The Oral Report

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

My Photo
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.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Flashback Friday!

Gee, I've been on a hell of a morose kick around here lately! So, I've decided to try something a little more lighthearted. Sorry I'm running so late today. I hope it's worth it.

I was doing a little blogsurfing recently and ran across a mom-blog wherein the author was describing a recent Girls Night Out gone bad. It reminded me of one I had about almost two years ago. In fact, it could technically, be the last one I've been on.

My ex and I had recently split. He had a camping trip with his family planned and wanted to take the kids. He'd actually invited me to go along, but I really didn't relish the thought of sleeping with him in a tent and playing at "we're not really getting divorced" (I totally stink at manufacturing emotions or playing games like that), so I opted out and told him to have a great time with his girls. At first, he threatened not to go, if I didn't. Taking their camping weekend away as well. In the old days, that would have probably worked. I would have felt guilty enough for both of us. And, I realize that while he is much more the camper than I will ever be, at that point, he'd had little or no experience managing three kids for days by himself. And the setting was only going to complicate it that much more. So, after tense days of negotiations, he and his daughters headed off to enjoy some quality time together, leaving me to my own devices.

A couple of girlfriends, knowing that I was dealing with alot at the time, decided to get together with me for a Girls Night Out. And, honestly, as I'd done so very few of these during my long marriage, I was kinda pumped about it. Both Laura and Bev are younger than me. Laura maybe 3 years, Bev is, I think, 5 years younger. Very different girls, but both very sweet in their own right.

Laura is married and has two daughters (19 and 14). One by her first husband and the second by her current. She's a highly competent accountant, with incredible savvy in all things business. Her hubby is a sanitation engineer. First one I'd ever really known. He's very kind and easy going and is obviously crazy in love with his wife. They have a great house that is not very far from the house I shared with my ex.

Bev is a divorced mom of one who works as a legal secretary. Her son is currently stationed in Iraq, but was in boot camp at the time of this particular evening of debauchery. Bev makes the term flamboyant seem somehow bland. She is always very vibrant and bold and she can be fun to be around. You just have to pick your dosage. Bev has a history of some very bad luck. She tends to turn every adventure into an injury-fest and has, at last count, totalled 13 cars. And that is no exaggeration. The rule of thumb is, if you're going out as a group, someone else should drive. But you should also be aware that the chances of having emergency medical personnel or police show up at some point in your evening are better than 50/50.

Bev and Laura had decided that Friday night, after work, we'd get together and go to a little bar in the neighborhood and have a few drinks, maybe shoot some pool, and hang out. I'm not much of a drinker anymore, having done my lifetime's worth in my early twenties, but I do have a few in certain social situations. And this would certainly qualify. So, yes, sure, it sounded like a good time.

This happened at a time when I had been doing a great bit of working out and I was looking pretty good. I threw on a pair of tight jeans and a very low-cut black shirt, grabbed a pair of sandals and I was on my way. Except not. The plan was that Bev was gonna swing by and get me when she got done at work and we would go the two miles to Laura's from there. So, I got ready and while I was waiting, I put some music on and found myself dancing around the living room. I was really looking forward to an evening to cut loose. But Bev was late. Not terribly unusual for Bev, so I gave it another 15 minutes, or so, before I began to get antsy.

I get off work at 11:30 on Fridays, so I'd been sitting around waiting for her for some time. Finally, my impatience (hey, I was feeling a little...anxious...) had me dialing her cellphone. No answer. I try her home phone, thinking she may have run by there before coming to get me. No answer. I wait a few minutes and try the cellphone again. This time she answers.

"HEY, Tammy!!," she bellows in obvious drunken English, "what's up?" So, I reminded her that we were going out and asked if we still were. Now, honestly, at this VERY early part, I'm already questioning whether the odds are favorable for me to head out with Bev. She was clearly already drinking. And her accident ratio would be going WAY up. But, I really wanted to go out, so I'm trying to gauge the situation.

"We won this big case and everybody in the office is celebrating down at [this trendy bar down the street from her office]. I've already had a couple beers and seven Bushmills." ::sigh:: I look at the clock. It's nearly 8. She's still at the bar downtown. It's looking more and more like I'm screwed. Seven Bushmills. Seven. She's gonna finish the drink she has and head straight to my house. She's fine. She's sure of it. Uh huh. In the meantime, I call Laura and let her know that we're running late and what's going on. You, on the other hand, should start keeping a scorecard. Here. I made one you can use.

It's about a 20 minute ride from the bar to my house, so when 8:30 comes and goes, I try her cellphone again. She's decided to run by her house first and change clothes and she's trying to figure out the best route to get from her house to my house. I give her directions and think to myself that I should go outside and shoot off a flare gun. So, I'm digging through boxes in the basement, looking for flares, when the phone rings. She's gotten herself lost and stopped in the parking lot of one of the two karaoke bars nearby.

I instruct her to NOT, under any circumstances, go into the karaoke bar (fearing that she'd get another drink before heading my way). Though, at this point, I'm thinking I should just walk up to the karaoke bar and have a few and go home. It's been a trying night already and I haven't even left the damned house! But I get her routed to my place and she shows up just after 9. Not bad. Only an hour and a half late. But, well, I'm thinking, we'll see how the evening goes. It's been a while. Maybe I'm just out of practice on this stuff.

Now, I had intentionally dressed like a Hoochie Mama, because I was looking for some attention of the male variety. Bev, when she went home to change, found a top in her wardrobe that made mine, comparatively, look like a turtleneck sweater. Great. She's got more of a rack than I do anyway. There goes that plan. I'm thinking, at this point, that I'm not sure how many signs I need that this evening is gonna be bad, but I'm going with it anyway.

We call Laura and let her know we're on the way (and that she should have the crash squad and medics on stand-by). And I let her know that she was DEFINITELY driving, as Bev was already pretty plastered. When we got to Laura's, which was, surprisingly, a rather uneventful journey, Laura wasn't ready. So, Bev and I are hanging around with her hubby and drinking a couple beers. He decides he wants to tag along.

Could be that he was worried about his wife going out on the town with two women who were obviously dressed, you know. I'm not sure what his reasoning was. But, he later regretted his decision. He never specifically said that. But, I'm pretty sure it's accurate.

Now, it's coming up on 10PM, Laura is finally ready to go and Bev has had (are you keeping track here?) a total of 7 Bushmills and 4 beers. And she's feeling little or no pain. And we haven't even officially started on our Girls Night Out yet. Right. Laura, her hubby, and I have each had 1 beer. Seriously underclassed. We are no match for Bev. No match at all. Worse, we are just leaving to go "out for the night" and I'm so old that I'm ready to go home.

But I perservere. After all, they are doing this for me. Sorta. I guess. And I do need it. So the four of us head off, in Laura's SUV, to a little bar in the neighborhood. I suppose it's, in actuality, more of a beer joint. It's not like they have mixed drinks. A couple pool tables, a few video games, darts. That's about it. Oh, except for the 10-12 guys sitting at the bar in various states of foggery. That's a word.

We walk in and, because Laura and her hubby come here fairly often, the regulars do their meet and greet thing, and Bev and I are introduced around. We find a little table and sit down. Laura's hubby buys a round of beers for us. And we chit chat a little about the day. Mostly, laughing at how drunk Bev already is and wondering if we will survive the evening. It's not long before we decide to shoot a little pool.

I would never consider myself a good player, but I'll say that when I was growing up, my dad had a table, and I played a lot. In college, I hung out at a little place that had one. I shot there with some regularity. My hubby inherited one (Boy, that's definitely fodder for another Flashback Friday. I'll have to keep that in mind.) about 3-4 years ago, and we played a great deal as well. So, I kinda know my way around.

So, we shoot a few games of pool. A few of the regulars (Norm, Cliff, like that) join in. Bev is flirting with them mercilessly. One guy makes a pass at me. Until he sees the bazooms on Bev, at which point, I am resigned to being Mackenzie Phillips in AMERICAN GRAFFITI (you know,the flat-chested little sister). We each have a couple more beers, and decide (now that it's midnight) to head to another little bar not far from there, as we're wanting something other than beer. During the two hours we have been there, I've had two more beers, Laura and her hubby have each had three, and Bev has had five.

Bev is now having difficulty with spatial relationships and speech. She is becoming the "sloppy drunk". We all walk out to the SUV, which is parked just outside the front door. Laura is driving and I climb in the back behind her. Bev is having a great deal of difficulty stepping up into the backseat of the SUV. Laura's hubby is helping her, but Bev isn't exactly a small woman and she's staggering like a professional. He gets behind her and they count to three, Bev rocking up into the backseat each time, and then she fell straight back onto the pavement and was laughing so hard she was holding her crotch to keep from peeing herself.

Of course, we were all laughing at her. Laura's husband was giving Laura a look that said, "Can't we just leave her here, sprawled out in this parking lot, and drive off?" And I was backing him up. Big time. We were shortening our odds the more time we spent with her.

After about 15 minutes, she was able to compose herself, to make another attempt to get into the car. We've been in the parking lot, trying to leave, for 20-25 minutes now, and the humor is wearing pretty thin. I get out and go around to the other side and we are able to get Bev in the car, with only a small bump to her head and a very slight wet spot in her jeans. Hooray! Small victories count too, right?

And so we away. Bev lolling around, still holding her crotch and laughing at herself. We get to bar #2 and park around back. The place is PACKED!! They have an actual full-service bar, a few pool tables and a dance floor and karaoke. Now, I'm not a karaoke kinda girl. And I don't normally frequent those places. But, I was along for the ride and still trying (to virtually no avail) to show any interested parties my assets. Bev, with minor assistance, gets out of the SUV and stumbles into the bar, where she heads straight for the ladies room. Laura and I head to the bar and order a couple drinks. Amaretto sours for me. Ummmmmmmm. It's like koolaid. But they make you feel warm. So I have one...and then another. And here comes Bev...finally.

She announces that she has signed up to do a little karaoke, which causes Laura and I to erupt into fits of laughter. Drunk Bev doing karaoke. This could be interesting. Unfortunately, the wait list is pretty long. So, while the other amateurs are taking their shots, she starts flirting up this guy at the end of the bar. Laura and I are talking. Her hubby is shooting pool. And before I know it a fight breaks out at the end of the bar where, guess who, is located.

The dude who had been the object of Bev's advances is married. And his wife, who was elsewhere in the bar, is back and isn't terribly happy that Bev is touching her husband. Now, the husband, as clearly as I can tell, wasn't running her off, but it appeared more an effort to keep from being rude to her. He seemed, mostly, to be ignoring her. But Bev, driven by her drunken bravado, is picking a fight with the woman. She saw him first, basically.

Laura and I go get her out of trouble and bring her back to where we were hanging out. She orders ::sigh:: another beer. We try to discourage her, but there's none of that. And then the three of us head to the end of the building to hang out with Laura's hubby and shoot a little pool. Bev is unable to shoot pool. Unable to sit on the stools near the pool tables. Unable to stand against the wall.

We are here, ladies and gentlemen. We hope you've enjoyed your trip. Please return your trays to the upright position before exiting. Bev is wasted. I mean totally, completely wasted.

She says she needs some air. Laura walks her outside. I take Laura's place at the table and finish the game she was shooting. It was about this time, that Bev's name is called for her turn at karaoke. Alas, we completely missed that opportunity, as she was in no shape, whatsoever, to strut her stuff.

Shortly Laura returns...but without Bev. She announces that she's left Bev in the car because she was feeling sick. Okay, I wouldn't have left her in my car if she was feeling like she needed to throw up and had as much liquor in her as Bev did. That's a pretty safe bet. But, Laura is nicer than me. So, I look at the clock and notice that we're coming up on 2AM and tell them that maybe we should call it a night. They agree and as soon as Laura's husband finishes the game he has going, we head outside.

Are you surprised to know that Bev was not in the car? Well, let me back up and say I was amazed that Laura got her in the SUV without the same kind of incident we had at the last place, but that's a different matter, I guess. I look at Laura. She looks at her husband. He looks at me. And we all shake our heads. We begin calling out for Bev. No answer. Laura looks in the car to see if she's fallen down into the floor board or if there is any evidence that she got sick or something. Nope. Her husband walks back into the bar to see if she may have doubled back on us while Laura and I wander around the parking lot looking for traces of drunk legal secretaries.

Laura finally calls me over. She's found her. Bev is sitting up on a concrete parking bumper that overlooks a grassy hill and, beyond that, a wooden plank fence. Bev is talking to her when I get over to them. Telling her that she felt sick and that's why she got out of the car. She didn't want to throw up in Laura's car. How considerate. That's the kind of drunk you want to hang out with, folks. We tell her we're gonna head home and each of us takes an arm and tries to help her stand. Oh, no. She will have none of that. She's capable of standing on her own. One thing that is pretty universal when it comes to drunks. They have their pride.

What she does, you see, is to shift from a seated position to being on her hands and knees on the grass just in front of the parking bumper. Laura and I are standing there, not sure what the hell she is doing, but she seems to be doing it with purpose, so we let her continue. She starts kind of rocking back and forth, sort of like a baby just before they start crawling on their own. We thought she was trying to get her balance. But then, abruptly, she dropped to her stomach, flattening out, and then proceeded to log roll down the grassy knoll. At the base of the grassy knoll is a drainage ditch that is full of beer bottles. It's clear that the cream of society comes out here to finish their beer while they relieve themselves. Classy place, I know. On the other side of the drainage ditch is the 7' wooden fence. Before Laura and I really know what is going on, or could possible get to her, Bev has done an Olympic quality (I mean that. It couldn't have been more perfect.) logroll down the entire length of the hill across the drainage ditch and then hit the fence with a solid thud. The impact kinda rolled her back into the drainage ditch and she was sprawled out there, amidst the bottles (and dna), when we got to her.

Laura and I were incredulous. We're running down this hill going "Have you EVER seen anything like that?" "I mean, did you see that?" "She hit that fence pretty hard. She's gonna have a mark." But we're laughing our asses off, just the same. And, honestly, if I'd had one of those signs, I'd have totally thrust it up giving her a perfect "1.0". I've never seen a more perfect execution. And in her condition! Truly impressive. But I gotta admit, I kept thinking about how nasty that drainage ditch was and wondering if she'd need a shot of penicillin or something before this was over.

She was pretty well passed out when we got to her, and Laura's hubby showed back up about this time (he totally missed the whole performance). The three of us got her back into the SUV and headed back to Laura's place. On the way, I persuaded them to drop me off. Laura was bitching (but not too much) about me leaving Bev for her to deal with. I reminded her that I was just splitting up with my husband and needed her sympathy. Hey, I can work it when I have to.

I was pretty happy to be home. Even though it was almost 3AM. I was even more happy that the rest of the weekend was spent in quiet solitude. Well, except for the next afternoon, when Bev called me and said she woke up stinking (I don't even want to imagine of what) and had a HUGE bruise on her arm. She wanted to know if I had any idea what happened to her. Heh. My kingdom for a video camera. That one would have won a good bit of cash on "America's Funniest Home Videos". I'm sure of it.

As for me, let's just say that I haven't been out drinking with her since. Not that I wouldn't again. Just that small doses of Bev work better for me.


Click here for more!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Secrets and Faith

Boy, has it been a wild and woolly couple weeks!! Not a lot here, today. I don't even have something in the works for my Flashback Friday. I'm gonna have to see what I can come up with, but it may be late in the day! I figured I hadn't done a link dump in a while, and thought I'd throw a few things out there that I'd run across, in case any of you needed this stuff.

While surfing around, I seemed to wander onto a couple themes. I couldn't see any reason why they couldn't work together. Certainly matters of religion are often personal and private, right? You have to work with me, people.

First up, keeping things on the down low.

Here are some pretty extensive guidelines for maintaining anonymity on the web. Not that any of you guys need anonymity on the web. Just thought you might know someone who knows someone.

If that doesn't work, let me recommend a Fall Guy.

How about a one time free secure web messaging service called Will Self Destruct. Send that nasty anonymous email to your boss that you've been DYING to send. Tell your brother-in-law that you saw what he did and you're going to report it. All kinds of possibilities here, friends. The recipient will never know where it came from and the trail will disappear. Talk about emotionally freeing!!

Post Secret is a place I've visited before. Talk about a voyeurism fix. Not necessarily a visual stimulation (though some of postcards are um... artistic), but the emotional intimacy really grabs you. Basically, anyone can send in a postcard with a secret on it and it's posted on the net. For all to see. Of course, no one knows it's your secret. Probably best not to post a link to it when your secret is one of those featured. D'OH! Not sure how frequently they are updated.

And while we're talking atheists, here is a list of the Top 50 Countries with the highest proportion of atheists. May help you know where you want to be...or not be...

Some Scientology MP3's designed to inform and educate.

The Reincarnation Station will help you see into your future. Way, way into your future. Apparently, I will be returning as a rhino. There are a few who might see too many similarities already. According to the sage wisdom found on the site for me, You're not perfect, but you lead a better life than most. With a few changes now, your next life could be even better. So, I got that goin' for me. Which is nice.

And, just because his post works with my theme day, (and not because I adore him utterly) check out my VERY significant other's blog where he very eloquently (as usual) discusses the very complex issue of how the U.S. constitution addresses the matter of the intermingling of religion and the government. It's an excellent read.

Click here for more!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Can't Find My Way Home

Come down off your throne and leave your body alone.
Somebody must change.
You are the reason I've been waiting so long.
Somebody holds the key.

But I'm near the end and I just ain't got the time
And I'm wasted and I can't find my way home.

Come down on your own and leave your body alone.
Somebody must change.
You are the reason I've been waiting all these years.
Somebody holds the key.

But I can't find my way home.
But I can't find my way home.
But I can't find my way home.
But I can't find my way home.
Still I can't find my way home,
And I ain't done nothing wrong,
But I can't find my way home.

While River City's skyline didn't make this list of the Top 15 Skylines, I still think it's pretty awesome. Though I'll be the first to admit that I may not be completely objective about it.

Not quite a year ago, Highlander and I were sitting on the opposite bank of the river looking at this very same skyline as the sun set. Pretty nice stuff. We should do that again soon. Well, when I can walk more than a few hundred feet again, anyway.

It's your first look at River City if you're coming from the north. I suppose all skylines evoke a certain sense of excitement and of "place". This one is no exception to me. When I see it, I feel home. Not the only thing that makes me feel at home here, but it's on the list.

For years, I wanted nothing more than to head back north to the place of my birth. So many memories from my youth tugging at my heart. But now, so many things hold me here. Less and less of them, against my will.

Last summer, we went north for vacation. I had a lovely time visiting family and showing Highlander and my girls all the places from my youth. My old school. The house I grew up in. The beach I played on as a little girl. I think they all had a nice time, too. I hadn't been there in 18 years and, as you'd imagine, the town looked very different to me. Smaller and so much more "industrialized" than I remember it. Some of it the development that happens in the natural course of things. Some of it the embellishments of my memory, I'm sure. It will still always be the place I was born and, subsequently, will always hold a cherished and special place in my heart. But, it's not home anymore.

I was just feeling a little lost at sea today and decided to remind myself that I'm home. And all the warm and fuzzy cliche's that go with home apply. And that's pretty darned nice feeling right now.

Click here for more!

Monday, March 27, 2006

A Monday by Any Other Name...

Today was my first day back to work since my minor outpatient surgery last Wednesday. It wasn't a bad plan, honestly, but there were a few noticeable snags. Perhaps because it's Monday. But, whatcha gonna do?

I sleep on my stomach. I don't know what that means about my personality. I don't really care. But during the last few months of each of my previous pregnancies, and after the birth of my last (by c-section), it was unbearable not to be able to sleep on my stomach. I have been, since Wednesday, wrestling around the bed, night after night, with any number of pillows, trying to find the magical secondary position that will take me to Slumbertown. It's just not working. I've come close a few times. And, not ironically, a little medication before retiring, makes me slightly more open to new positions. Just file all of that in the Too Much Information file.

So, this morning, I was more than a little sleepy when the alarm clock went off at 5AM. Which may, or may not, have contributed to the nausea I was feeling. After I threw up, I felt a little better, but was still moving slowly and still slightly sore from the surgery. And don't forget, sleepy. So, I headed out to work. I had decided to forego any pain meds before driving to work for obvious safety reasons, but they were on my mind.

I hadn't been in the office since Tuesday and went in and sat through our weekly Monday morning production meeting. All the updates, etc. Back to my office (and finally a pain pill) and I started going through voicemail and email messages. Nothing too critical, but a few things that needed my attention today. I had asked, at the production meeting, about some contracts I'd typed on Tuesday going out, apparently, they were put in the mail on Friday and hadn't gone out yet. I went to make sure the mailings were accurate and, of course, they were not, standard documents that are supposed to go out with the contracts hadn't been included, multiple signature copies hadn't been included, etc. (Sometimes you wonder how these people did this before you got there, you know?) Anyway, I'm working on this stuff and my cellphone rings.

It was my youngest daughter's school. Apparently, she was complaining that her stomach hurt and she was running a fever of 100. I checked my watch. 9:27. Well, that's a full day all right. I had to go get her. But she hadn't been ill the night before and had been fine that morning before school. I knew I had mediation at 2:00PM (that I'd rescheduled from Thursday, because I was SERIOUSLY dreaming to think I could have done that the day after the surgery I had), so I called my dad (who is retired) and asked him if he was busy today. He said he needed to get some groceries and check on one of my uncles (my mom's younger brother, who goes on binges from time to time). No one had heard from him in a few weeks and he was going to run by his apartment and check on him. This happens every few months. No biggie. But all of that could be done before 1:30 and he could come and stay with my little bit while I was at mediation. Great.

So, I headed out and picked her up. Brought her home and checked her temp. Hmmm, 98. And she wanted to watch tv and said she was hungry. I got her some jello, thinking if her stomach was upset, that might be something easy on it. As soon as she was finished, she wanted something else. I held her off for about 45 minutes and then made some chicken noodle soup which she devoured most ravenously. Heh. The only thing that kid had was a bad case of "Monday".

My dad showed up at 1:15 (a little early) and said he was going to take my daughter with him. He was going to pick my mom up early from work to let her know that he'd found my uncle dead when he went to check in on him this morning.

This isn't just any Monday, you know. It's a Mega Monday!

No idea on the cause of death yet. He had any number of medical problems, including some cancer. So, I think they've all decided that was it.

Anyway, off they went. And shortly thereafter, I headed to my two hour mediation, which netted pretty much exactly what I expected it to. Nothing. My very darling daughters have become rather disenchanted with their father and have asked me to make some modifications to the current custody schedule. Modifications which their father adamently opposes.

So my attorney and I sat across from my ex and his, with an overpriced mediator at the head of the table. And we talked about where my kids were going to live. We had hoped, during the two hour session, to come to a resolution that would work for all of us and avoid going to court. He resolutely refuses to let the kids live with me full time. And, the only reason in the world I can see for it, is finances. I am not trying to minimize that. But, I don't understand why his children aren't higher on his list. Well, I do. He's always been incredibly selfish. But the damage he's doing to them is killing me.

Follow this, if you can, and explain to me his reasoning. Come on. I defy any of you to do it.

Round #1 - The kids and I propose a schedule that has them at his house every other weekend, with a week night sleepover each week they are with me. He doesn't like that. Not enough time with him.

Round #2 - He proposes having the kids for one full week each month, with an additional weekend during the three week period they are with me. I'm not crazy about it. But I have already talked to the kids about this option (which he emailed me over the previous weekend), and they HATE it. They say seven days in the month is PLENTY.

Round #3 - We come back with one full week each month with him and no additional days. He squeals that "it's too long to go without seeing him." No judge is going to allow three weeks without seeing his kids. For the record, we agree. That's why we suggested what we did in Round #1. Grrr!!!

Round #4 - We come back with one full week each month and one evening each of the three weeks they are with me. I suggested Tuesday nights, since my youngest will be, I assume, starting religion classes in the fall and they are on Tuesday night. We proposed that he could get them when he got off from work and have them until bedtime. It would be a matter of about three hours, but enough time for dinner and to do something together. His response. Not enough time.

Yeah, it was getting pretty old by now and I was trying to keep my skates quiet under the conference room table. But it was getting harder.


Round #5 - He came back with one full week with him, three weeks with me. Except that his week was 11 days long. I should have agreed, as long as he could actually PRODUCE an 11 day week. But he was looking for a Thursday, that ran through the weekend, the following week, and until the Sunday following that. But, did not, in any way, address the lengthy (now 2 1/2 week) period that the kids would be with me and not see him. It was becoming maddening. We were trying to work out issues he had and then he just kept changing the issues. Our response? Well, we talked about doing a Friday evening (cutting off the Thursday) to the Sunday he wanted, but having them come back early in the day. But, I was fretting. Feeling I was selling out the kids and that it wasn't going to be what they wanted. And we just didn't understand, at all, how this remotely addressed the issue with the lengthy period he would go without seeing them.

I looked at my watch and my attorney said, "Do you want to call your kids and see how they feel about it?". I had made everyone aware that I was speaking for them as they had no legal voice and didn't feel comfortable "selling them out". So, when I called them and explained the negotiations, explained that all of this could be settled in the next few weeks if they wanted it (as opposed to...what I learned might be...a YEAR), and asked them how they felt about it, they were stronger than ever in their convictions. They Refuse To Be Under His Inappropriately Controlling And Manipulative Thumb. And they're getting damned mad about it, too.

So our reponse to the mediator, at the end of Round #5, was No Deal. We had offered two options and the kids were more important to me. I am not going to let them down. If we need to go to court and let the Judge hear how upset they are, all the problems they are having with him...if he wants to put them, all of us, through that, I guess that's where this goes next.

The mediator offered that perhaps he wasn't hearing the same thing from the kids that I was. And asked if I thought it would be productive to have my two oldest daughters sit down with both me and their father and discuss this. I offered that my apartment was five minutes from the mediator's office and the kids were home now. Let's go. My ex, was not as enthusiastic and indicated that he would like to set it up for tomorrow at 6PM, and specifically wanted me to know that (1) no girlfriends or boyfriends (or Highlanders for those of you who didn't catch that) were to participate in the discussion and (2) while the children's wishes should be considered, the decision was ultimately that of the adults and that everyone should remember that.

Ah, that's right. Now, he's finally getting closer to saying he doesn't care what they think. I've been trying to get him to say it (as it's so clear that's how he feels) for a week. But he won't. I'm not sure how things will go tomorrow.

Here are a couple notes, though. My oldest daughter, upon bringing her up to speed with how things went today, is saying that she does not want to go back when it's her next rotation with her dad. She does not want to go back again. Period. Helpful?

I've tried to explain to him, that he's doing serious and irreparable damage to his relationship with his NEARLY ADULT daughters. By insisting on disregarding how they feel in this, and attempting to force them to spend time with him when he is not as adept at parenting, makes hurtful and inappropriate decisions regarding their privacy, social lives, and the level of respect that he shows them, and makes it clear that their opinions and feelings are insignificant to him, they are already counting the days until they don't have to go back.

They have both indicated that once they are legal, he is pushing them to the point where they will no longer want to have ANY relationship with him. I've talked to him before about this. About what he is doing and how he needs to handle this differently. He says he feels that when the girls look back at this, years later, they would feel worse if he hadn't fought to keep them. If, he just let them go without a second thought would be worse. And while I completely understand that argument, really I do, I think there are so many better ways to accomplish what he wants to accomplish without risking losing them forever. And he simply will not listen to me about it.

I know he has spoken with my middle daughter's therapist about it (she's seeing the therapist about several issues, one of which is the custody thing), and my oldest daughter said she had spoken to his girlfriend about it. So, I have to assume he's gotten feedback from her that should be something he regards. Even his normally bad judgment wouldn't have him making such tragic mistakes. The only answer I can figure out is finances. And apparently, he feels strongly enough about it, to throw away his relationships with them. Or at least to risk it.

And that's just sad. I've played go between for them for 16 months now and I'm continuing to try to help them have a better relationship. He just doesn't see that he has to do any of the work in making that a reality.

Rather than go on and on infinitum (which I could and you all know I would), I'll just say that we'll see how things go tomorrow evening.

In the meantime, I really hope I can work a full day tomorrow. I'll bet my bosses do, too. Yay, Tuesday!!

Click here for more!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Just Checking the Calendar

Life moves pretty fast around here sometimes. Usually, works best if you kinda buckle up and ride it out. Taking notes as you go helps. Ordinarily, there's no time for that, though. You just try to focus your eyes as the blur speeds on past.

Last week, my best work friend (and the only other competent person in my office) was fighting the fight, by my side.

This week, will be her last week, as she's given her notice and is starting a newer, better (of course, it would almost have to be) job.


Last week, I was as fertile as the day is long.

This week, I'm barren...and in the words of H.I. insides are a rocky place, where a seed could find no purchase.


Last week, I could bend over and pick up something on the floor without wincing as blinding pain shot through my abdomen.

This week, not so lucky, but we've got something to aim for.


Last week, the kids were at their dad's. While I missed them terribly, there was calm and order.

This week, chaos reigns, my house looks like it recently imploded, and I couldn't be happier to have them home!!


Last week, my ex was arguing with me about why he is perfectly justifed in refusing to respect his children.

This week, well, more of the same, unfortunately. (Maybe, it has something to do with the fact that there's some Tammy in their genes, I don't know.)


Last week, I was schlepping to the laundrymat.

This week, thanks to my sister, I have a new washer and dryer being delivered on Thursday. (Oh, how I've missed having them at home!!)


Last week, my middle girl was just some brainy kid (who slacks off way too much) in ninth grade at one of the many schools here in River City.

This week, she came in first place at the city-wide language festival (in French) and will be competing at a state-wide level.


Last week, it was spring weather, though the calendar said winter.

This week, it's winter weather, though the calendar says spring.


Last week, my kindergartner's missing two front teeth, adorable though she was, made it impossible for her to enjoy her favorite food.

This week, in season or not, it's corn on the cob!!


Last week, Highlander was completely head over heels in love with me.

This week, okay, it's still a veritable smit-fest, but I think he's getting over it.


Last week, I was fretting about finances. Worrying about all the doctors and lawyers looking for money from me. And wondering where the hell the Indian Chiefs were.

This week, haven't won the lottery, but have a better handle on things and know we will struggle through it, together, the best that we can.


Last week, I was a blubbering mess.

This week, I'm on a mission.


Click here for more!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Flashback Friday!

Did you ever want to play the brassy prison matron to the naughty convicted felon? Or maybe vice versa? C'Mon guys, work with me here, will ya? You see, I have some experience playing the prison guard. And I'm very, very good at it, too.

Now, before you start thinking that this week's Flashback is NOT SAFE FOR WORK, you're just not that lucky. So, pull your filthy mind out of the gutter and come with me on a little journey I call Creative Punishment Alternatives.

Kids will be kids. I know it. You know it. Hell, everybody certainly knows it. And there's no way to stop it. Not really. And sometimes, you have to look at the teaching opportunities they throw at you while they're being "kids". Sometimes, it's the only way to deal with it. You know, making the lemonade.

See, I adore my kids. I mean that. They are most special to me. And I don't want any of you to forget that, as I share this maternal moment with you. It's not as if I don't realize that my kids are capable of doing the same mischievous things that other kids do. Oh, I realize it most clearly. Especially, when they do things that I did as a kid myself. I try not to show how humorous that is to me, with varying results.

Some years back, when "T", my oldest (now a high school junior) was in fifth grade, and her next youngest sister "K" (now a high school freshman) was in third grade, they embarked on a crime spree. Part of the story, I came to learn much later, but rather than keep you in the dark, I'll clue you in along the way.

I suppose it's possible that spring fever could have had something to do with it. And, of course, they have a genetic criminal predisposition on their father's side of the family. But, apparently, young "K" had gotten herself into a spot of trouble at school.

It seems that she hadn't completed an assignment. She was then charged with bringing home the blank sheet to show a parent, and getting a signature from said parent, acknowledging that the child is shiftless and lazy. I never saw this sheet. To this day, I still haven't. When "K"'s teacher didn't get the signed sheet back the next day, she wrote me a little note. Very considerate. She was concerned that I know that my child wasn't being particularly diligent. And I do appreciate that. Honestly. But, alas, I never saw that note either.

On the third day of this little stand off, I got a call from "K"'s teacher, advising me that she'd been trying, rather unsuccessfully, to get some information to me. Which, I will say, came as a complete surprise. She suspected that the signature she had received back on the note, bearing my name, was actually the work of someone else. Someone much, much younger.

Apparently, "K", fearing repercussions for her slacking, and upon discussion with "T", crafted a scheme, whereby "T" would sign MY name on the note that went back to the teacher. Again, "T" was a fifth-grader at this point. Hardly a seasoned veteran of this sort of unseemly behavior. But I suppose they believed that her handwriting was more apt to fool a teacher than a third graders.

I was rather upset with both of them, but wanted, moreso, to take the opportunity to teach my junior forgers a valuable life lesson. Upon sitting them down to discuss the situation, I reviewed that signing someone else's name to something constituted a fraudulent act. They seemed to have already surmised that. And given their humble dispositions, I was able to move forward. I explained to them that adults who were found guilty and convicted of a crime such as this, were sentenced to prison time. And then I began to expound on what prison life was like.

As they listened semi-intently, wondering, I'm sure, when I would be done yammering and would allow them to get back outside to play, I could see the glaze in their eyes. But, I knew they'd "get it" soon enough.

They asked what their punishment was to be and I stood and said, "T and K, you have been found guilty of the crime of forgery and are hereby sentenced to spend the entire weekend in prison." They kinda looked puzzled, as I continued. "You want to be forgers, I will show you what your future holds."

And so, at 6AM on Saturday morning, I got them up for an oatmeal breakfast and told them to put on some old clothes. They were on a kind of "road crew". I had them spend the entire morning raking old leaves out from under the bushes, pulling weeds and doing general yardwork. After lunch it was more of the same. At first, they kinda thought it was cool. A weekend of yardwork was much better than some of the other punishments I could have dreamed up. They thought the old gal was slipping. Ha!

By dinner time, it was starting to sink in. This sucked. I had them come in and clean up for dinner. They got to eat at the table and after dinner, at 7PM, I handed them each a book. As I recall "K" got "Little Women" and "T" got a collection of short stories by Edgar Allen Poe. I told them to each take a shower and get ready for bed. They could not watch tv, or listen to the radio, or play with any toys. They could read until 8PM and then it would be lights out.

By 7:45, you could almost hear the strains of a harmonica on the cellblock. Everyone went to bed on schedule and back up again bright and early on Sunday for more of the same. Working in the fields, and I'd occasionally take them out some water. No fancy food. No visitors. No phone calls. And they weren't in lock up long enough to get any letters from home...though that might have been a nice touch, had I thought about it ahead of time.

In any event, after the second day, they were pretty demoralized. Pretty sure that prison was not a cool punishment at all. And understanding, pretty well, that the matron would have been only too happy to have denied their parole had they deserved more time in the joint. But, they'd repaid their debt to society and were released.

I've never had another instance, since that day, of either of them forging my name on anything. I like that. I like that I didn't have to yell or scream or cry or spank them. That I got my point across in a memorable way. (Plus, you know, I got a lot of yardwork done, too!) They still remember it. They laugh about it. Crazy mother, put us in prison when we were little kids! I'm a pretty firm believer that parents have a responsibility to their children. That they are charged, from the child's birth, to teach them to live independently in the world. Not that they can't be an individual. Not at all. But that, as a society, we have rules and that there are consequences when an individual breaks those rules. So many parents don't take their job very seriously.

I'm missing them pretty badly right now. And I can't wait until they come home tomorrow!


Click here for more!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Off To See The Wizard

It's early on Wednesday morning and, as Bob Seger would say, I'm trying to get my courage up. I'm heading into a rough two days and won't be around much. On the other end of it is a lot of good stuff, so I know it will all be okay. Just wanted to let you all know that I appreciate you and I'll see you on Friday!!

Click here for more!

Monday, March 20, 2006

A Great Entertainer. A Great Humanitarian. And My Dearest, Dearest Friend for 25 Years.

(Before you start, I realize the title probably should have been "Where No Man Has Gone Before". Pretend, if you like. It's likely that only Highlander will pick up on this title. But, ::she says smiling slyly:: that's enough for me.)

I'm not sure I can say I'm a huge William Shatner fan. Oh, I watched my fair share of Star Trek, and then some, on Sunday mornings back in the late 60's and early 70's. And, I've truly enjoyed his recent work on Boston Legal. "Denny Crane, Trix are for Kids... Denny Crane, coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs." Heh. Cracks me up to think of the very dramatic Captain Kirk saying some of the absolutely hilarious lines that William Shatner utters on Boston Legal. But, he's just one of those actors that has a place in my heart more for nostalgia's sake than for profound talent or a significant social consciousness. Or so I thought.

Even if you're not a Star Trek fan, you had to have been tied up in your funny uncle's basement for thirty years if you don't know who Captain James T. Kirk is. Now before you start (especially you Mark), William Shatner is not dead. At least not to my knowledge. (As a side note, when I started typing this, Highlander asked me what I was blogging about. When I responded with "William Shatner", he shrieked like a doomed teenaged girl in a bad horror movie and said "Oh My God! Is he dead?!?!? Is he dead?!?!?" After I shot him in the right thigh with the thorazine dart, I was able to get back to my point.) It's hard not to give William Shatner his props for a lifetime body of work.

Okay, okay, he's made a lot of really crappy stuff, too. I'm sure he'd be just as anxious to forget DEAD MAN'S ISLAND as the rest of us. And T.J. Hooker, too. Let's not forget THAT. Wait, let's do. But he's made a few bucks doing some memorable tv. That much should be pretty undeniable.

William Shatner has always had a reputation of having more than his share of machismo. That's probably why Kirk came across they way he did, and how he can play, so tongue-in-cheek, the over-the-top Denny Crane. But when I ran across a link for this show, I thought he might have gone...too far. Too far even for William Shatner. Changing the world? Hmmm.

I started thinking about all of the cool Star Trek gizmos and gadgets, and decided that maybe it would be a fun show after all. I mean anyone who doesn't see the similarity between flip cell phones and Star Fleet communicators is really not trying. In the last thirty five years, things like computers, medical technology and space exploration (and communications, for that matter) certainly would have been expected to evolve a great deal. But, if anyone can pull off being the sole catalyst for so much advancement, I suppose James T. Kirk can.

A generation of young minds was, irrefutably, influenced by Star Trek. And certainly, the geeks of my generation would have, very much, wanted to bring this world closer to that one. I suppose I just hadn't realized that those same smart young men would be giving William Shatner credit for their inspiration. William Shatner. An actor.

All the nerdy science guys I knew were fantasizing about being Spock, or Bones, or Scotty. Maybe it was just too much to want to be Kirk. Maybe it was like "Hold on there, Mister. Who are you kidding? Kirk with a pocket protector and glasses? Give it up, Fanboy!" I just had no idea they idolized him to this level.

I understand that the show outlined the influence of Star Trek, as it related to various scientific disciplines. Less invasive medical breakthroughs, such as CAT scans, MRI's and lasers were linked back to the Enterprise sickbay's standards. The fact that early computers and software programs (the Altair 8800) had names tied to this fictional show were discussed. A senior astronomer with SETI credited the show for pushing their cause forward to the point where their agency could become a reality. And the non-coincidence in naming the first shuttle "Enterprise" was drooled over by Trekkies working at NASA.

Unfortunately, I didn't catch the show itself. Only a blurb, after the fact. And I've yet to be able to find any upcoming viewing information. Which is pretty disappointing! I will definitely be watching for another shot at it.

And, you's not just science fiction becoming science fact that you can chalk up to William Shatner's influence. There are a few other things that he should be getting credit for...

1) Interracial sex. It was 1968. Most of you were there. White James T. Kirk laid some serious kissage on black Lt. Uhura. Southern TV stations were so outraged, they refused to air the show. So, you know, William Shatner made it possible for white guys everywhere to have a shot at Halle Berry and Tyra Banks. You've just got to be kinda hot and have a lot of money.

2) Furby's! Anyone who thinks those annoying little furry things aren't a direct descendant of Tribbles is just fooling themselves.

3) Music. Shatner recorded his version of the Beatles tune "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" in 1968 and it still holds the record for worst pop recording ever. Inspiring people like Jason Alexander and William Hung to follow in his footsteps, Shatner has changed the music industry (though technically, not for the better), and possibly reality television.

4) PETA owes William Shatner a little gratitude. By helping them get the word out about precautions to be taken in the event of a natural disaster, Shatner shows that his work with alien life forms has taught him to appreciate those non-humans among us.

5) And PETA isn't the only charity on William Shatner's radar, he's coughed up...sorta...a little something for Habitat for Humanity, too. Donating a kidney stone in January of this year, netted the organization $25,000. That's right. William Shatner's actual kidney stone. What a guy!

6) Cos-Play. Sure, it's more about anime' now than anything else, but geeks dressing up at Star Trek conventions is where this stuff started. Though, Shatner himself would be the first to say that these people need to "Get a Life!"

7) Horse-Breeding. I'm not sure, exactly, how up close and personal he gets with this, but in 1997, he won the World Harness Championship with one of his horses. He's as a breeder for many years, possibly leading the way for half-human, half-equine beings everywhere, though I couldn't find much detail on that.

8) Homosexuality. It's not just black women and beastiality for Shatner. His on-the-set relationship with Leonard Nimoy (caught in this poignant photo) helped forge the way for so many other misunderstood gay couples.

And then there's the whole impending birthday surprise thing, which is scheduled to come out on Wednesday (his 75th birthday). This guy has been busy. Almost single-handedly responsible for dozens of major scientific and social advancements, he should be above man's law. Hell, Dick Cheney hasn't done a TENTH of the stuff for society that William Shatner has, and HE can get away with murder. It's so hard to be a benevolent god.

It makes me wonder, what show will spark the next big push? Will there be advances in robotics that will be due to the influence of The Power Rangers? Virtual reality programs with Matrix-y names? Truth be told, I'm a little vexed as to why "The Jetsons" got dissed here. I guess "How George Jetson Changed The World" might be pushing it. Best to just wait around and see what else William Shatner has in store for us.

Click here for more!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Fifty Things You May Not Have Known About Me

(At least forty nine of which won't mean a damned thing to you!)

1) I love to play board games.

2) When I do, I sometimes get a little overly competitive. SOMETIMES.

3) Ice Cream is my favorite food group. (Thankfully, the new low fat alternatives are making my life less barren.)

4) I like buying things for other people, but hardly ever buy anything for myself.

5) MY kids are the center of the universe. (But I'm thinking most of you already knew that.)

6) I usually start planning for Christmas in like September.

7) People say I have a weird sense of humor, but they like me anyway.

8) My first car was a second-hand blue 1968 Ford LTD and it had an 8-Track tape player in it.

9) Whenever a celebrity dies, I'm the first one in my office that people come to with the news. It's like they think I have this morbid streak or something.

10) In the summer season, I will eat fresh tomatoes every day. When I was a kid, I'd take the salt shaker out to the garden and eat them as I picked them...warm from the sun.

11) In fact, in the summer season, I will spend more of my grocery budget on produce than anything else. (Much to Highlander's dismay.)

12) I come from a long line of cooks (and their groupies).

13) While living at home, my freshman year of college (and shortly thereafter), I was notorious for breaking my 2AM curfew. I made it most of the time, but with little or nothing to spare.

14) I am a descendant of Pocahontas.

15) I love the smell of coffee brewing, but can't stand the taste.

16) While I have 11 uncles, 10 aunts and 19 cousins, I have only 1 niece and no nephews.

17) I am the eldest grandchild on both sides of my family. The youngest is the same age as my oldest daughter.

18) My favorite color is pink.

19) I'm a little like my mother, but I'm MUCH more like her mother.

20) I love my dad, but we are worlds apart philosophically.

21) I cry at the sappiest stuff.

22) I wish I were a better photographer.

23) I've always wanted to be able to draw.

24) When I was a kid, I was a powerhouse at kickball.

25) My middle daughter shares my middle name.

26) None of my children were born in the month they were expected. Even now, I (foolishly) expect them to be on time.

27) The first word I ever learned to spell (while in kindergarten) was 'helicopter'.

28) I once was grounded for the entire summer for passing notes in class (in 4th grade) that said my (male) teacher was gay. In my defense, I didn't start the note, but I certainly added to it. I have no idea if the teacher was gay or not. We just didn't like him.

29) The smell of lilacs reminds me of my childhood. (We had a large bush in the backyard and the smell takes me back there, every time.)

30) As a general rule, I like nuts in my cookies and cake, but not in my candy or ice cream.

31) I like winter far more than summer, but fall is my favorite, followed by spring.

32) I lived in New York state for twelve years and have never been to New York City, but I've been to Niagara Falls twice.

33) I love to ride motorcycle.

34) I have seen THE DEER HUNTER more than thirty times.

35) I used to wear a POW bracelet with the name Charlie Brown Davis, Jr. on it. I sometimes wish I still had it.

36) I can't eat in restaurants alone.

37) The first cat I ever had was named Mutorcs (scrotum spelled backwards), but I didn't name him.

38) I have never been fired or laid off from a job. (Talk about tempting fate.)

39) I quit smoking eight years ago. Well, I should say I successfully did it eight years ago. I'd quit smoking so many times before that I can't remember how many.

40) My mother, my only sister, all of my female cousins, and even my 15 year old daughter each have bigger boobs than me. And sometimes, it makes me feel inadequate.

41) Both of my grandmothers died within six months of each other, the year of my 40th birthday. I still miss them so much sometimes, it makes me cry.

42) My rollercoaster days are over. (Take that one any way you want to.)

43) I love the serenity of camping.

44) I regret not finishing college.

45) I don't like flashy jewelry and wear very little of the non-flashy variety as well.

46) I've been a notary public for ten years.

47) As a mom, I've become accustomed to dealing with vomit, snot, and diarrhea. I don't do nearly as well with blood. I will pass right out. (There is an exemption for fake or movie blood.)

48) I've been out barhopping with lesbians. And it was a hoot every time! Though I think my (then) boyfriend enjoyed it more than I did.

49) I once had a car engine catch fire while I was driving. Just whoosh flames shooting out from under the hood.

50) I broke two toes once when I was bolting from a dead sleep to retrieve a crying baby and ran foot-first into the end of a couch.

I'd ask Highlander to add to the list, but I'd be most afraid of what he'd choose to include...;)

Click here for more!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Flashback Friday!

First, I want to say that I really appreciate everyone's thoughtful comments, advise, and prayers/energy/vibes. It's getting better. The PMS is easing up. That may be the biggest factor. It's gonna be a rough week or so, but I'll get through it. I know that the things I am dealing with are, by themselves, not big things, but heaped together, they've made an impressive mound. Anyway, I'm trudging through it. Dealing with what life is throwing at me. And thanking (profusely) whatever entity in the universe sent Highlander to me. (Oh, wait, I totally went and got him, didn't I?) Anyway, thanks again to all of you and know that I'm hanging tough!

So, how about a little Flashback Friday? Time to shake off the sad and try to get things around here back to normal. Well, as normal as they get around here, anyway.

The other day, we were all kind of kicking around the house. My oldest working on an anime' music video she's creating on her laptop. My middle girl cooking dinner for the fam. (She'd been bragging to Highlander that she was as good a cook as her dear old mom, and wanted to prove it to him.) Little Bit climbing on the living room furniture and tumbling back off again. She asked me if she could open the blinds on the big living room windows, so she could look out onto the sunny day. It had been rather cool, and she was recovering from a respiratory infection, so I wasn't anxious for her to get out in it, but it was rather pretty to look at.

She lifted the blinds and seated on the other side of the windowsill was a squirrel. The storm window was not in and he was just on the other side of the glass, eating an old bagel, and looking in at us. To say it freaked me out a little, would be pretty accurate. Likely because of something that happened to me 16 years ago. Cue flashback...

When I was relatively newly married, my (then) husband worked a job where he travelled out of town a great deal. Generally, five days...sometimes seven days...every week. We rented a tiny old shotgun house in a quirky neighborhood. We had two cats (Oscar and Kaboodle) and one 6 month old baby girl. It was a strange little house, but it was fine for us.

My first clue that something was wrong with the house, that fall, was the cats' behavior. They'd be snoozing on the couch one minute and then they'd jump up and take off chasing some invisible being in the wall. While I thought it was odd, I mostly just thought it was that the cats were weird. (Which wasn't anything new.) A couple weeks into this unusual behavior and I started to hear a noise in the walls.

A scurrying noise. ::shudder:: Whatever it was, it sounded entirely too big to be a mouse. ::gulp:: And despite the cats making me feel pretty confident that if, whatever it was, came out of the wall, they'd take care of it in short order, I still didn't like it one bit!!

Within a week or so of hearing the first noises, we noticed a small hole outside in the soffit under our roof at the front of the house. And a squirrel going in and out. As it was November, we figured the squirrel was storing nuts in there and making a place for winter. I liked squirrels well enough at the time, but the thought of hearing that noise in the walls for months was simply not appealing.

I was working at one of the larger heating and cooling companies in town at the time, and when I went in to work the next day, I ventured back into the sheet metal shop and liberated a piece of scrap. The plan was to put it over the hole, when the squirrel was out, so that he/she couldn't get back in. Sure, Mr. Bushytail would have to find a new locale and would lose some food stores, but he wasn't paying the rent...we were!

The following Sunday, my ex climbed up on the roof, after we'd seen not one, but two, squirrels depart (and listened to make sure there were no others still within), and screwed in the piece of metal. Much rejoicing followed, as we were pleased that we would not have to hear the sounds of squirrels chasing each other in the walls (or attic) again. Hooray!! If only the story could end there.

Very early the next morning, my (then) husband left to go back out of town for the week, and I got kiddo #1 ready for daycare and headed out into my work day. Again, as I often was in my younger (and much less jaded) days, unaware of what was in store for me.

My regular routine involved picking up the baby from daycare, heading home, feeding both of us, cleaning her up, playing a little and then off to bed for both of us. As I pulled the car into the parking space in the back yard, I didn't notice the squirrel sitting on the edge of the roof over our backdoor. I got the baby (and her many, many acoutements) out of the car and started walking across the backyard. As I got closer, I could see the squirrel.

Don't ask me how, but I knew it was the female. She just had this look about her. I could just tell. And she stopped me in my tracks. Literally.

She was staring intently at me and my baby. The edges of her mouth smeared with what appeared to be BLOOD. And she had positioned herself on the overhang directly above where I would have to enter the house. Coincidental? I think not. But she wasn't moving. I was trying not to scare the baby and was saying things like "Look, Baby, at the squirrel. Do you see the squirrel. It wants to eat us allllll up. It's a bad mommy squirrel. It's very mad at us." But saying it calmly and a little sing-songy like you do when you talk to babies. Trying not to scare her when I was terrified.

And then the squirrel started making this clicking noise that freaked me out even more. When she started beating her chest like an ape I tore out of there. Okay, she didn't do that last thing, but I was pretty damned scared anyway!! I didn't want to stay outside, but I was terrified to walk under her. If she jumped down on me or the baby, I didn't know what I'd do. I kept staring at her. She kept staring at me. And, let me tell you, you cannot outstare a homicidal squirrel. No way. Can't be done.

It was clear that she wasn't going anywhere. She had a piece of her mind that she wanted to give me. And then, of course, she wanted to eat me alive. So, I eased, a few steps at a time, towards the back door. And finally after about 10 minutes, was able to get into my back door.

After a couple hours, when I'd mustered up a little courage (and figured she'd have given up and gone wherever), I walked out back. No squirrel...whew! I looked out front and noticed that the place in the soffit with the sheet metal, where the hole had been, was gnarled. She must have worked for hours biting through the adjacent wood and pulling at the sharp edges of the sheet metal with her teeth and claws. Her bloody face haunted me. There were babies, you see. She had babies in there. That's why she had worked so hard to get that hole opened back up. That's why she was so damned mad at me.

The thoughts of her knowing that her babies were trapped in there behind a metal plate and that she had to get them out. Had to. Oh, it's still so very upsetting to me.

But we didn't know. Really. I thought squirrels only had babies in the spring. I didn't know they had babies in the fall, too. And I certainly didn't know there were baby squirrels in the attic when we covered that hole.

I felt terrible. Guilty, most of all. But I honestly didn't know that we were sealing her babies up in a tomb. And I didn't mean for her to get hurt either.

Watching squirrels play used to be fun. Chasing each other up a tree or walking across the top of a fence. Even just sitting and cracking open a nut. Very cute stuff. And it still is most of the time, I suppose. There are those times, though, when they get a little close to me, and it just brings that memory of the Mama Squirrel, all mad and bloody and cussing me out righteously, flooding right back. With spring upon us, they're everywhere. Everywhere. And it's freaking me out.


Click here for more!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Frazzle Dazzle

Today, I'm having a rough day.


Have I mentioned lately that Highlander is wonderful? I don't think I have. Well, he is. And I'd be far worse off right now, if not for him. I couldn't love him more if I tried. And I mean that.

I'm swimming upstream in a stress-pool. And I'm tired. So very tired.

This is not a plea for sympathy, I just need to get it out. And, well, you people are always hanging around anyway.

Work is day after day of people piling stuff on and I'm getting ready to blow up at my boss. Not the first time. And after asking me to lunch today, I'm thinking he sees it coming and is trying (in his completely incompetent fashion) to head it off. Fix some of the problems. Take some of this workload off of me. Make some decisions that will make my life easier. Give me a raise!!! Any of these are preferable to spending lunch with you. Nothing personal.

A layer above is a couple of car things that need to be done. I have a headlight out and need to get it replaced. I went to the auto parts store and picked up the one I was told was the right one. I tried to remove the defective one, to no avail. Had a neighbor remove the defective one (after much effort and a few cuts on his hand), but the new one is apparently, not the correct bulb. So, it's back to the parts store (after work today) to get the correct one. Said neighbor said he will be home this evening and will help me with it, but won't be home the rest of the week (and weekend). So, it's got to get done today.

Just ahead of that is my upcoming medical stuff. I have to go on Friday to get a pregnancy test, along with some other bloodwork. Basically, they want to make sure that Highlander hasn't knocked me up, before they julienne (and then deepfry) my innards. Thoughtful of them. Let's just say that it's a wasted trip, as I have indisputal proof (today, even) that would allow us to mark that off the list. So, sorry Highlander. That was your last chance.

Next week, I go under the knife and I'm a little scared about it. Maybe more than a little. And my medical insurance, in all it's abundant compassion, is allowing me to pay a pretty hefty chunk of the cost of this little adventure in pain myself. And that, even moreso than the procedure itself, is stressing me.

Top layer is the upcoming custody issues. The judge has ordered my ex and I to mediation, and that's scheduled for next week, also. The day after my surgery. That should be interesting. I could postpone this. But my girls need me and I'm not gonna let the system slow this down any more than I have to. And, again, more unnecessary money spent to pay for attorneys and mediators.

It bothers me that I'm spending all of my (and Highlander's) available cash flow on these things. Not that they aren't important things. But, that I feel tremendously guilty getting us in so deep. I keep looking at it as getting ME in so deep, and also keep getting (less and less gently...;) corrected. Being told that our happiness and wellbeing is worth whatever it costs helps.

The added stress of knowing that my girls are stressing and counting on me to help them adds to this, too.

Sometime late next week, after the mediation, after the surgery, when I'm off work for several days, and taking enough pain medication to keep me from thinking about any of this, the stress should ease up a little. All that will be left are some pretty hefty bills to pay, whatever will come next with the custody issue (and I suppose I'll know more, and therefore be in more control, after the mediation), the car will be done, and work will be work. Hey, some of this stuff I can't control.

But today...and probably the next several days...are going to be pretty intense for me. I've already thrown something together to post on Flashback Friday, but if, other than that, you don't see me around much, you'll know I'm over here trying to get through the shitstorm. But rest assured, I've got Prince Charming holding my umbrella.

That's it. I'm done. Thanks for listening. Anybody got a tissue?

Click here for more!

Santa Must Die

It's only March. Don't panic. There's plenty of time to find a replacement.

One of my bosses is a little jolly elf-like older gentleman. He is white haired and wears little wire-rimmed glasses and has pudgy pink cheeks and a little round belly that shakes, when he laughs, like a bowlful of jelly.

Leland has been a fixture here at Rupert and McElroy for 40 years. He is a very sweet man and he is one of the few people in this office who portrays genuine interest in the employees working here. He is the first one to take you to lunch and is the most generous of the bosses when it comes to anything monetary. All of the above is why he has, very affectionately, earned the nickname of ‘Santa Clause’.

Now, I’ve only been working here at Rupert and McElroy for a little over four years. But even over the course of those four years, I have seen the steady decline in Leland’s competence. He, at 75, wants to continue to be an active and vital part of the daily operations of this firm. Commendable. Laudable. And, I'm all about having respect for what the older generations have to offer to society as a rule. But on an individual basis, Leland just needs to find another outlet. Mentoring, perhaps. Because at this point, he is piloting this company (with far too many eager co-pilots, I'm afraid), in true John Denver fashion, slamming head-long into the side of a mountain.

Leland’s negative impact on my position has become more and more a regular thing. And I hate that, because I really do like the guy. He’s always been extremely decent to me. I wish he would retire and quit making everyone else’s job more difficult. I know that sounds very ungrateful.

Monday, for instance, I needed to schedule appointments for Leland and Moe (of Larry, Moe and Curly Construction) to meet with seven different residents of Hell. They were going to look into various new items that have shown up on the new lists we are now addressing. I called Leland and told him that I’d like to set these appointments up for Tuesday or Wednesday, and asked him what his schedule looked like. “Wide open”, he said. I said, “Fine, I’ve already spoken to Moe and he said that his only problem would be Thursday morning, but as our response is due back on Thursday, I really want to get this done before that. So, I’ll get this all set up and call you back.” This because Leland doesn’t usually get here at our 7:30AM starting time each day.

So, Polly Professional that I am, I call each of the seven condo owners and, starting at 9AM, get them all scheduled in succession, for Tuesday morning. Which is not easy, because they never want to do it when you need them to do it and you have to beg and plead and try to act like you give a damn, which is, at this point, hard for me to muster. So, I call Moe, and let him know that he should meet Leland on site at 9AM to begin and that I’d email him the schedule. Moe grumbles a little, because I’m starting him early, but agrees to be there on time. And then I call Leland, and let him know the same thing. Except Leland says, “I can’t start that early.” I’m trying not to say anything too snarky. I like Leland. He’s Santa after all. But, I have already called seven people and, working within their daily schedules, have set up a fairly tight plan. And he's being exasperating!

What slips out is, “Oh, I’m sorry, Leland, I must have misunderstood you. I thought you said you were available any time tomorrow.” And he must have picked up on my subtle message, and said, “I know I did, but I really have to get some things done in the morning.” And I said, “Okay, well as it’s 4:00 now, let me start calling everyone back and try to get this all pushed into the afternoon. And I’ll call Moe back, too and make sure that will work for him.” Leland apologized and said he hadn’t realized I was going to have to call and schedule all of this. What the hell did he think was going to happen??? You just show up and everyone happens to be at home on a Tuesday afternoon? AUGH!!!!!

At this point, I’ve done the impossible, once again, and have rescheduled and have contacted Moe and he’s okay with it. Leland seems to be working it out as well. But when Tuesday morning rolls around, Leland comes in here, picks up the schedule for his appointments and starts bitching like my six year old. "I don't understand why I have to do this. Can't you do this, Tammy? I don't have time for this stuff." Grrr!! Shut Up, Santa!

But, this is only one incident in a long, painful list. Recently, I have been asked, more and more, by one of my other bosses to make sure Leland gets "whatever" done. Now, I don't have time to get my job done and do Leland's, too. I told the boss who asked me to do this, if maybe Leland shouldn't be given so many responsibilities if he was no longer able to keep up with them himself. And I get the little pat on the head and the "yeah, yeah" and then, when Leland drops the ball...again...I get that lecture about how Leland is getting older and we all (English translation = ME) need to be making sure that things he is working on get done.

Though he's not alone around here in this respect, Leland is also non-confrontational to a fault. What I mean is that anytime there is bad news, Leland will hand it off to me to deliver. He hates having to tell people something he knows that they don't want to hear. No one likes that. I realize it. But, hey, they make the big bucks around here and I am pretty tired of being the wounded messenger.

LeLand's other favorite thing to do is to assign a task to two (or three) different people, because he's forgotten that he's already given it to someone. We'll find out during the course of getting some report together that someone else is working on the same damned thing. Two of us wasting our time in an office that is already seriously understaffed.

And so, this is why, my friends, Santa. Must. Die.

I love him.

He's an icon.

But, he's overstayed his welcome and he's turned evil. He must go.

It is for the greater good.

Click here for more!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe

Last night, I caught part of a show on tv that disturbed me. And I'm not completely sure why. Well, maybe I am. It was about Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. I must have missed the original airing of the show in December, and I wasn't familiar with these people at all. A (relatively) young couple from Arkansas, he was a local politician until 2002 (though he's running for a senate seat) and she was a stay at home mom. They met in high school and married in 1984, when Michelle was 17. Fast forward to 2006 and add sixteen children. Ten sons and six daughers.

That just astounds me. For a vast number of reasons, I suppose. And I'm not trying to be judgmental, though I suppose it can't be helped to some degree, but I really just don't understand it. When I was much younger, I thought I wanted six kids. I love kids and thought it would be great to have a big family. The reality of what it takes to have a family that size is not the stuff of pre-teen fantasy. The finances alone would prevent most of us from doing it.

On a most personal note, I suck at being pregnant. I get violently ill and have all kinds of weird ailments and then, there's that last one that almost killed me. But, even without that last unusual case, I don't think I could have gone through sixteen (what were normal for me) pregnancies. Of course, I do realize that not everyone has these symptoms at the same level that I did, and that some people (odd though that concept is to me) say that they've never felt better than when they were pregnant. I hope Michelle Duggar is one of those people. If she's suffered like I did through 15 pregnancies (two sets of twins and a miscarriage are included in the mix), she deserves a medal or something.

Now, I love my girls. I truly do. But it's pretty wild at my house with just the three of them. I honestly don't think I could survive raising sixteen kids. Emotionally. If that's admitting a flaw in my character, I'm eager to set the record straight about my limitations.

The Duggars have a system, I'll give them that. They have a master schedule that includes chores, homeschool, music lessons and bathroom usage. The show was about them moving from a 2400 sq. ft. home with two bathrooms into a 7000 sq. ft. newly built home with ten bathrooms. So, I'd imagine that things will be considerably different. Their last daughter (#16) was born during the construction/move. The logistics of a family that size living in a 2400 sq. ft. home were the stuff of nightmares.

As was clearly evident in the show last night (and will be if you check their website), they are pretty devoutly Christian. They say their faith makes the life they have possible. Again, I have no basis for comparison. I'm not sure what kind of faith I'd have to have to do something like that. I'm pretty sure it's not something I want to explore too deeply. Because when I start down that road, I will pass by all the Jim Jones', and Pat Robertson's, and maybe even the Randy Weavers' of the world. And, honestly, I don't wanna.

The thing that kept striking me all through the show was how surreal they all seemed. The smiles that were just too much, the matching clothes (wearing the same color each day makes laundry easier), the way the little children never got upset or caused any problems. Was Stepford in Arkansas? I didn't think so, but maybe I'm wrong. Or perhaps, there's something in the water.

All of the children have names that start with the letter 'J'. Joseph, Johannah, Jill, Jessa, Jeremiah, Jedediah, James, John David, Jana, Jinger, Joy-Anna, Justin, Jason, Jackson, Joshua and Josiah. I kept wondering how far down the list 'Jesus' was.

Does anyone stop to think about how these kids are going to turn out? What impact they will have on society? How can one of sixteen children ever hope to be an individual? To allow any of them to have their own interests would completely derail the master schedule. And, at some point, when these kids go out into the world to seek their fortunes and find true love, won't they be, in some way, handicapped? I just keep thinking they'll need lots and lots of therapy.

And why? Because their parents are single-handedly responsible for the growth of the religious right. Do they feel they have to do this to offset the crack-whores and welfare moms churning out little liberals? It's as if they are competing. And pretty soon, that 39 year old woman is going to have to give her poor reproductive system a break. I'll bet black smoke just billows out of that thing when she delivers. She's got to be in need of a total overhaul.

My dad is the oldest of nine children. He's in his early sixties and grew up on a farm. I'm not sure if the times or the place justify having a family that size. Probably depends on your age and your historical reference point. But in any event, that's a lot of kids. And my grandmother was a small woman. When she was delivering her ninth, the doctor had to do a hysterectomy because of the condition of her organs. You can't tell me that Michelle Duggar isn't doing some damage. A woman's body simply isn't made to withstand the long term, continuous damage to your system that hyper-breeding does.

I'm not going to even mention overpopulation or the environment, though that's an argument that is often referenced in these instances. I'm not saying they aren't valid arguments, just that I'm not sure that individual freedoms are less of an argument. So, maybe, as long as people like this stay in the minority, the impact won't be tremendous.

Lastly, I love being a mother. I really do. It's not the only thing that defines me, but it's certainly the most significant thing. Michelle Duggar cannot possibly have time to do anything else. There is no way that you have time to pursue any other interests when you are raising sixteen children. I believe I am a better mother because I have other interests and parts of me other than being a mother. I believe I am modelling behavior that will help my daughters be better women. And I believe that if all I had time for was to be a mother, they'd suffer for it in the long run.

Once I came across the show, I couldn't change the channel. It was with a mixture of horror and awe that I continued watching. Kind of like looking at a two-headed calf or something. Which sounds mean, and that's not my intention, it was just so strange and I was in such disbelief. Anyway, if any of you are interested, I understand that the Discovery Channel is doing a show on them Wednesday night at 8PM (Eastern) called "Raising Your Sixteen Children". Your hand will be trembling on the remote.

Click here for more!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Hell-ay Confidential

I'm starting this post at 8:20 on Sunday morning. Why am I awake at 8:20 on Sunday morning? Believe me, you aren't the only one asking. Unfortunately, I have been up for an hour already today. I should be snuggled up alongside Highlander, each of us trying to outsnore the other. That is how it should be. But, no. The Hell Spawn have, once again, made their unwanted presence known on MY weekend. It reminded me that I had promised to, eventually, share some of the more colorful residents of Hell with you. (See photo above. No that's not me, Smartass!)

I should probably take a moment to explain that there are, primarily, two very distinct factions in Hell. The Gay Cabelleros and the Dangerous and Demented Drunkards. The first group, though not composed exclusively of homosexuals, is considerably larger than the second. There is also a very small number of residents that fits into neither group. Three (that's right THREE) residents who have never so much as said a cross word to me, caused me undue stress, created a problem for me, or acted in an offensive or bizarre fashion. These people, as you'd imagine, have become quite dear to me, as they are the 'normals' of Hell. An oddity of sorts.

Ironically, none of the 'normals' are there full time. Soldier Joe works at the Pentagon (and is uber-cool) and rents his condo out to a young married couple. (His tenants, btw, have aligned themselves with the gay cabelleros.) The Hills, an older couple, originally bought the condo for their son, and when he decided he didn't want it,they decided to use it as a weekend love nest. And the Carpenters have a very lucrative business in another town in the state, but have branch offices in River City. They use their condo when they are in town on business, or to have a place to stay when they enjoy some of the local attractions. If only, the normals outnumbered the problem children. ::she says wistfully::

The gentleman who woke me Sunday morning is Don. I'm not sure what Don does for a living, but Don is DEFINITELY in the Dangerous and Demented Drunkards faction. Although, I really haven't seen him doing a lot of drinking. Don's personality can be summed up fairly quickly. I believe Don is seeing a mental health care provider.

And I say "Good for him!" I haven't seen the actual paperwork, but after having had a conversation with him, in which he became upset and belligerent with me because he believed (and he was convincing with this point) that contractors were coming into his unit to make repairs, but were "poisoning" the food in his refrigerator while they were there, I was sure he needed to be seeking psychiatric help. He knew they were doing this because they hated him and were trying to get back at him because he'd been rude and belligerent to them. And he wanted our company to reimburse him for the food he had to throw out because of it being poisoned. Uh huh.

Now, I wouldn't put it past them to do something disgusting to his food. But, I honestly don't think they did. But poison? Nah. This man is whack.

Don seems to have good days and bad days. Some days he will call about a problem and be calm and agreeable and easy to deal with. Other days, a similar problem will get an entirely different reaction. He'll be ranting and raving. Threatening to get his attorney involved (for a scratch on his cabinet door) because something happened. This behavior leads me to believe that he may be seeing a mental health care provider who is prescribing medication for Don. The ebb and flow effect is familiar from my days dealing with my youngest ex-brother in law.

Don is having some difficulties getting along with Dan and Katie (Soldier Joe's renters), because Don's girlfriend likes to use the treadmill (directly across from Dan & Katie's condo) at 5AM. Don claims that because his girlfriend is waking them up (and don't get me wrong, Dan and Katie are mad as hell about it), they are deliberately dinging his car doors (they park next to each other). Tune in next week, when Dan finds out that Katie is pregnant and that it's Don's alien love child!!

First, can you believe this bullshit? Second, this is SO not my problem. But I'll tell you when it's REALLY not my problem. At 7:20 on goddam Sunday morning. So, I am on a mission to "teach" Don that I don't answer his calls during non-business hours. I would love to send him the following letter.

Dear Don,

I realize that you believe that buying your condo has entitled you to 24 hour service from our firm. However, you could not be more wrong and I feel I must explain to you, once again, why that is. We are not the company that built your condo, despite numerous conversations which should have made this abundantly clear over the past six months, wherein we introduced to the builder and have repeatedly walked him through your unit in your presence. Further, we, at Rupert and McElroy, cannot repair even one defective item in your unit. So, please call the contractors (whose numbers I am sure you have, because I have personally given them to you many, many times) if you are having a repair issue, especially an emergency, because our firm cannot help you, and you will only cause further damage by awaiting a call back from the architects instead of contacting the company that holds the warranty for your property.

In addition, we are not responsible for your neighbors. Just as we are not responsible to them because of you. Pretty much anybody who can pony up the money to live in Hell, is welcome to do so. Please don't call me when they have parked in your parking spot, dinged your car door, spoken to your girlfriend in a manner you believe inappropriate, left their shoes in the common hallway outside their unit, put out a doormat that you find unattractive, or even flung dog poop at your front door. It's simply not our problem. Walk across the hall and have a talk with them. Perhaps, if everyone behaves as an adult, you'll be able to work it out. I wish you the best and suggest you take your meds before doing so. If this doesn't work, call the police. And please don't call me and ask me to call them for you.

You should also be advised that we cannot stop the rain, sun, snow, hail, or even the rocket's red glare. So, please do not call me and ask me to do so, even during regular business hours. Which brings me to my main point. I am available during normal business hours. My bosses, the owners of this firm, have given you their cell phone numbers and their home numbers, and if you have some emergency that you feel must be addressed by our firm and cannot wait until normal business hours, please call them. Short of that, you may rest assured that I will NEVER be available for your after hours calls. Never. Not one time. I mean it. Further, you are only delaying your petty wants/needs by dialing my number.

Please understand that this is a business relationship. I am not your friend or your mother or your babysitter. And I never will be. I am not in charge of watering your plants, picking up your mail while you are out of town, meeting delivery people, or changing the goldfish water. We are not the "apartment managers" from your old place. You don't get those services here. I hope this helps clarify some misunderstandings between us and that we won't have to discuss these issues in the future.

...but mostly what I do is ignore his calls until I get into the office.

Click here for more!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Postcards From The Edge

There was a time that I thought it would be incredibly cool to have visited every state in this country. Honestly, I still kinda do. I haven't had the opportunity to travel anywhere CLOSE to as much as I'd like to. But, I used to keep a running list of all the states I'd visited and a separate list for each of my kids. This new mapping site was made to order for the nerd in me. And now you, too, can create your own visited states map. Or you can use it to keep track of states where there are warrants for your arrest. Whatever.

South Carolina looks kinda 'dissed' there, doesn't it? It wasn't intentional. Just must have missed it on my extensive tour of the southeastern U.S. But more than South Carolina, I have always most wanted to visit New England. The Maine shore holds much more allure for me than the celebrity of southern California ever will. Seeing the history of Boston is much higher on my thrill-meter than checking out the night life of Dallas (though Texas holds other things I'd love to see). Now, while the Pacific Northwest and the Grand Canyon are pretty high on my list, I could go practically forever without seeing the Las Vegas strip.

It was always a "someday" kind of thing, you know. Someday there will be money to go somewhere. And someday, there will be time. And someday the kids will be older and can do that. And someday you'll have enough time off from work. And long before I reached the advanced age that I am now, I figured out exactly when that someday was. In my dreams.

I suppose it's why I started collecting postcards so long ago. I was such a whore about it, too. A coworker would be going to the Bahamas and I'd be all "Oh, hey, Judy, if you don't mind, could you pick me up a postcard or two? I'll pay you for them." Or my cousin is going to Hungary to compete in the Olympic trials (this is a true story), and he sends letters out to the family asking for money to help fund his trip, and I send him a few bucks and a note to please send me a postcard from Hungary. Which he was totally sweet enough to do, even though he didn't make it to the Big Show. I haven't messed with the postcards much lately, but the itch is sneaking back in.

There are a few of my most favorite postcards on display in the living room. I've got them in these relatively functional frames that I like. Hey, here's a (not terribly clear) picture of one of them. Anyway, the postcards that I have out are some hand-tinted cards from the 30's and 40's. The pastels in them are so nostalgic, they'd take you back even if the pictures themselves didn't. I've got four of these frames in our living room, but have dozens of these hand-tinted cards.

If I wanted to spend the time doing it, I could pretty much change them out monthly and never have the same ones on display for a year. But somehow, if I've got time to change out these postcards, I'm thinking I've got time for a roadtrip. So, that never happens.

Most of my collection is kept in postcard albums and categorized photo boxes, and housed in an underbed storage bin. I'm nothing if I'm not organized.

When I go on vacation, I buy duplicates of the postcards I like. One to mail to friends and family and one to keep for my collection. I've bought them at flea markets and postcard shows. I've gotten tons of them from friends and family who have come upon them any number of ways. And because of this, I have long since reached my first goal of having a card from every U.S. state. (By the way, more of my state collection is from Florida than anywhere else. Those folks at the Florida Board of Tourism should be proud of the job they're doing.)

I really didn't want to stop collecting when I'd done that, and so, I pulled out the world atlas and set about the task of getting one from every country. That should keep me busy for a while. I've actually already got 55 countries, including some pre-WWII cards from Guam (that my ex father-in-law picked up while he was there fighting), Lichtenstein, Lebanon and South Africa. Both the African and Asian continents are seriously under-represented in my collection, but it certainly gives me something to shoot for.

And, as if that wasn't goal enough, I've also noticed that I tend to come across a lot of postcards for small (what I call) Mom & Pop motels from all over the states. Obviously, an advertising tool for these establishments, but they've sucked me in. When I see one, I just instinctively pick it up.

In addition, map postcards have moved way up on my Must Have list. You know the ones that were all the rage when we were kids. A card from Florida with an orange and a girl in a bathing suit along with the state bird and state flower, all juxtaposed over an image of the state with the larger cities noted. I've got about half of these so far.

Others that have been picked up or given to me over the years, and have become dear to me, include humorous or artistic cards, some black and white photographic cards from the late 1800's (including some from an insane asylum...stop by for a visit and don't forget to send a postcard to your loved ones while you're here!) , and some of my favorites that I refer to as those made from unconventional media. These include postcards made from leather, wood, a seed packet, copper, clear plastic, fabric, and a puzzle. This stuff is made to order for collectors who like the quirky. And, of course, I'm definitely in that category.

I've noted some on-line trading communities recently and thought this would be a great way to ease back into collecting at my own speed. I've missed it. The uber-geeky excitement of marking a card off my Wish List when I get it. The thrill of the hunt. Some of my older postcards may be worth a little money. I honestly don't know. I don't collect them because of that. And if I suddenly won the lottery and had the means and opportunity to travel as much as I wanted, I imagine, at this point in my life, I'd still collect them. I suppose collecting anything is more about dealing with a compulsion than anything else. I'm just glad mine is legal, easily accessible and relatively cheap.

Click here for more!