Saturday, November 13, 2010

I'm Back! Intros please...

Sorry it has taken me so long to get back on here, but rest assured that I have arrived safe and sound in Onalaska, Washington. It was interesting getting the move together; the moving company was AWESOME - they delivered all my crap intact and on time. The moving truck arrived on Sept. 17th bright and early. There were only two guys, and I thought it would take them forever to get the truck loaded with just two of them, but they were fab-u-lous and had everything loaded and ready to go by 1:30pm. I spent the night at a hotel and then went back the next morning to clean and pack up my truck. Unfortunately, I managed to leave one box behind in the garage; it had stuff that was near and dear to me in it (including my ergonomic keyboard that you can't find anymore) like my tax returns for the last several years, and a really nice collage picture frame with pictures of all my great-nieces and great-nephews in it. I realized that I had left it behind sometime around Bozeman; too far to go back and get it, and no bars on the cell phone to call the landlord. Oh well, thought I; I will call him when I get to Sissy's. Surely he will call me if he has any questions about what to do with it; after all, he is an intelligent human being and I left him my new address and my cell phone number on the kitchen counter with the AC remote and the garage door opener.

In my glee of starting my new chapter in life, I forgot that my landlord is a twat and a knob-end. I reached him a few days later and he told me that he had "gotten rid of" the box of stuff. I cried for two days. He doesn't know it, but his ass has a future appointment with my sister's foot.

Anyhoosier, my trip went smoothly. Until...

As I was going over the pass between Montana and Idaho, I felt what I thought was a rock being kicked up by my Rodeo's front passenger side tire. No big deal, but it sounded like an awfully soft rock. Hmm. Fast forward to climbing the hill on I-90 going through Couer d'Alene, ID. Another soft sounding rock being kicked up. Now it feels like there is a bit of a wobble in that tire. I losing lug nuts? Since I was *this close* to peeing my pants anyway, I stopped at a rest area just outside of Post Falls. Went pee, looked at lug nuts. Nope - all accounted for. Hmmmmmm... Continued on to Spokane, and now the wobble-type-feeling is alarming. I can barely keep the steering wheel in my hands. Time to get gas, will inspect tire at gas station. I pulled up to the pump, looked at the tire, and nearly pooped my pants. There was a large (5" at least) section of the tire MISSING. Metal wires were sticking out. It's a miracle I didn't blow the tire! I ran into the gas station asking if there was a full service station or a tire store nearby. There was; I gingerly drove as fast as possible to it, pulled into the parking lot just in time to see the guy locking the door. PANIC!! I begged him to change my tire, and he was more than happy to put my spare on for me, check my other tires, and put a little air in them - free of charge. Bless his little pea pickin' heart!!

The rest of the trip was relatively uneventful, but I didn't get to Sissy's until almost 1am. I. Was. TIRED. But happy. And tired.

Did I mention that I was tired? Yes. OK, just checking.

So now I would like to introduce you to some of my new house mates. Please to enjoy.

This is Bruiser, or as I call him: Bruiser Buckman, Uber Pooper with the Wild Willy. You may remember from one of my last posts that Bruiser had seriously injured his spine. The vet said that he would never stand or walk again, and Sissy was heartbroken - to say the least. Well, the Flying Black Weenie Dog of Death was not to be dismissed so easily as that. Not only does he indeed stand, but he walks and runs too! Well, his front legs work normally, but he puts his back legs together and hops with them. He can out run me, so... Sissy bought him a little stroller (think baby buggy as opposed to an umbrella stroller) so that we can wheel him around the house with us when he wants to be with us, but we don't want him ON us. We take him into stores with us (the top zips shut with a mesh so that he can see out, but people are not able to touch him) and we take him to the park in it, etc. Even though he wants to run around and jump up and down, his spine is still extremely fragile and still healing, so we try really hard to not let him get too active. It's amazing how quickly I fell in love with him, and he with me. Sissy is still first in his heart, but I come in a real close second, and that feels wonderful.

Sissy, Bruiser and I took a drive one day out to the Washington coast - just long enough to say, "Look! There's the water!", then we turned around and drove back home (pics of that day will follow). We drove through the local Dairy Queen, and Bruiser got his own cone. HE IS SO CUTE!! (shut up)

Bruiser tells those pesky seagulls to poop on the car at their own risk boy howdy.

This beautiful smiling gal is Luka.
We aren't sure what kind of dog she is; it appears that she has Blue Heeler, Pit Bull, and perhaps Akita in her. She is super duper smart and very protective; she has chased bears and god knows what else off the property. She just appeared at Sissy's house one day and never left. She is Awesome.

This lovely lady is the youngest and newest member of the family, Miss Muffin.
She is about a year old and we think that she is a calico/Rag Doll mix. Although she appears dainty, her tag line is: Hi! I'm Miss Muffin. Let's wrastle!

This is Miss Muffin's nemesis, Teddy.
He is a pure bred Rag Doll, and he thinks that he is a dog. Seriously. I am so not kidding. After dinner, when the dogs get their little dessert treat, we have to give him one too. He does not purr like a normal cat either. I actually got him to purr the other day, and Sissy was amazed as she had never heard him do it. You can't tell from this picture, but he has the most gorgeous china blue eyes. Oh, yes, and he is a total Pill.

This is the old man of the family, Barnes.
He is at least 20 years old and is beloved by all the cats - even the dogs love him! He has a super industrial sized purr - you can actually hear him from across the room.

This is Gus Gus (yes, after the mouse in Cinderella - my brother-in-law named him).
We actually think he is gay (not that there is anything wrong with that) because he acts like a total queen. Barnes is the only animal in the family that will tolerate his presence (except for Ethel), but the other cats hate him and Bruiser would love to bite his big fat butt if he could ever get the chance. We don't really understand this, he seems nice enough.

Ethel makes up the complete animal family here, but she has some serious heath issues and lives solely in my sister's bedroom and is very, very shy. She is a great round black kitty with huge yellow eyes; she suffers from chronic (as in daily) kidney stones and is not usually in the best of tempers. I will try to get a decent picture of her to post soon.
So, that's all of us; I'll share more later. Right now, my hands are tired since I cannot type on my fabulous ergonomic keyboard anymore because some TWAT that shall remain nameless threw it out...but I don't want to talk about that. I will fill you in later on the job hunt, etc.
Thanks for all the nice emails - thanks for not giving up on me!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I Made It!! Whew!!

Hi all - just wanted to throw a quick post at you to let you know that I finally made it to my new home in Washington. I'll be putting up a proper post in a few days, complete with a few pictures, but for now I just wanted to let you know that I'm still here (but HERE and not THERE). Once I get used to the miracle of television again - you know, since I haven't been able to watch any for about two months - I'll be able to tear myself away from the remote and get back to writing.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Stop Haunting My Dreams

I dreamed about him last night. I hate it when I do. I don’t do it very often, and when it happens it takes me by surprise. It’s usually just some small, passing part of my dream and very rarely is he the main focus. Last night I dreamt I was limping along a mountain path and suddenly he was beside me, his arm wrapped around me and was almost lifting me off the ground (I am always the “thin me of my youth” in my dreams so the lifting was definitely doable for him). I kept telling him that I was OK, that he didn’t need to squeeze me that tight; he was afraid of someone seeing him holding me like that but he said that he just didn’t want to let go. It was a few dream minutes of that; then it was over.

When I awoke this morning I could still feel his arms around me, holding me tight, making me feel safe. Then I realized it was just the blanket. It made me cry; it’s making me cry right now. I’m not crying for the loss of him, specifically; it’s the loss of that feeling – that feeling of safe, of love, of affection, of protection. I always felt those things in his arms, and that is what I miss now. It makes me nuts because it always lingers with me throughout the day, sneaking up on me when I least expect it and it makes my eyes smart with tears. Pisses me off. Especially because I am not very attractive when I cry; my face gets blotchy, my nose turns bright red, and my eyes turn red, swell, and look small and beady. I look like a piglet that’s been rooting in the onion bin. Yuck. Sigh. Sniff.

He seems to turn up in my dreams most often when I am stressed or feeling anxious. This move has got me flying in the dangerous red zone of an almost constant panic attack. I am at about Defcon 2 at this stage; not a full blown melt down, but my ears are ringing all the time and I can’t seem to catch my breath. Mom is coming on the 21st (that is probably part of the problem; like 7/8th’s of it I’d say) to help me get packed up. I hope I won’t suffocate her in her sleep before she flies back on the 28th, god love her. I don’t know what I would do without her.

I have decided to go with a moving company instead of the U-Haul route; it’s just going to be so much simpler on everyone. I have one estimate from Allied ($3900) and will be getting one from Mayflower on Monday. It will take almost all of my money, but I think it will be worth it in the long run. The guy from Allied that came to my hideously unkempt house on Tuesday was awesome. He gave me all kinds of tips on the cheapest places to get boxes, getting boxes out of the dumpster from behind the bike shop on Broadwater and 19th because they are awesome for packing my framed art pictures in, etc. I wanted to adopt him.

My company has just this week started to interview potential replacements for me; we received over 150 resumes in response to the job posting. I couldn’t believe it. We started turning some of the work over to our customer service departments; the sales reps are having a really hard time letting them take over. I keep trying to convince them that if they don’t start now, it will be so much harder for everyone after I leave. It’s a learning curve for everyone.

Well, that is it for now. I’ll keep you informed and let you know if I survive my Mom’s visit.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Wow – I had not realized how long it has been since I last posted. Sorry about that! My life is in kind of a holding pattern right now, and unfortunately that makes everything lock up; my brain, my body – everything.

The move is still on; mom is coming the week of 8/23 to help me pack. It’s kind of sad and humiliating when you are 43 and you need your 74 year old mother to fly out and help you pack, but let me tell ya: she is a packing machine. That woman can have me and my 2-bedroom duplex packed and move ready in about three days. Seriously. I will want to suffocate her in her sleep by the time she leaves, but it will be totally worth it. And this way she knows that all of her china and crystal stemware that she gave to me will be properly packed and she won’t have to worry about it. Because, trust me; she will.

Bruiser, my sister’s Flying Cocktail Weenie Dog of Death, has severely injured his back. He accidentally fell off of my mom’s bed when they were visiting earlier this week, then Wednesday he injured himself pretty badly when jumping on or off the couch. Sis took him to the vet immediately and they didn’t think he had done any real damage; they gave him some pain meds and Sis took him home. She tried to keep him moving around a little so that he didn’t get stiff but kept him on the floor and didn’t let him up onto the furniture. Yesterday he was curled up in his little bed on the floor next to her computer; she realized he’d been in there for several hours and decided to wake him up so that he didn’t get stiff and sore. When he crawled out of the bed, his little body was curled up almost like a U, with his hind end trying to be next to his head, and he was dragging his back feet. She called the vet immediately and ran down to the office to get a powerful muscle relaxant for him. Later she took him back to the vet and they took some x-rays; he has damaged three vertebrae in his spine. They said he has a “good 50/50 chance” of recovery, but Sis is just devastated. She has been crying for two days straight; the vet said that this is much harder on her than it is on Bruiser! She is already thinking of getting him a little doggie wheelchair/cart thingy, and the vet said that surgery could help him but it would be $3-5k and she would have to save up for it. I am trying to be encouraging and trying to help her see that this could just be temporary and Bruiser could be in good shape again once all the swelling in his spine goes down. When I was a freshman in high school, our weenie dog Alexander actually broke his back jumping off the back porch (do you see the pattern here?). I was in the middle of band class, out in the middle of the football field in the middle of a formation when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and it was my mother in hysterics. We had to drive about an hour into the Bay Area to get to the specialist vet that would save our Alexander from death and being permanently paralyzed. Mom spared no expense on his surgery and treatment, and he eventually completely recovered. So there is hope for our little Flying Cocktail Weenie Dog of Death, but since he won’t be flying anymore, I guess I will have to come up with another nickname for him. Poor Bruiser; poor Sissy!!

Speaking of close medical calls, I still cannot believe what happened to the kids’ cousin. His sister sent out an email to the family on Tuesday to give us the whole story:

My younger brother Justin (29 yrs old), went into the hospital very suddenly last week, and we almost lost him. He was very fortunate to have an amazing medical team, wife and his young age on his side! It started a couple of weeks ago when he popped his neck (like I do 10 times a day w/o even a thought!) and when he did, he felt instantly sick at his stomach and dizzy. He had a lot of neck pain, and a terrible headache for the next 2 weeks. The beginning of last week, he started having headaches so severe that he would immediately vomit if he stood up, turned his head, or any movement at all. Then on Wednesday night, he was feeling really sick, and he stood up to go to the other room and he just collapsed to the floor. His wife helped him up and to the restroom, then got him into bed to help him feel better. The next morning, he was still really sick but went to work anyway. He got so ill while there that he waved down a coworker who could see something was very wrong, and they took him to the urgent care nearby. When the urgent care Dr read his chart and why he was there, and then walked in the room to see him, he knew something was wrong, and told him it was "out of his league" and he needed to go to the hospital asap. They taped his head to a stretcher and called for the ambulance. They were fast and awesome, got him transported, checked in to the ER and had dr's working on him right away. After 2 cat scans and most of a day of testing while trying to get him comfortable, they discovered he had torn one of his main arteries in his neck. They admitted him to the hospital and started him on blood thinners and pain medicine right away. That night they moved him up to the neuroscience unit and had a watch on him overnight until the specialist could come the next day. When the specialist arrived, he ordered an MRI to confirm his suspicions of strokes, and he was right. There were 2 strokes, one smaller one, that occurred the night he popped his neck, and the second one was much larger and occurred the night he collapsed. They said if he hadn't come into the hospital when he did it would have been almost certainly deadly.

After 5 days at the hospital, a ton of pain medication (not only for the torn artery but also for the neck pain he had to start with and the injuries he got to his neck when he collapsed as well) and pill form + shot injections of blood thinners, tons of tests and dr visits and daily physical therapy, they let him go home last night. The main reason being, there is nothing they can do for him there that he can't do at home. He will still need to attend the physical therapy regularly to relearn his balance and regain his ability to walk ok. He also has to have blood tests every 3 days to monitor the blood thinners in his system, regular dr appts to monitor everything else, and he will need to use his cane and wear his neck brace for a while until they say otherwise. He was soooo fortunate. The doc told us that most people who have the kind of stroke he had come out of it being paralyzed from the eyes down! He has no paralyzation or loss of speech at all so far. The biggest impact has been on his balance, which although sounds somewhat minor... causes him to not be able to stand well, walk well, and also causes constant dizziness and nausea. But, they said the first 18 months is when you relearn your abilities the best so he will be working hard to do so with therapy. Fortunately he is young, and he had a wise dr who recognized something was seriously wrong immediately, and those combined with the fantastic unit in the hospital at Salmon Creek Legacy in WA, he's doing much better. He's off work for now until further notice, and he's mostly in bed from all the meds and from the dizziness. But he's with us! And he's home now! And he will be able to recover over time. The torn artery will heal itself, and in the meantime they will keep watch on the 2 blood clots they found and make sure his blood thinners continue to work. It will be quite a long journey, but he should have a full recovery.

So, thanks for reading my novel! I decided it was much easier to send one long email to everyone than to type it out a whole bunch of times individually. I am doing much better now that I know he's not in as much of a danger zone as he was before. We really thought we were going to lose him last week by the way the dr's were talking to us. One dr said that every morning when he woke up and got ready to start his shift, he wondered if Justin would still be there. That one scared us! My family is soooo happy and grateful that he's ok, and that he's back home with his wife and his kids will be home shortly. A couple of days with their grandparents will entertain them while dad gets settled in at home. His wife, Star, is amazing. She had to be trained by the nurses to give him the shots a few times a day in his stomach for the blood thinners, and she never left his side thru the whole hospital stay. She's a great little care taker and she's home caring for him until he goes back to work or as long as they can both be home.

Unbelievable! So, so, very, very lucky. He has been doing well while he’s been home, and we are so very grateful and glad.

I am currently without cable at home, so that means no TV and no Internet access. The no TV is weird but I’m getting used to it; hopefully I will use the down time that I usually spent on the couch watching TV and eating crap to do something constructive instead – like pack or clean the house before Mom arrives. But so far I have just been reading books, going to bed early, and watching my DVD collection. Currently I am hooked on my BBC version of The Office.

My last day at work will be 8/31, so I won’t be able to post anything to my blogs after that until I get to my new home in Washington, but I’ll try to keep you up to date until then.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

If Procrastination Were A Fortune 500 Company, I’d be The CEO

Well, I am still here in Billings. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. My boss came to me and asked me if I would consider helping them out by staying through the end of August, and I agreed. So, instead of being knee deep in the middle of packing, cleaning, and panicking, I’m just sitting and panicking. I still haven’t had a single garage sale.

O ye great moving gods, I pray that you give me the strength to get up off of my fat ass and get my collective shit together. Please grant me wisdom while my sorting my stuff that has got to go into the garage sale; help me to reason that if I don’t sell it, I have to pack it, and if I pack it I have to transport it. Please give me the gift of restraint while my mother is here helping me; she is 74 and shouldn’t have to do this crap for me anymore but she is, and please help me to be grateful for her “suggestions” and “instructions” because otherwise one of us will be dead and the other will be in jail and at this point I don’t know who will be which. Amen.

Sis was understandably disappointed in having to wait a couple more months – so was I – but she has been a good sport about it. Frankly, we both needed just a little more time to get stuff done. We have decided on a game plan if my company asks me to extend my time again; this time it’s all about me. I have worked for this company for 15 years with very little to show for it (other than the panicked look on faces when I announce I will be gone on vacation, and the agonized screams of “You never get to go on vacation again!” when I return); I haven’t had a raise in years and I am the company pack mule for getting the work done. So, if they want me to stay past August 31st they will have to pay for a moving company to move me. No more U-Haul and my family having to come all the way out here to help. After September, the weather starts to get unpredictable and with five mountain passes to go over I am not going to ask my family to help me with that. Also, I am going to ask the company to lay me off. This way, I can collect my 15 years worth of severance pay since they are not going to keep my job position the way it is after I leave, and any arrangements for employment I may have made will go right out the window. If they don’t want to do these things, then they are SOL after 8/31. And that’s the truth, pfffft.

Other than that, things are still pretty much the same, dang it. I was really proud of myself for mowing the front yard the other day; I didn’t think I would physically survive it but I did and there was much patting of my back, clapping of hands and telling myself, “YOU DID IT!! YAY YOU!”

The sun went behind the one little grey cloud that was in the sky, and about 16 drops of rain fell. The sun came out again and all was lovely.

Approximately 9.2537 minutes later, the grass grew back to the same height it was before I mowed it.

Stupid lawn.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Oh, Sweet Life, Where the Smell Are Ya?

Two lucky people from Helena hit the Power Ball the other day. They have to split the total three ways (with someone from somewhere else) and will walk away with about $24 million each.

I often fantasize about what I would do if I was independently wealthy. Besides paying my mother back all the money I ever borrowed from her x20 and paying off all of her bills, and paying off my sister’s mortgage and all of her bills, and setting up funds for all of the kids, what would I do with the money?

Well, here is my fantasy:

I would find myself a beautiful chunk of land somewhere, and by “chunk” I mean as many square miles as I could afford to have custom fenced off from the rest of the world. I would like it to be somewhere in the country, with rolling hills and a gorgeous, unobstructed view of the sunset, preferably with a mountain or two in it. I would build an awesome yet humble mansion, complete with swimming pool, full wet bar and movie room – a home that my whole family can enjoy and hopefully come to visit and stay for a weekend or so. It would be a mix of Frank Lloyd Wright and Lewis and Clark; a large, log-cabin design with windows everywhere. It would be multi-level, with one guest bedroom on the main floor that would be handicap accessible but in the coolest and most modern of ways. I would have a kitchen that Gordon Ramsey would kiss my toes to get his hands on (the eff word gushing forth from his mouth – you know, as he does, yet under his breath so as not to offend my mother) and would learn to cook fabulous meals and gourmet goodies that I would whip up for all our family parties. There would be no cabinets on the walls – I am short and can usually only reach the bottom shelf of those stupid things anyway – and instead would have a kitchen with large windows, flooding the room with light, with a large island with all the storage I would need (in addition to a lovely walk-in pantry).

I would have a fire pit built outside so that we could congregate around it on starry nights and make s’mores and grill hot dogs and drink beer and talk.

I would have one spot on the side of the house, or maybe on the side of the barn (see below) where I could project movies. I would invite my friends, family, and neighbors over at least once a month (weather permitting, maybe more often in the summer?) and show the movies while everyone sat on blankets or lawn chairs and brought picnic dinners. I would make fabulous appetizers and desserts to share.

To the grounds I would add petite, two room log cabins; each with a hot tub, fireplace, WIFI, small kitchenette, and a large fluffy bed that you need a step ladder to get into and a fire department ladder to get out of. No television. They would be discreetly dotted around the property but close enough to the main house to walk over to watch a movie or enjoy a family style dinner. I love the idea of giving my family the choice to stay in a guest room in the main house or in one of the cabins for a little get-a-way. I would rent out the cabins whenever I wanted to, if I ever wanted to.

I would have a large pond installed, complete with a natural looking waterfall and koi fish; I would have a gazebo somewhere nearby that was big enough to hold weddings in, and also a rose-covered archway somewhere else for weddings as well. I would have a large barn constructed solely for the use of wedding receptions and local school dances, etc. I would do packages for the weddings for those who could not afford the wedding of their dreams due to limited income or personal circumstances; I would work with local florists, caterers, and musicians and hire them to make dreams come true for those that thought their dreams would never happen. They would be able to have their wedding and reception on site, and then stay in the cabin of their choice for the wedding night. I would invite local high schools to have their proms there, and would see to it that they were alcohol free (on my property, anyway), sophisticated yet fun, and safe.

I would also have a little photography studio built separate from the house so that I could take portraits of people and pets. Maybe I would have some sort of creative art space attached for my love of making greeting cards and jewelry. When the great-nieces and nephews came out, they could paint or make jewelry or whatever they wanted to out there along with me. When my mom, sister, or nieces are there, we could sew or whatever. Probably drink some wine and be silly. That would be awesome as well.

I would have lovely landscaped walkways that joined everything, making it easy for people of all abilities to get from A to B.

Basically, I want a place where I can feel free and creative; a place that can be used to make others happy; a place of comfort and contentment for my family as well as strangers. A place where I could have big dogs and horses; beautiful koi fish; and natural wildlife all in one spot.


Can you tell I think about this A LOT?

What is your fantasy?


Monday, June 21, 2010

Um, Could Someone Please Dial Down the Weather A Notch? Thanks.

Remember those nice, lovely pictures I posted about my Saturday drive? Well, Sunday was not in the mood to play nice.

At 4:30pm it was hailing so hard it was making my teeth rattle. Here is a fuzzy picture of one the larger hailstones that landed on my front steps:
There were larger ones than this out on the lawn, but there was so much lightning I was scared to go get one! At about 7:45pm, I could not resist the siren song of the pizza delivery conglomerates, so I caved in. I went online to Domino's, but they were offline and not taking online orders. I could have called but was too lazy. So I tried Papa John's; same story. I figured that the power was out or something since the power at my house had been going on and off a few times. I then decided that Dairy Queen would nicely fill the void, so I threw on my shoes and grabbed the camera - just in case anything interesting popped up from the hail storm.

I headed down Main Street and got to Hillview where the intersection was completely closed with fire trucks and police cars. You could either turn right and go back up into the Heights neighborhood, or you could turn left towards the river. I opted to turn left, figuring that perhaps the Albertsons parking lot had flooded or something and that was why the street was closed. I turned right on Joyce, which runs parallel to Main Street, and tried to look through the buildings to see what all the hub-bub was about. Couldn't see anything wrong at all! Hmmmm... I continued down the street and turned right on the little street that leads to the DQ; pulled up to the DQ and realized that it was all dark. CRAP! That was when I knew the cosmos was conspiring against me - having fast food just was NOT in the cards for me today!

The DQ is situated on top of a hill; you can follow the road behind it down the steep hill into a large Target parking lot where there is a little strip mall to the right with a MacKenzie River restaurant, a 31 Flavors, Radio Shack, etc. There is a McDonald's at the far end of the parking lot. As I was coming down the hill towards the lot, I was shocked to see that it was pretty much empty except for a few fire trucks, Battalion Commander is that insulation? And...sheet rock? What the...? To the right of the lot I could see clots of vehicles parked, people running to the top of the grassy knoll (no relation) that bordered Main Street with cameras and children in tow. I could see the bright yellow DO NOT CROSS police tape strung everywhere. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?

Well, at the time that hell's fury in the form of hail was raining down upon my house at 4:30pm, a tornado touched down on Main Street. I live about 1.5 miles away; never heard the sirens or anything. No less than six businesses, including the McD's, were either heavily damaged or destroyed completely.

I stood dumbfounded along with many of my fellow neighbors. It's one thing to see something like this on TV, but to see it first hand? It is awe-inspiring. The 18,000 square foot business complex across Main Street that housed a Kawasaki dealership and the owner's sister's active wear shop is pretty much a total loss. The upside? Amid the debris of the ruined building and scattered brand new motorcycles, T-cat, the owner's kitty, had ridden out the tornado and lived to tell about it. The Lake Elmo Coin Op had no windows left, and most of the lettering had been ripped from the building.

Housed in the same little strip were a dance studio and a barber shop - both completely destroyed. Fas-Break Glass is completely destroyed; the roof ripped off and dumped into neighboring Alkali Creek (along with a pick up truck); siding torn off the walls down to the plywood covering the studs. The Main Street Casino and Restaurant is heavily damaged, along with McD's.

For reasons only the tornado knows, it skipped diagonally from the glass company, over the top of the small strip of stores with the Subway and the liquor store, bypassing the large, 3-story hotel that was sitting right there, and slammed into and danced on top of the Rim Rock Auto Arena in the Metrapark. This is the building where Billings holds all of its large venue concerts, rodeos, trade shows, and conventions. The Billings Outlaws - the arena football league team that we are all so very proud of - held its last regular season game there...the day before - on Saturday, with thousands of fans packed in. Most of the 97,263 square foot roof is gone or collapsed; the building is a total loss. It will have to be completely demolished and rebuilt because it is now structurely unsound.

The miraculous thing is - not one single reported injury. No one died. No homes were destroyed, although there was one home that got its front porch removed, and a few houses where skylights shattered and let in waterfalls of rain and hail; but considering what could have been...
So, there you have it. The cosmos literally moving heaven and earth to keep me from DQ.

Next time, a supportive phone call will do nicely. Thanks.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Some of my photography

I love pictures. I'm not sure when this love developed, but I do remember spending hours, several times a month, going through the bottom drawer of our secretary where all of our family photos were kept. It drove my mom nuts. "Are you in those pictures AGAIN?" I never, ever, got tired of going through the albums, slides, and loose pictures that made up that treasure.

As I grew into my 20's, I fell in love with the taking of pictures. After moving to Oregon, I was under too much stress, so I spent a year living with my mother in Sultan, Washington. While I was there, I bought myself a "real" camera: a SLR with auto focus! I felt so incredibly grown up and was very impressed with the pictures it took. It's a far cry from the little Kodak Insta-matics I had grown up with (remember the flash bulbs that you had to buy? Remember the ones that came eight to a cartridge, and when the first four were used up you had to flip it over?). I took a photography class that was offered in Monroe one night a week by the adult education center. It was probably the best investment I ever made. After that I bought as many books on photography as I could afford. I still have most of them. A few years later, after my uncle saw my love of photography, he sold me his old Canon AE-1. At that time the camera was probably 20 years old, but I jumped at the chance to own it because it had several lenses with it. Being able to changes the lenses made me feel like a "real" photographer.

As the kids grew older, I started practicing portrait photography on them. I love taking portraits. The kids were very photogenic, and fortunately for me, they never got tired of me wanting to take their picture! I never had any special equipment. I just made do with what I had. I hung white bedsheets on the wall, or sometimes I purchased fabrics from the store that I thought would make pretty backgrounds. I used my living room lamps (without shades) for accent lighting, and my sister's living room had the perfect south-facing window to give me tons of natural light - which is still my favorite lighting to use. I experimented with black and white film. This was before digital photography was main-stream, and I must have invested thousands of dollars in rolls of film and developing costs. The hard part about photography with 35mm film is that you really don't know how the pictures have come out until they are developed. Your subject could have blinked in every single picture, and you just wasted all that time and money for nothing. The days of waiting for the film to be developed was agony for me! For a while, there were these really cool machines that some photography shops had where you could feed your developed negatives into the machine and then crop, enlarge, and play with color saturation and hue, then print your own pictures in whatever size you desired. I even looked into how much it would cost to purchase one!

Here are a few of my portraits from that time period. These are scans of inkjet printed copies, so the quality isn't that great, but you get the idea.

This is an old friend Ginna with my cat Chloe:

And this is Alisha; it was a black and white photo, and I messed with color saturation and hue to get his blueish/purplish cast to it:
I love Reanna in black and white; her eyes are gorgeous. It's hard to believe that she is only about 12 years old here:
On a side note, I just learned how to put a copyright watermark on my photos! I never posted any of my work before, just because I was a little paranoid. Now that I know how to do it, I will post more in the future.
A few years later, I was in the midst of full blown depression and I lost my love of photography. After moving to Montana, I tried to switch to landscape photography but discovered I really wasn't very good at it. My beloved old Canon AE-1 had been stolen while I was still living in Portland and I could not find another one. My insurance company had replaced it with a modern AE-1 Rebel, but it just wasn't the same. I still had all the lenses for the old camera, but you can't use them with an auto-focus, modern SLR. Then, one day out of the blue, I went into a pawn shop while living in Missoula. Now, you need to understand that I had never been into a pawn shop in my life, and there were no less than about 25 pawn shops in this small city. So, I cannot explain why in the world I picked this one to go into on that day. I was looking at the cameras in the case, when low and behold, there sat an old Canon AE-1. It looked exactly like mine, but I knew there was no way it could be... I had the owner take it out of the case for me. I gingerly turned it over to see the bottom, and there it was - the very distinct crack in the case that happened when my mother dropped it in a parking lot on a beach trip. This was MY camera!! The one that had been stolen at least five years earlier! I nearly burst into tears. I told the owner the story and told him I could not afford the $300 tag; he took $100 off and I bought it with my rent money. I was overjoyed!
My sister is the one that drug me, kicking and screaming, into the digital photography age. I had poo-pooed the whole digital thing as a fad that would never really catch on. I knew in my heart that nothing could compare with 35mm film. Let's just say that it's a good thing I am not a stock broker! I said the same thing about fax machines when those came out! She had bought a digital SLR camera and starting taking pictures of her grand kids. I grudgingly had to admit the pictures were first rate, and then being able to see them immediately and also emailing them around was a definite plus. I was finally sold when I had been out for a visit and used her camera myself. I. Loved. It. The following year, my wonderful sissy bought me the same camera and had it shipped to me at work as a surprise!
Lately I have been rekindling my love for photography. I have been reading a few blogs that have been inspiring; and since I will be moving back to where my family is very soon, I hope to start taking portraits again.
In the meantime, I keep taking pictures of what is available. You never know what you might see, so yesterday I went for a drive. I suffer from weather-induced headaches, and the last few weeks have been no exception. Yesterday was so pretty that I could not stand to be in the house, so I went for a drive - with my camera.
A thunderhead building to the south of Billings. Picture taken at Sword Park, just off the main road to the airport.
A wispy cloud formation to the southeast.

Big Sky country. This picture is taken at the far west end of Wicks Avenue, where the houses end and the prairie takes over.
An old church that was moved to this spot a few years ago in several pieces. They are still working on getting it all put together and restored. When it was first moved here, there were no houses around. That has changed now.
Another view of the church, converted to black and white.

On the way back down Wicks toward my house is a very large, modern church. This prong-horn antelope was with a group of three of his friends across the street from it.
They decided to run across the street to the church's parking lot.
The first three await the arrival of their friend.

The party of four.
These two gave me a pretty pose.
I will post more pictures in the future; I hope you liked these.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Learn More Crap About Me

I have a screaming weather-induced headache today, left over from last night's massive thunderstorm. So, because I feel like chewing gum on the bottom of someone else's shoe, I am posting another one of those "get to know people" emails that came to me at work today.

I would like to invent one of my own, but with different questions. They all seem to have the same ones all the time! It would be amusing to see if someone ever forwarded me the email that I originally started. Any questions you would love to see? Leave it in the comments!

Please to enjoy:

We will be going into the new 2010 edition of getting to know your family and friends. Here is what you are supposed to do, and try not to be lame and spoil the fun. Change all the answers so that they apply to you. Then send this to a bunch of people you know, INCLUDING the person who sent it to you. Some of you may get this several times; that means you have lots of friends. The easiest way to do it is to hit 'forward' so you can change the answers or copy and paste. Have fun and be truthful!
1. What is your occupation? Administrative Assistant with short-timer’s syndrome
2. What color are your socks right now? White, with gray toes and heels (they were made that way, not dirty)
3. What are you listening to right now? The blood pumping through my ears
4. What was the last thing that you ate? Quaker Instant Grits, butter flavor, with half a packet of Truvia.
5. Can you drive a stick shift? You bet your sweet bippy I can.
6. Last person you spoke to on the phone? Frank Carlson, one of our sales reps
7. Do you like the person who sent this to you? I LOVE HER!!
8. How old are you today? Old enough to know better than to answer this question.
9. What is your favorite sport to watch on TV? Football, the Olympics, Iron Man Triathlons, those Red Bull air races.
10. What is your favorite drink ? Lemonade
11. Have you ever dyed/colored your hair? Helloooo – have we met? Yes. I have and will again.
12. Favorite food? Pizza or Mexican
13. What is the last movie you watched? Daddy Is In Heaven With Nixon
14. Favorite day of the year? My first paid vacation day.
15. How do you vent anger? Swearing. Lots and lots of swearing. And cake.
16. What was your favorite toy as a child? Cars and miniature horses. I also had this toy that was a plastic lemon attached to a plastic cord. You looped it around your ankle, and then swung your foot around so that the lemon went around in a circle. Then you jumped over the lemon with your other foot. I wore a hole clean through that stupid lemon from all the hours of scraping it on the driveway. My dad thought I was nuts. I couldn’t figure out why they used a lemon instead of a ball or something.
17. What is your favorite season? Spring.
18. Cherries or Blueberries? Cherries.
19. Do you want your friends to e-mail you back? Nope. I just want them all to know that this is all about me, and I couldn’t care less what their answers might be.
20. Who is the most likely to respond? The ones that want to. Why is this important?
21. Who is least likely to? The ones that don’t want to. Again, this is important because…?
22. Living arrangements? Renting a 2-bedroom duplex. Just me, my significant other dust bunnies, and my 500lb television.
23. When was the last time you cried? Last night while watching So You Think You Can Dance. But they were happy tears.
24. What is on the floor of your closet? Shoes, boxes of shoes, clothes that don’t fit.
25. Who is the friend you have had the longest that you are sending to? My Sissy!!
26. What did you do last night? Drove home in a vicious thunderstorm, watching out of the corner of my eye for tornados, as fast as the ripping wind would allow because my bedroom window was open and I didn’t want to sleep in a soggy bed. Then I watched TV and ate beef jerky until my contact lenses dried out.
27. Plain, cheese, or spicy hamburgers? Cheese with mushrooms and bacon.
28. Favorite Dog Breed? Great Dane (harlequin, specifically)
29. Favorite day of the week? Saturday.
30. How many states have you lived in? Five – California, Oklahoma, Washington, Oregon and Montana
31. Diamonds or pearls? Diamonds. I’m not really a pearl person.
32. Favorite flower? Tulips, roses, snap dragons and sweet peas.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I Think I Popped A Blood Vessel In My Eye

I haven’t blogged lately because there isn’t anything going on. Just the regular old same old stuff.

But then this article about people protesting the National Spelling Bee in DC caught my eye on You can read the article here.


These people really, I mean REALLY, think that we need to dumb down our culture in this country even more than it already is? These people need to either get jobs or find a hobby that keeps them out of the general population. It’s too much trouble to spell “fruit”, so they want it changed to “froot”??? Oh. My. Freaking. God. These people are IDIOTS. People in this country (myself included – let’s be fair here) are already way too dependent on their computer’s spell checker as it is, and I would estimate 85% of those people (myself NOT included, thank you very much) don’t have the brains it requires to operate it correctly. I used to have a manager that would send out these horrible emails full of spelling and grammar errors. I was so embarrassed that she was my boss. Didn’t she notice all of those squiggly red and green lines all over the place? They aren't there for decoration! DUH.

I guess I am outraged by this because it’s like these protesters have just given up on themselves and our society as a whole. “It’s too hard to do it the right way, so let’s just get someone to change it to the easy/stupid/wrong way to do it so that we don’t have to apply ourselves and elevate our status level on the planet above the apes and chimps.” I can’t believe people actually wasted time in their lives to make signs and picket a spelling bee. I wonder if any of them were spelled correctly…

What’s next? “It’s too hard to count change. Let’s make everything in the world free so that I never have to do math.” Yes, let us kowtow to the stupid and ignorant just to make their lives easier. You don’t have to be a calculus whiz to make change at the (enter fast food establishment/retail outlet of your choice here) – especially when the cash register does all the work for you already. (Want to seriously screw them up? If your total is $4.05, hand them a $5 bill and a nickel and watch them try to figure out what they are supposed to give you for change. It’s a hoot!)



Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tweety Bird Has Gone Gangsta

At approximately 4:30am every morning, I awake to the sound of a bird outside my bedroom window. Now, other than the early hour, normally I would find this very refreshing. The idea of little birds fluttering in the tree tops, going about their morning business singing their sweet little songs a la some Disney story (Snow White or similar) is very refreshing and a great way to start the day.

But in this case, not so much.

This birdie is not your typical Walt Disney style birdie. Where the Disney birdies sing sweetly – tweet tweet tweetie-tweet tweet – and flitter to and fro from branch to branch, my birdie is more like, “TWEET BITCH!” and is probably more the size of a penguin, bowing the pine branch it sits on to the point of snapping.

I picture it holding a loaded .44 in its wing, turned sideways gangsta style; it is eyeballing me through the bedroom window and aiming at me, screeching, “TWEET BITCH! YO, GET YOUR LAZY MOFO ASS OUT OF BED BEFORE I POP A CAP OFF IN IT!”

By 5:30am – 15 minutes before my alarm goes off – it tires of harassing me and flies off to accomplish whatever business gangsta birdies have; visiting baby mamas, dropping ostrich egg sized poops on freshly washed cars and laughing hysterically when the car alarm goes off, roughing up pit pulls and such I imagine. I lie there in my bed fantasizing about throwing something at it when it starts up tomorrow morning, but I am afraid it will manage to shoot me and how will I explain the gunshot wound to the ER nurse? No one will believe it was Gangsta Tweety Bird.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Sword of Damocles Is Incredibly Annoying

The time for my impending move is drawing nigh, and I am so not ready. I hope to give my notice in June and have my last day at work be July 2nd; but so much depends on my bankruptcy (which I am this close to getting filed). I really hoped to be in the attorney’s office with all my stuff by the end of last week, but of course I didn’t read all the paperwork thoroughly and I still have some stuff to round up. I hate myself for sabotaging myself at every turn; I really do want this move, and I really do want to be out of financial hot water (I have one credit card company that calls my house no less than eight times a day – no exaggeration, I have caller ID and it logs each and every call; they call me a minimum of four times between 8-9pm!!). So, all I can ask myself is WHY???

I look around the house and I just feel so incredibly overwhelmed by the prospect of having to do everything all by myself (although I feel like I NEED to accomplish this on my own to prove that I am a for sure really and truly adult). My sister will be a big help when she gets here, but the plan is to have everything pretty much ready to go (packed up, etc.) by the time she arrives. I am terrified that when she gets here, expecting to be able to load up the U-Haul the next day, absolutely nothing will be packed or clean and we will have to kill ourselves by staying up for four days straight to get it all done, and then she will be ginormously angry and disappointed with me. I have tried all kinds of tricks on my brain but so far none of them have worked. I am a compulsive and obsessive list maker, and I make “to do” lists by the thousands. So far, all that has resulted from that is another acre of forests cut down to make more paper for me to make more lists on. I have tried pretending that this is not my house, but rather the home of someone else that has hired me to clean and pack up their things for them. All that has resulted from that is the knowledge that I would never make any money at all in that line of work because I suck at it.

I feel at my most productive with I-can-do-thisness and go-forth-and-conquerousness between 9:30am-2pm. Unfortunately, I am at work when this kicks in, where there is nothing for me to do or conquer, other than keeping my chair on the floor and occasionally picking up the telephone to make sure it is still working. Even on my way home from work my head is swimming with “OK, here’s the plan. You are going to get home and do this, this, this, this, and this; and then when you are done with that you will do this, and then you will eat a healthy dinner and go to bed and get a good night’s sleep.” What actually happens is: I walk in the house, put my purse down, go pee (sometimes not in that actual order), take a good look around, sit on the couch, turn on the TV, and watch and eat crap until my contacts dry out around 10pm. Obviously, the simple solution here is to NOT TURN ON THE TV. You know it, I know it, the Efe pygmy tribe of the African rain forest knows it, and yet… It’s such a hard habit to break. I think it’s because it’s comforting, in a way. I don’t feel so alone in the house when the TV is on. Sometimes I can have it on and completely ignore it; sometimes I can put some CDs on instead and I really enjoy that. I don’t know; it’s an addiction I suppose. I wish I had friends here that would come over and help, or at least keep me company while I got some stuff done. That just kind of adds to the loneliness and helplessness feelings. Poor me; boo hoo. Whatever.

I am, however, very proud of the progress I made in the garage last weekend. I cleaned out all the garbage and moved some half-completed shelves over near the door that goes into the house; I finished putting them together and am currently using them to house items that I am gathering for the Garage Sale. I opened boxes of stuff that haven’t seen the light of day since I moved to Billings five years ago, and put them over on the Garage Sale side; I even swept up (which nearly caused my back to snap in half, but I did it!). I still have a few boxes to move around but I will work on that some more this weekend, and will hopefully have the GS over the holiday weekend. I know most experts agree that holiday weekends aren’t the best times to have sales, but I live three blocks from the lake so my street will get lots of traffic, and I have a feeling that more people will be sticking closer to home this Memorial Day weekend due to economics, gas prices, etc. And if not, that’s OK. I’ll just have another one right before I move anyway to get rid of the lawn mower, leaf blower, etc. I’m not doing it for the money – I just want to get rid of the stuff!

Having written about all of this, I feel better. I think I may actually be able to go home and accomplish something tonight (yes, I write my blog while I’m at work. You thought I was kidding about checking the phone to see if it worked, huh?). I have actually been waking up earlier in the mornings lately – probably due to sunlight hitting my unaccustomed eyelids and those damn birds being so damn happy and loud outside my bedroom window – and today was no exception. I actually managed to get up and take a shower, get dressed, round up my healthy lunch, AND hit McD’s for breakfast (get off me; it fits in with my eating plan so LAY OFF). I even had extra time to slap on some eyeliner and mascara this morning. I am sure the guys here at work are all wondering why I’m all dolled up since normally they are lucky that my hair is combed and I have all my clothes on. Hopefully the energetic feeling I have now will last for a while after I get home. Because at 7pm, the TV goes on for sure; gotta watch Community and The Office! Gotta get a life!! Get off me. Pfft.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bird of Prey vs. Cocktail Weenie

My sister called me the other day and told me that there are four bald eagles nesting in the trees by the pond behind her house. When she takes Bruiser, the mini doxie, out to go potty they circle in the sky above them. Recently, one of them did a low swoop over their heads. Bruiser is now terrified to be outside. The eagles must be royally pissed of that my sister is brazenly parading this...this...appetizer before them and not allowing them to taste it. She says that if they manage to somehow carry him off, she will either be in the looney bin for having witnessed such horror, or in federal prison for shooting a symbol of the US of A.

Hopefully it will be neither. Bruiser has never been allowed outside by himself because he is so small, and in addition to birds of prey there are coyotes, bears, and stupid clumsey cows to worry about as well. Now Sissy is having to carry Bruiser out underneath the big pine tree in the front yard to do his business so that he doesn't get spirited away for baby eagle breakfast. I told her she should train him to use a litter box! That poor dog is already uber-neurotic; this is all his nerves need now. Poor little cocktail weenie.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Learn A Little Sumpin' 'bout me

Do you ever get these (or ones similar to them) in your email? I get them from time to time, and I love them. So, without further ado, here is the latest one I received and the answers I gave.

Please to enjoy.

2010 Getting to Know Your Friends

Welcome to the 2010 edition of getting to know your Friends. Please 'press FORWARD' then change all the answers so they apply to you, and then send this to your friends including me. The theory is that you will learn a lot of little things about your friends that you might not have known! Have fun! Look forward to hearing from you shortly.

1. What time did you get up this morning? Alarm went off at 5:45; physically got out of bed at 7:05.
2. Diamonds or pearls? Diamonds
3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? 2012
4. What is your favorite TV show? The Big Bang Theory
5. What do you usually have for breakfast? Quaker Instant Grits – butter flavor
6. What is your middle name? Leann
7. What food do you dislike? Vegetables – all of them; liver
8. What is your favourite CD at moment? Lady Gaga
9. What kind of car do you drive? 1994 Isuzu Rodeo with front windows that won’t roll down and a driver’s side door that won’t lock. Well, actually it will lock, but it won’t UN-lock. And having it UN-lock is actually more important than having it lock. Trust me on this.
10. Favorite sandwich? Egg Salad
11. What characteristic do you despise? Intolerance
12. Favorite item of clothing? Stilettos
13. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation? Paris
14. Favorite brand of clothing? Anything that fits me
15. Where would you like to retire to? The Oregon Coast
16. What was your most recent memorable birthday? Do you mean, “What is the last birthday you remember?” Because that is really a different question and this little square isn’t big enough for that answer. Next?
17. Favorite sport to watch? FOOTBALL!!!
18. Furthest place you are sending this? Jacksonville, FL
19. Person you expect to send it back first? Brad Pitt – he’s considerate that way and loves these questionnaires!
20. When is your birthday? Every year. Oh, sorry, April 15th.
21. Are you a morning person or a night person? More of a 10am-3:30pm kind of person.
22. What is your shoe size? 6.5
23. Pets? Not right now. Thanks for rubbing salt in that wound.
24. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? I will be moving back to where my family is this summer! But that might just be exciting to me, and it probably isn’t new to a lot of people, so I guess…no.
25. What did you want to be when you grew up? An actress or a stewardess. And for a short period when I was young, I wanted to be a horse.
26. How are you today? I have a headache.
27. What are your favorite sweets? Dark chocolate covered seafoam, salt water taffy
28. What is your favorite flower? Tulips
29. What is a day on the calendar you are looking forward to? July 1st.
30. What is your full name? Heather Leann Hotchkiss
31. What are you listening to right now? A sales rep making a phone call.
32. What was the last thing you ate? See question #5.
33. Do you wish on stars? Not any more.
34. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Violet.
35. How is the weather right now? Sunny, 59, winds from WSW at 16mph (at 9:15am)
36. The first person you spoke to on the phone today? A customer.
37. Favorite soft drink? Huckleberry cream soda
38. Favorite restaurant? The Rex in Billings, MT
39. Real hair color? Dark ash blonde (looks just like brown!) Wait, what do you mean by “real” hair color? What exactly are you insinuating?
40. What was your favorite toy as a child? Lincoln Logs, Matchbox cars, miniature horses
41. Summer or winter? I love the snow in winter, but I love the sunshine in summer.
42. Hugs or kisses? Hugs are great because you can get them from lots of people, but it depends on who exactly is doing the kissing.
43. Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate (dark, not milk)
44. Coffee or tea? Neither. Yuck.
45. Do you want your friends to email you back? I would prefer that they sent me money.
46. When was the last time you cried? This morning on my way to work.
47. What is under your bed? Carpet, probably some CD’s that I can’t find, more than likely some socks that are also missing.
48. What did you do last night? Watched TV, ate a sandwich, watched some more TV, went to bed and watched a little more TV, fell asleep while listening to an episode of South Park.
49. What are you afraid of? Bats, bees, wasps, dying alone and unloved, my mother finding out the deep, dark secrets I have been hiding from her all these years.
50. Salty or sweet? Preferably both together, like chocolate covered pretzels or similar.
51. How many keys on your key ring? Six, but I don’t know what three of them go to and I am afraid to throw them away.
52. How many years at your current job? 50 million (but HR seems to be under the impression that it’s only been about 15)
53. Favorite day of the week? Usually Saturday, but I will have to say that any day that I am not at work is a great day.
54. How many towns have you lived in? Twelve
55. Do you make friends easily? Yes but none really seem to last.
56. How many people will you send this to? Why? Is there a limit? Will I be penalized if I go over the limit? I want to speak to an attorney. I plead the fifth. Bite me.
57. How many will respond? If I knew the answer to this question, I would be playing the lottery in every state of the US.

Feel free to tell me your answers to these questions in the comments if you want to.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Poor Little Echo

About two weeks ago my neighbor’s car met with a disaster. Poor little Echo; it never saw it coming.

It happened in the midst of a raging windstorm. And when I say raging, I mean that I actually took the vacuum cleaner out of the tiny hall closet and put some pillows, a blanket, my tennis shoes and my cell phone in there – just in case. I even wore my best nightie lest rescue was required by some hunky firefighters after my roof collapsed…sorry, what was I saying? Oh yes. I had brought our large, black, wheeled, city issued trashcans up against the duplex for safekeeping; mine had already been blown over twice, so I just left it. This way it would not blow over again in the middle of the night and scare the bejezus out of me like it usually does. The winds were blowing at a sustained 60mph, gusting up to 95. I went to bed and had just started drifting off to sleep; it was 10:45pm. Suddenly a large crash woke me up; it sounded like my neighbor had run over one of the large trashcans. Bummer, I thought, not terribly concerned. But then as I stared to be more awake, I remembered that the trashcans were up against the duplex; there was no way the neighbor could have run over one of them. Their SUV was already in the driveway, but his wife usually parked their little Echo car in the driveway behind it. Then I had the odd feeling of remembering the sound of glass breaking. And I realized that there were headlights shining in my bedroom window (which faces the street). Things just seemed odd to me so I got out of bed and tiptoed into the living room and peeked through the vertical blinds looking into the front yard. I could see what appeared to be a vehicle blocking our driveway, still running with the offending headlights shining in my bedroom window. I didn’t have my contacts in so I was blind as a bat and without the benefit of sonar. It seemed like there were people, or at least a person, walking back and forth, in and out of the driveway. Eventually I heard voices but couldn’t make out what they were saying. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but when I heard my neighbor say, “Are you sure you’re OK?” I thought – something is seriously going on. I ran and got my jeans on, threw on a shirt and a pair of flip-flops and ran out the front door to get the scoop.

It turns out that my neighbor’s wife did not park the Echo in the driveway behind the SUV, she had parked it on the curb on their side of the duplex. A large, old pickup truck, sturdily built and with a monster grill guard on it had plowed into the back of it, sending it down the street about 35 feet, up onto the sidewalk wiping out the mailboxes. It was hard to see in the dark, but I got a pretty good idea of the carnage. It was a good thing that the neighbor’s wife and their young daughter were not actually in the car (everyone was in the house and turning in for the night when this happened), because as you can see from the pictures there ain’t a whole lot left of the little Echo. I took these pictures with my cell phone the next morning as I was going to work.

I got the impression that the driver of the pickup was not intoxicated, and seemed to be very cooperative with my neighbor and the police officers that showed up about five minutes later. I haven’t gotten to discuss the whole story with the neighbors as our schedules are quite out of sync and I rarely see them in person. Our mailboxes were finally replaced about a week later, but the old smashed ones were still in my yard this morning; but they were gone when I got home from work today.

Poor little Echo.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I Love You, Mom

I know that yesterday was Mother’s Day, but I grew up in a household that does not celebrate such holidays. Every day was Mother’s or Father’s day; we didn’t need Hallmark to tell us when it was the appropriate time to say so.

Having said that, I hope that dear old Mom won’t mind if I pay a small tribute to her today. After all, it isn’t Mother’s Day today, right? Right.

Mom – I just want to tell you that I love you. I appreciate you. I don’t know what I will do without you.

Me and Mom, 1967

Even though we have butted heads about things in the past, and will in the present and the future, I want you to know that I appreciate everything you have done for me. When Daddy died, I know that you wanted to pack up the house and move to Washington to be with your mother and your brothers. I was going to be a freshman in high school that year and didn’t want to start yet another new school. I wanted to stay in California with the people I had come to know as my friends and the ones that I finally felt at home and comfortable with. You made the sacrifice to stay where we were so that I could finish school where I felt comfortable. I didn’t realize then how hard that must have been for you, but I did understand later. Thank you so much for that.

I know that you think that I don’t read or appreciate all the little articles that you clip and mail to me; all the things about money and finances, migraine headaches, and identity theft; weight loss and the benefits of vitamins; depression; etc. I do read them; some of them get saved in my “important stuff” files that I have; some make me laugh, some make me mad, but I know that you were thinking of me and my well being when you read them.

I love the two volume cookbook that you made for me, full of recipes from my grandmother, my great-aunt, my aunts and uncles; recipes that were Daddy’s favorites. I love all of the little pictures that you painstakingly cut out of magazines and catalogs that are of things that you know I love, and things that make me smile and laugh. I remember that day when they arrived at work, without warning, and how I showed them to everyone and cried all day because I was so touched by them. I still haven’t made any of the recipes yet, but I love to take them down off the shelf and just look through them.

Me and Mom in my great aunt Ruth's pool, 1968

I know it isn’t enough to say, “Thanks for everything, Mom.” But, thanks for everything, Mom. I love you.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Don’t Know Much About History…

The new season of The Tudors has started on ShowTime, and I am hooked once again. I’ll tell ya, if they had had this series back when I was in high school, I can guarantee you that I would have paid a lot closer attention to my history lessons!! You think that politicians today are corrupt and seedy? They can’t hold a candle to Henry VIII. He was one seriously messed up dude, and Jonathan Rhys Myers plays him fabulously. I love all the costumes and jewelry; the horses and riding are first rate; and all the women are drop dead gorgeous. Some people think it was such a romantic time to be living and think that living amongst the King’s Court would have been wonderful; um, I am thinking not so much.

You never knew who was going to stick a knife in your back or for what reason; disease ran rampant and doctors had no clue how to treat you if they couldn’t use leeches; the everyday person was severely oppressed; and if you were female, can you imagine trying to go to the bathroom in those gowns they wore?? Yeah, funny how they never show that kind of stuff on the show.

I wonder if they will ever come out with a series that deals with US history. It would be interesting to see what kinds of behind the scenes info (meaning dirt and scandal, obviously) they could dig up. I am ashamed to admit that I was one of those kids in school that never really paid attention to American History. We are pretty boring with our powdered wigs and buckle shoes in comparison to European Kings that go through wives like Kleenex, chopping off heads willy-nilly every time a wife has a daughter instead of a son, or if a younger maiden catches his eye.

Although, you do see a lot of that type of behavior in every day current American life; just watch Snapped on the Oxygen channel, or Forensic Files on A&E. Or your evening news for that matter.


It is also baseball season once again. I think I have mentioned this once before, but I used to be a huge baseball fan – even back before I was physically huge. I say “used to be” because when all the ball players went on strike back in the 90’s for more money, it really ruined it for me.

Gee, I’m so sorry that 10 million dollars a year isn’t enough for you to be paid for hitting a little ball with a stick, and that you make more than ER doctors, firefighters, police officers, and other people who actually make a difference in the world by treating the injured, healing the sick and dying, and generally putting their lives on the line every single day.

I’m sorry, where was I? Oh yes. Sorry, I have digressed once again (do they make a pill for that without the side effect of anal leakage?). Anyhoo, it gets me by until football season starts again. I put the game on and then go about my business doing other stuff around the house, listening to the game but not really watching it. Just doing that kind of brings back memories: when I was a kid, we always had baseball on the tube (Dad was a ginormous fan), and it would usually be hot enough in California for the air conditioner to be running in the house; Mom would do her mounds of ironing while watching the game and I would usually fall asleep on the couch listening to Vin Skulley’s voice combined with the hiss of the steam from the iron. Good times. Dad would usually wake me up because he would be hollering at the TV over a bad call. (Why do guys do that? Tip: THEY CAN’T HEAR YOU. But the neighbors can, and they don’t care if he was safe or out. Chill.)

Anything good on the tube that you are enjoying these days?


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Happy (?) IRS Day

Did you remember to mail off your taxes today? I did. I have a very handy built-in reminder.

Today is my birthday.

You know what I did for my birthday today? I mailed the IRS a check for $475.

Its times like these that make me realize how I have absolutely no life.

Happy Frickin Birthday to me.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Need Money for Karate Lessons

This morning I have dusted off the soap box, gotten out my step ladder, and am now atop said box ready to give you my two cents. Ahem.

I am starting to get really disappointed with the Today Show. It comes on at 7am here, and I usually watch it while getting dressed for work (otherwise known as the fabulously fun game of SOCKS, SOCKS, WHERE THE HELL ARE MY SOCKS?!). Tomorrow Meredith V. is interviewing – sorry, conducting an IN DEPTH interview – with Kate Gosselin.


First of all, I don’t see how IN DEPTH the interview can be when this person is more shallow than a cake pan. Also, shouldn’t stuff like that be relegated to Entertainment Tonight? Or at least to the fourth hour of the Today Show with Hoda and Cathy Lee (that I am pretty sure no one watches or if they are, they are in a coma by the time it reaches this point and are unable to reach the clicker)? Is the world of top notch journalism so slow these days that an interview with this person is the best they can do? Is the war in Iraq over? What about the President of Poland being killed in that plane wreck? Isn’t the President of the US putting through a new health care bill that will affect us all? I would love to know what the bill is exactly; and I don’t mean listening to Senators and Congresspeople yelling at each other about it, I want to know what it is supposed to do for us all. Heck, Kate’s got eight children; maybe she would like to be better informed about it. Although, she is pretty busy sucking on Dancing With The Stars right now, so maybe she is postponing her study of it for later. And I’m sorry – why hasn’t she been voted off yet? My bedside table dances better than her. I think that Joel McHale over on E’s The Soup gets people to vote for her, just so that they can make fun of her week after week (WIN!).

And I am really tired of hearing about Tiger Woods and Jesse James. I’m sorry – I know that there are people out there that suffer from sex addiction, and I am not talking about them; but just being a walking douche bag with a ton of cash that can’t keep its fly zipped does not qualify you as such. If you are going to hump everything in sight then scream REHAB at the top of your lungs, please stop marrying people and reproducing. Go live in your limo down by the river, and keep your disgusting habits to yourself. And that goes for the entire cast of Jersey Shore as well.

Why can’t regular, everyday, next-door-neighbor type people be featured on the Today Show? You know, the ones that are working a day job, or two jobs plus night school, that are managing to take care of their aging parents, raise four kids that aren’t pregnant or on drugs, and volunteer their time to raise money for cancer patients? Oh, not shocking enough? Are you kidding me? I have a feeling that a lot of people don’t think those types of people exist anymore. Who would you rather have as a role model for your kids? A pseudo-celebrity that is only good at pimping out their children for fame and cash and then doing IN DEPTH interviews to whine about the fame; another pseudo-celeb that is only good at hitting a little tiny ball into a little tiny hole with a stick but damn can he sell shoes; or someone that works hard for their money, doesn’t complain about it (much) and manages to be a good person without asking for the world to be delivered to them, in their dressing room, on a silver platter and manages to keep off the nose candy and stay out of rehab? Hmmmmm…gee, it’s so hard to choose.

Phew. I think my soap box is on fire, so I believe I will step down now.

On a lighter note: this weekend while I was out running some errands, I saw a young man panhandling down by the MetraPark. I noticed as I approached the corner where he had set himself up that he was talking to a gal in another car that had already stopped for the light. As he jogged back across the lane in front of me, he held up his cardboard sign for me to read. It said, “My family was killed by ninjas; need money for karate lessons.” I nearly gave him $5 just for the laugh he gave me.

Now THAT guy should be on the Today Show.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Love Your Local Library

I love to read.

I mean that. And I don’t mean People magazine, or Reader’s Digest; I love books. Big, fat, heavy books. Not only are they great for smashing spiders, but they can transport you to anywhere in world; any time in history; and you can be whomever you wish.

My father loved to read and I think that he passed that love on to my sister and me. He was always reading; he read stories and poetry to me almost every night until I was about 12. I miss that. I still have two of the poetry books that he read to me out of, and I treasure them.

When I was a kid, I loved trips to the library with Dad. We would hit the door and go our separate ways and then meet up an hour later. Sometimes I would beg to stay a little longer, and sometimes we would. There was something so profoundly satisfying about leaving that musty old place with armfuls of books.

I like to read a variety of stuff; I’m not a huge fan of non-fiction for some reason, and I don’t care for romance novels either. I went through a stage in junior high with one of my best pals where we read every single Barbara Cartland romance we could get our hands on. We collected them and traded them, dreamed about them, and talked about them until I thought my mother would lose her mind. Eventually I caught on that there were only about six different plot lines; dear Barbara just changed the countries, names, and hair color of the people involved and just kept cranking those suckers out! I love mystery novels and collected Agatha Christie novels too. I still have a bunch of them. I also read her biography and loved it! I have that book and will always keep it on my shelf. I love anything having to do with psychology and forensics. I find both fields to be extremely interesting; if I had gotten the opportunity to go to college, I would have studied both of those subjects. I also like horror – Steven King is a favorite, but he can get a little too…out there…for even me sometimes. I am not a huge fan of ghosts or anything dealing with the occult; I do like ghost stories to an extent, but not if having the book in my possession is going to start rearranging the furniture in my living room, you know what I mean? Yeah. That’s not fun. Having said that, I just finished one and am starting another ghost story novel. And I do not care for vampire novels at all!! You aren’t going to see me roped into the Twilight series. Period.

I do like monsters and space aliens too; and I love it when I read a book and think to myself, Wow – that would make a great movie, and then POOF! I’m at the movie theater a few weeks, months, or a year later and there it is – the book I read and the previews for the movie. I had read Jurassic Park almost three years before the movie came out; my sister and I had both read it and thought it would be the most awesome movie, and when we saw the previews for it we nearly beat each other to death with glee. It was one of the few movies made from a book that I thought really stuck to the original. It is so incredibly disappointing to love a book then see a movie that doesn’t live up to it. The Da Vinci Code was definitely one, and I never saw Angels and Demons but I heard it was disappointing as well. Sometimes I just know that a movie isn’t going to cut it so I won’t bother; but sometimes I am pleasantly surprised. Which can be awesome. The Relic was an awesome book, and the movie did pretty well at sticking to the basic plot. The DVD of the movie is in my collection.

I am also more drawn to paperbacks rather than hardbacks. I love a paperback because I can stick it in my purse and joyfully carry it around with me. I rarely buy tiny purses; any new purse must be large enough to contain at least one paperback book. I read them everywhere: work, restaurants, movie theaters, in traffic. I read them at restaurants because it makes me feel less alone, and I find that if I don’t have any company to share the meal with, reading is a good substitute. And it keeps me from looking at all the happy families and/or couples and feeling sorry for myself for being there alone. The same with movies; I don’t often go the theaters anymore – they are too expensive, and who wants to go see a movie all by themselves? But I believe that some films must be seen on the big screen to be fully appreciated (like the Star Wars films, or 300, etc.) so I will suck it up and go. I like to arrive early so that I can sit in my favorite spot (in stadium seating, top row, dead center) and I don’t miss any previews. So, during the 10-15 minutes of uncomfortable dead time, I read. It makes the wait go by faster and I don’t obsess about whether or not people are staring at me and wondering why I am there alone. And, if you are stuck at a red light that seems to take forever? Whip out your book and read one sentence -I guarantee the light will change; this also works for slow moving drive-thrus. The other reason I like paperbacks is that I refuse to pay $25 for a hardback. Unless it’s something I know I will treasure and want to keep forever.

In these…let’s say challenging…economic times, I have found myself returning to the library more often. I can check out armfuls of hardback books for free. I love to go onto my favorite bookstore site (Powell Books in Portland, OR) to snuffle around and see what books are out there that I might like. When I find something, I flip over to my local library’s website and open the catalog to search for it. If they have it, I make a note of the call numbers and when I have a few on my list, I make a library run. It’s been great – I had forgotten how great. If I hate a book, I can just return it. No questions, no refunds, no problem. I can check out whole collections of a single author’s work and read them back to back in order. I can check out cookbooks and copy just the recipes I like instead of buying an entire book with 892 recipes that I hate and will never make. Sometimes doing that will lead me to a different book by the same person that I will purchase for permanent residence on my cookbook shelf. Sometimes I will preview a book this way, and if I like it enough I will go out and buy my own copy.

Love your local library. If you haven’t been there in a while, check it out (no pun intended). Turn your kids onto the miracle of reading. It’s not just for billboards and menus these days.