Saturday, March 31, 2012

Yardwork is for the Birds!

My friend, Mike, of Early Bird Home Services,got here about 9 this morning and we worked until 5, digging, raking, hauling, planting, toting, barging, something or other all day long. It was exhausting, and I don't know how he does it. We (and when I say we, I really mean he) dug up weeds and planted flowers. We cut down grass that towered well over 8 feet in the air (yes, really). It's a good thing he was there, because I am not a gardener and I don't know a weed from a pansy.  The only time during the entire day when I knew what I was doing was when I left to go buy lunch at Chik-Fil-A.

We didn't quite finish today because it wasn't going as quickly as we had hoped. I tried to bring in extra help, but didn't have any luck.  Poor Mike was stuck with just me to keep him company. Luckily, I may not know what I'm doing, but I work cheap.

I'm really glad I had Mike's help with the yard and garden and it is going to be so much prettier out there when it's done. I won't be able to stand up straight to see it, but I'm sure it will be lovely.  Thanks, Mike!

Friday, March 30, 2012

5 things I couldn't buy even if I won the lottery

With all of this talk about the 640 million jackpot on tonight's megamillion lottery, I have been thinking about all of the things I would want if I were to win. It's fun to imagine new homes, travel, cloned Harleys and so on. But then I started to think of all of the things I want that I couldn't have even if I won and I'm not sure it matters all that much. Here's my list.
  1. Another 50 years. I know, people are living longer and longer, and maybe I'll live to 100 and beyond, but odds aren't good. Even if I do, how healthy and strong will those years be. I want 50 full, active, healthy years. How many millions would it take to get me those? While we're at it, I don't want any of my loved ones to die and leave me behind, either.
  2. The love of my life. I'm comfortable as a single woman, but that doesn't mean I don't wonder sometimes what life would be like if the right guy came along. Sure, if I had millions, I would probably find a man. But how would I ever be sure he wanted me and not the money. At least now, if I found someone, I would be confident that he loved me for me, not for the balance in my bank account.
  3. Peace. I know it's a cliche, but you know what, I HATE war. I hate that people are killed and left maimed and starving. I hate that children are left without anyone to care for them. With enough money I could help alleviate the suffering, but as long as there is war, there is no end to the need. No amount of lottery winnings can fill that gap.
  4. Beauty. No amount of money would make me beautiful. I am not a good candidate for surgery so there's nothing a good plastic surgeon could do for me and the one thing that 100% of all lottery winners do is gain weight - something I really can't afford to do. Maybe I could hire physical trainers to whip me into shape and personal chefs to prepare healthy meals, but there's only so much that can be done with what God gave me.
  5. Happiness. Talk about cliches - money can't buy happiness, I know. But, it's a cliche for a reason. It's true. If you aren't happy in your circumstances now, you won't be happy as a megamillionaire. I am mostly happy now and I would be mostly happy if I won the lottery. But I would never be blissfully happy. I worry too much. I see things in shades of gray and I find the cloud behind the silver lining. It means that I don't look for money to make me happy, though, so that's a good thing. Not that I'd turn it down, because you never know.
So, that's my list. What about yours?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Time Travel

Try this. Go to Google Images. Type in the year of your birth. Nothing else. Hit Search. Take in a snapshot of the world as it was when you first arrived. When I tried it, I saw a world I didn't recognize. What's the saying? The past is a foreign country? Something like that. I was surprised to see that Elvis, the Beatles, Barbra Streisand and other entertainment icons were already famous when I was born. I had no idea. The cars look like rocket ships with all of the fins and fenders and the offices look so barren without computers. So, what does your year look like?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Paper Boys

Years ago, when Maverick was still with us and was about 9 years old, I taught him to fetch the paper from the top of the driveway. It wasn't too hard, since he loved to play fetch, but it wasn't easy either. It took 2-3 weeks for him to get the idea that he was supposed to get the paper without someone throwing it for him first. Even then, he was never all that reliable about it. Still, it was fun for him and we kept doing it for a while until my Dad came back from Iraq and took over the job.

Yesterday, I noticed that my parents' paper was at the top of their driveway and I suddenly remembered back to when Maverick used to bring in the paper. I called Harley to me and sent him to get the paper. He's never been trained to fetch the paper, but he's always being sent to fetch stuff we've dropped... TiVo remotes, dropped water bottles, rolls of tape, stray bills, etc. He's pretty savvy about finding the one item among many that you want. I don't know how he does it, but he gets it right on the first try more than half the time.

This time, he trotted to the top of the hill and looked around, but couldn't figure out what I wanted. So, I walked up closer. As soon as I got within six feet of the newspaper, and he could clearly see where I was pointing, he grabbed the paper and trotted towards me.

I expected him to bring it to me and demand his usual payment, a dog treat, but he kept going. He headed right for the front door where he waited patiently for me to unlock it. Then he carried it into the house and dropped it only when he got to the back of the couch. By this point I was encouraging him to take it to Grandmom, which is a command he's familiar with. He got really close, too. I think he would have made it, but he got distracted by the other dogs jumping on him.

Harley did this as if it were as natural as breathing. Something that took Maverick weeks to learn, and Maverick was not a stupid dog, Harley just did without being taught. You know what? It doesn't surprise me at all. It's just the kind of thing he does.

I told him this morning that we would play laser tonight. He was waiting for me tonight, twice as excited as usual. I don't think he remembered, but with him it's hard to be sure. However, when we left my mom's house, I told him we would play laser when we got home. I know he remembered that, because the instant we got in the house, he ran downstairs and headed for the cabinet where I store it and was staring at the drawer when I came down behind him.

I'm telling you, he's an alien in a dog's body. A really, really cute alien. Who likes lasers.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Do it Yourself

Mom and Dad are doing some home improvement projects to go along with the new floors. That includes a couple of pieces of furniture from Ikea. Dad hates putting them together, and Mom isn't all that fond of them, but I love it. To me, it's like a giant, 3-D jigsaw puzzle. So, anything that comes in a flat box is left for me to play with.

Tonight we started with a chair and a matching ottoman. That went together pretty fast once Mom figured out which way the arms/legs attached to the seat. I would still be turning it around and around. It just didn't make sense to me. The dogs helped by playing underfoot and barking at the neighbors when they walked threateningly down their own driveway. In the meantime, Dad carried in parts for the next project and Mom and I finished up the chair.

The other piece was an island to replace the old, broken kitchen table. This is going to give Mom a lot more storage with three drawers while taking up a lot less floor space. It also has the advantage of not being broken. We didn't finish this one since it was getting late. It's pretty complicated, so I took the time to separate all of the screws and other fiddly bits into plastic bags and labeled them so we could find them when we needed them. Then we assembled the body and left the glue to dry overnight. Tomorrow, Mom will add wheels from the hardware store and we'll put the drawers together tomorrow night. I'll try to get a picture of the finished piece when we're done. Now I have Facebook games to rush through before bedtime. I have about 12 minutes, so I'd better hurry!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Good to be Bad

I like video games. I especially like roleplaying games that let you decide how to play the game. Games like Fable and Dragon Age are fun because you choose who your character turns out to be by the end of the game. Almost always in these games I choose the light side. I wear a halo in Fable, everyone in Dragon Age loves me. I never kill innocents. I don't steal from good guys. I only kick an occasional chicken. In other words, I'm almost as saintly as I am in real life.

Every once in a while, however, I just have to be bad. Since I'm not fond of jail and I don't have any chickens handy, I usually pull out a game that lets me get as mean as I want to be.

One of my favorites is Age of Empires III. In it you play the part of a European settler, conquering the new world via colonization. If you play by the rules, it's a complex game of time and resource management that is both engrossing and instructive. It's a little like Civilization, only less time-consuming and quicker paced.

If you don't play by the rules, and you find the cheat codes, you can summon giant, red trucks that run over everything in their paths, leaving destruction in their wake. I find great satisfaction in letting the other, competing colonies build up to overwhelming levels and then smashing them into oblivion. On a particularly bad day I can do this for hours.

Another game that works when I'm in this kind of mood is Dungeon Keeper 2. In it, you are the evil Dungeon Keeper, ordering your minions to carve out new dungeons and sending them to fight the good guys. If your minions don't work hard enough, you can slap them around. You can slap the chickens, too. For some reason, game designers don't like chickens much.

The humor in this game is dark, but very funny, and it's a great stress reliever.

Tonight I just got a new game called Dungeons that looks like it might be a successor to Dungeon Keeper 2. I'm hoping it will be just as much fun and also work just as well as at relieving stress. I'll let you know.

Sometimes it's just good to be bad.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Arguing

I have a good friend at work that some of you may know. I call him Billbur, and he's a fellow rennie and a lot of fun.

Yesterday we were talking and the subject came around, by accident, to the X-Files. He asked me if I was a fan and I said that I wasn't, but I had been a big fan of Kolchak, the show that inspired the X-Files. A few more minutes of discussion led to an argument about the name of the series that starred Darren McGavin as Kolchak, an intrepid newsman who investigated the paranormal. I said it was Kolchak: the Night Stalker. He swore it was The Night Stalker, no Kolchak. I kept insisting that I was right, even specifying the colon in the name. Finally, he looked on Google, and guess who was right.

I tried to explain to him that I don't argue about facts unless I know I'm right. I've had this discussion before, and am usually misunderstood. It's not that I think I'm always right. In fact, the opposite is true. My memory is so bad, that I am usually unsure of my facts, so I won't argue about dates, names or trivia because I assume I'm remembering wrong. The only way I will insist that I'm right is if I KNOW I am right. In this case, I had just watched the show on DVD and could picture the DVD case in my hand. Besides, it's a family favorite, and we've called it Kolchak: the Night Stalker since the 70s.

The only reason I bring this up is because I was thinking about writing a review about The Hunger Games. I liked the book fine and the movie was enjoyable, but I wouldn't say it was my favorite and I saw quite a few flaws in both. Here's the thing, though... if we were together in person, I would love to discuss my opinion with you and listen to yours. We could talk for hours about what you did or didn't like and what I did or didn't like and where we agreed and didn't agree. We could even argue about it, and I would not have to be right. I just don't want to do it here, where it's all so one-sided.

I guess it's easier for me to argue facts than opinions. For who is to say that I'm right and you are wrong? You might see merits in a book that I miss or it might strike a chord with you where it didn't with me. So, I'll just say (this time at least) that it was pretty good, and leave it at that.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Five things I want to do this weekend and can't

I don't know how my weekend is going to go, but for now it looks like I'm going to be pretty busy. Mom's floor is getting replaced and we are going to do some shopping for more home improvement stuff for her house. Somewhere in there I hope to see The Hunger Games, but I doubt I'll have a lot of time for much else. That doesn't mean I can't dream, though. So, here (in no particular order) is a list of things I want to do this weekend and can't.

1) Fly to Europe. I haven't been back to Europe since I moved away in the 80s. It's changed so much and it might be a huge disappointment to see it as it is now, but I don't care. I want to smell the smells, taste the tastes and see the sights again. I wouldn't be able to see all of Europe in a weekend, so I'd limit my trip to Munich. It's a beautiful time to go back, too, with temperatures in the 60s during the day and the 30s at night. Mmmm... I want Wiener Schnitzel and Spaetzle!

2) Sleep, read and sleep some more. I just can't seem to get caught up on my sleep. I'm on new meds for migraines and muscle relaxants for my neck so you'd think I'd be snoring all night. Instead I barely sleep and I'm dragging all day. I would love to just curl up in bed with the dogs and a book and read and sleep until Monday.

3) Go to the beach. It doesn't have to be a fancy beach with hot water or anything. I'd settle for taking the dogs to the dog beach at Quiet Waters. Harley likes the smells and Scooter goes crazy for the water. I don't know how Pixie would react, she's never been to the beach. She'll probably pee a lot, but that's par for the course with her. Unfortunately, it's supposed to rain most of the weekend.

4) Cheat on my diet. I am up a few pounds so this is a terrible idea, but I would love to have a peanut butter cup sundae from Bruster's. A banana split sounds good about now, too. I just realized this is the second food-related wish on this list. Maybe I should go eat something?

5) Lock myself in my craft room and play all day. I know I do this all the time, but it still consistently makes my top 5 preferred activities. Maybe someday it will drop down the list, but for now it's right up there.

I don't know how it will turn out, but I hope to find something fun to do this weekend. How about you? Do you have any fun plans? Want some company?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

5 things you might know about me that I wish you didn't

When I first got on the internet, I loved the anonymity. I could be anyone I wanted to be and I took full advantage of that, and I was hardly alone. Things have changed, and now it's next to impossible to hide behind a cryptic username or anonymous email. Employers are asking for Facebook passwords during interviews. Singles are Googling prospective partners before the first date. Angry exes can find out more about you online than Sam Spade ever could.

All of which makes me a little nervous and it inspired this post. A couple of weeks ago I listed 10 things you might not know about me. Today I want to talk about the things you might know about me that I wish you didn't.

1) I have more dogs than friends. I care more about my dogs than I do about most people, in fact, I would rather spend an afternoon with my dog and a book than with the most fascinating person I know. I worry that you might think I don't care about you and am not a good friend, sister or daughter. It's not that you aren't important to me. It's just that it's impossible not to love Harley, Scooter and Pixie more. Have you met Harley? If you had, you'd understand.

2) I am not a supermodel. In fact, I would be more at home on the Biggest Loser than on America's Next Top Model. I prefer chocolate cake over broccoli and my idea of exercise is anything that doesn't involve sleeping. I worry that you might think I'm lazy and gluttonous. Ok, maybe I am, a little, but there are worse things. I don't smoke, drink or do drugs and I am healthier than I have any right to be. Plus, I'm working on my health and I'm improving all the time.

3) I spend more money on craft supplies than I should and I could easily start my own small craft store without the need to buy any stock. It's taken me 10-20 years to collect it all and I don't buy more than I can afford, but I do have more than I really need. I worry that you might think I'm a hoarder. Which I'm not. Really.

4) I'm not young. I am not old, but I'm definitely not young. I can't remember where I was when Kennedy was shot, but I was alive when it happened, even if just barely. I can remember wondering if the Vietnam war would ever end. I can remember black and white TV. I can remember when low-risers and bell-bottoms were the height of fashion. I have used the phrase, "Kids these days" more than once, and not ironically. This worries me because you might think I'm no longer sharp enough to do my job or take care of myself. I am and I can.

5) I'm a big kid at heart. I love comic books and yo-yos. I love to dress up and go to Ren Fest, not to drink, but to watch the jugglers. My desk drawer is full of juggling balls, rubik's cubes, rubber ducks and a USB-powered missile launcher. I worry that you might think that this means I'm not professional or able to conduct myself with dignity. I actually am very professional and good at my job and I'm always careful to put the toys down before shaking a customer's hand. Just remember, I'm a programmer, not an accountant.

There you have it. My dirty little secrets that aren't at all secret. How do you like me now?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cracks in the Windshield

A rock hit my windshield this morning on the way to work. It must have been a big rock because it caused a one-inch hole with cracks webbing out as much as 6 inches around it. I called the insurance company even before I got to work and it's going to be replaced this afternoon. Other than being out the deductible, it's not a huge deal, even if it was startling and a little scary when it happened.

I took a picture of the crack from the inside to show my friends and family what had happened. The damage looks darned impressive, with the cracks spreading and circling as if a new species of spider had learned to form a web from spun glass and decided to practice on my car. I couldn't wait to get to work to get a picture of the damage from the outside, too.
Funny thing is, from the outside you can't see much. There's a smallish, white mark in the glass that you would never notice unless you were looking for it. There is no sign of the damage spreading like a disease from the impact site. The weakness and fragility of the glass is completely hidden from view.

It got me to thinking about perspective. How many times does something happen that devastates you while those around you can't see it? For me, it was the loss of a pet rat. Everyone looking in from the outside just sees that a rat died. A filthy, ugly rodent, who could possibly care, right? But from my side of the glass he was a beloved pet who came running for love and treats and liked to have his tiny ears rubbed and his tummy tickled.

Maybe for you it's the unkind words someone said to you when you screwed up at work. To them it was forgotten almost as soon as it was said, but you can't stop obsessing about it and now you doubt your own abilities and judgment.

Life is always coming at you. Most of the time, the pebbles and rocks bounce off and you hardly notice. Then there are times when something hits hard and you peer out at the world through frail glass, wondering if your protections will hold or if you are going to be exposed to further attack. Meanwhile, those around you have no idea how vulnerable you are.

That's when you need to rally your defenses. Talk to people who love you, who can help you put your shields back together. Get some time to repair and rebuild. Pray. Whatever it takes to patch the damage and be ready for the next blow.

And remember, you aren't the only one with invisible damage and hidden frailties. Be kind. You never know who is peering out through webbed glass.

I guess you could always replace your defenses with something more substantial… concrete, steel, titanium. Stop caring about others. Isolate yourself and grow hard and cynical. You would be safer and less vulnerable.

But as fragile as glass is, it has one advantage that the others don't have. You can see and be seen. You are part of the world, not walled off from it. Because there is a lot of beauty in life and a lot of joy, and to see and participate in that joy, you have to be open to the pain as well. And it's worth it.

That's a lot of philosophy out of a drive to work. I promise I'll get back to talking about my dogs and crafts soon. By the way, did I tell you what Harley did yesterday…

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Wrong Way to Eat Spaghetti

Years ago, right after I moved out on my own for the first time, I remember watching a fairly forgettable sitcom, The Torkelsons. The show was about a single mom raising a family of five kids on her own.

In one episode, her aunt comes to visit and asks her. "What is the wrong way to eat spaghetti." I don't remember much about the rest of the story, but I think the mom in the show was jealous of the carefree life her aunt had lived. However, at the end of the episode, the aunt answers her own question. The wrong way to eat spaghetti is alone.

This resonated with me at the time, trying to get used to living all by myself, with no family to fight with, play with, or just hang out with. I finally adjusted and even grew to appreciate living on my own.

After more than a decade, my brother lived with me for about a year before his marriage and it was hard to let him go. A couple of years later, Maria moved in and within a year, we moved here to Maryland and we lived with my parents.

Now I'm on my own again, and there are things about it that I love. I enjoy my privacy and freedom to choose how to spend my leisure time. I really love having the space for all of my stuff and the time to play with it. I couldn't have Pixie if I weren't in my own home, and crazy as she is, she's still charming and loveable. I'm happy to be on my own again in so many ways.

But then again, long Sunday afternoons can get so lonely. Fostering or adopting would fix that, but is that reason enough to make such a huge change in my life and risk letting the child or children down? I'm not sure.

I just keep thinking, do I want to eat spaghetti alone for the rest of my life?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Relay for Life Yard Sale

Mom and I hit our favorite yard sale again today. The people just down the street put on a yard sale every few months to benefit Relay for Life. They put a ton of work into it. They get thousands of donations and they have to store everything that doesn't sell in their home between sales. I am on their email list so I get notified when one is coming up and I make a point to stop by. There is always plenty to see and it's in support of a good cause. The bargains are good, too.

Last year I got a beautiful, oval table and a full set of chairs for $50. This time we bought yet another bookcase, a couple of folding screens to use as headboards, a small cabinet with drawers, an easel, and some smaller odds and ends.

If you're in our area and like to shop and help a good cause, they will be doing this again next month. I think it's April 14, but I'll find out for sure and let you know.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Blog Topics

Since I started blogging again, it has come to my attention that blogs are supposed to be about something. Rather than just rambling along about my (probably) boring life, I'm told I should pick something I'm interested in or have some expertise with and center my blog about that. With that in mind, I thought I would consider some topics for my blog.

Rat Terriers


Pros: This is an obvious one. Everyone knows how much I love dogs in general and Rat Terriers in specific. I literally can't imagine my life without my Ratties, because the idea is too horrific to bear. I do have some expertise in the subject, too. I have an obedience background, having volunteered as an instructor for 5 years for a no-kill animal shelter in Las Vegas. I took Comparative Psychology in college and have read many books on animal psychology over the years. I am fascinated by our relationships with dogs and how they impact our lives. I have done some research on Rat Terriers and could tell you some funny details not everyone knows about their history.

Cons: Ratties are a rare breed and most of you will never have the honor of having one in your life. I don't want anyone to feel bad about owning an inferior breed nor do I want to turn off any cat- rat- fish- or bird-owners out there by constantly talking about dogs.

Programming


Pros: I do this for a living, and it would probably be good for my career to set myself up as an expert of some kind. I am really good at what I do and I have taught others how to program for the web. I enjoy teaching and think I'm pretty good at it. I know that writing about work would give me even more incentive to research and implement better practices, which could make me even better at what I do.

Cons: As much as I love teaching, I hate writing instructions. I feel like there are too many voices on the web telling everyone else the "right" way to design and program for the web for mine to ever be heard. Most of my friends and family could not be more bored than they are when I start talking shop, and I just wouldn't want that.

Books


Pros: The only thing that rivals my love for dogs is my love for books. As I've mentioned before, I own a ton of them, and I've read even more than I own. Reading is my favorite leisure activity and the main reason behind any small successes I have had in school, work and life. I could talk for days about the books I love, the books I hate and the ones in between. I could talk about my attempts at writing, such as they are. I could even tell you what books you have to read and ask you for recommendations.

Cons: There is a site for this. It's called GoodReads.com. Check it out sometime.

Dieting


Pros: I've had a little success with the South Beach Diet and I know a lot about how to lose weight safely and healthily. This topic is on my mind often, either because I'm losing weight or gaining weight or somewhere in-between. I've got lots of advice to share and would love to be an "inspiration" to others. Assuming I ever lose the weight and keep it off, of course.

Cons: I have had too many failures with this to ever set myself up as an example. I don't want to discuss my weight struggles every day. It's too depressing.

Crafts


Pros: I do a LOT of crafts. I used to run the craft department of a fabric store in Las Vegas. I even took advanced stitchery in High School. (It was California, they didn't have basket-weaving that year.) I have plenty of personal examples to share and I always get a kick out of showing them off. I not only do the more ordinary crafts like scrapbooking and card-making, but offbeat stuff like making paper and hand-spinning.

Cons: I would rather do crafts than talk about them. There's just not that much you can say about scrapbooking that isn't already being said by thousands of crafty moms.

Do you see the problem? I have too many interests. How could I choose one and ignore the rest? When and where would I talk about all of the miscellaneous happenings if I did a topic-focused blog. Harley is smart, but he has nothing to do with programming. Healthy eating is important, but what does it have to do with making paper? Then there are the other interests in my life - music, Disney, decorating, juggling sticks, Ren Fest, comedy, theater, movies, and so on.

Call it lack of focus if you wish, but I prefer to think of myself as a renaissance woman. I would rather talk about everything and nothing than one thing.

Hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Crazed Old Navy Shopper

Mom and I went shopping tonight, just for something to do.  We ended up at Old Navy and she found a couple of items she wanted to try.  They had to let us into the dressing room, and since I had nothing to try on, but wanted to see how her stuff looked, I went in to keep her company.  When she realized that she wanted to try on something we hadn't brought in, I went out to get it for her.

On the way out, I closed the door behind me. One of three or four women waiting for a dressing room commented to her friend, "She could have just left the door open," and muttered something else that I missed.

I was in a hurry and a little annoyed at hearing this, so I just said over my shoulder as I walked away, "There's someone else still in there, that's why I closed the door." I wanted to add something like, "I didn't think you wanted to share with my mom," but I refrained because I didn't want to cause an incident.

When I got back to the dressing room with Mom's skirt, I told her about the dumb biddy (I may have used another word starting with b, I can't be sure) who was mad because I didn't leave the door open for her.  As far as I was concerned, that was the end of it. A rude and impatient woman makes a snide comment, I explain a little abruptly and that's it. Boy was I wrong.

We got up to the register and a woman about my age comes storming up wanting to know what name I called her mother. I had no idea which of the women had made the comment, so I had no idea who she was, and I hadn't called anyone any name, so I was taken aback. I did call her a name, to my mom, in a private conversation, and not loudly. A lot less loudly than the original comment I had responded to earlier.

I denied calling her mother a name only to be informed that this was her MOTHER and she wouldn't lie. So, Mom stepped in and said that I was her DAUGHTER and she should back off. This did nothing to defuse the situation since the woman just told her that being a senior citizen wouldn't protect her, etc. I told Mom to ignore her and turned my back on them. 

The entire time we were checking out, this idiot ranted and raved about the insult and told her mother (the one who would never lie, remember) that they should call the cops and tell them that I threatened her and get me thrown in jail.  It was insane.  We just ignored them, which just made her madder, but we left the store and headed down the street to a shoe store and they didn't follow us.

I have no idea what she was smoking to make her so nuts, but it was an interesting experience. I can only assume she was in the mood to pick a fight and I happened to get in her crosshairs. I'm just glad she wasn't crazy enough to pull a gun. 

There is nothing more dangerous than stupidity, unless it's stupidity  with a gun.  Thank goodness this didn't go that far.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Foster/Adoption - Next Steps

The informational meeting for prospective foster/adoptive parents was tonight and now I have to figure out how soon I want to start the process. I have some stuff I need to do around the house and a few other things I need to get ready before the home study. Here is my to-do list...

The application. It's only four pages long and much of it doesn't apply to me since I have no spouse or children. I have to find three local references, which is tough since I mostly associate just with coworkers. It's hard to get close enough to people during work to have them vouch for you. I'll figure something out, somehow. The rest of it is pretty routine. Current and previous addresses and employers, education, family background, health, etc. There are a couple of specific questions about my history with children in general and fostering in particular as well as preferences about the children I will be caring for.

Medical Info Form. I have to take this in to the doctor and have him verify that I'm in general good health and not suffering with TB. It also asks some specific questions about mental health and fertility. I'm a little worried about this part. What if they figure out I'm crazy?

Financial Statement. This is mostly to make sure you can pay your bills and take care of the child. As they said tonight, even though you do get a stipend to help cover costs, it's not as if they show up with the child on one hand and a check in the other. They just want to make sure that you have enough resources to manage. I should be fine with this part.

Pet Information. They only gave me enough spaces for two pets. Should I be worried? They ask if the pet is good with children. Harley loves our neighbor's kids and has gotten along well with every child who has been around long enough for him to get to know. Scooter loves everyone and Pixie will be terrified for a day or two and then she'll fall in love and won't want to leave them alone. At least, that's what has happened before. My biggest concern is the initial barking and fuss they make when someone first enters the home. They are a little rude about that. I need to work on it.

Consent Forms. These just give the MVA and other agencies permission to release your records to Social Services. I have absolutely no problem with that. Other than a couple of traffic tickets, I have nothing to hide.

Disclosure Form. This just says that I've never been charged with any form of child abuse, endangerment, drugs, etc. No problem, I'm not that kind of gal.

Checklist. Just some things to take care of before the initial inspection:
  • Handrails on staircases with 3 or more steps. Check
  • Balcony, porch, etc. over 4 feet must have a rail. Check
  • All toxins out of reach. Check
  • No loaded guns. Check
  • Sleeping places - 50 sq ft per child if sharing a room or 70 sq ft per room if not sharing. That might be a problem because the "girls' room" is only about 95 sq ft. I can move things around and put them in the library and shift the books to the pink room instead, if necessary.
  • Drinkable water supply. Check
  • Pets must have current rabies shots. Check
  • Working refrigerator. Check
  • House must be clean and safe. Does mostly clean count?
27-hour training. I can start this in May. It's a once weekly meeting for eight weeks.

CPR Certification. I will have to find a class for this.

Fire Inspection. I know I need to get smoke alarms for every floor and one for each bedroom. I also need a fire extinguisher for the kitchen. I might also need to do something with the maze of cords around my computer and TV. Other than that, I think I'm ok.

There is a lot to do and a lot to think about. I guess I need to figure out when I want a child in my home. Once I start this process, they are committed to approving or not approving me in 120 days. I need to be sure I'm ready to move forward before I submit my application.

I want to move forward, but I do have a few things I need to take care of first. Like figuring out if I'm really a good choice for a foster parent. What in the world am I thinking??

Monday, March 12, 2012

Too Much or Just Enough

Listening to a podcast today (Popstuff from How Stuff Works) the podcaster referred to herself as "super-literate" because she owned 800 books. I thought it was funny and mentioned it to a coworker, who agreed with the podcaster.

That surprised me. I have 200 books in this room alone, and it's a tiny fraction of my library. I haven't counted them, but I easily have over 2,000 books. That's even after I got rid of 1,000+ books when I moved out here from Las Vegas several years ago.

My coworker teased me about bragging, but I don't see it that way, I just love books.

I pick up books everywhere I go. I buy them on vacation. I get them at thrift stores. I haunt used bookstores. I pick up strays and they have little paperbacks. I get them for Christmas and Birthday presents.

I don't shop at malls that don't have a bookstore, what would be the point? I buy used library books. As for Amazon, we're best friends. There are even a few e-books on my Nook tablet, though not many since I prefer the real thing.

I will always have more books than I have time to read, that's kind of the point, isn't it? To make sure I never run out of something new to read.

Tonight I took the dogs on a walk. All three of them walk on one leash, with a splitter joining them together. Across the street I saw a woman walking with her two kids. The daughter pointed to my dogs and said "Look, that lady has three dogs. How can one lady take care of three dogs?"

Really? Three dogs is a lot? At one time I had five dogs, a pack of cats, two or three birds and a rabbit. That was too many. But three dogs is just right.

I can play with one while the other two play together. I have one dog to warm my feet, one for my knees and one for my chest. That's an important consideration when you sleep in a room that hovers just above freezing. It means one for my lap and one for each arm.

Mostly, it means I get to have Harley and Scooter and Pixie. I can't imagine life without all three.

After our walk I checked the mail and found the two new bumper stickers I ordered last week (from Amazon, of course.) As I performed a Tinkectomy to remove one that was peeling, I thought about an article I read about deal breakers. You know, those habits or quirks a potential mate might have that you just couldn't live with. The author mentioned that if a girl had a bumper sticker on her car, that would be a deal breaker for him. It would be a sign of immaturity or exhibitionism.

One bumper sticker? I have half a dozen Tink stickers and a couple Rat Terrier stickers in my windows and on the bumper. According to his logic, I'm very immature (not really in doubt, is it) or I'm ready to go on tour. Either way, I'm fine with that. I enjoy my Tink Terra, even if I do wish it were a MuppeTerra instead.

I don't like to blend in and I don't care much about what other people think. If I have too many books, dogs or bumper stickers for the rest of the world, that's ok with me. I like things the way they are. Except, there are some books I have been meaning to order and there is at least one more Tink sticker on the way. As for dogs, I'm good. For now.

P.S. Don't even get me started on craft supplies.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lazy Days of Winter?

I know it's just the last couple of days of winter, but it's too soon for the weather to be this beautiful, isn't it?

The day was so nice that I spent a couple of hours out on my hammock, finishing The Hunger Games. It's not that I'm complaining, but I hate to see winter end when we've not really had any winter weather. If this isn't the mildest winter we've had in the last 8 years, it's close to it. I started to think I was back in Las Vegas.

I took a tour of my garden, and I have tulips and other, unidentified bulbs coming up everywhere. I planted them so late last year that I thought of it more as a burial than a planting, but they survived and are coming up strong. The fruit trees are budding, too, there's even a flower on one of them.

I hope that this mild winter doesn't mean a hot summer is coming. I'll do my best to enjoy what we've got right now and try not to worry about what is on its way.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Home Improvements

Mom is having new floors put into her home, which is exciting and fun... and a whole lot of work! She's been slaving away for a couple of weeks, boxing up knick-knacks and china, moving furniture, hauling stuff out to the deck or down to the basement. I've helped here and there, but it's mostly fallen on her shoulders. Dad helped some, but he just had some outpatient surgery and can't lift anything over 10 pounds. It's frustrating for Mom to do it alone, but almost as hard on Dad to have to watch and not be able to help.

I used to be really poor, and I would watch shows like Trading Spaces and dream of having a home of my own and the funds to improve and upgrade that home. What I have learned is that having enough cash for the work to be done isn't enough. You have to have the energy to get it all done.

I suppose there is a level of income where you just write a check and then go on vacation for a couple of months while everything gets taken care of for you. But, how many of us ever can hope to reach those heights? For the rest of us, having it all means doing it all (or most of it) ourselves.

Of course, it's not just the floors. Mom's got some other tasks lined up, along with the plumbers, electricians and and builders to help her with them.

We'll get through this and my parents will have beautiful hardwood floors and a much improved home, hopefully without any serious injury to my hardworking mom. It will take some time, but it will be worth it.

Then, just as we get theirs done... it will be time to start on mine.

Friday, March 9, 2012

John Carter of Mars

In about 1974 I made friends with a girl in my older sister's class. Her name was Lois Lew and we were nerds together until I moved to Munich at the end of 1975. She only had one sister while I had 3 sisters, 2 brothers and a cousin, so we always hung out at her house. We spent hours playing Rummy 500 and listening to Alan Sherman records while eating crackers with peanut butter. I told you... nerds.

What does this have to do with Disney's new movie, John Carter of Mars? It was Lois who handed me Tarzan of the Apes and said, "read this!" I did. Then I read the next and the next until I had raced through the 20+ novels in the Tarzan series. After rereading them a few times, Lois suggested I read the rest of Edgar Rice Burroughs' books. Which is how I came to read A Princess of Mars.

ERB's books are full of impossibly strong, agile and chivalrous men and beautiful, intelligent women. I loved every one of them. Tarzan would always be my favorite, but John Carter was a charmer and Mars was a fun place to visit.

No one has ever made a decent Tarzan movie, but - finally - someone has made a great ERB movie in John Carter of Mars.


The Disney movie sticks loosely (very loosely) to the mythology and storyline of the original books. Where they really get it right is in the heart of the characters and world.

In this version, John Carter encounters a stranger in a cave who tries to kill him. After shooting him in self defense, Carter bends to hear the stranger's dying words. As he does, he grasps a medallion in the man's hand and is transported to a a dusty plain. He discovers that he can jump great distances and has superhuman strength. Soon he encounters giant green beings with four arms and gets embroiled against his will in a war in defense of the princess, Dejah Thoris.

John Carter is played by the hunk from Friday Night Lights while Dejah is someone new to me. They fit the roles perfectly. The CGI was incredible, especially with the alien races. Disney made the technology very steampunk, not my favorite, but it worked here. Of course I loved the dog-like creature, he reminded me of Scooter.

I get why the critics didn't love it, but this kind of movie isn't made for critics. It's made for geeks/nerds like me and my mom and Lois, wherever she is. I hope it brings new fans to the original novels. I just hope that someone, someday, does as good a job with Tarzan as they did with John Carter. If they do, I'll be there.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Conflict

I hate conflict. I don't like being at odds with anyone, not even other drivers in traffic. It's not that I can't stand up for myself, I just don't want to have to. I expect people to be civilized and polite and relatively friendly.

It always throws me when someone is antagonistic or confrontational. It's not that I can't handle it; I can stand up for myself if I have to. I just don't understand why it's necessary so often.

I'm not saying, "Why can't we all just get along." It's only natural that we will disagree with each other. I just hate it when disagreements spiral down into personal attacks and bitterness.

Besides, if everyone would just agree with me, there would be no need for conflict.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

5 more things you might not know about me

Yesterday I gave you a list of five things you might not know about me and I promised you the rest of the list today. If you've been holding your breath in anticipation, now is the time to breathe as we explore the boring trivia exciting details of my life.

6) My favorite Disney character is not Tinker Bell even though my car is called the Tink Terra and is plastered inside and out with Tinker Bell accessories. The Tinking of my car began when I found a Tinker Bell trailer hitch cover. It amused me so much that, when I bought an X-Terra with a trailer hitch, it was the first accessory I bought.
The Tinker Bell seat covers, floor mats, steering wheel cover, bumper stickers, side sticker and personalized plate all came later. When I go for a joke, I go all out! My favorite Disney character has always been Winnie the Pooh, but for some reason they don't make many auto accessories with a Pooh theme. If I could do my car all over again and could find all of the accessories, it would have a Muppet theme, with the focus on Kermit. A MuppeTerra would be much better than a Tink Terra, don't you agree?

7) I love cold weather. I rarely wear a coat, until it gets well below 30 unless I have to be outside for a long time. I keep my house below 60 all winter and my bedroom window is almost never closed. I think I must have been a polar bear in another life. I love snow, especially if I'm able to go sledding. Living in Las Vegas for all of those years, I gathered a small snowman collection. I displayed it year-round to remind me that there was still snow and cold somewhere in the world even while I baked in the desert heat.

8) I was born in Las Vegas, but grew up military, so I've lived all over the US and in two places in Germany. My favorite place in the world is Munich, followed closely by Copenhagen. My bucket list consists of one thing... go back to Europe for at least a couple of weeks. When I was in my early 20s and my sister was in her teens we traveled around Europe by train with a Eurail pass. I would love to do that again.

9) I used to teach in daycare centers. I have changed more diapers than some moms and I know how to handle a roomful of 2-year-olds.

10) I know all of the words to most Alan Sherman and Smothers Brothers songs.

So, there ya go. Fascinating, wasn't it?