, mostly, it is fun to position yourself at a good spot behind the lady on the microphone so your family can see you out front on the Jumbotron.
We aren't really a gambling family, we go mostly for the excitement of the race and the fun of picking who you think might win. We sit there with our racing booklets perusing the advice of the so-called experts, marking our choices on post-its for Dad to go place a minimal bet. I think our maximum bet is about $4 a race--and that is if we choose 2 horses to Win or Place. It is all about the guessing who's going to win and high-fiving the person who chose the winning horse. It is a hoot to cheer on your pony on that back stretch and actually see if it places at the finish line. You have to be in a coma not to get caught up in the excitement of a 2 minute race.
Arlington is actually quite the family atmosphere--contrary to what you might think. They encourage families to come by offering free kids' admission, picnicing, and weekend family events like music, face-painting, and kiddie food. I have never witnessed anything inappropriate and the crowd is actually made up mostly of families--moms, dads, kids, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Joe was laughing coming out of the washroom--some little guy was very excited about the fact that "they didn't do so good today", talking with his dad the whole time they were in there doing their business. It isn't at all what you would imagine the racetrack to be.
We didn't do too well initially on our bets. We were picking the losers quite well, actually. We sat in the horribly hot sun for a couple of races and then finally, bailed to the grandstand seats for a little bit of shade. The change of venue must have helped because that was when our luck changed. Em and Caroline picked a few winners and at one point, we were up 40 whole cents! We pushed our luck after a big win of $9 (on a combo of two horses) and Joe decided to up his bets to $3 each. We nervously watched as Em and Caroline's pick faltered from the lead to almost last place, but my longshot came through and we hit the motherload with a win of $19.40! The big gamblers packed it up, cashed in, and headed for home. We ended on an up-note and big time money.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
The kitties come in at night and I have to grab him early on otherwise he doesn't come in so willingly. There is something about impending darkness that renders my kitty hearing impaired. "Henry" becomes "Penry" or "Memry" or something unintelligible to his ears, and he completely ignores us. "I think he is deaf" is Joe's usual frustrated comment when Hen refuses to come to our calls. And there are many a moment when we are crossed between frustrated and worried when he doesn't come. Is he dead? Did someone pick the sweet prince up? Did he get lost? Is he 3 feet away ignoring us? Is he watching and snickering from a secret post? Damn him. I hate when he pulls this! We are out there screaming like fools for a cat. That's when we pull out the calvary.
Henry can resist most things--the crunching of the cat treat bag, the broom-sweep-under-the-car in lame attempt to shoo him out, and the sweet "c'mere kitty" voice. The one thing he cannot ignore is Emma. Make that Emma and her colorguard flag. It is his nemesis, his archilles tendon, so to speak. Never was Superman rendered by such forces. Nope--this is worse, much worse. The flapping of the fabric. The gentle swoosh of the wind created by colorful lame'. The company of his beloved Em swirling and twirling the wand of loveliness. He cannot help himself. He comes out of hiding the minute Em makes an appearance with the flag. It never fails.
So on this particular evening and we are going through the whole "Where is Henry?" routine, Em goes into the garage to start unwinding the flag. I spot him, 3 houses over and am mortified to see him wandering so far away. His whiteness is unmistakeable and as I am calling him (loudly), he turns, looks to me, and does his super-slow walk homeward. "Molasses" is a nickname he has earned in moments like these--there is nothing slower than Hen walking home. But he is coming at least. No need to pull the flag. Em is called off.
As he ambles home, I realize he is crossing the Forbidden Yard of Mrs. Carnes. She hates cats! I mean, really, really hates cats. She makes a point of telling me when Grace or Henry has been in her yard. She makes the effort to stop her car and tell me when the neighbors cat, Mable, has sat in her yard. She even once accused Grace of walking through her newly poured cement driveway. I offered to have her "foot-printed", but she didn't think I was funny. What is it about old ladies and their hate for cats in their yards? And why are cats attracted to those yards? It never fails--Mable's favorite chilling spot is directly under Mrs. Carnes new tree, Grace has been spotted sitting on her windowsill, and here is Hen--taking his time, smelling the flowers in her garden as he passes through on the way home. I could just die!
I'm calling him softly, hoping to avoid drawing her attention, when I see one of her windows slowly opening. Uh oh--she's spotted him. As she opens the window, I see her white hair appear, and suddenly there is this hissing sound coming out of her. It's a good look--this old lady hissing like a flat tire at my cat to scare it out of the yard. And there's Hen--looking back at her like the nut she is. It was pretty funny actually.
Well, one by one, Mrs. Carnes' windows were opening just about as fast as Henry was walking across her yard. You could hear the creak-creak of the window crank, the hissing of the old lady, and then it quickly closing so she could get to the next window. There were four windows in total, so granny had a lot of work to do. I just stood there cracking up as I may have looked crazy calling my cat, but this old lady was absolutely nuts hissing at my cat. It was quite the sight!
By window #4, she realized I was out there and just as quickly as she appeared, the window went super fast creak-creaking shut. I think she realized how stupid she looked and how totally unfazed this beast was at her attempt to shoo him along. I grabbed his white-self and warned him of his impending death by pot of boiling water and evil old lady. "Mrs. Carnes is going to make soup out of you!", I warned. He licked my nose, completely unrattled.