Monday, August 27, 2007

vacation mode

Here are some photos from our trip to maine. The dogs seem to like being away from home and breathing in the fresh salt air. We like getting cheap lobster straight from the fishermen.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Puppy Videos

Misty watches her new brother run back and forth between rooms (watch carefully, he's like a blur). Oreo is 10 weeks old in this video, which means we'd had Oreo for only two weeks. He was probably around 5 pounds. He was so tiny! It was hard to keep the camera on him, because he moved so fast (still does). (Click the arrow button twice to make the video play)

This one is Oreo at 13 weeks. It was taken right after he had a bath. He ran around rubbing on things to dry off. Munchkin used to do the same thing.

Change is not always good

I went into my grocery store today to buy a few items, and the place seemed to be under construction. I saw a guy standing at one of the checkout counters with a very large diagram of the store. It appears they are making "improvements" to the design of the store. The store has only been there for about 15 years - its virtually brand new. I thought it was perfectly laid out.

I don't want improvements. That means change. I can make it in and out of the grocery store really quick, because I know where everything is. I make my grocery list in the order the items are laid out in the store from right to left. My coupons are in order the same way. I have it down to a science.

Today, I couldn't find the bread! I asked people who worked there, and they didn't even know. Bread, not some random rare vegetable, bread. The canned vegetables are now where the greeting cards used to be.

I went to get some lunch meat at the deli (still in its completely OK original location). The girl asked me if I needed anything else, and I said, "Yeah, a map."

Things that make you go hmmm...

I saw in the paper this morning that the Albany school board has a new dress code for students. One rule is:

  • T-shirts must be at least one foot above the knee.

My question, is a t-shirt that is less than a foot above the knee really a shirt? Sounds like a dress to me.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Listen to the POP

After finishing off a bag of microwave popcorn last night, I started reading the bag. Everywhere you look, there were warnings and instructions.

This side down, open away from face, do not handle bag from this end! My personal favorite - remove plastic wrap first.

I counted, there are 20 warnings and instructions listed. I'm surprised it doesn't have a "do not pop while operating heavy equipment". Is this overkill? Is Orville that worried about a lawsuit?

There must be a reason for all these warnings. I decided to do some research on microwave popcorn mishaps.

Turns out the city of Seattle is trying to ban microwave popcorn in all city buildings. The city has had numerous building evacuations due to people burning popcorn and setting off the fire alarm. One hospital spent $16,000 in false fire alarms due to people leaving popcorn in a microwave unattended. So, the hospital put a notice on their microwaves that read, "Do not leave microwave unattended; false alarms result in a $500 fine." Clearly, these people aren't "listening to the Pop to know when to STOP."

Microwaving popcorn correctly does take practice. Each microwave is different. Too short a time, you get half a bag of popcorn. However, remember, "it is normal for some unpopped kernels to remain in a fully popped bag". Is it "fully popped" if some kernels did not pop? Hmmm. Cook it too long, and your popcorn is "scorched and burned". This is a much more disappointing scenario. It just tastes bad, not to mention the smell lingers for days.

The last instruction on the bag says simply, "Enjoy!" That is, if you didn't set yourself on fire.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I'd rather talk to a computer

While I was waiting at the vet the other day, I overheard one of the vet tech's on the phone. It sounded like Sue was trying to arrange a pick up with a delivery service. She kept repeating the same responses over and over. Each time Sue had to repeat herself, she got louder and more irritated. My initial thought was she must be talking to someone at a call center in Bangladesh. I have never seen Sue lose her temper or even get the slightest bit annoyed. Her behavior was completely out of character. I thought maybe this is why she works with animals.

After watching a 60 Minutes piece on the call centers in India, I try to be much more pleasant when dealing with foreigners on the phone. They are usually working in the middle of the night, since that is when Americans are awake. They sacrifice a lot of family time to do this work. Plus, they have to deal with Americans who are impatient and downright rude.

Sue must have noticed me watching her during the phone call. At one point, she said,"I'm not talking to a person. Its a computer." Ohhh. Being rude to a computer is a completely different scenario. Sue redeemed herself in my eyes. Who hasn't gotten mad at a "stupid computer"?

Sometimes talking to a computer is a good thing. When I call the newspaper to report the fact that I haven't received my Sunday newspaper AGAIN, I like being able to just press a button and say I want my money back. The last time I called, there was no computer response. All I heard was ,"The next customer service rep will be with you shortly." I hung up. I didn't want to talk to a person. I was too mad.

I'd much rather purchase things online, than call directly to order. If a catalog doesn't have a website (rare these days), I won't order from them. If I dial the wrong QVC number and reach a customer service rep, I hang up and call the automated number.

Why don't I want human contact with strangers? Is there something wrong with me? I think it just takes more effort to speak with someone. You have to be polite and deal with answering their numerous questions. They always say, "How are you doing today?" Like they really want to know. I hate it when they say "Is there anything else I can do for you today?" "Yes, how about doing my laundry," is what I want to say. All their niceness just seems phony. If you're talking to a computer, you can hang up while it's in mid sentence without feeling the least bit guilty.

The only time I get frustrated with automated systems is when they have no option for what you want. You listen to a long list, have it repeated, and still nothing fits your problem. There is no "other" choice. Sometimes pressing "0" works, but not always. Even pretending you don't have a touch tone phone doesn't seem to work anymore. That's when I shoot off an email instead.

The computer Sue was talking to couldn't comprehend the anger and frustration in her voice. Her tone probably made her words even less clear. Eventually, the computer gave up and sent Sue to a human. I wonder if the computer thought, that "stupid human" can't speak clearly. When Sue had to give the information to the human, she still had irritation in her voice from repeating it so many times to the computer. After Sue hung up she said, "That time it was a human." I just laughed. We've all been there.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


I walked into the garage to see what Jeff was up to, and saw him "framed" in his new frame. Had to take a photo. I love how the other chopper is behind him.

I also love his state of the art stand for the frame. I tried to retake the photo to eliminate the garbage can, but Jeff told me to leave it in the photo. This is truly basement chopper building at its finest.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Perfect Hostess

We are taking a week long trip with my parents soon, and bringing our dogs with us. This will be the first time we've ever taken the dogs on a long trip. Misty has been for a 3 hour ride, and is quite good in the car. Oreo gets carsick on short car rides.

We are taking Jeff's truck. I am not a light packer, and there was no way everything would fit in my car. The dogs will be riding in the "backseat" part of Jeff's truck, which is something they have never done. So, today we decided to take them on a test drive to see how they liked it.

Both dogs have enough room to stand up, turn around and lie down. They can see us, and out the windows. Jeff's truck even has air ducts that go to the back seat, which is great for dogs in fur coats. We laid down a blanket, just in case Oreo couldn't hold his breakfast. On the way to Starbucks, both dogs seemed quite content and happy. Oreo barked at the lady handing us our coffee. I think he just wanted to be oohed and aahed over, and she obliged.

Jeff said, "Let's go bring lunch to your parents." I was a little unsure of this idea, as my parents had just gotten home from a week long trip to the Jersey Shore, and the previous week they had had their 5 year old grandson and other company. I was thinking they might need some downtime. Jeff thought bringing them lunch was just what they needed.

Oreo almost made it to their house without getting sick. I noticed a pile when I went to help him out of the truck. At least he didn't step in it.

Mom was still in her nightgown (it was around 11:30 AM). I thought she probably just had breakfast, and wouldn't be wanting lunch. I told her that I hoped we weren't keeping her from doing something. She assured us that all she had planned was to do the breakfast dishes, some laundry, and pick up some branches on the front lawn. Then, they were going to their friend's house for dinner. I still thought that us showing up was really the last thing she needed.

We sat in the backyard and talked about our upcoming trip. Mom was concerned about Oreo getting carsick. What she doesn't realize is that when dogs throw up, its not always a bad thing for them. Often, if you don't clean it up right away, the dog will. They think, "Oh wow, I get to eat my breakfast twice today!" Dogs bounce back quick.

Jeff took lunch orders and went to pick it up. We ate outside on the patio, it was such a gorgeous day. We actually wanted to sit in the sun to warm up. After lunch, mom brought us out beer and crackers/dip. Then, later creamsicle ice cream cake. Neither of which was really necessary. Mom is always the perfect hostess. If Mom wanted us to leave so she could get stuff done, she was going about it the wrong way. Jeff said from his Adirondack chair, "Who needs to go on vacation? This is perfect." We ended up staying until three, when my aunt called. I had Jeff pile the branches on their lawn into his truck. At least Mom didn't have to look at those anymore. I'm wondering if Mom had the chance to shower before going to her friend's for dinner, let alone do the dishes.

If not, I'm sorry Mom, it was all Jeff (the golden boy)'s idea.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A walk in the woods

What a fabulous morning! Cool, with bright blue skies. I had plans on doing some baking after taking the dogs for a walk. Great day to turn the oven on.

I decided it was a perfect day for a hike through the woods behind our house. The walk is pretty much uphill both ways (no lie), so I don't like to do it when its hot out. Too much sweating involved. In fact, I haven't been back there since there was snow on the ground.

I let Jeff know where I was heading. Just in case we didn't come back, he would know where to look for us. There are wild animals back there. There have been bear sightings, coyotes, deer, turkeys and I have seen a very, very large cat myself.

Misty loves to hike in the woods. She is trustworthy enough to be let off the leash. She loves to stop and smell things, and then run to catch up with me. Much more fun than leash walking through a neighborhood.

Oreo has never been in those woods. So, I told him we were going on an adventure. Jeff told me the dogs would come back a muddy mess, since it rained a little last night. I didn't think it would be too bad, its been dry for so long. I don't mind having to clean up dirty paws. I did worry about ticks.

Off we went. Jeff watched us for awhile through the window. I must have looked lost, because Jeff yelled through the window, "Do you know where the path is?" In the winter,the path is much easier to find. Today, there was a lot of over growth. I told Jeff I kind of knew where I was going. If I hadn't walked that path all winter, I'm sure I would have gotten lost. Oreo jumped over a log, and I yelled to Jeff, "Did you see him jump?" He did. I had high hopes this would be a fun time.

We had to walk through a lot of tall weeds to get to the densely wooded part, where it is easier to make your way. I must be the only person who walks back there, because there was no path. I guess you call this bushwhacking, not hiking.

At one point early in our journey, I looked down at the dogs and noticed they were covered in green stuff. I went to brush it off, and realized it wasn't going anywhere. They were completely covered in tiny, sticky, green burrs. Yuk. Oh well, I said it would be an adventure.

As we walked, more stuff would attach to the dogs' fur. The burrs were like magnets, causing everything to stick to them. I began to think this may have been a really bad idea. I hoped the dogs were having a damn good time.

By the time we got home, it had taken us 40 minutes to walk less than a mile. It would have been much quicker if I didn't have to try and stamp down all the weeds to keep them from sticking to the damn dogs.

Jeff saw us in the yard and asked how our walk was. He came to the window and saw the filthy, sticky, and now mostly green dogs. Jeff said, "Oh my god. I hoped they had a good time." I told him to get me a brush.

Jeff came out with the brush, and I started the difficult task of removing the burrs. It was clearly not going well. Jeff came out to help, and I asked him to just get me a pair of scissors. I brushed and brushed and snipped pieces of Misty's hair, while Jeff worked on Oreo. Misty was getting a funky new hair do. I was ready to just shave them both bald. Jeff had to leave for work. He was upset, because most of the burrs had stuck to Oreo's chest. Jeff said with sadness, "That's his nicest fur." I took that as a warning not to shave them bald.

This 40 minute walk led to an hour and a half of burr clean up. Both dogs lost a few chunks of hair. I tried to cut as little off Oreo as possible. I had to work on him in 5 minute segments, and then take a break. That was about all he could tolerate, being the squirmy, wormy puppy that he is. I didn't want Oreo to learn to hate the brush. I'm sure it was painful, I yanked out a lot of his hair in the process.

I won't be walking in those woods again until there have been several hard frosts. I'll stick with fending off loose dogs on the street. It was an adventure all right. An adventure I will be reliving for days, each time I find a new burr buried deep in my dogs' fur.

Friday, August 17, 2007

parts and more parts continued

Two of Jeff's latest parts got delivered today. A new frame and gas tank. I think this new frame will be his 6th build. Its hard to keep track.

After putting the tank on top of the frame, Jeff came out of the basement and said, "I amaze myself sometimes. The lines are perfect. I don't know how I do it. I think I may actually have a talent."

Glad he finally figured that out.

Jeff at work (play).

Hmm, I thought safety goggles were for your eyes, not the top of your head.

Yesterday, we had a strange package arrive. It was a soft, floppy, black object rolled up like a poster (about 3 feet long), then wrapped in clear plastic. I had no idea what it was when it arrived. When Jeff called to find out what packages had arrived, I told him it was some long object wrapped in a garbage bag. At first Jeff was clueless, but then figured out it must be the cowhide he had ordered. Yes, we now have a whole cow hide. I guess you don't fold cowhide, you roll it. Jeff will be using it to upholster a chopper seat. The hide is actually kind of shaped like a cow. Not something you see everyday. Maybe in Louisiana it would be. I hope it is the hide of an old cow, who lived a long, peaceful life in a beautiful Vermont hillside farm (I have a good imagination).

Thursday, August 16, 2007

dogs and dirt

These flowers smell good enough to eat.

Mommy, I'm bored with smelling flowers.

Misty won't play.

I'm going to go find something else to do.

Hmmm, I think I smell a mole in this hole.

I think I can reach him if I stick my whole head in.

Misty laughs, and says ,"That puppy is crazy."

No day is complete without eating some dirt.

Back to School Time

Stores have been advertising back to school specials since the end of July. I don't start thinking my summer vacation is coming to an end until the Halloween stuff comes out. Well, the costumes are in the stores now! Already, the nights are getting cooler (yea!), and we don't use our air conditioning as much. Guess it's time to face reality.

For all of you non teachers, I'm sure you don't want to hear me complain about going back to school. I know, I'm lucky to only work 180 days a year, but you could have been a teacher too.

I love every moment of my summer vacation. It is so great to have days on end with no place I have to be. I sleep later, take a shower later, sit on my deck for hours reading. It is pure heaven. A perk of the job, which I think I totally deserve. It gives me time to recharge my batteries. Without the break, I'm sure teachers would be burnt out, and it would be the kids who suffer. I think I need the break from the other adults, more than I do the kids. Teachers are all control freaks, and can be hard to get along with. We each have our own style and teaching philosophy, and they don't always mesh.

While I dread these lazy summer days coming to an end, there is nothing like the first day of school. The scared, quiet freshmen who have yet to come out of their shells (their true colors will be shining soon!). I hear they will be a tough group this year. The sophomores who have grown and matured (hallelujah) so much over the summer. They are practically unrecognizable. The familiar juniors and seniors who are now like family to me, and each other. The new notebooks, folders, and pens and pencils. A clean blackboard (mine gets cleaned only twice a year). Shiny hallway floors. Fresh plan books and grade books. New textbooks.

Oh, the possibilities the year holds! How many students will get on the honor roll? Will they all graduate on time? Can we get all the kids to pass the regents exam? Will so and so spend the whole year in detention again?

The first day of school is usually chaotic, with schedules changing and mass confusion. Any major changes are immediately challenged. Expectations are often unrealistically high. I try to stay above all that stress, and just enjoy the first day with the kids. There is plenty of time to worry about the other stuff later. Like the other 179 days.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

parts and more parts

Jeff called me from work yesterday, and told me I had to stop him. He can't control himself, he thinks he is an addict who needs help.

No, its not drugs, alcohol or gambling. Jeff thinks he's addicted to buying motorcycle parts.


You would have thought he would have figured that out awhile ago, considering we have daily deliveries from UPS, DHL, and FedEx. Most of which are some sort of motorcycle part, in all shapes and sizes.

Jeff calls me from work everyday to ask if he got any packages. I am then asked to describe the package, so he can have the fun time of figuring out what part it could be. Similar to shaking your wrapped Christmas gifts. I say the box is small, he says how small? I practically have to get out a measuring tape. I tell him the size or where its from, and Jeff is either very excited, or very disappointed. There is no in between. The rare day without any packages is a sad day in our home.

When I see Jeff deep in thought, I ask him what he's thinking about. His response is always "parts".

Jeff has a catalog, that is at least 3 inches thick, full of motorcycle parts. Who knew that many parts existed? No wonder Jeff is always thinking about parts, there are so many to choose from!

Jeff often asks for my opinion before he buys parts. He will say, "Do you like this (insert part name)one, or this one?" He shows me photos on EBay. I tell him which one I like (as if I have a clue). Jeff usually says, "Really? That one? For the (insert bike nickname here) bike? I kind of liked the other one better." I always tell him to buy his favorite, he's the one with the eye for these things. Jeff usually buys the one he likes, but its nice to be asked.

I am amazed by my expanding vocabulary of all these parts. I even drop these words in casual conversations. Who knew I would ever speak of "springer front ends" and "triple trees"(not found in nature). Do you know what red lock tight is used for? I do, and I know where to buy it, even the aisle it's in.

I don't know how Jeff would like me to stop his parts addiction. We have never told each other how to spend our money. As long as our bills are paid, and we are putting money away for retirement, I don't really care what he buys. Once Jeff made a comment about how much stuff I was buying for the dogs (and it's a lot of stuff). All I had to say was, "What about all those parts and bikes in the basement". So, when he asked me to stop him from buying parts, I really didn't say anything.

Jeff called back about an hour later. He said he had given it some thought. The parts are investments, and he can always sell everything off and get his money back. I said, "It sounds like you're trying to rationalize buying all that stuff". He said, "Well, I thought you might be worried." I wasn't.

The bikes Jeff builds are gorgeous, people love them. I know every one he makes will sell, and quickly. He rode his last build just twice before it sold. I tell Jeff building bikes is not an addiction or obsession, its his passion. How lucky he is to have that passion, and make some money at it. So, he can buy more parts!

Monday, August 13, 2007

My Dog Can't Jump

My first sheltie, Munchkin, had to be trained to jump on and off the couch. When he was a puppy, he would stand on the couch and cry until someone helped him down. While endearing at first, it got a little tiresome. So, we piled up some pillows on the floor and kept pushing him off the couch until he figured it out. We did the same thing in reverse to teach him to jump on the couch. He learned, but he still preferred some assistance.

Munchkin never really got comfortable with going up stairs. He would do everything to avoid them. He was ok going down them, just not up. Even to jump on our deck, he stutter stepped for about 30 seconds before getting up the nerve to jump. Stutter stepping also happened on hikes in the woods when we would approach a downed tree across the path. Munchkin always looked for a way around the tree before attempting a jump.

As Munchkin got older, jumping became much more difficult for him. He would end up slamming his head on the deck when trying to get back in the house. So, we put a ramp to the deck to make it easier for him. Of course, at first he refused to use the ramp. Dogs really don't like change in their routines. We had to train him to use the ramp. This involved lots of repetition and treats. Even then, Munchkin never really got used to the ramp, and still stutter stepped several times before placing a paw on the ramp. In the end, we ended up carrying him in and out of the house. It was much quicker than waiting for him to get the nerve to use the ramp.

When you see shelties on tv, they are often running agility courses. They leap over hurdles, run through tunnels, and walk up and down ramps and teter toters. I have always longed to do that with my shelties. I think it would be a great bonding experience. I wonder if those shelties on tv had to be trained to jump on couches and walk up ramps.

super dog

I got Misty when she was 2 years old. She entered our lives being an adept jumper. I'm not sure if she had to be taught. I am always marveled at her ability to jump on our bed with such ease. The bed is at least 6 inches higher than her head, but she jumps up like its nothing. Could you jump on something 6 inches higher than your head? I think it would involve some sort of spring board, or pole. Misty would be great at agility, if she wasn't terrified of crowds.

When I got Oreo, he was full of energy, speed and confidence. I thought I finally have my agility dog. Oreo can jump straight up in the air as though he has springs on his feet. When I pick up his box of "oreo cookies", he jumps like a pogo stick. He lands on top of Misty's head, over and over. He leaps up for his ball and catches it 4 feet in the air. He can jump high enough to reach our bathroom counter, dresser, and kitchen table, or anywhere a towel might be. I worry about my cookies being devoured by him when I leave them on the kitchen counter to cool.

oreo going for a towel

However, Oreo does not jump on the couch. Apparently, he prefers to jump straight up, not at an angle.

We have tried many tactics to get him to jump on the couch and bed. We have offered treats and tried cornering him. No luck.

Jeff suggested getting him to jump over some stuff outside. So, I laid a broom on top of two buckets. I jumped over, Misty followed, and Oreo went around the broom. I lured him with $10 beef jerky treats (100% natural treats for dogs, which Jeff says don't taste too bad). Misty jumped over for the jerky, while Oreo went under the broom. We tried over and over again. Misty and I were exhausted from all the jumping. Misty was panting. I was sweating. I'm glad no one could see us, I'm sure I looked ridiculous. Oreo kept sitting, thinking that's how he would get some jerky. Guess I trained him too well to "sit" to get rewarded, now Oreo won't do anything else.

I thought with age Oreo would figure out how to jump at an angle. Now he is 8 months old, and no closer to learning. My only hope is that Oreo does jump over obstacles in the woods. He has jumped over some logs, but like Munchkin, Oreo prefers to look for a way around.

Oreo's inability or unwillingness to jump on furniture does have some advantages. It gives Misty a way to escape from him. It keeps our pillows from being eaten. There's less dog hair on the furniture.

I know many people go to great lengths to keep their animals off their furniture. There are even devices for sale which make a noise or shock the animal when their paws touch the couch. I'm not that kind of dog mother. I long for Oreo to jump on the couch when I want him to join me for a quick cuddle. Maybe, I'll try some raw meat. If that doesn't work, I give up. At least he uses the ramp.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

reality tv

Jeff told me the other day that I need to write a blog about my obsession with reality television. When he said that, I thought, I don't have an obsession with reality TV. I don't watch Survivor or American Idol. I didn't know what I could possibly write about.

I will admit to being hooked on a few reality shows. The show I was watching when Jeff made that comment was Big Brother. You can decide if it is an obsession.

I have been watching Big Brother since its inception 8 years ago. It is only on in the summer. The premise of the show is put 16 strangers in a house, isolated from the rest of the world and see what happens. Each week, one person is evicted from the house, and whoever is left at the end of the summer wins half a million dollars.

The first year the show was on, it aired 5 nights a week (now its on 3 nights). The show was similar to eavesdropping on your neighbors. You get to see and hear all their conversations. That first year, my whole summer revolved around making sure I was home when the show was on. I TiVo it now.

After the first year, the show started airing lots of planned competitions between the house guests. I pretty much fast forward through those. I prefer just listening to their conversations.

Some people are bigger Big Brother fans than me. For a fee, you can subscribe to live feeds on your computer, so you can watch the house guests 24/7. They also air some footage on Showtime. I have never subscribed to the live feeds. I fear if I did, I would spend my whole summer watching it.

Maybe I like Big Brother because I have always loved eavesdropping on my neighbors, especially when they are having arguments. In one of our apartments, I used to make popcorn when I heard a fight brewing between the couple below us. I would sit at the top of the stairs, eating my popcorn, listening. That's one of the things I miss about living in apartments, the ability to spy.

I think we like watching other people, because it makes us feel better about ourselves. People always end up looking ridiculous on reality TV. The editors make sure of it. I really can't relate to anyone on Big Brother, but I do have people I root for. This season seems better than previous ones, lots of arguing. The first season got boring toward the end. All the contestants became good friends and were nice to each other. It got a little boring.

Jeff rolls his eyes when he sees me watching Big Brother. He makes comments like, "I can't believe you are still watching this crap." Sometimes, he glances at the screen, and I notice he has trouble pulling himself away from it. When I call him on that, he denies any interest. I don't believe him. Its impossible not to get drawn into the drama. At least for me.

Friday, August 10, 2007

snail mail

My Dad told me that he got some "snail mail" from my cousin who is currently in Iraq. I thought, how strange, does anyone really write letters anymore? Most likely, my Dad sent my cousin a letter first.

In the good ol' pre-email days, Dad used to be a big time letter writer. He would write a letter to his parents every week. How my Babci looked forward to those letters! Dad wrote me letters while I was in college, or living in Louisiana, and wrote Jeff letters while he was in Iraq. Dad would write on yellow lined paper, and he always filled up at least a whole page.

Babci loved it when I would write her too. When I would go for a visit, she would say, "Write me a letter, it doesn't have to be long. I love to get your letters." I thought it was the least I could do. I liked making her happy. I always addressed my envelope to "Babci & Paki", no first or last name. She got a kick out of that. I tried to write her at least once a month.

I can't remember the last time I wrote a letter or who it was to.

Jeff and I have boxes and boxes of letters we exchanged while he was stationed overseas. The letters are all gritty from being in the desert. A sandstorm once blew my letters all over the desert, and Jeff sent everyone who would listen off to find all of them. Its fun to be able to go back in time and read those letters. We don't do it often, but its nice to know they are there in my hope chest.

I wonder if the soldiers in Iraq now are still sending letters home, or if most writing is done through email. Email is certainly faster. I waited weeks for Jeff's letters to arrive. The wait was tortuous sometimes. It was nice when it came though, and knowing Jeff had touched that paper and sealed the envelope.

I have a bag full of notes that I received from my friends in high school. Those are really entertaining to read. All the gossip, and bad mouthing of teachers. It helps give me perspective on what my students are thinking.

Today's teenagers don't seem to pass notes to each other much. I used to have a desk drawer full of their notes, not anymore. They are sending text messages on their phones instead.

On one of our state assessments, the students have to write a business letter. This is something you would think teenagers would know how to do, but it is getting harder and harder every year. We really have to walk them through the process.

Someone I work with prints out every email she receives. This drives me crazy. Isn't email supposed to be more environmentally friendly? No trees being chopped down for the paper. No gas being used to transport the letter. I get annoyed when I see all those emails spewing out of the printer. I want to scream "save some trees".

The only things I send "snail mail"these days are greeting cards. I pay all my bills online - saves stamps, paper and gas. A box of checks lasts forever. I email people more than calling them on the phone. I think its easier to stay in touch with people because of email. You don't have to try and catch them while they're at home, they can read your email at anytime. Plus, you can send an email out to a lot of people, rather than having to call each person individually. I love email.

I wonder if my Babci was still alive, how she would feel about email. What would her email address be? Babci_girl123, polishdollmaker74? Would she get the same thrill seeing an email in her inbox, as she did a letter in her mail slot? I don't think so. I think she liked to hold the letters, and reread them during commercials while watching Wheel of Fortune. I just can't picture Babci sitting in her chair with a wireless laptop reading emails.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

reflections on a waterfall

Yesterday, Jeff and I brought our 5 year old nephew to our local 92 foot waterfall. You have to trek down a treacherous, steep foot path to get to the bottom of the falls. The hike is worth every slip and slide. The falls are really spectacular and must be seen from the bottom to truly appreciate their magnificence. The falls are a mostly unknown treasure of our area. We kind of like to keep them a secret. I won't give anyone directions to it.

Unfortunately, the falls aren't quite as spectacular this year as in the past. We have been going to the falls for 3 years. It seems as though each year, there is less water falling over the rocks. The Poestenkill River feeds the falls, and the Poestenkill receives most of its water from the snow melt on the mountains. No snow means less water, which results in a diminished "wow" factor at the falls.

This past winter we had almost no snow. It was 70 degrees in January. We didn't pull the snow blower out until February. A typical winter would have us starting it up in November. Jeff only had to snow blow once this year. We're really not complaining. I did complain about only having one snow day. If you don't use 'em, you lose 'em at my school.

Is this lack of snow caused by global warming, or is it just a weird weather pattern? I know the past few summers have felt hotter than usual. Are they, or am I just getting older and unable to tolerate the extreme temperatures?

I tend to think its a combination of all of the above, and that global warming is part of the equation. I believe in global warming, and that it is definitely going to change our quality of life.

I wonder when my nephew is my age, will the falls have any water? By that time, I will be 70(yikes!), and am probably not going to be hiking down that path to find out. I worry about what life will be like for him, when he reaches what I consider the prime of your life.

There were a couple young girls, about 10 years old, at the falls. One asked me where I was from. I told her, and then asked her the same question. She told me she lives right up the road, within walking distance. I told her she was lucky to live so close to the falls. She said, "Yeah, I know", and I could tell she really meant it. I'm glad she is able to appreciate the falls at such a young age. Again, I wondered if the falls will still be there when she brings her own kids down to jump in the sparkling, cool water on a hot summer day, or will it be an "I remember when..." story for her.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Deep South - Part 6 - Conclusion

Louisiana introduced me to new kinds of people and a new way of life. My ten months in Louisiana brought me in contact with southern belles, beauty queens, military people, anglers, racists, sexists, cajuns, cowboys and red necks. I learned a lot.

I learned that a grocery cart is also called a "buggy", and that you can buy groceries at a place called "Piggly Wiggly."

People eat squirrels, rattlesnakes, and crawdaddies, all of which require a lot of work to get a little amount of meat. McDonald's serves "Cajun fries", and everyone drinks Dr. Pepper.

There are no counties in Lousiana, they are called "parishes". I lived in Vernon Parish. Guess they don't separate church and state down there.

I learned I can't understand people who talk "Cajun". All the car commericals had Cajuns doing the talking. We never knew what they were selling. I also don't understand people from backwoods Arkansas. We had to ask Jeff's friend from Arkansas to repeat something ten times. He kept saying "I like taters and nown'lay". We kept saying, "potatoes and what????" Turns out he was referring to the candy "now and laters." I guess it was just too many syllables for him.

Armadillos are common road kill.

Dance clubs require men to wear cowboy boots, a big cowboy hat, and an even bigger belt buckle.

People can't be buried in Lousiana. The land is too swampy.

It rains a lot in the summer. Everyday at 4PM there is a downpour so strong you have to pull your car off to the side of the road. The road is made with recycled glass chips - kinda slippery when wet. It is still hot after it rains. The mosquitos are as big as most birds. No lie.

Sometimes hurricanes hit. Hurricane Andrew was about to hit us. Everyone was driving north from Lake Charles. I filled my bath tub with water, even though I had no idea what I needed to do that for. We put tape on our windows, and Jeff had to tie a bunch of vehicles down at work. The hurricane never hit us, it was kind of a let down.

Alligators really do cross the road. We saw them. They are big and scary.

All in all, I was glad to return north to modern civilization. My time in the South, made me really appreciate living in a "blue" state. I don't think I could ever live in a "red" state again. I'm glad I got to try it out though, and I did meet a lot of great people, who I will never forget.

Hope y'all enjoyed my Deep South mini series.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Deep South - Part 5 - Big Fish

After my spring semester ended, I was looking for a job. I went down to the Leesville unemployment office to see if they could give me some guidance. I knew I didn't want to work retail, and really didn't know if there was anything else out there.

Hanging on the wall, I found an ad for a VISTA position at the Big Brothers/Big Sisters office in DeRidder. DeRidder was the next town south of Leesville. They had a Walmart and a K-Mart in DeRidder. I had worked as a camp counselor for BB/BS in Albany for two summers and really enjoyed it. The ad said the responsibilities would be advertising, recruiting and fundraising. Three things I had never done, but it seemed to be the best available position.

VISTA stands for Volunteers in Service to America. It is similar to the peace corps, but you do your work in the states. Its not really a job, but they do pay you a stipend, so you can still eat. I thought it was perfect. I could earn some extra cash to supplement our minimal military money, and do something besides cashier at Walmart.

I called, and drove down the next day for an interview. There was one woman running the whole show in the BB/BS office in DeRidder, and she was one of the nicest people I ever met. I got the job, but I don't think I had any competition.

Val was the nicest boss anyone could ask for. She was always cheerful and upbeat. She made no demands, and praised me every step of the way. She was the epitome of a southern woman. Val drove a big car - a Cadillac or a Lincoln. She was always well dressed and perfectly coiffed. I went to her house once, and her driveway went on forever. I guess she really lived on a "ranch". Her house also went on forever, and looked like it came right out of "Southern Home Journal."

I was trusted to be left alone in the office and to do my job without anyone looking over me. It was great, although I had no clue what I was doing.

Val told me right off the bat that I would be helping plan a Bass Tournament to raise money. I had no idea what a bass tournament was, or how it could possibly be used to raise funds. Val told me I would meet with one of the "Bigs", Steve, who owned a resort on Toledo Bend. He hosts bass tournaments all the time and would explain things to me.

Whew, I thought I was off the hook. I was sure Steve would do most of the work, and I would just publicize it. So, I scheduled a time to meet with him.

Steve began to explain the logistics of a bass tournament. Fishermen, who apparently like to be called "anglers", pay a fee to enter the tournament. Then, they go out and fish all day. Whoever comes back with the largest fish wins. We would split the entry fees 50/50, with half going to the winner and half going to BB/BS. Sounds easy, and incredibly boring. I began to think who on earth would pay money to fish? Shouldn't we just have a car wash or something?

Steve told me I needed to go out and get other prizes for the contestants, I guess anglers like free stuff. I asked Steve, "I need to get this stuff?" I was thinking he misspoke and meant he would do that. "Yes", he said "you need to do that, this is your tournament". Oh. I would also need to get a big banner to place across the driveway of his resort. I would need fliers, posters and entry forms. This was beginning to sound like a lot of work, and all Steve was doing was providing the location and the basket to weigh the fish in (good thing he thought of that - I never would have).

So, I set out on my tasks. Being in the south, I took advantage of all that southern hospitality and charm. I asked a printing company if they would print all the fliers, entry forms, and posters for free, if I agreed to mention their name in the local paper. They agreed! They even designed them for me.

I went to Walmart and K-Mart, and asked for donations that I could give out as prizes. They agreed! They asked what I wanted. I said, "I don't know stuff people who fish would like." I got tons of fishing rods, lures, tackle boxes, etc.

Gotta love those southerners. Now, I was learning how to pour on the southern charm myself to get what I wanted.

I went to a banner store and asked for a free banner. They agreed! Plus, they came and put it up. I asked if they could put another one across the main road in Leesville, and they did. I loved driving under it everyday. Amazed, that I was the one who got it there.

I put entry forms all over the place in DeRidder and Leesville. I had Jeff put some on post. The whole time, I kept wondering if anyone would really show up for this thing.

The day of the tournament came. I had to be at Toledo Bend before dawn. I dragged Jeff with me for moral support. I was expecting a disaster and was sure tears would be involved. Jeff had just spent all night on CQ duty, so he had had absolutely no sleep. He was a trooper though.

It was pitch black when we got there, and there were already "anglers" putting their boats in the water. Steve and I collected their money and entry forms. It was surprisingly a good turnout. I guess some people really like to fish. They all set out in their boats before the sun was even up.
Now what? Steve said it could be hours before we saw the anglers again. Jeff went to take a nap in the car, and I just hung out on the beach. Every once in a while, a boat would come in. The anglers would run up to the scale with a huge fish, get it weighed, and then run back to their boat to go fish some more. I think the fish had to be alive in order for it to count.

Finally, the day was over, and time was up. I think the winning fish topped out at around 9 pounds. Whatever it weighed, it was a big fish. They don't call Louisiana "the sportsman's paradise" for nothing. The winner posed with his fish, and with his winnings. All in all a successful day. Boy, was I glad when it was over. I couldn't believe I, a person who has never put a worm on a hook, had pulled it off. I learned you can really bullshit your way through anything.

When I gave notice that I was moving back to NY, Val sent a beautiful bouquet of flowers to my apartment, thanking me for all I'd done. I've never had any other boss send me flowers. Maybe she knew what a stretch this job had been for me.

Monday, August 6, 2007

News or racism?

I just saw a headline on AOL which said, "4 Students Killed Execution Style". Underneath, there was a sub-headline which said "Victims had no criminal history". There was a photo of the young people killed, all were black.

I wonder if it had been 4 white kids shot, if AOL would have had the sub-headline about their criminal history. I doubt it, white kids never commit crimes (that's sarcasm).

Why must we clarify that these were "good" black kids? Would it have been ok to murder them if the kids did have a criminal record?

Things like this make me mad. Journalists should know better.

Deep South - Part 4- Education

When I moved to Louisiana, I had one semester left of college. I really wanted to get my degree. So, I enrolled in the college nearest to Fort Polk. Get ready, its a long one...Northwestern State University of Louisiana at Natchitoches.

In order to get in to the university, you must have a 2.0 G.P.A. or a 940 on the SAT and be in the top 50% of your class. Tough standards.

Natchitoches, is not pronounced the way it looks. It's pronounced, "Nack i tush."

Natchitoches is about a one hour drive north of Leesville, thru Kisatchie National Forest. It was a pretty easy drive, just one road. I arranged my schedule so I would only have to make the drive 3 times a week.
The road was a two lane road. There was not much on the road, all I remember are lots of pine trees and a couple of taxidermists. I don't think I've ever seen a taxidermist shop in NY. I'm sure they exist, but not on any road I've ever traveled.

So, it was pretty much me and the logging trucks. Getting stuck behind a logging truck was the worst. The logs constantly threw off hard pieces of mud. Get too close, and the mud is sure to crack your windshield. I know this from experience. They were very difficult to pass. Whenever I would try, I swear the trucks would speed up. I'm convinced it was because I was driving a Nissan. I think I was the only person in Louisiana with a Japanese car.

One day, a huge ugly bird was in the middle of the road. I have never seen a bird this big in my life. I'm pretty sure it was a black vulture, who had found some road kill for breakfast. I beeped my horn, but the bird didn't move. I had no choice but to hit him. The bird hit the hood of my car, and for a few seconds, the car went black. All I could see was black feathers, completely covering my windshield. This bird had a huge wingspan. Luckily, he went over the roof before I hit something else. I saw him laying in the middle of the road in my rear view mirror. He was dead. On my way home, I looked for the bird. He was no where to be found. I wondered if a taxidermist picked him up for dinner.

Drive onto the main campus, and you can tell right away, its all about their football team.

They have a huge football stadium. Considering Natchitoches is in the middle off nowhere, I was really surprised by the size. Southerners love their football.

I felt completely out of place on campus, especially in my Educational Psychology class. The course is a prerequisite for teaching certification in Louisiana. The class was all women. They all had big, hairsprayed southern hair, perfectly manicured fingers, full faces of make up, and very colorful wardrobes. I felt like the ugly duckling in the beauty pageant. In the northeast, students often went to class in their pajamas. Rarely did they put on make up. It was my last class of the day, and I dreaded going to it. These beauty queens would ask the dumbest questions. They drove me nuts. They clearly weren't reading the textbook, didn't understand what they read or had done too much brain damage by inhaling hairspray fumes. I couldn't believe that these people would be the future teachers of Louisiana's youth.

I took an English course on the Fort Polk branch of the college. Again, the people in the class drove me crazy with their questions. One day, our professor was handing back our first essay assignment. She said, "I am very disappointed in these papers. Every essay you write should have an introduction, body and conclusion." Duh, I thought. I've known that since 4th grade. Still, I was nervous that maybe I hadn't done a good job. Then she said, "I'm going to read you an example of what your essay should sound like." She began reading, and I recognized it as my own essay. I relaxed, but was somewhat embarrassed. When she was done, the class had lots of questions about how to write an essay. I was bored out of my mind, and just wanted to walk out. I couldn't believe I was paying money (really my dad was paying) to hear how to do something I learned in elementary school. The professor handed back my paper. She had written a note on it which said, "You have restored my faith in the Louisiana educational system." I never told her I was educated in the Northeast.

I did take one class that was more like the ones I took in the northeast. It was a philosophy class, called "Aesthetics". It was a small class, with a vibrant professor. I learned a lot in that class, and felt more at home. The people in that class were clearly on a different level than the ones in the educational courses. Maybe they were all foreign exchange students.

I was lucky, all my credits from NSU transferred to Siena, and I was able to get my diploma. I'm not sure Siena would have accepted the credits if my dad hadn't been a professor there. I certainly did not have to work very hard to earn those credits in Louisiana. Although, I did learn a lot about the south's educational system. What an experience.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Deep South - Part 3 - Dog Named Bud

After giving up Bunny, I kept talking about getting a dog.

I never had a dog growing up. In fact, I really didn't like dogs much, and was even scared of some. I don't know where the desire to get one came from. Perhaps, it was the heat and humidity. More likely it was meeting one of Sargent Leary's dogs.

Jeff and I spent some time at Sargent Leary's house. He was helping Jeff build an RC plane. So, I went along and hung out with his wife. They had two dogs. One was a really small white dog, who loved to hump my leg. The other was a sable sheltie, named Maggie. The sheltie would jump in Sargent Leary's arms and give him a hug. Maggie was just a real love bug, a great dog.

One afternoon, Jeff came home with a tiny puppy all wrapped up in one of Jeff's shirts. Jeff had gotten him "free" in the Walmart parking lot.

The puppy was a shepherd/husky mix. She had bright blue eyes. She was absolutely gorgeous. We named her "Bud", after our favorite drink, but we never called her that. I always called her "sweetie". Jeff pretty much called her "little f*&#er".

Bud was a really cute puppy, and I was excited to have her. I had no clue about puppy training, exercise or health care. I think I just assumed puppies came into the world knowing they had to pee outside. I would bring her out a few times a day, to the vacant field next to our apartment complex. I would let her off the leash, and she would run around like crazy. I don't recall ever picking up her poop, or even thinking I should.

A short time after getting Bud, I complained to our apartment complex manager that part of our carpet kept getting wet. The ceiling wasn't leaking, so there had to be a leak under the floor. She came to check it out, put her hand on the floor and smelled it. She told me that my dog must be peeing on the carpet. I was shocked. Dogs go outside, why would she pee inside? She gave me some carpet cleaner and asked for a pet security deposit. I had never seen Bud pee inside, but who knows what she did when I wasn't looking.

We brought Bud to the Toledo Bend beach once. I let her off the leash, and she made a beeline for the water. Once she was submerged up to her neck, she squatted and pooped in the water. She kept looking around smiling to see who was watching. "Look at me, look at me," she seemed to be saying. She thought it was just great. It seemed like she was trying to entice us to do the same.

Bud loved to go for car rides. She would stick her whole head out the window. Her ears would fly back, her eye lids would fly back. We could practically see her entire eyeball. The only problem was I had to hold on to her for dear life, because she tried to jump out of the car while it was moving. I think she wanted to fly.

Bud took off running down the road once. Jeff ended up getting hit by a car while chasing after the dog. Jeff knew I would be devastated if I lost my dog, so he kept chasing Bud.

One day, I noticed that Bud had a really strange metallic smell coming off her. I couldn't figure it out. This went on for several days. Then, we saw her squatting in the living room, and she began pooping. Jeff ran over to yell at her, but saw this weird wormlike substance coming out. It kept coming and coming. Bud really began straining, so Jeff had to help her get it out. Jeff had to keep pulling on it to get it all out of her. It was one big long piece. Jeff kept saying, "What is this, oh god,what is this?", as he pulled and pulled.

Bud had eaten the tape part of a cassette tape. It must have been a 120 minute tape, because Jeff had a huge pile by the time she was done. We took her to the vet to make sure she hadn't done any harm to herself. The vet gave her an antibiotic, and said we needed to get this dog spayed. I think the vet was afraid of the puppies Bud might produce someday.

Jeff got teased endlessly about this incident by his fellow soldiers. They would ask what songs the dog played when we pet him.

We got Bud spayed, hoping it would calm her down. She was calm while the anesthetic wore off, but then back to her old crazy self.

We would throw a bone for her and it would land on the vinyl floor by our front door. Bud would run for it, slide on the vinyl floor and slam her face into the door. She did this over and over again. She never learned to slow down on the vinyl.

In hind sight, she probably wasn't crazy as we thought, it was more poor parenting. I'm sure a large part of it was lack of exercise and structure.

Bud kept getting bigger. Soon, my little puppy was becoming a dog. Jeff was getting out of the military, and we were heading back north, to the real world. What to do with Bud?

At first, I was going to bring her home with me. We bought a crate for her, so I could bring her on the plane with me. Then, I began trying to picture her in my parent's house, where I would be staying while Jeff processed out. I was having a really hard time picturing how she would fit into our life, when I didn't know where life was taking us next.

We gave Rick and Bonnie a call.

They had met Bud. Bud had been to their house and played with their dogs. Luckily, they agreed to take on Bud. I felt better knowing Bud would have a good home, and that my mom's house would stay in one piece. We lost our security deposit at the apartment complex, they had to replace the carpet.

Bud fit in at Rick's right away. I don't think she missed us at all. She never really bonded with us. She seemed to be more of a free spirit. Now, she had a back yard to play in, and other dogs with her. Rick told us her favorite spot was on top of the dog house. Better view up there I guess.

By the time Jeff made it home, Bud was missing from Rick's house. Jeff thought she might have been stolen, because she was such a good looking dog. I always thought she just took off, not wanting to be confined by a fence. Who knows. I know I couldn't have given her a better life in NY, and that I did the right thing by trying to find a better home for her. I hope that where ever she ended up, that she had a good life. Bud may have not been my dog of a lifetime, but maybe she was to someone else.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Deep South - Part 2- A Bunny & Rednecks

My first pet in Louisiana was a perfect little white bunny with a pink nose. He looked like the bunnies you see on Easter cards.

We got "Bunny" in the Walmart parking lot. Every weekend, there was someone giving away animals for free in the parking lot. Animals must reproduce rapidly in the south. The bunny was just so cute, we had to bring him home. Total impulse move.

We let Bunny loose in the living room. He hopped around happily and let us hold and cuddle him. The only problem was that every time he hopped, he pooped. It went like this ~ hop, hop, poop, hop, hop, poop....His poop was really tiny. I went around with a plastic spoon and scooped it up as he hopped around.

That night, we put him in a cardboard box when we went to bed.

When I woke up, I went to the box right away, anxious to see my cute little ball of fur. He wasn't there. We hadn't put a lid on the box. We didn't think he could jump that high. Guess we were wrong. Who knows how long Bunny had been loose in our apartment. We found him in our closet. Just follow the poop trail.

Clearly, we had no idea how to care for this rabbit in our apartment. I don't think we even gave him any food or water. So, we decided to find him a good home.

Jeff had befriended the maintence guy, Rick, at our apartment complex. We had been to Rick and his wife, Bonnie's house several times. Rick was a former military guy, and probably the first red neck I ever met. Rick and Bonnie were really nice to us, and I actually enjoyed our trips to their house.

They lived in a house in the middle of nowhere. There was a lot of paneling in their house. I remember their monthly budget hanging on their refrigerator. It was a list in this order: Food, Cigarettes, Beer.... I was most alarmed by what was in their fridge. Dead squirrel. Being a vegetarian at the time, I found that quite horrifying. Welcome to Louisiana. They ate squirrel for dinner. You must have to eat several squirrels to get full.

Jeff and Rick would shoot cans, while Bonnie and I talked. Once, we went there to "pull an engine." A foreign concept to me. Rick and Jeff took an engine out of one truck and put it in another truck. Who knew this was possible, or necessary? Bonnie and I sat on lawn chairs watching. Engine swapping is entertainment in the backwoods of Louisiana.

Rick and Bonnie had lots of animals. They had a fenced in back yard, and several rabbit cages. So, we knew this could be Bunny's new home. We brought Bunny to their house that day, and they were happy to have him.

We went back a few weeks later, and Bunny had grown so much. He was no longer the cute, little easter bunny. He was fattening up considerably. I hardly recognized him.

We later heard that Bunny was gone. We're not sure of the real story. Perhaps a wild animal got in his cage. Maybe he died of natural causes. Maybe, he was Sunday dinner.

Friday, August 3, 2007

The Deep South - Part 1 - Army Wife

Jeff was in the army when we were first married. About 6 months after we wed, I moved with him to Fort Polk, Louisiana. Boy, was I in for a culture shock.
Fort Polk is in Leesville, LA. We called it "Sleesville". Leesville, is no where near New Orleans. It is close to the Texas border, and about an hour and a half drive north of the gulf. If it weren't for the military post, I don't think Leesville would really exist.

When you enter the town of Leesville, you are bombarded with pawn shops, fast food joints, video stores, tattoo places, buffets and lots of military loan outlets. Our first car loan came from one of those loan shops. Our interest rate was 29%! As you head toward post, the strip clubs start popping up. They were all grouped together - guess that helped cut down on the drunk driving as the men bar hopped from one strip joint to another. Just past those was the huge David Duke billboard, which simply said, "DUKE". It made my stomach churn every time I passed it.  Oh, how I missed my blue state.

On the same road (there really is only one main road), we would often see young Pentecostal girls standing in the middle of the road holding coffee cans. They were collecting money. I don't know what the church was thinking, putting young girls in the middle of a busy road, traveled mostly by single, young military men. I guess they thought God would protect them.

You could easily tell a local from the military people. The locals drove old pick up trucks, with a gun rack on the back window, and there was always a shot gun or two in plain site.

I did some research on Leesville, and here are a few of my findings:

Here is what the lovely weather is like:
Compound that with the humidity:

It is not very pleasant. It is unbearably oppressive.

Living in Leesville was difficult.

Being part of the military was even harder. I was a horrible military wife. I just couldn't buy into all things military. It required too much "obeying".

I remember bouncing a check; a check I wrote to myself and miscalculated how much I had in my account. Jeff was worried his Captain would find out.

My response, "It was me who bounced it, what does it have to do with you, it isn't even a joint account."

Jeff's response, "In the eyes of the military, I'm responsible for your actions."

What????? I don't think so.

I hated the fact that I was constantly referred to as a "dependent". I'd always referred to myself as "independent".

The minute you drove on post, it was like entering another country. Fort Polk had its own rules and regulations.

I went to the ER on post once, due to slicing my finger open while cutting a bagel. They informed me I needed to get a tetanus shot. I hadn't had one since 2nd grade, and for good reason - they hurt like hell. I told them "No, I don't want one," and started walking out the door. They looked at Jeff, who just kind of shrugged. I think they expected Jeff to "gain control of his wife".

Jeff knew better.

They called in some back up, blocked the door, and I ended up with a shot. Its kind of intimidating when you are surrounded by all those men in uniform.

One day, I was driving onto post, with the radio blasting, to pick up Jeff. I noticed all the cars were pulling off to the side of the road. I kept driving. Then, people started getting out of their cars, and either saluting or putting their hand over their heart. I kept driving, thinking these people are a bunch of wackos! It was amazing how it eased up traffic for me.

I told Jeff about it, and he explained that everyday at 5PM, they lower the flag and play taps. Its tradition to stop your car and show your respect. Who knew? Like I said, its another country on post.

I would get messages on my answering machine from other military wives, asking me to come to their "teas" and to help make things for "bake sales". I refused to return their calls or engage in their activities.  I had a preconceived notion that all they did was stay home and have babies. Not for me.

One day, Jeff told me his captain wanted to talk to me. That's weird, I thought, but ok. We entered the building, and Jeff took his military cap off, as required by army etiquette. I grabbed the hat from Jeff, threw it on my head and marched into the captain's office smiling.

I don't think Jeff was smiling.

The commander wanted to know why I wasn't participating in the "wives' activities". I told him I was in school, had a job, and basically had better things to do with my time. He didn't have much to say after that. I bet he felt bad for Jeff.

Jeff got a really bad sunburn while we were there. He was starting to blister, and I told him he needed to go get some medical attention. He refused to go, afraid he would get an Article 15, for "Destruction of Government Property". He could lose his rank.

This pretty much did me in, how could they consider people to be government property?

This was more than 15 years ago, and it was a different army back then. Post Desert Storm, not much going on, too much time on every one's hands.

Luckily, Jeff was able to get an "early out" of his army contract, which he did primarily for me. He knew I wasn't going to make it in this lifestyle. Gee, I wonder how he could tell?

There's no chance of early outs these days, in fact they're extending contracts. I saw recently that Fort Polk is being used to train people going to Iraq. Guess the weather is similar. I'm sure the wives rely on each other even more, with their husbands being deployed and redeployed.

I don't miss the south or the military at all. I do miss seeing Jeff come home in his uniform. I don't miss those loads of "green" laundry.

I know Jeff misses it sometimes. It always gave him a sense of pride to serve his country. I was proud of him too.

Still am.

It is not easy being in the military, and even harder being married to someone who is. The wives are serving their country as well, even though they aren't enlisted themselves. Clearly, some wives serve better than others.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

slice of bread

I've never eaten the crust on bread. I don't like the taste or texture. When I was growing up, my parents always cut the crust off my sandwiches for me. I would end up with tiny sandwiches. I don't know what they did with the crust. I'm guessing my dad ate it.

Now, when I make sandwiches for myself, I don't cut off the crust. I cut the sandwich in half. I don't think I could eat a sandwich that hadn't been cut in half, preferably diagonally.

At work, I eat my sandwich carefully, as to avoid biting into the crust. I end up with a big pile of crust. Sometimes my co-workers make snide comments about that pile. I take the meat left on the crust out to munch on, but the crust goes in the garbage.

I do the same thing at restaurants. I think my mom gets quite embarrassed when the waitress comes to pick up my plate, and there is a pile of leftover crust. Of course the pile will disappear if my dad is with us.

At Panera's, you get a baguette with your meal. It is really "crusty" on the outside, but wonderfully soft on the inside. I scoop the soft part out and leave the outer crust aside. Jeff and I make a good pair when we go to Panera's - as his favorite part is the top crust of the baguette. So, he gets to eat mine. He always says, "I can't believe you don't eat this, it's the best part." However, Jeff doesn't like the bottom crust, only the top.

My grandfather, Paki, always used to say, "Eat your crust, it'll make your hair curly."

I wonder why he thought I would want curly hair. Maybe its a Polish thing. I wonder what he would think if he knew I often use a straightening iron on my hair.

Yesterday, I read an alarming bit of information. Apparently, the crust of the bread has 8 times the cancer fighting antioxidants as found in the rest of the bread.

I guess I should have been eating the crust all these years.

On the plus side, perhaps I have helped prevent Dad from getting cancer, as he has had all those extra pieces of crusts over the years.

I think its too late to start eating crust now, but maybe I could sell all my crusts. I could market it as "a cancer preventative." I know people sell some pretty strange stuff on EBay, why not bread crusts?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


Here are some updates on a few of my previous stories:

The driveway has been repaved. They did not cut a new straight line. Jeff is trying not to look at it. I think it is fine and once it starts to grey it won't be noticeable. Jeff says, "its nothing money can't fix." I think Jeff has AAD, Asphalt Attachment Disorder, wonder what can be done for that. Instead of throwing away the old metal culverts, the county dug big holes across the street and buried them. I guess we now have a land fill as a neighbor.

If anyone is interested in getting a Dr. Grip, they are on sale this week at CVS for $3.99. Quite a bargain, as I have paid over $7! I bought an extra one. Jeff and I made our trip to Staples on Sunday, picked up a $40 power strip for my mom for $15. Another bargain, plus we got our 5 free RSVP pens. One of my favorite ball points. The guy that checked us out, handed me the rebate receipt and said, "I don't have to explain how this works to you, see you next Sunday." I guess we are true "regulars." We have made ourselves at home there. We always walk in carrying our Starbucks lattes. Last week, Jeff unboxed and stocked their shelves with erasers, while I showed people where all the 1 cent items were hiding. I even left the check out aisle to show a desperate woman where the 1 cent pencils were. Maybe they should hire us. While we were there, I heard on the speakers that Teacher Appreciation Day is coming soon. I asked the guy at the checkout when it was, and unfortunately it is when we are in Maine! I can't miss out on my free bag of goodies! Hope we can find a Staples in Brunswick.

I was watching a TV show today, and a person said, "That's making a mountain out of a mole hill." I finally got that saying! A mole hill is what my moles are making every afternoon. I think I will use that saying more often. Someone googled "bees making piles of dirt on my front lawn" and they got linked to my "mole patrol" story. I wonder if they really had a mole problem, not bees.

Oreo is going in for his post op checkup tomorrow. He is still not supposed to be walking, running, or jumping, but has been doing so for days. Hope the vet can't tell. He looks fine to me. It is impossible to keep a puppy from moving. I got rid of the e-collar after the first few days - too much stress for Misty. Oreo hasn't showed all that much interest in the stitches. I'll be glad when our routine is back to normal and I can stop chasing Oreo around the house to give him his antibiotic.

straps and more straps

They pretty much sell everything for dogs these days. There are dog car seats, strollers, diapers, raincoats, and some pretty extravagant dog houses, the one below starts at $5,500.

I've often thought about getting seatbelts for my dogs. If a dog likes to stand up in the car, he will most likely end up on the ground during a sudden stop. All the dog seatbelt will do is keep him on his seat. He can still stand up, sit, or lie down. I don't know how much it will help in an actual collision.
It is nothing like the car seats they have for kids these days, which are comparable to the safety devices race car drivers use.

This got me thinking about how when I was little, there were no car seats. I remember sitting on my mom's lap in the front seat on long drives to Philly. I used to love standing "on the hump" in the back seat. It really helped you see out the front window. I remember there being a lot of climbing around in my friend Kelly's station wagon. We would go from the middle seat, to the back seat that faced backward, stick our legs out the back window, then climb back over to the middle seat. In our rental car in Colorado, I rode down the mountain in the hatchback part of the car with my head pressed against the back windshield. I remember my cousin, Mary Rebecca, falling asleep standing on "the hump", while holding on to the front seat. My friend's mom had a big orange van. A real van, not a caravan. Suzanne and I loved to ride in the back of the van, sitting on the rubber floor. We would each be on opposite sides of the van, a huge expanse between us, hanging on for dear life to the wheel wells. Oh what fun that was!

Kids miss out these days, with all the emphasis on safety. They are even tripled strapped into their strollers.

I think all this focus on safety may be one reason why I don't have kids. It just makes it a big hassle to go anywhere. I already find it a hassle to drive the 10 miles across the river to get to a mall, so I do most of my shopping online. With a child, you have to get the kid in the car seat, strap him in, and then when you get where you are going you repeat the process of strapping them in the stroller, and then all over again when you get back in the car. When you get home, you strap them in a bouncy seat or high chair. The strap making companies must be doing very well.

I wonder if there is a correlation between the growth of drive thru's and the implementation of car seat laws. I always thought a drive thru pharmacy and video store was ridiculous, who could be so lazy? I'm sure they are a lifesaver for people with kids strapped in.

There are straps on bicycle helmets, also now a law for kids. I know how important those helmets are, after seeing my Dad in the head trauma unit after a fall (and he had a helmet on). Before we wore bike helmets, I remember Dad sitting me on the bar of his bike and taking me for rides on a bumpy dirt road, which I called the roller coaster. It was painful, and I felt like I would fall off at any moment. It was so much fun. I wonder if it would have been as exhilarating if I'd been wearing a helmet.

Don't get me wrong, I think its great that we have the capability to keep everyone safer than in the past. I know my own seat belt has saved me and many people I love from worse injuries, and I don't get in the car without putting it on.
So, maybe I should buy some seat belts for my dogs. Although, in the good ole days, dogs would ride in the back of pick up trucks. I know that's not safe, but I bet the dogs loved it!