Friday, August 29, 2003

Dang Gnat
Why is it that with all of the air space in the free world, gnats have to flit around in the space right in front of my face? I'm sitting here at my desk, repeatedly being buzzed by a wee gnat that insists on getting all up in my face, and yet there is tons of open air in the rest of my office, not involving my personal space. Go away, already! Can't you see the air over there, away from me? You are less likely to get swatted way over there, out of arms reach.

Seriously, gnats have to be one of the more annoying of the bug species, yet they are perfectly harmless. Not innocent, mind you. Just harmless. No one ever dies from a gnat bite, or a swarming gnat attack. Even when walking outside, if you come upon one of those giant swarms of gnats that are always inconveniently right in your path, if you take on the swarm head on, you will suffer nothing more than a head full of gnats.

Well, I guess if enough gnats clogged up all of the air-holes in your head, you could suffocate to death over a really long period of time. But who has time to stand around and wait for that to happen?

Of course, if gnats could annoy someone to death, I guess that would be their lethal personality trait. I mean, what do gnats do, anyway? Do they serve a purpose? Are they useful at all? Not to my knowledge. They just float around, noiseless, annoying the heck out of everyone.

I think the gnat knows I'm writing about him because he just dive-bombed my face. Just now! He won't go away. Dang gnat . . .

The most annoying quality about gnats is that they are hard to swat. You have to have one of those perfect zen moments when you are in tune with the universe and the gravitational pull of the moon to be able to react and land on the gnat at the exact right moment. They are just too quick and unpredictable. They don't have a straight flight pattern, and the air created by the approaching swat more than likely will blow the gnat right out of your way. Then you just look like an idiot swatting at air. No one can see the gnat except you.

Gnats are a serious problem.

Well, this one gnat is for me, anyway.

Dang gnat . . .


Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Do raisins in an oatmeal raisin cookie still count as fruit? It's still a raisin, and raisin is still a fruit. But does putting the raisin in cookie form take away from the fruit-ish value and nutrition of the raisin? Does it make the cookie more healthy, or does it make the raisin less healthy?

I don't like oatmeal raisin cookies anyway. So I guess it doesn't really matter.

Is chocolate chip a fruit?


Fear of the Known
Fear is a funny thing. Not funny 'ha-ha'. Funny scary.

Sometimes I'm amazed at the things that scare me. I have some weird personal fears that are not things people are often afraid of. But then, isn't all fear unique and personal?

Today I'm afraid of allergies. Sure, that sounds weird. But it has a history.

During my freshman year of college, I had a chronically stuffy nose. It seemed it was stopped up on the left side almost all of the time. It was annoying, but then I got used to it. And eventually I was very annoyed again.

I have a huge fear of not being able to breathe. This comes from having asthma at a very young age. If you've never known the feeling of suffocating, or not being able to get enough air into your lungs to be comfortable, just know that this is a scary thing. Especially for a four-year old kid who doesn't understand why she can't breathe. I made many trips to the hospital as a youngster, from asthma attacks, to bronchitis, to pneumonia, and sometimes all at once. As cute as I was as a sick kid in a hospital bed, it wasn't so much fun for me.

So I've always had a fear of not being able to breathe. I hate water deep enough to cover my head for this reason. Sometimes I have enough trouble breathing outside of water where people should normally be able to breathe well. The thought of holding my breath underwater where I couldn't get a good breath if I suddenly needed one, well, that's just over-the-top scary.

Along with asthma comes allergies. Actually allergies are usually the trigger for asthma problems. I'm literally allergic to everything in the air, except for cat dander. Too bad I can't stand cats. I'm perfectly okay to be around them.

So during my freshman year of college when I noticed that my nose was perpetually stopped up on one side, I figured it was an allergy thing. Probably something simple which would require some antibiotics, and I'd be cured. Gosh, that would have been nice.

I made it home for the summer and shortly thereafter made a trip to the doctor. He couldn't quite figure out what it was, so he sent me to an ear, nose, and throat specialist. This guy discovered that I actually had a very major infection blocking the airways of my head. Not just a stuffy nose. A nearly completely stopped up head. Something that antibiotics and blowing my nose would not fix.

He recommended surgery to remove the infection and to straighten out my deviated septum, which was blocking the pathway out of my nose, consequently keeping stuff up there that didn't belong there. He estimated it could wait until Christmas vacation. Incidentally, a deviated septum correction is not the same as a nose job, so don't even start with the 'nose job' jokes. . .

A few weeks later, I was scheduled for a follow-up visit to the ENT, but he unfortunately had a major heartattack about that time and was forced to have quadruple bypass surgery. So I was referred to another doctor. And this turned out to be a blessing for me. Sorry, doc.

The new ENT took one look at my x-rays and at me and said I had to have surgery immediately. This could not wait. Although not knowing how long the infection had been there, it had grown so much that it had nearly completely cut off the airflow in my head. It is important for air to flow through the sinus cavity and throughout the head so that we humans can, in fact, breathe. The new ENT felt that if I waited til Christmas, well, to put it simply and bluntly, I would have a merrier Christmas if I was still around to experience it, and breathe.

Hmmm. Let's have some surgery!

After a very painful surgery and recovery for several months, I was then tested for allergies. At that time we learned I'm allergic to everything. On earth.

The next step was allergy injections, or immunotherapy. Simply put, they inject you with everything you are allergic to so that your body builds up an immunity to it and eventually you aren't affected by it anymore. The goal was that at the end of the process, I would be essentially allergy free, and hopefully by curing my allergies, whatever had triggered the infection in my head would not be a factor in causing that to happen again.

While I'm sure multiple injections sounds fun to you, I assure you it wasn't. It was at least a three-year process, starting with a shot in each arm, twice a week for a year. Then once a week for the next two years. I was pretty much a human pin cushion for three straight years.

But, it worked. I've spent the last two years relatively sneeze-free. It's been wonderful! For the first time in my life I can be outside and not tear up from whatever is floating around in the air, but instead from the joy of being outside and enjoying it. Sure, some things still bother me, like dust and smoke. But I'm truly relatively allergy-free, for two years straight. They should give out a chip or pin or something for that.

So why am I afraid today of allergies? Because I've sneezed more than usual the last few weeks. The new house, the new environment, the many hours spent out in the dusty, grassy yard, the fumey, dusty painting I've been doing. I fear it has re-awakened the dormant allergic reactions inside me. Last night was a bad night. Sneezing, running nose, itchy throat. I began to fear I'd have to visit the doctor again. Not that he isn't a very nice man in a series of four-or-so doctors who has helped me a lot. But my last trip to his office was a very happy day for me, and I hoped to never have to see him again.

I used to be able to tell pretty quickly if I was suffering from allergies, or from a cold, or from a sinus infection. I'd suffer from all of these pretty regularly, so I was good at determining the differences between them. Now it's been so long since I've had a sinus infection, or trouble with allergies, I worry when the funny business starts up again. The thought of more allergy injections is very depressing. My arms are finally recovered from that holey process. And the thought of another surgery to remove another infection that may have started again is just simply heart-breaking. I want to be cured for good. The first time.

This morning I awoke feeling absolutely awful. And I was so happy! My throat hurts, my head is stuffed up, and I have a cough. I was thrilled! No, I'm not crazy. But all of these signs point to a cold, and a cold will go away in a few days.

A cold sucks. But it's the lesser of three evils, and the one that scares me the least.


Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Oddities of the Day

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. There is nothing quite as good as the first few sips of Coke at lunch after waiting with great anticipation until noon for this wonderful beverage. Oh man, that's GOOD. So this is why the Diet Pepsi Twist that I'm drinking now because it was the only caffeinated beverage in the cooler today is pretty much the complete opposite of a good thing, and an absolute and total let down.

Driving in the Jeep on a quick errand during lunch, I noticed an eating establishment I hadn't seen before- Big Mama's Chicken and Waffles. Yes, I'd like the Chicken and Waffle Value Meal, with a Diet Pepsi Twist, please. Could we mega-size that? I want the biggest chicken on the largest waffle you have, washed down with the giant-est oddly-concocted caffeine beverage ever made.

I also spotted the grand opening of a new store that I'm sure will sweep the fashion scene this fall: Lingerie and Wigs. Because every beautiful lingerie ensemble needs a good wig.


Another Odd Thing About Home Depot
Has anyone noticed that it's not just Home Depot? It's actually The Home Depot. I think that's odd.

No one ever says, "Hey I'm going to The Home Depot." It's just 'Home Depot.' That 'the' is superfluous.

I mean, do they think they are the only place to get home improvement stuff? That's a little pretentious for a place where every customer in the store is wearing paint clothes or work clothes, as opposed to how one would dress if one was shopping at a clothing store or some other non-home improvement establishment. I usually shower and wear presentable clothes to go shopping, but for Home Depot I can work in the yard all day, discover I need a tool, and head over there to shop amongst the others customers who are there during the middle of a job, and consequently sweaty, dirty, covered in paint, and generally not looking their best. It's an entirely different shopping genre than say, shopping at The Galleria.

You won't find many other stores slipping a 'the' in front of their name, assuming they are the one and only place to find whatever products they sell. Some places do, like The Gap, or The Container Store. But it's just a little uppity to be 'the', if you ask me. It's not The Barnes and Noble, or The Bed, Bath, and Beyond, or The Pottery Barn, or The Mall.

Okay, so it is 'the' mall. But you get my point. Chain stores for the common man shouldn't be 'the'.

There are Home Depot stores everywhere. So which Home Depot is really 'the' Home Depot? It's not like there is only one. Naming it The Home Depot would imply to me that there is only one. Even IKEA is just IKEA, and there are only, like, two of those in the world. IKEA could get away with being The IKEA.

Of course, being The Home Depot does not diminish my love for the Depot. But I swear I am not going there today.


Monday, August 25, 2003

Home Depot is the Mother Ship
I've come to the conclusion that Home Depot is the Mother Ship. I'm drawn there at least once a week, and it's very much against my will. Not that I don't enjoy the Home Depot experience. But I am poor. I cannot afford to continue being drawn in by the Depot's vacuous force.

I made a sincere effort not to go there this weekend. I made definite plans not to go to Home Depot. In fact, on Saturday while out doing other errands, I gleefully drove past Home Depot, making a note that I was indeed passing Home Depot, instead of going directly to it. It felt good. It was a personal success.

Then I got involved in the Never-ending Bathrooom Painting Project From Hell, and alas, I inevitably had to go to Home Depot to consult someone who could rescue me from my bathroom. After 14 or so hours of work that was not turning out the way it should look, and incidentally 14 hours more than I ever want to spend in a bathroom without anything constructive going on in there, I had no choice but to report to the Mother Ship for help. Beam me over.

My hall bathroom is/was covered in a festively flowery/tulip-ish wallpaper. At the top edge of the paper, around the entire bathroom, was a different flower patterned border. So to enter this bathroom, it looks like someone came in and vomited flowers everywhere. It's too much.

There is also a nice yellow and white 60's style tile around the tub area, which I like. This is the good part of the bathroom. Very charming and cute. So my thought was to replace the flower over-abundance with a solid blue color to accent the nice yellow, by whatever means was the easiest and best way to accomplish this task. Either removing the wallpaper or painting over it. It looks great in my head. So I consulted Home Depot several weeks ago to get the scoop on what to do.

Home Depot told me it was absolutely the better idea to leave the paper as is, and simply paint over it. No problem. To start to tear down wallpaper, they said, would be an on-going disastrously monstrous task. Better to leave it there, and paint over it.

Home Depot set me up with an oil-based primer, which had to go on first, two coats. Then they hooked me up with a semi-gloss paint that should go on nicely on top of the two coats of primer. Easy enough. It should look as great as it does in my head.


First of all, this is not my first painting project. I have already successfully painted several rooms of my house, and did quite a nice job, if I do say so myself. I'm very meticulous, very detailed, and very thorough. I know how to paint. So the problem with this bathroom is not my lack of painting expertise. It's just a hellacious bathroom frought with issues.

I began last week with the primer, since it has to dry thoroughly between each coat. It's not a large bathroom, so I figured it wouldn't take long to get a coat of primer up on the walls. The first thing I did before primer-ing was to trim the edges of the flowery border where it was coming up from the wall. The border does not have a straight edge. It seems to be attempting to look like actual flowers coming down from the ceiling, so it is an un-even edge that was not glued down very well. Once I had removed all of the superfluous edges, I was ready to prime.

This is when I discovered that I hate primer. Have you ever worked with this stuff? It is surely a substance sent directly to mankind from the depths of hell. It's horrid, awful stuff. It's fumey beyond belief, so it's nearly impossible to spend any length of time with it without getting a wee bit woozy, especially in an enclosed space such as my bathroom. I opened a window, turned on the vent, and brought in a fan to ease the aroma. But I actually only succeeded in creating a nice wind tunnel in which to challenge myself to work as well as I could in a non-breezy environment.

I stirred the primer until I thought my arm would fall off, hoping it would thicken up a bit. But it never did. Primer is runny, and that makes it tough to work with. Picture painting a wall with slightly thicker milk. It's hard to get it in the right place without much dripping and running of the foul substance.

I began getting the stuff on the wall, but had to stop after almost every brush stroke to wipe up drips. Even with all the tarps and plastic down on the floor and covering every surface possible, the primer was still managing to find escape routes to my tile floor, along with affixing itself to the tiled part of the wall and everywhere else I absolutely did not want it to be. It took several hours to complete the whole bathroom with just the first coat of primer, after which I realized I get to do it all again the next day for coat number two. Hooray.

I also discovered that primer does not like to come off of, well, me. I was almost as thoroughly primer-ed as the wall. With every stroke of the brush, as much primer that goes where it is supposed to go, the same amount flings off the brush out into the room, some landing on me and some landing all over the place. Even as gently as I moved my wrist in an attempt to gently place the primer on the wall, I still managed to cover myself with a nice layer of primer. After the second coat of primer, both the wall and I were ready for the actual painting to begin.

Now, if you've never painted a wall that doesn't have texture, like most walls of your house, it is a whole new ballgame to paint a wall with no texture. The primer provides some texture, but basically you see every stroke of the brush on the wall when you start with the color. There are no bumps or anything there at all to mask the brush strokes. Plus, you have to coat the paint pretty thickly to get it to cover adequately. But since there is no texture to hold the paint on the wall, anything more than a thin layer of paint will inevitably run or drip, usually after you've smoothed one area and gone on to the next area. I soon began to realize this was a losing battle with the paint. As soon as I would get one area finished, I would notice that I'd missed a drip or the paint was beginning to run. Anything I didn't catch quickly dried into a nice drip. It wasn't looking as good as that picture in my head.

On top of the drippy issue, the edge of the flowery border was still very apparent through the two coats of primer and the one coat of paint. The primer was supposed to have smoothed out the ridge of the edge, making it one smooth flat surface. But no, there it was forcing it's way through as though it just did not want to blend in and be one with the rest of the wall. The whole mess was unfortunately looking like I had painted over wallpaper, and my goal was to make it look less like painting over wallpaper and more like just a painted wall. What to do?

I stopped painting the trim of the room and called my mom. She had been the one to actually go to Home Depot the first time and get the primer, paint, and instructions for the bathroom. I wanted to make sure I had done everything right, not missing some major step or some small thing that was singlehandedly destroying my bathroom. And I also wanted to report that the 14 or so hours I'd spent in there already were not proving to create the world's most beautiful bathroom, as is the picture in my head.

My mom said I'd done everything as she had told me, and she couldn't understand why it wasn't working the way Home Depot said it would. We determined I should pack it up for the night and head to Home Depot in the morning to figure out what to do. At this point I had a partially painted bathroom, in total dissaray, and quite a bit of frustration and disappointment that this project wasn't turning out very well. I couldn't very well leave it as is or change my mind about doing the project at this point, so I had no choice but to be sucked into Home Depot again in the morning.

I got up the next day and dragged myself to Home Depot. Now, I could go nuts in there and buy lots of fun things. I remember when I was younger and my dad made me go to Home Depot with him, it was a tortuous experience. I hated Home Depot. Now, I love the Depot. I'm very into home improvement projects. It's a fun place to to be in tune with my inner tool girl. But on this day I did not want to go back because I've pretty much exhausted my budget for home improvement these days, and I did not want to have to spend more money on stuff to fix this bathroom project. It was an unexpected expense.

I went to the paint department and found a helper and began to explain the problem, telling him everything I'd already done and making sure he knew that what I'd already done is what Home Depot had told me to do in the first place. His first idea was more primer. Wha-huh? I'd already primer-ed twice, and I hated it with all of my being. How much more primed does a wall need to be? I'd banished the can of primer to the garage, swearing it would never return to the house again. Now I had to do more of this hated task? Surely there was another answer.

The helper said I should have used a primer with some tint to it, to help the colored paint grab onto the wall better without showing the white of the white primer through the brush strokes. Okay. Home Depot never told me that before.

Then he took me over to the brush selection and said I needed to use a better brush with finer and more bristles, to hide the stroke better. Okay. No one told me that, either. He also said I needed to use a better roller for the main wall, one that is thicker than the cheap ones. Okay. Sure that makes sense.

I then asked him what to do about the border edge showing through the paint. He said I should use some drywall mud and smooth over the edge. Wha-huh? Okay, now we're getting into, like, construction worker terms. I just want to paint the bathroom! No one said anything about spackling stuff.

He showed me the drywall mud, plus the accessories to go with it. Apparently I needed a mud knife and a mud pan, too. Okay, should I just go ahead and sign over my paycheck to Home Depot now? Goodness, this simple project was getting expensive and tedious.

The drywall mud goes on not once, but twice. One layer to fill in, and the next layer to smooth it out. Of course, you need at least eight hours of drying time in between each layer. And once the final layer is dry, you have to sand it to smooth the edges. Oh, and then you have to primer that to get it ready for the paint.

Curse primer. . .

Okay, so that now that I've added an additional 108 steps to my project, the helper person mentioned that I should also use a heavier paint than the glossy stuff I have. It needs to be a flat paint, which will also function as a primer, in the event I want to come back later and add a glossy finish layer on top.

The helper person showed me how to get the drywall mud on the wall, showed me the best ways to use the paintbrush and the roller for the best strokes, and then went into the history and composite make-up of all the different kinds of paints and why, where and how each should be used. He was choc-full of information.

So after this emergency trip to the Mother Ship Home Depot, I came home with drywall mud, a mud knife, mud pan, new (expensive) paint brush, new (expensive) roller brush, lots of instructions to add to my home improvement portfolio, and a whole new can of paint, incidentally in a slightly different shade of blue. I'd decided during all of this that I didn't love the color I already had. So since I was re-doing most of it anyway, why not change the color? Sheesh.

I've now spackled the drywall mud onto the wall, two coats, and will be sanding that this evening. This simple project has turned into at least a week-long, probably longer, project.

But when it's all over and done with it will surely be the most beautiful bathroom in the world. And I will be moonlighting as a drywall mudder to pay for it.


Friday, August 22, 2003

Sometimes I am so bright . . .
I need to wear sunglasses just to deal with my brightness.

We've all done this at some time in our lives. You attend a function which requires you to wear one of those stick-on nametags that proudly displays your name to the entire room. Then you leave and forget to take off the nametag, proceeding to wear it out in public for the rest of the day.

Oh come on, you know you've done it. I did it just today, in fact. So bright, am I.

I went to a seminar thingy this morning. It's one of those educational things you attend for your job, in attempt to look like you are trying to do your job better. I mean . . . to learn more insightful tips on how you can improve your job performance, as you continually strive to perfect your job-related duties through much hardwork and dedication on an on-going basis. That's what I meant. Yep.

When I arrived at the seminar, we had to check in with the ladies who were the keepers of the nametags. I soon learned that my name as I know it was nowhere to be found on any of the nametags. I suspected this would happen, as my name is frequently misspelled. But I did not blame the keeper of the nametags. It seemed the person in my office who had signed me up for this seminar had severely butchered my name. Yes, I've been here a year and a half. She should know how to spell my name by now. I suspect she just doesn't care to attempt to get it right.

At any rate, once I went through every possible name configuration that I could think of, we finally found a nametag that was close enough to a name I might answer to. Whatever. I borrowed the nametag keeper's pen and scratched out as much of the name on the tag as I could, attempting to replace it with my actual, real name. This was a networking gig, as well as a seminar. Might bode well for me if I have my name correctly spelled for all to see.

I attached my nametag to me, and made my way to the table where the food sat waiting for me. I grabbed some grub and found a seat, settling in for a three-hour seminar on fundraising. Blech.

Another person sat down at the table I had chosen, and promptly introduced herself to me. She also promptly called me by the name I had crossed out on my nametag. Hmmm. I guess people can see through lines of pen markings. The nametag needed more work.

I removed the nametag and scribbled furiously over the incorrect name, and then re-traced my actual name several times to make it stand out better. There. That should do it.

Of course, by now my nametag looked as though a first grade child had gotten ahold of it and scribbled it to nearly to death. So much for staying inside the lines. My, how professional of me.

I endured the seminar, all the while enjoying the fact that it was during work hours and technically qualified as work, yet I was not in my office. Hee hee.

As the seminar adjourned, I reached to remove my nametag. But then remembering that I still needed the nametag to talk to people on my way out the door, so that they would clearly see my name and remember it in all it's scratched out glory, I decided to keep the nametag in place for now. I made a mental note to remove the nametag on my way to the car so that I wouldn't accidentally wear it around all day. Because I didn't want to be the loser with the nametag on all day. That would suck.

Then, as with almost all of my mental notes, I promptly forgot the note to remove the tag, approximately ten seconds after I made the mental note. My brain is not designed to remember things. And yet I always forget that.

I eventually wandered out of the building, got in the car, and drove away. Of course, I made no attempt to notice I was still wearing my nametag. I decided to run a quick errand on the way to my office, since the seminar had finished early anyway. Poor, stupid me.

Fortunately I only went to the post office, and there weren't many people in line. But I proudly got out of the car and passed a few people on the way into the building, still sporting my nametag. Then I waited in a short line, fortunately with very few people around, still sporting my nametag. Now that I think about it, the counter helper person gave me an odd look when I approached the counter and told her what I needed. But I didn't really think anything of it because she's a new worker at this post office, so how do I know she doesn't always have that strange look on her face? And of course at this point I still didn't realize I was still wearing the nametag.

I proudly walked out of the building, and not only was I still sporting the nametag, I tripped on a crack in the sidewalk, drawing the attention of several people in the parking lot. I didn't fall, but I did interrupt my carefree stride to the car. It was one of those cracks you don't see, before or after you trip over it. So to everyone else around it looks like you just don't know how to walk.

I proudly walked into my office building, checked my mailbox, passed a few people in the hall, and finally made it to my office. Only then did I notice that my purse strap caught on something attached to my shirt, as I removed the strap from my shoulder to put my purse down. Aaah. I'm still wearing my nametag. Dangit. Way to go, Einstein.

I finally removed the nametag and promptly wadded it up and threw it in the trash, now remembering how I had reminded myself to remove the nametag before getting in the car, to save myself from wearing the tag anywhere other than the seminar.

Oh well. At least anyone who noticed the nametag after I left the seminar would have had a tough time figuring out my name. I'm sure the excessive scribbling didn't attract any additional attention.

Not at all.


Thursday, August 21, 2003

If fruit was more fun . . .
If fruit was fun, we wouldn't flee from it.

I eat fruit all the time now. But for a long time, especially when I was younger, I never ate fruit. I hated it. I love it now. So why did I hate it then?

Because fruit is 'good for you.'

Today during lunch we had fresh apples. But I didn't take one. I got to the end of the food line and the volunteer serving food asked if I wanted an apple, as she pointed to a bowl full of pretty decent looking apples. I automatically replied no, and added that I already have an apple upstairs. I don't know why I thought she needed to know I had an apple upstairs in my office. I bring fruit everyday for my afternoon snack.

Yes, I'm on a feeding schedule. I have to have my afternoon snack to make it through the day.

Later, I thought about the apple and scolded myself for not taking the apple. I would totally eat it. I love apples. I eat them all the time. And even if I already brought an apple for today, the apple would keep for another day. DOH! Free apple, idiot.

I then thought about why I'd automatically said no to the apple. I hadn't even hesitated or thought about it. I just said no, flat out. I think it was because I was asked if I wanted one, much like when I was a kid and apples were 'bad' because they were 'good'. (but not 'bad' as 'cool' in the spirit of Michael Jackson's Bad) Saying no to fruit is a reflex I developed at a very young age.

In my younger days, given a choice between a cookie and an apple, I would always go for the cookie. Not that I didn't like apples. And actually, I wasn't all that much of a sweets lover as a child. But because my mom would always make a big deal about apples being a snack that is 'good for you', and often with the threat that it was an apple or nothing at all, I think I developed an aversion to apples and most fruit in general.

Only in the past year, or maybe less, have I gotten onto a fruit kick. I buy fresh fruit at least once a week, and I make sure to eat at least a banana or apple everyday. I buy a wide variety of fruit. I also buy fresh vegetables, and I enjoy that, too. I know fruits and vegetables are 'good for me'. But that's a perk these days. I feel better about what I'm eating. I often choose a peach over a cookie, when I have a choice.

However, many years were lost from the benefits of fruit on a growing kid. There's no telling how much taller, more beautiful, and/or all around more fabulous I would be now had I been on a steady fruit diet my entire life. I don't even know why my mom ever bought fruit, because neither my sister nor I ever ate it, that I can remember. I guess my parents ate all that fruit. Wow, that's a lot of fruit.

I think if fruit were more fun for kids, we would be more attracted to it from the time we are but wee ones, til we get too old to force our dentures to bite into an apple. Babies start off loving that mushed up fruit-esque stuff in a jar. But somewhere along the line, they discover what fruit really looks like, and the stigma of 'goodness' deters them from enjoying fruit in the edible form found in nature.

I think if my mom had never used the phrase 'it's good for you', I would have been more inclined to choose fruit for my snacks. Not that it's her fault I balked at the knowledge that fruit was good for me. She was just being a good mom, trying to raise a kid that wasn't made entirely out of sugar and spice. (contrary to what people think about sugar and spice and everything nice, that is NOT what little girls are made of) But I think as is typical with most kids, we don't always want to do what is good for us, or what mom thinks we should do.

Including eating a yummy apple for a snack.

Oh well. Think of all the fruit trees I saved by not consuming fruit for about 20 years. That's something, right?


Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Shark Education
I somehow ended up watching several shark movies, or portions of movies over the past week or so. I blame the Discovery Channel and their Shark Week programming. Even though not all of the movies I caught were on the Discovery Channel, it cannot be purely coincidence that during Shark Week there was a plethora of shark movies elsewhere on the tube. It was a literal shark infestation. Thank you Discovery Channel.

I learned several things from my Shark Week viewings. Incidentally, the most educational pieces of television viewing were not the educational programs on the Discovery Channel. I learned more from the movies. Which are totally, completely, one hundred percent accurate to real life. Naturally.

Here is what I learned:
1. All sharks have the same theme music.
Watching Jaws, Deep Blue Sea, and the TBS original movie Red Water proved this theory without a doubt. Prior to every shark attack in all of these movies, the music gets really soft. You hear the sloshing of the water. Then you hear very low, very quiet strings and piano. dun-Dun. dun-Dun. Slowly at first. Then increasing in volume, pace, and intensity until it erupts into shrieking violins, fervent bass strings, blaring french horns, and human screaming at the pinnacle of the shark attack. By understanding this phenomenon, we can learn to anticipate shark attacks while we are in shark infested water. Listen for the strings and piano. If you hear this, get out of the water. Immediately. When the horns blare, it's already too late.

2. Any type of mutant shark is angry and much smarter than your Average Joe Shark.
We've seen it several times in Jaws. The giant freak of nature shark is mad, and very smart in trapping and eating helpless humans. It also manages to come back from the dead, bigger and badder every time. In Deep Blue Sea, the science experiment sharks are humongous. And mad about it. And mad at the humans for making them so dang big and then stealing their shark brain juice. They turn out to be smarter than the humans, planning a very cunning attack and eating nearly everyone in the movie except LL Cool J and some other guy. The lesson here is to not create mutant sharks, and to run away from sharks that are already mutants. Mutated sharks are just not nice. On a grand scale.

3. Sharks can live in freshwater.
This was the super scary detail which was the focal point of the TBS original movie Red Water. Somehow a shark got into their bayou, and consequently wreaked much havoc. So, for all of you who grew up watching Jaws, calming your fears of sharks afterwards by telling yourself that sharks can't live in bathtubs or toilets, that is completely false. They can, and they probably do. Be very careful in your tub and on your toilet. You could already have a shark in there.

4. To kill a shark, you have to blow it up. Or drill it with a giant oil rig drill.
Since most of us don't have an oil rig drill handy, blowing up a shark is the better way to kill a shark. It must be a massive, water spraying, shark chunk flying explosion. Merely shooting a shark, or stabbing a shark, or any other attempts to kill a shark besides just blowing the thing to smithereens will not phase the shark at all, and will actually only make it madder. And possibly larger and smarter. So if you are needing to kill a shark that is attacking you, don't waste your time trying to kill it in other ways than blowing it sky-high out of the water and into little tiny sharklet pieces. Always swim with dynamite and other volatile explosives.

5. When sharks are around, don't fall into the water a lot.
In these movies, a lot of deaths could have been averted if people hadn't kept accidentally falling into the water. Sharks are attracted to blood, flailing, and splashing. All of these people who accidentally fall into the water inevitably cut themselves on the way in, therefore bleeding profusely. Then they flail about causing much splashing and motion. This will surely attract a shark, which will promptly eat you. If you must fall into the water on accident, don't do anything. Be very still and don't bleed. Hopefully someone will fish you out of the water, and then blow up the shark.

6. If you work near or around sharks, make sure none of your co-workers are evil.
In Jaws it was poachers and shark hunters. In Deep Blue Sea it is a greedy scientist who smokes around the shark and the equipment. In Red Water it is Coolio and a gang of mean divers looking for buried treasure. These evil people ruin the shark-free fun for all of the non-evil people. Sharks can apparently sense evil, and after they chomp on the evil people, non-evil people inevitably get chomped on, too. Beware of evil co-workers. They attract sharks.

7. Rap stars do not get eaten by sharks.
This theory is only accurate in two of the three movie examples, as Jaws films did not have any rap stars portraying shark bait. But in Deep Blue Sea, LL Cool J escapes many shark attacks and is one of only two survivors at the end of the film. In Red Water, Coolio gets blown up and/or shot, but not in or near a shark. So technically he escapes being eaten by a shark, even though he dies. Therefore I am led to believe that the best way to avoid being eaten by a shark is to become a rap star.

8. Sharks that seem to be asleep, aren't.
In Deep Blue Sea, the scientists put the giant mutant shark to sleep so they can jam a large needle into its brain and extract super duper shark brain juice. Inevitably the shark wakes up and promptly bites the arm off of the greedy cigarette smoking scientist guy. This type of behavior isn't evident in Red Water, but I believe it occured at some point in one of the Jaws movies. So be very careful if you come upon a sleeping shark. It is likely not really sleeping, and if you are within arms reach, it will have no problem reaching your arm right off of your body.

I hope you will find these shark facts as helpful as I have.

Thank you Discovery Channel, et all.


Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Least Favorite Day of the Year
Today is my least favorite day of the year. It's the four year anniversary of my sister's death. I hate today.

It's a weird day because to everyone else in the world it's just another day. So just because I feel different and sad and the day has meaning to me, it doesn't affect anyone else. Except for my family. It's a big reminder of the day my life changed completely. Two days before this day four years ago was the last time I saw my sister. It's hard to believe it's been four years since I've seen, hugged, talked to, or heard from her.

Most people don't remember that this day is 'the' day anymore. Some do remember, and that is so wonderfully special to me. It means alot. But most friends and even most of my extended family forget or don't pay attention anymore, which isn't a big deal except that it's nice when people remember. Not because I need them for anything today. I just hate feeling like I'm the only one who remembers. I don't often feel 'alone' until I'm sad for some occassion about my sister, and I realize I have no one to share that with me anymore. Not that anyone ever truly shared it with me, because I don't think that's possible. But grief is definitely lonely. I know I'm not alone, but it is a lonely thing.

My parents usually get lots of cards and flowers and phone calls today. People seem to remember that they lost a daughter. But not many remember that I also lost a sister. My only sister. I don't get cards or phone calls, or even quick emails anymore. I don't necessarily want to get stuff. It's not about stuff, and actually I don't need the lingering reminders around the house all week. It's just nice to know people care, and they haven't forgotten about me and they aren't afraid of me when I hurt. More importantly it's nice to know people remember my sister. I worry sometimes that she's been forgotten by too many people.

People forget why I might be sad or a little 'off' this week, and then I have to explain again, or sometimes for the first time. I don't mind talking about it. In fact, I like talking about it. It's part of who I am that I've had to deal with this loss, and it's made this huge part of me into something I would never have been otherwise, and that's a good thing. But I do hate watching people hear me talk about it. They change as I say the words. They become uncomfortable, like they think I expect them to do something about it, or they just don't know what to do or say. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that not many people I know can relate to losing a sibling at such a young age. My peers haven't had to deal with anything like this, and they don't know what to do with it, or what to do with me dealing with it. Plus, a lot of people don't expect that the funny girl is ever sad or that she can talk about things with depth. And people who have known me as sad over the past four years and who have been there for me at times get this look or sound of fear when I get sad again sometimes, like 'here we go again.' I think I wore them out, which sucks for me, but is understandable for them. I think people wish I was 'over it' by now, but I don't think I'll ever be over it. I hope I'm not. So I usually find it easier on myself not to say anything at all. Just to be sad on my own today.

Even though most everyone else forgets, or at least they don't let me know they remember, I don't get to forget or ignore it. I don't even write anything on my calendar to signify this day because it is forever trapped in my memory. I forget pretty much every other thing, big or small, if I don't write it down. But not today. I actually hate seeing today's date on anything. I don't date checks that I write with today's date on them. Today doesn't need a reminder.

I can't be mad or frustrated with people because they forget, and I'm not mad or frustrated about it. That's not the point of what I'm going through, and I pretty much knew there'd be a time when I'd be mostly alone with it. It's on-going for me, but old for everyone else. It's not significant to them. It's not their thing. And I'm glad for them that it's not theirs to deal with. But it would be a pleasant surprise in my day if friends and family remembered today on my behalf, and didn't shy away from me. It's a long enough day as it is. Feeling like the sad freak that no one wants to talk to doesn't help.

On the other hand, it's much simpler and kind of nice to withdraw from people, to not hear from them this week. That way I only have to deal with me.

Last year I called in sick to work. I didn't feel like dealing with work craziness on top of whatever else I might be feeling for the day. The environment here is not suitable for me to bring in outside emotions. I don't think I really did anything all day. I just chilled. The year before that I didn't have a job, so on that day my joblessness worked out nicely. I didn't have any responsibility to slough off. This year I'm at work, but I probably won't do much except get through the day. Although it feels good to stick to my normal routine. I'm actually feeling pretty good today, and that's a blessing.

Sometimes I wish my parents lived closer, when days like this come up. Anniversaries of things related to my sister's death, holidays when other people are with family but I can't be there, birthdays that we can't celebrate with my sister anymore, etc. They are the only ones who can relate somewhat to what this stuff means to me. But then again, I'm usually glad they aren't closer anymore because I can't stand to see them sad. It's weird to see your parents, normally strong and able to fix anything, now broken and sad. We've grieved together, and we'll talk today. But I think it's healthier for us these days to not encourage more depression by being sad together.

People ask me, or sometimes just assume, that it gets easier as time goes by. Or maybe they wish it would get easier because that would make sense, if grief was something that made sense. But I think to say it gets easier is inaccurate. It never gets easier. It just gets different. It gets easier to handle sometimes because I heal and learn and grow and change with it and how I handle it, but the thing itself never gets easier. I feel differently about missing her this year than I did last year at this time, but I still miss her with all of me, everyday. It still hurts. A lot. That never changes, and doesn't get easier. And actually, I'm glad. At the point in time that it gets easier to be here without my sister, I will know that she is fading away from my thoughts and memories. I don't want that to ever happen.

It will always be hard. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing. She will always be important to me.

I don't cry about it as much as I used to on this day. It doesn't devastate me anymore or put me out of commission for a day. It is more like just a normal day, but with a sad twist. I have a heavy heart. I don't feel like being funny today, necessarily, but almost out of respect. Not because I'm too sad to be funny. I just want to remember, and to make that significant. She deserves as much from me on this day.

I remember everything about that day and the following days four years ago, and I'm glad. Even the horrible stuff, things I saw and heard and went through then, things I've never told anyone about those days, I don't ever want to forget. I'll think about it off and on today, and that's a good thing. Painful, but good.

It's hard to believe my life has gone on without her, the things I've done, the places I've gone, the people I've met, the people I've lost, the things I have, the things I've learned. All things I can never share with her, yet it really still feels like she was here just yesterday. Sometimes it feels like four years has been a really long time, but other times it feels like no time has passed at all. I get frustrated with time because I don't want time to pass. I want to feel better, and I do feel better everyday. But I don't want to get further away from the last time I saw her because I keep changing, even though her picture in my memory always stays the same. I'll be old one day, but she never will. It's bizarre to me, to say the least. Not something I ever expected to be dealing with at this stage in my life.

Today I will finish my work day. On my way home I will stop by the store and buy some flowers. I'm the only family close enough to visit the cemetary, and I'll stop by there today. I've gotten to know the place well over the past four years. I'll clean up her grave marker and put out some fresh, cheerful flowers. And I'll sit for awhile. Alone. Then I'll head home and finish my day.

It sucks that's where I have to go to visit my sister. But I wouldn't miss it today for anything.


Monday, August 18, 2003

Yardwork A-go-go
Once you start yardwork, it never ends. This is what I learned over the weekend as I worked in my Wild World of Weeds, Wasps, and Whatnot.

My goal for the weekend was to remedy my problematic Flowerbeds O' Dead Things. I hoped to rifle through the riff-raff of random plants, weeds, and general chaos to determine 1) Which things were plants and which things were weeds, and then B) Leave the living, remove the dead.

I started in the backyard, attempting the biggest problem first. The flowerbed (and I use the term 'flower' loosely, as there are no actual flowers anywhere to be found) along the back fence was in utter dissarray. The fencing people (and by 'fencing' I mean the guys who built my fence last week, not sword-fighting people with metal collanders for face masks), had left me some very thoughtful, but very large mounds of dirt, proudly displayed in the very middle of my 'flower' bed. They had also left a giant trench all along the fence, where much of this dirt initially came from, I'm sure. So the first part of my project was to move the dirt back into the trench and even it out into a nice, flat, flowerbed.

Actually, the first part of my project was to buy a shovel. Off to Home Depot, I went.

Upon returning with proper gardening supplies, I began to move the dirt. Slowly, as it was heavy, rocky, and dry. Eventually the huge mound of dirt fit nicely and neatly into the trench and throughout the 'flower' bed. Next, weeds.

I began to pull the obvious weeds. Upon pulling the obvious weeds, this lead to many more less obvious weeds lying in wait underneath the dirt and clinging to their friends, the obvious weeds. The more I pulled, the more weeds appeared. I began to suspect they were growing and popping up right before my eyes. For every weed I pulled, ten more weeds appeared. They were everywhere. It was much like that arcade game with the foam hammer, where you whack the heads of the gophers as they pop out of the holes. I'd pull a weed, and pretty soon more weeds were springing up left and right, faster than I could attack them. Weeds running amok.

Eventually I had to call it quits on the weed pulling, or else I'm fairly sure I'd still be out there pulling weeds right now. It had to stop. I cleared away some rubble, sprayed some weed killer (fulling believing that this stuff will totally and completely kill all of my weeds. yeah right), and then I began trimming the, well, large bush-type thing.

I have no idea what kind of bush or tree or shrub or plant or alien creature this thing is, but it needed to be trimmed, whatever it is. It was thorny, so it could possibly be a rose bush. I began trimming the dead parts, and the parts hanging over the fence, and the parts poking me in the face. Pretty soon I was left with a few good branches/arms/limbs/sprouts, and unfortunately a much thinner tree-type thing. Oh well. If it is meant to live and be something, it will live and be something. At any rate, even sparse it looked better than before.

There was a smaller version of the same tree-type thing nearby, so I trimmed that, too. They make a lovely couple, whatever they are.

I realized I needed to build a retaining edge to the 'flower' bed, where the fencing people had removed one side of the retaining wall. Otherwise, all of my dirt and weeds will run out the end of the bed, and all over the lawn. Hmmm. What could I use? How about some of those random cement blocks lingering about the yard for no apparent reason? Perfect. I located three blocks and created an edge to the bed. Not the prettiest, but functional for now. Just what I needed.

Then, I mulched. I mulched like I'd never mulched before. Mostly because I'd never had a 'flower' bed to mulch, so mulching would have been a silly thing to do before now. It only makes sense.

After I put down a nice layer of mulch, I stood back to survey my work. One 'flower' bed down, four more to go. Good grief, this was hard work.

I moved to the next 'flower' bed, along the back of my house. Things should go faster from here, as the rest of the beds didn't require as much work as the Mega Bed along the back fence. Now, throughout the yard I've noticed random rocks. Mostly in the 'flower' beds, but also just along the side of the house. I guess for decoration? Who knows.

I moved the rocks in the current bed, to the dirt patch near the fence, where the bed ends, but before the sidewalk begins. Sure, a rock garden would be lovely here! I arranged some rocks there, in hopes to prevent the dirt from running all over the place as it usually does when I water, and to get them out of the 'flower' bed. Once the rocks were removed, then I attacked the weeds.

These weeds were much less in number, and much less ferocious in nature. The weeding didn't take long. Soon I was trimming the bushes. Two of the bushes were most definitely, probably, nearly certainly rose bushes, as they were quite thorny and rose bush-esque. If roses appear on them one day, then I will know these are, in fact, rose bushes.

I also removed the dead things that didn't survive the 'planting'. I use the term 'planting' loosely, as the previous owner's idea of planting was to keep the plants in the plastic containers they come in, set them on top of the 'flower' bed, throw a scoop or two of dirt in the generaly vicinity of the plant, and you're done. A planted plant. Naturally, most of the plants did not survive. Tragic, to say the least.

Once the maintenance was finished, I mulched. Again. Oh how I love the mulch.

What I do not love, however, are wasps. As I worked on this second bed, I noticed increasing wasp activity buzzing dangerously close to my head and body. I happen to be highly allergic to wasp and bee stings, so every time a wasp would come near, I would throw down my tools, leap back, and take a few steps running in one direction or another. I soon noticed I was doing this every few minutes, so I came to the conclusion that there must be a wasp nest somewhere close by. Great. Just what I need.

Remembering that I had an old can of wasp spray, I went to retrieve it. Armed with my trusty spray I began to walk around my house in search of the nest. Nothing. I came back to where the wasps were attacking me, and looked closely. Nothing. As far as I could see, no wasp nest was on my house or trees or bushes. Where the heck were these things coming from?

A wasp buzzed by my head and I watched where it went. And then I saw it. A HUGE nest in the corner of the window of my neighbor's house, right along the side of my house. Perfect.

This meant these wasps weren't mine. But since the wasps do not observe my Wasp No-Fly Zone, I was being periodically attacked by my neighbor's rude, uncooperative wasps. I couldn't very well go over there and spray the nest on a house that isn't mine. Plus, this would only anger the wasps and cause them to attack me. And since I am highly allergic to one wasp, I figured a whole pack of them attacking at once would surely do me in. I did not relish the idea of a wasp attack rendering me helpless on my lawn, alone, where I would surely get a severe sunburn while laying immobile on my lawn until someone discovered me. My neighbor wasn't home, so I couldn't go over to ask her to please remove her wasps from near me. Oh my. What to do?

The next bed I needed to work my magic on just happened to be on the side of the house adjacent to the wasp infestation, but fortunately this bed was in pretty good shape, so it wouldn't require me to spend much time there. I was hesitant to work there. Leaning over the bed would put my back to the nest, giving them prime opportunity to attack, possibly flying up my shirt or into my shorts. This was not a fun thought for me.

I quickly assessed what needed to be done, and quickly jumped into action. I was sure to keep my can of spray close by, in the event of more wasp attacks. I had another large pile of dirt to haul away, so I hurredly shoveled and carried dirt as quickly as I could, all the while keeping a watchful eye on the nest. I could count at least seven wasps hanging around on the outside of the nest. Who knew how many were inside, planning the attack on me.

As I worked, a wasp would buzz by and I would again throw down my tools and do my Anti-Wasp Dance, making sure there were no wasps on me and running in the opposite direction of the wasp for a few steps. If any neighbors were watching me from a distance, I'm sure my Wasp Antics in the yard were quite amusing. Little would they know, my Wasp Dance was a life-saving ritual.

I moved the dirt, I pulled the weeds. I moved more rocks. I trimmed the non-thorny, non-rose bush-esque plants, and then I mulched. Done, and done.

I quickly moved my tools around to the front of the house and began working on the big shrub across the front bed. I hate this shrub. It's one of those Edward Scissorhands bushes that can be trimmed into a shape, but currently it is in the shape of a very uneven box-like shrub, with a good chunk of it being mostly dead. At this point I was sad to not be Edwinna Scissorhands. I could have used to extra blades to speed through the process of trimming this shrub.

First, I cut away the dead stuff, which left a nice big hole in one section on the side. It couldn't be helped. It was either brown ugly branches, or a big hole. At least the hole might eventually fill in.

Then I tried to even out the bush, making it flat across the top and smooth down the sides, like a proper box. This was harder to do than I expected. First of all, the bush was planted too close to the sidewalk, and it had grown over about half of the sidewalk, and also over part of the driveway. While I would have preferred to cut it back further from the sidewalk, I soon discovered just trimming a little bit was a major task. Not to mention, making it even and flat was pretty much a joke.

After trimming for awhile, I had to stop. It wasn't as bad as when I started, but it wasn't as good as Edward Scissorhands would have done. It was more square-like than before, yet with some mildly undulating waves here and there. It was back from the sidewalk a bit, but not a lot. Whatever. I hate this bush. It's good enough for now. We'll consider it 'art'.

I began raking up the leaves and branches I'd trimmed, and clearing out a lot of debris that had collected in and around the branchy bush. As I reached underneath to grab one big pile of debris, I discovered my second biggest enemy of the outdoors, second only to the sting of the wasp and bee: ants.

I stuck my hand right in the middle of a GIANT antbed, cleverly disquised as a pile of leaves and a potato chip bag. Since when to ants eat potato chips? Chips found in nature, no less? Whatever. Luckily I had my gardening gloves on, so I was able to shake of the glove, which was now thoroughly swarmed with ants, before the ants got to my hand. In addition to being highly allergic to bees and wasps, I am also highly allergic to ant bites. This was my lucky day, having stumbled onto both wasps and ants.

I jumped up and did my Anti-Ant Dance to make sure no ants were on me. Then I went in search of my trusty AMDRO, which actually isn't trusty yet, since I've never used it before. A co-worker recommended it, and I'd gotten some at Home Depot earlier in the day, just in case. I proceeded to AMDRO the heck out of that mound. I also sprayed it with some other ant/general bug pesticide. I wanted those ants dead. Now. For-e-ver . . .

Once the ants had been averted, I proceeded to the weed portion of the front 'flower' bed event. I'd noticed a tall, weed-like thing growing for quite some time. It was probably a weed, but had some tree-like features. The weedness came through in the random placement of it, being nowhere in particular in the bed, not related to anything else growing there, but definitely several feet tall. I'd left it alone for awhile, but finally come to the conclusion that it was either a very big weed-esque growth, or a giant marijuana plant. Either way, it had to go. Marijuana on display in the front yard was probably not a good thing. And a giant all-consuming weed was almost as bad.

I pulled the growth and finished that bed with none other than a nice layer of mulch. Aaaaah, the mulch.

I did the same routine to the last remaining 'flower' bed, sparing the life of a living, yet really annoyingly sprawling plant, only because I didn't have the heart to kill one of the few living things left in any of the beds. I will probably regret that, but for now the plant has one more chance to impress me.

At the conclusion of this weekend's Yardwork A-go-go, my 'flower' beds look at least 108 times better, and I can proudly say I did it myself. I've also been rewarded with a lovely sunburn on my neck, back, and shoulders. You may ask why I did not wear sunscreen, and the answer is simple. There was a struggle of chemicals between sunscreen vs. bug spray. The combination of the two chemicals proved to be somewhat toxic for me. In the end, bugspray won, although I still managed to receive more bug bites than I preferred. But the bites are covered in a nice shade of pink sunburn, so it all worked out. Or something.

Thankfully I managed to escape all wasp stings and ant bites. Unfortunately I will put the wasps and ants to the challenge again tonight as I admire my 'flower' bed handiwork, during my tour of the yard.

Tonight, I must mow.


Friday, August 15, 2003

SBC, Part Deaux
I've already chronicled this SBC nightmare. It was a much scarier nightmare, I'd guess, than the new Freddy vs. Jason movie will be.

By the way, does anyone else not care who wins Freddy vs. Jason? Even if they die they'll be back again in another movie next year, Freddy's Severed Claw Hand vs. Jason's Headless Hockey Mask. Sheesh. It never ends.

Anyway. Sure enough, the bill I received yesterday from SBC was all, completely, horribly, emphatically, definitely wrong. In so many ways. The main thing being they charged me for another month of DSL service, which was supposed to have been canceled weeks ago. Plus some other phone charges that I think have already been cleared up, but I'm not sure. It's quite a messy bill. Random charges and credits everywhere. They definitely do that on purpose, so that you'll give up trying to figure it out and just send a check for the large amount at the bottom of the page without protesting.

Alas, I doth protest.

They toyed with me over the phone stuff a few weeks ago. But I'd completely forgotten they could still come at me with DSL issues, too. DSL had been strangely quiet and problem-free, so far. They must have been lying in wait. Come to think of it, I still hadn't received the mailing labels they told me they'd send so that I could return my DSL modem to them. Being sure to send it within 15 days, of course, or I would surely be charged for something.

So, today I had to call SBC again. Except it's a different number for the DSL people. Why they need a whole extra crew to mess up DSL customer service, I don't know.

I was sincerely hoping that in the past few weeks SBC had relocated all of their customer service people, both for phone and for DSL, and replaced the entire throng of customer service drones with brain-having, thinking-capable, people actually able to serve customers. But, no. It is not so.

I sat on hold for an exceptionally long time today. When you first call, you have to type in your phone number. I picked one of the phone numbers I've had over the past few weeks, and I'm sure then they knew it was me. They left me on hold for a long time to think about it. Pure torture.

Today's SBC on-hold soundtrack: an uber-cheesy, saxophone-lead Muzac version of "Let's Get it On"

Hmmm. What was SBC trying to tell me??

Finally someone picked up my call, and I was greeted with, "Thank you for calling SBC. How can I make you a very satisfied customer today?"

Hmmm. Let me count the ways. Way #1 being go away and let me come down there and handle this myself.

I began to explain the superfluous charge on my bill for an extra month of DSL service that was supposed to have been canceled on July 25. I then went on to explain that I was told to mail the DSL modem back to SBC within 15 days using the mailing labels SBC was supposed to send me, yet I had not received any such labels. I didn't want to be charged for still having the modem, but I can't send it back without their special labels.

She said she would take care of the billing issue first. She was very perky. It was very annoying.

She then said the billing cycle ended on July 10, so I would have to pay for service from July 10 through July 28, and that was less than the full month of service being charged on my bill. I said no, my service was specified to be cancel on July 25, so I would be glad to pay for July 10-July 25, but only that. If the service went on til July 28, that was their failure to cancel it on the right day. Plus, I didn't have a working phone line until way after July 28, so even if my DSL was still working on the 28th, there is no way I could have used it. She said okay, and credited me $3.00. Score one for me.

Then she asked me what kind of modem I had. I said I didn't know. She said she needed to check to see if it was a super-duper special something or other modem, in which case I would definitely need to send it back. But if it wasn't that kind of modem, I could keep it. She said she wasn't sure why they told me to send it back, unless they just gave me that as an option. I wanted to say it was because SBC is #1 in customer service reps who have no idea what they are telling their customers, sometimes even making stuff up just to perpetuate a problematic situation. But I actually just said no, they said I had to send it back, and they said there would be a charge if it wasn't back in 15 days. She needed to check with a Super Duper Modem Specialist Manager, which she just happened to have with her there in the office. Would I mind holding?

Of course not. Let's Get it On.

She came back after a few minutes and said that yes, I could in fact keep my modem. She was very excited for me. I asked her if she was sure that I wouldn't be charged for it. She said no, it's mine to keep. No charge. Great, now I have a chunk of computer equipment that is completely useless to me. Ain't no way I'm using SBC DSL ever again. Maybe I will hang the modem on the wall and throw darts at it.

She then asked me if there was anything else she could do for me. I said no, I think that's it. She asked if I would like to be transferred to the phone department to talk to someone about the phone charges that are wrong.

I said no, I don't have time for that right now.

I think I will do my own figuring on my phone bill this time. SBC has done enough damage already.


Regenerating Paperclips
My desk has a drawer, in which my paperclips are kept. A plastic container within the drawer holds a wide variety of paper clips, from large to small, from square to triangle, from silver to colorful. I have a plethora of paperclips.

The odd thing is, I always have paperclips. I never run out of paperclips. From the first day I started working here, I would turn to the paperclip drawer for my paperclip needs. I have paperclipped many a document in the year and a half I've worked here. Yet, the supply of paperclips never seems to dwindle.

One time I went down to the supply closet to see where we keep extra paperclips, forseeing the day when I would eventually run out of paperclips and I would need to refill my container of paperclips. I made a note of the location of the extra paperclips, and have not been back since then to retrieve them. I just simply haven't run out of paperclips, yet.

For awhile I was paperclipping everything that needed to be fastened in some way, in an attempt to use up my paperclip stash. I even paperclipped things that should have been stapled. If papers needed to be fastened, they received a paperclip. Nothing else. I went through hundreds of paperclips, at a minimum. I became obsessed with the oddity of my paperclip stash. I was determined to get to the bottom of it. Yet, it never diminished.

I still cannot see the bottom of the container. There appears to be no end in sight. It's not a large container, as it's small enough to fit in my drawer, along with many other items in the same drawer. Yet every time I reach into the container for a paperclip, I never have to reach very deep, and I never have to search very long for a paperclip of appropriate stature.

Throughout the course of my scientific experiment regarding paperclips and their functionality, I have reached the conclusion that paperclips must spontaneously regenerate of their own free will.

It's the only thing that makes sense.


Thursday, August 14, 2003

Someone Asked Jeeves this question: second base with a girl?

And Jeeves led them straight to this story of mine.

Probably not exactly what whoever had in mind.

Hee heee.


Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Rain, Rain, Don't go Away
I've been fascinated with rain lately, which is odd since summers in Texas usually provide very little rain. So why have I been obsessed with rain as of late? Because it's free water for my dry yard.

I've had a yard now for about three weeks. I have sinced turned into a yard freak. If I could spend all of my time out there tooling around my yard, I would. I love it. I think I love it mostly because I'm obsessed with the fact that it doesn't look great, yet has great potential. My weird desire to 'straighten things' now has a new outlet. The yard.

I go through phases of being neat, countered with phases of caring less if I have clothes all over the floor. With the new house, I'm in 'nesting' mode. I'm so tired of looking at boxes and bags and things out of place that I have an intense desire to put everything away, right away. My home needs to feel like home. Now.

However, it takes quite a bit more time to unpack and put things in the proper place, than it did to cram it all in boxes. Sometimes I have to wait until I get 'the feeling' of where something should go before I can open the box and begin distributing the contents to the proper places. Not to mention, now that I have several rooms and an entire house, I often move things around several times before I'm satisfied with the location. When there are options, it makes it more of a challenge to properly unpack. The apartment options were pretty much living room, or closet. Now with more options, nesting takes time.

This 'nesting' routine and my current desire for neatness has spilled over into my yard. I haven't been able to spend as much time out there as I need to, but it's already starting to shape up a bit. I still have many dead things to remove. The former owner's attempt at a green thumb has left me with some very ugly and sadly dead tree and bush hopefuls. Alas, I must lay them to rest.

I'm beginning to think of new things to plant. I'm limited on cash at the moment, but I'm hoping to find some simple things to improve the look of my flower beds, in preparation for spring when I can do more. My new favorite word is xeriscape. This will be the key to my landscaping success. I'm very excited.

I've been worried about watering the yard, hence the thinking with the xeriscape water conserving native plants. My goal at this dry, hot time of year is pretty much to not let the yard die. My dream yard is nice and green and filled in completely, with pretty green landscaping bushes and flowers around the house and near the fence. The yard I have, however, is not quite yellow, somewhat green in a few spots, crunchy to the touch, and with a few odd sparse patches here and there. Bushes and flowers are nill, and/or dead. Not too nice, but not too shabby, either. It's gotten much better since I've been caring for it.

I can't afford to water the yard as much as it needs to be watered. Water is expensive, and it's very painful to watch my money sprayed all over the ground, only to disappear forever. Not to mention, it's an evening consuming project to water each section of the yard. It's not a large yard, but it takes several days to do the whole yard, then I start over at the beginning. I see now why people invest in sprinkler systems. Much more convenient, and dryer for me, I'm sure. I still manage to get shot in the back, or in the head by the sprinkler at least once during my watering routine.

So imagine my excitement to hear thunder clouds last night. This is rare in Texas in August, so at first I wasn't sure I was really hearing what I thought I heard. I'd come home from a dinner thing with the intention of watering my yard. I started in the front and made it through the first section. I moved the sprinkler to the next section, and again heard the glorious sound of thunder. A little closer, but still not with rain potential for my lawn, yet.

Up until a few weeks ago, I hated rain. It makes my Jeep dirty, and when hail comes with the rain, it threatens to damage the Jeep. This is no bueno. Plus, when going from apartment to Jeep in rain, I get wet. Again, no bueno.

Now that the Jeep has a lovely, dry home inside my garage, and I can get from Jeep to house through the garage rain-free, I am a big fan of rain. As the sound of thunder drew closer, and darker clouds began to roll in, I began a one-sided rain conversation of sorts, pleading with the rain to please come and rain on my yard. I was pretty close to doing a rain dance. . . when the lightening attacked.

I noticed the wind picking up and the lightening increasing, so I figured rain couldn't be far behind. I went outside to turn off the sprinkler and move the hose back to its hose spot by the house. Just as I reached the sprinkler, which was at the far side of the yard away from the house, an extremely large lightning bolt decided to flash close by, immediately followed by an enormous clap of thunder. I'm not sure exactly what a 'clap' of thunder is, but all I know is I saw bright light right before a really loud noise, and it scared the crap out of me.

I decided the hose could hang out in the yard for awhile, since it probably wasn't the safest thing for me to be outside holding a wet hose, standing near my house. So I hightailed it back inside where I would be dry and not in danger of lightning. Within a few minutes, I heard the most beautiful sound in the world. Hard rain.

I looked out in the backyard and watched it rain for awhile. It was a blessed sight. Lovely rain falling on my grass, accented by shots of lightening every minute or so. I could almost see my grass turning greener before my eyes.

Well, not actually. But I like to think so.

I'm praying for free water again tonight.


Tuesday, August 12, 2003

If I didn't feel old before, I do now.
I found a sure-fire way to make yourself feel WAY old. Go hang out with a bunch of kids who are about to start their first year of college.

While visiting my parents this past weekend, it happened to be the same weekend as the send-off party for the local kids heading off for their first year of college at my dearly beloved college. My parents like to stay involved with the school, even though they no longer have any kids in college. So they had planned to go to the party again this year. Even though I volunteered to be the one to stay home and keep a watchful eye on our sickly dog, lucky me, I got to tag along as the Token Alumni.

We arrived at the home hosting the party, and at first glance we appeared as two parents and a student. I happen to be young-looking. It's deceiving, but nice at times. Then the introductions started and soon it was clear to all the kids that I was, in fact, old. Upon doing a simple math calculation, which I'm sure I learned during my four years of college, I calculated that I was nine or ten years older than these kids. Even though that's not a huge age difference, the 'young' factor was running rampant amongst these kids. There is quite a bit of difference between 18 and 27.

I was immediately struck by how young they looked. They were so scared and nervous, meeting people for the first time, yet trying to not to appear frightened or nervous about starting school in a week. It's funny how just a few months ago these kids were confident seniors at the top of the highschool foodchain, and now they were young naive newbies headed off to a new school as the low kids on the totem pole. They had lots of questions but were afraid to ask at first. There were several current students mixed among the incoming freshman, and then there was me. Old Alumni Girl.

The people from the university in charge of the event are friends of my family, and as we split the room up into the Parent Group and the Freshman Group, they thought it would be a good idea for me to head outside with the kids. Great, now I was supposed to be Cool Old Alumni Girl with all the answers. I felt a bit out of place, and I wasn't really prepared to be all 'big sister' to a group of college freshman. I had planned to be at home napping nicely at this point in my afternoon.

The current students began talking to the youngsters about general school stuff, the cool places to hang out, how to get involved, etc. It was very much like summer camp, where the counselors try to connect with the kids and make it fun, yet educational. They did a great job, and I figured I wouldn't really be called upon to participate. I could just hang out and eat cookies. But every once in awhile they would turn to me and ask a question, and I would do my best to answer on a relate-able level. But the more I stood out there, the more distant I felt about where we were respectively in our lives, and I knew my two cents worth was not so much helpful or cool, as it was 'Wow, that's weird. We actually have electricity in the dorms now, old lady. But thanks for your tips on good lantern usage.'

I've been in the working world for about five years. I've recently bought a house. I've been through a lifetime of situations in the five or so years I've been out of school, and it became clear to me then just how long ago that seemed, even though five years isn't that long in the grand scheme of things. I loved college, but I did not envy these kids starting the whole college experience. College sucks for the first semester. You're in a new place, with new people, with new freedoms, and new responsibilities, and it is a difficult adjustment for everyone. It gets fun and cool and exciting after awhile, but these kids were in for a tough few weeks and months ahead. SO glad I am past that.

I also realized how much about college has changed in just the short time since I've been there, specifically with my school. The kids kept asking me questions about certain things, yet the majority of these things I'd never heard of. We didn't have a Chili's on campus when I went to school there. We had to drive for five minutes to get there. We actually had to stand in line to register for class, rather than sign-up online. There was no student center with a swimming pool and climbing wall. They built that the summer after I left. I felt like the old lady who 'had to walk to school in the snow, uphill both ways, with a warm potato to keep my hands from freezing.' So many things had changed, I was pretty much obsolete already.

It wasn't a miserable experience. It was fun to see these kids excited about school, and even better, excited about my school. Even at my age, I can still remember being in that place. Ready to get away from parents, but still hesitant to be so far away.

But as many times as I've thought I would have liked to stay in school longer, or that I've wished I could go back to that time, I am now firmly convinced that I am ever-so-glad to not be there anymore.

We grow up and move through life for a reason. If for no other reason, so that others can come along and learn from our experience.

Or at least for them to be thankful that the tuition I paid while I was in school purchased the Starbucks they have now in the new parking garage.


'Helpful' Overload
One thing I've noticed since owning a house for the past several weeks is that everyone has advice on owning a house. What to do, what not to do, maintenance, tricks and tips, helpful suggestions, etc. For the most part, it's good, since I've never owned a house before and I pretty much have no idea what I'm doing. But at times, it's a little much. Information overload.

Sometimes I can't even tell a story about a project I've done at the house, or describe something in detail without whoever I'm talking to chiming in with a better or different way to do it. I don't necessarily want everything done for me, or done without a little trial and error on my part. It's part of the home-owning adventure to jump in, head to Home Depot, and figure it out on my own. Plus, it makes for good stories. Experience and expertise is certainly valued and appreciated. But sometimes the overly-helpful, albeit well-intentioned nature of so many people makes me a little crazy.

Now, if you are someone who has given me advice or made a suggestion about house projects or maintenance, don't assume I'm talking about you here. I have really appreciated all the helpful hints I've gotten from people, and for the most part people have been very cool about how they offer advice. Most of the hints have actually proven to be helpful. But sometimes I just like to tell the story of what I did, and how I did it, and the outcome of it, and not have the person I'm talking to come back with an alternative or the way they did it and why it was better. Even if I didn't do it the best way, or the most efficient way, or exactly the way you'd do it, I did it. My way. In my house. I learned from it. And that's okay. It's an accomplishment.

Of course, when my house falls apart because I didn't do it the right way, I'll certainly be coming back to you for more of those helpful hints.

Thank you.


My Dog Has at Least Nine Lives
Or she is Animatronic. I haven't quite figured it out, yet.

So, this situation seems to have calmed down a bit for now. My dog, the Wonder Robo-Dog, has returned from the edge of death. She apparently just needed to add a little drama to our lives for some extra attention.

I hopped on a plane and flew out to see my parents and my poor, sickly, cancer-ridden dog over the weekend. The vet had suggested my parents get me out there right away because he feared our dog would not make it through the weekend. We all thought she was a goner after her dramatic turn for the worst last week. She'd stopped eating completely. She'd lost a lot of weight, and among many other highly disgusting ailments that occur to old dogs when their body stops functioning properly, Duchess by all appearances seemed to be on her way to doggie heaven, post haste.

I was upset all week, just absolutely heartbroken that our little family dog had decided to call it quits, without me there. I was worried I wouldn't make it out there in time to say goodbye. The daily reports from my mom told me that she was hanging on and doing a bit better, but we feared we would have to put her down before the weekend was over. I'd even planned to take Monday off from work, just to do whatever we would need to do for Duchess. We just didn't want to prolong her suffering.

I arrived on Friday night, not quite sure what I expected to see when I walked in the door. But, to my surprise, there was my dog, wagging her stumpy little tale and walking over to greet me. Um, last I heard she was an invalid, unable to even get up. She was so thin, and having a hard time with her legs. But, that was actually normal for her. In fact, the only outward appearance of her sudden attack of debilitating cancer was a bright orange bandage on her front leg, there to cover the catheter the vet put in for her I.V.

She seemed fine. A little weak, but fine. I was relieved and very excited to see this, although suddenly feeling a little guilty that my dad had paid to fly me out on short notice. Oops.

The next morning my mom and I took her to the vet for a prognosis report. I held her in the car, and she watched out the window, as the always does. She walked into the building on her leash, like she owned the place. Well, she'd been there enough over the past week, she pretty much does own the place.

The vet and nurses couldn't believe what they saw. Duchess was actually running around the exam room. Well, running as well as an old lady dog with bad legs can run. They removed the catheter from her leg and sent her home with another supply of medicine, since she was apparently going to stick around for awhile to take it. The vet was so sure she wasn't going to be here for much longer, he'd only supplied enough medicine for just a few days.

We took her home and then, well, went shopping. We figured we'd be sitting with the dog all weekend until it was time to take her in to the vet for the last time. But since she seemed to be doing fine, well, there was shopping to do.

Duchess got even better as the weekend went on. We fed her lots of fun stuff, and she was soon following us around demanding more food. She's now eating like a pig that has fasted for a month. This is a good sign. She still has an enormous tumor, and most of her internal organs are out of whack. She technically shouldn't even be able to walk, since two of the discs in her back have long since worn away and her spine has an odd curve to it.

But she apparently doesn't know this, and has decided to stay with us for awhile, in general good health.

We're not even sure what's keeping her running anymore. But we are thankful that she is.


Friday, August 08, 2003

When Softball Turns into WWF Smackdown
There are times in life when I'm not so proud of myself. Unfortunately those times are more often than they should be. I don't know where my brain goes, but it leaves me unable to make good decisions. And sometimes unable to just keep my mouth shut.

When two bad softball teams come together for a game, it begs to reason we shouldn't take ourselves too seriously. Especially in the D League of a city league, one bad team versus another should generally just be a time to have fun and enjoy the sport. This did not happen last night, as my team and another bad team in the league played each other. It got ugly.

We'd had trouble with this team before, which ironically is the team for the local office of a global company with the slogan "Quality in everything we do." Last season they arrived with attitude and generally did not treat us well, making fun of us even though they are not very good themselves. That makes the whole thing less fun for us, because we just want to play and have fun. The D League is not the competitive league, and we don't make fun of other teams in the league. But we also have some tempers on our team, and it sometimes doesn't take much for us to return the attitude favor.

The game last night started well. No problems. Hit, catch, run, throw. We made some points. They made some points. Everything seemed okay.

Then, it happened. A runner rounded second base and headed towards third base. Our shortstop threw the ball to third base to cut her off, and as our thirdbase girl reached up to tag the runner, the runner just decided to plow into her and knock her down. Hard. It was ugly.

So, we are sure the runner is out, yet the umpire called the runner safe. Wha-huh? Not only did she flat out plow into my teammate, she really knocked her down hard, taking her off the base. She was not a small woman, and the force of her running full steam at our player succeeded in knocking our player down hard. The only reason she made it to the base was because she forcefully removed our thirdbase girl from the base. Which I guess led the ump to the conclusion that she was safe. She was actually tagged way before she made it to the base.

Well, third base was ticked. As she should be. She rewarded the runner, who was still sprawled out on the ground clinging to the base like she'd earned it, by kicking her with a faceful of dirt. Not once, but twice. That started a near brawl.

Now, we are a church team playing in a non-church league. But admittedly we get lured into some heated battles with idiots who take D League softball way too seriously. I don't condone the dirt kicking, but I can understand where it came from. We are not in this to run people over and cause injury, just to win a stupid softball game. The runner's decision to make this a full contact sport was a bad decision. It was clear the umps call here condoned the practice of charging other players on the field. And incidentally, he'd made a similar call a few weeks earlier.

So after the dirt kicking, the other team came over in full force to defend their player. Our thirdbase girl's husband came running over from the outfield to have a few words with the ump, in reference to this call and the last time he'd made the same bad call. He was ticked that his wife was just bowled over, and we didn't at least get the call in our favor. We may be a church, but we are tired of our players taking the brunt of knockdowns, while the other team gets away with it. Would they knock Jesus down if He was playing thirdbase? I don't think so.

Now, our biggest guy on the team is about a foot shorter and at least a hundred pounds lighter than the biggest guy on their team. So when their big dude came over to get in several of our guys' faces, it would have been funny had it not been such an angry situation. I play second base, and I had run over near the incident to voice my thoughts on the bad call and the runner's bad decision to run over my friend. A few other players from both teams had now congregated, and the ump seemed to not realize that a fight was about to break out. This had all taken place within about five seconds.

It really was one of those slow-motion things for the next few minutes. Some of my team is trying not to get involved and instead calm people down, but others on my team are furious at the injustice of the situation, and at the potential injury causing decision of the runner. Had a guy been playing third base, Miss Offensive Tackle Runner probably would not have dared to run him down. And she definitely would have been tagged out, much like she had been before she took out our thirdbase player. So my team was thoroughly ticked that our thirdbase girl could really have been injured, and the runner was still called safe.

The ump finally woke up and started threatening to throw people out of the game if we didn't get back into position and start playing. Their big dude was still in the face of my friend's husband, and they were arguing about who should or should not 'bring it on' at that moment.

Their team members in the dugout were laying it on with the yelling and shouting of rude sarcastic comments about how much our team sucks, yada yada. The rest of us started wandering back to our places on the field, still shocked and perturbed at this turn of events. Not only was it a bad call, but the other team was being really rude about it and taking it on longer than it needed to go.

Well, they kept on arguing. The ump was arguing with our players and the big dude from the other team. Then the little punk who was standing at second base started mouthing off to no one in particular, just to be a part of his team's big head. I happened to be in that area, since second base is my area, and this is when I became very non-proud of myself.

I decided to mouth off back to him, just because I couldn't stand his attitude. He was saying that if people are in your way, you should just knock them down. So I told him he might be in my way right now. Keep in mind, I am a tall, skinny white girl, and I am really bad at talking smack when I'm angry, yet I still can't help myself sometimes. I talk big, but likely about things I can't back up, and most of what I say during a heated conversation doesn't come out of my mouth making as much sense as it did in my head. So telling this guy that he's in my way right now, like I'm going to walk over and knock him down on the spot, was obviously a dumb thing to say. While I am not to be under-estimated in my strength and abilities, this little punk, easily the smallest person on their team and definitely shorter and skinnier than me, would probably have had no problem beating the crap out of me. He was very 'street' looking. I am not so much 'street', as scared of 'street'. But even though I've never actually been in a fist fight, at this moment I was seriously wanting to start something with this guy just because he was sincerely asking for it, knowing full well that if he decided to beat up on a girl (me) I would be in serious trouble.

Well he turned around and said something stupid, and he said I should watch myself. He called me 'A-train', which I didn't get and made me laugh. I told him to watch himself, because I couldn't think of anything better to say. And I said if we're playing to knock people down then they'd better watch out because it was our turn to return the favor. He said again that it's the game to knock people down, and I just laughed at him. Since when is softball about knocking people down?

I really wanted to keep arguing with him because I really wanted to win something on the field last night, even if just an argument with an idiot. But whatever he was saying quit making sense and was hard to understand, so I didn't know how to respond. And I was really, really mad, so I'm sure whatever I would have said wouldn't have come out making much sense, either. So I just gave him a cold, icy stare and laughed at him, like I had the upper hand. And then I turned my attention back to the game and checking roll around the field, to make sure all of our players were still accounted for and more or less intact.

Obviously the true idiot was me engaging the loser in a losing conversation, but I wasn't ready to admit that, yet.

So, our playing went downhill from there. We finally resumed play, and we were all too distracted by what had just happened to concentrate on winning the game. The other team continued their jokes and laughing and sarcasm and rudeness throughout the rest of the game, getting a big kick out of every single out they made. And it was not a fun experience. Especially when the game was called early because there was no way we would ever catch up. I think we'd decided we were tired of listening to them, and we all kinda gave up so we could get out of there and away from them.

Of course a better way to handle the situation would have been less dirt kicking and smack talking, and more good sportsmanship and closed mouths, even in the midst of their provoking. We know that, and we are not proud of the way we behaved, although we were in much more control and in better taste than the other team.

But still, when softball becomes WWF Smackdown, the rules and good sportsmanship seem to fly out the window. And I can't help but have a few choice words to say about that.