Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Draw the stripes, paint the stripes...

Busy now, but a lull in the activity a week ago, I got to spend time in the studio at work. I painted an 8-foot canvas with cute 'lil zebras a year or so ago, and the bossman liked it so much, he "commissioned" a smaller duplicate. I love being "sent" to the studio! It's a little chilly in the mornings, but there's a good heater back there and the day goes by incredibly fast when I'm lost with a pencil or a brush.

Here's the beginning...draw the stripes, draw the stripes...

Paint, paint, paint the stripes. Ow! My hand cramps afte a couple hours clinched around a small brush.!

Zebra's and mini zebras done in a week. Aren't they goo-goo?

No. I'm NOT doing another. No matter how cute it would be.

But I'm working on some stuff at home...will keep you posted.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Eleanor the Fish

I recently decided that a little life in the house would be nice—as I mentioned before, to yak to, while I pretend I'm not crazy. Unwilling to commit to cats or dogs at this point, I settled on fish, and bought an aquarium. A little gravel, some plants, and some fish and voila!

Bzzzt! Wrong!!!

Water, chemicals, filters, heaters, gravel, plants, and little cave-y places for fish to hide...and then, you wait a week—an entire week!—before you can buy a fish.

A fish. One. Singular. A zebra danio, a hearty little thing that swims around and stinks up the tank until there is a proper balance of pH, ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites.

I named my zebra danio Eleanor, after my mother, Eleanor.

Eleanor and I are having quite a difficult time getting our water in proper balance so that she might be joined by other fishy friends.

I've been schlepping sample water into The Sailfin petstore every 3-4 days for the last month. Every time, I wait, thinking THIS might be the day I get to take home some fish!

No. First, I was feeding her too much, and Eleanor pee'd up the water, raising the ammonia levels. She's barely the size of an almond; her bladder can be no larger than a sesame seed, and STILL she contaminates 20-gallons of water! You GO, girl.

So, some water changes were in order, which only served to clean out all the good bacterial gook that's supposed to be building, and then some ammonia remover-er, and as of Saturday, we've pulled out all the stops:

1) turn up the heat (to make good bacteria grow)

2) turn off the tank lights (which kill the good guys)

3) remove some of the water (to keep the water bubbling and aerating while we do all of the other harsh steps; and

4) put Eleanor on a diet.

2 more days, and I get to schlep back for more water testing. Wish me luck, that I'll be bringing home 2 or 3 new beauties to keep me Eleanor company. Here she is, circled in yellow, which I think is appropriate considering her extraordinary urinary output.

Click to enlarge. She's smiling.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Play Day

A gorgeous day for late November, I talked the boys into a walk on the quad after lunch at the Noodle Company. They're pictured above at the Alma Mater. Though campus was relatively dead due to the holiday, we still had to wait our turn for this photo op.

Brian's doing his best Rocky Balboa imitation, after running up the steps of Foellinger Auditorium. Look. He really does have the eye of the tiger!

We walked, climbed on things, slid down banisters, chased squirrels, and just played for a little over an hour before heading back to the car. I made a few short movies of Brian cutting up. I talked him into dancing, on Wright street:

And here, messing around at Johnstowne Center:

It was just too much fun, doing so much of nothing today, with my son and his friends. His time is usually spread so thin, trying to see so many friends and family members. I was thrilled to have him to myself on Thursday, and this afternoon was an unexpected treat.

I can't stop smiling.

I've uploaded more whimsical pix of the day to my smugmug account. If you want to check them out, click here.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Our Day

Last Monday, I said to Wendy, via e-mail, "I'm pretty sure that this will be my first with out Brian, which kind of makes me feel like I've been punched in the stomach..."

All that moping for nothing. When will I ever learn? Brian managed to borrow a friend's car and hit the road after work on Wednesday, and, as you know, made home in plenty of time for dinner.

Yesterday was one of my nicest Thanksgivings to date. Most of the work done on Wednesday, I had a relaxing day, the final touches were mere near-puttering. The boys slept most of the day, but got busy when they woke up, moving furniture around and setting up an extra table, changing lightbulbs, and doing anything else I bossed them to do. All for the price of bacon; they'll do anything for bacon. They also talked me into using paper plates, god bless 'em. Then they settled into waiting for the family to arrive.

Brian has already adjusted to warmer Georgia climates. While I was breaking a sweat and taking breaks on the front step to cool off, he walked around with a blanket over his shoulders.

Can't have Thanksgiving without football.

Come 'n get it! Hey, I think this was the first year that everything was still hot when I rang the dinner bell.

One of these things is not like the other. Guess who's NOT in the Army?

John Standish, John Heuvelman, and Brian

We enjoyed every minute.

At dinner, I asked Brian what he was thankful for. He said "Jesus." Yeah, that was totally for Grandma's sake.

John H. said he was thankful that there are birds that grow to the size of 25 pounds.

My nephew joked that he was thankful that Brian was going home Saturday, and he wouldn't have to see his sorry ass til Christmas.

I sang along with the iPod and made my mother dance in the dining room with me.

John Standish chugged a glass of wine, afterwards declaring, "I hate wine!"

In the evening, we lolled around, bantering, watching Survivor, painting our nails (well, I did), sharing stupid YouTube movies, playing computer games. The boys took off around 8, the family hung around til Mom feel asleep sitting up in her chair.

Does it get any better than this? I don't think so.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving Eve

The veggies are chopped; dips are mixed, pies are cooling. There's a big fat turkey in the frig. The table is set, and the house is tidied to within an inch of it's life. On the small dining table sits the only Thanksgiving decoration I own, one Brian made when he was in Cub Scouts:

Everything's ready to go, I'm heading off to sleep.


One more thing.

A note.

My son is on the road right now, from Fort Benning, determined to get home for this holiday. He will be in town in the middle of the night, sometime. There are 2 friends accompanying him, and I can hardly wait to see them in the morning. Brian always left his notes to me in the middle of the floor, and tonight I do the same for him:

I have so much to be thankful for this holiday.

Have a great Thanksgiving, People!


[flash!] Wendy's famous again; [flash!] she just can't stay [snap!] out of the limelight [click!]. She's featured in DC Blogs today.

Check out her Initial faux pas that could have gotten her run off the road!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

What's Up?

Thirteen or so years ago, when I was [ahem] in-between husbands, one of my best friends, The Other Lori, and I set off for a vacation with my then-7-year-old son. (I'm sure that the mental damage for a little kid spending a solid week with two crazy women, friends since the age of 10, is still to be uncovered.

On our 6-hour drive to Grand Haven, Michigan, Lori and I decided to teach a few songs from our era to little Brian. History. Culture. Music. Art. We had his best interest in mind, when we began with "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown."

Unfortunately, Lori and simply could NOT sync the words "Bad, bad" no matter how many times we started all over. Our song went
Leroy looked like a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces gone...

He was bad[bad] bad[bad] bad[bad]....OK START ALL OVER! He was bad[bad] bad[bad]... AH FORGET IT!
The song has never been the same for me. I purposefully sing the "bad's" in the wrong places now, because it is forever in my mind, askance. And I like it better that way.


Out on the town Friday night, I ended up eating breakfast with friends at Merry Ann's Diner, around 11 p.m. We were 5, and there were only 2 other diners in the place.

On the way out, while each paid his tab, I toyed with the jukebox, and Marcy joined me. A few quarters borrowed, and apparently we were staying for one song: 4 Non Blondes' What's Up.

The jukebox, silent since we arrived, began to play, and Marcy sang along:

25 year of my life and still
And I'm trying to get up that great big hill of hope

and Charles joined in:

For a destination...

I, not knowing all of the words to any one song, was immediately charmed. Peter and Mike hummed and sang along, and I piped up during the chorus:

And I say hey...
And I say hey what's goin on
And I say hey...
I say hey what's goin' on
And I try, oh my God do I try
I try all the time
In this institution

I watched as the waiter, waitress, and cook, with little to do, approached the front, crossed their arms, and leaned back on the counter, smiling and listening.

And another employee, working in the back, crept out, giggling, and approached a dial on the wall, cranking up the volume a bit for the next chorus.

My friends' voices were being raised, the staff was smiling, and to boot, I turned to find the other two diners with their arms over their heads, doing that "raise the roof" move.

It was surreal. Everyone in the place was tapping their feet! I half-expected little Halie Kate Eisenberg to start tap dancing across the counter to the latest Pepsi jingle.

And then the song ended.

And we left.

And for the rest of my life, I will hear that song as "Friday in Merry Ann's."

I'm curious.

What are YOUR songs and YOUR scenarios? Please share. Really, I love all you guys'es stories!

And here's a song in your head:

Thursday, November 16, 2006

This Just In

I just sat down to multiple (2) emails from friends informing me of the lastest AOL/HBO plan for a new broadband channel called "This Just In." Here's a summary:
AOL has partnered with HBO to launch "This Just In," a new comedy-themed broadband channel set to go live sometime during the first quarter of 2007. The new site will feature a heavy dosage of video content, including lots of topical comedic performances, as well as a blogging platform which will allow the site's audience to comment on the days events — ranging from politics to pop culture.
Tsk. What a gross oversight on their part: "This Just In" has already been done! Won't their faces be red when they find out that they're stomping all over MY little blogfeet.

My immediate plan of action is to be gracious and understanding. I will sit back and wait for their apologies in the form of fruit and floral baskets. Truckloads of them. And maybe a few all-expense paid trips to one red-carpet affair or another.

Either that, or I'll ride their coat tails and bask in the staggering number of hits on my site meter.

Either one is fine with me.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I'm weird too.

I've been tagged by Wendy. Blog assignment: To name 5 odd things about myself. Gosh, I'll see if I can narrow it down to just 5.

1. I love the smell of Vicks Vaporub. I blogged about it year ago, and how my parents made me eat it when I was a kid. I hated that, but I still love the smell of it.

2. Likewise, I love Nyquil. The Green Death Nyquil. It's the best thing about being sick.

3. Grilled cheese sandwiches MUST be served with catsup. Period. And you can't spread the catsup on the sandwich, you have to make a well on the plate and dip-and-bite.

4. I sit on my feet while I work, and often while I drive. As a result, I have a callus on the top of my foot, and have worn a hole in the fabric of my chair at work.

4a. I carry a small camera with constantly, so that if I have an emergency such as "I need a photo of my work chair so I can blog it," I will be prepared.

5. Every weekday morning before I leave the house, I repeat, outloud, "purse, phone, coffee, bag." It's a trick my friend Rob taught me a few years ago. I used to forget at least one of those things regularly, but haven't since I began the ritual.

There you are, I'm sure I'll think of a million others later.

I tag Stephen Bess, Gamera, Momo, Maladjusted, and Tangental C.

And you.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Still shakin' it off...

I'm standing in the kitchen, when my son races in. He is wearing his army fatigues, and he's frantic. He's been looking for me. "Come with me, Mom! Hurry!"

He takes my hand and runs, with me in tow. "Keep up, Mom. We have to hurry, come ON. Please Mom. Hurry."

And we stop, in the middle of nowhere. There is a long, low, mound of earth, like a speed bump, in the middle of the earth. There are a few other soldiers milling about. Waiting. "Ok," my son says. "I have to go now. I have to go now..." and his voice catches in a sob, as he hugs me, "I have to say goodbye." I don't understand why we're crying....

...and I awake, Sunday morning, sitting up, and crying, myself. I stumble out of bed, and walk, robotlike, to the kitchen, and start the coffee. I'm wiped out. Depressed. Shaken. It's quiet in this house. I sit on the couch, and listen to the coffee drip into the carafe, and to my own breathing.

And, when I can't shake off that dream, even after coffee, I pick up my phone and dial my son, with whom I just spoke, yesterday. I don't really know what to say to him; I'm embarrassed to tell him the truth. Instead, I say, meekly, "Hi. Um. I just wanted to say hi." "Really?" he asked "is everything ok?" I stutter my confession: "ok, fine. I had a crazy dream, and I just needed to hear your voice."

He laughs. "I'm all right, Mom."

"It's silly, I know, but..."

"It's all good, Mom. I'm all right."

"Ok. Thank you. You have a fun day, ok? I love you."

"Love ya too, Mom."

Ugh. Where did this come from? Pix he sent home yesterday? A friend's asking about him, and his future, yesterday? My noting, the night before, that the movie "Jarhead" is for sale at Blockbuster? I reminisced that I'd asked Brian to go see that with me, then withdrew my invitation, thinking my imagination might run amok while he was in bootcamp?

Well. The bottom line is he's fine, folks. Here are a few he sent home to Mama yesterday.

And one more thing: Thank you for your vote for the Democratic party last week. My nightmares are some mother's realities right now. Pray, people, pray!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Nobody Nose the Trouble I've Seen...

I blogged, earlier, about a chronic earache I'd been having, and instructions from the doctor to blow air through my ears. It didn't work. I was referred to an ENT (Ears/Nose/Throat) specialist, whom I saw yesterday.

After a hearing test, poking and prodding of every orifice in my head ensued. Then the doctor pulled out a little spray gun, and informed me he was going to numb the inside of my nose. And then a different spray gun (I hope) to numb my throat. He warned me, "this stuff doesn't taste very good." It sure did not; I couldn't keep myself from shuddering and spitting the word "Gyak!"

He left the room for about 5 minutes to let that rat-poison numbing crap take effect, leaving me to wonder WHY we were numbing things up.

He returned and took another peek up each nose-hole, and then tapped around on my teeth and tonsils with a few instruments. I was innocently thinking "well, that was nothing! I'm pretty sure I could have tolerated that without all of this numbing stuff! Sheesh."

It was then that he said "I'm just going to put this light down your throat and take a look."

I opened wide: Ahhhhh....

To my surprise, he inserted a cord into my NOSE, as he said, "this is just a little light."

"Wow," I was thinking, "that must be one bright light. You put it in my nose, and it lights up my entire head so much that you can see my throat? Well. Ain't technology grand!"

But he kept pushing that thing further and further in, all the while talking about my throat, and it finally dawned on me: "Holy shit. He is going to snake that thing through my head!!!" And he proceded to do just that, until I felt it poke into my throat.

For the record, it is quite unsettling to feel a cord winding right through a bypass in your head in which you had never been physically aware. So unsettling that I didn't even think of getting a photo of it for my blog!

Please say "eeeeeeeeeeeee" the doctor said.

I made some a guttural noise that sounded more like "cckkkkkkkkkkeeeehhhhhhhhhh" than "eeeeee" but he said that was fine anyway.

And then the retraction, which was just as creepy as the insertion, but at least it was over.

And here's the final diagnosis:

I don't have an Ear, Nose, or Throat problem.

I have TMJ: Temporo-Mandibular Joint dysfunction. I actually had therapy for this some years ago, and haven't had problems with it since then. Until now. Essentially, the jaw joint on the left side of my face is so inflamed that it's give me one hell of an earache, for 4 months.

I walked away with a prescription, and instructions to see an oral surgeon if it doesn't cause any relief.

In summary I've had 3 doctor appointments, $90 worth of co-pays, one roto-rooting through my head, and I got a prescription for:


Wish me (and yourselves) luck that I don't blog about this again.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I'm in arrears!

Wait! I'm not done talking yet! I'm so behind! I'm just now getting around to wrapping up Halloween. We'll move on to Thanksgiving in a minute.

I like Halloween, though I don't actively participate any more. Dressing up to sit unseen in a cubicle all day long seems moot, and there are no trick-or-treaters in my 'hood. Still, I like to head downtown and check out other, more spirited souls.

I met Momo and Woof at Cafe Kopi on Halloween eve, and settled in to watch the fun. Upon arriving, Woof mentioned that there was a crazed clown walking around with a real machete. We paid him little mind.

But as we sipped our beverages, that clown walked into the cafe, carrying about 18 balloons. And a machete, and he was splattered with blood. He had a creepy, low, walk, and I swear to God I began to hyperventilate when he sidled right up to our table. It was the scariest thing I'd ever had standing before me, and to boot, he was emitting a weird, badger-like, giggle. Momo and I involuntarily moved our chairs closer together, while our clown kept hissing.

Just as I was sure he was going to split my head open aka Slingblade, I said to Momo, "Is that J-j-j-j-j-joel?" Marcy repeated the question, and he said "YES!" He IS Joel!

I squinted at him. Yeah, right. I could have said "Is that 'Bob?' " and he might have agreed to that too. Could I see some ID? I guess clown pants down have pockets for ID, and I just had to take his word for it. I was never quite convinced, as you can see from my body language in this picture.

To this day, I'm not entirely convinced I was standing next to any Joel at all. I mean, here's a pic of the clown, next to the guy he claims to be:

Hm. I'm probably lucky to be alive today.

But so is he. Momo told me that she was entering into a "Fight or Flight" phase of anxiety, readying to open a big 'ol can of Momo-Whoop-Ass on that clown. She'd do it too; look at this poor guy:

(Seriously, do not EVER say to her, "I'm glad you're not MY wife.")

Anyway, Clown, or Joel, or whoever you are, you can clearly see that YOU are the lucky one, barely escaping with your life from our mild-mannered coffee shop.

Take THAT!

(I'm still going to go ahead and sleep with the lights on for at least another week.)

Friday, November 03, 2006

On Talking to Oneself

One of my favorite stand-up comedians, Drew Hastings, does a bit about acquiring a kitten, so as not to appear so crazy when he talks to himself. One line, in a routine called L.A. Observations, goes

"This town is full of shit!! People are rude, they're uncivil, and they don't know talent when they see it!...." He continues, in a syrupy tone, "do they, kitty?"

Ya'll know I'm empty nesting. The kid has flown the coop. The temp. roommate spends little time here these days. And the kitty is in kitty heaven now.

Daylight savings and oncoming winter find me rattling around inside my house a few more hours than usual, and I swear to God: I am turning into a certifiable, talking-to-myself nutjob!

Cuckoo! Cuckoo! I start a conversation with myself the minute I get home: "What is THIS?" I ask, as I pull an unknown bill out of the mailbox. I continue inside, as I open it: "$20?!! For WHAT? I paid my co-pay!"

I putter around the house, and think about issues that frustrate me. "What the hell is wrong with you!," I will say to no one, as I scrub the kitchen sink, deep in thought. Or, while remembering something funny a friend said, I find myself laughing, and saying "you crack me up."

It's disturbing really. Bad enough that I'm talking to the freakin' houseplants, but I often can't control myself in public places. I stand in the produce aisle and announce "2.99?! I don't think so!!" and I recite my grocery list to myself: "tea, I need tea, and don't forget the veggie sausages."

Good Lord! Am I on a downward spiral to the loony bin? Is there such a thing as middle-age onset of Tourettes? Because I think I might have that too; I'm suddenly prone to crazy outbursts. While I walk and think, I might exclaim "WhatEVER!!!" or "Jesus!" in an exasperated tone.

So as to present an edumacated post, I did a Google search on "talking to yourself." Well, didn't I shed some new light on this situation! The first link I read stated:
"What's really bizarre about this is that the act of talking to ourselves is actually a sign that we are self-aware and that we seek insight into our own actions. "
It is proof that I'm a higher species, this particular report goes on to say.

Higher Species! Ha! I'm NOT mad as a hatter after all! I'm brilliant! "Brilliant!" I just said outloud, to my laptop.

Most of the other sites I scanned indicated that yammering to oneself is normal, but not considered an acceptable American societal norm. "Try to keep your voice down" is the general advice.

Ok. I can do that. In the meantime, I'm following Drew Hasting's lead. Well, kind of. I'm setting up an aquarium.

Really. Doesn't this guy look like a good listener? I'll keep the higher species stuff to myself though; I'm sure he won't want to hear it.

I'm off now, to seek more insight.

What? Oh. Nothing. Hit "Publish Post," Lori, and go to bed. Oh. Did I say that outloud?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Another Rise to the Challenge

I'm just going to consider this a "Guest Blog." These photos and great stories came from my dear friend Kaye, and they're worth an entry of their own. I met Kaye in our workplace in 1987, can you believe it? I'm still at the same company, while she has gone on to bigger and better things. She's a massage therapist, and a damned good one. Let me know if you need me to hook you up with a massage-to-die-for.

Here are HER words:


The things I have on the shelf around my massage room all have special stories and significance to me. Here are a few.

[This] pic is stuff that was my mom's. Things that were familiar and comforting in our home when I was growing up. I miss her a lot. Tomorrow would be her 90th birthday.

The Christine pic...ah, Christine. She was a client and a friend. I saw her every week, sometimes twice a week for about 6 or 7 years. One Christmas she gave me the candle in the center. I went to her home, because of her health issues she was unable to get out much (even though she was only in her fifties). The animal napkin rings on each side of the candle sat on her entryway table near where I gave her massage. After she passed away, I was able to get those as a reminder of the wonderful, awesome woman she was. You would have loved her. She was a poet, bawdy, irreverent, sweet and compassionate, and totally engaged in life in spite of her pain.

Burma is an even longer story I will try to condense. In the late '70s I traveled for 5 weeks in Asia with this guy who I used to date, but had met a woman I fell for after I had made my travel arrangements and before the trip. (Lousy timing) We spent a long week in Burma, flew into Rangoon. Then took a train to Mandalay. We travelled 3rd class. It wasn't until we were on the train, Wayne informed me it was a 14 hour trip. We had no food or water with us. I was furious at him. He was furious at me.

It was sweltering in Burma. No air conditioning in 3rd class. No dining car. I was becoming delirious with hunger and thirst. I wondered how sick could I get if I sucked on some of the Wash 'n Dry's that my aunt had sent with me. Pretty darned sick I imagined. And embarassing for my family to get the autopsy report that she died of Wash 'n Dry toxicity.

I kept wiping my sweat with Wash n' Dry's. A Burmese guy across the aisle watched me, intrigued with my Wash n' Dry's. He didn't speak English and me no speak Burmese. But he pantomimed and I understood that he connected the WnDs with airplanes. He was delighted. I gave him a couple of packs. (My aunt had given me about 500). He was thrilled.

At the next stop, he got off of the train. He came back with a beautiful basket of grapes that he presented to me. The basket is in the photo. Wayne snarled that I couldn't eat the grapes because they were contaminated and I would get sick. I knew I couldn't get sicker than I already was from the fruit juice I drank in Bangladesh. "I'm eating these!" I informed him. I'm so nice, though, that I shared them with him. He insisted that we pop the flesh out of the skins and not eat the skins.

So the basket means a lot to me. The picture beside it is one of 2 handpainted greeting cards I bought in Mandalay.


It's me again. Lori here. Don't you just *love* these stories and photos? I'm verklempt!

Thanks to Kaye, and also to the rest of you, who are still commenting and e-mailing with intentions of playing along. I am so far touched to my very core with everything I've seen and read here.

Challenges, III

WhooHoo! More promises to rise to the challenge, in both comments and e-mails. There's no deadline folks, keep 'em coming!

Dogath's Domain has delivered! What fun! Dragons. gorgeous chessboards and Chinese artifacts; there's some great stuff here. If I owned this stuff, they'd be my favorites too. Seriously.

Thanks for sharing, DD.

Last Minute Lyn
has played also. I love the plant story, and there's some more cool stuff you should check out here.

Barry's up and running from Baghdad! Whoop!

12:30 Thursday: I just got an email from reader/commenter "AZ," with these photos and this explanation:
Not just a teapot collection, but a walk through memory lane; every pot is a place I've been, a bargain found, a treasure collected, a memory kept, and a friend or co-worker remembered.

The cat cookie jar (Puss n Boots top picture lower right) is a treasure purchased by my significant other's mother during WWII while she waited for the return of her husband.

AZ: Thanks so much for sharing; great pix, great stories.