Monday, February 27, 2006
Birthday Bash
Saturday night we had a joint birthday party for my mother and the Professor's granddaughter. They are only 85 years and 51 weeks apart, after all. The little one's middle name is my mother's name, her first namesake, even though there is no blood relationship.

I went to Baskin-Robbins to order an ice cream cake. (Since I discovered these, I have quit baking birthday cakes.) I was later than I should have been, and it was going to be impossible to pick up the cake and get everything else done. So I went on down to Dairy Queen. I had heard they also had ice cream cakes, and for less money than Baskin-Robbins. Well, they had several cakes in the freezer, different sizes and shapes, but all the same flavor: a little bit of a fudge brownie with chocolate ice cream, vanilla ice cream, I'm not sure what else but it was delicious! You can't get the variety of flavors or decorations at DQ, but everyone sure enjoyed this cake.

The little one loves Dora the Explorer, so I got her Dora's Talking Dollhouse. I have never seen anything hold her attention like this did. The older kids got into it, too!

I made three pans of lasagna, two the usual way, with hamburger (I know, it's supposed to be sausage, but none of us like sausage), and one pan made with portobello mushrooms instead of meat. There were 20 of us total, but Guppyman and Stormii came late -- they went to church first. There was one tiny portion of the lasagna with meat left for Guppy, and that was left only because I fought everyone from taking the last piece. If all three pans had been with meat sauce, there would have been nothing left at all. But once the meat was gone, and the men were forced to try the mushroom, they discovered they liked it, too. (Except for Guppy, who from birth on has had an extreme aversion to any kind of vegetable.)

The Professor's kids stayed Saturday night and left mid-Sunday afternoon. Then I had a steady stream of grandchildren stopping by. So my weekend was basically shop, wrap, clean, cook, and enjoy my family. Not a bad way to spend a weekend! Hope everyone else had a great weekend, and that the coming week is terrific.

posted at 7:13 AM
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Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Open Mouth, Insert Foot
A new customer called me with a problem. It became obvious that we could not solve it over the phone, so we made an appointment to get together. As I was driving there, I was trying to figure out his nationality.

His last name was Malenica. That sounds vaguely Italian, but his heavy accent was definitely Eastern European. Hmmm, what's near Italy? Well, the old Yugoslavia, which is now Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Herzogovina, and a few more I can't recall.... I puzzled over this for the whole drive, and I kept thinking back to the accents I heard in northern Minnesota, when I was married to my first husband.

When we met, I decided to dazzle this man by being one of the few (I was sure) to figure out his country of origin. I announced to him that I was sure he was from Croatia.

His nostrils flared; his eyes grew cold. With hands pressed firmly on the table, as though to keep them from strangling me, he half-rose out of his seat and spat "I'm SERBIAN!"

When will I learn?!!!

P.S. Fortunately, he didn't hold it against me. Once I groveled a bit, the rest of the call went fine.

posted at 9:39 AM
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Tuesday, February 21, 2006
There's Something About French Fries
The scene: the parking lot of Wendy's. My bag lunch is on the seat, my car window is still down, and I have pulled into an empty spot to check the voice mail I just missed. As I put in my pin number, I become aware of a flapping noise. I turn my head to see a seagull hovering about six inches from my face. Had his wingspan been narrower, he would have flown right in. As I frantically raise the window, I realize there are about 30 seagulls all around me. They start to squawk, and some take flight to perch on the top of my car. As I listen to my message, they settle down but don't leave. Now I can't resist. I lower my window a bit -- bedlam! I close it -- they settle down. I was drunk on the power for a few minutes. I decided not to create a riot by tossing out a french fry or two (anyway, they were mine.)

The lesson: never stop in that parking lot with french fries in the car.

posted at 3:46 PM
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Monday, February 20, 2006
When Good Ideas Go Bad
Kross-Eyed Kitty inspired me, with a post about the difficulties of saying anything at work, to tell the story of how I got in more trouble than I could have imagined.

It was my first trip to a particular paper mill, and the Maintenance Supervisor greeted me with "Your company cost me a girlfriend." It seems our product had failed late in the afternoon, and as it was a version the maintenance crew was not familiar with, it took them a long time to change it out. Unfortunately, this was the night that his girlfriend's son was getting married, and despite repeated phone calls to update her, he missed both the wedding and the reception. A week later, she dumped him.

Now it was obvious to everyone that the wedding fiasco was just a convenient excuse to do what she had been planning to do, anyway. But he wanted a maintenance seminar, and I got an idea.

I called my boss to tell him I wanted to begin the seminar by saying that, although our liability is strictly limited to our product, this was a unique case, and we felt obliged to replace his girlfriend. I would then present the Maintenance Supervisor with a blowup doll. She would be tastefully dressed, and there would be no sexual innuendo, just a good laugh at the idea that he could not possibly find another girlfriend on his own.

"Do it, do it!" said my boss. "They'll love it!"

"But where do I put a blowup doll on my expense report?"

In an everyone-knows-that tone, my boss answered "Under office supplies, of course."

Everything went according to plan. The Maintenance Supervisor loved the doll, "especially the way she gazes at me adoringly"; the women from the mill office took pictures; everyone laughed and joked and had a wonderful time. It was probably the most successful maintenance seminar I ever did.

Two days later I got a call from the Mill Manager. "You" he said, "have violated the EEOC Sexual Harrassment and Discrimination Guidelines."

I had violated the WHAT????? I was too stunned to say anything, but as he continued to talk, it became clear what the real problem was. If someone should commit an actual act of sexual harrassment in the future, the pictures could be used to "prove" that the mill had always tolerated it -- why, they even had blowup dolls around! The facts didn't matter, only what some lawyer might twist it into in some nebulous future litigation. It's probably a good thing that I can't find the picture because, even though it would show a long-sleeved, turtle-necked, very respectable young lady who just happened to be made of latex, it would undoubtedly manage to get me into trouble all over again.

So now you know the ugly truth about me: I am hopelessly politically incorrect, and I have sexually harrassed an entire maintenance crew at a paper mill. And I am thorougly unrepentant. The only thing I am sorry about is that a sense of humor does not seem to extend into management.

I tried and tried to create links to Kross-Eyed Kitty and her post on comments at work. My blog has stopped performing any function except publishing. It won't even let me italicize any more. So this won't be a link, but here's the address:

*Hey look... it is a link now- Gee my son is great! And he knows how to type in italics!*
If anyone is still wondering about the four one-syllable countries, they are France, Spain, Greece and Chad. Ally came up with Wales, which is in that never-never land as a part of the U.K.; Guppyman came up with Guam, which is a US territory, and with Laos, which I maintain is 1-1/2 syllables.

posted at 8:19 AM
Comments (2)

Thursday, February 16, 2006
Coming Back to Life
I seem to be recovering a bit. This morning I could smell my shampoo, a very exciting event after a week of no olfactory activity. You'd think I would have lost some weight, since food has had no taste, and I've eaten a lot less of it the last week. Maybe a pound, certainly not anything dramatic. Why do I still think a few situps will make me look like I did 20 years ago? I know, I'll blame it all on Jane Fonda and Susan Lucci, because they do still look like they did 20 years ago.

I am debating whether or not to leave for Corpus Christi for a meeting. I have a hotel reservation, which surprised me, actually, because I figured the news media would have all the rooms taken. I am weighing the benefits of going to the meeting against the drawbacks of a four hour drive in my better-but-not-quite-good condition. I have to make up my mind very soon.

Since I have done absolutely nothing the last few days but cough, blow my nose, and wander around in a fog, I have nothing to talk about. So I'll give you a little quiz I saw in this morning's paper.

There are four countries in the world with a one-syllable name. Three are well known; one less so. (I confess, I got the less well known country first, one of the well known countries second, struggled to get the third, and had to cheat to get the fourth.) Can you name them all?

posted at 9:15 AM
Comments (7)

Monday, February 13, 2006
My Neighborhood
MommaK asked for pictures of our neighborhoods. The post I just created disappeared, but since it was a whiny, poor-me rant about how I had so much to do over the weekend, but instead got sick and ended up sleeping the whole weekend away, I figure the Blogger Gods are speaking to me, and my neighborhood would be a lot more interesting.

This is what I see when I look to the east from my front yard. The park is actually a couple of football fields in length, but I zoomed in so you could see what we all love most: the dock. It used to jut out to the left, but the angle was all wrong. The least little storm would rip the boards up. Our neighborhood association had it repaired professionally, and we had several repair-it-yourself parties over the years, but invariably as soon as the dock was repaired we would get a tropical storm or a hurricane, and it would be unusable again. This time they laid the boards down lengthwise and left off that crazy angle, and it survived hurricane Rita. The Little Angel and I love to sit here and swing and sing silly songs and talk about all sorts of things. The big open area across the street is the park. There is always a breeze off the water, so it is cool and mosquito-free.

This is the view to the west. Our little neighborhood is only two streets wide and we get very little through traffic. Unless it's school hours, there is always a group of kids playing street hockey or baseball or jumping ramps with their skateboards. It is as though time has been turned back about twenty years. There is one kid who passes my house on his way to the dock every morning in the summer, a fishing pole slung over his shoulder and a rolling cooler trailing behind him. (You may whistle the Andy Griffith theme now.) I confess to having envy attacks some days when I see him, but mostly he just makes me smile.

This is the sheltered side of my yard, but that also means it has a big mosquito problem for most of the year. (Gathering pecans over here is a real test of will.) My Japanese magnolia looks a little bedraggled after our weekend cold front. The fence behind the ginger and split-leaf philodendron backs up to a Girl Scout camp, so most weekends of the year we hear a lot of giggling and shrieking as they play games. I tend to find it more charming than annoying, but I was a Girl Scout leader, so I'm biased.

So that's my neighborhood. Drop by sometime. We'll skip stones off the dock, then sit in the swing and chat over some iced tea.

posted at 11:10 AM
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Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Gorillas in the Mist
I sort of left my Africa post in mid-trip, as more current things crowded it out. But I have to share the gorilla tracking with you. It ranks with the births of my children and grandchildren in the highlights-of-my-life category.

We flew to Kigali, Rawanda, and the first thing they did was take us to the Memorial Museum. There are still unclaimed bodies, they suspect because there is no one left in the family. This coffin contains a woman named Denise Ururu. I know nothing about her, not her age, her marital status, or whether she was a mother, a daughter, or someone's best friend, but I memorized her name and promised myself I will think of her occasionally for the rest of my life, just so someone will know she lived. They did not allow cameras in the museum, and trust me when I say it was incredibly difficult to walk through, especially the huge pile of skulls, mostly babies', split open by machetes. The hope is that by showing this to the Rawandans -- and all schoolchildren come here at least once -- they can break the cycle of senseless hatred.

From Kigali, we drove out in the country, to the Gorilla Mist Lodge. Accomodations were pretty spotty, with no hot water most of the time, but when you learn that there are women who walk six miles a day to get drinking water, you don't complain much about missing a shower.

This was our starting point. The mountains are actually in Uganda, and Diane Fosse is buried, with Digit, in the valley between the the peaks. We had our regular guide, two guides who worked for the park, and four soldiers with us. The official explanation was that the soldiers were there in case of poachers, but our guide told us later that there are 4000 of theTutsi murderers still in Uganda, and the soldiers are there in case some of them try to sneak back into Rawanda. (They are putting them on trial, not trying to kill them.)

We were a group of eight, and there were four groups, each tracking a different family. We were extremely fortunate to track two families who lived relatively low on the mountain, and both days we got to spend an hour observing. Some people climb for hours, and never see the gorillas.

We began the climb here. You see that little opening? That's as good as the trail ever got. The guides had machetes and hacked their way through the jungle. We climbed for about an hour, and suddenly I caught wind of something unpleasant. Now the use of deodorant in Africa does not seem to be widespread, but what went through my mind was, boy, this soldier is really rank. That thought was quickly replaced by, oh wow, I know that smell, that's a gorilla!

And there he was. Gorilla families get up about 8:00 AM, spend a couple of hours eating (their favorite food is nettles) and then come together about 10:00 for some family time. We timed it perfectly.

There was a pair of twins about a year old, and a juvenile about three. They were scampering around playing and making a racket. The silverback very deliberately got up and walked over to them. We figured he was probably going to cuff them and stop all the noise. Instead, he lay down on his back and proceeded to play-wrestle with them for several minutes. I'm sorry I can't post a good picture of it, but it was all legs and arms, and you really can't tell what's what in the pictures. The little ones would climb up on his belly, he would push them off gently while growling very softly. A few times he lifted one of them up in the air with his feet. I promise you -- the Professor is my witness -- he gave one of them a noogie. It was exactly like a man playing with his children. Mama, meanwhile, sat off to one side with one of the other children.

You are supposed to stay ten meters from the gorillas -- for their protection, as they can pick up human germs -- but you are in a jungle, with very little room to manuever, and the gorillas are moving around. At times we could have reached out and touched them. They know the guides, who make a sort of throat-clearing noise periodically, which the gorillas answer in kind. This apparently means Hey, everything's cool, man. You have to turn off the flash on your camera, you can't make any sudden moves or loud noises, and they ask you not to make the trek if you have a cold. You get one hour from the time you encounter them until you have to leave. Apparently gorillas have a good sense of time, because almost exactly to the hour, the silverback stood up, beat his chest, and charged us. We were in no danger; he veered off well before he got to us. He was just letting us know that we were starting to annoy him.

On our second day, I was walking through the bamboo when the guide suddenly knocked me to the ground. He had his hand around my neck, and as he scooted forward, he dragged me along with him. I had no idea what was happening! But a gorilla had decided he wanted to walk in the exact spot where I had been standing, so the guide knocked me down and then pushed the gorilla over a little bit. The Professor was filming the gorilla, but missed the part the guide played, so on videotape it looks exactly like the gorilla knocked me down. I managed to get to my feet in time to get this shot of his retreating back.

Here are the children who live at the bottom of the mountain. They are old enough to be in school, but their work is needed by their families. The boys tend the goats; the girls take care of the babies. The girl in green has a one-month-old tied on her back; the one in blue has an 18-month-old on hers. Along the road through town, the children line up to beg for water bottles. This was a hard lesson for a bleeding heart like me: you have empty plastic water bottles, they can use these bottles so they will have something to drink while they are in the fields; what better win-win scenario can you imagine? Well, it doesn't work. They cut school to beg for the bottles, which have some monetary value. One afternoon we started waving to the children who were begging, and soon it became almost a mission. For an hour we waved to everyone we saw -- big, full-armed waves, not Queen Elizabeth's screwing-in-a-lightbulb kind. Almost everyone we saw smiled and waved back. Women in their fields would drop the hoe and wave back with both arms. By the time we got back to the lodge, our arms were sore, but our hearts were overflowing.

posted at 6:03 PM
Comments (7)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006
On the Road Again
I spent a good part of the day getting to DeRidder LA, a small town literally in the middle of nowhere. There are no major highways coming into town. I stay on the Texas side for as long as possible, since the speed limit is 70 in Texas and 55 in Louisiana. This means I end up on small winding roads with an occasional house, certainly no stores or gas stations. I always worry that I'll have a flat tire. I am capable of changing one, but, just between us, I prefer not to!

I'll be here for a couple of days, visiting paper mills. I'll get home a few hours after the Professor leaves for a dive trip to the Phillipines. This happens to us fairly often.

I am anxiously awaiting a call from Guppyman to tell me the results of Stormii's MRI. I frankly can't think about much else.

I went to dinner, and Guppy called me while I was eating. Stormii has been referred to another doctor, this one in the famous Houston medical center. No one seems to think that her life is in danger or anything, but this doctor thought it was beyond his abilities. It may well be that the cysts can be drained, but Dr. #1 thought that in case surgery will be needed, Dr. #2 should do the dye injection and get all the information first hand. Dr. #1 seems to think the cyst is attached to the kidney, and asked Stormii to let him know how it works out. Apparently a cyst this size is pretty rare. I could hear Stormii in the background saying "I'm a freak of nature!"

She is one of a kind, but hardly a freak.

To illustrate just how much she is one of a kind, Stormii is not going to Dr. #2 until after the 15th because .... you won't believe this ... she has inventory on the 15th. Do you hear that, Stormii's bosses? Would any of you be so dedicated? They had better bring her a steady stream of mocha lattes and bon bons, and give her a huge raise.

I guess we need your prayers for another week.

posted at 5:48 PM
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Monday, February 06, 2006
Blogman and HD and Stormii, Oh My
Apparently there is a new game on the internet called Blogman. Only a very few know the rules or even how to start playing, but I know they're out there because posts and comments are disappearing from other blogs. My Saturday post was munched up by a hungry Blogman-- just as well, actually, since I let my anger get the better of me and said some mean things about my ex-DIL. I also discovered then that she reads my blog every day, so I know she will read this: I apologize.

Guppyman won a Bloggy Award! How cool is that! He has kept me laughing my whole life; I'm glad he's sharing it with the world.

Went to PresentStorm's b'day party Saturday night, and to watch the Super Bowl at Dolphin's last night. She has a new 42" plasma screen HD tv which hangs over the fireplace. I don't know if it was the angle or the fact that the screen is wide but relatively short, but people looked very short and fat. This was great for football players, not so good for singers. But then I had to stay to watch Grey's Anatomy, since it would have been over before I could get home, and all those characters looked fine.

Stormii is having an MRI today. The doctors need to see what the mass of cysts is attached to. Several doctors have looked at the tests so far, and all agree that it shows no cancerous characteristics. The surgeon is hoping that whatever is in the cysts can be drained off without having to cut Stormii open. The thing is so huge, filling her entire abdominal cavity and touching every single organ, that it would be a long, complex surgery if she has to have one.

Guppy, of course, was hopeful that if they had to go through all this, Stormii would at least make the Guiness Book of Records, but apparently she's not even close. So now Guppy says he's going to sell the cysts on eBay. Ewwwwwwwww! So for the sake of good taste, as well as Stormii's health and comfort, please say a little prayer that this can be taken care of without surgery.

posted at 7:24 AM
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Friday, February 03, 2006
Happy Birthday PresentStorm!
Today is PresentStorm's birthday. Go over and wish her a happy one.

Stormii has been such a blessing to us all. She is the best thing that ever happened to Guppyman and the Little Angel. She has brought peace and harmony and joy to their home. Her faith in God is so awesome, it sustains her through anything and everything that life throws at her. When things are rough, she doesn't complain, she says the difficulty is teaching her a valuable lesson.

Stormii is outgoing, caring, giving and generous. If you have a problem, she will pray for you, whether or not she knows you. If she knows you and likes you, she will do little thoughtful things for you. She is not one to run into the store and buy just any old thing to fulfill an obligation to give a present. She puts a lot of thought into it, and she puts a lot of herself into it.
And she appreciates what people do for her.

Stormii and Guppy met on the internet, but the relationship was obviously made in heaven. I remember their first Christmas together, when we were playing Cranium. Their exchanges went something like this:

Guppy: It's red.
Stormii (staring deep into his eyes): The... umm... oh, a red stripe on the American flag.

I have never seen two people who seem to read each other's minds so readily. They never seem to get bored with each other, they never seem to need a break from each other.

Did I mention she's a great cook? You should see all the men in the family lining up for her specialties. She also has an amazing sense of color and balance. I will barely hang a picture without her input.

Now the acid test of a DIL is: would I like this woman if she weren't married to my son? Yes, yes, yes! She is intelligent and funny and easy to talk to. We don't have to argue and fight where we disagree on things; we can respect each other's beliefs. My mother, who is an amazing judge of character, took one look at Stormii and loved her.

So please everyone go wish her a very happy birthday. I know I do.

posted at 5:49 AM
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Wednesday, February 01, 2006
The Blues and the Blahs
I don't know what's wrong with me. Maybe it's the wintertime blahs. Nothing seems interesting; everything seems like too much trouble.

I need to do my laundry. It's still in the hamper.

I need to finish putting away the clothes from the last time I did laundry. They're still on top of the dresser.

I need to go to the grocery store. I drove right by it last night, but I just couldn't make myself stop.

I need to finish my expense reports. They're lying, half done, on my desk.

I need to make appointments with the dermatologist, the dentist, and an architect. Somehow I manage not to think about any of them during the hours when I could actually make an appointment.

I need to visit my mother.

I need to come up with something interesting to write about.

I believe that the two worst "everyday" sins -- the kind that don't get you arrested -- are laziness and selfishness. My conscience is telling me that leaving all these things unfinished is not only lazy and selfish, but self-indulgent as well. Up until now, my life has consisted of upbeat, high-energy days with an occasional blah day thrown in. Now that proportion has reversed itself.

I have realized as I was writing this that I haven't taken any vitamins in a long time. It would be nice if that was the whole problem, but I'm not sure vitamins will help me get my intensity and my joy back.

I want you all to know what a struggle it has been for me to tell the truth here. I desperately want to pretend to suddenly feeling happy and energetic, so no one will worry about me, and no one will see how imperfect I am. If I actually manage to hit the publish button, it will be a victory of sorts. It has always been my job to comfort and entertain and reassure everyone else, not to get comfort and reassurance from them.

Well, as proof that I can't seem to get anything done, I wrote this post on Saturday and here it is Wednesday and I still don't have anything better to say. But I did manage to do everything on my list above except make all those appointments and find something interesting to say. You'd think I'd be walking on air, since I got a half million dollar order yesterday, but even that didn't fire me up. Maybe when all the flowers start blooming....

posted at 5:13 AM
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I Learn Something Every Day
*Hey look... Your loving son came by and fixed this for you...*

I just made a remarkable discovery: if you save a draft but publish other posts after it, when you finally decide to publish the draft it will bury itself in chronological order deep inside your blog. So today's post is actually three down from here, The Blues and the Blahs.

posted at 5:12 AM
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Mitey Mite

Texas, United States

I am older than dirt, but I still feel pretty young & some call me the Energizer Bunny. I share a house with the Professor & 3 cats. Between us we have 5 grown children, all of whom are productive members of society (!), and 10 grandchildren. I have a job I love, a little money for the 1st time in my life, and so many more things I want to do than I will ever have time for.

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If You Think They're After You And They Really Are...
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We Need Standards
A Small Mistake
Bad Choices
There Is No Coherent Theme To This
Too Much to Bear
The Soap Opera That Is My Life
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