Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Doggie Mom

I felt like a mom today, dropping off both of my kids at their respective destinations before 8am this morning.

Cooper and Little Mac each went to the groomer today.  They had appointments 15 minutes apart at two separate groomers in our neighborhood because my dogs are ridiculously high maintenance.

Mac always goes to Bow-Wow, even though our most favorite groomer (Miss Felicia) has moved out to the county and no longer works there.  The ladies at Bow-Wow's Unlimited are extraordinarily nice to us even though Little Mac is so vicious, she has to be muzzled during her grooming session.  They tell me that she is sweet and well-behaved and they "only" have to muzzle her when they trim her feet.

I guess dog groomers see all kinds.

Even crazy gremlin dogs.
In fact, the muzzling issue is why Mac goes to Bow-Wow to begin with.  Because she has bitten David so many times during baths and haircuts.  He used to cut her fur with doggie trimmers at home.  We would put her up on the kitchen counter for her hair cut and David would attempt to trim her evenly while jumping back every few seconds to avoid her bite. 

If Sister had opposable thumbs, she would cut you.

She would growl and snarl and wail and try to bite him the entire time.  It finally became a battle we were no longer willing to fight.  It would take up the greater part of a weekend morning and it was just too stressful for all of us.  Plus David thought it was harming his relationship with Little Mac (seriously) because he always had to be the bad guy and give her the bath and haircut because I was too afraid (I mean, obviously.  Sister is crazy dog.).
 Oh, the indignity.

So really, Bow-Wow is a huge bargain.  Mac goes to Bow-Wow looking like a lion with a big puffy white chest and long straggly fur on her paws and she comes back looking like a little marshmallow dog all perfectly trim with her humongous eyeballs and a seasonal neckerchief. 

Sleek and smooth.  Still kind of pissed off, though.
Darling!  She's so sleek after her trim that I like to hold her ears back and tell her she is a baby sea lion.  Plus she's always so happy to see me when I pick her up.  She was not particularly happy to stay there this morning, although Cooper would have been glad to take her place.  He insisted on coming in with us (I had intended to leave him in the car, but he leaped into the front seat and out the passenger door as I was trying to coax Mac out of the car).  We got inside and he tried to go to the back and see the other groomers, insisted on licking the groomer who came out to get Little Mac, and was generally spastic, his paws sliding all over the tile as I dragged him out the door and poor Mac strained at her leash trying to follow us.

Normally Cooper just gets baths at home.  His fur doesn't grow long and fluffy like Little Mac's (he's got that sleek and wiry pug-fur that falls out at an unbelievable rate).  And he's easy--he's happy to leap into the tub on his own accord, enjoys standing under the shower head, and is only difficult to handle when he gets so excited during the drying-off process that he tries to play tug-of-war with the towels.  That can get really obnoxious, but he can always be settled down with a rawhide chew.

But today Cooper is being Furminated so he got to make a trip to Groomingdale's for a day of pampering.  The Furminator is a de-shedding tool that is pretty amazing.  It only works if you maintain upkeep of course, and although Cooper is docile (so docile that he's perfectly happy continue to doze on the sofa while a four-year-old pokes around at his ears, nose, and mouth), he is quite squirmy about being brushed so it's a pain the butt to keep up with the Furminator (it requires much brushing with special tool/comb).  Still, with the weather warming up and the dog hair that has been coming up in the vacuum, he seriously needed it. He was perfectly happy to meet and greet the groomer and was so busy charming the groomer and the receptionist that he didn't even notice when I left.

Looks serious but is easily distracted.

So now both dogs are at their appointments and the house feels strangely empty.  I guess I need to take advantage of having this time vacuum and Febreze the furniture.  My house could be virtually dog-hair free for three hours, which probably hasn't happened in about four years.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Engine Trouble

We've had house guests this weekend.  Entertaining ones.  David's cousin and his two little boys, Maddox and Seth (ages 4 and 5) came to St. Louis for their spring break.  They hit the zoo, the science center, and the Magic House.

Maddox is (understandably) a little nervous around Little Mac.  His dad warned him not to pet Little Mac (good advice) and Little Mac was exceptionally snarky this weekend.  She doesn't like (1) loud noises (2) people invading her personal space (3) shrieking (4) running.  Which is to say that four-year-old and five-year-old boys are not on her list of favorite things.  Maddox would jump everytime she Mac growled or barked and say "I don't want that little white dog to get me!"  He asked me why she is so mean.  "She has an attitude problem," I explained, "But we keep her around because we love her anyway."

Last night Mac was tired of company and anxious about the boys walking a little too close to her bed.  She was doing her late-night-freak-out, growling and chasing her ass and sometimes lunging and attacking her bed ferociously.  We have grown accustomed to this, but obviously it's totally obnoxious.  I told her in a stern voice that she needed to lie down and chill out.  Maddox looked up at me with his ridiculously long lashes and said, "But you wuv huh anyway."  It's true.

I did some baking over the weekend (baking is always more fun when you have an appreciative audience and four boys who love sweets inspired me to make cinnamon rolls and strawberry shortcake).

I pulled together the dough for the cinnamon rolls and my poor little handmixer was groaning under the thickness of it.  I bought this handmixer for $10 almost 7 years ago when I moved into my first apartment.  It has served me well but the cinnamon roll dough was just about beyond its capabilities.  Once I had finished up with the rolls and put them in the fridge to sit overnight, I turned to the business of strawberry shortcake.  The yellow shortcake was already done, but I decided that instead of buying a Cool Whip container of chemicals (I know, I am becoming so crunchy I hardly recognize myself), I would actually whip my own whipping cream.  How hard could it be, right?

So I pour the whipping cream in a little bowl and start the mixer.  Same little handmixer that had just barely managed to make the cinnamon rolls.  

I mixed.  It was tired and groaning just a little bit, but since there was no resistance to the whipping cream, I figured it would be fine.

Kept mixing.  It was taking forever and I wondered how people ever whisked this by hand because it seemed like it was going to take hours before it started shaping up into whipped cream.

Still mixing.  I decided to go ahead and throw some vanilla and powdered sugar.  Might as well get it all mixed up.

And still mixing.  David and his cousin and I were watching a basketball game in the kitchen and having a shouting conversation over the sound of the mixer while the little boys chased each other and Cooper over and under the futon and Little Mac barked nervously from the dining room.

It was a never ending process.  I was about to the dig the container out of the recycle bin to see if the cream was expired and maybe that would explain why it was never going to whip up when two things happened at once.

(1) the cream started forming stiff peaks and was indeed becoming whipped cream.

(2) the handmixer started smoking.

The kitchen was filled with the scent of hot, smoking plastic.  The mixer made a whining, whirring noise (different from the groaning of earlier) and then smoke started wafting out of it.  Serious engine trouble, folks!  Overheating mixer! 

There was some shouting, some unplugging, and David took the mixer outside to sit on the deck and cool off.

Fortunately the whipped cream was done and I'd added the vanilla and powdered sugar just in time.

The strawberry shortcake was a huge success.  They hadn't been sure they liked strawberry shortcake, but both boys said they liked strawberries and they like cake.  They weren't sure about whipped cream but they had tiny tastes and declared they liked it.  Little Maddox licked his plate clean, looked at his older brother and said, "I beated you, Seth!" and then asked for seconds.  Both of them ate seconds, which I found totally cute and endearing.  Of course, it was half an hour later that I realized what an 8pm helping of sugar does for four and five year olds and I wondered if holding off on seconds might have been the more prudent choice.  But I was just glad they liked it.

The trusty little $10 mixer, however, appeared to be out of commission.  Permanently.

What to do?

There seemed only one logical choice:

Isn't it lovely?

It was on sale.  And I had a 20% off coupon.  And there was a mail-in rebate.  Also, it's Cardinal Red!

Also, it makes delicious peanutbutter cookies.  I mean seriously, these cookies practically mixed themselves.  Whipped cream will be no match for this baby.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nerd Alert, Part CXXVI

So I'm finished with school.  Degree completed.  Life as a student over.  I mean, seriously.  I'm graduating from something like the 23rd grade.  I should be totally over it.

Except...  I love being a student.  I love sitting in class having done the necessary reading but NOT having done all the hard work of preparing to lead discussion about it.  I like clean notebooks waiting to be filled with color-coded notes.  I like discovering the perfect pen at the campus bookstore and buying a semester's worth of them. 

And I shouldn't say I like just being a student.  I like being a good student.  Book learnin' comes easy to me, so I haven't had to struggle with all of the things that make traditional learning methods so difficult and foreign to some people.  School reinforces what I am already good at.  Absorbing and regurgitating information in written and verbal communication.  Also, thinking about logic problems and analyzing things.  Also, sitting on my ass and drinking hot beverages (I know, I know, not too hot).

I've gotten good at this because I've had more than twenty years of practice.  But it occurs to me that there is still much I know nothing about.  Sure, I know a shitload of shit about Victorian novels.  Things have become so familiar to me that I honestly forget what falls into the realm of "common knowledge" and what falls under "random shit only someone who has read a bunch of boring shit would know."  Did you know George Eliot was (1) a woman (2) living with a man she wasn't married to (3) who was still married to someone else and claiming the children that his first wife was having with another man?  Did you know that her husband-in-all-but-name was a scientist, philosopher, and literary critic named George Henry Lewes, and he published an article claiming that Dickens knew nothing about science and was feeding lies to the reading public when Dickens wrote about spontaneous combustion in Bleak House?  Did you know that Lewes (pronounced Lewis) and Dickens then had a public debate, publishing letters back and forth in a weekly periodical called the Leader?

It's all true.  Seriously.  I can tell you all about it. 

So maybe I've satisfied my desire to take classes on Dickens and Eliot.  I've pretty much been there and done that.  But lately, I keep thinking about things I don't know.  Not things I could figure out if I were really in a pinch, but things I would be completely befuddled even trying to begin.  I did some algebra worksheets at the learning center where I work and felt this oddly satisfying feeling of using a part of my brain that had been hibernating for a while.  It was amazing that I could remember not only how to do those problems, but that I was in Coach Blue's Algebra II class, sitting behind Sally Villafane, when I first learned how to do it. 

It's not like I have a grand plan to Master The Universe (although what a degree program that would be).  It's just that it took me a while to do that worksheet, I got a couple of answers wrong on the first try, and I realize that my knowledge is not very well-rounded.  I know more than anyone needs to know about a very specific, rather obscure, though totally fascinating subject.  I don't know much about anything else, really.

So now I want to learn something else.

And so it begins.  I sent an e-mail today to find out how I can audit a course in web design and html.  Because I don't know shit about that.  The extent of my computer programming skills began and ended with Logo Writer in grade school.  But I like figuring things out.  And I like being a student.  So here we go.  After this, maybe an introduction to Adobe Photoshop.  One degree down.  One bazillion classes left to audit...

I'm a total freak, I do realize.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Husband Returns

So David has been out of town all weekend.  A boys' weekend of March Madness and golf and fantasy baseball drafting.  Three nights.  Which is really one night too many.

I know a few people (OK, one couple) who has evidently never spent a single night apart and considers this to be an important part of their marriage.  I respect that because it obviously works for them.  But for me and Dah-Veed?  Let's just say the first night he was gone I was pretty excited to be a singleton for the evening.  I ate veggie pizza and drank wine and watched Buffy.  I gave myself a facial and read in bed without anyone sighing at me in a passive-aggressive request for me to turn off the lamp.  I spooned with Cooper in the middle of the bed.

Of course, there was a moment I really missed David--about 4am when Little Mac started wailing because she wanted to go outside and there was no one there but me to let her out.

I spent the next day running errands, meeting a friend on campus to "work," and doing some work around the house, including painting some trim that my dad replaced for us last weekend.  I put on my favorite tunes while painting (listening to sports on the radio drives me nuts--I just can't visualize it in my head and all the shouting makes me crazy) and the weather was beautiful so Cooper and I went for a long walk in Forest Park.  I did whatever I wanted without having to answer to anyone or tell anyone where I was going or when I would be back or what my plans were for dinner or what time such and such was happening (David is forever asking me about what time or date things are occurring.  The boy likes to schedule.).  It was a busy and productive day and that night I went out to dinner with my BFF at one of my favorite restaurants.  It was just like our old single days except with less alcohol.  We came back to my house for wine after dinner and we didn't even turn on the TV, we just hung out and talked.  A very quiet girls' night with no husbands around watching March Madness.  Mac didn't have to go out during the night that night and Cooper and I slept very well having the bed to ourselves.

I did miss David when I woke up the next morning and was somewhat surprised to realize that when he is not home, my wine glass does not magically walk itself into the kitchen from the coffee table.  It just stays there, on the coffee table, waiting for me to pick it up and put it away.  Oddly enough, the junk mail on the dining room table does not automatically recycle itself either.  Another lesson in appreciating my tidy husband.  He might not vaccuum the sofa to my standards, but he does keep the clutter to a minimum.

By the third night, the fun of being a singleton was over.  I got home from work tired and had no one to talk to.  I also, quite suddenly, found myself  either in the throes of a rotten head cold or heinous allergies and while my sinuses went berserk, I had no one to pity me.  I did laundry and I had no one to help me pair up socks.  I didn't have much of an appetite and there was no one to tempt me with dinner suggestions or to offer to run to the store.  Of course, there was also no one there to look askance at me when I made a dinner of Sun Chips and M&Ms (they were peanut M&Ms so that is healthier).  But overall, I really missed David and I couldn't really call and whine to him because he and his buddies were busy mourning KU's loss and the busting of their brackets and by this time my sinuses were so bad that I was a mouth-breather so I didn't much feel like talking anyway.

Today he will arrive home and I will be so glad to see him.  But my big plans of greeting him with the grocery shopping done and the house spotless and great plans for dinner are sort of falling by the wayside because I still have a pounding sinus headache and I am tying this with kleenex rollled up and plugging the snot streams that are relentlessly draining from my nose.  (It's totally hott.)  My wine glass from Friday night is, irritatingly enough, still on the coffee table.  (The nerve!).  At least I finished the laundry, which felt like a heroic feat, even though I got to do it while watching High School Musical.  (What?  I'd never seen it!  And it was sort of awesome.  That is to say, my sixth-grade self would have like totally loved it.  And that little Zac Efron is really cute although his teeth are weird.)

So anyway, I'm not sure it will be a very fun welcome home for David.  Hi, honey!  I am so glad you are home.  Now please feel very, very sorry for me while I moan about my sinuses and breath loudly through my mouth.  Also can you go to the grocery store and make dinner and walk the dogs while I lie here on the couch continuing to feel sorry for myself?  OK, thanks!

But I sure will be glad to have him home.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Temple Grandin

There is a movie on HBO about Temple Grandin.

I think Temple Grandin rocks.  She interests me for a number of reasons.  She is a woman who advocates the humane treatment of animals.  Specifically cattle.  She does this by designing slaughter houses--slaughter houses that won't frighten animals.  I saw her speak once.  I can't remember why I went to see her exactly--I hadn't heard of her before this speaking engagement.  Her mannerisms were slightly awkward at times, but her message was absolutely fascinating.  She talked about the work she'd done designing humane methods for handling cattle.  She said that she was uniquely suited to designing facilities for animals because she thinks she sees the world similar to the way animals do--in shapes, colors, and movements, sensitive to noise and motion.  Instead of interacting with other people through language and facial expressions, as most of us do, she sees the world differently.  She is autistic.  She also talked about the work she has done with autism research and discovering the best methods for treating her own symptoms and anxieties.

Her character is played by Claire Danes in this movie, and I have to say that she has done a remarkable job of mimicking the facial expressions that I can remember from Temple Grandin's talk.  This motion of tightening her chin before she speaks--Grandin says that because she thinks in pictures, language is her second language.  You can see some of that struggle even though she has become an articulate speaker.

I can remember that she said in her speech that her mother taught her to be polite but she did those things automatically and without any meaning behind it.  She realized that saying "Hello, nice to meet you," was necessary even though she couldn't understand how or why it mattered.  But she learned to do it because it was a means of communicating with other people, and her mother believed that she had something to share--that although she was different, she wasn't less than.

In the film, her character says, "Nature is cruel, but we don't have to be.  We owe [cattle] some respect.  I touched the first cow that was being stunned and in a few seconds it was going to be a piece of beef but in that moment it was still an individual.  It was calm and then it was gone.  I became aware of how precious life was.  I thought about death and I felt close to God."

Not exactly a moment that you would expect someone to have in a slaughter house, but definitely a reminder that we can strive for something better in the way we treat animals.  And maybe in the way we treat people, too.

Temple Grandin's career is an example of how important it is to understand people who think and learn differently.  She developed her own system for dealing with her complex symptoms and she ending up earning a doctorate and becoming an important and well-respected figure in her field. She's now a professor at Colorado State University and she lectures on autism and animal handling.  Over half of the cattle in North America are handled in humane systems that she has designed.  And now she gets an HBO biopic.  Rock on, Temple Grandin.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ping You Very Much

David and I celebrated spring today by going golfing.  He's on spring break and my class was canceled today because it was Midterm Paper Due Day.  Fun!

We went in the morning before the sun warmed everything up so I wore pants and a jacket and might have complained about being coooooold for three hours.  Just when riding in the cart, really.  Because the wind!  Brrrrr.

The first hole was...  ugly.  And then I suddenly remembered what the hell I was doing, and the next few holes were considerably better.  There was one hole where you had to hit it over water and David suggested I could just play from where he hit his ball.

Me:  Why?

David:  Because I don't think you can hit it over the water.

Me:  Oh reeeeeeeeaaaaaaaally.

He sounded completely sincere, but perhaps it was reverse psychology because anyone who knows me knows that nothing makes me want to do something more than someone patronizingly suggesting that I won't be able to do it.

So I teed up.  I took a practice swing.  I used a crappy ball (not my lucky Titleist 2 golf ball) just in case, but I lined up my Ping driver with the crappy ball, I twisted my hips, kept my wrist straight, kept my head down and my eye on the ball, and swung through it nice and easy.

BAM!  Over the water! 

Sure it pulled a little to the right and I was tempted to scream "Fore!" at the people golfing the next hole over (I didn't because really they were far away), but still!  I hit it over the pond. 

By hole number six, though, I was tired and still cold, and I kind of had to pee.  David suggested golfing 18 and I just about had a meltdown.  So we did nine, and my last few attempts were less than great, although there were enough good shots in there to keep me coming back.

That is how golf sucks you in.  You might be terrible, but you get one or two nice swings and the ball seems to effortlessly pop up and sail just where you want it to, and then you high five your husband and do a little happy dance and you think maybe you like this stupid sport after all.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Natural Disasters

So you've probably heard that there has been a humongo rockslide in Colorado that has highway 70 shut down "indefinitely."  They're obviously not quite sure when it will be up and running again and supposedly the detours around it are up to 250 miles out of the way.  Or maybe one local was just exaggerating a bit.

I lived in Colorado one summer.  It was the summer between my junior and senior year of college.  I scored a marketing internship that made me realize I would never, ever, under any circumstances want to actually get a job in marketing.  I lived with my friends Jamie and Monica.  Monica already had an apartment because she was going to college in Boulder and her roommates were gone for the summer, so we just moved in.  I had convinced Jamie to dump her loser boyfriend and drive west with me where she could live in Boulder and get a job waitressing for the summer.  (Well, I did not actually convince her to dump the loser--that was her idea--but the way he was pissed off at me you would have thought that Jamie had broken up with him to be with me and that we were living our love song together in the  Rocky Mountains instead of rooming together while also interning and waitressing and sort of dating dudes named Pat and Pete.)

We had some silly adventures that summer--including a visit from a long-distance sort-of-boyfriend Jamie had met on Spring Break in Florida, strung along over the phone for months, and, in a moment of weakness, invited out to Colorado for a visit, only to decide the day before he was due to arrive that she actually did not like him at all.  I begged her to wait to break it to him until the three day weekend was over, but no.  Jamie dumped him the day he arrived and then the two of them still tried to do "fun stuff" even though he was a mopey puddle of pathetic all weekend long.  Jamie asked me to go to dinner with the two of them so it would be "less awkward."  Right.  Because nothing says "not awkward" like dinner with the chick who just dumped you after you cashed in your mom's frequent flier miles to come see her and her best friend, whom you had earlier overheard asking Jamie to please just "take one for the team" and make out with the poor dude for the next couple of days. 

Needless to say, dinner was terribly awkward.  I tried to fill the frequent lulls in conversation by saying things like, "So, uh, Ryan... Did your family take lots of vacations when you were a kid?"  Finally we just ate in silence, pretending to watch whatever baseball game was on TV.  Good times. 

Dinner was actually at the restaurant where Jamie worked that summer.  It was a huge place called Rock Bottom which caused me no end of amusement when I would call and she would happen to answer the phone:  "Hello, this is Jamie.  You've hit rock bottom."  I started saying it when I'd answer the phone at our apartment and I found myself ceaselessly amusing.

Unfortunately, Jamie's work schedule pretty much blew (funny how when you work at a bar you have to work Friday nights and Saturday days) so she sometimes missed out on adventures like the white water rafting episode during which Monica's boyfriend's roommate's wolf-dog (seriously it was half wolf) sat on my Kate Spade bag and crushed it in the van on our way to the river and I was so upset I barely had fun rafting.  She couldn't make it to the Grizzly Rose the night that Blackhawk was playing and I two-stepped in flipflops with cowboys.  She also missed our roadtrip to Cheyenne, Wyoming to see the rodeo (the granddaddy of 'em all) and the Toby Keith concert (this was before Toby Keith got all crazy right-wing brain-washing in his song writing).  And she missed the tubing adventure during which my innertube splashed down over some rapids and overturned and I flipped out of it and bashed my head on a rock.  But she got to re-live that with me because I got home that night and called Jamie and told her she had to leave work early and bring me a bag of frozen peas and also not let me go to sleep because I might have a concussion.  On Monday I made an appointment with a doctor because I was worried I might have a brain bleed or something.  He had me do some hand/eye coordination movements and remember the word "firetruck."  I will never forget the word firetruck.

But in spite of having to work weekends, Jamie and I managed to have some good times of our own and I am not referring to the hideous double-date with Pat and Pete during which we realized we were partnered up with the wrong boys and I would have been much happier if I could have left with Pete in his cute little vintage Volkswagon and let Pat and his popped collar talk to Jamie about how he thought Shakespeare was overrated.  I'm also not referring to the time we were "helping" Monica housesit in some gazillion dollar mansion and also taking advantage of their laundry facilities and Jamie washed her waitress apron and dried it with a green crayon in the pocket and turned the inside of their dryer green.  Permanently.

Of course, I won the biggest screw-up-of-the-year award when I stayed there alone the next night and then locked myself out of that house with no phone, no wallet, no shoes and no bra (it was first thing in the morning) and I had to walk down the gravel road (ouch!  barefoot!) to the neighbor's house where they were outside waxing their airplane (I shit you not) in my boxer shorts and Beastie Boys t-shirt and explain that I was house sitting and locked myself out and could I please use their phone to call a locksmith.  The locksmith arrived forty minutes later only to tell me that since I had no proof of residency (um, because I didn't live there), he couldn't let me back in the house.  So then I did what any reasonable person would do who was stuck outside in their pajamas and no bra with cut-up feet and a full bladder.  I started crying and telling him my life story and it turned out he was from Neosho, Missouri so we were practically neighbors back home and I really think that is what changed his mind because then he relented and said that since the dogs appeared to know me (stupid, friendly beasts who loved everyone) he could let me in just this one time.  Of course getting back in the house cost me all the money I made house-sitting that weekend, but, you know.  At least I had my dignity.  Oh, right.  Didn't have that either.

So there were some mis-adventures.  But we also had some good times driving out to Poudre Canyon (pronounced "pooter" which provided us much amusement) to see my great aunt and uncle who were camping there, going to see A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum in some other dinky little town, checking out area parks and pretending we were real hikers, and of course just going out to The Sink, The Walrus, and various other bars.

Jamie had never been to Breckenridge so one day she was off work, I called in sick, and we decided to drive up there.  Of course as our luck would have it, it happened to be a rainy, rainy day but we decided to forge ahead.  So we headed out of town, radio playing that Janet Jackson song that I called Pete's song:  "Maybe we'll meet at a bar, he'll drive a funky car..."  It was definitely raining by the time we got out of town and started gaining altitude.  Jamie was driving her not-so-funky Grand Am and we were chugging on up the mountain with her windshield wipers working like crazy until it was raining so hard we were just barely creeping along.

And really, it was a good thing Jamie was driving because she was much calmer than me behind the wheel.  Driving back from Poudre Canyon, I made her drive my Mustang because going around those hair-pin curves in the dark was more than I could handle.  Just thinking about it now can still make me queasy.

Finally it was pouring so hard we followed the example of the vehicles in front of us and just pulled over.  We sat on the side of the highway, listening to the rain pound the metal roof of the car.  It wasn't quite hailing but it was almost that loud.  Jamie had turned off the car so the wipers weren't going but we could see the faint glow of the taillights of the truck in front of us even through the water streaming down the windshield.

Then we heard an unidentifiable noise.  It wasn't loud--at least not compared to the pounding rain.  We strained to see out the window but the brake lights in front of us were no longer visible.  Jamie turned on the car and the wipers and after they streaked across the windshield we saw that the truck in front of us was now hidden.  In the couple of yards or so between us and the truck in front of us there was a huge pile of mud and rocks.  Looking up to my right at the mountainside, I quickly saw that this was the result of what looked like a pretty big mudslide, still barreling down the mountain.  The hood of Jamie's car was about a foot from the enormous pile of mud and plants and rocks that had already hit the shoulder of the highway. 

I remember making a kind of squeaking noise that was supposed to be a scream but was more of a panting squeak, half-expecting the rest of the mountain to just pile up on top of the car and bury us alive.  Jamie didn't say anything.  I stared at her, gesturing wildly at the muddy mountainside and making my squeaking noises and she just set her jaw, yanked the car into reverse, and smoothly pulled out and around the ever-growing mud pile.

We were saved.

And it wasn't even lunchtime yet.  The rain had lightened up a bit and we continued onto Breckenridge, still reeling from the adrenaline rush of almost getting our car knocked off the highway or buried under a huge pile of mud and rocks.

We had lunch in Breckenridge and did some souvenir shopping to commemorate our near-death experience.  Jamie bought a couple of sweatshirts which was serendipitous because of course it started pouring again when we were as far from the car as possible in the little down town area so we sprinted back, our flipflops splashing and sliding in the puddles, wearing the now-soaking wet sweatshirts that Jamie had probably intended to give as gifts to family members.

By the time we headed back down to Boulder, our mudslide pile up was still there but they didn't have to shut down the highway because it was still mostly on the shoulder.  We felt doubly lucky to avoid death and a lengthy detour. 

Yes, it was an exciting summer in Colorado.  Highway mudslides and rockslides can be dangerous though.  Perhaps even more life-threatening than head injuries and broken hearts and hangovers, which seem to the sort of natural disasters that are just par for the course when you're twenty-one and spending the summer in Boulder.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Bullet Points

  • I found the lid to the oatmeal.  It was with the other tupperware lids.  I can only assume it crawled there under its own power, trying to find its family.  It is now reunited with the oatmeal container.
  • I completely understand why there were (are?) cultures that worshiped the sun.  The air is still cool but the sun is bright and warm and I crave the light like some people crave chocolate.  Last weekend was the first time the temperatures around got above 50 degrees since December 1.  We've done our time, Winter.  Make way for Spring.
  • Just when your dog turns four and you think he is reasonably well-behaved aside from his incredibly irritating beagle bark that he turns on nonstop when people come over until they sit down so he can snuggle up next to them and his complete spaz attack about the mailman and his general mama's boy neediness, he goes ahead and eats another pair of underwear and then chews up the little cup that is used to measure out the laundry detergent.  Then when you try to scold him, he looks at you like this: 
Stupid puppy-dog eyes.
  • I have big plans for Spring Break (I'm on it this week).  They include:  
    • grade response papers
    • open up that document I'm calling "Great American Novel" (I'm not really calling it that) and type something in it
    • open up that document I'm calling "Tortured Academic Article" (for real) and type something in it
    • sew a baby gift for a friend
    • finish making 30 doggie bandanas for Relay "Fur" Life, happening this Sunday.  I made a bunch of these bandanas last night but I am suddenly afraid they are too small because my dogs may be smaller than most people's dogs so my judgment might be a bit off.  But I figure if the bandana does not fit around the neck they can just tie it to the dog's collar?  I mean how much money can I really sink into bandanas that are not likely to be worn more than this one day?
  • The spring break plans are not very exciting.  I tried to remedy this with a pedicure and a murder mystery dinner party on Friday, which helped, but now Friday is over and it is Monday and I'm wondering why I didn't just book a flight somewhere warm (Phoenix?  Palm Springs?) and foist myself upon my warm-weather relatives for a few days.
  • I continue to expand my culinary repartee which was a New Year's Resolution (at least I think it was, if not, let's pretend it was because I'm actually doing it, which is more than I can say for my Lenten resolution of giving up alcohol [Note to Self:  Next year choose something that's actually realistically manageable]).  I made a vegetarian jumabalaya that was pretty darn delicious and got rave reviews at the dinner party even though my friend Eliza actually added most of the spices so I can only hope that I can replicate what she did for next time.
  • I'm coming around a bit to this new cell phone.  It's growing on me.  It got a new pink cover-thing that is pretty cute and arrived only just in time since I dropped it for the first time last week on the front porch.  Thankfully it did not break.  (And actually I did not technically drop it, it fell out of my purse when I was bending over to pick up the keys that I dropped.  I was carrying a lot of things.)  Anyway, I downloaded this bubble burst game that runs the danger of becoming an obsession, much like Kirby's Avalanche on the computer in my dorm room circa 2000.  I played it yesterday while waiting in line at Jo-Ann fabric, which meant by the time I made it to the cash register I was in a better mood than everyone else in the store.  
  • I'm quickly recalling my low tolerance for fantasy baseball and the vast amount of time suckage it involves.  Once again, David is back at it with the spreadsheets and the special magazines and the "mock drafts" to help him prepare for the "real draft" (which, I remind you, is fake, given that this is fantasy baseball) that will take place at his friend's house in Kansas City, over a weekend in which all of David's buddies from college who participate in his fantasy league will fly in from their various homes in Missouri, Kansas, and Texas just to do a fantasy baseball draft and also undoubtedly drink themselves silly and try to pretend that they are 22 and cool instead of in their thirties and taking a fantasy baseball game way too seriously.  But you know me.  I keep my opinions about such things to myself.
  • Speaking of fantasies, I think I am going to start telling people that my brother is dating Kim Yu-Na.  What?  They both live in Korea.  It's totally plausible.  Plus it only seems reasonable that one of us should marry a celebrity and although Coach Duck is insanely popular with the 5-7 year old crowd, I don't think he has quite the same kind of global status.
  • OK.  I need to grade these papers.  I'm thinking of going out on the deck into the sunshine.  With a blanket.  Because 50-something is not actually warm, even if it is sunny.  Seriously should have bought that plane ticket...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Lost & Found

When I was a kid, I could not keep track of my stuff.  I was constantly looking for that shoe or that doll or that toy.  Sometimes I would ask my mom for jewelry for holiday gifts and she would say, "No, you'll just lose it."  I would protest violently, but it was true. 

Once my great aunt Dotty gave me this garnet ring.  It was the most beautiful ring I had ever seen.  It was yellow gold with a rectangle-shaped dark red garnet and three tiny diamonds running up each side of the rectangle.  It looked so beautiful and expensive and I loved it so much.

So I took it with me to Girl Scout camp where I lost it after taking it off to go swimming and putting it who knows where for safekeeping.  (Maybe it was stolen?  I don't think so.  I think it fell out of my bag somewhere between our campsite and the swimming pool.  I retraced my steps several times but never found it.)

Anyway, sometime in college I managed to start keeping track of things.  In a graduate program where some of friends have overdue fines for books they can't locate and where my advisor has occasionally misplaced a chapter draft, I am actually considered an organized person.  My love for office supplies has helped to support this ruse.  And for the most part, I actually do a pretty good job of keeping my stuff together.  

But just when I start feeling confident, things start disappearing.

The last few days, I have been so absent minded.  Things keep getting lost and just when I am about to fly into all-time panic mode, David finds them.

This is not so unusual a scenario, as I sometimes think something has gotten "lost" only to discover that David has actually moved it somewhere other than the place I specifically put it.  But my husband's anal-retentive issues are another story.

Yesterday I was trying to make it out the door in time for Jazzercise.  My car keys were not on the hook by the front door where they live.  They were not on the floor under the hook.  They were not on the table by the front door or the bar or my desk or my dresser.  I decided to grab the extra car key and find my real keys later.  Couldn't find the extra key because David had moved it.  Called David to find out where the extra key was, getting frustrated with (1) my inability to keep track of things (2) his annoying habit of moving shit around without mentioning it to me, when David suggested I check the front door.

My keys had been hanging from the front door lock all night long.  (My mom later told me that on a trip with a girlfriend in college, her friend had left their hotel room key in the door to their hotel room all night long.  Which is clearly even worse.)

I went to work yesterday expecting to find my planner, which I hadn't seen since Saturday.  It wasn't at my office at school, it wasn't at my desk at home, it had to be at the learning center.


I texted David and he said he hadn't seen it.

Then he recanted that night and said he'd seen it on the bar last Saturday.

Turns out it was hiding under the Pioneer Woman's cookbook on my kitchen counter.

Now I've lost the lid to the oatmeal.  I know what you're thinking.  How do you lose the lid to the oatmeal?

I have no idea.

In the five minutes it takes to make oatmeal, I lost the lid.  It's not in the trash.  Not under the toaster oven.  Not in a drawer.  Not with the canned goods.  I can only hope that David can magically locate this lid as he has located my other belongings.  Until then, my oatmeal is being kept fresh with the help of saran wrap and a rubber band.

Plus I am left with that feeling of total incompetence that comes with losing things.  Seriously.  The lid to the oatmeal?  I have no idea.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Relay For Life: Kick Cancer's Ass

I joined one of the English Department's Relay for Life teams this year and am soliciting donations for the American Cancer Society.

We all know that cancer sucks and that whether it brings a sudden and shocking loss or a slow and lingering one, it's painful and unfair and the kind of awful that makes one rail against the fates or God or nature or luck because nobody should have to get the kind of sick where getting better makes you feel worse.  Or where you don't get better at all.

So anyway.  You may have poured out all of your discretionary spending in donations to the people of Haiti, or Cystic Fibrosis, or the Humane Society, or any one of countless other charities that deserve your time and energy and financial contribution.  But if you have an extra $10, you can make a donation and help us to kick cancer's ass (not the official slogan but perhaps it should be).  You can also help my team kick the ass of the other teams at my university.  This earns us nothing but bragging rights, but we insecure academics facing a piss-poor job market certainly need something to brag about it these days.

The countdown is on and every bit helps!  Thanks in advance for your donations and I promise not to beg you for money any more for at least a year.

My relay for life page is here.

Edited to add:  And thanks so much to those of you who have already donated!

Honor Roll Includes...
Aunt Beth "the great"
Aunt Peggy
My Mom
BFF Jamie
Cousin Angie
Cousin Jeny
Angie & Jeny's mom, Belinda
Cousin Pam

Most if not all of these people have donated in memory of my grandpa, Bill Vance.  Everybody thinks their grandpa is the best in the world ever, but I know that mine was.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sensory Perception

My empirical experiences of the moment:

I'm listening to the soundtrack to Crazy Heart.  I love it.  Because I could write a book about what I don't know (I call it: My Dissertation).  And one thing I do know is that Jeff Bridges should get the Oscar for that performance.  I was very impressed.  In my car I'm listening to Lady Gaga's Fame Monster (the obsession continues), which David brought me home from Best Buy as a consolation prize for my new cell phone not being an iPhone.  It helped a little.

I'm looking at my new cell phone and trying to figure it out.  Earlier today I couldn't figure out how to answer a call.  I want it to be all touch screen (like the iPhone) but it's not entirely.  There are a few little buttons at the bottom.  So today Jamie called me and I couldn't figure out how to answer so I had to call her back.  When I explained my problem, she sarcastically suggested I hit the little green button.  She was right, it pains me to say.  This is why I should have perhaps stuck with the Jitterbug.  Truth is, I still want an iPhone but even I can't justify the price different between the Real iPhone and the Sprint Copycat (David gets some kind of discount plan with Sprint through his school and I can be pretty bratty about wanting certain things but I am not irrational--no matter what you might have heard).  So apparently this new phone will do everything an iPhone will do.  Just with less style.  And not as intuitively.  It's just not the same!  David says I will get used to it.  I got used to having a broken phone that had been left out in the rain over night, so I suppose he is right.

I'm tasting Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies which were Part II of my Consolation Prize Treat Bag.  It was also partly an Apology Treat Bag because of a dramatic crying episode I had Sunday night when David suggested I de-clutter the bookshelves in our backroom and I took that to mean (as any rational person might) that if he didn't like the way the bookshelves looked, then obviously he didn't like (1) me (2) all of the things that are meaningful to me (3) literature.  It wounded me to the core.  When he protested that he just likes things "tidy" and "streamlined," I said that the fact is that I just have better taste than he does. (It's true!)  He said, "I know you think that!"  And the standoff continued until he arrived home the following night with cookies and Lady Gaga.

I'm smelling the mac & cheese & broccoli we had for dinner.  I had a cooking breakthrough the other day via IM conversation with my friend Natalie.  I was explaining how I am afraid to break loose from recipes in the kitchen so I get really panicky about having all the ingredients and I'm always sending David on a trip to the store in the middle of food prep.  Natalie explains to me the philosophy of substitution.  Take out one vegetable, substitute another.  Take out one protein, substitute another.  It seems so obvious to say it that way, but it has given me new freedom in the kitchen.  No paprika?  I'll just use chili powder.  Not enough sharp cheddar cheese?  I'll just use some of this shredded parmesan and throw it in with the cheddar.  I've been doing the substitution/elimination rule all along converting recipes to vegetarian, but lately I feel like I'm really getting a handle on it.  Which is good, since in the last couple of weeks I've been doing all the menu planning, shopping, and cooking.  Since baseball season has started (still waiting on the weather to catch up), David is getting home later and judging by his level of exhaustion, he is evidently carrying the weight of the world (or at least the junior varsity baseball team) on his shoulders.  So dinner prep falls to me.  And since I'm no longer writing a dissertation, it is getting harder to shirk my half of the domestic responsibilities... 

I'm touching a nicely organized desk thanks to a cleaning frenzy on Monday morning that left me with a recycle bin filled to the brim with papers and filing cabinets still inexplicably full but somewhat more accessible.  I'm sure the desk is still too "cluttered" for David's taste but as far as I'm concerned, a desk is not a desk without three thesauruses, an overflowing container of paperclips, another one with those binder clips, two staplers (that does seem a bit excessive, I suppose), three rulers, a pencil sharpener (vintage!), two framed photos, a WTF crocheted cat (pictured above), several notepads, chapstick, file folders, notebooks, five writing handbooks, and various other works of criticism and novels.  What?  I need this stuff within arm's reach.