Thursday, November 30, 2006

thank god it's thursday

It's over. Really over. I have officially survived 30 days of consistent blogging and I "won" National Novel Writing Month by writing 50,000 words of a so-called novel before November 30th.

Though my so-called novel is too lame and too personal to ever fully go public, writing it was strangely cathartic. I am so sick of my own stories now - my frustrations, humiliations, epiphanies - I may never tell any of them again. I only wish I truly were a novelist. Then I could make up all new stories, craft for myself a more clever and interesting personality... But I'd have to be a good liar, too, and I apparently used up all that mojo on Naomi Largo.

My blog, on the other hand, has been quite satisfying. It is already more public than I ever imagined - I've had at least two visitors who don't even know me. Go figure. Maybe one day I'll get my hands on that mp3 of Ickis & Fungus after all. In the meanwhile, I can't promise I'll write every day. The honeymoon period is definitely over. Besides, as I said, I'm bored of my own stories. But I won't walk away either. We're in this thing now. I'll just have to look for fresh material in my life. And maybe, in a couple of weeks, I'll find my childhood charming again. After all, my mom uncovered that photo of Suzie Africa I was longing for...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

spelling is dead

Much as I admire him, Bob Barker is not a "genious". He could be a genius, that's debatable, but it is certain that Charles, one of today's first four contestants on the Price is Right, is not.

After reading his shirt ("Bob's a genious"), I was not surprised to see that Charles performed poorly during his pricing game. It takes a special kind of person to win only $500 playing Plinko. That's 1% of his full earning potential. That's less than people usually win on the lamest TPIR game, Punch a Bunch. He never even tried the sweet spot (where the N meets the K) and he shied away from the center altogether after receiving his first zero. I am embarrassed for him.

I'm bitter. I know. It isn't easy, living as a Contestant Not Appearing on Stage.

But at least I can spell.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

do that voodoo you do

My dad's a pediatric oncologist. This means that growing up in our family, if you didn't have cancer you weren't sick. Sadly, my siblings and I knew the only reason we didn't have cancer is because we were unworthy. After all, if only the good die young then healthy children are, by definition, bad. In fact, my dad has been known to say that his children will probably live forever.

So as kids we seldom went to the doctor. We only got stitches if Mom was in charge - the last thing Dad wanted to do on his day off was go back to the office. Imagine if you were a lawyer and you had to stand before a judge every time you needed a prescription, or you were a garbage collector who had to go to the dump to get a cast put on your kid's arm. I totally get it. Besides, we had the basics covered - in the fridge we had the pink juice (penicillin) and the purple juice (dimetapp), and Dad could bring home ear drops (for our swimmer's ear) and eye goop (for conjunctivitis). I have no complaints.

As adults we still tend to get the majority of our medical care from Dad. Still too miserable to have cancer, our medical needs are pretty minimal. Every now and then something comes up that Dad cannot cure over the phone. For example, nearly three years ago I scratched my cornea (I got a paper cut on my eye). Dad suffered a similar fate when his cornea was scratched by a tennis ball during a match with my mother. (At least he could be angry at someone, I could only blame my own spastic self.) He assured me there was nothing anyone could do and he sympathized with me, knowing how bad it hurts. It took no less than two years for my husband to convince me to see an optometrist about the pain that had still not gone away. Six months later I still have a scratched cornea but it's finally healing and it doesn't hurt at all.

Inspired by the end of my corneal torture (and emboldened by the fact that we've almost met our annual deductible), I have unleashed my inner hypochondriac. Today I crossed the biggest line of all. Today I saw an allergy specialist, or, as my dad would call him, the voodoo doctor.

Now I was never too excited to admit that I might have allergies. Allergies are for the dorky kids whose moms don't let them play outside. (Come to think of it, I'm pretty dorky and I rarely play outside.) Allergies are fairly useless - you don't get to stay home from work, you don't get any good drugs, you just get to ask extra questions in restaurants and sometimes you can make people lock up their pets when you visit. (Hmm... perhaps I will be allergic to dogs?) So it was easy for me to avoid finding out why I haven't been able to breathe through my nose since the eighties. (At least if I had done cocaine, it might make sense...)

I never even thought I had allergies until I described for my regular doctor that maddening inner ear itch. You know, the one you try to scratch with a Q-tip but you know you can't reach it but it feels good anyway, real good (I call them eargasms), that you buy your Q-tips in the economy size? That itch. The one that when it's really bad and the eargasms aren't distracting enough, that you have to make the weird nose at the back of your throat and you hope you are alone because otherwise your husband (who apparently doesn't have allergies) will mock you for sounding like you are trying to bring up a fur ball? That's the one. It wasn't until I described this itch that I learned I was trying to scratch my soft palate and I probably had allergies. Even then, my regular doctor just told me to keep the Q-tips out of my ears (I know, Dad, nothing smaller than my elbow...) and he offered me some Claritin.

When my mom (who is a voodoo nurse) told me allergy testing is expensive, it seemed like a splendid way to take advantage of my husband's health plan. In your face, Blue Cross. So I made an appointment and today I met Willy Wonka, I kid you not.

My voodoo doctor was dressed all in purple. Purple suit, purple tie, purple socks, purple shoes. He totally pulled it off, a happy, dapper eccentric. He took no offense when I called him a voodoo doctor and he laughed when I explained that I had not come to see him sooner because I do not have cancer. We went over my basics and suddenly Willy Wonka had become a psychic. He completed for me my list of symptoms and he asked about my overbite (the one I had fixed in eighth grade). The relationship between my useless nasal passages and my chronic thumb sucking is not causal (either direction), but the association of the two is strong. Willy Wonka became my psychic psychotherapist, helping me to see my thumb sucking as my genetic destiny, not as a manifestation of my insecurities.

I am only bummed because now I will have to come up with a new nickname for my dentist. I have been calling him Willy Wonka for years because I swear I once heard him say, "scrumdilicious." Since I have never ever seen him in purple (let alone all purple), I think the Wonka title will have to remain with the voodoo doctor.

And I'm not sure I can ever give up the eargasms completely. If Q-tips weren't meant to go in your ear they wouldn't fit so well or feel so good.

Monday, November 27, 2006

ancient dynasty?

Until today I'd never heard of Ramtha, or JZ Knight, the woman who has apparently been channelling the 35,000 year old god since the mid seventies. Had I been forced to guess, say on a multiple choice, I would have selected:

C. some kind of rapper

because when it doubt, C. is always a solid guess and her name sounds like the lovechild of Jay-Z and Suge Knight. Besides, I would have already eliminated the two other obvious red herrings:

A. famous children's book author


D. wife of Christopher Knight (TV's Peter Brady)

because I test well and I read Harry Potter and yes, I watched My Fair Brady - both seasons. Now I know that JZ Knight, in addition to being filthy rich, is:

B. best friends with Linda Evans (Dynasty's Krystle Carrington)

{But here I must confess that if forced to guess who Linda Evans was on a multiple choice I would have gotten it wrong. I would have selected:

C. TV's Wonder Woman

because I am lame and I would only have remembered the Lynda part of Lynda Carter's name.}

Anyway, I know all this now, about Ramtha and his special friend JZ Knight, because today JZ's dog needed an MRI at my sister's emergency clinic. Here is the part where I would ordinarily mock JZ Knight (and Ramtha by association) - particularly for requiring the assistance of a veterinarian at all, especially since JZ and Ramtha once healed JZ's son of his crippling peanut butter allergy, you would think they could diagnose the source of the dog's problem without modern technology - but I am strangely reticent to risk incurring the wrath of an ancient god. My life is going too well to tempt the fates. Lord knows I do not need to start channelling someone myself, nor do I need to be abducted by aliens, and I certainly do not desire to be struck down by some strange plague or archaic fungus. And besides, anyone who will spring for an MRI for their pet, even if they can easily afford it, is okay in my book.

Instead, I offer thanks to Ramtha and his special friend for giving me something interesting to blog about. (Okay, strange more than interesting - but far better than the previous leading contender - a discussion of my morning bout with hiccups...) And I add the friendship between JZ Knight and Linda Evans to my random list of little known celebrity facts, right next to the other best buds I know of, Rick Springfield and Doug Davidson (you know, that detective dude, Paul, on the Young and the Restless).

Sunday, November 26, 2006

i am not trying to poison my husband

$500,000 is not a lot of money. It's nothing to sneeze at, don't get me wrong. I wouldn't kick it out of bed for eating crackers. But it's not even enough to get a game show on the air any more. And it isn't enough money to kill my husband.

Okay, that came out wrong. What I'm trying to say is I'm not trying to poison my husband.

Erik has long been suspicious of my homicidal tendencies. It all started 14 years ago when I picked up a rock on my way to his campsite; I wasn't altogether certain I would find him alone. After peering through the window of his tent, I saw his solo sleeping face and promptly dropped the rock - a sound which has been amplified through the years in his memory. I wish we had kept the rock for sentimental reasons - we speak of it so often. In his version it is the size of a bowling ball, certain to bring death. I know it was relatively small (I could palm it), and at most it would have brought pain. What it has brought is an uneasy understanding in our relationship - it is in Erik's best interest to avoid infidelity and/or the appearance of infidelity.

It doesn't help that I'm fond of those shows. You know, the ones you find on Oxygen or A&E - the ones that sensationalize crimes of passion. They're basically just tutorials for how not to commit a murder. I enjoy them for the mellow narrative - I call them my napping shows. I fall asleep, someone dies. I wake up, someone's in jail. Erik's convinced I'm studying up on how to cash in on his life insurance.

But as I said, half a million dollars isn't a lot of money. Even if his policy were worth ten times that, Erik is worth more to me alive than dead. There is no other man on this planet that could ever care for me the way he does. I'm sure it is some kind of insanity - this affection he has for me. I don't know what he sees when he looks at me, but whatever it is it makes him smile. He's my safe place, my super hero. He's my very best friend. I can't imagine my world without him. You can't put a price on that.

But in his world the rock was a bowling ball and my napping shows are instruction videos and so he lives, just a little bit, in fear. He pays attention to details, looking for clues that I may be becoming unglued. So when he discovered his ice cream was sliced open on the side he said nothing. When he noticed the next batch was cut the same way he asked me, politely, if I was trying to poison him.

Of course I am not. I bought both packages at the same, not so busy store. I assume they were sliced open at the same time by the same overzealous stock boy. I didn't even notice the imperfection. But I don't live in fear.

Besides, poison is a highly unreliable, extremely traceable method for murder. And staging a product tampering is even more difficult - just ask Stella Nickell who initally got away with poisoning her husband when the coroner failed to detect the cyanide in his system. She tried to lead detectives to the poison in his Excederin (so she could cash in on the extenuating circumstances clause of her husband's $176,000 policy), but they dismissed her. She had to go and kill someone else to get them to reopen his case. Unfortunately for her, they solved both cases.

Sadly, Erik didn't find my explanation terribly reassuring. Maybe I do watch too many of those shows.

Friday, November 24, 2006

pooper scooper

I don't have a dog. I probly never will. And even if I did decide someday to share my life with a sycophantic drool factory, it is highly unlikely I would be one of those nice dog owners who carry baggies along on walks. I've done some poop scooping in my day. I know the inverted bag method, it's not so bad. That gentle give of warm fresh dog sh*t as it melts unexpectedly into the shape of your hand is almost even pleasant. It's just fundamentally wrong.

And yet, every day for the last week I have been just a little bit angry at whichever neighbor it is who shares my preference to let sleeping poops lie. The feces that offends me has been curing in the sun, just a little drier each day, on the asphalt beneath my mail box.

This turd doesn't restrict my access to my precious postal products. till, its very presence sucks all of the joy out of going to the box. My mail is only marginally interesting anyway - 80% unsolicited crap, 10% semi-enjoyable still unsolicited catalogs, 9% bills I pay on line anyway, 1% something I'm actually looking for - I know this. While my rational mind knows my mail is worthless, a part of me enjoys opening the box each day, peering into the darkness inside, rifling through the contents in search of some piece of correspondence I totally don't deserve.

Now I fear stepping on the dog log, my eyes affixed anxiously on it in case I forget it is there. I am convinced that like a wound on my husband I will be inexplicably drawn into contact with it. The day I lose my focus is the day I step in it. And now after I collect my mail, I no longer sort through it in place for fear of dropping it in the dog doo. Most likely all that will fall is one of those "Have you seen me?" cards that accompany the Advo packet. But even those I check diligently, just in case one day I realize I have in fact seen someone. And then could I leave it there, on the black top, that piece of mail I didn't ask for that made contact with the piece of sh*t that isn't mine? think not. And yet, could I really pick it up?

I have no hope and I have no plan. The turd is way too close to the curb to ever be run over, carried off in someone's tire. And the weather's been great, no rain in sight. I keep wondering, where are all those coprophagic dogs who might consume for me this delicacy? Isn't it their duty to deal with this dookie? I suppose I could attack it with my own hose but, like the frustrated cat lady, it would be a bit of a stretch. And besides, I keep imagining a single stray stream ricocheting off the stagnant stool and straight into my eye.

So I wait. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Someday this ass apple will disintegrate, right?

In the meanwhile, while working on my increasingly frustrating totally fruitless so-called novel for National Novel Writing Month, I was using the internet to search for synonyms for poop. I particularly enjoyed this sight and I happily borrowed from it the phrase intestinal sculpture. On this page I found a link to a product that I had discovered myself just moments before. The turd twister, as it's called, is like the play-doh pumper but for your butt. I can't imagine that it actually works (or that it was ever meant to) but if anyone is seriously willing to try it I am more than happy to fork over the $19.95 to find out. I will not, however, fish the device out of the plumbing (personal or porcelain), though I will gladly accompany the user to the ER - so long as I can have a copy of the X-rays.

ten rules for a happy and successful wife

When I got married, after 12 years of living sin, my sister sent me a laminated card with "Ten rules for a Happy and Successful Wife." I remember it gave me a chuckle when I first read it, and I've found it useful as a bookmark over the years. It's been a while since I've actually reviewed the rules. Clearly I am a miserable, failure of a wife.

1. Avoid arguments. Your husband has his share from other sources.
2. Don't nag.
3. Don't drink or eat to excess.
4. If you offend your husband, always ask forgiveness before you retire.
5. Compliment your husband liberally. It makes him a better husband.
6. Budget wisely together. Live within your income.
7. Be sociable and go out with your husband.
8. Dress neatly and attractively for your husband, and keep your home clean and cheerful.
9. Keep your household troubles to yourself.
10. Pray together and stay together.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

giving thanks

My years as a waitress have ruined me for holidays. I've come to think of them as more or less ordinary days. The only difference is that people feel sorry for you that you have to work and they tip just a little bit better. Frankly, I always felt sorry for them, these people who spent their holidays in restaurants. Instead of football and playful grandchildren, they heard the din of crashing plates and fussy babies. They had decent food with minimal effort, sure, but there were no real leftovers and their houses never filled with the warm welcoming smells of cooking. They were hustled in and hurried out, no time to relax and reflect upon their blessings.

In my second life at the newspaper I learned again that the world doesn't stop when the calendar says so. Mine was chiefly a day job so I could get away more often, but I did so knowing I had left people behind. Holidays meant mediocre potlucks in the break room and marginally earlier deadlines. The world rolled on.

This marks my second only Thanksgiving since my husband bought my freedom from the real world. And of course, as part of the price, he's at work. In the meanwhile, I've been out being fed by friends. Overfed, really. I'm so ready for a nap but seeing that it's getting late I guess I'll just be going to bed.

Before I go, in the spirit of the holiday, I'll quickly review my top 5 blessings.

1. My handsome, generous, kind hearted husband who thinks everything I do is cute (especially the obnoxious stuff)
2. My friends, so intelligent, entertaining, and sincere, who include me in their busy lives despite my anti-social*, judgmental*, nut-busting* tendencies (*all actual adjectives used by others to describe me...)
3. My freaky family, who totally get me because they are me, and who phone often enough that they don't feel as far away as they are
4. My freedom, which is really thanks to my husband
5. My health, priceless

Those were so cliche I think I'm going to barf. Or maybe that's just cuz I ate two dinners.

A more interesting list would have been the one I came up with when challenged by my eldest nieces to name 5 foods I'd want (in unlimited supply) on a deserted island. I loved how complicated it became to decide. After agonizing comparisons of chocolate and mangoes, potatoes and pineapples, avocados and carrots, I finally came up with my rough draft. Only then was it established that water was not already on the island so of course I had to eliminate one of my carefully selected choices. Then, as we revealed our lists, I learned that although our islands lacked water they apparently had refrigeration (for Zoe's ice cream) and tools for slaughter (for Sadie's cows). I felt betrayed, eating my avocados, mangoes, tomatoes, and potatoes while my nieces enjoyed burgers, bread, and milk shakes.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

two birds, one home

Yesterday I came home to find OC sitting, as he often does, under my computer desk, snuggling up to the usual assortment of clutter. He seemed to take no notice of the fact that he was also surrounded by feathers and one errant, apparently not-so-tasty wing.

You can see from his expression that he was wholly unmoved by my objections. I have frequently requested that only whole animals be left in the house. Half eaten animals are completely unacceptable. OC argued that since this one was 99% consumed, it should certainly not count against him in any way. Finding his perspective fairly persuasive, I thanked him for being such a thoughtful kitty.

Never one to be outdone, this morning my black cat, Pequeno, decorated my bedroom floor with his own batch of bird feathers. He considers small animals toys (not meals), so there were many more feathers, less blood, and, of course, the body was intact. Having followed the rules to the letter, he was allowed to enjoy his playful little projectile until I felt like getting out of bed for the day.

As much as both rooms were due for a good vacuuming, I'm really hopeful that this round of sibling rivalry ends with a draw. I have explained to the boys that while it is surely exhilarating to catch a bird with their claws, it really isn't all that impressive. Their little pecan brains are far larger than the pea brains of their prey and they have been given genetic advantages that make them quicker and quieter. Unfortunately, it seems they have taken my "pick on someone your own size" speech to heart. Tonight they're once again trying to kill each other.

By the way, I was once again wrong and right with my gender guessing. Dr. Suz was not a boy but then again, neither was little orphan Cranny.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

ancient chinese secret

Today I accompanied my hubby to his first ever acupuncture appointment. For as long as I've known him he's had pain in his lower back. He believes it all started when he became his own shock absorber - his run down bicycle was his only form of transportation until he got his driver's license at 30. I theorize his pain comes from carrying around his incredibly long torso and trying to cram himself into a world designed for the average height man (5' 9.2").

Though I have always thought of myself as short - it crosses my mind as I am climbing grocery store shelves like a monkey, sometimes being forced to leave behind the product I wanted because it remained out of reach and it was packaged in glass (too risky for more drastic maneuvers) - the Internet tells me I am .2" above the average height for a woman (which is apparently 5' 3.8"). I like to think of myself as above average - I test well and I always got good grades - but this is really rocking my world because, Internet, I am so not tall. I am still digesting the fact that I am one full quarter inch shorter than my seal friend (the recently skinny one whose pants I wore for wisdom when talking to the crazy cat lady), and she is quite short. I so refused to believe I was shorter that I insisted we find a taller person to measure us. The record of my defeat is marked on the wall behind a photo of Ree Ree, this year's first harbor seal pup.

Anyway, back to the acupuncture. My hubby, who does not believe in hormones, allergies, chemotherapy, sugar substitutes or Santa Claus, believes in acupuncture but he distrusts chiropractors. Frankly, I don't think they are the brightest bunch either, the chiropractors, but this stems from my work at the newspaper where I discovered someone once told them the most effective form of advertising is a flyer, single sided and always on goldenrod paper, crowded with way too much text, usually testimonials from clients and the story of their path to chiropracty, none of it spell checked, all framing a small grainy photo of themselves looking creepy with children or dorky with their parents. Seriously, chiropractors, if your friends jumped off a bridge...? So they are not the most free thinking bunch, I guess, but they do have neat tools like that machine that gently shocks your muscles into flexing themselves. I want one of those for mischief if nothing else.

But again I digress. So while the acupuncturist identified and addressed his problem (his right side is all bunched up and tight to compensate for his angry left side, leaving his legs not exactly the same height causing more stress on the left and right sides...), even she suggested he should see a chiropractor.

I'm interested to see how he will digest this information. I've seen his paradigm shift before. After all, his five states of America used to include California, Texas, Florida, New York and "the M state" and now they are California, Texas, Florida, New York and Chicago. But this could be difficult for him.

Monday, November 20, 2006

coffee tummy

It was 1993. I had just graduated college and taken the very first job of the rest of my life. I was so happy to be a dishwasher at Zachary's, a hip breakfast spot in Santa Cruz.

My ascent up the corporate ladder was blessedly swift. I spent little more than three months scraping egg smegma from dirty plates, breathing in bacon grease as it wafted up from the soaking pan that I was surprised came clean every day. The pork and sulfur smells were actually a welcome distraction from the olfactory cocktail of body odor, halitosis, cigarette smoke, and last night's booze bender that oozed from the pores of Zachary's only resident dishwasher, Bhakti. Bhakti looked like every other troll you might encounter in this beach town - his bushy, unkempt beard caught flecks of food like velcro, his wrinkled soiled clothes were shabby, never chic, his weathered skin reluctantly held his organs inside. But Bhakti differed from the homeless in that he was employed. Truth be told, he was a pretty good dishwasher, happy to anchor the team, barking orders only occasionally, sometimes pretending to eat what our diners had left behind.

Still, I was delighted to leave his side, returning to my destiny as a waitress. I was making more money and smelled more of food than refuse. Even better, I no longer had to help the kitchen crew remove the gigantic pot of boiling potatoes from the burner each morning. This pot, I kid you not, was easily 2 and a half feet tall, filled within two inches from the top with scalding water. At 5'4", I towered over my potato partner and we shuffled together, in careful terror, across the back kitchen to the sink. The fact that I was never injured and never caused injury to anyone else is proof enough that miracles exist.

The only downside to my career advancement was that I had discovered coffee and with it, coffee tummy. I was loved and hated for my dedication to topping off my customers' coffee cups. Caffeine addicts named me their queen. Others blamed me for ruining their fragile balance, shaking their fists and scowling as they reached again for the cream and sugar. One amongst them, I'm quite sure, was well practiced in voodoo for I have been ever since cursed.

I was given a thirst for coffee, an amazing tolerance for consuming entire pots at a time, volumes that exceed my body's metabolic capacity. I know the feeling as coffee tummy, that shaky loose grip on reality, the racing mind and pulse, that is accompanied by a twisting, turbulent, bloated burning in the depth of my belly.

Coffee tummy joins sugar throat and onion head as personal tortures I visit upon myself. Sugar throat can be cured with dairy products, onion head requires improved hydration - only coffee tummy has no known antidote. Like so many other vices, my attempts at abstinence are tragic, laughable. Now, as yesterday's coffee tummy hangover finally fades, I find myself moments away from brewing up another. Like an addict, I am at once disappointed, disgusted and more than a little excited. Each time I convince myself this time might be different, foolishly believing that voodoo curses have expiration dates.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

dr. suz and little orphan cranny

So I know not everything in life is a competition, least of all seal rescuing, but if there were an award for smallest fur seal ever, I would win it. Yesterday I pulled little orphan Cranny from her hidey hole in a bunch of rocks where the high tide had left her hours before. She weighed in at only 3.9 kg (that's 8.58 pounds, America) - a full tenth of a kilogram lighter than the smallest fur seal before her. I'm only guessing she's a girl cuz she's so darned petite. Since 15 out of 16 fur seals on site are boys, I wouldn't be surprised if I were once again wrong with my gender guessing.

I do know that Dr. Suz, named to celebrate my sister's birthday, is a boy. I didn't check the plumbing, but I'd bet money he's not a she. His voice is low, he's got a hint of sagittal crest, and he's polite and cooperative (so unlike his female counterparts). Of course, yesterday I also bet someone $5 that a rock was a sea lion, so I should probably keep my mouth shut.

Anyway, I also won for busiest day of the week, for the whole thing started with Straight Up, another sea lion I suspect is a boy. He was quite polite for treatment, but not so helpful this morning for transport. I can't blame him, he's so darned skinny he must feel pretty bad. I've got pictures of Straight Up, too, but they're just not as cute as those of Cranny and Dr. Suz. I've never found anorexia attractive - especially not in marine mammals.

Besides, Straight Up broke my beloved rescue net so I'm feeling a little bitter and powerless. With my net on the disabled list, I've been fooling around with other nets on the side. I can see now maybe we just weren't right for each other. My old net was light and breezy, willing to try anything, but ultimately he was too small, kinda wimpy, and every little hang up resulted in a scar. If I can get him fixed I'll keep him around for the occassional fling, but I'm in the market for a meatier tool. Whoever said size doesn't matter lied.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

37 things i love about my sister

Today my only sister turns 37. Since I was unable to torture her by posting her Suzie Africa picture (which is not in my possession), I've decided to share with you this gem taken two blissfully ignorant years earlier - the year we both first joined the Girl Scouts. Notice the very groovy necklaces we made of felt, ribbon, and those puffy little balls of fiber that are so ubiquitous in arts and crafts. They were actually clever little purses, useful for carrying our dues to meetings, and the balls of fluff are arranged to resemble an owl. In the background is the swing set of the weird next door neighbor (who, for whatever reason, we called the "witch girl") where I would later tear open my thigh after catching it on a protruding screw while sliding down the slide spread eagle. My sister helped me keep the blood off my favorite yellow short shorts and told me my insides looked like pizza without the cheese on it. I came home from the hospital with a scar in the shape of a J, a prescription for antibiotics that were flavored quite convincingly like bubble gum, and an even greater conviction that there was something evil and supernatural about the girl next door. And although we have a reason to be dressed alike here in our Brownie uniforms, our mother frequently dressed us as twins. In fact, this is the very year she sent us to school in matching jumpers she'd sewn herself. This is the year we both came home with wet pants, trapped inside the jumpers whose only exit was a zipper up the back.

So to honor my sister who has been there for me through wet pants, stitches, and so much more, here are 37 reasons I love my sister:

1. She always made sure I got on the right bus in elementary school
2. She loves animals, even when it’s inconvenient or expensive
3. She’s smart, smarter than she thinks
4. She’s only addicted to Diet Coke
5. I love her eyebrows. She hates all of her hair, but I think it contrasts just right against her pale skin making her look like Snow White
6. She’s fiercely loyal
7. When she was two years old, she snuck out of the house to ask a neighbor for a cookie
8. She always tells me the truth, even when it is ugly
9. She trusts me
10. I trust her
11. She wouldn’t stick her arm up a cow’s butt, not cuz it was gross but cuz it was unnecessarily invasive
12. She always let me borrow her clothes, even when she didn’t know it
13. She was my first drinking buddy
14. She’s braver than she thinks
15. She made baby Grace
16. She made me stronger by forcing me to make phone calls for her
17. In elementary school she once dated the son of the assistant coach of the Washington Redskins
18. She’s not afraid to travel
19. She had the courage to leave her marriage instead of living a lie
20. She gives me free veterinary advice
21. She remembers birthdays and she always sends great gifts
22. She forgives me
23. She’s artsy without being fartsy
24. She helped me pick my wedding dress
25. She’s funny, though not always on purpose
26. She takes lots of pictures
27. She’s always on my side
28. She rescued Fabe, saving him from more abuse as a caged blood donor, even though she got in trouble with the police
29. Andrew Cunanon signed her yearbook
30. She suggested we wear bathing suits when our creepy boy babysitter insisted we take an unscheduled bath
31. She sometimes buys ill fitting shoes because she refuses to try on more than 3 pairs
32. She can do a back dive
33. She’s left handed
34. During conversations with her siblings, she always refers to our parents as “my parents”
35. She’s got a great laugh
36. She organized a mini extreme home makeover for an old lady who sorely needed it
37. She doesn’t rub it in that I am currently “the fat one”

Happy Birthday, Sis.

P.S. Today was also a good day for Margaret, who was freed from death's waiting room, returning home to be cared for by my Dad's sister, Mary. And I was wrong (and right) about the gender of my freshest second cuzen - Matthew Thomas Sharer was a boy.

Friday, November 17, 2006

jenni africa

I was an adult when I learned that my cuzens, upon receiving school photos from my third grade year, dubbed me "Jenni Africa." As an adult I find this label hilarious and creative, and just a bit politically incorrect. As a third grader, there was nothing funny about this photo.

Clearly I was not exactly an attractive kid - my teeth pushed out by my constant thumb sucking, my sense of style sorely lacking even for the seventies, freckles dusted generously across my pale skin making me appear permanently dirty. And lord knows my hair, if you could even classify my stringy threads as hair, did not need any help appearing pathetic. Ah, but it was, after all, the seventies and my mom had an itching to try out those new fangled home perms. Lilt was the brand name. Wilt would have been more accurate.

I don't blame Lilt and I no longer blame my mom. It was an honest mistake, failing to properly align my hair before placing it into the rollers and forcing into submission with the stinging chemicals that smelled of sour apples. And when she realized how horribly wrong her little experiment had gone, my mother immediately washed my hair - something you'd avoid doing for a couple of days if you wanted to preserve the effects of your new style. But clearly there was no saving me. My sister, "Suzie Africa," suffered a similar fate, though her heartier hair was (in my opinion, not hers) measurably less fried. While the difference seemed so significant to me, I know she was equally scarred.

I am now grateful this happened the day before picture day. Without the photo evidence, this story is only slightly funny, easily exaggerated. With the photo, it is a timeless cautionary tale, a reminder that certain projects are never "do it yourself." Some professionals are worth paying for - plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics, doctors, lawyers, hair stylists.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

of mice and moths

I never realized how my old cat spent his days. I only ever saw him sleeping, eating, lounging in the sun. He was so over the grand and violent adventures of his youth. He was a late bloomer as far as hunting went. He caught his first hummingbird when the chart at the vet's office listed him as geriatric. Like the diggingest dog, Fabian made up for lost time. He once wiped out an entire family of house wrens which in itself is not so impressive. What intrigues me is that he had apparently allowed them to ripen over time. We all heard them hatch, cry for food, shift around in their nests at night. What made him decide, so many weeks later, that the time had come to exterminate them I'll never know.

It's been nearly two years now since old Fabe met the grim reaper sitting in my lap on our front deck. His passing actually played a huge part in my decision to become a princess parasite. I'd felt like I'd missed so much of his golden years. I had taken him, and my youth, for granted and I mourned them both.

I am reminded of Fabe this evening not just because he's still my screen saver and I pass his ashes in their box every time I use my front door, but because I am being hounded in slow motion by the most annoying moth. When he isn't trying to align his random flight plan with my assorted, vulnerable beverages, he is attempting to occupy my keyboard - forcing me to avoid using certain letters. I'm okay if he wants to kick back on z and x and even v, but since c sits right between them and s is right above, a prolonged visit becomes a problem.

Moths, I remember, were every where in the weeks that followed Fabe's death. Only then did I appreciate his silent contribution to the cleanliness of his household. Of course, as you've noticed, I now I have two kitties. The fact that I have a moth in my face at all, I find most egregious. My new cats are only modestly dedicated to the pursuit of moth murder. They are primarily preoccupied with bringing home rodents and small birds. Sadly, their chief goal in life seems to be to eliminate each other.

So as I sit here protecting my liquids with paper, policing my keyboard with inpatience, I sigh and marvel again at the size of the big sucking hole in my soul where my cat used to be.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

on a jet plane

My folks will soon be on their way to visit Margaret and other assorted relatives, including my cuzen Jill who's giving birth to a baby of unknown gender in exactly 2 hours and 14 minutes. While I cannot fathom having the patience to keep a secret from myself for 9 months, especially one as significant as the very nature of my impending child, I applaud those who prefer to be surprised. My money is on a girl, easy money I'd say, since Jill already has one and almost everyone I know (at least as of late) is having girls. And those who have boys have only boys. But Jill is from the perfect family - one girl followed by one boy - so it won't be a huge surprise to me if she creates the perfect family. Can you see now why I am not a gambler? Too indecisive to pick one side. It's the Libra in me.

Anyway, in the spirit of family connectedness, I have, in the last 24 hours, brought my known possible readership up to a cool dozen with the addition of my sister and three of my gazillion cuzens. I still doubt that will be enough to make the connection needed to acquire my Ickis & Fungus song, but after more research I am freshly discouraged. Viacom seems to keep a ridiculously tight rein on their Nickelodeon products. I doubt that even Drew Neumann himself could get me a copy of that tune.

So, welcome to my world, cuzens, and welcome to the world, new baby second cuzen of unknown gender.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

i had a dream

Last night I had a dream, one of many, and, like most of my dreams, it was a tad distressing. Come to think of it, almost all of my dreams are stressful, some of which still involve waiting tables - chiefly without vital articles of clothing. It's a wonder I love sleeping so much. Maybe it is the relief I feel when I wake up and find all those problems are gone and the only real trouble I have is a full bladder and a crooked neck.

Anyway, last night I dreamt my dad was mad at me, not just mad, but sad (and all good Catholics know disappointment is more powerful than anger). I honestly think he was crying, but his eyes were blue, which is weird since they are actually hazel. Why is it I got almost every feature from my dad except his cool eyes and his thick hair? Sure, he had the whole premature balding thing but as a girl I wouldn't have that problem (and besides, male pattern baldness is passed down from the mother - I've heard it somewhere and my brothers are proof enough...). And, for the record, he looks much better since he ditched the comb over.

Anyhow, my dad was upset because of what I had written in my never-meant-to-be-published so-called-novel that I am working on for National Novel Writing Month. Really it's a memoir with very thinly veiled references to actual people, places, and events in my life. I'm currently stalled because I've just gotten to the really icky parts that involve, chiefly, my father's infidelity and my own series of poor choices that followed my departure from the family nest.

But I am determined to power through this darkness this evening. I have a tub of chocolate covered espresso beans and nothing on my agenda for the morning. (BTW, funny side note on my oh-so-busy unemployed calendar... I rarely know what day of the week it is, as it usually doesn't matter. Today, however, I forgot it was Tuesday and I got all excited about ordering take out from Taco Temple. It took about 5 rings for me to realize they weren't going to pick up because they weren't open. Now nothing else sounds good...)

So, though I'm certain I'll never be publishing my novel due to its personal content and generally self-serving suckiness, I did think I could go out on a limb and share with you this excerpt from my earlier years. This story took place in 4th grade. (Wendell, I'm curious to see if you can decipher the pseudonyms of the key players?) For the record, I am more proud of the actual story than the story telling. Keep in mind the goal of NaNoWriMo is volume, not quality. The time to edit is later.


Though we never got to any sort of base together (except, truly the contact in square dancing could be considered rounding first), our version of elementary school dating created a bond. We began hanging out during recess. We were never officially “going together” which is what, I believe, gave Naomi Largo the audacity to turn our couple into a crowd. Naomi hailed from a tall family and had experienced an early growth spurt. She didn’t have the good sense to be shamed by her stature like Christine, my flautist friend, who slouched quietly in the corners, covering her budding breasts with patchwork vests, whispering news of her unexpected menses in tones reserved for cancer and pregnancy. She also didn’t have the genetic gifts of Lisa, who poured her perky boobs into bright colored sweaters, bouncing around the schoolyard and chatting frequently with the well-groomed yard monitor, somebody else’s mother, a future version of her bomb-shell self. Naomi ignored her unnatural stature, flirting shamelessly with shorter boys as she would end up doing all her life. She was doomed never to fully blossom, making it difficult to compete successfully for the few men who topped her height. She always hated short girls for their ability to attract tall men. So many tall guys were wasted on short girls. It was infuriating. And thus, Naomi instinctively aimed lower, dating men who were not just shorter, they were just plain short.

Naomi, my nemesis, lived in the neighborhood by the school – Roy's neighborhood. She often sought him out after hours and, for all I know, he sought her out too. Not even actually dating and I already felt cheated on. Still, I knew I was Roy’s favorite. After all, he’d crossed the great divide. I made a point of thanking him for his visit in front of Naomi. Her face fell as she too recognized the significance of his migration.

Undeterred, Naomi continued to cast a shadow over our relationship, literally. Standing by the tether ball courts, the outline of her bean pole body impatiently waiting its turn inspired me to punch the yellow ball just a bit harder. Until then I had really liked tether ball. It was a sport that required very little athleticism. There were no teams or tournaments so being selected (or not) and winning (or not) never mattered. There were no ribbons (none white, none pink), no trophies. You could even play it alone, wrapping and unwrapping the nylon cord around the pole. It enabled conversations and, occasionally a casual glance into each other’s dirty brown eyes.

Other days we simply tossed around the omnipresent red rubber ball that was intended for dodge ball or four square. Four square which, ironically, could be successfully played by two people but not, thank you very much, by three. Naomi was always there, like those red rubber balls. She bounded into our every conversation as if she had just slipped from the hands of another careless pre-teen. Sadly, no one ever came to collect her. She was the lonely ball that is found by the landscapers in the summertime, neglected in the far perimeter of the school grounds, faded, deflated, the rubber ruined forever by over exposure to sunlight.

It was just one such day as we were trying to adapt games meant for two into games for three, that we began tossing the dodge ball between us in the fashion of various actual sports. We hiked it like a football and dunked it like a basketball. Naomi, of course, played the part of the basketball hoop so it was only natural she would later provide the field goal posts. We weren’t picky about the rules, my attempt was passed, not punted, but I knew it was important to make sure the ball passed between the poles. I always have been a stickler for following instructions. Naomi, unfortunately, held her hands out the either side of her face, perhaps not wanting to exaggerate her height by extending her arms to their full potential. I will never forget the satisfying smack of the rubber as it met her face, the sucking silence that hung in the air briefly just after, followed by the wail of the child inside my nemesis. I didn’t go with her as she ran into the classroom, crying. Tellingly, Roy didn’t leave either. He congratulated me on my field goal, awarding me three points.

I honestly was surprised when Naomi returned, our teacher in tow. Though in my heart I knew I was guilty, my toss was particularly forceful, my aim painfully accurate, the Catholic girl in me already knew how to separate two truths. I presented my defense convincingly, explaining the importance of a field goal passing through the posts, not above them. And though I was new to the school, I had already built a reputation for being dependable, well behaved, cooperative, a bit physically spastic. After all, I was the one who tossed a dictionary across the classroom, squealing from surprise at the silverfish who emerged between the gilded tabs of R and S. I was also the one who released a trumpeted fart, one brief and blissful scentless blast, as I descended cross legged onto the carpet for story time. My embarrassment prompting paralysis, unable to even utter “excuse me.” Mrs. Winters had no problem accepting my version of events. Instructing me to be more careful, she left me in the school yard, satisfied by my experiment with violence and deceit.

Roy moved away at the end of fourth grade. I should have been more devastated, and probably would have been had we ever been to second base. I think we both knew our long distance relationship was doomed. Besides, we’d never be free of the persistent Naomi Largo. And I had gotten used to saying goodbye to boys I liked. It was par for the course. Besides, the summer of 1981 brought me a new boy to play with, my baby brother Brian.

Monday, November 13, 2006

better than sleep

Some things are better than sleep. Not many, mind you. I love sleep. Sleep is not love (food is), sleep is home. In fact, I think my love of sleep is what kept me off of powdered drugs in my youth. Sleep probably saved my life.

As I rose to my fifth day of interrupted slumber, I was reluctantly optimistic about the condition of my patient. To my delight and surprise, Marciel was not only alive, he was almost chipper - bitey, even, after breakfast, as a fur seal should be.

And I saw our resident Fish & Game guy before he left to count otters from an airplane. (How cool is his job? It's not always glamorous, usually he's out collecting otter corpses - we call them otter pops once they've been frozen - but he's got a ton of cool gear suggesting he has many grand adventures...) Anyway, I always get excited when I see Mike. I have come to accept the fact that I have a crush on him (my husband noticed it first, refusing to be formerly introduced, suggesting I keep my fantasy life and my real life separate...) and I now embrace it. When I see his truck I cringe and wish I had taken the time to comb my hair. I always wish I had something more clever to say and I torture myself with the memory of the time I summoned him to my beach on Beach Clean Up day. What I had called in as an otter carcass turned out to be a harbor seal. Duh. Anyway, I am assuredly not alone in my admiration for Mike. When I refer to him as "my boyfriend" I get crooked looks from my equally smitten seal friends. It's okay. We have an open relationship.

Anyhow, Mike asked about the suspiciously small hole in my recently dead otter and, though we both must wait for necropsy results, he assured me it could have been made by a single shark tooth. The handful of otters I've seen who've been sampled by sharks (something that is happening a bunch this year) have been relatively torn up. But Mike's seen a lot more dead otters (all of them, in fact) and he explained that some taste tests are just gentler than others. He also pointed out that the day my otter stranded featured the worst weather we've had for weeks (which was a mild rain in the morning and a marine layer all day), suggesting fishermen were less likely to be out and about otter poaching. My boyfriend is such a smart guy.

So while I'd still take human stupidity over parasites or neurotoxins, I'm even happier to accept the food chain as a reason for my otter's demise. Granted, sharks should not be trying to eat otters (which they recognize themselves, leaving the otters alone after the exploratory bite) so it's still depressing (for struggling otters and hungry sharks), but at least sharks are supposed to kill things that live in the ocean.

So all is right in the world. And it's not even noon.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

crazy cat lady continued

So today makes day 4 that I have woken up before 10 am from either phone call or alarm clock. With another fur seal spending the night, tomorrow's 8 am feed will make 5 days in a row. But it will be my pleasure to feed Marciel. He's even smaller than Thornberry, and unfortunately not as feisty. His runny black feces is not a good sign either but hopefully that's just cuz we were mean and took his temperature...

Anyway, this morning I was awakened at 7:38 by my hubby who was warning me the crazy cat lady was looking for me. She left "See me" notes all over the neighborhood.

Here's the one that was on Erik's car:

And the one on my car:

And my neighbor's:

Cleverly, I had saved the cat lady's phone number after she had confessed to abducting OC this past Labor Day. Although I did not have to appear in person, I steeled myself for our conversation by putting on the green corduroy pants I recently got as hand-me-downs from a now skinnier seal friend of mine. I was hoping perhaps they would loan me some of my friend's composure and wisdom. When I still felt anxious despite my grown up appearance, I called this friend for a pep talk (she's an early bird and my gmail inbox confirmed she was awake).

Finally ready, I rang the crazy cat lady. Immediately I learned she was not holding anyone hostage. Sigh of relief. Having heard a cat fight that morning (a fight which sounded completely verbal, by the way - drawn out caterwauling, lacking the distinctly different tussling sound that accompanies higher pitched cries of pain), I surmised correctly that it must have involved her cat and, presumably, one of mine. She detailed my cats' offenses and listed their numerous enemies. She complained that she might throw her arm out, having to throw so many rocks at my cats to police her property. I suggested using water as a deterrent but apparently she doesn't have a hose in her front yard. (I have since considered ordering her a Super Soaker on line...) She demanded I must have a solution to the urban cat density problem since I had, after all, urged her to contact me if she had problems with my cats. Of course I had proposed communication as an alternative to abducting my cats and leaving them 10 miles from my home next to the freeway in cardboard boxes that only "acrobats" could escape... So naturally I proposed she keep her cats inside. She rejected my proposal. She would prefer I keep my kitties inside which, of course, I refused as well. She then threatened to sue me for future vet bills. I have watched enough Judge Judy to figure she will have a hard time proving her case without video evidence or eye witnesses.

So we left it at that. Only there's one more nugget of hope. She happened to let me know that she is the owner of 4 cats. County ordinances only allow for 3. (Then again, county ordinances also say that cats who bite - a human or another cat - can be quarantined for 10 days until a veternarian determines they are disease free... But a woman who cannot figure out how to bring a hose from her back yard into her front yard and who thinks cats are not acrobatic will probably not be researching county ordinances... And still there is that pesky question of proof...) This bit of news I will reserve until the next set of "See me" notes.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

heartbreaking work of staggering sadness

I hate otter rescues. I love otters. I just hate picking up the pieces of their species and surrendering them to the good folks at the Aquarium.

The sun was setting as the call came in. Almost all our calls have been coming at sunset lately so I wasn't completely surprised. We had a full grown otter, convulsing, bleeding from the neck, on the farthest end of the drive on beach (nearly an hour from my home). Thankfully my dear friends who live closest to the dunes were willing to do the fetching. I did the coordinating (made simpler by his obviously critical status and his advanced age - pup pick ups are far more complicated...). I prepped the med room in vain. I know the Aquarium seldom gives us treatment orders, but still I assembled my arsenal - butorphanol for the pain, lorazepam for the seizures, dextamethasone for the shock, dextrose for the unresponsiveness, fluids just because... and all we got to use were the warm towels - which, by the way, I nearly set fire to in the microwave (2 minutes = perfect, 3.5 minutes = scary smoke).

Our patient was already comatose so he wasn't feeling his pain. Narcotics would have just supressed the adrenaline that was keeping him alive. His gums were pink, so there was hope, and he wasn't actively seizing. He was cold - his temperature never registered even after we dried him off - but with otters it is better to be cold than too warm. Thermoregulating is not their strong suit. And he was breathing - herky jerky breaths with wheezy moans in between - but breathing just the same. He was bleeding, from a tiny hole in his chest, but not gushing. So, all things considered, not horrible for being in such bad shape.

He was still alive when I handed him off a couple hours later so that's considered a success. The rest is out of my hands. I got a mocha (a Fivebucks recently opened up across the street from our rendezvous point - this was my first time inside) and made the 90 minute drive back home. He died before I made it all the way back. No one should have to die in Salinas. Especailly not an otter.

Now, as the adrenaline leaves my body, I give myself the otter pep talk. I review the facts. They are incredibly fragile creatures, falling victim to just about every toxin and parasite in the ocean. (And, as far as prognosis goes, I'll take incredibly suspicious perfectly round single hole over protozoas and enchephalitis any day. People suck but at least sometimes they have bad aim... Not in this case, of course, but sometimes... And most of the bloody otters this year have been torn up by sharks...) Otters depend on their fabulous fur (1 million hairs per square inch, humans have 150,000 on our entire heads...) for warmth, they have little fat to fall back on when food is scarce. Maternal separation can be fatal.

And then I give myself the lecture. Otter numbers are deceptively stable, decreasing by maybe only 10% each year. But in reality, they are a species in crisis as they now have 2 males for every one female. Not a good ratio. And male otters are ruthless rapists, biting the noses of their mates - sometimes killing them. So when a male otter dies it is just one less sexual predator in the sea.

And then I stretch the facts. Maybe our Southern Sea Otter isn't even truly a separate species from their bigger, furrier cousins in Alaska. So if an oil spill comes to the Monterey Bay and wipes them all out in the weekend, maybe it's not really an extinction.

And then I just stop thinking at all. Because I hate otter rescues.

Friday, November 10, 2006

losing lost

The last time Lost took a break they almost lost me. I wasn't a diehard fan in the first place, having successfully avoided the first season. I still saw Matthew Fox as Charlie Cancer - eternally wed in my mind to that agonizingly long story arch from Party of Five. But a show with as much buzz as Lost seemed worth a second chance. Re-runs caught me up and Lost worked its way up my Tivo priority list. Now that I consider myself a fairly loyal fan, I feel betrayed by the pending three month hiatus.

February 7th? Really? It just seemed so sudden. No warning. I didn't know to savor the action. I hadn't prepared myself mentally. I feel like Kevin Federline. I mean, I knew this was inevitable, but I still feel punched in the gut. At least he'll be getting paid. I'll be crawling back to NetFlix to reactivate my account now that I have a gap in my entertainment schedule.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

anti to the rescue?

Normally I am angry when the phone rings before 11 am. When I still had a job, 10 am was considered decent - 10 am being, of course, Bob time. Of course, when I still had a job 4 am was more frequent - the witching hour when the press switched from printing the newspaper to attempting to print whatever presumably messed up commercial job I had on the schedule. But my days are now my own and I reserve the right to extend the hours of my slumber.

Normally when the phone rings in the early hours, a seal in need waits on the other end. In these cases adrenaline replaces anger, excitement turns me into the morning person I used to be. (Those who didn't witness it first hand would never believe that two of the happiest years of my life were spent serving breakfast to Santa Cruz locals - riding my beach cruiser along the bike path to work, watching the rising sun turn the bay shades of pink and orange. I was the Countess of Caffeine, ruthlessly topping off coffee cups, taking a perverse pleasure in upsetting the delicate balance of the perfect blend of cream and sugar.)

And while I have never turned down a seal for slumber, I was shocked to learn that I have a reputation in the coastal conservation community for sleeping late. I expect my fellow volunteers to understand my hours (only the truly new make the mistake of phoning me early to discuss the schedule or check for action) but I was surprised to find that professionals in other agencies are also aware of the rules. Our local Fish and Game officer, collector of dead otters, once told me he'd call to coordinate a carcass transport - but he'd wait until 9 since I am not a morning person. I'm not sure which was funnier - that he knew I wasn't a morning person, or that he thought 9 am was not early.

This morning the phone rang at 8:45. This could have been a hanging offense. Instead, having recently been disturbed by my bladder and my cat, I was fairly lucid and pleased to hear from my sister. I realized right off that she was not calling with bad news about Margaret (who, by the way, is scheduled to be released from death's waiting room by Thanksgiving, returning to her home to be cared for by my Aunt Mary). Instead she had a childcare emergency - in February. Sis is scheduled to spend two weeks in Pago Pago spaying and neutering the island's animals with a non-profit veterinary group, leaving baby G (of "shiver me timbers" fame) behind. Her choice to travel was not an easy decision (those who trust my inner Nostradomus understand that this trip is part of her fate - I have predictions which must, for now, remain private... I would attempt to wrap them in a riddle but I'm not feeling that clever, being a bit sleep deprived as I am...), but it was a decision made easier assuming the two weeks would be one long slumber party with G spending most of the time with her cuzens. This morning Sis heard rumor that her ex hubby has plans to bring his chain-smoking birth mom to town to do much of the babysitting. I have now been enlisted to step in and eliminate the need for outside childcare.

Can I survive a week or two without Erik waiting on me hand and foot? I suppose so. Can I successfully feed, clothe, and bathe my three year old niecelet? No doubt. Then why so many red flags in my head? Oh yeah, because it's my sister's plan and her plans always go awry.

Case in point, Philadelphia, summer of 2005. Suzanne led the twenty five block death march through the thick city heat, zigging and zagging along South Street searching for shops that were just there a decade ago. My atm card, useless for my poverty, mocked me from my husband's sweat drenched pocket. There would be no cab ride back to the hotel for us. No, but the phantom trolley stop waited forever beyond our reach just beyond the next corner.

Earlier example, Sis's graduation from Vet School, summer of 1998. Suz arranged to house the family in a "bed and breakfast" just outside of town. Only trouble was there were only two beds and four grown up people. Both beds were full sized - not king, not queen, not even a double - full sized being an oxymoron, or perhaps a description of how full the bed is when two people try to use it? The parents, of course, had no problem with the arrangement. My brother and I, on the other hand, refer to our two sleepless nights there as "incest". We considered so many alternatives - we'd sleep on the floor if there was any. We checked the closets - full of Amway products. We thought of the couch - even dirtier than spooning with a sibling as the house was filled with fertile dogs and cats in various stages of heat. We contemplated the car - but Washington is no California, frost bite would have been imminent. Our favorite scenarios involved either stealing the car and driving home to Tacoma, or renting one (though again I was broke). We even tried bribery, offering to write the family Christmas letter (a task I had quit the year before after unauthorized edits - including the phrase "Go, Cougs!" - made a mockery of my efforts).

My instincts say no, by my inner Anti says yes. I'm working on the terms of my contract. I can supervise the baby G, but I will be in no way responsible for the care of my sister's three unruly canines. And airfare is included, but it seems there should be some sort of door prize or spending account. Not that I deserve to ask anything of my sister. She's the one who always sends gifts, tokens of her appreciation. (I claim to be above the compulsory exchange of merchandise, but I secretly wonder if I'm just cheap like my Dad.) In any case, I have plenty of time to decide and the details of Grace's childcare will likely be determined by the divorce lawyers anyhow.

Now that I am up early, I guess I should make something of the day. Either that or I should curl up on the couch and take a nap.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

i think he's got my ears

Today I felt what real grown ups must feel when they send their kids off to kindergarten. Hopeful, heartbroken, helpless, proud. Packing off Thornberry was a bittersweet pleasure - I know he needs friends his own age (and species) but I wish I could keep him forever. How can I send his tiny body out to someday (hopefully) live alone in the ocean?

Thank god I will never be a real grown up. I don't think I could handle the responsibility of raising another little human. How could I teach him all there is to know about being a good person when I'm still figuring that out myself? I am someone who enjoys children for their willingness to parrot phrases in exchange for applause and candy. (My youngest niece's newest accomplishment - "Shiver me timbers...") I take delight in all things fecal and still giggle at the words "booby" and "butt." And don't even get me started about "penis" or "vagina." For these reasons, I am a cherished Anti but not, perhaps, the best babysitter.

I've asked my older nieces if they're bummed they don't have cousins from my loins. Thinking I was depriving them of some familial bonding or future organ donor, I was surprised and relieved to learn that my nieces recognize if I had children of my own I wouldn't have as much time to spend being an Anti. If it takes a village to raise a child, let me live in the next hut over - the one where candy is breakfast and profanity is an artform.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

ickis and fungus

Only hard core toonies will remember this little ditty that plays in my head.

"Ickis and Fungus, he's not a virus, don't call him pustule - Monsters and dogs rule!"

Fungus, you may recall, is the puppy that Ickis and friends snuck into the school for monsters on "Aaahh!!! Real Monsters" way back in 1990-something. If my IT IQ were higher, I am certain I could find an mp3 for that song. My IMDB IQ is equally low but I think perhaps the tune was written by Drew Neumann who is listed as the composer for the show. If the theory of six degrees of separation is true and if I ever develop a readership for this blog (which would require telling more than 2 people that it exists...) then perhaps someday someone will read this who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone else who knows Drew Neumann (or perhaps somebody with access to Nickelodeon archives...) and I will get to hear "Ickis & Fungus" on my ipod. Oh, to hope and dream...

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the reason this tune has risen to the surface today in particular is that I have just learned that poor Ashbaby (the sea lion whose necropsy I attended) did not die of pancreatic cancer as we first suspected. Instead, the growth that filled her abdomen was fungal - coccidioidomycosis to be precise. And this is why I love my work with seals. There's always something to learn, even when the outcome is not good.

This evening's patient, Thornberry, is all of 13 pounds - a recently weaned northern fur seal that is so darned cute I just want to lick him. Fur seals are rather fiesty, so any sort of affectionate nuzzling is out. In fact, in close quarters he was downright scary. I must say, Thornberry is still only the second cutest seal I have encountered in my 5 year career with the Marine Mammal Center. Shadow, a new born california sea lion, still holds the crown for cutest ever. He was so adorable he made me want to lactate.

Unfortunately, Shadow's outcome, we knew from the start, would not be good. Sea lions are too much like puppies. At that age he had no prayer of being raised wild (unlike fur seals who are wild to the core). And, like puppies, sea lions are plentiful so they are not in high demand for placement in captivity. But Thornberry will not be alone. He's got at least five other fur seal toddlers to play with in Sausalito (thanks to El Nino). And he won't be euthanized, thanks to his snarly nature.

I'll bring my camera to tonight's 10 pm feed so you can see just how delicious he is...

Monday, November 06, 2006

dinner with an old friend

Last night I had dinner with an old friend. It's been, I'd guess, nearly 14 years since last we've hung out. That evening was similiar - a blur of old stories, unrestrained laughter, surrending finally to sleep without bothering to pick up a tooth brush.

Today, all day, I remember why we broke up. The throbbing tightness of my sinus, the unsteady gurgling in my stomach, the dehydration and disorientation, the mysterious bruises... My husband has been picking up the pieces of my broken self for years. Like a machine, he set to work putting my world back together. Starchy foods, fluffed pillows, otter pops, the ocean breeze... Slowly I have become mostly human.

It won't be over until tomorrow. And then the memory of this pain will keep me from my friend for another decade or more. Curse you, Vodka, you're just not good for me.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

the badness coming out of me

Whenever I would develop a tiny sore where a taste bud used to be, my mother would explain that this was the badness coming out of me. I'm certain she meant this to be comforting, that this annoying little nub I couldn't keep from rubbing against my teeth was somehow cleansing. Instead, I have long felt disturbed to realize that I am, in fact, so full of badness that it erupts from my very being.

Today, apparently, I must be particularly foul, for the badness is again coming out of me. As I stimulate the strangely satisfying pain response that accompanies my compulsive torturing of my canker sore, I wonder is it because I cuss like a sailor? Or maybe because I still think bad thoughts about the neighbor who abducted my cat and left him to fend for himself outside the pound for a week? Or is this punishment for not expressing the proper amount of gratitude for my exceptionally happy life? Am I bad because I am not living up to my potential? Because I never went to grad school? Because I stopped writing the Christmas letter for my mother after she made unauthorized changes before publication? Or maybe this is because I once convinced my brother he was a hermaphrodite just so he would let me put barrettes in his hair?

As my tongue suffers the consequences of the shortcomings of my personality, I reflect on my opportunities for improvement. I could keep a cleaner house, pay more attention to my husband, make a phone call to a friend. This year I may even write that Christmas letter.

But in the meanwhile, I reach for the Anbesol because f@ck if this thing doesn't hurt.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

only as old as I feel

Having just turned 35, I often find myself pondering the question of age. I don't fair as well as I'd like to on the RealAge test (, so I'm adding flossing to my regimen to shave off a few years. I'm sure I'd do even worse if the test included IT skills.

In fact, I'd love to know my IT age. I'm not horrible with computers. I learned quite a bit in my past life working in pre press. But still I feel my knowledge base has more holes than the ozone.

If I had IT skills, I would develop such a test and post it on the web site I fantasize about running. My site, by the way, already has a name (I have optimistically owned the url for nearly 2 years now) - it's It will someday be a great tool for keeping my 40 some cousins connected, sharing all the juicy gossip we can't tell our mutual grandmother, Margaret. I only hope I get it together while it is still relevant. Margaret is now 91 and is in a facility for rehabilitation after a fall. Sadly, it's the same facility where my maternal grandparents lived until their passing last year. Margaret, reportedly, refuses to make friends there because she has no intention of moving in. Go, Margaret.

Anyway, I found a bunch of websites that gauge computer skills and vocablulary. (No surprise there. I think the only truly unique idea I've come up with in ages is the Vomitron 3000, a tool for bar owners and bulimics.) I took the assessment at and I scored in the 36 percentile. They gave me a GPA of 2.4 which is a C, yet only I only got 60% of the questions correct. Sadly, they consider 50% a passing score (probly since they want to sell your certificate of achievement).

I should not be congratulated for this. They not only congratulated me, they counted me amongst "the elite league of individuals who have demonstrated a high level of proficiency in their chosen area." Stroke my ego all you want, I am not about to pay $6.95 to share this information.

Here's my performance breakdown by subject:

1. Computer Hardware .........67%
2. Computer Settings .........100%
3. Computer Software .........50%
4. Computer Terminology .........50%
5. Emailing .........71%
6. Internet .........50%
7. Keyboard usage .........100%
8. Networking .........100%
9. Windows .........33%

Given my web score, I am surprised I knew enough to be disturbed when Senator Ted Stevens described the internet as "a series of tubes."

Anyway, my imaginary IT test would be far more interactive. There would be timed events and an obstacle course. And there'd be an entire section on Googling, which is a skill all its own. Instead of a GPA or a percentile, I would offer an age. A perfect score would put you at 13. I think at this point I may be something like 45.

Perhaps blogging will be like flossing for me. Each entry will scrape away at the layer of plaque on my brain. Eventually I will learn to make links instead of references. Someday I may even post pictures - though that is more about my body dismorphia than my lack of ability. No promises.

Friday, November 03, 2006

little miss eyeball

Last night I was given a new nickname. Delphine, the Marine Mammal Center's chic french veterinary intern, dubbed me "Miss Eyeball", capturing my enthusiasm for collecting aqueous humor samples from the eyes of deceased pinnipeds.

I must admit, my front row seat to the necropsy of Ashbaby (a two year old California Sea Lion who died, we learned, from cancer) was at times nauseating - but I blame this on the forementioned breakfast of frozen pizza and rolos. Normally I have a strong stomach for the blood, guts, and feces that accompany a career in wildlife rescue. Still, I was more than a little disappointed in myself. To be fair, Ashbaby's condition generated a strange goopy mass of tissue where her pancreas once existed (this surprised even Delphine). And I was definitely in the splash zone of the procedure (and absolutely everyone took a step backwards when the bone saw was brought out). Even so, I expected more from myself - though I think I hid my discomfort well.

And in my official first act as the reigning Little Miss Eyeball, I offer an interesting tidbit of evolutionary history. I learned last night that the adaptation that allows pinnipeds and cetaceans to see so well underwater is a round lens (hard like a marble). The real mystery is how they can see so well on land (it is presumed that their eye muscles are strong enough to flatten their lens).

Speaking of evolution, if you haven't seen this week's South Park ("Go, God. Go! Part II"), you should. I'm sure I'm not the first to have noticed that South Park's shock value has sometimes flagged (and after 10 years, who can blame them? I'm three days into blogging and already worried I've run out of things to say...), but this season has reaffirmed my faith in humanity (especially since "The Return of Chef!").

Anyway, I found this week's episode particularly satsfying for so many reasons. First, there's the obvious appeal of the use of sex and feces (all great South Park storylines involve one or the other, this week has both). Then there's the surprising presence of marine mammals (with anatomically correct representation, no less; nothing bugs me more than an otariid without ear flaps). Finally, there's the controversy. I've been feeling disappointed, confused, and frightened for the future ever since my husband (who is taking an on-line Anthropology course which, of course, is based on the theory of evolution) recently shared with me the discussion board entries of far too many of his classmates who are not convinced "evolution" is real.

I long ago resigned myself to the fact that America is full of religious zealots. After all, we are a nation founded by religious nuts. But I always thought California was a safe haven. Now if these folks lived inland, that might be another story. Ever since I accidentally moved to Ukiah, I have recognized that the state of California as I know it exists only on the coast. Now I'm forced to wonder if my California exists at all.

I think Oregon is the new California. I definitely plan on moving there when I am older (before the Alzheimer's completely consumes me) to take advantage of their insightful legislation on assisted suicide. But for now, it's still too chilly. Too wet. Give global warming just a little more time...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

my inner child is spoiled

Seventeen months ago I left my job to be a stay-at-home mom to my inner child. Since then I have noticed just how spoiled that inner child is. This morning, for instance, she had frozen pizza and rolos for breakfast. As I sipped on my coffee, wondering how she could stomach such a feast without feeling sick, I sighed with relief that at least I am not responsible for any actual children.

Friends say I'd make a great mother. I am, after all, a fairly swell Anti. But I know from the way I treat my kitties that my children would end up in therapy. My cats are subjected to a blend of overprotective paranoia and benign neglect, mixed with bouts of smothering affection. I alternate between praise and disdain for the same bad behaviors (usually regarding the murder of small creatures) and I clearly play favorites (which I also alternate).

And now, I realize, I treat my inner child with this same damaging mix of indulgence and inconsistent discipline. When I left my job to save my sanity, I imagined my inner child and I taking naps, eating healthy snacks, and combing the beaches for shiny trinkets, abducting living creatures from the tidepools and putting them back after a thorough inspection. I figured we'd do arts and crafts, read interesting books, plant things in the garden. I thought I'd be a really great mom.

I'm not a complete failure. My inner and child and I have a decent relationship and for the most part we have a really great time. I just can't help but think I am letting her down sometimes.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

all good things must come to an end

When the phone rang last night and my brother asked, "Have you heard about Bob Barker?" I swear my heart skipped a beat. He is, after all, pushing 83 and we are, after all, in love. We've been in love for 7 years now this past September the 28th.

I'll remember the day always - the day I became a Contestant Not Appearing On Stage. I'm not proud of the not appearing on stage part. That I chalk up to my fate and my lack of experience making Faustian deals. When they say "be careful what you wish for, you just may get it," I didn't realize you just might get only precisely what you wish for. And I had wished, all my life, to be called to Contestant's Row.

Little did I know I would be called last. And still, though I knew the challenge that lay I ahead, I would have such uncontrolled enthusiasm that I would take the wind out of Rod Roddy's sails, predicting (accurately) that the final game would be for a car. {Note to anyone else who is fortunate enough to be called to Contestant's Row: Do not remind the vultures around you that the game they could soon be playing could be for anything more than exercise equipment and a grandfather clock. Further, don't give them any reason at all to think that you know what you are talking about our they will stack your bid more viciously than they already should.}

Oh why couldn't the item up for bid be a Lobster? Or a gumball machine? Or any other number of the specific items that Loyal Friends in True know by heart? "$909," I could have said. (Or $929 with more tennis balls, or even $1029 at its peak, though I've noticed since the price has fallen). Or "$1000, Bob," I could have beamed. Later I would have collected five crisp $100 bills from the hand (no longer the pocket) of my lifelong friend and though I still may not have won the car, at least I would have gotten to spin the wheel.

But Bob felt for me as the contestants clung to me, drowning my bid with their own. The two other CNAOS, mind you, had rotted in Contestant's Row since the opening call of "Come on Down." Five times they had bid before my arrival; five times they had failed. The one who escaped, of course, was not as worthless as these two, my fellow losers. He was lucky enough to bid last (and did not, by the way, go on to win the car or do anything of significance on the wheel). He had been more specific, I'm sure, when making requests of the Fates.

Our eyes met - my deep, dark pleading eyes welling then with the tears that would flow over much tequila that evening, Bob's powder blue, gentle eyes that had seen too much sadness over the years - and we were in love. Even the man who would later become my husband (who was there wearing a shirt that proudly proclaimed, "My Girlfriend Loves Bob" and who had professed on his pre-show interview that he was "very well trained and prepared to win") could see the love. And all he could give me was his autograph, artfully penned on the back of my TPIR postcard, offered to me during a stolen moment when he belonged posed by the wheel and I was to be seated neatly by my pathetic co-losers.

Later we would kiss. I would return to the Bob Barker studio and though I could never again be a contestant, though I could never spin the wheel, I waited in line all night like a Loyal Friend in True. With my TPIR soulmate, a man as dedicated to cult of Bob as I am, we sat in seats number 2 and 3 in the front row. And though my friend never did hear the invitation to "Come on Down" (which in his case would have been more like "Scoot on Over"), we were close enough to command attention and curry favors in between commercials.

So my lips have touched the soft, sagging cheek of a TV legend. An animal rights hero who loved his wife profoundly. A brilliant, patient man whose daily life exposes him to some of the stupidest people on television. We're still in love.

And now, as Bob Barker has announced he is officially taping his last show this June, I can only say I am happy for him. He's done us a favor entertaining the masses for literally my entire lifetime. He's given away enough gadgets, appliances, vehicles, and trips. He's been more than generous with his time. And truly, all good things must come to an end.