The Oral Report

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

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Location: River City, United States

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

Monday, July 31, 2006

Read Richards(on)!

David Milch, if you're out there, I'm begging you for spoilers! Or, you know, the rest of you punks, if you've got anything. I'm talking about DEADWOOD, of course.

Now, while I LOVE watching the show, I just HATE having to wait a whole week for the next installment. So, clue me in on the following, or anything else that may be relevant.

Richardson: Did you guys see Richardson reading the newspaper last night? Richardson! Reading the newspaper! What is up with this character? He HAS to be something more than the object of E.B.'s stinging dialogue, doesn't he?

The Langrishe Troupe: Why are these people in this show at all? Are they relatives of Milch's? Or, like in the case of Gordon Clap, does he owe them some debt of gratitude for previous service? I just can't see where they add ANYthing to the mix and if they have some pivotal part in how things are to play out, well, I want to see it. Because they are boring me to tears in the meantime!

Wu: Where the Hell is Wu? I mean it. I love watching Wu and Al discussing the finer points of the Chinese culture and language. It never gets old. Especially old school Wu. Sadly, I haven't seen Wu in weeks. More Wu. Less acting troupe cocksuckers.

The Ellsworths: Okay, what is going on with these people? Is he going to forever sleep at the diggings while they just pretend that they're still married or something? Is she gonna get the fatal overdose? And if so, will it be an accident or something more? Is he gonna finally, once and for all, get to put the serious hurt on Hearst that he's owed him for years? Or is he destined to take one on the chin for nice guys everywhere?

I realize that there are only...::sigh::...four more episodes of this show left to air. Forever. And that events have us galloping, at this point, up to a pretty major showdown. But where are all the little side stories going to end up? Will Doc die? Will Trixie and Sol quit pretending they aren't in love? Will E.B. betray Al to Hearst (or Cy Tolliver) before all is said and done? Is Harry ever gonna get his fire wagon?

Worse, with all these dangling bits, what does Milch do? Why he introduces new characters last night. Aunt Lou's son, clearly a distraction at best, fizzled into nothingness. Steve getting his come-uppance by a horse was more than a little fitting. Jane and Joanie getting together had been brewing long enough to be a given. Great. Fine. Wrapping up some of these little side stories. Clearly necessary. But, new characters? With four episodes left?

It's maddening I tell you!

So, I beseech you, dear readers. Theories? Best guesses? True fuckin' spoilers if you've got 'em? I'm gone after the canned peaches, so we can discuss this like civilized people. And there better not be any unauthorized cinnamon on the fuckin' meeting table when I get back, either!

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Friday, July 28, 2006

Flashback Friday!

Day One: Brakes on car are acting funny. Need to take it in and get it fixed.

(Huge Middle Part Full of Un-Fun Adventures Omitted.)

Day Thirty Five: Still no car in sight. The natives are growing increasingly more restless. I fear for where this situation may go.


Reminds me of the journals of sailors on long sea voyages in the sixteenth century. It also reminds me of a story about a former employer. Which, of course, is what a Flashback Friday! is all about. Come along, musn't dawdle.

When I first starting working for Bob Green (real name changed) he was aviationally-challenged. By that, I mean, that he had previously owned his own jet, but had fallen on hard times and had sold it. Consequently, he'd been using (perish the, really...perish it) commercial aircraft to do all of his travelling for like a year or maybe more. He made a point of mentioning it during my interview and letting me know what a hardship it had put on him and his family not to have the plane. Of course, he left out the "because I've had to sit next to common people like you on airplanes when I wanted to take a jaunt to my place in Wyoming."

(Of course, this was the same man who told me "Let me tell you now. 'Please' and 'Thank you'. You shouldn't ever expect to hear those words again." Yep. He was true to his word, too. Four years with him and that was it.)

Now, I wanted to commiserate. Really. I did. I wanted to better understand just how bad it was to have to go from owning my own private jet, and going wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted, to having to wait in lines and deal with the commercial airline industry and it's many endearing foibles. Unfortunately, I, like the other George Bush, was apparently deeply out of touch.

Fairly soon after I started working there, he started shopping for a plane. It had to have a whizzy-gig and a whirly-bob and, of COURSE, he wouldn't even talk about it if it didn't have a whatsis. And, honestly, I couldn't argue with any of those points. Mostly, because my knowledge of aircraft was more than slightly limited. Especially private jets. Out of touch. See above.

And once he'd found that most perfect of planes at the most perfect of prices, he was a happy, happy man. Which, as anyone who is working for someone knows, makes your life a little happier, too. He brought pictures of the plane to show me. The exterior, the interior, the cockpit. Yeah, sure, lovely. Looks like an airplane...only smaller. Joking aside, I thought it looked fine.

He thought so, too, except it needed an all new color scheme. So, the first thing we did, before he ever stepped foot onto the plane was to completely renovate the thing. It seemed an egregious waste of money to me. Especially when I priced aviation-friendly microwave ovens (special power requirements) and they were $20,000. Oh, but he had to have one. You never know when you'll need some popcorn or a warm bagel on your way to Boca Raton. Sheesh. You people are so out of touch.

Once it was all spiffed up, he was jaunting hither and yon. His two grown sons and their families were using it to travel. The plane was staying busy. Oh how wonderful not to have to deal with waiting at the airport, or showing up hours early to go through the hassle of boarding, or dealing with lost luggage nightmares. Foolish, foolish, impoverished me. I had come to accept those things as somehow normal, and all the time, they were completely avoidable. All I needed was my own plane.

Now, that part was the build up.

This part is the let down.

9/11 was a difficult time for a great many people. Not only the day itself, but the subsequent days and weeks, as search and rescue operations were going on and the world was reeling from the events. For me, my world, here in River City, miles and miles and miles away from any of the death and destruction that are associated with that day's events, I had to deal with my own problems.

On 9/11 (THE 9/11), my boss and his youngest son were en route to NYC at the time that the planes were crashing into the World Trade Center towers. Bob's pilot was diverted to Chicago and forced to land. I imagine that's what everyone was being forced to do. Get the planes out of the sky or shoot them down.

It didn't sit particularly well with Bob, but after he'd heard about what was going on elsewhere in the world, he was grateful not to be involved in it, and grateful not to be in New York. He and his son spent the night in Chicago and then, the next day, when the FAA still wasn't allowing anything in the air, he, reluctantly and with much production, rented a car and drove home. A 5-6 hour car trip and I am really still amazed that he did it. Generally, anything longer than 30 minutes and he'd get a driver. But, well, things at the time were pretty higgledy-piggledy everywhere.

Now, that was on Wednesday and Bob's fiancee' was at his home in Boca Raton at the time. And she wanted to come back to River City. Right. Now.

Bob charged me with getting her there. Roughly 1100 miles. Over 16 hours by car. But, well, there was no air transportation available in the country at the time. Let us not forget that. It's a crucial aspect of my imminent failure.

On Thursday, 9/13, Bob called me to find out what time his fiancee's flight was getting in. Yeah, see, it's like this. There was this HUGE thing two days ago and the federal government is not allowing any air traffic whatsoever until they figure out just exactly what the hell happened. She's safe and everything. Just can't get her here.

Oh, Bob didn't like that at all. His pilots had stayed in Chicago with his plane and he wanted me to have them go get her. Yeah, see,

Now, I don't know if Bob's woman was wearing him out about getting back or if he was just feeling 'lonesome' without her. You know, thinking about it now makes me just a little queasy. Anyway, he was wearing ME out trying to get around the regs. For the record, the FAA wasn't having ANY of my stuff back then.

Of course, this became my main priority, so I'm calling airlines every few hours trying to get any seat I could get to get her home. When, on Friday, I found an available seat on one of the first flights back in service, I was rather proud of myself. I don't know how many of you were flying at the time or working in an industry tied to air transportation, but it was a thing.

Bob's morning call, which I'd been awaiting, finally came in and I was pleased to report to him that I'd found her a flight home. Bob, however, was not pleased. Bob was upset because it was not in first class and because the connection had an hour and a half layover. Cynthia was NOT to be subjected to such treatment. I attempted to explain to him that this flight was ALL that was available and that if I didn't ticket it pretty much immediately, there might not be another opportunity for days. He was completely unsympathetic to my situation. I was to find her a first class seat on a direct non-stop flight. Today.

Bullwinkle J. Moose, I'm not. (Though we've both got really big feet, and an interesting grasp on the English language.)

There are only so many things that I can pull out of my hat. A first class seat on a direct non-stop flight from Florida to River City three days after a MAJOR disaster ain't one of them. Perhaps, just perhaps, mind you, it may have been an unreasonable request. (In four years with him, there came to be many of those.)

It didn't stop him from yelling at me that HE WANTED HER HOME, DAMN IT!, or threatening me that he'd find someone who COULD do the job, or even from ignoring me when I tried to explain to him the reality of the situation. I generally argue with Highlander when he goes on and on about my high level of competence. (He'll totally back me up here.) Usually, though, I can get things done. Not this one. Could not circumvent the United States Government during a disaster of historic proportions. It was a very surreal week for me. And not just because a bunch of terrorists had come to this country and killed a whole lotta Americans, either.

In the end, I booked her on the same crappy coach seat on the same crappy flight on Saturday, because we'd lost the one on Friday. She and Bob were both unhappy about my shortcomings in this area. Better, they let me know it. Somehow, I have been able to survive the shame, and have come to terms with my human fallibility and limitations.

Now, while I realize that this may have made a more appropriate Flashback Friday! for some time closer to 9/11, not having my car lately, and thinking about how nice it is to just go out and jump in it and be able to go and do what I want, when I put me to mind of how Bob must have felt. At least I think it's as close to that feeling of him being aviationally challenged as I'm likely to get. Or want to get.

In the moment, I didn't get it at all. I just thought he was a jerk and that his whole insistence on instant gratification was a huge pain in my ass. In a big way. It would appear, though, that the enlightenment has finally found its way to me. If only my car would do the same.

Have a great weekend, everybody! And when you're out driving around this weekend, if it's not too much trouble, take one extra trip around the block for me, will ya? Thanks!


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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Raising Teenagers is Like Trying to Nail Jello to a Tree

and I've even got the button!

My girls are exceptional. I mean it. They are. Without. Exception.

After my last post, you probably realized that I was feeling a little bluesy. Feeling a little sad that my girls were growing up and getting ready to empty my nest. And without me even communicating that to them, they helped me get right on over that last night.

I do think I may have been a little hormonal. Ironically, I don't think I was the only one. In fact, I think Highlander may have been the only non-hormonal resident at Castle Anthrax last night.

After a harrowing ride home, via the Lexus express, I walked in the front door of my home to find that my darling daughters were on the computer and the X-Box and the tv. They all stopped their electronic worship rituals long enough to welcome me home, and then I began my evening routine. I walked to my bedroom to slip into something more comfortable and chatted a little with my oldest, who was sprawled out on my bed playing the X-Box.

"Have you gotten very far on FRANKENSTEIN?", I asked her. Her school assigned summer reading project, that she FINALLY got started last weekend. It needs to be finished by the time school starts...August 16th. I got a look and then a tone as she told me "a little". She continued to play the game and tried to ignore me. I, however, was looking for something a little less vague. "How far? You were nearly on page 50 on Sunday." The tone cranked up a bit and the icy glare replaced the previous snotty glance. "I don't know." Ahhhh, disrespect. That will back me down every time...

AH HA HA HA HA HA....I kill me.

"I want to know how far you've gotten on the book that needs to be finished in two weeks. You've had all summer and you've put it off as long as you can. It's 282 pages. How much have you read?" Now, she's a bright girl. She knows the repercussions for a wrong answer (ie: not enough reading done in the last two days) are gonna be me yanking her off of the X-Box and trotting her off to a quiet corner to read. And she don't wanna. So, she makes a big production out of pausing her game and stalking off to get the book to appease her evil mother.

When she comes back, she has the book with her. "Page 63." She snaps and picks up the controller and resumes her game. "You should be farther along than that, [Kid 1]." "I SAID I'd finish it, Mom.", with the evident "Now get off my back" trailing in the unspoken glare behind it.

I finish changing and before I left the room, I asked her how long she'd been on the game. "Less than an hour. You can ask [Kid 2] if you don't believe me." "Finish out your hour and then get to your book.", I told her, as I headed to the kitchen to start the chicken.

The older two are charged with keeping up with their youngest sister while the adults are at work. And, admittedly, [Kid 3]'s a handful (and a half), so I don't overload them with chores, but I do give them some. Yesterday's list included the following:

1) Clean your own room (the one the two oldest girls share) well. You're going back to your dad's this weekend, so you need to get it done completely.

2) Walk over to the grocery to pick up a gallon of milk. We're nearly out and you'll need it during the day.

3) Do the dishes. All the dishes. (I'd like to add that we have a dishwasher.)

So, when I walked into the kitchen to start supper and saw both sinks full of dirty dishes, on the heels of the attitude problems from [Kid 1], I was moving from simmer to boil. I went back to find the oldest two to ask them if perhaps there had been some reason that my request had gone unheeded. [Kid 2] was in her room watching tv.

I opened the door to find one side of the room looking like I must have just missed the civil defense sirens and the tornado that had, obviously, just levelled the area.

and the other side of the room looking more like this...

I should rename them Felix and Oscar. Really. But, as usual, [Kid 2]'s side of the room was pristine and [Kid 1]'s looked like we needed to call in the search and rescue canines. Though, I'd like to note that in all the detritus, the bed was made. WTF?

Mom that I am, I yank [Kid 1] off the X-Box and instruct her and her next youngest sister that the dishes were not done and the room was not done and I couldn't start dinner and they needed to address it RIGHT NOW!! [Kid 1], in her grumpiest manner, starts picking up her things, as [Kid 2] (who is not happy because she's the one who worked on the dishes early and she doesn't feel she should have to do it again) heads to the kitchen to clean in there.

I'm pretty worked up by now and decide to start a load of laundry while I try to calm down and wait for the kitchen to get cleaned up so I can start dinner. So, I gather up a basketful (which is rarely difficult at our place) and head to the basement. Where I discover a load of clothes in the washer. Clothes that they were to have been washed/dried/folded/put away for their chore THE DAY BEFORE. ::sigh::

So, I put those clothes in the dryer and start the load that I brought down to the basement and as I'm heading upstairs, I hear someone repeatedly slamming the back door. Now, let me note that the back door has a lock that engages by itself and if you don't disengage the lock manually and close the door like a normal person, the easier way to do it is to just slam the door and the lock will disengage. Our upstairs neighbor (the new one) has already mentioned to us that she is bothered because people are constantly slamming doors, so I'm hurrying up the stairs and as I near the top and hear the third or fourth attempt at shutting the backdoor with the slam method, I yell, "I'll take care of it.", with about as much piss and vinegar in my tone as I could muster.

When I round the top step into the hallway, I see it's Highlander. Just home from work and not sure what he's walked into. The smart money would have seen him backing out slowly and spending the night in the vacant apartment across the hall. But, well, he's a glutton for punishment, that crazy, crazy, guy. In his defense, I'm sure that my perception of his "slamming" was worse than the reality. I was simply not in a particularly laissez-faire kind of mindset.

He walked me to our bedroom, where he proceeded to try to talk calmly and rationally to me, while rubbing my shoulders and back. Cunning, I know. I explained to him the chaos that had been the last 15-20 minutes and he asked what he could do to help.

Though I had, by that point, completely lost my own appetite, I got dinner started and went back to my room to lie down on the bed. [Kid 2], not feeling well, had wandered to [Kid 3]'s room (since her older sister was busy cleaning their room) and fallen asleep in her bed. I checked her and, after determining that she had no fever and no complaints other than fatigue, left her to her pre-meal napping.

When dinner was finished, they all sat down for a meal and I worked on trying to remember why I was sad about the end of the craziness in my life. Not ten minutes later, here comes [Kid 3] bawling because her older sister told her she couldn't have a cookie for dessert and she reeeeeaaaally wanted one, but she had a cookie for her afternoon snack, and....AUGH!!!!! So, I'm holding her and cuddling her and trying to calm her hormonal manifestation.

And then, as if lifted from the throes of a hot flash, she blinks over to "I guess I'll have the ice cream instead.", and trots off to the kitchen, where Highlander is finishing his dinner and can facilitate her request. And yet...

Apparently, his faulty, ineffectual scooping techniques set her hysterics in motion again, because I hear, from the kitchen, a grown man justifying his ice cream scooping qualifications to a six year old. Oh, you got it, Folks. The party just never stopped.

She opted to go calm down in her room and, on the way, before she could even get there, [Kid 2] tried to explain to her that she was wrong and shouldn't be upset about scooping issues. Which got them started arguing. Which, yeah, we soooooo didn't need spoiling our 'festive mood'.

So, after I break up THAT fracas, and all the parties are in their respective corners, and I've got about two minutes before the bell will signal the next round, I head out to the back porch for a breath of fresh air. Necessary, 'else I'll kill someone.

I didn't even get my full two minutes before [Kid 3] comes out the back door...still boohooing. I pop her up in my lap and rub her back and ask her what's bothering her today. She doesn't know. She feels bad and doesn't understand why. Ironically, it's the same thing I got from [Kid 2] when I asked what was wrong with her while she napped.

Holding and rocking [Kid 3], letting her work through it the best she could, she came back to something she mentioned to me during a (less intense, but similar) breakdown on Sunday. She missed her grandfather. My ex's dad passed away last fall and I think she's missing him. Which is sad. It's the first person she's been close to that has passed away. I tried to explain to her that he had loved her very much and that she would always hold him in her heart and in her memories. But, she was upset because she was beginning to forget what he looked like. I had no difficulty understanding what she meant. Part of it, too, I think, is that she's leaving behind her toddlerhood and growing into a girl. ::shudder::

"Let's go get that ice cream. Mom will scoop it for you. And I'll get out one of our photo albums. I know there are pictures of your grandfather in there. Then you can remember what he looked like. Will that make you feel better?" And she hugged me tight around the neck and we walked back in.

And while she ate her ice cream, I showed her picture after picture of her grandfather. Pictures of him at Christmas gatherings. Pictures of him holding her sister. Pictures of him standing in the backyard. The peace finally came to her. That was one of them, anyway.

[Kid 1] apologized to me for snapping at me. "I guess I was just in a mood.", she offered. There's two.

A little slower to come around, [Kid 2] later invited me to stay up with her and watch Criss Angel on tv. Nope. Not last night. I was drained. Completely spent. But, I was glad for the invitation.

Long night, but I'd finally gotten the triple. Didn't think I would for a while.

Not usually so taxing around there. Last night they were putting me through all my paces. Checking the calendar, I think it may be cyclical...though it doesn't appear to be lunar...;)

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Turn Around, Bright Eyes

Every now and then I get a little bit lonely
and you're never coming 'round

Every now and then I get a little bit tired
of listening to the sound of my tears

Every now and then I get a little bit nervous
that the best of all the years have gone by

Every now and then I get a little bit terrified
and then I see the look in your eyes

Turnaround, Bright Eyes,
Every now and then I fall apart

Lately, more and more, I've been feeling the mom time being yanked from me. You know? And though I am so much more than a mom, it is such a defining part of me. The thoughts that I have precious little time with my girls before they are off into the world doing the grown-up thing (and leaving me to my own devices) are becoming more frequent and more urgent.

When I was in my mid-twenties, contemplating having children in the first place, I remember that I wanted to have babies. Wanted to love them. Wanted to raise them strong and happy and fulfilled. Still do. This in spite of sound reason to the contrary.

After the first two came, and my life became the chaotic blind-folded knife-juggling and nightly one-legged plate-spinning-before-a-full-house fiasco that it usually is, I remember thinking that I wanted to raise independent children who were prepared to go out into the world...and stay there!

Part of me missed the before time. The lazy Sunday mornings spent reading the paper in bed while eating donuts. The spur of the moment motorcycle rides. Inviting all of your friends over and partying all night. Of course, at the time, I had two in diapers, lived away from all my friends and family, and was working full-time, too. I'm sure that was part of it.

As they got older, some part of me held onto that thought. That someday, someday, I'd have "my life back". The life I had willingly, even eagerly, put on hold to raise my babies. Please don't read that as regret. Far from it. I enjoyed my younger days, but I embraced motherhood with a passion and a purpose and I still do. It's just that, every once in a while, I'd like to strike out on some spontaneous adventure and not have to think about whether someone can watch the "baby" while I do it, or whether I can afford it when I know I need to buy school clothes and take someone to the doctor.

I don't know that I've ever been someone I'd call irresponsible. (Oh, I've had days...sometimes weeks...some of them I even remember...well, mostly remember...) There's just that little voice that lives deep inside of me that wants to be. Not totally. Not permanently. Just, occasionally. When it suits me.

And while that little voice is never silenced, she's getting drowned out by a new voice. The new voice, that is not so little at all, actually, that is asking me, "what are you going to do with your life once your babies are all gone?". It's insistent and takes great pleasure in reminding me that some of those babies will be gone so very soon. The little voice tried to answer, saying "We'll do all the fun things we used to do! All the things we put on hold to raise the babies! Hooray!" Until the big mean voice boomed, "Who are you kidding? You're old now!" So, the little voice from my youth spends it's time cowering in the corners, retreating deeper and deeper.

I wonder what I will do with my time when I'm not shuttling people around or helping with homework projects or reminding people to take their medicines and baths. I wonder how much weight Highlander will gain eating massive amounts of leftovers, as I try to re-educate myself on how to cook for two people instead of five. I wonder if the people who have become some of the best friends in the world to me, the people I have raised to be strong and independent, will need me at all anymore.

While I find myself wanting, badly, to cling to them, wanting to hold them tight to me and smother them with love for whatever time I have left with them (though I realize that my own insecurities are not what they need), I don't. I can't. It's not fair to them. As long as we're being honest, I should say that I find it very hard stopping myself from doing it.

Oddly, I feel such a mix of relief and exasperation with the fact that my youngest is only six. I'll be in my mid-fifties when she, the last one, heads off to college, which seems an eternity from now. Having seen how quickly the other two have grown, though, makes me feel very glad that she'll be sticking around for a while longer. At least I don't have to turn the "mom" completely off for a while.

I guess it's time to start making some plans, though. Some plans for my future. How funny that sounds. I need to think about what I want for the next part of my life. And if there is something I need to be doing now to get ready for it...well...I need to figure that out, too. I'm grateful, and very pleased, that Highlander will be there to help me through it. My apologies, in advance, for driving you crazy, dear, as I learn to back away from the mothering role I've pushed front and center for so long.

It's as though I have the hope of finally finding (guilt-free) time enough to catch up on years of reading I've put off in order to do so many other things for so many others, and, yet, I feel like Burgess Meredith readying for the fall that will break my glasses.

Part of it, I'm sure, is that the girls are going back to their dad's in a few days for a week. Part of it maybe hormonal. But I find that the feeling seems to be staying around, peripherally, even when those things don't apply. Time for me to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, I guess. I've put it off as long as I could. Because, whether I like it or not, forever's gonna start tonight...;)

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Simply Linkatational

It's about time. It's about place. It's about time I put up a bunch of trivial links to rob you of valuable chunks of your finite lifespan which will, ultimately, keep you from much more productive, lucrative, creative and altruistic endeavors. Lifespan that you will never, ever, under any circumstances be able to get back. Are you in?
And, what better place to start than with that thing that puts a foolish grin on my face almost every time. Here's my new fun "sign" generator of the day. Technically, I realize, it's not a sign. It's your chance at recording immortality as you Name That Tune.

While I'm still licking the wounds for being shut out of participation on the panel of wuss-perts who put together the list, I felt it would be some kind of injustice (I don't know what kind, I'm just making this shit up as I go anyway) not to include a link to it. Navigate up and down to see the 111 Wussiest Songs Of All Time. Without giving too many spoilers, I have to admit to liking many, apparently, really wussy songs. And it pains me, truly pains me, to say that Eric Clapton has a song on this list (though it's waaaayyyyy at the end). I suppose it's because I wasn't there to keep it from happening.

Mike Norton enjoys these things almost as much as I do. The ADS, I mean! people... Personally, I was unable to avoid posting this particular ad, due to the juvenile humor it created when juxtaposed alongside the blog title. Yeah, you're right. I didn't really try all that hard. There are plenty of other ads out there, though. Deepdownhound's got some pretty funny ads from the fifties...and some even funnier captions he's added to go with them.

Go. See. Mock your parents' generation. That's right. I'm STILL a bad influence on your kids, and you can't do ANYthing about it either.

If you've been holding out, waiting for the prices of MP-3 players to come down, I've got a little something for you. This is about the cheapest MP-3 player price I've seen yet. If Martha were here, she'd mention that the Christmas shopping season will be here before you know it...

Like the JFK murder (though Bill Hicks may have gotten that one solved) and the Amelia Earhart disappearance, the identity of the London killer known as Jack the Ripper is a mystery that was never solved. Or was it? New (well, sort of) evidence as to the identity of Jack the Ripper revealed...

How about X-3 with hand puppets? Sure. Sure. It would be better if it were animated. But, there are some funny bits nonetheless.

How about cats that look like Hitler? I can't help it. This looks funny to me. Of course, I'm talking about cats that have markings beneath their little noses that look like tiny mustaches. I don't know that I'd make a whole website of collected photos of it. In fact, I think I can safely say I would not. Still. Heh. Ach du lieber, Mein Furrier...heh. Sorry.

In maybe the least appropriate segue of all time, I take you from Hitler cats to an interesting approach to the gay marriage issue? This article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, about privatizing marriage, is an option I hadn't considered. This is one the republicans will have a difficult time with. They'll love the idea of running this through a corporation, but they'll hate that they'll have to come up with another way to keep the godless homosexuals in line.

For anyone close enough, go see the Del Close marathon, here's an opportunity. The creator of 'The Harold', he was an influence in the careers of people like Bill Murray, John Belushi, Harold Ramis, and Stephen Colbert, to name only a few. If you are near LA, Chicago, Boston, NYC, Austin, SLC, Philadelphia or Toronto, it should be well worth the $20 admission to see the improv marathon that is in celebration of a truly weird guy.

That's all I've got. Besides, you've goofed off on the computer long enough. Go do something in the real world! Okay, just five more minutes. But, then I mean it!

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Thank You, Driver, For Getting Me Here

This morning I was afforded another opportunity to use River City's mass transit system. Rare, though those opportunities are. With my own vehicle still out of commission, and any assurances that I'll have it back being tenuous at best, I ventured out into the wee hours today to experience, firsthand, what 75 cents' worth of transportation buys you.

Lucky for me, the route from the stop closest to our apartment (less than a block from my front door) to my downtown office (again, the stop is less than a block from my building) is a relatively straight shot and a single bus journey (unlike Highlander who has to transfer midway on a much longer and much more meandering route...::shudder::...daily).

And so, this morning, after plunking down my fare and grabbing a seat on the already quite crowded bus, I began to look around at my fellow passengers. See, like Lisa, when circumstances permit, I nurture that little voyeur that lives inside me. For far less than the price of even a matinee, I was treated to a number of vignettes. Some, of course, were better than others. Then, there are always those that I feel obligated to "embellish".

Like the clean-shaven man in nice clothes carrying a suitcase, who got off the bus in front of a homeless shelter at 7:00 in this morning. It makes you wonder. You wonder if his life just took an abrupt turn. You wonder if maybe his weekend started out okay and then went completely in the crapper. One too many trips to the strip club, Charlie and your wife told the last time that if you did it again you'd be out on the streets.

I was, literally, the last person left on the bus this morning, so I got to watch all of the other passengers as they went off into their respective Mondays. The large group that got off at the courthouse. Most dressed professionally, who presumably work there, a few more casually attired folks who might have been going to see relatives incarcerated over the weekend.

The three stoners, two teenaged boys and a girl, who were stumbling so badly they were holding each other up as they made their way to the front door of the rehab clinic. I found myself wondering if they were all going for treatment en masse, or which were the escorts and which was the new admission. I hate to quote someone like Danny Bonaduce, but the scene reminded me of something I once heard him say, in a tone that clearly indicated any contradiction of the statement would be insane. "Nobody goes to rehab sober."

The bus driver, who I'd like to note did a superb job routing us through the pre-rush hour traffic in a timely fashion (I do realize I could have done far worse in this department), bellowed a "Good Day to you, Thomas.", back towards the rear doors as an African boy in a McDonald's uniform disembarked. Thomas' own thick accent made it difficult to completely understand him, but I'm pretty sure he was returning the well-wishes as he stepped down onto the sidewalk.

Now, considering that I live with someone who regularly utilizes the local bus system, it was interesting to me that it never occurred to me that people would strike up friendships in this environment, but, just as Thomas and the bus driver had obviously seen each other on a regular basis and become familiar, 'crocheting woman' and 'reading Dean R. Koontz woman' were chatting back and forth across the aisle in front of me. Neighbors maybe, but I'd ruled that out when they had gotten on at different stops. The coworkers angle met a similar fate when they got off at different stops. Bus friends. Someone with whom to pass the time while they ride the same bus each day. Hmmmmm. Interesting concept.

I looked around, wondering with whom on this bus I'd be likely to strike up such a friendship. 'Guy in suit reading Wall Street Journal' wasn't a likely candidate. Oh, I could be surprised, don't get me wrong. Just that someone with interests of that nature isn't someone with whom I'm likely to have much in common. Perhaps 'Goth chick with safety pin in nose' could offer some fashion tips I could pass along to my teens, but I'm just not sure. I know I have something in common with 'Guy bitching about the price of gas forcing him to start taking the bus'. But somehow, the thought of spending every morning having a bitch-fest free for all, didn't appeal. Well, not overly anyway. Frankly, there didn't seem to be any shortage of "characters" (heh, including me) to choose from.

It was interesting to me to think about all of the different people on the bus this morning. Wondering if any of them were irregular riders, only there because of singular incidents. Not knowing which were the ones who 'belonged' on there and which were the 'interlopers'. Each of them on individual tracks that somehow all intersected at the same place this morning, and I found myself wondering where theirs would take them after they were gone.

As we pulled to my stop, the last one on the route, the driver bade me a 'good day'. I immediately mused how it had been well worth the price of admission, not to mention the ride to work and all. I just couldn't bring myself to say it out loud to him...;)

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Friday, July 21, 2006

Flashback Friday!

I know I've been busy this week, but is it really Friday, again? Reeeeally? Don't get me wrong, I'm all ABOUT it being the weekend. It's just that...well...I haven't really thought much about a Flashback Friday! this week. But, I know some of you are expecting to be Flashed! Hmmmmm. Let me think. How about a little something short and sweet from the Mom Vault?

As amazing as it sounds to me, [Kid 1] is about two weeks from having her one year anniversary with her significant other. It's hard to believe that my 17 year old could have been dating anyone that long. Given her history prior to this relationship, one twelfth of that span would have been a record.

Now, as she's making plans and feeling romantic and sentimental, looking back over her relationship, it has me remembering a long ago conversation...

Many years ago, I was a mom to two, two, two daughters, not three. I was working full-time, married to a man who was working full-time, and the girls were in daycare. [Kid 1], who was four at the time, was always (still is) a much more gregarious person. [Kid 2] (18 months her sister's junior) was much more the introspective child.

Generally, speaking, they got along well with others and I never had any of the trouble at the daycare that I know many parents do. No fights. No disrespecting their caretakers. I was lucky, I guess.

There was a day, though, (I guess you saw that coming, didn't you?) when I got a call. The daycare director wanted me to come in for a conference. She didn't want to go into specifics, but indicated that the mother of another child had brought a concern to her about my oldest. She thought it might be appropriate for all of us to sit down together. Of course, I was dumbfounded. I had no idea what my kid could have done. As I agreed to be there later that day, all kinds of options starting playing their way through my mind. None of them in the 'simple misunderstanding' category. I'm far more creative than that.

Now this was back in the day when their dad didn't do meetings or conferences or daycare pick-up/delivery or any of that stuff, or I'd have been very tempted to shirk this off on him. Very tempted. In the end, I did what I always did. I sucked it up and dealt with it. Whether I wanted to or not.

I tried not to think about the impending doom of the situation (and yeah, I was that dramatic about it) all day at work. When I was finally on my way to the daycare, I had decided that my kid was only four. And four year olds make mistakes. We love them. We guide them. We teach them. They make less mistakes next time. The daycare didn't say anything about police involvement, or ask me if I had connections with the governor or anything. How bad could it be?

The children were not invited to the meeting. At least not initially. It was the director, the 'teacher' in the four year old room, me and the other child's mother. The other child was a four year old boy, named Brandon. Brandon was a cute little fella, but I'd honestly never paid all that much attention to him. I hadn't realized [Kid 1] had either. Then again, she was friends with everyone.

The meeting went something like this:

DIRECTOR: I want to thank you both for making the time to come in and talk today. We certainly want to work to make all the children feel comfortable in their surroundings. Brandon's mother has come to us with a concern and we're hoping that parental intervention will resolve the issue. I'm going to let Sally talk to you about the specifics now.

SALLY: Brandon's mother has an issue with [Kid 1] constantly kissing her son. Apparently, this has been going on for weeks. We hadn't noticed it, but everytime the two of them are alone together, they are kissing. We don't believe anything further has occurred, but in an abundance of caution, we feel it best to keep them separate and ask that you speak to your children.

ME: My daughter has been kissing your son? Awww!(see, I'm still thinking that's sweet...crazy me)

BRANDON'S MOM: Yes. And it needs to stop or I'll have to remove my son from this daycare.

ME: Is she doing it against his will or something? Is she threatening him? (I couldn't imagine it, but given the tone, I had to ask.)

SALLY: No. No. She's not doing it 'maliciously'. It appears that she is not aware that kissing is inappropriate.

ME: Kissing is inappropriate?

BRANDON'S MOM: Four year olds kissing is inappropriate and I don't want my son involved in it.

(Now, see, I had gotten myself all worked up thinking that my daughter was poking someone with a stick or saying mean things about them or something like that. But no. She was kissing a little boy. And he liked it. Oh, the humanity!)

DIRECTOR: It's important that the children understand and respect each other's personal space. This sort of thing could lead to other children exhibiting this type of behavior.

(Yeah...ewww! I totally see what you mean.)

ME: Okay, let me say that I'll talk to my daughter. I don't want to create a problem for Brandon here. But we are all aware that two four year old children kissing is not a big thing, right?

BRANDON'S MOM: It's HIGHLY inappropriate.

ME: Okay. Can I talk to [Kid 1] now?

SALLY: Certainly. Let me get her for you.

So, as everyone leaves and [Kid 1] comes in, I'm left with the reality that I have to have a talk with my child about why kissing is wrong. The thought of diminishing the sprite in her made me sad. In fact, I've tried to let my girls hold onto that part of themselves always.

ME: Hi, Sweetie! Did you have fun today?

[KID 1]: Hi, Mommy! Is it time to go home?

ME: In a minute. I need to talk to you about something first, okay?

[KID 1]: Okay.

ME: I had to come and talk to Sally and Brandon's mom today. Do you know why?

[KID 1]: Nope.

ME: Sally and Brandon's mommy said you two have been doing a lot of kissing lately.

[KID 1]: Yeah.

ME: So, what's all this smooching about anyway?

[KID 1]: Well, Brandon said if I kissed him, he'd get me a Barbie car. And I really want a Barbie car.

(Okay, this was going to be a whole different discussion than I thought...)

ME: [Kid 1], I don't want you to think kissing is bad. Because it's not. Kissing is nice. But Brandon's mommy doesn't like you doing it with Brandon. She thinks Brandon is too little to be kissing girls yet. So, you shouldn't do it with him anymore, okay. Because, we don't want to get Brandon in trouble, right? And Sally says that there's no kissing at daycare, okay?

[KID 1]: Okay. ::pause:: But what about the Barbie car?

ME: Yeah, that's the more important issue to me, too. You see, kissing is nice when you're kissing someone you like. You don't kiss someone just because you want something, especially merchandise, from them. That makes kissing wrong. I know that's hard for you to understand right now, and that's okay, because you've got a LONG time until you need to worry much about this stuff, but we don't give boys affection so that we can get something back from them. It makes the whole thing a lot more tawdry. So. Kissing is good, when it's with someone you like, and it's not because they've promised you a Barbie car, but we're not going to kiss Brandon at the daycare anymore. Get it? (I hope)

[KID 1]: Okay. ::pause:: So, do you get a Barbie car?

ME: You save up your allowance and buy your OWN Barbie car. You don't need anyone else for that. Now let's go get your sister and go home. Okay?

Ahhh, motherhood. There is, quite literally, never a dull moment. Especially when your four year old is selling herself for a Barbie car...;)


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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Righteousness and Indignation

Freshman Philosophy 101. I remember the first day, walking into class and the professor asking us "Would you, personally, kill a child on national tv, if it meant saving 100,000 people?" Well, my interest was definitely piqued. As a seventeen year old, I simply hadn't had many discussions of this type in my short lifetime. Certainly, none that started with such a controversial premise.

And it is a controversial premise, isn't it? I mean, it would be morally wrong to kill a child (whether or not you did it on national tv). But, wouldn't it be morally wrong to allow 100,000 people to perish, when you had the ability to stop it and didn't? Tricky, tricky stuff for the philosophizers, let alone the common man, as there is no right answer. After a week of discussing the topic, the answer that the majority, eventually, came to agree on was the one that would do the greater good for the greater number.

Now, we didn't hold elections or nominate committees to decide for us. We each had to come to terms with it ourselves. One man/woman. One vote. Twenty something individuals with varying economic backgrounds, different ethnic and cultural histories, numerous religious ideologies.

In the end, it had not been a uninamous decision. I remember one girl becoming so incensed during the debates that we could "even considering killing a child". She was screaming and crying as she begged for the life of the innocent. Of course, none of us thought, for a moment, that it was an easy decision. We all realized there were far-reaching consequences with either option.

Obviously, if we were willing to become a society that would kill a child to save the thousands of lives today, we would have set ourselves on a path that would make it possible...Hell, likely...that we would do it again. Did we really want to become that kind of society? Were we willing to be so callous about killing?

This, in the proverbial nutshell, is how the right views the very controversial subject of Stem Cell Research. At least, that's my understanding, looking at this from a more left-ern view. Embryonic research has been going on for decades, and we're not talking about fetal farming at this point.

I've been watching, with more than a little interest, as Bush has, as he promised, vetoed the recent Stem Cell Research legislation. It has taken me back to my college days. Back to thinking through the moral implications. Remembering that there are so many different viewpoints and that each of them has a voice. Ultimately, realizing that doing what is in the greater good, devoid of religious doctrine not adopted by everyone, if agreed by the majority, is the course we, as a society, must traverse. Understanding the righteous indignation some will feel, but trying to help promote knowledge and hope for the masses through another, albeit curvy, route.

Medical research can move very quickly when unimpeded. All of the research up to this point has shown that there is a vast potential for embryonic stem cells to help hundreds of thousands of people. People with cancer and Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injuries and diabetes. Diabetics alone, whose ranks have been on a rampant increase in the last ten years, now number at roughly 20 million in this country. They only comprise a part of the group that could be helped by continuing this work.

Please take a minute today and write your congressmen. Check their voting record on this issue. If you don't know how to reach your congressmen, this link will help. Simply put in your zipcode and you will get links to all of your representatives. Urge them to remember that while it is not an easy choice, they are obligated to do what is in the greater good. Don't forget to remind them that your vote is at stake, as well.

Everyone knows someone who could benefit from this research. That is the power we have to wield. Don't let the entropy that we are so often willing to engage diminish that power.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Swerving All Over The Road

Today, I've got all of these random bits swirling in me noggin', trying to get out. None of them enough for a blog post, but mayhaps, if I throw a little of this in with a little of that, it will develop. Nothing I want to get too serious about. Not today anyway. In the meantime, how about I clear stuff out a little? You can help sift. If not, it may be safer for you to wait in that ditch alongside the road. Deal?

* Yesterday afternoon, my seriously self-conscious middle child called me at work. She's been making some progress, lately, on being more comfortable in her own skin. Always hard for teenaged girls, but she's had a tough time with it. It's been difficult for her and she still kinda comes and goes with it. Sometimes she gets really shy and really hates anyone bringing attention to her, other times, she's as open about things, I guess.

Anyway, yesterday, she called me and announced, "I feel like I look really pretty today, Mom."

I kind of laughed into the phone. "Well, that's great. I'm glad you called to share that with me."

"No, Mom, I mean I really look good today."

"Great. I'm glad you feel good about yourself, Sweetie. Are you calling everyone with this news?"

"Mo-ooom! Do you think you can borrow the digital camera from work, so that I can take some pictures while I'm looking this good."

Heh. I guess it was a limited time offer kind of thing. But, honestly, I'm digging on the improvements in the self-confidence area for her. And stuff like this just cracks me up!


* Last night, [Kid 3] was looking for a big cardboard box. She wanted something to convert into a little dollhouse. The elaborate one that her dad and I made (for [Kid 2] actually) is still at her dad's house, and while she has PLENTY of toys at our place, there's no dollhouse.

I had a terrible headache most of yesterday and was of little or no help. Highlander, though, always at the ready for his females, started scouring the apartment and then the basement. When he came up dry, she was a little disappointed. She didn't whine or make a big show of it, she just had the 'unhappy eyes' and the slighted hint of lower lip protrusion. Which, of course, sent Highlander out into the world. "I shan't return without that which the Princess most desires.", he announced as he mounted his steed and lowered the visor on his helmet.

He wasn't gone long before he was back with a ginormous box. Which, of course, made [Kid 3] scamper and twitter and sparkle. She threw her arms around him and beamed up at him and it was over. He was so gone that he may never be back. All I could do was to sit and watch the contortion as his body involuntarily wrapped itself around her teeny tiny outstretched pinky. It was the most amazing thing. Really.

After helping her cut windows and doors into the Barbie mansion, she immediately started filling it with dolls and furniture, decorating the outside, and generally having the very BEST time with it. Which, of course, only juiced him up more.

At one point, he turned to me and said, "I can't believe she's getting so excited about a cardboard box." I wish my head hadn't been hurting so much, I'd have loved taking pics of the two of them. Her flitting excitedly as she played with her cool new 'toy', him glowing as he watched her. Sometimes there's so damned much 'first time dad' coming off of him that it's blinding.


* "Bobbing, hairy man ass". Are you familiar with the phrase? I wasn't myself until recently. But it's one I've learned while I've been thoroughly enjoying my Bill Hicks' cd that Tony Collett brought me recently. I wasn't sure what I expected, but somehow I thought probably more political stuff than anything else. And while there is some political stuff on there (Gays in the Military - "Anyone STUPID enough to want to be in the military should be allowed in. End of discussion."), he does a lot of off-color stuff as well. Yeah. I know. I'm easily amused sometimes.

Frankly, I was really yucking it up over some of this stuff (going as far as making Highlander sit through part of it because I thought it was so funny), but I kept thinking, "There is NO WAY that Mrs. Collett is a fan. No. Way." This has GOT to be a private passion for Tony. Tony, I DARE you to disavow me of that notion.

While this guy has several cd's out there, it's with some sadness that I note that he's been dead for over ten years.


* [Kid 3] and I have been talking about me becoming a grandmother lately. I know a lot of women would take issue with that. Not so much, me. And let me just note that my six year old is not currently seeing anyone and has no plans (other than a tea party) in the foreseeable future.

I've been lamenting about her growing up on me and leaving me baby-less. It's just that sometimes, when I'm lying in her little bed with her and we're reading bedtime stories, I realize that I only have a little more of that left. And with me being out of the baby business, I won't get the chance again until I'm a grandma. So...while I'm in no hurry for my older girls to be out there getting jiggy with it...I already can't wait to have some grandbabies.

[Kid 3] and I have been discussing her role as an aunt and how her older sisters will be the aunties to her children. A concept she's having some difficulty fathoming at six years old. Which, of course, only adds to the amusement factor of the conversation, as far as I'm concerned.

Eight to ten years is gonna be a long ass wait. Especially if I'm already counting down. Of course, I can probably figure out a few things to do while I'm waiting...


*...Stuff like torturing Highlander. I'm working on a little surprise for him. The other day, he came up behind me while I was on the computer working on said surprise and I had to cover the screen with my hands. I don't usually do that.

I had to explain to him that I'm working on something, which, at this point, may not even come to fruition. If it does (and I won't know until January/February), I may need to tap a few of you for a favor. But that it was something about which he did not get to have information for a while. When he found out how long, I thought he would die. I have to admit, it's a long time to wait.

I'm pretty sure there is no WAY he can guess the surprise. But it should be genuinely cool if I can pull it off. Those of you in the know would likely agree. Everyone keep your fingers crossed.

Until the first of the year would be good.

All I'm going to say is 'Hang in there, Highlander. I love you, Sweetie.'


Not much else right now, gang. Oh, sure, there's work stuff and some politics and even some stuff going on in my personal life. None of it that I want to talk about today, though. I suppose I should start thinking about Flashback Friday!, huh? Eh...maybe tomorrow. This IS the lazy days of summer, right?

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Lights, Camera, Action...

While I am unbelievably busy today, I've had something on my mind and wanted to put it here, before the feeling passes. (Don't worry, I'll wipe all the goo off of it first.) It's one of those things that you can hold in your heart indefinitely, you know what I mean?

Yesterday evening, my girls came back from a weekend with their dad. They seemed to have had a good time and everyone was all bubbly and upbeat. Highlander's friend Bane had dropped by (I'll let him get into the details on his own blog, should he so choose; they really aren't relevant to this story), and I'd cooked a big Sunday dinner, as I usually do when the girls are coming back from their dad's. I'm always so excited for them to be home and it's one of the ways I express that, I guess. Highlander had invited his friend to stay and we all had a nice time together.

As Highlander had filled the kiddie pool with fresh water early in the day (in anticipation of [Kid 3]'s arrival), after dinner, I asked her if she wanted to slip on her suit and go play in the water for a bit. She was tickled to do so and I excused myself to go sit on the porch while she did just that. It couldn't have been three minutes before Highlander and his friend joined me there.

I was sitting in one of the chairs on the porch, while Highlander was sitting on the porch swing. He was watching [Kid 3] intently. At one point, asking if she wanted some pool toys and trotting them out for her, before returning to his perch in the swing.

The look on his face said a million things. It said contentment and bliss and pride and joy and happiness most of all. I'm afraid I'll be completely incapable of adequately describing it, but it's as if I imagine a tiny movie camera inside his head, capturing the moments sometimes. Perhaps because he's a writer. Perhaps because he's a very sentimental guy. I'm not sure. But, sometimes, you can see him remembering something, even as it's happening.

Watching [Kid 3] splashing around in her little pool, was one of those moments. And I could see it all over his face. He wasn't talking. He was just watching. With that adorable look on his face. The smile. The twinkling eyes. Taking it all in and filing it in a place that, years from now, he'll look back to. I realize that we all do that. But, we don't do it that way.

What I mean is that I have lots of memories of my kids. Memories that I treasure. But I don't think I made a conscious effort, with any of those memories, to mark them as they were being made. I don't remember ever thinking, as I was involved in a situation, "This is something that I want to always remember," or that "I don't ever want to forget how my kids look while they're building a snowman." I do want to remember those things, but I'm generally so caught up in the moment, I don't think much about the relationship I'll have with that memory in the future. Highlander does. Not constantly, but often.

To see the look on his face, while you know that he's marking some special moment that he'll play back years from now in his mind, is touching. It's MORE than touching, it's intimate. It's intimate at a level I've never experienced before.

He loves these kids. I mean it. He absolutely loves them. And don't think I don't realize how lucky I am to be a divorced mom of three who meets a man who so eagerly steps into a relationship with a woman in that situation. And who does so with such a tender and generous heart. Because I do realize it. I realize it everyday.

But, I have to say that it is the most splendiferous feeling to know that these little mini movies that he is making in his head...these little featurettes of me and the girls...are something I've been able to give him. So, those times, when I glance over and see that look on his face...the look that tells me that years from now, there will be a time when he'll conjure up the images of [Kid 3] pouring water over her head in a tiny blue plastic pool, and he'll remember this very moment...are simply priceless to me.

I'm sure he'll have to remind me about them when I'm old(er) and gray(er). Luckily, I know he'll be able to recount them in intricate detail. Me, I'm just enjoying watching him as he records them. All those little moments that I so easily take for granted every day are each such treasures for him. It's an amazing gift to see how special these little fragments of time are in his life, and to watch as so many of them are recorded safely away, awaiting a time when he can tell [Kid 3]'s daughter how HE used to watch her mother splashing around in a tiny blue plastic pool when she was just six years old.

So...when I see that look come over his face...I can't help but just stare at him and smile. Getting a little misty, knowing that his mental camera is recording yet another happy memory for him of our life together, but totally sucked into watching him as he does it. You know me. I'm always a sucker for a happy ending...;)

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Friday, July 14, 2006

Flashback Friday!

Here's a funny bit. I started trying to figure out what I wanted to Flash! about this week and went, "Wait a minute, have I already done that?". I've done so many of these now, I fear I'm gonna do that other thing that geezers do. Repeat myself. Bad enough I'm subjecting you to my Flashbacks!, now you're at risk of getting my Reruns! So, I checked back over my archives and I think you're all safe from

This little tale is from my high school days. During a time when I was running in a pack of four girls who were my closest friends in the world. I'm actually still fairly close with one of them. In fact, she's been known to wander through here from time to time. This particular story, however, does not feature her. Luck of the draw, I assure you. As there are plenty that do feature Dee. Taking those to the grave, though. Cross my heart...;)

Most of the fun centered around the fact that my friend PJ had the most envious of living arrangements. And while we were in high school together, PJ, Dee, Robin and I made the most of that situation. You see, PJ had an older brother who was away at college (even during the summer months) and her parents had a houseboat on a lake many miles from River City. EVERY weekend during the summer, PJ's parents were away. Every weekend. And almost every weekend during the summer, we all spent the weekend at PJ's house.

There was no curfew. No one telling us we couldn't have boys over. No one stopping us from emptying the liquor cabinet. No one telling us what to do at all. There were even times that we actually spent the night in that big house, too. Of course, none of our parents knew that her parents weren't there, nor did they have any clue about all the things we were doing. We were simply four seventeen and eighteen year old girls turned loose in the big city. Then, I thought it was the best thing EVER! Now, the idea that my own (similarly aged) kids would be in that situation scares the SHIT out of me!

While there are many, many, many, many, MANY debaucherous adventures from those summer weekends, some of which will NEVER see the light of day on a Flashback Friday!, I wanted to share one that I felt truly illustrated how most of those weekends went.

Robin and PJ were the only two of us that had cars in those days, and as Robin lived closest to me, it fell to her to chauffeur me over to PJ's on this particular Friday evening. After sitting around talking and watching some tv, Robin remembered an invitation she'd received for all of us, and asked if we were game. PJ wasn't interested, but it sounded okay to me. (I'd just like to note, for the record, that most of the wisdom I have now, came AFTER my college days.)

A rather good-looking fellow we all knew had invited her (and any of her friends she wanted to bring in tow) to his house for a "midnight swim". You see, his WIFE AND KIDS were away at her mother's for the weekend, and I suppose the idea of having a bevy (or is it a 'brace'?) of scantily-clad teenaged girls spend a little time with him was somehow appealling. We'd all met him previously, and he was certainly affable enough. The allure of having the opportunity to do something we knew our parents would disapprove of made it sound all the better. Oh, we were wild, wicked girls, all right. Or we thought we were anyway.

Tricky plan, though, because Robin's ultra-conservative parents lived directly across the street from him and would be HIGHLY suspicious if they knew their young daughter was visiting this married man in the middle of the night. So, she and I decided to make a plan. And at that age, there are very few good plans. We slipped into our bathing suits and headed over to her neighborhood. After covertly parking her car on the next street over and cutting through someone's backyard, we found ourselves poolside.

He seemed to be pleased to see us and we all spent some time swimming in his pool under the cover of darkness. And we thought we were sooooo cool. Stupid kids. We had a couple wine coolers, laughed and flirted a little, but nothing notable happened. Seriously. It's not that kind of Flashback! Frankly, at the time, it didn't occur to me that he may have wanted more to happen. Not that I was so naive, just that I wasn't as good with the signals then.

At about 4AM, Robin and I decided to head back to PJ's and crash for a while. So we serpentined from his backyard to our car, removed the brush we'd used to camouflage it, looked around to make sure there were no pesky witnesses to dispose of, and then started the 3-4 mile trip back. About half way there, the car sputtered, stalled and died.

Great. It's 4AM. We are two teenaged girls WEARING BATHING SUITS broken down by the side of the road. Not much traffic going by to help us at that time of the day, and, well, we were afraid of what traffic MIGHT stop to help us, if you know what I mean. Worse, Robin didn't want to leave the car because her dad would be travelling this road in two hours and would pass by the car. You know, the car that was supposed to have been parked at PJ's house where her parents had tucked us all into our little sleeping bags many hours prior. She was worried she'd get into all kinds of trouble and be excluded from future antics at the house of PJ.

I kept trying to get her to just walk to PJ's and then we'd have PJ drive us back (with some helpers) to push the car off the road and we'd deal with it the next day sometime. But she was so upset and nervous, she just couldn't see any logic in my brilliant plan.

We'd been milling around the car, me mostly talking, her mostly freaking out, for about fifteen minutes, when we saw headlights pulling off the road behind us. We couldn't tell much about the vehicle except that it was large. Definitely larger than her mustang. And, before they even opened their doors and got out, I was getting a lump in my throat and could feel my heart beating faster. Part of that was probably because she'd been so upset that we hadn't even seen or heard them approach until we noticed the headlights that were maybe 15 feet from us.

One man got out on either side of the vehicle, and they headed towards us. From a distance, I could see uniforms and then started fearing police involvement in what was rapidly turning into a very bad dream. But, they weren't cops. There were paramedics. And they were driving an ambulance. The comedic notion of an ambulance stopping to help us, took the edge off for me (except for the fact that I still couldn't believe this was happening to me while dressed in a bathing suit...but...whatever), but Robin was still pretty shaky.

After looking at the car they advised that it appeared to be out of gas. Now, BECAUSE THEY HAD SOMEONE IN THE BACK OF THE AMBULANCE (I still can't believe they stopped and looked at the car when they were en route with a patient!!!), they couldn't really take us somewhere and bring us back. So we piled into the front seat of the ambulance (and it was quite cozy as I recall), had them drop us off at PJ's subdivision, and, after giving us their phone numbers (I don't think either of us ever called them), they left to finish their run. (I'd forgotten, until I wrote this, that PJ kept a key outside for us. Dee may have had her own, I can't remember.)

Waking PJ to have her help us get the car home was fun. She was furious with us because of the hour, but Robin was pretty adament that the car HAD to be off that road before her dad went to work at 6AM. And she was freaking out so badly that it was hard to ignore her, no matter how much you wanted to. PJ, Robin and I stopped at a gas station to pick up a little fuel, headed to her car, put it in and rejoiced when it started right up. Robin drove it back to PJ's and we all crashed happily ever after.

Another teenaged crisis narrowly averted. For that day...


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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Life's Little Treasures

There's a little Chinese restaurant about three blocks from my office and when I find myself immersed in things at work, around the noon hour, I've been known to stroll down Main Street and pick up a little chicken broccoli from them. They do a pretty good job with it, so passing up five sandwich shops, an Italian place and a Mexican one, isn't too difficult. It's especially easy when the weather's nice.

Though, it's a little gray out there today, the clouds are holding and, as I'd feared, my day is making every attempt to consume me. So about 1:15, when I decided there was no way I had time for a real lunch break, I trekked up the street to grab a little carry-out to bring back to the office, so that I could work on a project that I need to get out of here on Tuesday, and which is far from ready.

I'm very glad that I did.

My office is situated in a 3-4 block area of very busy tourist attractions. As such, and especially in the summer months, there is a flurry of people outside. Or, for a people-watcher like me, Free Entertainment.

About a block before I got to them, I could hear a large group of young children shouting. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but periodically, they'd all cheer and clap. As I got closer I got to see, what I'll assume was a day camp group. They were on the opposite side of the street, at a city bus stop. The group numbered about twenty and the kids looked to be about 10-12 years old. As traffic passed them, down Main Street, they'd SHRIEK for the drivers to honk their horns for them and give the universal one hand trucker's pump to signify their requests.

Many drivers didn't pay any attention to them or deliberately ignored them, but when they did finally persuade one to 'play' for them, those kids were jumping up and down and cheering and clapping and it was so cute you couldn't NOT smile. As I neared the corner, the traffic light changed and an 18-Wheeler, that was destined to pass them as soon as the light changed, was situated at the front of the line of traffic. He saw the kids yelling for him to honk and he waited. He waited until three ladies were crossing right in front of him.

And then he hit that air horn. LOUDLY.

And those ladies jumped two feet. The kids ROARED. I chuckled a little. And as I looked at him, he was smiling the most innocent smile I've ever seen a truck-driver muster to the ladies he'd just frightened. The looks on the faces of those ladies were priceless. From legitimate fear as they looked at each other, to anger, as they looked at him, to motherly affection as they turned to see the group of kids cheering for them. Any anger they had melted almost instantly, as they couldn't help but join in the laughter, too.

On the way back, the kids were still out there. And while I didn't get a repeat of the previous hijinx, I did see them convince about six cars, in succession, to honk for them. And they were practically dancing to the music. The kids...not the cars. Sometimes it's sweet to see what a difference the smallest gesture can make. I could hear them yelling and cheering all the way back to my office.

I couldn't help but feel good. Your heart would have to be pretty hard not to. I wonder if you could bottle that stuff?

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Blogger-Proofing Your Home

Recent events have caused some upgrades in our home that I wanted to share. I hadn't even considered that I needed these upgrades until the necessity was pointed out to me by a well-intentioned (and very witty) friend.

In our full bathroom, we've installed a small cabinet. It houses the following emergency type items:

Obviously, we're now ready for another get together! Though, before stopping in for a visit, it may be helpful to take this little quiz. It could prove beneficial to some of you. I'm not sure...;)

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Feeling a little...anxious

Though I've been dealing with a bit of anxiety in my own life the last few days, as has Highlander, a good friend has been dealing with a much more significant bout of it. And I've got to say I'm more than a little worried.

As the best I can do, long distance, is to shake my virtual finger and say "Slow down and take a deep breath!", I wanted to not only do so, but to give all of us a few reminders about the benefits of reducing stress.

My blood pressure doctor would be proud. He might give me my very own sphygmomanometer!

Okay, so the world is biting your ass. Worse, it's not even one chunk at a time, it's coming in waves of multiples. Your head is spinning as the worry defeats any efforts your brain makes to focus on tackling one foe problem at a time. Where will this lead?

Why it will lead to you taking blood pressure meds, of course. They will help the throbulating headache that feels as though the top of your cranial area will be hoisted skyward in 3...2...1...

Once you've gotten your brain back on your team, you will be better capable of surviving the onslaught. Let me suggest a few helpful tips:

1) Don't ignore signs of physical discomfort. Yes, you have 4,396,812 things on your plate. Yes, 4,396,810 of them are critical. Yes, you can live with that tingly arm thing while you deal with the screaming child beating you with the tire iron as you change the flat in the middle of rush hour traffic when you're late to family court where you will be asking the judge to intercede with an ex, and then rush by the office for a meeting with your boss about the financial ruin of his company. Because if you do live with that tingly arm thing while you're dealing with...all the may not be doing it for long.

What I'll suggest, and I'm no doctor and I don't even play one on tv, is to resolve the health-related issues first and to do so as quickly as possible. You are going to be in a much better frame of mind to tackle the other issues, if you are not dealing with discomfort (which will only INCREASE your anxiety).

If you need your pain killer of choice (and by that I mean aspirin, ibuprofin, etc.), take it. If you need to see a doctor, DO IT! And follow your doctor's orders when you do.

2) Along with taking care of the physical, I want to include sleeping. I, most assuredly, understand the difficulties one experiences with sleeping when stress is eating at you. However, it is a most vicious cycle as the less sleep you get, the higher your anxiety level will creep. You will be less able to deal with the problems causing you to lose sleep, if you don't figure out a way to get some sleep. Terribly, painfully ironic, I know.

Try a glass of warm milk. Try soothing music. Try a lavender bubble bath. Try a really good massage (you'll need a buddy for that one). Try boring tv. Cycle your brain into some downtime, so that you can be recharged for the next round.

3) Avoid caffeine. I know. I know. You aren't sleeping well. You NEED caffeine to function. Uh uh. Figure out another plan. Break the cycle.

Caffeine has so many undesirable health side-effects, not the least of which is making us jumpy. When you are dealing with stress, caffeine is not going to be your friend. It also will confound efforts you are making with getting more sleep.

Might I suggest greatly increasing your intake of H2O instead? Water will help flush the toxins out and make you feel more invigorated.

4) And now that you're drinking a little more healthy, give your body a little more help, by eating better. Everybody knows that fish is brain food. If you're stressing out, help your brain - eat a fish.

Even if you don't eat seafood, try to avoid junk food. I realize when you're stressing, you crave the quick fix...the comfort...the simplicity. But, try to go for nutrition instead. If you are not giving your body the fuel it needs, and are hyping it up on caffeine, and aren't sleeping, you cannot expect the support you need as you work through the curve balls life is slinging your way in rapid-fire succession. Plus, I've always found it helpful to accomplish the things I can accomplish. It helps motivate me to accomplish more.

5) So, you've got your body on board. Great. Suit up, 'cause now the battle begins.

You've got all of these stressful issues that you are trying to work through. And while you'd love to take them one at a time, it's just not working out that way. My advice? Do what you can. Deal with what you can, effectively, deal with on each issue. Things you cannot control...things that will not make a difference...let them go. Fix the things you can fix.

As you can start marking things off your list entirely, it will allow you to focus more time and energies on the tougher issues (enlisting help or spending more time/effort on research or job searching).

That also means you have to "allow yourself" to accept that you cannot fix everything. Sometimes, that's very hard to do. Do it anyway. It's worth it. It's worth it in the short term, as it will help you work through things. And it's worth it in the long term, as the strain to your health for NOT doing it isn't going to do you any favors.

6) Ask for help. Seems simple, doesn't it? This is the hardest thing for me. Part of it is that I have a difficult time delegating. I need to keep track of what's going on and I can't seem to do that very well if I'm not "in" it. Part of it is that I don't like feeling like I can't handle things myself. I'm working on it. Heh. Highlander won't LET me not ask for help. But, I know I'm not alone here. I know it's difficult for other people to ask for help when they need it, too. So, I'm telling you. Suck it up.

I feel so good when I help people. Most of my regulars are the same way. It gives me the sweetest, most selfish feeling, to know that I've made a difference (however minor) in someone's life. My darling suggested to me, some time back, that, knowing how it makes me feel, why would I deny other people...people I care experience that same wonderful feeling. That was pretty tricky to argue. And, honestly, it was an approach my mind had never taken. And considering how obvious, that's a sad statement for me. But, again, I imagine that I'm not the only one around here who would feel that way.

If things are piling up and you can use the help, ask for it. And, if I can help, please let me know.

7) Sometimes, the help is talking through things. And a licensed therapist can help you come up with techniques to deal with the stress. While the stigma has decreased in the past twenty years, there's still a fairly normal association with people seeing a therapist only if there is something wrong with them.

Most times, you are seeing them for a short period and you get through the rough spots, learn how to deal with future issues, and then move on.

8) Learn what relaxation techniques work for you. Yoga or deep breathing may work for you, but soothing music and a neckrub will do wonders for me. Sometimes it's a long walk, or reading, or taking a drive in the country (though with the price of gas, this one has the potential to add to your stress level). If you need to go to find a quiet place at work that will afford you a few private moments, find it. If you need to find the long way home from work, or stop at the library, do it.

9) Lastly, and this is the very hardest thing for me, make YOU the priority. Make taking care of you, more important than any of the 4,396,812 other things you are juggling. I know that sounds impossible, but I'm serious. Remind yourself that the only way to fix all of these problems is to be around to fix them, if you have to. But, realize that the world is a better place because you are in it. That everything else...all the other problems...will come to some conclusion and life will go on. Life is always going to have the ups and downs, it's just the way it is. Don't lose YOU in the frenzy to take care of all the things that need to be addressed.

Okay, I'm done preaching. I want to say, again, that I'm not the expert. But I believe I'm passing along some good advice, even if it's advice I (far too often) forget to take myself. After reading some of my regulars lately, and having spent some time with a few of you, I know that these are reminders that we all could use.

Now take a deep breath and try to slow down. Will ya? I don't know if I have enough 'mojo' for all of us!

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Monday, July 10, 2006

What You See Is What You Get (even if you don't, actually, see it)

Previously, I've read of bloggers getting together for various little impromptu meetings. Folks who have known, and respected, each other from afar finally taking that step of testing the strength of those ethereal friendships. Of course, long before I, myself, was a blogger, I reached out to one whom I had greatly liked and respected from afar. And that worked out pretty well for me...;) So, the thought of meeting other long distance friends wasn't, at all, frightening for me.

When Tony Collett suggested to me, many weeks ago, that he'd love to come to River City to see the new SUPERMAN RETURNS flick on IMAX, and that Mark and Lisa Gibson, since they also lived fairly close to River City, should join us started sounding more and more like less and less of a pipedream.

Given all the hurdles of each couple, especially the last minute variety that inevitably rear their nasty little heads, we weren't sure we'd be able to pull it off. But, I think it went remarkably well, and I believe (even if I am more than a little deluded) that everyone else would concur.

Even before we met, Lisa Gibson remarked to me, "what you see is what you get". The internet affords us all the opportunity to reinvent ourselves. The opportunity to assume more attractive traits, as we downplay the less attractive ones that we wish we didn't have. Like Lisa Gibson, I am who I am. And you either embrace all of me (and you'll have to have a reeeeaalllly long arm-span to do it) or you don't. And that's okay. This weekend, it was very nice to spend some time with very like-minded folks, getting what I had seen, at our very own mini River City Geek-Con 2006.

Of course, I'd "known" Mark and Tony almost as long as I'd known Highlander. So, I've always felt very comfortable with them. Lisa and I had only forged a fast friendship over the last few months, but it's been very nice. And Kathy, well, I'd only ever 'heard' of her through Tony. While I've always heard good things, I'd just never had the opportunity to get to know her myself. So, because all of you have only ever had the opportunity to know them from computer's length, let me share a few things.

Kathy C -

For someone who had major dental surgery only three days before, Kathy was the very epitomy of a trooper. Anything and everything that we threw at her was met with smiling, cheerful acceptance. I don't know. Maybe Tony caught all the grief on the way home. If so, I owe him an apology.

Myself, I'd always wondered what Kathy did for a living. Tony had never mentioned it (that I remember) and so, I was very curious. And the first opportunity I had, I asked. Do you know that she works with handicapped children? And that she has for nearly twenty years? What challenging and rewarding work! I would never make it. I get attached. I get emotionally involved. I would have to toughen up a great deal to be able to even consider it.

Not Kathy, though. She has a most tender heart. On a walk in the neighborhood, she spotted someone she thought was a homeless man going through a dumpster in a retail district and mused about stopping to help him. Her generosity of spirit seems to have no end. And it's refreshing and inspiring to see that.

Tony C -

While I have had little opportunity to listen to it at this point, Tony was a sweetheart and burned me a cd of Bill Hicks' material. We've talked before about how we share some common love of various comedians, but that Bill Hicks was someone I'd missed. Tony aimed to rectify that egregious error. And I deeply appreciate the effort.

Of course, it pleased me greatly that he was looking forward to playing heroclix with Highlander as well. With such limited opportunity, it was nice to see him get a chance to do something he enjoys so much.

Kathy shared a story with me, when she and I had a private moment, about a gift Tony had given her some time ago. A dollhouse. Apparently, it was something she'd always wanted as a girl and one year, even though she was a grown woman, Tony had gifted her one. It touched her deeply. And as she's added little pieces to it, she's enjoyed it, and she's been reminded of his gesture again and again.

It made me smile. It reminded me that this guy I'd come to respect (ever since he'd sent a Vision heroclix to Highlander years ago when his had been stolen and then destroyed) and call my friend, had earned that place in my heart for good reason. That he WAS who I had believed all along that he was.

Lisa G -

Lisa is sweet and generous to a fault. She brought me cookbooks! RACHEL RAY cookbooks! For no reason even. And all I have to do to pay her back is send her a Derby Pie every month! No. No. I'm kidding. About the pie, I mean. Lisa was every bit as sweet and generous as I've noted. She was great fun to talk to and I was delighted to find that we share a bit of a devilish nature.

Seeing how much progress she's made, in a very short time, with her own self-discovery and self-assurance was very cool. She truly is a woman with the world by the tail. Hey, anybody who is willing to meet virtual strangers for the first time in bathing suits is one brave chick. Gotta admire that!

The easy, playful relationship she has with her own daughter was so easily turned towards my girls. She was open and non-judgmental and they immediately took to her.

I'm rather pleased to call her my friend. And, even though she doesn't like to cook, I'm willing to overlook that. For now...;)

Mark G -

I hate to report that Mark Gibson couldn't find his way out of a bathroom with both hands. Heh. Oh, he may be every bit as witty as he comes off on his blog (and he is), but doorknobs completely baffle him. Okay, the truth is that while Highlander and Tony were hunkered down over a map in the basement playing heroclix, Kathy, Lisa and I were chatting like grown-ups upstairs. Mark wandered off to check on the guys and watch their game and we thought nothing of the fact that he was MIA for 30 minutes. Of course, downstairs they were engrossed in their game and never missed him either. It never occurred to us that he could be stuck in the bathroom. (Whew...wait a minute, let me stop laughing, here...) So, when he finally chewed through the door, and got out on his own, we all became hysterical as he reported the incident to us. And, of course, beg as he might, I could not be deterred from reporting (Hey, I'm the Oral Reporter, right?) the story to all of you. All ten THOUSAND of you.

That said, and in considerably less jocular terms, I must also report that Mark was almost as sweet as his wife, and was always ready with a joke. Some of them were even funny. (ba dum PAH!) Oh, I'm on fire here...LOL!

But, it was a very great pleasure to meet someone who has always been so gracious and supportive to me (other than calling me old...;).

All I will share about the little (and tempting though it is to say 'lesser', it simply doesn't apply) Gibson is that she was a very lovely girl who is funny and bubbly, and that she is going to be quite the teenaged boy magnet (if she isn't already), and that Mark and Lisa are in for LOADS of fun in a very short time! Oh, and that I find that amusing. That's how I am.

As for specifics of the weekend, they were pleasant and relaxed. Swimming on Saturday night and then back to our place for a trip up the block to Fat Jimmy's for some pizza and breadsticks, and lots of conversation as we all got to know each other a little better. You can imagine, I'm sure. "Who's your favorite comic book character?" Geek shop talk. Luckily, since no one brought up BMB or Wolverine, it was actually a very fun discussion...;) And it was nice getting to know these people better.

After dinner, we walked back to our place and Highlander kidnapped Tony to the basement for some gaming, while the rest of us chatted and made plans for the next day.

Sunday started early with an 11:30 IMAX showing of the film. Highlander, the girls and I met everyone at their hotel and they followed us to the theatre. After making sure we had provisions for the lengthy film, we were given our funny 3D glasses and off we went to our seats. It was the first time any of my kids had seen a 3D movie and it was the first time I had since I was a kid. And, I'm sorry, but it was fun to see the image take on the dimensions. I'm easily amused, I guess. But, I really wanted to "ooh" and "ahh" over it time and again. Seeing the new continent rising out of the ocean in 3D...seeing a plane flying right at you...well, as I said, I'm easily amused.

It was a good time and we all agreed it was a fun movie, even if it did have a few things that were difficult to believe. For me it was how in the world Lois Lane could get slammed all over that plane and not have a bruise or a mark of any kind on her. Okay, if she didn't die, she SURELY should have had a broken arm or a cut on the forehead or SOMETHING. You know? Uh uh. She walked out...well fainted and fell out...of that plane completely unscathed. I'm all about the fantasy of it, but help me just a little with my ingenuousness. Please.

Mostly, I enjoyed the movie. Having read Mike Norton's (delayed) reviews, I have to agree with him on a few points. Yes, seeing some kind of effort to make the krypton continent transportation more believable would have helped, but I was willing to work with them on it. And Frank Langella is just ANOTHER one who is getting too damned old on me. All in all, I thought that Brian Singer did a good job on the story.

The movie behind us, we all adjourned back to our place. And while I put the last minute touches on a meal I'd made for us all, Highlander walked everyone up to our neighborhood comic shop. It's nice to think that everyone will now have a visual picture of The Great Escape, when one of us mentions it.

For me, anyway, I know that seeing places that Highlander had mentioned in his blog (places like Lawrinson Hall and his previous place of employment in Florida) were interesting to me just because I was able to put that little piece together in my mind.

When they got back, we all ate and then, once again, Tony and Highlander headed off to get their post-meal hit of plastic crack. Mark, the youngest Gibson, and my oldest kid and her significant other (who had accompanied us to the movie and then home for a free never get rid of them once you feed them) all headed off to the Book and Music Exchange, roughly 4-5 blocks from our place (and then to Ear X-tacy a truly ecclectic music store a little farther up the road).

Kathy, Lisa and I opted to lounge on the front porch and take in the beautiful scenery our neighborhood offers and enjoy the lovely day while enjoying each other's company and the easy conversation. Once they'd finished their game, Tony and Highlander joined us.

Mike Norton (on an unrelated note, send all your mojo and well wishes his way as he battles his way through another fierce week...I'm pulling for you Mikey!) and Nate Clark were both sorely missed. (And I've still got plenty of left-overs to prove it!) Don't think either of you are off the hook for the next time either. As we all talked of making this at least an annual event. So, start rolling the extra pennies and marking your calendars.

Lastly, thanks to all the Hoosiers who made the journey. It was a blast meeting you all and getting to know the blogger(s) behind the blog(s). Nice to get that confirmation that what we see is what we get.

Can't wait to see you all again!

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