Thursday, January 31, 2008

Well, Hell!

Like every other blogger north of, say...Phoenix...I'm going to take this opportunity to bitch about the weather.

It's cold.

Two days ago when I left the house for work at 1 pm, it was 60 degrees. I contemplated wearing a jacket instead of my coat, and then decided it would cool down by 11. When I left the hospital at 11 pm, it had indeed cooled down to a balmy 12 degrees farenheit. Even for you Canadians, I think that's cold. For us here in the Mid South, it's shockingly cold. And while I was at work, the wind had apparently whipped around at 70-ish miles per hour. Pretty much nothing in the yard was where I'd left it that morning except the tractor.

And remember that tree I was trying to take down before it blew over on the house? The good news is that I took down the parts that were hanging over the house. The bad news is that the rest of it blew over and fell across John's crappy shed. But the good news about that is that I hate that fucking ratty-ass metal shed,. It pisses me off every time I look at it. Maybe now I'll have an excuse to get rid of it.

So now it's bitterly cold. And for an added degree of difficulty, our LP tank is hovering around zero. When it actually reaches zero it's going to become mighty chilly in our house.

We actually called the nice folks at FerrellGas and asked them to come fill it up. We even paid them $500 for the privilege. They told us their guy would be here in 1-7 working days, which seems like an excessively large window, but...okay.

But the FerrellGas delivery guy actually showed up in only 2 working days, which should have been good, but he actually arrived in the middle of that driving rain/hail storm driven by the aforementioned 70 mph winds. He decided that the ratty-ass shed was in his way and he couldn't reach the tank. He said he was willing to come back and drive across the yard to get to the tank, but not until the ground dries out, to which Lori replied, "Like when? In April?"

But conveniently, it's been so bitter cold that the ground is now frozen. I'm trying to entice the FerrellGas delivery driver back before the rain or snow or hail or whatever mke it impossible to deliver again. It's sort of like getting our feral outdoor cat to come in the house: I have to make soothing noises and rattle the kibble bowl for her before she'll consider it. Maybe if I rattle my debit card the gas man will come back.

In the meantime...I'm nervous. I know some of you in hardier climes shrug this stuff off, but I'm a total weather weenie. I hate to be cold. I can make myself go outside in it if i know my reward is to come back in out of it in the end, but to be in a cold house is just about my definition of hell.

P.S. Huh. The realtor just called. I think we just bought us a $13,000 house in Cairo. I guess it's time to shop for a furnace. Goody. Now I have another reason to be nervous. EEEK!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Watchable Wildlife

When I worked for the Forest Service we had a program called Watchable Wildlife, which was mostly made up of a bunch of viewing stands set up to see bald eagles, egrets, Indiana bats, and a bunch of mammals, none of which I can remember at this moment. There were also all sorts of pretty interpretive signs to tell you what you were seeing so you knew when to be impressed.

Lori and I always joke about Watchable Wildlife, because the only time we ever see anything exotic it's dead on the side of the road. Animals are extra watchable then. Flat, but watchable. We've seen armadillos (In Missouri! Who knew?), hawks and eagles, deer, foxes, and lots and lots of possums. Oh...and our duck. I got to watch it flattened out in the road in front of our house one night. In the morning it was gone, no doubt to be watched (and eaten) by something or another that eats flattened ducks.

Tonight on my way home from work I had several watchable wildlife moments. The first was when a fox darted out in front of my truck and I had to stand on the brakes to miss him. The second was his spiritual brother, a raccoon that did the same thing a mile up the road. it's always a good day when you get to see them alive, but it's an even better day when you're not the reason they're dead in the first place.

The Gay Bar

I went out to The Gay Bar with my friend Traci last night. It's called the gay bar because it's certainly the only gay bar in Southern Illinois, and quite possibly the only one outside of a hundred mile radius from St. Louis. This was my second trip to the bar with Traci, which also makes it my second trip to any bar since Lori and I were first dating and we were looking for a nice gay-friendly place to socialize and make out.

The Carbondale gay bar is as bad as any gay bar I've ever been in: it's dark, warehouse-y, and crammed full of barely-post-adolescents dancing to ear-shattering techno music. The beer is bad, the bathrooms are gross, and it looks like everything was assembled out of sheets of particle board so the if the owners have to make a run for it, the won't have to agonize about the loss of their furniture. The place really has no redeeming value whatsoever except for two's a great place for people-watching, and it's a ton of fun to watch Traci flirt with every femmey girl in the place. And she's not the kind of flirt that leaves you wondering later, "Was she hitting on me?" She's the kind of flirt that'll start groping any girl who shows the slightest interest in her. I know it sounds like she'd be an obnoxious asshole, but in fact she's such a cute and charming lech that femme girls love her. Maybe if she'd actually take one home and sleep with her she could get over The Worst Girlfriend Ever. You know The Worst Girlfriend Ever, don't you? She's the one who invented sex for you and used it to break your heart? The one that you go back to 100 more times after she dumps you? That Worst Girlfriend Ever.

So my friend is on the market as part of her rehab from her addiction to The Worst Girlfriend Ever. If any of you happen to be interested in a cheap house in Cairo AND a relationship with my cute and charming pal, let me know and I'll hook you up. :-)

During the part of the night when I wasn't amused and appalled by Traci's gleefully slutty behavior, I was amused and appalled by the barely-post-adolescents on the dance floor. In every pair there was one who was dancing with reckless drunken abandon, and one who danced with the anxious expression of someone who alternately worried about looking like a rhythmless moron and about their butt looking big in those pants. I kept wondering why the reckless abandon people didn't dance with each other and leave those other poor people in a booth somewhere to talk about their exes, which of their professors might be gay, and which veterinary schools they plan to apply to.

And so I wondered again why there can't be a nice quiet bar next door to the techno bar, where all the socially inept gay people could quietly drink beer, talk to each other, and not dance. What would be so wrong with a gay bar where people could hear each other? Is there some agreed-upon common knowledge that gay people are boring, and the only way any of them are going to end up in bed together is by drowning out any potential conversations with a techno beat/strobe light combination?

And if there was such a place, would I be sitting alone in it, drunkenly telling the bartender about my cats, my exes, and which of my coworkers might be gay?

Maybe that's why there's no place like that.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hello? Is This Thing On?

Robbie is going home today and that's sad. And when he gets there, he says he's going to quit his job...and that's scary. At least for me. It's a mother's job to assume the worst. I told him that right before he ends up sleeping in Randolph Park and eating sandwiches from the Christian Sandwich People, he should call and I'll send him a ticket home.

I think he'd prefer the park and the sandwich.

He's not a rural guy. I might as well face it. He actually likes doing things. City things. Things where other people are doing the same thing at the same time.

I was thinking yesterday, while I was pretending to work on a quiet Saturday afternoon at the lab, that if I could find a way to support myself, I could easily live a life in which the only actual people I ever saw was Lori and the kids. I wonder if there's some way I could take in laboratory piecework? You send me your slides and I'll read 'em for you. Yeah, it would slow down the turn around time, but c'mon...don't be selfish. I need the money and whatever you're sick with is probably self-limiting anyway. I could also start a mail-order wound culture/Chlamydia culture business. You send me an e-mail stating your swabbing needs and I'll send you a swab, with instructions about where to insert it. Then you can send it back in the prepaid mailer and I'll incubate it and read it for you. If you'd like an antibiotic sensitivity, it'll cost extra, of course. But just knowing you have Chlamydia in your various orifices and/or Clostridium tetanii in your wounds ought to bring you peace of mind.

While I'm working out the details of my new life strategy, I'll give you the update on the Cairo stuff. We made an offer on a three story, 2500 sq. ft. house across from Magnolia Manor...of $12,000. The owner countered with $18,000 and we countered again with $13,000. It needs a furnace and has plumbing woe, but it's a once-beautiful old turn-of-the-century house with gorgeous woodwork, and we can make it beautiful again, with an infusion of time and money.

So we're in the market now for courageous, independently wealthy (or self-employed or telecommuting types) folks to move with us to Cairo. Although I don't really know why; I don't actually interact with them anyway.

Ah, screw it. Stay where you are and e-mail me.

Oh...and Lori and Katie are still sick. I'm not sick anymore, so that gives me the right to act all genetically superior. It makes up for the fact that I'm more mentally ill than either of them. At least I look healthier.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Fruits Of My Looms

Robbie, my middle child and only son, has come home for a week's visit. This means that all three of my kids are here at the same time for the first time in 5-ish years. And THAT means I find myself doing the "compare & contrast" thing that people do with families.

Carrie looks like her dad. If she didn't spring forth from the womb with a foul mouth and a smart-ass attitude I'd swear she wasn't my child. You in the soaps? Where the bad people try to make the sweet natured good girl go insane by convincing her that she's pregnant and then pretending to steal her baby and hold it for ransom? I think that's what happened to me. Or maybe it's more like The Manchurian Candidate and she's secretly being controlled by the Chinese government, and is being groomed to take over the free world.

Robbie looks like a cross between his cousins on his dad's side and my brother Steve. I'm not exactly sure how he pulled that off, but the one thing I'm sure of is that he doesn't look like either of us. Again, I think it's time to consider the soaps, where the Good Child is switched at birth with some diabolical monosyllabic creature that Febreezes his clothes rather than actually washing them and draws his Dark Power from an iBook and beer.

Poor Katie ended up looking like a tall version of me. People tell me all the time how much she looks like me, "especially her nose." That's code for "She has a potato nose, like all you Snyders." Luckily, she still has the small potato, like those little New Potatoes that you get from a can, not a Yukon Gold, like her uncles and I. And also luckily, she's tall and blonde and willowy and has overcome her genetic predisposition towards potatohood so far.

All three of them are much more beautiful than their dad and I, which just supports my theory that we can rise above our genetics if we try hard enough.

However, aside from their looks, they're three peas in a pod. I love seeing them all together now that they're grown. When they were younger I used to tell them that I wanted them to stick together, even if they were conspiring against me. Unfortunately, I think they may have believed me, but I hope I never actually find out the details. There are a lot of things that mothers should never know about their children.

I read somewhere that the longest relationship of our lives is with our siblings. Longer than our parents or our spouses, sibs belong to each other for their whole lifetime...80 or 90 years sometimes. The best thing they can do is support each other for all that time.

Oh...and the second best thing they can do is to support me and Lori in our old age, so we don't end up eating cat food under a pile of rags beneath the railroad bridge, like OUR parents...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


So, Cairo...

In answer to the questions:

Some of the houses have sat empty for a year or more, some a few weeks. But housing prices are so depressed that those prices are the going rate in Cairo. We were talking to a woman we met when we were watching an old wreck being torn down, and she told us she'd bought 5 properties in the last couple of years, one for $1000. Some are in move-in condition for $15,000 in nice neighborhoods. Some need a LOT of work, a lot of them should just be torn down. We've been looking at a three story 5400 sq. ft. house on EIGHT city lots for $52,000. it's could live in it today without doing anything but painting (it's a

There's a tremendous amount of work involved in turning a blighted city around. The downtown area is deserted except for some squatters, hookers and crack houses. It's going to take a lot of vision and some big scary guys to reclaim those buildings. And it'll take more than, say, one little 5 foot tall, classically trained caucasian chef and her dream of a bistro, and a couple of overbearing dykes and their brewpub to get people to think of the downtown area as a viable place to spend their money. The barge business seems to be thriving, but we're too old to be deckhands.'s got a pirate-like sort of mystique, don't you think?

You know how we are...we'll talk to anyone. So we've interrogated the locals and they pretty much all tell us that the town has been a cash cow for a few local politicians for the last two decades. Since most of their voter base was coming from the empty lots and the cemeteries, they always won landslide victories in the city elections. But in the face of several local scandals the incumbents chose to leave office (and, coincidentally, the county) and the city has been doing massive cleaning up in their wake. In the last couple of years we've noticed marked improvement...the derelict houses and buildings are being torn down, there's grant money to be had for start-up businesses, and the neighborhoods look more prosperous. We talked with a local bank manager and she told us that money is beginning to flow again, and they tend to keep their loans in-house so that people with crappy credit can come to Cairo and buy houses and own businesses and help start the city moving again.

It's sort of like Rip Van Winkle-ish. Cairo's been sleeping since 1969, but it's starting to wake up, and it's a little confused.

The nearest real cities are Cape Girardeau, MO, It's 30 miles away, and Paducah, KY, the same distance in the other direction. St. Louis is two hours north, Memphis is two hours south, Nashville is two hours east, and some place that looks like Deliveranceville, MO is two hours west. I recommend that you NOT spend much time there unless you're related to the locals.

We're excited about the idea of helping to rebuild a community, and make something nice from the ashes of something awful. And we like the barbecue.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Y'all Like a Project, Doncha?

Let me start off by saying that I'm sickie-poo. In fact, we're the sickie-poo family...Ma and Ma Sickie and all the little Poos. Carrie has strep throat, Katie is getting over a cold, and I've just acquired it from her via the Virus Exchange Program, which is sort of an illness cooperative that people join when they have children, whether they'd like to or not.

Anyway...we're sick. All except Lori, but I'll probably lick her tongue or something equally juvenile. There's no use suffering alone when you've got a perfectly suitable life partner in robust good health to drag down with you.
And becau
se I'm sick, I took off from work tonight. I normally try to avoid that because I like to save up my ETO time for when I'm really burned out, which is approximately every week. But this time I decided to take it off, because in addition to a luxurious day on the couch drowning in phlegm, I'm going to set aside a few hours in the evening to save Cairo.

Cairo, IL (pronounced KAY-row), is a beautiful old river city at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, that just happens to strongly resemble Beirut after the bombings. Picture the London Blitz or Dresden at the end of WWII. Okay, now picture them with lots of liquor stores and a good barbecue joint, and you've pretty much got Cairo.

Cairo was a racially mixed Southern city that just happened to be located on the wrong side of the river from Kentucky, in Illinois. Prior to the 1960's and it had a population of 20,000-ish people, pretty evenly divided between blacks and whites. After the unrest that followed the 1960's civil rights movement, there was a massive "white flight" which resulted in the almost total abandonment of the city by whites. It also took most of the city businesses with it, and left a devastated, impoverished city made up of all the people who didn't have anywhere else to go after the city died.

But Cairo was once a prosperous river city, so after the rioting and the abandoning, the empty city and it's beautiful architecture and all it's boarded-up antebellum mansions remained. Okay, this is where we get to the "us" part...

We love Cairo. Lori and I drive down their frequently to admire the architecture and the rivers and shake our heads at the devastation. The building to the left was the old trolley depot. it's available, with it's 5 upstairs apartments, for $15,000.

This week we became aware of a Cairo restoration group called Vision 20/20. They're trying to catalogue the unique buildings and revive some interest in the city before all the cool buildings either fall down of their own accord or get burned down by people with a book of matches and too much time on their hands.

So since the yard work is pretty much squared away and I was looking for a new cause anyway, Lori wrote to the organizers and signed us up. We're going to our first meeting tonight, so I figure we ought to have Cairo pretty much saved by the weekend if we're efficient with our time. I'm bad with posting pictures, but the house at the left is a 4 bedroom, 2 bath home for $20,000. Below it is the second most expensive house on the market in Cairo. It's a 6 bedroom on 4 lots for whopping $120,000.

So who wants to come on down for the Gay Mecca/Urban Pioneering? We'll supply Shemwell's BBQ and cold beer if you'll bring your money, business ideas, tool belts and a few gay men...we're going to need some help with the decorating.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Checking In

I feel like I ought to check in with the blog, but I also feel like there's so little going on that it's hardly worth it. Let's see if I can ramble my way to unstuck...

It's been raining endlessly. The yard is a lake punctuated by islands of mud. I have outdoor things to do (I cut three dead trees down and now they need to be cut up), but it's just too wet. How much longer until summer again?

My favorite boss, Joe, our blood bank supervisor, is retiring. He's a giant of a man...maybe 6'7" or 6'8"...and has alternately pushed and supported me for the two years I've been working at this hospital.

We hit it off right at the beginning. When I was training and certifying here and was finishing up my blood bank rotation, he stood behind me one day and barked orders at the top of my head like a drill sergeant. He was trying to get me to abandon all my habits and acquire all of his, and I think the strategy was to break my will. Luckily I'm about as willful as it's possible to be, so that plan wasn't going to fly.

Remember that he's a foot and a half taller than me. I'm sure I have a better view if what's going on in his nostrils than he ever has...

So he was barking instructions at me and trying to confuse me. Finally I turned around and said, "Stop! You're making me nervous!"
Joe said, "I'm trying to make you nervous."
And I said, "Well, stop it."

And that was the end of that.. Ever since that day he's treated me like a peer and not an employee, which is no small thing when he's got 30 years of experience on the rest of us. I'll miss him a ton.

What else? Carrie's Man Friend has moved in with her, but she hasn't gotten to the exploitation phase of the relationship, so her trash can is still in the ditch. When he's not so shiny and new she'll make him climb down there and fetch it. I know her.

Lori's enjoying her dollhouse project. She's got it partially assembled and it looks good. And it has the added advantage of being inside, out of the rain, unlike all my projects. I've mostly been sitting by the fire reading and hoping for a dry day.

Tommorow is my day off. Yay!

Monday, January 07, 2008


Lori and I like to get out and drive. I like to drive anyway; the movement of the landscape seems to unstick my thoughts and get them flowing again. And l I like it even more when we're together. We get to be alone in the car without distractions from kids, chores, computers, etc.

One of the ongoing themes of our relationship is balance. When either of us get out of balance with regard to our own life, it throws our relationship out of whack for a while. Not the big kind of "out of whack" that leaves you mystified about that stranger sleeping next to you, but the kind where we're out of sync in making time for the relationship.

Saturday we drove down to Dexter, MO to Lori's favorite rib joint. She used to get carry-out from there when she worked in MO, but I'd never been there before. I was looking for an excuse to get out in the car together, so she suggested the two hour drive to Dexter.

We got into the car still prickly and fussy about our lives and our jobs and our kids and everything else that people get stressed out over. After about half and hour of relaxing and talking, we were holding hands and laughing.

Balance, for me, is an ongoing series of course corrections. I don't think of it as Lady Justice and her scales, I think of it more as a plate balanced on the point of a pencil. There are a bunch of little ways to throw it off, but the more skillful we get at keeping the plate spinning on the pencil point, the easier it is to see the potential pitfalls when they're still small and avoid them before they send the plate crashing to the ground.

So Lori and I drove to Dexter, ate ribs, and rebalanced our plate. We talked about politics and sex and books and our friends. We held hands and kissed and smiled and congratulated ourselves for being lucky enough to find each other. Mostly, we reestablished our relationship harmony that periodically suffers from the stresses of living in the world.

What do you do to rebalance your plate?

Friday, January 04, 2008

It's a small, small world ... and it's mine!

I'm very excited!

Sometime on Tuesday the nice UPS driver will arrive at our house and leave a package on our porch steps containing my first "real" dollhouse. It will be waiting for me when I get home from work! It's not my first dollhouse. I had a tin one with painted rugs and an assortment of pink and brown plastic furniture like all little girls born in the 1950's had, and I loved it to pieces. I'd hate to tell you how many hours I spent lying on my belly moving the furniture around, peeking through the windows at the little beige family sitting in the living room watching the pink plastic TV and carrying on imaginary conversations between the one-legged mother and the one-armed father (they had a little accident). But that was a toy. My new dollhouse is the real deal. A 1/2" scale Country Farmhouse from Real Good Toys.

As fate would have it, I have Wednesday off, so I can dive right into the project with my Alene's Tacky Glue and the new Dremel Stylus and Mini-Driver Ev gave me for Christmas!

I'll bet I won't sleep worth a damn on Tuesday night.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Does this sort of thing happen to you?

At what point do you begin to realize you're careening towards yet another disaster? And why do I only see these things in hindsight?'s my last 24 hours:

I got a lathe for Christmas. Yesterday was my day off, so I started trying to organize the shed to make room for the lathe and the lathe operator to at least stand near each other, in case any lathing were to happen to occur. During the organizing part of the project I lifted a box up into the loft and hurt my shoulder. So last night I took a couple of naproxyns and sat on the couch and watched TV with Lori. I've never taken naproxyn before...aspirin's my NSAID of choice, but we're out. I've avoided naproxyn because it tore up Robbie's stomach so bad when he used to take it for his arthritis.

But by bedtime the shoulder felt a little better...better enough, in fact, to have some quality grown-up time with Lori without any obvious loss of dexterity. Or if there was, she was too polite to mention it. And then I went to sleep.

I woke up at about 5am with an upset stomach, so I went into the kitchen for a glass of water and then headed to the bathroom to pee. Somewhere along that path I passed out, hit my head on the counter, broke my glasses, and spent some unknown number of minutes unconscious on the floor. When I finally did wake up, it was with the awareness that pukage was imminent and my head was bleeding.

After Lori cleaned up my bloody head and I threw up everything down to my shoes, I finally went back to sleep, feeling totally craptastic.

I was still pukey at 9:30, the next time I woke up, but I feel a little better this time around. I can actually walk to the bathroom and stay upright for the whole trip.

Lori took my glasses with her to be fixed, so I'm wearing my old ones. I called work and found out that once again, with me there we're at bare bones rock-bottom minimum staffing in order to be in legal compliance. Without me, we're essentialy screwed if an inspector makes an unscheduled visit.

Therefore me and my old glasses, sore shoulder, bloody welted forehead and swirling stomach are going to go to a hospital and make life-or-death blood banking decisions for other people. Good luck, Other People. If you think you can make it 10 more miles to the next hospital before you bleed out, I'd recommend it. At least for today.'s the question, finally: Why didn't I just shoot myself in the head when I first felt the pain in my shoulder?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2007 Redux

Ev says I should reflect on 2007, too, since I remember it slightly better than she does, and I always do what Ev tells me ... so ...

We moved. We unpacked a ton of stuff we'd had stored since the last time we moved. Moving was good.

One of our chickens came home to roost and another is making plans to do the same in a couple of months, so we're gathering our family back to our collective bosom and that's good.

Cuppy lost her eye, which wasn't good, but her second one was saved, which was very good. She also grew some hair this year, which was a nice change.

We went to Memphis, which was a ton of fun -- and Nebraska, which wasn't.

I changed jobs when the Illinois office was sold to a different practice, which was good and may give me a few more years of mobility before my back gives out for good and Ev has to push me around in a wheelchair forever.

Ev's spent almost a year now on the right combination of medications for her TLE, and that's been like a little miracle. She can do without her memory because she has me ... and the blog ... but the seizures were particularly horrible and it's nice to have them mostly gone.

On the downside, Ev's job has gotten more stressful in 2007 because of the Crazy Bitch Twins ... but they're starting to look for other jobs, so the outlook for 2008 is much brighter.

Katie smoked the ACT's and is now officially "the smartest kid in school" AND she still plans to graduate and go to college ... yay! Carrie has the best job she's ever had, doing the thing she dreamed of doing, she's surrounded herself with people she likes to work with and she still loves it after six months ... yay! Grant snuck around behind our backs and turned into a grown-up who works every day and doesn't act like a big dork around people ... yay!

We reconnected with Ev's ex, which is a totally great thing for the kids and for us. We disconnected from a number of people we should have disconnected from years ago, which is also a great thing.

There haven't been a lot of negatives for us in 2007. It's been pretty much a year of steady improvement financially, closer connections with family, stability in our relationship and not too much disaster recovery. When you get past 50 you realize that all those things add up to a pretty damn good year!


I read that it's part of the blogger's code to post my reflections on 2007, so here goes:

I barely remember 2007. I remember this week, and Christmas, and work last night. But after that it's sort of a fuzzy gray blur of mowing and chainsawing and laughing about stupid stuff with the people I love, and crossmatches and diffs and spinal fluids and acetone levels and wound cultures.

I bought a truck. I totalled a truck. I did somethings that felt smart, and some that felt dumb. I can't remember either...just the feelings.

Cuppy's eye fell out. I remember that because I see her every day. I still love Lori with my whole heart and soul.. I know that because I see her everyday, too. If she takes a vacation, well...I wouldn't, if I were her. :-)

But really, if I want to remember 2007, it's all neatly stored in the archives of this blog. In lieu of a memory of my own, this'll do for now.