Petite Peeve

Here's a New Year's resolution suggestion for annoying, clustering, clingy fools:

If you go to a matinée in a movie theater, where there are only a handful of individuals trying to eat their popcorn in peace, try not to sit next to another patron. Better yet, get your own row.

If you're at the gym, where there's a whole row of assorted cardio equipment, don't get on the elliptical trainer right next to someone. Branch out, give people their space. It's tough enough dragging my fat ass to the gym without having to share hot, sweaty air. Geez.



"In the depths of winter I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer."

-- Albert Camus


The ed is the beginning is the ed.

I saw an email in my inbox the other day, "Get rid of ED".

A little presumptuous, I thought, to assume I wanted to off my ex-husband. He's kind of large - wouldn't there be evidence? I clicked it open, only to discover Ed is more commonly referred to as 'erectile dysfunction'. The things you learn.

I had always heard that recovery time from a divorce is equal to half the time you were married, but a little rejection goes a long way: I'm ahead of schedule by about 2 years. My (non-ED) boyfriend and I recently celebrated our year anniversary and I did not even freak out. Not even a little. I've been through enough cheap, crazy, cheating, lying toads - I deserve this.



It may not be accurate or fair, but I've always lumped chiropractors in with the rest of my mom's special brand of medical quackery. Her purple power quartz may have helped with pregnancy and delivery, but I'm a scientist, for heaven's sake. I need facts and proof.

This year, though, has seen the birth of a fatter, stiffer and, dare I say, more open-minded version of my previous self. The other day, when I had to move my entire body to look at someone entering my office because my neck no longer turned left or right, it seemed more than a little inconvenient. Driving? I had become the old woman terrorist commuter, accelerating and hoping for the best when changing lanes.

My new chiropractor tells me that my back muscles have been spasming, which has caused them to lock and severely limit my range of motion. Some manipulating, jack hammers, and electrodes later, I was able to turn my head. He thinks I'll need 2 weeks of daily, aggressive treatment, but with a $25 co-pay each visit, we may need to cut it short due to my cheap ass frugalness.



*Patrick, at 1-1/2, with his cherubic little face, would screech 'motherfunk' every time he saw a chipmunk in the yard. He would get so excited, I never had the heart to correct him.

An interesting tidbit about chipmunks after they're caught by felines and dragged into the house through the cat door: they hide. They hide exceptionally well, squirrelled away in little cubby holes under the refrigerator or tv, or possibly in a bathroom cabinet, then never try to escape. They seem to be biding their time, waiting to die.


Electoral thieves

I voted the other day, for the first time ever, which I know is lame, but the only place one person's vote ever made a difference was on Survivor. Hopefully, though, in the future, I'll get picked up for more jury duty, sitting in a leather chair from 8-4 with a break for lunch, deciding the fate of a diabetic with a meth pipe in the van he borrowed from a friend. Count me in!

Patrick had a rough night after rocking his vote, when someone smashed the passenger window of his car, then stole his wallet. I looked online at the transactions and saw quite a party: fast food feasts, gas station splurges, some protein products from GNC....until I realized all this had occurred before his wallet was stolen. Never give your kid a credit card to use "in case of an emergency" because there are bound to be errors in translation.


A Hiking Guide to the Internet

Stephen Jay Gould, one of my favorite authors and paleontologists, published a theory of punctuated equilibrium as a mechanism for evolutionary biology, which was the opposite of that given by the Darwin school. Basically, he said, there are extended periods of stasis, followed by rare events of dramatic change.

It seems like technology enters my life in much the same way - multiple gadgets and devices forcing my brain to adapt rapidly (and kicking my ass in the process). I spent the majority of the week frustrated, trying to figure out how to create and publish Robert's website. Turns out I've learned very little useful information from years of reading blogs on the internet.

Saturday, we went hiking in Providence Canyon in Georgia, which was breathtaking! The "Little Grand Canyon" is the result of poor farming practices by early settlers, who cleared trees to plant crops. Nevertheless, my brain was revived and I was able to renavigate the treacherous world of websites - until I installed the code for an interactive calendar and accidentally deleted the home page a couple of hours ago. It might be another long week.



My first thought upon leaving the courtroom this afternoon: PHEW! I don't have to come up with any additional money for fees and fines!

Patrick: DAMN! That's a hot, young prosecuting attorney!

I'm glad he wore his lucky court shirt...


Zen and the Fine Art of Procrastination

I've always been a gifted procrastinator, perhaps even a child prodigy, throwing down the gauntlet of procrastination for years with my dad Tony ("I have 2 days to file for social security." "Yeah? Well, my taxes are due in 3 hours!"). I'm even a driving procrastinator, leaving myself exactly 22 minutes for a 22 minute drive to work (but wind up speeding, just a little bit, or sometimes a lot). The game just never gets old.

Every single year, without exception, I'm required to submit an extremely detailed report to the state of Alabama by the 15th of October. I know it's coming, but manage to put it off until the last minute. I've read articles (while stalling) about how procrastinators are perfectionists, giving themselves a built-in excuse and how unproductive this technique is. Au contraire. I manage to accomplish twice as many other things the longer I avoid the task at hand. This year, I brought in plants/flowers to create a work oasis for my office, and spent 4-5 hours rearranging furniture. I figured the new perspective would help with inspiration, or at least smell nice to cover the scent of my nervous perspiration on the 14th.

Patrick's DUI trial, originally scheduled for December 2nd, has been moved to October 21st. My first inclination was to call and get it changed back. Patrick? Decided to keep it in October, so it wouldn't be hanging over his head. Where did I go wrong? You try to teach your kid, give them a navigational tool for life, and this is how they pay you back? Ungrateful anticrastinator.


Revolution No. 20

While visiting my son Patrick, we took a road trip to Savannah, about an hour away, so he could tell his dad about the assault. He didn't necessarily want to, but I mentioned that all the medical tests and treatment would be showing up on insurance bills, and it might be wise to give advanced warning. Better to get yelled at now, while his bruises might garner a wee bit of sympathy.*

*True to form, his dad yelled. "What were you doing in a bar?! And in a parking lot at that time of night?!" Then yelled some more. "Why didn't you tell me earlier? And I'm not paying that ticket!" He's nothing, if not predictable.

I wisely killed an hour at the mall, then waited in the bookstore, while Patrick did his time. When he came back to get me, I told him to pick out a book, which he did with enthusiasm. Fidel Castro: My Life: A Spoken Autobiography. He's pretty sure I'll be reading the 700+ page endeavor after he finishes. I'm pretty sure I won't.

Now on his Facebook page: ‎"A man is not entirely the master of his own destiny. A man is also the child of circumstances, of difficulties, of struggle. Problems gradually sculpt him like a lathe sculpts a piece of metal. A man is not born a revolutionary, I'd venture to say." - FC.


Ice, Ice Baby

When I see parents exasperated, chasing toddler boys, I always say, "Don't worry, it may seem more difficult now, but boys are much easier when they're older." Really? Why do I lie to complete strangers?

Early Saturday morning, a Georgia police officer left a voice message on my cell phone, informing me that my son was in the hospital...(mumbling southern accent)...or the police station...(mumble, mumble)...assaulted in a parking lot...(southern drawl)...followed by phone numbers (ya'll).

When I finally reached Patrick on the phone, I had a difficult time understanding details of the assault, probably due to the punches that had landed on his jaw. He had been walking home from the bar, when a handful of guys jumped him in the parking lot. He took a few blows to the face before hitting the asphalt, and managed to break the fall with his forehead and elbows, before they gave him a few kicks to his kidneys, took his $20, and left.

Unconscious for a while, the next thing he remembered was being on someone's porch, then walking around the hospital, where he was treated, and given a $480 ticket for being a minor under the influence of alcohol. I suppose I should be grateful they didn't throw him in jail for bleeding on public property.


Full Circle

Events of the past three weeks include: my boyfriend moving in, a week-long conference in Orlando, a belated divorce settlement, training in Mobile, death of a family member, bailing my son out of jail, my first $500 casino chip, more Bud Light than you could shake a stick at, assault and battery in a parking lot, followed by my boyfriend moving back out. And so begins the winter of our disconnect.


From the Ashes...

March 1, 2007 is one of those days I'll always remember, like 9/11 or 2/25 (George Harrison's birthday).

We share stories about where we were (work. Rearranging my office furniture) and where our kids were (Savannah. Patrick was suspended and spending quality time with his dad as a result) when the F4 tornado struck and destroyed the high school (more photos here).

Today, I was fortunate enough to tag along with a group of engineers from my office to see the soon-to-be completed Enterprise High School.

EHS will be the largest high school in the state of Alabama, with 520,000 square feet located on 135 acres, and some helluva awesome features:
  • Three floors of classrooms, media and lecture rooms, and a chemistry lab that had me itching to pull out a lab coat and goggles

  • Multiple computer labs, hundreds of media-streaming screens, "smart boards" in every classroom and a high-tech auditorium

  • An indoor shooting range

  • An 8,000-seat football stadium, 3 full-sized basketball courts, and locker rooms galore

  • Price tag: $92 million
There may not be a specific dress code, but female students be forewarned: stick to comfortable shoes.


Life Begins At...

1978. Mary VanGordan and I closed our eyes and asked the Ouiji Board questions. "How old will I be when I die?" 4-2, wrote Mary's sister as the glass whisked around the board.

1986. On my nineteenth birthday, my dad sent a card with a pin inside that said, "Life begins at 40." Not much time I quickly realized, after doing the math.

The years I spent, with no retirement plan or financial consequences, officially passed yesterday. I can now call out the Ouiji board for being a dirty rotten liar and let the living begin.
Voicemail from my sister: "Happy birthday, flashdance sisterpants! I hope you're not working. I hope you're drunk, in a gutter somewhere, on your birthday. You don't want to talk, I understand. If you want to talk, call me back. If you're in a gutter, sleep tight. I love you. Goodbye."


'Bama Electric

Loving numbers, graphs and statistics, I thought it might be perfect last year when the local electric company sent a survey and began offering personalized recommendations for changes I could make to reduce electric usage. I set a goal and estimated that I could, under ideal conditions (like being out of town often and never cooking), use 10% less. This would surely translate into cost savings, which would ultimately equal more shoes. Know thyself.

Like clockwork, Alabama Power sends my Energy Savings Report at the end of the each month, comparing my actual kilowatt usage to other similarly sized/aged homes and average temperatures. Instead of cutting my power by 10%, I've consistently used 25-30% more than expected. Tips follow, so that I might become aware of my energy shortcomings.

Alright, already. It's hot and I'm sweaty - stop with the constant nagging. I'll leave all the lights on and you'll like it!


Take Manhattan, just give me that Countryside

I live in a quiet, (mostly) safe neighborhood with a half-acre lot, surrounded by a few homes, woods and a creek across the street. Traffic is minimal, but occasionally when driving home, I'll have a pseudo-premonition of one of my cats, bloody and run over in the middle of the street. It's traumatic, to say the least, and morbid, and makes my heart stop, wondering if/when the scenario will ever play out. I could keep them locked in the house at all times, but they're feral by nature, not special breeds that have been pampered and declawed, napping in fleece-lined beds by the window as they wait for my daily return.

One of the many topics Tony and I discussed during my recent visit (while drinking my new favorite beer, Moosehead, until 5 a.m.), was the importance of having a dream. Turns out we have a similar vision: owning a piece of property, with a barn large enough to store cats, chickens, and some tractors. The nay-sayers think it's an unrealistic, too-far-from-the-gas-station, expensive beer plan, which is probably why I've been reluctant to verbalize it.

Robert and I spent the weekend looking for puppies and farms, not necessarily in that order. I mentioned some sort of swap would be perfect: they could move into my house and keep some cats, and I'll take their home, in which they'll leave a few dogs. Robert informed me that my debt to income ratio would be great if we were married - officially, the least romantic proposal ever. (Logic is a perfect balance for my impulsivity).

My favorite of the bunch is in Newton, Alabama: 14 acres with 1 barn, 1 equipment shed, a pole barn and a 2.5 acre stocked pond. I've already started to imagine my drive home after a long day's work, sitting on the wooden swing with a beer, surrounded by rolling hills, trees, and lilies from the cabin. My blood pressure feels pounds lower!


Animal Planet: Ground Zero

I would have set my sights on catching cats, ants, or possum if I had known how difficult it would be to catch a raccoon. The local "Critter Getter" dropped a few cages off last week for the relocation project after my vet confirmed the high risk of rabies from local raccoon populations. Sure, I shared a cabin in Michigan with one that nested in the ceiling, but there's just something more threatening about a 'coon strolling in unexpectedly through the cat door to enjoy a snack. Even vampires need an invitation before entering your home.

I had the easier task of drinking beer and performing hourly cat checks, while Robert put canned mackeral in the strategically placed cages around the house. I felt slightly cruel when I discovered the possum trapped in the middle of the night, hissing and spitting, but felt worse when the drama queen cut his chin, stuck out his tongue, and played dead. Thankfully, we didn't attempt to bury the faker.

This morning, the masked bandit was finally outmanuevered. By the light of dawn, I peeked out the window and watched him lying on his back, fiddling with the cage as though hanging out in an oversized Rubik's Cube. Cute little varmint. The Critter Getter picked up the cage and moved him while I was at work, but I'm hoping his new place has a view and plenty of cat food.



[San Xavier Mission Church in Tucson, Arizona]

I complain about my job (often and enthusiastically), but that's because I'm understaffed (who am I kidding? I don't have a staff). I am, however, allowed to attend conferences and training in fabulous locations, where shopping, casinos and alcohol flow freely. Michigan for the weekend, oh baby!



I took Latin, Spanish and German in High School, which hasn't impacted my life much, other than I'm able to order a beer in most countries (and might be an idiot savant at the Reader Digest vocabulary quiz).

My son Patrick, however, has had some difficulty with his college requirement to take (and pass) four semesters of a foreign language. So far, he's failed German, French and Spanish (twice? This semester's grades haven't been posted yet, but I'm not entirely optimistic).

He's come to the conclusion that he's always thought in German, but never been able to articulate those thoughts (which, some might argue, has been his trouble in English, as well, though he does have a firm grasp of 'redneck').

He's optimistic about the next attempt at German, since he started listening to German music and posting foreign phrases on his Facebook. Today? He ended our conversation with "Ich liebe dich". His accent is sounding gut.


Son of a Beach

[Henderson Beach, near Destin]

I live an hour and a half away from the white, sandy beaches of Destin and Panama City - it's what has made Alabama bearable for 5 years. I know the best places to eat (Harbor Dock), shop (Destin), drink (Red Door), play miniature golf to get the $50 on the last hole, and get tattoos.

I keep saying I should go to the beach one last time...but I'm afraid I may be too late.


Rocky, Part Deux

You know how it is when you have a dog, and they sneak into the laundry room when you leave the door cracked open, and you hear lots of ruckus and cat food being eaten...and then you remember you don't have a dog? So you creep near the laundry room, wondering if auditory or visual hallucinations usually come first with dementia and old age, then give a blood-curdling scream when you come face-to-face with a raccoon eating the cats' food? Yeah, that was my evening.

And people say things like, "I don't know who was more scared."
Well, I do - and it was definitely me!

I recently ranked all the things RB has done for me since we met, and installing that access door for the cats was #1. It allowed me the freedom to go away for the weekend without worrying about them (as much).

#2 on the list is also animal-related: he chased off between 50-75 bats from my carport eaves, then covered the openings with a fine mesh screen so they couldn't come back. Did I mention he performed this task at night when most had flown out in search of food? I couldn't even stay outside and be supportive, in fear that he'd be attacked and fall off the ladder (in reality, my screeches each time I felt a breeze, were probably more apt to cause injury).

#3. Tree-trimming, porch-saving and general yard beautification projects. Most days, after I get home, I can't decide where to sit with my beer in order to enjoy the view most.


Bathroom Prison Blues

Cash: not just a man in black. Also a kitten in charcoal grey.

[As well as being a potential source of endless nicknames: Cash Cab. Cashilicious. Cash Only. Pothead. Okay, technically that's Holly's suggestion since it appears he followed Crackhead home].

Unfortunately, this adorable little kitten who wandered into my yard has the same intestinal parasite as Ashcroft, who died a year ago this week. What? Me, worry? More like obsessively love, overfeed, and monitor stool samples. People have different strengths and callings - mine might possibly be feline innkeeper.


The Grass is Always Greener...?

I would call myself a minimalist when it comes to yard work, preferring to cut the weeds every couple of weeks, or when I feel the neighbors glaring at me as I drive past their homes.

Alas, I started dating RB in December, during a particularly rainy season when my front porch almost washed down the short slope to the street.

He jumped in with both feet, getting the cement truck, Bobcat, and a truckload of sand. Visions of yard grandeur were already dancing in his head.

Oh, sure, it seemed innocent enough when he applied fertilizer, then programmed the sprinklers. I vaguely remember conversations of centipede and bermuda, as he spread grass seed, some sod, then weed killer for good measure. He'd spend one day a week mowing, weed eating, edging, and blowing debris. Yeah, it looks great, sweetie.

Now, however, that we're not together, I have to pull out that lawn mower, and traverse this lush green paradise as the temperature hits 102°F. Bonus? The fact that I gained 20 pounds when we were together (eating out, BBQ, grey goose) means I have even more sweaty bulk to haul around.

I don't want to sound ungrateful, but it's only June. Next year's forecast is calling for weeds.



Approximately 4" of snow in Southern Alabama - no kidding. I'd like to say I was excited for all the people living here that have never seen snow, but in the future I recommend they take a trip North. I'm boycotting the damn stuff.


How could I not?

I stopped in Savannah to see Patrick during the 11-hour drive home from Ft. Bragg, North Carolina and had a beer in a rustic pub while waiting for him to finish his weekly, court-ordered AA meeting in a Methodist church across the street.