Wednesday, October 31, 2012

for the holidays!

---------------------------The following is based on actual events--------------------------

It was the summer of my 15th year.  I was young, adventurous, stupid,  innocent...

There was a new family in town.  The father worked at the college where my dad also worked.   They had a daughter and had invited me over.

I remember now that my dad had misgivings about them.  He thought the man strange for some reason.  Said he didn't quite blend in with the rest of the faculty.  But my mom blew that off as to them just being new in town and not knowing many people yet.  After all, ours was a small and sometimes odd town.

Her dad arrived in a red Jeep to pick me up.  He was quiet, maybe a little nervous, the whole time driving.  Was he already anticipating what would come to pass?

We arrived at her house where she and I were introduced.  She seemed nice enough.  Longish blonde hair and a friendly face.  Outgoing even.  Rather mature for her age.  I looked forward to hanging out with her, we seemed easy friends right away.

We goofed around in her backyard with the family dog.  While doing so, her parents let us know that they were going out for a little while.  No problem, we'd hang out at the house.

It was starting to get dark, so we went inside with the dog and settled down to play a card game on the floor.  I vividly remember sitting cross-legged on the floor of her living room, she was sitting opposite from me.  Our game was progressing in a typical manner one minute, but the next, things got...  weird.

She stopped playing and just sat their, still, with a faraway look in her eyes.  She'd straightened up and was looking in my direction, but not at me.  She was looking at something behind me.  And that's when she said it.  When she said those five words that still haunt me to this day.  She said.... she said... she.... said.... she.... she... said.... said... (okay already!)... she said,

"Can you see the demons?"


I slowly turned my head back towards the direction she was looking.  Beyond the living room was the darkened kitchen.  Just the kitchen.  I remember a bowl of grapes on the counter.  No demons.

"No", I replied.  Then, stupidly, "Can you?"

"Yes", she said.  "They're in the kitchen.  On the ceiling."


I slowly turned to look again, this time at the ceiling.  No demons.  But wait.  Why was the dog being so quiet?

I decided to just change the subject and asked if she wanted to play a different game.  She said no.  She wanted to show me some of her books.  Sounded good to me - not a demon in her reply!

She went to her bedroom to get the books while I cleaned up our game.  I heard her rummaging around down the hall, then, in what seemed a split second, she was standing over me.  Where the frack had she come from?!

I looked up from my position on the floor to see her just staring down at me.  Her longish blonde hair draping her blank face.  I also noticed that she had changed into a gown in record time.  I didn't speak.

I was ready to go home then.  I wanted her parents to come home!  I wanted the dog to not be so quiet!  I wanted my mommy!

There's no one here to help you! We walked for 15 hours today, we ended up in the same place! There's no one here to help you, THAT'S your motivation! THAT'S YOUR MOTIVATION! *

Okay, I wasn't really thinking that at the time.  The line just popped into my head just now...

ANYWAY, I was wondering, how long had I been there?  Shouldn't her folks be back?  Why WAS the dog so freaking QUIET?!

Another look towards the kitchen from hell.  No demons.  Not that I could see anyway.  Just those grapes, LAUGHING at me!

And then...

Jeep headlights through the front window.  A car was pulling into the garage.  Parents home, oh thank you GOD!

Her parents entered the house, gingerly.  As if they were expecting... expecting... what?

I breathed a big inward sigh of relief, rose up and put the card game on the table.  My friend, now shorter than I, remained where she was, looking at her parents.  Was she disappointed they'd returned?

We said our good-byes.  She asked me if I might come to play again.

"Yeah, sure", I lied.

I never saw her again.  The family didn't stay.  They moved shortly after that night.
I've often wondered about her.  We're both all grown up now.  She'd be in her thirties, since she was just 3 years old at the time.

Freakiest babysitting job I ever took.

*Blair Witch Project, 1999

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

mild Tuesday

Beaut of a run this morning!  Temperatures in the low 40's, light breeze, big old moon to light my way.  It seemed odd knowing that such a large portion of the country is under nature's onslaught, while we're just going about our business.

Yesterday afternoon, I took China for a beauty walk, and when we returned, something.  was.  different.

I couldn't put my finger on it.  China sensed it too.  Instead of bounding up the stairs to commence her potato time, she hung by my side, all, "Yeah, somethings different, but what?"

A few minutes of wandering around the house revealed that we had  no electricity.   I think it was the lack of hummin' and bubblin' from the fish tank that initially alerted us.  Even the fish were all, "Hey!".

Okay, so this was a minor setback.  Since I wasn't able to get through to the utilities company, I deduced that it was a widespread outage and not just us.  We were back up hummin' and bubblin' in about 40 minutes, so it was all just a minor bump in the road.  Transmission line malfunction.

A few minutes later, I was out at the crosswalk.  A couple of moms asked me what I do if the traffic light isn't operating.

"I just have to get aggressive with my sign", I explained.

"OH!   We'd help ya!", they replied.  I almost think they're hoping for it now.  Don't mess with school crossing moms!

In the evening, I went to meet a student at the community college.  The parking lot was pretty sparse, but there were a few students milling around.  The doors were locked, and the few of us connected in our confusion.    A security guard confirmed that classes had been canceled because of the earlier power outage, and all the buildings were locked.   My student and I stood with our faces pressed against the windows of the locked doors, looking in to the well-lit facilities inside, longing to be in there hitting the books.

Okay, not really.  We just decided to go to a nearby Starbucks.

So I'm sitting here in relative comfort as updates on Sandy continue, thinking about how dependent we get on the whole "infrastructure" continuing to operate as usual and the lasting impacts this storm will leave.  We all have our own perspectives and comfort levels.  Mother Nature, geez.

This morning, one of my 4th grade regulars approached.  He always has some current event to discuss with me.

"Did you hear about the hurricane in New York?", he asked.

"Yeah, it's really bad up there", I acknowledged.

"Sucks they don't get Halloween"

Yeah.  That too.

Monday, October 29, 2012

since we're sharing...

Last week, I made the trek down to Magnum's workplace.  In my trenchcoat...

Just kidding.

I went there because it was employee health-screening-for-money time.  Spouses too.  They offer cash incentives for jumping through certain health hoops, so we jump.  One of the hoops is a pretty simple health screening:  height, weight, blood glucose, total cholesterol, hdl cholesterol, blood pressure.  This year they added waist measurement.

Anyway, I arrived and there was a significant line, but no worries.  I had an appointed time.  So when I saw that the appointed times didn't mean anything, that they were just taking first-come-first-served, I think my blood pressure went up.

After all, I didn't actually work there.  I was just a moocher spouse.  I had a crosswalk waiting with my name on it.  In the end, I managed to get myself moved to the front of the line (good thing I was in that trenchcoat - Just kidding).  My blood pressure came in within acceptable range, despite the high pressure situation.

Actually, my blood pressure is consistently low - 92/60 this time.  A bit higher than usual no doubt due to my agitated state.  I mention it because I was reading at Anita's, and she mentioned having to go on The Pill... for hypertension. I think if mine were much lower, the professionals would suggest a pill to wake me up.

Like Anita, I hope to remain free from the pharmaceuticals.  So far, I've managed, but that's not to say I shun all  "pills".  She got me thinking about the supplements I take daily.

I've got the multi-vitamin + iron, labeled with my name for protection of the menfolk, since the bottle otherwise looks just like Magnum's.  Then I've got the vitamin D that I take in the winter, the fish oil because Wolfgang heard it's supposed to be good for eyesight (note that we both still need our glasses), glucosamine for joint health,  the calcium/magnesium/zinc pill for... uhm.... superpowers?

Round it out with a 2-bagger mug of tea and a coffee (not shown) with coffeemate.

It's like an old lady ritual!  I'm wondering, when did this all even happen?  I remember taking children's vitamins when I was little.  Remember the Flintstone's chewables?  Tasted like bad rum and coke?

And I do question if they're actually doing anything.  I guess one way to find out would be to just stop taking them for a while and see what happens.  Will I get achy and stupid?  With (worse) blurred vision?

I guess I'll just keep faithfully taking them.  It's not worth raising my blood pressure over.

*note the small prescription drug bottle in the background.  Them's China's - to prepare for her ear thing*

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Silver Liningness Sunday

How can I get this job?!?

Yesterday we attended the state cross country championships, thus ending another high school cross country season.  I chose to include this photo of the course officials because they were causing me serious bicycle envy.   Find Meego?

It was a great day for racing.  Sunny, a bit cool, not too windy.  This course is known for it's brutal hills and I will attest to that.  We hardier spectators had to ascend some precarious slopes to get to the good observation/cheering points.  But it was a small price to pay in the name of mom support and photojournalism.

Cross country, I think, has gained in popularity over the years.  I vaguely remember my own high school having a team, but they didn't get much publicity.  If not for Wolfgang's participation, it probably wouldn't show on our radar much.  I think one of his teammates put it well when he posted...

"Tomorrow the the cross country team is competing at state, if you like watching extremely repetitive and monotonous sports, come on down. Also the runners tend to dress scandalously, so that's a plus..."

Is that girl talking to me?
What's she saying?

I did manage to get a couple of action shots of Wolfgang, who made a decent showing along with the rest of the team.   They are happy to be 1st in the city, 2nd in the region, and now 7th best cross country team in the state.

In other news, remember that thing that Magnum ordered that we so looked forward to testing out?  It arrived in a heap and Magnum commenced to making me stupid?  WELL, looks like the situation has been resolved.  We get a full refund, plus we get to keep the piece of crap that was sent for scrap parts.

In the meantime, Magnum apologized for making me stupid (yes, he does read here occassionally).  I assured him that he didn't really make me that stupid, since most of the time, I wasn't listening to him.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


Happy Holidays!

This week's Illustration Friday prompt is "Haunt", and I decided I wanted to illustrate a recognizable character.  Once I decided that, the choice was obvious!

Igor.  My reason for being.  My very life breath.  You say, "haunt"?

I say, "HAUT"!

Friday, October 26, 2012

random access memory

I was sitting here, yesterday afternoon, preparing for a student.  The sound of Meego's video game humming and crashing nicely to my left.  When I heard a car door shut in the driveway followed by the pitter patter of big feet, I assumed that Wolfgang was  home earlier than usual from cross country practice.

The pitter patter crashed down the stairs to where we were, and Chaco appeared.

Recall that Chaco is "away" at college.  About 7 miles "away".  Since he lives in the dorm, though, he could be in the next state over.  He doesn't often bless us with his presence, and I think that's a good thing.  He really seems to be loving the college life.  I knew that he could barely wait to be done with high school last year, and managed to keep his grades up mainly because that made getting into college easier.

He'd known for some time what he wanted to study.  He visited one other state school, but in the end, the local university was an easy choice.  It has one of the top programs in the country for his major.  Plus, three of his good friends were going there, for the same program.

Magnum and I were silently tickled.  It's a good school.  I love that it's so close.  Plus, it's a relative bargain.  Add the fact that his major is both in demand and quite nerdy, his enginerd parents are geekily  happy.

College:  all about the merchandising

Now, Wolfgang is in that soup.  He's not as honed in as Chaco was.  He's a lot like I was at that age.  So many different interests, how to choose one?  Our visit to CU last week was fun for us both, and I think  enlightening to him.  Since then, he seems to have a new fervor for looking to the future.

Magnum and I suck at helicopter parenting.  On purpose.  We think the kids should figure out their own paths, knowing that we ARE watching and interested and supportive (within reason).  They should also learn from their own mistakes (within reason)

Wolfgang has been asking more about college admissions and grades, etc., since it's often part of my job to advise on these things.  His grades have slipped the last couple of semesters, which is why we began enforcing The Agreement regarding his participation in extracurriculars.  They're not horrible, but I know he can do better.  NOW, he cares.  It really is all connected, hello!

I'm glad he's seen the light.  As cross country season is coming to an end, I was hoping for alternative incentives.

And Chaco?  He came home to get one of our card tables, so the guys can play poker in their "living room".

"Hmmm, I was going to ask you something, but now I forgot", I remembered.

"Oh yeah", it came to me,"Do you have our wool blanket?", I asked

"No", he asserted.  "You mean the wool blanket you put in here?", he said while opening the small closet to my right.

"Uh.... yeah, that one".

There.  Got my blanket.

And, so far, a couple of good sons to care for their mother in her senility.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

layer up!

I'm not sure if this counts as the first snow of the season, but it sure was purdy out this morning at the office.  Us lowlanders just got some "flocking" on the weeds and trees, but the Peak has been snow capped for a while now.  It's obscured by clouds here, but I still felt it photo worthy.

I had to break out the layers too.  Gone are the days when I'm hiding behind the light pole for a sliver of shade!  Now, I'm trying to coax the sun higher into the sky.  I have to get used to having to maneuver in the big bear-huntin' parka.

Magnum and I went for an old folk's walk last night and got soaked as the storm moved in.  My shoes and socks from that walk are still drying this morning.  When we got back, I went on a blanket hunt.  It's time to break out the extra layers for the bed too.  Except, I can't remember where I put the dang thing.

We have this wool blanket that is so heavy and warm.  It goes on hiatus for half the year, but now it's the half where it's time for it to go back to work.  And I can't find it!  My suspicion is that Chaco took it with him and is snuggled in it in his dorm.  The blanket and the missing jeans.

In other fall news, Meego asked when he's too old to go trick-or-treating.   I said, "Last year".  He seems to think he went last year, but I don't think so.  Our guideline is, when elementary school ends, trick-or-treating ends.  What's with the kids bigger than I am coming a-knocking??

But he says he went last year.  He says he was Speedy Gonzales.  I say no.  He was Speedy Gonzales in 5th grade.  I remember the party - how we cleaned up and put the trash in the brim of his sombrero.   A room mom remembers things like that.  I think he's trying to pull a fast one.  (see what I did there?)

What age is too old to trick-or-treat?


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

face it

I've had several over the years.  I don't remember any particular one or any particular reason.  I just felt I  should have one because I prefer to see them on others' blogs.

It's from the webcam.  I was just home from a tutor session and doing some paperwork, checking my e-mail, and decided to smile for the camera.  So I made one.  A smile, that is.  Purple.  Purple broad tip Sharpie on a note card.

When I go blog hopping, searching on a particular interest, I get a page full of profile summaries with profile images.  Whether or not I decide to visit a certain blog depends a lot on the profile photo, with not much else to go on.

When someone first visits my blog and leaves a comment, their profile pic is part of the comment too.  It's part of my first impression just as if we were meeting for the first time face to face.

So for that reason, I've figured I should have one too.

How important is a profile image?  I prefer photos of the bloggers themselves.  I like to see their faces for some reason - to put a face to the words I guess.  It's not a requirement, but a preference.  Maybe I'm just nosy.  Maybe it makes them more "real" to me.

Of course, on the internet, we can almost make our profile pics whatever we want.  It's a handy masking device.  Even if it is a head shot, it can be of a totally different person.  It can be manipulated in photoshop or similar.  It can be from the past.

So mine?  It's me.  Mostly.

Sharpies are permanent.  Keep smiling.

From the NaBloPoMo prompt:
"Tell us about your profile photo or the picture you use on your "about me" page."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


No, I don't have a lisp, but it would apply here.

Took China to the vet's this morning.  We love our animals, but lemme just say that there is a hierarchy here. Humans come first, furry animals second, scaly animals third.

So, unless it's for routine vaccinations and checks, things have to get ugly for us to hang out at the vets.  It's ugly.

Exhibit A

See the thing on her ear?  She's had it for a while.  It was originally about the size of a grape under the skin.  At one check, the vet said it wasn't anything serious, just "something old dogs often get".  She drained the grape, and we were on our way.  I was tempted to take a Xacto-knife to it with a bit of vodka.
Exhibit B

In the last few weeks, it's gone from dry grape to sweaty cherry tomato.

You know it's gross when even the vet says, "Eeew".  I'm thinking that vets see a lot of gross stuff, so to get an "Eeew" is quite an accomplishment for a dog.  That's our China - classic overachiever.

It doesn't seem to bother her much, but she's not much of a complainer in general.

She's got a surgical table with her name on it reserved for next week, for nearly the price of that third bicycle I can't justify buying...

... because she's not a fish.

Monday, October 22, 2012


JFuzz was a popular blogger, but I didn't really read his blog.  It was mainly a politically charged place for him to articulate his opinions on world events.  Not my typical fare.

We ended up as friends, though, through mutual blog friends.  From years ago, when I first began blogging.  And that's how I got to know the other facets of JFuzz.

He was a military veteran who now lived a "simple" life.  He was a deep thinker, and wore no masks, no pretension.   He was so truly genuine.

On the surface, we shared interests in writing, painting, and bicycle commuting.  But our friendship was deeper than that.  He was just one of those people who is easy to know, like I'd known him for years and years.

His health problems came upon him about a year and a half ago or so.  Most of his time was spent at VA hospitals, but he was always so light-hearted about it.  He'd talk about the other patients there.  He'd pick some flowers and put them in a coffee can to make his room more cheerful.  He'd joke about the elegant 5-course meals in his feeding tube.

When someone gave him a paint-by-numbers kit, he fully embraced acrylic painting.  Despite his meager supplies, he began cranking out original paintings - still lifes of objects in his room, landscapes of the view out of his window, portraits of his friends, self-portraits.

Much of my own acrylic paintings of this past year were inspired by JFuzz's  vigor.  I would look forward to seeing his latest projects, and I was always interested in his honest opinions of mine.

I learned that JFuzz died a few days ago.  Just as we were introduced through mutual friends, I learned the news through the same mutual friends.

I had to read the news for several minutes to make sure I wasn't misunderstanding something.  Was it really JFuzz that was gone?  I knew he was ill.  I knew his time here was limited, but I was still surprised and saddened.  And I was a bit surprised at how saddened I was.

I hope JFuzz knew how much his friendship meant to me.  I'm happy that his pain is over now.  I'm sad for me and the others that knew him.

I never met him in "real life".  Well... maybe I did.

Rest In Peace.

JFuzz in his bright orange safety bicycle commuting shirt

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Gold and Silver liningness Sunday

Wolfgang and I had a fun day as "CU student for a day" for his first college visit.  We left well before sunrise, and got home well after dark.  It was a full day of touring and information along with the expected schmoozing to get students to enroll.

Wolfgang declared his love for the place before we'd even had lunch.  I expected that to be the case, but we'd still like him to visit a couple of other parentally sanctioned schools for comparison.  But as he put it, "CU set the bar pretty high" ( well as the price tag *COUGH*).

He's always been a good kid, but I noticed a bit of a shift during our time there.  As he got to know the campus and experience it on a typical day with classes in session and students moving about, I got the feeling that Magnum and I went up a few notches on his coolness chart.  Like he sees us in a little different light now.

Another nice and unexpected thing for me was, there was a student panel session for parents in the afternoon.  I recognized one of the girls on the panel.  She'd taken, coincidentally, a college entrance test prep class I'd taught two years ago.

After the discussion, I went up to say "hi" and asked if she remembered me.  She did and told me that another student from that class was also at CU.  They still hung out and were TA's together.  I was happy to hear that since the two of them were from different high schools and didn't know each other before our little class.

We ended the day with a tour of the Engineering Center which really brought back the memories.  All good. Okay, not ALL good!

But all in all, a very fun if long day.

For those who don't know, CU has a ful grown female buffalo as its mascot, lovingly named Ralphie.  She is the official start of all of the home football games.  Second halves as well.  Her handlers are "Ralphie Runners",  and Ralphie Running is actually a CU varsity sport.  Many try, but very few are able to make the team.

No matter how good or bad of a season the football team is having, the fans pack the stadium because they all love Ralphie and watching the Ralphie run.  Some teams get jet flyovers, but what's not to love about a charging buffalo!

So I'll share, first, a CU propaganda video with the Ralphie Run prominently featured.  The second video is from a fan - a typical Ralphie Run from start to finish - for a full appreciation of what it is to run that fast, that far, while controlling a charging buffalo.  Just another day at the office.


Go Ralphie!

Saturday, October 20, 2012


"The sky's the limit!"

I heard that a few times during the big pep talk of Wolfgang's visit to CU yesterday.  So when I saw that this week's Illustration Friday prompt is "Sky", I had a few lingering thoughts.

What mainly bubbled to the front was castles in the sky.  Big dreams are great, but don't forget about the foundation!

Thus, she who controls the checkbook has spoken...

Friday, October 19, 2012

where the Buffalo roam

Wolfgang and I are off on our quest for knowledge.  At least, I hope/think so.  I prescheduled this blog post so who knows for sure?

Anyway, at this point, we should be deeply engrossed in giving Wolfgang a taste of college life

Oh WAIT!  Not that taste of college life!  I mean...

CU Enginerding Center
He wanted to get in a few college visits and CU-Boulder, Magnum's and my alma mater, was tops on his list.  I don't know how likely it is that he will end up choosing it, but he just wanted to have a look see, so why not?

I haven't really been back since graduating.  How can it be that that was over 20 years ago?  How can it be that I'm back there with my second oldest for a college look see??

Well... at least I think I am.

Go Buff!  .... er... Buffs!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

sittin' around

"You know there's no school on Thursday, right?", June reminded me.

"Oh, right!", I had a flash of recognition.

Good thing she reminded me.  Imagine how silly I would look standing out there in the hideous vest for no reason.

It's teacher/parent conference time at the elementary school, so it's a light day for us outsiders.  I've still got some tuting to do later, but it's not really ruining my slacker attitude just yet.

AND, there's still another day off in the week.  It's only Thursday, and tomorrow is another day literally off the beaten path.  No school for all kids in the district, so Wolfgang and I have planned a little day trip adventure.  It was originally an overnight adventure for the four of us, but that plan ran into a glitch.  A glitch known as China the dog.

Last minute plans to go on an overnighter don't always mesh with a loyal pet.  So, it's a day tripper for just Wolfgang and me, and Magnum and Meego will hold down Fort China.   I asked Wolfgang if he is capable of being up and showered and ready to go at the butt crack of dawn.

He said, "Yes?"  Is that a question?

I expect it to be a fun quest, if we get out the door in time.

This morning's run was the first official frozen of the season.  Thirty-one degrees.  I dusted off the turtleneck.

I used the time away from the crosswalk to play in the sketchbook, keeping with the lazy theme.  I got this cheap manilla paper, and I like the contrast.  It's cheap because it's not white. What's so great about white?


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I'm with stupid

I love him but I think he's making me stupid.

I'm speaking of Magnum.       Of course.

Let's review for a moment.  We ordered this thing after he had thrown his Asperger brain around it for a few days.  It arrived in an acceptable amount of time, but "it" was not the "it" that was advertised, plus it arrived in a box that looked like it had been salvaged from the Titanic.

Since then, Magnum has been making me stupid.

I'm referring, naturally, to research that has shown that listening to complainers is bad for your brain.  I read the short article which was, interestingly, followed by complaining comments.

This isn't about people who come seeking help in some area, or who just want to bring attention to something that needs correction.  And I certainly don't mind "being there" for someone going through a rough patch.  But according to the article, "Typically, people who are complaining don't want a solution; they just want you to join in the indignity of the whole thing..."

Yeah, THAT's what I'm talkin' about with the Magnum.

Oh, he's got the solution(s) and has been chipping away.  I'm confident that the whole thing will be rectified eventually with little effort on my part.  BUT, after reading this article, I fear he's making me oh so stupid in between the chippings.

It's really not necessary.  I'm already a party to the indignity, but I guess it's the thought that counts.

And is it true?  Does being around complainers make a person's brain slough off?  I know that I generally avoid the chronically negative.  After a while,  they do seem to make my head hurt.

Perhaps more perplexing, how do we know if we're becoming stupid?  I doubt it's something that just happens overnight.  Intelligence takes effort, so stupidity probably does too.

I'll try not to work too hard.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

one for the books

I planned it all out in advance.

I knew precisely the time I would launch.  My route was fixed.  My equipment was sound and flawless.  I had methods and strategies for dealing with uncertainties and distractions that I had practiced many times.

This was the level of preparation necessary to optimize every condition so I would break the record.

I went over my checklist.  Then I went over it again.   Then I went over it a third time.

Finally, there was nothing left to do but go for it.

I fired up the Civic and embarked.  Everything went so smoothly.  Traffic and weather conditions were not even factors.

I moved with precision and surgical accuracy, picking off my checkpoints one by one until I entered the crucial stage.  I was momentarily caught in an uncontrollable spin, but was able to right myself.  And fortunately, the efficiency I'd managed to that point provided the necessary cushion to still reach my goal.

With much fanfare, I completed the final phase and pulled the Civic smoothly into the garage.

YES!!!  Eighty-plus dollars worth of groceries grabbed, purchased, bagged, and in the house in less than 30 minutes!  A new PR!!  I'm SO awesome!

I know just how this guy feels!

Okay, maybe not.

Monday, October 15, 2012

hello out there!

I was sitting at the quiet desk, a little bored, feeling a bit sorry for myself.  It was about 2 o'clock in the morning of Thanksgiving.  I was at work.

This was back in my young-girl-works-at-a-hotel days.  I used to do the graveyard shift on the usual graveyard shifter's nights off.  So he had Thanksgiving eve off.  I would work the following night too.

I was sitting there amid my cash register tapes and various debits and credits and lovely 10-key calculator, not to mention my large pot of coffee, when the massive dot matrix printer spit out a little "Happy Thanksgiving" message.

This was back in the days before the internet.  Shocking sometimes to remember.

But, at least hotels had their own little internal networks.  They were mainly for booking and receiving reservations.  Any type of human-to-human correspondence went through the huge dot matrix printers.  It was all very Flintstonian...

...or was it?

The Happy message was just the thing to perk me up from my pity party.  It was from another bored, lonely graveyard shifter in Chicago named Tony.

Long story short, that night, Tony educated me in a few system hacks that allowed correspondence through the hotel computers akin to instant messaging and e-mail - none of which involved the monster printer and its machine gun sound effects.  From then on, I was part of the underground subculture of hotel night auditors.

And so began my "online" persona.

Then, as now, I've pretty much just been myself.  I've had a blog for years and the idea of having an online alter ego sounds like too much work - well, other than making up the fake family names...

Blogging, like hacking the hotel computer network, has been a way for me to meet people from all over with similar interests and values.  If I made up a fake version of myself, wouldn't that attract fake blog friends?  What's the point?

If there's any "masking" going on, I do avoid politics and other divisive issues.  But that's true in real-life too unless I'm talking one-on-one with somebody.  Other than that I just try to avoid being boring.

And Tony?  He joined the Marines.  We were "pen pals" for a few years, but I lost track of  him a long time ago.

I was remembering him, though, with Agg79's buildup for his Phillipine adventure.

Tony ate the balut.  To impress me?  It worked.

Today's NaBloPoMo prompt:
"Social media allows you to mask parts of your personality and show others. What percentage of yourself do you think you reveal to people online?"

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Silver Liningness Sunday

The first quarter of the school year came to completion this week.  Grades are in and good.  Well, Wolfgang at least held up his end of  The Agreement.  Squeaked it in.  The cross country season is winding down, so now I need another good-grade incentive until track season begins.  Another xc-mom shared this photo.  Juno much?

Meego had his first band concert of the year this week.  7th grade band, it's like real band now instead of beginner.  They sounded good and all seemed to be having a good time.

I don't normally talk about tutoring here except in general terms - student privacy and all that.  Since I did mention the amusing inquiry I got, I thought I'd update and say that we did begin the brain overhaul this week.  Since I live in a military town, I am often privileged to work with those who are transitioning back to civilian life after serving their country.  Such is the case here.

I mainly mention it though because I blogged earlier on how I wonder about new students' first perceptions of my tattoo?  This guy showed up with a full sleeve.  Tribal type stuff.  Yeah, I got this.

Not much to write home about in movie news.  We watched Super 8 as a family, which was better than I expected.  Then Magnum and I, for some reason, watched "Tomorrow When the War Began".  I thought it was kind of like an After School Special with a bigger than usual budget.

Mexican Train dominoes saved the day.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


This week's Illustration Friday prompt is "water", so I had happy thoughts of summer even though I'm relishing in the arrival of fall.

And, neither of us knew it at the time, but Wolfgang posed for this painting when he was about 3 years old - when entertainment was cheap.

"Hey hey hey
Ba de ya, say do you rememberBa de ya, dancing in September
Ba de ya, never was a cloudy day"

Yeah, Earth Wind and Fire called.  They want the fourth element.

Friday, October 12, 2012

it arrived

Sort of.

The other day, I alluded to a new toy that we were anxiously anticipating.  Magnum had spent a gooder part of the weekend researching and analyzing in pure Asperger fashion to hone in on his final answer.  Then he ordered it.

Yesterday, I went out the front door and found this:

I thought the addition of the "FRAGILE" sticker a nice decoration.  

I wasn't all that concerned.  The nature of the toy's purpose makes it quite sturdy.  There are some electronics involved, however, which caused a little unease at the state of the packaging.  But the box was (mostly) still closed and didn't rattle or anything when I picked it up.  I did notice that it was lighter than Kat, which really isn't saying much...

I brought it inside away from the elements without opening it.  We went to a Meego band concert and, afterwards, I had a tutor appointment.  When I got home from that, Magnum, again in pure Asperger preoccupation, began pointing out the various flaws in the thing.  Including:
  • It's used
  • Some components aren't what is promised
  • It's used
  • Some components are missing
  • It's used

Okay so maybe I focused mainly on the fact that it's used - not being as familiar with the expected end product as Magnum is.  But USED?  Reminds me of that time we bought a TV from the store that will NOT remain nameless, because it's SEARS and they sold us a used TV claiming it was new.  (Deciding to take advantage of the opportunity to dis them)

Thing is, getting something like that is kind of insulting, right?  Do they expect that we won't notice (it's pretty obvious)  and will just accept it?   It's like the TV incident all over again.  Although, I must say it was kind of fun bringing that TV back and watching the SEARS people squirm.

Magnum's now on a new mission to get them to make it right.  The wait continues.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


I was back up at the school today for more human resourcefulness.  This time, we were specifically dealing with fall and spring test dates and that whole reasoning as to June and me switching places on those days.

I know I mentioned that the whole reasoning behind that is just too boring to tell, but... that's not true.  It's just that, I'm not (really) allowed to say.

But as I was sitting there this morning in the conference room with June and the Principal and the Assistant Principal and the district Superintendent and the Colorado Board of Education, the whole situation of my cover up here on the blog was gnawing at me.  So I'm coming clean because I know my loyal readers and the surfers who end up here after searching "fat people artist" or "women's tights" or "boobs" will keep it shut.

"Testing days" aren't really testing days.  Oh yes, "scores" are submitted for each kid, along with paperwork, but it's really just a ruse.

Testing days are really the days where we replace the children with their synthetic doubles.

I have to be at the school and June has to be on Crazy Driver Boulevard on those days because there's no school lunch on test days.

Now you know.


Okay, that's only partly true.  Here's the actual truth and I'm going to blurt it all in one breath in all it's boringness, so try to follow along:


Got it?

There are some additional, equally boring details, but I was running out of oxygen.

And this morning, I actually had to go to the school to sign a paper saying that that was all okay with me, in the presence of all of the people mentioned above except for the Assistant Principal, the district Superintendent, and the Colorado Board of Education.

Aaahhhh, I feel so much better now.  No more secrets, k?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

well, that was fun

I'm grateful that my life has been a happy, comfy one.  That's pretty much been the way all along, but I've had my moments.  My 19th and 20th years, for example.

I enjoyed growing up in a small town, but after high school, I was ready to get out and get on with things.  I ended up hanging around for two more years though.  I attended the home town junior college and would later transfer to a university.

Those two years, I could've used some lessons in living in the moment because I mostly just focused on the happy day when I would move on.

I went to class.  I worked to save up cash.  Other than mystery man, there wasn't much else going on during that time.

One day, I was walking across campus when one of my high school friends, Doug, came running up.  He was also attending the junior college.

"Abby!", he said, "You've gotta sign up for this art class!"

Art class?  I was an engineering major.

Doug was a very creative friend, musically gifted.  His major was "computer maintenance", which nowadays would probably be IT.

"It's a great class", he went on. "It's really laid back and a nice break from all the technical stuff.  Plus, it's good for two humanities credits.  Come join us!"

Yeah, okay, whatever.

But he was SO right.  And that class was just what I needed at that rutty time of life.

The teacher was eccentric as art instructors tend to be.  But he knew his stuff - actually taught us technical things about perspective and anatomy while keeping it "really laid back".  Other than Doug and me, there was one other full-time student.  The others were mainly older folks and housewives that just wanted to indulge their hobby one night a week.

When graduation time rolled around, those older folks and housewives threw us full-timers a surprise graduation party during class.  It was so cheesy and perfect!  I get a lump in my throat at the memory of it.

It's like Doug came and rescued me from my stupor.  And by the way, through the magic of facebook, I know that Doug is a happy tech professional with a rocking musical life on the side.

Recently, someone asked me to do a charcoal portrait of a family member.  I thought, "Oh fun!" (I do love getting requests).  However, other than from assorted camp fires, I haven't handled charcoal since 1985 - my two humanities credits art class.

So my reconnaissance trip to the art toy store yesterday was to get some charcoal and reacquaint myself.

I practiced this morning with an '80s version of  "The Boss".  Seemed appropriate since I was remembering the time.

Good times.  Thank you, Dougie!


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

rolling reconnaissance

"What are these?", Meego asks, looking at the contents of the shoe box.

"Those are my foot jackets", I assert.

"No really.  What are they?"

He was looking for a shoebox to use for a school project and, mainly thanks to Wolfgang's and my running addictions, we have a pretty good shoebox collection.  I keep a few around for the random school project or small thing storage necessity.  Like my foot jackets.

Anyway, eventually he found an empty one and transformed it into a suitable sarcophagus.  And my foot jackets remained comfortably stored in their temporary tomb.

It reminded me that soon, the temperatures will be foot numbingly cold, so I should enjoy the nice weather now.  So I did.  I had some errands to run and a decent block of time... okay, I really just wanted to go to the art toy store.

It's not far from our home, but it's at a major intersection that recently underwent a major face lift.  Access by bicycle was questionable.  Today was good a time as any to figure this out.

It was really just a joyride under the disguise of research.  I figured out the best route, but purposely took the long way.  Took the long way back home too.  I got some pretty pencils and fun paper too, because, to quote my advanced shopper mom, "Shame to go all that way and not have something to show for it".

And really, I was feeling a bit out of sync after the morning's traffic.  Both June and Bike Lady had to employ their defensive skills to accomodate separate red light runners.  I really wish people would make sure they were awake before they drive off in their cars.

And it was an enjoyable and successful mission.  I feel back in traffic alignment, and the afternoon elementary commute went much smoother.  Additionally, my joyride was good training for a new toy that Magnum spent the weekend researching and we now anxiously await the arrival of.

Watch this space for my complete review once we test it out.  In the meantime, minds out of the gutter please.

Monday, October 8, 2012


It all began with the great art renaissance of 2009.

I had been an artsy geek kid from as soon as I could hold a crayon.  Somewhere after high school, though, she got stashed away into my inner attic.  Work and babies and "adulthood" took a front seat.

Then one day in 2009, I started feeling funny.  I found myself with a bit of free time, and maybe it was something that I ate.  I hurled all over a wall in the basement.  It wasn't dainty or tentative at all.

Flowers.  Big, bright, vivid, bold colored flowers and vines spilled all over the wall.

It didn't stop with the flower mess.  Sea creatures, palm trees, comets...  no wall was immune.  Even my kids were going all "WTF?" in not so many words.  I decided maybe I should get some canvases or something.

I suppose it was inevitable that some would spill on me.  Somewhere in all that drunken mess, I ended up with a tattoo.  
But it's really not as "rebellious" as some may think.  Here in our neck of Colorado, we have about 3 seasons.  Fall, winter, and tattoo.  It's not just emo's and punks and sluts.  I know tattooed housewives, school teachers, college kids as well as tattoed emo's, punks, and sluts.

"STOP, I MEAN it!!"

I didn't come up with mine on my own.  I found a tattoo artist who designed mine after chatting about it with him a bit.  I wanted "pretty", and he added a nice edgy wildness that I like.

I think it gives me street cred in the crosswalk.

GO, I MEAN it!

... or in the mud pits.

Hi, ready for some logic?

The one thing that does cause me pause is when I meet a new student for the first time.  Will they not like having a tattooed tutor?  But that has yet to stop anyone.

I awoke one day to find I have a tattoo.  I'm sure I'm not the first to have that happen.  It splattered onto me during a party.  Or maybe it was always there and just emerged.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Silver Liningness Sunday

Nothing like the smell of hot duct dust.

The furnace kicked in this weekend, because, baby, it's cold outside.  But it feels kind of good in a we'll-really-be-freezing-soon! kind of way.

This week was productive.  I somehow got a lot of stuff done and no longer feel like I'm constantly working to keep my head above water.  Now, I'm just kinda hanging with the cuties in the kiddie pool, which is nice.  The kiddie pool is always so comfy and warm (best not to think too much as to why it's so warm).

Wolfgang finally got his driver's license and took the car out for his first solo yesterday.  He "rents" by the mile, unless he's running an errand for me or chauffeuring Meego.  I've missed having Chaco around for such things, so it's nice to have that position filled.  Now, to find an IT department...

As for an update on Kat the firecat, she's huge.  She's not just fat, but she's definitely grown all over since we got her.  We weighed her a couple of weeks ago and she tipped the scales at 12 pounds.  I was going to snap a pic to show her current relative size, but she's camera shy and knows when I'm blogging about her.  Cats have that blog topic sense, of course.

Instead, I took the time to painstakingly do a double portrait of Kat and 70-pound China.

I'm beginning to think she's a cross between a cat and a black bear.  Cool pet!

I have to go be smart in a little while, and that's good since I got all caught up on my dumb, thanks to Dumb Friday.  

Saturday, October 6, 2012


Even I don't wake up looking like Cindy Crawford. 
~ Cindy Crawford

When do we start worrying about our looks?

When I was 11 years old, I crashed my skateboard and, while doing so, apparently tried to take a bite out of the street.  It wasn't pretty.

One front tooth was chipped to about half it's original length.  The other was just a faint stub of tooth evidence with the end of the dead root hanging exposed.  My chin was bruised, my arm was sore and scraped up, but all I cared about was the state of my facial appearance and how "ugly" I was.  How could I got to school the next day, looking like that?

Damn mirror.

Reflections aren't always happy.

This week's Illustration Friday prompt is "Mirror".  Hmmm... what to draw for that?

Happy reflections.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Happy Dumb Day!

I made a wonderful decision a while back.  I decided that I would not schedule any students on Fridays, so I could just have a day to be dumb.  Smart move!

I felt I was burning out, and that's when the idea hit me.  Friday.  Block it.  Kids still go to school, Magnum still goes to work.  I have a day of dumbness all to myself.

The private teaching company I used to work for never scheduled classes on Fridays.  Now I know why.  That plus my formative years in Monday-thru-Friday public school has programmed me to slack on Fridays. If it's a psychological quirk, so be it.  I give in.

It's not to say I don't do anything teacher related, but I don't have to actually face anyone while I do it, so I can do it with a dumb face and in comfy dumb clothing.

Dumb Fridays, as I affectionately know them, are not necessarily epic.  I get caught up on the housewifery, paperwork, maybe go coffeeing with a friend.  Sounds a bit boring maybe,  but they're lovely, really.

It's cold today.  Snow nearby.  Froze at the crosswalk this morning, but it was good mindless freezing.  Have you done anything stupid today?  I highly recommend it.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

87 shades of beige

It's a dive building in a dive strip mall in a dive part of town.  I spent an enjoyable time there yesterday.

How I got there reads like a math problem.

Q:  If the DMV's hours are this to this, and Wolfgang's schedule is that and that, and Mom's schedule is so and so, at what date will the three meet?

A:  Yesterday.

Math problems never tell the human side of the story.  About the divey DMV and about how that is the only location in the county where one can get a  new teen driver's license or permit.  About how it is also the only location in the county where those who have had their licenses revoked can get them reinstated.

As a result, the clientele consists of happy teenagers and criminals.

There I was.  With my happy teenager.  I suppose that's better than being there as/with a criminal.

As most know, the DMV is never a "quick errand".  Wolfgang got home shortly after the afternoon crosswalk action and we readied ourselves for the dive.  He got the required paperwork together while I assembled my survival kit.

Hmm... a book?  I considered bringing the 50 Shades book, but then the image that formed of me reading it in the dive DMV queue with Wolfgang, happy teens, and criminals just didn't seem right.  I threw a small sketchbook in my purse and we were off.

And it wasn't all that bad.  I learned a few things.  I learned that the worst times to go there are summer mornings.  I've been there three previous times in a little over the last two years.  Always in the summer, always in the morning.  Tsk Tsk.  Twelve hours of my life... gone.

I learned that ankle tracking devices used for criminals were inspired by a Spiderman Comic book.  I learned that when you're sitting in the DMV looking for things to look at, it's pretty hard to miss ankle tracking devices on the ankles of people wearing shorts.

I learned that DMV clerks at that location are strangely friendly, personable, and dare I say, witty.  What's up with that?

Oh well, we didn't stick around to find out.  We were out of there in a record time of 87 minutes.  But who was counting?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

cake or eat it? pick one

Wolfgang's cross country team hosted a meet yesterday.  Tuesday.

He doesn't have that many local meets, so I try to go to them when he does.  But Tuesday??  Who schedules a x-country meet on a Tuesday?  In his defense, the coach realized, after it was too late, that he wished he hadn't scheduled it for a Tuesday.  ... Tuesday...

My point is, if I have one - well, I don't.  Really.  Have.  A point - but if I did, it would be that I felt a bit guilty about not being able to watch his race.  I had to tutor.  Wolfgang didn't seem bothered that I wouldn't be there, it being a Tuesday and all...

Thing is, he's thisclose to breaking the 17-minute mark, and I expected that he would do it at this meet since it was on a nice local course that he's familiar with, and he's thisclose.  And the running thing, it's one of our common interests so we can geek out about shooz and pacing and such while the rest of the family looks on in befuddlement.

What I really feel guilty about is that I was kind of, but not really, but yeah I kind of was, HOPING THAT HE WOULDN'T DO ALL THAT WELL.  I MEAN!  I wanted him to do well, but I was conflicted, ya know?  Since I wouldn't be there?

And wouldn't you know?  It all worked out in MY favor!  He ran relatively slow (awww), but everybody ran relatively slow (yaaaaay!).  So he still finished well.

It was hot.  It was late in the day.  It was Tuesday.  Times were slow --> WIN!

And Wolfgang wasn't a full on orphan.  Magnum knocked off early and made it to the spectator gallery.

Cross country meets aren't exactly spectator events.  There's this mass start followed by the runners disappearing into the woods.  Every now and then, they run by certain spots in a cloud of dust amid a hail of cheers and cowbells and such.  From a spectator's view point, most of it is spent waiting, which is fine for me since I'm not good at watching anyway.

5k's later, they emerge from the woods, sweaty and dusty, into the finish gate.  Much hacking and spitting then ensues.


Magnum has an iPhone he uses just for work.  Since he had it on him, he decided to learn to use the camera function.  He managed to actually get a couple with at least part of Wolfgang in them.

Exit, stage left
Exit, stage right

Well, it's a new camera on a moving target.   And the photos of gravel, trees, and random strangers were nice too.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


I met him one afternoon in the rain.  I was staying with a friend, but she was moving, so I would have to find another place.  She said she'd help with that, and she did.  She introduced us.

He was lonely, I could tell by just looking at him.  His demeanor showed a guy who'd been through some hard times, and way deep down inside, he was crying out for help.  I agreed to be his roommate.

The apartment was sparse.  Just basic necessities. A few kitchen utensils, one stained coffee mug...  There was an old beat up couch and one chair in the living room with the small TV.  Nothing on the walls.  But the place was kept pretty clean and comfortable enough.  It was quiet there.  Very quiet.

And he was very quiet too, but because of our living arrangement, eventually he began to open up to me.  He told me about his wife whom he hadn't seen in over a year.  How they'd been happy at first and shared some good times.  But then came his first tour in the war, followed by two more.  He'd seen too much, and by the time he was discharged on disability, he'd changed.  

He didn't like going out, he told me.  People and noisy crowds made him anxious.  He just wanted to stay in, and his wife was good to him, but she grew restless.  She started going out and pursuing her interests with others.  One day, she just didn't come home.  

From these chats, I came to feel very protective of him.  He was a good man, but fragile.   He told me that he'd decided to take in a roommate after discussing it with his therapist.  He'd seen others in the apartment complex doing things and being out and about, but he didn't feel like he fit in with them.  Maybe bringing a roomie in would help him get over his anxieties and join in with the others.

The therapist thought it was a good idea, so he looked into it.  Turns out his brother had a friend who knew my friend that I was staying with before she moved.  And there we were.

And we tried, we did.  

The two of us would leave the apartment and try to mix in with the others.  I wanted to make new friends too, but at the same time, I had these overpowering protective instincts.  I would lash out at anyone who got too close.  Ironically, my man would end up being the one having to calm me down.  

The others began to avoid us, going out of their way to not cross our path.  It was obvious.  I felt awful, but my defenses seemed to have a mind of their own.

There was this one couple, though.  They'd come around every once in a while when we were outside.   The woman seemed friendly enough, and her companion, while a bit mental, had this endearing, harmless cluelessness about her.  

Still, I could only take them for so long before I was going all rage on them, and they would abruptly leave. This made my man sad, I could tell.  What was wrong with me?  I can't remember how I got this way.  


Yeah, there's this guy who lives in the apartment complex China and I stroll by.  He's got this dog - nice looking dog, but geez - needs to lose the  Cujo  style

Monday, October 1, 2012

take it off!

Our October rolled in like a big dark grey thing this morning.  It was noticeably more chilly than a typical morning at the crosswalk.  Not freeze-the-buns-off just yet, but I know it's coming.

With the start of another month, I've signed up again for the "blog everyday" business.  This month's theme is "Mask", and

"This month we're going to throw off our masks and speak frankly with one another, opening up on a wide range of topics.  Don't worry; it won't be spooky and scary: it will be freeing."

Okay, now you know you want to jump in.  Go ahead, click the thing!:

  NaBloPoMo October 2012

One thing I like about blogging is that I think (interesting) bloggers feel comfortable baring themselves - maybe a little more than they do in real life.  Figuratively, that is... *ahem*

SO, to get into the spirit of things, I thought maybe I would spew a few intimate things that I haven't yet spewed here.

... Then I thought, "Sheesh, what's left??"

  • I am currently listening to Backstreet Boys Radio on Pandora.  Got somethin' to say 'bout that?!
  • I got a haircut last week.  It's shorter than my usual do.  I didn't think it all THAT much shorter, but Aspie man Magnum noticed right away, so I guess it is:

  • My first thought on looking at this webcam pic is "Migosh, it's Mom!"
  • The blog commentor "Guano"?  For those who don't know, that's my little big brother (we have an older one too).  Blog, Guano.  Guano, Blog.
  • I look like him too, except he's a guy.
  • That pic at the top of the blog.  NO, that's not me, in case anyone was wondering  (really?).  That's Wolfgang on the lovely and fast Tessa 
  • Gonna go now because "My Everything" by 98 Degrees is playing and I hafta sing along.

Whew, cleansing!!