Lost

It seems impossible in the digital age with GPS nav and mobile phones to get lost, right?

Over the weekend there was a hot air balloon festival in our city, a really huge deal with tens of thousands of people at a nature preserve. We went in two cars because some of us were leaving at different times. I had a special parking pass for an up close lot because Spanky was volunteering, so we didn’t park together.

I couldn’t find a place to park and Spanky had to be there at a certain time, so I dropped her off at the gate and told her to call and let me know where she would be.

It wasn’t until after I parked and she was long gone that I realized my phone wasn’t working. When I got to the festival entrance I talked to some other people and they told me their phones weren’t working either. I found the volunteer station and they told me what booth she was working, but they pointed me in the wrong direction when they told me how to get there.

So I wandered and wandered around all by myself. And you know me, I get distracted by shiny sparkly things. So this is from the point of view of a lost person, lost in the dark with blinking things:

Finally a text comes through. Blane is looking for me. But I can’t text him back.

And I think to myself, where would I look for me?

I had snuck under the ropes and got up as close as I could to those balloons. No one noticed that I was out of place and didn’t belong to any of the balloon teams.

Finally the phones all started working again and we all reunited over a fried Snickers bar.

Finally, some new music from MCR coming soon

Oh you know I can’t wait for this to come out. I love this teaser, it is sort of Mad Max and comic book like and you all know how I feel about Gerard Way. Check out his red hair in here.

Rumor has it their new CD, Danger Days: True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoy will be out November 22, 2010.

Barefootin’ (almost) Vibram Five Fingers

Since last winter I’ve been binge exercising. I’m not training for a marathon, but according to the new Nike + gps iPhone app, if I wanted to train for a 25k run, I just need to keep doing what I’m doing. Maybe a little bit faster.

What surprises me the most is that I don’t seem to have much sense of fatigue. It could be that I don’t know how to listen to my body, that I get it like everyone else, only I define it differently. It could be that so many years of floor nursing with little sleep is what has my tolerance level set to “involuntary collapse” on the high end.

The last time I tested myself, I did 13 miles on the treadmill and didn’t feel tired or sore. I stopped because I had things to do. I have no idea how far I could go before I’d feel it was time to stop.

While this seems like a good thing, I wonder if I’m doing a lot of harm to my joints. I’ve seen too many young patients have to get joint replacements due to jogging, so I try to stick with uphill power walking for about half the workout. It’s still a high impact sport, though, and I have had trouble with my feet, so much that I’ve had to tape them like a ballerina or take some time off here and there. Now this is from years and years of exercise abuse. I started running as a teenager and switched to walking about ten years ago.

Things changed around New Year’s, when a work buddy of Blane’s was wearing some strange shoes.

It’s like a foot glove, each toe is separated into its own little shoe. The sole is very thin with no arch support. They look really stupid and hipster, these Vibram shoes.

Blane’s work buddy said he and his wife had stopped jogging because of bad knees but were able to start up again after getting these shoes. They were not only running again, they were distance running. He claimed that a traditional sports shoe has the foot strike in an unnatural way which causes injuries to the joints. The Vibrams mimic barefoot walking/running. The way cave men walked.

So when Blane told me about them, it immediately made sense as I have often thought if I took my running shoes off and went barefoot, it would feel better. Actually, I’ve done better than that, I tried it. Problem is, the treadmill belt gets scorching hot from all the friction. Bare sock running doesn’t cut it either.

I was having so much trouble with foot pain that I ordered those shoes without having seen or trying them on. I was a little worried about how they’d feel as I have never been able to wear toe socks for longer than 30 seconds. I was desperate.

Surprisingly, they didn’t feel so odd or uncomfortable when I first put them on and I overdid the first workout. You’re supposed to wear them for 30 minutes the first few times and gradually work your way up to wearing them the entire workout. I did about 4 or 5 miles. Since the foot strikes the ground at the ball of the foot, it causes a different bunch of muscles to get worked out. The next day, my legs were so sore I could hardly walk at all.

But NO foot pain.

No ankle pain.

No knee pain.

No hip pain.

And that is why I’m binge exercising. Because I can. And if I want to climb a mountain, I can try it. Or climb 500 steps. I can do it without stopping and with a rucksack on my back.

I don’t wear these shoes all the time, only while exercising. The sole is thin and after 9 months of using them it is about time to get another pair. I will never power walk or run again without them. Because I can’t.

Not a Francesca Sort of Girl

It is June of this year and my seventeen year-old daughter Spank and I are in Rome for some major museum crashing. Fresh off the subway with a crappy, zoomed out map, our suitcases rumble on the cobblestones as we search for a tiny B and B. This is the first time it’s just the two of us so far away from home. It’s a little dirtier and hotter than Paris and London and the cars aren’t as fancy, but the colors are more saturated and everything moves in slo-mo.

As there are no signs advertising the place, we pass it up, come back, and stand at the address feeling like suckers with our pre-paid internet booking.

One of the building tenants lets us through the gigantic wooden doors as she goes through. We stand in the courtyard, still dumbfounded. The tennant has never heard of the place. Finally, I spot an intercom near a glass door and see the name of the place in a tiny slot in 10 point courier. Here we are from half-way around the world and this is my mark, a tiny piece of paper less than half a square inch in a courtyard behind colossal wooden doors. And I fucking find it.

After the buzzer, a deep voice says, “Fifth floor” then buzzes us into the foyer. Like every place in Rome, it has a marble corkscrew staircase, and this one, an add on cage-type elevator in the middle.

But it is broken. We carry our suitcases up five flights of stairs and finally get to the office, which is actually an apartment. We are slicked over with sweat from all the walking and stair climbing in this crushing heat wave. A little embarrassed. A six-foot brunette with impossibly long legs opens the door, looks us over from head to toe, then gestures for us to come in. She is the only person I have ever actually seen sashay. As we follow her into the apartment/office, she doesn’t bother to throw on any lights, but I notice her hair is teased up so high I can see through it. Her clingy, belted t-shirt dress barely covers her ass.

In the middle of her apartment, she welcomes us to sit across from her at a desk. Her accent is thick Italian, rhythmic, and spoken like the last waves of high tide. She manages to give us details about the city, where to go for breakfast, how to get tickets to skip the line at museums. I ask if there are places to avoid, especially at night, since Spank and I are two women, alone.

Her eyeballs are heavy, as if the pupils are made of lead while she struggles to keep her eyes level with mine, but she does. She flicks her wrist, flays her fingers, “Rome-uh… is safe-uh.”

She slides a piece of paper across the desk, “Call me-uh, when you-uh, wake up-uh, they need-uh, to fix-uh, air condition-uh.”

There is only a number on the paper, no name. I look back up at her and ask what I’d hoped I wouldn’t have to know, “What’s your name?”

Between that question mark and before she spoke, in my head, my own voice begs, please don’t say Paola, please don’t say Paola, because I’m going to develop a tic right here and give off the tiniest hint of a smile.

And as if she read my mind, the name slowly rolls off her tongue, like that eight ball you call in the right corner pocket, dropping in there with its last bit of momentum, “Paola.”

I don’t tic out on her, or look at Spank, I just write her name, concentrating hard because she’s watching. I had to make damn sure not to write “Paolo.”

Francesco-Francesca doesn’t cross my mind as she isn’t a Francesca sort of girl. No, she’s too angular, her chin too strongly chiseled, cheekbones a bit too sharp.

Then she takes us to the marble staircase with the elevator shaft in the middle. Asks us to wait up there with our luggage so she can “reset” the elevator. Roman staircases have the acoustics that make every footstep sound as if you are right next to it. So we hear her stilettos “tic-toc, toc-tik, toc-toc” like a broken clock, all the way down until they stop. Then the elevator cage closes, CLANG!

That’s when Spank and I look at each other and call it at the same time, “Thatsadude.”

And we are totally cool with that. If Rome is safe for her, it is safe for us.

_______________

I like searching for wireless network names while traveling, struck gold here, look down to the fourth one.

Speaking of fourth, don’t you love it when an artist breaks the fourth wall? Gives me chills. (this is part of Raphael’s School of Athens).

Beignets (recipe)

Can you believe we saw a Café du Monde in Japan? True. About two days into that trip I told everyone (over and over) that everything works as it should in Japan. Or that everything is as it should be. Yeah. That’s what I said.

You going to have donuts? Then they should be the best in the world. Beignets. They got ‘em in Japan.

Proof:

No, I did not see Krispy Kreme or Dunkin’ Donuts there.

So today, for Mother’s Day, I’m missing my mom who is too many miles away. She often cooks beignets and uses several recipes. I’ve blogged about it :::here::: with easy recipes for when you want to make them in a hurry. If you set out a day ahead of time, or maybe just a few hours early, you may want to try the following recipe which I find tastes identical to Café du Monde’s.

New Orleans Doughnuts

1 package active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup undiluted evaporated milk
1/4 cup soft shortening
7 cups all purpose flour
oil for frying
confectioners sugar

In large bowl, sprinkle yeast over water; stir to dissolve. Add sugar, salt, eggs and milk. Blend with rotary beater. Add 4 cups of the flour; beat smooth. add shortening; beat in remaining flour. Cover and chill overnight.


You don’t really have to chill it overnight, but at least let it rise for an hour and then punch down the dough once before rolling out. To store in fridge, I put a chunk of butter or shortening in a gallon Ziplock bag to grease the inside then put my dough in there.

Roll out on floured board to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into 2 1/2 inch squares. Deep fry at 360 degrees 2 to 3 minutes or until lightly browned on each side. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle heavily with confectioners sugar. Makes about 5 dozen – Dough keeps well in refrigerator for several days. Cover bowl with Saran Wrap and punch down occasionally.

(recipe credit Marguerite Lyle, pg 44, Talk About Good! (Le Livre de la Cuisine de Lafayette).


I have to use a thermometer or I burn the oil.

They taste and rise better if you can make this dough a day ahead of time. Also, it is easier to take about 1/4 of the dough from the fridge and roll that out instead of working with all of it in one go. Seven cups of flour makes one gigantic hunk of dough.

Serve with café au lait (coffee milk: 1/2 cup coffee mixed with 1/2 cup warm milk). Put on some jazz, dip your beignets in the coffee and wish your mamma was Cajun.

A Husband and Wife Discuss Their Dreams

Blane and I usually start our day talking about what we dreamed the night before. We don’t actually sit down and have coffee, we just sort of meander around the house, bumping into each other occasionally. Mostly him upstairs, me down here. A floor and a balcony separates us, that’s all.

His words spill down and mine waft upwards. We hear each other all day long. Sometimes the same conversation lasts for hours, interrupted by sales and conference calls.

This is the work-at-home life.

But it all starts in the kitchen, face-to-face at the coffee machines.

His is a pop in the pod, easy as 1-2-3 Keurig that takes 60 seconds for a fresh cup.

Mine. Very complicated, but worth the 15 minutes of cranking up the boiler, grinding the beans, measuring, tamping just so…

Sometimes I use his, and rarely, he uses mine.

Today is the usual. I stare at his morning hair, which I completely adore. It looks like the wind blew it and then paused to do something else. It amuses me to no end, but I can’t tell him that first thing in the morning.

His coffee machine is about 55 seconds of warm up and 5 seconds of rushing coffee. That’s when he tells me about his dream in which we got all nasty, but he woke up before the best part. As he drags himself upstairs with his java, he says those dreams never have that special ending. Ever.

Then I tell him about mine, not face to face, but hollering over the balcony.

I was walking Scrappy at the Texas Mexican border and she bolted through a hole in the fence. Straight into Mexico. Some golden grilled thugs took off after her, so I chased after them. A team of customs agents ran after me.

Can you see it? Scrappy, thugs, me, customs agents.

Now throw in some tall buildings. This Mexico looked more like Tokyo because my brain is a fuzzy mess right now and a flat, cowboy movie landscape is no place for my superpower.

I can’t fly in my dreams like Blane can. I am a leaper. I bounce from the tops of buildings looking for my little Scrappy dog. Check every nook and cranny of this maze with my acute vision and, no dog. After I give up and return home, there she is, jumping up and down and happy to see me. Guess she doesn’t like Mexikyo.

Blane flies in his dreams. While this is an awesome skill I wish I had, the downside is he gets tired. I never run out of energy with my leaping. I just run out of things to do.

Over the next hour or so, between business calls we discuss the dreams:

Me: Anytime I star in your dreams we’re either fucking or fighting. Never anything like walking through a field of flowers or having a picnic.

Blane: No, wait, I just don’t tell you about those.

Me: …and you never have dreams where I come in save you.

Blane: Do you have dreams where I save you?

Me: Nah, I’m always saving somebody’s ass or mine. No one comes to the rescue.

Blane: Where were you when the bird people attacked?

[Bird People= four foot tall birds with 3 foot long beaks. They had teeth and were chewing him to shreds. One of my favorite nightmares of his]

Me: Now see, if I was in that dream, I’da put big rubber bands around their beaks, neutralize those bastards instead of trying to outfly ‘em.

Some time passes but the convo continues…

Blane: …Fucking and fighting, well at least I’m faithful in my dreams. It’s never anyone but you.

Me: True. But what a waste, you should go for someone like Angelina Jolie.

A half hour passes and I holler up to Blane.

Me: Okay, I’m in all your sexy dreams, but it’s a way way nastier version of me!

Blane: Shhhh. I’m on a conference call!

He tells me they didn’t hear, but I’m sure he’s lying through his teeth.

—–

At night, we discuss the day dreams. We’ve sold off everything, even the coffee makers, and all we own can be carried on our backs.

Tokyo, I’ll write about that later when I can sort thorough the photos, I’ve got some pretty bad hay fever right now and the computer screen makes my eyes burn like fire. That and and a trip to Louisiana for an aunt’s funeral just after Japan have kept me from blogging, but I promise to catch up on everyone’s posts. Miss you all.

Coming Soon to a Blog Near You

I’ve read there are only about ten stories circulating around the world that keep getting rehashed and told differently. In theatre classes, I’ve learned there are only two types of stories, comedy and tragedy.

Even better than that, and I learned this one from my kid, there are only two stories in the world: Stranger comes to town and hero goes on a journey.

That is probably the single most important thing I’ve ever learned about story.

Back to real life. A few months ago my husband Blane got some tickets to Japan. I’m a fearless traveler most of the time, but the thought of this one really has me nervous. I know absolutely nothing of the place or culture. I bought a couple of travel books and I don’t know if it is the fear or the boredom that keeps me from reading them, but I haven’t.

So we’re going, and even though I’m scared shitless, I’ll take you along with us as i’ll have internet access where we’ll be staying. We’re going on a journey. It’ll be fun, like the biggest roller coaster we’ve ever been on. With a blindfold. You ready?

I got the giggles

This is a lovely short from Iran. Four people in a compartment on a train. They go through a dark tunnel and there is a kiss and then a slap.

Who kissed whom? Who got slapped? Of course, it is never what you think. This one got me laughing at the end and crawled up under my skin and kept me laughing for a while.

Who did you think did the kissing and the slapping?

The Babysitter

Frances was the greatest sixteen year-old train wreck I ever knew. I was only about eleven at the time and although my mom told us she was “hired” to babysit us one summer, it didn’t take long for us to figure out it was the other way around.

Frances was pimply faced, rotund, and wore Coke bottle glasses that made her eyes look the size of an infant’s. She spoke with a lisp and a slur that was probably caused by all the epilepsy medications she took. I don’t know if it was the obesity or the meds that caused her to sweat profusely, but she was always soaked and she smelled odd. Not typical BO, something different. Moldy. Or like the chemicals she was taking.

Worse than all that, she had the mental age of an eight year-old but the raging hormones of a girl her age.

I can’t think of anything she had going for her but us. She had no father to speak of, and her mother, Shirley was a waitress that could pass for a hooker. First time I saw Shirley, I asked my mom if she was a go-go dancer because of the sparkly blue eye shadow she wore from her fake lashes to her brows. The mini-skirt and white patent leather boots added to this look. All of those things had been out of style for many years and only skanks dressed that way back then.

Mom insisted the woman was only a waitress, she just didn’t know how to wear makeup. My mom had been an Avon lady thus was an expert in these matters.

That particular summer Mom and Shirley worked long night shifts together at a restaurant. During the day Mom was home, but she had to sleep. My dad would be gone a week at a time with his work, so there were many days we had to take care of ourselves.

We were an active bunch, my brothers and I. Early in the mornings we headed out to the swimming pool at the park or chopped down nearby forests to build our clubhouse/fort. My older brother was thirteen, and the way we saw things, we didn’t need no babysitter. Frances slowed us down. Complaining about the situation brought no results. My mom felt sorry for Frances and her mom and somebody had to do something about this.

So we took Frances everywhere with us that summer. It was the hottest one I can remember and we didn’t have air conditioner. At the peak of the heat wave I’d stick my head in the deep freezer at night for some relief. Staying home in daylight hours was out of the question. The library was one of the few spots we could hit up for some free air.

Frances did believe she was the babysitter and since she didn’t try to boss us around, we never told her any different. At the library, she checked out some braille books. I had never heard of that and didn’t realize she was legally blind. At night she’d read her braille books to us (in the dark!) and although we weren’t sure if she’d made up these stories or not, we went with it. She also taught us how to read numbers in braille.

My dad wasn’t crazy about it, having this girl in our home all day and spending the night more often than not. After a few weeks of this, he insisted we bring her home and stop this madness.

We packed Frances’ things (you would not believe how quickly most of the things she owned were at our place) and went to drop her off. Her mom refused to take her back. I don’t know what the situation was, maybe she was mentally ill, but Frances came back home with us that day and didn’t return home until school started that fall.

The worst thing about her was that she couldn’t experience emotions such as joy or laughter. We were pretty big on that and when Frances couldn’t get our jokes, she felt like a heavier burden. We weren’t saints, but we never teased, made fun of her, or did anything to make her cry. We just dragged her around with us and made sure she didn’t get lost.

One thing she did experience was love. She was crazy about this guy named Jimmy at her school and that’s all she ever talked about. JimmyJimmyJimmyJimmyJimmy. I was pretty certain by the stories she told that he didn’t love her back. I wasn’t sure he actually existed, honestly, Frances did have some confusion about reality. Since we weren’t even sure this boy existed, we’d encourage her to call him up on the phone. We helped her find the number and taught her how to use the phone. After that, she called his house obsessively. The mother would always answer and say he wasn’t home. So Frances was convinced the mother was the reason Jimmy never called her back when she’d leave our number.

It was difficult to see what sort of things we were learning from her that summer. I already knew people were mean and shitty towards the mentally handicapped. People are not courageous and willing to stand up for society’s weak, they are basically animals. Survival of the fittest rules. We weren’t crazy about hanging around with a sixteen year-old. Or an eight year-old. And Frances was both.

None of our friends were fond of her. In fact, in only a matter of weeks, all our friends dumped us. I wish I could say that I told every kid off who rejected us or that I made some speech at the pool about how people just need to chill, that the mentally handicapped need friends too. Or that I didn’t need them, anyway. But I didn’t have that sort of courage.

Frances, on the other hand, had loads of courage. We were afraid to make phone calls for simple things such as finding out store hours or if they had a certain item in stock. Not a problem for Frances. AND prank calls. We got Frances to do them, and she was pretty damn good with her flat affect and inability to laugh. Us, we couldn’t stop the giggling long enough to get the first sentence out.

For threatening situations, like big kids ganging up on us, Frances was our bouncer. She wasn’t afraid of anyone, and like I said, she was a big girl. Also, due to her handicap, people believed she had gorilla strength.

Her greatest act of courage came on a day my dad was set to return from his week long work trip. On those days, I’d wait at home for him, obsessively checking out the windows to see if his car was in the driveway yet. But not Frances. She’d hide out in one of the back rooms because she sensed how he felt about her always being at the house.

On that day, my dad drove up but did not get out of the car. Mom had a doctors appointment so she wasn’t home. I ran out the door to greet my dad at the car and could see immediately that something was wrong with him. He was pale, sweaty, and weak. There was a bag of ice on his lap, propped against his belly.

He told me he had a terrible stomach ache and had the ice there to make it feel better. I asked him to get into the house and lie down, but he said he couldn’t move for now. He was too weak. So I stayed out there talking to him for about a half hour. His eyes were closed most of the time, I think he was in a lot of pain. When he finally garnered the strength to get out the car, he stood up and then collapsed to the ground.

I couldn’t get him to wake up, so I screamed for Frances to come help. when she stuck her head out the door to see what was the problem I told her it was an emergency to call for an ambulance.

Frances: I don’t know the number.

Me: Dial zero. An operator will answer.

She goes off and I stay outside with my dad. A minute or so later, Frances sticks her head out the door again. “What’s the address?”

I told her the street number and name, but she couldn’t remember and kept coming back. So I broke it down for her, told her the number and had her come back for the street name.

And that worked. Within minutes the ambulance was there to pick up my dad. As they put him on the stretcher, the sheets got soaked with blood. My dad had a bleeding ulcer. My mom arrived home just as the ambulance was leaving so she went to the ER and left me home alone again with Frances. I was terribly worried my dad would die and he almost did, he took 44 pints of blood during the surgery to repair his stomach. (It is unheard of, even to this day for a patient get that much blood in one day and live).

While Frances and I were waiting the long hours for information about Dad, she didn’t talk about Jimmy. She was just quiet and listened to my worries. Then she did something she seemed incapable of. She gave me a hug when she saw me crying. And I didn’t care that she was sweaty and smelly. Or that she was sixteen. Or eight.

When did this happen?

Years ago, on a Christmas day, I was snorkeling in a little country in Central America. The captain of the boat was a local, about 25 years old. He said he had never gone anywhere and had no desire to leave his tropical paradise except for one thing. Snow. I liked the way his face lit up and his eyes smiled when he said that word. My face probably mirrored his, being from the South, I haven’t seen it too often.

Never as much as last Thursday, a foot of snow in 24 hours.

Snow brings out the little kid in me. I scream and giggle and look out all the windows. I yank out the cameras, the video cam, and I’m out there, even if it’s the middle of the night. I’ve got to capture this stuff that makes the world look so different in just under an hour.

So Thursday morning I go wake the kids early to see the biggest snowflakes I’ve ever seen down south. They don’t get mad at me because they have never ever seen them this huge. Then they go back to sleep because they are sure they will see this again. I keep watching as if it is the very first and last time I have seen snow. It does this to me every time.


Look at the snow on the RV!

They didn’t cancel the schools on the day it snowed. People tell me it’s because the superintendent is from Wisconsin and he’s a hardass about that. It bothers me because while Wisconsin might be able to handle icy roads with their salt and scraper trucks, we don’t have that stuff down here. People also don’t know how to drive in snow and ice and there are a lot of pickup trucks with rear wheel drives. They don’t stay on the road.

After school we only had an hour of daylight to find something to do in the snow. Spank and I went to the park and one of her friends met us there. I wandered around taking photos while she built this miniature snow family.


They are about eight inches tall. Cute!

I was quite surprised she made a family because earlier she said we should make a snowman firing squad aimed at another snowman with a bandana over his eyes.

Later that evening, Blane (the husb.) who had been trying to get a flight back home from a work trip called to say he had finally made it to the airport here. While he was fighting icy roads and traffic to get home, I tried to get the kids to come out with me to make that firing squad in the driveway. I told them when their dad got out the car to check it out, we’d spring from behind the van and pelt him with a thousand snowballs.

But nobody wanted to go back out. I gave them a pass because they had been sick a couple of days earlier. Then I went outside and made a three snowman firing squad. Put the charcoal eyes and carrot noses on them and when I went to the front yard to get some branches, two of them fell over.

So I was down to one snowman, which I just called an assassin. I grabbed the first hat I could find, a beret, and put that on him.

When Spanky saw him she laughed. She was mostly looking at his beret.

Spanky: He’s French?

Me: Not just any French, that’s Jean Reno, The Professional!

She was impressed, as she should be, I put this thing together in less than an hour. Still, she didn’t want to join in the ambush.

Spanky: You really going to slam Dad with snowballs after he’s been traveling?

Me: Yup. And if that was me I’d want y’all to do the same.

She went back inside and I hid in my spot with some snowballs.

Right in front of the van.

Blane drove up and parked when he saw the assassin snowman. I didn’t have the heart to ambush him for real, I just pelted his windshield enough to make him laugh.

The next day school was cancelled and I kept begging the kids to come out so we could go sledding or make snow angels or have a snowball war or something. I don’t know when exactly it was that they grew up, I’d hoped that would never happen, that they’d always want to play out in the snow. I know when I realized it. The moment they turned me down.

So I whistled for the dogs and let them run like wild wolves in the snow. They will always be pups.

Jinx

I think everyone around here knows who I’m pulling for to win the Superbowl this weekend.

I wish I could beat my chest right now and go all hog-wild about my favorite team. But I can’t. Not here, not on Facebook, not on Twitter. Every time I do that, without fail, my team loses.

A couple of weeks ago, just before the last game started, I made a quick trip to the store to pick up a few things. I had on my -bleep-’s jersey and while I was picking up a pack of wood outside the store, a tall man in a Vikings jersey sneered at me as he passed. I’d been quiet all day. Didn’t ask anything about who said what about who would beat whom. Or change any words ending in “o” to “eaux.”

So when the guy sneered at me, I just looked down at the pack of wood until he passed. Had I sneered back at him, I might not have seen that lucky penny sitting on the pack of wood. Had he not been making faces at me, he might have seen the penny, picked it up, and changed the outcome of the game.

Damned right I picked up that penny and all during the game I rubbed it for luck.

Stupid thing, I know it is, but the -bleep-s did win the game.

Speaking of pinching pennies, my (cheap bastard) husband finally bought a new TV in time for the game. When I opened the door for the delivery man yesterday, this is what I saw next door:

Some kid from down the street dropped a book on the floorboard of his car while driving and leaned over to pick it up. After mowing down two brick mailboxes, he learned a car doesn’t drive itself.

Back to the lucky penny. I can’t say whether I still have it or not. Not until after the game.

Borders

I hate it that everyone in this town has tall wooden fences and I’d prefer not to have one, but if I didn’t, I’d have nothing to look at but the outside of a bunch of fences. So I have an extra tall fence. Eight feet of wood and a retaining wall that is three feet in some spots. Fucking fortress, it is.

Back in September and October I took on the great fence restoration project. For eight weeks, rain or shine, I was out there in my hobo clothes and hat getting that thing up to HOA standards:

One side done, now for the other on Twitpic

That’s the outside of the fence that runs along the side of my yard, the stretch my neighbors see. The side that is the most important today. The part of that big job I can’t stop thinking about for the last two days.

I don’t like these wooden fences for several reasons. They section off each yard and make the lots seem smaller than they actually are. They’re built for privacy, but since most people around here have two story houses, there’s always neighbor’s windows overlooking a yard. The fence then provides a visual framing for your neighbor’s viewing pleasure.

Like living in a fishbowl.

Even worse than that, it discourages friendship and contact with neighbors.

So while I was out there working on the perimeter of the fence (the outside of the fishbowl), I met a lot of my neighbors I’d never seen before. They’d drive by in the access alley on their way to their rear drive-up garages. Many would roll down the window to tell me I was doing a great job, to ask questions about how I was doing it, or stop and ask if I’d seen their lost dog. Neighbor talk that I’m not used to since there is hardly ever a occasion to see them in our self-exiled worlds.

After a while I had to ignore these people. I wanted to get this big job done before the winter set in, so I had my music and kept my earphones on most of the time.

Dan, the man whose garage lined up perfectly with that view of the fence in the photo above was always in his garage. I never could figure out what he was doing in there. It looked like he might be rearranging things, but nothing ever changed. Every day that garage looked just as messy as the day before.

I didn’t wonder if he was unemployed or if he might not feel comfortable inside his home with his family, or if he was lonely as fuck.

I didn’t jump to conclusions that he might be in there so he could stare at the ass crack hanging out my hobo jeans. No, I never caught him leering at me, but I still felt self-conscious about the way I was dressed, and how craptastic I look in a hat. I was also up a ladder most of the time and most likely grunting to reach tight spots.

I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have him there right over my shoulder in case I fell off that ladder. It never crossed my mind. What I thought back then was why won’t this guy just go away so I can stain my fence in peace?

I didn’t know until a couple of days ago that those were Dan’s last days. A month or two after the fence thing, he committed suicide.

How or why, I don’t know, but just before Christmas I was in the backyard and heard a shotgun go off in the neighborhood. I came inside and told everyone, but they thought maybe it was firecrackers since it was so close to Christmas and New Years. I know what a shotgun blast sounds like, though. So I sat in the backyard and waited for the sirens. All I heard was silence.

I’m convinced I heard Dan kill himself. Probably did it while no one else was home, thus the lack of sirens. In that garage.

It sucks that I didn’t know about my neighbor’s death until a month after the fact. It sucks that I didn’t talk to him more when I had the chance, while I was out there, of all things, working on a man-made border designed to keep people out.

I hate fences.

The Story Beyond The Still: The Cabbie

A friend of mine shared a short video on Vimeo that he found. I think he sent it to me because I have a similar camera to the one this was shot on. I do think it is amazing that anyone with talent (and a few acting friends) can grab a camera these days and make a movie with very little money.

The video is the first chapter that is part of an HD video contest, The Story Beyond the Still sponsored by Canon. Director/photographer Vincent Laforet was asked to interpret a still which is of a teddy bear lying on a sidewalk at nighttime, and to make a video short of it. His short also ends with a still, and that is where the contest begins. Anyone with an HD camera can interpret it, make a video of that interpretation and enter to win the next chapter. There will be seven chapters in all.

Grrr. I can’t embed Vimeo, but please click here to see the short:

The Story Beyond The Still: The Cabbie from Vincent Laforet on Vimeo.

Official rules are :::here:::

The horror, the horror, the horror…

When Blane told me he’d be gone for a week in January, I could barely contain my joy. Husbandless for a week and I can get a lot of things done. Catch up on my reading, writing, find some chick tv shows to watch, read all the manuals to all the electronic devices I have, whatever. Really, I thought it would be a relaxing week. Except for Thursday, I knew Scrappy had to have surgery on her leg that day.


Scrappy’s been limping with a bad left leg for a couple of weeks. An xray showed a torn ligament.

So besides have a dog with a bad leg, the week started off badly with the pool freezing over on the night he left. I think I managed quite well despite the circumstances.

Monday was great, I can’t remember what I did, so that’s how I know. After that, the house and I were at war with each other and I think I lost.

Tuesday, the day of the big earthquake, I turned on the tv to see what was going on because I’m a gawker. This is the big tv in the living room which I call Blane’s because he is the one watching it 90% of the time. Well, Blane’s tv turned itself off after about ten minutes and refused to come back on. Under normal circumstances, I’d have been frustrated because I have to watch that tragic stuff on the news. But that night I had something to go to and it was time to go anyway, deal with it later. Then I thought about how it was best for me not to watch all that sad because my heart gets ragged on image after image of suffering. I tend to get upset because I want to put my cape on and do something about it. Of course I sent money, but I want to help by being there.

My head and heart needed to be here for Scraps. For Thursday.

So on Wednesday I had to go to bed early for her surgery at 7:30 AM the next mornig. I’m never in bed early, so I had a plan. Workout on the treadmill until I completely tire myself out. I stayed on that thing for three hours and never got tired. I am a freak of nature because I have absolutely no concept of fatigue. This is bad because I feel it the next day.

Maybe it’s not that I can’t feel fatigue but that I won’t allow myself to admit I am tired and need to stop. Something was definitely wrong with my head after I got off that thing. I ran the bath water and went to see if the tv was still broken. Fooled around with some wires back there. Forgot about the water. I don’t know how much time passed when I went back and saw it rushing under the door, barreling down the hallway with its strong current and waterfalling into the home office.

You know that line of dialogue in APOCOLYSPSE NOW, Brando’s echoing whisper, “The horror, the horror, the horror…”?

That is what I hear when I see shit like that. Over and over again as I empty each load of water from the carpet cleaner (at least 50 trips).

The office had about three inches of water in there. I had stacks of books and boxes of photo albums, printers, and various other electronics just sitting on the floor by the outlets getting charged. Had to grab that stuff quickly. After i got most of the water up, I had to move two heavy book cases to vacuum up the water under there and keep them from getting ruined. The closet with some metal file cabinets had water in there too. It was the worst room in the house to have flooded. It also seeped under the wall and into the dining room. Had to move that furniture too. All this while still salty from the three hour workout.

It took me until five AM to finish sorting out that mess and the wood floor in the hallway by the bathroom began to warp by morning.

So I got no sleep before bringing little Scrappy for her surgery. The poor dog, I don’t know how she knew something painful was about to happen, she’s usually so happy to ride in the car, but that morning she cried all the way there. It made me cry. Hard.

All went well and she got a new ligament sewed in. She’s got an incision about five inches long and she’s managing well without having to wear that lamp shade-looking “cone of shame.” It’s three days post op and she is beginning to use the leg a little. That is one tough pup.

Friday I was a bit worried about how Blane would react to all the damage when he got home. I didn’t tell him about the tv or the flood over the phone because I didn’t want him to worry while he was gone. Nothing he could have done about it anyway. Why ruin his trip? I wanted to laugh when he called to tell me he was taking an earlier flight. Poor bastard, if he only knew what he was coming home to.

So he walks through the door and immediately sees the damage. I tell him briefly what happened and then tell him about the tv too. He didn’t seem to care about that. Asked where Scrappy was.

When he saw the dog, she spread out on the sofa with her bad leg out and shook it as if to say, “Look what they did to my leg while you were gone.”

And you know what? That’s the only thing he was concerned about, Scrappy and her leg. I’m so glad to have him back home.

Seven Year-Old Swimming Pool Architect

Did you ever want to build your own swimming pool when you were a kid? I bet you did because every kid I ever knew who didn’t have a pool not only wanted to make their own, they had the plans for it in their heads. Some even tried.

Like me. Now, I’m not much of an engineer but more of a dreamer and way too optimistic with a pinch of idealism. We didn’t have a shovel, but I had a ton of patience. I’d sneak a cereal spoon from the kitchen and go dig my pool in the crawl space under the house. Oh yeah, see, my pool was going to have shade all day long and no one was going to stop me from building that thing or tell me I’d fail because no one was going to find it.

To hell with naysayers.

Except for my dog, she could come with me. I worked on it all summer and by the time fall came around I had what looked like a shallow grave. My dog loved it. Lots of times when we couldn’t find her anywhere, I’d go look in that spot and there she was curled up in that hole. One day I went out there and found her with a litter of puppies! I loved being the first to know about that and was happy to give up my swimming pool dream so she could nurse her pups in peace.

Blane’s pool plans were way more elaborate. He had a shovel, he had 2×4′s to frame it, and he had Visqueen to line it. Maybe he was a little older, I don’t know. But he got his homemade pool to work.

The house we had before this one, we built it on a pool-sized lot and planned to put one in once the kids were old enough not to fall in and drown. Years passed and more kids were born. We never got to the level of comfort to have a pool until our youngest was twelve. By that time we decided to just move to another place and build a pool there.

I watched every step of the pool construction with the wonder and amazement of that seven year-old dreamer still in me. They dug the hole with a backhoe, reinforced it with rebar, and the next day they blew in the cement/pebble mixture with this gigantic hose. There were about five men in rubber boots smoothing it all down with trowels. Quickly, because it dries almost instantly. Big strong ox-looking men. This is hard work that takes muscle and craftsmanship. By the end of the day, they began filling it with water.

That is Spanky reading her book in the pool on that day.

It’s been almost five years and although we don’t use it every day during the summer or even every other day or have big pool parties, it does help me keep my sanity. I grew up by the water and being so far from the coast, well, I get lonesome for it.

For the first time, part of the pool has been freezing over during the night. A few mornings ago Blane had to go out there and break up the ice, it was blocking the intake vents and causing the pump to whine. He was afraid the pump would burn out with no water in the system. He was complaining about how cold it was and I was thinking to myself how terrible it sounded, cold like it is complaining about his pool when some people are homeless. (I really should quit thinking that way and cut the dude some slack)

Around midnight last night, the pool froze over completely for the first time. I heard the pump whining and, damn, no Blane. He’s out of town on a business trip.

Begin Arctic Adventure

You know how sometimes nothing seems to work and everything you touch breaks? It was a night like that. No moonlight, and the patio lights are just shamelessly dim. I can’t see shit. I see the pool is frozen and hear the pump screaming. I put my earphones on and turned it up so I wouldn’t have to hear the pump. Put on U2′s “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

Grabbed a PIPE and thrashed away into the ice. I felt like a juvie breaking all the school windows.

THUMP
Screw you winter.

CRACK
Shut up whiney pump.

SLAM
Screw you water bill.

BASH
Leaves. Fuck off.

Then I realized I could actually fall in and no one would find my frozen corpse until morning. The kids were sleeping, they couldn’t spot me. Everyone is sleeping, of course, it’s midnight.

So I called Blane to stay on the phone with me while I scooped the broken ice out of the pool, just in case. That I must admit was fun, the sound of broken ice hitting the cement.


Some of the carnage.

I almost didn’t want it to end, but I had to check the pump which is on the side of the house. In a very dark spot. Near where my dogs use the bathroom. But hey, frozen turds don’t stick to your shoes.

We have a light switch back there with a tiny swing door coverlet. I lift the hinge, put my finger in there but it felt strange. Like a magnetic field. Flipped the switch. No light. Got a new bulb, put my finger back into the magnetic field and still, no light. Something is very wrong with this fixture, it might electrocute me.

Tore the house apart looking for a flashlight. None. Blane says things into the phone such as “No flashlight? We have a million of them.” Note, he is always talking me out of buying more flashlights, so I totally hold him responsible for this.

He also says, “It can’t be that cold.”

Of course it can’t be that cold, it’s 65 degrees where he is. How can it be 27 degrees in Texas, that same Texas he left just hours earlier when it was 30? How, when it is 65 degrees in California, how?

So I got a light from the toolbox, one of those orange cage things people use to look under a car hood. Plug it in an electrical outlet by the pump. Light, beautiful light. I can see! Being curious, I first had to check what was up with that magnetic light switch. Lift the cover and scream, there’s a wad of spider nest and I had been poking it with my finger in the dark. Even though I know spiders can’t survive such harsh temps, I am convinced spider babies are crawling all over me. And my sleeves and feet are wet from messing with all the ice in the pool. But I have to bleed the air from the pump. My fingers are so numb I can’t feel shit anymore. Or turn tiny cold metal valves.

Back to the toolbox. Come back with a pair of pliers, and this is the fun part, the pump sprays me down with ice cold water.

I could never have imagined this as a seven-year old pool architect. Never. And I’m so glad I’m not homeless ’cause I really needed that hot bath.

I’m Feelin’ It

On my birthday I found myself driving to a town just north of here to get fingerprinted. There’s a new law in Texas that nurses have to turn in fingerprints within the next ten years. Licensees are chosen at random, so there are some nurses who won’t have to get theirs done until the deadline.

The universe is usually aware that I am quite the slacker and I never get picked for audits or jury duty (knock on wood) or anything, as long as there’s someone else who could go first.

Not this time.

I could have gone to the police station or the FBI (gasp), but as the nursing board states on their website, these fingerprints are often unacceptable and have to be redone. They recommend an identity specialist.

So our cops and FBI are incompetent when it comes to collecting prints? That’s like Crime 101, right?

Okay, I go up to this town and it’s a shitty winter day. The sky looks as if someone removed it in Photoshop and completely forgot to add anything back in. It’s just white and empty. I pass through their historic district and see houses that look like birthday cakes. I’ll go back and take photos one day when there is a sky.

I drive up to the address of the ID place and it’s this ancient brick building that looks like a mental institution in a Stephen King made for tv movie. Great. I get to the front door and I’m still unsure this is the right place, I’m waiting any minute for something scary to jump out at me and hack me with a hatchet or an axe. There’s a plaque near the door stating its historical significance. It was indeed a hospital at one time.

I knew that shit. Knew IT!

Then I think to myself that I have the ability to pick up waves of historical suffering. It’s the strangest thing, I can walk into a house or building and feel good or bad vibes. Maybe it’s just the way a place looks, and I’m imagining things. Don’t care. Whatever it is, real or not, it moves me. Which is great, because I don’t like feeling nothing about something. Indifference leads to boredom, which is, eventually, painful to me.

I mosey down a creaky hallway that has pipes running along the ceiling, ones that groan. There’s a few old mirrors on the wall that when I catch a glimpse of myself, I wonder if it’s really me. That’s how bad those old mirrors are, there’s no clarity in them and there seems to be a halo around every object in them. Then I wonder if it’s just me and the attitude I brought in there. Skittish. Skeptical. Or just the simple fact that I hate antiques and the mirrors know it.

There are several offices in this building. I pass a door for a child psychologist. I’m startled when that door swings open and a woman with a short blonde Kate Gosslin cut looks left, right, then shuts the door.

Pass a local magazine editing office. It’s dead in there. Lights out.

Get to the ID place and go inside. My bedroom is larger than this entire office. All of the artwork on the walls are not prints, but puzzles of Native American scenes. About twenty of them in this tiny space. Someone here likes solving things. That someone is a young black woman who takes mug shots and runs each finger over a glass scanner.

Also in this cramped room are four teachers and a fireman, all waiting their turn. They don’t seem to be bothered by all this. Me? I’m fuming. This thing will completely ruin my option of living a life of crime. Bankers, engineers, maybe even cops, they have a choice, they can commit crimes until they get stupid and caught doing something wrong that leads to their first set of fingerprints. Not us.

I look at the fireman. He probably entered the field so he could learn how to commit the perfect arson. ‘Cause there is nothing as satisfying as burning shit down.

The schoolteachers. Evil milk money thieves. Get them!

A nurse from the local nursing home walks in. Her too, and her kind demeanor doesn’t fool me. I wonder how many patients she’s snuffed out with a pillow for having the audacity to use the call bell?

Millions of unsolved crimes will finally be put to rest after they run all these prints. Those Texas legislators are absolutely brilliant for coming up with this new law. Oh, and this is at no cost to the state. Uh un. I had to shell out $10 for this service. I bet murderers get theirs done for free. Just a hunch.

Later that afternoon…

I came home to a heartwarming sight. Kara made me a birthday cake before she left for work.

All is right in the world again.

Romancing the Blog

Here I am dragging my ass to the finish line of my fourth year of Holidailies, the thing where we promise to blog every day for 31 days straight. This year was very different than the others in that I didn’t feel as pressured to blog.

Over the last four years, I’ve learned there are no Holidailies police, and it is okay to play catch up with posting, for example, post twice in one day because you missed yesterday.

I’ve also learned being behind on posting does not make one ineligible from having a post of theirs selected for “Best of Holidailies.

Someone asked me once if I knew any of the judges. I have no idea who judges the posts or how many of them there are. I do know they read a ton of posts every day, probably about a hundred. I don’t have a sitemeter to stalk down who reads what or how long they stay here, but I do have the WordPress admin panel that tells me I’ve got hits coming from “reader’s pick.” Without fail for every single post, even if it’s a crappy one.

So I’d like to thank you nameless, faceless Holidailies Judges out there, whoever you are. Just for coming here and reading.

I’d also like to thank Jette and Chip for organizing and hosting Holidailies. This project is not only an amazing way to meet new bloggers and get back to reading some old favs, it also keeps my mind on writing. I’ve been really slack about that in the last year and although I never intended to give up blogging, I’ve been so neglectful toward something that has given me so much joy and gotten me through some very rough days.

With Holidailies2009, I fell in love with my blog again.

Thanks to everyone who participated in Holidailies and those who watched from the sidelines. Maybe next year you will join us?

Thanks also to Jennifer at Whispers of Fairydust for creating the above Holidailies badge.

Nobody

Nobody is driving me nuts. They keep sending me blank emails and it’s gotten to where my inbox is so clogged up with these blank emails that I exceed my quota and emails are bouncing.

At first it wasn’t so bad. Just a few a day. Then the damn thing went hog crazy and started shooting me emails about every three minutes of the day that the sender has his/her computer on. There are days when I get 400 of them. Four hundred!

I can view the raw source code and see that it is coming from one email address, a person/entity I do not know. Nothing I have filters this thing. It’s not a virus on my computer, rather a virus on theirs. So I call my webmaster and ask him to block the ip address, but the problem with that is it blocks a chunk of people with the same ip.

I’ve sent this person emails asking them to remove me from their address book and informing them that they have a virus, but have gotten no response. Figures, huh?

Anyway, just want to put the word out that my business email is flaky right now. If anyone needs to email me, use the address on the about me page of this blog.

Ghetto Med

I’ve been knee deep in a class for my nursing Continuing Education Units (CEUs) or hours so I’m screeching in here to make a Holidailies post and have no idea what to write because I’ve been studying diabetes all day.

Photos! There’s always something rat-holed in iPhoto, just waiting to be posted. This one stood out.

An xray of my mother-in-law’s fractured fibula (broken leg).

Can you see the break? It is that long lateral dark line in that thin bone to the right.

How I got this from an 11×14 film (hard copy) to a jpg image is the story.

The ER doctor discharged my mother-in-law and said she would not need surgery. I was worried the sharp point on one of the fractured pieces was puncturing the other bone. The gap between the two broken ends seemed a bit wide too. So I called a friend of mine, a radiologist who lives in Louisiana (where my mother-in-law lives) and asked her to look at the xray. She asked me to email it to her. All I had was the hard copy, not a digital image.

I tried to scan the film with my scanner. Didn’t work.

I have a couple of halogen lights on the vent hood above my stove that are crazy bright. So I taped the films to the vent hood in front of the lights, put a plain white sheet of paper behind the light, and took a photo of the film.

Voila.

Digital x ray. My friend was quite impressed, she didn’t think I’d be able to really email that image to her where she could actually see anything. And she thought it was funny.

Ghetto medicine. We do stuff like that every week at the free clinic where I work, we make do with what we have. Gives the mind a good challenge and that’s just one of the reasons I like it so much.

Back to my CEUs.

Circus Kitchen

I hardly ever go back and read old posts. Never think about it. Except when I’m looking for a recipe I’ve put up here. I’ll use the search bar (upper right column) to find it. It’s much easier than pulling out my battered recipe scrapbook which has pages falling out all over the place. I know a lot of cooks have recipes memorized or they make things up as they go. I do that too, but I also post recipes of things I don’t make often and have to look up measurements. Or other people’s recipes.

A recipe page on here would be great, I can find them all in one click…

A little while later…

Okay, I’ve made the page and it is toward the top, in the right-hand column. Or you can go click the link The Circus Kitchen to get there.