Sunday, August 31, 2008

Worse than Katrina

Boy, if anyone's praying today, and looking for something to pray about, well, you might want to pray for the poor folks in the path of Hurricane Gustav. All the reports are saying that Hurricane Gustav is going to be worse than Hurricane Katrina.
That's pretty hard for me to imagine. I remember getting up the morning after Katrina hit, and seeing the news reports. I live in a land of dire warnings. A land where the worst is continually predicted, but never actually happens. I remember watching these news reports and being stunned, just stunned, to see that the worst had happened. My feelings that day were not so much different from the awful day I watched the endless looping of the collapse of the Twin Towers on September 11th. And now they're saying that Gustav will be
Worse. Than. Katrina.
Oh my God.
I am glad to see that the government response is different. Evacuation is mandatory. And I hope that FEMA handles the situation a little better than last time. It is a sickening thing to see great fields of FEMA trailers rotting away because the agency is not organized enough to get them to people who had (have) no place to live. I think every person in America would say, "Heck yeah. It's a darn good plan to have contingency supplies to help Americans in case of disaster." We ponied up that money, and it was used to pay for things that were never even brought out in the wake of a disaster of Katrina's epic proportion. That's wrong. There is bitterness about that down south, and I don't think that's misplaced. They sell tee-shirts down there that read: 'FEMA's Emergency Plan: Run, run, as fast as you can.' I think the people are handling things just a wee bit differently this time, as well. With the memories of Katrina still fresh in their minds, people are leaving. That is something that I could not understand last time. Even after the storm was over, people were refusing to leave. 'This is my home,' they'd say. Or 'Everything I own is right here and I'm not leaving it,' or 'I've spent my whole life here.' I have been poor before, but I have never been so poor that my hard earned stuff became more important than my life. This is not just words here, because there were actually people who starved to death with their stuff.
I sit and I watch the approach of a storm. When I go to church this morning, I know that we'll pray. And the folks who have been on the teams to rebuild (our church works in Slidell), will be wondering about about the friends they left there after each trip down, after countless hours of sweating side by side with the residents of that town as everyone pitched in to rebuild. That's all any of us can do right now. Watch and pray. The residents are fleeing once again, and the whole thing takes on a sepia colored deja vu. I hope that everyone has learned something from Katrina, and I hope that they apply what they've learned from her to dealing with Hurricane Gustav. Mostly, though, I'm praying that Gustav just blows itself out before it gets here.

Summer Cold

I was over at Lavinia's blog site. She has a summer cold. Summer colds are the worst, so I felt pretty bad for Lavinia.
I was pretty tired when I went to bed last night. I was in the middle of a strange dream that involved whirling beds when I woke mself up with my own sneezing. It must be a computer virus. I hope I haven't given it to any of you.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


No (wo)man is an island. We all live lives that are wound around the lives of others, lives entangled in the lives of others, bright threads weaving not only our own story, but adding to the tapestries of other lives. You don't realize how deeply these lives are entangled until something happens in their lives, and you feel the resonating in your own heart, in your own life. That can be a bad thing, such as the empty place a child leaves when they move into their own life, or the waves in your own life because your child struggles.
I've been down in the dumps lately, and you don't really get the full impact of that, because (ahem) I discovered the joys of scheduling your posts. I wrote nearly all of this week's posts on Monday when I was home with my infected foot. Life's been weighing heavy on me, and I knew that I would not be much for writing through the rest of the week. Lo, I was right.
Last night, though, I went to my sister Anna's graduation from LPN school. She'll move into a better paying job, which will be a big help because she begins nursing school at Titusville on Tuesday. I sat in the crowd with Tim and celebrated her big moment. She looked so happy. When she stepped forward we all leapt to our feet to cheer. There were better than two rows of us. We'd been looking forward to the moment since the ceremony started. Unfortunately, my sister married a man with a name that begins with a 'W', so we had quite a wait. I told her husband Dave that really, things would have been so much easier if she would have married a man named 'Aardvark'. We could have been back eating cake while everyone else sat there waiting. But the ceremony was nice, and the cheering was nice, and hanging out in the reception area was nice. Anna laughed like crazy when she saw that Tim and I had decorated their car. And we all hung out in the parking lot talking and laughing 'til we cried. I ran a little boy around the parking lot on my shoulders while he waved a sparkling banner. My sister announced "I want ice cream!" and since it was her special day, we all went for ice cream. We acted the fools, took up 4 tables, indulged in hilarity and hijinks. It was past our bedtime when Tim and I finally headed up the hill to home.
I've been down in the dumps lately, and I really hate when I'm like that. I'm sorting it all out, and I know it will come right. The griefs and struggles of people I love have been weighing on my own heart. But, last night, even though it was not my big day, I had a reason to rejoice and celebrate. Funny thing. It works both ways. The lives of others give you cause to rejoice. They also give you cause to grieve. In the end, though, the lives of others enrich my own life immeasurably and I am blessed by them all.

Friday, August 29, 2008


Today, I gimped up the great stone steps of our venerable courthouse to drop off some paperwork to have the taxes on our project house lowered. It will some day be worth what they say it is, but a repo house that had to be gutted (and was bought for 1/3 of what the tax roles have it listed at) certainly needs to be reassessed.
Somebody had been smoking dope on the courthouse steps, and left the butt sitting right there.
That takes some nerve, doesn't it? I mean, right there on the steps of the courthouse?
Just a few weeks back, an obese cop sitting in his car at a park assured me that our town does not have a drug problem.
You know, I think that he may need to get out more.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Groceries, Part II

On yesterday's post, one comment said "Give me a toddler going through my purse and chomping on my favorite tube of lipstick again . . ." I stopped to ponder that for, like, two seconds. Unlike Pencil Writer, I don't miss shopping with toddlers in the grocery store.
I remember Dylan. Curious and always thinking. And he would ask the most terrible questions at absolutely the wrong time. One of his favorite places to think up questions was in the store. I fielded questions like "I been thinking, how's that baby going to get out of your tummy anyways? You don't got doors." I ignored that question at first. He assumed I didn't hear him, so he asked it louder. He had a pretty loud voice anyways. By the time he was done, I was trying to shush him by telling him we'd talk about it in the car, and he was bellowing "But why do we have to wait to get to the car?!!!! I wanna know right now!!!!!" And it felt like the whole store was staring and snickering. A few months later, I was pushing the cart, his baby sister asleep in the seat, and Dylan riding on the back. I picked up a box of prophylactics and tossed them into the cart. Dylan reached into the cart, grabbed the box and loudly said, "What are these for, mommy?" Being a mother who learns from past mortifications, I quietly said, "They're so we don't have more babies at our house." He said, "Oh." in a matter of fact way, and put the box back in the cart. I quietly patted myself on the back for handling this properly. Until we got to the checkout line. Dylan was helping me put the stuff on the conveyor. He grabs the prophylactics and yells, "You know what? I'm GLAD we're not having more babies at our house, cause I don't want to share my room with NOBODY!" All this while waving the box over his head. It wasn't just the people behind me that were laughing. It was the folks in adjacent lines, cashiers, baggers, all of them.
PW? Yeah. I don't miss shopping with toddlers at all.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


I remember grocery store expeditions where I'd be pushing a cart and I'd have a kid right behind me pushing another. Before we were done, we'd fill those carts. When we had five kids at home, a fair percentage of them teenagers, it certainly took a lot of groceries to keep them quiet and content. (We had discovered they got ornery when they were not fed. Probably a hereditary thing. I'm the same way, myself.) As the years went by, as kids left the nest, the trips to the store became a little less dramatic. The people waiting in line behind me were a lot nicer.
I went to the grocery store today. I bought our groceries for the week. Came to 16 items.
This 'empty nest' thing is going to take some getting used to.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


more animals

A Day to Myself

My foot and I will visit the doctor today. I'm having trouble getting a boot on, although the thing does not hurt nearly as much as it did over the weekend. I've noticed that the more I'm on it, the the more it begins to trouble me. I'm a stoic, and tend to ignore things like this, but I've decided that I need to at least get a tetanus shot, and it would be good for it to be checked out. I really can't afford to have it become infected. That would knock me on my ass for a while, and I don't have a while to sit around and recuperate. So I'm taking a sick day.
There's something else as well. I need a day to myself. I hunger for a day to myself. I've moved my sister into her new life. I've moved Cara into her new life. Other lives internect with your own, so all of their changes have affected my life. In a very real way, I'm beginning a new life as well. In the midst of this, there is Brianna. There is work. These two things lead me to a new place in my faith: I've had to take a deep breath and turn them over to God, trusting that they will work out as they're meant to work out. This means that I have to turn Brianna and my own hopes and dreams for her over to God. His will be done. I love her dearly, but she's walking a path I cannot know. I will trust her. I will trust God. I love my job too, but my own hopes and dreams are not the issue here. God's plan is. So I let go of my own desires. That, too, will work out as it is meant to work out. And so I go, stumbling my way through my days, waiting for things to come clear, looking for the joys that make a life. They are there. In the midst of this frustrating time, there are joys, lots of them, and I treasure them, perhaps even more than I would in less challenging times. But I am just so everlastingly weary. I am just discouraged. I am tired, my foot aches, I can't think of the words to say, I can't think of the words to pray. I'm about worked out, between the job, between the things of life, between the home renovations. I'm burnt out, with no opportunity for recreation.
So today, I am taking a day to myself. I will visit my doctor for a tetanus shot, possibly antibiotics, although it does seem that the foot is not so swollen (although wearing a boot is out of the question). I will take it easy. I will read a book. I will catch up. I will breathe, and think, and count my many, many blessings. I'm going to take a nap today. Maybe I will find words again, words to say, words to pray. My friend Karen sent me an e-mail. "The front porch is open," she said. Maybe today, I will take advantage of that.

Monday, August 25, 2008

In an Instant

Cara set me up with an IM service before she left. We practiced for a few minutes, but it was frustrating. She was at her lap top tapping away, and I was at my desk top, and I was saying "Slow down! I'm still typing! I can't keep up with you!" Altogether, a frustrating period, and I thought to myself, "Yeah, this IM thing? Not going to like it." But when a daughter is going away and is looking for ways to keep in touch with you, well, you take what you can get.
Saturday night, she called. When she was 13, she was a junior counsellor at a local church camp. She met a boy. I remembered him. Vaguely. We discouraged this very strongly. She was a child, after all. I knew that they had e-mailed, off and on. He lives about 40 minutes from the university. He is a corrections officer. They're both grown-ups now, and after this back and forth, on and off correspondence thing they've had going on through the years, he showed up to take her out to dinner, bringing a dozen yellow roses for her. He's coming back to watch Charlie Wilson's War with her and her room mate. Her room mate is yet another camp counsellor, so they are all acquaintances.
I listened to her chatter and asked questions, and at the end of the conversation, I said, "Instant message me at some point tomorrow, so that we can make sure I know what I'm doing." "I did that today," she said. "I wonder why I did not get it," I mused in that confused way I do when I'm talking to Cara about computers.
"Mom, you have to be logged in," she tells me.
Huh. Who knew?
Yesterday, I dumbed around, found the link, and got myself logged in. I talked to Jeanie. Oh, it was very exciting. Real, live back and forth conversation. I kept thinking "How strange that I am talking to someone in Australia! The wonders of technology! Who'd have dreamed it?"
In the midst of my marvelling, I was had a flashback. I remember my grandpa sitting in his kitchen, having coffee out of his heavy white mug with the blue inside, marvelling about the fact that he'd never believed for an instant that he'd watch men walk on the moon. "Holy rastafied!Who'd have dreamed it?" he said, marvelling over the wonders of technology. Holy rastified. I've no idea what it means, but it was the only epithet that I ever heard pass his lips.
Dear heavens. I got a glimpse of my long gone grampa. I am him.
Holy rastafied.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Brianna got engaged. Mike took her outside during hurricane Faye to propose. It seems oddly appropriate. According to her 'My Space' that I'm not supposed to know about, she is a pagan now. There's talk of goddesses and she professes to believe in fairies and elves and the like. It doesn't make sense to me. There's also pictures of her in a leather collar, and spiked leather arm bands, bathed in a strange greenish light. She does not appear to be wearing a shirt. My heart just froze in my chest at the lack of expression in her eyes. I don't know where my daughter went, but scanning those pictures, I couldn't find her in any of them. She's planning her 'handfasting rite' , and I don't imagine that we will be invited. She's pretty mad, perceiving us as unsupportive.
My ex will have a hissy fit about the pagan cult thing. He's always been preaching religion at her, and getting mad that she drinks, and smokes, and dresses too provocatively, etc. His prim and proper wife is so religious that she can look down from her lofty perch right up there next to Christ, and find fault with us all. Because she has chosen him, I imagine that this made him feel redeemed somehow, that a woman of such a religious caliber could see beyond his past. Now he's trapped.
I sit in the middle of these two extremes, sickened by my daughter's choices, but not surprised. I wonder that my ex-husband and his perfect church wife should be shocked. When a father betrays his daughter's trust, when a pillar of the Episcopal Church does the unthinkable, how can he be surprised that the daughter grows up to feel no religious inclinations at all? When he molested our child, he not only screwed with her body. He screwed with her mind. He screwed with her perception of God.
Even after 12 years,
my own anger begins to bubble yet again.
Is it ever over?
Yet again, I wonder if my faith is strong enough to endure this.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Tim Told Me So

I ran a nail through my foot.
It didn't hurt initially.
But now, my foot is swollen, and aching like crazy, and I had to leave early to soak it, because my shoe started to get very tight, and my foot began to throb. I had no choice but to confess to Tim what had happened after keeping my little secret all morning. I had no choice but to endure 'the look', as I was leaving, and when he gets home, I'll get a lecture about how he's 'told me so.' And it is true; he's been on my butt like a dirty diaper telling me that I shouldn't be wearing loafers while doing home renovations.
My reponse has been
"I'm watching myself Tim."
"I'm being careful, Tim."
"Geesh. Will you leave it go already?"
Yup, that's what I said.
Man. I am so going to hear it when he gets home.
Even though I know I have it coming, I'm not looking forward to our evening.

Cara Goes to College

We dropped Cara off at college yesterday. Although I am the kind of mom who watches her children grow, taking pride in their confidence, feeling like a success when I see the kids competently meeting the challenges in their own lives, still, it was hard to get in the car and leave her behind. We delayed the departure as much as possible. After all, we had to trouble shoot the little refrigerator, which started hesitantly, but was fine after our initial astonishment. We had to assemble the magenta pole lamp with attached reading lamp. Things to be packed up, admonitions to be given. Of course, we had to have supper together. And then the inevitable Walmart expedition to pick up the things that we didn't know we needed. I snuck a card into the basket. We love funny cards in this family. The one I picked said, "Now that you're gone, I have no one to talk to but myself." Inside it read, "I find that I am intelligent and have a lot to add to the conversation, but I still miss you anyways." I hid it in her room for her to find later. One last trip to her dorm room. I cautioned her to be careful and sensible, and she told me that she would never ever leave her dorm room because she would be studying all the time.
And then it was done, and we were in the car, headed home with her friend Sarah in the back, leaving Cara at Clarion. Sarah leaves for Mercyhurst next Friday. They've been inseparable since the second grade. It seems impossible that they're grown up, and although I'm grateful for Cara's confidence and her competence, I bawled my mascara off anyways.
We're home now, and the house is so quiet, I am feeling like I could cry again.

Friday, August 22, 2008


The Brummie has said that I'm it, so here goes:

My uncle once: served under George Patton, and hated him.

Never in my life: have I felt that I was smart, even though people tell me that I am.

When I was five: I came home to find my mother crying while ironing and watching President Kennedy's funeral procession.

High School was: a place that I did not fit.

I will never forget: when Tim told me that he was supposed to be 'my rock.'

Once I met: Carol Burnett

There's this girl I know: who is so afraid to take a stand, to offer an opinion, to get involved in the most minor controversy, that she almost seems not to exist at all.

Once, at a bar: I have not been to a bar in years. Once when I was young, there was a very rude waitress at a bar that my friends and I frequented. We left her a tip. We took a glass of water, dropped a penny in it, turned the thing upside down with a coaster on top of it, pulled the coaster out and left. She discovered this as we were getting our coats, and we laughed ourselves silly while she screamed her head off. Now that I am older, I would simply fix her with a cold look and request to speak with the manager immediately.

By noon: my caffeine is wearing off.

Last night: We packed my car with Cara's college stuff.

If only I had: more time with my children.

Next time I go to church, it is my turn to be worship leader.

What worries me most: is the cruelty in the world.

When I turn my head left I see a drop leaf table, the top covered in framed pictures, the shelf filled with books.

When I turn my head right, I see sliding glass doors with a view of my woods.

You know I'm lying when I tell you not to feel bad that your dog was humping my leg.

What I miss about the 80s is the Twin Towers.

If I were a charactor in Shakespeare, I would be something from A Midsummer's Night Dream. I love to laugh.

By this time next year, I will be 52.

A better name for me would be: I don't have an answer for this. I am what I am. I don't spend a lot of time casting around for a better name. Although when Tim calls me 'hon', it suits me just fine.

I have a hard time understanding cheaters.

If I ever go back to school I will have a hard time tolerating the language of my classmates.

You'll know I like you if I tell you so.

If I ever won an award, the first person that I would thank is: Well. I don't expect to win any awards. I guess that I'd probably thank the academy.

Take my advice, people are a mixed bag. If someone doesn't like you, they'll find plenty to criticize. If people do like you, they'll find plenty to praise. If someone criticizes you endlessly, it is more of a reflection of them than you. Don't take it to heart. Simply move on to people who can see plenty to praise in you. And if you can move on without saying "Kiss my ass" to the negative nellie (or nels) then you're doing very well, my friend.

My ideal breakfast is an 'everything' bagel and two cups of coffee.

A song I love but do not have 100 years by Five for Fighting.

If you visit my hometown, go to Jake's Rocks.

Why won't people simply 'live and let live'?

If you ever spend the night at my house you probably won't get any sleep, because I'll be asking lots of questions, finding out all about you.

I'd stop my wedding for: Sadly, when Tim and I got married, I was terrified. I would have stopped the wedding for just about anything. 10 years later, it's worked out so nicely that really, I'd like to have another wedding, just so that I could relax and enjoy myself.

The world could do without intolerance.

I'd rather lick the belly of a cockroach than to deal one more day with bipolar disorder in a loved one.

My favorite blonde is: Jees. I suck at stuff like this. I can't think of anyone. All the fine folks I know tend to be on the gray side....

Paper Clips are more useful than some people I know.

If I do anything well, it's encouraging others. I'm also pretty good at comforting.

I can't help but stand up for the underdog.

I cry over books, movies, children. I cry when I'm happy. I cry when I'm mad. I cry when I'm tired. I cry when life is so rich and full that there are no words. Basically, I'm a menopausal sap. Run. Run for your lives.

My advice to my children is : Don't be afraid to choose. Make sure your choices are wise because you have to live with them, but don't be afraid to make those choices. Life is for living. Work hard, play hard, suck the marrow from life's bones. Yeah. They look at me like I'm nuts too.

And by the way, I cannot throw. When I was in the army, I could throw a grenade very far.
It would go miles into the air, and fall back to the ground ten feet from where I stood. I was deemed a 'hazard', and was not allowed to throw any more grenades. Luckily, I had a MOS that pretty much guaranteed that I would not be called upon to lob grenades.

Okay. Who's next?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Busted Truck

Mikey went through a period where everything she touched ended up broken. She fretted about whether it was her or not. At one point, she posted about breaking her truck. Yeah. You know what? Mikey is an amateur. Me? I can bust a truck, people.
Yesterday, Cara and I went to Edinboro University with my sister and a truckload of her most precious things (three boxes of teddy bears, five boxes of food (the irony here is that the woman has no stomach!), I microwave, a refrigerator, shoes, fifty of her most favorite outfits (Cara advised her to wear an outfit, turn it inside out and wear it once more, and then throw it away. She had enough clothes to last the entire school year, and we would not have to load her back up when she returns home) , bed stuff, even a little plastic foliage arrangement, her bike...oh jees. Did I mention that my sister is a hoarder?
We got her unloaded and then went out to eat. We stopped at Walmart for a bike lock and a surge protector. Then we headed back to help organize her little room. When we got to the college, I discovered that the truck made a horrible noise when I tried to put it in park or neutral. I tried to shut it off. The key assembly would not turn. The truck began to smell burn-y. I popped it back into drive, and sat there with my foot on the brake. Cara's cell was dead. I hadn't brought mine along, and my sister had an idea that she really wanted to take hers into the dorm when she went. She called Tim while I sat in a running truck, the only thing between my sister's dorm being turned into a parking garage was my foot on the brake. Tim did not answer. So basically, we threw my sister out of a running truck, and set off. I felt badly about that, but we had a hundred miles to drive, and the needle was inching toward empty.
Cara, being stalwart and alert in all emergency situations promptly dozed off while I drove carefully, planning. I figured that if the truck did burst into flames, I would pull over, tell Cara to get out in a calm voice, and then simply ease the thing into a tree in an open space away from all buildings and people and then get out myself, and let the dang thing go up in flames. (Do you like how I made it look like an option...I'd let it go up in flames.) Anyways, I felt better to have a plan. Plans are good. I always feel so much better when I have a plan. As we traveled down the road the trip home seemed way longer than the trip there. We had no radio. It was dead. I had no idea what time it was. Cara's little head bob-bob-bobbed along as she dozed, slack jawed. And the gas gauge got more and more solidly in the red. This troubled me. I went off the pre-arranged route and went home a different way, figuring that if we did run out of gas, at least I would be near an area where I knew people. For the first time it struck me...what the heck was I going to do when I got home? And also it struck me that I had to pee. It wasn't really at the point where the need could be described as urgent, but I knew from past experience that it would get there. I began to rue the two large ice teas that I had at Pizza Hut with my vegetable pizza.
We finally got to the top of our own mountain, and Cara woke up. She said, "Well, at this point, we can coast home." I said, "Yeah, but what are we going to do when we get there? I can't shut the truck off. And I do so have to pee."
We both began to pray that our genius with all things mechanical would be home when we got home. But lo, one of us had displeased God, and our prayers were not answered. I told Cara it was probably her, and sent her in to our phone, while I sat in the yard in our running truck, with my foot on the brake, wishing I was a man. (The world is their urinal.) Cara came out with the phone, and had me put it in park while she said "Can you hear that?" He could. Moreover, he dropped what he was doing and came straight home. That's when I started to get nervous. When Tim treats it as an emergency, why then it most certainly has become one. Me and my bladder waited nervously. Nervous and a full bladder? Never a good combination. Never.
Tim showed up, listened with his eyebrows all at their questioning place, had me drive it to the garage, and pulled the fuel pump. It died. Then he told me to put it into park and leave the key in it. When I dropped it into park, the engine began to roll over. Tim said, "Hold it, hold it, hold it! (my immediate thought was, Oh, believe me, I am... ) "The starter is kicking in," Tim said, and he disconnected the battery too.
Silence never was so golden. Tim stood there staring at the truck. He's got no clue what's wrong. Cara helpfully noted that she doesn't have nearly as much stuff as Eileen, and that we can 'probably' get it all in two cars, if we take the back seat out of the Intrigue. We walked back up to the house. Tim said, "You probably did not stop for milk." I did not yell. I'm good that way.
Mikey broke the armrest off her truck.
That ain't nothing. I know how to bust a truck!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Set Up

Yesterday, Stevie Wren commented on her site that I was a straight shooter. That's funny. I think of myself as plain spoken, so it pleases (and surprises) me when others see me as I see myself. So often that is not the case.
We've been in discussion with our daughter and her boyfriend. They are talking about coming here. This makes us nervous because Michael seems to have a problem working. Brianna's work ethic is not the greatest either. She just lost her second job since moving to Florida three months ago. Michael has lost one, and simply has not found another. Tim gave Mike a web page to look for a job in our area. I told Brianna that she's making poor choices, and that she really needed to take a good hard look at what she was doing. Outraged, she tried to tell me that Mike is a worker. Fact: Mike has moved to Florida because he had been 'set up' in a job three times in the last three years. He lived with, and off, his father all three times, and then quit those jobs to move where other relatives had 'set him up' with even better jobs, living off/with those relatives. He just came from Michigan, where he was living in a house that belonged to his mother. Now he's back down in Florida. He and Brianna had both been 'set up' in jobs. Brianna at Radio Shack where Mike's stepmother manages, and Mike's father had 'set up' a job for Mike in construction. Mike never got his construction job, and Brianna never got a Radio Shack job. They live with Mike's father and stepmother. As far as I can tell, Mike has never been self supporting in his life. Brianna is self supporting from time to time.
Brianna and I had yet another discussion yesterday. Mike has graduated from security training, so he's 'guaranteed to find work when they get to Pennsylvania', she explained. I told her that if Mike was coming to Pennsylvania looking for a security job, it would be a while. He needed to come here and take what he could get, and look for his dream job from the safety net of another job. We also reiterated that they could only stay one month and then they were on their own. This rankled Brianna. I told her that we loved her but that neither one of them appeared to be workers and we were no longer in the enabling business. She went from rankled to mad. These job losses are not her fault, not their fault. Then she had to go. She didn't know what was wrong with her phone, but there was a lot of static.
The phone rang later. A very angry sounding woman introduced herself as Mike's mother, and began to give me an earful for implying that her son was not a worker. I pointed out Mike's pattern of moving in with relatives, of being 'set up' in jobs that never worked out. That he had lived with her for months, doing odd jobs for her. In her funny little stories about Mike, she related that he could not be paid in advance if you wanted the work to be done. "Well," she sighed. "That's true." She also said that Mike had a tendency not to put a lot of effort into job hunting. But then she went on to say that this last situation was not Mike's fault. His father claimed to have them 'set up' in jobs that were nonexistant. She then began to detail Mike's father's shortcomings. Basically the theme of that conversation went something like this: 'The man was a very bad father, so being burdened with the two of them now are his just desserts.' She went on to say, "He can just be a father, because God knows, he was a pretty poor one while Mike was growing up." I listened and then pointed out that Mike was a little too old to be needing a daddy at this point. She stopped, shocked and outraged. "Listen," I said, "Don't you think for one minute, that I do not love my child. I will not, however, support them for the rest of their lives. Whether they have a future together or apart, they need to learn how to take care of themselves. We've got four other children. Three of them are grown and self supporting, the fourth headed off to college. Brianna needs to get into counselling and get herself sorted out, and start making good choices. I see Mike as the same way. We'll help, but we're not enabling. They both can get jobs here if they want them, but they need to come here with a mindset that the most important thing is to get a job as quickly as possible. I don't want to hear anything about Mike looking for a job in the security field, and simply not considering any other jobs. We are not letting them live with us for months on end. Both of them need to grow up."
At the end of my speech, Mike's mother sputtered, "But Mike said that Tim was going to set him up in a job, and that you folks had apartments..."
We had never discussed living arrangements at all, other than to say that they could only stay one month at our house. Our 'job advice' was two websites to local companies currently hiring. I explained this to her once again. It is important that they begin to set themselves up. After I hung up the phone, I realized the irony. Mike and Brianna, and all this talk of being set up. The only ones being 'set up' are Tim and I.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bear in the Backyard

We have a bear in the back yard. Right now, he's in the woods, but we're hoping to get a picture of him if he comes in range of the yard light.
Stay tuned.

Excuse my French

This has been a shitty summer. There is the unresolved issue with the secretary, which has been weighing heavy on my heart. I love my job, and worry that 'pushing' for a resolution may be shooting myself in the foot. Lord knows, I've not made any friends in the office over it. It's much easier just to expect me to get over it, than to modify and limit her office behavior. So that's been rough.
My sister has been with us for the last month. Having another person in the house can be stressful as well. We don't know each other all that well. She is constantly seeking approval. She does that by cleaning constantly (jees, sit down or something!), or talking constantly (even in the morning!), or cooking constantly, generally foods which we should not be eating anyway. After a bout with a whacked out thyroid and menopause combined, I gained weight, lost weight and then struggle to maintain it. It almost feels like I'm being sabotaged, sometimes. She's lost somewhere between 150 and 200 lbs and she's very proud of this. So I love my sister, but her insecurities drag me down sometimes, mostly because I'm pretty insecure too, but go to great lengths not to show that. (So how do I explain this blog? I don't know, so shush and get off my ass.)
Cara's going to college, putting her independence to the test, making her own decisions, being kind of self centered. There's a lot of emotion that comes with that on both sides, and, like I've said before, I'm not a big fan of drama.
Tim's log cabin? Oh, he didn't get that, but it got into a bidding war. He was bound and determined that the other person was going to pay what it was worth. (Something that he, himself, avoids doing whenever possible.) As the price went up and up, my greatest fear became that we would end up with the place. I wasn't sure we could afford one kid in college, fixing Brianna's teeth, and house payments for another house that we didn't have time to fix up right this minute anyway. I was fretting a lot. Tim was saying, "You know...your problem is that you think too much. Relaaaaaax." And he is normally very practical about money, but he was scaring the wits out of me. I really was thinking that our problem was that he was not thinking enough. So there was that. Dear God, I nearly danced when I heard we'd lost.
There's Brianna and her unresolved issues.
I was named in a lawsuit a couple months ago. I was rearended last summer as I was turning left and pushed into oncoming traffic. It was a horrible crash, being struck head on by a truck going 55 MPH. The battery from my truck hit the car two cars back. I have dreams, and some days, I have to make myself get behind the wheel. I am practical, and this babyishness annoys me. And now I'm in a lawsuit. The insurance company is telling me not to worry. The lawyer is telling me that this is routine, that this is simply 'how it is done', and that I should not lose sleep over it. The guy in the oncoming car is suing everyone involved. I don't understand the legal system, so hell yeah, I'm scared.
Yesterday, at work, I worked a 12 1/2 hour day. I came back to the office, and after everyone left, I turned my blog on, and listened to the music player while I counted bugs. I sang. Long and loud. And I noticed that it made me feel better. So I cranked the music up and counted my traps and sang happily, and slowly I felt the weight of these months easing up a little. And it struck me that Sunday's experience, being trapped inside the fence was an allegory. I was in a shitty place, but I was able to free myself. A little wisp of confidence unfurled. A still, small voice inside me whispered "This, too, shall pass." And I sang along with Bob Seger. "Isn't it funny how the night moves, with autumn closing in...."

Monday, August 18, 2008

Fed up with Discoveries

Since I am hauling a truck load of stuff to my sister's dorm room at Edinboro University on Wednesday, and then hauling another truckload of stuff to Cara's dorm room at Clarion University on Friday, I'm trying to do my work in the remaining three days. So I worked Sunday afternoon, which I don't often do. I don't have any dry ice to bait the light traps, but I was able to set all my gravid traps which don't need dry ice. I set one trap at the sewage treatment plant at the local high school. That plant is behind the school, downhill from the football field. I have the keys to that plant. The operator fell in once. It was pretty traumatic, I guess. She was taken to the hospital where she discovered that she was considered a biohazard. She was stripped naked and disinfected, got a series of shots too numerous to count, and had to go home in a paper gown because her clothes were incinerated. The school maintenance staff were so horrified by this that when I asked for admittance, they simply handed me the keys to the gate to get on the field, and the keys to the plant itself. "We don't get paid enough to deal with that kind of s**t." So I've had the keys ever since. Also quick to say, I'm darn careful, since I've no desire to become a biohazard, have lots of shots, get my clothes incinerated, and walk around in public in a paper gown.
Anyhow, today, when I was driving back, I noticed that the school yard was all ripped up by some (probably) young yahoo with a four wheel drive truck. I unlocked the gate and let myself on the field, and then drove back to the sewage treatment plant to do what I needed to do. By the time that I was done, I discovered that I'd been locked inside. A school staffer, driving by, noticed the torn up yard, and the open gate, did some investigating and locked up the football field, unaware that somebody was working down there. I discovered that my cell phone got no service from that particular site. Also, it took me some time to unlock the padlock on the outside of the gate from the inside of the gate, but I discovered that it can be done. Thank goodness for small hands.
Between discovering my drywall talents on Saturday, and the amazing discoveries Sunday, I'm beginning to wonder if discovery is ever a good thing.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


I've been discovering a lot about myself lately. I've been making a real effort to push myself out of my comfort zone, to challenge myself, to learn new things. Well, today I discovered something new about myself. We were at the other house, and I was doing drywall work. It's drywall over plaster and lathe. The drywall is plastered with that awful textured finish so often seen in the early 60s. It is a dusty, dirty job, and I was dust covered by the time that I was done. Even though I was wearing a mask, the sweat and grime mixed to make streaks on each side of my nose.
Today, I discovered that I am not much fond of drywall work.
Today, I also discovered that I'm very good at it.
Damn it.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Boy on a Bike

There is a little town called Irvine. It has a post office. It has a small stone church that is a couple of hundred years old. Right now it has a huge factory. That same factory stood when I was a child. My dad worked at the National Forge. That company was sold, and is now Ellwood National Forge. My dad had already retired due to health reasons. Son Mike has worked there. He has left to join an oil crew. It's a bit of a relief to me. There have been some serious accidents there. The other downfall to working for this company is that they don't give raises to the people on the floor. Now the workers are trying to establish a union, everyone working in secret, fearful of losing jobs in an area where jobs are in pretty short supply.
We lived outside of Irvine when I was a kid, and I remembered walking in every other week to visit the bookmobile which in those days, the library sent out to service people who could not get into the big city of Warren. We'd walk the couple of miles, crossing a rail road bridge, which always scared the mess out of me. We'd stand in front of the post office with the books that we were returning. We were always early, and we were also afraid of the post master. My mother always made us pick up the mail while we were there, but felt we could not be trusted with the little key. The post master made no secret of what nuisances we were, and always had an angry message to be relayed to my mother. My mother would always point out that it was a small post office, and that he certainly was not overworked, so he could just shut up and get the mail from our box and hand it to us. (Gosh, it was a big relief when we got rural delivery!)
I wonder what I looked like to outsiders in those days. Scrawny, dark haired, nervous, quiet around adults. The librarian on the bookmobile always set aside books just for me. I loved that about her, and I coveted her job. I imagined what it would be like to be her: the travelling seemed glamorous, and I marvelled at her easy grace with people. I figured that she must have about the most glamorous job of anyone in the county.
I now have a county job, and I drive my little red truck from one end of the county to the other. I meet a lot of people, and get a kick out of all of them. I laugh sometimes, thinking about how that-child-that-I-once-was thought it was such a big deal to have a job that took you all over the county. Our county is pretty small, but when you are a kid with a mother who did not drive, a father who worked long hours at the Forge, and your world consisted of the area you were allowed to travel on your bike, and the places you could get on foot, well, most of the county was out of reach. I remember sitting at the top of a power-line rightofway. It was bare, and you could see for some distance, and I dreamed of some day living in the big city of Warren, where things happened. It makes me laugh a little now.
Anyways, I stopped in Irvine the other day for work purposes. A couple of girls watched me warily from across the field as I dipped for larva. A boy on a bike joined them. One of the girls finally got up the nerve to ask what I was doing, and so I showed them, and before you know it, I had eight kids following me around, listening to an impromptu lecture of mosquitoes. They were fascinated by the larva. I pointed out other bugs to observe. I gave them each a pipette, and a sample bottle and told them that they could catch these and watch them develop. A couple of girls wanted to know if there were any jobs where I worked, because their dad needed one. They hung around (at a safe distance) to watch me treat the areas, and then they dispersed one by one, as I put my sprayer back in the truck.
I was taken by the boy on the bike. He was thin and quiet, and he had this look on his face that you recognize when you yourself are also product of an upbringing that very often just simply did not make sense. I guess that's what caught my eye about him. He listened to my little talk, and although the others chattered and asked questions, he listened, and he looked and he said nothing at all. The next day, when I was driving back to my office, I saw him again in Irvine. He was still on his bike and he was scanning a field with a bottle and a pipette in his hand.
We all have a chance to be part of a kid's childhood memories.
I think of the postmaster who figures in mine.
I think of that boy with his bottle and his bike.
I made a different memory.
That's cool, isn't it?

Warnings from the Internet

Summary of My Last Year on the Computer

I must send my thanks to whoever sent me the one about poison in the glue on envelopes because I now have to use a wet towel with every envelope that needs sealing. Also, now I have to scrub the top of every can I open for the same reason. I no longer have any savings because I gave it to a sick girl (Penny Brown) who is about to die in the hospital for the 1,387,258th time. I no longer have any money at all, but that will change once I receive the $15,000 that Bill Gates/Microsoft and AOL are sending me for participating in their special e-mail program. I no longer worry about my soul because I have 363,214 angels looking out for me, and St. Theresa's novena has granted my every wish. I no longer eat KFC because their chickens are actually horrible mutant freaks with no eyes or feathers. I no longer use cancer-causing deodorants even though I smell like a water buffalo on a hot day. Thanks to you, I have learned that my prayers only get answered if I forward an email to seven of my friends and make a wish within five minutes. Because of your concern, I no longer drink Coca-Cola because it can remove toilet stains. I no longer can buy gasoline without taking someone along to watch the car so a serial killer won't crawl into my backseat when I'm pumping gas. I no longer drink Pepsi or Dr. Pepper since the people who make these products are atheists who refuse to put "Under God" on their cans. I no longer use Saran wrap in the microwave because it causes cancer. And thanks for letting me know I can't boil a cup of water in the microwave anymore because it will blow up in my face, disfiguring me for life. I no longer check the coin return on pay phones because I could be nicked with a needle infected with AIDS. I no longer go to shopping malls because someone will drug me with a perfume sample and rob me. I no longer receive packages from UPS or FedEx since they are actually Al Qaeda in disguise.I no longer shop at Target since they are French and don't support our American troops or the Salvation Army. I no longer answer the phone because someone will ask me to dial a number for which I will get a phone bill with calls to Jamaica, Uganda, Singapore, and Uzbekistan. I no longer buy expensive cookies from Neiman Marcus since I now have their recipe. Thanks to you, I can't use anyone's toilet but mine because a big brown African spider is lurking under the seat tocause me instant death when it bites me. And thanks to your great advice, I can't ever pick up $5.00 in the parking lot because it probably was placed there by a molester waiting underneath my car to grab my leg.I can no longer drive my car because I can't buy gas from certain gas companies! If you don't send this message to at least 144,000 people in the next 70 minutes, a large dove with diarrhea will land on your head at 5:00PM this afternoon and the fleas from 12 camels will infest your back, causing you to grow a hairy hump. I know this will occur because it actually happened to a friend of my next door neighbor's ex-mother-in-law's second husband's cousin's beautician...Have a wonderful day....Oh, by the way.....A South American scientist from Argentina, after a lengthy study, has discovered that people with insufficient brain activity read blog posts with their hand on the mouse. Don't bother taking it off now; it's too late.

Friday, August 15, 2008

That Bat

Remember the bat last Friday? And remember how I brought it home and kept it iced all weekend? Yeah. The State Vet from DEP and I had a nice talk this morning. It was rabid. I told her that I thought I should wait a couple weeks and then start drooling and baring my teeth at coworkers, just for grins and chuckles.
Whadaya think?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

60 Minutes Piece

For everyone who has access to '60 Minutes', this Sunday's program is an important program to watch. I defy anyone to watch it and not be compelled to act, to do something to help.

I sponsor Esperance, from Rwanda, through Women For Women, International. For $27 per month, I am providing for her family, and giving her an education and occupational training so that she will have a trade that she can use to provide for her family.

This is the e-mail I received.

"CNN's Anderson Cooper will be highlighting the plight of women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the CBS news magazine, 60 Minutes, this Sunday.

This is a re-airing of the piece televised in January and included a visit to Women for Women International’s offices in the DR Congo. The program will be broadcast at 7:00 pm ET on Sunday, August 17. Please check your local listings for 60 Minutes air times.

In the piece, Anderson Cooper shared the struggles of all the women we serve in the DR Congo. Specifically, he met with Lucienne, a Women for Women International program participant.
Lucienne was held captive, tortured, abandoned by her family, and gave birth to the child of her rapist. Her story is bleak, but she is picking up the pieces of her life with the help of Women for Women International and her sponsor, Deborah. In the interview Lucienne told Anderson Cooper that she named her child Luck. “I named her Luck because I went through many hardships. I could have been killed in the forest, but I got my life back. I have hope.”

After the segment initially aired, many of you wrote to us to tell us how moved you were. We invite you to bring together your friends and family to share with them the work you support and to watch the 60 Minutes piece.

If you can’t watch together, please forward them this email and ask them to watch or record it."

Politics and Crap

We have a pretty uncommon last name, but ironically, it is the name of a very well-to-do man in this area, one who is a registered Republican, and apparently gives lots of money to the GOP. We get a lot of calls for 'Walter'. Walter is actually a second cousin of Tim's but they have never met, and Walter's number is unlisted. The Republican party has been trying to get it from us for years. They think we know what it is, and they are not giving up until they find out his number.
In our house, we are not members of the Republican Party. If we have to pick a side, we would be Democrats, although the line gets increasingly blurry. You've got the liberal Republicans who are not all that different from the conservative Democrats. We vote for the person. I'd say that probably 75% of the time that ends up being a Democrat, so if you calculate odds, I guess that we'd be called Democrats.
The phone rang last night. We are registered on the Governor's 'Do Not Call' list which means that if the phone rings and it is not a friend or relative, you know it's not a salesman, but a politician. Only the governent could pass laws to prevent salesmen from calling, to make sure that they can get through when they ring you up. Anyways, as soon as I heard the voices in the background, I knew it was an election call. Here's the funny part. I plainly hear a voice saying, "The thing is people are believing all this crap," followed by a derisive snort. "Um. Hello?" says I. Very quickly, that voice turns professional, and he identifies himself as calling on the behalf of the Republican party. Very crisply, I said, "We are Democrats at this house," and hung up the phone. I realized later that I'd missed a golden opportunity. I should have said, "Oh. And do you have some crap you want me to believe?"

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Mom's Story

This is not one of my 'mom moments', but it's so funny I thought that I would share.
I recall a time when my son was about 18 months old. I had him strapped into a backpack and was rushing to catch the bus. Apparently I mis-stepped because I fell down an entire flight of stairs (13 to be exact). I was bruised and bleeding and had torn my jeans. but my main concern was, naturally, for my child. My fears were alleviated, though, when from behind me I heard a gleeful giggle followed by, "Again!"

Coffee, Please

I woke up this morning and stretched in the darkness. I felt fairly rested, always a plus. I heard the downstairs clock chime, once, twice. How lovely! 2 AM. I still had sleeping time. I figured that since it was Saturday, I had at least four or five more hours of sleeping time. It felt quite luxurious to roll back over and get my pillows just right. Before I could drift back to sleep, I had figured out that it was not Saturday, after all. My eyes popped open as I registered that bit of information. My alarm clock glowed with the time: 4:06. Twenty four minutes until it was time to get up. Ack.
Now there's a way to start a day...
Not recommended.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Begin Again

The oldest called from Florida. They are thinking about moving here. They've moved from his mother's house in Michigan to his father's house in Florida, now it looks as if they're headed to Pennsylvania. She's been in and out of our house so many times. It has always resulted in chaos and huge dramas, temper tantrums. This time there is a boyfriend in tow who thinks that he's brilliant. Brilliant, but unable to hold a job. Brianna got quite angry when I told her that this concerned me, because 'he can hold a job. He held one for nearly a year.'
If they come, we explained that it is not an open invitation. They are welcome to stay, for a month. After that, they are on their own. Brianna was beginning to seethe when by the time we hung up. I keep repeating to myself, "I will not be her (now their) enabler."
I am just so everlastingly tired of being the villain.
Sick and tired.
I don't think it will ever end.
If anyone has a bi-polar story with a happy ending,
it would be a big encouragement if you could share.

The Pot calls the Kettle Black.

Mikey related some trouble they were having with their truck. Right away, my husband-the-motorhead (or hoon, if you're an Aussie) said, "I think they have a Ford F-350 series. Find out." He loves to diagnose things (although he has yet to figure me out), and his brother drives the same truck for his job as a welder/mechanic for a drilling outfit, so Tim was happily contemplating an evening in front of the computer on his favorite mechanic's site, talking to brother Norm on the phone, and 'fixing' a truck in Arizona. He headed out the door to put the finishing touches on the new gas tank installation for his 'winter rat'. (He will garage store the old Mercedes at the first sign of snow.)
I sent a quick e-mail to Mikey, but Tim had said, "Give them a quick call," and so I did. Wade called back. My sister answered the phone in her deep southern accent. I heard her say, "What?" several times, and finally said, "Let me get my sister..." and I was talking to Wade, with his cowboy accent. I had no trouble understanding him, but when I got off the phone, and told my sister who it was, and that they lived out west in Arizona, she mused, "I dunno, but that boy, he shore talk funny."
I about fell out of my chair. If Cara had been home, she would have raised an imaginary phone to her ear. She would have said, "Pot? This is kettle. Yeah. You're black..."

Monday, August 11, 2008

Don't Tell Jeanie's Mum

I get a number of daily e-mails. Good sensible stuff like bulletins from the BBC and the Washington Post, but I also subscribe to Cara introduced me to the site, and I laugh as hard as she does. It's a strange little world these cats live in, and the 'ceiling cat/basement cat' premise slays me.

Good cats study the commandments of Ceiling Cat.
and seek forgiveness when they stray,
humorous pictures
falling under the influence of the evil Basement Cat

because they understand that in the end, there is a final judgement,

Humorous Pictures

And although this is funny stuff, I can only take them in small doses because (and this will sound anal...) I can't stand the misspelled words and the poor grammar. Cara thinks this only makes the pictures funnier, because cats do not have educations, and this is how they'd write if they had opposible thumbs. Just another thing that the two of us see differently.

From time to time, I really don't have much to write about, or I'm tired, or I'm dealing with some sort of crap and have no time/patience/concentration to figure out something to say. So, I'll cheat, and post a funny picture. Jeanie commented that this site annoyed her, because she thought the jokes would be just as funny if everything was spelled correctly. It's always gratifying to find a kindred soul, even if they live halfway round the world.

I was reading the BBC articles today, and came across this.

I won't tell Jeanie if you don't.

Amended Post: Bush Babe has pointed out that, really, it's their mother that I should worry about, noting that mum used to correct the misspellings and grammar in the letters that they sent home from boarding school...and send them right back. So this post is now amended. Jeanie's on to this, due to something called a feed, so I am busted. Still...don't tell Jeanie's mum.

Happy Monday

Despite the apparent lack of spell check at,
this one made me laugh. Happy Monday, everyone.
And my apologies to Jeanie, who has even less tolerance for poor grammar and spelling than I do.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My Secret

Over at Mary's blog, she and Scotty came up with a new tag. The challenge was to tell something about yourself that people might not know. My first thought was that I'm pretty much an open book. How much more candid can I possibly be? How much more candid should I be? And then it came to me. There is something that I am hiding about myself. There is a deep, dark secret that you all do not know. I'm feeling especially bold today, so I'm going to tell you.
A while back, Jeanie did a post on 'hoons'. I'd never heard the word before, and did some questioning. A hoon is a motorhead. Tim is a motorhead. His first car was a Camaro, and he had the fastest car in Sheffield for a time. We still have a Camaro carefully stored out back. I drove it once. It doesn't drive like a regular car. When I started to pull out from a stop sign, suddenly gravel was flying and the rear end was swinging, and I just about had heart failure. Tim laughed and laughed. I discovered that there is something oddly soul satisfying about driving a powerful car. And when I got home, heart pounding, Tim still chuckling, I got out of that car and said, "Mama sticks to the station wagon from here on out," and I did.
Anyways, Tim goes to the car races sometimes. I hate them. They are noisy and dirty, and there are some icky people there. It's a waste of money to buy me a ticket. I sit there bored out of my mind. Pretty much watch the people. You'll find some pretty strange folk there, men and women alike. (Before people get all outraged, I'm not saying that only freaks go to races. My husband goes, and he's not a freak. Leastways not that you can tell, right off, anyhow). But there are a lot of freaks who like the races, let me tell you. Men with way too much testosterone. Vulgar and rude, and ignorant, picking fights, drinking. Come to think of it, there are a lot of women who apparently have too much testosterone as well. I mean, I'm a strong woman who carries herself like a woman who can take care of herself, but some of these women carry themselves like they would love a chance to kick an ass, anyone's ass. I'm all for assertive and strong. Can't abide outright in-your-face aggressive behavior. But, I digress. I don't go to the races, choosing to stay home with a good book, or to go play Scrabble with my friend Mary.
Mary is the one married to Danny. We've been friends since the first day of seventh grade when we were both lost and looking for room 208 in the strange new world of high school. Anyways, Danny is also a 'hoon'. Worse than Tim though. He used to compete. He's retired from all of that. Now their son, Luke, carries on. Last year, Mary and Danny were talking about stock car football. This is a popular event held at the local county fair. A team consists of three cars, two on the track, one sitting out, ready to step in if a car on the field is disabled. Luke has a team. I went because Tim wanted to see it. and, plus, Mary was going to be there. I discovered, much to my shock, that I like stock car football. I actually yelled so hard that I hurt my throat.
Last night was the big night, and I was excited to go all day long. I worked hard at the house, kept checking the time, casting anxious looks at the sky. It did down pour just as we were leaving the house, but we went anyway, despite the thunder, despite the lightning. And it was so totally worth it!
Luke and Walter line up, waiting for the start.

Here's Luke's car, heading for the giant ball. The goal is to get the ball past the opposing team and over their goal line.

The 'Black and Tans' tried to cut off the Red, White, and Blue, but no one quite knew what to do when Luke's car actually went right up over the ball, and then STALLED. There was one heartstopping moment when the number three car crashed into the ball from the other side. We all held our collective breath that Luke's car would flip up and over backwards. Last year, Walter (who is the one driving number three red white and blue) actually got hit so hard that he flipped several times. We all leaped to our feet with our hands over our mouths, but Walter's arm come out the side window of the upside down car to wave wildly at the crowd. The car was flipped rightside up and the game continued. Luke and Walter won the event last year, with Danny as the back up driver in the spare car.
It wasn't just the 'Luke and Walter and Pete Show', of course. Other teams competed, two at a time, a total of ten teams.
There were some hard fought battles. I discovered that I'd make a pretty poor cheerleader. My cheers seemed to consist of 'GO! GO! GO!' and 'NO! NO! NO!' and 'OH! OH! OH!' There was one prolonged scream of 'Waaaaaaaaatch out!' It is hard to take pictures and scream with both hands over your mouth.

Cars were disabled, and pushed off or lifted off. Note the one hood on number three. 'Happy Birthday, Mom' it read. Next year, Mom probably hopes that the boy just gets her a card. And interesting note to all of this is that twice the skies opened and it poured, and the thunder and lightning provided quite a back drop to the drama on the track. And though many in the crowd bolted at the first rain, the die-hard hoons sat right there. Neither rain, nor snow nor dead of night...pah! the post office has nothing on the hoons, to be sure. In the end, the 'Red, White, and Blue' took it for the second year running. From left to right, Walter, Luke, and Pete. Good job.


There you have it. One thing about Debby that you did not know. If you're reading this, consider yourself tagged. Inquiring minds want to know. What is something no one knows about YOU?

Man. My throat is KILLING me this morning.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Cara wins the Lottery

We don't play the lottery here. We don't go to the big casino, even though it's just up the road on the Seneca Nation. I'm not a big believer in luck. Every gambler that I know loses more than he wins, but they keep on playing, hoping against hope, that they are going to be the next big winner. It happens. Invariably, someone wins, but if you're playing the odds, your odds are not good to win the lottery.
I used to be the night manager at a little convenience store, and we had our 'regulars'. They would come in religiously to purchase their lottery tickets, their instant scratch-offs. One guy would come in, buy a cup of coffee, and he would buy $20 worth of tickets and sit in a corner slowly scratching them off, sipping his coffee, ticket by ticket. He'd usually come up and repeat the process five or six times. This is not an exaggeration. The part that bothered me was that this was not a man who could afford to do that. I'd seen him in there with his family, four or five kids. His wife was heavy and her hair was always dirty.
Tim believes that gambling is the way lazy people try to prosper while avoiding work. I believe that it's the way desperate people pray. I know that Brianna plays the lottery, and she's waiting for a her miracle.
Cara went to Erie with her college roommate. Last night she called to shout my ear off. I made out 'lottery ticket', and 'guess how much I won?!!!!' "Slow down," I said, "Quit yelling. Now what happened?" She took a deep breath and explained. "I never played the lottery before, so I put a dollar in the machine, just to see what would happen and I got a ticket and when I scratched it off, I won!!!! Guess how much I won?!!!!!! Guess!!!!!!!" Her voice was starting to get all loud again. "How much did you win, Cara?" She roared "TWO BUCKS!!!! That one little ticket...I doubled my money!!!!!" I laughed and said, "So tell me, what did you do next?" "Well, " she says, "I was going to put it back in the machine, but I figured that's what the machine wanted me to do. So I went over and bought a cup of coffee."

Friday, August 8, 2008


I was on the phone this morning, making appointments to handle a couple of complaints when another call came through. A man was calling to have a dead bird submitted for testing. Also wanted to let me know that he had found three dead bats in the last week. Huh. Even though bats have nothing to do with my job, I kind of got the idea that this ought to be reported. Had no idea who to call so I called the game commission. My favorite officer is on leave, but I talked to another fellow from some distance away. I explained to him that I shipped bird samples and that I had a dead bird kit in my truck that I could use to store the bat. We agreed to meet up on Monday, and I would hand off my little dead friend.
When I got to the house, the bird was untestable, being in the advanced stages of decomposition. The bat was hanging about face level at the back door. I could understand the poor woman's heebie jeebies. However, when I reached for the bat, he weakly raised his head and bared his little teeth at me. Well. Now this was a fine predicament. The woman wanted him gone. I was not going to kill him. I tried to shoo him away with a newspaper. He raised his head, bared his teeth, but did not move from his Christmas light roost. The two of us stood there staring at the thing. "Well," I said, "that's certainly not normal behavior." The woman said, "It couldn't be rabies, right? Because he's not foaming at the mouth or anything." So I turned to her and started to explain rabies, the fact that there the so called 'furious' rabies, but there is also 'silent' rabies cases where the affected creature simply acts sick. Much to my shock, the woman's eyes went wide, her mouth flew open and the loudest scream I'd ever heard rent the air. Just that quickly, the woman was gone. She leapt into her garage and slammed the door in my face. I stood there staring at her, wondering what the hell the bat was doing behind my back, scarcely daring to move. Slowly, carefully, I turned my head to see the bat still hanging on his Christmas light. I turned back to the garage door which had opened just the tiniest crack. A small sliver of her face peeked through. "He moved his head while you were talking!" she whispered hoarsely.
You ever have someone scream in your face?
I am proud to say that I maintained my professional composure.
Translate this to: 'I did not wet my pants.'

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Lost Summer

I lost summer.
Yesterday, I was out and about, and I realized that there was the drone of a buzzing insect (a cicada? not sure) but it is a sound that I associate with fall. Stevie Wren asked me, some time ago, how I planned to age. She also said that I seemed like a person that thought about things like that. Yes. Yes, I do. I want to slow down. I want to age slowly.
It seems like I have spent my life doing what I need to do. That was always my primary motivation for nearly everything. I put a husband through graduate school. I worked my ass off then, working two jobs. I couldn't stop. And then when we moved to the country, to Michigan, I thought, "Ah. This is my time. I've got three children, and I can be a stay at home mom, and do all those mom things, be a home-maker. My husband at the time wanted a professional woman. I worked because if I did not, in his mind, I was married to him for the money, 'using' him. My worth was very much tied into the amount of money I brought into the house. And when that marriage came crashing down around my ears, I had to work harder than ever. You don't get support from a man in prison, and the government does not help working women. Period. And then Tim came along. He is a worker, and he is quite candid that what impressed him most about me was that I was the hardest working woman he'd ever seen, came to work nicely dressed, but did not hesitate to get right in there and do what needed to done, never mind the dirt. And 10 years later, we have prospered. We've gotten three of our five through college, paying for it semester by semester. Cara begins college this fall, the fourth. And suddenly, we do not have to work so hard. We are in a good place. We have an income independent of our jobs. The dust is beginning to settle. We can slow down.
At the beginning of the summer, my mindset was 'this is Cara's last summer, my last summer with my last child.' Although I intended to savor it, Cara had a different mindset: 'this is my last summer with my friends. She intended to savor every minute of it. She was gone a lot. We went positive for WNV in July, making me busier than usual at work. There was the turmoil with the secretary. Family stuff. Sick dog. Suddenly, before you know it, I'm listening to the sounds of autumn and realizing that I did not, not even once, take the time to swing on the porch swing and watch the lightning bugs.
Last night, we were in the stores, shopping for Cara's dorm room. A foot locker, a magenta floor lamp with a reading light on the side. Pillows to coordinate with the bedding she'd already bought, school supplies, desk toppers, laundry soap, laundry tote, hangers, bulletin board, white dry erase board, programmable coffee maker. The all important i-Pod speakers. Everything you can imagine. The trunk was full, the back seat was full, and Cara was holding stuff on her lap. And in the middle of the third store, it hit me. This is for real, and it is happening soon. That last summer is over, before it even seemed to begin, for me, anyways. Somewhere along the line, I managed to lose an entire summer.
So, yes, Stevie, I have given some thought to how I want to age. I want to take the time to savor the fruits of our labor. I want to have the time to take pleasure in life. To travel. To see things that I've only read about. To be happy. As the years go by, it seems that I have less and less to worry about. I want to go to Chautauqua Institute to catch some of their summer concert series. I want to garden in earnest. I want to do the winery tour. I want Tim and I to spend more time on the porch swing. I want Saturday nights with friends over raucous casual cookouts on the back deck. I want to see my kids more. I want to laugh my ass off more often. I want time to talk on the phone. I want to sit around the fire pit in the back yard, watching the sparks spin into the night sky. I want to lay on my back watching the Perseid showers. I want to watch lightning bugs.
Mostly, I just want to figure out how to hold on to my days.

Sad Note

Larry LaPrise died. With all the sadness and trauma going on in the world at the moment, it is worth reflecting on the death of a very important person, which almost went unnoticed last week. Larry LaPrise, the man that wrote "The Hokie Pokey" died peacefully at the age of 93. The most traumatic part for his family was getting him into the coffin.They put his left leg in. That's when the trouble started...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


These hands have ripped out a fireplace this week.
I'm kind of proud of that.
They've also counted out 1000+ mosquitoes.
Collected a dead crow.
Did two larvacides.
The regular housework stuff.
And it is only Wednesday.
If idle hands are the devil's play thing,
my hands are not in any immediate danger.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Today at work, I jogged down to collect a trap. I expected the net to be filled with mosquitoes, and I was not wrong. Much to my surprise, I heard the fan running even after I unhooked the battery. I touched the housing, but the motor was still. I realized what I was hearing was the hum of hundreds of mosquitoes.

It can't be morning

Coffee not working.
What am I doing out of bed?

Monday, August 4, 2008


You want to know my favorite part of the day? It's early, early in the morning, although I do not consider myself a morning person. I am the only one up. I couldn't sleep, so I came down stairs to have my morning cup, which is actually two cups. I sit down and the computer and hop over to Bush Babe's to see a kangaroo story, and check in with Jeanie to see if her lurgy is any better. Over to Scotty's to find out how his doctor visit went. I travel out to Arizona to see if the heat broke at Mikey's place or Stevie's house, how the puppies are doing at Susan's place, whether the Brummie has run into the dogs that attacked her and her Staff. What's Redlefty thinking about? And isn't it cool that the musician Hal's just discovered has just discovered Hal? By the time that I finish walking with Lavinia, and traveling with the Pencil Writer, and laughing with Shirley, crying with Alison, and sympathizing with Mary, I've finished my coffee. I check to see if Mike's come back to the Ifs of Og, say a quick prayer when I see that he's not. It's still dark as I push away from the computer to pad to the shower in my bare feet. I've done a fair amount of visiting for a woman in a bathrobe.
And so my day begins.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Change of Life

My sister moved in to one of our spare bedrooms. She's been unpacking forever. Unlike me, my sister is a hoarder. She's got a brass button bear collection, and she's got glasswear. "This is from Greatgrandma, and this is Grandma's, and these decanters are Grandpa's. They were throwing them away, but I saved them." She's got my dad's sweatstained cowboy hat, and a pair of his suspenders. She's lost a couple hundred pounds, so she has an extensive wardrobe. She came in with two cases of toilet paper, and box after box of groceries. Amazing, really. I stand there, blinking a little. We don't eat a lot of processed food. She stockpiled quite a supply of it, however, so now I've got a lot of unfamiliar things in my pantry, and in my freezer, and in my refrigerator, and her bedroom is decorated in her own style, with her own things.
Eileen is not going to be here long. She heads to college on the 19th. Cara heads off to college on the 22nd. Son Mike is moving to New York State. Daughter Stacey is coming home on leave in the same time frame. I'm starting to feel like maybe we should install a revolving door here. But that would be stupid, becauseTim put a bid on a log cabin on Friday. It's a three bedroom. No neighbors. Very nice. He's right. Our present home is in a desirable location. We sure as tooting don't need six bedrooms any more. The property taxes on the cabin would be a big break from what we pay now, nearly a 50% cut. It would be an economical retirement home, with nearly 7 acres for Tim's hunting. We'll know by next Friday if we've got it or not.
Gotta say...for a woman who finds great comfort in the unchanging nature of her life, my life is certainly changing.


You know what my problem is?
It is that I believe every bad thing that anyone has to say about me. The secretary says that I'm unprofessional? Well, then I must be. Of course I am. And I remember every wrong thing that I've ever done, even though I have a good raport with the folks that I serve, and the board members.
My kids are critical? Well, then I'm a bad mom. I must be. And I remember every parental failure I've ever committed. Never mind that I've also had many successes in that arena. Never mind the fact that people ask my advice.
My mom thinks I'm hateful and bitter. Even though I know for a fact I'm not, I feel badly that she thinks so, and examine myself trying to figure out why she believes this, taking every cross word that passes my lips as evidence that my mother might be right, totally ignoring that I act kindly most of the time, and that I am noted for my big heart.
The list goes on and on. I've been pondering on things today. I feel really bad about the Cara thing, but I know for a fact that I've been a good mom. She's very angry. I'm not sure what about. She seems to believe that I don't care. That struck me straight to my heart. It was shocking. When I gasped, "That's not so..." she snapped, "Yes, it is!" I was dumbstruck and immediately began to agonize about what I've done to make her think such a thing.
Maybe part of this 'getting comfortable in my own skin' means that I have to have some amount of confidence in myself. Maybe I need to learn to view myself through my own eyes. I'm my own worst critic, so if my first impulse is to think "But I'm not hateful," or "I'm not a bad mom," or "I'm not unprofessional,"
just maybe,
I should believe me.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


Cara leaves for college in 20 days. If it sounds like I'm counting, you're probably right. She is too. This has been a horrible summer. She's an adult, she keeps telling us. Her life consists of work, running with her friends, and sleeping. She does not help willingly, but grudgingly does what is asked of her. If we get frustrated with her, it is our fault. We've asked repeatedly that she leave a work schedule on the refrigerator, so we can keep track of where she is, and whether she's eating supper with us. Last night, after two days of being unable to reach her by cell phone (she had my debit card), she came home at 11:00. There were words about her inconsiderate behavior, a reiteration of what was expected of her. She was rude. In a rush of bitterness, she told me that I was selfish and only thought of myself. I told her that was not the truth. She told me it was. And then she left the house 'because she was very pissed at me right now'. You know, it has happened with every single kid. Right before they bust out of the house, they become unbearable. Recognizing the pattern does not make it easier to swallow.
Do you suppose this is how we all deal with the looming life change? Is it part of our own protective nature, when a separation looms, that we become critical of each other, as if to say, in effect, 'hey, I'm not sad I'm going because you suck!' ?
I don't know.
I just never expected it to happen with Cara.
She's at her friend's house, and she may be back. She may not. I don't know. She's 'very pissed at me right now'. Although I cried myself to sleep last night, I've got to be honest. In the middle of all that sadness, I'm very pissed at her right now, too.

Friday, August 1, 2008


Yesterday was a busy day. I was collecting larva samples and did five treatments. I also ran into my favorite reporter in a park, and he tagged along with me for a while. I showed him why that particular park is so hard to treat...the mosquitoes breed in the knot holes in trees, and in their exposed roots (the park is in a flood plain, where the Conewango and the Allegheny converge). This park is heavily wooded, and it would be impossible to find every single breeding spot. On the way out, he met a girl in a Princeton shirt, and her black lab, and a water toy. With a cheery goodby, he was off again. After the treatment, I cut through the woods and walked back in the park entrance. He was driving out and stopped again. "Gees. I didn't know you were going to get all robotic on me," referring to the sprayer on my back.
Anyhow, I went to one of my worst areas. I treated the ditches and the open sewers. One of the biggest property owners there is a slum lord. He buys ramshackle houses and charges people to live in these wrecks. He fixes nothing, and the places fall apart around their tenants ears. He doesn't care, and, for the most part, neither do his tenants. I met him a couple times. I tried to talk him into closing up a couple of open 'gray water' sewers. They were breeding like crazy. The guy is like 60, wearing short shorts, looking like some holdover from the disco days. I extended my hand to be shook, and he stroked it and patted it until I took my hand back, throwing up a little in the back of my throat (as Cara would phrase it.) The guys at DEP have had their run ins with him as well. They call him 'smarmy' and cautioned me. "If he ever asks you if you'd like to see pictures, tell him no as quick as you can." Apparently, the guy is a nudist, and goes on nudist vacations, and loves to show his pictures. GAK!
Anyways, I treated the open sewers, and was writing up the treatments in my truck, working on my second quart of water for the day. A boy came up on his bike and asked if I could treat at their house. "Sure," I said, and headed off, following this little guy on his bike. The house was one of Mr. Smarmy's junkers. Beer bottles and broken glass thrown in a pile in the back yard. The sewer had puddled there, and yes, the place was breeding. Boards with big nails had been thrown across the swampy area to make a little bridge. The man was a hippie sort, bandana on his head, gray headed, grizzled beard, and lit his next cigarette from the one he'd just finished puffing. One of the first things I noticed was a kiddie pool full of nasty water. Yup. Breeding. A tote full of weeds in the front yard, full of water...and larva. So I pointed these things out to him as I headed back to the truck to strap on my sprayer yet again. He calls after me, "So are you going to treat these?" I can. But I mention that the quickest way, and the cheapest way to solve that problem is to simply dump the water. "Oh." he says. "I'll do that later." *sigh* I tell him that I'll give him a hand, and help him dump the water. Walking back to the truck yet again, he says, "Hey, be sure to watch those boards out back. I wouldn't want you to run a nail in your foot. My boy's done that a couple times this summer. It's his own fault. He wears those damn flip flops..."
I think of the little boy on the swing yesterday, swinging higher and higher, while proclaiming, "This is the best day of my life..." I don't understand any parent who does less then his or her very best for their child. I don't get it at all. I treat their yard, and when I'm done, I put the sprayer in the back of my truck and I walk back out to flip the boards with the nails upside down.
The dad walks out one more time. "Hey!" he calls. "Do you have anything for fleas in the house?"