Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve

I always put an apostrophe in there--is that right?  I figure it's a possessive, you know?  Like "the eve that belongs to the new year?"  I dunno.  I think I think too much about things not necessarily requiring so much thought.

Noticing an online news trend of sorts--more and more news items are turning up in video form.  I don't like my news in small, 30 second videos.  Seems too much like fast food news, you know?  I'd rather read a more in depth piece, something with more meat and less on the "cute news reader" front. 

Considering returning our new cell phones and exchanging them for something else.  They're made by Motorola, and Motorola has some seriously troubling ties to the Israeli government and the IDF.  If we're against Israel's apartheid policies, if we support the BDS movement, then we shouldn't be buying from companies tangled up in that.  So it's looking like maybe we'll make the leap to Samsung or LG.   I know Samsung is made in South Korea, I'll have to look at LG's politics. 

Gets hard, voting with your wallet.  I haven't had a Stouffer's Macaroni and Cheese for years, and I'm sadder than sad about having to swear off Starbucks' Frappuccinos.  Well, not sadder than sad, but a bit put out.  I get over that by thinking about how much more put out I would be if someone bulldozed my house, shot up my little brother for getting too close to a wall meant to imprison my people, and tore up my olive groves to keep food off my family's table while denying my mother access to medical care and refusing to allow repair to the bombed remains of our sewage treatment facilities which continuously pump sewage into our fishing waters.  Puts it in perspective, makes going without flavored coffee a little easier. 

Did better on the blood sugar last night.  134 at two hours post-prandial is still a little higher than I'd like, but it kicks ass over 191. 

Tonight is the big, last hurrah, food-stupidity-wise.  I have really gone to new lows in the space between Christmas and New Year's, but that's okay--I went into it knowing I was going to.  Tomorrow it's back on.  And I feel like it's something I can do. 

My fancy hairspray came--Sebastian Zero Gravity.  It's a fantastic hairspray, great hold but brushable.  Sadly, the can was broken--the sprayer snapped off (not just come loose).  Amazon refunded the cash, but now I have a full can of spray I can't use.  I'm such a miser, I'm trying to figure out how to magically make that sprayer work. 

Speaking of fabulous products, notice the little "My Reviews" link up top?  That's a link to things I write, and it would make me happy if you took a look every now and then.

Watched the end of Walking Dead Season 2 last night.  A few surprises, but mostly not.  The dead folks I expected to die, though how one died was a surprise (or how one re-died, I should say), and a couple survived I expected dead.  My theory on who is what and why bore out, though not enough detail (yet).  Wish they could crank the gore down just a whit.

Sore throat two days running.  Not really bad, but not liking it.

Went to Costco earlier.  Turns out the cell phones would have been drastically cheaper there.  Oops.  Now we know.  Turns out returning the phones wouldn't ding Motorola--our carrier would just resell as pre-owned.  Next phones, we'll do better.

And that's that.  Popeyes and a burger for New Years dinner.  I hope everyone has a great New Years, and for goodness' sake, DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE.  Seriously, don't be that sloppy loser.  Call AAA (1-800-400-4222) and see if they can help in your area.  No, you don't have to be a member.  If not?  Sleep where you are, drive in the morning when you're sober.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Fiscal Cliff, Indian Rape Victims, Saudi Clerics, and Mold

So here we are.  New Year's Eve eve.  The GOP house has refused to come to work until today.  Because I don't matter to them.

Really, that's what it is.  They don't give two squirts about me. 

My family stands to lose around six to seven hundred dollars a month if those idjits don't get their collective act together.  That is a devastating hit.  Like a "can't recover from that" hit.  But they're so busy politicking for their rich friends and their "corporation people" (because corporations are, after all, people, remember?) that they'll let me and mine sink rather than make those rich folks pay a bigger percentage than I do. 

Yes, that does make me hate them.  Being held hostage by bought politicians inspires that in me.

Found an amazing, astounding house in Alexandria.  If we were bought politicians or "corporation people," we could afford it without blinking.  But we're not, so it will never be anything more than a silly dream.  But it's lovely.  Here it is.   It would put hubby so close to work!  Hey, what's 3.8 million between friends, right?  Now all I need is a friend who feels the same way!

Terribly windy out, and very cold.  We're trying to save some money on the heat bill, but it's all I can do to resist cranking that furnace up.  I am ice cold, and that wind is working its way in through those windows and doors, doubled and insulated though they are.  It's just that strong a wind.

Woke up crying last night.  Can't remember the dream, though.  Had later dreams about swimming in this awful, dark pond with my ex-husband and a bunch of other Arabs.  The women had the most amazing bathing suits, but I was just in jeans and a t-shirt.  Hmm. 

Speaking of Arabs, did you hear the one about the Saudi clerics threatening to pray for awful illnesses and such if the government doesn't stop its attempt to allow women more rights?  Ew.  Just ew.  Talk about cheapening your faith and turning it into a bad joke.  I have no problem with Arabs (was married to an Arab for almost nine years), and I have no problem with Islam (or at least no more problem with it than with any other religion), but I have a problem with oppressive fanaticism regardless of the faith that spawns it. 

And speaking of oppressive fanaticism, how about those new Israeli housing settlements in Palestine?  Nice, huh?  No, no attempt to cause another blow up there, I'm sure.  They're the GOOD guys, remember?  Because, as we all know, the good guys take land, exile natives, and institute apartheid policies, and all the while they enjoy our support because--well, because they're the GOOD guys!  Duh!  Pretty sure the Bible telling us so helps with that. 

And last, but certainly not least, can India maybe, finally decide that women are worth lifting up, worth saving?  Because I gotta tell you, for a country that tries to forward itself as some sort of enlightened, technically advanced place, it sure does treat its women like dirt.  Think it might be that whole oppressive religion thing?  Maybe?  Just a little bit?  Hey, India?  Grow the heck up.

Wow.  That turned into a bit of a rant.  Wasn't intended.  I'm cold, and I want to go to Costco then go back to sleep. 

And here's some really crappy paneling with a story: 

Okay, first off, this is NOT how the room in question looks now.  But this is how it looked way back when.  See, my dad decided to create a bedroom for my sister down in our mostly unfinished basement.  Instead of painted walls, he found some truly awful paneling (which, I admit, I thought was purely beautiful when I was SEVEN) of the wallpaper veneer variety, and coupled it with the most atrocious, gawdawful bright red shag carpet.  Not just any shag carpet, this stuff came in 18 inch squares with adhesive backing.  Which he promptly stuck to the very nice clay tile floor already in place.  It was mind-numbingly awful.  Over the years, the basement flooded--not deep, devastating floods, but rather an inch here, two inches there.  Enough to really soak the stick-on shag and the wallpaper-over-pressboard paneling. Over the years, the stick-on-shag took on a horrendous smell, and the paneling began to disintegrate slowly from the bottom up.


Yes, the fancy black stuff you hear about so much in the news.  Slowly eating its way through the paneling until the bottom six inches or so was just gone in some spots.  The carpet was so horrifying we tried to pull it up (38 years after it went in!), but years of damp and mold left it coming up in tiny, half-inch chunks with the adhesive doing what adhesive does--adhering.  Persistence only caused small shards of the original clay tile to come up, still stuck to the shag.  We wound up having to use a pavement scraper to take it all up, clay tile and all.  We wouldn't have bothered, but the MUSHROOMS growing up out of my Mom's basement floor in that room was just more than we could bear. 

I think this experience is what has given me such an aversion to bad paneling.  I don't hate ALL paneling.  Heck, I love a good example of Judge's paneling or other wainscoting.   But the cheap, comes in sheets, pre-fab, and especially wallpaper-veneered varieties?  I can smell the mold and see the ugly--they're indelibly stamped in my poor head. 

Not our mold, just a representative of the species.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The week between Christmas and New Years

Is looking like the one that's going to end me if I'm not careful.  Went nuts on dinner tonight--not so much calories (well, until the homemade milkshake for dessert), but astounding carbs.  Like "blood sugar pushing 200" carbs.

I know how to do this better.  I know how to make smoothies that don't load my carbs or spike my blood sugar.  I know not to have garlic bread AND pasta the same meal with breaded chicken.  I KNOW this stuff.  So stop it.

Just stop.  It's enough.

I'll do a proper entry tomorrow.  Maybe even with paneling.  On the iPad right now, makes for irritating blogging.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Past

Well, another one under my (for now) increasingly large belt.  Nah, I'm not feeling guilty about the eating--I knew it was coming, and I enjoyed it immensely.  It'll almost certainly continue until New Year's, when we'll hop back on that wagon.

Christmas Eve brought the traditional "one gift the night before" thing.  For the boy and me, it was new cell phones--the ones I talked about earlier.  They are Razr Droids--quite fancy, and the screens are big enough that I can likely comfortably use mine without squinting and giving myself a headache.  Despite having opened the box, our boy was actually quite surprised.  Sadly, hubby had gotten himself a watch . . . which came pre-broken.  Since we don't know where the receipt is (grrrr!), we're not sure the store will take it back.  Hopefully, they will.  Yes, I'm the one who always yells to keep receipts.  No, they don't often get kept.

We ate Chinese and watched, of course, A Christmas Story.  It's become something of a tradition.  A good one, I think.

Christmas morning found me wide awake at 6 am.  Understand, I hadn't gone to bed until after 3 am.  So, in a totally out-of-character move for me, I went back to sleep.  Woke up at 9:45 to my boy gently taking my hand in his.  I sure do love him.  We had a wonderful morning, and there were even some surprises for me under the tree--candle-making gear and my Ojon shampoo and leave-in conditioner.  The candle-making stuff was suspected, but the Ojon was a total shock.  Not sure HOW it was a shock, considering Facebook's "targeted advertising" has been burying me under Ojon adverts for a couple of weeks now.  Hubby LOVED his hobbit slippers, so that was a happy thing.  Our boy, sadly, is finding that our computer isn't quite up to snuff when it comes to playing his new game, Skyrim.  It plays, but it's laggy and the frames per second are crap.  I'm sad for him, but I've got 20 years of "computer can't handle the game" disappointment under my belt.  It's rough, but it's one you have to learn to live with.  Still sad, though--hate to have him even a little disappointed on Christmas.

Dinner was steaks, mushrooms and onions, roasted butternut and sweet potato, mashed red potatoes with skins, and crab cakes.  Dessert was homemade brownies with homemade whipped cream, topped with ice cream and raspberries in Chambord sauce.  It was . . . not as good as it sounded like it was going to be.  The whipped cream, which hubby made, was spectacular, but the sauce just clashed with the brownie, made it too rich.  Oh, well.  Now we know.  We watched Love, Actually (another Christmas tradition, though this one makes my heart hurt a bit every time), and then watched an episode of Walking Dead, which features one of the actors from Love, Actually. 

Speaking of Walking Dead, I'm still not sure how I feel about it.  It is, for the most part, well-enough acted, and the story is playing out well.  Sort of a The Stand meets Revolution meets 28 Days Later.  All things I enjoy.  But the gore level is excessive--gratuitous, really.  And, truth be told, I'm sick to death of Zombies.  What was funny and silly, interesting and just a little scary five years ago has been so miserably overdone, so sickeningly incorporated and internalized that I really do feel that maybe it's becoming harmful.  Guess hearing eight year-olds talk about "getting that head shot" and "double tapping" troubles me.  That said, if zombie shows are the way you tend, Walking Dead is pretty good thus far. 

Had Charlie groomed this morning.  They did a better job with his face and neck this time, but utterly failed to do his ears and tail.  I guess, when you go to Petsmart for the great price, you maybe get what you pay for.  I'll trim them up myself tonight.  I do a pretty good job.  Took him to the vet after to have his microchip checked and ask why they want him tested for heartworm.  He's been on heartworm meds since before he was six months old, there shouldn't be any need for testing, but they insist it needs to be done.  Sounds like an easy way for them to make 60 bucks. 

Hubby and son are at the theater, watching "The Hobbit." I had no desire, really--I'm not a huge theater fan, it kills me that three folks at the theater with one large popcorn and three drinks is 85 bucks. There is rarely a movie I find worth that. I don't hate "The Hobbit," but it's not my favorite of the bunch, and we have a nice enough HDTV that it'll look just fine at home when it comes out on Blu-ray.

The weather this morning was amazing--snow, wind, chunks of ice (not hail, but ice), and freezing rain.  Now it's just rain, and it is POURING down!  Has been for hours, guess there are flood warnings out.  Just put on my new Christmas shirt, then promptly ran outside into this disaster to tell a neighbor that the back door to his car was open.  I remember the days when I just would have dashed over and closed it for him, but I don't really know these folks, they likely have a car alarm, and people get weird when you touch their cars anymore.  The days of sliding behind the wheel of a stranger's car and turning their headlights off for them are gone. 

Think we're finally going to thaw the turkey soup we made at Thanksgiving and serve it up. The weather outside is, after all, frightful.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas, Cardinals and Jays (and Mockingbirds, Squirrels, Nuthatches, Chickadees, and Juncos)!

Just a quick, mostly unserious note--just went out and filled the bird feeders, filled the squirrel feeder with dried corn cobs, put up some suet for the wood peckers, and all around made the yard happier for the birdies.  I try to remember, but I often space the feeders and the poor birds hang out on the fence, glaring at me. 

We bought the dog a new toy, a sweater, a sucker made of biscuit iced with peanut butter (the stick is rawhide, which we usually avoid, but hey, it's Christmas), some chew bones, and a bag of his fancy Castor and Pollux food. 

When I was a kid, we had these plaster molds for nativity figures.  Every year, we would make more figures and paint them.  They're missing now, those artistic endeavors, so I can only assume my mom tossed them at some point.  But I loved that--I loved it, and now I wish we'd done it with my boy.  I just suggested it, but didn't get much enthusiasm.  Looking around the internet, I see there's not much available, anyway.  These weren't cartoon-cute figures with little boy and little girl angels or cherubic Native American wise men/children.  They were the classic European-style figures, very serious.  Barnyard figures, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, wise men, and a couple shepherds, plus the angel with the banner.  We did this every year, and I had forgotten until today how much I loved it.

One quick, more serious thing--I caught a story on AP today about how money and toys are pouring into Newtown.  I understand that we, as Americans, have a habit of throwing money and gifts at things because we don't know how to do anything else and we want to communicate our sorrow and solidarity.  But the folks in Newtown are, by and large, fairly well off.  These folks aren't poor in that sense.  So maybe a better show of support and empathy is contacting our President and our Legislators and letting them know that this needs to stop.  That we need to never, ever mark another year with another tragedy.  Not by putting "armed guards" in public schools (didn't work at Columbine, no reason to believe it would work anywhere else), but by getting guns out of the hands of criminals and the unbalanced and putting a permanent end to the sale of assault rifles and high capacity clips.

Doing something about the pervasive culture of violence might help a bit, too.

Oh, and no paneling today, but a thought--why put a mirror directly across from the toilet in the bathroom?  And then not put any magazines or books for folks to read?  So all they have to do is stare at their own faces while they use the toilet?  Seems mean.

Iowa's Supreme Court, Irresistibility, and Seven Years Smoke-free

Came across a news bit the other day.  Iowa's (all male) Supreme Court, in a nutshell, has decided that it's okay for a male employer to fire a female employee for being "irresistibly attractive."  The employee doesn't have to be flirtatious, overtly sexual, or in any way act inappropriately.  Just being "irresistible" is enough.  In this case, it was a male dentist firing his female assistant.  For being attractive to him. 

What the hell?

Now, sure, this sort of ruling might catch up some male employees, but let's face it--this is mostly going to affect women.  Why?  Because, at the risk of sounding "reverse sexist," women don't have a "since the beginning of recorded history and likely beyond" legacy of objectifying, harassing, hassling, and projecting their sexual desires onto men.  Men haven't been the frequent targets of sexual abuse and systematic rape at the hands of women during war time.  We don't have entire faiths based, in part, on the idea that MEN are sinful by nature, tempters, and responsible for our fall from paradise.  In other words, sure, a woman MIGHT do something like this, but statistically speaking, it's markedly more likely to be a man because that's how our culture has formed.

When I was young and skinny, I had a series of bosses and coworkers who were absolutely sexually harassing/abusive. I had one who made it clear that, if I didn't date his younger brother (who was "irresistibly attracted" to me), I would be out of a job. Same guy's nephew worked at the place, and was beyond sexually harassing--had I been older, smarter about the law, and hadn't needed the job so badly, I'd have nailed him for sexual assault (yeah, assault). Understand that what this guy did to me (repeatedly, not just once) was no secret, and my boss gave me the "boys will be boys" and "it just means he likes you" lines. Instead of calling the cops (for which I would have been, at best, fired), I enlisted the aid of other male coworkers to escort me into the back so I could clock in and get things out of the walk in. Every night he was working was a scary-assed night for me--I didn't even dare walk to the bathroom alone. Five years after I stopped working there, I walked in for lunch just to take a look at the new decor. He was there. He came over and I just about flipped in the middle of the lunch crowd.

Imagine it--you look up from your pleasant lunch to see the guy who slammed you against a wall, pinned you by the throat, and roamed around up under your skirt with his filthy hand.  Ground himself against you and LICKED your face.  More than once.

He said, "Please don't freak, please don't run--I just wanted to say that I am SO sorry for the horror I put you through." It was a really odd moment.  An ugly moment. He offered to pay for my lunch, and I got ugly. I got ANGRY.  Asked him if he really thought the price of a burger and fries was going to make up for being dry-humped and viciously groped against a wall?

He started to cry.  Much as I used to cry on nights I knew I'd have to face him at work.

He was dead a few months later.  Victim of his own stupid, spectacular, drunken stunts.  I ran into his mother on campus a year or so later, and she literally accosted me in the Student Union building.  Grabbed my hand and started to cry, telling me how much her son had liked me, how he had always talked about me, how pretty I was, how smart I was, how nice I was. 

How she had thought maybe--just maybe--I was going to be her daughter-in-law.

What the hell is that?  That's what he told her he thought of me?  That's how he shows it?  That's like a dog who bites to show he's friendly.  Faced with his sobbing mom, I kept all my bitter memories to myself.  I told her how sorry I was for her loss, her hurt.  I let her go ahead and paint him as a great guy because, to her, he was.  Why crush a mom's heart any further when the guy was dead? 

That wasn't the only job that put me in a position like that.  I used to tend bar in another place in Ogden, Utah.  The owner was this lecherous, drunken immigrant whose English, which was never good, became increasingly rough as the alcohol flowed.  Guy couldn't keep his hands off the female employees and had a really bad habit of letting 13 and 14 year-old girls into the bar to sit on his lap and get drunk.  He had a lovely wife who bitterly accepted this because she didn't feel she had any choice.  They had a gorgeous daughter.  I used to babysit her on the floor in the hours before the bar opened.  I taught her to read in that bar. 

  Anyway, the owner.  Terrible for putting a hand on my ass or letting in the young girls.  And we tangled over and over about it, because, by then, I was no longer willing to let a boss (or anyone else) do that to me.  He kept letting in the little girls, and I kept asking them for ID and escorting them out.  At one point, the boss's wife cornered me, told me to stop or they'd fire me.  I said, "The inherent sickness of letting little girls in here for that purpose aside, if the cops show up, *I* am the one who is toasted.  I'm the damned bartender.  I'm the one serving up the alcohol."  She told me that they'd pay any fines or lawsuit judgments incurred.     Understand, these people couldn't even pay their damned utility bills.  This bar had no hot water, no heat, no telephone service, and they were buying beer from GROCERY STORES and reselling it in the bar because they had bounced checks to their distributors.  Plus, the law put the responsibility squarely on ME, not the bar owners.  They were going to cover my backside if a 14 year-old girl got raped or died of alcohol poisoning on my watch?  Even if that was the POINT (and it wasn't--getting little girls drunk and slobbering over them was the point), give me a break!  

It came to a head one night when the owner, once again, decided to dip his drunken paws into my till and take money so he could haul a couple of teenage girls (and our sloppy doorman) to Wendover for a night of hot tub hi jinx.  I stopped him, said, "I'm gonna need you to sign for that so I don't get screamed at tomorrow about the missing money you debauched away in Wendover.  Again."  He laughed, leaned his awful face in close to mine, and put his hand on my ass, asking if I wanted to come along for the (wink, wink) RIDE.  And I said, "You'll want to get that greasy paw off my ass before I break all your grubby fingers."     It was immediately after that they began cutting my hours viciously.  Kept telling me it was "just too slow" and they wanted to "give the other bartenders a chance."  At the same time, they were telling the other employees (including my roommate) that it was because I was a "lousy bartender" (I was the only bartender there with actual BAR experience), that I was "slow" and "difficult," and "rude to the customers."     

In other words, I was fired for asking children for identification before serving them alcohol and for not allowing my boss to grope me.

I find myself wondering--the Iowa Supreme Court.  Would this ruling protect people like my old bosses?  Or would they consider a line crossed when unwanted physical contact was made?  Would the "irresistible attraction" argument have held up with Joe's brother (who worked maintenance at the place)?  "Your Honor, I'm sorry but I had to fire her--it was destroying my brother, having to see her here night after night."  How about my violent admirer?  "Your Honor, I was helpless to control myself, she's just so irresistibly attractive I felt compelled to sexually abuse her."    How about Pedo-boss and his gropey little hands and predilection for underage girls?  Was I just "irresistible" to him, too?  

Enough of that.   A Facebook "meme" came across my wall today, What the heck, here it is:  

I don't know if Bill Nye really said that, and I don't care--not the point.  But I remember once having a then-13-year-old make some crack about a friend's intelligence, and his "proof" was that "he's just a mechanic." 
"Just a mechanic."
What a stupid thing to say.  My husband and I took him to task in a big way.  Because, while he can't help having been reared to be self-impressed and "superior," it's something he needs to unlearn as fast as possible if he wants to, in any way, be able to relate to people in this world.  I told him that, in a pinch, in the middle of Death Valley or at the top of a snowy mountain, I don't want a math genius, I don't need a kid who's adept at playing the piano or enjoys studying genetics and heredity for fun.  No, I want a MECHANIC.  And when I want my hair done, I don't want a physicist.  When my drain is clogged or my furnace kicks the bucket, I don't want a neurosurgeon. 
I sure as hell don't want a bunch of History professors working on my plane between flights.
Every person on this earth knows something I don't.  Every person has some skill or some bit of smarts I lack.  Some of those things I may not feel I need to know, but that doesn't detract from the point--they know something I don't know, and that knowledge serves them in their life. 
Respect that.
Today is cookie day--three kinds.  Peanut butter, sugar, and cardamom orange zest.  We were going to do Italian almond paste, but we decided to put that off to another holiday--we have plenty of cookies to be working with.  Also making brownies from scratch for under vanilla ice cream, homemade whipped cream and raspberry Chambord sauce.  Might use the "Shambord."  Not sure yet.  Hand cut steaks, mushrooms, roasted butternut squash and sweet potato, and salads round it out.  Oh, and lemon meringue pie, because I haven't had in years and it just sounded good. 
I just gained five pounds typing that. 
Oh, and today?  Marks seven years since I quit smoking.  Seven years that brought me to where I am today.  See, even if I did manage to survive the increasing lung problems and blood pressure issues, there's no WAY we could have afforded to move here with us smoking.  So this is my big pat on the back to myself, and a big "you can do it!" to anyone out there wishing they didn't smoke.  You don't have to smoke--you can quit whenever you want.  Seriously. 
I hope everyone's having a marvelous holiday season!  Two days 'til Christmas and we STILL haven't torn open the presents!  Yay! 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Just Plain Mean

So, I was reading through news stories on AOL (no, not my sole--or even predominant--news source, but I like to flip through on my way to my email) and came across an "Athletes who've let themselves go," story.  Normally, I'd skip that, but the photo was, I was pretty sure, Tonya Harding.  Curious to see if I was right, I opened the page.

To a pile of puke.

You know, what IS it about us that makes holding people up to public ridicule, especially about their weight and appearance, seem like a fine, fun idea?  Why is that okay? Cool, even?  This was particularly mean, because it had a "ha, ha, ha, see how the mighty have fallen" quality, with snide little zingers accompanying each photo.  I'm not glad that Shaq has gained weight, I don't gloat because Tonya Harding is heavier than she was when she was a YOUNG PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE.  If you are glad, if you do gloat? 

Well, you're maybe not very nice.  In fact, you seem to kinda suck.

We were going to head to Ketchup again tonight, see the fireworks from a better vantage and give the fries and shakes a whirl, but it may be too cold and miserable.  We've got rain, and, worse, we've got high wind warnings out--60 mph gusts, they're saying.  My money's on no fireworks with winds like that, and even if there are fireworks, I can't have the camera out in the rain (and I'm not going to try to rubber-band-and-ziploc the camera) and I'm not about to get soaking wet in a frigid windstorm.

So tonight's probaby off.

Just got done watching the NRA's ridiculous, sickening response to Sandy Hook.  More guns.  Oh, gosh, didn't see that coming.  They suggest armed guards in schools.  Okay, let's do that--never mind that there were armed guards at Columbine and it didn't help a bit.  Let's run with it anyway.  Now, remember, that's not just paycheck.  That's rigorous, ongoing training--ask any cop or soldier if you can train for a few hours and then be "trained" and ready to roll indefinitely.  Of course not, it takes ongoing training.  That's wowser-pricy.  Thankfully, I have NO doubt that the NRA will step up and pay for every one of these guards at every public school in the nation.   They can foot the bill with membership dues!  That said, an armed guard in every school won't stop this.  The shooter in Newtown had done his damage in minutes.  Barring the spectacularly unlikely luck of the shooter and guard being in the same part of the school AND the guard just happening to have his weapon at the ready when it starts, that guard isn't going to prevent a thing.  He's either going to get shot before he clears holster or the murder's going to be done before he can even reach that part of the school.  Look at Ft. Hood, for goodness' sake!  Even the Army Police who finally took that shooter down (after he'd shot 45 people, 13 fatally)?  One of them was shot and disarmed before the partner was able to get the shot and put a stop to things.  And those are active duty American soldiers.

Enough of that garbage.  It's disappointing, but not at all surprising.  It's who we are, apparently--20 children shot down, and not only did we rush the shops to buy MORE guns and MORE ammo, we didn't even pause in our killing of each other.  Think about that--we didn't even pause for one day in our murdering each other.  I weep for my country.

Hit the liquor store tonight, grabbed a bottle of "Shambord."  That's an American-made imitation Chambord. Less than half the price, and since we're just using it for cooking anyway, it seems stupid to blow that much cash.  Tastes very similar, same alcohol content, so we'll see.  Hubby grabbed a bottle of Basil Hayden's.  If it's good enough for Francis Wolcott, it's good enough for him, right?

Dropped way too much cash shopping these past two days.  I'm feeling myself nearing the panic-attack stage.  Hubby got an award from work, and he says we're fine, but it's in my nature to worry.

All my crying about my Mom in the past few days, and I chewed her out on the phone today.  She called, let it ring five times, then hung up.  No message.  Called back, let it ring five time, then hung up.  Again, no message.  Then called back AGAIN.  This is something she has been doing for decades, and the only way to slow her down for a while is to yell.  Anything less and she just ramps up until she's doing it two or three times a day.  So I yelled at her. 

It's okay, I told her I'd call her back after I woke up (she was doing this as I was trying to nap).  I did that, and it was a good call.

Grabbed a bunch of cheeses for crackers--Butterkase, Muenster, smoked gouda, and cave-aged gruyere.  We really like cheese. 

Our Christmas tree is STILL devouring water like there's no tomorrow.  Never had a tree that kept drinking for weeks. 

Oh, and hey, the world didn't end, so have some paneling!

Nowhere near the worst paneling out there, but a pretty intense pattern, no?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Don't I feel stupid?

So I wrote a big, long blog entry about my Mom today.  I'm sitting here, crying my eyes out over a blog I almost certainly will never publish.  What a mess I am.

After struggling with it all morning, I guess all I can say is this--don't let life pass you by.  My Mom has spent the past 37 years waiting for life to happen to her.  She's almost 79 years old now--she is alone, she has no friends, is bankrupt, and is unutterably sad.  And resigned.  And yet, she will take no steps to improve her situation, and no amount of prodding or encouragement inspires her.  37 years she's been like this.  37 years I have begged her to meet people, to do things, to go places, to live.  She is, by turns, angry, bitter, sad, disappointed, scared, desperate, and always, always alone.  No friends, no hobbies, no activities, no hope.

Don't do that.  Don't let it race by you, because the days may seem to crawl, but the years gallop.  And suddenly you're not 41 anymore, you're 78.  And it's too late for you because you don't know how to change, you don't dare.  You're paralyzed with fear, and you're utterly alone with a lifetime of regret for all the things you didn't do.  And your kids?

Your kids are paralyzed, too--with guilt.  With sadness.  And they grieve for you even before you die. 

I love you, Ma.  I am so sorry.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Culture of Anger and Happy Birds

I was reading my old local rag this morning (that would be the Ogden Standard Examiner, if you're interested) and came across a story about at trucker who was stabbed in the chest by another trucker.  Using a screwdriver. 

Why?  What had the gentlemen with the tool in his chest done to earn this?

He drove too slowly, apparently.  The other trucker, frustrated, whipped around him, then cut him off, got out of his truck, stomped back, and stabbed him in the chest with a screwdriver!

Calm the hell down.  I'm serious, if you have ever, EVER considered shooting, stabbing, beating, or otherwise accosting someone because their driving isn't to your liking, you need to hand those keys over to a sane person and take the damned bus. 

Hand your firearms over, too.  You're one of the scary ones who shouldn't have them.

Had someone last night tell me that the news is slanted, they only report the bad, never the good.  That things aren't as bad as they seem, it's just that the news broadcasts focus on the awfulness instead of the goodness.  This is an argument that has long bothered me.  See, asking the media to report every time something good happens is like calling your doctor every morning and shouting, "Doc!  Ever few seconds I breathe out!  And then in!  And then out!  And my heart?  It's beating 70 times a minute!  And I feel good!  And nothing hurts!"  Okay, that's great, it is, we're all very happy about that, but it's not news.  It doesn't possibly affects us ("Officials warn us to be on the lookout for a 6'2" bald male wearing a dark gray Kenneth Cole suit with a predominantly grey Brioni silk tie and matching pocket kerchief. Witnesses report he offered a woman in line at 7-11 the 56 cents she was short on her morning donut, then, after paying for his coffee and fuel, he smiled at three people.").   It's not unusual or surprising.  It doesn't need to be brought to our attention in order to perhaps inspire us to action.

I'm not saying the news hasn't gone a bit over the line when it comes to the orgy of coverage some awful things get, but to suggest that the news should focus on happy, good things?  That's silly.  Sunny, mild weather is nice, but it's the hurricane and its attendant 11 inches of rain that means to do me harm.

On the subject of silliness, the "end of the world" bull is hitting a fever pitch.  I wish there was some way to inspire these folks to send me all their money.  After all, the world's ending, what do they care?  I think my only fear is the "self-fulfilling prophecy" crowd.  You know, the ones who would decide to use that date as their "going out with a bang" date.  In other words, I'm not scared that the Mayans were right, but I am a little worried that someone might do something in order to try and prove that the Mayans were right.

And speaking of proving people right, don't do this.  Don't decide that, because someone thinks ill of you, you may as well live down to their expectations.  How childish is that?  "Well, if you already think I'm having an affair (or stealing, or not trying at school, or whatever), then I might as well just DO that!"  How incredibly immature is that response?  It's a common one in folks I've known, and it drives me utterly batty.  If someone downs you, if someone assumes the worst about you, just tell them they're wrong and continue being YOU.  Really, what do you prove by becoming the scumbag they say you are?  Besides that you're stupid?

A small note for the "if the teachers had been armed" crowd.  Please read up on the Fort Hood disaster.  A base full of highly trained soldiers, with weapons galore, and that guy managed to shoot up 45 people (13 fatally) before a couple of Army cops put an end to it.  Those were highly trained soldiers, and they couldn't stop a shooter.  You expect a group of kindergarten teachers to do better?  I'm not dissing teachers, I love them, but they're not soldiers, and even soldiers struggle with a shooter scenario.  So stop being silly.  Arming teachers is a ridiculous idea.

It's so close to Christmas, and we're all getting a little antsy.  Thinking about moving the date up a few days, opening the presents early.  Like Friday, maybe.  Or tonight.  Maybe claiming that space between Hanukkah and Christmas as our own holiday.  Maybe naming it "Impatience."  It has a nice ring to it.

Had Dreamfield's angel hair pasta with Italian chicken breast and Wegman's tomato basil sauce.  We carefully measure servings, and augment the pasta with julienned carrots, which makes for a bigger, tastier, healthier meal.  Hubby made cheese crisps in the oven--you just grate up parmesan or asiago cheese with some Italian herbs, put one tablespoon of cheese in each muffin pan spot, and then bake it.  Super tasty, and I can do that and not blow my calories.  In fact, I was a couple hundred under yesterday.  Tonight's fajitas, made with boneless, skinless chicken, red bell peppers, onions, spices, and two tablespoons of fat free sour cream wrapped up in a Kontos Lavash, which is easier on my carbs (and super tasty).  We'll have it with black beans (Goya low sodium) spiced up to our liking and one serving of Mexican rice.  Well under my calories for the day, and I do love the meal.

It's almost that time again--in February, it'll be the Great Backyard Bird Count.  I do it every year, it's easy--just put aside a piece of time and count how many of what birds you see in your yard, park, or wherever.  It's free, it's a worthy cause (trying to get a good idea of how different species of birds are doing in this changing climate), and it's fun.  Here's a link:

That's a Waxwing in the button above, by the way.  Saw some the other day in a pyracantha bush, eating the berries.  It's been a long time since I've seen Waxwings--not since I was a little kid.  It was a very happy thing.  Watching the Mockingbirds school the Blue Jays at the same time, which is marvelously comedic.  The Cardinals, of course, stood aloof.  Too cool for school.

Oh, and a shout-out to the nephew (and his latest "baby mama")?  "CELICA" is NOT a child's name, it's a CAR.  18 years old and you've already managed to produce THREE babies, NONE of whom you can support, and now you're looking to name one after a compact import?  Goodness. 

And I think that's all I have in me right now.  Here's some bad paneling:

Not the very worse paneling I've ever seen, but sure is a LOT of it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Because No Lice is Twice as Nice

I have no idea why I typed that title. Because I'm tired, I guess.

Haven't seen any lice for over a week.  Nits, either. No, the super-heavy-duty 5% permethrin the doc prescribed (even after I said these seemed to be permethrin-resistant) didn't do a thing.  What DOES seem to be doing the trick?

Religious combing.  Lice combing, nit combing, nit picking.  Plus a heavy dose of heat via my blow dryer.  Every other day we shampoo, load our hair with Pureology (a very pricy conditioner to be using as nit-combing gel, but it's perfect for it), nit comb, then fry the hair with the blow dryer.  Thankfully, the Pureology seems to do a pretty good job of protecting the hair from the high heat. 

What a mess.  I guess a trip to the hairdresser will let us know if we've really gotten rid of them.

Watched the rat-children's Dad lose his truck today (the family's only vehicle).  Looks like it's just stopped running.  Not a surprise--the poor thing has no front door windows (they try to use towels and blankets to keep the rain out), and it's sounded increasingly unwell for months now.  My first urge?

To head over and commiserate, because I have SO been there.  To recommend Brown's Hyundai because, hey, they financed us when I didn't think ANYONE would.  I feel bad for the guy, I do.  I think he's an ineffectual, weak parent whose kids are scary and out of control, but fact is, I think he's a nice guy.  A nice guy who works hard and has it rough--and it just got a whole lot rougher. 

Right before Christmas.

I wish we could afford to step in and be the good guys for him. 

I remember, back in 1995, when we were moving from Fontana (Fontucky), California back to Utah.  It was a miserable move--hubby driving his car, me driving the U-Haul truck (with the broken dash lights) with the Mustang on the trailer (with the broken stabilizer).  I cried from Fontucky to Barstow.  Not easy, driving a 26 foot truck pulling a 17 foot auto transport over Cajon Pass while sobbing.

No, I didn't want to leave SoCal.  In hindsight, of course, I'm glad we did.  It led us here.  Eventually.

Driving that rig was very hard in the dark, and, by the time we reached Jean, Nevada (after deciding against picking up hitchhikers near the women's prison outside of town), I had a migraine that was the size of--well, at least the size of my head.  We pulled into the parking lot at some Jean casino, hoping to find some way, in those over-packed vehicles, to nap.  Understand we were moving a snake, a rat, five cats, and a dog.  All their cages crammed in the cabs of the two vehicles.  Before I could nap, however, I really needed to take something for that eye-bleeder of a headache. 

To do that?  I needed food.  We had no food.  Know what else we had almost none of? 

Money.  In fact, we were not sure we had enough money to keep the U-Haul truck in petrol. 

I tried to beg off, told hubby I'd just take the pills sans food.  He wasn't having any of that, so we headed into the casino in search of cheap casino fare.  And we found some--$2.99 prime rib with baked potato and some rather disconsolate, woobly green beans.  Add a Diet Coke for a buck and we were set.  An eight dollar meal, basically.  Well, a ten dollar meal, once you count the tip.  Of course, this was back when gas was 80 cents or so a gallon.  So ten dollar meal was a LOT of fuel.  We were now even closer to not making it to our destination.

On our way out of the casino, we passed a rather inebriated gentleman who had just hit it on the dollar slots.  He started yelling for hubby to come over.  Hubby, at the time, wasn't the Mr. Respectable he is now in a suit and tie.  No, he was a long hair (down to his ass) in grubby jeans with the obligatory tat on the arm.  He approached the man, who scooped out handfuls of dollars from his machine and offered them to us.  Hubby tried to beg off, but the man insisted--said it would screw with his luck if he didn't share with the first person he saw.  Wisely, hubby didn't persist in objecting, and we walked away with thirty-eight dollars.

38 bucks.

He had no way of knowing it, but that drunk at the slots?  Saved us.  He got us home.  We've never forgotten him.  As much as I fear and loathe those kids across the street, I don't wish them a crappy Christmas where presents go back so the truck can be fixed or replaced.  I don't wish their dad yet another crap job so he can keep them afloat.  I wish we had the money to help.  Because you know what?

I can't imagine anything cooler than being the person who puts a hand out there and pulls someone else up.

Another good diet day. I think tomorrow I'm going to start including pics of bad paneling. Because, as I pore over real estate listings, I realize there is a LOT of really offensive paneling out there. Like this (which isn't the worst I've seen, but it sure would make me sad if I had to look at it every day):

Monday, December 17, 2012

Stupid things people say

I may need to step back for a while.  I am having a hard time dealing with how incredibly thoughtless some folks can be.  How little mental energy they put into the things they then spit out of their mouths (or keyboards). 

Just tangled with someone.  We've tangled before.  And I am determined to calm down and live to tangle another day.  With him, even.  Because he's not all stupid, but sometimes he really doesn't think before he talks.

Today, it was guns.  He said, "There are already laws in place, but what's the point?  People break them so there's no point in even passing them"

Okay, Z?  There are also laws in place to prevent child molestation.   People break them. There are laws about speeding and drinking before you drive and raping and murdering and committing armed robbery.  Shall we ditch those laws, too?  Shall we just throw our hands in the air and say, "Oooh, NO, screw it, away with the laws!  People just break them, so what's the point?" 

Of course not.  That's just silly.  If we just said "screw it!" and did away with laws that people break, we'd have no laws. 

Then he said, "We have a RIGHT!"  Oh, goodness.  I've gone over this before, so I won't delve too deeply into the "dragging out a 225 year old document to determine laws concerning weapons UNDREAMED of when it was written" argument.  It's not a holy tome, and Thomas Jefferson would puke at the idolatry.  Besides, everyone seems to forget the "well-regulated" part of that Amendment.

After that?  He gave me the "If the teachers had been armed!" argument.  Spoken like a man who has no practical experience with firearms and watches way too many movies.  ABC did a great piece on folks with Concealed Carry permits, and, no surprise, the people were absolutely unhelpful in a pinch.  In fact, all they really would have managed in a crisis was to get themselves shot and kill the folks around them trying to run for safety.  There's a reason cops train, not just in the beginning, but ongoing.  Because life isn't a movie, that shooter isn't going to stand still for you while you dig your gun out, disentangle it from your shirt, then stand up, right in front of him, and struggle to take aim while your hands shake so badly you can barely grasp the gun.  He's going to blow your face off before you even clear that holster.  It's happened again and again.  Now, I'm not arguing against CCP, but rather arguing for PROFICIENCY and TRAINING.  We make people take driver's ed, for goodness' sake, but we let practically any idjit off the street carry a firearm.

Then?  Well, then we slid into the tired, "It's not the time, stop politicizing the tragedy!"  Seriously?  Funny, when a plane falls out of the air, we're ALL over how to improve safety and prevent the next tragedy.  When an overpass collapses, we have Congressional committees dedicated to discovering the cause and making sure it doesn't happen again.  Tell me this, Z.--if 20 children managed to get their heads caught between the railings on their cribs and DIE today, would it be "too soon?"  Would it be "politicizing" to call for investigation, regulation, improved safety, new laws?  Would it? 

Of course not.  You'd be howling for it.  Well, guess what?  298,000 (yes, that's two hundred and ninety-eight THOUSAND) people died from gunshots in the United States between 2000 and 2009.  If that doesn't merit at LEAST as much attention and intervention as faulty cribs and bad brakes on Toyotas, I don't know what does. 

And then?  The kicker.  He said, "Gun control criers on BOTH sides make me want to go out and buy a gun." 

And there it is, you know?  What do you say to that?  What do you say when someone has, in effect, just said, "You make me want to shoot you?"

I asked him how on earth anyone could mistake the "No, don't examine, don't fix it, don't talk about it, AMERICA!" crowd with the "Don't let this happen again, what can we do, we must change, what have other countries done to fix this?" folks?  How can you possibly confuse them?

We Americans are just going to let this slide.  Again.  The NRA will spend its big bucks to defeat any attempt to prevent this from happening again (even though most NRA MEMBERS support most recommended measures).  And you know what?  It's going to happen again.

And again.

I leave you with this.  I'm going to do my best to back away from the issue on my blog.  Too bad the parents of the victims can't walk away so easily. 

Oh, and the Christmas lights kapoofed out front.  Happened last year, too.  Moisture gets in the outlet, I guess, and it trips the doohickey downstairs.  But this time it won't stay on--each time we reset, it just trips again.  Bummer, but doesn't feel all that important, really.  Not right now.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Music, Murder, and Modern Parenting

I love music.  I'm not a particularly skilled musician (used to play a little guitar a long time ago), but I have a wickedly good ear and a special skill for keeping on key, vocally, and knowing (via an odd buzzing sensation at the base of my skull) when someone else isn't on key. 

My real talent?

Linking specific music to specific memories or events in my life.  When I hear, say, Bad Company or Billy Squier, I'm transported back to my teenage boulevard days.  When I hear John Denver, I'm lying in the grass next to a bubbling spring in the Wasatch Range, bees trundling lazily about, a horse snuffling my neck while I giggle.  Beatles?  I'm flat on my back on the living room floor, headphones on, listening to my Dad's LPs.

Don't ask me where I am when John Mayer, Avril Lavigne, or certain Maroon 5 songs play.  Just know it's a bad, sad, devastating place to be.  Made worse because I always assume that others have this same "talent."  So when John Mayer or Avril are meandering through the speakers, I assume everyone else is taking a stroll down memory lane, too.  And it tears my heart out.

This past two weeks I've been listening to a lot of My Chemical Romance.  Specifically, "The Black Parade."  One song in particular has been on me for these two weeks--it's called "Teenagers," and it strikes me as a cautionary/Columbine-type song.  It definitely strikes a chord with me, with its chorus:

They say that
Teenagers scare the living shit out of me
They could care less, so long as someone'll bleed
So darken your clothes
Or strike a violent pose
Maybe they'll leave you alone, but not me

The second verse, already dark in its Columbine-esque tone, hit me especially hard yesterday.  I was sitting in the car outside our boy's Hapkido studio, watching the Mockingbirds school the Blue Jays in the towering oak near the fence, when it came on the stereo:

The boys and girls in the clique
The awful names that they stick
You're never gonna fit in much, kid
But if you're troubled and hurt
What you got under your shirt
Will make them pay for the things that they did

We're probably not ever going to know what was going on in Adam Lanza's whirling, screwed-up head.  And no, he wasn't, officially, a teenager any more, but close enough.  Maybe he wasn't bullied or ostracized.  Maybe he didn't feel abused or outside the crowd. 


But that doesn't change just how screwed up our kids are today. Not individually--no, as individuals, they seem about as well-or-maladjusted as ever.  But in groups?


I've been thinking a lot about this.  What happened?  What changed, aside from the pervasive, astounding violence thrown at kids from all angles and packaged as good, American fun?

I think we did.  The parents.

See, somehow, in some pretty important ways, we failed to grow up.  Instead of being the gatekeepers and authority figures, we've become the playmates, the competition.  Instead of punishing rudeness, we're encouraging it, laughing at it, even giving lessons on how to better deliver it.  Parents used to step in and discipline when their child was mean, rude, or destructive.  Now they step in and defend their child's actions and level their anger at the victims or accusers.  I remember when I was a kid, I dreaded bringing home a bad grade because I knew my father would look at ME and ask what the hell was wrong with ME.  Now?  Now the parent marches into the classroom, corners the TEACHER, and wags a righteous finger in her face, demanding to know what the hell is wrong with HER.  I remember always knowing that, if I screwed up, my parents didn't HAVE to see it happen--ANY adult in the neighborhood would step in, stop me, then drag me home to my parents.  Who would dare do that now?  Who wouldn't fear being met at the door by an angry, potentially violent parent? 

Obviously, I'm speaking in generalities--we're not ALL like this, but I believe enough of us are that we've created a childhood culture where rudeness, mob action, and even gun violence are valued.  If not always valued by adults, these things are definitely held in high esteem by other kids as often as not. 

I don't have a solution.  Ditching my entire generation AND the children we've produced and starting again from scratch isn't possible.  Apparently, intelligent, reasoned gun laws that reflect the realities of 2012 (rather than 1789) are also impossible.  Obviously--how else to explain  61 mass murders perpetrated with firearms since 1982 and THIRTY-ONE school shootings since Columbine, yet our gun laws remain stubbornly unchanged? 

I'm not sure where I'm going with this.  It's a sort of blue-skying, wandering journey.  A free-association fest.  Did I mention that the parents of one of those poor, beautiful children in Sandy Hook went to my high school?  That their older siblings and cousins were my classmates?  That their sweetheart was born in the town we just moved from?  That, in fact, they, too just recently moved to the east coast? 

Something has GOT to change.  We have GOT to get some sort of grip and stop letting the gun lobby subvert our political process with mega-cash and BS claims.  I'm not talking about banning guns--rarely is anyone saying that.  I'm talking about better, more thorough background checks, meaningful, in-depth sharing of information about psychiatric ailments (not just hospitals, but individual practitioners sharing pertinent information with state agencies), more attention paid to others living in the home of gun owners, and periodic re-registration of firearms with new background/psych checks.  And people can squeal that, no, it's not the guns, it's the mental illness, but that's a tub of garbage.  Mental illness can't take me out at 50 feet.  Mental illness can't perch on a clock tower and pick off terrified students.  Mental illness can't speed down a residential street killing innocent children in a burst of gang-related vengeance.  Mental illness can't storm through the halls of an elementary school and end 20 perfect hearts (and their brave defenders). 

Not without a firearm, anyway. 

We live in a country where it is easier to buy ammunition than it is to buy decongestants.  Don't believe me?  Head over to Walmart and buy a box of ammo for a .22.  And then buy five bottles of Robitussin.  See which one presents a greater challenge. 

And today?  Today Santa came through the neighborhood, tossing candy from atop a wailing fire engine.  And the rats across the street and the creepy child of drug addicts behind us ran along, scooping up all the candy before the other, younger neighborhood kids had a chance.  They did this as the rat children's mother looked on. 

And I didn't do a damned thing.  I didn't, the woman next door didn't, the folks who live next door to the rats didn't.  We just shook our heads, looked on in disgust.  And that, my friends, makes me and my neighbors part of the problem.

Friday, December 14, 2012

My Heart is Sick for Connecticut

So, when the news hit this morning about a school shooting in Connecticut, the reports said that three adults had been killed, including the shooter.  As awful as this is going to sound, I breathed a sigh of relief.  Only three, and all adults, and one is the shooter--wow, that could have been SO much worse.  Isn't that awful, that we've come to a place where we consider that a "good" outcome?

When I signed on later to find that the numbers had changed dramatically?  Wrenchingly?  Devastatingly? 

Well, I cried.  Bawled.  My poor son tearing up next to me, grasping my hand, unsure what to do.

What to do?

I think of holiday gifts sitting under trees that will never be gleefully torn open, bitter reminders of a future blasted from this earth.  I think of delighted cries of excitement silenced and cookies for Santa never baked.  I think of parents who kissed their beautiful darlings this morning and never imagined some kid with guns would end them.

I think of 20 little hearts not beating.  20 sweet, perfect dreams gone. 

I'm not sure I can do this.  I keep crying. 

The Onion nailed it today when they posted this (beware of many swears).

How many times?  How many times does something like this have to happen before we stop pretending that it's a fluke, it's nothing to do with US, but rather some reflection of this nut or that "evil" person?  This is everything to do with us.  With the glorification of violence, with the constant barrage of anger and hatred and rudeness, with the ready access to murderous weapons.  It's not an isolated incident, it's not just one evil person, it's US. 

It's US! 

That kid who did this wasn't some demon crawled up from some imagined pit!  He was the child of well-educated, well-off parents who loved him, for goodness' sake!  And that guy in Aurora?  He wasn't Satan's imp, he was just a guy our society produced.  Our gun-toting, violence-embracing, shoot-em-up society where mega-lobbyists tell us that any attempt to be reasonable and intelligent in our laws about WHO GETS TO WALK AROUND WITH WEAPONS CREATED TO KILL OTHER HUMAN BEINGS is an "assault on our rights as Americans."

Spare me that.  Spare us all that.  Finally, please, just spare us.  We can have sane, reasonable, intelligent gun laws that still allow sane, reasonable, intelligent Americans to own guns.  And please, please don't throw out that "Oh, the Constitution!" crap.  We don't use 220+ year-old architectural guides to build modern bridges, we don't use 220+ year-old medical texts to guide modern surgeons, and we don't use 220+ year-old science books to guide our modern researchers.  So why on earth do we persist in pretending that the Second Amendment in any way relates meaningfully to our modern firearm issues?  In Revolutionary times, a particularly skilled shooter might be able to whip off FOUR ROUNDS PER MINUTE.


At four rounds per minute, Mr. Adam Lanza might have managed to shoot one person.  Perhaps even one child.

That's 19 children who would have come home tonight.  19 children who would have been here to open presents and bake cookies for Santa.  19 children in their parents' warm embrace instead of cold coffins.

Stop pointing at our many "evil" gunmen and crying about how that has nothing to do with the gun laws argument.  It IS the argument.  Stop throwing your hands in the air and screaming about "THEM" as if they're somehow apart from US. 

Start looking around and realizing it IS us.  Our country, our laws, our culture of violence, our embracing of rudeness, our disdain for reason, our disregard for each other that makes this possible. 

Twenty perfect angels died today (and a slew of amazing, brave adults who tried to save them are also lost).  Twenty sparkling, wide-open futures ended.  Twenty bright, curious, seeking, joyous miracles of the universe stopped. 

And if that isn't enough to inspire us to turn this crazy-assed bus around and find a saner path, I don't know what is.

Oh, and before anyone says anything stupid like "this isn't the time to discuss gun control," tell me, when would be a BETTER time?  When bridges collapse, do we cry, "Not now, now isn't the time to discuss infrastructure!"  When buildings fall down in earthquakes, do we shake our heads and shout, "No, we can't talk about construction guidelines now!"  When children drown because of a downed fence around a pond, do we all scream, "NO!  Now isn't the time to talk about getting that fence fixed!"   Every time there is yet ANOTHER horrendous tragedy like today, certain factions scream that no, no, we can't talk about that now!   Now isn't the time!

And I sort of agree.  The time was at least 13 years ago.  But we dropped that ball, so NOW is the closest thing to a "good" time we have. 

I'm going to end this with a hope.  A hope that healing and comfort and some sense of peace somehow envelope those poor parents.   That they manage to find something here to hold on to.  That their families and community wrap them in love and kindness and understanding.  That we, as a nation, as a society, as a culture, somehow manage to make a difference so that no other parents have to suffer this unimaginable hurt.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Our Not-So-Grand venture into the Grand Canyon

So, I was cruising about, reading folks' blogs, when I came upon a wonderful tale of adventure.  It inspired me to head back here and write about an adventure of my own.

About a thousand years ago (or maybe it was closer to 18 years ago), then-boyfriend/now-hubby and I decided to hike the Grand Canyon.  Being youngish (in our twenties), well-hiked (we were given to two or three hikes a week, with really wowser excursions on the weekends), and adventurous, we headed for the North Rim on a whim--no reservations, almost no money, and no real plan.

Exactly the way you SHOULDN'T go to the Grand Canyon.

When we asked about overnight back-country passes on that FOURTH OF JULY WEEKEND, we were told that those are all claimed months in advance.  When we asked if it was possible to hike in and back out in one day, the ranger blinked and said, "Possible?  Sure, it's possible, but I wouldn't recommend trying."

Which, of course, inspired us to do exactly that.  I have no defense.  We were stupid.

To our credit, we did bring enough water, which is the most common mistake hikers make in that area--they don't bring enough water and wind up dangerously dehydrated.  We did bring sunscreen and hats, which left us unburned after the hellish 13 hours we spent in that hateful chasm.  We brought enough food, which is good, and we even brought a well-stocked first aid kit, which proved handy.

Necessary, even.

To our not-so-credit (is that even a phrase?)?  I had a tragic creek-rock-hopping incident the night before, soaking my good hiking boots.  So, instead of wearing my fancy explorer footwear, I wore my Cons.  You know, my high-top Chuck Taylors.  Great for slick rock, not so good for steep, sandy, gravel-y trails.  And yeah, I knew that, but I'd hiked in them before, and, other than a little bit of tightening up in the calves, they'd been just fine.


The first thing I noticed when we hit the trail at a little before eight in the morning?  That my feet slid just a tiny bit forward in the shoes with each step.  It's a very, very steep trail, North Kaibab, and each step finds you sliding in the fine, powdery sand and gravel, so you step, then slide slightly, then step, then slide.  All the while, my feet shifting ever so slightly within the shoes.

At about an hour-and-a-half in, my ankle went over.  Hard.  I was backing off the trail to make way for the first mule train coming down and came down wrong on a loose rock.  Landed hard on my backside when the ankle gave.  I explored, tested, twisted it, and decided it was sound enough.  I took a couple Ibuprofen and off we went.

By the time we reached the Redwall Bridge (not too far beyond the Supai Tunnel), I was feeling about done.  Not done like done in for the day, but I felt I had enough left in me to hike back out comfortably.  My feet were starting to hurt, my ankle was not solid, and my back was starting to twinge (a car accident 8 months earlier had wreaked havoc on my lumbar region).  I kept looking up at those canyon walls and thinking, be careful--you're going to have to hike back OUT of here.  I said to hubby, "So, how 'bouts we finish up lunch, have a smoke (yes, we smoked, yes we ALWAYS hauled our butts out with us!), and call it a day?"  He looked over at me and said, maybe a little disdainfully, "Well, if you don't think you can make it."

Seeing as I have as much testosterone as the next girl, I, of course, responded with, "Oh, I can MAKE it, don't worry about ME." 

Again, I plead youth and stupidity.

So we finished our lunch, made friends with Winky, the one-eyed squirrel, and then hit the trail. 

Winky and his pal.  The squirrels all seemed to be worshipping the sun.

Let me tell you something about the Grand Canyon.  It is populated by sadistic Mile Shouters.  What's a Mile Shouter?  It's someone who, no matter how far it REALLY is to your destination, smiles blithely, waves a careless hand, and shouts, "Roaring Springs?  Oh, it's about a mile!"  We came across a half dozen of these beasts, most of them power-walking.  In the Grand Canyon.  That, in itself, should have served as warning.

So, how far is it really from Supai Tunnel to Roaring Springs?   About three times as far as those awful creatures claimed, and it's a tough, tough few miles.  It's HOT, and it's jarring, and it's slow going, which makes it seem a whole lot farther than just three miles. 

Once we got to Roaring Springs, with its CHAINED-SHUT BATHROOMS (thanks, folks), I knew I was pretty well done in.  My feet were burning, aching, and stinging, and my lower back had begun to really give me grief.  I soaked my still-shod feet in the ice-cold pool, then sprawled out on the huge (limestone?) slab next to the water.  By now, it was nearly 1 pm.  Since the park literature warns to allow twice as long to hike back OUT as it takes to get IN, I knew it was seriously time to go.  Hubby, however, just wanted to go a little farther,  to Cottonwood Camp.  That's an extra 2.2 miles.  Understand, on other trails, 2.2 miles seemed like nothing, it was chump change, a breeze.  But on the North Kaibab Trail?

Not even.

Spotted this guy (some sort of Collared Lizard) right before we hit the end of our trail.

We'd made it another--oh, maybe half-mile when I finally sat down and said, "I'm done.  I am done."  Hubby turned around, about to say something bracing or inspirational, when he looked down at my feet.  My strangely rust-foaming feet.  See, the water from the pool and the BLOOD from my feet had mixed with the dust from the trail to create a strange, foamy substance bubbling from the little holes in the sides of my fancy Chuck Taylors. 

Nothing matches the expression of a guy who realizes he's just, quite literally, walked the feet off his girlfriend.

We peeled my shoes and socks off, and holy cow.  What wasn't blistered was just plain gone--raw meat.  Not just toes and heels, but pads and even the sides.  Toes raw tops and bottoms.  It was a gorefest of epic proportions.  Luckily, we were well-prepared, first aid-wise.  We used distilled water and hydrogen peroxide to rinse my feet, then slathered them in Bacitracin and wrapped them thoroughly with gauze and tape.  And then?  Clean, dry socks.  Two pairs, because there was no way those Cons were going back on--my feet had begun to swell the moment those shoes came off.  Then I ate two more Ibuprofen and off we . . . hobbled.

And oh, it was bad.  It was awful.  It wasn't hiking, it was shambling.  I chanted marching tunes and old ROTC calls.   I stopped every ten-fifteen steps to stretch out my back, a bit horrified by the crispy cellophane sounds coming from my spine.

Remember how steep it was hiking in?  Guess what?  It's at least twice that steep coming back out.  I can't begin to adequately describe just how hard this was.  I found myself favoring first one foot, then the other, which strained my back viciously.  As the sciatica got increasingly bad, the pain began extending across the hip and down through my right leg.  Eventually, I was more throwing the leg forward than really walking. 

Thank goodness we brought almost enough smokes. 

Almost enough?  Yes.  See, if we'd brought more than enough, I might have been tempted to sleep by the side of the trail.  But instead, we brought just enough to inspire us to get out.  No, I'm not happy I smoked, but my addiction did prod me to keep trying. 

As did the bats.

At around 8:00 pm, the bats started coming out.  In droves.  We were almost out of smokes, still didn't feel we were any closer to that rim (it's an optical illusion, the rim appears to be rising to match your progress), and I was teetering.  Seriously faltering.  While sitting on the side of the trail, smoking my last, I spied a largish rock next to hubby.  I said, "You should drop that bastard on my ankle, make the rangers come get us."  He said, "Are you serious?"  I said, "I don't know--grab the rock and let's find out."

I have to stress that this was the most absolutely, hopelessly miserable and tortured I had ever been.  Even now, knowing what I know, I say this:  I would rather go through two days of unmedicated labor than suffer that hike again.

No kidding.

It was almost nine when we finally reached the trailhead.  Carved into the back of the sign? 

****OH, GOD, DON'T DO IT!!!****

Thanks for the warning, folks.  Might try carving that into the FRONT of the sign, huh? 

We got to the car, hubby dug a pack of smokes out of the glove box, and I sprawled across the hood.  That first drag?  What can I tell you--if every smoke was like that one drag, I'd never have been able to quit.  Thankfully, NO other drag was every like that, and most of them just sucked. 

We headed to the campground showers--no, we weren't camping there, we were out in the National Forest just outside the park, camping for free.  But we were looking to drop our VERY last (no kidding) few quarters into the showers and wash the day's agony off.  The water ran pink with the color of the trail dust.  Sadly, hubby doesn't shower very quickly, and wound up running out of water well before he'd gotten the soap and shampoo rinsed off.  He wound up having to use the sink.  Made him wildly popular with the folks with small children, I'm sure. 

That night, we crashed without eating.  First time in YEARS, I slept for a full nine hours.  Woke up with a bladder so full I thought I might burst.  But I felt GOOD!  I felt ALIVE and ENERGETIC and AMAZING! 

And then I tried to sit up.  And couldn't.

No kidding, I was stuck--any attempt to sit up was met with stiffness and pain that was overwhelming.  I started to laugh.  Uproariously.  Then I woke hubby.  Told him I couldn't get up.  He laughed at me.  Laughed and laughed.  And then he tried to sit up.  And couldn't.  We lay there, laughing, as the sun hit the tent and the temperature began to rise rapidly.  I half-joked that, if we didn't get out soon, we'd boil to death in our own urine.  I finally managed to haul myself onto my side and do the pregnant-lady push with the arms until I was upright. 

I hurt for days.  My feet were un-shoe-able for well over a week.  I hobbled about, bare foot (or sock-footed) like a stiff, sad, broken creature.  We still had a fabulous remainder to our road trip, but it was a slower remainder.  A more Ibuprofen-fueled remainder.  A lot less hiking, a lot more rock-hounding involving sifting rather than sledge swinging. 

We never went back.  At first, that was willful--we swore we would never, ever hike Grand Canyon again.  Later, we started to think maybe we'd like to do it again, but this time with back country permits, the right shoes, and, obviously, no smoking.  But it never happened, and, as I push fifty, I realize it probably never will.  And you know what?

That's okay, too.  Maybe I'll hire a mule instead. 

Oh, and the final math?  We hiked about 10.5 miles.  We'd hiked more than that in a day before, but not like this.  North Kaibab isn't like other trails.  It's maybe more like hell.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Messy Day Gone Better

So, we had decided to cancel my phone once the contract period was up.  Good way to save 50 bucks a month.  After all, I don't often use it, and it seems silly to keep it.  No, I don't WANT to cancel it, but we need to save cash where we can.

So, hubby warns me that my Christmas is coming, and that I'll need to sign for it but not even look at it a little bit.  No checking the return address, nothing.  He says it's coming tomorrow.  Okay, I agree.  I won't look.  I plan on warning our boy not to look, either.

Except it came today.  And we are expecting other things.  Our boy opened it.  And found two brand new Droid Razrs.  Hubby decided me without a phone isn't good, and we'll just let the Galaxy Tab's contract expire in March instead.  Which makes sense--the Tab will still function perfectly well on WiFi without a contract.  But now the surprise is ruined, and, while he's not upset, it is sort of a bummer for him because they're the only gifts he got us that were surprises.  I flat-out bullshat our boy, told him the phones are for his father and me, and that he'll get his father's old phone.  So at least he can be surprised a little, right?

Also, hubby got me the 2012 White House Ornament.  William Howard Taft and the first motorized transportation at the White House.  It's a lovely ornament that I had decided not to get because I didn't want to drop the cash.  Turns out you can get a discount by buying bulk, and a bunch of his coworkers went in with him for a bunch of them.  It's gorgeous!

2012 White House Ornament--flip it over, and you see Mrs. Taft!

Anyway, back to the home front.  The new, stronger lice concoction didn't work, just like I knew it wouldn't.  Just like I tried to tell the doc's office it wouldn't.  Found  a live one on my boy two days post-treatment. None on me yet.  We're lice-combing (isn't that a county in Pennsylvania?) and nit-picking every other day.  And that's almost certainly the way we're going to wind up getting rid of them.  I'm also baking our heads with the blow dryer, which is supposed to be helpful.  Considering getting a bonnet-type dryer, which isn't as effective as a hand-held, but is also a lot easier on the shoulders and back.  Yeah, long-term investment in lice treatment.  Sounds like I've resigned myself to this, doesn't it?

I've been really good on the diet, though I'm planning to screw up today.  Had yogurt and granola for breakfast, and I'm about to demolish some mac-a-chee for lunch.  But I feel in control, like I've managed to flip that switch back on.  Today, I have mac-a-chee, tomorrow back to it without feeling bad about today.  Past four days have been under 1500 calories (with Monday only 1180), so I'm feeling positive. 

We headed out to the Bull Run Festival of Lights last night.  It was very nice, and the difference between it and the similar display they hold in Willard, Utah was clear.  The Utah display has a lot of cowboys and old west themes, whereas the only horse we spotted at the Bull Run Festival was part of a fox hunting party.  Overall, the Bull Run was better, though the Willard will always have a special place in my heart. 

Speaking of Christmas, I ordered 30 custom Christmas cards this year, and used every last one of them.  If I've forgotten anyone, I guess I'll have to drag out one of the old cards from last year.  Guess next year we'll order 40, huh?