Monday, April 30, 2007
After more than a year back in the Midwest, we finally got around to inviting my ex-husband Rob over to spend a day with us, and really, my only complaint now is that I didn't do it a year sooner.
What a great day! He got here in the middle of the truck painting project (with pictures to follow...the batteries finally died in the digital camera) and settled in with a beer to watch, help, mock us and laugh. Katie, who hasn't seen her Dad in years, kept pulling me aside and saying, "He's just like us!" And I'd tell her "He is us!"
We didn't see him for all those years we were in Tucson, so we had some serious catching up to do. So we plied him with food and beer and settled in around a fire to visit. And luckily he's a story guy like we are, so we swapped stories until way too late, and then hugged the stuffing out of him and sent him home. At some point before he went home though, we had to generate some more firewood, which was conveniently available to a six-footer with a crowbar and a dead tree. And really...it takes a guy to come up with the idea of taking apart a tree with a crowbar.
As he was leaving Lori said, "You know, there's nothing we like better than trashing the exes. But Ev never has anything bad to say about you."
Well, and now I remember why: what a fun, funny, warmhearted, congenial guy. That was one of the most fun days I've had in a long time.
Maybe after I have more coffee I'll post more.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Our grass had reached about to my armpits...but I'm short, so it was still workable. Then my neighbor John burned up the bearings on his mower, and I finally caved in. I borrowed Katie's boyfriend's spiffy John Deere mower with the automatic transmission and the cupholders.
It was a little incongruous...pulling that beautiful new mower on John's crappy trailer with the rotten boards, pulled by my crappy eBay pickup, but I can handle a little inconsistancy in my life. I'm just that flexible. Ask anyone. Flexibility is my middle name.
But now...I'm in love with that powerful, shiny mower. It's like the Fabio of Mowers. If mowers could open the top three buttons on their grill, this one would do it. You can imagine it's hair, if it had hair, blowing gently back from it's manly, chiselled features. This mower would NOT get hit in the face with a goose. It'would deflect the goose with it's cupholder. It's just that clever.
I'm going to offer to trade Katie to him for the mower. Think of it as a dowry. She's young and strong and will make him a good wife. And I'll be able to mow the entire three acres in three hours. See? It's a win-win!
Afterwards, while I was still deaf from the mower anyway, I borrowed John's chainsaw and cut down an old tree that was dead and filled with carpenter ants. And that was fun...chainsaws are so butch...but I'm a little stove up today. In fact, I think maybe my hair is the only think that doesn't hurt this morning.
So...while I was tooling around on the ultra-fast John Deere, I was thinking maybe I could get a new one, and consider the other one a restoration project...a show piece, like antiques.
Damn that Dane. He's ruined my love affair with my old mower. He's turned me into a mower whore.
Friday, April 27, 2007
I drove the long way home tonight with the top down on my car, and somewhere between Crab Orchard Lake, along Spillway Drive, before I got deep into Giant City State Park and wound my way through the Shawnee Forest, it occurred to me that my current life very much resembles what I used to get to do only occasionally on great vacations.
All my adult life, I've sought the same things out when I needed to relax and recharge ... solitude, lush green landscapes, trees, bodies of water and driving along hilly winding roads with great music on the radio.
It used to require an airline ticket and a rental car to get to. Now it requires walking out my front door and turning the key in the ignition.
It used to be almost painful to find one of these places, because I could never stay. It was a vacation from my life ... a few days or a week of trying to soak it in and memorize the smells and the way the air felt and let the landscape burn itself onto my retinas so I could call it up as a great memory later.
In the year I've been here I've known that I love it, and I've known that it's pretty, and I've known that it feels more like home than anywhere I've ever been, but I guess I never had the exact realization that I'm living in a state of pretty much permanent vacation bliss. I can't understand why the whole damn world doesn't live here, but I'm exceedingly glad they don't. Don't get me wrong, world, but a large part of the charm here is that it hasn't been paved over, subdivided, franchised, pruned and trimmed to within an inch of it's life or overrun with civilization.
It's normal here for a 30-year-old mobile home to snuggle up next to a half-million-dollar showplace without anyone batting an eye. What you won't find are HOA's, CC&R's, planned and gated communities, stacked freeways, smog, bumper-to-bumper traffic, piles of trash along the side of the road, high rises, luxury condos or the "wrong side of the tracks."
Last summer I experienced having the vague notion that there was something I wasn't seeing here that I ought to be seeing, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Then, I realized what it was. Airplanes. I used to live in the flight path of Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. I doubt there was ever a fifteen minute period in thirty years when I couldn't look up and see at least two or three airliners in the sky. I haven't seen an airplane other than the rare crop duster in over a year. Today I realized the other thing I don't see here. Billboards. It's sort of amazing to me that I didn't notice that before.
So, it's not earthshaking or funny or thought-provoking, but that's what I felt like saying today. I love Southern Illinois, and you'd have to shoot me and drag me away to get me out of here.
A cloud of smoke came billowing out of the engine ... exactly like the cloud of smoke that came billowing out the last time it almost started ... and after re-dismantling it we saw that the new coil was cooked in exactly the same way as the old one. AHA! We're onto something! What we're onto is still a little mysterious, but we know now that it's another layer of electro-mechanics deeper than the coil ... so that's something.
Well ... maybe they weren't selling the last however many times someone asked ... but maybe they'd reconsider if just one more person put in an offer ... hmmm???
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
At this rate, in six weeks we'll have 4,400,000,000,000 crappy pickups, or 4.4 quintillion crappy pickups for you math scholars.
However, the downside to that is that I've got them both running pretty well, but they look...well, crappy. I checked into having them painted locally and found out that it would cost more than either of them are worth., because the auto body shops here have pride in their work.
And that's why I plan to sand and Bondo and primer them...starting tomorrow. If I can get them in reasonably good condition on the outside, I can take them to St. Louis get them an Earl Scheib paint job. ANY VEHICLE...ONLY $99! THAT'S RIGHT! ANY VEHICLE! ONLY $99! Earl doesn't have any standards at all. He'll put a crappy paint job on a crappy pickup and sleep like a baby at night, knowing that he's screwed another hundred customers out of $99 that day.
And really, that's all I'm looking for. Earl and I are totally on the same page with this.
I think this $300 eBay pickup truck hobby is beginning to wrap around to an obsession. After all, I still have more kids than I have crappy pickups, so my work here isn't done yet.
Bartender! Crappy pickups for all my friends! Wood project be damned. If I'm going to have 4.4 quintillion pickup trucks to work on, I'd better get moving!
*But the dog sure is cute, isn't she? And I'm going to put the hose away right after I water the plants, I swear.
What the hell was he asking for? We finally decided that it must be the Godzilla Mutation, which ought to be easy to ascertain visually due to the tendency to grow 50 feet tall with scaly skin.
However, the Godzilla Mutation would be preferable to the Mothra Mutation, since Godzilla usually comes out better in their epic battles.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Most of us know that Andy Rooney never spouted a racist, sexist diatribe on 60 Minutes. In fact, here is what Andy Rooney said in 2003 about the infamous "AMEN, ANDY ROONEY!" spam that seems to be making the rounds (yet again):
"Hundreds of people have written asking me if I really wrote the 20 detestable remarks made under my name that have had such wide circulation on the Internet.
Some of the remarks, which I will not repeat here, are viciously racist and the spirit of the whole thing is nasty, mean and totally inconsistent with my philosophy of life."
He goes on to say that the dissemination of this particularly nasty piece of crap has damaged his reputation and that if he could find the person who invented it, he'd sue them. I feel for him. It's apparent that he will never be free of this albatross. If the people who keep this thing going really admired Mr. Rooney so much, you'd think they'd a) realize it doesn't sound anything like him and b) stop making his life a living hell.
Ditto, George Carlin, who had nothing whatsoever to do with the strikingly similar e-mail attributed to him.
It never ceases to amaze me that there are so many gullible people in the world. But gullibility is one thing. What really irks me is the smirking, salivating, flag-waving, FORWARDING jerks who not only believe this crap but apparently agree with it enough to slap it into an e-mail and group-mail it to everyone whose screen name they're even vaguely familiar with.
Thus, the Rooney piece landed in my e-mail box this week, along with several other old Internet favorites, including that picture we've all received at some point from someone who thinks misogyny is a hoot, depicting a nude swimming woman who spouts water out of her ample bottom ... always titled "Save the Whales" or something equally heinous ... and some anti-immigration spam. I opened the mail because I vaguely recognized the sender's screen name from the AOL message boards, only to find that I had been included in a mass forwarding, along with many people I don't know from Adam. I deleted the e-mails, but was prompted to dash off the following "reply all":
Please, please, PLEASE .... PLEASE DO NOT send me any more Internet Spam. I don't want to receive forwarded flag-waving e-mail full of patriotic rhetoric and thinly veiled American White Supremacist jargon. How do I get off this e-mail list???????????????????????????????????
That was actually quite mild compared to what I really wanted to say, but it was apparently enough to set someone off. The following day I found this in my e-mail box, and dammit, it was just too good to keep to myself!
WELL, WHOMEVER THE HANG YOU ARE, I'VE NEVER HEARD OF YOU, YOU'RE NOT IN MY ADDY BOOK, YOUR NAME AND BIRTHDAY AREN'T REGISTERED THERE. SO - WHOMEVER YOU ARE YOU MUST HAVE MISTAKEN ME FOR SOMEONE ELSE or DID A REPLY ALL ICON UPON ONE OF THE PERSONS LISTED IN YOUR ADDY LINES [ \/ BELOW \/ ]. AND I FURTHERMORE DO NOT APPRECIATE YOUR INTRUSION UPON MY SCREEN.
IT IS NOT MY HABIT SINCE I LONG AGO LEARNED OF PEOPLE WHO DISLIKE FORWARDS. I ONLY SEND THOSE EXCEPTIONAL ONES ALONG THEIR WAY LIKE A RARE SPECIES OF TRANSPARENT-WINGED BETTERFLY DISCOVERED IN THE RAIN FORRESTS OF SOUTH AMERICA AND THEIR WINGS GLOW IN THE DARK SO THOSE VILE PERSONS DESTROYING OUR PRECIOUS RAIN FORRESTS CAN CORRECT THEIR ERRING WAYS TO PROTECT RATHER THAN DESTROY! OR ANOTHER RARITY WAS A RECENT PICTURE OF SUNSET AT THE NORTH POLE. IT'S SHAME TO THE HUMAN SPECIES THAT WE ARE DESTROYING THESE FORRESTS AT THE RATE OF ONE FOOTBALL SIZED PIECE OF PER SECOND, ENOUGH BABIES DIE IN THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES DIE AT THE SAME RATE when laid on such a SAME SIZED FIELD. AND GLOBAL WARMING IS MELTING BOTH NORTH AND SOUTH POLAR ICE CAPS. IT IS MY PRAYER THAT YOU UNDERSTAND THAT WE BOTH HAVE MORE PRESSING THINGS WITH WHICH WE COULD DEVOTE OUR TIME, EFFORTS AND THINKING AS OPPOSED TO SUCH CLISED-MINDED (MOST OBVIOUSLY) BIGGOTED PERSONS SUCH AS YOURSELF.
I AM MOST DEFINITELY A PRECIOUS SENSITIVE WITH IMPECCABLE CREDENTIALS, BOTH PERSONALLY AWA HIGHLY TRAINED AND CAPABLE PROFESSIONAL PRIOR TO A GRADE SIX TUMOR FORMING AND ATE UP THE RIGHT, FRONT TWO-THIRDS OF MY BRAIN.
FURTHERMORE, I DO NOT APPRECIATE YOUR SLANDEROUS REMARKS ENDING UP IN MY MAILBOX OBVIOUSLY GENERATED BY POSSIBLY A CLOSED-MINDED BIGOT WITH NO RESPECT AT ALL FOR THE FEELINGS OF SOMEONE SUCH AS MYSELF.
AND BESIDES ALL THESE THINGS, YOU WILL DISCOVER MY E-SIGNATURE BELOW THE TEXT OF THIS EMAIL FOR SIMPLE REASON IS I DON'T REALLY CARE IT SOMEONE KNOWS WHO I AM - AT FIRST ABOVE ALL THINGS ELSE OTHER THAN THESE I LOATHE DESPISE AND DETEST THOSE WHO HIDE BEHIND UNKNOWN, UNKNOWN, USELESS GENERIC USERNAMES. TALK ABOUT BEING PIST OFF, I AM - ROYALLY. "IF" AND I REPEAT "IF" IT MIGHT ENLIGHTEN THEE I WOULDN'T TAKE ANY MORE OF YOUR TIME ATTEMPTING TO EXPLAIN SUCH A THING TO SOMEONE SUCH AS YOU. WHY? BECAUSE I WOULD NEED LANGUAGE ON A BASE LEVEL AND IF I USED MY OWN IT WOULD BE FAR ABOVE YOUR HEAD AND MOST OBVIOUSLY YOUR LEVEL OF INTELLECT AND YOU'D NO DOUBT NEED USE OF A DICTIONARY (POSSIBLY) TO EVEN UNDERSTAND MY REPLY.
FURTHER COMMUNICATION WITH ME WILL BE REPORTED TO AOL AS SPAM.
I love the way she worked in the rare Transparent-Winged-Betterfly (sic), the Rain Forrest (sic), the image of the football field full of dead third world babies, the melting ice caps and the tumor that ate 2/3 of her brain, all while calling me a clised-minded biggot (sic) for asking not to be part of her forward-a-thon of hate speech, and suggesting that I might need a dictionary to understand her. Um. I don't think a dictionary would help.
And really, it's icing on the cake to threaten to report me for spamming.
Boy, was she pist (sic)!
As a relative newcomer to Southern Illinois, I’d like to take this opportunity to add my commentary on a few of the Things I Have Learned From Living in Southern Illinois.....
1. Possums sleep in the middle of the road with their feet in the air.
Raccoons sleep on the shoulder, grinning at you. Deer sleep sort of smeared between mile markers. The guy who drives his loud-ass motorcycle up Old 51 at 80 mph never sleeps.
2. Iced tea is appropriate for all meals and you start drinking it when you're two.
There are two varieties of tea. “Sweet”and “unsweet.” Sweet is better!
3. DJeet? is actually a phrase meaning "Did you eat?"
The correct response is, “No. Djew?”
4. You measure distance in minutes.
And I love that!
5. You've had to switch from "heat" to "A/C" in the same day.
Sometimes you have to run one in the living room and the other in the bedroom. Handily, you can do that since the heater sets on yer floor and the A/C hangs in yer winder.
6. "Fix" is a verb. Example: "I'm fixing to go to the store."
There are a variety of ways to pronounce that, none of them having an actual “ing” ending. So far I‘ve heard “finta” … "fidna" ... “fittna” … “fittin’ ta”… and “fixin’ta.” "Fixin' ta" is the fanciest.
7. All the festivals across the state are named after a fruit, vegetable, grain, insect or animal.
Except Makanda Fest. Which reminds me, Fest Season is almost upon us! Wooohoooo!
8. You install security lights on your house and garage and leave both unlocked.
That’s because they aren’t security lights. They’re the lights you use to see your way to the shed, or find the dawg when she’s outside. It’s DARK in Southern Illinois!
30. It's your God-given right to drive with a beer between your knees, and "Too drunk to walk" is a reasonable excuse for driving drunk.
Okay, I'd almost be willing to bet that Ev added that last one ... she's been telling me that for years. She also tells me it's a fine old tradition in Southern Illinois to park on the lawn “like the good Lord intended.”
Now, allow me to add a few other things I’ve personally learned from living in Southern Illinois:
1. The phrase “I don’t care to” means “I don’t mind” … NOT (as it means everywhere else) “I don’t want to.” So if your co-worker says “I don’t care to help you” or “I don’t care to pick up lunch for you,” she’s being friendly and cooperative … not a snotty bitch.
2. Don’t let that first heat wave in April fool you into planting anything. Just because it’s 80 degrees one week doesn’t mean it’s not going to snow the next week.
3. If you don’t have money for gas, the nice girl at the One Stop will let you fill up and pay for it later.
4. Everyone will think you’re crazy if you have indoor pets … especially cats.
5. There are three ways to get anywhere. If you think you’re lost, don’t panic … just keep going … you’ll eventually come out somewhere familiar, and it will often be within five miles of home.
6. Deer are not doe-eyed, innocent, Bambi-like creatures. They are suicidal maniacs hell-bent on taking you out with them. As the guy at the body shop explained when he was writing up the estimate to replace half of Ev’s SUV, “You know why they stand on the shoulder, don’t you? They’re car shopping.”
Monday, April 23, 2007
Saturday, April 21, 2007
I drive through a small town on my way home from the hospital at 11 o'clock each night. The main drag has a popular storefront bar with parking across the road, and after 10 or 15 beers, the rules of careful road crossing get a little vague for the patrons.
And I know this. This is NOT my first Saturday night driving past Fuzzy's Bar, so I'm careful. But tonight's drunk was sort of deceptive. She looked like she was making good progress across the street towards the bar...until she fell to one knee in front of my truck.
Lucky for her one of us was sober, because after standing on my brakes and making a satisfyingly scary squealing noise that I hope will haunt her dreams tonight, I managed to stop before my bumper made contact with her skull...not that she'd have actually felt it. But I would have had to spend half the night filling out forms at the County Sheriff's office and probably wouldn't have gotten home in time for coconut cream pie.
So, I'm once again struck by my sainthood. Not only did I save the lives of all the poor innocents in the ER, but I saved the nice intoxicated woman laying down to rest in the road.
St. Evie of the Lab. I wonder if I can get an icon of that? Maybe a beatific woman holding a serial pipetter in one hand and a piece of pie in the other?
I know this, because the commercial for Cialis tells me it can happen to anyone. I'm someone, and I've never been able to generate an erection, ergo...E.D.
I've also determined that I have Autism, ADHD, Feline Leukemia, and the Heartbreak of Psoriasis. I have social anxiety, thinning bones, and the inability to produce red cells from my cancer treatment. That's the great thing about pharmaceutical companies...they're willing to diagnose us via TV, and urge us to "ask our doctor."
But my doctor is much too conservative. He won't give me the uppers and downers and side-to-siders required for my debilitating conditions. Therefore I have to seek solace in beer, power tools, and cheap women.
Luckily, that's working for me so far. But when the feline leukemia flares up, I'm really going to need the erythropoitin.
If the average person has X units of attention in their attention reservoir, the way they choose to divide it has a characteristic look to it at certain times of their life.
Say that we each have 100 units of attention. During the early parenting years, 95 of them are spent on kids, 5 spent on spouse, none spent on ourselves. Later, as the kids get older, 50 of them are spent on kids, 30 are spent on spouse, and 20 are tentatively spent on ourselves...but we feel guilty the whole time.
So finally the kids are grown. Suddenly your daily allotment of attention units are up for grabs, and it becomes a little mini-crisis to decide how to use them. Suddenly free will has come back into your life...and you freak out.
Which is why, in your mid '40s, you decide that you need to put in a half acre garden and become a combination of Bob Villa and a New York Times book reviewer. Because the precious commodity of attention units are languishing unused on your mental shelf, and you're afraid that if you don't take them down and exercise them, they'll go the way of all your other unexercised parts.
Balance. That's the objective. Write that down, Lori.
Friday, April 20, 2007
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Almost immediately, my neighbor came over to tell me I should be making them by the hundreds and selling them. Okay...c'mon. They're comfortable and nice looking, but they're adirondack chairs. You make them with lumber, decking screws and a circular saw. This is not fine woodworking.
Had I known at the time that this would be my last wood project for a year, however, I might have taken some extra time to make a dozen more and at least get something accomplished. Because at this point, the only thing I've done with wood in the last year is gather it up from the yard and set it on fire.
So next week I have a five day weekend, and I'm hungering for a nice productive wood project. I think I may have to actually schedule recreational activities into my long weekend so I don't let it slip away.
I want to start a wood project...and I don't have a clue yet what that will be. Also, I'd like to till up a patch of the yard for an actual garden this year, and not just the tomato patch in front of the porch like last year. And lastly, I want to spend a day fishing.
And I know me...if I don't set some goals around those leisurely sounding projects, I'll sit around the house, sleep 'til noon, watch Netflixs, and the next thing I know, my mini-vacation will be over.
So...here's my plan:
Tomorrow, I'll buy seeds and start them in flats.
This weekend, I'm going to pick a spot for the garden, and pick a wood project.
Wednesday, since it's the day before payday, I'll buy chicken wire, 1 x 2s and maybe a compressor to run my air tools...and put together a fence. If there's any time left over, I'll fish. And drink beer.
Thursday: I'll buy a tiller and tear up the yard. After my arms stop shaking, I'll go to the wood store and pick up whatever I need for whatever I'm going to make.
Friday: I'll continue working on the garden project and the wood project, and fix whatever I screwed up the previous two days.
And if I can get that far, I'll be supremely happy with myself.
And now that I have a written record, I'll have something to look back at next week when I'll have forgotten I had these grand ideas. As always, pictures will follow. Wish me luck.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Like Homer Simpson said when he found out there would be a three day waiting period for his gun purchase, "But I'm angry now!"
Maybe in a time as hectic and stressful as ours, when tempers seem short and we're not much into impulse control...maybe universal gun ownership (whisper this part) is a bad idea.
By Jane Smiley, HuffingtonPost.com
Posted on April 18, 2007, Printed on April 18, 2007
Some years ago, I was talking to a man about guns.
At the time, I didn't really know anyone with guns (still don't), but he did. He had had guns himself. He said, "I gave my gun away, because when I had it, every time something happened that made me mad, my mind would start circling around that gun, and I would be thinking about using it. So I got rid of it and I'm glad I did."
Right up front I will say that I am opposed to casual gun ownership, but I also realize that Americans will always have guns. Period. It's a national fetish. But the mental state my interlocutor was describing years ago is the price we have to pay, along with, of course, the accidental deaths of children and other unprepared and careless people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and in proximity to the wrong gun.
What I would like is for the gun-toting right wing to admit that there is a price we pay, that senseless accidental deaths and traumas are a national cost and that it's not so clear that it's worth it, but hey, we pay it anyway because so many guns are in the hands of so many people that there would never be any getting rid of them.
I would like the right wing to admit that guns are not "good" and that the right to bear arms is not an absolute virtue and that the deaths in the US caused by guns are at least as problematic, philosophically, as abortion. But I'm not holding my breath.
I hadn't intended to write about guns today -- my original source of outrage was the op-ed in the New York Times that related the saga of Georgia Thompson, who worked for the State of Wisconsin. In the course of doing her job, she put the state's travel business out for bids. She chose the lowest bidder, but because, unbeknownst to her, the travel agency making that bid had donated to the Democratic candidate, the Republican campaign accused her of corruption, and -- pay attention, this is the scary part -- the federal prosecuting attorney drummed up a case against her, and got her put in jail. Right before the election. As part of the Republican gubernatorial campaign.
Imagine how Kafka-esque all of this seemed to Ms. Thompson -- the Republicans (possibly at the behest of Washington) destroyed her life for no reason other than political gain, and with so little evidence that the appeals court who just released her was appalled and astonished.
But Ms. Thompson and guns do have a bit of a connection in the eyes of the right wing. Some weeks ago, I blogged about the attorneys scandal as it was just coming to light. My fear was that the federal attorneys were being groomed to either exonerate members of the Bush administration who might otherwise be convicted of breaking laws, or else to drum up show trials against opponents and get rid of them (bingo).
My first piece elicited lots of responses. Many of them were schadenfreudenish exclamations of right wing glee -- if Bush declared martial law, that would show us gun-control adherents, because it would be the well-armed second amendment fanatics who would be able to save themselves from the martial law round-up, while those of us who have no guns would, I assume, be marched off to our detention centers.
Their implication was that the right wing was going to protect us from the right wing. My own view was that the trigger-happy ones were probably going to enlist in private mercenary armies and continue disdaining and condemning us wimps for putting them in such a compromising position as making them have to shoot us.
But that's how it is with the right wing, isn't it? Grievance is something they do, no matter how much power they have. They are shocked, shocked, that they don't have all the power, shocked and victimized and angry.
You could tell it in Bush's response to today's shooting. First he said he was shocked and saddened. Then he said everyone has the right to bear arms. He wouldn't want to let any of those NRA-types imagine for a second that any amount of senseless killing could possibly shake his commitment to a fully-armed populace.
Here's what I think about guns -- guns have no other purpose than killing someone or something. All the other murder weapons Americans use, from automobiles to blunt objects, exist for another purpose and sometimes are used to kill.
But guns are manufactured and bought to kill. They invite their owners to think about killing, to practice killing, and, eventually, to kill, if not other people, then animals.
They are objects of temptation, and every so often, someone comes along who cannot resist the temptation -- someone who would not have murdered, or murdered so many, if he did not have a gun, if he were reduced to a knife or a bludgeon or his own strength.
I wish that the right wing would admit that, while people kill people and even an "automatic" weapon needs a shooter, people with guns kill more people than people without guns do.
Jane Smiley is a novelist and essayist. Her novel A Thousand Acres won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992.
© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/50697/
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
However, we all have the right to not listen, and that's what I've chosen to do. And advertisers have the right to vote with their feet...and that's what they've apparently chosen to do. If Imus wants to stand on a street corner loudly insulting blacks, gays, women, jews, etc., that's his right as an American, and I'll defend it. But that doesn't mean I have to stand on the street corner and listen. Or tune in and hear him on the radio. Or even buy the products of his sponsors.
So...do I think he ought to be silenced? No. But we're a market-driven society, and if no one's listening, and no one's buying the sponsor's product, he's no longer an asset to the radio station and they have every right to fire him.
And then he's welcome, as an American, to head for any street corner with his sidekick and shout out anything he wants to anyone who'll listen.
Yay for free speech.
I dreamed that Lori and I were walking through a huge building, down a long, wide hallway. It had lots of turns and corners, and around each corner was something odd and unexpected. Sometimes it was cool little shops or people we were excited to see. Sometimes it was people we weren't excited to see, and scary places we didn't want to go.
Well, okay. Can you get any more Freudian than that?
I've been thinking about it all day. How good and safe it felt to be walking with someone I love and trust on an unknown journey. During the three years we've been together, we've had some major stuff to struggle through, but we've stuck together and the payoff has been some nifty, unexpected surprises. We've both gotten braver by taking risks that have turned out well for us. I guess that's the thing to remember. Acknowledge the bad stuff, but remember to appreciate the good stuff...and stick together.
Oh...and then I dreamed we had fantastic sex. I think I'm ovulating. Life is good. :-)
Monday, April 16, 2007
We all have those days when everything we touch turns to crap, but you gotta love those days when everything just goes right ...
I woke up this morning thinking, "Awwwwww crap, I don't want it to be Monday yet!" But I'm all responsible and shit, so I rolled out of bed and got ready for work.
I was headed to the Illinois office, so that took some of the sting out of it, because I love that office ... and then halfway there I had my first real "yippeeeee!" moment when it dawned on me that the doctor was out today, so I'd be spending the day doing paperwork quietly by myself, which is my favorite way to spend my work day. Right away I was at least 50% happier.
When I got to the office I found out I was going to spend the day learning their surgery scheduling and paperwork ... because they're probably going to be scheduling me more days at the Illinois office ... second "yippeee!"
Surgery scheduling and paperwork is second nature to me, so I took to it like a duck to water and the morning pretty much flew by. So I'm there whizzing through the charts and organizing the paperwork when my co-worker said, "Do you want to go now or finish that chart? You're only scheduled till noon." It never occurred to me to look at the "end" time on my schedule. I just show up at the "start" time and work till there's no more work to do. But okay, now I'm 100% happier than I was four hours ago!
I left the office with several stolen hours of weekday I wasn't expecting to have, laid out before me like a buffet table.
For my first course I chose a haircut. I had a lot of fun chatting and laughing with my hair cutter, and then treated myself to a good smelling new tea tree hair product for volumizing and texturizing my spiffy hairdo ... and what the hell, I bought the tea tree lip balm to go with it.
After the appetizer, it was on to the Big Box Store for the main course. I wandered around looking at things I don't ordinarily have time to wander around and look at, then purchased a whole bunch of girly stuff with which to pamper myself. There's some lavender bubble bath, a box of haircolor with "multi-faceted shimmering highlights," a do-it-yourself glycolic peel kit, a new shade of lipstick and a $10 watch that doesn't look like a $10 watch. I also bought a picture frame for the antique Virgin of Guadalupe made of microscopically tiny pieces of colored wheat my friend Karen sent me last Christmas, which we finally have a place for since we bought new bookcases over the weekend to house the 30 books we bought at the library book sale.
When we bought the bookcases that meant we had to rearrange the living room, which meant we had to Spring clean the living room, so on top of having an unexpected afternoon off, I also didn't have any housework guilt while I was out getting shorn and buying girly stuff.
For dessert I stopped at the AJ One Stop for chocolate and cigarettes, and helped a frail elderly woman carry a thirty pack of beer to her car because it was too heavy for her. Her yappy little chihuahua bit my hand, but he had really little teeth, so he only managed to puncture one knuckle. She was very grateful for the toting, and apologetic about the slight bleeding, and I was happy I could do someone a favor when I was having such a good day of my own.
On top of all that, I came home and read Ev's blog about the little house vs big house dilemma and I was struck again by how nice it is to be so compatible with someone that you can say, "Yeah, I know the other house is newer and has more bathrooms and a bigger kitchen, and I know it has central air and a fireplace, and I know the rooms are bigger ... but this one is kind of quaint and quirky and I really like it, quirks and all," and know they aren't going to to think you're nuts.
Oh, and speaking of nuts, the pan of frosted walnut brownies we baked yesterday is in the kitchen, calling my name.
So the moral of today's blog is that I love my little bitty life, where a half day off, a haircut and a few bucks worth of beauty products can feel like a day at the spa, and where people ask strangers for help carrying their beer to the car and other people are happy to oblige them. I love coming home to this little bitty house, and I love sharing this little bitty life with Ev.
We live in a little three bedroom house (okay, maybe not this little), on three acres that we share with our landlord and his family. We live on the northwest corner of the property and they live on the southeast, so our daily interactions are pretty much confined to waving at each other when we drive down the driveway or making an intentional foray when we need to see him for something.
He's a great guy and they're great neighbors. We love living here and we plan to stay until Katie graduates high school and we can move way, way out in the country.
Okay...the dilemma part is that he bought a new house on more land, and he'll be renting out both houses now. We're dithering about whether to move over into his house, which is much bigger (but maybe not quite this big), or stay here where we know we're happy.
Our house is old and small with inadequate outlets and small bedrooms. But it's comfortable and homey, has an excellent porch for porch sitting, and a big shady backyard. His is much bigger and newer, with a fireplace and a deck and modern wiring. But we love living in this little house.
We've got until June to decide, and we've already changed our minds about 15 times. Luckily, we haven't told him any of that...we'd probably seem ever weirder than we already do.
I think the problem is that I ought to be excited about a bigger, newer house, but I like this one.
The good thing about time is that it continues to happen, whether you're prepared or not. So either way, June will arrive and a plan will make itself known to us. If Carrie gets here and loves this little house, we'll move out of it and let her and Tyler live here. If she hates it, we'll probably stay.
Either way, we'll mow the grass, plant the garden, sit on the porch and fret about our kids and our jobs, and life will be good...so I guess it doesn't matter too much which box we're surrounded by.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Since I'm the kind of person who has to pay, I'm also the kind of person who files on April 15th. However, this year we actually get until the 17th to get it done, so I'm feeling positively virtuous by having it done on the 15th.
Part of my procrastination is because...well...I'm a procrastinator. But the other part is that I can't quite reconcile the domestic problems that are untended in this country with the massive outlay of dollars...tax dollars...my tax dollars...that is being spent to destroy Iraq and it's citizenry.
C'mon, George! We've already plunged them into civil war and destabilized the region. Now can we address the massive national budget shortfalls for a while?
I bitterly resent my tax dollars being spent on this war, about as much as I resent being forced to provide "homeland security" for Wyoming because it's Dick Cheney's home state.
I know if I were a terrorist, Wyoming would be my first target.
For some reason, more homeland security dollars are spent in places like Wyoming and Montana per capita than in places like New York and Los Angeles.
Even though I love Southern Illinois, it seems insane to me that my hospital got a multi-million dollar windfall from the homeland security budget. My lab alone received a super-duper quarter million dollar blood banking instrument with ongoing software issues. But hey...it'll protect us when Al Quaeda comes pouring into Southern Illinois and we need to crossmatch 20 people at a time.
So since I'm a pinko commie liberal, I'd like my share of the annual tax windfall to be spent on protecting Americans in a more tangible, meaningful way. Maybe on universal healthcare or development of alternative energy sources or a treatment for antibiotic resistant bacteria or something. Or hell, just patch I-57 once in a while; I'm not picky.
It just pisses me off that I work 2000 hours every year and pay into the system so that the army can have one more missile to blow up one more Iraqi wedding party.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
So first the ER, and then Kurt Vonnegut.
I had a series of seizures in fairly rapid succession over the last couple of days. The neurologist said Get Thee to the ER for a large dose of Dilantin to stop the cascading effect, and off I went like a good little patient. And indeed, they checked my pulse, shined a light in my eyes, pronounced me basically healthy and gave me a massive dose of Dilantin. On top of the fairly massive dose of Lamictal I already take. That was yesterday morning at 10-ish. Today at 5:30-ish, 19 hours later, I feel like my eyeballs have stopped rolling around in my skull enough to blog about it.
Each seizure lowers the threshold for the next one, so they tend to come in waves like that. The reason we must control them, as he tells me ad naseum, is that they scar the area of the brain that's firing, and eventually kill that patch of brain cells. For me that would be the hippocampus, which is in charge of my already porous memory, and the sensory cortex, which is in charge of my five senses...which I hope to continue using for another good long while.
The moral of the story, kids, is never, ever put your skull in front of a speeding softball, or you'll be paying for it it ways you can't even imagine for decades.
And speaking of serendipity:
I love him. He wrote thin little novels packed with weighty ideas and presented in ways that made them so crystal-clear that his writing and his ideas helped clarify my generation. Slaughterhouse Five is one of the greatest anti-war novels of all time, with it's feckless hero, casual mayhem and wanton destruction. The take home message? There, but for the grace of God, goes all of us.
He wrote novels about war and evolution and time and a thousand other things that people who haven't had a bunch of seizure meds could descibe. He wrote essays and poems, gave lectures at universities, and did interviews on Public Radio. He was gruff and insightful, witty and sensitive and could make whatever topic was in his head important to us as well. You could feel the war, and marvel at the short-sightedness of humans, admire the graceful adaptive ingenuity of nature.
Vonnegut wrote in that kind of stream-of-consciousness style that starts out looking like the Topic Drift From Hell, but eventually would wrap back around and tie up the subject with a bow. He used short sentences and short paragraphs to maximum effect, and was so eminently readable that I read my first Vonnegut novel in junior high and my last one last year. He was engaging and relevant for every age.
I'll miss him, both for his books and his pithiness. He said something once about the booze and the drugs and the mental illness eventually killing him, but he somehow made it to 84 and died from a common accident instead. A brain injury, in fact.
So it goes.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Think of it as a parallel to the cold-weather sport of curling. One person throws the big stone thingy, and one person sweeps furiously in front of it to give it a smooth path to glide over the ice on. It doesn't work without the glory person and the workhorse operating in tandem.
So in my job, I'm usually the Gloryperson. Someone brings me specimens, I analyze them, and then I call the doctors and tell them what I've found. I'm recognized as an expert, and I receive some respect for my work and my opinions.
Last night we were shorthanded and I was helping the Workhorses out in the front of the lab. The part of the lab where I normally work is a quiet, monastic environment full of humming machinary and studious people peering into microscopes. The area out front is mayhem. I was completely out of my league, and my only objectives were to not screw stuff up too badly for the people who actually do that work professionally, and not to look like a total ass before my shift ended and I could get the hell out of there.
I think I failed on both counts.
In my defense though, it was an extra odd night. I was humming along, receiving specimens and fielding phone calls and thinking, "This isn't too bad. I'm doing okay." Until a couple of things happened almost simultaneously. A woman came in after being hurt at work for a routine chain-of-custody drug screen for Worker's Comp, and a courier brought a box labelled "Human Eyes. Handle With Care."
I signed for the box, but I was thinking, "What the hell do I do with that??" One of the other techs and I consulted, and decided to call the doctor who's name was on the box and ask him about it.
He took the 10pm phone call graciously, and said that the box should be refrigerated and that one of his techs would be down to pick it up in the morning for surgery.
Okay, cool. Problem solved. Except that when I took the box to pathology to stick it in the path fridge, the fridge was pretty much filled up with an entire human leg, wrapped in plastic.
I'll admit I tried torquing the leg around a little...angling it in, bending it...trying to make the box fit. No dice.
So I looked in the other departments, and I found room for the box in the chemistry fridge. I knew that no one would know to look for it there, so I left a note on the lab clerks computer, "Dr. X's box of eyes is in the Chemistry fridge. His tech will pick them up in the morning."
In the meantime, we're all laughing. There's a note you never imagine you'll be writing. Ms. Chain-of-Custody drug screen and her husband are cracking up. He says, "I'm glad I came with her. This place is fun!"
And I told him, "It's not normally this much fun. In fact...I blame you. I've never seen either of you before, and I've never received a box of eyeballs before. Ergo, the two are related, and this is your fault."
They laughed at that even more. By then she'd finally drank enough water to be able to pee, she signed the forms and they got ready to leave. When they got to the door, he stopped, came back, and said, "Are y'all hiring by any chance? I want to work here."
I gave him an application and encouraged him to fill it out.
And thus, a lab career is born.
And by then, luckily, my shift was over and I got the hell out of there. But it'll be a long time before I make the mistake of underestimating the Cutmen and the Sweepers again. Their jobs are tough!
Monday, April 09, 2007
So today, we speculated about the conversation at home that must have gone along with that.
"You know, Honey, we already ate the chocolates, and we went to church last Easter. The sermon this year is bound to be the same. Since dinner at my mom's isn't until 2, what say we swing by the hospital and find out what's up with the swimmers?"
You have to admire such a creative, non-traditional holiday celebration.
It's a concept that everyone knows about, but can't necessarily identify until it has a name. From the earliest childhood squabbles up until...well, death, I suppose....people employ this strategy. If you can get other people to join in, you won't be standing alone, exposed, when you go into battle.
However, once I had a word to decribe the concept and I could recognize it and name it when I see it, I also became acutely aware that I don't want to be associated with it. If you feel strongly enough to take up psychological arms and ride into battle with another human being...good for you. I hope that works out well for you. But if it's not my battle, don't use me as an emotional shield.
So, children...you take your squabble back to your own playground and triangulate amongst yourselves. I don't want to play with you.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
I miss my mom and her amazing Easter baskets.
I miss my son at holidays.
It sucks that Ev has to work on Easter.
I don't want to clean up the kitchen.
Come no further, for death awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth.
So...it's Easter Sunday at the hospital. We do a rotating holiday schedule, and I apparently rotated my way into Easter this year. Which would be fine, since I'm not a Christian and I worshipped at the alter of the Dove chocolates already before work, but I'm getting sleepy from inactivity. Apparently most Southern Illinoisans have opted to stay home with their families instead of keeping me productively engaged today.
Lori cooked a big roast beef-and-vegetable meal, which I politely ate two enormous platefuls of (I was willing to throw myself on those 10,000 calories to spare the others. I'm noble that way.), and then I immediately came to work. So now I'm busy resulting one paltry CBC an hour and watching the clock like it's a television showing a double feature of Lassie Come Home and Boy's Town.
By the way...is anyone else amazed that Roddy McDowell was such a cute little boy and grew up to be such a creepy, fussy man? I think his acting peaked with Lassie.
But the problem, of course, is that the less work I do, the sleepier I get, and the less work I want to do. Which means that when I get to the pinnacle of sleepiness, the zenith of somnambulance, we'll have a massive 12 car pileup on the highway and someone will expect me to spring into action and save some lives or something.
It all sounds so very selfish and wasteful ... such a bastardization of the purpose of space exploration ... celebrity space travelers ... Martha Caters Soyuz ... $25 million joyride ...
But before you get whipped up over all that ego-driven conspicuous consumption, let me introduce those of you who don't know him to Dr. Charles Simonyi:
He isn't quite the "billionare thrill-seeker cum Martha's boyfriend" he's being made out to be. Dr. Simonyi left Hungary in 1968 and was part of the legendary Xerox PARC team, where he developed the first WYSIWYG word processor. He holds a degree in mathematical engineering from Berkeley, a PhD in computer science from Stanford, and a multi-engine aircraft pilot's license. He holds a special place in my heart for two reasons:
1) After leaving Xerox PARC, he headed the development team that created the Microsoft Word program ... and I love Microsoft Word.
2) He was a little Hungarian boy looking at the stars and dreaming about being a cosmonaut at the same time I was a little American girl lying in the grass in my backyard, looking at the stars and dreaming of being an astronaut.
Over on his blog, www.charlesinspace.com, you can read about his adventure in space. You can also read a variety of "Ask Charles" questions, many of which were written to insult the guy for his multimillion dollar joyride. I especially liked his response to whether such frivolous pursuits can be justified in the face of world poverty.
"We should not try to eliminate poverty by eliminating those things that people strive for."
So, Charles, here's hoping you have the flight of your dreams, and that it's everything you ever hoped it would be. If I had 25 million bucks I'd be on the next flight.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
Since I walk a lot faster than six year olds with gently waving arms like flower petals in a breeze, I caught up to them in time to hear this exchange:
Son: "Look, Dad! I'm a ballerina! I have purple flowers in my hair, tucked behind my ears."
Dad: "Well, don't."
And I thought, that's going to be a difficult relationship in a couple of years.
Friday, April 06, 2007
I haven't seen The Price Is Right in 20 years, and I noticed a couple of things. First...Bob Barker is OLD. Ancient old. Museum mummy old. He looks like my grandma right before she died, and she was in her 90's. Is Bob Barker in his 90's? Shouldn't CBS have some type of pension plan for him by the time he's...oh...85? Aren't they going to be embarrassed when he drops over dead in the middle of his show?
Imagine how this would look for the network. "CBS released a statement on the death of Mr. Barker. 'Bob died doing what he loved'." Bad. It would look bad.
Would they have made Dan Rather report the news until he was 90 and died in his chair? Maybe he was lucky to have reported about Bush's Vietnam War dodge and gotten fired. Otherwise he might be in indentured servitude to CBS for another 30 or 40 years.
Bob Barker has that wispy white hair that anciently old people have, and a creepy orange tan-in-a-bottle that's probably supposed to make him look outdoorsy, in the way that pumpkins and carrots are outdoorsy. I suppose he seemed healthy, but ungodly old.
Secondly...there's a lot of hopping and screaming on that show. One woman shrieked and wept her way to a new car. Men tend to mostly hop as a form of Price Is Right self-expression, women mostly shriek and flap their hands. I decided that I'm not a good choice for The Price Is Right, since I hate both noise and excessive movement. It might ruin the ebullience if I had to shoot myself in the head.
Thirdly...I don't have any idea what things cost. None whatsoever. I realized that when I couldn't even get close to correctly guessing the price of a stove, a mop, a box of granola bars, or a Ford Mustang.
Clearly, I'm not a good choice for The Price Is Right. Between the head-shooting and the bad price-guessing, I've decided to skip it.
So that was helpful. In just one short hour, I was able to determine that appearing on The Price Is Right is not a good recreational option for me, which frees up more of my time for fishing, sitting around in the yard, and drinking beer.
Knowledge is power.