Wednesday, February 29, 2012


A neutrino walks into a bar and asks, "Hey, how much for a drink?"

The bartender responds, "For you?  No charge!"


Sorry, it's been a multiple-personalitied day and I'm feeling a little scattered. 

Maybe it's because my name isn't really Abby, and the whole having-two-names is starting to take a toll.

I started blogging way back in the olden days when practically no one used their actual real life name on their blog.  I remember some now retired blog friends with names like "RainBird", "Blue Skelton", "Interstellar Lass", and "Allan the Felon", who I think actually was named Allan.  I'm pretty sure he was also a felon.

Most of my current and regular visitors know that my name is not Abby.  For those for whom this is news, I hope it doesn't negatively affect your AbbyNormal experience.

I mention this because, recently, I've gotten a few e-mails from blog visitors, and when I've replied, it's caused some confusion.  I realized that I've gotten very few e-mails from blog visitors over the years, but for some reason, February 2012 has seen a bumper crop. 

I don't have plans to change the blog's name, as I named it such out of being abnormal and proudly so.  I just don't want to be purposely deceptive.


And while I'm at it, Meego would like everyone to know that his name is not Meego.  However, China will only respond to "China".  Chaco is rather indifferent about "Chaco", Wolfgang actually likes "Wolfgang",  Magnum is happy with any attention he's given. 

Why is your blog named what it is?  If you use an online pseudonym, why did you choose it? 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


I often tutor at local libraries, and there is one branch in particular that is most preferable.  It's large and in a good location and there are private study rooms that I can reserve in advance.   I call a day ahead and reserve a room through the security desk. 

When I arrive, I check in at the security station, and one of the guards accompanies me to the room to either unlock it for me or to boot the previous occupants out.  I've done this for years, so at this point, the security guards - of which there are just three - and I are pretty familiar with each other. 

Last Friday evening, I was with a student at the Barnes and Noble coffee shop.  It was for a relatively short meeting, and while coffee shops aren't always ideal for tutoring, it was fine for just our quick review. 

So I'm there, and I get that feeling that someone is watching me.  You know that feeling?  I look up and who is there staring at me from the counter but Security Guard Bob from the library.  

I realized then that I've never seen Security Guard Bob anywhere but the library.  It was a little strange to see him with his clothes on.... regular clothes that is, instead of his security uniform. 

Anyway, he's looking at me as I'm there with this teenager and our books, and his eyes are all,
"What's this?!"

I suddenly felt guilty!  It's silly, but I felt like I was caught cheating on the library.  My eyes said back to Security Guard Bob, "This isn't what it looks like!  Really!"

But then I start thinking, wait a minute, and my eyes accussingly say to Security Guard Bob, "What are YOU doing at a book store??"

And then his eyes are all, "I'm just getting a coffee so shut up!"

So mine are back to him, "I can tutor wherever I want, we never said anything about being exclusive!"

With that, he grabs his BOOKSTORE coffee and heads to a different table.  That was the end of it.

I'm tutoring this evening, so yesterday I called the library to reserve a room.  I'm not sure who I spoke with, if it was Security Guard Bob or not.  They all kind of sound alike on the phone.  But when he asked my name and I told him "AbbyNormal", there was a pause.  And then

He assigned me the GOOD room. 

Monday, February 27, 2012


Better by far you should forget and smile than you should remember and be sad.
~Christina Rossetti

We were at Magnum's sister's yesterday. They don't live that far from us, but we really don't see them very often. She got divorced and remarried a few years ago, and the story behind all that sort of cooled things between us. They're starting to warm up again though, and I'm happy to leave that past behind . It was a nice, casual get together.

She has an ancient dog - about the same age as Wolfgang, which in dog years is ancient. She's a mutt of no obvious breed. She's got a bit of chow chow in her which makes her soft and fluffy and about as tall as a typical chow chow. She's deaf, so voice commands are useless, but it didn't matter since she's such an old lady dog, she doesn't get into much trouble and she moves very slowly.

But never stops.

She circled the house the whole time we were there, doing this old lady shuffle. Just following some path laid out in her own little world she was in. Round and round and round she went, without stopping unless she would come up against some sort of obstacle that impeded her forward movement. Someone nearby would remove the obstacle, and the circling would resume. She was like a large furry Roomba. On auto-pilot.

My SIL said they had to resort to giving her some drugs at night to keep her from doing that for 24 hours. Most likely, there was some dementia involved along with who-knows-what. Clearly her days were numbered.

In fact, I learned this afternoon that sweet Sarah the pooch was euthanized today.   Well, she had a good long life, and that's why it's sad.

On top of that, there's a kid who went to school in Ohio today and won't come back.  He had such a short life and that's why it's sad. 

Blue Monday.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Silver Liningness Sunday

I just realized that this is the last Sunday of February *POOF*.   So I'll start with a few stats:

  • I've run 110.9 miles (so far) this month.
  • I've made 6 artworks
  • Still bloggin' every day huff puff
  • I'm this close to actually finishing reading a whole book!

In the meantime, the family has remained fed, clothed, and sheltered, and I have a nice comfy tutoring groove.  The house could be cleaner, but that's always the case.

And this week was another goody.  It started with a holiday on Monday and then we got that surprise snow day on Thursday, so it was almost like a mini vacation week.

I mentioned Wolfgang getting his head shaved for cancer reasearch.  Agg79 asked for an "After" pic, and I was granted permission.

I'm starting to get used to the Kwai Chang Caine look.  We have since learned that two of Chaco's best friends partook of the bald-for-bucks chair too, so now we're all, "Why do YOU still have hair?" with him.  I mean, c'mon, it's for a good cause, plus I need all the hot water I can get.

In fact, maybe we should just shave all the heads in the house.  Yes, me included.  I know there are days when I just want to scrap it all and start over. 

And those monasteries always look so peaceful and clean in photos.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


This week's Illustration Friday prompt is "capable", and for quite a while, I was INcapable of coming up with an idea.  Not because I couldn't think of stuff, but rather because there were so many things coming to mind...

In the end, I went SuperHero.  I'm not really into comic book characters,  and as far as those go, my favorite is Bat Man because he's got that whole dark mental instability thing going.  Because of that, though, he didn't seem to be a right choice for "capable".

Then, I turned to Wonder Woman out of a bit of gender bias, but when I searched for references, she was rather *AHEM* intimidating.

Superman it is.

Friday, February 24, 2012

the removal

I need to talk about this.  I'm fretting and trepidating (yes, totally made up verb, but it seems appropriate) today. 

It's Wolfgang.  He's having a procedure done today.  Others say it's "minor", but when it's your own child, anything is "major".  I've known this day was coming for about a month, and I've tried to keep a calm exterior.

Thing is, HE is so calm about it.  Does he realize what's happening?  Maybe not.  Not fully. 

In fact, as I look at the clock, he's probably finished and recovering about now.  It feels strange.  He left this morning like it was any other day.  I tried to mirror his calmness as I took one last look.  The next time I see him, he'll be different.

He's going under the... well, probably already GONE under the


Yeah, he's shaving his head.  It's a school fundraiser for cancer research.  He signed up a month ago or so, has collected donations, got the T-shirt.  Today the hair comes off.  His thick, dark, curlyish hair.  Off.

Oh, he's had buzz cuts before, but he's never had a full-on G.I. Jane.

Actually, I'm pleased that he decided to do this.  At first, I admit, I thought it was just some group shenanigans done under the guise of fundraising - which is fine, and yes there is a bit of that.  But I also learned that most of his friends from his "core" group aren't participating.  Nope, he's going "Bald for Bucks" on his own volition. 

A girl friend, as opposed to "girlfriend", made a donation can for him, decorated with Calvin and Hobbs.  He's turned it in and turned over his hair.

And while it may take some getting used to, it reminds me to be grateful that it's purely symbolic in his case. 

UPDATE:  The results are in, and it actually looks pretty slick! (literally).  It feels like a big round cat's tongue.  Wolfgang likes it.  He thinks it might help him run faster, just in time for the start of track season.  He says they raised around $8000.

I like it.  As 4th in line for the shower each morning, I might actually have hot water now!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

gift of nature

We're having us another snow day today.  This makes number 3 for the school year.  It used to be that the kids would just bask in snow day glory whenever it happened, but a few years ago, we had a harsh winter that used up more snow days than were baked into the schedule.  This resulted in having to make them up at the end of the school year. 

There was MUCH wailing and gnashing of teeth!  And that was from district employees moreso than students...

Since then, we keep track of the count.  I think there is room for 6, so we're at 50% now.

I tutor a high school student on Thursdays who is homeschooled, so today is just another day for her.  She gets to avoid the bullies and the cliques and the fashion police of traditional high school, but she doesn't get snow days.  It doesn't seem to bother her, though.  She ranks pretty low on the teen rebellion scale.

As for my own rebels, they're being pretty agreeable too.  Chaco's been up late the last couple of nights working on a robotic arm for the science olympiad, so he caught up on sleep.  And I think we are, by now, majority owners of  Radio Shack.

Right now, he and his fellow olympian are putting on the finishing touches.

Remember my sweet, clean, and organized workspace?  He's totally hijacked the Giga Desk:

Day by day, our oldest is turning into my dad, and there doesn't seem to be anything I can do about it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

what I needed

Yesterday, I was doing my weekly school staff e-mail purge.  As I was mass deleting, I came across something that stopped me up short.

One of the teachers had e-mailed an apology for a previous e-mail, which I then had to dig for.  The original e-mail was a note having to do with a change in scheduling.  It was laced with phrases like "even though no one will read this.." and "not that anybody cares...", etc.

In her follow up e-mail, she apologized for being unprofessional, but didn't apologize for her reasons.  She brought up the apathy, the lack of teamwork, the cliqueishness, the back stabbing, the gossip...

I used to be a teacher's aid at the school and I know exactly what she was talking about.

*background time* 
About 4 years ago, I began teaching for a test preparation company.   I had great mentors and coworkers, and the morale was high.  In addition, I found that I really enjoyed being a teacher.

The downside (why is there always a downside?) was that the nature of our classes was such that I was working a lot of evenings and weekends.  I knew I needed to change things when my TEENAGED kids were complaining that I wasn't around enough to do stuff with.  Plus, I didn't like missing their extracurriculars. 
Early last year, I put my feelers out for something more accomodating and that's how I became an X-treme crossing guard.  Shortly after that, the vice principal told me of a part-time opening for a teacher's aid, would I like that job too?  Yes, sure, great!  Problem solved.

Last year at this time, I was doing that job.  And hating it. 

I couldn't quite figure it out.  I liked all of the people at the school.  I enjoyed the kids I worked with.  The hours were perfect.  The commute was practically nonexistent.  But...

I never really felt that it made any difference whether I showed up or not.

That job shattered my visions of becoming a licensed teacher.  At the time, I was seriously looking into a  program at a local university to get my teaching license, but I stopped the whole process.

When the principal told me they wanted me to return for this school year, I was surprised.  I honestly thought the position would go away amid budget cuts.  I contemplated for a few weeks and then resigned over the summer.  That was the first job I'd ever left simply because I just didn't like it, and it was difficult for me to "quit".  But I just felt that the position was redundant while being funded by taxpayer dollars.  I couldn't continue.

Now I'm an independent tutor for a tutor matching service.  I'm still an X-treme crossing guard, and I've had a couple months of insightful coaching.  Aaah,  life is better.

I don't think I've revealed this on the blog before now, but it was THAT whole experience that pushed me off the edge and lead me to a life coach.  What I thought was a logical and good plan was totally foiled by that 4-months-and-3-days (but who was counting) part-time job!

Reading that e-mail yesterday helped me out a lot.  It validated my frustrations and let me know that I wasn't the only one who was dissatisfied.    I am still confused about how the sum of so many good individuals could add up to such a lesser whole, but it did. 

I sent that teacher a short reply, thanking her for putting herself out there like that.  She e-mailed me back and said that others had thanked her too.

What are you dealing with, and thinking you're the only one?  I'd bet a 4-months-and-3-days part-time salary that you're not.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

an afternoon

I wasn't going to like him.  I was determined.  The last thing I wanted was a man in my life to mess with my head and my heart.

When he flirted with me, I didn't flirt back.  I wasn't disagreeable, I just didn't want to go there.   So we had a nice platonic work relationship, but I made the mistake of admitting to my co-worker Marissa that I thought he was pretty cute.  Of course she blabbed it to him, and he then kept hanging around.

He knew I had a kid.  When I first told him, I thought for sure that would get him to lose interest in me.  Instead, he asked to see pictures and wanted to know all about my son.  Of course he wanted to know about the father too.  I just told him, "things didn't work out" and left it at that.

To say "things didn't work out" was quite the understatement.  My ex was my first.  He'd told me he loved me, and I thought we would be together forever.  We were careful, but I still got pregnant.  I expected that he would want to get married once I told him about the baby, but I was so wrong.  When he left, I was devastated.  It had all been a lie.  I found out about the other girls he'd been with when he was with me, telling me he loved me, that I was his girl. 

Thank God my parents forgave me for all the crap I'd given them when they'd told me my ex was not good enough for me and that I should dump him.  That was one of the lowest points in my life, when I  had to admit they were right and ask if I could move back in with them.

I was getting my life together.  I'd gotten a temp job as a factory assembler.  I didn't know what I would do when the job ran out, but at least it paid well enough for me to build some savings.  And that's where I met Justin. 

He operated a spot welder near my assembly line.  He started hanging out with us during our breaks and eating at our table at lunch.  I admit that I did find him attractive.  He had light brown sandy hair and a sweet little chin warmer beard.  He wasn't very tall, just a couple of inches taller than me, but he was stocky and his muscular hands and forearms were nice to watch while he operated the welder.  And then there's his eyes...

When he asked to take me and little Alex bowling, I decided that maybe it could be fun.  I didn't go out much.   Work and motherhood kept me too busy.  Alex needed to go out and have some fun too, and he'd never been to a bowling alley.  I told Justin we would meet him there, not wanting it to be too much of a "date".

But damnit I had fun!  Justin was wonderful with Alex, and Alex really liked Justin.  I realized that Alex is getting to the age where he needs males in his life to emulate.  I watched the people bowling next to us- a family - and I wondered if I could ever have that.  It didn't seem matter to the mom that she sucked at bowling, she was just hanging out with her husband and kids.

Now, I'm confused.  I've been fighting it, but I think I'm falling for Justin!


Yesterday was a school and work holiday.  We went bowling after I finished tutoring.  Rather than blog about how awfully I bowled, I decided to make up a story about the people next to us.  I'm dying to know what happens!

Monday, February 20, 2012

healthy butt?

Every day.  Every day for nearly six months.  Every.  Single  (okay, maybe not EVERY day, but for the purposes of this story, let's just go with that).  Day.

I have fed peas to our goldfish every day since discovering that it was a remedy for floating-upside-down disease.  It's actually a swim bladder problem that is common in fancy goldfish.  They turn into beachballs with fins.  Surely you all recall our discovery of it.

If not, allow me to summarize.  Our goldfish Lilly began having buoyancy issues and couldn't remain upright.  She was usually found, tired of fighting it and floating upside down.  Still breathing, still "swimming", still eating.

I figured she was one for the toilet, but Wolfgang learned of this common problem and the pea remedy.  And so the pea feeding began.  A good pea snack each afternoon would keep her somewhat upright and able to dive deeper than a couple of inches, as long as it was administered daily.  So Every.  Single.... yeah okay.

Until last week anyway.  I noticed that she was no longer bobbing around the water line.  She was swimming around right-side-up and looking like a normal fish.  And that's just not normal! 

Why the sudden change?!  I held back the peas, and still, she swims.  Like a normal freaking fish!  It's just not right to be normal. Not in this house.  All of our residents pets have issues! 

I studied her closely.  Not only does she no longer swim upside down, she's lost her booty!  Her characteristic fancy goldfish booty!

I tried to get a pic to highlight the contrast.  That's the newly svelte Lilly in the center with a more bootylicious tankmate shown on the right.

It's like she went out and got a lipo or something. 

So this worrisome.  She looks happy, yet....

I like big butts and I cannot lie.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Silver Liningness Sunday

They're out... aaawww.  NO WAIT, They're IN! 

Chaco's bowling team made an admirable showing this season, just missing qualifying for state by a half a stinking point.  I have no idea how such things are scored, but half a point sounded close to me.

Hold the phone!  They got a call back.  One of the teams that did qualify for state dropped out, so Chaco's team was up.  The tournament was yesterday, and they got the word sometime like Tuesday.  So it was a bit of a mad dash to prepare. 

Gather for a practice session on Thursday...  run out and buy some black pants on Friday...  get up at crack of dawn on Saturday, drive to Denver, and go throw some balls!

Find Chaco, win a prize!
I would have liked to have gone, but I figured (a) one of us adults should stay closeby to Wolfgang and Meego who, surprisingly, didn't care to spend the day watching a bunch of bowling, and (b) 18-year-old-male Chaco would rather arrive at this sporting event with his man-parent rather than his mommy.

They didn't win a trophy but good times, good times. 

Really, the overall theme of this silver lining week seemed to be one of second chances.  Meego lost his glasses sometime before Christmas.  We gave him a probationary period to find them and were holding his Christmas money in "escrow".  Just as time was running out, he found them on the school bus.  He doesn't even ride that bus anymore, having been shuttled recently to a different one.  But I guess the thought of liberating that Christmas cash gave him inspiration and wings.   He's rich again (won't last).

Valentine's day was a non-event.  Mag and I don't really buy into the whole Hallmark Holiday culture anyway, but it is an excuse for wine and chocolate - which we didn't indulge in since Magnum had the crud on Valentine's day.  The wine and chocolate eventually got their second chance :).

Plus, on Friday I received this Valentine from a crosswalk client/admirer.

Okay, so it was late, and I strongly surmise that it is a Valentine re-gift, but beggars can't be choosers.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


In physics, a fluid is "a substance that continually deforms (flows) under an applied shear stress. Fluids are a subset of the phases of matter and include liquids, gases, plasmas and, to some extent, plastic solids."

Yeah, okay.  There won't be a quiz later.

It's Illustration Friday on Saturday time, and this week's prompt is "fluid".  I painted some paint.  And a smiley face cup that has probably held some fluid.

When I was in college, I had to take many hours of "Fluids" class.  I don't remember much of it now other than lots of airplanes and jets and wings in particular.  And the book was red.  And the professor seemed to really like himself.

So rather than wings - one of my first considerations - I painted paint.  And a smiley face cup.

The sign in the background is meant to read "WET PAINT".  I feel it's a bit of a fail when I have to explain an illustration. 

Oh well, just take it out of my pay.

Friday, February 17, 2012


From the mailbag...

Dear Abby,

I saw this bike near my school and i thought to myself....
i've been seeing this bike for months on my way to school and i thought.... with the idiots that coast off the bridge and the fact i got a bolt cutter at home i should take this abandoned frame and make it into an vehicle of WIN!!! \m/

or should i.... back off and run away from this Hipster trap of DOOM!!!!

This from a fellow deviant at deviantArt.  For those unfamiliar with dA, it's another social network site of sorts, for artists.  Total membership is probably several million.  It's a great place to share artwork and get feedback and look at other's work - traditional art, digital art, literature, photography,...   And, since "art" is a term with such vague boundaries, if any, there's also plenty of crap and smut, but that's pretty easily avoided.

Luckily, within that  FLOOD of art are many many groups, so deviants like myself can join groups specific to their interests and forego the rest.  A couple of my groups are "bicycle love" themed.

So... what to advise here?  The advice seeker is a "...young Architecture Student in NYC who happens to draw and play music..."  Although, really, who is anybody in cyberspace? 

If he's to be believed, he really wants to build his own bicycle, and just wants this forsaken one for the frame.

Most other responders (I'm not the only one he consulted) including me tell him to err on the side of caution.  We don't think it's a ghost bike, but there could be some other reason it's still there.  If nothing else, ask the police and/or sanitation first before resorting to the Dark Arts.

I'm sure NYPD and NY sanitation don't have much else to think about.

What would you do? If you don't give a hoot about bicycles, imagine it was some other seemingly abandoned thing that you do give a hoot about.  What WOULD you get the bolt cutters out for?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

contrasts and comedy

On Monday, I went for that mammogram.  I dutifully called last Friday.  Having blogged about needing to do it pushed me to actually call.  I expected to make an appointment and then have it looming on the calendar for a while, but they had openings for Monday already, so as it was, it only loomed for the weekend.

The last time I did this fun procedure, my technician was (thankfully) very similar to me in "build" (read:  "boob size").  This time, it was the total opposite.  My technician was a very large woman.  Large in every dimension.  Every.

She was also quite a comedian.  I imagine that she is that way on purpose to lighten the mood and take patients' minds off things that she's handling.  She was such a comedian I almost wanted to ask her to stop as in, "stop making me laugh mid-squish!", but I was just having too much uncomfortable fun.

Anyway, I'm sure she in no way noticed the difference between her and me, professional that she is...

The whole thing took only about an hour out of my day, so I was happy with that.  And I'm thinking that we have passed the "in the next few days" waiting period for getting an anxiety-filled call back. 

So, as Wolfgang says, I've got another 5 years until I will put it off again. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door

Emma Lazarus, 1883

On second thought.... nah.

Magnum and Chaco have both blessed me with their enduring presence these past two days.  I'm currently full up with wretched huddled masses yearning to breathe.  They have some sort of crud virus that isn't slowing them down that much, but enough to make them want to spare their classmates/co-workers the coughing and mucousing. 

A typical weekday around here starts a bit chaotically with all of us shuttling in and out of our 2 bathrooms for showers and basic primping.  Meego doesn't have much hang up over bed head and hygiene in general, so he opts for a few more minutes of sleep by doing his ablutions in the evenings.

Once everyone has breakfasted and left a nice kitchen mess, the exodus commences.  The kids head out in the directions of their respective schools, and Magnum and I are usually the last to leave.  I return about 45 minutes later to the house, the dog, the fish.

These days, my return is usually marked by thawing out with coffee and the reading of your wonderful blogs before hitting the rest of whatever it is I do all day.  People begin filing back in by mid afternoon which leaves the house with about 6 hours or so of non-familiality other than the comings and goings of the dog and me.  The fish are ever present as far as I know.

So this new dynamic is rather strange.  I leave.  I come back and I get

"Where were you?"
"Who'd you tutor?"
"Where else did you go?"
"What's in the bag?"
"Why are you still wearing your coat?"
"Who was on the phone?"
"The timer's going off"
"What's the timer for?"
"Are you going out again?"
"Where are you going?"
"Can I come?"

Add to this the fact that they both sound like deep-voiced Oompah Loompahs and it's rather strange indeed.

*photo manip by Chaco.  He needed something constructive to do.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

first things

"Love is being stupid together"  --  Paul Valery

I met Magnum in college (woo, real original...).  At that time, he lived in a garden-level apartment that was in a prime location in that very college town.  He often tells the story of getting that place.

He was fresh out of the army and looking for a place to live close to campus.  This apartment was part of a large house on "The Hill" - prime student housing locale.  It was the first place he checked, and he told the landlady he'd like to move in.  She told him to go look some more. 

"So you know how good this one is".

He did and did.

I sometimes think I should've used the same tactic as the landlady.  See, I was Magnum's first "real" girlfriend.  Oh, he'd had  a few prior "run ins" of the I-don't-want-to-be-stuck-home-on-Prom-night variety, or the make-my-ex-jealous variety, or the I-like-free-food variety, or just the plain old I'm-desperate-and-have-other-issues variety.  "Long term" is not a phrase that would apply to any.  "Relationship" is even quite a stretch.

As for me...

Like the landlady, I'd had a few prior "renters".  I'd had the teen love/broken heart drama.  I'd had the long distance drama.  I'd had 2 marriage proposals and an almost drama.  I'd even had one What?-Married?!-"open marriage"-WHAT?!? drama. 

Then there was the assortment of others that just didn't last out of bad timing or whatever.  Yes, I suppose I had enough relationship baggage for the both of us.  By the time we got together, nothing much fazed me.  And with him, it was easy.

I never feel unappreciated, but sometimes I remember that landlady's words of wisdom and wonder if I should've told him to "go look some more, so you know how good this one is". 

Contrast can be good... on Valentine's day.

Monday, February 13, 2012

best friends

Playing tennis at the Jr. College was often an adventure.  Just adjacent to the tennis courts was a large house with a large yard that was home to some very large dogs.  I'm not sure of the breed.  Maybe Newfie crossed with St. Bernard? 

They were big and furry and big and really slobbery and big.  If an errant tennis ball went over the fence into the yard, we typically just gave it up for lost.  I had a particularly adventurous friend, however, who thought it would be exciting to try to retrieve one such ball. 

We were able to scale the stone wall enough to peek over the top and see our bright fluourescent tennis ball in the corner of the yard.  There was no sign of the gargantuan dog family.  My friend - let's call her "Madonna" - decided to go for it. 

I was the voice of reason. 

"It's no biggie.  We can still play.  We shouldn't go into her yard". 

The homeowner was an elderly woman who, I think, lived in the large house by herself with those 3 or 4 huge dogs.  I had a feeling the dogs were very protective of the old woman. 

Madonna had that look in her eye, though.  She loved to tempt fate, and this looked like much more fun to her than tennis.  It wasn't even about the ball.  Not to Madonna. 

I helped her to the top of the wall.  It was wide enough for her to stand up and walk around on, to get a better view of the situation.  There was no sign of the beasts.  Maybe they were inside.

With that, Madonna hopped down into the yard.  I walked over to a barred gate where I could see what she was up to.  She stealthfully made her way to that not-worth-it tennis ball. 

I still remember the sound.  That oh so deep sound of the bark of an oh so very large dog.  I saw the first of the ginormous hounds begin lumbering toward Madonna.  She had the ball by then.  The dogs were big and slow, possibly a bit old.  Madonna was, thankfully, young and fast.

She made it to the wall with the large mass of fur and slobber right on her heels.  She and I jumped at the same time, and I grabbed her wrist from my end and helped pull her to the top of the wall.  That's when I noticed the old woman in the yard and coming toward us.

"Oh, I was just getting our tennis ball", Madonna stated meekly and breathlessly.

"Okay", she said.  "The dogs are friendly.  Want to say 'hi'?"

With that, I found myself in the backyard with the jumbo canines.  No, they weren't mean at all.  Just huge lovable oaflike hounds.  The slobber... OH.. the slobber...

Sexy and she knows it

Yesterday, agg79 suggested I sketch our pooch, China.  We literally snatched China from the jaws of Humane Society death (but that's another story) about 10 years ago. 

She's been the best dog with the sweetest personality we could ask for.  She and I have a bond, being the lone females of the household.

Sometimes people I know will tell me that they saw me out walking with my "big" dog, and I have to laugh a little.

I know BIG dog, and China ain't it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Silver Liningness Sunday

I'm starting to believe that there might be something to Groundhog Day.  Ever since poor Phil emerged was violently ripped from his cozy den and saw his shadow, we've been having us some winter here. 

Today was no exception when I took China outside for her morning ablutions.  It was pretty enough to snap a picture.

I like having four seasons.  I would miss the changes if they didn't happen.  I love snow and cold and crunching footsteps.  I love visible breath vapor. 

And I also love that here in Colorado we get mild intervals to break things up.  Despite the coldness and breath vaporness and all, this week included some running around on my bicycle.  I have yet to get studded bicycle tires, not because I have no need, but because I'm just lazy so I deal with the icy patches as they come.  I also have yet to wipe out (there I just jinxed myself).  I'm careful not necessarily  to avoid injury but to avoid the humiliation should someone see me crash.  Whatever works.

In a wholly unrelated event, I received a "secret" invitation to join a site called Gothise?  According to the site...

Gothise is a free social network for alternative people (italics mine).  Some say it is a mix of Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace.  But it is more!

I went there and researched it extensively for about one minute and 17 seconds.  I don't see what makes it different from these other sites other than the "alternative people".  WHAT is an alternative person?  WHY did I receive an invitation? WHO invited me?

And speaking of new things,  I learned that we have threaded commenting capability here!  I guess it helps to read my blogger buzz.  Anyway, for those who comment here, notice the new format and if you leave a comment, I will reply simply because now, I CAN  :D.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


"Art has never been a popularity contest" --- James Levine

pencil and watercolor in the Moleskine

This week's Illustration Friday on Saturday prompt is "popularity". 

Yesterday, I blogged about the local alternative high school.  When I saw the prompt, I thought of those students and drew this representative - most often, not of the popular crowd at their traditional schools.

Popularity is a trait that requires its opposite to exist.  The popular kids in school automatically create the unpopulars.  But some of these "misfit" kids, I think, are proud misfits. 

A few years ago, I had a coworker who was worried about her teenaged son.  He was rebellious and not happy at school.  She was stressing and considering trying to get him into the alternative high school.  Later, in an unrelated conversation, it somehow came up that I enjoyed doing artwork in my spare time and looking at other ameteur artwork. 

The day after that conversation, she brought in some drawings her "troubled" son had created.  They were absolutely BEAU-tiful!  He had been adopted from Russia, and in his spare time, he liked to design Fabergé eggs.  

I'd never met her son, and prior to that, all I knew about him is that he didn't like school and that his mom was worried about him.  That day she showed me the drawings, however, she was like a different person, full of mom pride. 

Many of the kids at that school are artistically inclined - some maybe approaching genius realm.  And no, they don't particularly fit in with the popular crowd at a traditional high school. 

I confess that, to me, that's part of what makes them so cool.

Friday, February 10, 2012

accidental mentor

Normally, I would have just stepped aside and let him go on his way.  High school kids aren't big on having an elementary school crossing guard walk them across the street.

But there were some elementary kids approaching from the other direction, so I asked him to please wait for them before pushing the crosswalk button. 

"No problem", he mumbled.

He was wearing a large arctic parka - the explorer-esque kind with fur lined hood - a knit cap with a brim, baggy jeans, and work boots.  His backpack was large enough to amply supply an all-day hike.  He was about 6 feet tall.  It was hard for me to see his face since the cap was pulled down low and his longish dark hair was streaming out in all directions. 

He pulled something out of his coat pocket and brought it up to his face, cupping his hands around it.  At first  I thought he might be preparing to light a cigarette, but then I saw he was shielding the screen of his iPod as he scanned his playlist.  iPods are handy devices for teens when they don't care to interact.

this morning
Near where I live is an alternative high school.  It's part of our public school district and was opened to help "at risk" students - those at risk of dropping out of school, or worse.   It currently enrolls 94 students and there is an application process required to get in.  The other high schools start their days so early as to nearly be nocturnal, but the alternative school starts later in the day, so a few of these students cross my path in the mornings.

To me, they all have a certain look - maybe even an "aura"?  Even though there are various reasons for them being at the alternative school, there is a commonality about them.  They all have a noticeable guard up.

The little ones arrived and we all crossed as a pack with the big guy leading, dragging his big boots with each step. 

"Go learn stuff, see ya later", I said as they continued on.

"Remember:  there are no stupid questions!", the big guy advised as he went left and the littles went right.

I say I like Mondays.  My Friday started out nicely too.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


... for lack of a better title.

Boobs have been in the news lately, with the whole Komen/Planned Parenthood story.  It reminded me.  I'm supposed to have my grillwork  inspected.  A year and a half ago or so.

I've mentioned that Magnum's employer has a program that includes physical screenings and a few healthy incentives.  I did pretty well with my scorings, but I was dinged for not keeping doctor appointments.  I disagree.  I keep my doctor appointments.

I just maybe don't make them very often.

About a year and a half ago, I took one step and got my "well woman" check, albeit overdue, off my to-do list.  No sooner had I survived the dreaded pap smear that my doctor was writing up a prescription for the dreaded mammogram.

"Really?", I was thinking.  "Didn't I just have the airbags tested?"

Well, yes, but we're supposed to keep going every now and then.  And I know this, and I'm all about prevention, I just haven't gotten around to doing it.  I was recently placing something in my keep-myself-organized-binder and once again, came across the boob-ray prescription. 

This will be my second.  Maybe I gave the first a little more attention because, at the time, I had a bit of a  **thing** going on with the lewinsky's that, thankfully, turned out to be nothing.  And really, I didn't think the procedure was all THAT bad, after some of the horror stories women have shared with me.  Perhaps mammogram discomfort is directly proportional to cup size?  That would help explain my ease. 

No, my little dumplings are quite low-maintenance.  Some running friends have shared their frustrations at finding decent jogbras to accomodate their chesticles, but my speedbumps are quite content with a bargain 3-pack from Wal-Mart.  And boyfriends have often complimented my... eyes.

I'm also not of the high-risk group.  I've no family history, I'm half asian, I've had three kids and fattened each of them up just fine from Laverne and Shirley,  thanks. 

But it's time.  It's technology.  I'm going to make that darn appointment and get the rib bumpers the attention they deserve. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I hear him.  Especially when I'm alone in the house.  I hear him padding around in the next room, or I hear his graceful landing after he's jumped down from his favorite spot at the window.

I see him.  Out of the corners of my eyes.  I see him in the dark, waiting at the door for me in the morning. 

I remember the smell of his soft fur and the feel of his muscles underneath. 

I sense him sleeping at the foot of the bed or in my favorite chair

After joining us as a stray over 12 years ago, Cookie left about two months ago.  No sightings of him since.  I honestly didn't expect any.  He was too smart to be seen if he didn't want to be.  He left on his own terms.

We have talked of getting another cat.  Someday.  But Cookie spoiled us for just any old cat.  No, he will be a tough act to follow, and nobody is in a rush to get another.

Yesterday was a cold, blustery day.  I was inside more than usual and hearing him/seeing him everywhere.  I decided to draw him.  Afterwards, I felt very peaceful.

He left over two months ago.  But he hasn't.

I sometimes need to remind myself that he's gone.

But he's not.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

knowledge AND power

For two (school) years of my life - 5th and 6th grade - I rode a school bus.    My other grades were within walking distance, but middle school was CLEAR across town.  In my hometown, that calculated to about 3 miles.

The bus was big, noisey, strangely always sticky, and smelled of diesel.  Our driver was an ex-policeman who seemed perpetually grumpy, and no one messed with him.  I do remember one time, though, when a kid lit a match on the bus, leading Mr. Busdriver to slam on the brakes and kick the little pyromaniac off.  We were yet quite far away from the pyro's stop.  Bus drivers probably can't do that anymore.

I thought it was fun to ride the school bus during those first few days of 5th grade.  The novelty eventually wore off, though, and I was pretty happy to finish middle school and be educated closer to home again.  Being a school bus passenger was but a small insignificant blip in my formative years, and I hadn't thought about it much since then.

But recently, Ted from Commute By Bike sent me an article with a photo of this impressive school bus in the Netherlands. 

How cool is this?  It's a bicycle built for... twelve!  (doodle comments mine)

The article states that

The bicycle school bus (BCO in Dutch) is powered entirely by children and the one adult driver (although there is an electric motor for tough hills). Its simple design has eight sets of pedals for the kids (ages 4 to 12), a driver seat for the adult, and three bench seats for freeloaders. The top speed is about 10 miles per hour, and features a sound system and canvas awning to ward off rainy days.

I love the term "freeloaders" - see the kindergartners up front and in back, who frighteningly seems to be the only one without a sort of safety guard rail.  And, living in Colorado, I'm curious as to their definition of "tough hills".  

And I'm trying to imagine what it would've been like to ride THIS bus to 5th grade, three miles across town (uphill in the snow, both ways), and test out that top speed.

I think it would have been wicked fun. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

fair of face

I like Mondays.  There I said it. 

One of the things my coach and I discussed was the generally popular "TGIF" mentality and its counterpart, the "Monday blahs" mentality.  I know that if I'm feeling that way, I should be doing something else. 

There's nothing wrong with looking forward to the weekends, but when it's fueled mainly by a loathing of the weekdays, then something is wrong. 

I'm happy that it's Monday.  Even when I ran out of hot water in the shower.
Wolfgang is very hygenic.

Even when the winchill computes to 9 degrees during crossing guard morning.
My parka is a valuable possession.

Even when I saw that the snowplow took a dump right in the middle of the kids' walking path

as seen from the approach

At least we have a path... that someone  *COUGH*  plows.

Plus,  I am now able to share photos from my phone, unlike the vacation trip where no one had a camera.

Even when my Monday tutor student was really REALLY loud.
He's happy to see me. 

Even when China barfed in her crate.
It wonderfully fed my strange cleaning binge I've been on the last few days.  Seriously, if I didn't know better, I'd think I was going to give birth this week (but I know better).  And now China's crate is absolutely pristine. 

Even when Chaco hit me up at the last minute for cash.
It's for a bowling team party.

Yes.  I.  Like.  Mondays.  

How was your Monday?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Silver Liningness Sunday

Meego received a bumper sticker this week.  You know the ones that say "Hoopa Choopa Middle School Honor Student" or something similar? 

While I'm always happy that my kids earn these things, I am most certainly NOT a bumper sticker mom.  If you ever see me driving a minivan with one of these bumper stickers, contact the authorities - that person is an imposter!  Seriously, I have a hard time just keeping the registration sticker current!

That said, if YOU are such a person, I'm not looking to offend, I'm just saying that it's not my thing.  I don't do minivans, honor student bumper stickers (or any other bumper stickers), flip flop decals to designate family members, etc., etc.  Rebel of suburbia?  Remember?  But live and let live, I say.

Anyway, back to Meego's bumper sticker.  Chaco received the first of these - the design of which I see has not changed over the years.  Wolfgang soon followed.  What's a no-bumper sticker parent to do?

I stick them to the bedroom door.

They're kind of like military stripes.

Note that kids are eligible to receive one per year, so Meego's already got his for 6th grade.  Two more years to strive for.

Also, note that we "would" currently have 7 such b.s.'s, but the door missed out one year.  As Meego and I applied the latest, I recalled a certain tearful meeting with Chaco's middle school teachers to discuss his organization (or lack thereof) skills.  Doing the work, but not turning it in will not a bumper sticker earn.

Ah, good times.

And the balance of the week was another goodie.  I did get in some girl time with a friend.  That is something I don't do nearly enough and need to work on .  She's very happy with her tattoo - it's on the inside of her leg, just above the ankle.  State of New Jersey.  That's her tattoo.  And yes, she had to inform me that that is what it is.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Hey, it's Illustration Friday on Saturday!  Party with me now.   This week's prompt is "suspense".  OooOooh!

I did this staircase thing.  What's upstairs?  What's outside the window?  What's downstairs?  OH, the SUSPENSE!

This was pretty fun to draw - lots of graphite left on the paper.  I used this new(ish) lead holder that one of my artsy friends turned me onto. 

It's a nice little save-the-sharpener tool.  Recommend!

I was also considering a rendition of a certain photo I came across of some nice suspenders.  In the end, I don't know if it was quite PG-13 enough for my blog, ifyaknowwhatimsayin'. 

I took the stairs instead.

Friday, February 3, 2012

ripple effect

We're having us a snow day today.  This is good, we haven't had any appreciable snow since that storm in December that nearly left us treeless for Christmas.  And it's nice fluffy, friendly, February snow - unlike the sloppy, heavy, wet snows of April.

So I'm housebound with the kids and everybody's in good spirits because it's a happy day.  It's a snow day.  But Wolfgang is feeling a little troubled.  We had a bit of an incident this mornig that required some comfort on my part, and I don't know if I succeeded.  The incident was my fault to begin with...

He happily turned his radio off and went back to sleep after those two words - "snow" and "day" - were broadcast.  The day had started SO well.  Eventually he got up and took a (too) long, (too) hot shower.  Next, he was in the kitchen to prepare an awesome breakfast.  He put the frying pan on to heat, retrieved the butter, sliced up some fat slabs of bread, and...

"MOM!", must find Mom.

"Doesn't the milk man come on Fridays?", he asked perplexedly

"Actually... *ahem*... the milk man and I broke up a little over a month ago", my confession came at a bad time.  I knew I shouldn't have avoided it for so long.

He was crestfallen.  "Do we have any eggs?"

"We're fresh out and it's... really snowy out, so....", lame lame lame!


"But you know, it's not your fault!  We just... grew apart... and... it's really for the best", he's not believing any of this.

*shattered dreams*

"And you know you can still visit him - on Wednesdays and every other weekend at the Farmer's market!", as if that makes a difference!  "You just can't have french toast on this particular morning right now today..."

Did I mention we're low on milk too?

I know that man is behind this whole snowstorm!  I don't know how he does it, but it's just his way.

He really needs to let it go and move on.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

day of shadows

"The person we choose to be, ... automatically creates a dark double -- the person we choose not to be."
~Thomas Moore

I knew the occupants weren't home.  They were out of town and wouldn't return for a few more days.  From the window in the back door, I could see what I wanted so badly to have.  But how could I get it and go undetected?  I was a "good girl".  This shouldn't have been happening. 

But I had a friend.  A friend who was... creative in this sort of thing.  I told him what I was thinking.  I asked for his help.

Without a second thought, I brought him to the house, to the back door. 

"See, there it is", I pointed out.  "Can you help me get inside without leaving any evidence of a break-in?"

I could see the excitement in his eyes.  It's like I could see the gears begin to turn in his head.  Yes, he would get me inside that house, to my treasure. 

I'd never done anything like that before, but the next thing I knew, we were carefully and quietly disassembling that back door.  He had somehow found a screwdriver and some other tools - yes, he knew instinctively how to locate such things. 

One more piece of door adeptly removed... then to just carefully lift out the section of window glass...  I could reach through!  I did so, and unlocked the door from the inside.  Then we were inside the house.  My heart was racing.

I went to work.

I filled the watering can.  Watered the plants that needed it.  Next, to the cat room where I changed the litter box and put out fresh food and water.  And lastly, I took that little brass door key that I had left on the kitchen counter the previous time and put it securely in my pocket.  Whew!

We put that door back together and replaced the tools to their original locations.  No one other than the two of us ever knew that the plants and cats I was caring for while the owners were out of town nearly dried up and starved. 

When the owners returned, they paid me well for taking care of things while they were gone.  They subsequently hired me several more times. 

Sometimes it's good to have friends in low places. 

In honor of groundhog day...


Oh, and June is fine.  Never better.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

a new month and where's June?

As one door closes... another opens. Happy February!

I signed up for another month of  NaBloPoMo - the challenge to blog every day for a month.  This year is a leap year, so it means February will be extra challenging! But, I figure if I collapse along the way, what will they do?  Fire me?

NaBloPoMo February 2012

I'm actually feeling a bit introspective and quiet lately, and not particularly blog-gabby.  There's changes afoot, I feel.  It's all good, quite good, but I have a need to slow down and ponder sometimes. 

And maybe I'm just a bit uneasy because I haven't seen my crossing guard cohort, June, all week.  June handles the crosswalk directly in front of the school, and she is also a lunchroom attendant. 

I'm guessing that she's in her early-to-mid 60's.  She's very nice and a little on the quiet side.  I got to know her a few years ago when I used to be a substitute lunch lady.  She seems to be in good health - slim, but not at all frail. 

Anyway, she usually comes through my crosswalk on the way to her crosswalk.  We share greetings and discuss the weather in a real way, as opposed to a small-talk way.  Our conversation usually has to do with our outerwear on the particular day, and on those really cold days, our underwear.

I go through my school staff e-mail about once a week, mainly to delete all of the e-mail that doesn't pertain to me, which is about 99.5% of it.  Every Sunday, the principal puts out  a "weekly highlights" where she summarizes the week just passed and looks to the week ahead.  This last one included this:

"Thank you to staff for your support with our 911 call and security incident on Friday...never a dull moment."

I have no idea what that is referring to, and I'm usually fine with that.  If I had a need to know, I would know.  But the fact that it coincides with the missing June has me a bit uneasy.  Since my crosswalk post is actually quite a ways from the school, I usually have no need to be at the school, and so I just get these condensed versions of goings on.

It so happens that this afternoon, I'm getting together with my recently tattooed friend.  We finally found an hour in each of our schedules that was free for us both.  AND it so happens that she volunteers for district security. AND I asked her if she knew anything about the above mentioned incident.  AND she said she did and that, "I'll explain when I see you on Wednesday."

So I'll know more later.  In the meantime, I hope June is just on a fun vacation where there's no discussion of long underwear.