Tuesday, July 31, 2007

rent a dog

Did you see the article about the new company that is renting out dogs? For a fee, you can now rent a dog for several hours or days, and then return him. Its cheaper to rent during the week, than on weekends. Perfect for people who don't have a lot of time to devote to a dog, but still want one around once in a while. Their rationale is that it will keep dogs out of shelters, since people can return them when they are done with the dog.

When I saw that, I was horrified. Here we are treating dogs as "property", and renting them out like cars. Should I get the compact Chihuahua model this week, or the mid size golden retriever? It just seems wrong.

I consider my dogs to be my children. I nurture, teach, love, care, nurse, pull off ticks and bathe them. I make sure they have plenty of exercise and fun time each day. I worry about their mental and physical health. When I go away, I leave pages of instructions for my petsitter. I brush their teeth, clean their ears, and even wipe their butts. Hmmm, maybe this is why people want to rent a dog. It is a lot of work. Worth every second and penny spent, as there is endless love exuding from their little furry bodies.

I got Misty from a woman who had 3 dogs. She felt guilty, because her job took her away from home so much. She felt she wasn't giving her dogs enough attention. She did the right thing, and gave her dogs a better life, even though it broke her heart. I lucked out, I got a great dog. Misty lucked out too. I guess Misty's original mom would be a good candidate to rent a dog.

What if someone started doing the same thing, but with children? Would there be a market for "rent a kid"? Single men could rent cute babies, to attract women. I bet there would be a huge demand to rent kids on holidays. Who doesn't want to see a kid's face light up when they see what Santa has left under the tree. It would be good practice for people considering having a child, they may decide its better to just "lease" than buy.

"Rent a Kid" could be a win win situation for everyone. Instead of hiring a babysitter, parents could rent out their kid and earn some money for their child's college fund. Kids would benefit from the experience. They will be exposed to new cultures and go to fun places, and I'm sure they will get lots of cool toys and gadgets.

What about "rent a husband"? I know I could get big bucks for mine - he is very handy and can fix your car, plumbing, do carpentery, sell you junk on ebay, install central air, windows, doors, fencing, and even build you a motorcycle! Who wants him first?

Monday, July 30, 2007


I have made a subscription service available for my blog. Now you can get my latest post via email. This may help some of you on dial up who have difficulty loading my page due to all the photos. Just enter your email address where it says ,"subscribe to my blog". You will be sent an email, with a link to click on. Once you have clicked on the link, you are all set. Then, whenever I have a new post, you will get it in your email inbox.

I tried it out myself, and it worked great!

subbing and retirement

There are some retired teachers who substitute at my school. Some are teachers who just recently retired, and are having difficult breaking free of the routine and camaraderie. They usually only last a few months and then they are off to winter in Florida. We never see them again.

There are 2 retired male teachers, in their late 70's and early 80's, who use canes to get around. They substitute almost everyday all year round. I admire and respect both men, and love to talk with them. The students, on the other hand, are not very respectful. In fact, they can be very rude. Substitute teachers have a tough job, and do it for minimal compensation. So, why would these men spend their retirement days back "teaching". It ends up being more like babysitting. The men are often shaking their heads, saying "kids are a lot worse than when I was teaching." Are the men that lonely or bored? Why not work as a greeter at Walmart? I feel bad for them, and imagine that if they didn't come to school they would spend their days alone watching game shows.

Jeff and I were talking about retirement today, as we frequently do. We both are hoping to be done with "regular" jobs around age 55. I know I will not be doing any substitute teaching when I retire. It is bad enough when I have to cover a class for someone. Any break in the routine, results in chaos in the classroom. I can see myself doing some sort of volunteer work with animals. Maybe training my dogs to be therapy dogs in hospitals.

I know that Jeff will always find some way to generate extra cash - it is innate in him and one of his many passions. He will forever be "the hustler" and not one to sit idle. I don't think he will ever be "retired".

During our conversation today, Jeff surprised me. He said he wouldn't mind working on a car lot in his retirement, hosing down the new cars, not selling them. Jeff said that the customers leaving the car lot would say, "Look at that poor old guy, glad I don't have his job, he must have a horrible life." Meanwhile, Jeff said he would be thinking, "Look at those poor young people with the huge car payment."

That got me thinking. Maybe I shouldn't feel bad for those 2 substitute teachers. There must be some payoff that they are getting from subbing (and it sure isn't a financial payoff). Maybe they're not there because they need someone to share their grand children's photos with, or the chit chat in the faculty room at lunch time, or the smell of chalk. Perhaps they get satisfaction from thinking to themselves, "These poor new teachers sure have to deal with a lot more problems than we ever did."

Sunday, July 29, 2007

the day the power went out

A few weeks ago, we had some bad thunderstorms that caused some power outages and tree damage in our area. The next day was sunny, humid, and one of the hottest days of the summer. My Mom and I were going to meet in downtown Troy, its kind of half way between our houses, to go to Spilln' the Beans for lunch. We were both looking forward to one of their speciality sandwiches.

On my way to Troy, my cell phone rings. Its Mom telling me that her power just went out, so she can't get her car out of the garage since it has an electric opener. So, we go to Plan B. I will meet her at her house and we will eat somewhere nearby and save Spilln' the Beans for another day. Just as we are about to leave her house, the power comes back on. Mom immediately pulls her car out of the garage just in case the power goes out again, then we head toward Panera. When we get near the restaurant, the traffic light to turn into the plaza is out, and a cop is outside directing traffic. We figure the restaurant is probably out of power. Just as we are about to turn, the power comes back on, but we had already decided to go to Plan C.

We decide to go to our original choice, Spilln' the Beans. As we drive into Troy, we start noticing that the traffic lights are out. We keep hoping that the closer we get to the cafe, the lights will come on. No such luck. So, we keep driving hoping for electricity. We did a driving tour through parts of Troy, some of which we'd never seen. We stop at one place and ask the people outside if they have power, that we were looking to get lunch. The person sitting outside said, "Lunch sounds good, but no one has power." No luck in Troy.

I tell my mom that we never lose power at our house, because we have a different electric company than most of the area. So, we start heading toward my town. As we cross the border, the lights are indeed on! We pull into one of our favorite Japanese restaurants. The short walk from the car to the restaurant was horrible - the heat was so oppressive. We sit down, and mom decides that after all that we deserve a cocktail. She also had a buy one lunch get one free coupon, so we just spent the money we were saving (and then some) on the drinks. It was nice to be someplace cool with lights. Mom talked of bringing her sister here for lunch when she comes to visit in a few weeks.

The waiters and waitresses in the restaurant speak limited English. We ordered margaritas, but there was no bartender. The waitress seemed to be taking a long time to make the drinks. Mom thought she was looking up how to make it. After a while, she came over and asked us if we wanted our drinks on the rocks or frozen. Mom then offered to order different drinks that were easier to make, thinking the girl didn't know what she was doing. Mom's always thinking of other people. The waitress said "No, no we just don't have any ice, he's going to get ice. " We envisioned the waiter running across the street to the grocery store to get ice and hoping they weren't sold out due to the widespread power outage. Mom said, "Maybe we shouldn't bring my sister here."

While we had to wait a long time, the drinks and the food were excellent. One of the best margarita's I ever had. That restaurant never lets me down. I said, "You can always count on Okinawa."

Jeff and I were both bragging that day about how we never lose power since we have a different power company. That night around 7, I went into the house, opened the fridge and noticed the light inside didn't come on. I immediately thought the fridge was broken. But no, we had finally jinxed ourselves and lost power. I wonder if Okinawa did too.

We were lucky, our power was only out for less than an hour, and the sun had already begun to set. Our AC had been running all day, so our house stayed comfortable. The residents of downtown Troy weren't so lucky. They were without power for most of the afternoon, in the worst heat of the day.

For those unfamiliar with Troy, it is often dubbed "Troilet", and outsiders think its full of poor people, drug addicts and criminals. When I tell people I teach at Troy High, I always hear "that must be tough" or "do you have to wear a bullet proof vest?" My response is always, "no, its a great place, I enjoy it." Yes, I've had some students who have taken the wrong path and ended up in serious trouble with the law. The majority though are wonderful, bright, caring individuals who make me proud everyday.

Turns out the power outage in Troy was planned. It was a way to reduce the load of power on such a hot day, while they were working on fixing things broken by the previous day's storms. Instead of turning power off to an affluent suburb, I guess the company felt the people of Troy were used to suffering, or were less worthy of electricity. They did so without warning or with any info on when the power would be restored.

What the power company clearly doesn't know are the real treasures found in Troy - wonderful restaurants, beautiful architecture, galleries, and yes, people. Some people who may be too poor to own a car, therefore unable to go far enough out of the city to sit in a cool restaurant. Elderly people who live in high rise buildings, with no chance of relief from the heat. It reminded me of what happened in New Orleans, on a lesser scale, but with the same disregard for the value of all humans.

Later that night, I thought about the girl in Troy who said that "lunch sounds good", and knew she didn't have one as good as ours. I thought about how much I enjoyed that margarita, while others, even some of my students, were sitting on their stoops fanning themselves for hours on the hottest day of the year.

The electric company is under investigation now for their actions that day, and I hope they receive some sort of financial consequence.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Toothpaste Wonderland

I went into Walmart yesterday to buy some items. I rarely go to Walmart, as I believe it will be the downfall of our economy. However, I was nearby, had some coupons that were about to expire, and I wasn't buying anything made in China (at least I hope not).

I had a coupon for 50 cents off of Colgate toothpaste. I always use Colgate, my parents always used Colgate. The taste of Crest never sat well with me.

When I walked down the toothpaste aisle, it was crowded. People were staring at the boxes of toothpaste. I thought, "What is the problem, just throw it in your cart already." I walked past all the toothpaste boxes until I saw the familiar red boxes. Then, I realized why there was such a crowd. There appeared to be dozens of different kinds of Colgate. There was Colgate Total, Sparkling White, Simply White, Sensitive, children's Colgates with a variety of cartoon characters, I could go on...

I'm not that old, but I do remember the days when there were just 2 choices, paste or gel. I remember when Aqua Fresh came out, and it was revolutionary because it swirled the paste and gel together, which gave us a third option!

When I got home, I went on Colgate's website and discovered they have over 35 varieties of toothpaste! Walmart appears to carry each one, and in different sizes.

My coupon was very specific. I needed to buy Colgate Cavity Protection. I found it on the very bottom shelf, and it was the one with the cheapest price. I believe it is their original toothpaste. The one that, according to their website, merely fights cavities, cleans teeth, freshens breath, strengthens teeth, leaves mouth clean, and has a great "regular" flavor.

Now what more could you ask for from a toothpaste? Are the other varieties really doing more than that? How on earth do you choose the one that is right for you?

Thankfully, the Colgate people have a "Let Us Help You Decide" section on their website. They are more than willingly to help you figure out just what kind of toothpaste you should be buying based on your needs. There are eleven "benefits" to choose from. I decided to pick, "vegetarian" out of curiosity.

If you are in need of a vegetarian toothpaste, the first choice that pops up is Colgate Shrek Bubble Fruit. Sounds yummy. The Colgate I bought was also listed as a vegetarian choice. Thank goodness I haven't been brushing my teeth all these years with animal parts.

I decided to take a look at all their toothbrush choices. There were 18 of those! They also have a "help you decide" section for brushes. Again, I pick "vegetarian", and all their toothbrushes were listed. So, I guess the bristles are not real animal hair. Whew.

So, the number of options, if you choose one of their pastes and one of their brushes is 630, just from Colgate alone. (Check my math Dad) That doesn't include choosing a hard, medium, or soft brush head, not to mention the variety of colors! I would think that could raise the options into the thousands.

This is just too much stress to put on the average shopper.

Friday, July 27, 2007

There's No Altering My Puppy

My 7 month old puppy, Oreo, got neutered this week. Dogs and cats get spayed and neutered every day in this country. This surgical alteration is probably the most common operation performed by vets. It is routine and predictable. But when its your own dog going through it, there is nothing routine about it.

The night before the surgery, you give your dog his last meal by 7PM. Then, nothing but water until morning, when you must pick up the water bowl. This probably doesn't seem that bad to you, but to dogs, who are strict creatures of routines, it is devastating. Plus, its not like you can explain to them that tomorrow is the day they will lose their manhood and that's the reason we are starving them.

A typical dog day at my house begins around 6AM, with going potty, eating breakfast, and going for a walk. At 7:30, we wake up "daddy" and the dogs get some cheerios from him. Then, they eat some of my mini wheats and go play in the yard. We do this day in day out, with little change in the routine, unless its raining, in which case we skip the walk.

So, you can imagine how lost the dogs were on the morning of the surgery when after going potty, there was nothing to do. Since I have two dogs, I had to deprive Misty, my older dog, of breakfast and water as well. I couldn't feed her, and starve her brother. That would be so unfair. I couldn't walk them, because then they would be thirsty and I couldn't give the puppy water.

After looking at me with those "starving eyes", the dogs realized they weren't getting anywhere with me. Let's go wake daddy!

The dogs went to the bedroom and stared down Jeff. When that didn't work, they put their paws on the bed and nosed him. Then, the whining started. You could almost hear them saying, "Please daddy, give us some cheerios, mommy is starving us." Finally Jeff got up, and the dogs followed him like he was the Pied Piper into the kitchen. They sat patiently while he poured the cereal in his bowl. The guilt was killing me. I lured Oreo out to the yard, so Misty could at least have some cheerios. Oreo knew immediately what was happening, and started barking his head off, saying "I was tricked". I skipped my breakfast, as I felt I should have to suffer along with Oreo. Poor baby- if he only knew what was to come.

I drop Oreo at the vet around 8AM, went home and fed Misty and myself. It was actually nice not having him around for a few hours. Its amazing how much easier it is to clean when you don't have a puppy attacking your vacuum, broom and dust rag. Plus, I was able to give Misty a good brushing without Oreo attacking the brush. All Oreo's toys were stowed in the toy basket. My house was spotless. By 3:30 though, I was anxious to see my baby. I went to pick him up, along with the many medications and instructions to follow.

Oreo came home with the plastic E-collar on to keep him from licking and biting his stitches. Dogs typically hate those things and Oreo was no exception. Worse though, Misty was completely terrified of it. She would run as far away from Oreo as possible. Part of the problem was Oreo kept banging the collar into things and walls, and the noise scared Misty.

Misty is a dog with a severe anxiety problem. When we first brought Oreo home as an 8 week old puppy, Misty had to spend a whole day at the vet on IV fluids. She had gotten so worked up about this little creature invading our house. She was vomiting yellow bile all over the carpet which made her completely dehydrated. Plus, she had some pretty explosive diarrhea. I had to replace our living room carpet, because the stains would not come out after trying every cleaner on the market.

So, now I feared I had 2 patients on my hand. I started Misty on some Kaopectate as a preventative measure. I didn't want to have to buy another living room carpet.

Oreo was very groggy and just wanted to lay down. I knew he had been on fluids all day, so I thought he would have to pee. I brought him outside, but all he did was sit down. I brought him in and put him on his bed. When he got up later, there was a puddle on the bed. Clearly, he was leaking urine.

I recognized the puddle, because my last dog was incontinent for the final 2 years of his life, due to prostate cancer. Munchkin had an ample supply of "diapers" to catch his drips. I kept the diapers, thinking you never know. But, I didn't think I would use them on my puppy.

I called the vet, and she said the leakage was probably the anesthesia causing him to lose muscle control. The operation had been no where near the urinary tract. On went the diaper- thank goodness it fit. The vet said she would be surprised if Oreo didn't pee on his own in the morning.

Oreo slept like a log that night. I don't think he moved once. I had read all sorts of stuff online saying that dogs are back to normal the morning after the surgery. So, I was expecting to go back to our old routine. Not the case with Oreo.

In the morning, I brought Oreo outside to pee, and nothing. He just sat down. Now, I started to panic. I felt like I had ruined my dog's life and he would never be the same again. Why had I done the operation? How could I mutilate my beloved puppy? Would he need diapers the rest of his life? I was starting to lose it. I'm not good with changes to my routine either.

Jeff to the rescue. Jeff got out of bed, got down on the floor and fed Oreo his breakfast on a spoon. Jeff kept saying to me, "Are you watching? See him eating? He's fine."

Ok...at least he's eating, but what about the peeing thing.

Next thing you know, there is a huge puddle on the new living room carpet. At least we know he can pee. We go through several towels soaking it all up. Why dogs always vomit and pee on carpets and not vinyl or tile is a great dog mystery. Oreo is now in desperate need of a bath, since he had the diaper on when he peed. He was covered in pee. The post op instructions said "No bathing" for 14 days. Yuk. So, we wiped him down with a wet wash cloth and baby wipes, avoiding his incision.

Now, Oreo wouldn't stop crying. I don't know if he's in pain or just frustrated. He isn't walking. All he does is take 2 steps and sits down. I call the vet.

The receptionist relays my woes to the vet. I keep getting,"that's normal...that's normal...it hasn't even been 24 hours." I won't hang up the phone though, so they finally say to just come in and we'll check him out.

I bring Oreo right away. Some of the people who work there say, "Oreo's back already?" The vet is very patient with me, and assures me that he is doing great. She gives me another pain killer for him. I think she does so more to make me feel better than Oreo. I tell the vet tech about how Misty is freaking out over the cone collar, and that we both need some Valium. I know they have it there, but they didn't give me any.

I bring Oreo home. He runs to the back door, I let him out, and he goes to his favorite pee spot and pees for a long time. Then, he starts running around the yard and tries to get Misty to chase him.

Guess I jumped the gun on bringing him to the vet.

Three days later, things are pretty much back to normal. Except Oreo is not supposed to run or jump. He and Misty are both dying to chase and wrestle with each other, and I have to keep telling them to stop. Oreo has also caught on to all my "tricks" to get him to take his medicine. Now, I pretty much have to tackle him. Why do they make dog medicine bubble gum flavored? You would think liver or chicken would be a better idea.

You always hear that puppies calm down after being neutered. Not the case with Oreo. I think that is just a trick to get people to neuter their zany puppies. But why would we want them to calm down? Puppies bring life and energy into our homes. I'm glad to have my crazy Oreo back, especially after that long morning of worry that I altered him more than originally planned.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Technology and Me

I don't claim to be a technology expert, nor do I want to be. I must admit I don't even understand some cell phone commercials these days. I find myself thinking, "What the heck is a V-Cast, and why would I need it on a phone? "

I guess if I don't know what it is, I certainly don't need it. I have never felt the need to get "the latest" anything. Seeing all those people lined up for the Apple i phone made no sense to me.

I do know I'm better with technology than some people. The school I work for entered the technological age when I began working there 8 years ago. All our paperwork is done on computers - great for me (when the computers are up and running), not so great for others. I have to input one of my co-workers grades every quarter, because she is terrified of the computer. I tried to teach her once, but it is much easier just to do it myself. She would say, "What do you mean scroll down?" and "Hit what button, I don't see any buttons". She was constantly picking the mouse up, waving it around in the air, and then putting it back down, rather than sliding it on the mouse pad. This drove me nuts. She kept saying, "where'd that arrow thing go?"

I have tried to get her to embrace the internet, by explaining all the things she can do online. All that did was add to my duties. I now request her library books and order rebates for her online. She likes what technology can do for her, but wants someone else to deal with the actual technology. She takes me out to lunch often to pay me back for doing all her computer work. Although, she always gets to pick where we are going to eat.

My husband gets more excited about technology than I do. Jeff got a GPS last Christmas. A GPS, for those who don't know, is a global positioning device that uses satellites to track where you are and where you want to go. The unit goes in the car with you and basically is a virtual mapquest. My parents and I took the GPS with us on a recent trip to New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We really got a kick out of "Marcia" telling us where to go. We especially enjoyed ignoring her on purpose, which challenged Marcia to "recalculate" and find a new way to get us where we were going. The problem was, you get so accustomed to her telling you what to do - "turn left, exit right, drive 10 miles" - that my dad at one point almost missed stopping at a red light. I think he was expecting to hear Marcia say,"Stop, red light ahead." Maybe in a few years, she will.

My main technological requirement is that the tech things I do own need to work effortlessly.

Now, a VCR is a practical dinosaur in this technological age, but a few years ago it still served a purpose in my life. Being a person who is asleep by 9:30 every night, I was missing out on some of my favorite shows. "Real Time with Bill Maher" was originally on at 8:00 PM on HBO, and I watched it live every week. When it got switched to 11PM, I knew I would have to record it. There was no way I was staying up until midnight.

I know how to set the clock on a VCR, and how to program it to record a show. So, I got ours set up to record Bill Maher. I was excited to watch it the next day, at a normal hour. How disappointed I was when all the sound was delayed. No one's lips matched what they were saying. It was annoying, but I suffered through it. The next week, I hit play and all the peoples' voices were being dubbed over in Spanish. Now, I was getting upset. I don't know Spanish. Why couldn't they have been dubbed in Russian?

I began experimenting by recording various shows. It seemed the only shows being recorded in Spanish were the ones on HBO. I had no idea if the VCR was broken or if HBO was secretly sabbotaging my machine. I eventually gave up recording Bill Maher.

Jeff saved the day when he bought me a TiVo for Christmas. A TiVo is like a VCR, but it is an actual hard drive with fabulous software. It is very user friendly. You basically tell it what shows you want it to record, set up a "season pass", and it does the rest. You can even ask it to record any show with the word "sheltie" in the show's description, and it does so. Then, you can watch all your shows when you want and by pass all the commercials. It is just a fabulous invention. One I'd be lost without.

The only problem with the Tivo is that it needs to be updated quite often so it knows when your shows are on. This is done through your telephone line. Now, most people hook the Tivo directly up to a telephone line and the TiVo automatically updates itself by making phone calls every few days to TiVo Land. I didn't have a phone in my living room where my TiVo is located. So, I have to get a really long phone wire, drag it from the TiVo, across the living room, and then connect it to my kitchen phone. I do this about once a week, to keep the TiVo up to date. I've been doing this for 3 years, and last week it just really annoyed me that I had to do that. I thought something better must be out there than this dinosaur phone cord, which I have to drag a whole 8 feet from living room to kitchen. Yes, I'm getting lazy in my old age.

I get on the Tivo website and find they have a device available to improve my life. It will eliminate those 2 minutes it takes me every week to connect to the TiVo Service. Halleluliah! Now, all I have to do is plug the cell phone size unit into my TiVo, and it downloads all the program info through my wireless computer modem automatically. No more phone cords. Plus, I will now be able to download all my shows onto my computer, and either watch them on my computer or burn them on a DVD so I can bring them with me. This will allow me to watch Oprah on my laptop while sitting on our deck. How cool is that?

OK, I will probably never download any shows onto my computer or DVD, but just knowing I can is pretty thrilling.

Did I say I didn't feel the need to have the "latest thing"?

Ok, I lied.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

School Supplies

Do you remember the feeling of getting all your new school supplies in September? Starting the year fresh with a brand new box of crayons and a tub of paste (love that smell), was something I always looked forward to and still do.

I think my obsession with school supplies began in the first grade. I still can picture my friend, Michelle, coming into the classroom on the first day of school. Her shiny black pony tails were bouncing, she had on a really pretty dress, and a huge smile across her face. In her hands was the 64 box of crayola crayons, the one with the sharpener attached, and a metal lunchbox. My heart sunk. I only had the 16 box of crayolas, and a homemade, fabric lunch bag. I was so jealous of that 64 box. All those color choices she had, and the ability to always have a fresh point.

From then on, I wanted nothing but the best.

Every Sunday, I search the paper for the Staples flyer. Staples often offers school supplies for FREE, with a mail in rebate. Jeff and I have made this a ritual. We go to Staples as soon as the store opens on Sunday, and get our free stuff. We even had to make a trip to Staples while we were visiting my parents in Florida, to get our free 12 pack of Sharpies. 12 Sharpies! Free! They also give away things like phones and remote controls for free, but its the writing utensils that really get me excited.

Working for a public school, I have to buy a lot of my own supplies. If you ask the school for staples, instead of giving you a box of staples, you get one strip of staples. Ask for a box of pens, and you get 3 bics.

My dad, on the other hand, works for a private college. Now, he gets some good stuff. Throughout my childhood, I remember my dad sitting at the kitchen table, grading papers using wonderful flair pens. He had them in red, green, and black. They had a really fine tip, and the plastic pen matched the color of the ink. There was never a shortage of those pens in our house. I've been know to raid the supply closet at his college for some of those nice "free" pens. He also had an endless supply of paper tablets, long and yellow. Nice.

My students know that if they ever need something - tape, paper clip, butterfly clip, white out, etc. - that I am the person to go to. I must admit my desk is like an office supply store. I have just about everything, and in more than one color. Students also know how to get on my good side, just bring me a nice pack of pens, and you'll be my favorite student forever. I'll never forget these great purple pens one student gave me. I love her!

Several years ago, I discovered a fabulous pen by Pilot, its called "Dr. Grip" (not to be confused with the inferior PhD pen). It is a gel pen that you can refill. It has a really nice weight to it, and is very comfortable to write with. I am extremely attached to that pen, and my students know it. When students ask to borrow a pen, I hand over my Dr. Grip cautiously and tell them, "This is my Dr. Grip, it is my favorite pen in the world." I remember one student asked, "Did you take it from a doctor's office?" I always get it back though. At the end of their senior year, I give my students their own Dr. Grip. They always smile when they open it, and I tell them they will always think of me when they write with it. I know they will. They bring it with them to their final exam, and show it proudly to me as they write their final essay of their high school career.

Towards the end of this school year, I was standing in the hallway and my Dr. Grip just broke in my hand for no reason. I had had the pen for over 2 years. I was heartbroken. I took the pieces, taped them to a piece of paper, and wrote "The Best Pen Ever 2004-2007". I hung it on my wall, behind my desk. My students got a kick out of it. I got comments like ,"You are weird" and "Only you would make a memorial to your pen." They seemed to understand though. They knew how much I loved that pen, and many offered to try and fix it for me. I have since replaced it with a new Dr. Grip. A person must move on.

This past Sunday, Jeff and I made our trip to Staples. They had folders for 1 cent, pencil packs and rulers for 5 cents, and mechanical pencils, called "Cazoodles", for Free! I almost bought those cazoodles during our last trip - glad I didn't - I would have been mad to pay for something I could get for free. They are really cool.

On our way to check out, we passed by the index card section. Jeff stopped and began looking at all the choices. He said, "You know, I have always had a fascination with index cards - their size and weight - all the things you could write on them."

I learned something new about Jeff that day, and realized why he understands my fascination with writing utensils. He was secretly harboring his own obsession. So, he bought some index cards, a box to hold them, and some dividers. He wants to use them to write down motorcycle parts information. Oh, the possibilities! He could do each type of part in a different color pen......or on a different colored card.....

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Poor Oreo

Poor Oreo finally got neutered today, after being delayed for 3 weeks due to high BUN levels in his blood work. Misty was sad all day without her buddy.
Oreo seems so depressed, and I feel horribly guilty. I'm hoping he is feeling more like himself in the morning. Right now he is whining quietly - breaking my heart. He has to wear the Elizabethan collar to keep him from biting his stitches, and he does not like it at all. I don't think any dogs do. I'm supposed to keep him from running and jumping for 10 days. We'll see how that goes when the anesthesia wears off.
My dad is also on restriction due to sciatica. Both Oreo and Dad live to play hard everyday. Maybe Dad and Oreo should hang out and be depressed together, or share pain killers.

Monday, July 23, 2007

dog days

Today is a dreary, rainy day. A big difference from yesterday, which was picture perfect. I spent yesterday in the backyard with my dogs, doing nothing. Meanwhile, Jeff was busy in the basement working on all his bike projects. Funny how we both enjoyed our day! Jeff felt like he got a lot accomplished, and I felt like I got to relish in the beautiful weather. Jeff did come out to join us every once in awhile, and soaked in some peace and quiet (the neighbors weren't home). Jeff said our backyard alone would sell our house. He's right, it was the reason why I wanted the house the minute I saw it and it looks so much better now. But its so not for sale.

When I looked up from my Adirondack chair, this is what I saw:

And when I looked down, this is what I saw:

Misty loves to sleep in the rocks by the gate. I think she likes that spot because she can keep an eye on the road and on the next door neighbors. In the late afternoon though, its time for a nap.

While Oreo likes to sleep curled up at my feet, after playing with his ball.

The dogs have really taught us how important it is to take it easy in this hectic world we live in.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Lost Package

Jeff and I buy a lot of things online, and as a result, the UPS guy comes to our house just about everyday. Its always the same guy, he arrives between 11 and 11:10 everytime, and he always leaves the boxes in front of our garage. We have rarely had problems with UPS deliveries. So, the one time we did, it sent Jeff into a tailspin.

Jeff was awaiting some motorcycle parts, that cost him $500. He checked the tracking number online, and the link said "delivered, front porch". We looked all around the house, several times. No package. Jeff was starting to get concerned, as he hadn't paid they extra $1.50 for insurance and since UPS claimed it was delivered he had no recourse with the company.

I tried to assure Jeff that our driver must have been out sick, because he is very reliable and that the package must be somewhere.

We called the person who lives at the same address as ours in town, except their street is an "ave" and ours is a "road". They frequently get some of our mail and other deliveries. The other day I got a bouquet of flowers that was meant for the "ave" people. One morning, we awoke to state and local police at our door looking for someone that we had never heard of. Jeff told the state trooper to try the "ave" address, the trooper looked at the local cop, who just nodded his head that yes there is another street with the same name. Duh. I could have figured that out by looking in the phone book. Anyway, the "ave" people checked their front and back door, and no package.

So, we tried calling UPS. There is no local number for UPS, all you can reach is a call center. I thought if we could just talk to someone local, they could tell us if it was a different driver and ask him where the package could be. The person on the other end said that was impossible. In this high tech age, our local UPS place has no phone??? We filed a claim, but they told us if any money (with a maximum of $100) was refunded it would go to the sender of the package. That makes sense. So, now the sender would have an extra $100 and we would still have no package. Hmmm.

Jeff was getting angrier by the minute. I tried to tell him that someone nearby must have the package. His response was "we have to hope whoever got it didn't open it, because if they saw what was in the box they would keep it." I asked what was in the box. He said it was 2 brake calipers.

Now, if I opened a box and saw a brake caliper, I don't think I would know what it was, have any idea what it was worth, or what to do with it. I think my reaction would be, "that's shiny". I tried to explain to Jeff that most people don't know what a brake caliper is, let alone what its worth. He looked at me with disbelief and said of course people know what a brake caliper is. He was convinced he was out $500, and some lucky guy was now the proud owner of beautiful motorcycle brake calipers.

Thankfully, Jeff then got a call from the guy who bought Jeff's first chopper. Jeff had done some work on the bike, and was now going to bring it back so he could get paid. So, Jeff went thinking this was a way to recoup some money. I hoped the ride on the chopper would help him blow off some steam.

He went roaring off on the chopper. A few minutes later, our elderly neighbor called. She said the sound of the chopper reminded her that she had gotten a package today that was Jeff's. I ran over to get it right away, as she was on her way to bed, and called Jeff with the good news.

She didn't open the package, but I wonder if she would have known what it was. I'm thinking not.

Would you?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

mole patrol

Sometime during the driveway deconstruction, while I was in the house avoiding the noise and dust, a large mound of dirt popped up in the backyard. It was about 6 inches high and about 7 inches in diameter. When I saw it, there were bees swarming around it like crazy. We usually get a bees nest on our front yard, but typically they form a hole, not a mound. However, it looked like they were making it their home. I decided to keep the dogs away so they wouldn't get stung.

While Jeff was still fuming over the broken driveway, I broke the news that we had another problem - a bees nest.

Jeff said, "Well you know what we have to do for that."

My response, "Spray some Raid".

Jeff looked at me like I was crazy and said, "No, we need to pour some gasoline on it and light it on fire."

Now, things were looking up for Jeff - he had an excuse to start up a fire.

We walked out to the yard so I could show him the mound. Jeff's jaw dropped when he saw it, and he said incredulously "bees made that?"

Okay, now even I was questioning how tiny bees could make a mound of dirt this high, plus now there were no bees in sight. I conceded well maybe it was the mole.

Ah, the elusive mole. We don't know if we have one mole or several generations of the mole. Every year though, our lawn is filled with tunnels that we continuously have to stomp on to get rid of. It seems to be a common problem in this area, as I have heard lots of stories of people's moles and strategies used to try and eliminate them.

A co-worker said he used a large roller on his lawn to smoosh the tunnels.

Another says to roll up a piece of wrapped "juicy fruit gum" and throw it in a mole hole. If the mole eats it, apparently it causes the mole's stomach to explode. Only juicy fruit will cause this - don't think I'll be chewing that again for fear of swallowing it by accident.

My mom started to use solar vibrators stuck in the ground to try and irritate them enough to send them to the neighbors.

Jeff's boss sits in a lawn chair at dusk and watches the tunnels. When he sees something moving, he smashes it with a shovel.

Last year, we put castor oil pellets down that the moles are supposed to hate. Our mole, put all the pellets in a nice pile for us. Bastard.

So, this year we were pulling out all the stops. We got two "solar mole chasers" and put them on the front lawn. I worried it would drive the dogs nuts if we put it in the backyard. We also got some "mole killer", which are worm like objects the moles are supposed to eat and then die. However the box says, they may have to eat more than one for death to occur. Jeff heard that moles eat grubs, so we put down grub killer on the front lawn. Again, I didn't want to expose my dogs to chemicals, so none in the backyard.

It seemed that our front yard methods were working, but I kept finding tunnels going under the fence from the front yard to the backyard. Jeff saw a tunnel moving one day and tried the "shovel method", but with his foot. He stomped on the whole tunnel, and I think he enjoyed it. Jeff thought he got him.

Should we dig up the tunnel and look for a carcass?

I found a hole connected to a tunnel, and dropped some poisonous worms in. I thought I got him, as I didn't see any new tunnels for days. Then, I worried that the mole would spit out the worm and Oreo would eat it. So, I searched the backyard everyday for signs of the worm.

Then came the "bee mound".

Clearly, neither the foot stomping or the worms killed our mole. We just got him to move to the backyard.

Everyday, I find a new mound of dirt and tunnels. I stomp on the tunnels and pick up the dirt with my shovel and use it to fill the holes Oreo has dug. Now I'm thinking that maybe the mole is punishing me for ruining his tunnels everyday and maybe if I just leave them alone maybe he will go away.

Is the mole entertained by all our attempts to kill him? Is he laughing at his ability to continually outsmart us?

I recently went on a garden tour in Clifton Park with my mom and her friend. The peoples' gardens, homes, and yards were all gorgeous. At one house, there were clearly mole tunnels in the lawn. My mom was thrilled to see that even people who live in Clifton Park have moles! If the people who live in a town, that practically has lawn police, have moles I fear there is no hope for mole removal and that the mole always wins.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Bear Bus

Decided to do some research on the "bear bus" I wrote about in my first entry. Turns out it is a mobile "build a bear" store. Who knew? I still think a bus with real bears could be more profitable, although I'm sure the insurance would be higher.

Goto http://www.bearbus.com/ if you're interested.

sinkhole sagas

Sinkhole #1

Last fall, we noticed an indentation in our side lawn. We concluded that it was caused by our "dry well" collapsing. For those of you on public sewer systems, a dry well is neither dry nor a well as far as I can tell. It is a place where you can send "grey water". Ours received all our water from our kitchen sink, dishwasher and washing machine. We have had a lot of problems with this dry well over the years, and had to snake the drain pipe every couple years. We were never really sure where the water actually went, until the start of our first sinkhole.

At first it was just a small hole, about a one foot diameter. So, off to the "depot" we go to get 6 bags of dirt. We threw in a few bags, and smoothed the top over. Done!

The next morning, the hole was back and bigger than before. Jeff started throwing in bags of concrete, and then more dirt, smoothed it over. Done!

I came home from work that day and noticed I couldn't see any of the new dirt. I peered into the hole and saw what a dry well really is. It is a 4x4x4 foot concrete block box that collects the grey water and then distributes it into the soil. It is covered with a thin piece of concrete, which over time can disintegrate and cause the soil on top to cave into the well. How did I know this? I could see the whole thing. As I peered into the deep hole, I saw all our grey water, lint, gunk, etc. Just days earlier,my mom and I had been standing right over all this examining the original hole. We were lucky it didn't suck us in! This hole was just eating up everything we threw in.

I call Jeff at work. He comes home with a truckload full of dirt (which you can get for a mere $12!). He unloads all the dirt into the hole. Still not done. It takes 2 truckloads full of dirt to fill the dry well, and also many hours rerouting all our plumbing so the grey water empties into our septic field on our front lawn.

We are still keeping an eye on that hole, 9 months later, but for now it is filled, and thriving with wild mushrooms.

Sink hole #2

This April, I noticed another sink hole near the bottom of our driveway. It was a perfectly round hole which went right threw our grass and soil, and if you looked into it you could see right through to our ditch. I feared we had another problem on our hands. I had images of our driveway falling into the hole.

I had Jeff look at it, and he concluded that the drainpipe that goes under our driveway had collapsed. A few days later, I saw some men working on our ditchline. I went out to tell them about the sink hole. They said they had seen it, and that I should call the town and not drive on it! How could we not drive on it - its the only way to get to our house.

I called the town, and of course they said ,"not out responsibility", call the county. I call the county and explain some workers told me not to drive over it. She asked, "who were these workers?" I explained I wasn't sure who they worked for, but they were working on the ditch. She told me someone would have to get back to me.

No one got back to me. Jeff called a few days later, and there was no record of my call. They did assure him someone would come take a look. The next day there was a message on the machine saying that it was the drainpipe and that they would put it at the top of their list to come and fix it. That was in April. In June, they made some markings on the road. I thought for sure they would be there soon.

Finally, they show up this week with all their equipment. Jeff was very concerned about the whole venture. It would require them digging up the bottom of our driveway to replace the pipe. They assured him they would "cut in" the driveway and make it look nice. Jeff was then excited about having a nice line at the bottom of our driveway.

Jeff went to work, while I stayed home during all the construction. Jeff called a couple times to ask if they had made a straight line when they cut the driveway. I told him I couldn't tell since there were trucks blocking my view.

When they left, I went down to check the driveway. It was straight all the way across, except for the last 2 feet where it was jagged. I didn't call Jeff.

Jeff came home and saw the damage. The whole end of our driveway seemed to be breaking off in pieces. I tried to assure Jeff that when they came back to pave I was sure they would recut the driveway so it was a straight line. Jeff looked to be on the verge of eruption. I guess I really don't get his affection toward a strip of asphalt.

Jeff and I went out to lunch the next day. On the ride home, Jeff was looking at other people's driveways and said they all have cracks in their driveways and they seem to be ok with it. Yes Honey, people do go on with their lives even if there are cracks in their driveways. I guess he is just trying to prepare himself for the worst. He does love that piece of asphalt.

So, the saga continues. We have no idea when they will be back to finish the job. For now, we are driving over gravel, which seems to sink a little more with each tire tread. Jeff wants to spray paint a straight line over the end of the driveway where he wants them to make their cut. I can just imagine that process of getting it perfectly straight. We may need my mathematician dad to come out and do some formulas to get the line just right.

I must say, they did use some nice rocks around the drain pipe. Some would look very nice in my garden....do I dare?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

my new blog

Having all this time off from work has given me a lot of time for reflection, and I felt I needed someplace to put all those thoughts. I decided today that I need my own blog, and here it is.

I just captured the most gorgeous butterfly enjoying my purple coneflowers. Luckily it stayed long enough for me to run inside and grab my camera. See, I can take photos of things other than canines.

Of course this blog will soon be filled with stories and photos of my sweet dogs. Those brief captions under the photos just aren't enough space! Also, I feel as though I have been inundating people with photos and stories of Oreo, and sending them to people who have seen enough photos of Oreo already! So, this gives me an outlet to share my photos and stories, without forcing them into everyone's inbox.

I'll try and write about things other than my dogs as well - as I do have other interests and actual people in my life!

So bookmark my site, and check back often for tales and photos. I'll try and keep it interesting. With my husband and the town we live in, there are always stories to tell.

Here's one that my parents have already heard:

Friday night, we were kept awake until midnight as our next door neighbor was using his power saw to cut wood for their two story Victorian playhouse. It was very annoying and not the first night we have been kept awake for playhouse construction (its been going on for 3 years). The next day we found out why the work needed to be done into the night. Saturday afternoon, we came home to a huge birthday party going on next door. There were actual horses giving rides to children. Misty barked her head off when she saw the horses. The best part of the party was when a bunch of the boys, carrying swords and shovels, yelled "storm the playhouse, attack the playhouse". Next thing you know, "John" (the owner) is saying "easy on the playhouse". And "Lynn" (aka devil woman) is threatening to call the kids parents to come and pick them up, because "people are getting punched and no one is apologizing". Funny what can happen when 30 kids are left unsupervised (with the exception of the very unhelpful, and thankfully univited, neighbors who watched it all from their adirondack chairs giggling). I felt sorry for those horses.

Yesterday, there was a mini bus, called "The Bear Bus", driving really slowly up our road, and at first I thought they were going to turn into our driveway. It had paintings of bears all over it and was clearly looking for an address. I hear it turn into the neighbor's driveway and beep. I feared the birthday celebration is continuing and there will now be bears roaming around next door as entertainment for the children. However, it must have turned out just to be some sort of show with costumed bears. Not nearly as interesting as real ones! I would have like to see a panda.