Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Seven things

Now that I've discovered I've been tagged by two people (Janet and Greg), I guess I should take a stab at this survey meme-thingie. However, I'm having a devil of a time coming up with seven semi-interesting things to write about.

The Rules:

1. When tagged, place the name of the person and URL on your blog.

2. Post the rules on your blog.

3. Write 7 things about yourself.

4. Tag 7 of your favorite bloggers.

The Seven Things:

1. I'm fascinated by tiny things. (First person to make a short joke gets smacked in the kneecaps.) One of my favorite childhood books was The Borrowers, which inspired me to spend many afternoons making little dollhouse rooms from shoeboxes and castaway items I scavenged from my mom's sewing room. Secretly, I hoped a Borrower family would take up residence in one of these rooms. Recently, Kevin's cousin Sam gave me a set of miniature Beatrix Potter books, which thrilled me. Two of my favorites (books and tiny things) in one package!

2. I think I've developed Magpie Syndrome. (I'm not trendy enough to have adult ADD.) I start a task, and then get distracted far too easily by something else. You know: "Oh, something shiny!" This new tendency concerns me.

3. I resist new technology. I didn't own a microwave until 1997, when visiting friends insisted I could no longer exist without one. I still don't have an iPod and can't foresee needing one anytime in the near future. When I moved into this house and had cable hooked up, the cable guy brought a shiny converter box and a remote with enough buttons to land a 747 remotely. With these two devices, he claimed I could use that newfangled DVR technology all you kids are talking about. I tried. Honestly, I did. However, the instruction manual was less than helpful, and after two frustrating hours and generating a blue cloud of cusswords over my house, I unhooked the damn converter box, called the cable company to pick it up, and went back to my tried-and-true method of taping shows: my VCR. Hush! I hear you snickering.

4. If you're knocking at my door, and I don't know ahead of time you're coming, I'm not answering. Period. Door-to-door salespeople and proselytizers have NO chance with me.

5. I order things online partly for the convenience but mainly because getting a package in the mail makes as excited as a child. Even though I know what's in the box, I always have a moment of thinking "I wonder what's inside?" I love that feeling.

6. I'm intrigued by the notion of being organized and having a place for everything. In practice, I find it daunting and exhausting. Since moving, I've done better at organizing my stuff, but I worry I won't be able to keep up my new and improved ways. I yearn to be one of those anal-retentive types with neatly labeled boxes in my closets and an alphabetized pantry, but I lack the follow-through.

7. I get paid for my obsessive-compulsive behavior. Even when I'm not working, I'm editing in my mind: menus, store signs, pamphlets in the doctor's office, instruction manuals, etc., etc.

Good Lord, that was hard. I'm not tagging anyone because everyone I know has done this survey or been tagged by someone else. Get me: I'm a rebel!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Eight legs, two fangs, and an attitude

When I'm startled, apparently I sound like a chihuahua yelping in pain. How do I know that, you ask? I have an unimpeachable witness: my mom. I was sitting on my bed yesterday afternoon talking to her on the phone, with Charlie snoozing contentedly next to me. My upper arm felt funny, as though somebody was tickling it. Still chatting, I looked down at my arm and Holy Mother of God, the biggest spider I've ever seen was crawling up my arm! I'm not exaggerating one bit when I say it looked like an extra from Arachnophobia. I didn't stop to study it carefully, but I think it might have been a wolf spider. Christ on a biscuit.

The reason I didn't have time to study it is because I was too busy flinging it off me, shrieking, dropping the phone, leaping five feet straight up from a sitting position, and falling on the floor, gibbering in a panic. From far, far away, I heard someone calling my name, and I thought the SPIDER WAS LURING ME TO IT. Finally, I realized my phone was on the bed and still on. I grabbed it and heard my mom yelling "What happened to Charlie? I heard him yelping!"

I was too scared to be embarrassed to admit it was me who made that noise. I told her what happened, and she asked whether I could still see the spider. I peered over at the bed and saw him crawling along the edge of the mattress. He was coming for me! I scooped up Charlie, who was awake now and puzzled about my hollering, and shooed him into the living room. Then I raced back into the bedroom while my mom was telling me to just squish the spider with a kleenex. I said "Mom, you don't understand! He's so big he'd fight back. Besides, if I squish him, he'll crunch!" I picked up a People magazine and swatted ineffectually at him. He paused and chuckled, and then scurried behind the bed.

Well, that was it: No way was I ever sleeping in that bed again. I told my mom I'd talk to her later, and then I paced around the living room, wondering how long spiders live. Suddenly, I had the bright idea of sucking the evil thing up into my vacuum cleaner. (A pity I don't use my cleaning tools to, you know, actually clean more often, but they get quite a workout in home defense.) I hauled my Bissell into the bedroom and quickly set up the tool attachment. I inched the bed back from the wall, switched on the vacuum, jumped on top of the bed, and began sweeping the attachment wildly back and forth along the floor behind the bed. I couldn't see the spider anywhere, however.

Just as well. It didn't occur to me until later that if I had sucked the spider up, he would have been trapped inside the canister alive and really pissed. I don't know how I'd have managed to empty the canister without him attacking me. I shut the bedroom door, just in case the spider was still in there somewhere.

Kevin got home about an hour later, and even though I used very descriptive words and gestures to explain how huge the spider was, I don't think he believed me. I even mentioned Arachnophobia twice to make sure he understood! Despite that warning, he went into the bedroom while I cowered on the couch. I heard him yell "Holy crap!" followed by some muffled bangs and thwacks. I tiptoed down the hall and saw him going into the bathroom, holding a wad of kleenex at arm's length and looking extremely pale. The toilet flushed, and he came out. All he would say was "I'll never think you're exaggerating about spider size again."

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Fear my mop!

Sasha demanded to see a better picture of the women in funny hats, so here it is:

Feel free to add captions!

Hmm, it's not showing up as well as I'd hoped. I posted the picture in Flickr, too. You might be able to see it better there.


Good thing I don't have the real-life version of The Truman Show being filmed in my house. I swear, if people could see the bone-headed stunts I pull sometimes, they'd fear for my sanity. Last week, I was chatting online with Sasha. I had the patio screen door open because it was fairly warm outside. Suddenly, I heard the dogs go into a frenzy of barking, and I rushed to the door (after brb-ing, of course). I looked outside and saw the lead dog from Hounds of the Baskervilles sauntering around my backyard. Seriously, this dog was so huge I could have thrown a saddle on him and ridden him off into the sunset, with my feet never touching the ground. Okay, I'm very short, but still: BIG DOG.

I hollered at him to shoo, but he didn't even look my way. I'm not usually afraid of big dogs on principle; as a matter of fact, I'm likely to be the idiot who walks up to a strange dog cooing "Who's a good puppy?" right before getting my arm taken off at the elbow. Something about this dog's complete disregard of me unnerved me, however. I shut the glass door and came back in here to report to Sasha.

I said I was worried about letting the dogs out later, especially Charlie. I'm sure he'd be a tasty snack treat for this beast. I was trying to think of ways to arm myself the next time I took the dogs out, in case the Baskerville Beast came back. Sasha suggested a baseball bat, but my days playing shortstop (snort) are long over, and I haven't had a bat in the house for years. I had a brilliant idea, though. I said I'd take a can of Raid with me and spray BB right in the face if he came back and tried anything! Sasha said, "No, you don't want to spray Charlie by mistake if that dog gets Charlie in his mouth." Holy crap. I hadn't even thought of that possibility. Sasha advised me to just get a big stick and whap BB across the nose.

Later, when the dogs started doing the pee-pee dance, I realized I'd better go find a weapon before taking them out. I peered out the door but saw no sign of BB. I sidled out into the yard to grab a stick, but when you need a big stick, there's never one around, right? The best I could come up with was a foot-long twig, and that would just make BB laugh.

I came back inside to look for an alternative. Meanwhile, the dogs were staring at me fixedly to remind me of their overloaded bladders. I was in the kitchen, looking around wildly for a weapon. Cast-iron frying pan? Too cartoonish. Butcher knife? Too violent! I glanced in the pantry, saw a mop, and grabbed it. It was stick-shaped, sort of, and I figured it was close enough. I turned to the dogs and said, in a falsely cheerful voice, "Okay, outside!"

I got the dogs outside, and while they were busy, I was surveying the backyard, whirling around to make sure BB wasn't sneaking up behind me and waving the mop threateningly. The mop has one of those elongated bell-shaped plastic shields on the end that you slide down to wring water from the mop head, and I realized it resembled those dumbbell things I've seen on American Gladiators. I heard children's voices from across the ravine. When I looked over, I saw the kids from the Montessori school outside for receess, and they were waving at me and laughing. I'm sure they were enjoying the show the crazy lady was putting on! I decided to get back inside before one of the teachers came running over, with a look of horror on her face, to herd the children inside away from the insane woman threatening invisible foes with a MOP.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Every picture tells a story

Celeste sent me a link to an article in the New York Times about eVites. Ha! I'm delighted to see my distaste for e-vitations confirmed. See? I'm not just a cranky curmudgeon. And now I promise to drop this topic. Really.

I got a lot of unpacking-and-setting-up work done on my office this weekend. I've neglected my office a little because I've been working so much on the rest of the house. I did get my desk and computer set up right after we moved in, and really, those two things are all I need to work. I'm a happier worker when I have my things surrounding me, however. I unpacked and shelved books (thank God for all the built-in shelves in this room), hung pictures, and arranged tchotchkes, and I'm pleased with my progress. I still have a few boxes to unpack, but the room looks much less like a warehouse.
Here's an example of a must-have in my office (with apologies for the glare):

This picture came from a book of postcards based on illustrations from pulp novel covers, and it always makes me laugh. A little macabre, but it helps that the editor in this illustration isn't a woman! Such a melodramatic book title, isn't it? The old photographs to the upper left of that postcard were a present from Kevin. I should take a more close-up picture or perhaps scan it, but you might be able to tell that they're old photos of prim-looking Victorian women wearing a series of funny hats. I get a kick out of imagining what was going on when the photos were taken and what the women were thinking.

I understand some people have bright dogs who can actually learn tricks and obey commands and all that? Not my dogs. I always knew they weren't the brightest canines, but recently they confirmed that any attempt at training them would be an utter waste of time. A sliding glass door leads out to the patio and back yard, and shortly after I moved in, the screen part of the door came off the track. At the time, there was still snow on the ground, and it was too cold to use the screen door anyway, so I left it. A few weeks later, Kevin cleaned out the track and put the screen door back up. The first time I took the dogs outside after the screen was up, guess what they did? They waited for me to open the glass door, and then promptly galloped smack into the screen door. What's worse is that Charlie saw Holly hit the screen door first and still rushed headlong into the screen. Not even the Dog Whisperer could do anything with dogs that dumb!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Old but new-in-a-way news

Oh. My. God. This eVite nonsense will not die! Yesterday I got a reminder e-mail, saying that I hadn't responded on the Web site. It might be an automatic function, but the note in the e-mail seemed to have been written by the hostess. The three close friends I mentioned the other day? Haven't responded either. Heh. Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!


I've been trying to think of news that happened during my blogo-hiatus, other than moving-related news, and so far I've come up with only two things. They're fairly big, though. Daniel took his driving test--and on his 19th birthday, too. We went back to Mayberry so that he could take the test with one of the instructors from his driving school instead of at the BMV. We met his dad there about an hour before his appointment because Daniel was going to spend the weekend with The Ex. Daniel wanted to use the time to practice parallel parking because he hadn't done it since the previous summer, when he took driving lessons. Christ on a biscuit. He had NO idea what he was doing! After 10 years in Chicago, parallel parking had become second nature to me, so I couldn't figure out how to explain to Daniel what he was doing wrong. The Ex was giving him useless, contradictory hints, and I got huffy, and things devolved from that point. Finally, I said "Look, we're making the poor kid nervous! Let's just head over to the driving school and hope for the best."

Daniel was barely speaking to us, and I can't say I blame him. I paid for his test, and the instructor told Daniel which car she was going to use. (The school tests students on its cars, which is good because Daniel was familiar with them from his lessons.) He stalked out to the parking lot, and the instructor smiled reassuringly at me and said "He's nervous about parallel parking, right?" "Oh, yeah," I replied. She said not to worry because she gives that portion very little weight in her assessment. Mainly, she wants to make sure students know the steps, not whether they can actually get the car into the space because they use parallel parking so rarely.

While they were gone, his dad and I paced the parking lot and fretted. With it being Daniel's birthday, I kept thinking of the long wait for him to be born. In a way, I felt as though I were going through that process all over again, but this time a full-fledged adult instead of a baby was going to pop out. (Uh, ow. I just had to cross my legs and wince.) When I saw Daniel pull into the parking lot and jump out with a huge smile on his face, I almost collapsed from relief. He passed! Now he just has to pass the written test, but he decided to do more reviewing before taking it. I'm going to pick him up next Tuesday or Thursday, when he has a three-hour break in the middle of the day, and take him over to the local BMV. Keep your fingers crossed he passes that portion, OK?

The other piece of news: The Ex and his wife are having a baby! He called me about a month ago because he was nervous about telling Daniel, remembering Daniel's reactions to the prospect of siblings when he was much younger. The most famous episode happened shortly after I started dating Kevin, when Daniel was 9. He sat down with me one day and informed me that he DID NOT want any baby brothers or sisters and wanted to know "my plans." He also quizzed me on whether I was taking birth control! It makes me laugh now, but at the time? I was glad he was aware of birth control but not very pleased at being lectured on preventing conception by a freakin' 9-year-old.

The Ex was also having a little trouble adjusting to the thought of impending parenthood at his age. He turns 49 this summer. In his shoes, I don't think I'd be looking forward to changing diapers and walking the floors at midnight again. I'm too cranky and need my sleep too much. I love borrowing other people's babies for a short time, but I also enjoy handing them over when they get upset or smelly. At 40, I think I would have been thrilled to have another baby. Almost 10 years later, not so much.

It turns out this pregnancy wasn't planned, either--at least not by The Ex. He said, with a forced-sounding joking tone, "It wasn't my idea!" and grumbled about it being the price he pays for marrying a much younger woman. Well, yeah, buddy. He expected a 30-year-old woman to not want children? Please. I'm sure her parents are overjoyed. They have no grandchildren, and her older brother isn't likely to give them any because it might cut into his working-out schedule.

Of course, Daniel handled the news well and told his dad congratulations. I think he's secretly tickled at the idea of being a big brother, and I know he'll be a good one. I'm happy for The Ex's wife because I've suspected for a while that she's been longing for a baby. Strangely, though, I'm a little sad. I'm not jealous, but I guess I was accustomed to thinking of Daniel as The Ex's only child. Now his dad's attention will be split--and of course it should be. I don't mean The Ex should always show a preference for Daniel; that's silly. Babies do demand almost undivided attention, however, and I think my inner mother lioness is being overprotective of Daniel. He seems to be handling the situation with maturity, however. Now I just need to follow his example.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Dear Mr. Moron

Thanks for the confirmation that I'm not being rude by refusing to play with my friend's invitation toys. I checked the site today (day after the RSVP deadline), and seven people still haven't responded at all, including three of her closest friends. I don't think I'm alone in my distaste for e-vitations. Hmmmph.

Volunteering at Obama's headquarters yesterday was great! I spent about three hours doing data entry, which is something I can do with one hand tied behind my back and half asleep. Very easy. Figuring out how the database worked took about five minutes, and then the only difficult task was deciphering handwriting on sign-up sheets. People, if you go to the trouble of entering your name, address, and contact info on a sign-up sheet, for God's sake, write legibly! Some poor unpaid (or underpaid) schlub has to interpret your chicken scratches. If your name is "Joan Mason" and you casually scribble it on an sign-up sheet, don't bitch about getting mail addressed to "Mr. John Moron."

I have to admit that I was a little nervous driving down there yesterday, going into a new situation with people I don't know and all. Of course, everyone was friendly, so there was no need for my attack of nerves. I just realized something about myself. (Wooo, an epiphany!) I was painfully shy in elementary school, even through junior high, but I got over it in high school and became somewhat outgoing. I think I started turning shy again when Daniel was a baby, and I'm still having trouble with it. If you met me, I don't think you'd notice; I'm not as visibly awkward as I was as a child. I introduce myself and initiate conversations and, in general, act like a real live grown-up. It's more an internal shyness--agonizing over whether I'm looking, sounding, or behaving like a dork and worrying about what people think of me. Sometimes I wonder whether my inner 13-year-old will ever grow up.

The headquarters are near the courthouse and historic district of downtown Lafayette, which is quaint and pretty but rather eerily deserted. When Kevin and I went there Saturday to register to vote, we decided to walk around the historic district because the weather was gorgeous. We found several antique stores and even an honest-to-goodness soda fountain in McCord Candies, but I didn't see the kinds of crowds I'd expected--just a few other people like us wandering around. Even yesterday, on an weekday, I didn't see many people around.

Celeste, would you believe I haven't seen a single redbud blooming yet? This year is the latest arrival of spring I can remember. I'm just now starting to see a few daffodils and tulips, but most of the trees still look pitifully bare. I'm itching to start gardening, too. Oh, would you e-mail me sometime? (My Gmail address is over there to the left.) I'd love to ask you about the Parthenon and any other Lafayette/Purdue places you can recommend. Go Boilermakers!

You would have been 54 today, Leslie. I think about you on this day every year--and many, many others days of the year, too.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Be my Emily

Now I know why I haven't moved for the past 12 years. Moving is a major pain in the ass, isn't it? Well, I love my new house, and I'll actually get around to posting pictures soon, after I get more boxes cleared out of the way. I can't tell you how much I adore calling the landlord when something needs to be fixed and having a handyman sent out tout suite! The best part? My handyman's name is Butch, I kid you not.

I have an etiquette question for you. A friend sent an invitation to a surprise birthday party for her husband this Saturday. She didn't send it until this past Saturday, so I can understand not being able to mail written invitations, although this woman does event planning for a living and is constantly trumpeting her superior planning skills. So a mass e-mail is fine, but she sent one of those stupid eVite things. Have you ever gotten one? I hate them, and I think the notion of needing one is ridiculous unless you have 200 guests to keep track of (not the case here). Also, you can see how everyone else replies on the eVite site, and my reason for not being to attend isn't one I care to announce to several people I don't know. I'll tell you, my lovely Internet friends, because I know you. Or I sort of know you and think you're very funny. Anyway, my night vision has gotten so bad that driving at night is downright scary unless it's a trip down the street to the grocery on extremely well-lit roads. Kevin can't go, so I'd have to drive 35 miles back by myself late at night with my old-lady eyes, and I'm not going to get into a head-on crash just to holler "Surprise!" at a man.

ANYway, I e-mailed her privately to tell her why I couldn't attend and sent my best wishes, yadda yadda. Very polite. (I was raised right.) Not three minutes later, she sent out another goddamn eVite e-mail, saying the following:

Some of you have been very kind to RSVP to me directly via email and for that I thank you. However, to make sure I don't miss anyone, would you please click on this link and respond directly on the invitation website? Its pretty kewl in that it tabulates everything for us. Yep! I'm getting lazy in my old age. Thanksabunch everyone! I truly appreciate it.

She's inviting less than 30 people. What the hell is there to "tabulate"? Half the people on her list haven't even responded yet, even though today is the RSVP deadline. Why didn't she just e-mail me back? Clearly, she means the e-mail for me. I guess she wants to prevent any other people who don't follow instructions from doing the same thing, but would sending a personal note to me separately have killed her? Fuck it. I'm not going to do it. Does that make me rude? (Apparently, it DOES make me quite the pottymouth.) I could be really rude and point out her punctuation and spelling errors. Uh, I guess I just did, didn't I? Oh, well.

Tomorrow afternoon, I'm volunteering at Obama's headquarters. I'm excited! I've never worked on a presidential campaign before. When I went there Saturday to sign up, a woman wandered in, looking confused, and asked where Hilary's headquarters are. All the volunteers stared at each other for a minute, and I muttered to the guy signing me up, "Tell her that if you do tell her, you'll have to kill her." He started sputtering and choking on his coffee. Either he was amused, or he's rethinking having me come in tomorrow.