The Oral Report

Standing up in front of the class was never so much fun!

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Location: River City, United States

The rantings and ravings of a mom of three wonderful girls as she finds new love while working like a dog and shaking her fist at the system. You know. Pretty much like everybody else.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Do you have irrational fears? 'Cause I have irrational fears. I'm not alone here, am I? I mean other people freak out when a can of biscuits rips open like a cannon retort. Or squirrels are just kinda sitting you that look that says, "I'll tear your throat out the first chance I get". Or you can't stand to watch someone quickly lick an envelope from side to side because you are certain...CERTAIN...that they are going to get a hideous, disfiguring paper cut on their tongue due to their total carelessness. Right? Okay. Just wanted to make sure it wasn't only me.

Now, irrational fears aside, everyone has their own "kryptonite". That thing that will expose their weaknesses and reveal them to all the world for who they truly are. And while the things I've listed above will probably get me some sideways glances and more than a few snickers...and have, actually...they aren't my kryptonite.

I'd imagine for some, it could be their blog. The revelation of deep, dark personal secrets. Revealing business secrets in a public forum. The world linking you to your blog and it coming back to wreak havoc in your life. Stuff like that. Not so much, me. At least, not yet.

For some, I'd imagine it's life's illicit temptations, be they drugs or sex (or some other flavor entirely). Your real life finding out about your fantasy life and bingo, bango,'re trashed. But, again, I'm less about the drama. Well, at least as much as a crazy woman, managing Hell, with two teenagers, a kindergartner, and a troublesome ex, can be less about the drama, that is. So, those wouldn't really apply to me either.

Liars. People who justify their own reprehensible behavior by convincing themselves (and anyone else gullible enough to listen) into believing that they don't have a problem. And then watching as the truth comes for them at break-neck speed...shattering the little cone of silence they've constructed around themselves and their followers. This is not me either, though. The honesty is just much easier. And the game-playing has never been me. Never will be.

Now, at work, I'm the tough construction chick. I don't take any crap. Ripping their asses off and handing them back is the modus operandi. I hold my own with laborers and foremen and owners, alike. And all that kinda stuff has earned me a pretty tough reputation. Oh I still get flirted with once in a while, but mostly, I'm one of the guys. So, if they knew they could make me cry, like a little girl, it would be devastating to my ability to do my job. OMG, I'd never hear the end of it. Never. That said, I take great pains to keep from anyone ever seeing me do it.

My desk is at the far end of a large architectural studio. It affords me cloaking ability when I need it. Ducking my head behind my monitor makes me virtually invisible while I'm at my desk. If any of the guys I regularly have to tromp found out I would cry, let alone could cry, I'd be ruined. So, on the rare occasions that I find myself doing it at work I take great pains to conceal it.

I might still get the "pity" vote. At least from a few of them. The respect, though, earned from years of being tough enough to do what needs to be done without fear...without backing down...that'd be gone. Forever. All the hard work of getting guys in this industry to treat me as if I know what I'm talking about and not as if I'm some uppity FEMALE trying to break ranks, would be for naught. And it's taken me years to get where I am. It's not something I want to hand back quite so easily.

I mean, hey, just because I'm having a bad day doesn't mean I can't still take care of business. But being sensitive around here is definitely a drawback. A flaw. A handicap. And no slack will be cut. Trust me on this.

That's the round about way of saying I'm a little weepy today...and I'm hiding out. Stuff going on in my personal life and I can't elaborate about it yet. But, lucky for me, I have Highlander and my wonderful girls (and all of you, dear readers) to get me through.

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Monday, January 30, 2006

Holler Back Girl

Do you remember the Beverly Hillbillies television show? Have you seen either COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER or DELIVERANCE? If you said yes to any of these, you've seen my peeps. My homies. My crew. Not the background you'd expect a hippie liberal chick to have? Well, if you try to stick me in a pre-made mold, you'll be looking for it for a long time. I prefer to consider myself "an original".

My parents were born and raised in the hollers of eastern Kentucky. Yes. That's right. I said "hollers". Tight little valleys where it's difficult for sunlight to get in, let alone books or liberal politics Inbreeding used to be rampant, but I haven't been in a holler in several years (and I tend not to stay any longer than I have to when I do), so I'm not sure of the current status of things. Lucky for me, when Mom and Dad (who were not, by the way, previously related) fell in love, they married and moved the hell out of there. Before I was ever born. Many's the day I've considered how different my life would be had they not made that particular choice. It frightens the bejesus out of me, too. Well, probably moreso if I had any brothers.

Many interesting stories from my childhood. As a kid, growing up in the very urban city of Rochester, New York, going to visit family in very rural Kentucky was some pretty serious culture shock. We usually visited family a couple times a year. Somewhere around Christmas and once (sometimes twice) in the summer. As for family vacations, Kentucky was about it. No camping trips. No Disneyland. No nothin'. In fact, I find it particularly odd that I despite being born and raised (at least partially) in New York state, I've never once been to NYC. Going "up home" was really all my parents ever wanted to do when they had free time. And it wasn't exactly a democracy at our house in those days.

Now, we (my sister and I) grew up in the city. Attending public schools. Riding bikes, playing kickball in the middle of the street, and going to the movies. Curfew was when the street lights came on. Saturday mornings in front of the tv. Sunday mornings at church down the block. Our neighbors were Italian and Cuban and a very interesting ethnic mix.

Every time we went "up home" was a very strange trip. We'd always stay with my great-grandmother. [At 26, I held...and still retain...the title of oldest first time mother in my family. My mother had me when she was 18. Her mother had her at 17. And my great-grandmother gave birth to my grandmother when she was 16. Each of us the oldest child.] My family was always kind of "young". In the hills, people married and started their families much younger. It was always a little freakish to my friends, but it never bothered me. I had alot of my great grandparents for a good part of my life. I lost the last one (this same great-grandmother) when I was about a month from my 21st birthday. But, as usual, I'm rambling again.

Anyway, my great-grandmother (Mamaw Minnie) had this lovely old house. My MOST favorite thing about it was the giant front porch. It wrapped around two sides of the house and it was bedecked with rockers and gliders and all kinds of wicker chairs and loveseats. We, kids, used to love to play on that porch. The adults loved to sit out there and talk. Now, the fact that the house was perched, rather precariously, on the side of a hill added a certain charm...and playing out there. But some of my fondest childhood memories are playing games with my cousins on that porch. Or the whole family sitting out there eating watermelon and spitting seeds down the hill.

On the first floor of the house, there was a big bedroom (hers), a big living room, a big dining room and guessed it...big kitchen. The furniture was old and lived in. Some of it ornately carved wood. And all of it stuff I'd never seen anywhere else. Upstairs were three more bedrooms, each one successively smaller, the farther into the upstairs you went. The smallest one had become her sewing room, where I used to help her make quilts sometimes.

You may have noted that I didn't mention the house having any bathroom facilities. Oh, it did. But, that was years later. When I was a kid, there was a separate "wing" for that.

We used the outhouse. It was up the hill and it was just like the pictures would lead you to believe. Stinky, uncomfortable and cold as hell in the winter. There was a big metal washtub on the front porch for bathing. And I, myself, had many baths in that old washtub. There was a big wooden barrel at the far end of the porch for collecting rainwater. We'd usually heat that up for baths. I can still remember how soft it would make my hair.

There weren't a lot of kids around. The houses were pretty far apart. Besides, the closest neighbors were...well...dead. A short walk up the dirt road would take you to the family cemetary, where we kids used to like to roll down the hill from the farthest point of the graves to the road. Stopping only long enough to pick and eat some of the strawberries that grew at the fence line. Most of the other close neighbors were unemployed, drawing "black lung checks" from working in the coal mines. Bustling, it wasn't.

Mamaw had a tv set. Not sure who bought it for her. But down in that holler the reception was always terrible. So, it was useless to even try to get anything on it. It left us to creating games and talking to each other. Which garnered me a very rich repertoire of family stories.

My parents weren't wealthy. Not by anyone's standards. But I always left those mountains feeling that I so many ways. Feeling as if I should never complain about not having things, because it was always so evident that people got by every day without them.

Mamaw's house is now gone. A fire took it years ago. And, as they do, people have moved away and things have changed there. Any ties I had have long since dissolved. I've been back once in the last five years. It was to see my grandmother buried in that family cemetary, about three years ago. While Rochester was always my home, that place still holds a feel of home even now.

Sometime soon I need to take Highlander there. There's been a great deal of development in the last 30 years. They've even paved the roads. But I need to get a soundtrack of dueling banjos before I do. I think it would really help set the tone for a roadtrip to Eastern Kentucky.

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Five Things That 40+ Years of Living Have Taught Me

I want to preface this post by saying that my list, in no way, should be a guideline or representation of how anyone else in the entire universe (or beyond) should be living their lives. These are merely observations and lessons that have gotten me through the bad times and to the good times. They are my personal reflections.

1) Money doesn't buy happiness.

I know we've all heard it so many times it seems almost mythical. However. I see you all lining up to argue with me. And really, you shouldn't line up like that, you make yourselves targets that are entirely too easy to hit. But I will give you this much. Money can allow you to have things that will bring you some happiness. It will also help alleviate stress. And not that those aren't very important points, but happiness is far more than that. Happiness is learning to live with you...the whole you...without relying on anyone else to validate you. And accepting that person...warts and valuable. Happiness is loving and being loved. Preferably, by the same person. Having someone working to make your life better (less stressful) and doing the same for them, gives you a great feeling of self-worth.

Personally, I've never had huge sums of money. I've had enough. Usually. I've been in situations, when I was much younger, where my (then) boyfriend and I would sell our plasma to get gas money. And I've been in a situation where, literally, all of my bills were paid off (car, credit cards, everything) and I had a few thousand squirrelled away in the bank. I didn't seem to derive any more happiness from the latter times than I did the former. In addition, having worked a four year stint as a personal assistant to a multi-millionaire, where my biggest task was keeping this man on a $125,000 PER MONTH budget (and fought him to do so), I can tell you that he wasn't happy. And he had plenty.

Love yourself. Find someone who can appreciate that and love you for it...and that you love back. The rest is all extra. But value your own personal happiness. Without it, everything else is handicapped.

2) Working for things builds character.

My parents didn't pay for my college tuition. Not any part of it. They probably would have, had they been in a position to do so. So...while they encouraged me, that was about all they could do. I bought my first car (and every one since then) myself. I've never received an inheritance. Figuring out how to get the things I needed was an invaluable tool for a great many things in my life.

I happen to believe a great many young people today are being ill-served by well-meaning parents. A want to give one's children better than what one, themselves, had is (unintentionally) short-sighted. By not allowing children to learn the lessons of saving and thrift, working hard for something you want badly, you are turning them out into a world where they will be unprepared to fend for themselves. I'm a fairly generous person. And it's only by sheer strength of will that I insist that my children contribute to these types of things. It's important to me to know, on some level, that I've done everything I can to raise human beings who can survive in the world we currently live in. To do less would be a disservice to them. And I love them far too much to do that. Independence comes only due to a variety of learned skills. Each of them are important to the success of that mission.

3) Think before acting or opening your mouth.

Some hurts never go away. Never. No matter how many times or ways that you apologize. The pain will lessen, but the guilt for causing it will simmer, just under the surface, forever. Of course, this is not true for sociopaths or others suffering from a variety of mental health issues, but for most sentient beings, we dislike hurting others. And for people who can take responsibility for their actions, guilt is a reasonable response to hurting another person.

It's not a lesson that has come easily to me. I've been known to have a short fuse and an ever ready arsenal of ammo at the ready. I will say that I try, very hard, not to get in that position. Like most, I was a victim of immaturity. As I overcame that, I tried, very hard, to remember what a dangerous weapon I had. Keeping it holstered is much easier now than it was then. Not that I don't still occasionally shoot myself in the foot. I do.

Anytime you can avoid unnecessarily hurting another person, it's worth the effort.

4) Making someone else feel better will make you feel better.

The joy that you can get by doing something nice for someone else is difficult to measure. It validates you as a good person. Which increases your self-worth. Which boosts your overall morale. Which makes you feel good...about yourself and your contributions. Whether it's throwing a dollar in a Salvation Army bucket, bringing a coat or a blanket to a homeless person on a cold night, or cutting your neighbors grass, doing something for someone else, and knowing that it will give someone else a good day or week or month or life is an immeasurable high.

My ex is catholic and while that has it's good points and bad points for me, one thing that has been a very good thing is the preparation that is required prior to accepting the sacrament of Confirmation. Our local diocese requires a certain amount of community service (which has to be recorded) before you can be accepted into the church. The requirement for both of my older two girls was five different volunteer projects. And because this was something I could get behind, I looked for a variety of things that we could do together. Things that would make both of us feel better. We did things like helping paint a mural at a center for troubled teens, sending holiday cards to AIDS shut-ins whose families had all but abandoned them, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and delivering them to a homeless shelter, and volunteering at a nursing home to read mail to residents and, on occasion, paint fingernails. Instilling in my girls the notion that helping others makes you feel better about yourself was a great thing for me as both a mother and a human being on this planet. Watching them feel better about themselves as they gave something back was just icing.

5) Sometimes you have to be the bad guy.

Okay, you've tried every other option and can't get things done. I'm not saying you should disregard everything above. What I am saying is that there are people in this world who will only respond to a more direct approach. It doesn't necessarily mean you have to be rude or hurtful. And, depending on the importance of what you're fighting for, it may require assembling a posse and committing to the long haul. If you believe in what you are fighting for don't waiver. Don't stammer. Don't yield. Standing your ground may not win you every battle...or even every war...but people will reevaluate how strongly they feel about the opposing position when they see how serious you are about yours.

That said, this is not a card to be thrown out casually when the circumstances don't merit it. And those are lines you, yourself, will have to draw. Corporate America delaying much needed, oft-promised, funds that your family needs to survive...Definitely raise some hell. Internet trolls who have nothing better to do but talk trash...not worth the effort.

Okay, now I gotta go play a little. I suppose keeping a little time, from time to time, to do something that you truly enjoy doing would be #6...but who's keeping score?

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Wishing on a Star

JFK was murdered when I was under two years old. I don't remember it. When people always used to say they remember what they were doing, or where they were, when they heard the news about the president being assassinated, I thought it was quaint (in that historically romantic kind of way). Hell, my memory of current events doesn't always serve me. In fact, if you saw the sea of post-it-notes on my desk (constantly), you'd be heartily amused. I wish I were. In any event, I didn't quite "get it". Until...

When Challenger exploded, I remember exactly what I was doing. I was working the very first job that I had in this business. And hadn't been there very long. The guys in the back had a little 13" set in the sheet metal shop. Occasionally, they'd catch a ballgame. (They never admitted to watching the soaps...but we had our suspicions). But whatever they were watching that day, the news broke in to show the shuttle take-off. I happened to be taking some orders back there, and stopped long enough to see it.

I'm always kind of filled with awe when I see a spacecraft launching. So, I stood there for a moment. A couple of the guys were watching it, too. And then it just exploded. And my breath caught in my chest and I couldn't take my eyes off of the screen. OMG! Did what I think just happened, really happen? It couldn't! Space exploration was long beyond the days of it being dangerous. Astronauts didn't die anymore. (Did they?) I mean, that stuff hadn't happened since I was a kid.

I sat down in a chair in the sheet metal shop. The sounds of metal presses and cutters behind me. Stunned. Definitely in disbelief. I sat there. And thought about all of those people dying right before my eyes. Even if I didn't see the blood and gore up close. I thought about all of the families that were probably there watching in horror. I thought about the picnicking tourists getting much more of a show than they'd bargained for. I thought about the kids in some far away classroom watching as their teacher exploded right in front of them. And then I sat there some more.

Work didn't seem important. Nothing seemed important. By this point, several people had gathered around the little set and watched, wide-eyed, as the events replayed over and over. We stayed there for a couple hours. I'm sure the bosses were fretting about the lost productivity. But not one of them said anything.

After a couple hours, the numbness began to wear off a little and I decided that I should distract myself with work. The depression that was already mounting would only get worse the longer I sat there. So, as soon as I was able, I went back into the offices and started catching up on some of the work.

Everyone else was doing the same thing. Quietly going through the motions of the day. No one spoke. The sadness just hung everywhere. Sadness in the loss of human life. But a sadness for the dreams that, as children, we'd all had. You see, every time one of those rockets went up, we all lived vicariously through the people manning it. Gus Grissom and Buzz Aldrin and Fred Haise and so many others helped all of us keep that dream going. Keep that part in us alive that, as a child, wanted to fly to the moon. And now..well...those dreams took a hit. A pretty big hit.

A little part of me left that day. A little more of the child so full of faith was ripped from inside me. The whimsical dreams of visiting the moon replaced with the reality that it could get you killed trying. And given the tone of the entire office, I'd imagine I wasn't the only one feeling that way. But, as I said, we didn't speak of it. Ever.

Hard to believe it was 20 years ago.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Surfin' Safari

Grab your board and let's go!

I've been hitting a few sites today and ran across some stuff I wanted to share. Of course, having already sent most of the political items to Mike Norton(who does an infinitely better job with them than I do) and the obits to the grim reaper of the group, only the leftovers remained. Still a lot of fun stuff, though. I promise.

Look at this little fella. Eatin' his beans like a good boy. And yet...

AUGH! He's freaking me out! How old do boys have to be to start wearing eye liner these days? But even without the eye liner, I think he'd still scare the crap out of me. Worse, there are others. Visit Plan 59's Gallery of Demonic Tots and Deeply Disturbing Cuisine, if you dare.

Next up is Rollyo. Create custom search engines on your site and you can include sites you surf regularly. Personally, I'd love it if Highlander put one of these on his site. Not only would it make looking for that item he mentioned six months ago that he wanted and now I can't remember where I saw it...argh!...easier to find. It would also make it easier for the trolls to pull up previous bits of his own writing, ball them in their stubby fists, and shake them in his face. Okay, maybe Highlander doesn't need one of these. But everybody else should look into them. They look pretty cool!

I love cats. I didn't come into this realization until adulthood. But I stand firmly by it. Cats are cool. That said, I found this link pretty funny. The invention (step by step, even) of the Feline Protection and Enhancement System (FPES).

And hey, did you know that you were on The Beast's 50 Most Loathsome People in America, 2005 list? Probably not. But you have good company. Paris Hilton, Geraldo Rivera, Tom DeLay, Barbara Bush, and an interesting cast of others. Let's work on getting you off of that list next year. Okay?

Pulled this one right off of City Pages. While I'm anxious to see BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, I'm thinking I'm gonna let this one pass. I've seen far too many trailers in the media, and I'm pretty sure, in this one, it turns out that America is the one taking it in the ass. Did I say that out loud?

OSHA's Fatal Facts have always been a personal favorite in a macabre kind of way. They're kind of the construction industry's Darwin Awards. One of my favorite being an electrician who was working on a metal ladder in a hotel swimming pool, trying to install lighting over the pool. He didn't want to get his feet wet, so he took off his shoes. Guess what? He got electrocuted. I hope we have all learned that standing on a metal ladder in a swimming pool full of water and working on wiring while barefoot can get you dead pretty damn quick.

Another similar site is Dumb Things. Here's a sample:
A psychology student in New York rented out her spare room to a carpenter in order to nag him constantly and study his reactions. After weeks of needling, he snapped and beat her repeatedly with an ax leaving her mentally retarded.

All right. That's it for today. Try to do something constructive. And don't tell 'em you've been surfing. You'll probably want to wipe that zinc oxide off your nose, though. It's a dead give away.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I Am The Innocent One

Quit Laughing.

I mean it.

I'm trying to be serious here.

I got some good news today. But I have to back up to Friday and share something that I wasn't sure I wanted to, before I can share that. In fact, I may have to back up a little more than that. Ooh, or I could do that cool flashback effect whenever I need to. Nah, probably not. That stuff never works for me.

Last Friday, I had an appointment with my ob/gyn. I'd been having some problems over the last couple years and I'd finally decided to take the next step. The one I'd been avoiding. But, well, without getting graphic, I was getting damned tired of the impact this stuff was putting on my day to day life. So, I needed to go in, have the talk, and schedule some outpatient surgery. For anyone who is remotely interested, we're talking about a thermal ablasion (and I'm throwing in a tubal ligation, since they're giving me a deal on multiple procedures...okay, the deal part is a joke...doctors never have specials).

So, we chatted about options (which we've done to death before). She actually suggested an IUD. I told her I was, unfortunately, old enough to remember Copper 7's and there was NO WAY IN HELL, I wanted an IUD. Scary shit. For those too young to remember the stories, and any men who haven't run shrieking, here's a little info.

But, I had gone there intending to schedule surgery. And it would have been difficult, even as much as I hate surgery, to have swayed me from that mission.

So, my doctor started working up the pre-op paperwork and listened to my lungs and my heart. Except. Wait, she wanted to listen again. Something wasn't quite right.

Dr. Reed: You have a pretty significant heart murmur. Did you know that?

Me: Um, no. How significant?

Dr. Reed: Well, significant enough that I don't want to schedule your surgery until you talk to a cardiologist. I'll have Susan schedule an appointment for you.

Now, I've had high blood pressure issues since my last little one was born. A side effect of a dangerous pregnancy. Not exactly what I'd call a badge of honor. More of a reminder. But, my blood pressure had been 118/78 during this visit. Which is rocking down the block for me. In fact, I wanted to dance a little jig until she dropped that murmur thing in my lap.

Susan scheduled an appointment with the cardiologist. For Tuesday morning. Early. And, being who I am, I worried.


Friday afternoon, I let my mind wander through all kinds of open heart surgeries. About how it would affect work, the kids, and my darling boy. About the physical pain. About spending time in the hospital. And I was scared. Damned scared. And more than a little weepy.

Of course, Darren spoiled me rotten for the ENTIRE weekend. Waiting on me hand and foot. Doing everything humanly possible to cheer me up and/or distract me from what was looming. Baby, you are the best and I love you very, very much.

I also owe Mike Norton a special thank you. Helping me not worry so much. But taking care of a little project or two for me as well.

Anyway, I made it through. And since my appointment was early enough, Highlander went with. Holding my hand while the sonogram technician bruised my ribs and suffocated me. Whispering that he loved me while the nurse did the EKG. Very scary for me. Very scary for him, too. And I know that. Oh, and by the way, despite being scared to death, my blood pressure was a respectable 119/83. Just saying.

When I'd asked my ob/gyn what could have caused a murmur to show up all of a sudden, at my age. She said it could be a few things, but the only one that she suggested was severe anemia. And given the problems I'd been having, it was a possibility. The thought that maybe I could reverse a heart defect by bumping up my iron levels, was the dream I had been clinging to all weekend.

But I got luckier than that.

At the time my youngest was born, wee babe that she was, we saw a pediatric cardiologist for the first year or so. She had, what was termed, an innocent murmur. Basically, an extra noise. But the heart was healthy and no repairs were needed.

When I got the same news about myself today, I was relieved, ecstatic and grateful. Apparently, about 90% of children have them. Often going undetected and many times outgrown by adulthood. However, there are about 20% of adults with an innocent murmur. And I was delighted, today, to join those ranks. It could have been so much worse.

So, I'm walking on sunshine right now. And in about six weeks, I'll be looking at some surgery that should make my life a little easier. Not looking forward to the surgery itself, but it will be much better afterwards., anyway, it's all about being lucky.

And innocent. It's confirmed.

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Lost in Translation

There are some words that, while they are included somewhere in the English language, are outlawed in my house. Mostly, this is during the time that has come to be known as "when the girls are here." This works better for me, as limiting Highlander's vocabulary otherwise has proven completely fruitless. Aside from the obvious choices of profanity, I'm also adverse to clear signs of disrespect. And so words like, "stupid", "shut up" and "duh", are left on the doorstep. And I'm okay with that. I've explained to my kids, from early on, that there are other ways to express those sentiments in a slightly less offensive manner. And that they should seek to find them. Linguistics is an art form, after all. And Mom don't take no crap from contractors, certainly not gonna tolerate it at home.

I'm often amazed and amused when new terms come into play. Of course, sometimes they become dated rather quickly. Going Postal doesn't hold the same zing for the younger crowd as it does for those of us who remember when postal workers used to actually shoot up the place. But, as new terms are added, I find I'm doing an indequate job keeping up. And I need to be able to communicate. So, I've been spending a little time edumacating myself.

I ran across a funny new slang term at Wikipedia today. Jumping the Couch. Basically, a reference to Tom Cruise and his now infamous tv appearance. The term's become synonomous with someone losing their damned mind. Way to contribute to society, Tom. Way to make a legacy for your kids.

But it prompted me to see what other little gems were out there. I'm old, you see, and I must strive to stay current. It's the No Old Bag Left Behind program. And, no, it's not federally funded. It's simply a personal mission. And, so, I slipped on my deerstalker hat, grabbed me a magnifying glass and my cane, and went in search of clues to help me speak the English Language...

Of course, I credit Nate with one that makes me grin every time. Deep smit. It's one I've been using for these past 6-8 months now. And it comes in handy with my sweetie on a regular basis.

Upon deeper research, I discovered that I was a fansplant. Me. Imagine. Didn't plan to go that route. Just sort of happened, I guess. My dad would be so proud. Of course, he'd be prouder if I were a Packer's fan. Or worse, a University of Kentucky Wildcats fan...::shudder:: But that ain't EVER gonna happen. I suppose the fact that I'm watching sports at all should be considered a milestone.

And while over at The Odious Woman's blog (back on January 9th), I was introduced to another new term. Automagically. I've been digging on it in a big way. Apparently, it's big in the geek circles. I just don't get out much. Sad. I'm not even hanging with the geeks. Well, except Highlander. And he never says automagically. Brooke claims it means something akin to "automatically, but we have no idea how". And, as someone who is constantly technologically befuddled, automagically covers...well...just about everything.

Did everyone but me already know that coitus interruptus had become a "Bon Jovi". This from the song, "Livin' on a Prayer", specifically from the line whoa oh, we're half way there. Though, maybe that's just because I'm lucky in that regard.

My kids wander around pwning everything and everyone. Obviously, feeling quite confident in their self-professed superiority.

Only slightly disheartened, I learned that I'd just missed out on a class that could have helped me. The Cambridge Center for Adult Education has been offering courses in American Slang. I suppose the commute would have been a little much, though. Nice to know some of us old bags may have been helped.

And then it occurred to me, the internet would be my salvation. Surely, all the kewl, hip terminology would be available at my fingertips. And I hit the motherload. I was overwhelmed by all the slang lists I found. There's bar slang, office slang, trucker slang, vaudeville slang, prison slang, hobo slang, aviator slang, diner slang, and OMG, there's even Star Wars slang (just for Tony Collett, no doubt).

Now, if you run across something you just can't find anywhere else, Slang City provides you with someone to help you translate. You need simply email your questionable slang term and they'll help you determine if you've been dissed.

There may be hope for me yet. Now, if anyone else out there has any new slang terms to share, please do. Consider it a civic duty or something. Your President would want you to do your part to help the older set. It's what you can do in the No Old Bag Left Behind Program. Don't send in donations. Instead, adopt a feeb. Or mentor a spaz. And do it soon, I need all the help I can get!

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Every Day I'm Reminded That I'm A Geezer

See, I don't wanna be old. Yet, every day I'm reminded that I'm a geezer. I don't wanna avoid it to the point of craziness, but I suppose that's all in one's perspective.

Once upon a time, I used to wear petal pushers and a POW bracelet and ride a bike with a banana seat sporting a white wicker basket on the front with pink and purple flowers and the matching pink and purple streamers on the handle bars. We had a blonde woodtone (yep, that's code for fake) black and white tv set, and my dad drove a woody (the station wagon, you pervs).

As I got a little older, elephant leg pants and halter tops came into style, and mini dresses that were so short they had matching panties. Guys wore their hair long and girls were wearing theirs short.

The world know...right.

My kids all attend schools with uniform dress codes. With rules specifically outlined that tell them what clothing, jewelry, make-up, etc. they can and cannot wear in a public school. This disturbs me. A lot actually. I hate to see individual freedoms cast so idly aside.


However, I find I am becoming a fuddy duddy about some current trends. And am counting down the days until they become as outdated as Izod shirts and white painters pants.

High on this list is the sagging pants thing. It drives me crazy. PULL UP YOUR GODDAM PANTS!!! I have warned my girls about the embarrassment that will befall them if they ever bring a guy home to meet me who is dressed in something like this. And, I'm pretty sure, they believe me.

While surfing today, though, I ran across this link, and found myself going "yeah, yeah, YEAH!". I see the goth kids as expressing themselves and when it's not completely over the top, it's tolerable. Even fun. But some of these people just take the stuff to heights that I can't imagine.

Don't they know that they'll be cringing when they look back on this stuff in 15 years? Kinda like we do when we see stuff like this.

The discovery that I'm a music snob doesn't help either. But, dammit, I don't like Bone Thugs 'N Harmony w/ Tupac singing "Thug Luv", or Outkast doing "Spottieottiedopalicious". People who name themselves Mystikal, Ludacris and Geto Boys need to use spell check. I mean it. It's annoying to me.

I realize I'm zipping right over the grey hair, aging health related issues, and a great many other really depressing things that come with getting older. Those, alone, make a geezer out of the best of us. But I HATE feeling like I'm some crotchety old woman shaking her cane at the weird neighbor kids. But they're making me do it!

All of these movies that are getting remade...I remember the originals. AUGH!! I remember the GOODBYE GIRL when it came out. Hell, I went and saw it at the theatre! And all of the first STAR WARS trilogy. Remember Dobie Gray's version of "Drift Away"...from like 1973? Well, I DO! Not that I don't like Uncle Cracker's version (actually, I do), but it makes me feel old as fuck to think they're remaking songs from my youth.

And have you seen Leif Garrett lately? Let me direct you to Mark Gibson's place for a little flashback that will leave you screaming! [Check his January 19th post.]

Someone has to do something about this. There's not much time. The rocking chairs at the Cracker Barrel are looking better and better. And I saw this really cute pale blue shawl that would go so well with my eyes...

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Friday, January 20, 2006

Just Call Me Angel of The Morning...

Okay, I'm no Angel.

But, it occurred to me, as I've spent the last couple days at Hell, that perhaps I'm living the story of a bitch trying to redeem herself and get out of Hell. Okay, maybe not, but I AM trying to get out of Hell. Badly. And boy is it taking a great deal of work. Perhaps a few more good deeds would help. Know anyone in need? We help the hopeless...

Work's been a bear this week. A great giant juggling bear with a pink polka dot tutu riding a precariously small unicycle. Somehow amusing in it's surreal quality. But mostly, it's still a vicious wild animal that will tear out your throat if you turn your head for more than a second. And so, you watch, in guarded horror, as the bear does what it must.

My dear pal, Biff (you all remember, Biff, right?) has quit. And so, I am forced to spend even more time in Hell. Doing Biff's job. Or the job of yet another...::sigh::... replacement. It's so close to done. So close. And I am, once again, preparing to break in another superintendent. I just don't know if I have it in me. There are, literally, only about a dozen small items to complete.

Yesterday was spent seeking out a noise problem with the HVAC system. One of our more evil residents (and in Hell, we do have more than a few of those) complaining about a rattling noise that is driving him (and his boyfriend) crazy. So, I met the HVAC contractor down there. His name always cracks me up. And while I'm HIGHLY tempted to include it, let's just say it's the same name as D. Martin's long time partner...that should slow down the searches...if only a little. I crack up every time I talk to him. (Okay, not as much as I used to crack up when I was working on a public pool project and the slide contractor's rep was named Max Dickoff, but, well, how often do you get that?)

Anyway, Mr. Lewis and I went to check on the noise and discovered a rather large baggie of marijuana sitting on said resident's nightstand. Wonder if that's a contributory factor to the hearing of noises. Perhaps. But, in this case there was a piece of bailing wire, inside the ceiling in their upstairs bathroom, rattling against a copper pipe. So, we got to cut a hole in the ceiling, which is (today) being patched and will be painted next week. One more off the list. Whoop!

In addition, we're finishing up the retail spaces. At this point, we don't know what kind of businesses will inhabit the spaces but I am bemused by the notion that there could be ice water stands in Hell.

I'm spending a great deal of time working out the kinks regarding the finish construction there. That superintendent shall be known as Marcus. Marcus, despite his very obvious alcoholic tendencies, seems to be doing an excellent job. I have discovered that drunks can navigate Hell in an effortless fashion. And I'm delighted to know it. I shall be delivering a couple cases daily until the job is done. Note to self...make the rounds at all my jobs and head off future problems by getting all the contractors drunk. I suppose there's a chance that could backfire on me, though.

And, of course, I'm still working on contracts and shop drawings and oh, yeah, a photo shoot at Green Meadows. Taking shots of all the exteriors of 26 large apartment buildings, sections of windows, and quite a few interior shots as well. But, we've had a few very nice days and that's worked out fairly well for me. Except for stuff at the office piling up in mountainous heaps.

At least it's the weekend. In fact, I started mine about an hour early today. I finished up at the jobsite and instead of heading back to the office, I decided to go home. I've earned it. And, believe me, I don't have any guilt. Been home thirty minutes. Already had two business calls on my cellphone.

I'm positioned to be in much better shape next week, though. And I'm glad. Another one like this and...well...I'd prefer not to think about that. It's been the reality far too many times.

No big plans for the weekend, but I may work on my taxes. I got my W-2's from work today and am very curious what, if anything, I'll be getting back this year. If a refund is in my future, I'd love to get it in the works. But not today. Today's fun includes a doctor appointment, a long walk (the weather is freakish in it's warmth...60 in January), cleaning out the fridge and laundry. I know. I know. You're all jealous. Divorcee' livin' on the edge, I am.

Well, I suppose I should get to it, gang. Hope you all have a fun-filled weekend. And I hope I don't see you in Hell come Monday.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

It's Ladies Night

You asked for get fluff. Here at The Oral Report, it's all about what I can do to please you. Wait...that may not be exactly right...

Okay now, it ain't about the half-priced drinks tonight. But, ladies, it's definitely gonna get girlie around here. I may need a designated driver, because I'll be intoxicated before this is done. Boys, you may consider yourselves duly warned...(Though I know some of you like to wait outside the front door to get with the drunk chicks at closing time. Feel free to hang around if you'd like.)

Many reading this, know that Highlander and I have been good friends for a little over two years now. That about six months after I separated from my ex, he moved to Louisville, and we embarked on this love affair. It seemed the natural transition.

Most of you have seen the fruits of our decision, elsewhere, and have been enormously supportive. For that, I thank you all. But what you didn't see, is why, despite what the malicious trolls would have you believe, I would want to launch into such an adventure with him. He goes on and on about how lucky he is to have me. (And, believe me, it doesn't hurt my feelings to read it! Not one little bit.) I just thought I'd share a little of the 'why' I'm so lucky to have him.

While this is bound to make him blush, I have gotten so many incredible emails from him (still do...almost on a daily basis), that I wanted to show the girls out there that guys like this really do exist. Romantic men who know what it means to a woman to tell her how you feel. Now, don't be hatin'. I'm sure he'd have done the same for any of you. I just timed it right and got very, very lucky.

I'm not going to reproduce entire emails. But the following are snippets over the past many months. In no particular order. (Oh, and any guys who happen to still be hanging in this far...please take notes. Someone will appreciate it later...maybe even you!)

* Thank you for making me whole.

* Can't wait to get through today and see you again.

* I'm about to try and call you... I'm logging in early... but in case I don't get you, I wanted to tell you...I love you. You make my life as close to idyllic as is attainable here on this poor mortal coil. I adore you.

* Pencil me in for any help, support, love, or other stuff you may want or need. I am your boy. Always.

* I love you. You are my everything.

* I just love you so much, Tammy. I never want to hurt you, or let you down. I'm not so foolish as to believe I won't, but I feel so pointless and useless when I do... but you always make it better. And I hope I do that for you.

* You are the best thing in my life, the best thing that has ever happened to me, and the best friend I have ever had. I cannot imagine ever being as close to anyone as I am to you.

* You are the light of my life, baby, and I mean that.

* Can't wait to see you and cheer you up. I love you!

* I adore you utterly. I hate cliches and really hate this particular song, but Tammy, you ARE the sunshine of my life.

* Yes, all those things, plus, overwhelmed with the love and joy and light you bring into my heart every second of every minute of every hour of every day of my life.

* Always remember I love you and your happiness is my pleasure and privilege. Thank you for being mine, baby.

* I love you now, then, and always.

* I love you. My life would be incomplete and lacking joy without you. I want you always, and, for that matter, right now. I wish we both were home.

* You are all I need and want now and in the future, and I hope I can be that to you.

* I'm very nostalgic, but we can't do anything about the past, and I've reached a place in my life where I no longer want to be able to adjust my personal history, as it might mean missing out on this. You, and the girls, have been worth waiting for.

* I imagine my favorite song by Neil Young is a short narrative love song called "Four Strong Winds", but it's one of those mournful unhappy songs, so it doesn't do well to send it to the love of your life when you're joyous and deliriously happy in your life with her.

* This really is the happily ever after part of my life. Thank you for all of that. I love you!

* I adore you for it, though... and many other things, some of which have to do with how you look and act naked...;)

* It was wonderful to see you this morning and I'm very glad you came over. You really did look beautiful, and I always enjoy spending time with you. You are the light and the love of my life, and you make me so happy, and I am so glad we were lucky enough to find each other. Not a day goes by that I'm not grateful to whatever force it is that runs the universe that I have you in my life, and that you chose me to be yours.

* Now, having been able to accomplish one thing today to make you smile, I will go to bed and have sweet dreams of you.

* Baby, I want you to know that I love you and while I want to say that you are more wonderful than I deserve, you'd give me chit for it, and putting it some other way sounds really egotistical, so let me say that you are everything I have ever wanted in a woman and a friend and the love we have is the love of my life and what I have dreamed of for as long as I have had dreams of love. And I am always here for you. And you are always there for me, too.

Now, I am leaving out dozens and dozens of other delightful little notes I've gotten in the last many months, all of which were equally endearing, as well as virtually all of the emails he's sent me that, when I open them, simply state "I love you" and his signature.

And this list, of course, does not include all the little gifts, or gestures, that come through here on a very regular basis. It also does not include what a loving and competent parental figure he has become to the kids. Becoming someone that they not only will confide in, but whose advice and opinion they respect and seek out. All of these things, not just the things he "says" to me, contribute to making him the incredible man that he is in my eyes.

He really is the most romantic man I've ever known. And he communicates his feelings like no one I've ever known. I truly am the luckiest girl to have found him. Every minute of every day, I am grateful to be the object of his adoration and affection. It's the most wonderful feeling I have ever known.

I love you, Baby.

So, good luck, Girls. See, they ARE out there. But you gotta find your own. This one's taken. There may be a few fellas hanging outside by the door, though...

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Most Wanted

I was blog-surfing over at One Odd Goose today, and found something that touched a nerve. Of course, Highlander had a (very brief) discussion of the issue in his comment threads the other day as well. And while I have very strong opinions on the subject of freedom of reproductive choice, I wouldn’t expect anyone to be swayed by my feelings. It’s just entirely too volatile a topic. And the things I feel, I feel strongly, but I realize that they are my personal opinions and others certainly have a right to theirs as well.

Mostly, I wanted to address something that Julia said in her post, and didn't feel I could do it adequately in a comment. This, unfortunately, is one of those soapbox issues I mentioned previously. I'm not doing the unabridged version. It would be an epic and I'd be frothing by the time I was done. You may thank me for that omission in the form of gifts.

Julia said that a she and a co-worker had been discussing the issue and that the co-worker’s position was that there was no need for abortion. That all children were wanted. All children were wanted.

That strikes me as absurd. How difficult is it to look around and dispute that theory? Unless, of course, “wanted” takes on some sick, twisted connotation that I missed.

Julia notes that, in her state, there are 1200 children currently awaiting adoption. Here, in Kentucky, there are just over 3000. And there are 48 other states that would have to be in similar shape. But even if you average 1000 children per state…and I honestly feel that number has to be low…that’s still 50,000 kids that were not wanted. And are retaining that status as thousands of anti-choice families don’t adopt them.

Leaving those 50,000 kids aside…as it seems so easy for us, as a society, to do…there are other kids who weren’t wanted, but were kept by their birth families. These statistics are a little harder to look at:

• In 2002, 1400 U.S. children died from child abuse related circumstances. That translates to roughly 1.98 out of 100,000 children. And that’s up from 1.84 out of 100,000 in 2000. In 2003, 906,000 children were (substantiated) victims of child abuse and neglect. I haven’t found figures more current, but I have to believe that it’s gotten worse and not better. And that’s closing in on a million human lives.
• Of the fatalities, children three and under seem to suffer the most. Children under one year old account for 41% of the child abuse fatalities. Digest that for just a second. Children under one year old account for 41% of the child abuse fatalities. Children three and under also make up the largest group of non-fatal abuse cases. Certainly, these are not wanted children. How can anyone believe that they are? How can anyone believe that these children being born and suffering at the hands of people who are supposed to love them…to take care of them…are better off?
• Sexual abuse against children is another staggering statistic. Here are some facts that might interest you:

1) Two thirds of sex offenders in prison victimized a child.
2) According to information gathered in 1992, half of the women raped (nationally) were under 18 at the time of their attack.
3) Recidivism rates are higher among sex offenders than other types of crimes.
4) One of every seven victims of sexual assault reported to law enforcement agencies were under age six.
5) Most child sexual abuse is at the hands of a family member.

Here’s one more that might shake you up. For most (incarcerated) child sexual predators, they have committed the crime dozens of times before they are stopped. I imagine that wouldn’t shock any of you. And I’m already imagining a few of you arguing that young women may have consented and then changed their minds, etc. Well, I won’t count that out, but that’s not the topic today. The topic is children being wanted. And even if you dismiss half of the convictions as frivolous or erroneous, (and that’s a generous dismissal, you must admit), that’s still roughly 50,000 cases of children being hurt.

When you begin to factor in the reality of what happens to these children of abuse and neglect, the picture grows even more bleak. Most of us know enough, or have seen enough tv cop shows to believe, that victims of this type of abuse become abusers themselves. Propogating a cycle of pain and degradation that creates thieves, substance abusers, rapists, and murderers, not only by their sociological conditions, but by the very real physiological changes that their brains undergo as a result of the continued abuse.

Now, I’m not advocating killing babies before they have the opportunity to “go bad” in order to make a more utopian society. Not by any stretch. But what I am saying is that the argument that all babies are wanted doesn’t hold any water with me. They simply aren’t. Much as we, as a society, may want them to be so.

I’d be CONSIDERABLY more impressed by anti-choice marches to get the unwanted babies adopted. I’ve love to see them coming around with petitions to find permanent homes for the children that have been put into the foster care system. I would lend them a great deal more credence if that were the case. But it never seems to be. Those who are the most vocal, at least in my personal experience, do not, themselves, have any adopted children. Neither, are they helping raise foster children.

Whenever I meet someone who has an adopted child or is raising foster children, I am always grateful on some level. Pleased that they have taken on the lifelong job of raising one of the unwanted children. Making their lives better. It's all too often a thankless job, but I'm always glad that one more child has a chance.

I, myself, have never had an abortion. But I'll admit that I have considered it. I don’t know if that makes me good, bad or otherwise. I definitely felt that there was no way I could carry a child to term and give it away. And so, for me, it was a decision of keeping it myself, or not being pregnant. I can’t believe that I’m the only woman who would feel that way. I have three children, none of whom are adopted. And I have never raised a foster child. Maybe all of that makes my opinion worthless. I don’t know. But I do know that I refuse to believe , much as I long to, that all children in this country are wanted. And I think that people who do believe it…who actually feel strongly enough about it to argue it as a valid point…are dangerously foolish.

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Music of My Life

Just the other day, I was in my car and heard a song. It was one of those moments. I'm sure you've all had them. The clerk at the auditory memory bank pulls open the file drawer, blows a little dust off of the appropriate file, and starts the reel. And you're there. Just for a few minutes. But it's nice.

It got me started thinking about all the special songs in my life. Trying to see how many I could just recall. There are bunches. That's what happens when you live this long. Anyhow, I thought I'd share a few of them, that, while they may not be great songs, inhabit a special corner of my heart. Feel free to share yours with me.

I would say they are in no particular order, but I found myself doing a chronological thing, so I'll stick with it.

My youngest is missing both of her upper front teeth right now. Pretty cute a grisly sort of way. But, when I was not much older than her, and shared that anatomical distinction, I can remember riding in my dad's wood panelled station wagon. I can't remember where we were going, but "Winchester Cathedral" was playing on the radio. And when it got to the part of the song where they whistle, he asked me to give it a go. Teasing me, of course. But, I showed him. I was able to do it. Everyone in the car cracked up. If I hear it when I'm alone, I'll still whistle. But even if people are with me, I smile a little smile and think about doing it.

During the summer between my high school and college years, I ran around with three very close friends - Rhonda M., Denise (DeeDee) F. and Paula (P.J.) B. DeeDee and I (who have known each other since our freshman year in high school) are actually still pretty close. Anyway, that summer, the four of us were determined to get into as much trouble as any four relatively straight-laced nerd girls could get into. Which was a little. But not nearly as much as we were asking for. We spent a great deal of time riding around in Rhonda's 1968 black Mustang. It was a rockin' car. Except for the missing back floor board. We had dubbed it the Flintstone-mobile, because if you had to sit in the back seat, you could stick your feet through the holes in the floor and push-start the car, kinda like Fred and Barney did in the cartoon. We never actually tried it though. Most of that summer, we burned up two 8-tracks (that's right. I said 8-tracks) in Rhonda's car. And there were two songs that were our anthems. Meatloaf's "Bat Out of Hell" and Olivia Newton John's "Totally Hot". I'm still a fan of quite a few songs on that Meatloaf album, but I'm pretty sure there is no way in HELL I could stand to listen to "Totally Hot" again. Okay, if I ran across it, by some bizarre coincidence (nobody was playing it then...not likely they'd be playing it now), I might give it five or ten seconds. But, that would be it. We chased an awful lot of boys that summer. Some of us even caught a few...;)

My freshman year at college, brought with it my first serious beau, Ron. Ron was a very handsome man. He was three years older than me, but he was a freshman as well. His dad had recently died and he was taking advantage of the social security benefits to go to school. He was a poli-sci major and he was smart and sexy and I had it bad for him. A few others did as well. The thing about Ron was that it was unlikely he was ever gonna settle down with one girl. I didn't figure that out until much later, though. Ron and I dated, very briefly, and, for reasons I'm not gonna go into here, thought it was best to stay friends instead. Looking back now, it was one of the smartest decisions I could have ever made. As Ron and I were the best of friends for several years. Certainly, all through college. He was always there for me. And he literally saved my life once. But that's fodder for another day. Ron was the lucky winner of the Tammy's Virginity Lottery. One fateful night in the backseat of his car. What was playing on the radio? Meatloaf's, "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad". How's that for irony? No regrets, though.

When my ex and I first started dating, he did the one (okay, there were three or four) romantic thing he's ever done for me. I was at his house one night. We'd been drinking and he was very, very drunk. I was just getting ready to leave, when he asked me to stay...just for a minute. He went and picked an album out of his extensive collection and put it on the turntable, led me to a chair and bade me sit down. Which I did. He took my hand in his, dropped to one knee and, though he slurred and warbled all the way through it, sang the entire lyrics to Art Garfunkle's version of "I Only Have Eyes for You". It was a moment, to be sure. And I still am taken back there every time I hear that song.

While other mother's rocked their infant children with standard lullabies, I crooned to my babes something a little different. The Beatles, "All You Need is Love". I started doing it with my first and it felt so natural and she responded so well to it (likely because it was so comfortable to me), that I continued it with the others as well. So, now, when I hear it, I feel very maternal. And I'm delivered back to a rocking chair, complete with visions of holding a very small child close to me. It's warm and safe and so full of love. It's always a very nice association.

To bring that full circle, the next emotionally charged event in my life was my separation and eventual divorce. There were actually two songs that seemed to find their way to me. Funny how music does that sometimes. You hear lyrics and they seem to have been written specifically for you. For what you are going through at that moment. And while I have no doubt that those same lyrics had different meanings for a million other people at that same instant, it was as if the artist's had written their songs for me. The first one was Linkin Park's "Numb". With lyrics like

Can't you see that you're smothering me
Holding too tightly afraid to lose control
Cause everything that you thought I would be
Has fallen apart right in front of you
(Caught in the undertow just caught in the undertow)
Every step that I take is another mistake to you
(Caught in the undertow just caught in the undertow)
And every second I waste is more than I can take

it just seemed to be everything I was feeling. And then, not long after, Kelly Clarkson's song, "Breakaway", soothing me with promises of making a wish, taking a chance, making a change and breaking away. Both of them helped to empower me at a time when I felt so little control.

Lastly, when Highlander and I started seeing that, despite 850 miles between us, we were beginning to feel romantically about each other, he mentioned to me that there was a song (actually there was more than one, but this is the one that most struck a chord with both of us) that made him think of me. It was Aerosmith's, "Don't Wanna Miss A Thing". He would send me emails with little snippets of lyrics from the song. And we began to make plans for him to come here. To quit missing all the smiles, all the laughter, all of the things that were going on in my life while I was here and he was there. The song reminds me of him, of course, but even moreso, it reminds me of that time. Of both of us being a little scared. Feeling like it couldn't be as good as we thought it would. (Okay, that was probably me, more than him.) It was the "Happily Ever After" music. And it always will be, to me.

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Friday, January 13, 2006

Swinging by a VINE

If you, or anyone you know, has ever been a victim of a violent crime, you may be intimately familiar with the automated victim notification programs. They vary, of course, from state to state. And some locales probably don't have them at all. But here, in River City, we're all savvy about the vast benefits of notifying victims of violent crimes that their attackers (who may still be peeved) are getting out of jail. The obvious benefit, allowing victims the opportunity to be prepared, or certainly more cautious, being paramount.

Early one morning, in 1979, I was sitting outside my high school when a man I didn't know walked up to me. I was reading a book. It was fall and the weather was nice outside. But there weren't very many people around yet. The man struck up a conversation with me. Asked me the time. What I was reading. That kind of stuff. And then he asked me how much money I had. I glared at him, a little indignantly I'm sure, and told him "enough for me". His hand shot towards the purse that I had seated beside my left foot, and, luckily, my reflexes were fast enough that I grabbed it at the same time. Effectively stopping him from taking it.

Not sure that was the smartest move, as it resulted in a right cross to my mouth. Which, frankly, shocked the hell out of me...and hurt like a mother! I'd never had anyone punch me in the mouth before. I don't recommend it. But I never let go of my purse. Everything from that point forward took on a kind of slow motion montage effect...both during the real-time event, as well as on replay.

I recall standing, and then kicking him squarely in the nuts. He didn't even dodge. He didn't double over on impact. He just sort of stood there, staring at me in a kind of disbelief. Maybe he'd never met anyone who could take one of his punches before...I don't know. At that point, I picked up my books and purse and walked calmly into the school.

The memory of walking through those doors, immediately following the mugging are some of the most vivid memories I have. The halls were beginning to fill with activity and as I walked, trancelike, past a friend, she stopped me and asked if everything was okay. I questioned her as to why she'd ask. And she said, "because your mouth is bleeding and everything." I had, from the point of walking through the school doors, to where I saw my friend, convinced myself that I'd daydreamed the entire incident. A defense mechanism, I suppose. But when she told me that my mouth was bleeding, it made everything real. And the montage stopped.

She walked me to the principal's office, where I made a report. The school nurse cleaned up the cut as much as she could there. And the police were called. And my mother. I suppose I should back up and say that I live in a city that had, at that time, employed a "forced bussing" desegregation policy within the public schools. So, it was my first experience with an intercity school. My family was not at all pleased that I was sent there. And after this incident, even less so. But, I digress, today it's not about forced bussing. It's about victims of violent crime.

After the police questioned me and drove me around the neighborhood in hopes of spotting the offender just standing around waiting for me to pick him out (by the way, surprise, that didn't work), my mother drove me to the hospital where I was stitched up and sent home.

They never found the guy that did it. I'm sure the police didn't spend any more time on it after the initial report. Alot of bigger fish to fry right here in River City. But my days of sitting outside the school in the mornings were very much over. And that was a shame. I loved sitting out there by myself, the crisp fall air wrapping itself around me, reading or watching the birds...the people coming and going. Reminding me I was alive.

Victims of violent crime have to make the changes. Very much to protect themselves. But the onus is on them.

River City is creditted with the development of the nation's first totally automated service for keeping crime victims informed of the custody status of an inmate. Ours goes back to 1993. Many, around the country, have been modelled after this system. But this is a big town. Getting bigger every day. Given the number of inmates in our state prisons, who are there because of violent crimes, the VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday) program handles alot of calls. Maybe too many. Because, a news story this morning made me stop short. Our local VINE Program experienced a "glitch" in the system on Monday, sending about 80 people into a panic erroneously. I can't imagine the horror of getting an automated call, where you can't ask a question or anything, about your rapist getting out of prison years early. And then, after several hysterical phone calls, determining that it was all a big mistake.

As I said, though, our system is the model. And so, it did not surprise me in the least to find that Ohio's program had suffered a similar, though cataclysmically grander, fate over the holidays.

Everyone complains about taxes. About about how expensive government is. About programs that we don't need, or duplications of functions another agency provides. And, yes, definitely, I'd love to see someone campaign on actually doing something practical to streamline some of this stuff. It would cost a fortune on the front end to have humans actually review these things realistically, but it would be so much better in the long run. Both in terms of money spent, as well as getting things done. (On re-read that sounds very republican, doesn't it? I think it's just a matter of being frustrated with how hard it is to work with government. I'm not looking to cut programs, just make them work more effectively.)

However, THIS system was developed for a reason. A good reason. I have no idea the cost to make the corrections necessary to avoid these glitches in the future. But I have to wonder if maybe the answer is putting a more human touch on the system. Though the cost would be exhorbitant. I suppose it's true that the potential for human error is going to be greater than the potential for computer error. But, at least, with a human, there is the capacity to question the information in front of them. And the compassion to try to look into a problem for someone so desperate for answers.

But at least for today, I think the lesson we've learned is...

Don't put all your trust in the system.

It's fallible.

And we're talking about your life, here.

Don't screw around.

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Linky Dinks!

Today, I'm doing a link dump, of sorts. Random, I realize. But, these are just a few items of unrelated interest and while I would normally have sent them directly to MJN (or possibly Tony or Mark), now that I have my own blog, they're MINE! ALL MINE!! Not that you guys wanted them in the first place, but if anyone is interested, check this out....

Do you miss sitting in the living room with a bowl of Froot Loops, watching Ultraman? Catching an old black and white Boris Karloff movie on Sunday afternoon? Guess what? Webranger Internet Television is an internet TV station sending public domain and open source television 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from dedicated servers on an optical network. Some of the special features include the Ultraman marathon. Channel 1 is playing some Boris Karloff movies. And a new feature has old time radio shows, including Vincent Price's work on "The Saint" and "Price of Fear".

Next about mousepads? I know some of you are internet gamers. Well, here's a tip for the best gaming mousepad you'll ever make. Once you have manufactured the equipment. You can find a list of over 3,200 online games to play.

Ever wonder what it would be like to be a sex slave for science? Well Salome Simon has slept with over 50,000 men and is soooo over it. She's asking the government to reward her for work by finding alternate employment.

I wonder if Pamela Sue Anderson has any books bound in human skin . If so, they may be locked away in her secret stash of lambskin leather purses and sable hats.

The Ten Commandments of the Ethical Atheist. Now there's something I didn't expect to see. And there's a discussion of each one. You can't call yourself anti-religious, if you don't have a structured system. Can you?

Here's one I may have to add to my favorites. The Anomalist is a daily review of world news on maverick science, unexplained mysteries, unorthodox theories, strange talents, and unexpected discoveries. I'm all about the weird stuff.

How about a literary plug? How to Survive a Robot Uprising could be a valuable tool for the entire family. Touted as the "essential guide to defending yourself against the coming rebellion", I hardly see how anyone could justify being without it! And if just that doesn't sell it, here's an excerpt that should show just what an important source of information this book is,

So, if a two-legged android gives chase, seek out a body of water, as 'most robots will sink in water or mud and fall through ice.' It also may be a good idea to carry around a pair of welder's goggles, as lasers will likely be robot attackers' weapons of choice, and even a weak laser can cause blindness.

Continuing education is always important. And so, bikini calculus might be of interest. Playboy models in a real, honest to goodness calculus tutorial. I had to check it just for the unlikelihood of the whole premise. I must warn you, however, I don't think this would be considered safe for work. Even though everyone is clothed...barely...

Lastly, I wanted to note that I owe Mike N. (Miraclo Miles) a big "THANKS" for his help adding the links list on the left side of the screen. I'd certainly recommend reading anyone there. They are, without exception, a great bunch of people.

And, always, I'd be remiss if I didn't thank my very significant other for treating me like a princess.

Every. Single. Day.

Thanks, H. I love you!

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Do You Know Where The Children Are?

Anybody remember what divorce was like in the old days? Usually it started with some old-fashioned adultery. The dad then moved out of the family home. A leather suitcase, a pipe in his mouth, and a sad, forlorn look on his face as he did so. Looking back from the cab (mom got the car, too), across a well-kept lawn, at what used to be a great house, in a great neighborhood, full of great kids and a wife that was dishing up three squares a day and washing his shorts on a regular basis, kind of all angsty-like.

Mom raised the kids. Struggling, of course. Working a part-time job as a cashier at the corner grocery, or doing alterations for the drycleaners down the block. The dad paid child support (and often times alimony), and got visitation every other weekend, a little time through the holidays and a week in the summer. Something like that. Was it all an illusion? I'm pretty sure I knew kids in that situation in the 70's.

As time has gone on, the reality has been that a great number of dad's didn't pay their child support...and in many cases were lax on the visitation part, too...and a great many pissed off mom's (rather than banding together to form a posse and opening a can of whoop-ass on these slackers...which wouldn't have been all bad) have been instrumental in toughening up how the court's deal with dead-beat dads...the legal way. Making it tougher for men (and in some cases women...sadly dead-beat parents are not gender specific) to skip out on the cost to raise the fruit of their loins. I think that's great. I want to see people take more responsibility for their actions, especially as it relates to how it affects innocent lives that these same people have taken it upon themselves to bring into the world. Take this guy for instance...a local boy...and aren't we proud. You bet!

The condom industry should be advertising with pictures of dead-beat dads on their packaging.

Have You Seen This Guy?

Joe Hopper
Age: 41
Last Seen: Trixie's Show Club, Atlanta, GA (with a fist full of singles)
Hasn't Paid Child Support in 2 years.
Children: Becky Sue and Ralphie

If you see him, call BR549 to report his whereabouts!
Don't Let Your Taxes Continue to Raise His Kids!
And Don't Let This Happen To You! Use 48 SDF (Spermal Defense Formula) Condoms!

By the way, I should note that this advertisement is completely fictional and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. But this is exactly where you need pictures of deadbeat'd help a lot to work on this at the source.

Now, that said, I want to mention a little side-effect that has crept into the mix. Shared custody. Men (and I'm saying men because the numbers still support it) are crying "Foul!" They want more time with little Jimmy. And who says the mom is the best parent to raise little Shaniqua, anyway? So, lawyers, who were most assuredly trained at Wolfram and Hart, being the sneaky little weaseling bastards that they are, saw the opportunity to make a buck and started opting for shared custody. If you couldn't make a case that the dad was a dangerous influence, why couldn't he share in the responsibility of raising the little apples of his eye? And so, I have watched as more and more of my friends who have divorced, are working through shared custody. I have been, frankly, appalled.

The first couple, that I knew personally, that dealt with this situation, was my youngest ex-brother-in-law. When he and his wife split, it was due to domestic violence issues. He liked to beat her. Nice guy. Throw in a long and documented history of drug and alcohol abuse, a lengthy criminal record, and mental health issues that had been treated sporadically for years. Our local court system felt that his background made him an excellent candidate to co-parent a small child and act in the capacity of role model. His ex-wife had begun her career as an alcoholic just before the divorce. And shortly thereafter, graduated to crack. Between the two of them, a family court judge, felt it was appropriate to share custody of a child who was not yet two years old. Better, that they should switch off custody every 3 1/2 days...but not directly. Because of the abuse factor, they had a No-Contact Order in force, which meant that the child had to be transferred by another family member or at a police station. There's a lasting impression for a small child.

It is only now, after years of problems, that the child (who is now 10) has been removed from both homes and is being raised by her maternal grandparents. She is the only child I've ever know to have failed kindergarten, and continues to struggle in school. She has had nightmares for years. Has no sense of belonging or self. And has been in continuous counseling since she was about 4. Thanks, Judge. Good call there, buddy.

One of my best friends, had a similar custody arrangement handed down, although she and her ex weren't dealing with the violence and drugs. Simple old infidelity issues there. Though they were denied and unproven. So, I'm not sure how that works. But, the court didn't feel up to tossing a coin and opted to split the time. Again, on a schedule that has her kids shuttling back and forth every few days.

This, to me, is madness.

Now, knowing all of those things...all of which had come before my own somewhat congenial divorce (by comparison to most), I opted to go that route. Primarily because it's what my kids wanted. They didn't want to choose sides. And they didn't want to abandon their dad when they felt he needed them most. And I didn't want to make them.

They knew he had been in a situation where he'd been taken care of for years and wouldn't know what to do to run a household (calling me at my new apartment two years after we'd moved into the house he was now in alone, asking me how to run the dishwasher, was a big clue...), and felt they needed to help him. They're good kids. And they love their dad.

But I knew there was no way I would accept switching them back and forth every few days. Even every week sounded crazy. But being without them longer seemed impossible, too. My ex and I discussed it and decided to try out an every two week schedule. Going two weeks without seeing them seemed crazy. There was no way I would be able to live with that. Was there? But to disrupt their lives more frequently seemed cruel.

And so...we have embarked on this schedule. And, for the most part, the kids have adapted pretty well, to it. It's been a little over a year now. I wouldn't say it's gone as far as being without incident. But I think it's working as well as it could be. The kids enjoy being with him.

At first, my oldest would beg me not to make her go. Would cry and plead. It was tough. But it's gotten better. She still has the least respect for him. (He's having a tough time brainwashing her into remembering that he's been parenting and doing stuff around the house all along...cause he wasn't.) She's old enough to remember.

My youngest one spends a lot of time with him when she's there and looks forward to it. Sleeping in the bedroom where I once painted fairies and flowers on her wall. I'm always there with her. All she has to do is look at that. And she calls me to tell me 'good night' every night that she is gone.

My middle daughter...the peacemaker. Heh...her mother's daughter for sure. She's handling it best of all. Though there are times when they still call me and come to me with issues when they are there. Things they don't feel comfortable working on with him. That makes me feel good that they need me. I don't think he even realizes how much this still happens.

I'd be remiss if I didn't say that I'm lucky in that my ex genuinely loves his kids. I'm not gonna say that the fact that he doesn't pay child support doesn't factor into why he wants to do this, but I don't think it's near the top of his list. He really loves spending time with them. And I know alot of kids don't have that. And so, for that, I'm very grateful.

In any event, I mention any of this because we're nearing the next transfer of custody. I'm taking them back to their dad's on Saturday. And, as always, I've started missing them several days beforehand. Highlander is, I'm certain, already gearing up for the Saturday afternoon and Sunday job of propping me back up and distracting me with mushy romance stuff. It works pretty well, if I do say so myself.

I find, however, that I'm doing a little propping him up these days, myself. As he misses them, too. Misses them arguing. Misses them putting on mind-numbing dvd's and forcing him to sit through them. Misses them getting on the computer when he wants to work on something.

But I know that none of that stuff will matter at all by the time they come home again. For either of us. And I'm already counting down the days til they're back...and they haven't left yet.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Native Tongue

Is it too soon for a "he said, she said" kinda post? I hope not. 'Cause, decorum isn't usually my best trait. I like doing what feels right for me. Not always at everyone else's expense...lucky you.

I don't intend to kick off another Billie Jean King vs. what's-his-name (I think it was Ima Tool) style debate, but I find this communication dynamic kinda interesting. Not news, by any standard, as it's been going on since there were men and women, I'm sure. When cave women grunted about the children needing shoes, did their significant others roll their eyes and go into a trance as they recalled a spectacular mammoth hunt with Og?

So, let me spend a moment on “chick-speak”. I’m trying to remember exactly when he (he being Highlander) first sprung that particular term on me. And, for the record, he was the first to share it with me…but I get the feeling it’s something guys speak to each other about with some regularity. Anyway, it’s been fairly recently, but I can’t recall exactly. I DO know that when we were picking out drapes for our bedroom a couple months ago, I was trying to explain to him that we needed to select something that would compliment the paint color in the room (a kind of spring green) and the comforter we already had (a navy blue), or we’d have to buy new bed linens to match the drapes and it was an expense we could avoid, if we picked something that would work with what we already had.

He gave me that far-away look that said “Yup. Your lips are moving, but all I hear is French horns.” Reminiscent of the old Charlie Brown cartoons…where the adults all speak in...well…French horns… (And, by the way, while it is completely irrelevant to the discussion, I can totally NAIL that impersonation.) Anyway, I looked at him and said something like “Don’t you agree?”. To which he replied, “Babe, you’re speaking in chick. All I want is something dark to keep the light out when I’m sleeping.” He couldn’t have cared less if we got red velvet drapes with black polka-dots. ::sigh:: Guys…..

I can’t really speak for other chicks out there(unless they do the French horn thing…in which case I can TOTALLY speak for other chicks), but I suppose there are some guys who just don’t give a damn about aesthetics at all. But, I mean, if you’re at the store and they have four colors of drapes and one of them actually MATCHES, doesn’t it occur to guys that THAT one is the one to purchase? I mean, you know, as opposed to the one closest to your hand.

Now, even beyond matters of color selection, this trend branches out to entertaining (YES, you do have to buy food and beverages when you invite people over for dinner…opening up the pantry and announcing ‘HEY, we’ve got peanut butter!’ is not gonna get it.), fashion (no, you cannot wear a Captain America shirt with green sweatpants to work...even on casual Friday), and…come to find out…even decorating for Halloween. As it was PLAINLY obvious to me, this past October, that we needed to hang the two scary rubber bats in front of the porch with the lit windows of our living room behind them for maximum effect. Alas, that was not the case in the decorating party.

Sure, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy has turned some of them around, but what’s up with the rest of them? Do they really not understand us?

Granted, when guys are doing this in their 20’s, it’s just a matter of them being too young to know better…hell, a lot of chicks have the same issue at that age. But in their 40’s?!?!? Uh uh. They're just not trying.

How can guys go on and on all day about military fighter planes, citing manufacturers, designers (I swear if I hear the name Kelly Johnson ever again, I will scream!), contributions to war efforts, etc., and not know that red wine goes with pasta? They can recite, often line for line, entire comic books from 20+ years ago, lines of dialogue from books they read as children, lyrics of one-hit wonders from the 60's. But they don't know that you aren't supposed to wear white shoes after Labor Day?

My ex once told me that he "refused to learn what clothes matched", because he didn't want to dress his daughters. 'Refused to learn'. Watson, we may be on to something here...

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Monday, January 09, 2006

These Foolish Games

The Alito confirmation hearings have been on today. How depressing. Nothing but Pomp and Circumstance. Does anyone really believe that the process will weed out this non-objective observer? Yeah, me neither.

I wasn't feeling well this morning, so I stayed home from work. I think my body has gotten used to three day weekends and is lobbying for one more. It didn't take a great deal of convincing for me to go along with the plan.

The better part of the afternoon spent surfing and then a thought for a blog post (that may or may not come later), started me down a road that led me to a puzzle-maker. A little playing and this is what I came up with...

Here's the link if you want to try to make one yourself.

And then, I ran across this thing, and before I knew it, I had an honest-to-goodness Oral Report Theme Day! Excuse me while I dab at the corner of my eye...

I'm pretty sure it will be a good long time before I do any in-depth political blogging. But that sure doesn't mean that I don't get pretty upset about the state of things. Or feel the urge to shake my fist and use the "F" word when the 'pubs are flat out lying to get their way. Okay, I give in to that impulse once in a while. I'm human, you know.

Politics resonates with game playing, though. And, unfortunately, it's not the games I've posted on this blog, either. And while I feel that, in this day and time, politics is a (very much) necessary (very much) evil, I hate the game playing. And I take issue with both sides of the aisle, as well as a great deal of the process for that. Not much that can be done, though. But to keep the issues in front of people and cast your vote when they let you. Just sad to think how lazy and self-involved Americans have become. And I'm about as guilty as anyone else, I guess.

So, I've been re-channeling a little energy and have come up with some political game playing that I can live with. Like the Bush Monkey Virtual Jigsaw Puzzle that will give minutes of fun. At least more than reading frustrating political news stories will.

Please don't think me glib. (Okay, I might be a little glib.) I do take the political scene quite seriously. I'm just pissed. Feeling very much like an ineffectual cog in the workings. It'll pass. Always does. Maybe, I'll just play a little while I wait for the numbness to come...

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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Fred Rogers is Dead (or Please, Don't You Be My Neighbor)

We have a new neighbor. And the promise of even more in a week or so. We've been THOROUGHLY enjoying having the 4-plex and the big basement all to ourselves for the last 2 1/2 months. Sure, sure, the landlords probably don't like it nearly as much when only one apartment in their 4-plex is rented. But, isn't it all about ME?

Our landlords are the sons of a former boss of mine. The general contractor I worked for starting back in 1990. These brothers worked there at the same time (deserting me before I got away...the chickens!), and we got to be pretty good friends. They were like little brothers to me. Which was nice. And when I heard they had been buying up rental property here and there, it was a fact I filed away for the future.

After I left my ex, I called them, hoping that they might have something and be able to cut me a deal. At the time, they didn't have anything available that would work for me and the kids. But later, when Highlander decided to move to River City, I called them again. And they did have something small and inexpensive...and they offered some very reasonable terms because of the connection. As fate would have it, it was in the exact area of town that I would have wished for him.

Now River City is a very large town. Roughly a million residents. Easily the biggest city in our state. And like most cities of this size, there are all kinds of established neighborhoods and sixth-class cities here. The Highlands being only one of those. The politics in the area are quite liberal, and therefore, have caused the Highlands to draw a population rife with artists and society's outcasts. And perhaps has contributed to the area's nickname - "the land of fruits and nuts". Now, it's the exact area of town that I wished for him to live in. Not because he's a fruit or a nut...okay, maybe that last one fits...but because of the politics and because of the art crowd and because of all of the eccentric little shops that are littered up and down the main drag.

In spite of what you might expect in the way of a very liberal, very culturally diverse neighborhood, the area is very affluent. Which is why I've never been able to live in the Highlands previous to this point in my life. And, in fact, I wouldn't be living here now, were it not for the Highlander (who, of course earned his name from this very locale).

As it happened, the lease on my apartment was coming up for renewal, just as the largest apartment in the building in which he was already residing became available. And so, after much discussion, some of it pragmatic, some of it considerably more emotional, we opted to move into the large apartment in this building together.

It's not a decision I've regretted once. I don't believe he has either.

Coming home to this this man...everyday, is, in so many ways, a dream come true. Not only living in a beautiful house that is brimming with character, in a wonderful neighborhood, but doing so with a man who adores me and considers it an honor to treat me like a princess every single day. Don't pinch me. I'm gonna be pissed as hell if I wake up!!

And the kids love it here, too. The neighborhood has a candy shop at the end of the block. That would probably be enough in and of itself, but if not, there's a comic book shop just a couple short blocks beyond that. There are two parks within two blocks, and the house has a big front yard that has been wonderful for playing ball and throwing frisbee.

But, as I said, we have a new neighbor.

And the promise of more soon.

The one that moved into Highlander's old place told him that the apartment was small but all he needed was enough space for his bed and a bible. And when we ran into him (with his part-time kids) later he "God Blessed" us. ::sigh::

My pal, the landlord, mentioned that the couple moving in upstairs next week have a dog. He doesn't think it will bark much, but told me to take it to them directly if it becomes a problem. And he knows to whom he speaks...heh. But...well...::sigh::

I worry...a little...about what is gonna happen to my little utopia. I suppose that's selfish. And more than a little pessimistic. Life evolves. Pretty much constantly. But I've really, really enjoyed the last few months. And I don't like the idea of anyone screwing around with that.

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