Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Goodness

Enter here for a chance to win a free handbag from Handbag planet! This Friday is looking up, don't you think?

Friday Five and Them Some

[It is Thursday night, but I thought I'd get a jump on this.]

1. Often, I will walk into the house after work to find that some king of ball game, currently baseball but it depends on the season, will be playing on the TV and a baseball game will be on the radio, both at the same volume. A. will listen to both programs simultaneously in this fashion.

I have fight of the urge to just let go and let the schizophrenia take over in these instances. How does he do this? I have no idea.

2. I just finished the last disc of the first season of Brothers and Sisters . My friend AGR has been urging me to see the show for some time, and HOLY SHIT, AM I EVER HOOKED. Do you think I will be able to find the entire second series at the local shop and be able to watch it before the third season premier on Sunday? (I don't have the Tivo set up yet, so if I miss Sunday, I really will miss Sunday's episode. *gasp*)

I have a raging headache, however, from ALL THE CRYING. I blame Sally Field.

3. Dear Lord, how does Sally Field do it? She knows just how to twist my heart into a mess.  The scene at the cemetery in Steele Magnolias still makes me cry -- the kind of sobbing that is accompanied with copious amounts of snot, an incurable stuffy, red nose and a headache for three hours afterward -- even though I've seen that movie no less than 40 times. (I am not exaggerating.)

4. Once, I've even tried to make "Cuppa Cuppa Cuppa."  It turned out weird. (Check out what I found while Googling the recipe! There is an Armadillo cake in there, too!)

5. I can't re-train myself to only use one space after a period.  It is IMPOSSIBLE. Maybe I'll have to deliberately type a sentence over and over again until it finally sticks?

Bonus: I am having a harder and harder time resisting poking my eyes out at every mention of Gov. Sarah Palin. In any context. WTF!?!?!?!
Happy Friday to you!

Double Bonus: A. is hunting right now -- alone. Please keep his safety (and my resultant nervous tummy!) in your thoughts/prayers/well wishes/karmic exchange.  Thanks!

Oh, Hell! Here is number Eight: I posted a request to borrow New Moon on my local Freecycle site and DIDN'T GET A SINGLE OFFER. I am still disappointed.  I feel like if you've read the series, you would understand the angish of having to wait for oodles of holds at the public library to get the next book in the series and thusly you would JUMP to help a neighbor out! Would you? Wouldn't you? 

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Thank you for your words of encouragement. They have meant a lot and have helped keep me from spiraling into a worthless sea of self-pity.

Things have been looking -- balanced. I am really glad I didn't flip off The Universe. Hooray for good karma!


I had a decidedly British-themed breakfast this morning. I found some British-style baked beans in the store last week and have been obnoxiously daydreaming about them every since.

I need to get out more.

I warmed up some of the beans and spread them over (homemade!) toast to accompany the tomato I roasted. Beans and toast! Roasted tomatoes for breakfast! I considered having a cup of PG tea as well, but decided against it. I really needed jet fuel coffee, instead.

I didn't enjoy the vast majority of food when I lived in England, but they know how to make a breakfast that will stick with you through the morning.


A. and I picked up the truck last Friday afternoon. The mechanic was able to re-thread the problem section and we didn't need to replace the catalytic converter. Then, totally unprovoked, the mechanic offered to cover labor if we paid for the new oxygen sensor. That certainly sounded fair to me. Fair, and generous. The bill came in at one tenth of what we had anticipated. Thank goodness.

We have also managed to narrow the difference between what our insurance company will cover for the new roof and the actual cost to the point that I can eek this last project out. Whew.

I am ready to say "bye, bye!" to September.


Over the weekend, I mentioned to A. how unfortunate it was that the set up of my organization makes it pretty much impossible to get promoted, or to really position myself for a decent raise. I've been feeling like I've hit a plateau, and I need to re-energize myself to get through the next year (We won't be looking for new jobs until May, when A. graduates.) My organization is housed within the university infrastructure, and it is ridiculously complicated to "move up."


It took me three unsuccessful tries to spell "plateau" before I finally had to cheat and use Firefox's spelling suggestions. I am losing my touch.


First thing Monday morning, my co-worker announced he took another position on campus. He doesn't necessarily want to leave our program, but the opportunities for advancement, promotions and raises are EXTREMELY limited, if they exist at all.He needs to do what is best for his family right now.

I am a bit panicked about having to cover his position (that he does SO WELL, by the way) until we hire someone to replace him, (who, I am already sure, won't be nearly as competent as he is), but mostly I am just really sad to see him go. I've never worked with anyone so generous and patient, competent and motivated and with such a fantastic sense of humor. He and I spend a great deal of our days together, and it will be difficult to say goodbye. But, I wish him only the best.


I had 14 -- yes, 14 -- different print projects in production during the month of September. It was brutal.

I met every last deadline.

*fist pump in the air!*

Happy Wednesday to you!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Well Wishes

To Jess and Torsten:

May you share your dreams with each other, encourage each other to pursue them, and grow together in love, respect and grace for the rest of your lives.

All the best!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday Five: Purging Freak-out Edition

1. Have you heard those deep, rumbling waves of booming noise in the sky lately? The Universe has had a great belly laugh at my and A.'s expense lately.  I am trying really, really hard not to give it the finger.

On our first trip to get firewood the chainsaw didn't work properly.  Hell, it just didn't work. It refused to idle, and the pull cord refused to retract after three or four pulls. We spent most of the day taking apart the chainsaw, re-wrapping the pull cord, putting it back together, trying to get it to start, then trying to keep it running long enough to cut a damn tree. VERY. FRUSTRATING.

We returned the chainsaw and replaced it.

On our second trip, the new chainsaw worked much better, though it had some trouble idling at 9,000 feet. Totally understandable! Everything is hard to do when there is no damn oxygen in the atmosphere.

We finally started to make progress when a huge storm appeared directly over us, out of nowhere. Lightening struck, more than once, within a few hundred feet of us and hail the size of marbles came down in angry torrents. Thankfully, we were near the truck and could wait it out while safe and dry. When the storm finally passed, we hauled the tree we had just downed before the sudden hail to the truck in two inches of hail and mud. It wasn't fun trying to keep from breaking my neck, sliding around on mud and ice, all the while catching my feet and rolling my ankles on all the uneven ground, covered in downed limbs.

When we drove down the mountain, not even a quarter of a mile away, all was dry. The storm, it seemed, hovered directly over us and where we were working. NICE.

We did find a great spot on our way down the mountain and hauled in two more trees, so at least the day ended on a positive note. A. and I had even managed to keep our spirits up throughout the day.

On our third trip, we never made it to the camp site or to any trees before the truck broke down. A 30-mile tow to the nearest town, a week and a half in a tiny town shop and $800 later, we brought the gas guzzling, money pit truck home. On the way, we filled the bed with about a half a cord of wood.  We still didn't have enough for the full winter, so we decided to go up again the next day.

As we got ready to head out for what we hoped was our final haul of wood the oxygen sensor in the truck went kaput.

The truck is back in the shop. We may have to replace the entire catalytic converter. The one we replaced in March. For $700.  (If the garage, the one who replaced the catalytic converter in the first place, tries to charge us for a second one in six months, I really think I am going to SNAP. In fact, I've been calling around town to a couple of garages that longtime residents recommended and getting quotes. Why the hell would I have the same garage do this? A. is nervous I will really let it rip with the current mechanic and his concern is not unfounded.)

I am very, very near the end of my rope, folks.

So much for a carefully planned budget with the damn wood stove!! Ha, ha! At this rate, it will pay for itself in three to four years, and we may not have enough wood for the entire winter to boot.

*shaking my fist at The Universe*

I really am trying to focus on the positive little gems that have surfaced in all of this, too. Maybe it isn't so much positive things as thinking about how much worse things could have been. We could have really been stuck for days in the mountains, it could all be costing us $3,000 instead of $1,500. We could have been without the resources to break free of propane heat this winter. At any moment, A. could have cut  his arm off with the chainsaw or I could have been struck by lightening.

We are lucky!

See? Positive thinking.

There has been a great little happy gem, though. A friend of mine from college found me on Facebook a couple of weeks ago. He will be in town later in October and I am absolutely thrilled to see him. It has been at least eight years since I've seen him. I've always (not so) secretly harbored the fantasy that he is my long lost brother. Wooooooo hooooooo!!!

2. I haven't been sleeping well and I haven't been able to concentrate at work. Simply put, there isn't room in our current financial situation for this bullshit. The money isn't there. I suppose it doesn't get any simpler or more complicated than that.

3. Last night, while lying in bed wide awake, I completely rearranged our finances and think I've found a way out of this. It is not ideal by any stretch but will see us through and will just have to do. I am able to concentrate again.

4. I haven't felt like posting because all I've been doing lately is stressing out and worrying about money.  Thinking about where I've been and where I am now. (Have I mentioned leaving a well-paying job to become a poor-as-dirt grad student was one of the hardest things I've done?) Where I hope to be, where A. and I are working to get to. (Is that not the most hideous sentence ever? I am too worn out to fix it. Sorry.) Who wants to read about that? And, hell, I don't really want to write about it, don't really want to share this situation with anyone. I don't want to feel like I have to defend myself, explain the choices A. and I have made. I don't want to fight the urge to plea with you to understand that we take special care to make sound financial choices. Because we really do, and I hope you understand that. I wrestle with my pride and my (righteous?) anger. None of this is really what I want to say, it doesn't capture the depth and breadth of the arguments I run through in my mind. But, it is there, as unexpected and unsavory as a sudden upset stomach. There you have it.

5. I find I am relieved I did post this. As unstructured and poorly-written as it is. I should move on to chapter two of The Thesis while I am on such a roll!

I am not ready to tell The Universe to go to hell. Not yet, anyway.

Happy Friday to you!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Beans and Toast

Last night, I baked two loaves of whole-wheat bread and the house smelled absolutely divine. I have been longing to bake bread all summer, and it is finally been cool enough the past week or so to fire up the oven.

All evening, while waiting for the dough to rise and A. was in the back room studying for class, I ran the second season DVD of Footballers' Wives. My best friend, JelBel, and I got hooked on the series when I lived in England, and the rainy, cool days have made me nostalgic for the UK. A. periodically wandered through the kitchen and made fun of the accents. I love that trashy crap! If you are hunting for a new guilty pleasure, I highly recommend the series.

I forgot how much I missed the following words and phrases:

"for fuck's sake,"
"piss off"
"in the post"
"this is a load of shit"

Also, I nearly forgot my crush on Ian Wright. He has nothing to do with Footballers' Wives, but A. always makes fun of his accent as I swoon watching him on Globe Trekker. (I LOVE THAT SHOW.)

I picked up the last word, "loads," while I lived in Birmingham, England. A. says I still use it, to this day, as in "I had loads of wine last night." Which I did, incidentally.

Also, Ian is a whiny piece of poo and Tanya Turner is a genius.

I think beans and toast for breakfast are in order for the rest of the week.


At one point, A. came in and paused the DVD for a bit to flip the TV to the local PBS channel so I could watch the final 20 minutes of The Natural History of the Chicken.


Long live Liza!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Doggies, Stoves, Baseball, Babies and the Undead

I was really pleased with myself last night. I remembered to pick up my copy of Twilight by Stephanie Meyer that was on hold at the public library.  So many folks in my Reader have been talking about how this book takes over their lives that I thought it would be the perfect thing to keep me from working on The Thesis.

Boy, I hit the jackpot.

I curled up in bed with the book at 9:30 p.m. last night. The first time it occurred to me to put the book down and go to sleep was over 200 pages later at 1:00 a.m.

My ass? It is dragging.


A., myself, A.'s parents and his older sister, K. and her 2-year-old daughter, S. spent the weekend in Denver watching the Rockies/Astros series. SO. FUN.

A.'s family stayed with us on Friday before we headed to Denver. (A. and I went to Denver Friday night and drove back home. It really was the best thing to do, logistically.)  My dogs woke A.'s niece, S., up in the middle of Friday night with wet noses and doggie kisses. They were wondering who was in the guest bedroom, and they snuck in there to find out, the little shits. This, apparently, delighted her like nothing else the entire weekend. All Saturday morning she chased them around, put her hand up to their mouths and said, "kisses? kisses?" When we returned home from Denver on Sunday night, she walked into my living room, looked up at me and went, "Where's Belle?" She wanted more kisses. I told her the dogs were outside and she ran to the back window to see them and proceeded to chatter at them through the window until it was time to hit the road again.

A.'s niece, S. is hilarious. She is fearless. (Except she has a complete melt down whenever her mom is away. Hoping she'll grow out of that!) She will try anything, including any kind of food. She learned how to dip ciabatta bread in olive oil and balsamic vinegar this trip. She loved it! She also took her first ride on public transportation! Yay, public transportation! I may have taken a ridiculous number of photos of her on the light rail. I was so proud! I am really hoping the experience molds her in some way to be a huge advocate for public transit. We will have to wait and see, I suppose.

A.'s cousin plays for the Astros, so we were in Denver to cheer him on. It was hard not to cheer outright for my beloved Rockies, but Houston has a shot at the wild card and it would be great to see A.'s cousin have another go in the post-season, and possibly the World Series. He's played in one World Series before -- and they won! He hasn't been with the Astros for long.

I am not going to say outright who he is because 1) I've never asked him if I could mention him here; and 2)it would make this half-assed anonymous blog suddenly quarter-assed anonymous. Besides, it will be fun to sprinkle little tid-bits in here and see if you can figure it out! If you think you know who it is, e-mail me your guess and I'll let you know if you are correct or not. Please don't leave any guesses in the comments, though. Shauna at Pickles and Dimes guessed who he was with only a couple of clues. Think you can match that?

A.'s cousin played in both the first two games, and played well. He didn't play in the final game, but came in as a pinch hitter. He hit the tying RBI and was then brought in for the winning run! I was horse throughout Monday I'd been cheering so loud on Sunday.

We met his cousin's little ones. (Most family gatherings are in the summer, and they can't make it, obviously.) His daughter is three and his son is 10 month old. So chubby and adorable and I immediately understood why people threaten to eat babies. (I don't go ga ga over babies. I am telling you, he was ADORABLE.) He was getting tired and a little fussy and he was doing that thing where he just snuggled into his grandpa's neck? You know what I am talking about? *melt* He kept fussing, so Grandma gave him his little blankie. I am not exaggerating when I say that the instant he touched his blankie he sighed and cooed and was generally the happiest, most contented baby in the stadium that night. Even A. went, "awwwww...."

This probably sounds boring as hell, but damn, I loved being around the family all weekend.


It has already been getting chilly. Last week most of the highs were in the 50s and we've had at least five nights dipping into the 30s. A. hasn't hesitated to start a fire in the new stove. We are getting better at figuring out how to fire it so it is efficient, but so far it has always burned clean. Woohoo!

I started my first fire last night! Woo hoo! And holy cow, that thing is WARM. We haven't even run it long or very hot and the entire house has been plenty warm. Winter doesn't look so scary. For us. So, I've decided to volunteer to help get the information about the heat assistance program out to my neighbors and some low-income neighborhoods in town.


A. talked to the mechanic yesterday. The truck started fine and ran for ages. Of course. We couldn't,t get it started for days! (Oh, Universe. You are funny.) The mechanic said the fuel pump was getting really, really hot and that was the only thing he could think of that was causing the problems. We are having it replaced. Hopefully we will be back in the mountains getting our last couple of cords of wood this weekend.

I am considering driving the car, too. Just in case. A. thinks I am being ridiculous. I think I am making sure we get home again. What do you think?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


A. and I packed the truck for camping, fly-fishing and gathering one last haul of firewood over the weekend and hit the road shortly after work on Friday night.

Before we left, we finalized our plans to meet our friends MG and Little A. at the campground; they were to arrive late, around 1:00 a.m.

It was such a fun drive. It was a glorious night. It was a new moon so the stars were as brilliant as I’d ever seen. The air was cool and heavy with the scent of late summer. A. and I had a lengthy and animated conversation about McCain's pick of Gov. Sarah Palin for his VP candidate. A. was even getting into it. He discussed her foreign policy experience (or utter lack thereof) and we both shared our concerns than ANWR is going to be opened up to drilling. We both talked about how impressed we were with Sen. Biden. It was fun for me because A. usually lasts three minutes in these conversations. So the twenty minutes or so of politic-talk seemed really special. We chatted about our grandparents, and I went on and on about my great-grandma and how awesome and ornery she was, as is my way.  We pulled over to see if a truck pulling a large trailer needed help. They declined; they pulled over to avoid overheating is all. We were relaxed and engaged. I’d dare say we fell a little bit more in love with each other. It was one of those kinds of conversations, you know?

Then the truck started having trouble shifting while going uphill. We both thought it was the oxygen sensor, as we'd had trouble with it before and the truck behaved similarly.  Then, nine miles from the nearest town and two miles from the top of the mountain (where there was a smidge of hope of getting cell phone service) the truck died.

A. tried to maneuver it off the road while going uphill without any power steering. We were stuck half on, half off the highway on the inside corner of a blind bend in the dark.


Things could have been worse. The truck and trailer could have been loaded with a couple thousand pounds of wood. It could have been raining or hailing. The dogs could have had diarrhea or upset tummies. We could have already been in our campsite, two miles off the highway down a steep, narrow and rutted road. We could have not told anyone where we were going.

We were really, really lucky.

But it was still a pain in the ass.

A. unhooked the trailer rolled it until he found a side road to store it, about a quarter of a mile down the hill. He chained and locked it to a tree so it would be easy to pick up but hopefully hard to steal. A fellow (total stranger to us) from our hometown happened to stop by and pulled us about 100 feet up the hill to a pull-off so we were off the road. Then he took A. to the top of the mountain and A. was fortunate enough to reach our friends MG and Little A. on their cell phones. I kept my morbid crazy-mountain-murderer fantasies at bay. A. told MG where to find our spare key to the car and he swung by the house on his way through and brought the car up for us. The folks we stopped for earlier dropped of their trailer and drove back to see if we needed help and offered to let us stay in their cabin just up the road. We declined, but were warmer inside from the hospitality shown us from all these strangers. MG and Little A. arrived around 2:30 a.m. with our car, happy to help. 

Like I said, we were really, really fortunate.

And while I kept insisting we were actually really lucky that things worked out so well, The Universe decided to toss us a little bit more crap at 2:30 a.m., just to test my optimistic resolve. (The fucker.) The spare car key doesn't have the button doohickeys, so you can't unlock all of the doors at once. While I was fiddling with a passenger side door, A.'s friend reached in through the open window to unlock the doors to help me out.

Now I know that trying to unlock the vehicle from inside will cause the alarm to go off. Now I know that I have an alarm. Now I know that a car horn sounding every two seconds for two minutes will cause my dogs to howl incessantly.

After searching frantically through my owner’s manual to figure out how to turn the damn thing off, MG gave up and unhooked my car’s battery.  Later, during the drive back home, I found the instructions on how to disarm the alarm. It wasn’t under “alarm,” “anti-theft,” “theft,” “disarm,” or “horn.” It was under “radio.” Because obviously the only reason to have a car alarm in the first place and the only situation in which it would go off is in the event of an attempted radio theft. Obviously.

We were snuggled into our own bed by 4:30 a.m., safe and sound.

Yesterday we had the truck towed to a little town 30 miles from where we were stuck and the mechanic is working on it. We aren’t looking forward to this bill at all, but then, who does?

I would have loved for everything to work out as planned last weekend, but I wouldn’t change a thing if it meant missing the kindness and generosity of friends and strangers alike.