Monday, December 20, 2010

One Of Those Days

I have really thick, curly, long hair. I was getting ready for bed this evening and combing my hair out when I ran against a tangle and the comb flipped out of my hands, lofted into the air, and plopped unceremoniously into the toilet. I could only stand there and contemplate the number of people who use that toilet and perhaps how long it had really been since I'd cleaned it last before I had to stick my hand in it.

That is the kind of day I have had.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Arming My Children Was Perhaps A Bad Idea


But I am glad I started with NERF gear. It is advisable. When I was a kid, we were armed with disk guns and/or BB guns at approximately the same time. I am really, really, really not sure why we were not more injured back then. Yesterday, Squib shot himself 3 out of 5 times. His learning curve is INCREDIBLE, though. Today he's almost as good a shot as I am.

And I am hurting!!! And not just because I am and slightly creaky in new places and have been running about hell-bent on demolishing my offspring. But also 'cause those little NERF darts can smart a bit if they hit you in the wrong the earlobe.

I specified all the appropriate "how to shoot" tips...but I didn't think either of them was quite the shot to zing me in the earlobe. Thrice now. And when being taught how to shoot...things...with things...I don't ever recall anyone saying anything about earlobes. Well...not in this context...

I was arming two people who still ask for pieces of "tandy" and three kisses at bedtime and every time I leave to go somewhere...

...and then...

...mid fight...

...this morning...

I was hiding behind the island in the kitchen and it occured to me that the smallest one had gone quiet. He's five. I thought he'd lost interest or found something he'd lost and forgotten we were waging war in the living areas, so I went out to search for him.

And found him.

He was stripping off his belt. He had already shed his shoes, dumped out his pockets, and was jumping up and down inside the closet listening to see if he made any noise. I asked what he was doing. He said, "I think I make too much noise, Momma, that's how you always find me. So I was making sure I was all quiet before I came back out to get you." He had the most focused and serious look on his face, too. It was downright terrifying.

Tomorrow he will have discovered grease paint and duct tape...I had better sleep with my dart rifle...


Monday, December 6, 2010

Oy! Kids These Days!

You all know that I'm back in college. Again. For the second time. Soon to be in graduate school in some official capacity. Anyhow...

I am scavenging various and sundry requirements that have cropped up in the sfiahefieuhf years since I graduated the first time and one or two prerequisites that I do not yet have and in the mean time marvelling at how things have changed. For one thing...all my profs speak English. Clearly. Distinctly. Sometimes this fact alone makes me dissolve in hysterical fits of giggles. It's a luxury. A luxury I say!

Today, I was sitting in the hall...again...because now they lock everything up tight for our protection. We are so much safer sitting in large packs in the hallway should some rampaging half- (or fully-) crazed student barge in and try to shoot us all. Now we are fairly lined up like a shooting gallery with no doors to protect us. I'm off topic here, but since you aren't supposed to carry concealed on campus, well...I digress.

Where was I? I was sitting in the hall with the others marked for death. And they were discussing various professors they were going to have for next semester. Horrifying people those professors! One of them used TWO TEXTBOOKS! Another actually expected that you memorize all the metabolic reactions verbatim for the biochemistry section...of ...something. I lost interest at that point because I took not one, but two classes entitled Metabolism (I and II) where it was nothing but memorization of reactions and energy consumed or generated and the byproducts, etc. yada, yada, yada and had to keep track of the electrons much less the molecules...and I started to giggle. It was ok because they sort of expect this of me. Several of us study together and they often like to hear horror stories of the dark ages of the late eighties and early nineties before state mandates forced requirements on professors, etc.

Seriously, though. My first irrational professor really didn't speak English. At. All. Dr. Chen. The man most likely to be found napping in his office. His only coherent question was asked the first day. It was: "What is a function?" After many clear and logical answers including one read from the text, we found that the answer he required was: "An apple." There you have it. A function is an apple. And later he gifted us with the information that, "An apple is a machine." Right. This was Calc-based Physics I. I made a 57. Highest grade in the class. It took me no less that four or five hours a day of studying (one fax machine and a family physicist) to accomplish that. It ended up being the only A. Thanks be to God that they curved "back then." More about apples than you ever cared to know and then some. The tests were a bitch.

Botany, of all things, ate my lunch and gave me a life-long hatred of anything that manages to sprout from the dirt. I've since gotten over it, but it's been a tough row to hoe so-to-speak. It was a required biology credit when I was in the Biology/Chemistry dual major program at OBU and the instructor, Dr. Hurley, used it as a weed-out class. Pun most definitely intended. Part of my difficulty with the class was my problem. I couldn't stand the arrogance of the good doctor. Inevitably, at student-faculty outings we seemed to get paired up for croquet (this was a small Bible-belt University...and I am not, how to say this, croquet-capable). Football, basketball, frisbee, or anything else, but no-go on the croquet. We lost outright, much to his chagrin, and I believe it spilled over into the class. The pinnacle of the course was the plant collection. It required 1000 different plant samples. 25 families had to be represented and just to make it interesting 25 of your samples had to be unique from the rest of the class. The class size was 15. Big enough to make life difficult. Just prior to that semester, the good doctor broke his ankle when he slipped on some ice on the loading dock out back and so we also had to push him in his wheelchair to and fro throughout the following semester as he healed. Most of the students had a head start on the collection, but I came into it when I got the syllabus. Late bloomer. Uggghhhh. Long story short, we all worked our asses off and did unspeakable things including mouth pipetting salmonella (yes, I did that and acquired immunity along the way--go figure). Hours of work was spent driving all over Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, and Louisiana looking for plant samples and in the end every single student was awarded a C. Yes, a C. One of the two C's I have ever "earned?" Whatever.

Then I transferred to University of Houston and the Biochemistry and Biophysics programs. Same song, different verse.

Biochem I and II weren't so bad once I figured out that the instructors were actually pulling from about three texts. So after acquiring all three and reading and studying all three I was golden. A's all around.

Biophysics was another story. It was like a no rules collegiate course. Three texts were recommended. That meant "buy them or else!" The first came in two volumes, the second came in three volumes, the third came in a three-inch (mercifully) single text. All of them were almost unintelligible to an undergraduate given the level of mathematics required to understand much of what was being discussed. I can understand them now that my mathematics education has caught up, but then, I was in Calc The instructor, Horace Gray (really the name should have flagged me off), had a fondness for Schrodinger's wave equation and used it in its entirety whenever possible. Ditto for other long and pretty much unsolvable equations. He also liked to invent words like "sereptation" to describe the movement of DNA molecules through a packed chromatography column...and the like. But he wouldn't define them as such. You just had to get the gist of things. My Chem prof from OBU and my father had long ago indoctrinated me in the ways of solving problems using dimensional analysis. If the units on both sides of the equation work out, you're golden. That saved my cookies in this class.

Taking tests in Dr. Gray's class was a campus-wide phenomenon. ANYTHING was allowed. He would reserve a room from  7:30 am until, well...until the janitors locked up the building and afterward. We were allowed to bring any and all resources (computers, calculators, texts, notes, other people's notes, other tests, etc. no limits) We could collaborate with other students and even collaborate as a class, but I soon found out that wasn't always a good idea. There was NO time limit. If his office building was locked, we could turn it in the next day. Do you know why? BECAUSE IT DIDN'T MATTER. Those were the hardest damned tests I'd ever taken. Ever. We'd bring coolers full of drinks and food and spend all day and into the night working on them. We'd skip what classes we had to skip (our other profs knew what was up and excused it), we'd miss work, we'd neglect everything just to work on those damned things in hopes of some inspiration or finding some little tidbit of knowledge in a source we'd brought with us. They were murder. In the end we knew it was every man for himself. I made a B in Biophysics I and a C in Biophysics II. Together with my C in Botany, those were my only non-A's in my collegiate history. Apparently I set a record for the highest grades in those classes.

One day I ran into him in the elevator. He greeted me by saying, "You made the highest grades ever in my biophysics classes! Anyone in their right mind would hire you on the spot!" If I had even an inkling of the presence of mind I have now, I'd have asked for a letter of recommendation to that effect. But I was shocked and mumbled a thank you and was rather mystified that he even knew my name much less my grades given his general absent-mindedness and tendency to wear the same outfit day after day. Teal-colored Sans-a-belt pants and matching plaid short-sleeved shirt. Ghastly.

So, to today's students who get a list of things they should know at the beginning of every topic and notes on PowerPoint that correspond to their one or two textbook(s) from their professor who speaks clear and understandable English and have available to them free tutors at a learning center that also offers a writing center to help them with papers and other written assignments, I say...COUNT YOUR FRICKIN' LUCKY STARS!


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

When The Bottom Falls Out

Because, let's face it, it often does.

No, this is not an essay on life...though it could be...and may still be...we'll see...but more an essay on what generally happens to me when I am moving swiftly through an already cram-packed day and suddenly get ambushed what? Fate, I guess?

I have a little Thanksgiving "thing" to go to tomorrow evening and was out looking for a little something to spice up the little black dress. So, I was in Wal-Mart. Yes. I go to Wal-Mart to spice up the little black dress. Get over it. Think what you will. Mostly just think how much better it is that I'm doing my shopping at Wal-Mart instead of, say, Ann Taylor where I could definitely do some damage. Lasting, permanent damage. Or Chico's. Aiieesh!! There were days long ago when I darkened those doors but I cannot now think why I ever did that other than perhaps because I could.

I digress.

The flipside benefit to shopping at Wal-Mart for wardrobe items is that you can also get your unhealthy Dr.Pepper fix there, too. So...

I got my little wardrobe agenda item crossed off and proceeded to the Dr.Pepper aisle where I picked up a 24-pack (there are quite a few D.P. drinkers at my house) by the handle and began to walk back to my cart when, promptly and quite spectacularly, the bottom fell out of the cardboard container like a reverse Jack-in-the-box.

Cans and cans and cans and endless cans of Dr.Pepper were liberated and went bouncing and erupting hither and yon about the soft drink aisle. I stood there stunned and mute holding what remained of the cardboard case while my mouth hung a bit askew.

There were not one, but three employees on the aisle already and all three leapt into action exclaiming all sorts of things at once--things one ought not to exclaim at work, perhaps--and pushing me around as they gathered cans and tried to aim the still-spurting ones away from the remaining customers and other items on the racks.

Spectacular. I. Mean. Awesome.

One of them probably realized that I was useless and, so, stuffed a new, healthy 24-pack into my arms and said, "Just go."

So I just went...

What a rush!!!! I should have done that YEARS AGO!!!! And maybe dropped them from a building!

It was even better than that tube of Desitin I stepped on that one time. A lot messier, though. My black shoes are going to need some work. They're leather and can't exactly be tossed in the washing machine...or can they?

And I'm not sure that there won't be a picture of me up in the soft drink aisle at Wal-Mart for the next ten years. So be it. I take my thrills where I can get them these days.

No, I am not taking this as a universal message to slow down. Pfft. I am, perhaps, suggesting that some things might fare better if they were NOT made from post-consumer products. Stone me, green people, go ahead...just sayin'. Recycled cardboard is all fine and good if the physics works out, but so far...hmmmm....

In real life, though, the bottom does fall out. Doesn't it? I would be lying if I said that the bottom hasn't fallen out in several areas over the last couple months. And when it fell out, it wasn't nearly so therapeutic as watching the explosion of 24 cans of Dr.Pepper. Nevertheless, the end result was the same. Pick up a new pack (to the extent that's possible) and "Just go." Go anywhere. Just don't sit here wallowing in it. Go. And go now.

Buddy, my dad, always has trouble executing plans. He finds formulating them to be easy. For me, it's just the opposite. I have trouble figuring out what the plan(s) should be, but once I have plans in place, I am the executioner--so-to-speak. I've been floundering for the last three plus weeks over what my plans should be. I had one over-arching plan and things seemed to be clicking with regard to that plan. Then the plan floundered and I knew I should continue with it, but it didn't seem sufficient on its own given a deadline further off in the distant future and I knew I needed something to do in the mean time to fill in the gaps. Then, slowly, other things started to fall apart and meaningful chunks of life were chipped away. That sucked. The bottom fell out. With a tad bit of fizzy eruptions here and there on my part.

Finally, someone came along and stuffed a 24-pack in my arms and said, "Just go." Once again, that person was Attrition. Sometimes I can't equate the encouragement and support he offers me with the wardrobe, friendship, and general professionalism consults I offer him. I guess rides to and from the airport may one day pay some of my debt of gratitude to him. I hope so. Something. Anything. Anything to demonstrate to him that there are little moments of time when he's the air in my lungs after weeks in outer space with no gear. I don't always understand him or the way he chooses to react to me, but in little bits I get to see the man he's become and the brother he's always been. He doesn't always have my back. He has his reasons. But he's always there with an idea about how to go on from here.

No matter where here may be.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Two Paths Diverged In A Wood...

...and I definitely took the geekier one.

Once again, I have not disappeared. Nor am I dead, ill, resigned from blogging, extinct, wiped out, or dispossessed of my mind. Well, possibly the latter at times, but not at the moment.

I was in a funk. Trying to find my way. Things were cloudy. I needed a plan. And now I have one. Well, two. No, I am not going to go into the two-plan theory of Scatness right at this very second. It would take way too long and there are still details to work out. Suffice it to say that Scat has once again regained, center? Whatever. Scat without a plan is not a Scat you want to behold or even be near. Scat totally derailed is even worse. But, the train is now back on the tracks and there are not one, but two plans in effect for the future of said Scat and she is greatly pleased. Rather than have plan A and plan B, I am proceeding with two plan A's. Yes. I am. Generally, whichever succeeds first wins. They are both equally pleasing and, in the long run, profitable. Yay. Great amounts of work will be involved (as usual), and there will be more school (big surprise), but it will be concurrent with work (yay).

In general, there is quite a bit of turnover happening family-wide, so I am not the only one with a new plan and new things, places, and ideas to get used to. There is a considerable amount of bumping into one another going on and quite a bit of who's going to ferry who to the airport when sorts of conversations happening, but such is our slice of life at the moment. No one who has known us for very long is surprised in the least. Most notably, Attrition and myself are doing a total turn-around in our day-to-day lives and this is, yes, causing some angst, but also causing! Out with the old, so-to-speak. And there was definitely some old to be had out with. And we are laying

But for today, a total and complete display of geekiness.

There used to be a day when you had to buy an expensive contraption to adapt your camera (a special one at that) to fit to your microscope in order to get pictures of what you could see when you look through the eyepiece, but no more! Viola! Smartphones! Well smartphones, an understanding of focal lengths and a certain amount of steadying oneself and breatholding reveals things like this:

Transitional epithelial lining of the bladder! (Yes, inspiring subject matter, but we are, after all, studying the urinary system, so bear with me. Had I discovered my new-found talent during the chapter on blood or lymphatics this might have been more stimulating and less...weird).

Endothelial cells centrifuged from a sample of urine...yes MY URINE...are you grossed out NOW??

A bacterial crypt found in the sediment centrifuged from my urine...evidence of an attempted past infection.
Calcium oxalate crystals (more sediment from someone else's urine..even grosser, I suppose).
That really, really dark, black thing in the center is a tyrosine crystal (again, my urine sediment).
A mucosal thread (my sediment).
A section of kidney (not mine LOL) showing glomerular capsules (the white circles). The white circles are the Bowman's capsules and the red mass in the center is the glomerulus. This is where your kidney does it's filtration, well, in the capsules and the tubules surrounding them.

And all this done with my handy dandy iPhone.

Thus endeth the geek tour for the day.

Sleep well!


Thursday, November 4, 2010


Twice a week I sit through three hours of anatomy and physiology. Anymore, it's pretty rare to take a college course with a professor who's first language is English. So you get used to hearing word like "remumber" (remember) and "yunnery" (pronounced like nunnery...but it really should be "urinary"). My first language is English and I sign American Sign Language and Signed Exact English. There are several versions of the English language that I've acquired simply by virtue of the fact that I've been in more college classes than are healthy for the normal individual that are taught with heavy accents.

Today I finally got in trouble. Over geishas.

To be fair, I was tired. Very tired. Not long ago, our topics for term papers were assigned. And, rather irrationally, our rough drafts were due just today. The real deal isn't due for another month, but the rough draft (which, too me, is pretty much the final minus the remaining edits and a bit of tweaking) was due today. Subtract out the weekends when I was with the boys and the time working and trying to pass the two classes I'm taking and I basically didn't sleep in order to write the silly paper.

So I was a little punchy. Perhaps slap-happy, even. When this little Indian woman turns from her PowerPoint presentation and says...

"Now dere are laws that govern behayour when tings are geishas."

Into my mind popped an image of a geisha girl.

Out of my mind popped all possible rational thought. And I'm certain there was a big smile on my face because she stopped the entire class to ask me if something was funny...oops. Did I chuckle? Out loud?

"Is there something funny?" She pointed at me. "Perhaps something you two were discussing?"

She pointed at the girl in front of me who I've never so much as spoken a single word to. Ever. I've never even seen the other side of her ponytail from here. We looked at each other then, but still had nothing to say. Frankly, I was still stuck on the geishas...

Gaseous...!! Geishas = gaseous!

I'm not always this slow, but yes, every class is this entertaining...


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sweet Relief

November is National Novel Writing Month. Just FYI. This may not directly affect you, but it does now directly affect me as I have decided to turn all my copious writing efforts toward writing a work of fiction. NaNoWriMo occurs every November and many writers participate in it. If you would like to learn more about NaNoWriMo around the world and in your area, you can check in here. It isn't really a change of pace for me--as I write regularly and in volumes already--so much as it is a change of focus.

I haven't written fiction in a while. And I thought this would be fun. So that's why I'm doing this. For fun. For me. So pffft.

I had a problem, though. What to write about? It's quite a conundrum, really. Many of the writers posting in the forums are already developing characters and whatnot and here I am without even so much as a story idea. Well, not true. I have at least seventy of them, but not one that really peaks my interest. Not even so much as a single genre to hang my hat on!

But look no further! Sweet relief! I have decided! But you shall have to wait...for the book, of course. Suffice it to say that it is a science fiction thriller based on what might happen if it were possible to interrupt simple nuclear forces like electron repulsion...with a little bit of the hotly debated cranial nerve zero thrown in. Ooooo-eeeee-aaaa--ooooo. <-- That was the background music. Heavy on the theramin.

You had better keep a theramin handy for the next month.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What I Should Have Said...

There's an elephant in the room. Most of you may not know it, but I know it and that's what matters. It's the elephant that's on my mind. Said elephant also happens to read this blog...sometimes. So it's entirely possible that he might read this. Part of me hopes he does. Part of me knows he won't.

This would be a good time to stop calling him "the elephant"--especially since I never really successfully came up with a name for him in the first place and this isn't a  When La Fae used to ask me about him she would ask, "How is the jazz scene in Houston?" be it...Jazz it is. The name lacks any sort of connotation whatsoever. I like it.

We were dating and now we're not. It happened about that quickly. Not yesterday when he actually told me, but a couple weeks ago when I felt the life fizzle out of his side of things and I heard the vault doors start to clang shut and just knew in the pit of my stomach that I was going to be stuck on the outside of them regardless of anything I said or did. So I waited...and it happened. How am I? Not good. Just not good at all.

And if another person tells me, "I want to tell you something..." again this week, I shall leap from a tall building (figuratively speaking). Perhaps I will merely roll off the bed with a fierce "Plop!" That sentence NEVER ends good. My dad always started the bad sentences out that way. Still does. So does everybody else. So if you dare comment on this, start with "I want to tell you something..." and end it with something nice. Or shut up! And now I'm way off topic...

The day of the breakup was a bit of a blur due to an all-nighter I pulled to study for a lab practical (with way too many dead cats) combined with a 4 a.m. trip to the airport to send Attrition off to D.C. for a job interview. So when Jazz caught me, I had just climbed in bed to reclaim some sleep (it was my third try) and I was caught off guard to say the least and struck almost non-verbal. Needless to say, the third attempt at sleep was also wholly unsuccessful. Instead, I lay there crying and wishing I'd had my wits about me to say the few things I wanted to say. So here are those things:

What we briefly had together was entirely worth it. Not sure it's worth what I'm feeling now, but I think it probably is. I think you probably are. I wish I'd had the time to find out. You are insanely gifted, intelligent, and funny among other things. You have a single-minded committment to pessimism that I actually do find humorous. Not many will. And if you never let anyone inside that vault where you keep your innermost thoughts and your heart...well I fear you may never be truly happy and that would make me sad. I will always be interested to see where you go with what you have and what you can do.

As for me...I just can't get behind "this has nothing to do with you (meaning me)." What do you mean? It was my relationship, too. It has everthing to do with me! "This has nothing to do with you." Feh...I believe that's code for "I just don't want to do this anymore." with a little "And I really don't want to talk about it." Two very legitimate, believable statements. Harsh, but with enough truth to hang on to. They may sound terrible to you, but sometimes (especially if what you say is true and it isn't the girl's problem) it's nice not to leave a girl wondering what the hell she did wrong. Girl minds...what can I say? They all work like this: You deliberately go out of your way to tell them something is not their fault and what do they immediately think? It's their fault. Now you know.

So this is the end of you in these pages...but you're always welcome to read.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Whole Lot of Walking

It's a slow day around here for some. Not for me, but all the male members of the household are chomping at the bit. There's a burn ban in effect and what the hell else is there to do 'round these parts but burn stuff? All those burrowing hornets have been dug up and gassed. The last stand of trees has been thinned out--don't get me started on how I feel about that--and all that's left is a great pile of debris that is crying out to be burned. It's fairly shrieking! Apparently.

For me, it's yet another weekend full of network maintenance and fixing a laundry list of strange and bizarre computer-related problems that seem to emerge when you leave a bevy of computers alone in the presence of an 84-yr-old geophysicist and a 61-yr-old physicist. Chaos. It's not just a theory anymore.

And these things are just normal, humdrum life. No big deal.

On occasion, for some, life becomes not-so-humdrum. Downright catastrophic and positively tragic. Things happen that you read about in novels or see on television shows...only this time it happens to people you know. You can see them, touch them, hear them, and the effects of these catastrophes are palpable, vivid, and shocking. Stuff the ancient Greeks would look at and be impressed by.

As these human dramas play out, one of two things occur. Option One: The victims take in the pain, suffering, and misery and do nothing with it. Option Two: The victims take in the pain, suffering, and misery. They decide that this is just not something they are OK with and they decide to do something about it.

I like Option Two people!!!

I have mentioned La Fae before, but never gone into her life or goings on. Several years ago, La Fae lost her husband to suicide. It was and still say the very, very least. But now that I know there are people passing out awards for "Indomitable Spirit," well, one certainly should go to her. Hands down.

To tell you the truth, La Fae and I only knew each other around town, in passing, and on Facebook until the day she posted a random note on FB saying she needed someone to attend a funeral with her in Austin. I was free, so I volunteered. Why was she going? I'll tell you...because she wanted to be there for another woman who was surviving the loss of a spouse to suicide. She didn't want to go alone because she needed some support for herself. So we went. It was a most remarkable day. No really, it was! She is one of the most beautiful and resilient women I have ever met and to call her my friend is more than a mere honor. It's a luxury.

In addition to supporting people individually, La Fae also supports the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, so on November 6th we (yes, I am going too) are going to be walking in the Out Of The Darkness walk at Stude Park in Houston, Texas with the Station 74 Bulldog Walkers. Her husband, Tony, was a Houston Firefighter--hence the Station 74 team name. If you'd like to support us, go here.

Earlier this year, yet another friend who I'll just call J because it takes me such a long time to name everyone, lost her 14-yr-old son to juvenile diabetes. Yeah. His name was Josh. Josh's death actually ended up saving many other people through tissue and organ donation (be an organ donor!!!) and that was only the beginning of the choices J and her husband have made to continue taking what is undoubtedly a tragedy and turning it into something good...and even beautiful. My second award for "Indomitable Spirit" would go to her. Less than a year later, J has already organized a scholarship fund for the local school district and a local walk for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund.

Josh's walk takes place this coming week on October 27th. I encourage you to check out to find a walk near you. They take place all throughout the year all over the place! Research on juvenile diabetes also benefits other types of diabetes as well. The extent to which this illness affects the general population is huge, so it's a cause that will benefit you or someone you love at some point in your life.

So I'm going to be doing a lot of extra walking...


Thursday, October 21, 2010

I’m Just Broken

And broken things just don’t work right. That's pretty much the only conclusion I can reach.

It’s like getting on a bicycle with a broken chain. You just can’t get anywhere. Only I feel like a bicycle that is apparently in great shape…but still isn’t getting anywhere. Everyone swears it’s a great bike. Awesome brand! Great tires! Sweet paint job! Nice seat! Comfortable ride! What a gorgeous bicycle!

“I’ve never ridden a better bicycle,” they say, “I love this bike!”

But when it’s time for the race, no one wants to ride it. And if anyone does, it never seems to go anywhere. So I take it to the shop and get the opinion of a bicycle repair guru.

“There’s not a damn thing wrong with this bicycle,” he says, “I’d give my eye teeth for a bike like this.”

But he doesn’t.

So there it is. Still parked in the garage where it will no doubt be the day it completely rusts and gets swept away.

Some bicycle.


Accidental Lab Happenings

First of all, let me say that all the lab accidents I've been a...victim?...of have, so far, either been due to malfunctioning equipment or random acts of less-that-knowledgeable students. They do the weirdest stuff!!! Especially if you say, "Don't do THIS." Then THIS is the first thing they want to try.

Ok, so there were a few accidents due to one pack rat professor that took place in the process of rehabilitating a stockroom. I'm not sure where those mishaps fall at all. The entire 50-lb box full of ceramics that just willfully leapt from the top shelf was just waiting to happen since the 50's probably. That it waited for my term of office is significant and bears consideration. Then there was the nitrogen triiodide incident. As with most things, I wasn't entirely sure what he was hoping to accomplish there, but if he'd simply notified me of the contents of that beaker I'd have known to proceed carefully when the excess dried up. The excess that he left in the bottom of the beaker sitting in the sink with all the other beakers. Stuff looks like water when you're making it...but it ain't. We lost a janitor--a good one--over that.

Second of all, I admit that there is a certain quality that I seem to possess. Some people like this quality. Usually anyone who tests anything at all loves this quality because if anything at all is going to go wrong, I'll find it. Either I'll find it, or I'll be there when it happens, or I'm observant enough to see it, or crap just goes wrong in my presence. That latter one is, very often, how it feels. And, fortunately, something akin to the converse of that is also true. If I can get something to work correctly in my presence, then I can get it to do so reproducibly. Nice.

Today, though, it was mostly "crap just goes wrong in my presence." Sometimes crap goes wrong enough that you get a free shower in front of thirty of your peers.

Today's agenda: cat dissection. Let me tell you, dissection is no longer as bad as it used to be. You aren't in immediate contact with pools of formaldehyde. And your liver thanks you. I thought formaldehyde wasn't used at all anymore, but it turns out it is! Specimens are just rinsed in a glycol solution afterward to prevent (haha) the overwhelming odor of formaldehyde from permeating the lab and causing attrition among the ranks. So, it's more like an underwhelming overwhelming odor. And when you cut open your little kitty, after you've hacked through a considerable amount of adipose tissue, etc. there is still a pool of "stuff" to be drained off so that you can look at, in my case, the arteries and veins without going for a swim.

This is the point at which I approached the sink to rinse the gack DOWN the sink so that I could go on. I'll leave a side note here to say that the instructor did not think it necessary to wear a labcoat/apron or safety glasses. I have only one comment on that choice: stupid, stupid, stupid. Being blind, my safety glasses come with me. Yay! Still, when the fitting on the sink nozzle broke off, the spray pushed all that formaldehyde/glycol/adipose/gack stuff back UP the tray and all over my face, neck, and chest and even into my eyes despite the glasses. It was like someone had turned a disposal on in reverse. Yuck. And it started to burn.

And I started to curse.

And I don't honestly remember where Fred the cat went and I don't care.

Needless to say, I got a rather quick and decent eye rinse followed by a brutally cold shower of my upper body. Yes, with my clothes on. Perfect. No one really knows it, but this is why God really invented book stores and collegiate athletic wear. My one critique of the bookstore is that they don't sell bras. That spongy bra padding can soak up a lot of water. So, needless to say, there were two wet, round circles on the front of my brand new t-shirt before I even made it to the parking lot. I felt like I was nursing again. That hasn't happened in...years. Awkward.

And, yes, everyone thought it was very funny.

Except for me.

And really, think about it. In all your history of science classes and labs...exactly how many times have you EVER seen ANYBODY use an eyewash station or safety shower? This is my third time for the shower (and I'm pretty sure the shower wasn't necessary--overzealous lab people--it wasn't like my first two trips involving highly concentrated acids in the hands of students combined with explosions). First for the eyewash station.

I'm starting to develop a complex.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Absolutely Unforgettable

I commit unpardonable motherly sins on a daily basis. I refuse to cut crusts off bread. I make Squib wear his Elmo pajamas now that he has learned at school that Elmo is stupid. I admit I'm happy about his enlightenment with regard to Elmo, but when it is late and the Elmo jammies are the only clean ones...practicality wins out. I would apologize in advance for violating the next taboo, but I'm not sorry. I know at least two mommybloggers who are already squirming in their comfy chairs. Sorry, ladies, but I am answering a direct question and that answer deliberately favors one of my children over the other. Eek. Can you believe it? Of course you can, who am I kidding? What a faux pas! How un-politically correct of me! Or is it politically un-correct? Wait, that's incorrect. I don't know. The point is, you should expect nothing less. If I had any sort of readership at all they'd be running in the proverbial streets of the Internet highway screaming for me to be thrown in the bad parent dungeon.

Well, it wouldn't be the first time I've gone there.

And now I've gone and insulted my readership, too. Bless you. All three of seriously, bless ALL of you. I know there are way more than three. And I am grateful.

Back story: Yesterday a friend asked who the most unforgettable person in my life has been. My hero. The person I hold in greatest esteem. A great teacher. A good example. I answered, "Beanstalk." Unequivocally.

Yes. Beanstalk is eight. I have been counting. In his short eight years, Beanstalk has been through hell and back. Born with two extra parts of a chromosome, life didn't come easy to him at all. In fact, he started life off very much unalive. Some aggressive bagging both saved him and gave him a bit of a pneumothorax...which was the least of his worries. I only heard rumor of him for about twenty-four hours or so and the first I ever saw of him was this very wise pair of alien blue eyes peering out of a rather mashed-up head in a photograph that I taped to the wall in front of my bed. Up to that point, all I'd heard was subtle conversations in hallways...posteriorly rotated ears foot that...oxygen...chromosomal testing...and of course the up front talk from Kathy, the best P.A. in the world and the neonatal team trying to keep the little tyke alive.

We all learned a lesson that week we should never have forgotten. Beanstalk is here to stay. He's one tough nut to crack. Keeping him down is next to impossible. So, killing him is even harder than that. Something like only 1 in 140,000 tetrasomy 18p babies survive birth. He's the one. Out of all the odds given for every ailment or congenital defect he's ever faced, he's the one. The one in 235,000...the one in 6,000...the one in 30,000. I'm serious about this. It's him. Every time.

It isn't really the surviving that makes him so special. It's the manner in which he survives. He pursues life with absolute, total, and complete exuberance. Joy. Happiness. Interest. Curiosity. Pleasure. Simplicity. And he's wholesome about it. Earnest. And to be quite frank, the circumstances that turned most of the adults in his life into quivering masses of protoplasm...he...well, he handled them. Yes, he cried when it hurt. He fussed at the physical therapists when they prodded him...but only then. The split second the prodding was over, he was too interested in them as an individual to really let all that crap persist and get in the way. So, he won hearts in record numbers. And people began to gravitate to him.

A Beanstalk fan club developed. My friend Sheryl was the president of said fan club. I would phone in or email in updates and she would email out regular updates on Beanstalk's progress with regard to hospitalizations, therapies, etc. The fan club list was long. Incredibly long. He even had a website. I kid you not. People would just show up at the hospital to hold him and sing to him or rock him and they would start telling him all sorts of things...about their day...their thoughts...all sorts of things. At first, I considered it bizarre that people were treating my son like he was the Pope. Some sort of infantile father confessor. But I swear to you he listened. To. Every. Word. And it was almost as if he knew when they were done and he could give them that all-knowing smile and a snugly sort of hug and everything would be OK. He was mesmerizing that way. Still is. And soon I found myself talking to him the same way. After all, I decided he probably did know about what it was like to have been stuck in that damned hospital for the better part of two years straight. Who better to tell?

Of course, I also knew what most did not know. He's extremely intelligent and perceptive. Now, he doesn't--or didn't--speak a word. Not a lick. One day, though, we were spinning through the TV channels down at TCH and a Victor Borge special came on PBS. Victor Borge is FUNNY. What I didn't know, though, was that Beanstalk thought he was funny, too. So...we're watching...and the funny stuff happens...and this kid starts guffawing from between the bars of the metal crib like he's going to bust a gut. Quick, that one. He never missed a beat.

His appreciation for music is also rather refined. Sometimes, it can be too refined for my tastes as it always persists toward the classical and operatic...but amazing in it's technicality and maturity. He doesn't merely sit back and listen to it, either. He directs it. Yes. With entrance ques and the whole bit.

I'm not arguing that he's inhuman or perfect because he's not. Having broken more bones than the average human has ever even witnessed being broken in the sum total of their lives, he greets that sort of misfortune with great frustration and a certain degree of anger. But here is what he doesn't do...he doesn't lash out. He isn't bitter. The anger doesn't consume him. It doesn't tie him down or hang there in his mind like a fog. He doesn't whine. It's simple. He falls. He breaks a bone. He gets pissed. They set the bone. He stumps off in whatever general direction he sees fit and carries on with life in the same blissful humor he was in to begin with. No "oh my gosh my broken femur!" No, "can you believe this is the fifth time I've broken this radius?"

Really, his attitude is more one of "OK! Here I have this brand new empty day! Let's fill it up with all this cool stuff!" And then he does exactly that pushing, shoving, or dragging whatever part of him is casted at the moment along with him. And drat on you if you stand in the way of clapping to the music or chiming in on the "Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey!" parts during Andre Rieu's Strauss program. What could possibly be better than directing Firebird? Or belting out Ave Maria? Really??!? OK, yes, we should make room for Where the Wild Things Are--at least five times--because that is quintessential childrens' literature right there. And any time the five little monkeys do anything you should read about that, too. And don't forget Madeline and her appendix. Important. And the day is never complete unless you have dragged a tree branch around somewhere, rolled in a pile of leaves, eaten dirt, chased your little brother (who asked for it...literally), and ridden around on everyone's shoulders screaming "Yay! Yay! Yay!" And, if he's really in the mood, you'll get a chorus of America the Beautiful as a treat because the boy is, to top it off, a flag-waving patriot. Who knew?

If I had half his positive energy, his ability to get up every time I was knocked down, his inability to complain, his unshakable joy, and his kind of whole-hearted love for real life and everyone in it, I would be unstoppable. Who doesn't need a hero like that?


Monday, October 11, 2010

The Eternal Afterthought

I'm discovering several chronic problems in life. Ok, in my life...and am not entirely sure what to do about them. I believe they all stem from one, ok two fatal flaws. Those fatal flaws being: "I believe you" and it's close cousin, "I trust you." Yes, I realize I am a bit of an idealist/altruist. And, no, I'm not trusting just every Tom, Dick, and Harry that walks up to me on the street. But family, friends, and a few co-workers are, I think, reasonable. Or were, I thought, reasonable. I'm starting to lean toward adopting a very X-filian philosophy: "Trust No One." I am stuck consistently in the following situaitons:

1. "I'll bring that thing to you that I borrowed from so-and-so on thus-and-such a day." Never happens.

2. "Sure, I'd be glad to help. I'll take a look at that and get right back to you." Again no joy.

3. "We should..." followed closely by "You should..." Frankly, I'm weary of any sentences starting out this way 'cause maybe we should or maybe I should, but does anyone but me actually want to? Very hard to say 'cause mostly nothing ever comes out of it unless I kick the topic over like an anthill. And if the sentence really begins with "You should..." well, that automatically means I should do it because no one else wants to. Something wrong there.

And my personal favorite...

4. "I'm sorry wah wah wah wah (insert the teacher's voice from Peanut's here) but...." Yeah. The most overused phrase in the English language is "I'm sorry." People are rarely sorry. That's just the truth. They do what they do for selfish reasons and they'd darn well do it again. Pure and simple. They are not sorry. The phrase should be saved for people who are actually sorry about something. NOT JUST FEELING GUILTY and needing someone to soothe their ego.

And, for the record, as of 5:01 pm, I am officially NOT ok with it despite what might come out of my politely-trained mouth. Things like respect and consideration used to exist and they existed for a reason. I am one of those reasons. Somewhere in my addled brain, I think I deserve those two things. Respect, consideration, and even more than that on occasion--like nice treatment. Perhaps not being the official afterthought. I give those things to other people. It isn't so hard to return.

Or maybe it is.

Safe Harbors

Everybody needs a safe harbor, an essential stronghold in which they are safe from the onslaught of the enemy. I'm not sure how others live their lives or exactly what their struggles are like, but when I need my safe harbor...THE safe harbor...I'm almost always running full out. Every muscle in my body is working in concert to propel me forward. I never slow down. I never look back. My bare feet meet the cool earth like they have a thousand times before leaving my small, hard footprints in my wake and a fine layer of dust over my feet and under my nails as I wind my way through the back alleys of the city toward the gate. My calves are smudged and the hardened rippling ridges of muscle carry smears of mud and scratches where I've ripped through the underbrush while tearing through the forest on my way here. My thin skirt is torn up the edge of my thigh but it makes no difference for it has made it easier to lengthen my stride as I finally break free of the city walls. This city where I have found no refuge. I'm in the open now. Vulnerable in this green pasture where animals graze idly by, ignorant of what comes their way. I bolt through the middle of the herd without slowing. Goats. My captors spill from the archways and gates on foot and on horseback, but I have a head start. And I know where I'm going. I recognize the terrain. I run even harder now. My lungs are tearing at my throat and my eyes water, but I must keep going. Arrows fall all around me--some glance off my skin drawing blood. I cry out, "Help me!" but the answer, it is not apparent. I see the river and make for it's banks, running through the water like a nymph.  Clambering up the far, steep bank, I gain some ground and continue to run soaked and dripping wet, muddy rivulets of water coursing down my face. I see the cliff not ten yards away and increase my pace still more. A docile mass of sheep reclines in the lush grasses. Some sleep. Others eat. They pay no attention to me as I run to the edge of the cliff and without hesitation--I leap!! And land in the strong arms of the Protector who has been waiting for me on the ledge below. And that is how it has always been. I have always had a safe harbor...but it took some getting to. It wasn't without fighting a battle or two or taking a beating that I reached that stronghold. Nevertheless, the stronghold was always there and I've carried the hope of it with me in my heart wherever I go.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Got Monkey Butt?

I have no idea what it is, either, but I was perusing the aisles of Sam's today looking for saline nasal mist when I came across this:

No, I'm not joking. This is an actual product, not a photo edit. To see it for yourself, head over to your neighborhood Sam's Discount Club and look in the health and beauty section. Apparently, Anti-Monkey Butt also comes in Lady and Baby, so you're in luck no matter your age or gender.

And if you REALLY want to bust a gut, go to their website:

I couldn't make this up if I tried.


Sunday, October 3, 2010


This is a little something inspired by the prompt from Sunday Scribblings. It's my first contribution there...and wee tad dark. But all me just the same! Inspired, as usual, by my life.

It's the same.
Exactly, precisely, eerily the same.
It slid right on.
Over all my barriers.
My carefully prepared defenses.
My safeties.
My strongholds.
Like a glove.
Still warm from previous wear.
Just my size.
In fact, made just for me.
How did I miss it?
The granted I was taken for.
The advantage I was taken of.
A carefully woven cacoon of aspersions from which no butterfly can ever emerge.
I held its weight in my hand like a familiar thing.
Rolled it over my palm.
Tossed it through my fingers.
Played with it.
Welcomed it.
Fascinating in its superficial beauty.
Possesing qualities my altruism must have given it.
For when the dull, wet, hot impact landed home,
I felt again what I thought I'd left behind.
That warm, metallic taste of a dying world.
Dead and gone running down the back of my throat.


Friday, September 24, 2010

They're Killing Him

I remember kindergarten.

It was sort of magical. Like a bottomless toy box. School intrigued me. For a bit. My teacher's name was Ms. Cunningham. She had a broken kneecap on the first day of school. My memory says it was due to a skiing accident...would have to be water skiing I guess. That was quite the deal to me. My best school friend's name was Angela. We used to hunt aliens on the playground. Not kidding. That's exactly what the world needs, right? More proof that I'm stark raving nuts and have been since birth. Add that to the ever-growing pile of nut-farm fodder. School was mostly like playing the whole time and I already knew the things we were supposed to be "learning" so there was no real work. They taught us letters using things like Mr. M and his "munching mouth"...come on now!!! I hate to say this, but with the exception of one history teacher in fourth grade (Mrs. Corn was her name)...yeah that's really pretty much continued that way with maybe one or two exceptions in high school. You can blame all that on my parents and their obsession with the library. Ok, MY obsession with the library.

The downside to kindergarten (and school in general) was that I learned that my rainbows were, in fact, NOT rainbows because--while they did include every color I had in my box--they were not in the proper order nor were they limited to the standard ROY G. BIV color scheme that apparently every young girl was trained to make their rainbows out of before they showed up. AAAACK! What an insult to my artistic temperament! Between this lesson and Mrs. Thomas in third grade, who told me my drawing wasn't very good because I hadn't outlined everything in black like everyone else, I learned two things very, very quickly. One: I don't really like being like everyone else which is good 'cause I kinda stink at it for some obvious reasons. Two: There was clearly going to be a lot of "art" (and other things) made simply for the purpose of making teachers happy and it was going to have to be burnt later or signed with a name other than mine. And it was. That is basically the story of me and school. And pretty much is to this day.

The exception being my history in the orchestra/band program which was altogether different from my otherwise school experience. Completely.

As you know, Squib started school this fall. For some reason, though I'm not sure what that reason was because they are so different, I think I expected him to react more like Beanstalk. Excitement, enthusiasm, joy, exuberance, etc. Yay, school! Like he had begun a glorious new adventure. But it doesn't seem that way for Squib at all. It seems like a daily marathon. Or triathlon. Before it all started, I admit, I was, in the back of my mind, a little worried about that. How was he going to make it through the entire day? Every day? All week? He was still taking daily three hour naps, after all. No, I'm not joking. And, no, I wasn't forcing him. He simply trouped off after lunch every day like it was just the next thing to do. He's never argued about sleeping a day in his life. He takes after his mother in this way. He's always been a little guy as well. I've attributed this to his heart condition which has been resolved, but he is, after all five years old and really just now wearing clothes sized for three and four-year-olds. So...

So, how does he make it through the day? Answer? He doesn't.

This constitutes our quality time together of late:

The sum total of our conversation from 3:45 pm-6:00 pm today was, "Mom I want a snack," delivered through a rain-streaked face and water-plastered hair. He could barely keep his eyes open and there was really no arguing with him. He's very close to irrational at that time of day. So, we got a snack, he took a drink, and not thirty seconds later I snapped this picture before we were even three blocks from the convenience store. I would say that Barbara at the store was slipping him something other than a sucker, but she just wouldn't do that, I don't think. She makes a killing off all us Friday afternoon snackers.

He did surface briefly when I was on the phone to turn his head to the right and repeat a word after me..."but"...and then he didn't even move except to snore until we made it out to the house two hours later.

When we arrived, all he said was, "carry me." He was still soaking wet from the downpour we were in when I carried him to the car, but he didn't even want me to change his clothes. He flat-out refused.

I carried him in, stuffed him full of corndogs (gross!), drew a couple of pictures for him on demand, and he lasted all of one-and-one-half total hours out of bed (what with dinner and a shower crammed in there) and is now snoring (again) in his bed where he will, no doubt, be until I wake him up tomorrow. Last weekend he'd have slept through lunch if I'd let him. And why didn't I? Really? Mean ogre mother.

I do, on occasion, attempt to ask him about school. So far, all he does is shake his head back and forth in a most bewildered manner and say, "I don't know." Or, my personal favorites, "I can't talk about it."--and--"I can't tell you."--which still comes out--"I can't teww yew." (So cute). Like he works for the CIA and really can't talk about it. Those answers make me giggle because he's so damn serious when he uses them. Really. School is a state secret around here. So, I have to turn my head or put my hand on my mouth because he hates it when I look like I'm laughing even just a little bit. Not even a smirk. And with my sense of humor, this can be impossible.

Rarely, he'll come up with something like, "We had chicken nuggets." -or- "We ate pancakes." That gives me hope because at least I know he's not lost touch with his favorite thing--food. But it isn't at all satisfying from an academic or investigative perspective. At this point, I whole-heartedly admit to being a wee bit jealous that the school folk are now getting the best conscious hours of my baby's time! Grrr.

I miss the days when he used to speak to me in full sentences instead of grunts and whimpers. And I'm a wee bit concerned that they're gonna wipe the poor kid out before he gets to Thanksgiving or Christmas and has some time to recover. I suppose my only real hope is that by the time he gets out of all this in, say, 2024...OMG!...and somewhere in there goes to college or whatever kids are doing by that time (Starfleet Academy, knowing my luck) perhaps we can have a lucid conversation about how he's doing, what he likes, what he wants to do, how he feels, and what's important to him before he ships off for gamma quadrant for the rest of his known life.

Gosh I miss that kid sometimes...even when he's right here in the house.


Thursday, September 16, 2010


Last night, as Squib was stepping out of the bath, he dumped his wet toys out all over the bath mat and said, "Squib, that's a big fucking mess."

I stared at him, a little agape, wondering if I really heard that word come out in his still little-toddler voice. Maybe I didn't? Maybe he didn't hear the word right from wherever he'd heard it and doesn't really know what he's saying and he's saying "bucking" which is a much better word to get to explain?

Then, he said plain as day, "Momma, what is fucking?"

He stared at me without blinking. Innocent. I blinked, like, seventy-three and one-half billion times, got lost in some not-so-random thoughts, came back, and asked a very dumb question.

"Uh. Are you asking what it is or what the word means?" Both of those questions are the same thing. I know. He gave me the same look that you, no doubt, have on your face right now. The "what is wrong with her?!" look.

"I don't understand." He said.

"OK. Let's back up. Where did you hear that word?" I asked him.

"Squib you've made a big fucking mess!" he did an excellent impression of Squid. It was shocking.

So I explained that it was a curse word or slang term that did describe something real, but was most often used when swearing, etc,. etc,. blah, blah, blah. His eyes glazed over and rolled back in his head. And he had one more legitimate question (I think).

"Why is it you're never going to tell me what it means?" And he took it one step further, "You explained 'shit' and 'bitch' and 'god damn.' Not this. Why?" More innocent blue-eyed gazing.

The reason I gave him was that the explanation of the word had to do with something I didn't know if he was ready to discuss and understand. He caught the vibe that this topic was off-limits at the moment and we were going no further. I'm not sure I like my answer. And what I don't like even more is the idea that topics such as these should be avoided. This is officially the third time that the topic of sex has come up and been deferred in one way or another. The last time, I did, actually, talk about it pretty openly--not excessively, mind you--but I didn't avoid it. Last night I avoided it. I don't know why. Tired? Who can say. The one thing that concerns me, though, is that my sons not grow up thinking the topic is strictly verbotten and off-limits. Heck, if we lived as most families around the world do--in a single-room mud hud of sorts--they'd already have had a front row seat, right? It would be normal. Us sophisticated first worlders have civilized ourselves out of so much humanity that our kids might as well have been raised each inside their own ziploc baggie. Where's the fun, the life, the love, or the pleasure in that?

Why do parents live in fear of discussing sex with their children? Really?! Shouldn't it be a wonderful, exciting thing they get to help their children prepare for and discover? Don't you hope in you heart of hearts that your kids discover great love in their lives and that love brings with it a fabulous physical relationship, too? Gosh I hope so! And how are my kids going to do that if they aren't prepared? What if they never see it or know what to look for or at the very least have no one to ask questions of?

That would break my heart.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Something Runneth Over

When I was pregnant with Beanstalk in 2001/2002, I had a house.

I know! It's so shocking!

I had a house and it was mine. Well, not exactly. Technically, it was a tax shelter for Buddy. Whole other story. But it was my domain--all three bedrooms , etc. I also slept in a real king sized bed. Mostly. There were a few very overburdened moments there when I slept in a recliner. Meh. I painted the walls, hung up my art, had my very own furniture and dishes and such, and ran around in various states of undress. Beanstalk had a nursery. Not even kidding. (Someone out there is wheezing with laughter). And only my husband at the time lived there--that's a marked decrease in population compared to my average situation now, huh? But he traveled My kingdom...or was it a queendom?

Attrition and Mystery lived only a couple blocks away in a monstrosity of a house. When they moved in, they put in a gorgeous pool. After I "retired" for the first time, it was the highlight of my day to put on my ugly polka-dot swim suit with the patronizing bow tie between the boobs (such is the state of most maternity swimsuits) and go clean the pool and get in my work out. I also had a pretty killer tan. It was my reward for giving up caffeine. Or something.

One day, it had rained heavily, and after sweeping and skimming the pool, I finally got in. My first thought was a rather incoherent, "Oh criminy, I've finally gained enough weight with this kid to overflow the pool." and then a split second later I realized that rain actually fell in the pool. I was slow. Hormones, right? Something.

I remember bobbing there as the water lapped over the edge of the pool and enjoying what a cool effect that made. Less like a bathtub and more like a mountain lake with a shore. Full to the brim. It was a very fitting metaphor for what I felt was happening in my life at the time, too.

About three or four months later--when Beanstalk was born and diagnosed--a war of attrition began for my life, all that I loved, and even my soul. I only started coming out of it a little over a year ago in some ways. After it started, life was like watching a setup of dominoes after the first domino has been knocked over. Almost fascinating in a horrifying way. Inevitable. Bit by bit everything that filled me up was ripped apart, taken away, broken, injured, or spilled out. I felt gutted and wasn't even sure I could get up any more. So I fought sitting down. Until all I could do was throw rocks while curled up in the fetal position of my mind. Beaten. Perhaps I had run out of luck? Maybe that God I thought had been helping me out all that time really wasn't? Well, hell. That would suck. I couldn't even follow that thought through. The possibility was abysmally terrifying. How did I get here from there? I'm the same person! I did what I was supposed to do, right? Followed all the rules. Whatever those are. I know I made bad decisions. Sometimes I just had to make a decision. Any decision. And the options weren't always that great. What exactly were my options? I wasn't sure at all anymore.

But about two years ago, I decided to renew the fight for myself. It was an uphill battle entirely. All the way. I discovered a unique opinion about how I was supposed to live my life for every person on earth. Some people developed a new unique opinion about how I should do things every third day (conservative estimate). They had free-flowing opinions about many other things as well. "Ooooh. You're going to try that again. That didn't go so well for you before. Maybe you should give up." That's the short version. Pick a topic. I "should" probably not try it.

The understood portion of that statement is: "YOU SHOULD NOT TRY THAT BECAUSE YOU'LL JUST FAIL."

I would even go so far as to say there is an additional sentence to tag onto that: "AGAIN."

Hogwash. Who falls in a mud puddle and doesn't get out of it because they might fall into another mud puddle again if they were to get back up? Um, no one. So, I would look like a dumb shit to cozy up in my mud puddle for life. I just would.

And since when did six years of, well, very dark and difficult times mean that the rest of my life is going to reek as well? You know what? I've pretty much figured out that no single day is necessarily a precedent for any other day. The same goes for weeks, months, and years.

Do you know how I know that?

'Cause lately? I find I'm full to the brim again. Life is not perfect by any means. Who would expect that? But it's good enough for me to open my arms wide in the car and scream "woo hoo!" for joy or even spin around in circles on the lawn until I fall over dizzy (I take a five-year-old with me as an excuse--they are convenient that way). Sometimes I even blow bubbles in my milk with a straw (bendy straws work best as does chocolate milk, really). Other times I sing really loudly along with the music. Or I dance however I want to dance. I write in this blog. I send random texts to friends. Even stay in the bathtub until the water is ice cold. Or I strut my bizarre t-shirt collection. And more. Really.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Crazy Days

It wasn't until a few moments ago that I passed the natural gas company in town and saw their flags at half mast and remembered where I was nine years ago today at just about this time. Not September 11th, but the 12th at around 1:30 a.m. In particular, I was face down on the floor of the living room in my parents' house in a "name witheld" city in Texas absolutely dry of tears and staring at the phone. You see, my husband at the time was stranded in Phoenix at the airport and trying to find a car to drive home. That was not a big deal.

Yes, there was the whole "towers" thing going on in New York...and that was a huge deal for sure, historically speaking, but not to diminish what was going on for the country and for many individuals, the real question for me was, "How big is this for me personally?"

You see, my father had been in Japan for something in excess of 160 days or so. He was supposed to catch a flight back to the states and either land in New York the morning of the 11th--to--catch a meeting with some folks at Morgan Stanley. Who just happen(ed) to be IN the towers. Yes, they do make intineraries, don't they? But the real truth is that many times a seasoned traveller used to call you from an airphone and say, "This is the flight I'm on." So really we had no idea.

I was academic dean at a private school in this same unnamed community and after the initial news hit the school, I had to deal with ferrying news back and forth to and from several students who were in the exact same predicament I was in...including a diplomatic family who came and scooped their kids up and disappeared. That was comforting. And, after a while, we were consumed with terrified kids, what to do, and closing the school, etc. After about an hour-and-a-half, a friend and the wife of our president of the board of directors showed up at my office door and very politely said, "Um, where is your dad?"

"In Japan. No. Shit!"

Using telephones at that time was about as effective as trying to throw a rock and hit someone's house two states my friend very nicely volunteered to drive to my mother's and check in with/on her and then get back to me.

And now you are caught up. We heard nothing for over twelve or so hours. It was a long ass wait. I crawled in my mother's bed with her and there was some weeping. That we did it together is saying a lot. A lot a lot. That was the night I met my friend Sharon...I have three friends "Sharon," so mentioning her here doesn't necessarily require a unique a prayer service at our church. She goes by Aunt Sharon to my oldest. She spoils him mercilessly and I love her dearly. Anyhow...the long ass wait... ended in the early hours of the morning when dad called home to say he had missed his flight (short version is he just missed it--there was much confusion during that day and gathering of American nationals, etc. in the embassy and that kind of thing always gives dad a sour stomach, so he bailed for his apartment). And, therefore, was not anywhere near Morgan Stanley. As soon as flying was once again ok'd, he hopped right on a plane for New York and met with them in a hotel where they were using post-it notes for just about everything. He said it was spooky. And they shook his hand a lot.

We would have met him at the airport, but that was just about impossible. And his car was there can you say. He's never really been accomodating with regard to welcome homes.

Several times this last week, I've wanted to kill him myself with my bare hands. We have both been under enormous amounts of pressure for...well, years now? He has a unique gift for getting under my skin--which is easy to do since I am now so conveniently located in the living room--as I'm sure I do the same for him at times. Two people so alike are bound to do so. Several things about this week--ok, one really--stank big time for me and he seemed to miss it entirely. He was torqued up about something all week (ok, the last two weeks) that went down today and I seemed to missed it entirely. Truth is, I was wound about it, too. I just had no idea what to do about it other than make sure he had a nice haircut. Really. That was my giant contribution. Short of, well, nothing, I could do no more. Killer hair, honestly, but I doubt it was noticed. Don't tell him.

In any case, "the presentation" went well today. ALL DAY. Oy. From 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Like a marathon or something. Very well. Well enough to exhale a bit. Tomorrow we may even inhale. Maybe we'll splurge and inhale twice. Dare I say we are looking at having actual investors if we decide this is the final deal to take? This would be the second and final round of investing and God only knows how very long we have been working toward this. There are always details to hash out and things no one likes, but that everyone would have to get used to, etc. I think every deal is like that.

Did anyone here celebrate? No. They never do. Family motto: never let up? I don't know.

So, Attrition and myself did it for them. We met Widowmaker, his wife, and a whole cast of other characters at Baker's Street Pub, listened to "Shinola" (seriously...that was the band's name and I did not make it up) and had a great time. I drank a beer (write that down as you know I hate the stuff) and Widow introduced us to something I believe he called a "Surfer on Acid." Coconutty. As if suntan lotion had a taste...

And later this morning I must up and do my church thing...and defend Galveston from the insurgent plague. A simple day's work.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Frankly, I'm Kinda Hopin' Those Are Shorts...

Really, I am...but I had to walk behind this girl all the way from the book store in the commons by the learning center, past the biology building, and into the library. I could never really tell. And I was really looking. This must be the new fashion trend...the 80's shirt dress returns. With a vengeance.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Rogue's Gallery

There seems to be quite a bit of confusion as to who I’m talking about half the time. Understandably so. Most everyone I mention repeatedly has been introduced over a long period of time and I’ve never sat down and explained everything in one single post, so here goes. The whole big confusing mess:

Bramble Scat…later shortened to just plain, old Scat…that’s me, the author and instigator of this blog. Bramble is a name I picked up over at CafeMom back in 2008 when everyone was into fairies and there was some website where you could go see what your fairy name would be. Mine was Bramble Rainbowfly. The last name sounded abysmally like “blowfly,” so I abandoned it immediately, but kept Bramble. Scat is animal poop. Squib has an entire book about it. He is the one who suggested that name. That the initials of said name are B.S. and I am, coincidentally, a writer is serendipitous.

I have two sons, Beanstalk and Squib (See? More B.S. Totally unplanned, too!), Beanstalk is now eight and Squib is now five. Their fathers are, respectively, Beanstack (who was Warhol for hair reasons) and Squid (B.S. again…). I know, those names do sound a bit derogatory, but really all I wanted to do was change one letter so you could easily associate them with the appropriate child. I swear. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t have a vindictive bone in my body…no matter how hard I wish I did. Believe me, there are times when I wish HARD.

I split my time between two locations in Texas. If you read carefully, you can figure out what major city I’m in. It isn’t hard. When I’m in/near that major city, I stay at the Bunker with Attrition and Mystery. When I’m out of that major city, I’m in my tiny little town that Squib seriously does call Radiator Springs (like in the movie Cars) because the resemblance is uncanny. I call our little compound there Green Acres.

Attrition is my b-r-o-t-h-e-r. Brother. Not boyfriend. Not husband. He really cringes when people don’t make that distinction. And no, we are not twins. No. Nope. Nada. Gross!! Not a post with him in it goes by when I don’t get asked some “who is he really?” type question by somebody. Yes, he is my sometimes partner in crime. Yes, we have a regular Sunday a.m. gig together. Yes, we have a Saturday night ritual—at least we did before the mold thing destroyed my little office getaway. But, read it now and remember….Attrition is married to Mystery. For something like seventeen years now. Eighteen coming up in January. Like half his life. True story. For those of you needing help adding two and two together and getting four: Mystery is therefore my sister-in-law. I didn’t name either of them. I don’t know why either of them chose the names they have. Attrition uses his name over at Ace of Spades, Turf Wars, and elsewhere. Mystery is also a Turf Wars junkie. In fact, she got the rest of us hooked.

This next batch of folk appear here by their grandparent names as given to them by Squib: Buddy is my dad (and Attrition’s). Mimi is my mother (and Attrition’s). Baba is my grandmother (and Attrition’s) and Buddy’s mother. Clanpaw is my grandfather (and Attrition’s) and Buddy’s father. Rhythm is my father’s sister (my aunt) and Blues is her husband. They appear at least twice…or so.

Other things I refer to: If I make mention to the Scat Family Trio, I’m not referring to any sort of musical group (thank God!) but to our little oil and gas prospecting venture that Buddy, Clanpaw, and myself have been slaving away at for the last thirty months. Only thirty months? Seems longer. Hey, we’re not doing so bad for thirty months! Whitey is my old, white, decrepit Mountaineer. Bless his soul, he is still going strong at 186,000 miles…and come to think of it, he needs an oil change (oh, and brakes…minor detail). The Purple Slug is my dad’s purple van. Screwy is Squib’s first baseball. Screwy the Baseball Winner is Squib’s second baseball (I had no part in naming that last one).

Rene the AT&T store salesperson appears as himself. Long live Rene who snatched my iPhone from the very jaws of FedEx and God knows who else (really)! My friend Dana (long A) appears as herself as well. Brave, brave, crazy woman. Short A Dana doesn’t appear at all—yet—by some strange quirk of fate (because she is primo writing fodder), but her mom makes a brief reference as TKG I believe as the source of the Red Earth Cake recipe. My second recipe, but really the first recipe that’s actually, well, food—and the LAST recipe because I am not THAT sort of mommyblogger (no offense intended). TKB appears briefly and may have disappeared…I can’t remember. He’s the one with the Duramax sticker on his behind. Random. My friend Michelle appears as herself in one quick reference to underwear. She is always so proud when I finally learn something from her. Andrew the waiter appears as himself but was never asked permission. He’s the only person ever to have his privacy violated by my blog (in that I never asked if I could write about him directly). Next time, Andrew, don’t give us BOTH your phone number. Though I doubt there will ever be a next time. Your secret is out. Lady Gag-Gag is that woman wearing only a shirt. Yeah. She makes only a single appearance, but I feel her coming back for a second appearance soon (and lo-and-behold she sort of did!). Merriwether named her. Merriwether is another blogger. You should read him --> here because he is interesting. La Fae is my friend from Radiator Springs. She is so named in a round-a-bout way by her daughter. It is not a name she likes (another story for another time), but at the time I was writing it was the only thing I could think of. Sorry, La Fae, but like I said before…I like it. Judge is on the vocal team with me and appears by virtue of the fact that I accidently hit her on occasion when I am not paying attention and really get into my singing (when I am not lofting plants from the steps). Things get cramped on that tiny stage. Together, we keep each other from coming in at the wrong time. We are roughly 85% accurate in that department with respect to each other and 0% accurate with respect to staring down anyone else. It really does take two of us sometimes. Yes, she is really a judge.

In general, my convention is first, to make up a name for recurring people. Second, if I think they’re just here for a single entry, I’ll use their first and last initial with a “K” for the middle initial. Arbitrary, I know, but that’s really the point of the exercise. However, since just about every girl/woman in Radiator Springs is named Faith and practically every boy/man is named David, I’m thinking of going with that from here on out. Fair warning.



Prayer, for me, can be like a full contact sport. Often it's merely like a one-on-one wrestling match over an issue I'm carrying around with me or some request a person has asked that I remember. I'll be quite honest when I say that there are a lot of things I pray about but don't really sense any urgency about them. This is either because those things are not that urgent or because I'm learning to trust that God will really do what I ask Him to do. I choose to believe the latter.

Lately, though, there have been several issues that have made my prayer life feel like a no-rules game of capture the flag with no pads and perhaps swords or something like that. Somewhere in there, I think someone is carrying a sledge hammer, but that someone isn't me. Hours have been spent defending that flag (flags...multiple games going on here) and wrestling with enemies.

There have been many players on the field, with regard to one issue in particular, all fighting their hardest with great commitment over a long period of time. We were warring just this morning when suddenly our flag, that thing we've so desperately been praying for, evaporated. And now here we stand bloodied and panting bodies shaken and shocked. Just staring at the spot where the flag used to be. When you pray for something, you can't hold back your belief. You have to believe that God will do this thing that you are asking Him for. It's like jumping off a cliff. You can't do it half way. The caveat there is that He doesn't always answer in the way that you expect--or the way that you request.

K died this morning. It was a merciful thing, if you ask me. That doesn't make the fact that a husband is now without a wife and three kids are now without a mother any more palatable. It does answer the request of healing, though, in my book. Not in others, I realize. I've always had a different book in that respect. But regardless of how I see it, my mind and my heart still seek some sort of cosmic justice when it comes to suffering and death. We all seem to have some notion of "fairness" about it because she was "so young," or "she was a mother" then she should have been spared. In favor of who?

And now comes the hardest part, I believe. Resist the temptation to leave the field of battle altogether and, instead, remain there to fight for those left behind. This is when attrition really wreaks its havoc. Can we keep it together when the thing we're fighting for is not quite so dramatic? Can the siege continue if we perceive no change or if, perhaps, we never see the outcome? Is it not more important--now more than ever--to ask for guidance and support for that family? I would think yes.

On another note, this really starting to get to me. This makes, I think, a grand total of eleven losses with four still fighting. I watch gpa deteriorating more and more each week and wonder if we'll make it until Christmas. Easter? Next year this time? I'm the only one that leaves and comes back each week, so the others don't see the decline. It's the little things, really. He's no longer outdoors a lot. He's sleeping more. Eating less. In pain more. Talking less. Working less. Thinking less.

I'm not even really sure how to pray on that front anymore and today there isn't much fight left in me.

But maybe a little.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Foiled Again!!! Lady Gag-Gag the Second Escapes Me!


Drat! Foiled once again by a conglomeration of push notifications. This iPhone definitely has its limits.

OK, so...I was pulling up to an intersection by the mall near the Bunker when I spied this lady wearing a halter top and white daisy dukes. And nothing else. By nothing else, I mean no shoes and it was pretty much obvious that there was nothing under the outfit. It was disgusting. And wickedly fascinating, right? Because you just don't see that sort of thing "around here." Which would only make sense if you knew where I was. And some of you do. So there you have it.

I immediately remember the lady in the AT&T store that Merriwether subsequently dubbed "Lady Gag-Gag" and thought to myself, "Apparently there is competition for that title. I SHOULD TAKE A PICTURE WITH MY PHONE THIS TIME!!!!"

So...I get my phone out. It was perfect. She was crossing traffic right in front of me. I had my camera at the ready. She was right in front of the car. I pressed the button.

And maybe a femtosecond before the camera actually took the pic, this barrage of push notifications attacked my phone. For those of you who don't speak iPhone, a push notification is just a little blue (ANNOYING) notification that you've received a message, text, or some other sort of incoming data from one of your apps (like a text, email, IM, whatever). The unfortunate thing is that push notifications interrupt whatever you are doing and you have to press "close," "reply," "ignore," or something like that to get them to go away BEFORE you can actually do what you were originally doing (unless you're on the phone...then you just listen to that horrid plunk noise as they come in). This can be ANNOYING (which I have already stated, but it bears repeating). If you ignore them, they keep coming. If you turn them off, you never know about incoming "stuff," people get ignored, and you end up having to grovel and scrape. It's not pretty. My real point here is that there is NO happy medium.

Meanwhile, the woman is walking away to the south and I am headed west and not in the left turn lane.

More push notifications come cascading in. Apparently something untoward has happened with the internet connection somewhere. Can I solve that in the car? No I cannot. Can I get the picture I so desperately need for my outrageous blog entry......perhaps.

So, yes, I press "close" five times, procede through the intersection and hang a U-turn back to the intersection, turn right and THERE SHE IS! This would probably be considered stalking. But my weird people photo collection is begging for an addition and I soooooooo failed you a week-and-a-half ago. She turns into one of the more popular shopping areas. I follow. Camera is ready. I press the magic button and viola!

Another push notification.

She enters a building and I reach the point where I realize pursuing her further would truly be creepy.

Dang it. **sad face**


Monday, August 23, 2010

Squib Attacks Kindergarten

This morning came SO early! I'm not sure what my major malfunction was--worry?--but I couldn't sleep last night. Anxiety over my youngest entering kindergarten? Surely not. That really wouldn't be like me. In any event, after falling asleep some time after midnight, I did manage to drag myself out of bed and make it over to Squid's house (Squib's dad) to go with them for the first day.

I know! I know! Some of you are astonished that I am still doing "this." "This" being my personal pet theory that divorced parents owe it to the well-being of their children to make a show of solidarity on occasion in support of their kid(s). Nothing communicates to your child that you both love them like your ability to get over the worst thing that happened to you long enough to put the spotlight on them for a few minutes. It also goes a long way toward demonstrating that they, in fact, were not the reason you broke up. Kids worry about that a lot. Even if you tell them that isn't the case.

I'm not advocating destructive behavior, though, so if you want to really pull this off you're going to have to resist the urge to say a lot of things and/or do a lot of things. If you can't put down the animosity even for a very short period of time, then don't even try it. I'll be quite honest when I say that this morning pushed me to my limit. I probably could have stood one minute more, but I was exercising every iota of my self-control. Not good. This isn't a long-term thing, either. At most it lasts minutes to an, breathe!

End of rabbit trail!

Squibs first day:
A boy and his life-sized back pack. Really, it's one of those miniature kid-sized back packs, but it looks so HUGE! And he looks so tiny. Here he is enjoying some last moments playing with the Mystery Machine and "the guys" while Blue looks on from a discarded position at right. Poor Blue didn't even get to ride along today. This is a sure sign that someone is growing up.

We (Squid and myself) pulled him to school in his wagon. They had him down as a "walker." That's two miles for a just-barely-5-yr-old. I'm not so much concerned with the distance as the expectation that he could do that all by himself? Uh....nope. Notice the looooooooonnnnnnnggggggg shadows! It is too early to be awake much less pulling wagons full of boys!
"Are you sure we're at my school?"

"Are you sure we're going the right way? Are you sure...? Are you sure....?"

Squib tests all the water fountains. There are six. He opens his mouth like a lion and growls before taking a drink. I think this all started when he saw his first water fountain at the Lufkin zoo. It was a lion with the fountain inside it's mouth...hence the growling? He also explored the music room and the library on the way to his classroom. He was most impressed with the library. "Look at all the books, momma!" This is a good omen!

Hanging up his back pack on his peg. "I have my own peg!" He is starting to feel special now...yay! This is about when my insides started to catch a bit. Squid was already a pile by now.

At first, he saw blocks and ran straight in and started to play while I talked to his teacher and filled out forms. Then he came back and made this face. The stress face. Notice the chin. He's about to cry. If he cries, then I cry. If we cry, Squid cries--wait, I think Squid was already crying. If we all cry the whole room will probably disintegrate. But all he wants is the "three kisses" for him (one on each cheek and one on the forehead), three for me, hug for him, hug for me, I find dad, three for him from dad, three for dad, hug for him from dad, hug for dad, and off he goes! Dad exits like Speedy Gonzalez to cry in the hall. I am left to finish with the teacher.

Here he is happily playing. "I think I'm going to like this," he says and waggles his eyebrows at me. And, yes, all those kids look like giants compared to him. Let's hope the "Little M******" name doesn't carry over into elementary school. That kind of thing could stick.

A very good start for such a cautious kid!

And my-oh-my was that walk back to Squid's house ever LONG!