Archive for the ‘General’ Category


Thursday, October 28th, 2004

I never meant to take a 10 month hiatus. Really. At no point did I say “fuck it, I’m taking 10 months off”. But somewhere around 6 months ago, I realized that I wanted to write, but something was kind of holding me back. Not just time constraints, but there was something else.

I am no longer the person I was when I started this journal way back in November of 2000. At that time I was working as a web designer at a dot-com and making pretty decent cashola. I had only owned my house for a little over a year, and my main form of activity was working on that house. Other than that, I did a hell of a lot of sitting on my ass, making sure the couch didn’t stray from its appointed spot.

Many of you have been around since those days long ago, and I appreciate your tenacity. You’ve been witness to my evolution. I’ve gone from a house-remodeling web-designing fool to a bike-riding administrative-assitant fool. (Some things never change – I’m still a fool.)

But I haven’t been sharing all the other good things that have been going on in my life. For instance, some of you may remember a few brief mentions of the Beau Hunk Buck Stud. Even fewer of you may have a brief recollection of a momentary train-wreck that quickly disappeared from the site, followed by nary a further mention of the Beau Hunk.

Well, in spite of everything, the Beau Hunk and I have stuck together. He’s been hanging around for over a year now, and he’s not showing any of the signs of running for the hills (yet?). As a matter of fact, there’s pretty good indication that he may be sticking around a while longer. And this makes me happy. Very, very, happy. So yeah, old Haggie may have snagged herself a man-thing. For certain she’s got yet another really good friend who’s kind, caring, fun, and pretty goddamned easy on the eyes too! What’s to bitch about that??

Between spending time with the Beau Hunk, riding with Da Goils, working, etc etc., writing never happened. When I wanted to write, I didn’t have time. When I had time, I didn’t want to write. 10 months went by as I became procrastination’s bitch.

So what changed? Well, it was sort of a cosmic confluence of events really. Over my hiatus I struggled with whether to quit keeping an online journal altogether. That certainly would be easy, but I didn’t really want to quit. Then again, I didn’t want to keep laboring under the weight of all those past entries either. So I considered taking the archives offline, but then I struggled with how I would structure the site, blah blah blah. I couldn’t decide, so I didn’t decide. Mmmmm…procrastination. Yummy!

Then fate sort of stepped in and gave me a kick in the ass. It all started with my web hosting company suddenly going tits up – without notice, fuck you very much. One day I could update my sites (I have others besides this one), and the next day I couldn’t. The company’s website no longer had an 800 number posted, and there was a notice saying they were no longer accepting new accounts. Uh oh, she’s dead Jim.

Thus ensued much running around and hand-wringing on my part, trying to get the sites that I administer re-hosted. In the midst of all this trauma-drama, I found a host that was economically reasonable, reliable and highly recommended. But they didn’t offer support for ASP. All my previous pages had been written in ASP. It’s my favorite language. But truth be told, the only thing I used ASP for was layout templates and running the guestbook database. Some of you may remember that I took my guestbook down ages ago, so that wasn’t really even a factor anymore. The bonus was that the new host offered WordPress as an auto-install.

So the decision was made. I’ve ditched my archives and I’m starting anew. You’ll notice that this page is pretty much a standard WordPress template. The web designer in me kind of chafes at the idea of a standard template. But here’s the deal: this site isn’t about layout. It never was. It’s about the content – the words. And those are all mine.

My boss says I can’t write on this site anymore because I’m not bitter. Truth be told I never really was. That moniker was always meant to be tongue in cheek. But there is a bit of truth in what he says. I have evolved from the person I was when I started this journal, lo those thousands of years ago. I think this particular evolution is a good one, but it was holding me back in some ways. Now it’s time to throw off the past and move forward.

But I’m still keeping the name.

Election Day

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2004

It’s election day here in the U.S. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t come as much of surprise to anyone out there, even on the other side of the world. Yes, we are embroiled in a genuine flap here in the Home of the Brave. It’s Bush v. Kerry in a battle to the death.

I’m just glad that it’s almost over. The ads are off my TV, my mailbox will stop filling up with propaganda and my phone will quit ringing six (no, I’m not exaggerating) times a day from political parties trying to sway my vote. Just tell me who won and leave me the fuck alone – preferrably before my Thanksgiving leftovers start turning unnatural shades of green.

The really interesting part is how personally some people are taking this. If you voice a dissenting opinion about their candidate, they look at you as if you just told them their baby is ugly. People, relax. One person I know has been genuinely stressed over every little snippet of news against her favored candidate today. Stressed. The kind of stress that one normally reserves for events such as getting laid off and realizing you’ve only got one month’s worth of payments in the bank. Stressed.

I can’t wrap my brain around that. Yes I know that the election of the leader of the Free World is important. But here’s the thing: past the point where I go to my polling place and cast my vote, it’s out of my hands. Anything that is that far out of my hands isn’t worth my worry.

I have friends who love to discuss politics to the point of argument. I am not one of these people. My theory is that I refuse to fight with my friends about shit I cannot possibly control. It’s like arguing about the weather. Exactly what will all this discussion accomplish? Nothing. The leaders in Washington are going to do whatever they fuck they feel like doing, regardless of my feelings. The sun will shine and the rain will fall, no matter what my plans are for the weekend. It’s all pointless, so why bother getting all lathered up about it?

Afterall, this is a government who printed “I have voted – have you?” on my ballot. Yes, on the ballot. The thing you only see when you are in the very act of voting. Does it get any less logical than that?

Thanksgiving? Already??

Sunday, November 21st, 2004

Lost: all time between September and now. If found, please contact me.

Thanksgiving is a less than a week away. Do you know what that means? That means we are less than a week from it officially being the Holiday season. Christmas is five weeks away. Five. Weeks. Away. Somebody help me, I’m caught in a time warp and I can’t catch up.

I’ve had trouble preparing for the holidays before, but this year is just taking the cake. Everything seems to be going along at the proper place, then WHAM, you realize an entire month (or two or ten) has gotten away from you. I have tons of deadlines looking me straight in the eyeballs and I’m standing here like a deer in headlights.

Let the games begin.

I spent the weekend tidying up the house and doing all that autumn stuff that we Californians don’t have to do until the dead of winter – like raking leaves and cleaning out gutters. Only I cheat because I don’t rake leaves, I mulch them up with my lawn mower. (And the Beau Hunk was actually the one who climbed up on my roof and cleaned out the gutters because my roof terrifies me.)

Last year I hosted Thanksgiving here at my house, and since my giant tree out front decided to dump all its leaves at once, I decided that mulching them with the lawn mower probably wouldn’t work too well. Mom & Dad had come down early to start cooking the prime rib, and Mom was helping me with the leaves by holding the bag while I scooped the leaves in. I was wearing a crappy pair of my old fat sweats so I guess they were drooping a little when I bent over. The next thing I know, my Dad is saying “So. When did you get the tattoo?”
Oops. Busted. I forgot that I was hiding that from them.

(Some of you may remember that I got a bicycle-oriented tattoo on the back of my right hip in celebration of my 35th year of life. I never told my parents because the way I was raised, only sailors and whores have tattoos, so you can understand why I never shared. Besides, I didn’t want to risk a lecture. Hell, I even managed to hide it from Mom through two bike accidents and surgery. You try hiding a tattoo in a hospital gown!)

Mom took it surprisingly well. I thought she’d freak out about a daughter of hers having a tattoo. But Mom played it cool and just said “well can I see it too?” I showed it to her, and she said it was cute. Then she reminded me that I was a grown up and could do what I wanted. Funny, that’s not the way it usually works around here.

From then on my tatt was the news of the day (never mind it was 11 months old at this point). Everyone who showed up for dinner was told by my father about my tattoo. Some people had been clued in already, so it was no big deal. My brother and SIL were the big surprises. Bro was pretty put off by it, but clearly wasn’t surprised that his (crazy nutbucket of a) sister had done such a (horrible / tacky) thing. SIL blew my socks off by saying she was secretly coveting it and wanted one of her own, but didn’t think Bro would understand. (Good thinkin there SIL.)

This year Thanksgiving should be pretty quiet, even though I’m doing it in duplicate. Saturday I’ll be hauling my ass up to my parents’ house to eat steak with them. Thanksgiving proper will be spent with the Beau Hunk and his family. It will be the first meeting, so that should be interesting. Color me terrified, but I think it will work out. That is, unless the festivities include picking up leaves while wearing droopy sweats so everyone finds out that I’ve got *gasp* a tattoo!! But they’re a civilized bunch, so I suspect I won’t have to partake of lawn chores and certainly won’t show up in my dumpy sweats. Yeah, I think I’m safe there.

I suspect my biggest worry is whether or not I’ll spill gravy down my front or fling my turkey slice across the table when trying to cut it. Those are social faux pas for which I am quite famous. I keep telling myself it’s one day and one dinner, that I should be able to pretend to be a socially adjusted, graceful human being for one fucking night. Just one. That’s all I ask.

Wish me luck, history says I’ll need it.


Tuesday, December 14th, 2004

Ok, so Thanksgiving with the Beau Hunk’s family went awesomely well, and all my fears were totally unfounded. Does this strike you as surprising? Probably not. To my knowledge I managed to not totally offend anyone, and (again, to my knowledge) the Beau Hunk has not been dragged aside and asked just what the fuck is he doing bringing that around the family. The hallmarks of success, in my opinion.

As I guess you’ve figured out by now, I don’t tell you all everything. I used to tell you a whole lot more than I do now, but for a myriad of reasons, I’ve been keeping some things private. Well, until now.

For instance, I’ve not disclosed that the Beau Hunk is currently preparing for his final Final in law school. Nope, not a typo, his FINAL final. The last one baby. I disclose this now because I’m totally excited for him, and have been caught up in the concept of what this really means. My Hunk is getting himself a gen-u-ine Juris Doctorate. Which he has jokingly remarked “They’ll give those to anybody!” Not quite sweetie. He does have the one exam to go, so if anyone has spare good thoughts on Wednesday around 7pm PT, send them his way. One can never have enough good-thought Karma.

The reason I bring this up, is that not only is this his last hurdle, but it’s the opening bell for a whole helluva lot of activity in my life as well. You see, after this exam is over, we’re going to make a few changes.

First off, he’s moving in with me. This may permanently endanger my last vestiges of Hagness, but oh well. I told you I was evolving, and now I’m out to prove it. Especially because of this little nugget: he has a son. A four-year old adorable little cuss whom I shall call Woo.

Everybody ok? Anyone get hurt falling to the floor in shock?

Woo is a total sweetheart, but he can be a handful. You see, Woo’s autistic, so he’s had a few extra challenges in his four short years. But he’s been going to a special school for the last year and a little more, and they’ve been working miracles with him. He’s come a long way since I first met him, and I’m looking forward to seeing how much further he can go.

So yeah. I’m hanging around with a four-year old. And liking it. Believe me, nobody’s more shocked at this than I am. I had to dig around a while, but I did manage to find my maternal instinct, dust it off and get it working. It took a little duct tape and bailing wire, and it sputters a lot, but it’s working. Afterall, you can’t expect perfection from a gnarled old veteran of the Single’s Wars.

Now I’ve got a whole new set of challenges staring me smack in the face. Things are about to take the term “interesting” to a whole new level.

Welcome to Your New Life

Monday, January 10th, 2005

It’s not entirely official yet, but it’s pretty much a done deal that the Beau Hunk has graduated law school. Yay!! There was one Final he was worried about, but he got word that he passed it. My biggest bucket of thanks to everyone who sent all the good wishes and vibes for success on his last test. He said he felt really good about that one. It’s kind of mind-blowing to realize I’m having sex with someone who now possesses a Juris Doctorate. And just as soon as he passes the bar, I will officially be having sex with a lawyer. How cool is that?? Pretty damned cool if you ask me.

We’ve got the boy (Beau Hunk) and his boys (son & dog) moved in. Mostly. I still can’t get my car in the garage, and my Office O’Shame hasn’t been tackled yet. I’m hoping to get to that this week. Everything else is coming together nicely. That office is the last big hurdle in the bunch. Once that gets cleaned out and we move out my desk, we’ll be able to shuffle some other things around to a more final configuration. Man, can’t wait to finish that one!

Everyone is still adjusting to life together, but it hasn’t been too terrible. Well, unless you’re the cat. She is in utter hell. She has apparently realized that she and I are an Island of Estrogen in a Testosterone Sea, and has been surprisingly lovey to me. Of course she’s being a complete bitch to everyone else. She may be coming around a little though, because she’s almost oblivious to the dogs, and yesterday she let Woo walk up and pet her. But she gets really pissy when he chases her and corners her. Nobody’s gotten hurt yet, thankfully.

For some reason though, she really doesn’t like the Beau Hunk. She pretty much has no use for him. He keeps trying to be her friend, but she’s having none of it. He’s even tried scratching her favorite places, and she growls and swats at him. Bitch.

But me? She’s fallen in love with me all over again. You must realize this is the cat who has spent the last three years punishing me for bringing that horrible beast (the dog) into the house. Since the Beau Hunk’s moved in, she’s gone from sleeping on the foot of the bed and getting pissy every time I move, to sleeping in a dinner-plate sized area between my belly and legs as I lay on my side. She’s even tolerating me rolling over and getting up without moving. Very strange. I can only guess that she probably thinks if she sucks up to me, I’ll kick out all these big stinky males and get back to the way things should be: just the two of us. Sorry cat, welcome to your new life. It’s called two dogs, a kid and a new human who insists on tormenting you by petting you every time he walks by. It really does suck to be you.

My dog is having the time of his life though. He now has a permanent playmate in Beau Hunk’s dog, who is a big fluffy red Golden Retriever. The Red Dog is a sweetie. Too much so, if you ask me. He lets himself get totally bullied by my Corgi. I guess he doesn’t realize he’s twice the height and weight of my dog, because he’s totally my dog’s bitch. They do get along though, and it’s a lot of fun to watch them play. The Red Dog will even bow down to my dog’s height so they can play. It’s so sweet! But he’s a pussy, so he gets pushed around when my dog decides to be the “big” dog. Sorry Red Dog. Welcome to your new life. It’s not all bad though, because he now has regular access to a human with fingernails who is perfectly content to sit and scratch his ears. That’s the definition of Doggy Heaven.

Woo is settling in nicely. He has his own room, complete with a big-boy bed, more toys than any one child should claim as their own, and a TV/VCR combo to watch videos. He’s also right across the hall from us, so when he cries out in the night, we’re right there to help him out. The poor kid seems to be plagued by nightmares. (Not related to move stress, he’s been doing this for a while.) He cries out 3-4 times a night, and at least once a night he’ll wake all the way up and cry for his Daddy. And oh the humanity if I go in and try to put him back to sleep! He’ll spend a few minutes throwing a sleepy little tizzy fit, and trying to get as far away from me as possible on the bed. But he usually falls asleep in a few minutes, so apparently it’s not life threatening. Sorry kiddo, welcome to your new life. I’m here, Daddy still loves you, and I promise nothing will eat you in your sleep. That’s about the best I can do for you at this point.

As for me and the Beau Hunk, we seem to be settling in ok as well. He’s already picked out a whole list of projects he wants to do around the house. The weather isn’t cooperating just yet, but I’m getting excited about some of the plans he’s making. He’s been really sweet about doing the shopping and making dinner. He’s even been serving me dinner when I get home. I told him that wasn’t necessary, but he likes to cook (and is frankly better at it than I am), and since he’s home while I’m at work, he says it makes the most sense. That’s sweet.

Coming home has gotten somewhat overwhelming. I’m used to coming in the door and being greeted by a cat. Now I’ve got the cat, two dogs – one of whom is beating my shins to death with his tail in an effort to get his ears scratched, the other who is trying to trip me – Woo and Beau Hunk. As I said, it’s a little overwhelming for a girl who is used to living the quiet life. But that’s ok, it’s not such a bad thing to be tackled with love as you come home. I just laugh and say “Welcome to your new life”.

Valentine’s Day

Monday, February 14th, 2005

Happy Hearts Day everyone! You will all be happy to know that I did not spend the day sitting in a cubicle filled with dozens and dozens of roses, dripping in gifted diamonds, nor dining by candlelight in some romantic restaurant where a two-bite pork chop with a sprig of parsley costs a month’s salary. I may be evolving, but let’s be serious, shall we? If I made that much change that fast I’d strip a gear or something. (And then I’d go jump off a bridge for being too ridiculous to live.)

The Beau Hunk and decided ahead of time that today is a Hallmark Holiday, and thus does not deserve more than a passing notice. We’ve said that we should show how much we love each other whenever we damned well please and not let that display of affection be dictated by a calendar. Hallmark can keep their holiday, and we will keep our money. So, no gifts at Chez Haggie tonight.

The pseudo-holiday almost went without notice though. After I got out of the shower this morning, I sat down and chatted with Beau Hunk in bed for a while. He left the room and I turned on the news, only to realize it was Valentine’s Day. Oops. I went and found a barely-awake Beau Hunk, planted a kiss on his forehead, and wished him a Happy Hearts Day. He called me at work later and offered up takeout from my favorite Chinese restaurant for dinner. It’s not as lopsided as it sounds, since he usually does all the cooking he gets the night off. Also, logistics dictate that I pick up the food. However, the fact that he suggested Chinese is all about me, since that’s my favorite, not his. So I think we’ve found a nice equitable split for this one.

Woo’s school had a Valentine exchange today too. We received a note on Thursday that we were to send in 20 Valentines with Woo’s name on them, they’d do the rest. Cool! We happened to be at the grocery store on Saturday and thought since they have a greeting card section there, we’d save ourselves an extra trip and buy them there. Uh, not.

The biggest packs they had were packages of eight, and they were $4.99 each. Holy shit, what a rip off! There’s no way in hell we were paying 15 fucking dollars for something that may or may not even make it out of the school. We drove over to the drug store and found something much more suitable to our cause: kid Valentines in boxes of 32 for $1.99. Score! We even bought a spare box to send to the school, in case somebody forgot to send theirs in, or whatever. It seems that a lot of the kids in this school not only have special emotional and physical needs, but come from some pretty unfair home lives as well. It was the least we could do. And hey, it’s not like we were going broke spending money on each other. We both agreed this was a more than worthy cause.

Of course, when I got home from work, dinner in hand, I did discover that Beau Hunk had bought me a lovely bunch of red and white carnations, and a box of chocolates. He’s such a sweetie pie! I felt kinda bad though, since I didn’t get him anything.

So no, I didn’t have some overblown celebration punctuated by the ring of a cash register. And guess what? I love it. I love the Beau Hunk and Woo, and they love me. I have received the best gift anyone could ever get in the name of love: a family. I have a man who cooks for me, changes the oil in my car, takes care of our home, does projects in our yard, tells me I’m beautiful and is willing to share his life and child with me. I have a little boy who gives me snuggly hugs when he wakes up, run-and-fling laughing hugs when I leave the house each morning, and big smiley hugs when I get home.

How does life get any better than that?

Rainy Days and Sunshine

Tuesday, March 1st, 2005

Our weather here has been totally schizo lately. One day it’s sunny and warm, the next you’re Googling “How to Build an Ark”. And once again, I’ve been perfecting my Doing It Wrong technique. Two weekends ago I went for a Saturday ride. We only went 20 miles, but I forgave myself since it basically rained the whole fucking time. Well, except for when we were a quarter mile from the finish. Then it stopped. Mother Nature, you’re one sick bitch.

Except for being soaked to my skin, it was a decent ride. We only had one car who acted like a fucknozzle. Some dickweed in a Toyota Sequoia passed us on a blind hill at full speed, and made sure he didn’t give us any room at all. Apparently he had places to go and couldn’t be inconvenienced to slow down to the speed of sound for five seconds and let us crest the hill so he could see if cars were coming and give us an inch or two. Nooooo. That would have been a bother to him, being a certified Penis For Brains. Besides, letting off the accelerator may have made him spill his Mega-Venti Double Dorkachino with Cheese, since his other hand was probably on his cell phone.

Bah. But it was only one car, and there were many who had the chance to kill us, and no others who took it, so I should be grateful. Although, there was a guy out on a deserted country road who drove by going the opposite direction and honked nastily at us. We figured he was just pissed because he was on his big fat ass in his dry warm pickup, instead of out riding his bike in the rain like us. Yeah, that would piss me off too.

Anyway, back to Doing It Wrong. So I rode in the rain two Saturdays ago. This past weekend, when it was nice and sunny? I slept in. Yeah, I’m that dumb. My mother would say I don’t have enough sense to come in out of the rain, but I refuse to admit that she’s right. So for the record, I have that sense, I just don’t use it. What I do lack is the sense to go out and ride my bike in the sunshine. Duh.

Woo has a new bike. Beau Hunk and I spotted a Trek Trikester at a bike shop. Man, this is the coolest kid bike ever! It has big fat tires that have air tubes in them, the seat adjusts forward/back and up/down, and the deck between the back wheels holds 700 pounds, so the adults can stand on it and push if need be. Whoo! It goes off road and Wooster just loves it. He’s been riding around the local parks with Beau Hunk when it’s not too nasty out. Notice I didn’t say “when it’s not raining”. Woo is a boy and is perfectly happy to ride his bike in a sprinkle. Of course we don’t let him ride in full on rain, but he would if we’d let him.

The first day he took out his Trikester, Woo rode for what we estimate to be four miles. He came home, ate a huge pile of Cheerios, drank a whole glass of water, demanded his jammies and then went down the hall and put himself to bed. At 5pm. He slept until 5:30 the next morning. He’s been regularly riding 2-2.5 miles a day since. He’s the Lance Armstrong of the preschool circuit.

He’s a natural born mountain mountain biker too, just like his Daddy. He rides the trike on sidewalks and trails, and purposely goes off the path and aims for tree roots, mud puddles, anything that is more fun than pavement. As he’s running over the stuff, he turns to watch the back wheels and grins like the little imp that he is. He’s in heaven on that thing.

So everyone in our house is awaiting the end of the rainy season. We’ve got place to go and bikes to ride!

Offically Speaking

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2005

About a month ago I received a challenge from the Beau Hunk. He challenged me to ride to the top of Mt. Diablo with him. This is no small feat. Mt. Diablo is the highest point in our county with a summit height of 3,849 feet. The climb by bicycle is about 3,500, done in approximately 11 miles – all climbing on the way up, all downhill on the way down. And just when you think you’ve made it, the mountain smacks you with the final injurious insult – a 100 yard stretch of road that climbs at an 18% grade. Ow.

Since my winter of wallowing turned into my spring of sloth, the Beau Hunk’s challenge was designed as a blatant attempt to incent me back on to the bike. It worked. I went into training. I got back on my diet (ok, only sort of) and started riding when the weather allowed, and riding the trainer when it didn’t. I even joined my pal Ms. New York a couple of times for an after-work jaunt halfway up the mountain to the Ranger’s Station just above the 2,000 feet marker.

We set the date for our little challenge/adventure for May 1st. There was some trepidation over the weather since the weatherheads were calling for rain Sunday morning. We decided we were making our ride, rain or shine. This was a challenge, afterall. The Beau Hunk invited Ms. New York and Ms. Monday to join us on our adventure. Sunday dawned to beautiful clear weather. We were on, no excuses.

We all met at the appointed time and place, nerves ringing. This was the day. The challenge was upon us. Beau Hunk made a few laps around the parking lot saying “if I never stop, this doesn’t happen”. No honey, we have to go. Breathe breathe breathe.

Bikes were mounted, pedals started turning and we were off.

At one point along the way we caught up to a man on a mountain bike puffing his way up the mountain. We had seem him go by when we were taking a scenery break earlier. I whispered to Beau Hunk “Catch up to him. I want to pass him. I’ve never done that before!” It’s true, I’m an asshole. I’ve been passed by a cast of thousands when climbing, but rarely ever get the chance to pass anyone else. Especially on this mountain. So I settled in behind Beau Hunk and drafted him past the man on the mountain bike. When we were sufficiently clear, I whispered to Ms. New York “I wanted to pass someone. I never get to do that.” She replied “Never mind that he’s 90 and on a mountain bike.” Ok, she’s got me there. But what the fuck. I take my victories where I can. Sometimes I feel good just passing road kill. If I don’t make shit up, I never have any fun.

Along the way we were passed by what felt like an unusually large number of cars. Cars heading up the mountain are to be expected, especially on clear and spectatular days like Sunday was, but it really felt like we were being passed a lot. They all left us plenty of room when they went by, but we noticed that too many of them had no qualms about going into the opposite lane on a blind corner. Folks, I appreciate the fact that you are crossing a double yellow to not squeeze me, but could you perhaps try to to it when you can see that you’re not going to hit a car or cyclist coming the other way? Thanks.

We also noticed that a large percentage of these cars were being driven by what appeared to be 12-year olds. I swear, those kids looked like they belonged on a Huggies box, not behind the wheel of a car. It is at times like this when I realize that I have turned into that old woman down the street who is always yelling at the kids to get off her lawn. But I digress…

The car situation got so obvious and happened so often that the Beau Hunk started re-thinking the challenge. Did we really need to go to the top? I was ready, I was willing. But I hate the piece of road that provides the sole ascention to the summit. It’s narrower, rougher, and more traveled than the North Road we were on. Missing it wouldn’t hurt my feelings, not one bit. The decision was made, the ride would be cut short to reduce the potential exposure to idiots, especially those of the “loose nut behind the wheel” variety.

We settled on riding to the Stagecoach group campground instead of the summit. We reached the campground well rested and all feeling great. We parked the bikes, the Beau Hunk took my hand and we walked towards a secluded spot. It was time for my reward.

Yep, that’s what you think it is. (Click here for the whole pic.) The Beau Hunk and I are officially betrothed. Or something like that. We’re gonna do that whole “married” thing. Eventually.

Now if you go back and read the entry again, you may realize that this was not a surprise to anyone involved. We picked out my ring (it’s actually a wedding set) and his wedding ring a while back. But since I am involved with what is basically an evil genius, he decided to use this opportunity to get my ass off the couch and back on the bike. Bastard!!

Not only were we joined by an exuberant Ms. New York, but Ms. Monday (previously of Monday night ride fame) joined us as well. However, Ms. Monday had knee surgery about six weeks ago, so while she is back on the bike, she isn’t allowed to climb yet. Especially the likes of Diablo. So we invited her to join us via car. She played SAG wagon for us and schlepped our excess clothes and our food.

And oh, the food! After Beau Hunk and I had our private moment, we had an absolute feast. Ms. New York and Ms. Monday had gone shopping and had the whole spread laid out in no time flat. We even had “engagement goblets” – little plastic cups with a diamond pattern made to resemble cut glass. We raised a toast of Martinelli’s Apple-Cranberry cider for me and Hornsby’s Hard Cider for the Beau Hunk. There was champagne on hand, but we never opened it. (Too many people riding/driving for any amount of alcohol.)

We had wheat crackers, rykrisp crackers, bread, smoked cheese, Laughing Cow cheese, wine-soaked Brie cheese, Feta cheese, hummus, strawberries, a vegetable platter (with ranch dip), milk chocolate, dark chocolate and chocolate covered biscuits. Did I mention it was a feast? Yeah, no joke. It beat the hell out of the Clif bars I usually eat.

After we ate, we packed up the whole lot into Ms. Monday’s van and headed down the mountain. Oddly enough, we didn’t encounter a single car going our direction on the way down. That’s always a treat.

So we didn’t make it all the way to the summit, but the objective was obtained. We made our way up the mountain and made our future official. For me, it hasn’t really sunk in yet. I have occasional moments of clarity when it hits me that I’m engaged. I’m going to get married. Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck!!!! And then the moment goes away, and I’m back to my same old self, but with this sparkly thing on my finger.

I called my Mom & Dad Sunday night. Mom was pleased, and when she mentioned “engaged” over the phone, my father overheard and asked if it was my niece on the phone. In explaining his reaction he said “I didn’t think you’d do that. I mean, I didn’t think you would let that happen. I mean, I didn’t think it would ever happen.” At that point I said “Dad? Please, just stop talking. It’s not getting any better.” He was a little affronted by this, but I thought it was funny.

You must remember that this is the man who once walked into his house to find me crying in a fit of frustration, took one look at me and declared that he was going to take a piss. Atta boy dad! My father is a very kind, warm, loving, wondeful man. But he is totally clueless when it comes to mushy girlie stuff. You have to love him anyway. At least I do.

So Mom & Dad are happy, the rest of the family is happy. But most of all, the Beau Hunk and I are happy. A little freaked out, but happy anyway.

Engagement FAQ

Friday, May 13th, 2005

So as the word of our pending hitch spreads, I’m seeing a pattern to the questions being asked. I thought I might save some time by taking a shot an an FAQ.

Have you picked a date?
No, we don’t have a date. We don’t have a specific month. We have picked a season though. For now, that’s close enough.

What kind of ceremony are you going to have?
We haven’t decided on specifics yet. (You’ll see this as a recurring theme.) We haven’t decided if we want to do something that is just the two of us. If we do have a party / gathering / ceremony, it will be casual, it will be fun, and it will be low key. And it will be inexpensive.

You will not find me planning an extraaavaaagaaannnzaaa that involves a tiara, a dress that costs more than my car, 14 bridesmaids or 600 invited guests. Which also means I will not be purchasing a bus ticket to Las Vegas anytime soon.

Frankly, I couldn’t invite 600 people if I tried. I swear, if I got down the the level of my dog’s vet’s sister’s pool boy, I couldn’t find 600 people to invite. And 14 bridesmaids? Fuck off. Someone thinks awfully highly of themself, now don’t they?

Are you going to get married on a bike?
We haven’t made any plans yet, so anything is possible. I wouldn’t rule out bikes being involved some way or another. Afterall, we met on a bike ride, our first date was a bike ride, and we got engaged on a bike ride. Anything could happen.

Did you pick the ring, or was it a surprise?
We went together and picked out the ring. Beau Hunk’s theory was that it would be on my finger, so I should get something I like. Works for me!

The pictures on the engagement entry sucked. What does the ring really look like?
You try taking pictures of your own hand when you’re all excited and giddy and totally fucking freaked out by what’s about to happen. Yes, the pictures sucked.

The ring is a princess cut center stone set “on the diagonal”. The side stones are (moving from the center outward) two channel-set round stones. The outer set of stones are channel set baguettes.

I’ve never seen a center stone set like that. How did you find that?
It found us. I like princess cut stones, so that’s what we were looking at. Traditionally, the stone is set in a square, not on it’s point. (Here’s a pic of the whole set from the jewelry store website with the traditionally set stone.) The salesperson had several stones out for us to look at, and was in the process of putting a candidate into the mounting prongs on the ring so we could see what it looked like. She sort of flubbed the placement and it landed sideways – on the diagonal. Beau Hunk and I both commented that we thought that was a cool setting, too bad we couldn’t do that. The saleslady said we could absolutely do that. Cool! Make it so, Mr. Jeweler! I think it adds a special little pizzazz and a uniqueness that makes it “mine”.

Are you used to wearing a ring yet?
I’m having issues getting used to the way the stone sticks up. I’ve already dipped it in a bowl of chili when I mis-calculated where the back of my finger was when crunching up the crackers. Oops. Shoving my hands into my pants pockets doesn’t work so well anymore, and I almost poked the cat in the eye a few times when she got lovey and started rubbing her head on my hand. No injuries yet though.

And so there ya go. Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask.

Poop. Lots and Lots of Poop.

Thursday, July 7th, 2005

I went missing again…surprise, no? I know I always say that things are nuts around here, but really, they are.

It’s like this folks – there’s major changes afoot, and not just getting married. (No, we haven’t set a date yet.) Beau Hunk and I have decided to sell the house and move away. Far away. About 200 miles north, to be exact. So, we’re doing all those things that need to be done to the house to get maximum return and take advantage of the absolutely insane housing prices here. If I told you what houses in my neighborhood were selling for, you’d call me a liar. Hell, I live here and I don’t believe it!

As if fixing up the house, selling, buying and moving wasn’t enough, I’ve also decided to make a major change in my career. As in totally ditching the one I have now and starting over. I’ve decided to become a paralegal. The community college in our destination area has a paralegal curriculum, so I’m going for it. And again, as if that wasn’t change enough, I’ve also decided to go for a degree while I’m there. I don’t have one, so why not? It’s not required for the job, but hey, I might as well. Got nuthin better ta dooooo. Yeah, right.

So our life has resembled the inside of blender lately. The Beau Hunk has been hard at work around the house. He’s been ripping out landscaping, has put in pea-gravel in the dog run and along the other side yard, and put in a back yard. (Grass! I have grass!!!) Dad’s been doing his part too – he came down and sheetrocked the garage (which I painted) and is working on making us new cabinet doors for the kitchen.

The kitchen will be a massive project in and of itself. We are going to replace the linoleum, paint the existing cabinets and put new doors on, replace all the appliances, and put in new granite tile countertops. The sad part is that once we get all this done, we’re going to sell. I’ve lived with that ugly fucking kitchen (including the avocado green stove hood) for six fucking years. Just when it gets livable, I’m going to leave! Oh well, I’ll be on to bigger and better things and won’t miss it at all, I’m sure.

The Beau Hunk picked up our new closet doors today. (There’s another thing I’ve been cussing since I moved into this place, but could never afford to replace.) So in the very near future I’ll be able to open and close my closet without two hands, screeching metal noises and a lot of luck. You probably don’t realize how happy this makes me.

Last weekend we began the process of tiling the entryway. We ripped up the really ugly linoleum tiles and put down the underlayment for the tile. We bought the tile, but haven’t started installing it yet, because we need to time that with our custody of Woo. These projects were so much easier to plan and execute when there wasn’t a four year old running around! There’s just no way we can do some things (like use thinset and put in tile) with the little guy at home, so we are juggling projects.

Which brings us to a Woo update. And boy, what an update. (Warning to non-parents – you may want to skip the rest of this entry.) We’ve been struggling with stage two of toilet training with him – Poopy Toilet. He’s been pee-trained for close to a year now, but he refused to crap in the toilet. When I say “refused”, I mean re-fucking-fused. Even the mention of Poopy Toilet brought on a screaming fit like you can’t imagine. His little face would cloud up, he’d get a panicked look in his eyes, start crying, vehemently shake his head and loudly declare “No Poopy Toilet!!!!” for the whole neighborhood to hear.

For whatever reason, toilet training autistics is not easy. They don’t want to do it. I’ve read some books on the subject, and the reasons seem to vary from terror from feeling like their insides are falling out, to being comforted by the warmth and weight of a full diaper. But life with a four year old (five in December) in diapers isn’t easy. Have you ever seen what comes out of a four year old kid? We use toilets for a reason ya know.

Everyone had lots of sage advice: sit him on the pot and give him his favorite toy…offer him his favorite food…sing to him and play games. All of which we tried, but none of which got anywhere, because he would go into a screaming thrashing fit everytime the words Poopy Toilet were mentioned.

We had minor success waiting for signs of desperation and holding him on the toilet. But he spent the entire time screaming, crying and fighting with all of his strength to get off. What a joy that was – for all of us. The thought process behind this was that if we could get him to go a few times, have a big party when he did poop, he’d see that it wasn’t anything to be afraid of and be ok with it. Shows what we know… this went on for months, and the screaming, wailing and thrashing never abated in the least. Then he outsmarted us and started holding it – for days. When he got desperate, he’d wait for his nighttime diaper and sneak off for a clandestine crap. When we started limiting his diaper time, he started sneaking off in the back yard and pooping in his pants. So we quit giving him outside play time. Every aspect of this was pure hell – for all of us.

Two weeks ago I saw him in desperate need again. We went through the ritual – he screamed in my face and I refused to let him off the pot. Then I started acting like I was going to tickle him. He didn’t know whether to laugh or cry – so he did both. I kept tickling. He quit crying, started laughing and said “I want tittle prease.” He wanted to be tickled. Ok, fine by me, I tickled him. Then he yelled “Stop!”, which I did. He looked at me and smiled, and I caught a whiff.

He pooped. In the toilet. And he wasn’t screaming. Could it be? I got excited and asked him “Did you poopy? Did you Poopy Toilet???” He tilted to one side and I saw an absolutely humongous crap curled up in the bottom of the bowl. Let the party begin, we have poop! And what a party it was. We wah-hooed, hugged and celebrated. We yelled for Daddy, and did more wah-hooing, hugging and celebrating.

The next night I got home from work and saw that he was clutching his butt – a sure sign he had to go. Down the hall we went, he asked for “fast tickle”, and before I knew it he pooped. Cool! Fast, easy and without trauma. It was another Poopy Party.

The next day was Saturday. Beau Hunk went out on an early morning bike ride, so Wooster and I were hanging out. He was lounging around, still in the diaper and jammies from the night. Imagine my surprise when he looked at me and said “I want Poopy Toilet prease”. Well alrighty then!! We hung out in the bathroom playing for about 20-30 minutes. I thought to myself ok, this ain’t gonna happen. He just wants the party, but I’ll give it to him because I’m not going to fight it if he asks for it.

I got up and left the room to get him his clothes for the day. I had been out of the room for about 20 seconds and I heard a noise. I went back to the bathroom and the kid had pooped! The biggest party you ever saw came down after that. This is a kid that just a few days before would have used the still-in-a-night-diaper opportunity to sneak off and poop without use of a toilet. I was so excited I sent Beau Hunk a text message.

It’s been a couple of weeks now, and he’s consistently asking for Poopy Toilet. I’ve even become the kid’s Preferred Poopy Partner and Fecal Friend. I don’t mind, because at least he’s not screaming in my face the entire time. I’m telling you, words cannot express how happy I am about this. Talk about your major milestone – not to mention a serious Quality of Life upgrade for the Beau Hunk and me.

So there ya go. The latest Poop Scoop – on all facets of my life.

And you’re probably sorry you read this far.

Houston, We Have a Date!

Friday, July 22nd, 2005

I’m not even sure how the conversation started. I do remember that I was basking around in the tub, and the Beau Hunk was keeping me company, hanging out in the bathroom and chatting me up. Somehow or another, the subject of our impending nuptials came up. This is a subject that has heretofore been taboo, causing massive amounts of stress and tension in both of us. But I guess the scent of peppermint oil coming off the tub must have hit us both just right, because suddenly we were talking about making plans. The broad stokes had already been laid down: nothing big, elaborate, nor expensive, and guests optional.

A few general ideas were bandied about – a hot air balloon ride for two (three if you count the pilot/officiant), a mountain bike ride, the side of Mt. Diablo (site of our engagement), a chartered boat on Lake Tahoe. We even had a brief discussion about cutting to the chase and doing “weddings R us” in Reno or Tahoe, or city hall. Beau Hunk ruled out the Reno/Tahoe WeddingHut idea because so many of them are just fucking cheesy. I nixxed the city hall idea, wanting something a little more special than “Congratulations, pay at window B”. Besides, the idea of getting married at the same place where you pay your water bill and renew the dog’s license was a bit off-putting to me. I may be practical, but I’m not that practical.

GazeboThen Beau Hunk tossed out the idea of someplace on the North Coast. We have had some brief and vague discussions about taking a honeymoon on the northern California coastline, so I had already done research for that area. It wasn’t long before I was in his face with a URL. “How about this place? It has a little gazebo out on a cliff point. What do you think?” He liked. As a matter of fact, it was a place where his parents had gone to vacation on many occasions.

The next thing you know, we were looking at the various rooms, trying to find one we really liked. We agreed on a gorgeous room – king sized feather bed, sitting room, wet bar, fireplace, sun room and double jetted tub, all with an ocean view. Yes, even the tub has an ocean view window.

Tub and ViewThe guest list was discussed next. We want to keep this small, especially since we were looking at travelling three hours from home. My parents were the core group. Extending beyond that, even if keeping only to those with whom we share DNA, the list grows exponentially. You open the floor to friends, you quickly get to 50+ guests, and even at that, someone gets their feelings hurt. We want to keep this small and as inexpensive as possible, without it looking like a cheap occasion. Besides the money issue, there’s a whole minefield of familial bullshit that is best avoided, so the decision was quickly reached to only invite my parents. They’re pretty much the only ones that wouldn’t understand, nor get over, not being invited.

I called the establishment and spoke to their wedding coordinator. “We want to get married in September or October, our dates are flexible, and we can do mid-week. We want to stay in X room, and we will be booking a room for my parents. Can you help us?” Of course!

A few minutes of looking, some discussion as to the needs of my parents (quiet, King bed), and two date ranges were in front of me. We chose October 12th. I’m getting married on October 12th. My anniversary will be on October 12th. I like it. Moreover, I think I can remember it.

We are going up on the 11th, and will be checking out the 13th. The ceremony will be the afternoon of the 12th. We booked a “spa package” (got a great break on the room rate), so we are both scheduled to get one-hour massages. I was obsessively looking over the website and saw something about horseback riding in the vicinity. I mentioned it to Beau Hunk, mostly as a joke. “Look honey! We can go horseback riding, on the beach!!” He blew my socks off by telling me to set it up. Wha?? You want to go horseback riding? Sure! He’s never ridden a horse on the beach before. Man, this just gets better (and sappier).

In thinking about the timing of the weekend, we didn’t really want to have to rush up on the 11th. I know we’re going to both be nervous wrecks on the 12th. So what better way to make the clock move than to schedule activities on our wedding day?? I booked the horseback ride for mid-morning, and the massages for early afternoon. That will give us plenty of time in between to not rush, but will keep us occupied and focused on something besides “We’re getting married in ten hours, thirty six minutes and fourteen seconds… we’re getting married in ten hours, thirty six minutes and thirteen seconds…” If we thought the engagement freaked us out, the wedding will most likely turn us inside out. I’m hoping having something else to do will help.

Since we aren’t having the traditional affair, getting ready should be easy too. We aren’t having a cake, there’s no reception, and we’re having dinner in the dining room with my parents. We haven’t even decided if we want a photographer. I have to do more research – most seem to want a two-hour minimum. We’ll be stretching it if we need one for an hour. Afterall, how many pictures can you take of four people?? I need to make some calls and see if one of the local pros will be willing to waive the two hour minimum for some mid-week work. It’s a Wednesday for fuck’s sake, chances are they won’t have anything better to do.

I am going to have a small, simple bouquet. Beau Hunk is going to wear a suit he already owns (and which makes him look every bit a Beau Hunk). I am not wearing a “wedding dress”, but am getting married in a dress. When I called Mom to ask if she and Dad were free October 11-13 and tell her the news, she said “You’ll have to come up and we’ll go dress shopping at Nordstrom.” I kind of hemmed and hawed – I lost my shopping enthusiasm many years ago, and have yet to find it. Left to my own devices I’d probably pick up something at Ross or some sale rack. She sensed my hesitation and quietly said “Oh, you probably want to go shopping with Ms. Monday or BonBon.”

That’s when I realized I was being a selfish twit. My Mom wants to go shopping for the dress her only daughter will wear at her wedding. Who the fuck am I to take that away from her. Duh! So I said yes, I’ll come up, we’ll go shopping and make a day out of it. I really can be dense and selfish at times. I never thought for a minute that going dress shopping would be important to her – it certainly isn’t to me.

Within a few hours of the start of the conversation in the tub, we had a date picked and a wedding planned. It was that simple. There’s only a few details left – like the photographer, booking the officiant (the hotel recommended someone) and getting my dress. We’re done. Except there’s one more project to tackle, and it’s going to be the biggest and toughest of them all. It’s called “Losing 20 Pounds so I Don’t Look Like a Stuffed Sausage in My Wedding Dress”.

Hm. Maybe I should re-think that City Hall option.

Playing Catchup

Tuesday, October 4th, 2005

Before I begin my self-absorbed tale, I want to send my best thoughts / wishes / prayers to those of affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. I hope you all are starting to get things back together there, an that you and yours made it safely through the storms. Looking at the devestation on TV is one thing, but I can’t even begin to imagine having to witness it first hand – especially if the rubble and debris is your own neighborhood. Be safe and be well.

When we last left our heroine (modestly known as me), she had set a date for her wedding and was contemplating a move 200 miles away from her current home. That was more than two months ago. I am now writing this from the comfort of our new home in our new city, 200 miles away from the last entry.

Here’s the unnecessarily long version of this story, with my apologies for it’s ramblings and extreme boredom:

At the end of July, Beau Hunk and I took a trip to the area to which we were moving. Neither one of us had been up there for decades, so it seemed appropriate that we go check it out. We had been doing a lot of research on the web, checking out houses for sale, crime reports, biking info etc. We had also talked to several real estate agents, but had yet to commit to one. We finally found an agent we really liked. She wasn’t pushy, she wasn’t hard core, she had experience with special needs kids (and had some of her own), and knew her business. We made plans to go north and have her squire us around.

The plan was for us to arrive on Friday and check out some things on our own, then meet with her on Saturday and Sunday (if needed). Since our hotel was not so fabulous, we decided to head out and explore neighborhoods. We ended up calling our agent to get us info on houses we had drove by but for which we had no info. It turned out she was available and could come squire us around right then. Cool! It turned out to be a frustrating, disappointing and very long day. One thing we found out was that owning land didn’t mean you could use the land. Many lots had either large easements for greenspace, or just dived off a hill. So houses that had 2 acres on paper would really only have 20 feet of usable backyard before it dropped off into a canyon. We don’t have much of a desire to pay for land we can’t use.

We weren’t scheduled to meet with our agent until noon Saturday, so we headed out to check out some different neighborhoods on our own. We stumbled upon one neighboorhood we really, really liked that had houses for sale. We ended up driving around and calling our agent with messages like “We found another one – the address is blah blah blah. Add that one to the list.”

We met with the agent and spent most of the day running around this neighborhood looking at places. We found one that we considered making an offer on, but we thought the price was out of line. Especially since the place was a total estrogen-fest. There was floral wallpaper everywhere. Especially the bathroom. Beau Hunk and I walked in there, and I swear, I could feel his balls shrinking from across the room. There was no way in hell that bathroom stayed that way, so there was work to be done.

The decision was made to go back to the agent’s office and comp the house, just to see what a reasonable offer would be. In doing that, we found a house across the street that was up for significantly less. We recalled the house – it was what Beau Hunk referred to as “the booger of the block” – it was by far the least kept house on the block, but the price was right, so we decided to give it a look. We were told by the selling agent that we should “look past the piles of stuff”.

That was not an understatement. When we pulled up, the garage door was open, revealing piles and piles and piles of boxes. I spotted a stack of canned goods in cases, including two cases of red beans, and two cases of cream of mushroom soup. I knew instantly this was not a healthy person we were about to meet. The inside of the house was also crammed full of stuff. The living room held two TVs, a very large mechanic’s toolbox and dozens of cardboard boxes. One bedroom was so full of stuff we couldn’t even get in. The carpets (that we could see and weren’t covered by stuff) were dingy gray and really stained.

The lot was huge, but the owner had never done anything with it. The back yard consisted of weeds and a rickety fence. The property extended beyond the fence, where the weeds were just as thick, only they were eyeball-high instead of knee-high. But the property backed up to green space and there were no houses behind. That was something that really appealed to us.

This house was a really nice neighborhood, and the price was at least $100K below the other houses around, so we decided to go for it. We made an offer and drove home, hoping for the best.

Of course, nothing could be quite that simple in my life, could it? Of course not! You see, we asked for a 45 day escrow, not contingent on selling the Bay Area house. Afterall, the Bay Area market is hotter than hell, so selling wouldn’t be a problem. Except that the house wasn’t ready to be put on the market yet. We still had work to do. That my friends, is what programmers and other geeky types call a “sequence error”.

So we hauled ass home and started doing the bare minimum things that had to be done to sell the house: scrub up the kitchen cabinets, paint the exterior, finish touch-up painting, etc. Time was running out, we had work to do!

In the meantime, we started arranging financing, which was somewhat complicated by the fact that I was about to be unemployed. We were up front about this to all the lenders, and they all seemed to accept it since we were making a pretty good down payment. The best rates were through The Company Whose Name Starts With E and Ends With Loan. Everything was cool for four days – until we got past the person who took our app and started talking to our loan consultant, a person we named Attitudinal Asshole. Suddenly there was “no way, no how” this loan would go through, because I was going to be unemployed. We explained that we had that all worked out with the previous person, and the response back was “He works for me, he’s made a serious error in judgement and will be counselled. I am the be-all end-all of this loan, and no how, no way does it fund.” You’re fucking kidding me. Even if that’s the case, what kind of customer representative says those words??

We went back to the original person to whom we had been dealing for the last four days. He verbally rolled his eyes and went to his supervisor, who immediately had the loan re-run with $1/year for income. No problem, the rate even stayed the same. So back to the Attitudinal Asshole, who had to eat his words. I, being an asshole myself, had to rub it in a bit. “So I need some assurance that this process won’t hit anymore roadblocks along the way, because yesterday it was ‘No how, no way’ and today it’s ok.” He copped more attitude and said he couldn’t assure me of anything. Then he wanted a ton of documentation for the loan – we’re talking everything short of a picture of my mother with a fish up her nose. We had had enough.

We once again contacted the original person with whom we had dealt, who once again went to his supervisor. But this time, the supervisor called Beau Hunk directly. They were not amused with the language that Attitudinal Asshole had used, and immediately removed him from the case. They assigned us a new loan coordinator who was totally awesome to work with. Good thing too, because they were about to lose our business. Low rates are one thing, but if you have to get your balls busted to get it, it’s not worth it.

Somehow we managed to get the work done to the house and get the bloody thing on the market, but it took a few weeks. We went into MLS on Thursday, had an open house on Saturday, and had two offers on the table by Monday. Both were for 100% financing with cash back for closing costs. That meant we needed a full 30 day escrow, which would put us past our close date for the new house. Which was a problem, because we needed the payoff from the Bay Area house to put the down on the new house. Yep, another Sequence Error was looming.

Then the real fun began. We made a counter to the terms on the first offer (not money, just closing dates and such) on Monday night. On Tuesday night we got a call from the buying agent saying she didn’t have an answer to the counter yet, but could her clients come by and look again? You see, it turns out that the husband made an offer without the wife’s knowledge and she hadn’t seen the house yet. WTF? But ok, whatever.

When the couple showed up, Beau Hunk recognized the wife as a person who had come up to the door Sunday afternoon and made up some story about how she was supposed to meet her agent there in a few minutes, so golly, could she just come in now? Rule number one of selling a house: never let anyone in your house without an agent. And we knew she was making up the story, because the listing said agents must call ahead before showing up. We have a small child afterall, and some times are not optimal for people to drop by. No call from an agent means she wasn’t meeting her agent there in a few minuts. She was lying. We turned her away, saying when her agent got here, the agent could call ahead for an appointment. She got in her car and left. Amazingly enough, an agent never showed up.

So imagine our surprise when she showed up at the door on Monday. Had she just told the truth on Sunday, we probably would have let her in. We still haven’t figured out why she felt like she needed to lie. It turned out to be a moot point, because they declined our counter offer on Tuesday. We were actually relieved. We didn’t like the idea of doing business with a husband who made offers on houses without his wife’s knowledge and a wife who lies when the truth would have served her much better.

We moved on to the second offer and made the same counters to its terms. The buyer accepted the offer and we entered into escrow. With an accepted offer on the table, we made arrangements to delay the close of the house we were buying by a week so the Bay Area house would close in time for us to use the proceeds for the down payment.

But remember what I said about it not being that easy? No sooner did we get the seller of the house we were buying to agree to the later close date, than the buyers of our house backed out of the contract. Apparently “earnest money” and a signed contract don’t mean shit, and they backed out without consequence. I’m still amazed as to how that works, but whatever.

We now had to start over and find a new buyer. Which in all likelihood meant that we wouldn’t be able to close the Bay Area house before we had to come up with the down for the house we were buying. Panic ensued at the House O’Hag and Hunk, and we started scrambling to find other ways to make the down. We ended up being able to unlock some of the Bay Area house’s equity, but with loan processing times, it was going to be close. In the meantime, we dropped the price of the Bay Area house to get into a lower search bracket in MLS and relisted that sucker on Thursday.

By Monday morning we had three more offers on the table, with two more waffling. Two offers were for the new asking price at 100% financing and cash back for closing costs. But the third offer was for more than our original asking price and with 10% cash down! That meant that the escrow could close in less than 30 days. We could make our closing date! Not being idiots, we accepted this offer.

The only snag to this process was the equity we got out of the house to make the down. As expected, the loan took a while to come through, which meant that the payoff order couldn’t be put through right away. That delayed the sale of the Bay Area house, but we were able to close the house we were buying on time. Luckily, the delay in the Bay Area house wasn’t a problem, although we did come (literally) within minutes of the buyer losing his lock on his loan rate, which would have meant we would have had to pay a penalty for him to keep the rate. But no worry, it happened.

Now, since this entry is approximately four billion pages long, I will quit now. Coming soon – the fascinating tale of moving in to the new house. I know, bated breath and all that… but thanks for reading.

Moving Up, Moving In

Wednesday, October 5th, 2005

As the rest of the nation sat glued to their TVs tracking Hurricane Rita, Beau Hunk and I were preparing for an evacuation of our own – out of the Bay Area house. We spent a few weeks weeding through our stuff, planning what furniture to donate / give away, packing non-essential items and making 400 mile (round) trips to a storage unit with a rented trailer. The new house closed on the 23rd, and the Bay Area house wasn’t due to close until sometime around the 30th, so we knew we had some wiggle room.

But there were plenty of things on which we had not planned.

First of all, we knew the new house was being lived in by a person of questionable mental health. What we didn’t realize was the magnitude of his sloth. When we toured the house, the carpet was gray and stained. It was also covered by quite a lot of stuff, and all the windows had the drapes drawn and many were permanently covered, so there wasn’t exactly a flood of light coming in to the place.

We saw the house again a few weeks before we moved – we were in town to drop off stuff at our storage unit and went by the house. The owner was outside packing up his stuff and invited us in to see a few things. It was then that we realized the house was dirtier than we had thought and the carpets were not ready to be lived on. There was also still a lot of stuff in the house and the windows were still covered , so it was hard to get a good look at the whole picture.

We had been thinking about the possibility of removing a wall of the kitchen, so we didn’t want to replace the carpets until we had a chance to mull that over and make a decision. So instead we decided to have the carpets professionally cleaned before we moved in, in the hopes we could make them liveable. At least we knew they’d be clean for Woo.

What we didn’t realize was that the person who lived here had a magnitude of pigness that we hadn’t come close to estimating. We got here around 6pm on the 23rd, and were greeted by our wonderful agent who was bearing pizzas. She knew we were coming in late and didn’t know our way around town, so her welcome was dinner. It was a godsend!!

It was at this point we started to really see what we were up against. We walked into the house and the first thing that we noticed was that the carpets weren’t gray, they were pink. Think about that. Pink, not gray. Ew! And in spite of cleaning, they were still in terrible shape. (The cleaners had called us and said there was no way they could get them clean.) An example: You can see a clean rectangle where the couch was. You can see a clean rectangle where the coffee table was. And in between the two you can see which end of the couch the previous owner occupied, because the carpet is black. After being professionally cleaned. Black. No kidding. We put the couch over that spot because it’s just too gross to contemplate.

The previous owner made no effort to clean the place. It was truly disgusting. You know how when you use a bar of soap next to a sink and it leaves soap on the counter? He didn’t even wipe that up. He just packed, closed the door, and walked away. He left us his fridge (we left ours for our buyer – too much of a bitch to move) and there was even food left in it. Not much, but it was there. We’re talking half eaten ice cream containers. Why in the name of all that is good and holy would you think that was ok?

The walls were filthy, the tub was unspeakably gross, the kitchen floor was black in places, and even the walls and switch plates were filthy. We’re talking years of grime. The first night we assembled our new bed from Ikea and fell into it, wondering just what kind of a pig in a poke we had been suckered into buying.

Satuday dawned and we set out to make this sty liveable. I started in the kitchen, which would turn out to be a huge project. I started from the top down, scrubbing the cabinets with Murphy’s oil soap the OrangeGlo, the counter tops with SoftScrub with bleach and a stiff brush, and the floors with barely diluted PineSol. As soon as I started I knew I was in for a lot of work. When I started scrubbing the tile counters, the chocolate brown grout (that was black in places) started turning sandy beige. I didn’t know whether to wretch or cry. But the good news is that I hated the dark brown grout and it looks really good with beige grout. The cabinets had food stuck to them. The bottom rails of the doors (especially on the lower cabinets) had dirt and dust an eighth of an inch thick. The dining room ceiling light fixture had so much dust and gunk on it that light no longer made it through the clear glass on the top of the fixture. It was completely obscured by years of crud.

I finally got to the floor after about eight hours of cabinet and countertop scrubbing. I grabbed my kneeling pad I use for working in the garden and my stiff bristled brush and went to work. I tried the mop, but that was a waste of time. The dirt on the floor just laughed at my mop. It argued with my scrub brush, but I was eventually able to win the battle. At one point I got up and noticed that the tops of my feet were hideously dirty. I realized this was because I had been kneeling on the floor and the tops of my feet had been rubbing on the floor as I was doing so. The floor was that dirty.

Thank the dieties that Woo was with his mom during all this. I can’t imagine having him in this house with all this pigginess. I have come up with many nicknames for the previous owner, including Pig, PigBoy and Piggie Pie (the name of a book I read to Woo). I shared this with Beau Hunk, who laughed and commented that I had built up quite a disdain for the man. I said, yes, a day and a half of wallowing in someone else’s disgusting filth will do that to you.

While I was battling with the kitchen, Beau Hunk painted Woo’s room and put together his new furniture from Ikea. We painted the room a really pretty light sky blue. It looks really great. After that was done, Beau Hunk set in to tackle cleaning the bathrooms, door jambs and light switches. We decided our policy would be that we would not touch anything that the previous owner touched without chemical intervention.

By the time Woo got here on Sunday night, we had the place reasonalby together. We didn’t move in much furniture – first because some was back at the Bay Area house, secondly because we decided to replace the carpet as soon as possible. There’s not much point in moving stuff in just to move it back out in a few weeks.

Having our posessions spread out between the two houses became a real pain in the ass pretty quickly. For starters, we forgot to bring the box that had the computer mouse and our cell phone chargers. That may not sound too bad, but if you take into consideration that we didn’t put in a landline here and were using only our cells, you realize our quandry. To add salt to this wound, both our phones started dying at the same time – just as we got notice that the Bay Area house was about to close – three days early. Uh-oh. We went to a nearby store and bought a car charger to solve the phone problem. However, the real problem was that we still had a significant amount of belongings in that house. Oops.

We planned to leave the new place at 8am on Wednesday to make the 3-4 hour drive to the Bay Area and get the rest of our belongings. But because Fate is such a bitch, that plan was foiled when Woo woke up at 5:45 am asking for a puke bucket. He and I spent the next three hours going through puke cycles every 20 minutes. The poor little guy was in a bad way. He didn’t have a fever, and he wasn’t bringing up anything but liquid, so when he suddenly perked up around 9, we weren’t surprised. By 10am we were on the road, heading off to get our stuff and leave the Bay Area for good. For insurance (and in case Woo needed some tending), we asked my parents to drop everything and meet us at the house.

It was a good thing we did, too, because we ended up loading our truck and a rental trailer, plus their truck to the absolute gills to get everything out. We showed up at the Bay Area house at 2pm and didn’t leave until 9pm. We got back here at 1 in the morning. Talk about a really shitty day. Woo never puked again, but he was a huge handful. He didn’t do well with the stress and chaos, and was a complete butt the whole day. It was one meltdown and defiant act after another. We ended up asking my mom to dedicate her time to watching/entertaining Woo. I think she was ready to jump off a cliff when the day was done.

We sent my parents home with their load around 7pm while we tied up all the loose ends. It was a horrible, long day, but by the time we left, we were able to lock the doors, leave the keys on the counter and walk away. Forever. It was a good feeling. I’ll miss that little house – I (with the help of a lot of other people) put a lot of effort into fixing it up, but it was time to move on.

We are slowly getting settled into the new house. As we continue to pick away at the grime, we have discovered a lovely little jewel sitting below the filth. Carpet is on order, we’ve picked a paint color, and have a plan for the yards. We’ve made some quick hits that have really brightened the place up – cutting down or trimming overgrown bushes and trees, changing out light fixtures, etc. We have started to fall in love with our little house, and think we’re going to like it here just fine.

The neighborhood gossip lives across the street and informed us that Piggie Pie moved into the house after his mother died. The rumor is that she may have even died in the house. I thought about that and briefly wondered if she had any intentions of haunting our cute little abode. Then I decided that, if anything, she’s probably glad that someone is finally living in her house who will take care of it and not wallow around in their own filth. I think she might be happy that there is a family living here who cares about the place and fills it with light, love and laughter. She wouldn’t dare haunt us, we may be her wish come true.

Counting Down

Thursday, October 6th, 2005

So in the middle of all this mess of selling a house, buying a house, moving 200 miles and quitting my job*, I’ve also been planning a wedding. (And for those of you who have asked, yes, I do have a Wedding Registry at Amazon.) Ok, so ours is not the kind of wedding that requires much planning, but there are things to be done. So far we’ve taken care of the officiant, photographer, venue, guests (all two of them) and accomodations. The only thing left is ordering my bouquet. Oh, and getting me a dress.

That’s right, the wedding is a week away and I don’t have a dress yet. Yeah, I’m a dipshit. But that’s not exactly news, now is it?

*(I’ve kind of glossed that one over, but yeah, I quit my job. I liked my job, but this not working this is kinda cool. But that’s a story for another entry.)

So yesterday I made the trek down to Sacramento to go shopping with my mom. We started out going to a bridal shop, mostly just for curiosity. I found a couple of dresses I liked, but they were $300 – 500. I realize that’s not exactly pricey for bridal attire, but I didn’t really want to spend that much. Besides they were way to floofy for me, and most would make Beau Hunk look underdressed in a suit.

We headed to Nordstrom Rack next, and spent a sum total of a minute in that store because the stock was pure crap. There wasn’t anything even vaguely near what we needed in there. So next we headed across the street to the real Nordstrom.

Where we hit paydirt! Mom and I found a blouse and pants outfit that worked just perfectly. The pants were kulotte type – where they looked a lot like a skirt. The blouse was a drape front, with sheer long sleeves and tuxedo cuffs. They both were in ivory. Elegant, dressy, but not over the top. They would also work well if I wanted to wear them to a cocktail party or a very nice dinner out. Not that I go to a huge number of cocktail parties (like none), but with Beau Hunk going into law, that may change.

But what didn’t work was the size. The pants were size 8 and were tight, but worked because they had an elastic waist. The blouse was a size 6 though, and I couldn’t even get it to zip up. But I did get the concept of the outfit and knew I liked it. The price was right too – well under $200. The wonderful salesperson checked inventory and found the blouse in size 10 and 12 (not sure which I would need), but they were in Santa Ana – southern California. That doesn’t do me much good. But she assured us she could order them and have them shipped overnight and I could return whichever size didn’t work for me. It’s so nice to know that customer service still exists!!

Deciding that having the items shipped would be a good option, but wanting to make sure there was nothing else I was missing in another store, we walked the mall. We hit a half dozen other stores and didn’t find much. We found a few dresses that were really beautiful and would be lovely for this occasion, but they weren’t very flattering. You see, although I had a goal to lose 20 pounds before my wedding, I managed to not lose a single ounce. I think I actually gained weight.

So I’ve become even more lumpy and chubby than I was, which ruled out all sheath-style dresses. They looked ridiculously bad. I’m sure I could have stuffed myself into a full-body girdle and made one work, but I’d rather be a little more confortable than that. Besides, it’s pretty much a given that I’ll be photographed (I am 50% of the main attraction, after all), and I’d hate to look at those pictures and be embarassed to show them to anyone. I’d rather hide everything behind a nice curtain of folds, thankyouverymuch.

We ended up ordering the outfit from Nordstrom. It will be here Friday. Hopefully, when I put on the clothes in my size, it will look as nice as I imagine it will. If not, I do have a plan. It involves panic, wailing, and the imitation of decapitated poultry. You’ll note I never said it was a good or rational plan, but it is a plan.

The Big Bail Out

Friday, October 7th, 2005

It was a bad night around here last night. A family member ended up spending the night in jail. I didn’t sleep very well, worried about him, and had to go down this morning and bail him out. But the fine was relatively small and he seemed none too worse for the wear.

The charge? Dog at large. My dog now has “priors”. My failure as a dog parent is now complete.

It all started yesterday morning when Beau Hunk went out the back gate to check for the property line markers. The neighbor told us she had had the line surveyed by the city and an official marker was back there, somewhere. Since we’ve been discussing what we want to do with the lot, it was pretty much critical that we get a handle on what we actually own. I remember seeing my dog run out the gate behind him and went back to making sure Woo wasn’t on the verge of mayhem in the yard.

And that was the last I thought about that. We got Woo ready and took him to school, ran a bunch of errands – including to City Hall where we inquired about our property, and ironically enough, got the paperwork to get licenses for the dogs. Little did I know that at that very moment, my dog was either wandering around the greenbelt canyon behind the house or being hauled off to the pokey.

We picked up Woo from school, and ran some more errands. We didn’t get back home until right before 5pm. It was then that I asked “Where’s my dog?” Yeah, I know, I suck. We called and called, and Beau Hunk went searching through the canyon while I called Animal Control. I have to admit that I did have some really Drama Queen thoughts – having horrible visions of Beau Hunk trudging back up the slope with a dead or severely wounded dog in his hands. It took about 20 minutes on the phone to Animal Control, but they finally confirmed that they had him at the shelter. But the shelter closed at 5pm, so I’d have to wait until the morning to bail him out.

Normally I’m a much more responsible dog owner than this. My dog has a collar with my phone number on it and his is microchipped. But the problem with that is that all that information is for the old house. When we moved up here we decided not to get a landline (at least for now), so we are using our cellphones. And with the wedding plans being attached to those numbers, they are still Bay Area numbers. We are planning to switch them to local numbers in a couple of weeks, so we haven’t gotten new tags for the animals yet. Furthermore, the information associated with his microchip hasn’t been updated. So instead of getting a phone call letting me know my dog was on a walkabout, he ended up in doggy jail.

I went and picked him up first thing this morning. The people at the shelter were a little cold at first, probably thinking I’m a completely irresponsible dog owner. But when I started explaining why his old license was expired (it ran out a month before we moved and I wasn’t going to pay it since it’s more than twice the price of licenses up here), why he wasn’t registered here (just moved here), and why the phone number on the tags was disconnected (switching numbers soon) they eased up. They even went so far as to call my vet in the Bay Area, verify that his rabies vaccination was good until 2007, and sell me a license on the spot.

I asked them if he was behaving for them, and said I hope he hadn’t joined a gang or taken up smoking during his stint in the joint. The staff assured me he was doing well, and said he was “quite the social butterfly”. I think he may have been having fun. Yep, that’s a Corgi for ya – he’s just a walking party! They brought him out to me and he looked happy as hell to be walking around with a total stranger for no reason. He did do me the favor of getting excited when he saw me, and ran over to say hi and get his belly rubbed.

So I’m a bad mother, and my dog now has a record. But he’s back home and safe, and that’s all that really matters.

Goin to the Chapel

Tuesday, October 11th, 2005

This is the last entry I will write as Miss Hag. In a few hours, Beau Hunk and will get in the car and drive to the coast, where tomorrow we will be married. From that point on, I will technically be Mrs. Bitter Hunk. Which doesn’t really work for the purposes of this site, so for simplicity I will be keeping my maiden name here.

But in the real world I will be taking Beau Hunk’s name. I realize there is a giant contingent of women who will set up a great hue and cry about this, but I have discovered that I am far more of a traditionalist than most “liberal” women. I don’t think changing my name is a big deal, and I am kind of actually looking forward to it. It is somewhat symbolic of all the changes in my life. I don’t feel like I’m losing any part of me, or giving up anything. A rose is a rose, and all that rot.

At any rate, we’re heading off today. We haven’t yet figured out how long the drive will take. According to Google, it’s 5 hours 15 minutes. Maps on Us shows it at 4 hours 6 minutes. Yahoo maps and Mapquest came in at 4 hours 47 minutes and 4 hours 22 minutes. Amazing, since all show the same route and each site shows the total mileage as being within 2 miles. So apparently it will take between four and five hours to get there. Who the hell knows??

And who the hell cares? Rushing to our vacation / wedding / honeymoon spot is totally contrary to the mood of the entire occasion. We’ve got a lovely day, a fistful of fun CDs, and our whole lives ahead of us. What’s to rush??

The Wedding

Monday, October 31st, 2005

“This really sucks.”

I took a sip of my sparkling pear cider and shaded my eyes from the sun. “Yes, it’s horrible that we are forced to live like this. Now please pass me the brie and smoked salmon.”

That was our theme for the entire trip to the coast… Isn’t it terrible that we have to suffer this food / room / view / weather in all of its perfection. It was almost too much to stand, but somehow we endeavered to perservere. The hotel we stayed at is a 38-acre property, scattered with lovely cottages and cabins. The “main house” is a farm house that was built in 1887, and now houses the lobby and five-star restaurant. The movie “Same Time Next Year” was filmed in one of the cottages that sits out on the cliff edge. Our room was at the western-most edge and had an ocean view from the bed, sun room, sitting area and two-person jetted tub. The only place in this room you couldn’t see the ocean was from the bathroom counter and shower. (Even the toilet had an ocean view if you left the door open!) It was wonderfully private and we loved every single thing about it.

We arrived on Tuesday, after a four and half hour drive. We were tired, hungry, and ready to not be in a car. We ran into Mom and Dad in the lobby. They had been there for about an hour and a half and were ready to take us out to dinner in the next town. It was only 12 miles, but our assess weren’t thrilled at the prospect of even one more minute in a car, but away we went. But it had to be done, so we made a flying trip to our room to change clothes, where we found a lovely gift of choclate covered strawberries in our refridgerator, courtesy of my former co-workers. It was only the beginning. We had a lovely dinner on the water’s edge, and enjoyed both the food and the company.

A hastily cobbled together panoramic of the view from our front deck/porch. (Click any photo for the larger version.)

Beau Hunk on his horse.

Posing in front of the surf on our horses.

Riding through the surf.

Posing with our officiant

During the ceremony.

“You may now kiss the bride.”

I like this picture of us, because we are laughing, not posing.

One view from the sun room.

By the light of the fire.

We were glad to get back to the room, and almost too tired to really enjoy it. Almost. Beau Hunk started a fire in the sun room fireplace, and I started enjoying the strawberries. We broke up the activity by running a hot bath in the two-person bathtub, which came with bath salts. When we tired of that, we went back to the fire and enjoyed the moonlight view of the ocean from the couch in front of the fire. When we finally collapsed into the king-sized feather bed, we were completely whooped.

I had a restless night and had hearburn for the first time in recent memory, even though I didn’t have anything remotely spicy for dinner. The nerves had begun. I prayed they wouldn’t get the best of me. The last thing I needed was to be sick on my wedding day. Luckily, we had a full schedule ahead of us. I hoped that would be just the amount of activity and distraction to quell my nerves.

We met my parents for breakfast (provided by the hotel) at 8am. The early start was necessary, since our horseback ride was scheduled for a 9:45am. Breakfast was wonderful, and we all were impressed by the menu. No continental breakfast for this freebie – they offered full meals, including Eggs Benedict, my favorite. But I passed on the Bennie this particular morning, knowing that something that heavy may not be the best move. I opted for the omlette instead. I ended up giving half of it to Beau Hunk because it was huge.

After a lovely breakfast and visit, we headed out for the horse ranch. We signed all our waivers and paperwork, watched an instructional video, then saddled up. My horse was named Sophie, Beau Hunk’s First Prize. We left the ranch, went through a wooded forest and emerged onto a beautiful beach. Our guide was very nice, and we enjoyed her very much. We rode the horses across the sand, through the surf, and even got to canter (run) along the water’s edge. Which is when I realized I have lost all form and function on a horse. I used to ride a lot as a kid, and even owned a horse when I was a young teenager. But that was 20 years ago, and I have exactly zero of the muscles needed to not look like a complete idiot on the back of a running horse. Add to that a camera bouncing around the front pocket of my sweatshirt, and boy was I glad no one could see the jackass on the horse.

The ride was quite lovely, and we both enjoyed it. As we left the ranch, I commented to Beau Hunk that I hadn’t thought of the wedding even once on the ride. Which meant I wasn’t worrying about it or stressing in the least. Huzzah! Mission accomplished.

We had lunch in a nearby tourist town at a pompous and overpriced sandwich shop. I ordered a $12 portabella mushroom sandwich that was so overdosed with balsalmic vinegar that it those brown strips could have been the cook’s sweatsocks and I would have never known. A complete waste of a perfectly good portabella mushroom. (Not to mention $12.) Oddly enough, as we sat there eating, we saw my parents walk by the window. Beau Hunk flagged them down and we chatted for a moment before they left in search of a good bowl of clam chowder.

The next appointment in our schedule was our massages at the hotel. We had 45 minutes or so to spare, so we had planned to just hang out in our room and enjoy the accomodations. That plan was altered when we ran into a lovely couple walking in the area of our room. They were staying elsewhere on the property and were exploring other cabins for future visits. We invited them in to tour our room, and ended up chatting with them for the entire 45 minutes.

It was time for the massages. Beau Hunk had a female therapist, and I had a male. Beau Hunk introduced his person to me as “Mary Jane”. Later he admitted that that was not really her name. When she had introduced herself to him (out of my presence), she had the same name as Beau Hunk’s ex-wife. He said “I think we have a problem. That’s my ex-wife’s name. You can’t be [that name], we have to give you a new name. You’re Mary Jane.” She laughed, went along with it and commented “Of all the names!” But she was a real sweetie, and I really appreciated her willingness to give up her name to keep my experience perfect.

Our massages were incredible. My person turned me into a total mushpie. Not an easy feat, since I was starting to have nerve pangs by this time. When we were done, I joked that I was considering ditching Beau Hunk and marrying him. The poor thing had no idea what to say, and I think I embarassed the hell out of him. Or made him lose his lunch, I’m not exactly sure.

The massages ended around 2:30, and the wedding was scheduled for 4:30. We went to work getting ready. Beau Hunk was the embodyment of cool, calm and collected. Or so I thought at the time. He had misplaced his sunglasses, and was on his way to the main house to see if he had left them at the spa. I asked him to fetch the marriage license while he was out. Which he promptly forgot to do. But he was still in far better shape than I.

I was ok until I tried to wiggle my way into my pantyhose and ran out of material with the crotch at my knees. I have no idea how long it took me to work up enough material to get those fucking baloney stuffers stretched out so I could walk without looking like a penguin, but you better believe I had a few choice words for the manufacturer who claimed those stupid things would work for a 5’8″ woman. Of course, part of it is my fault, because I always manage to forget that even though I am 5’8″ tall, I have the legs of a 6’2″ person. I should know better. Anyway, I made it work, and consider it a minor miracle that I didn’t put a finger through the stupid things trying.

After I crammed myself into those silky white torture devices, I reached into the closet for my outfit, and almost got caught half-naked by my photographer. He was milling around on our front porch. Oops… hope he didn’t hear me wrestling with my undergarments. I finished dressing and Beau Hunk came back to the room. We took a moment to gather ourselves, and then started for the gazebo. Just as I stepped out the door, I spotted a flash from the gazebo. Our photographer was using his zoom lens to take candid photos of us in the room. Unfortunately, I just happened to be adjusting my blouse’s cleavage reveal as the photo was taken. I would soon discover that I was never meant to be a model. It seems like every time I decided to fidget or fuss, someone was taking my picture. Luckily, not all of the professional photos involve me talking, gesticulating or adjusting my clothes or hair.

Beau Hunk gallantly walked me down the stairs towards the gazebo. I had my bouquet in one hand, and was trying to hold the rail with the other. Which left no hand for me to use to keep my hair out of my face, since I was wearing it down and there was a slight breeze. I didn’t fall, but I did manage a completely ungraceful trip, which was witnesses by my entire wedding party. Thank the gods that was only two guests, an officiant and a photographer. Through what I consider to be a small miracle, I made it to the gazebo without killing myself.

We arrived at the gazebo at 4:15. The ceremony was scheduled to start at 4:30, but since everyone was there, we started the proceedings. We finally met our officiant – he came highly recommended by the hotel, and I had only spoken to him on the phone – we loved him. He was a really lovely man, and I’m so glad we were able to have him be part of our day. My mom had asked me earlier if my dad was going to walk me down the aisle. I had to explain to her that 1) there was no aisle, and 2) him walking me into the gazebo would deplete my observation party by exactly half, and leave her standing all alone. After confirming that walking me down a non-existant aisle was not my father’s life goal, we decided to forego that particular bit of pomp.

We started the ceremony, and I had this really surreal “Holy fuck, this is really happening” kind of feeling. Our ceremony was beautiful, and I managed to not cry. Only because I was really nervous. My favorite part was after Beau Hunk and I did the “kiss the bride” thing, he hugged me, and whispered “I love you” in my ear. That may be one of the best I Love You’s he’s ever uttered.

Our officiant did a wonderful job of not reading the words of our ceremony. He spoke them, he meant them, and he put his heart into them. He’s been married for 58 years, and does this for fun. He doesn’t even charge!! (But of course we gave him an “appreciation”.) He said we were his 148th couple. He has a wall of pictures from every ceremony he’s ever performed. I’ll be sending him one of ours too.

After filling out the formal license paperwork and finishing up the photos, we had a few minutes to freshen up and meet Mom and Dad for dinner in the hotel dining room. Dinner was incredible, and we have a lovely long meal. Beau Hunk and I went back to the room and once again enjoyed a fire, the double tub, and the ocean by moonlight from the sun room.

Mom and Dad were checking out the next morning, so we arranged to meet them for a late breakfast (it was our wedding night afterall). Again, breakfast was just lovely, and we enjoyed it very much. Since we had booked our room for an extra day, we said goodbye to Mom and Dad and went about enjoying ourselves. The plan was to go into the nearby tourist town and hit a few specialty food shops for cheeses, smoked meats and bread, then have a picnic on our deck and watch the sun go down. But first, we took a walk around the hotel property.

The hotel has a private beach tucked away in a cove. It was a nice little beach, sheltered, quiet and surrounded by rock cliffs. I tried walking in the water, but between the rocky sand and the freezing water, it just got too painful. Beau Hunk toughed it out and went wading while I put my shoes back on and walked just out of reach of the water. I looked down and saw two abalone shells just lying there on the beach. I called over Beau Hunk, who thought I had to be hallucinating or just plain wrong. But no, clear as day, there were two abalone shells. We turned over one and found that it was occupied – the animal was still at home and alive. Beau Hunk picked it up and tossed it back in the water. He picked up the second shell and found it was empty. It was a perfect shell, so we rinsed it out and hauled it back home, deciding that would be our honeymoon souvenir.

After our property walk about, we headed out for our shopping trip. While we were walking around town visiting the various shops, a young man walking down the sidewalk yelled something as we passed by. As near as we can figure out, it was somthing about how Bush’s dad got him out of military service. Okaaay. I guess we looked like people who needed to be educated by the lunatic blurtings of a total stranger. I guess this is what passes for political debate in this town – nearly incomprehensible shouting in the general direction of the tourists.

With our political minds now fully enlightened, we headed back to the hotel with a whole host of yummy foods. Which is when we discovered that just the presence of yummy foods will make you hungry. So we camped out on the deck/front porch to enjoy some sunshine and our picnic, even though it was only mid-afternoon. It was perfect. By this time we had managed to completely immerse ourselves in our experience and forget about the world of telephones and computers.

By the time 5:00 rolled around, we were hungry again and decided we’d like a salad from the onsite restaurant. The dining room didn’t open until 6, but the lounge served salads, so we headed to the main house looking for food. The poor bartender was completely overwhelmed, so by the time we placed our order, we knew there was no way we’d make the sunset. Beau Hunk explained to the bartender what we were doing, and asked if we could change our order to be eaten in our room. She understood and expedited our order, handing us our meal with 20 minutes of daylight to spare. Can I tell you how awesome a good Caesar is while watching the sun set into the ocean?? After the sun went down, we once again enjoyed the tub, fireplace and ocean view from the sun room.

Friday morning finally showed us the coast we usually see – wet, foggy and chilly. Which worked out fine for us, since another warm sunny morning might have made us want to stay! We woke up fairly early and enjoyed the hotel breakfast for the last time. We had planned to leave at noon, but were packed up by 10:30, so we headed for home, deciding to take a different route home. It was about 100 miles farther, and an hour and a half longer, but brought us through the mountains near our home, which we had been anxious to check out. Man, they are awesome!! We can’t wait to go check them out off the road.

We are now back in the real world, but we will always carry with us our memories of the perfect trip, with our perfect ceremony, and our perfect honeymoon. And just in case we need a reminder, we put the abalone shell next to the front door.

Meet the New Family Member

Thursday, November 3rd, 2005

When Beau Hunk was divorced, he got custody of the dog but lost custody of his cats. He and my cat have never bonded… hell, she’s never bonded with anyone who isn’t me, ever. She’s what he calls “a snotty little puddy”. And she is. Furthermore, she absolutely hates Woo with the burning passion of a thousand suns. Everytime he gets within three feet of her she growls and runs away. Of course, he thinks this is hilarious and frequently chases her whilst squealing with joy, a habit we vehemently discourage.

But Beau Hunk has missed having a cat. We agreed that as soon as we made the move, he would get a cat. He was pretty specific about what he wanted: an orange male tabby that he could let grow into a big brute. It turns out that our real estate agent (who has ended up also being our official city guide, Welcome Wagon and all-around local resource – way above and beyond her duty) is involved with a local rescue agency and they just so happen to have a cat that fit the bill.

Meet Bill. Bill the Cat. For those of you who might remember the old Bloom County comic strip, he was named for the Bill the Cat character. But he’s not quite a cat yet, he’s just a kitten. I keep wanting to call him Bill the Kitten – BTK for short. But I have been assured that I am the only one who is politically incorrect enough to find that amusing.

But make no mistake, he is a real killer. So far he’s managed to kill at least three of my plants, and can be frequently seen engaging in mortal combat with shoes, watches, Q-tips, wrappers and ink pens. (I swear, that Bic almost took him!) He’s learned he can get on to the window sill from the kitchen table, and from there, if he’s careful, he can juuuuuust make it to the kitchen counter. And oh my! but there’s a treasure trove of toys on the kitchen counter!! Not to mention food. We’ve learned you don’t dare leave anything in the sink, or you’ll find it on the floor later. We’ve started calling him a “menace to society”, and trust me, that’s pretty damned accurate.

For the most part, Bill is a good cat. But he seems to have two speeds: running around in a frenzied blur, and sleeping like the dead. Ah, life as a kitten. Woo is getting along well with him, but can sometimes be a wee bit rough on him. Bill is taking it like a trouper and puts up with it. Beau Hunk has done a good job making sure that Bill is used to being picked up, turned around and generally mauled. One day he was playing around with him and found that when you push his ears down, he looks a lot like Yoda.

Hmmm. The force is strong with this one.

The dogs have accepted him completely, and Bill and my dog have become fabulous playmates. My dog will take off running and let Bill chase him, then turn on him and poke his nose at him, sometimes pretending to bite at him. You can tell it’s all in fun, and they play nicely. If anything, the dog has gotten hurt a few times when Bill has “attacked” him and catches a tender spot.

Bill is good at attacking. He likes to attack ankles as they walk by. He likes to attack toes as they sit on the couch. He likes to attack anything that moves. Which occasionally gets him a ride on a foot and a gentle toss, because his little teeth are sharp!! We had to trim his claws because they were like little razors, and when he attacked, it really hurt.

My cat doesn’t really want much to do with Bill. I’ve seen them awkwardly playing a few times, but for the most part, she’s a “get outta here kid, ya bother me” kind of cat. If he gets too close to her, she growls, but mostly, they leave each other alone.

Bill has a great personality, and we are really enjoying him. Everytime I watch him attack our feet or play with the dogs, I imagine the line from those old Foghorn Leghorn cartoons “You’re a chicken and I’m a chickenhawk!!” That’s Bill. Even though he’s the smallest animal in this house, he’s got no problem going for the big kill. We found out today that he has no fear of heights. Beau Hunk had to do some work in the attic and the next thing we knew, Bill had scaled the ladder and was King of All He Surveyed.

A few nights ago I was watching TV in the living room and had my feet covered up in our red blanket. The next thing I knew, Bill was on top of my feet attacking. I had the camera handy and documented the experience:

Anatomy of an Attack
Click an image for the larger picture

It’s Momma feet – ATTACK!! Attack. *yawn* atta…zzz zzzZZZ ZZZ *snort* (I flexed my feet and raised his ass in the air. Huh? Wha? Why’d ya move?

For those of you who are keeping track, that brings the headcount of our house to two dogs, two cats, one kid and two adults. The females are firmly in the minority, being outnumbered two to five. The humans are also outnumbered three to four. Everyday we wake up and hope they don’t figure out how to open the feed bins, or we’re outta here. Beau Hunk and I take a bit of solace in my cat being such a snot and not being friends with the animals – she’s like the swing vote on Survivor. As long as she doesn’t make an alliance with the other cat and dogs, we have a chance of not being voted out.

What a Difference a Floor Makes

Tuesday, November 15th, 2005

Yesterday was a monumental day in our household. We finally got our new carpet! As you may remember, the carpets in this place were absolutely hideously gross, and even after having them professionally steam-cleaned there were clear outlines of where the previous occupant’s furniture had been. The area between where his couch and coffee table had been was so disgusting – even after being cleaned – that we put our couch over it so we didn’t have to see it.

Where his couch was.
Click any pic for a larger view.
In case that last pic wasn’t detailed enough for you.

We knew right away that we didn’t want to live with this, so the replacement process was started quickly. We went to the Home Teapot back at the end of September. We picked out the color and requested a measuring at that time. It’s taken us this long to get this clusterfuck off the ground and get our stupid carpet installed.

Meanwhile, we have spent the last six and a half weeks living out of boxes and with a minimal amount of furniture. There was no sense in moving all the stuff in just to move it back out for the carpet install. First it took a week to get the measurers out here, then it took another week for them to get the figures back to the Teapot. We placed the order (and paid for it) on October 10, just before we took off for our wedding/honeymoon. We were told it would take a week or two to come in, and that the installation company would contact us when it came in to schedule an install date.

In the meantime, we busied ourselves painting the walls in the carpeted areas. It was kind of cool not having to mask off the floor and just painting right over the carpet. My last house had new carpets when I moved in (which were phenomenally cheap and shitty), so all the remodeling was done over keepable flooring. Not giving a crap whether we spilled or oversprayed on the carpet was a really nice change. Of course the bright, clean new walls just made us want carpet that much more. But the call from the install company never came.

On October 28th, we were in the store and asked about our order. Nobody knew a goddamned thing. “Call back on Monday”. So we did. We called on October 31st (a full three weeks, thank you veryfuckingmuch) and finally got someone who was willing to call the carpet shipper and find out where our carpet had gone. Guess where it was? In the motherfucking Home Teapot store. Since October 13th.

Our carpet had been in their store for nearly three weeks and nobody noticed. It hadn’t been logged in, and the two rolls weren’t even stored next to each other. Profuse apologies were offered, none of which meant a whole lot, and the installer was contacted. When the installer called us, we were told we couldn’t get an appointment until November 10th. WTF?? We had already waited patiently for three weeks, why in the hell did we have to wait another (almost) two?

The person from the installation company wasn’t sympathetic. She wasn’t even polite. She said this was the first they’d heard of it, it wasn’t their fault, and they wouldn’t pull someone else out of queue to accomodate us. Period. If I didn’t like that, that was between me and Home Teapot, and I would need to contact them.

Which of course I did. They did the phone version of the big dumb grin and shrug – golly gosh darn gee, we screwed up, but we can’t make the installation company do anything, so golly gosh darn gee, it sucks to be you. Uh, no. Beau Hunk got a manager on the phone and very calmly explained that this wasn’t our fuck up, it was theirs, by their own admission. So why are we, the ones who are paying the bill, the only ones showing any accomodation here? The manager still didn’t offer any relief for the install date, but did offer some “consideration” for our next big project around the house. We still don’t have any definition of what that “consideration” will be, but at least we feel like we got kissed after we got screwed.

Shortly after we made the appointment for install on November 10th, we heard from Woo’s school that he would not have class that day – it was a “staff development day”. Bummer, because there’s no way Woo could be here for the install, and going to school would be the perfect three hour distraction. But you get what you get in life, so we figured out another plan.

What wasn’t in the plan was me waking up with a migraine. But thanks to meds, I was able to get up and have some sort of life. But talk about bad timing! Beau Hunk ended up moving the furniture all by himself, except the bed and mattress. I managed to help him with those, and my brain gave only feeble threat of exploding.

The installers were scheduled to arrive between 8 and Noon, but since they were coming from an hour and a half away, we knew they weren’t going to be here before 10. We were glad about that, because had they showed up at 8, they would have been pissed because we weren’t ready. As it was, they got lost because online maps always show that you make a left off a highway that doesn’t exist. The road exists, but you have to go to up one street, access a frontage road and make sort of a u-turn to get to the road, which is neatly hidden between the Ace Hardware and a used car lot. Somehow I managed to get the installers here – talk about the blonde leading the blind – I haven’t lived here long enough to know all the streets, and they were from a different town.

They showed up a little after 11am, and they were the nicest guys!! Even though there was the mix-up in directions, and I couldn’t efficiently guide them here, they all got out of the truck with big smiles, and made time to say hi to Woo. Anyone who takes time to say hi to Woo is tops in my book.

After a picnic lunch on the lawn with Daddy, Woo and I took off for the “castle park” – a local kid park with play structures that can only be described as kid heaven. It’s a huge park with massive wooden structures that have spires, hidden stairways, and every climbing / sliding / running surface you can imagine. It even has a water volcano and splash park in the summer. We had been there before, but on a day that wasn’t a school holiday. This day, it was packed.

Woo did ok with the crowd, but not really well. We ended up going to the bathroom three times in the first 20 minutes. And it wasn’t about going to the bathroom, but a form of perseveration – repetition of activity that is a classic autistic behavior. He said he had to poop, but since he had already done that, I knew he didn’t have to. I could also tell by how he answered the question “do you have to go poopy”, because he’d look around and change the subject. I know enough about this kid and his poopy behavior to know if he has to go or not. And he did not.

Near the end of this process, a woman came into the bathroom, peed, washed her hands and then exited without a word. Until she was outside the building and had walked 20 feet to where she was under the window, when she loudly and indignantly said “There’s some woman in there telling her kid to poopy. If he doesn’t have to poop, he doesn’t have to poop. Jesus woman, give the kid a break!!” She never saw either one of us, and she didn’t say anything while she was in the room. Instead she chose to hurl a cheap, faceless shot from outside the window.

So I figure on cheap, faceless shot deserves another:

Fuck you, you gutless piece of shit. Who the fuck do you think you are? Do you know me? Do you know Woo? Do you know that Woo is autistic? Do you have a single braincell in that empty fucking head of yours that understands what autism is and how it affects behavior? Of course not.

You probably don’t even know that Woo is almost five. Because of his massive speech delays, he sounds like he’s two, and you in all your infinite wisdom and with your extraordinary brain power, probably assumed that I was interacting with a two-year-old who didn’t know about his bodily functions or how to control them. But you didn’t take the time to find out any of that. You didn’t take the time to find out anything at all. Instead, you used an infinitesimal amount of data to judge me as a parent. And you didn’t even have the spine to do it in a way where I could explain to you that I have a special needs child, but instead had to hurl your judgement through an open window from the safety of the outside of the building.

So by your rules, I guess I could say that you sounded like trailer-grade trash, because I had as much information to leap to that conclusion as you did to question my actions and motives, having never laid eyes on each other. But that would lower me to your level, something to which I do not aspire.

I hope you feel really good about how you taught someone how to parent from outside that window. Because I know I’ve been put on the straight and narrow! I’ve cured my evil ways!! All because some spineless, judgemental sack of shit. Oh, and in case you didn’t catch it at the beginning of this rant, let me repeat myslef – fuck you.

For the record, I said nary a word when I heard her comments. I don’t know if Woo heard her, and even if he did, he didn’t need to hear me say anything, especially what I wanted to say. I did the best thing – I took the high road. As I walked out, I wondered if she was around to see us when we left, and I wondered what she thought of her comments then. But chances are, she thinks she’s right, and nothing would change her mind. And now that I have given her and her crap far too much of my time and energy, I will stop.

We hung out at the “castle park” for a couple hours before we headed back to the house. The installers were just finishing up the pad, which was bright red on the upper side. It was so bright, it made the walls look pink. Our house looks terrible with pink walls.

The three of us hung out in the driveway until the carpet was done. We had a hell of a time keeping Woo out of the house, off the “take away” pile, and out of the way of the installers. Somehow we managed. And again, the installers were really wonderful with him. They smiled and talked to him, and were incredibly patient. They did a nice job too. So far we’re really happy with how it turned out.

It was almost 5pm when the carpet was all done. And oh what a difference!! It looks so much nicer in here now, it has almost erased the memory of the Pig Palace. As a bonus, it smells like new carpet. Yay!!

The old stuff:
The dining room The living room The hallway
The rest of the hallway The master bedroom



The new stuff:
The new carpet in the living room The new carpet in the dining room

Cracking the Whip

Tuesday, December 6th, 2005

While I’ve done gone and did it. I signed up for Holidailies. This is the first time I’ve done this, so it will be kind of an adventure. I’m hoping it will get me back in the swing of updating regularly. I read once that if you performed a task regularly for three weeks, it becomes a habit. I don’t know about that, but I’m going to give this a try.

I’ve found over the years that for some tasks I have to provide special motivation or I just don’t get them done. I want to update, but I just don’t make the time to do it anymore. So perhaps the Holidailies will be just the whip cracking I need.

I’m not terribly motivated to do housework either, but since I’m not working anymore and Beau Hunk is busting his butt on outside projects, I feel obligated to keep the house tidy. And if I don’t, I’m going to risk ending up on my ass watching Judge Judy all day. Which is fun and all, but not conducive to good health – mine or that of my marriage. So to add a little whip cracking to this process, I’ve created a task schedule.

Monday – vacuum and mop the floors
Tuesday – laundry and dust
Wednesday – clean windows, pay bills and clean the office (which isn’t even set up yet, but this is an ongoing list)
Thursday – vacuum and clean bathrooms
Friday – laundry and deep clean kitchen

Saturday and Sunday are either days off, days with the family, or make up days. I’m not dumb (or egotistical) enough to think that I can keep this schedule every week, but I’m going to try. It’s all a part of this major life change I’m going through – quitting my job, moving to a new town, getting married and contemplating the start of a new career, which includes college. I used to tell people that I’m changing everything but my haircolor, and I’m contemplating changing that too! So as long as I’m doing all those things, I might as well see if I can get on track with being a whip crackin’, house cleanin’, journal updatin’ fool.

Ego Need Not Apply

Wednesday, December 7th, 2005

When I quit my job, sold the house and moved up here with Beau Hunk, the plan was that I would attend the local junior college to go through their paralegal degree program. Since that matriculation is set up for a fall start, I can’t really get started until next August.

Since I haven’t been to school in a very long time, we thought that it might be helpful for me to take some general ed classes in the spring to get me back in the swing of studying. I’ve started the process by applying, and am currently awaiting arrival of my transcripts and an appointment with a counsellor.

You know, one sure way to confirm that you are firmly ensconsced in middle age is to apply to college at nearly 38 years old. Any lingering illusions that I still posess a shred of youth have been soundly shattered. It occurs to me that a great number of people I will encounter on campus not only weren’t born the last time I attended college, but weren’t even a twinkle in their father’s eye. I do not find this comforting. In fact, this makes me want to curl up under my covers and mourn my misplaced youth until my gray hairs finally turn from middle-aged-old to “distinguished” in the eyes of the social realm. But ego to the wind, I’m moving forward.

Since the spring will be only general ed classes, I have been prowling around the local employment sites. Much to my surprise, I found a job that sounded like it was right up my alley. One of the local municipalities was looking for a web programmer, specifically someone versed in the languages of ASP and JavaScript. Huzzah!!

ASP is one of my favorite languages, I’ve been writing in it for around eight years, to the point that I believe I can be considered an expert programmer. Pardon me if I blow my own horn for a moment, but I did some pretty amazing things with ASP, including some really cool database interfaces and ground-up system programming. Same with JavaScript – I’ve been programming in that for eight or nine years, and can do all kinds of wonderful things. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m the hottest thing to hit the pavement, but I held my own in some fairly complicated the dot com situations. I thought I had a genuine shot at a becoming employed.

Apparently, thinking was my first mistake.

Imagine my surprise when I received a form letter from the municipality stating that I was not being considered for the position because I was not qualified. Huh? Since when does eight+ years of practical, real world, hands-on experience not qualify you for any position, much less that of a web programmer? It just boggles my mind.

It also bruises my ego. As I said, I thought I had a real shot at that job. I’ve seen what passes for web programming in this region, and it sucks. I would understand if my application got ignored in the Bay Area because that place is just crawling with webbies. But up here, not quite. And to be told that I’m not qualified made me want to go down to the Personnel office and ask if they even bothered to look at my resume, and if they did, did they do so with their eyes open?

So my ego has taken a few minor slaps this week. But that’s ok, because I’m a big girl and I can handle it. As I like to tell people, I earned these gray hairs, and distinguished or not, they’re mine. And I didn’t get them from letting a little ego bruising get me down. Onward and upward!

Asparagus is Not a Toy

Thursday, December 8th, 2005

Any kitten owner will tell you that life is endlessly entertaining with a little monster around. Bill The Cat is no exception. First of all, he has two speeds – completely insane, and dead. When he is awake, he’s a holy terror. He rips around the house as an orange blur, a five-pound thundering herd of cat. Then when he stops, he stops. Sometimes we find him asleep on the floor, toy still in his paws, passed out mid-play. When you walk by, he wakes up, chirps out a “blrrr?” noise and passes out again.

Lately he’s found the most amazing toy box – our trash bins. We’re constantly finding him playing with items that we had placed in the trash. It’s not enough that the dogs think our trash is the best ever, but now we’ve got an infinately more agile cat who considers our castoffs his persosnal treasure trove. Everything is fair game – used tissues, mandarin peels, avocado skins. Last night we saw the little orange monster running around bringing death to something long and green. It was a piece of asparagus that didn’t make the cut for dinner. Upon seeing this, Beau Hunk to yelled out “Bill, asparagus is not a toy!” Add that to the list of things you thought you’d never say out loud. (At least while sober.)

Bill has finally killed all but one of my houseplants. The lone survivor was a gift from my former co-workers. It is a duplicate of a cactus that I procured for my boss’ office. The original cactus is six feet tall, and was abandoned in a dark and deserted office. I got permission to take the plant and with the help of my boss, moved it to his sunny office. The cactus immediately went into a growth spurt beyond imagination, quickly adding another foot to its height. This effort earned the plant the moniker of “Spike the Wonder Cactus”. When I left my job, my boss and another co-worker tried to give me a piece of Spike, but were unable to do so without injury to the original. So instead they gave me a small desk-sized cactus of the same species as a gift. I call it “Spike Alike”. Spike Alike is now my sole living houseplant.

Bill The Cat has made several attempts at Spike Alike’s life – the last resulted in him being left root-naked in the kitchen sink, surrounded by his soil. I replanted him, and so far, he’s managed to survive the assassination attempt. Bill has left him alone since then, I’m not sure if he admires the spirit of the little plant, or got bit by a cactus prickle and now knows better than to mess with the likes of a Spike Alike.

At any rate, the lack of vegetation has left Bill searching elsewhere for his amusement, which now includes the garbage. At this point I feel glad that he hasn’t developed an affinity for coffee grounds. All we need around here is him wired on caffeine and spreading the grounds all over the new carpet. Were that to happen, I’m afraid he might burn through those nine lives in a hurry.

The First Guest

Friday, December 9th, 2005

Tonight we are making our first stab at entertaining a real guest. To date, the only people who have been over have been my parents and my aunt and uncle, both of whom make quick visits. The house projects have been so overwhelming and have left the house in such disarray, we haven’t felt very comfortable having anyone over for more than a few minutes.

We still aren’t exactly ready for primetime, but we’re fairly organized. Our TV, cable box and DVD player are sitting on storage bins because we haven’t found entertainment furniture we like yet. Ditto the stereo system. The surround sound for the DVD isn’t even in the house yet for the same reason. The desktop computer is sitting in a jumbled heap in the living room because we haven’t run a cable connection (for the cable modem) to the new office yet. But the arrangements are neat and 90% of the boxes are unpacked. Those that aren’t are either in the garage or neatly put aside in the house. The place is tidy and clean, if not decorated.

Clean is the big thing. We have new paint, carpets, lights, outlets, switches and doorknobs. The kitchen and bathrooms have been scrubbed within an inch of their lives. Beau Hunk has been working his ass off on the outside of the house – cutting down trees and bushes, building a dog run, fencing in new areas of the yard, tearing down old fences, and replacing other fences. He’s been slaving like a dog out there, and it shows, in a most wonderful way.

Tonight’s guest will be our real estate agent who sold us the house and brought us Bill The Cat for adoption. We are looking forward to showing off the place to her, and having her see how Bill has grown and become a part of the family. It’s not a palace, but it’s our home and we enjoy it. I think our guest will enjoy it too.

Christmas Objectives

Saturday, December 10th, 2005

Today’s objective: obtain a Christmas tree

With all the furor over the use of Merry Christmas in the corporate and retail workplace, I realize that “Christmas” tree is a misnomer. We are not Christians, and technically, we don’t celebrate Christmas as defined by Christians. We celebrate some holiday that falls on December 25th and involves lights, trees, mountains of food, miles of travel, gifts, and a lie about a mythical character who brings those gifts. I have yet to define that holiday as anything less generic than “Christmas”, so the term “Christmas” tree stands.

This year, Woo will be spending Christmas morning with us for the first time. For the past two years he’s been with his mom for Christmas. Last year, since Beau Hunk was in the middle of finals and his move into my house, and Woo spent two weeks with his mom, we didn’t even decorate. But this year, we are determined to see that we provide the boy wtih a proper Christmas. But we are also going to take this opportunity to let him learn about the kinds of holidays Beau Hunk and I had when we were kids.

Lesson #1: Trees do not come from parking lots.

We are lucky enough to live in an area where the Department of Forestry allows regular folk like us to go into thier National Forests and cut down a Christmas tree. Today’s plan is to do just that. We are going to dress Woo up in his little boots and jacket, pack a picnic lunch, grab Ye Olde Saw, pile into the 4WD and head off to the woods. We are expecting a great day of tree finding and forest tromping. Perhaps snow will be involved. I’m not sure if Woo has ever been to the snow. We think this is going to be a great kid day.

Lesson #2: Christmas doesn’t mean loot

Woo lives a rich life. He has more stuffed animals, toys, books and clothes than he can possibly use. The last thing he needs is more. I have already alerted my family to our plan to not spoil this child. We plan on only getting him a few gifts, preferrably practical. When I was a kid, we got fun gifts, but we also got things like socks and pajamas. Our stockings always included an orange, and sometimes an apple and walnuts, in addition to small fun items.

One of my aunts was commenting that Christmas has become so object-oriented lately, and it had her pretty fed up. I let her know that it would be perfectly acceptable if she didn’t buy Woo a present. In fact, it would be encouraged. As I said, Woo lives a full and rich life. As Woo gets older, we hope to have homemade presents in place of store bought loot.

Lesson #3: Family First

This one won’t be so easy, since Woo is the child of two households. But when he’s with us, we want to teach him that family, friends, and love is the most important thing, especially at Christmastime. Presents don’t mean a thing if you don’t have those you love around to share them. We may not be able to pull this one off, and certainly not this year, but we’re going to give it a shot.

I know it sounds ambitious, but we’re going to do our best to raise a little kid who appreciates what he has, and realizes that not everyone has it as good as he does. You might want to wish us luck with this one, I think we may need it.

Dashing Through the Snow

Sunday, December 11th, 2005

Yesterday’s tree expedition was a definitive success. It was everything we thought it would be, and a lot more fun. Frankly, it was also more convenient than I had expected. Well, except for a few location errors.

I’ve decided that Google Maps aren’t all that for this area. For the second time, the program has failed to alert me to the presence of more than one road with the same name. Well, at least that’s the second time that it’s picked the wrong duplicate address and sent me out into the backwoods. To further complicate GM’s issues, their satellite photos of this area don’t exist at a magnification beyond 2,000 feet per inch, and even at that level, they are so fuzzy as to be completely useless. I realize availability of satellite photos isn’t their fault, but it does reduce the usefulness.

Before we could go into the woods to do our lumberjack shtick, we had to buy a tree cutting license from the US Department of Forestry. We found an office in the neighboring town that would be open on Saturday and mapped it. But as you can probably tell from my previous paragraph, that didn’t work out so well. Instead of ending up at the USDF Visitor’s Center, we ended up at the edge of BumFuckEgypt, surrounded by double-wides and rusted vehicle carcasses. I swear I heard a banjo playing, but Beau Hunk says it was only my imagination.

We called the USDF, and after finding that there are two buildings there, one of which was closed, we found out we had the wrong version of the address. Luckily the correct version was only a few extra miles away. We hot-footed it out of Hooterville, headed to the office, got our permit and pointed the hood toward the woods.

The next problem was that the clerk had told us to go to a specific town, but the maps he gave us that showed exactly where it was legal to cut a Christmas tree didn’t cover that town. We ended up going another 15 miles up the road to an area that was shown on the map. There was a little apprehension about this at first, because since we are new to this area, we didn’t know that it was only 15 more miles until we started seeing highway signs with distances. Until then, it could have been another 50 miles for all we knew. But it all worked out for the best.

Our route was easy enough – a two-lane highway that was cut through tall pine trees and wound through little towns whose highway frontage consisted of three or four buildings. The road rose in elevation, and just past the 5,000 feet mark, we found our turnoff. The little dirt road had been covered in snow, but had since been rutted out in muddy tracks. Beau Hunk put the truck in 4WD and grinned. He was in big-boy heaven.

We bounced down the road for half a mile or so, then pulled off down a side track that had a few tire tracks on top of the snow and ice. The truck slipped and slid a couple of times, but mostly because Beau Hunk was purposely hitting the gas. We stopped in a little clearing where we could easily see trees that would fit the bill.

Of course we couldn’t just pick the first thing we saw. We tromped off into the meager snow (only 4-5 inches) and started looking for the perfect tree. We narrowed down the selection, eventually selecting a lovely tree that was straight, balanced, full and about eight feet tall. It was perfect! Beau Hunk cut it down and loaded it in the truck. We cut off a small bough from the tree and stuck it on the dash – the whole truck was filled with the most lovely pine scent. We took some time to play in the snow, throwing snowballs and generally having fun before going home.

We’ve decided we’d like to do this every year. It’s affordable enough, the tree cutting sites are only about an hour from here, and we had load of fun. As an added bonus, the truck smells wonderful!

An Easy Day

Monday, December 12th, 2005

I achieved almost nothing today. I slept in, sat on my butt, watched TV, then took a nap. I was a monument to inertia, my biggest accomplishment that of Cat Magnet. Not a bad job, if you can get it.

While I was curled up in bed taking a cat nap, complete with two cats, Beau Hunk was outside working his ass off replacing fences. What a shame that was, all that hammering was interrupting my snooze. How dare he? I’m sure you’re just as overwhelmed with sympathy as he was.

I started feeling guilty this afternoon, so I managed to get up long enough to clean the kitchen, make a batch of taco/burrito meat, and go to the grocery store. Are you in awe yet? Compared to the morning, I was a veritable blur of motion.

But the truth is that I didn’t feel well this morning. I woke up around 4am with one of my brain-cracking headaches in its infancy. I wish I could figure out why this happens and make it stop, because it’s fucking annoying. Maybe my brain just isn’t happy and wants to escape. I wouldn’t blame it, it’s probably bored. I would be, if I were my brain. The extent of its exercise these days seems to be trying to figure out what I should stuff in my mouth next. Not exactly taxing to ye olde gray matter.

At any rate, it was a good day, if not a productive one. I am making my sloth up to Beau Hunk by making him dinner. I am one of those spoiled types that has a man who not only works on the house all day, but comes in and makes dinner. He loves to cook, and is good at it. Frankly, better than I am. So he gets his joy and I get fabulous dinners in return. Tonight he is politely suffering my guilt-alleviating swill.

Here’s to tomorrow being a more productive day.

Life is a Little Bird

Tuesday, December 13th, 2005

Life is a little bird. It must be, because it keeps taking dumps on my head.

There are people in this world who are so fucking selfish they can’t even begin to think about the world outside their own heads. These people have no qualms about throwing hand grenades into the lives of others, solely because they want what they want, when they want it. Fuck everyone else.

These might be the same people who don’t follow through on their promises. I’m not talking about “I’ll call you” or “I’ll do the dishes”. I’m talking big promises – like caring for a seriously ill family member, or adopting the child of your best friend if they die. You know, big life-alterating shit. They say they’ll do it, then when the time comes they just change their mind. Now everyone else is twisting in the wind because someone said they’d do something and is too fucking selfish to do it. “La la la, too bad, that doesn’t work for me now.”

If you are one of these people who has not followed through on a big promise, I can bet that there’s someone on this planet who really doesn’t like you. Maybe they don’t not like you enough to want you dead, or maybe they have just enough of a shred of the Pagan beliefs that they wouldn’t wish you harm. But they don’t like you. And if the Earth opened up a chasm and swallowed you whole, or aliens sucked you off the planet never to be seen again, they would probably throw the biggest party you’ve ever fucking seen.

Now fly on little bird and go shit on someone else for a while. You’re not welcome here.

Embracing My Inner Martha

Wednesday, December 14th, 2005

I usually tell people that I’m closer to Bob Villa than Martha Stewart. And usually, that’s true. But not today. I spent today baking. The whole day. And I’m not finished yet. No, really. I am embracing my Inner Martha.

So far I’ve made several dozen sour cream spritz cookies in various shapes. These are not very sweet, and kind of biscuit-like. Tomorrow I will frost them with almond frosting, which will make them rock my world. I also baked up five or six dozen sugar cookies (I lost count), decorated with red and green sugar. Tomorrow not only will I frost the spritz cookies, but will also make a double batch of chocolate chip cookies.

Just what am I going to do with all these goddamned cookies, you ask? Well, I decided that I better get with the program and start being socially gracious. Not only does that include sending out Christmas cards – through the mail (not the e-mail kind) and on time, but I best show up bearing cookies to the neighbors. I have heard that others in the neighborhood do or have done this, so I better get on the stick and play ball.

So far, I figure I’ve got five households to gift:

There’s the couple across the street who have become our friends. They call us “The Newlyweds”, and the wife has been known to bring us lunch when she sees us working hard outside. The husband is very nice, and going through cancer treatment, so he has good days and bad days. We have come to really enjoy their company. They will get a plate of cookies for all their support and friendship, and because I truly believe that cookies, taken in the proper doses, can cure cancer.

The retired confirmed bachellor two houses over has twice brought us cookies he’s made when he was bored. We’ve spent a lot of time talking to him, and also enjoy his company. I’ll give him a plate for payback / thanks.

The little old man across the street and one house over will get a plate because he came over and helped us unload a truckload of boxes when we emptied our storage unit.

Our neighbors across the street are shut-ins. They both use walkers, and the wife has Alzheimer’s. Their daughter comes over several times a week to take care of them. She came over and introduced herself to us. I’ll give them a plate because, well, just because. They can’t get out, so maybe a little well-placed kindness will momentarily brighten their day.

The final plate will go to our next-door neighbors. They just got married too. They are the only ones on this block who even come close to our age. They seem like a lot of fun, and so far have kindly tolerated the noise from our dogs, kid and stereo. If that doesn’t deserve cookies, I don’t know what does.

In the next few days I will be flouncing all over the neighborhood handing out globs of fat, sugar, sugar and fat. I suspect this won’t last and I’ll revert back to my tool-bearing ways. But for now, move over Bob, Martha’s comin’ through.


Thursday, December 15th, 2005

I think I have finally kicked the ass of my Inner Martha. I finally finished the cookies today, and I am happy to say that I have gotten that out of my system for a while. I think I may be good for another year, maybe two.

In addition to the cookies, I also crossed off another big, ugly to-do from the list today. I took my pre-college enrollment English and math assessments. I wasn’t looking forward to it, which turned out to be an absolutely correct intuition.

It took me two hours to take the assessments. I had no problems with the English tasks. In fact, they were tedious to the point of boring. I ended up scoring a 98 on that one, putting me in the highest placement category they have. That means if I have to take an English class, I am pre-qualified to take the Creative Writing class. Ooh, creative writing – now there’s an idea!

I didn’t go through the math evaluation with quite as much ease. The proctor set me up to take the Algebra Readiness evalution. At first I thought maybe that was dumbing it down a little. Afterall, I did take and pass Calculus. But that was 20 years ago and I would be hard pressed to articulate a single facet of Calculus to you today, so I went along.

Damned good thing I did too. Those questions kicked my ass. Since it was a multiple choice test, I was able to work backwards to some answers, but flat-out guessed on others. I still managed to score an 84 on the test, ranking me at a level high enough that I should be able to skip some (or all) math for my degree, but it was a struggle.

I was amazed at how many of those questions caused me great consternation. I know I’ve lost all my Calculus, but I didn’t know I’d lost that much algebra and geometry. From what I saw today, my math braincells have been slowly dripping away over the last 20 years, and have gone almost dry. I’m wondering how long it will take before they disappear altogether and I find myself counting my change on my fingers. At this rate, I’m thinking another five years.

But I did pass, and the horror of math is behind me. With any luck today will allow me to test out of some of the more tedious classes that are required for my degree. I still have to take some real brain-busters, like Introduction to Computers. The irony here is that I can take that class online. So I get to learn about how to use a computer on the computer? Talk about the chicken and the egg.

Oh well, if I pull this off, I’ll get my degree. Then no one will ever tell me I’m not qualified for a job because I don’t have a piece of paper that says I know what I know. That alone will be worth it.

Please Keep Your Boogers Off My Brie

Friday, December 16th, 2005

Beau Hunk and I went to the store the other night. We were browsing the gourmet cheese section and observed a truly hideous public display.

There was another woman in the cheese section, partaking of the samples the store had laid out. She reached into the sample “dome” with her right hand, extracted a piece and ate it. She then took her left hand and proceeded to wipe her nose, from index first knuckle to wrist, and back again. Then she used that same left hand to reach for wrapped cheese in the display case. Cheese I might have purchased, had I not been utterly disgusted.

Excuse me ma’am, but could you please keep your boogers off my brie?

Is it too much to ask this woman to use a tissue when wiping her snot in public? Would it have been that difficult for her go to the deli counter and either get a napkin, or ask for one? In any case, did she have to snot all over her hand and then touch the food I might want to buy? I swear, it’s enough to make me never shop again.

Catching Up

Saturday, December 17th, 2005

I noticed today that I have a small callous on my right hand, just below my pinky. Who knew that sitting on your ass could produce a callous on your hand? It’s nothing short of a medical miracle.

This has felt like a particularly unproductive week. I pretty much dicked off making cookies all week. We also played hookie one day and went miniature golfing and visited a local dam. Mid-week, mid-December miniature golfing is really fun. The weather was beautiful and we had the course to ourselves.

Today I tried to catch up on the housework I neglected this week. I also wrapped all our presents, which isn’t really saying much. We only have five people on our gift list: my parents, nice, nephew and Woo. That makes for a pretty hassle-free Christmas.

I haven’t done my holiday cards yet, which probably makes me an asshole. But I did deliver my cookies to the shut-ins across the street. I had only met one of their daughters, not the occupants themselves. They are really wonderful people. They invited me in and I spent some time chatting them up.

Both are in their mid-80s and use walkers. The wife has Alzheimer’s. She’s the first person with Alzheimer’s I’ve ever spent any amount of time with. I had to introduce myself to her four or five times. One of their other daughters was there, and the wife couldn’t remember where the daughter lived or worked. The daughter had been recently featured in the local newspaper, and the mother was convinced that the copy of the newspaper had been at our house for some period of time. But she was a delightful woman, and I enjoyed talking to her and her husband a great deal. It was a very humbling experience to see this family working through this situation.

Our lives may not be perfect, but we are thankful for what we have.

The Heating Bill

Sunday, December 18th, 2005

I am still getting used to the weather here. The weather in the Bay Area wasn’t exactly boring, but it wasn’t quite as dramatic as it is here. The summer highs are higher, the winter lows are lower, and when it rains her it rains. The average rainfall for my town in the Bay Area was 13.3 inches per year. Here, the average is 33.5 inches. That’s a pretty significant difference. But what I’m noticing most is that the frequency and duration of rain isn’t much different, just the quantity that falls from the sky. Since I don’t have to go out much, I’m finding that I really like it. I just love looking out the window and watching it pour. I’m sure my feelings on this will change significantly when I am forced to drive on these rainsoaked roads.

We knew when we moved here that the summers would be much hotter than we had in the bay. When I told people where I was moving, nearly every one said “It’s so hot there!” True, the average temperature in July is 98 here (only 91 in our previous area), but we have an efficient air conditioning unit, a small house, and electricity from the local municipality is hydrogenerated and cheap. We are also contemplating a pool, to make those summer months more bearable.

The winter has been colder than we were used to, and we even had a light dusting of snow a few weeks ago. It’s the best kind of snow too – just a few inches to cover everything and look really pretty, then it’s gone by the next day. All the fun and none of the shovelling.

Our heater is natural gas. We keep hearing about how gas prices are going to go sky high, so we are trying to be wise with our heating. During the day we are setting the temp between 65 and 67, and during the night we set it at 62. That may seem a bit cold, but we wear sweatshirts during the day, and have a nice quilt and comforter to curl under at night.

I also have a secret weapon: a little five-pound “hot rock” in the form of a cat named Bill. I sleep on my side, and rarely am I in bed more than a few minutes before Bill walks up my legs and curls up on top of my ribs. Even as I flop around during the night, he repositions to take his rightful place in the world: on top of me. I told Beau Hunk I was saving on the heating bill by using The Heating Bill. Now when I see him curled up on the floor in a puddle of sunshine, I smile, knowing that he’s recharging his little heating cells so he can keep me warm at night. It’s the ultimate in eco-friendly heat sources.

Our Tree

Monday, December 19th, 2005

We decorated our tree this morning, and it was a spectacle of chaos. Bill The Cat ended up in kitty jail because he wouldn’t stop chewing on the light strands. Woo ended up being relgated to a chair for a while because he was so excited he was bouncing off the walls. But it’s done, we all had fun, and we think it’s a lovely little tree.

Click on a picture for the larger view
The tree before we decorated, mid-inspection by Bill
When five-year olds decorate. (That’s Woo on the floor and Bill in the chair checking out the train.)

Martha would not approve of our tree. But I’ve always felt that Martha could kiss my fat white ass, so it’s not surprising that I don’t care. I’ve always preferred odd, personalized trees to themed ones. The themed ones are lovely, but they seem so designed. I’m not a designer kind of person. My sister-in-law asked me if it was ok if she gave Woo an ornament for Christmas, or would that screw up a theme? I laughed out loud and told her we don’t even have a “theme” to our furniture, much less our tree!

Our tree is far from perfect:

  • One of our light strands is missing the green string because one of the wires came unsoldered and we can’t fix it. The other light strand is missing the red string for reasons unknown. We just said to hell with it and quit trying. One should only dedicate a finite amount of time to these things.
  • We only have 16 ornaments on our tree, and all are plastic. Until Bill and Woo grow up some, we figured the glass ones were begging for disaster, so we went this way.
  • The tiny angel on top is an ornament, not a tree topper. I have a very nice porcelain angel tree topper, but it’s breakable – see all-plastic ornaments above. It also seemed rather large, given the state of the rest of the tree, so we decided to give her the year off.
  • There is not one single ornament above Woo’s reach, and most of the ornaments are hung in clusters. We let Woo decorate, and that’s where he put them. So that’s where they stay. We aren’t entering this tree into any contests, so why get all pedantic about it?

Bill is attacking the hell out of the ornaments and beaded garland on a regular basis. But at least he’s quit scaling the damned thing. All this past week we’ve been picking his orange ass out of that tree, but the upside is that he smells fresh as a Carolina pine forest.

Woo’s birthday is technically later this week, but for a myriad of reasons, we’ve decided to move his birthday to today. His present was a train to go around the bottom of the tree. It’s one of those $30 battery operated things from Wallymart, and it’s obnoxious as hell. It has “realistic locomotive sounds”, which you can’t even hear over the noise of the engine. You also can’t hear the TV, other people talking, or yourself thinking over the noise of that fucking thing. But Woo loves it, so we’re letting it go. He’s having the time of his life.

Which is really the point. He had fun, he loves his tree, no one (cat or human) can be hurt by the decorations, and everyone is happy. I’d call that the perfect tree.

Markup or Gouge – You Decide

Tuesday, December 20th, 2005

Five years ago, when I bought my house in the Bay Area, I installed ceiling fans. My family had some experience with various brand of fans and recommended I invest in Casablanca fans. I say “invest” because they’re three to four times more expensive than the Hampton Bay sold at Home Teapot, but run silently, self-balance and never wobble. Ever.

I saved up my money and bought two – one for the living room and one for the bedroom. I was rather surprised that the plain one I put in the bedroom was just as expensive as the fancy one I put in the living room, but I was thoroughly impressed with their operation. So much so, that when it came time to sell that house, I uninstalled the fans and replaced them with $50 cheapos from Hampton Bay for the sale. My gods did those fans suck. I knew that mine were good, but I didn’t realize just how good. I guess it’s true that you get what you pay for.

But yesterday kind of changed that for me. Not long after we moved to the new house, we removed the filthy fans that came with the house. Not only were they filthy, they didn’t operate that well, and looked cheesy as hell. So down they came, and up went my fans. A huge improvement to both decor and function.

The only problem was that my fans didn’t have lights. I never put them on at the old house because my switches turned on outlets, not ceiling lights, so I had torch lamps in every room. But the new house has all ceiling lights, and in the living room and master bedroom, they were on the fans. Luckily, putting on light kits is not that big of a deal.

I checked out Casablanca’s website and found a few lights I liked. But Casablanca doesn’t put their prices on the web, nor do they allow their dealers to post prices on the web. Since we have a dealer here in town, we went down to visit their “lighting gallery” and price the light kits. Holy fuck me they were expensive. Like $200 expensive, even for the plain lights. The fancy-schmancy ones were as much as $450 – just for a light! And they weren’t even in stock. No thank you. I knew there had to be a better way to do this.

I went back to the internet and found that I could get price quotes e-mailed to me. I found an internet dealer that sold me very simple light kits for way less than half of what the “lighting gallery” wanted. Reasonable enough, so I ordered them.

At first I was told that the items were on back-order for 10-14 business days. Since we didn’t have lights in the bedroom or living room, I wasn’t thrilled with this news, but that’s the way it goes. I placed the order. Two weeks went by, then three. I called the dealer and was told that the bedroom kit would be in late November, the living room kit in early December. They just showed up yesterday. For the first time since early October, we have lights in these rooms. Yay! Words really can’t express how happy I am at this change.

But there was something I noticed when the boxes showed up – they were marked “Made in Taiwan”. Normally I don’t pay much attention to these things, but given the retail “showroom” prices of these products, I’m appalled. First of all it pissed me off that the local dealer had more than a 100% markup over the internet dealer. Since I’m sure the internet dealer isn’t losing money on these parts, and they all come from the same company at more or less the same price, you can bet that the local dealer’s difference is pure profit.

But how much is Casablanca making on these things? I really doubt a simple outlet with two bulb holders and a glass cover costs $200 to manufacture in Taiwan. I’m thinking a more accurate price would happen if you move that decimal left a couple of places. I didn’t mind paying more for the fans, because I got a very high quality fan. But a light is a light is a light. The bulbs won’t last any longer, the glass isn’t any clearer, and it isn’t any brighter than any other light fixture. I only paid more because it fits my fan. That pisses me off.

So I guess I paid for a lot more than I got, which I suppose makes me a sucker. I’m just glad I didn’t pay full retail pop for them. That would raise me from sucker to mark, and that’s just not right.

Rainy Days and Birthdays

Wednesday, December 21st, 2005

It’s been rainy and drippy here for almost a week now. Beau Hunk has spent the last few weeks replacing our side fences and building a new fence across the back of the property. The new back fence is wire so we can see the trees in the canyon behind the house. When we bought the place there was a back fence thirty feet behind the house, which made no sense, since the property goes back almost a hundred feet beyond the house. Taking out that solid fence and putting a wire one back at the treeline really opened up the backyard. The side fences were a swap of old for new, but he’s done a fantastic job of making them much more sturdy than they were before.

Click on an image for the larger version
Before pictures: taken when when we toured the house before we bought it.
The patio & yard. The old fences were less than private.

During pictures: taken after we moved in, but before the fences were replaced.
The weeds were mowed down – you can see the fence now. This opening was all grown over with trees and shrubs. Beau Hunk cut them down.

After pictures: The new fence across the back.
Only the posts from the old cross fence remain. The new fence is against the trees. The dogs are loving all this space!

All told, he’s put in about 500 feet of fenceline. He only has about 40 feet of fence left to replace before he can hang up his hammer an declare the fences done. But Mother Nature is a bitch and has decided it should rain for the last several days, so he hasn’t been able to finish. He’s about to go nuts.

Woo is getting a bit stir-crazy too – it’s been too wet for him to get out and play. We’ve been trying to do what we can to get him out, but it hasn’t been easy. Monday we took him to the local arboretum / nature museum. We were really impressed with the quality of the facility, and Woo had a blast playing in their kid area. Since it was sprinkling, the place was nearly empty. We loved that, because we hate crowds and we had plenty of room to let Woo do his thing. We spent three hours in the place and Woo was properly whooped when we got home.

Yesterday we attempted a picnic lunch. We headed out in a rain lull, hoping it would stop long enough for us to eat outside and take a walk. Not only didn’t that happen, but it started raining harder. Unfortunately we weren’t able to find a single park or public area that had a covered area to shield us from the rain. We ended up coming home and eating here. There was a small period of time when the rain wasn’t coming down quite so hard, so Beau Hunk grabbed an umbrella and took Woo for a walk. Anything to get this kid his outdoor time and exercise.

Today my Mom & SIL drove up to bring Woo his birthday and Christmas presents. His birthday isn’t until later this week, but we are moving it due to scheduling issues. Beau Hunk noticed there was a bit of a break in the rain, so he took Woo for a bike ride on one of the local trails before Mom & SIL got here. It was just what he needed to take the edge off his energy.

Since Mom & SIL were coming up, we decided today would be an excellent day to masquerade as his birthday. He had a blast squiring them around the house and showing them the Christmas tree. He’s also had a great time looking through the new books they bought him for his birthday.

We had a really wonderful visit with my Mom & SIL. Selfish as it sounds, we liked showing off the house. This is the first time SIL has seen it, but Mom was here when it was a mess. She said it looked like a different house. That makes all the work worth the effort.

Fishy Business

Thursday, December 22nd, 2005

It’s still raining, and we’re still inventing reasons to get Woo out of the house. Today we checked out a local fish hatchery. This is a Federal Fish & Game facility that raises salmon to be released into the Sacramento River. We figured with it being December and raining, we shouldn’t expect too much. That turned out to be a pretty accurate expectation.

I don’t mind that there wasn’t much to do, or that most of the holding tanks were empty. What I do mind is that most of the public buildings were locked, including the bathrooms. What’s worse is that an employee saw us trying to get into the public bathrooms and told us they were “closed”, then directed us to a portapotti in the parking lot. What the fuck do you mean the bathrooms are closed? Open them asshole. This place is ten miles out in the country, it’s not like they’ve got a problem with non-patrons boogering up the joint. The only reason I can figure that the bathrooms were closed is because they’re too lazy to clean them.

We walked around the place, jiggling locked doors and peering into tanks, trying to see the fish. We ran into a group of five employees, only one of which acknowledged us by waving. You’d think seeing someone walking around with a kid, they’d volunteer something to do or direct us to something to see. Guess that wasn’t in their job description. In poking around one of the buildings – the one with the ping-pong table and basketball hoop, I did manage to shake loose another employee and corner him. When I told him we were trying to figure out what the place is all about and find something for the boy to see, his answer was “Well we’re having lunch and the water’s too murky to see any fish. Good luck.”

So let me get this right: these people work at a place with public access, where the public is invited to visit, and then get annoyed because we actually come? It must really suck to be you. It irkes me that my dollars pay for their salaries and that facility, including the ping-pong table and basketball hoop. Hey buddy, if you don’t like your job, go get another one where you don’t have to deal with us pesky taxpayers. But that might mean you actually have to do something to get a paycheck, so I doubt that will happen.

As I said, we didn’t go there expecting much, but a shred of helpful information and a sanitary place to pee would have gone a very long way in making our walk in the rain more enjoyable.

It’s Christmas!!

Friday, December 23rd, 2005

I bet you didn’t know that today is Christmas. You are probably one of those silly people who thought Christmas was on Sunday this year. But it’s not. It’s today! Santa came and everthing. At least to our house.

Due to circumstances beyond our control, it was necessary to have the Christmas Event on a compressed timeline. So we moved it up a couple of days. Woo doesn’t know any different, and as far as he is concerned, Christmas is today.

Last night before storytime we put out a cookie and some milk for Santa, and left him a note so he knew that it was from Woo. Woo even signed his name to the note so Santa could be sure it was genuine and we weren’t scamming for his toys. We did screw up in that we didn’t put out Woo’s stocking, which was in his room because he was playing “sock” with it. So Santa’s Little Helpers had to sneak in and nab the stocking so it could be stuffed.

Woo didn’t have a huge Christmas – Santa left two presents under the tree, and a coloring book and small present in his stocking. He also had presents from my Mom, SIL and the neighbor across the street. (The neighbor told Woo that Santa came by and asked her if there was a little boy in the neighborhood that could use a present.) Woo doesn’t seem any worse the wear for not having been buried in toys this morning, and is having a very, very merry Christmas.

It finally stopped raining today, so I guess I can quit browsing the net for Ark plans. Ok, so it’s only been raining for a week. That’s about four days too long in my book. Especially with a high-energy five-year old in the house. But today we were able to get out and about without getting wet or seeking shelter.

Beau Hunk and I went for a bike ride with Woo in the trailer. The ride was nothing more than a goof off ride, which suits me just fine. I haven’t done any serious biking for months, so I’ve lost fitness and gained weight. But today’s ride wasn’t even close to serious. I went in my jeans, tennis shoes and t-shirt. We rode our “townie” bikes, which are best suited to fun goof-off rides. My bike frame was made by Ritchey, and was Beau Hunk’s hard-tail mountain bike for about 20 years. When he upgraded to a full-suspension bike a few years ago, he converted the frame into his townie.

He put a solid front fork on, changed out the straight handlebars for a set that curves back toward the seat, and put a big, comfy Brooks saddle on it. (Which is an awesome seat, and the sole reason I can ride this bike in jeans.) He then put fenders on it and a rack. It is one sweet ride. He rode it as his townie for a while, and then last October he told me I could have it “in consideration of marriage”. Meaning that if I didn’t marry him, he got the bike back. Law students can be sooooo romantic. The bike is a wonderful ride – big comfy tires, a lovely upright position so I can look around, and lots and lots of gears. It’s a beautiful bike and I love it very much.

Back in April I was at the Sea Otter bike races and saw a sign that Tom Ritchey, founder of Ritchey bicycles, was going to be there signing autographs. I took the opportunity to meet him, and told him the story of how Beau Hunk loved his frame so much that he gave it a new life as a townie. I then told him that it had been given to me as an “engagement bike”, under the stipulation that if I didn’t marry Beau Hunk, I had to give the bike back. He was amused at our story, and blown away by Beau Hunk’s appreciation for his frame. He then signed a poster for me, congratulating us on our engagement.

At any rate, the bike is a lovely ride, and we had a very nice time toodling around on our little ride today. But best of all, Woo had a really great Christmas, even if it is two days ahead of the rest of the world.

Over The River and Through the Woods

Saturday, December 24th, 2005

Today we’re off to have grown-up’s Christmas with my family. It’s kind of a shadow of Christmas though, because we already had our family celebration yesterday. But we’re loading up the car, packing the presents, and heading out to do our visiting. We’re planning on spending the night at my parents’ house, which might be interesting.

I know I’m all grown up and married, but I still feel incredibly weird about sleeping there with *gasp!* a man. (Which leads to the question of just how uncomfortable I would be if I were sleeping with a woman, but that’s another thought, for another day.) And by “sleeping”, I mean engaging in slumber and rejuvenation, not sex. The idea of having sex in my parents’ house squicks me out so much, I can’t even begin to describe the discomfort. Yes, I am that pent-up about their house.

Which is what has me really flummoxed here. I’m not pent-up at all about sex. I’ll do that just about anywhere. Except my parents’ house. And maybe a funeral. (Not that that chance has been presented.) But I digress, because having sex there isn’t even the root of my hang-up. It’s the mere presence of a man in the room where I spent my formative teen years. There’s no real reason for this discomfort. It’s just me being incredibly weird I guess.

But hang-ups or no, we are off to do our visiting, to eat, drink and be merry. Gifts will be exchanged and a good time will be had by all. It will be the epitome of the perfect family holiday.

Egads, I can’t wait to get back home.

Merry December 25th

Sunday, December 25th, 2005

Our family Christmas is already over, but here’s wishing you and yours a lovely Sunday Holiday, however you choose to celebrate or worship.

Bill wishes you a screamin’ good holiday.

(That showed up purely by accident in the background of a picture we took of Woo posing with one of his presents.)

He’s been attacking the tree like that since we decorated it, and has thoroghly trashed it:

When cats decorate.

The Low-Key Christmas

Monday, December 26th, 2005

The trip to my parents’ for Christmas has been deemed a success. The entire affair was very low-key, and we had a great time. I even got over my weirdness about having a man in my old bedroom. The truth is that we didn’t get to bed until almost midnight and I was too exhausted to even think about it.

We spent most of Christmas Eve at my brother’s house, where my SIL made us a really wonderful dinner. Before dessert we sat around and opened presents. The youngest member of the group was my nephew, who is 16. It was so orderly and tame as to be almost boring. It’s just not the same without a couple of overly anxious kids on the edge of popping a vein in anticipation of opening their next present.

After dinner and dessert we went back to Mom & Dad’s where we spent another couple of hours sitting around yapping. Beau Hunk seems to have been fully accepted into the clan, and he and my father have bonded very nicely over my father’s hobbies.

Sunday morning was slow and lazy, and culminated in Beau Hunk making everyone omlettes. I was in charge of making toast and juicing the mandarins from Mom’s tree in the front yard. I was also responsible for keeping Mom out of the kitchen. I had to take her by the shoulders and gently guide her out four times. She just can’t sit back and let someone serve her for a change. The rest of the morning and afternoon was spent in a haze of chit-chat. Isn’t it amazing how we can spend hours talking to somone and not say a damned thing?

We had an early dinner / late lunch. Would that be linner? Whatever you call it, it was fantastic. We had fresh dungeness crab, salad and sourdough bread. There was really no way for that to be bad. I was in charge of cleaning and cracking the crab, and impressed Mom with my ability to skillfully rip the face off our meal. I also managed to crack the legs without beating the hell out of the meat, which is more than I can usually say for the hacks at the grocery store who try to crack crab. I long ago decided to forego their services and crack my own at home.

The meal was wonderful, and was followed by chocolate silk pie for dessert. I’ve been craving chocolate pie for months, but refused to buy one to satisfy my craving. If I buy one, then I have to eat it. Eating a pie is not a good thing, so I just gave it the big pass. So I was very happy to see that pie in Mom’s fridge. Score!

After dessert we gathered up our goodies and headed for home. We even managed to get home at a decent hour and spent some time with the pets before crashing out in our own bed. It was a geat trip, we had a wonderful holiday, and we’re glad to be home.


Tuesday, December 27th, 2005

Well I’m frustrated. When we moved into this house, we planned for one of the bedrooms to be the office / sewing room. What we didn’t realize was that there isn’t a phone or cable outlet in that room. Cable may not sound essential, but we have a cable modem, and we had planned to put the router in there. So no cable, no router. And getting cable and phone in there means Beau Hunk has to go into the attic and run wires down the walls. We’re not ready to do that just yet.

So plan B was reached – instead of connecting the desktop to the router via ethernet, I bought a wireless card to put in the box, and we left the router in the living room on top of the TV. I ordered a Netgear WG311 on Amazon for a decent price and free shipping. Done. I installed the card on Saturday, and it was a pain in the ass from moment one.

First it wouldn’t find my network. When I finally got that solved, it kept dropping the connection. Then when I would try to shut down to re-establish the connection, the computer wouldn’t shut down right. When I did get it shut down, when it restarted, it wouldn’t find the connection again. I repeat, a total pain in the ass.

I got the connectivity and network finding problems solved, but then realized that every time the machine tried to go to standby or hibernate, Windows would hang. When I knew for a fact that the Netgear network software was the problem, I called the helpline.

Which of course, was of minimal help. The first thing the person suggested was that I try the card in another box. What the fuck? It’s not like I have a stable of boxes just sitting around. So, no. Then he told me that the card doesn’t work because I have an AMD processor, not an Intel. You’re fucking kidding me.

I ask you, does this page dedicate a single word to saying that this product isn’t compatible with AMD processors? And of course, I’m too much of a dumbass to have gone to Netgear’s product page to have looked at the full product description that includes this vital nugget of information. (I am also apparently too much of a dumbass to look at the reviews, most of which say “don’t buy this product!!!”. Guess I could have noticed that before I bought!) At this point, I don’t know if I’m more disgusted at Amazon for leaving it off, or me for trusting their description over that of the manufacturers. But since it’s easier to blame Amazon for my stupidity, I’ll just aim my indignity their way.

But there’s one part of this for which I can’t even pretend to blame anyone else. This card came with a $10 rebate. So yesterday I got all industrious and filled out the paperwork, cut the UPC off the box and sent off for my ten bucks. Amazon doesn’t take returns of items that are missing UPC codes. Argh!! I think I just fucked myself for $10.

Now I’m stuck with a card that works for the most part, but won’t let my computer standby, hibernate or shut down. I’m going to do try uninstalling it tomorrow and see if I can make it work with just the drivers and not the Netgear software. If that doesn’t work, I guess I have to buy a new card. Oh yay. I guess that’s what I get for being all efficient with my rebates.

Well, that and being a dumbass.

Walking the Razor’s Edge

Wednesday, December 28th, 2005

As I was shaving my legs in the shower this morning, my eyes followed the tiny trickle of blood down my shin, and I wondered why this process seems to be immune from evolution. We are still using the same basic means and methods to de-fur ourselves as we have for the last 50 or so years. With all this technology floating around, why hasn’t anyone come up with a better way of making my legs as smooth as a baby’s backside?

I know there have been a few attempts at a better way to smooth skin, all of which seem to involve ripping the hair from your body at great force. Waxing should be performed in prisons as a punishment for the unruly, but it would probably be ruled cruel and unusual. I haven’t yet figured out why the most violent and painful way of hair removal is so expensive. I wouldn’t pay my hairdresser to pull the hair on my head, so why would I pay his assitant to yank it out by the roots elsewhere? That’s just not for me.

The closest thing to the wax-torture home game was the Epilady. Remember? This device’s lovely and gentle name was betrayed by a medieval method of hair removal that involved springs and ripping of hair, flesh, and anything else that got in the way. I can’t help but think that this device was invented after a tragic accident involving a pubescent boy and one of those exercise contraptions that had a string of tightly coiled springs with two handles at the end. I can just picture the poor boy working out his pecs, stretching waaaaaay back and YOW! A smooth and touchable chest for the next three weeks.

I will admit that razors have evolved since the straight-edged days, but the latest developments leave me scratching my head and muttering “what the fuck” a lot. There seems to be an arms race as to how many blades you can stuff onto the head of a razor. I think some company is up to four now. Then there’s the new battery powered disposable razors. It looks to me like they’re nothing more than vibrators designed to suck money out of your wallet while the quality of your shave is left untouched.

My favorite “new” invention is the razor lube strip. I have yet to see any benefit from this device. Mostly because I have yet to have one stay attached to my razor for any amount of time. Inevitably the thing will partially detach and do nothing more than flop around and annoy the hell out of me. At which point I usually rip it off and throw it down the drain.

As much as I question the evolution of the function of the razor, I must also question the evolution of the price of the razor. Why is it that I can buy a dozen ink pens at Office Depot for $0.79, but razor blade refills are still $2.00 each? ($2.50 if you get the ones with Aloe and Vitamin E in that lube strip I love so much.) Hasn’t anyone developed a cheaper way of making these things? Truth is, they’re probably dirt cheap to make, but the demand is so high, why should they bother to lower the price?

I’m telling you, if I didn’t like the feel of a freshly shaved leg slipping between the sheets at night, I’d just plain give up on this whole business. But like a crack-whore to the pipe, I keep walking that razor’s edge, chasing that smooth skin dragon, and praying for the day that painless laser hair removal comes in a home kit.

Karma & Justice – Getting What You Deserve

Thursday, December 29th, 2005

The web is a very strange and wonderful thing. The other day, in a fit of curiosity and boredom, I Googled a name of a former employer. Around a million years ago, I worked for a family of chiropractors in the greater Sacramento area. This was a business run by biggest bunch of crooks I’d ever seen. They ripped off everybody, in every way – the patients, the employees, the insurance companies. These doctors – who owned their own practice, lived in a big house and drove Cadillacs – used to go into my desk drawer and steal my spare change at night.

They were real scumbags, but I hadn’t thought about them in years. As I said, in a fit of curiosity and boredom, I decided to look them up. And oh, what a little gem of information I uncovered. I knew these people were crooks, and now, everyone else does too.

In 1996, one of the family was targeted in an investigation of insurance fraud. The investigators hit paydirt. The doctor was indicted on 34 counts of mail fraud (for using the mail to send bills for services never rendered), which carried a possible sentence of 42 months in state prison and restitution. Not exactly jaywalking.

Since the indictment was in 1998, I wasn’t able to find out if she was convicted or not. But I did find that her license to practice was revoked, and the licenses of the other two family members that shared the practice were forfeited.

I know it’s pure evil, but it warms my bitter little heart to see a little comes-around-goes-around in action. I knew these people were dancing the edge of the law when I worked there. I’m not surprised in the least that they took things further as time went on. They made a lot of money to which they were not entitled, and you and I paid for it through our own rising insurance rates. We also paid for it in the rising rates of Worker’s Compensation insurance, which drove up the price of our goods and services. Crooks like this are why California’s Worker’s Comp system is utterly fucked. Call it Karma, call it Justice, call it whatever you want, I’m just glad to see it.

There are times in each life when one reaches a certain level of frustration with the selfish bad intentions of others. At those times, it gives me some tiny sense of satisfaction to know that once in a while, the universe balances the scales.

Lethargy Rules Our House

Friday, December 30th, 2005

We’ve had just over 3.75 inches of rain since last night.

Not a lot of movement is going on here.

The Red Dog found a warm place to sleep behind the couch.

My dog went to sleep by my feet.

My cat found a basket of laundry waiting to be folded and thought that would be lovely place to nap.

Bill curled up on top of a box for his nap.

A brief attempt was made to play, but ended in my dog sleeping on my foot, with Bill napping nearby.

As I said, not a lot of movement going on here.

What Old Married People Do For New Year’s Eve

Saturday, December 31st, 2005

We don’t get out much. We are not party people. We do not boogie-oogie-oogie until we just can’t boogie no more. We are middle-aged, boring, married people.

So what are we doing for New Year’s Eve? We are staying home and doing what married people do. From that, you may make any inference with which you are comfortable.

We did go out to dinner tonight, and had a lovely beef-n-reef dinner of prime rib and lobster. The meat was fabulous, the lobster quite “eh”. It didn’t have much flavor, but the meat more than made up for it.

Our server was a beautiful young woman, probably in her early or mid-twenties. When our meal was over, we asked if we could have a dessert menu for me, and a glass of water for Beau Hunk. She smiled and said “Would it be ok if I were your dessert menu?” I smiled back and said “Yes, but you can’t be his glass of water.” We all had a rousing laugh and the poor girl almost blushed to death.

She came back with the glass of water, and I asked her for a take-out box for my leftover steak. I didn’t quite know what to say when she innocently asked “Can I be your box?” Oh my. Child, know ye what ye say?? Beau Hunk laughed, and gave an “aw-shucks, stop it” retort. I was laughing my ass off, not knowing quite what to say, when I think she finally realized the implications of her statement. I laughed and said “Don’t lead him on dear, you’ll only hurt his feelings.” Another good laugh was had by all.

So now we’re back at home, bellies full, wondering how we’ll ever make it to midnight. Oh what exciting lives we have!! But I’m sure we two old married fuddy-duddies will manage to find something to amuse ourselves this evening.

The Non-Event

Sunday, January 1st, 2006

I’m having one hell of a time remembering today is Sunday, much less that it’s New Year’s Day. The only real clue is the TV marathons. It sure beats the heck out of the typical Sunday fare – football and fixits. I used to follow football pretty closely, but ever since I took up biking and started spending my Sundays riding, I lost track of who went where. Then I lost the ability to care.

Beau Hunk likes to watch the fixit shows on Sunday, but for the most part I can’t get overly enthralled. First of all, most of them cover problems mostly found on the East Coast. Keeping snow from falling over a doorway isn’t a problem I have, so I can’t really get interested in the project. Secondly, I spent most of the first half of my life on construction sites. I know how to do most of the stuff they’re doing, and I laugh at the ways they do it.

It was refreshing to have something different to watch today. But it never really sank in that it’s New Year’s Day. So much so that I even forgot to have black-eyed peas with my dinner. Hell, our day’s schedule was so screwed up that we didn’t even have dinner. We each ended up snacking at different times.

Luckily I don’t put a lot of store in the superstitions of New Year’s, so it’s not that big of a deal. If today is any indication, the year will pass by in a blur and before we come to any profound realizations, it will be over.

You Can Never Go Back

Monday, January 2nd, 2006

When we got married in October, we had such a wonderful visit to the hotel that we decided we’d like to repeat the experience. We thought we would try to go back once a year and take a few days to enjoy the property and fabulous views.

During our visit we had heard that some big investment firm had bought the place and was planning on renovating it. The rumor was that they had already planned $4 million in upgrades, mostly to the main house, which was originally built in the 1800′s. We wondered if the place would escape the “upgrades” with it’s charm. It looks like it may not.

The other day I visited the hotel’s website and saw that all of their top of the line rooms, including the one we stayed in, were not available. That’s not surprising since those would logically be the first to be renovated. But what blew my socks off was that the off-season rates of most of the available rooms have almost doubled from the on-season rate we paid. Some have more than doubled.

We thought the rate we paid was pricey, but reasonable. But there’s no way in hell we’re going to pay what they’re asking now. They have one room for $1,000 a night. A fucking grand. A night. For that price, better come with your own private servant to take the mint off your pillow and hand feed it to you.

I’m really disappointed that the new owners are going this route. I suspect they are turning this charming, family-run country inn into a yuppie palace of cookie-cutter rooms and lousy service. I wonder if they are installing phones and TVs in the rooms. It wouldn’t surprise me, but it would totally shatter the sense of peace and tranquility.

We will wait and see how this all works out. Maybe this new rate plan is temporary, but if it isn’t, we won’t be returning. You have no idea how much that disappoints me. Our wedding and honeymoon was one of the most happy and relaxing times of my life, and I would like to be able to renew that memory once in a while. I guess it’s true what they say, you can never go back.

One More Step

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2006

Tomorrow I have to go try to see a counselor at the college to see what classes I can take. I’m pretty much doing this last minute, since classes start January 16th. In case you haven’t looked at your calendar lately, that’s not that far away. Oops.

This whole process hasn’t moved at lightening speed, mostly of my own fault. I procrastinated about getting my application in and doing my testing, and by the time my previous transcripts had been received, it was too late to get a real appointment with the counselor. But they have walk-ins available, so that’s my task for tomorrow. Yay.

I hate doing all this and am intimidated as hell to be going back to school. Which is why I put this off for so long. I just couldn’t bring myself to pick up the phone and find out where to start. But I finally did, and now I’m ready to talk to an expert and find out what classes I should take first, what classes I can take at this late date, and what my schooling future holds.

There is a part of me that is looking forward to starting this new adventure, and is glad to be taking this next step. The rest of me sees only a gaping tunnel, contents and terrain unknown. But life is about putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward, so onward I go, one step at a time.

Dear McAfee

Wednesday, January 4th, 2006

Dear McAfee –

Please kiss my shiny white ass. The suckage of your product is only surpassed by your online chat, where your employees spell kwality with a capital K.

My laptop came with a “subscription” to your products, which turned out to be a 90 day trial. When that expired – without notice – your “account” page prompted me to buy a new subscription for the princely sum of $168.00. Not being a moron, I declined this rare opportunity to pay many times more than retail.

I purchased your product because it was the least expensive of the pack. Now I know why. When installed, your product refuses to update. The process, when not being blown up by 500 server errors, asks me to enable cookies on my browser. Even when cookies are already enabled.

I contacted your online chat support. I take it you define “support” rather loosely. After waiting 20 minutes (your chat window estimated that at two), I was connected to an agent who continuously proved he was barely glancing at my responses by repeating questions that I had just answered.

Me: “I get a page that tells me to enable cookies, even though cookies are already enabled.”
Him: “Do you have cookies enabled on your browser?”

I mean, really. Do you have any idea how hard it is to have a conversation like this an not be an asshole? I almost pulled a muscle trying to be polite.

After half an hour of chatting, his advice was to enable cookies (already done), and make sure that IE was my default browser (also already done). Then he said I should restart my computer. Knowing that we were past the 8pm CT cutoff for contacting online chat support, I performed the procedure on my second computer so I would not lose my connection to your service department. Seeing that I was not so easily shaken loose, your support person then came up with the most brilliant of all responses to the problem we had been discussing for almost 40 minutes:

“We are aware of this temporary problem. Please try your download again in a few hours. If that doesn’t fix the problem, feel free to contact us again for help.”

If this was a “temporary problem”, of which you were aware, they why in the name of all that is holy didn’t this brilliant piece of humanity tell me this at the beginning of the conversation?? I realize it was the end of his shift and he wanted to go home, but that’s no reason to give me bullshit advice just to get me off the line.

So tomorrow I will once again log on to your chat support site. Once again I will wait for an available customer service agent, hoping that I can connect before my clothes go out of style. And once again I will take way too much of my time to explain what I’ve already done, and that things aren’t working. Hopefully this time I will be able to get someone who give three-tenths of a fuck about their job and who can help me get your fucknut product to actually work.

Distastefully Yours –


The First Enrollment

Thursday, January 5th, 2006

It’s official, I’m a college student. I went over to the college yesterday morning to get a drop-in appointment with a couselor. I’m really glad I went over early. When I got there, there was no line and plenty of parking. By the time I left, the place was packed.

My meeting with the counselor wasn’t exactly productive, mostly because my college transcripts weren’t on record. I got an e-mail saying they had been sent, but they were nowhere to be found. That wouldn’t have been such a big deal, but since I haven’t been in college for almost half a lifetime, I can’t even remember how many semesters I went, much less what classes I took. So the advice was to completely avoid General Ed until we can figure out what can be skipped based on my prior records. That pretty much killed my plan to take General Ed until Fall, but the good news is that the Paralegal classes I need to start are offered in the Spring. I had been led to believe that wasn’t the case, so yay!

I am only taking three classes, nine units, this semester. Twelve units would be a full-time student, and I don’t think I’m ready for that just yet. I may never be ready for that. We’ll have to wait and see. All three of my classes are at night, so that should be interesting. My schedule is as follows:

Monday 7 – 10pm: Introduction to Paralegalism
Tuesday 7 – 10pm: Legal Writing and Research I
Wednesday 6 – 9pm: Family Law

That ought to make for a stunning start to the week, to say the least. I’m usually in my jammies and getting ready for bed by 10pm, so it will take some adjustment to pull this off.

So I’m enrolled, oriented, and ready to start my studential career. I even have a parking permit. That’s about as official as it gets. Now I just have to pass the damned classes.

It Must Be Love

Friday, January 6th, 2006

In October of 2004, Beau Hunk and I were getting ready to go on the bike club’s annual trek around San Francisco. It starts with a ride on BART (the Bay Area Rapid Transit train) that would take us to the Embarcadero in San Francisco. From there we would ride along the Embarcadero, past Fisherman’s Wharf, past Chrissy Field to the Golden Gate Bridge. After crossing the bridge, we would ride into Sausalito and Tiburon, where we would have lunch. We could then either take the ferry from Tiburon back to the City, ride to Sausalito and take the ferry back, or we could retrace our steps back over the Golden Gate Bridge and go home that way.

This was not a hard-core ride. It had more to do with food and social skills than biking. It involved a lot of crowded sidewalks, rough paved trails, and streets that contained trolley tracks. We had long ago decided that this was a ride for the “townies”. Townie bikes are ones that are born for goofing off or the utility of riding around town. You sit upright, don’t get in a hurry, and the configuration is all about hauling groceries and not having to walk around the store in Spandex and funny shoes.

Beau Hunk had built me a townie out of an old moutain bike frame and some second-hand parts. It was a nice bike, but since some of the components were bought on the cheap, it wasn’t a functionally great bike. There was also an issue with the way the back wheel fit into the frame, making it impossible for me to get the wheel off the frame, should I have a flat. Beau Hunk could get it off, but I couldn’t. That pretty much necessitated I ride this bike only in his presence. Not a big deal, but it did provide a certain limitation.

As we got ready for this ride to San Francisco in October of 2004, Beau Hunk annouced that he wanted me to have his townie. His beloved Ritchey townie. He loved that bike. He had had that frame for almost 20 years – first as a mountain bike, then in the last few years, as his townie. He had built it into a lovely townie, and he was justifiably proud of it. And now he was giving it to me. He did stipulate that the gift was “in comtemplation of marriage”, meaning if I didn’t marry him, I had to give the bike back. (Law students are so romantic.) We then referred to it as my engagement bike. I didn’t get a ring until seven months later!

The Ritchey is such a fun and comfortable bike, and I love riding it. It has a nice, big, comfy Brooks saddle that I can ride in my jeans without mourning the loss of my womanhood. The handlebars are Nitto Dove bars, with wine corks as bar end plugs. It has fenders with mudflaps to protect against the dreaded ButtRiver that can happen when riding in wet conditions. The tires are wide like mountain bike tires, but with a only a very slight tread so it can be taken into gravel or packed dirt and still rides comfortably on pavement. It is a really lovely bike and comfortable as hell.

I bring all this up now because yesterday Beau Hunk called me outside to see something. He showed me his beloved Kogswell. The Kogs is a fully lugged steel frame, similar to a Rivendell Rambouillet. Beau Hunk built this last year to use as a touring bike. I looked at it and said yes, it is a lovely bike. That’s when he told me it was mine.

Click on an image to see a larger version.
The Ritchey The Kogs

Beau Hunk decided I needed a bike to bridge the gap between my go-fast road bike and my townie, and that the Kogs would be perfect. (Lucky for me, we both use the same size frame!) The Kogs’ tires are on the wide end of road tires (28cm), with a little tread. The bars are Nitto Noodle, wrapped with natural cork, the tape ends wrapped with twine instead of sticky tape, and sealed with shellac. It has classic bar end shifters, with the standard roadie brakes. But it also has an additional set of bar top brake levers that mount on the flat part of the road bars so you can sit up, look around, and still stop in an instant. By the way, the tennis ball case in the rear water bottle holder is to hold extra gear like long gloves, arm warmers, a vest, etc. It fits perfectly into the bottle holder and works like a charm.

I took the Kogs for my first ride today. We only took a short ride up the trail to the grocery store – about four miles – but it was a great ride. I’ve only ridden this trail on my townie up until now, and I realized that I missed going fast. I was clipping along quite nicely on the Kogs.

Beau Hunk built these bikes himself, installing all the parts and components. He spent hours picking just the right components – mixing what we had on hand with new parts to achieve just the right blend of aesthetics and functionality. The bikes are built for a purpose, and each is perfectly suited to it’s niche. And they look pretty damned slick too. I know how Beau Hunk feels about his bikes, and trust me, for him to give these beloved beauties to me, it means something.

Because in our house, nothing says love like a bike.

The First Class

Friday, January 20th, 2006

I had my first class Wednesday night: Legal Research & Writing I. It was a very interesting experience. Not terribly productive, but interesting. It was also a very small family occasion.

When I left the house, Beau Hunk told Woo that I was going to school. He was very excited for me, since he absolutely adores going to school. They came out to my car to see me away, both of them waving, Woo saying “I love you!”, which are about the sweetest words ever uttered by a little munchkin.

Ten minutes later as I was driving to school, my cell phone rang. Actually, it vibrated, scaring the hell out of me, because it was in my backpack and the car radio was playing, so at first it sounded vaguely like my vehicle was falling apart. I switched off the radio and my panic was instantly replaced by stupidity when I realized the hideous noise was just the phone ringing, not my car shedding pieces and bits down the road. The phone call was from my parents, who called to wish me good luck on my return to scholastic endeavors. I was very touched by the gesture, especially since I knew my husband put them up to it.

I arrived at school with plenty of time to spare, found prime parking and spent a fair amount of time standing around with my fellow classmates outside of a locked classroom. It was an experiment in people watching and listening.

Being college, there was of course a small cluster of emaciated females whose speech revealed the possibility of emaciated brains. I call them the Twit-o-Ramas. Their conversation went something like this: “like, backpacks, in like, the bookstore, are, like, fifty dollars!! I was all, like, gah!” I was torn somewhere between laughing out loud and joining the conversation to ask if the backpacks were fifty dollars, or were they like fifty dollars. Because I might want a backpack that was like fifty dollars. I could use it to buy some Taco Bell or something.

Our class age spans a larger spectrum that I had expected. The youngest is 18 (not surprising), but the oldest is a 72 year-old woman who is starting a new career. Go lady, go!! There are only two men and probably 20 women. There are several people in the class who are starting new careers, and many who have ambitions of going to law school.

The professor seems fair enough, but was quite clear that she knew the ins and outs of flakey college students and would brook no bullshit. She also made it very known that there is no room for Know-It-Alls. We have one person in the class who thought he’d show off his vast knowledge of the legal system by asking if we would cover blah-blahs, throwing out some specific legal jargon. But he didn’t really know what he was asking, he was just showing off. Each time the professor would ask him to clarify his remark, because it made no sense. He would try and mostly fail. Then she’d tell him what it was that he was trying to say, why he was saying it wrong, and how that sort of imprecision related to the class. By the end of the evening, the professor announced that she was going to have lots of fun picking on him, since he was convinced that he knew the materials already (and clearly did not). I’m not sure if I was amused by her command of the situation, or horrified of the prospect of her doing that to me.

Next week I start my Family Law and Intro to Paralegalism classes, bringing my triad of firsts full-circle. I wish it wasn’t so far away, because I’d like to erase the unknowns and move on. But the good news is that I have almost a week to do my first reading assignment without any conflicting assignments. If I were smart, I’d probably use that time to set up a study regimen and space. But I’ve never been accused of being terribly smart, so I’m not holding high hopes about that sort of ambition.

Putting the Mountain in Mountain Biking

Saturday, January 28th, 2006

Beau Hunk went riding with the local mountain biking club a few weeks ago and discovered just how awesome the riding is around here. So awesome in fact, that he took me out to share the joy. I think I have finally discovered “true” mountain biking. You know, the kind that takes place on mountains and through forests instead of going across cow pastures on fire roads.

The scenery was to die for. We rode through lush forests and cross many creeks. The first creek crossing we rode across, and it was deep enough that when my foot was at the bottom of my pedalstroke, my leg was in water above my ankles. I had to keep telling myself to just keep pedalling and not stop. Shamefully, I ended up saying this outloud. At least only Beau Hunk was there to witness my complete descent into bike dorkdom.

That was only the first of many water crossings. The next creek crossing had lots of “dollheads” (big round rocks the size of a doll head) that tend to roll when you hit them, causing idiots with no technical bike skills like me to fall down and go splut. Beau Hunk suggested I walk that creek, because falling would leave me far wetter than walking it and it was cold out. He wasn’t kidding either – the water was halfway up my shin on my walk across. The next crossing was best described as a small river as it was around 25 feet across and involved hiking over rocks and felled trees. Beau Hunk took my bike while I picked my way across the rushing water.

Boy was I glad I wore my wool socks! By the end of the ride, my socks were still soaking wet and had to be wrung out. But my feet were warm as toast. Wool: nature’s own miracle. You have to love it.

There were many other times on this ride I ended up walking or carrying my bike, mostly over fallen trees or areas too technically difficult to ride. But I didn’t care, I was having a blast! I even rode my first singletrack. Although, I should qualify that by saying that it was a wide singletrack and downhill. I don’t climb well enough to take singletrack uphill without hurting myself.

The downhill was magnificent. The trail wound around the side of the mountain, taking nasty dips and wicked turns, some of which were walked. We decided that style points would not be awarded, and that walking difficult sections would be a good idea since getting hurt would be stupid. The strategy worked since I came home completely unscathed, and with a huge smile on my face from the ride.

This area is lush with trees, lakes, rivers, streams and mountains. I can’t wait to find more rides like this. The best part? The trail head was only 20 minutes from the house. I love that this much fun is right out my back door.

Oh No Mr. Bill!

Wednesday, February 8th, 2006

A few weeks ago Bill The Cat started acting funny. He was walking around cooing, chirping and generally being a pain in the ass. He was rubbing up against anything he could find, and rolling around on the floor at every chance. He walked around the house at night howling in a voice I can only describe as from another world. I swear, it sounded like a child. I told Beau Hunk that if I didn’t know better, I’d think he was in heat.

We called the vet (who has seen Bill twice and both times swore he was a boy), and they seconded my suspicion – Bill was in heat. Oh Fate, you wicked wicked bitch. Like the Boy Named Sue, we have a girl named Bill. Or Byl. Or Billomena. Bill The Transgender Cat. But we are open minded and accepting of these things, so we don’t much mind.

However, for the sake of consistency and in an effort to not confuse the hell out of Woo, we have decided to keep using the male pronoun. Sorry Bill, but you really are just a cat and we have to put your sexual identity issues behind Woo’s need to learn the difference between “he” and “she”. Feline diversity needs must take a back seat to human child education. Let’s just hope that the ACCLU (American Cat Civil Liberties Union) doesn’t find out.

Clearly Bill would need to be spayed, but we had certain scheduling issues we had work around. Until then, we kept “him” in the house. Which was a sight to behold. He spent a few days cooing and chirping, howling and yowling, and basically trying to get laid. We were ever so happy when that phase passed.

But Sunday afternoon he started in again. The Wanton Hussy was back and wanted outside, big time. We couldn’t open the door without him bolting outside. The house went into lock down. But we have had a bit of false spring around here with temps in the high 70′s, so we wanted to air the house out by opening the windows. The sliding glass door was cracked open a few inches in compromise.

A little after 7pm on Sunday, we realized that Bill wasn’t hanging out with us. We searched the house frantically, which is when we discovered that the back door had been pushed open and the screen was ripped. Bill had escaped, in heat, and at night.

The main concern wasn’t him out being a trollop, it was that he was out at night. There is a canyon behind our back fence that has a large population of wildlife, including coyotes and bobcats. We have been told that cats just don’t survive around here, which we believe since we never see cats roaming around. I had all sorts of horrible thoughts about our little Bill’s fate, which left me a sniveling, sobbing mess. Beau Hunk, bless his giant heart, made several trips out to the yard and canyon searching for our Bill, to no avail. Bill was gone.

Sleep never did come, and I passed the hours in bed staring into the darkness. Around 2am I saw a silhouette outside our bedroom door and couldn’t believe my eyes. It was Bill! He was home!! I jumped out of bed and flipped on the porch light to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Yes, it was him. Our little Bill was safe! But when I turned on the light, my stupid dog came bounding out of his dog house, straight for Bill. Under normal circumstances, Bill and my dog are best friends and play all the time. But Bill was spooked, so he bolted. We searched the yard, but no Bill. He was gone again.

Beau Hunk took watch from the living room floor, while I took watch from the bedroom, praying he’d be brave enough to come back. After an hour, I invited Beau Hunk back to bed and took up the watch. I stayed there, mentally begging Bill to come back home, for hours. Finally, around 7am, with the sky lightening, I gave up, turned over and decided to sleep. Beau Hunk went back outside for one more check.

Lo and behold, Bill was sitting out front. But he wasn’t alone. He was accompanied by a big bruiser of a Tom. Apparently our little slut’s boyfriend had the decency to walk his date home. Beau Hunk brought Bill inside where he was met with that parental conflict of “if I wasn’t so revlieved to have you home, I’d brain you”. Afterall, the little shit did deprive me of a whole night of much needed sleep.

As the sun broke across the horizon, we spotted another suitor sitting beyond our back fence. So Bill had managed to find two Toms in a canyon full of coyotes and bobcats and survive the night. But without a doubt, Bill had been soiled and was destined to be an unwed mother. Oh the shame!! Clearly our Bill was broken and must be “fixed”.

Due to our schedules and other logistics, we basically had to take care of this right away. It was either do it now, or in three weeks, which of course would be too late. We explained the situation to our vet and they were kind enough to squeeze our little knocked up hussy into yesterday’s schedule.

Bill is now back home, resting comfortably, sans girly bits. Last night he was clearly not comfortable, so we did our best to take care of him. We made him little beds on the floor with pillows and articles of our clothing so he’d have our smell to comfort him. He stayed there a while, but eventually chose to take a nap on Woo’s bed while I was at class. When I got home, he kept going to our bed and looking like he was waiting for me to lie down so he could snuggle in. I wasn’t ready to go to bed, but Bill needed his mama, so I tucked in.

He immediately snuggled up against my leg and fell asleep. He stayed there most of the night, only moving to relocate to his standard place for sleeping – my ribcage. At one point he even requested a “love fest”, the term I use for when he shows up purring madly and wanting rubs and pets. He’s doing better this morning than I would have thought. He’s eating, drinking, and is climbing on the furniture to find the best napping spots. He’s still sleeping a lot, but seems to much more comfortable and mobile than yesterday.

Hopefully our Ms. Bill will quit darting out the door now, and won’t be spending any more nights in the canyon at risk of being a tender tasty snack for those further up the food chain. And all those neighborhood Toms will just have to find another little hussy to knock up, because our little girl is officially off the market.

School Plods On

Friday, February 10th, 2006

School is now officially in full swing, and I’m running around like a complete nutbucket. My homework for this past week was over 150 pages of reading. Since the only time I can really study is when the Wooster is at school – a time I have been using to do my house chores, that is leaving me trying to re-balance my schedule. I know there are many of you out there who are probably laughing your ass off at me complaining about having to read 150 pages, and rightfully so. Please remember that my brain hasn’t studied anything with this amount of consistentcy for 20 years, so there is some adjustment.

So far my Intro and Research classes are still gearing up. At this point I’ve learned a hell of a lot about the structure of the American and California court systems, but not a whole lot else. But that’s the foundation we need to learn what we need to know. It’s all about baby steps at this point.

Family Law is in full swing though. Since it’s not a beginner class, it jumped right in to the subject matter. I had to read 60+ pages for Tuesday night’s class, and it held my interest, even though I haven’t quite caught up on my sleep from missing all of Sunday night. I’m sure if it had been any other subject I would have nodded off after two paragraphs. I’m finding it nothing short of facinating.

My three instructors are about as different as you could possibly imagine. My instructor for Into (Monday nights) spent the first class laying down the law, so to speak. He kept saying things like “you’re in boot camp now”. Uh, no…actually I’m in night school at community college. But I understood where he was coming from. He was trying to weed out the people who really didn’t want to be there, or who were “testers” – the ones who didn’t have any desire to be a paralegal, but thought they’d try the class for curiosity. It worked, because about half of the people who were there that first night are gone. And his attitude has softened appreciably. He even admits that if we take another class from him (like Contracts), we will see a different side of him. In spite of his initial blustering, I like him and enjoy his class, even though he is very strict. You’re late for class, you get docked half a class. If you miss two classes, you’re out. Period. This is a 7pm – 10pm class, and we use the whole time. Monday is a long night, but he knows his stuff and makes it interesting.

Tuesday is Family Law. My instructor for this class is much more laid back in that she hates to stay until 10, and if you miss some classes, she’ll provide a way for you to do a make-up at the end of the semester. A good thing too, because due to circumstances way beyond my control, I will be missing two Tuesday classes this semester. She’s winging this class – it’s her first time teaching it and her practice isn’t in Family Law, but she’s bringing the material together quite nicely. And as I said before, it’s facinating to me.

Wednesday night’s Research class is meeting at the county courthouse law library. The instructor for this class is very nice, and has an extensive background in legal research. She gives us exercises to do that make us run around the library pulling case books and finding statutes. It’s like a big scavenger hunt, and I’m having a blast. She’s also not very strict, and initially said she wouldn’t even take roll call. But she’s changed her mind on that since the class has 18 people and where we meet in the law library only comfortably holds ten, so she’s trying to whittle down the class. This class is supposed to meet from 6-9, but we’re usually out of there by 8:30, and I’m home before 9. It’s nice to have an early night.

So school plods on, and I just keep moving from one class to the next, one week to the next. I find that my brain is waking up, and at this point is appreciating being fed some meaningful information. I’m sure it won’t take long before the “new” wears off and I see school as a chore again, but for now, I’m enjoying the hell out of it.

Hello From The Abyss

Tuesday, July 18th, 2006

Hi all. Yep, I’m still here and I’ve finally decided to update. And boy howdy, is there some updatin’ ta do, I tell ya whut. So much so that it may take a few (dozen) entries to get it all caught up.

I know you’ve all heard the excuses about being busy and having a life and all that. But in this case, “busy” doesn’t exactly seem to cover it. Basically, my life has resembled the inside of a blender for several months (and not in a good way), and it’s just now settling down from Puree to Stir.

Beau Hunk and I have come to realize that we have yet to have a moment of peace in our marriage. By “peace” I mean a stretch of time where some big fucking trauma-drama wasn’t hanging over our heads and threatening to change our lives in major ways. But we think we may be coming to the end of that dark dark tunnel and may be actually glimpsing a bit of light. Let’s hope it’s not a train, shall we?

I only say that in half-jest, because life really has been shitting on us lately. At least that’s the way it feels. In spite of some set-backs and a string of bad news (most of which I will not discuss), we are finding our silver linings and making the best of situations.

For instance, one of these changes has made it possible for me to dedicate more time to school in the fall. I will be taking five classes (14 units), which ought to keep me plenty busy. Oh, and for those of you who were kind enough to ask, I finished the spring semester with flying colors: A’s in Family Law and Legal Research and Writing, and a B in Introduction to Paralegalism. My Intro instructor told me “a B in this class is like an A in any other class”. Yeah, right. Tell that to my GPA. Believe me when I say he doesn’t give A’s. He’s very much the hardass.

I took a class over the summer via internet – Computer Literacy Workshop. It’s required for my degree, and a total fucking joke. Basically, the class is teaching shit that is so fucking irrelevant to actually using a computer in any sort of business environment that it’s useless. Those who know computers are learning shit they don’t care about, and those who don’t know computers are learning shit they will never use. The class requires the purchase of Microsoft Office Professional to cover the use of Access. But the chapter on Access is only a week long and you are not even required to turn in any assignments. So exactly why are you making these poor college students spend this money for something they aren’t learning how to use anyway? It’s a clusterfuck. Luckily, I had the program anyway, so my bitch is solely on behalf of the rest of the world.

Bitching aside, I finished the class two weeks ahead of schedule and finished with a score of 458 out of 433. No, that’s not a typo. The bulk of the scores came from online assessments that were written by the book publisher. These assessments were so full of bullshit questions with “right” answers that were either nonsensical or downright wrong, that the instructor decided to declare 32 out of 40 questions right to be 100%. I only got the answers right because I figured out that you could take the pre-test (that tells you the right answer) five or six times and learn how the questions should be answered, so when I took the real test, I could score well. That’s how I ended up scoring 105.77% in the class.

This fall I’m taking three legal classes – Real Estate, Civil Procedures and Litigation, and Contracts / Employment. I’m taking two general ed classes – Nutrition and the Local History of [our] County. Since I’m relatively new to the area, I’m really looking forward to the history class. The Contracts / Employment law class is being taught by the same instructor whom I had for Introduction to Paralegalism. He’s one of the top 10 contract instructors in the country, and he’s already told me I should be ready to work my ass off for the class. Real Estate and Civil Procedures is being taught by the same instructor I had for Family Law, so there’s another known quantity. Even better, I like her.

Unfortunately, there is a major hurdle between me and school. It has to do with my health, and like everything else in the last ten months, it came out of the blue, shit on my head and refuses to be simple. Lucky for you (or not), this is one situation that you’ll be hearing lots about in the next few days. But this entry is long enough, so it’s getting it’s own post in the very near future.

Damned Girly Bits

Wednesday, July 19th, 2006

Warning: the following entry contains references to Girly Bits and includes the words “uterus” and “ovaries”. Please procede at your own caution.


I’m a Kaiser baby. Kaiser is what I call a “full-inclusion” HMO. You pay your premium, and when you need services, you go to Kaiser. For everything. Labs, x-ray, emergency, surgery, flu shots … you name it, Kaiser does it. All the services are in the same building, and there’s no such thing as deductibles, “reasonable and customary” charges, and no treatment administered is ever charged for, because it’s all their facilities and doctors. You even get your prescriptions from their pharmacy. You walk in, pay your office visit fee ($15-20) and get your services. It doesn’t matter if you’re being seen for a cold or for a shattered bone, it’s the same fee. It is the perfect healthcare system for a cash-strapped individual. You never get any surprises.

It’s a beautiful system, especially when bad shit happens. Remember when I got hit by the RV a few years ago and had two ambulance rides, four CT scans, a day and a half in Intensive Care, and tons of drugs? Instead of thousands of dollars in co-pays, deductibles and denied services, Kaiser picked up the tab for a single hospital admittance co-pay of $200. That was it. No other out of pocket, no haggling over prices, no questions asked. You have to love that.

I was a member of Kaiser from the time I was three months old until last September. I would still have Kaiser, but they don’t have a facility up here, so that was the end of that. I am now being indoctrinated into the amazing world of “normal” health insurance – one of those Blue companies.

Back in January I finally got around to getting us an insurance plan. I had to, since I was out of birth control pills and needed a refill. So a space of mere days elapsed between the establishment of my new policy and my first visit to my gynecologist. I was only there for a checkup and a prescription. But fate had other things in mind.

Imagine my surprise when the doc was doing my pelvic, looked up and said “Has anyone ever told you that you have an enlarged uterus?” Seems that sucker was about the size of a 14 week pregnancy. And I wasn’t pregnant. After further examination (and an ultrasound), it was discovered that I have a very large fibroid tumor that’s hanging on a stalk and has semi-engulfed one of my ovaries. In February it was measured at 12cm (about 4.75 inches). According to my doctor, I should have been doubled over in pain several months ago. Since I have a very sick since of humor, the tumor now has a name. We call her Myrtle.

There were lots of decisions to be made – treatment, surgery, pre-surgery treatment, and ultimately my entire reproductive future. The doctor said I could go into a chemically induced menopause to shrink the tumor, but I rejected this idea because 1) I hate the idea of fucking with my body chemistry that way, 2) the idea of menopause doesn’t thrill me, 3) it was only a suggestion, not a necessity, and 4) the shots to do this were $400 each, not covered by my insurance, and three shots were recommended. I declined that course of treatment. Since there were other major catastrophes brewing in our lives and I wasn’t in pain, the doc said we could put off a decision for a while.

Meanwhile, my new insurance company started throwing up red flags at this person who claimed to be healthy but was carrying around a big honkin fibroid. Color them suspicious. They immediately started denying claims, saying this was a pre-existing condition. My doctor wrote them a letter explaining that while yes, the condition was technically pre-existing, it didn’t qualify as such because I had no symptoms and was utterly clueless that I was harboring such a beast. The insurance reinstated the claims and we all went about our merry way.

In mid-May Beau Hunk and I met with the doc again, decisions in hand. We came to the conclusion that given our questionable genetics and my age, we would forego having kids. That was not exactly an easy conclusion to reach. But it’s the safest and most reasonable way to go about this, so it was decided that I would have a hysterectomy on May 31st. The doctor requested that I have an MRI first so she would know exactly what she was dealing with.

I had the MRI at 7:30am on May 25th. By 9am my doctor’s office was calling my house to talk to us because she didn’t think she could operate in six days. WTF?? We saw her on what was supposed to be her day off, at 1pm on a day when her office was supposed to close at Noon. It seems the our darling Myrtle had grown to almost 6″ x 4″ x 3″, and the stalk was 1.5 inches and “remarkably vascular”. So much so that the tech reading the MRI called her immediately with the results. Something the doc said has not happened in 10 years of practice. The doc said she had “visions of my patient bleeding out in front of me”. You know, I never want to hear the words “bleeding out” from my surgeon.

Alternatives were discussed: I could take the shots which would put me into temporary menopause – the idea I had previously rejected, or they could do a procedure where a few days before the hysterectomy a surgeon would “kill” Myrtle’s blood supply to reduce surgical bleeing. I liked that last idea, but the risk there is that my doc has never come in behind this procedure and done a hysterectomy. It’s usually used for limb amputation, not gynecological uses.

Eventually I decided on the chemically induced menopause as the safest route with the least possible complications. But because there’s a 4-8 week recovery and I’m supposed to start school on August 22, there definitely wasn’t time for a full three months of menopause treatment. So the doc and I compromised, deciding I’d have two shots and surgery on August 2nd, and I’d just find a way to make school work on three weeks of recovery. Unfortunately, her office put me through a two week clusterfuck where they were supposedly trying to see if my insurance would cover the shots. Which I had already told them wasn’t going to happen, because I had checked it out on the web first. So the first shot didn’t happen until June 13th.

This is where I start my rant about non-Kaiser healthcare. So now we’re two weeks delayed on the already shortened plan to put me in menopause to shrink our darling Myrtle because of insurance insanity. Finally all the pieces are in place and I can go to the pharmacy, pick up my shot, drive down to my doc’s office so they can shoot me in the ass. Imagine my joy and ecstacy when I find that the shots were not $400, as my doctor said, but really cost $627. Each. Did I mention they weren’t covered by insurance and they don’t count towards deductible? I repeat, joy and ecstacy on my part. But I paid it, because the words “bleeding out” were still ringing in my head.

So the joy of menopause began. I kid you not, the very first night I had voices in my head that were completely insane. The thoughts pinging around my skull were completely irrational, and I knew it. Luckily, they calmed down in a few days. Only to be replaced with hot flashes, night sweats, depression and crying jags. All I can say is that my husband has the patience of a rocking horse. He’s been wonderful about the whole thing.

No sooner had the first shot been given than my doc called me, for reasons that I can only describe as being the covering of her own ass. She started telling me that I should be aware that the best course of treatment would have been to have three shots, not two, with a full four weeks after each shot before surgery. She said “And I’ve made a note in the file that if the patient requires a blood transfusion and gets Hepatitis-C, she was aware of the risks.” Excuse the fuck out of me? She signed off on this treatment plan on the front end, and now she’s backpeddaling? I swear, I don’t need this shit. I really don’t.

So I brought up the idea of donating my own blood for my surgery. She said she was against it because they like six weeks to pass between blood donation and surgery. At which point I wondered why in the hell she hadn’t brought this shit up during our consult at the end of May. But anyway. I called the bloodbank who called Bullshit on her six weeks, saying it was ok to donate to yourself as soon as two weeks before surgery, oh, and by the way, you can’t give to yourself more than 30 days prior to surgery because they can’t keep it that long. I called the doc’s office with this info, and the receiptionist told me I couldn’t give closer than four weeks to surgery. At which point I finally lost my shit. I told her “Look, the doctor is telling me six weeks, the blood bank says two, and you’re saying four. Now I’m really confused. Can you just get an answer for me?” I don’t like to be an ass to someone who is trying to do their job, but really folks, can we really be this fucked up??

I gave my first pint to myself last Thursday. I’m scheduled to give another tomorrow. Oh, and I found out that this procedure costs $300 per pint. I asked why I could give to a stranger for free, but I have to pay for my own. I never did get a firm answer, but I guess it is a giant pain in the ass to set it aside and make sure I get it. I’m still willing to pay rather than take any chances. I also found out that I forgot to ask the $64,000 question when picking a blood bank – are you a preferred provider?? I found out too late that the answer was “no”, so I have no idea what’s going to happen now. I suspect I better open up my wallet, a procedure to which I am rapidly becoming familiar.

Which brings me to the heart of my BigBlue medical insurance rant – they are again putting all my claims on hold, trying to deny them for being pre-existing. Only this time they’re not taking anyone’s word for it – they’ve requested my medical records from Kaiser for the last three years – medical, psychological, prescription, AIDS testing – everything. Not that it really matters, because I have nothing to hide. It still kind of pisses me off, but I guess I understand their thinking and don’t blame them. I hate it, but I don’t blame them.

What I do blame them for is the shitty way they’re treating me. They’ve suspended processing of all claims until they get the records. But they don’t seem to be in any hurry to get the records or review them. Also, they wouldn’t give my doc’s office a pre-auth for the surgery until I pre-paid my premium (which they’ve already raised) for July 15 – August 15. Twice I tried to pay in early July, but they kept telling me my card was declined, even though it’s the card I use all the time. My card became magically good again when I was paying current, not paying ahead. Assholes.

I did hear from someone who is reviewing the records who had a minor question about some prescriptions I said I have, but the reviewer couldn’t find in the records. I know I have nothing to hide, and the call from the reviewer makes me think they’ll realize I’m being more honest than I have to, but I still hate this process. Meanwhile, the medical providers are starting to send me bills, wanting payment because the insurance has suspended processing until after they review my medical files. So Blue wants my money, the providers want my money, and Blue isn’t paying jack shit. You know, I pay your bills, so just do your damned job and do what I pay you for!

Well. I think I got that out of my system. For a minute.

So as we stand right now, surgery is scheduled for the morning of Wednesday, August 2nd. If you are a reader of Secra, then I guess you’ll get to be doubly entertained / horrified by post-surgery recovery stories. Well, unless I end up spending seven weeks in menopause hell for nothing and end up bleeding out anyway.

A possibility that I am doing my very best to ignore.

All Prepped Up and Nowhere to Go

Monday, July 31st, 2006

I’m still trying to wrap my head around all this. As usual, my sick sense of humor seems to be rising to the forefront. This morning I woke up around 4am, and as I stared out into the darkness, I started thinking what it would be like if for-profit healthcare was like retail for-profit businesses. In that case, I’d probably be delaying my surgery until they ran the “Buy a hysto, get a lipo for FREE” special. (Offer not valid without coupon. Liposuction limited to the abdominal area. No refunds. Void where prohibited. Cash value of coupon is $0.001)

If you don’t understand where my head is at after that last statement, I’m not sure what else I can say.

With that being said … I’ve had a real red-letter day. Not only have I done both my physician pre-op and my hospital pre-op, but I bought my books for the fall semester.

I bought my books today because it will be all I can do to make the start of classes in three weeks, much less buy my books. So it was off to the bookstore for me. Get this – the books for my five classes ran me over $500. That’s just fucking insane. Actually, I only spent $300+ at the actual bookstore, because it’s so early that they haven’t stocked all my books yet. I spent another $225 online getting the rest.

My first instinct is to buy all books online and have them shipped to the house. Afterall, I always prefer to sit on my ass and do my shopping on the couch – just ask anyone who has ever received a gift from me. But the bookstore link on the website goes directly to, and they are less than forthcoming about the details of the books. Half the time I can’t even get a full title or author’s name, so an ISBN is waaaay to much to ask. Without that, it’s kind of hit or miss whether I’m getting the right books. So ordering from them is the only way to make sure I get the right stuff.

Unfortunately, it’s also the best way to assure I’m paying the most possible for these hideously overpriced books. I am only slightly comforted by knowing that, based on what I paid for last semester’s books, even Amazon and other “cheap” booksellers are not that much less expensive. But what really chapped my ass is when I checked the shipping prices to order online and have the books sent to my house. The shipping rates are based on the dollar amount of the purchase, and believe me, they aren’t cheap. So basically you have a situation where the distributor is charging horribly inflated shipping rates based on the horribly inflated book prices. Wow. That’s one hell of a scam. I should buy stock. Only I can’t, because I spent all my spare cash on the fucking books. Geez. But at least it’s off my plate, because I’ve got enough to worry about in the next few days without dealing with textbook issues.

I had my pre-op with my surgeon this morning. I had to sign a bunch of papers acknowledging all sorts of legalese – including that I realize that having a hysterectomy will render me sterile and unable to have children. Well duh! The really hilarious part is that was even in all caps. Ladies and gents, your doctor’s insurance premiums at work. There were pages and pages that had to be initialed and signed, detailing possible complications and side effects – including but not limited to: complications requiring further surgery, colostomy and, my all time favorite… death! Yay!

My hospital pre-op was next on the agenda. I had to sign the same papers and was treated to the privilege of giving blood. If I’m not on Dracula’s Christmas list now, I never will be. But I did get a look at the hospital, which, believe it or not, was encouraging. This town has three hospitals, including two large medical centers. The hospital where my procedure will be performed is a very small facility, only 15-20 beds. It’s more like a hotel than a hospital. Every room is private, they have a chef on staff, there’s free wireless internet, every room has a guest fridge, and the rooms have a padded “Guest Information” binder, just like a hotel. I only got a quick glance at the binder, but I saw a menu page and a list of available music selections. So maybe my stay will be a little more comfortable than the usual hospital holiday.

Which, aside from the knowledge that I’ll never have to endure a period again, is one of the only bright spots I’ve been able to find. The next few weeks aren’t going to be much fun, but I’m trying to make the most of it. Beau Hunk had the idea of ordering up a few dorky movies from our online account – stuff he won’t want to watch, but might amuse me. I can even use the DVD player on the laptop to watch from the comfort of my bed. I’ve also picked out a couple of interesting (but not complex) books to read, and have updated and put a fresh charge on my iPod. That should give me a nice array of activities for various forms of consciousness. Which I suspect is going to come in mighty handy in the next week.

Checking In

Thursday, August 3rd, 2006

Just wanted to drop a quick note – I’m alright. Still in the hospital, but through the magic of wireless access & my husband’s thoughtfulness in bringing me our laptop, here I am. All went better than expected and as well as we could have hoped. The doc even gave me a photo! The thing was huge – think cantelope. But I didn’t need any blood, and everything went smoothly.

With that, I will call this done, since it is very hard to type with an oxygen sensor on my finger.

Putting the “Am” in Ambulatory

Saturday, August 5th, 2006

I’m finally home. The hospital was a very nice facility – about the best experience one could ever hope to have in that situation – but it’s not home. I know it was only a few days, but between the physical / emotional “trauma” (for lack of a better word), the drugs and sketchy sleep patterns, it felt like I had been in there a month.

The procedure really started on Tuesday, when I had to start observing a special diet to “prep” me for abdominal surgery. There were other “preps” later that night and the next morning, but they are not for discussion amongst polite company. (Or here, for that matter.) I’ll just sum it up with one word: Yuck.

My surgery was at 7:30 so we were scheduled for a 5:00am arrival at the hospital. Fine by me, I didn’t get much sleep anyway, and it was only four miles away. Beau Hunk was restless too, and we ended up spending the hours between 2:30 and 3:45am snuggling in bed. That was nice.

We arrived at 5:00, on the dot. The next hour was spent answering medical questions and watching the sun come up out my room window. I didn’t have a big view, but it was nice. Trees, a rooftop, and the northeastern sky. I appreciated seeing nature out those windows.

At 6:00 I was hooked up to an IV and told I’d be taken off to surgery around 7. That was a long hour, spent sitting and staring at each other. Beau Hunk was clearly upset and I thought he might come unglued if we had to wait any longer. But 7am rolled up, I hugged him goodbye and crawled onto my gurney for the trip to the recovery room, which doubled as a pre-op. I chatted up the nurse, who grew up very near where we lived in the Bay Area. The anesthesiologist (I’m too lazy to check the spelling on that) showed up with the Magic Syringe. We chatted about my robust history of nausea, especially after surgery. He promised to take care of it, but warned it would leave me feeling tired. So? It wasn’t like I had a big date.

He plugged in the Magic Syringe, but didn’t administer right away. The nurse and I were chatting about the changes to the Bay Area. At one point we were about to get moving towards the Op room, and she asked me a question. The anesthe drug guy said he’d hold off on the Magic Syringe until I answered. “Once I give you this, you won’t be answering a lot of questions.”

He hit the plunger and we started moving to the Op room, next door. He said “give that about 30 seconds”. He wasn’t kidding. I was clear headed in the hall (all five feet of it) and when we entered the room. I even noticed the big lights and commented on the cold. Then they asked me to sit up and move to the table. By then I was saying “Oh yeah, I’m good and stoned now!” I halfway remember them moving my arms out to my side – then nothing. Bless good drugs.

I do remember them moving me to another bed – my room bed? – and having pain, feeling like my very lower abs were cramping and wouldn’t relax. I think I yelped, and a voice from somewhere said “she’s having pain”. More darkness – whew! The next several hours are a kaleidescope of sounds and images. I was amazingly aware of anyone who entered the room, and for reasons I can’t explain, kept prying my eyes open and trying to explain that I was too weak to open my eyes and talk. So apparently even my core brain functions make no sense.

Beau Hunk came by five times – only about two of which I remember. I remember hearing his cell phone ring on my bedside table and thinking “I’m just going to let that go”. I remember hearing him talk to my parents and tell them I was “in and out”, to which my brain replied “I’m awake!” – a thought in which my mouth refused to participate. He said he finally realized that the best thing was to leave me alone so I’d quit waking up and telling him I couldn’t talk because I really needed to rest. I had the nurses help roll me over off my back to my side so I was more comfortable. Other than that, I spent my time curled up, hitting my PCA (Patient Controlled Analgesic) button every time I had a conscious thought. Basically, my thumb was the only thing moving. Again, blessed be the drugs.

By 4pm I was awake enough to sit up, watch Judge Judy and talk to Beau Hunk on the phone. I chatted with my nurses, hit my PCA and dozed. The night nurse helped me get comfortable a few more times – in addition to the ab wound, I was on a five point hookup: IV, oxygen sensor, catheder and anti-clot infla-whosits on each leg – moving wasn’t easy. I managed to sleep, between nurse visits.

Somewhere in all this haze my doc visited and informed me that everything went really well. The bleeding was well controlled and I didn’t need a transfusion. She showed me a picture of what they removed, to which I responded “Dear god in heaven!” (at least it wasn’t “holy shit!”). She said that was the same reaction she had. This fucking thing was huge. We haven’t got the pathology report yet, but the estimate is that it weighed around ten pounds. TEN. POUNDS. (When I get stronger I do plan on scanning that picture, but I will only post a link to it here, not the picture. I figure if you choose to participate in the viewing process, you can’t get mad at me for grossing you out against your will.)

She said my intestines and the fat layer had “adhered” to the mass, and had to be pried off. There was also some entaglement of scar tissue from my appendectomy 25 years ago, which complicated things. She was only able to save my left ovary. The right was “engulfed” in the mass and scar tissue, and was basically toast. But as she put it “ovaries are like kidneys, you only really need one”.

Wednesday afternoon Beau Hunk rode his bike over for a visit. He not only showed up with flowers sticking out of his backpack, but was thoughtful enough to get a vase we received as a wedding present, wrap it in a towel, and bring that to hold the flowers. He also brought the laptop, wireless card and two movies for me to watch on the laptop’s DVD player. Why yes, I do live in heaven. Why do you ask?

During the night the nurse helped me get out of bed and sit in a chair. She brought me my toothbrush, and was instantly my hero. By Thursday afternoon I had been un-tethered from all attachments except my IV, which had quit administering drugs, except by PCA request. I took my first walks and oral pain meds.

Thursday also brought my first meals. Suffice it to say these were no ordinary hospital meals. I ordered fresh fruit and cottage cheese. Yes, “ordered”. I had a menu from which to choose. The food staff came in 15 minutes before serving and set up my food tray with a placemat, flatware and juice. The food was served…no, presented… on real dishes with garnish and everything. No canned fruit cup here. There were grapes, currants, strawberries, a plum, cantelope, and honeydew, all arranged around the cottage cheese and dressed with mint springs. The juice was served in a glass, not a disposable plastic cup. The napkin was cloth. I had soup for dinner, and it too, was fantasic in both looks and taste.

Friday morning there was a bit of a hiccup – I was running a very slight fever. I was told to walk and do my breathing exercises, since it was probably related to lung congestion. By Noon I had done as I was told and there was no more fever. At 3:30, Beau Hunk came to get me and we made the trek home.

Now I’m home. Which isn’t without its drawbacks, but I’m glad I’m here. Beau Hunk has given up our bedroom to be the “recovery suite”. I have all manner of electronica – the TV remote, my iPod, the remote to our stand fan, the coveted laptop and its wireless connection, and a two-way radio so Beau Hunk can leave the confines of “shouting distance” and still be at my beck and call. Add to that a book, and I’ve got more entertainment at my fingertips than a girl could ever wish.

Initially all pets were banned from the recovery suite. The big fear was that Bill The Cat (aka “The Red Menace”) would end up on my belly, since he is a known lap-napper. We also feared that Red Dog (our Golden Retriever) would try to mount the bed and put one of his big dumb paws where it ought not be. We can’t ban one dog without banning the other, so, no dogs.

There is one exception to the No Pets rule – my cat. My cat has finally, after several years, decided to acknowledge that 1) I exist, and 2) she’s a cat. She has been my constant companion since my arrival, spending most of her time sleeping at the foot of the bed. She hasn’t done that since before Beau Hunk moved in with me, almost two years ago. And when she did it then, if my foot came within six inches of her, she took off like a shot and didn’t return. But last night I was working my feet under her, lifting her up, and she didn’t budge. Although when I woke up a few times, she gently walked up beside me and purred, rubbing her head against my hand. This morning she lifted up a paw as if she were going to step on my belly. I put out my hand so it was in her way, to block her. So she jumped in the air and cleared my entire torso, landing on the other side of the bed. Maybe I’m attributing far too much intelligence to this animal, but it really is as if she understands.

My pain is tolerable, especially with meds. I’m getting up out of bed on my own and I’ve adopted a towel across my abdomen as my best friend. Call it my security blanket, but I don’t want to be without it. My belly is bloated and things are not quite back to normal in there, but I’m working on it.

I know that my insides have been highly offened and are incredibly pissed off, but they are getting over it. I also know that no matter how it seems right now, I just have to wait this out and I’ll be back to some kind of normal soon. I just have to keep waiting for the clock to tick. It’s going to do that a few million times and I’ll be right as rain.

Tick tock… tick tock. It’ll come.

Coming Right Along

Saturday, August 12th, 2006

Recovery continues. Physically I’m doing ok, but emotionally I’m a fucking mess. I think my one remaining ovary has gone on strike, because I am having hot flashes that just about cook me in my own skin, and I’m crying over exercise infomercials. I wish my stupid body would just get back to work so I can just be normal again.

Oh, and as promised, here’s the somewhat gross link to the picture of Myrtle, immediately post-removal. My mother says it looks like a potroast. I think it looks like a Costco-sized ball of hamburger. All I know is that I’m glad it’s gone. I’m sure my intestines are overjoyed as well.

Last Tuesday I had the staples removed. My aunt told me it didn’t hurt at all when hers were removed. My neighbor said I’d feel a little tickle. They lied! My staple pulling didn’t go well at all. The first pull made me screech like a little girl. By the second I was in tears (see “emotional wreck” above). By the fifth, Beau Hunk was asking me to please remove my fingernails from his flesh. By the time all 22 were removed, nobody was happy, including the poor soul who was doing the pulling and constantly apologizing. I think I felt worse for her than I did for me, because bless her heart, she really was trying to be gentle.

Unfortunately the skin had already grown up over the edges of the staples, so with every pull there was tearing and pulling of fresh new skin around the fresh new incision. To make matters worse, I had felt so good when I woke up that morning I didn’t take my pain meds. In retrospect, that was a very very bad decision. But any way you slice it, I was a big girl’s blouse about the whole thing.

I’m glad it’s over though, because that was the last hurdle for my immediate recovery. I have likened this whole process to riding my bike up Mt. Diablo. It’s an eleven mile climb to the top, but then you get an eleven mile coast to the bottom. I have done all the climbing now, so I’m just cruising the downhill. All I have to do is not do anything stupid and before I know it I’ll be at the bottom and the whole mess will be nothing but a memory.

My self esteem also took a microscopic bolster at the staple removal. I had started referring to that part of my anatomy as the “Frankenbelly”. The incision runs from my belly button to my Netherlands (below the hairline). Since the skin was kind of bunched up for the staples, it was pretty gruesome looking.

Which reminds me of a story I must tell:

Woo had spent some time with his mom and came back to us last Sunday. On the way home Beau Hunk told Woo that I had a great big owie on my tummy. Woo called me on the phone and told me “We will get you goop and a great big bandaid for your owie”. (When Woo gets hurt he gets “goop and a bandaid” – goop being Neosporin.) I started laughing and thought I was going to die because my abs aren’t up to laughing yet. When they got home, we showed Woo my Frankenbelly. Then we made a big show of pretending to put on goop (we touched it with a wet Q-tip) and Woo put a tiny little two-inch bandaid across the middle of the big honkin wound. It was absolutely hilarious!

Now that the staples are gone I have a nice flat scar that is easier to look at. It might even turn out to be a better looking scar than the one from when I had my appendix removed in my teens. That one is unusually big because the appendix had ruptured so the wound had to be left open to drain. It’s about five inches long and runs from my hip to within 1.5 inches of the new scar, which is almost exactly perpendicular.

Between the appendix scar, the new scar and my belly button, my abdomen looks like a cross between a Picasso and an emoticon.

Beau Hunk has been doing his best to keep me in good spirits. The other day I was in another blue mood and on the edge of a crying jag when he said “Let’s sing a happy song!” Before I could quiz him as to whether he had been dipping into my pain meds, he burst out singing “Dead puppies ain’t no fun!” He then continued with a melange of other Dr. Demento favorites about small furry animals in various states of dismembership. I was laughing and begging him to stop, but grateful for his support. I think he’s figured out that the only way to fight irrational depression is with irrational humor.

Luckily, irrational (and sick) humor runs rampant at our house. Right now that counts for a lot.

Back to School – Semester Two

Monday, September 18th, 2006

The Fall semester started a mere two weeks and six days after my surgery – before I was allowed to drive even – which kind of forced me to be ok. Beau Hunk had to drive me and come pick me up, which was a pain in the ass for him since class is over at 10:00pm. But we survived.

I had my one month checkup at the beginning of the month and all is well. I was released for driving, and my only restriction is that I still can’t do ab exercises. Oh darn! Guess I’ll have to put those crunches off for a few more weeks. My heart is broken.

For the most part, I’d call me fully healed. I think I’m even getting over the part where I’m totally exhausted. It’s kind of hard to tell though because of school. These schedules are wreaking havoc on my head. Tuesday and Wednesday nights are back-to-back classes that start at 5pm and 4pm respectively, and end at 10pm. One of the biggest challenges there is when to eat dinner.

Especially Wednesday, because I leave the house at 3:20 and if my early class goes the full three hours, I end up with ten minutes between classes to snarf down a snack at my car because the cafeteria is waaaaaay on the other side of campus. But since I’m blessed and lucky, I have a husband who insists on packing me a healthy and nutritious snack that I can gobble down quickly. “Nutritious” is becoming key. My first class Wednesday night is Nutrition, so I can’t come out of there and snarf down a bag of chips without feeling guilty and kind of dumb.

Speaking of feeling kind of dumb … I have my first exam tomorrow night. It’s in Contracts, with my toughest instructor. He’s tough, but fair and I really like him. I had the same guy last semester for my Intro to Paralegalism class, so I’m kind of used to him now. As long as you show up for class and are prepared, he’s easy to get along with. Fine by me, since he weeds out the slackers pretty fast. His tests aren’t particularly gruesome or anything, but the subject matter isn’t exactly light. I’ve been cramming on and off all weekend. I think I’ll do fine on the test, but I’m still stressed.

Of course this is just the beginning of my school stress. I have an exam in Nutrition next week, and all three of my other classes are mentioning “mid-term” just about every other breath now. My Local History instructor poked us last week about getting started on our term papers, since they have to be ten pages. (ugh!) I was at a loss as to what I would do my paper on, but she gave me a good suggestion: historical sites you can find on a bike. I think I may do that. There’s a nice bike trail that runs through town and has tons of spots of historical interest nearby. Not only would that get me out on a bike ride, but it’s a nice concentrated area to do research. The last thing I want is to have to run all over hell’s half-acre to get info for this report. It’s not like my major is history!

Luckily I feel like I’m back to normal, physically. My energy level is getting back up there and I rarely have any pain. Well, not from anything surgery related. My pain is all focused in the ass area now, and has “SCHOOL” written all over it.

It’s times like this when I’m tempted to send money to a diploma mill and get my degree that way. But alas, ’tis not the way to do it, so I’m off to crack a few books and cram a few facts.

Deja Vu All Over Again

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

…or Back to School Semester Three. It seems that the last time I updated this site I was entering exam season. Which then flowed into mid-term season, which dovetailed into term paper and big-honkin’ report season, followed by the Finals Crunch, which took place the week before Christmas. By the time the New Year got here, I was preparing for the Spring semester. I didn’t get around to updating, but I did pull a 4.0 for the semester. Go me!

So what’s been going on here since then? Oh, just about everything. Here’s a few highlights, in no particular order:

New Kid in the House
We have a new cat, bringing the total animal occupant load here to three cats and two dogs. We’ve decided this is about two cats and one dog too many, but we’re stuck. We were walking in the park one day last fall when we saw this black kitten (guessing about five months old?) come walking up, squeaking at us. I put down my hand to see if she was friendly, and she reared up on her back legs and shoved her nose through my hand to get petted. I’d call that friendly. She was purring her head off and let me pick her up.

Our neighborhood backs up to a canyon full of coyotes, bobcats, eagles, and all sorts of other predatory things, so stray cats aren’t seen around here too much. Even pets aren’t seen out much, because they just don’t last. Between the canyon and the busy (although only in a residential way) street the park sits on, we couldn’t just walk away and leave the little sweetie there. I carried her around while we knocked on doors trying to find out if anyone knew where she lived, or was missing a cat. No dice. We took her home and quarantined her from our mangy mutts, since we knew not from whence she had come.


I put up fliers around the ‘hood, covering the main intersections in and out of the development. We called the local pound and put in a “found” report, placed a “found” ad in the paper, and listed her on Craigslist. She was such a sweet kitty, I couldn’t believe that someone wasn’t missing her. But no on did. We only got a few calls from the ads, and none were even close to her age or description. We tried to find a home for her, but the adoption agencies we trust were swamped, and we couldn’t find a place where her sweet demeanor would be appreciated, so we ended up keeping her.

It's a Maggie!
It’s a Maggie!

We started out calling her “fuzzball”, because we had to call her something. But one day I looked at her and decided she was a Maggie. So Maggie it is. Or Magpie, Little Maggie May I, Maggie May, or Little Maggie Mayhem. Occasionally she’s Big Maggie Bäckstedt, in honor of Magnus Bäckstedt, since everytime he comes in for a sprint finish, the race commentator (Phil Liggett or Paul Sherwin, I can’t tell them apart) yell “And here comes Big Mmmmmagggy Bäcksteadt on the outside!!” in an English or Austrailian accent. How could you have a cat named Maggie and not occasionally repeat that?

Friends for life
Friends for life, that’s what I always say.

She’s fitting in nicely, except that she has picked up Bill’s worst habits – trolling the kitchen for food, dragging trash out to “play” with it, and lately, smacking the kitchen cabinets open and crawling inside to look for the feed cup. It’s completely obnoxious behavior, and I wish she’d knock it off before Beau Hunk gets fed up with two monsters in the house and orders her eviction. But when she and Bill aren’t tearing up the joint, they can usually be found playing or napping together. It’s nice to know Bill has a pal, since my cat hates everything that isn’t me, and me she only barely tolerates.

One thing we have discovered is that three cats are not 50% more work than two cats. The difference is exponential, and not always in a good way.

We’ve all gotten a year older since the last time I updated. I’m 39. I can’t believe it. I still wonder how the hell I got here, because it seems like just a few days ago I was 35. Time really does fly when you’re sitting on your ass watching the world go by.


Woo and I baked a cake for Beau Hunk’s birthday. It was a fudge cake with chocolate pudding / whipped cream frosting. Woo went shopping with me to buy the gel stuff for the lettering. (It says “Happy Birthday Daddy”.) Woo picked blue for the color of the lettering. He saw the number candles and said we had to have those. Then he picked out the striped candles too. After the cake was baked and frosted, Woo told me where to put the candles. It was really cute!

Valentine’s Day
Speaking of cute, my husband did something for Valentine’s Day that was too much fun. I know, I know – Valentine’s Day stories only don’t suck if they’re about you. So feel free to skip to the next heading if you want, cuz this one’s for my memory book.

As usual, we said we weren’t going to celebrate, and kept day low-key. I had class at 5pm, so at 4:20, off to school I went. When I got to my classroom at 4:45, a gentleman in a red-and-white striped shirt popped his head in the door and asked for me by name. After I identified myself, he called out “We’ve found her!”, when three more gentlemen in red-and-white striped shirts appeared – a barbershop quartet. They insisted I step out into the hallway, handed me a single red rose, then sang me a lengthy medly of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”, “I Love You Truly”, and “Love Me Tender”. People from other classrooms came out into the hall to witness my gift, and were treated to seeing my face turn as red as the rose in my hand.

Beau Hunk had planned that one beautifully! He had gotten the idea from a local newscast the day before, that featured this group. His instructions to the singers were that they were to absolutely not interrupt class time, but they were to make it as embarassing as possible. He called the school to find out what class I had that night, and in which building and room I could be found.

It was much more fun than flowers and dinner!

School, Redux
I’m halfway through the Spring semester, and I just finished up my mid-terms. I’m taking five legal classes this semester – Commercial Law, Probate, Estate Planning, Discovery and Legal Research and Writing II. I was going to say that I was doing pretty well in my classes this semester, but last night I got one of my mid-terms back and found out I kinda bombed it.

I got a C, but I don’t feel entirely bad since everyone else bombed it too, and my score wasn’t far off the top. I also don’t feel too bad about the score since I lost a huge amount of points for form, but had the theory, concept, application and final outcome all dead on. I suspect another instructor would have given much more credit there. Too bad one of them isn’t teaching this class.

Oh well, that’s the way it goes. The last thing I want to do is join the throng of students who start whining about how much an instructor sucks because I didn’t get a good grade. He had the right to take off points, but I take personal comfort in knowing that I knew the rules and applied them correctly, form be damned. That helps dim the flashing light inside my head that reads “Dumbass!!”

In spite of the mid-term hiccup, overall I think I’m doing well this semester. I’m not sure I can pull off a 4.0 this time, but so what. I doubt it will affect my search for a job, and that’s what really matters.

I used the grades of last semester to apply for a bunch of scholarships this semester – a total of six to be exact. Five of them had a deadline of Feb. 15th, the other March 15th. I haven’t heard a single peep about the first five yet, which has me thinking I’m getting passed over. Maybe I don’t understand how scholarships work, but I would have thought I might have heard something by now. Maybe, maybe not, we’ll see.

Speaking of acedemc achievement, I’ve been invited to join Phi Theta Kappa, the two-year college honor society. Don’t be impressed, I’m not. The letter says I can join for a one-time membership fee of $80. It goes on to say “Not only does membership provide opportunites to complete your education or enhance your job search through scholarships and career services, but it also gives you an outlet for developing leadership skills through community service.” Oh, so if I give you $80, you’ll tell me where I can volunteer? Peachy. And to get the scholarships, you have to attend chapter meetings. I can’t think of anything (that doesn’t involve blood loss) that I might want to do less. So basically, I can’t think of a single reason why I should join. If you can think of a good one, let me know.

Site Maintenance
You probably haven’t noticed, nor would I blame you, but I’ve changed the site around a teeny bit. I finally got around to upgrading WordPress, which changed my template. I’m far too lazy to spend too much time re-doing it, and I kind of like it. I think I fucked up the old template when I tweaked it anyway, so here you go. I think the header’s too big, but see the laziness comment above.

But the biggest reason I mention this is that I’ve enabled RSS feeds. Isn’t it nice that I’ve finally moved into the 21st century? Let’s face it, I’m just not the techno-geek that I used to be. (Oh that hurts to admit!) If something’s not working, please drop me a line.

So I think that’s the highlights of the last six months. Kinda sad, come to think of it.

Five Furry Alarm Clocks

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

Just about every day I ask the same question: “Why do we own five animals??” More often than not, this question is asked between 6:30 and 7:30am, just as I’m trying to finish off my morning sleep and our five furry alarm clocks are letting me know, in less than gentle terms, that morning has broken.

Bill and Maggie will have started their morning calesthenics, chasing each other through the house, creating a thundering herd of cat. This usually gets Eli’s attention, who then goes tearing off after them, growling and snarling. (Good thing he’s only playing!) The train of cat-cat-dog will then run over the Red Dog, waking him up. Since he’s awake, he comes into our room and sticks his big red face in mine and pants his horrid dog breath into my dreams. Somewhere in all of this flurry of activity, my cat will come into our room and jump on top of the television, which is an amazingly noisy process.

If none of this gets us out of bed, then Bill and Maggie pull out the big guns, moving thier chase to our bedroom, where their path criss-crosses our bed, with at least one of them using a sleeping human for a springboard at a dead run. Claws have known to be involved in this process.

Although I’ve perfected Beau Hunk’s habit of creating a blissful nest of silence by sleeping the morning away with my head sandwiched between two pillows, I have yet to find anything that protects my sleep from a cat missle, fired from ten feet. It’s usually at this point when one of us wakes up and sleepily stomps out of the room, wishing we were awake enough to kick anything that’s dumb enough to stay within a foot’s reach.

What really blows my mind about this process is that apparently it is clock driven, not Earth-to-sun ratio driven. When we hit Daylight Savings Time, I thought the circus might start an hour later, but nooooooo, can’t have that! The little fuckers started in at the same time, even though it was dark. I swear, they’ve learned to tell time.

More than once Beau Hunk has threated to turn Bill into a fuzzy pair of underwear during this awakening period. On other occasions he’s proposed we start our own version of Survivor, voting cats into the canyon as they piss us off. Most of the time I end up cracking one sleep-crusted eye open and letting the herd know that I am the only thing that stands between them and being the special of the day at the Coyote Diner, so they damn well better start sucking up to the Momma. Letting her sleep would be a great start. This tactic has yet to pay off.

Bill did reach a new height of obnoxious the other night, and believe me, that’s saying something. Beau Hunk fried a chicken, and when he was done, he scraped out the pan into the disposal. Then we left the house and ran an errand.

When we got back, Bill was sporting an odd spikey hairdo on the back of his head and shoulders. The counter was greasy, and there was a smear from something that had been dragged out on to the counter and consumed. I picked up Bill and sniffed his head. I think Beau Hunk said it best: “Bill! You smell like the ass-end of a KFC!” The little fucker had stuck his fat head into the disposal and made a snack of the pan scrapings, getting fried chicken grease all over his head and shoulders.

So as I type this, guess what each and every one of the Five Furry Fuckers is doing? You guessed it – sleeping. And not one of them is doing it within arm’s reach of me. Two words kids: Coyote Chow. Just something to think about.

One Vacation Begins, Another Ends

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007

As of yesterday, I am officially on Spring Break. Whoo-hoo! It’s needed, believe me. I’m getting a little burnt out on school. Which really sucks since I’ve got eight months to go. At least the summer and winter semesters won’t be quite so busy, since I’m taking nine and eleven units, respectively.

The summer semester will be all Gen Ed, and all via internet. I’m taking Business Communications (aka “No Brainer”), Creative Writing (oh won’t that be fun), and Cultural History of the North American Indian. I’m a little less than excited about that last one, mostly because it wasn’t my first choice. But it fits the GE niche and it’s offered via internet, so there ya go.

Winter will be Torts, Crim Law, some sort of speech class (yuck), and Worksite Learning. Worksite Learning means I have to work in a real office and I get credit for it – 1 credit for every 60 hours unpaid, or 75 hours paid. I need a total of two credits to graduate. I don’t think that will be an issue.

Speaking of paid jobs, I may be getting one in the very, very near future. As in, perhaps in the next few days. I wasn’t really looking for a job, but seem to have found one anyway.

It all started back at the beginning of the year when one of my instructors pulled me aside and said an attorney in her office was looking for a part-time receptionist. I put in my application and was called for an interview. It was one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever had in my life, and believe me, that’s saying something.

The interviewer said things like “Mr. X is a good guy. He won’t ever yell at you. But he has bad days, and you have to know he’s having one so you can leave him alone. You don’t want to be around on one of his bad days.” Huh?? Then she started going on about what a flake Mr. X was “Sometimes he’ll be scheduled for an 8am meeting, but won’t show up in the office until 10, and he won’t answer his cell phone. You won’t be able to find him anywhere! One time he did that, then said ‘Oh yeah, I lost my phone two weeks ago. Guess I should have told you that’. He does things like that all the time!” Since I was in an interview, I tried to capitalize on this by saying “I had one position where I used to print out my boss’ schedule for the next day and give it to him his way out of the office.” She sort of got a weird panicked look on her face and said “Oh no, Mr. X wouldn’t like that at all. You can’t give him any information more than an hour ahead of time, or he gets overwhelmed.” Holy shit.

Then my interviewer started filling me in on office politics, telling me that some of the tenant attorneys were about to be evicted because of conflicts between them and Mr. X, who is the new owner of the building. Somehow it seemed like she shouldn’t be spreading that around in the interview process. Then she told me that the temp who was filling in kept calling the office in another town (where the interviewer was from) because she was feeling bullied by some of the tenant attorneys. Some of these calls involved tears and were made via cell phone from the bathroom.

The trainwreck only got worse when I stopped by my instructor’s office on the way out and was further enlightened as to the horrid state of office politics. Apparently the place is a real nuthouse. I was strangely challenged by the level of dysfunction, but was not-so-secretly praying that I wouldn’t be offered the job. Thankfully, I wasn’t.

The day before I went to my interview, I heard about another job, this one for a Legal Secretary at a non-profit place that offers legal services to persons of low income. I know a few people who volunteer at this place, so I got a sort of inside track on the opening. I put in my resume on that one, more on a “oh what the hell” than anything else, since they were asking for a minimum of one year of legal experience and for a full-time position. I made it abundantly clear in my cover letter that I couldn’t work full time at least until this semester was over.

Weeks went by and I didn’t hear a peep, so I thought it was dead. But out of the blue I got called for an interview. Go figure. I walked in, expecting to face a single person, but instead got a panel of five. I know I turned 47 flattering shades of red several times, and stumbled so badly over my thoughts that a few times I just sort of sighed and said “Let me start over.” I came out of there knowing that these five people had just met an idiot.

But apparently I’m an endearing idiot, because I got a call last week asking me about my salary requirements. The caller then went on to tell me that I was their top candidate. You’re kidding. I have zero legal experience and the interview was well below my best work. And I am only willing to work part time until the semester is over. I got another call yesterday to make sure I knew they “hadn’t forgot me”, explaining that some approval had to come from another office before they could make me an offer, and that the approving party was on vacation.

So it looks like an offer is going to happen, and unless the salary is below the range listed on the job posting, I’ll likely accept. Which means that even though Spring Break is here, my vacation from employment is probably going to end in the very near future. I’m not sure how I’m going to handle a full load of classes and still pull it off, but it’s only for the next few months, so I’m sure I’ll find some way to manage.

If not, I’ll probably be bitching about it here. See? There’s a bright side to everything.

Color Me Red

Sunday, April 8th, 2007

To those that celebrate, Happy Easter. To everyone else, Happy Sunday!

Among my to-do list this week was “color hair”. Back in January I had my hair professionally colored. I had never colored my hair before, so I splurged and had a pro do it. I thought a change would be nice and wanted to see what it would be like to be a redhead for a while. Besides, Beau Hunk likes redheads, and since he’s morally obligated to sleep only with me, I thought he might enjoy a redhead to play with for a little while. Nothing drastic, just a little strawberry to my original blonde.

I loved it. Beau Hunk loved it. It was awesome. But since I have hair down to my waist, I went with a temporary color. There’s no way I want to keep up with roots and such, and if I hated it, I didn’t want to be stuck with it for the next five years.

The only problem with the pro color was the price – $100. Yow!! That’s fine for a birthday splurge, but there’s no way I can pay that kind of green to get red every month. So last month I went down to Wally Mart and spent $8 on a package of Clairol non-permanent color. The color came out fine, but being the first time I had ever colored my own hair (or anyone else’s, come to think of it), I did a bit of a hack job. I missed spots, and didn’t use enough of the formula. That was no big deal, because the color was close enough to my own that the missed spots didn’t really show much after a week of washing.

Today I re-did the color. This time I was much more diligent, and used the entire bottle of formula. I rinsed out the color and was very pleased with the result. I had a nice, even copper color going, and didn’t see any obvious missed spots.

Then I grabbed the hand mirror and looked at the back of my head. Right on the crown of my head, I have a bright red spot that I cannot explain. It’s about the size of a baseball, and is right there on the absolute top of my head, so that no matter where I part my hair, it’s right there. And brother, is it red. I mean red. Cherry red. Bright red. Clown red. Holy shit.

The good news is that it’s temporary, so in the long run, no big deal. Within two weeks I probably won’t even be able to see it. Hell, maybe even in one week. But until then, I’ve got this spot that looks like I got clonked on the noggin with Bozo. I have no idea how this happened, since that part wasn’t colored first, and it wasn’t colored last. But man oh man, it sure is colored differently!

If I pull my hair back in a ponytail, it is more or less covered up. Unfortunately, I’ve been wearing my hair mostly down for a while now. So I guess I’ll have to get creative if I don’t want to reveal my Outer Bozo. Of course, it’s not a big deal either way. I mean, yeah, I’d rather not have anyone see my Clown Spot, but if they do … so? I’m certainly not prepared to take myself so seriously that I start wearing a hat or miss class over a bad hair week or two.

The bottom line is this: it’s temporary, it’s a freakish mistake (and only a small spot at that), and I refuse to lose sleep, have a tizzy, or hide because of it. In a week or two, four at the outside, it will all be water under the bridge and order will be restored in the universe. Until then, Mrs. McDonald says pass the fries.

On the Job Again

Saturday, April 28th, 2007

For better or worse, I got the job. They called with the offer on the day before I left for a four-day camping trip with my friends from the Bay Area. As it worked out, Woo was here and Beau Hunk was not when the call came. That meant I had to fudge my way through a job offer and the logistics thereof with a little boy yelling and banging on the door, because I had locked myself in our bedroom so that I wouldn’t have to fudge my way through a job offer with a little boy yelling and squirming on my lap and asking to talk on the phone. In retrospect, it was six of one, half a dozen of the other.

I started on Tuesday, April 17th. Thankfully I didn’t have to start Monday, because I didn’t get back from my camping trip until midnight on Sunday, after having been in a car for seven out of the previous eight hours. Yuck. That was just the beginning of the whirlwind.

My new employers are being very nice and are letting me work three full-time days a week. Which still sucks for me, because I have school four nights a week. Believe me when I say I can’t wait for this semester to end!

The place where I’m working provides no cost legal assistance to persons who have small income levels. (Sorry for the awkward wording, but I’m trying to avoid Google searches on the more common phrases that are used to describe what we do.) Our offices are an old house that, at one point, was split into apartments. That means we have two kitchens (a third was converted to an office), three bathrooms (all with tubs/showers), and I think my office used to be either a laundry room or a service porch. It’s a really neat place to work, and I’m digging it.

My office is upstairs with the attorneys. Most of the downstairs space is dedicated to client intake and is far more chaotic that the upstairs space. Right now I’m spending my time downstairs to get a feel for what we do and how that side of things works. Obviously I can’t get into details, but here’s a few observations I’ve made so far:

  • People in need want to talk. A lot.
  • We do not handle criminal matters. Spending the next five minutes reiterating the circumstances of your arrest will not change this.
  • Telling people “no” tends to piss them off.
  • If you tell someone no, they will call back in ten minutes, tell you the exact same story, and get pissed off all over again when you say no, as if they had never heard the word before.
  • I am not a lawyer and cannot give you legal advice. Yelling “but I just need to know … !” does not change this.

It’s been a long time since I have been on the front end of a phone system with a number published in a phone book. I didn’t really miss it. All that aside, I think it’s going to be a good job, and I will enjoy the variety of work. But I think they better get me off the phones soon or I’m going to snap, and it won’t be pretty.

Adventures in Hiking

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

We live in a beautiful area with easy access to lots of outdoors activities. Fifteen minutes from our door is a gorgeous National Recreation area with spectacular fishing, biking and hiking. For the last several months, weather permitting, we’ve been taking Woo on hikes through the woods. Woo seems to really love getting out and being able to run along the trails. We take the dogs, and as long as no one else is around, we let them off leash to go run with the kid.

Frankly, the dogs are as much a utility as companions. We know there are things that lurk in those mountains that could (and would) eat us, given the right circumstances. We figure at a minimum, the dogs would alert to something with bad intent. At the absolute worst, they are canaries in our little coal mine, a first line of defense between us and the evil that lurks in the forest.

So far we haven’t had much of a problem. The worst that has happened so far is Beau Hunk hearing a bear off the side of a very popular (and populated) trail. A few weeks later we were on the same trail and ran into a man who was walking with his dogs, going the opposite direction on the trail. He warned us that he had just seen the bear – he had come around a corner with the dogs, and there it was, standing in the middle of the trail. That was pretty much the point where we turned around and hotfooted it back to the car. That was a little freaky, but lacked the visual factor, so there was a certain surreal quality.

Many of these hikes are physically challenging to me and absolutely kick my ass. Beau Hunk and Woo drag me over hill and dale, across streams and what feel like small rivers. One hike we went on had three stream crossings where there were no civilized rock-trail crossings – you just waded in. Which wasn’t as serene and refreshing as it may sound, considering that the water was mid-calf depth, ice cold, and I was in Goretex boots. Did you know that Goretex boots keep water in as well as they keep it out? I ended up walking for four miles with my boots full of water. Yippee. That was one of the less comfortable experiences, but that’s the way it goes.

Yesterday’s hike started out absolutely gorgeous. It wasn’t very strenuous, the views were lovely, and the weather rocked. A short distance from the car we ran into another hiker and his dog. Woo was busy petting the dog and didn’t notice he had his hands in the weeds. Since the poison oak here is in full bloom and all over the place, we took a minute to douse him down with Tecnu, which we keep in our daypack, for just this purpose. No biggie.

We continued on our way, hiking a narrow trail on a steep hillside. My dog was out front, the red dog behind him. Woo came after the dogs, but leading the humans, followed by Beau Hunk, and (as usual) I was bringing up the rear.

Suddenly the dogs barked, Beau Hunk yelled something, and in the midst of the chaos I became chillingly aware of a sound. A very distinct sound. A sound that is instantly familiar, even if you’ve never heard it before. A loud, dry, hissing rattle. Oh fuck, a rattlesnake. A very close rattlesnake.

Beau Hunk screamed at Woo to freeze. I screamed at the dogs to come. Miraculously, all involved followed the commands instantly and perfectly. The dogs ran to me, and Beau Hunk lunged forward to scoop up Woo and make sure he stayed well out of harm’s way. The snake continued its journey across the trail, rattling its way down the hillside. Beau Hunk threw rocks in the general direction of the snake to encourage it to continue its journey down the hill, and to put any thoughts of return out of its poisonous little head.

As a general rule, I’m not entirely freaked out by snakes. I can look at them in captivity, I can stroke and hold pet snakes, and seeing them on TV is the big “so what”. But a rattlesnake in the wild, mere feet from my dogs and my kid? Holy fuck.

For reasons I can’t explain, we kept going forward on the trail. We went another mile or so and decided to take a rest and have a snack. I sat down on a log to rest and eat my snack, which of course brought the dogs over to beg for food. I glanced over and saw they both were covered in ticks. I could see at least half a dozen clearly visible on each dog. As fast as I would pick them off, more would appear. That wasn’t the best meal break I’ve ever had. I think the final straw was when I looked down and saw a big honkin tick on my shirt. That pretty much sent me off the emotional cliff. Snakes are bad enough, but bugs? On me?? Forget it!

We headed home with a much closer formation, and this time with Woo walking between Beau Hunk and me. Wouldn’t you know that we managed to encounter two more snakes. Luckily they were Gartner snakes, but it still freaked us the fuck out, because they look startlingly similar to rattle snakes. So on first glance you just about shit your pants because you think you’ve come upon a rattlesnake that didn’t rattle. Both times we didn’t see the snake until our little group was right on top of it. The second time Beau Hunk didn’t even see the stupid beast until he and Woo had already gone by it and I was right next to it.

At that point we were completely fucking freaked, so Woo rode the rest of the way home on Daddy’s shoulders and I hauled the backpack home. Between the poison oak run-in, the horde of ticks, and the snakes, I had had quite enough for one day. I was very happy to get back to the car.

We thoroughly inspected each other and the kid for ticks, then loaded up the gang. When we got home, we didn’t go any farther than the garage before we peeled off our clothes and put them in the washer. Woo was checked for ticks that might have been lurking under his clothes, then immediately bathed. We followed and bathed too. The dogs have been dosed with Frontline and have been banished to the outside for a few days, just in case their newly acquired ticks are still hopping off. We also want to make sure they have a good chance to get rid of any lingering poison oak voodoo they are carrying. That’s usually solved by time and a few good rolls around the grass.

On the way home Beau Hunk made an admission – he used to have the name “Rattlesnake”, because every time he went off in the woods with his friends, he would find a rattlesnake. Why am I just now finding out about this?? I’m thinking this should have been a mandatory admission prior to marriage. Suddenly I’m a little less excited about out next adventure in the woods.

Knock Knock

Thursday, May 10th, 2007

I live in a nice neighborhood. Not a fancy neighborhood, and certainly not a ritzy one, but a nice one. Lawns are tended, houses are tidy, and for the most part, everyone behaves. It’s a nice place to live.

Apparently it’s also a nice place to visit. On Halloween, we get trick-or-treaters that come from other neighborhoods to enjoy our wide, well-lit streets. During the rest of the year we get solicitors. It didn’t take long for us to get tired of the frequent knocks and doorbell ding-dongs of those trying to convince us we needed what they were offering: raffle tickets, vacuum cleaners, home services and, of course, religion.

Now I’ve got no problem with religion, but as far as I’m concerned, your religion is just that – yours. I don’t care if you are Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, Pagan or a member of the Church of the Flaming Chicken. If it makes you happy, I’m happy. Just leave me the fuck out of it, please.

We put a “No Solicitors” sign on our door. A big, ugly, incredibly obvious “No Solicitors” sign. It’s two inches high and six inches wide. The sign is clearly visible from the street. But guess who still knocks on our fucking door? The people selling relgion. It makes me fucking nuts.

It especially bugs me when I answer the door, paste a big smile on my face, and say in my ultra-nice, ultra-polite voice “I would appreciate it if you would please not come back, thank you” and the person cops an attitude. What the fuck? In my head, I’ve made my preference to not be bothered in my own home perfectly clear. I have explicitly stated this by putting that ugly-assed sign on my door, right at eye level. That’s pretty much the only reason that sucker’s up there – I do not want to be bothered. To me, that sign basically says “If you weren’t invited, don’t ring the bell.” (With a very few exceptions, like the day I found our Maggie cat and canvassed the area looking for her home.)

As far as I’m concerned, that gives everyone notice that I don’t want to be bothered. In other words, bother me at your own peril. The fact that I am being nice, polite, gentle and very friendly is just me choosing to not be an asshole. The person ringing the bell doesn’t necessarily deserve it, but I’m going to give it anyway. But when that person starts copping an attitude and getting shitty with me, like I’m the one who is wasting your time? That’s crap, end of story.

Sometimes when I look at the No Solicitors sign and then look at the person on my porch, they will say “Oh but I’m not soliciting!”, practically adding a neener-neener-neener at the end of the sentence. Well, actually, you are. But the last thing I want to do is waste more time enlightening this person as to the definitions of the verb “soliciting” that do not involve cash. I have been known to just quietly shut the door at this point.

One person who insisted on this tact came to our door three times over the course of about five weeks. On the third trip I finally dropped the polite routine and informed him that we did not wish to be visited by him again, that we had told him this on at least two previous occasions, and that we would really appreciate it if he would respect our wishes (which, again, are clearly posted on the front door) and leave us alone. He tried to argue the definition of soliciting, but before he could finish I interrupted. Does it really matter? I knew what he was offering. I wasn’t interested last week or the week before, am not interested this week, nor will I be next week. So why are you here?? I felt like adding “Now go in peace before I beat the fuck out of you.”

I’ve thought up many a clever quip along the lines of “Oh you can read!” when someone wants to share a passage from a book or a flyer. I’ve considered keeping a stack of printouts containing the definition of soliciting in the entryway. Beau Hunk has a more practical devious fantasy: set a sprinkler aimed at the front door and turn it on as they approach the entry vestibule, thus trapping them by a blasting sprinkler and giving a good soaking. But the truth is, I don’t want to be mean, I just want my wishes to be respected.

Not just my wishes, the wishes of everyone who has a sign like ours. For instance, the neighbors across the street. They have the exact same sign that we do on their door. But they have it for a different reason: they are shut-ins and can barely move. They are 89 and 91, both on walkers. One suffers from Alzheimer’s and the other has had a stroke. Moving isn’t easy for these folks. It takes them seven rings of the phone to cross a twelve foot room and retrieve the handset. For them to come to the door is a monumental task. And yet, they get visited too.

I don’t think the people who roam the neighborhood understand the impact of their actions on these people. For them, it isn’t about convenience or interruption, it’s about precious energy and painful movement. No one gets that until the door gets answered. I hope the ringers of the bell at least have the capacity to feel like asses for putting these people through that kind of effort, all because they believe their purpose for being on the porch is far more important than anything that could possilby be going on in the lives of the resident.

Putting the “Duh” in Mudduh’s Day

Sunday, May 13th, 2007

Last night, after I put Woo to bed, I was taking a few minutes to cruise around my usual internet haunts, which have gone most ignored since final exams are looming. I cruised into a Mother’s Day thread at The Usual Suspects and read someone’s post asking how you plan to celebrate with your mother, etc. That’s when it hit me. Oh fuck.

I totally forgot my mom. I remembered Woo’s mom, I remembered my role as mom, but I completely spaced on my own mom. That is a unique feeling of being fucked. And at 10:30pm on a Saturday night, there’s no way to escape it.

I got up this morning, and by 8:15 was calling florists in my mom’s town. But apparently, most florists are closed on Sundays, even if it’s Mother’s Day Sunday. If you ask me, that’s missing out on a really big opportunity, because I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one in the country that woke up in the doghouse this morning. But marketing opportunity or no, they were closed.

Beau Hunk and I started coming up with other ideas – maybe we could arrange to send them to dinner and pre-pay the restaurant from here. No dice. Gift cards are all over the place, but you can’t buy them over the phone, and if you buy online the only option is to ship it. Damn. It was a nice thought though.

I even called my brother to see if he had any ideas. As soon as I said “I forgot mom”, I could hear him wince. He knows a dumbassed move when he hears it. But he had no suggestions for me. He took my parents fishing yesterday and made dinner for them last night. Well, aren’t you just the good son, eh? He laughed at that and wished me good luck.

Being out of ideas, I was just about to call mom and confess. But I decided to try the next town over to see what I could do. I found a webpage from the local news station that talked about last minute gifts, and had some ads. One of them was a florist in that next town. I called, and miracle or miracles, I got a human. A local human at that, not some call center person sitting in Bumfuck, Egypt. The first thing I asked was “Do you deliver?” Yep. “Do you deliver to [mom's town]?” Yep. “Can you save me??” Oh yeah.

I asked what kind of living plants they had, and the first thing out of her mouth was azalea. Mom loves azaleas! Even better, their prices were a bargain. Even with tax, delivery, and dumbfuck fee, I still came out a good $20 less than FTD’s price before all those fees and taxes. I swear, I hung up the phone and did a little dance. All I can say is that I must be living a good life to have this kind of luck.

I called mom to wish her a happy day and let her know to expect a delivery. What I didn’t do was confess. I decided she didn’t need to know that I forgot her and had to scramble at the last minute to come up with a gift. Some things are just better left unsaid.

She called this afternoon to let me know that my gift had arrived, and that she appreciated it. The plant turned out to be even better than I expected. I was a little worried, since sometimes phone orders seem to be filled with the stuff that no one would buy in person. But in this case, the shop really came through. She sent pics, and it was a beautiful plant – fat and even, covered in double blossoms, and in a lovely copper pot.

So all’s well that ends well. I may have put the “duh” in Muddah’s Day, but at least my mom is none the wiser. In the end, that’s what matters.