'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.