Thursday, May 29, 2008

New Avatar

So many of y'all do it, so here goes. I'm ditching my avatar for a real, recent pic of me because: a) I'm not working as a nurse anymore (though I do still wear scrubs...whew! I wouldn't want to have to change the name of my blog too!), and b) I think it's nice to have a visual of others on the internet.

I have to give Travis some props over at his blog with his latest post about what I can only describe as book "trailers," video clips manufactured to get your attention and hopefully boost sales of books. My comment on this idea was as follows:

As a reader, not an author, this idea appeals to me NOT ONE IOTA. I don't want some video clip to taint the story I am about to read. I don't want to be stuck with someone else's images of the characters, settings, voices, etc. It's the same reason I rarely ever see a movie based on a book without reading the book first. Then, and only then, I am free to be entertained and amused at how someone else's version of what I read was SO different than what I came up with myself.I want to approach a new read as a clean slate, a newborn babe, not with any preconceived notions. That, my friend, takes all the fun out of it for me.

His post got me thinking, what do people think I look like? My faithful readers must have some preconceived notion of what I look like.

So tell me, how do I match up to your mental images?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Happy Birthday Lulu! (+ a wee little rant)

Today my gorgeous, loving, smart, precocious, strong-willed, darling daughter turns FOUR. It's kinda crazy. It seems like it wasn't so long ago that she snuggled her tiny little 7lb. body into the crook of my neck and sighed her warm, sweet baby breath into my neck as I bent slightly to brush my lips against her downy newborn head.

And here she is today. How time rushes by! You can see her strong-willed-ness plain as day in this pic: she insists that whatever pants she wears must be rolled up. Jeans to capris, capris to shorts....I shudder to think what she plans to do with shorts... And the socks must be pulled up too. Usually I insist on short socks but today was chilly and it's her birthday so what the heck? She's happy.

She was most excited about taking birthday cupcakes to her daycare for her 4-year-old class. Here's where my rant begins. When I was a kid one of the coolest things about having a birthday was getting to take treats to school. My mom was quite clever so I brought the best treats, and the class always loved me and said I had the "best mom ever". I would nearly bust with pride, and the treats were always fantastic. Running a close second was the cake I would get at home and of course the presents.

So we got a note a couple months back saying no birthday treats at daycare. They instead encouraged us to send gift bags of little toys for the kids (read: small bags of choke-hazards and junk). Ugh. They have since relented and okayed treats IF, and only IF, a comprehensive list of ingredients is attached. Mind you, treats are still discouraged, but if one MUST send them, they will somehow be screened for allergenic and/or offensive ingredients.

I think they did the list thing just because they figured no one would want to take the time to bake AND write a synopsis. They don't know ME. I just rustled myself up some vanilla cupcakes, glopped as much homemade birthday frosting on them as they would hold, sprinkled them with pretty artificially-colored sugar sprinkles, and cut out the ingredients list from the box, taping it on a notecard with a few other ingredients,. Eh -VOILA, Lulu had a whole mess of contraband cupcakes to take to day-care.

All the while JeepMan was telling me I shouldn't do it, that we should just buy some apples or carrot sticks and dip.

Birthday apples? Birthday veggies? This would have been a sure way to get ostracized and possibly beaten up after school when I was growing up.

I think birthdays are for sugar. And calories. And fun. And special treats. If the moms can't hack their kid eating a cupcake, then tell the staff they can't have one. If your kid is allergic to something, I'm sorry, life sucks, and the rest of the kids shouldn't be punished for it.

Miss Teacher's eyebrows damn near made contact with her hairline when I walked in with the cupcake tray. I promptly handed her the ingredient list and told her Lulu wanted to give cupcakes for her birthday and that's what she was going to do. 'Nuff said. They said, "...Okay..." for what else, really, was there to say?

You and I both know all the teachers are in the back room scarfing the leftovers anyhow. And do I care? No way! Birthdays are for cupcakes, with oodles of frosting and sparkly sprinkles. And don't anyone try to tell me otherwise.

***Addendum: Curses! The daycare gestapo got me...sent me home most of the cupcakes I made, minus a few the staff ate and one for each of my kids. Said, "Sorry, but these didn't come out of a certified kitchen so we aren't allowed to serve them." WTF is a "certified kitchen?" 'Cause I'm telling you from first-hand foodservice experience that I have never seen a commercial kitchen that is cleaner than mine at home. Certified what? Roach -free? Pesticide-free? Kosher? Vegan? WHAT??? Oh, well. Maybe next year I'll just have the daycare make Lulu's cupcakes in their own CERTIFIED kitchen. Grrr...****

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Dose of Plato Honesty

Conversation of the weekend:

I was getting changed Monday to go out to the movies. I changed from my PJ shirt into a rather form-fitting shirt that I always wear under something else or with a jacket over. I hadn't put my jacket on yet when Plato walked into the room.

Plato: Mom? That shirt makes you look reeeaaallly pretty.

Thanks, Plato; that's very sweet of you to say.

Plato: (thinks a bit ) .....Mom? Why do girls wear shirts that show some of their boob-skin?

(trying not to choke)....uhhh, well,....Plato, when girls' breasts start to grow, most shirts will show at least a little of their cleaveage. As long as it's not too much, it's okay...

Plato: Weeellll.....I think it looks very very pretty!

Thanks honey.

(a long pause as Plato is obviously mulling something else over that he wants to talk about)

Plato: Mom?

Yes, Plato?

Plato:, you know what? I even like it when a girl's shirt shows some of her boob-crack. I think that is super-pretty!

(ACK!!) ...That's very nice of you, Plato, but I wouldn't go around telling strange girls that you like their boob-crack, ok?

Post-Memorial Day Breather

Wow, what a crazy and busy Memorial Day weekend!!

Sliding into the weekend, I actually got to spend three days doing 3 cases at my hometown account!! This was HUGE for me, as prior to this I had only done one case there since being off orientation in April. Hopefully this signals a turn toward more staying at home and less traveling.

Friday's case went kinda late, so I scurried home to decorate Lulu's birthday cake. I had the (rare) foresight to bake the cake Thurs nite so it would be ready for decoration Friday. The kids decided on their own to give up playing at the park with Dad to get me a sandwich and bring it home to me. What sweet kids...I'm so lucky! Of course that gave me 4 extra hands for cake decorating, which I didn't need. So I hung out with them, then decorated the cake after they went to bed. It turned out pretty well. If I'd had more time I could have made it a little fancier, but Lulu was pleased.

Saturday was mad house-cleaning then party at a local restaurant at 11am. Grandparents and Great-Grandmas made it, along with my Sis and BIL. Lulu's b'day always falls around Mem Day weekend, so our turnouts for her parties can be hit-or-miss. It's nice to have just family, though. And I'm putting off the kid-parties until the kids insist. Ugh.

Sat. nite we travelled to my folks to spend the night, then got up and hit the area Amusement Park all day Sunday. What a gorgeous day! 85 degrees and breezy. Lovely! We wore ourselves and the kids completely out, and had a blast. Plato is the daredevil, he will go on any ride and generally want to go again. He's SO disappointed when he's not tall enough to go on a ride. He's about 49 inches, so once he hits his next growth spurt he'll probably be making most of the height limits. Lulu, on the opposite end of the spectrum, is a big chicken. It takes a lot to get her on a ride, and half the time she cries the whole time. "Baby Rides" (as Plato calls them) are about all she likes. She is a huge fan of the bumper cars, though, and would probably just ride those all day and be quite happy.

Monday we had breakfast with the folks, then went downtown to watch the new Indiana Jones movie while Lulu hung out with G'ma and G'pa. We really enjoyed the movie, as all of us, including Plato, are big Indy plans. Growing up, I even had a dog named "Indy." Thought they did a fantastic job of integrating Harrison Ford's age into the story, and Cate Blanchett was stellar as always.

Then back home, and early to bed for the kids. I've been working all day today, and so far don't have to travel this week, which is nice. Looking forward to a nice short work-week!!

Sorry I haven't been around to the blogs lately, I actually haven't been on the internet for a solid week!! Amazing and sorta scary...I think I'm having withdrawal symptoms...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Extra Credit

I'm doing a Meme that I wasn't tagged for.

What's that, you say? Why? Well, because it seemed like easy and fun material, and I have blogger's-block right now. Here are the rules:

1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read the player’s blog.
4. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

A Meme about Various Things

What were you doing ten years ago?
Working nights at a small hospital in the ICCU (Intensive and Coronary Care Unit), enjoying the ups and downs of newlyweddedness (it'll be 12 years this summer!), living across the street from my lovely sister, eating without guilt, drinking without remorse, just being 25 - ah, those were awesome times, man...

What are five things on your to-do list for today (not in any particular order):
-Get my butt out of bed (a seriously monumental task - I LOVE sleeping)
-Take the family to an amusement park and hope it isn't too crowded this early in the season.
-Stuff the kids with expensive, greasy, sugary amusement park food.
-Pray they don't throw up.
-Ride the crazy rides with Plato until he's so exhausted he can hardly walk...aww, who am I kidding? I'll poop out before he does!

What are some snacks you enjoy?
I'm not a big snacker. Maybe I should be. We don't keep much snack-y food in the house. If my house were a grocery store, I would have to go with almonds, cheese, and/or chocolate (good quality DARK).

What would you do if you were a billionaire?
Probably drop dead on the spot.
If not, and after my stint in the ICU for heart arrythmia, amnesia, and delusions of grandeur...well, I'd quit my job, buy several "Vacation" homes in various appealing places (Colorado, Montana, Georgia, California, Florida and Washington), upgrade my home here in CollegeVille, hire the best two nannies I could find (one for each kid), a fleet of housekeepers, a personal chef and a personal ass-kicker trainer, and a chauffeur. I'd build a ginormous, self-contained outbuilding and fill it a variety of offroad toys for JeepMan, along with lessons for him from an offroad pro. I'd become a master gardener and sommelier, get back in touch with my artistic/creative roots and probably find some time to actually attempt to write a book. I would also find myself an apprenticeship with a cake decorating guru and in my spare time pursue a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
Finally, I would put as much money as I could spare into passing legislation against Big Oil and Big Drug Companies.
Uh,Dude? I think I'm gonna need another billion...

What are three of your bad habits?
Only Three? Mmmkay:
1. I frequently start tasks and forget to finish them. Seriously. Like I'm folding clothes in the bedroom, go to put the towels away, see that one of the kids left a fork in the bathroom (ponder fleetingly why there might be a fork in the bathroom), walk into the kitchen, open the pantry by involuntary habit, spy my Guittard Dark Chocolate Chips, decide some chocolate-chip cookies sound yummy.......... and hours later when it's time to go to bed realize that a half-folded pile of laundry is still in the middle of the bed. ADD or early Alzheimer's? Who knows, but it drives JeepMan crazy.
2. I talk with my hands. A lot. While driving. Or eating. It has led to many a spilled item in a restaurant, and many a JeepMan admonishment: "Will you keep at least one hand on the wheel for God's sake? Sheesh!"
3. I pick my nails. Finger- and Toe-. Uck, I know. Hey, at least I don't chew them.

What are five places where you have lived?
I have lived in 3 cities in one state. Do the dorms count?

What are five jobs you have had?
-Professional Education Specialist for 3D intracardiac navigational system and related products.
-RN, Electrophyisiology Lab, Cardiac Cath Lab, Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit, Intensive and Coronary Care Unit (in order of recent to past)
-Waitress, local pub and pizza joint (if it had benefits, I'd still be there...)
-Grocery Store Cashier
-Detasseling Crew Leader (as in corn, y'all)

What were the last five books you read?
Right Now: Absolute Fear by Lisa Jackson - my first read by her (I'm still, meh)
The Ruins by Scott Smith (v. good)
A Simple Plan by Scott Smith (v. v. good)
Bite by Laurell K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, MaryJanice Davidson, Angela Knight, Vickie Taylor (anthology) (good)
More Twisted by Jeffrey Deaver (short stories) (good)
...up next is Danse Macabre by Laurell K. Hamilton; hopefully her Anita Blake series is on the upswing - that's the rumor, anyhow.

For grins, and because I'm feeling wild n' crazy, I'll add another question:

What's your favorite guilty-secret junk food?
It's a toss-up for me: between Totino's Pizza Rolls (supreme), Ichiban Ramen Noodles (Miso), and Lipton Noodles and Sauce (stroganoff). I know, I'm weird. I'm a total closet carb-salt-fat junkie!!

Not gonna tag anyone....if anyone wants to do it, I'll link you here - just let me know!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Car Conversation ala Plato & Lulu

JeepMan went in today for an MRI. He's had a couple episodes of visual disturbance recently, and the MRI is to rule out any major cause. You know, work from the worst case scenario to the best, that kind of thing.

This morning on the way to drop Plato off at school, he asked what JM and I were doing today. I told him we had to take JM to a doctor's appointment. As always, both kids immediately wanted to know if Daddy was going to get a shot. I told them no, just an x-ray, nothing that would hurt. Plato pointed out that even grownups had to get shots sometimes. Lulu added that sometimes the shots even hurt, but grownups don't cry.

That's when the conversation took a detour:

Plato: I know someone who got a shot in the BUTT once!

Lulu: In da bumby? (this is her term for girl-parts)

Plato: No. OW!! That would really, REALLY hurt! Not the bumby, but right in the BUTT. I hope I never have to get a shot in the butt.....(thinks on it for a while), will I ever have to get a shot in the butt, mom?

They don't give many shots in the butt these days, Plato.

Plato: Did you ever have to get a shot in the butt, mom?

Well, actually, I did get a shot in the butt once. When I was seven. I needed an operation and they gave me a shot in the butt to help me go to sleep.

Plato: YOU had an OPERATION once Mom?!?! Did it HURT??

Lulu: What's a op-uh-ra-shun, Mommy?

I needed to have my tonsils taken out. Your tonsils are little pieces of skin that hang in the back of your throat. You usually can't see them, but sometimes they can get really big and infected and make you sick. My tonsils made me sick a lot. They would get so big I could hardly swallow. The doctors decided to take them out. They gave me medicine to make me go to sleep, then they opened my mouth and took them out. My throat was sore for a few days, but after that I never had trouble with my tonsils again.

Plato: (awe in his voice) Wow, Mom. I hope I never have to get MY tonsils taken out of my throat!!

Lulu was quiet. She's pretty much never quiet. She seemed to be actually processing all that information. Finally, she spoke up:

Lulu: Mommy?

Yes, Lulu.

Lulu: I bet you'll never eat THOSE again, huh?

Make-Up Sex

Got your attention, huh?

This is really more of a rant, but what follows may not be suitable for the easily offended, or my Mom.

Everyone else, read on. It's not that bad, really...

So my day was ... tarnished by a squabble between me and JeepMan. It was of the usual flavor: him overreacting to something really inconsequential, me reading probably waaay too much into his overreactiveness. The point is, we'll get over it and get on with our lives none the worse for wear as we always seem to do.

We don't live by the oft-advised: "Don't go to bed mad." Guaranteed that if we argue in the evening, we will go to bed mad. Then in the morning, we'll sort of mutually "forget" about it. Translate: neither of us wants to apologize, and neither of us has the desire to expend the energy that would be required to resume an argument that no one can (will) win.

Because let's face it, there usually isn't a winner in our arguments. He's too pigheaded to admit he's wrong, and I'm too pigheaded to admit he's right.

So we just get it out, get it over, and get along...
...every once in a while, though, he wants to get it on.

Yeah, I'm talking about "Make Up Sex." The much-glorified topic that I simply don't get. And by "get" I mean "understand." Actually, I think I DO understand it, but HE definitely doesn't. Because I can't be wrong about this. I just can't. Please tell me I'm not....

As JeepMan understands it, Make Up Sex is this: Sex. For the purpose of making up. So, we have the sex, and when we're done, we've made up. A means to an end.

Which is totally ass-backwards in my mind.

As I understand it, Make Up Sex is this: You make up. Then you have the sex. You have the sex because you've made up, and the making up makes you feel like you might actually want to have sex. It seals the deal, so to speak.

'Cause frankly, when we're arguing, that's the last thing on my mind.
In JeepManLand, the high emotions of the arguing should be getting us aroused somehow. Like the "pissed-off-ed-ness" can be somehow channeled into "take-me-now-this-very-second-ness." Wouldn't that be nice?... but I don't see it happening in MomInScrubsWorld. Ever.

Sucketh up to me, and thou shalt receiveth what thou seeketh. That, my dear husband, is Make Up Sex. At least in THIS marriage, baby.

Anyone else? Thoughts? Opinions? I'm dying to hear...

***Oh, and can anyone tell me how to do that fancy thing where you type a word than strike through it? I love that and can't figure it out!***

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mother's Day Post

It's Mother's Day always sneaks up on me. Partly because we don't really plan anything "special" for the holiday. My idea of a perfect Mother's Day is a quiet day with the kids and JeepMan, maybe going to a movie or a park, just hanging out. Fancy brunch? Big gifts? Corsages and hoopla? Not my bag. Maybe when I'm older, but right now I like to celebrate Mother's Day by being a mom.

Unfortunately I get so caught up in my own motherhood that I tend to forget it's not just a special day for me, but for my own Mom, and JeepMan's Mom, and even the Grandmas (we each have one living, aren't we blessed?). Which is why there is no card in the mail as we speak for any of the above. It's lame, and maybe a little self-centered...I've just been so busy I forgot. Vaguely in my mind I've been semi-conscious that Mother's Day is "coming up;" now all of a sudden it's HERE.

My gift for Mother's Day is twofold: JeepMan came home today from Utah. I can't even tell you how happy I was to see him!! I always maintain that my alone-time is sacred and I don't get enough of it...well, I had my fill. A week with no kids and no husband is just too much. I have actually been lonely, and it's been a very, very long time since I could say that.

Also we're picking up the kids today from the MIL's. I am sure they will be spoiled-rotten, sugar-crazed, whiny, and cranky. Funny, MIL says they're always just perfect until I get there. What. Ever. I just smile politely and repeat my "MIL mantra" (in my head):

We're lucky we have family around to give us a break...we're lucky we can have couple-time...the kids aren't any worse for wear...their baby teeth will fall out so it doesn't matter if they haven't been brushed for a whole darn week....lalala, lalala...ohmmmm......

Anyhow, the point of this post is that this IS my Mother's Day Card for my own Mom. She reads this blog, so she will certainly read this.

My Mom didn't start out as my friend. She was, first and foremost, a Mother. As I grew and matured, our friendship developed, but she'll always, always be Mom first.

Mom had me when she was young (23), and a newlywed. There wasn't much time for her and Dad to be newlyweds before I came along. I was a surprise and, I suspect, a fairly large impetus in their decision to wed. 35 years later, they're still happily married, so I consider myself to have been a serendipitous surprise. From The Now, we can look back and say, "How wonderful...what a lovely story." I suspect, however, that it wasn't always sunshine and roses.

From my own experience, I know that children drastically change a couple's life. They add stress. They add chaos. They bring out the little differences in people and amplify them exponentially. Don't get me wrong, kids are fantastic! I wouldn't trade mine for the world, and if I had to make the choice again, I'd do it all over without hesitation. I'm just saying that it was a damned hard transition. JeepMan and I had the benefit of five years married and 3 together before that. My folks had 6 months married, and only a few more together before their wedding.

I can't imagine having a brand new husband that I was still getting to know, a baby on the way, and a life to desperately arrange! And yet my childhood was amazing. My parents got along so well, and if there were fights, my sister and I certainly weren't witness to them. Mom tells the story of how she had my sister and I packed up and ready to leave Dad at one point because he wouldn't quit smoking. I used to giggle crazily over that story, mostly because I couldn't imagine my mother taking that kind of stand...not in a million years! Dad must have been equally impressed because he did, in fact, quit smoking.

Mom worked part-time as a nurse (my inspiration!) and still made time to lavish us with affection and attention. Some of my favorite memories are of finger-painting at the kitchen table, baking chocolate-chip cookies (I thought she was SO strong because she could beat that stiff cookie dough with a wooden spoon!), Mom reading us Dr. Seuss and Disney books, lying on the floor with her for those special rare times when she would play Barbies with Tiff and I. I loved going out to the garden with her to plant, weed, and harvest. I became a "rock-hound" walking our gravel road with Mom, eyes down, scanning for that telltale glint that might be a shiny quartz crystal among the dusty chunks of limestone.

She and Dad were a united front: them against us. Oh, if one told you "no," you could try to hit up the other but it was pretty rare for them to disagree. I really only remember two times where I was left slack-jawed because of my mother's blatant defiance of my dad's wishes.

The first time, I was about 9 or 10. We had gone to the "big city," the capitol of our state, which was 30 miles away. We went there frequently as there wasn't much to do in our little town. We had shopped most of the day, and when it was time for supper we were all famished, but couldn't agree on what to eat. This was not unusual, but in the end someone would always compromise and we would come to a group consensus. This time there was no consent: we girls had all compromised and decided we would be OK with Chinese, but Dad wanted nothing to do with it! He finally got so disgusted that he just drove us home. We were so hungry, Tiff and I cried the whole way home. We pulled into the driveway, and as Dad opened the door to get out, Mom said, "Girls! Stay in the car. We're going out for Chinese. The Heck with your Dad!" And by golly, that's just what we did. We all felt strangely defiant, like co-conspirators against Dad, but it was a lot of fun and a great bonding experience with Mom.

The other time Mom put her foot down had results that were a lot more permanent. It was the summer before my Sophomore year of high school. Dad had been working a lot, and when he wasn't working, it seemed like he was on the golf course more than he was home. This was kind of unusual...Dad wasn't a big golfer in general, but he had certainly found a renewed enthusiasm that particular summer. The common goal of the summer for my sister and I was to talk our folks into letting us get a puppy. Mom was "iffy," Dad was dead-set against it. We begged and begged, and every Sunday when the classifieds came out we would scour the ads looking for Pug Puppies. It was hit-or-miss as there didn't seem to be a lot of Pug breeders in the area. One Sunday, we showed Mom a new ad. Dad was off golfing. The breeder wasn't too far away, maybe 20 miles, and we begged her to take us, just to look. Were we surprised when she said, "We might do more than just LOOK...your father has been doing an awful lot of golfing this summer; I think we girls might just have to go get us a puppy." We waited until he got home: she told him how it was going to go down, then off we went! After a wimpy attempt at protest, dad packed us all into the car. It was like he knew not to argue about this one. And we came home with the cutest little pug puppy you ever did see.

I could write pages and pages here, but the point of all this is that my Mom is the absolute best. I love you Mom...Happy Mother's Day.

When I was an infant, she sustained me. When I was a child, she guided me. When I was a teen, she watched over me. When I was an adult, she lovingly released me. And when I became a Mother, she became a Grandmother... and my friend. Through it all, she has been my rock, my foundation, my home. Through it all, she has loved me, and in so doing, personified the quintessence of motherly love. - mom-in-scrubs

Friday, May 09, 2008

Not My Kind of Town

Just got back from Chicago; spent 4 days there covering cases. It's been a long time since I can remember being so relieved to get out of a town...not so much the being home part (though that is very nice indeed), but just to be OUT of a town.

As my faithful readers know, I am from a smallish town. We call ourselves a city, but to me the word "city" connotes a large metropolis, and Collegeville is not a metropolis by any bending of the imagination! Chicago is definitely a city by my personal definition, but I'm calling it a town because Frank Sinatra did...and who's gonna argue with Frank? Not me!

While I currently reside in a town of roughly 50,000, I was raised in a town of about 14,000. I don't think I'd ever want to live in such a tiny town again...definitely not that town because it has succumbed, over the years, to drugs and all the associated problems.

Oh, and because it is an intelligence-sucking vortex. When I go to any store or restaurant in that town I feel my IQ threatening to run off a cliff with the rest of the mental lemmings (sorry Mom and Dad; no offense to you or your friends - you have all managed to remain above it... Kudos!).

Conversely, I would never ever want to live in a large town like Chicago. In my youth (recent, of course ;)) I used to think it was fun to visit the big cities. Centers of industry, entertainment, and opulence. Loci of unspeakable violence and rampant poverty. The clamorous contrast! The promise of raucous spectacle!! Exploration. Adventure. Risk.

In the wisdom and clarity of responsible adulthood, the adventure is now unappealing. The risk is now unacceptable because I have two little semi-helpless, damn cute humans relying on me to come home. And a husband who is secretly terrified that one day I won't. Aside from the idea of rendering my family sans mother/wife, I truly don't like the big-town atmosphere. And it's not just the smog.

As I arrived in Chicago I felt this... aura. It is still hard to describe. It was like a giant, oppressive, intangible weight; a stifling negativity with an undercurrent of urgent restlessness. It was completely alien to me, an atmosphere I wasn't sure I could safely breathe.

I arrived at night and my first impression was of the absence of dark. Even from miles away I could tell I was approaching the city by the growing glow on the horizon. As I entered the city proper, my eyes goggled at the abundance of garish signage and harsh lighting. There is no natural darkness in any large city. It occurs to me that there must be many people in current existence who have never been outside on a moonless night and known what it is to feel simultaneous trepidation and wonder at being a tiny human in a vast universe. For us small-towners, it is a common opportunity; but its familiarity doesn't lessen its sacredness.

Sorry, folks; your big-city Imax planetarium just doesn't cut it.

I was instantly on guard, compulsively scanning my surroundings, forcing myself to be hyper-aware: the traffic, the aimlessly wandering bands of shady-looking adolescents. I scavenged through my mental files under "Personal Safety," desperately trying to remember every scam and associated safety tip I ever learned:

Don't stop if a cop tries to pull you over. It could be a rapist or murderer. Put on your hazard lights, call 911 and ask if there is a trooper in the area, then proceed to a safe place.

If someone tries to carjack you, don't let them in the car, WHATEVER YOU DO. Slam on the gas and honk your horn. Run them over if you have to.

If someone rear-ends you, don't get out of the car. Lock your doors and call 911. Leave yourself room to pull away in your car if you feel threatened.

And so on, and so on. And that's just the "stuff to remember" while in the car!! Mentally and emotionally exhausting: it never let up for 4 days.

Traffic? I won't even go there. I've never had to "commute" in my life. The furthest I've ever lived from my workplace is 15 minutes. 15 minutes in Collegeville? 8 miles. Across town. In traffic.

15 minutes in Chicago? About 4 blocks. If you're lucky. Road rage is very real. Courtesy is regarded as weakness and is to be ridiculed or even punished. No wonder people carry guns in their cars. I got the "Illinois Wave" more than once, and I consider myself lucky that I didn't get worse! I'd chalk it up to my out-of-state plates, but my new Fleet vehicle has no plates.

I met some nice people at the hospital accounts I visited. Out and about, however: totally different story. Perpetual pissed-off-ed-ness is the dominant state of mind. I'm not a cranky person; I tried to make eye contact, offer a sincere "thank you" or "have a great day." The overwhelming response was knitted brows and a suspicious look; I swear I once heard a mumbled, "What. Everrr..." as I walked away. Apparently it's not acceptable to be courteous out of your car, either.

Now I know people from Chicago. The people I know, I like. TellYaWhat: I like them even more now! Anyone who can live there and maintain not only sanity but a positive and personable attitude? Good for You!! Hurrah!! Bravo!!

As I left Chicago, I remember the exact moment I felt normal again. As the Interstate I was on peeled from six, to four, to two lanes, and I was finally on a route with only one lifted. It was as if I had been holding my breath for four days...and I finally exhaled. The rugged gray landscape surrendered to rolling green plains and freshly turned fields of rich, black soil. I opened my sunroof to let in the unsullied spring air, the occasional fragrances of crabapple blossoms and damp earth filtering in. My shoulders relaxed. My brain uncurled from its fetal position. I laid my head back against the headrest, and set the cruise control.

There's nothing like a big town to make you appreciate the small town life.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Third Place!!

I'm so excited...I got Third Place over at OxyJen's blog for her "Happy 100" writing contest.

I'm thrilled for the recognition, and that I was able to meet the challenge. The challenge was to make up a story using exactly 100 words. It's tougher than you might think! 100 words isn't a lot to tell an actual story. Here is my entry:

Frank never thought he'd see the day.

Here he was, face-to-face with his childhood nemesis. The bully who'd extorted his lunch money, planted stink-bombs in his locker, and fabricated rumors about Frank's sexuality that plagued his high school years.

Frank slid into the seat opposite the man, setting down his sharkskin briefcase, loosening his Armani tie.

He cleared his throat. "Don't I know you?"

A blank stare. The briefest flicker of horrified recognition, squelched instantly into contrived dispassion. "...I don't think so."

It was all Frank needed. He settled back, snapped open the Wall Street Journal.

"Black polish. Make 'em shine."


Inspired, as my faithful followers have already surmised, by my frequent Airport excursions of late.

I've added a few to my blogroll from OxyJen's site, check 'em out if you have the time. I picked the ones that are my personal kind of blogs.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Well-Traveled Mom in Scrubs

This last week has been nuts. Sunday I flew to Seattle. I took a driving class called Driving Dynamics. The class is mandatory for my company as I spend about 80% of my time in my Fleet vehicle. The truth is, my job is the most dangerous in the company, simply because of the amount of time I spend on the road. Pretty scary. I think this class should be mandatory for all drivers, especially for teens. What they teach you in driver's ed? 50% crap. Pretty scary since I've been driving for...let's see...20 years (damn, I'm getting old) and operating on the principles that I learned from the poor bastards that got tapped for summer driver's ed duty.

The folks teaching this class are all professional drivers - mostly racers. I got a piece-of-crap rental car that didn't have the required ABS for the class, though the rental agency INSISTED that all their vehicles have ABS (it's actually amazing how many new cars have ABS as an option!). I drove 20 miles in driving rain to get to Tacoma for the class, hydroplaning all the way. I was determined to make it this time, considering my experience in Denver trying to make it to the same class (see "Worst Day Ever"). My hands were numb from my death-grip on the steering wheel, but I made it... then realized that the reason the car probably drove like crap was that the tire was essentially flat.

Thanks Avis!!! So glad you Work make sure I die.

Anyhow, the class was so much fun, a few hours of classroom time and a lot of time driving the hell out of our cars. High speed obstacle courses, brake-slamming and steering (hence the required ABS), and a few trips around the course in a "slide car" - mimics driving on ice, useful here in the Midwest - and I figured out I'm a damn good driver. I created not a single orange-cone casualty. Like Mom always said, though: There are a lot of idiots out there. Your best bet is to be prepared, and now I am. 20 years later.

My kids will take this class when they first get their licenses. Guaranteed.
So since I was "in the neighborhood" (ha!) I was asked to stop by Rapid City, South Dakota to cover a case. Another place I've never been.

Now Seattle is breathtaking, when the fog lifts. Vistas galore. Snow-capped mountains, valleys of deep-green Fir sprinkled with all the local exotic (to me) flowering shrubs and spring blooms. A lovely humidity that my hair wasn't fond of, but that my pores breathed in thirstily. I think I heard them sigh. Midwest winter is dry, dry, dry. Seattle is lovely and damp. I could live there. Easily.

Rapid City has it's own beauty. A place that Spring hasn't quite reached, still snuggled in it's golden-brown winter blanket, but with the barest hint of green peeking through. I always wondered how the Black Hills got their name...I saw it first hand. They look very dark, purplish-black. I'm not sure why. The effect of these hills dotting the golden landscape was beautifully alien. Everywhere in Rapid City had a view. I'm not sure how I managed to always be on a hillside, but it happened.

And my Avis injustice was redeemed! All they had for me to rent there was a brand-spankin'-new silver Ford Mustang. 15 miles on the odometer. I was in heaven. Unfortunately I had to work and fly right out, so I only put 30 miles on the thing, but I put some of my Driving Dynamics skills to the test....whee!

One day home doing a case at my old workplace...okay, half a day. At 2pm I was asked to fly to Minneapolis that night to cover a case the next day. Can't really say no, so I did.

Minneapolis has a very nice Vetrans' Hospital, which I was glad to see because I think lots of Vets get crapped on by our government when they need healthcare. Don't get me started!! On the way to the hospital, the cab driver pointed out the Vetrans' Memorial Cemetary, where One-Hundred-Sixty-Five-THOUSAND vets are buried. From 5 wars. Sobering indeed. Too bad it's so close to the hospital; it's not exactly what I would want to see while headed to the hospital if I were sick.

So my morbid mind got to wondering: Do they cremate these heroes? Or bury them vertically? Or maybe it's just an optical illusion and these thousands of white stones aren't as close as they look?

Amazing that this is a dinky cemetary compared to Arlington.

So I got in late last night, and JeepMan left at 3am for Moab, UT. He and some buddies are driving out to go offroading in the Arches National Park area. Lucky SOB!! Well, he certainly deserves it after his 14-week stint as a single dad. And I get to spend a whole day with the kids myself before they are off to Grandma's for the week and I am off again to Parts Unknown for my job.

I am making the most of this time with the kids (can't you tell? I'm blogging!). Seriously though, we made crepes for breakfast - my specialty. The kids helped, which they love. Plato read the recipe and I taught him about measuring. Lulu got to stir and make a big mess. "Who cares?!!" I trilled, as the kids giggled and said Dad would be grumpy about the mess.

Finally, I get to be the "fun one." I've waited for years!!

Wait....hang on a minute...


Opportunities galore! I just plunger-ed a toilet that Lulu had tried to flush half a roll of TP down because "I hab die-ah-wee-ah." Yippee.

I did take the moment to teach her that girls have to wipe their poopy from front to back, not back-to-front. See, you gotta have moms. I'm pretty sure JeepMan doesn't know that....

Better go before someone sets the house on fire or something.

Happy Weekend!