Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Marriage 101, Lecture 2: How to keep them interested

SH: Laverne is so easy. Shirley [the hard-to-get cat] keeps me interested.

Me: I blew it when we started dating. My strategy was completely wrong.

SH: Hasn't it all turned out OK?

Monday, March 30, 2009

I didn't eat the mousse



It's an American thing

Me: You guys duplicated this order and are sending me two Kelly Clarkson CDs. Please cancel one of the orders.

Target: They have already shipped, ma'am.

Me: Can I take one of them back to the store?

Target: No, CDs ordered online cannot be returned to the store.

Me: So I have to return it by mail. That's a pain in the neck.

Target: Maybe you could just call the Post Office and ask them not to deliver one of them and to send it back to us instead.

Me: You're not in the United States, are you?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Marriage 101, Lecture 84: Trust, or Clash of the Micromanagers

Scene: I did most of the taxes at the beginning of February, but SH made some online donations for which I did not have the receipts. He wants to review everything because he is who he is (I would want to review everything if he did them) and because his first wife was not very financially responsible. But he has not been eager to complete the taxes, even though we are due a huge refund (I know -- I am not a fan of lending money to the government either, but we got married and sold and bought a house in 2008, so it's not like we had an easy to estimate withholding situation), which bugs me because I want the money before the Big O changes his mind and decides not to give refunds any more, but is good in a way because he has been doing other less odious tasks that have heretofore remained undone.

Me: What are you doing?

SH: Putting the [320 bottles of] wine on 2 x 4s.

Me: Are you going to work on the taxes?

SH: I need to keep the wine off the floor [where it has been since we moved into the house].

Me: I could finish the taxes, you know, if you would just print those receipts.

SH: [Silence]

Me: I've been doing my taxes for oh 25 years now. Ever since I began supporting myself.

SH: [Silence.]

Me: I did get an 'A' in accounting at UT, which is a top-5 accounting school.

SH: That's crazy talk.

Me: I got a 97 on my finance final.

SH: Crazy talk.

Me: And I worked at the IRS.

SH: Craaaaaazy talk.

Marriage 101, Lecture 243: Being sick

SH: How can you be sick? You work out! You eat produce!

Me: So? I was on an airplane this week. I was probably around sick people.

SH: But you eat produce.

Me: Being a morally superior person does not keep one from getting sick. Shocking, I know.

SH and I went to Morocco in 2006 to see Steve and Megan. We visited the tannery in Fez.

Later that night

SH: Hey. This is your pillow. You have mine.

Me: Sorry. I must have gotten them mixed up somehow. We can switch.

SH: No! There's snot all over it. I don't want it now. I don't want to get sick.

Me: There is not snot all over it! I am not leaking all over everything.

SH: Well, you're breathing on it.

Me: Oh for crying out loud. We've been touching the same door handles and breathing the same air. You've had about three hours of sleep this week. If you're going to get sick, you're going to get sick.

A water seller in Fez.

Marriage 101, Lecture 455: Winter

Me: I put my fat jeans in the Goodwill pile.

SH: That's ridiculous. You know you're going to gain weight again.

Me: Then I'll just have to buy new jeans. That will make me be careful.

SH: But you're more comfortable in the winter with a little more weight on you.

Me: For me or for you?

SH: I dunno. [His stock answer when he really means "I take the Fifth."][Also. He is a man who likes a bit of a Milwaukee Roll on his women.]

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Marriage 101, Lecture 281: What is truth?

SH: [reading one of my postings] I don't listen to NPR!

Me: So? You're the kind of person who would.

In honor of our possible trip to England and Cairo in a few months (The Engineer might have to go for work and wouldn't he be lonely if I didn't go with him?), I am posting some photos from our trip to England a few years ago. If journalspace hadn't lost FOUR YEARS OF BLOGGING but I'm not bitter, I would just link to my travelogue and photos of that little excursion, but of course that is not possible now. This is a grave at a very old church in Chipping Campden. We went to this church, expecting a traditional C of E service, but it was the English equivalent of the church in a strip mall, not that there's anything wrong with that, but we were in this 16th-century stone building with beautiful stained glass and we expected something a little more formal than little kids up front singing "If I Were a Butterfly" and acting out the song. At one point, I turned to the person behind me and asked if this was an Anglican service and he didn't seem very sure about his answer, which was a tentative "yes."

SH: And I don't do anything with Phi Beta Kappa. They just send me the magazine!

Me: So write your own blog.

SH: I don't care that much.

Me: Then I guess the truth will be what I write.

Flowers in London.

Chats du nuit

SH: Be careful!

Me: What?

SH: The cats.

Me: What?

SH: They're near your feet and when you rolled over, you almost hit them.

Me: So?

SH: Well, just turn carefully.

Me: They can move. It's not like I'm kicking them.

SH: Just be careful.

Me: I am not going to be careful in my own bed about a cat that is sitting on my feet. Have they paid any of the mortgage? Have they paid for anything around here? They can accommodate me.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Does it count?

How much of a snob (we already know I am one, now we are establishing degree) does it make me that I was ticked off to see this stuff at TJMaxx today?

Yes, that is the Spanish smoked paprika, which you are supposed to be able to get only in Spain, the stuff we loaded up on at El Corte Ingles, or, if you get it in the US, you are supposed to have to pay a lot of money for it. You are not supposed to be able to find it at TJMaxx for $3.49. That is NOT AUTHENTIC! That is cheating.

And next to it? The Himalayan sea salt?

Hello? Does it count if you didn't get it in the Himalayas? I got my Hawaiian sea salt in Hawaii! That's what makes it brag worthy. What is the point of hauling salt, something I can buy for 38 cents at the Pick and Save, across the darn ocean if there is no snob appeal in it? If all I have to do to get Primordial Himalayan Sea Salt (news flash -- there is no sea in the Himalayas) is drive down 76th street, then why would I go halfway around the world? I am ticked, ticked, ticked off about this.

Today, we are all libertarians

Legalize them all. Pot. Cocaine. Heroin. Meth. Especially meth. I will tell you why especially meth in a second.

Legalize drugs. Why should smokers and drinkers pay all the taxes? Let's tax the junkies and the potheads and the methheads (is that a word? spellcheck doesn't think so) and make them pay their Fair Share. No representation without taxation is what I say.

No, politicians, you don't get to start more programs with this money. You just get to fund the ones that are already there. My taxes get to go down as a result. My non-smoking, non-drinking, non-junkie taxes. I am tired of addicts getting services off my taxes. Let them pay their own way.

Let them ruin their lives without taking other people down with them. If they're over 18 and want to drug themselves to death, let them look their families in the eye and say, "I care about drugs more than I care about you," sign over their parental rights so someone who actually loves children can adopt their kids and give them a decent home, then move to some empty, barren area in a place to be defined (I hesitate to say someplace like "the Oklahoma panhandle" or "southern Nevada" for fear people will yell, "That place is a paradise! You have no idea!" even though those places seem pretty deserted and wastelandish to me) and then shoot up cheap drugs with their addict friends without prostituting themselves or breaking into our cars to steal our money to fund their habits. The tax revenue from the casual users and the savings from not having to enforce drug laws and the reduction in drug-related crime would probably more than fund paying for the hard-core users who would go to drug camp.

Meth. Legalize meth so that when I realize at 10 p.m. that I have a cold and am not going to be able to sleep because I am congested, I can have a stockpile of sudafed in my medicine box like I used to. Now, I have the cheap imitation that stops working after a few hours, which means I have to sit up from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. so I can breathe, until it occurs to me to take another dose of the cheap imitation. Hey. Are you thinking clearly at 2 a.m. when you can't breathe?

Can I get sudafed in Wisconsin? If I had to show ID and get it from behind the counter, two packs at a time, and sign for it in Tennessee, where it is legal to put yard waste in the trash and to park on your own street overnight, I can't imagine the State of Wisconsin, which protects me from low drug prices with a minimum drug price markup law, because everyone knows that consumers hate the tyranny of saving money, I can't imagine it being any easier here. I probably have to get a prescription for it in Wisconsin.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Chats du jour

SH: What did you do?

Me: I gave the cats some of the leftover chicken.

SH: But you didn't cut it up into little pieces!

Me: So?

SH: They're cats! It needs to be in tiny pieces!

Me: They're hunters! They have sharp teeth and claws! They tear their food into pieces!

SH: Cat food comes in little pieces.

Me: Why don't you let them be cats?

SH: Our cats are not hunters.

Me: [Yeah. Our cats are sissies.]

Marriage 101, Lecture 109: Women's work

SH: You'll really polish my shoes?

Me: Sure. Why not?

SH: In my house, that was always my dad's job.

Market in Peru.

Me: Funny. At my house, that was always my job.

SH: But that's men's work.

Me: There was no such thing as men's work or women's work at our house.

SH: Well, it was never specifically said, but it was just understood.

Me: Nope. The chores were rotated at our house. We took turns doing dishes, mowing the grass, taking out the trash, cleaning the bathroom.

Northern Chile.

SH: Not at our house.

Me: Isn't it funny that the intellectual, enlightened, superior liberals were the ones who had the men's and women's work and the backwards religious rigid military conservatives were the ones who had non-gendered work?

Market in southern Chile. Chiloe, I think.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I've lost my touch

Conversations between me and the gate agents at the Minneapolis airport yesterday as I tried to get out on an earlier flight than the one for which I was ticketed:

Conversation 1
Me: Hi. I'm booked on the 7:30 flight, but my husband has to stay an extra day. Is there room on this [1:30] flight?

Female Agent: Are you an elite customer?

Me: No, but my husband is.

Agent: We're full.

Am I the only one who doesn't care about the diversity level at a law firm? All I want to know is if they can keep me out of the Big House for the rest of my life. They didn't put that info on this ad at the Minneapolis airport.

Conversation 2
Me: Hi. Is there room on this [3:20] flight? I'm on the 7:30 flight.

Female Agent: Yes. Are you elite?

Me: No, but my husband is.

Agent: Is he flying with you?

Me: No.

Agent: Oh. If he were with you, I could do it. But you'll need to pay a $50 fee.

Me: I'd rather buy shoes.

Agent (sympathetically): I'd rather pay bills!

Conversation 3
Me: Hi. I'm prepared to offer you this bar of high-quality, delicious dark chocolate (I show him the bar of fancy San Francisco chocolate that Ilene left in our room -- that's how much I valued the chocolate, Ilene, as in I viewed it as a precious item that could be used as something almost as valuable as $50) in exchange for letting me on this [5:30] flight in exchange for not charging me the $50 fee.

Male Agent: We are not in the Middle Ages.

Me: Are you saying you don't do barter?

Agent: Nope.

Me: Is there even room?

Agent: Yes. But I can't waive the fee. I'll get in trouble. Talk to the supervisor over there.

Me: Hi Supervisor. Is the 7:30 full? Will that give you the out to let me on the 5:30?

Supervisor: Let me check. Sorry. It's wide open. They watch us like hawks these days. I'm sorry.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The princess and the pea


Looosy I'm home!

Hello my chickadees. SH and I are back (well, I'm back, SH is still in Minneapolis working) from our fun weekend with the Bodacious Red-headed Pediatrician and the Cheeseguy at the Casa de Queso. Patrick, Ilene and I started the weekend off with a challenging day of movie watching and eating at Patrick's brother and sister in law's place. SH was scheduled to arrive Sunday.

The three of us skipped Slumdog Millionaire, P&I because they had seen it, me because I had read the book and I have almost never seen a movie that measures up to the book. Then we watched Slapshot. I'll watch pretty much anything with Paul "Nobody can eat 50 eggs" Newman in it. He is even hotter than Denzel Washington. Well. He was hotter. Now he's dead and I imagine a little ripe.

The cheese shelf at Casa de Queso.

I recused myself from Milk because SH wants to see it. SH is all about the Serious Drama. I have to watch two Serious Dramas to get one Silly Comedy. It works like this:

Me: How about Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle?

SH: That sounds really dumb. I don't want to watch that.

Me: Superbad?

The little welcome basket in the guest room at P&I's house. Note the bubble gum just for me. Don't you love it when your friends know you? Those are homemade curried cashews in the back there. A basket of lovely toiletries behind that. Then, of course, there was the cheese shelf in the fridge. At the movie party, there was pulled pork, chili, beef stew, Patrick's mac and cheese, 7-layer dip, chips, other dips, brownies, Marcy's fabulous scones, ummm -- other good stuff I can't remember. Bugles. Ilene and I had to go to the grocery store in the middle of one movie to get more Bugles. Which they started making in 1964. Did you know that?

SH: That sounds stupid! I want a Meaty Drama! I am a Serious Intellectual! I can't be seen watching Silly Stuff! All my Intellectual Friends will laugh at me! They'll kick me out of Phi Beta Kappa! My parents will disown me! I'll lose my Liberal card! I won't be able to listen to NPR anymore! [Not a serious loss if you ask me]

Me: Oh good grief. I will watch W and Body of Lies with you if you will just watch Harold and Kumar, OK?

SH: Fine.

[later, after Harold and Kumar]

SH: That was really, really funny!*

Me: I told you so.

Then we watched Pineapple Express, which I know SH would like if I could just get him to watch it.

Ilene's famous red wedding shoes, now on display in a place of honor next to the cookbooks at the Casa de Queso.

Sunday morning, Ilene and I went to Rachel Who Works in a Prison's house to look at the shoes she is getting rid of and I found a pair of gorgeous black velvet evening shoes with diamond (not real diamond but you know what I mean) accents and Ilene got some shoes too and I am ashamed to say I didn't really pay attention to Ilene's shoes because I was too busy kibbutzing with Rachel on what she needed to do to get her house ready to sell.

When SH arrived, we embarked on an ambitious day of sitting around eating leftovers.

SH brought Hobnobs, which he had found on sale at World Market in Milwaukee on Saturday. Coincidentally, P&I had brought Hobnobs for us back from their honeymoon in England last fall, which you could read about except of course journalspace robbed us of our blogs. Not that we're bitter or anything. Did I mention journalspace crashed? And that I lost FOUR YEARS OF BLOGGING? And P&I lost the blog of their honeymoon? And that they didn't refund us our subscription fee? P&I also brought us some canned rabbit from France (they call it "lapin") in honor of the rabbits that ate part of my garden last summer.

On the way to the restaurant, we saw this lovely logo. Discuss.

We didn't make reservations at the restaurant because hey it's Sunday night during a recession so how crowded can it be? Crowded is how crowded. But P&I eat here all the time, so they let us sit in the kitchen, which was totally cool. We got to watch everything. They didn't charge us a corkage fee because P&I are Special. There was an old man wearing a purple satin tunic with white rickrack edging playing saxophone and clarinet right behind us. He told us it keeps his lungs and brain in shape. Total sweetheart.

* He also liked The 40-Year Old Virgin, Superbad, Knocked Up, Lonesome Dove (not a comedy, but a "dumb western" that we ended up spending two straight days watching), Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Run Fatboy Run, A Fish Called Wanda, Billy Elliot, Dear Frankie, Young @ Heart (all three "too sentimental") and others I would list except the library website kicked me out and I'm too lazy to log back in.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Wisconsin 101: Come here for the "summer," stay here for the whatever



Marriage 101, Lecture 833: Water

SH: I figured out why I get so dehydrated in the winter.

Me: Why?

SH: Because the water is so cold.

Me: ?????

SH: You know. When it comes out of the tap.

Me: ?????

SH: It's cold. Because it's so cold outside.

Me: Why don't you just turn the handle and make it a little warmer?

SH: But - but then I'd be getting water from the hot* water heater!

* Yes. The precise, accurate engineer really says the "hot water heater" instead of the "water heater." But I still love him and think he is hot, hot, hot.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Etiquette issue du jour

Stupid downstairs computer doesn't want to talk to the world, so I am upstairs in the cold guest room doing a quick (well, as quick as the slow old computer will allow) post on the issue that is burning in my mind, as much as I can remember of it anyhow because I had to pull out all those passwords I had forgotten because of course I was already logged into everything for all of eternity on the other computer. Oh how I loathe you downstairs computer and your refusal to cooperate with wireless internet.

Graveyard in northern Chile.

How I have come to take technology for granted. I, who didn't even have a calculator in high school and even had to do a computer program on punch cards so better than most should be grateful, yes down on my knees grateful for my ability to connect with the outside world and have friends I have never even met in person or wouldn't have met had it not been for the web (Hi Mr Scribbler, Richard, Holly, Marta, Laura, Kikita, and Amanda!) but no, here I am griping because I had to walk up One. Flight. Of. Stairs. To read email from people on the other side of the world or even on this side. People who would otherwise not even bother to write to me. Yes, this is true because when I was in the Peace Corps in 1993-1995 how many letters did I get from most of my friends?

Almost none. Yeah. I'm talking to you, you not-letter-writing friends. Well, not really, because I am not friends with those people any more, so they are not reading this blog. Some friends wrote, but the rest? Couldn't be bothered to put pen to paper. But email? People will put finger to keyboard and hit enter, so thank God for that and I'm going to quit whining now.

Woman selling grass for guinea pigs (which are eaten -- by people) in Peru.

Anyhow. What was I saying?

Oh. Right. The etiquette thing. When I was getting my beauty school pedicure yesterday, the lady next to me was very sensitive about her hammer toes, but I wasn't staring at them, I was just watching what her nail tech was doing. I did feel bad, though, when she asked the tech to put a towel over her foot so nobody (i.e., me -- there was nobody else around except the four of us) could see her ugly feet and made an effort not to look any more. I feel her pain. I get self conscious about my yellow teeth with the lines across them and I am also in the market for those cutlets that you put in your bra. Now you know my deep dark secrets. Also, I have told SH that on our 50th anniversary, he is allowed to play with my belly button, but until then, it's hands off, buddy. I don't like having my belly button messed with. It just creeps me out. I don't know why.

Anyhow. The ugly foot lady (she lives in the right climate for not having pretty feet because Lord knows it is not like anyone gets to see them around here) was reading a treatise on how to get salt out of your diet while the tech worked on her toes. So really, she was just indicating she didn't want to talk, which is fine, but here is my question: Is it rude to read while someone works on your feet? I mean, here you have someone doing what is already one of the most humbling jobs there is in the world. When Jesus wanted to show his humility, he washed the apostles' feet. That was about as low as you could go in that culture. If someone is going to wash your feet, shouldn't you at least do her the respect of paying attention while she does it?

Northern Chile.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wisconsin 101: The State of Niceness

Case 1

Me: Lois, does your dogsitter do cats? We need someone to feed the cats and scoop their poop this weekend.

Lois: I'll do it.

Lois lives two miles from us. I want someone on our block whom I can pay $5 a day, like a teenager, who will walk over and take five minutes to do the job. It is too much of an imposition to ask a friend to do it for free, especially a friend who lives that far away.

Case 2
I am driving around downtown looking for free parking so I can get a pedicure at the tech school at 12:30. What's the point of a $12 pedicure if you have to pay $10 to park? I see a sign "$2 lunch parking, out by 3." I'm not sure I'll be done by 3, so I stop and ask the guy if he'll take $3 if I'm back by 3:30.

Guy: Nope.

Me: [Crap. All the meters are two hours and it's 12:15. There are some five hour meters, but they charge $1.25/hour and they're six blocks away and I don't have enough quarters anyhow.] Oh. Well.

Guy: Nah. You can stay for two dollars until four. There's enough room.

English fail du jour


In their defense, they sell cilantro for 33 cents a bunch (1/3 the price of the other stores), they sell collard greens for a normal price (98 cents vs $4 a bunch for organic collards -- as I told Lenore yesterday at Whole Foods, I don't care if the stuff is covered with DDT, I don't want to pay organic prices), and they have nopales, cactus fruit, all kinds of fresh and dried peppers, and Key limes - items I can't find for love or money at the grocery stores near me. Not to mention a Mexican deli and bakery and mariachi music coming over the loudspeaker.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why I am not going to hire this guy

On my way home from Chicago where my friend Lenore and I had a pleasant afternoon, with lunch at Cosi, then a walk down to the lake where we watched shirtless men throw sticks for enormous dogs who ran into the water into what looked like piles of dirty sand but were really piles of dirty snow, I stopped for as close to Cincinnati chili as I think I'm going to find in Milwaukee. I don't know why I wanted it. I just did. They'd been debating this over at Ann Althouse's website and someone had commented on the Milwaukee place. Anyhow, I went. This conversation ensued between me and the otherwise very cordial 20something clerk as I asked for chili takeout:

Me: Oh, I don't need utensils.

Macchu Pichu. Or however you spell it.

Clerk: It's OK. I already put them in.

Me: You can take them out. [Otherwise, I am just going to throw them away, which is wasteful for the environment that I am sure you care about very much and for your employer, who probably runs on those very profitable margins that restaurants and other businesses that deal in perishables often do.]

Clerk: That's OK.

Clerk: That comes to $6.61.

Me: Here's 20. [I don't really say the "Here's 20" part. I just hand him a 20. I am advancing the plot here without a visual.]

Boys in Peru.

Clerk: Your change is 13.39.

Me: Here's a penny. [He hadn't counted out the change yet.]

Clerk: That's OK. I already rung it up.

Me: Yeah, but you can do the math in your head. If I give you the penny, then you give me forty cents.

The Bolivian navy on Lake Titicaca. No joke.

Clerk: [as if he is doing me a favor to give me a quarter, a dime and four pennies instead of a quarter, a dime and a nickel.] No, it's OK.

Me: [Are you completely unwilling to listen to a word your customers say? And this chili better be darn good for that price.]

Northern Chile.

The hills to die on

A friend at the gym: I'm staying with my grandson this week while my daughter goes out of town.

Me: That should be fun.

Friend: Yeah, but she is leaving at tofu casserole in the freezer for him.
This is for Marta the Cuban cook. This is the real cheese at Patrick and Ilene's. Am I happy to be going there this weekend? Oh yes.

Me: That sounds disgusting.

Friend: He doesn't like it either.

Me: What are you going to do?

Friend: What do you think? Mac and cheese and hot dogs.

Southern cooking makes you good looking
Just sayin'. You don't see art proclaiming that raw food, macrobiotic, vegan diets make you pretty. I would also like to note for the record that Southern cooking does not make a broom grow out of the top of your head and that there seem to be a lot more Miss Americas from the non-northeast part of the country. Not that those women couldn't look good if they made an effort, but when SH and I were in Boston a couple of years ago, I did notice that the only two well-groomed, made-up, hairstyled, shaved-legged, non-birkenstock wearing, well-dressed girls I saw in Cambridge were speaking Spanish. Just sayin'.

Monday, March 16, 2009

How to take your cats to the vet

T - 30 minutes
Secure the exits. Close upstairs, bathroom and bedroom doors. Locate cats. They are sitting on basement stairs, enjoying the sun coming in the back door. Little do they know their world is about to be shattered.

T - 27
Lure cats into kitchen by shaking their food box. Don't actually give them food. Just trick them.

T - 26
Close kitchen door behind them.

Shirley in her kitty restraint at the vet. She definitely remembered him from last week and her surgery. Remembered him and was not excited to see him again.

T - 25
Retrieve The Box from basement.

T - 24
Casually place The Box on kitchen floor. Oh, that? Nothing.

T - 23
Run after Laverne, who is trying to squeeze under bathroom door.

Give up. Shirley is easier to catch. She is just sitting by the food bowl, thinking if she sits there long enough, I'll feed her. Silly girl. I'm not SH. He's the softie and he's in Detroit, waiting for a plane to Tampa. It's just the Big Meanie here.

No. She is not supposed to be sitting there. Why do you ask?

T - 22
Casually saunter over to Shirley and pick her up. She is suspicious. I am not the cat picker upper. I wait for them to come to me. Not only that, but I have pinned her front legs to her torso. Alert! Alert! Something is wrong! She starts to squirm, but says nothing, because unless she is in heat, she doesn't talk.

T - 21
Try to put an unwilling cat into The Box. Even with her front legs out of commission, this is not easy, as back legs can be remarkably useful. Discover that anchoring the back of The Box against the wall is helpful. Leverage is my friend. Physics 101 was not a complete waste of time. Make that Physics 121. Yeah, I know it was self-paced physics for those of us who couldn't keep up and didn't know what those funny long "S's" were. Hey, I didn't have calculus in high school because the public school I went to in seventh grade didn't get me tracked right in math and I had to pay the price six years later but I still got an A and I got torque so get off my back, OK? And I did better in differential equations than some people I know who went on to major in computer science and get a PhD. So there.

T - 17
Slam the door to The Box. Listen to Shirley moan. She is Not Happy.

T - 16
Breathe deeply. Try to calm my racing heart. This is stressful for the cats. Also stressful for me. Thank goodness I don't have kids. Can you imagine trying to crate a toddler? They weigh a lot more than cats do. It might also be illegal, this being Wisconsin where pretty much anything useful, like putting your lawn waste in a trash can or parking on the street in front of your own house overnight is illegal, but driving while drunk is just hunky dory.

T - 15
Look for Laverne. She's no fool. She has hidden herself in a dark corner. I apologize as I pick her up, then try to convert her body into a bullet shape that will slide right into The Box.

T - 14
Shirley does not want company and tries to squeeze out of The Box. Hissing ensues. Fur flies. I get the door closed and just about pass out from stress.

Shirley has an attitude problem.

Not even kissing cousins

But I'm still claiming him. This kid is my first cousin once removed (I think that's the right way to say it), the son of my dad's cousin Paul. I've never met him, which is easy when your dad's mom had five siblings (I think) and his dad was one of 12. Heck, I can't even keep up with my own first cousins, of which I have 28 or so. Zac is my dad's dad's sister's grandson.

This is cool. I just know my dad, an Air Force vet, my Grandma Sylvia and my Papa Al (my dad's parents and Zac's great aunt and uncle) and my Aunt Madge (Zac's grandmother and my dad's aunt) are up in heaven drinking a beer and toasting Zac.

Staff Sgt. Zachary Rhyner of the 21st Special Tactics Squadron from Pope Air Force Base, N.C., received the medal for uncommon valor during Operation Enduring Freedom before a crowd of hundreds dotted with combat controllers' red berets.

My dad leaving for Coast Guard boot camp when he was probably about the age that Zac is now. (My dad enlisted in the Coast Guard after high school, then went to college on the GI Bill, then joined the Air Force.)

The decoration is second only to the Medal of Honor, and is awarded by the president....

"Your actions are now and forever woven into the rich fabric of service, integrity and excellence that has connected generations of America's Airmen since the very inception of airpower," Secretary Donley said to Sergeant Rhyner.

"Rarely do we present an Airman with the Air Force Cross, let alone a Purple Heart, and with good reason. The Air Force Cross is reserved for those who demonstrate unparalleled valor in the face of insurmountable odds."

Secretary Donley added that among the millions who have served, only 192 Air Force Crosses have been awarded.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz also presented Sergeant Rhyner with the Purple Heart. General Schwartz said special forces Soldiers lived to tell the story of the Shok Valley battle thanks to the courage, tenacity, teamwork, as well as the invaluable and selfless efforts of Sergeant Rhyner.

Despite injuries he sustained as the result of persistent insurgent fire, Sergeant Rhyner coordinated more than 50 aerial attacks to continuously repel the enemy during the beleaguering battle that occurred during his first deployment. According to the decoration citation, Sergeant Rhyner "provided suppressive fire with his M-4 rifle against enemy fire while fellow teammates were extracted from the line of fire."

Read the whole story here. Then watch to see Zac on Glenn Beck sometime soon, maybe this weekend.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Marriage 101, Lecture 32: Rights and responsibilities

After church

Me: Why didn't you tell me I had a zit in my nose?

SH: Was I supposed to?

Me: Yes! Yes! If I don't see it, you are supposed to tell me! You know how bad my vision is.

Somewhere in Peru or Bolivia.

Say it ain't so

SH and I are going to Minneapolis next weekend to visit Ilene and Patrick (neither of whom blog enough so go to their sites and nag them in the comments). SH is actually going for work and I am tagging along thanks to a very low fare, but we are quite happy to have an excuse to visit our friends and get out of this crummy Wisconsin weather.

Rachel Who Works in a Prison's shoes.

In what is surely a sign from God, I saw a note on Facebook (this will be how it redeems itself to me, perhaps) from Rachel Who Works in a Prison, who is one of my 42 friends. I have 42 friends, SH has 11. Not that this is a competition or anything. But I am winning. He says he is not racing.

Rachel: Can't believe [I] just met with a realtor. Anyone want to buy everything I own?

Andrea: can I have the shoes?

Class Factotum: Oh yes on the shoes! What size do you wear?

Rachel Who Works in a Prison dancing with her dad at Patrick and Ilene's wedding.

Rachel: I'm keeping most of my current, but I have a fabulous assortment of 8.5's from before I had a kid. They are all up for grabs.

Class Factotum: I wear 8.5. And I just happen to be going to Mpls next weekend.


I think not.

Rachel: I would LOVE to get rid of all the 8.5's!! Yay

Ilene wedding cake
The cake at Cheeseguy and the Bodacious Red-headed Pedatrician's wedding. Yes, that is really a cake made to look like a cheeseboard. The pastry chef was a genius.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Now and then

Segovia 2008

Segovia 1970
The Big Factotum took this photo when we went to Segovia on a fall afternoon. We lived in Spain for four years when I was a kid (starting in kindergarten) and my dad was stationed at Torrejon AFB. Our first two years there, we lived off base in a housing area called Royal Oaks, out in the country, 20 miles from Madrid. SH and I went there this fall on our trip.

Royal Oaks is no longer in the country. It is in the suburbs, on the metro line, next to a big office park. Our house, 52D, (our phone number -- hmm, don't remember ours, but my best friend Lisa's number was 452, which I would say to the operator in Spanish -- cuatro cinco dos coming from a kindergartner sounds kinda cute) has been torn down and replaced with an expensive condo, which I could barely see over the fence. The fences were not there when I was a kid. We had big yards with irises in the gardens. Lots of oaks. Lisa and I would sit in the trees and throw acorns at our brothers. They would learn quickly and avoid the trees. We would promise not the throw more acorns. They would believe us -- why? we were LIARS! -- and walk close to the trees and we would -- surprise! -- throw acorns at them. Sorry, Greg and Steve.

The trees (aka the royal oaks) are all gone, except for a few at the entrance, as are the little streets where the peddlers would ride their bikes with the knife-sharpening equipment on the back. The little shop where we would buy chupas (lollipops) for a peseta and the materials to make lanyards is gone, too. The pool is gone. My school is gone. My city is gone.

Marriage 101, Lecture 54: Social life, or Party on, Wayne

Friday morning.

SH: Bubba* asked me last night if we wanted to go to a party tomorrow night.

Me: Sure. That sounds like fun. What time?

Train station in Peru. I took these photos in 1995 as I was coming back overland from my two-year stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile. And despite having been a PCV, I am politically libertarian/conservative. Go figure.

[Not really. I hate parties. Unless I know a lot of the people there. And like them. And it's not too late, because I hate staying up late. And there's not too much cigarette smoke, because although I fully support my body my choice to inhale and if cigarettes are sooooo bad then make them illegal, I too have a choice and my choice is not to be around them. But SH likes Bubba, who runs SH's favorite karaoke show and always lets SH sing a lot -- SH is a fabulous singer I know go figure but he is! -- and his wife and so do I and Lord knows we need to make some friends around here.]

SH: 7:00

Me: That's not too bad. [Whew!]

Kids in the altiplano in either Peru or Bolivia. This was 14 years ago. I can't remember these things. I can hardly remember yesterday.

SH: Bubba will let me know tonight if the party is going to happen.

Me: What do you mean, if it's going to happen?

SH: He's not sure yet. It's his wife's sister's boyfriend something something. There might be a party, there might not. Bubba and his wife might or might not be going. I'm not sure about us.

Peru, near Cuzco.

Me: Let me get this straight. There are a few possibilities here: the party may or may not happen. Bubba and his wife may or may not attend. We may or may not be invited.

SH: That's it.

10:45 p.m.

SH: No email from Bubba. I still don't know if the party is going to happen.

Peru, near Cuzco.

Me: Who on earth is so completely disorganized that he hasn't decided less than 24 hours before a party if he is going to have it or not?**

* Not his real name.

** For those of you late to the game: For our very small wedding in September ("You could do so much better" and I'll let you decide which parents said that to which of us), I had a four-page project plan including meals (accommodating my brother's hemochromatosis and varying degrees of lactose intolerance, from any form of milk will upset my stomach to I want expensive Lactaid to drink but I'll eat lots of cheese as a snack), arrivals and departures from the Milwaukee and Chicago airports over several days, and getting everyone to the church and then to the restaurant for the wedding supper written a month before the event. So yeah, I could put together a party in less than 24 hours, but what about guests? Don't they need some notice? Not everyone is like us, spending every Saturday night with a bowl of Cheerios and a DVD from the library in the basement. Some people actually have a life.

Health clinic in Peru near Cuzco. I think it's either in or near Sacsayhuaman, which sounds like "Sexy Woman" when you say it out loud, which is the only reason I can remember it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Oh no she didn't

My first big fear about the cats is that they would be shedding machines that would cause me daily headaches.

My second big fear about the cats was that they would be shedding machines that would cause me daily vacuuming.

Pictures from South America. I shot this from the train in Peru. This was in 1995, my post Peace Corps cross-continental land return to the US.

My third big fear about the cats is that they would be scratching machines that would damage our furniture.

I haven't seen a lot of scratching and really, we don't have a lot stuff to be scratched, but even so, we've kept the door to the living room closed. We keep it closed anyhow because we don't want to heat it right now or pretty much ever. But I had gone in there for something last week and Laverne had followed me. I thought it would be OK since I hadn't seen her doing much scratching. I turned to see her climb to one of the highest points in the room, the newly reupholstered chair, which didn't surprise me, as she is a cat and that is a very gato thing to do. I retrieved her and thought no more of it.

Snake-oil salesman in La Paz. Seriously. He had a dead snake with rendered snake oil and rubbed it on a volunteer's (not Peace Corps volunteer, just some random guy in the crowd) back. Good for kidney, heart, blood problems, whatever ails you.

Last night, SH went out to sing. He stopped at the pet store for a few things. When I went into the dining room this morning, I saw one of them: a cat scratching post.

A fancy one. With a $64.99 price tag.

Oh heck to the no.

Me: Um darling? What's the story on this cat thing?

SH: It was on sale and the other ones were so crummy. If it saves our furniture, it will be worth it. And think of how much fun the cats will have on it!

Bus station in Ecuador

He has a point. On saving the furniture, I mean. I am not in the business of entertaining my pets. They are just cats. Cute cats, but. Cats.

We open the door to the dining room so it will warm in time for supper tonight. Laverne saunters in. SH puts her by the cat post. Look, Laverne! he says.

She walks right past him, slips under the dining room table, runs to the reupholstered chair, climbs on top of it and starts scratching. I run over and realize that there are already pulled-out places.

Holy moley. That girl works fast.

Elections in Guatemala, I think.

It might be back to the basement for a while until we figure out how to handle this. For now, the door will remain closed. Well, it's open now, but Laverne is in the basement. Shirley is upstairs. She's not a scratcher. Her specialty appears to be sitting on my computer and disabling the radio wireless so I can't get to the interwebs, thus causing The Engineer to spend two hours of valuable work time reconfiguring my system so I can connect to the world again. My new trick is to invert a 9x13 pan over the keyboard when I leave, which I will be doing shortly to repair (if I can) the chair.

I think Guatemala.