Friday, December 21, 2007

Gondola Drag Racing

I am married to a teacher. That being said, there are sometimes projects created at our house. Big projects. With themes. That brings me to last night. Chris was feverishly preparing for today's class holiday party. This year's theme: Christmas in Italy.

Italians have all kinds of fascinating holiday traditions. For example, in Venice, they race gondolas on Christmas Eve. In my head I picture Santa holding a checkered flag amidst a floating fleet of souped up "street racing" gondolas complete with neon lights, chrome trim and huge outboard motors strapped on the back. The gondoliers are all wearing fire proof jumpsuits and helmets. Now, I've been to Venice and I didn't see any street racing gondolas but, it was summer. Maybe they only get them out at Christmas. Anything is possible.

Chris decided that his kids should do a gondola race during their class party. He has been working with power tools all week in the basement sawing and drilling to make these boats. He even painted them. They came out really great. But he still needed to find a way to race them. What to use.... hummmmm...

There used to be gutters on the front of our house. *Used* to be. Now they are gondola race tracks. In the basement the 10 foot long gutters were precariously positioned with a wobbly table under each end. "Now for the water"Chris announced pouring a huge bucket of water into the first gutter. "Huh, it's not full yet. I think it needs more" he said. The second bucket-full went in. I watched as the gutter bowed like a hammock. Then water started to pour over the sides making loud splashing noises as it hit the cement floor. "That's bad" Chris announced. The cap on the end of the gutter fell off and the remaining water rushed out the end and hit the rug with a a sickening thwap. I put my head in my hands. "That's worse" he said.

"You know" I said, looking at Chris, "they flooded the Colosseum with water for ship battles in ancient *Rome* not Venice." Chris game me a look that suggested my impeccable comedic timing was failing to amuse him. Since we only have one mop, and I was out of jokes, I decided to go upstairs. From the basement I heard loud mopping punctuated by muttering. Then silence. Then hammering. Wait. Hammering?

I ran back downstairs to find Chris standing in the middle of the laundry room holding a hammer and grinning. I looked around frantically. I was not prepared for what I saw. The soggy rug was now nailed to the rafters. A large puddle forming underneath it as it dripped dry. I blinked in disbelief. "You nailed the rug to the ceiling! WHY did you NAIL the rug to the CEILING?" I sputtered

"Well, it was too heavy for the clothesline" Chris responded matter-of-factly. "But don't worry! I used really little nails."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Ottoman Empire

It recently came to my attention that grown-ups have matching furniture. And while I have all the responsibilities of a grown up, I do not have matching furniture. What is up with that? So, I brought this glaring problem to Chris's attention last week and he agreed, we are grown ups and our furniture does not match. "Dude, this is not good." I said "We gotta fix this."

Chris tipped his head to the side for a moment made his thinking face and then said "OK, lets go get new furniture."

And so it was decided, we would get new furniture for our living room for Christmas. We went to no less that 9,658 furniture stores last Saturday and after an entire day we selected an ottoman. Yes, an ottoman. Just one. There was drama, and eye rolling, and loud, dramatic sighing and I *distinctly* remember someone (ahem) trying to talk me into an "under the sea" themed fabric pattern but we did not collapse under pressure. Despite the sales people circling like vultures, we held out until we found one that we both liked. And we like it. A lot. And it *coordinates* with our living room which is even more grown up that matching. Or so I hear.

So it was Saturday night and there I sat on the Ottoman. Thinking about what to do next. It was then that it came to me. I turned to Chris, "Do you know what I think of every time I hear the word Ottoman?"

"No, but I have a feeling you are going to tell me." He said.

"The Ottoman empire" I replied smugly.

"Hummm" said Chris "I see the connection"

"Do you know what that makes me?" I asked grinning.

Chris looked over the tops of his glasses at me and raised a single eyebrow. "What" he said with great reservation.

"The emperor!" I roared with glee. "And as emperor, I decree that you should bring me a diet soda."

"Fine" he said walking into the kitchen, "just don't spill it on the empire OK?"

As it turns out, having coordinating furniture does not necessarily mean you have to be grown up. At least not all the time.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

And there were streaks of fire behind me

On Saturday, I ran my very first ever 5K, not far I realize, but a momentous occasion nonetheless for someone who use to run only if being chased. By a bear. A hungry bear. A hungry, rabid bear. (I have never actually been chased by a bear, hungry, rabid or otherwise.)

It all started back in mid-September when I heard about a running program called the Couch to 5K. It had a fun name so naturally, I decided to try it. Over the next 9 weeks I ran 3 days each week and slowly built up my endurance. I went from running 60 second intervals with walking between to running 30 minutes continuously.

When I completed the 9 weeks I was supposed to be ready to run a 5K or, 3.1 miles. But the farthest I had ever run was 2.7 miles. What if at mile 2.9 one of my legs snapped off and I had to hop to the finish line? There was no way to know with total certainty that this wouldn't happen. So I had to do a test run just to be sure. One week before the race I ran a course I measured out to be 3.1 miles. Miraculously both my legs were intact as I finished. It took me 33 minutes. I knew I was ready.

On race day I had 2 goals:
1. Don't finish last
2. Finish in 33 minutes (or less)

The race was without incident, there were no hungry rabid bears, I didn't trip, and neither one of my legs snapped off. When I crossed the finish line Chris tried to take a picture of me in my moment of glory. This is what he got instead:

Nothing. I ran so fast that I ran out of the frame before the camera could click. But, if you look very carefully, you can see the streaks of fire behind me on the pavement. That is because I ran SO fast that I finished in 30 minutes and 12 seconds which is nearly 3 whole minutes faster than my practice run. I guess there is no accounting for adrenaline.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Laundry death shanty

The neighbors are still at it. They have now closed off the entire front porch leaving only a tiny 2x2 foot hole near the stairs to crawl in and out of on the front of the house. At night when the porch lights are on, you can see them glowing through the 6 inch gap along the top of the "three season room". It is *almost* like a halo. A big, bright, hideous, redneck halo. From hell.

In what I can only assume to be an attempt to make their house even more marketable than it already is, Mr. Fix-it has continued construction now working on the back of the house. All last week we heard the sounds of furious sawing and hammering punctuated by shouting. When I looked outside, I observed that the washing machine was still out back and had now been joined by the dryer and what appeared to be a miniature hot water heater made from spare parts. They had been surrounded on 3 sides with plywood and a makeshift roof braced by long pieces of lumber. We call it the laundry death shanty. Why you ask? Because the first snowfall we get, that thing is going to come crashing down and crush whoever is unlucky enough to be beneath it laundering their clothes.

As we stood there looking at the Laundry Death Shanty in all it's hideousness Chris said wryly, "Gosh, I bet you they gained a whole 16 square feet from that addition."

"Yeah" I responded. "Anyone who doesn't buy that place now is nuts! "

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

It's a little too cold for that

It's time for another edition of what the hell are the neighbors doing now.

Two weeks ago, Chris and I were outside grilling when we saw Mr Fix-it walk down the back steps of his house and over to the washing machine sitting along side the house. We had both assumed that this washing machine was not operational, with it being OUTSIDE and all. How wrong we were. He opened the lid and reached down inside to retrieve a load of sopping wet clothes. After he staggered back up the stairs an into his house, Chris and I turned towards each other our shocked faces lit up only but the now flaming lamb chop on the grill.

"That is insane!" Chris said, "I can't believe that their washing machine is outside. It is November, it's going to freeze soon and their house will flood when the pipes burst."

"Yeah" I responded, "I can't believe thy actually wash clothes in that, I thought they just used it to sit on while they shaved each others heads this summer. I had no idea it actually worked!"

"I know! Wait, what?" Chris looked at me over the smoldering lamb chop, "They do what?"

"Oh, you've never seen them do that? They come out here and one will sit on the washing machine while the other guy shaves his head and when he is done they switch" I explained. "I guess it's a little too cold for that now."

Shaking his head, Chris silently went inside with dinner.

Fast forward to last night...

I am driving home from work when my cell phone rings. It is Chris. I answer. "Hello?"

He says:"Oh. My. God. Come home *RIGHT NOW*. Are you almost home? How much farther? When will you be here? " Before I could even stammer a response he continued, "They have covered the entire porch in plywood. Except for the very top. I assume they couldn't reach it without a ladder." His voice was now at a fever pitch. "This has to be seen to be believed. Seriously, how much longer till you get here? Hurry!"

I knew, as soon as he said they, who he was referring to. I drove home as fast as I could. It was still the longest 15 minutes of my entire life. The anticipation nearly killed me. I was not disappointed. As I drove past their house I slowed way down (read 1.2 mph). It was hideous. The entire 6x15 foot porch was enclosed with giant pieces of wood. Along the bottom the sheets of wood were just leaned up against the railings. I mean, why bother to nail it on when it will just stay up all on it's own? Its a waste of nails! Along the top of the railing there was more sheets of wood, although, none of them were tall enough to totally close off the space so there is now a 6 inch wide gap between the top of the wood and the roof all the way around. Did I mention it was hideous? I did? Oh. Well that is because it WAS hideous. And, as of 7:12 this morning, it is still hideous.

Chris and I spent the rest of the night trying to figure out what they were doing in there. I guessed that maybe it was too cold for their outdoor, tropical pet parakeet. Chris thinks they moved the washing machine in there so it wouldn't freeze. We are also pretty sure at one point there was a refrigerator out on the porch as well. So we considered the possibility that they are just moving all of their appliances out onto the porch to make space for extra roommates.

"Maybe Mr. Fix-it will make it into a three season room" I suggested. "They could saw openings in the wood and duct tape saran wrap over the holes to make windows! Nothing says buy this house like a do-it-yourself three season room."

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Monday night over dinner I said to Chris, "We need to get a pumpkin, Halloween is on Wednesday"

"Oh, no we don't" he replied casually, "I've already got that taken care of."

In my head two potential scenarios simultaneously unfolded:

Scenario 1:
Chris had stopped on his way home and picked up a pumpkin already because he knew we needed one.

Scenario 2:
Chris had singlehandedly devised a bizarre plan for festive Halloween decorum that did not involve a pumpkin and knew I would say no way so he just didn't tell me about it.

After considering both scenarios I determined, with out a shadow of a doubt, that I was dealing with scenario #2. "Well if we aren't getting a pumpkin, how will we decorate?" I asked (secretly fearing the response). Chris grinned and cast a sidelong glance at the miniature seedless watermelon we purchased at the supermarket the day before. "No way" I shook my head vigorously, "How are you even going to hollow it out? This will never work."
Chris rolled his eyes dramatically and said "With an ice cream scoop! DUH! This is going to be so super cool."

Faced with the prospect of having to eat half pound melon balls for the remainder of the week I did what any reasonable person would have done, I hid the ice cream scoop. In fact, I can't actually remember where I put it.

Fast forward to Tuesday night after dinner. Chris says "it is time to carve the watermelon" immediately followed by "hey what happened to the ice cream scoop?"

Trying to appear occupied, I began to feverishly unload the dishwasher. "Gosh, it's not in here!"

"That's ok" Chris interrupted, "All you really need to to carve a watermelon Jack-O-Lantern is a good fillet knife." Then he began to carve

After he sliced it in half, he hollowed out the inside with the fillet knife. Next, he carved a face. When he was finished he started to root around furiously in the cabinet. With his head all the way inside the cupboard I heard his muffled voice say "It still needs a little something extra. You know?" Attempting to muffle my laughter, I nodded. "Ah Ha!" he cried as he emerged and opened his hand to reveal one of those tiny umbrella toothpicks for a tropical drink. "Now it will be perfect. This is going to be the best Halloween ever!"

Happy Halloween from Me, Chris & the Jack-O-Pumpkin-Water-Lantern-Melon!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Seach Party

I recently discovered that there is a way to review the search keywords that have led people to my blog. Give the topics that I discuss, I figured there would be some pretty funny and/or weird stuff in there. I wasn't disappointed. The highlights include:

  • things that sink that you thought would float (I wonder what this guy dropped into a lake)
  • why doesn't it float in the air (because there is no helium?)
  • the world's best knock knock jokes (no doubt a direct link to my made-up knock knock joke)
  • the funnies knock knock joke ever told (ditto)
  • talking in my sleep and how to deal with this (this dude is most likely in big trouble and/or on the couch)
  • dog ate entire box of doughnuts (honestly, this could happen to anyone)
  • a funny thing happened while I was mowing the grass (maybe he found a 15 foot trampoline or one of my neighbors)
  • why blow on marshmallow to extinguish flame (because, evidently, waving it around is frowned upon)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Attack Cactus

About 3 weeks ago at a native plant sale I found this little unassuming cactus in among the other plants. "This is native?" I asked the sales lady with a mixture of doubt and excitement. "But, it's a cactus."

"Oh yes!" she said, "it is a species of cactus that is native to Michigan and it is winter hearty! Isn't it wonderful? So unique!"

My thoughts immediately turned to my crazy neighbors who had landscaped their yard with desert cactus only to have them all die over the winter. I pictured them all huddled around the window that looks out over out garden next spring trying to figure out how our cactus survived. That was all it took. With unbridled enthusiasm, I scooped up the cactus in its cute little pot and took it to the check out where I paid three whole dollars for it. What the delightful sales woman forgot to mention was that this was no ordinary cactus. This was an attack cactus.

Upon arriving home I planted the cactus in the garden being careful to wear the thickest leather work gloves and a long sleeved shirt to protect my hands and arms. The needles on this thing were brutal. Menacingly orange, each one was the size of a splinter of wood forming small tufts all over the plant. They stuck to EVERYTHING. They poked through the gloves stabbing into my hands they somehow got all over the inside of my shirt sleeves. I was pulling them out for days. DAYS!

There were times when I was nowhere near the cactus and I would feel one of those fiery orange needles poke into my skin. It was as though the cactus was sending aerial attacks from the other side of the yard. There were even occasions when I was sitting inside on the couch and I would get one in my hand. "WHERE DID THIS COME FROM?" I would scream out. "The cactus is OUT-FRIGGIN-SIDE!" I had to start carrying tweezers to remove the cactus needles from my skin. I had to take them everywhere with me because I never really know when the cactus would attack. Evidently, I am no longer even safe inside.

Today was the final straw. I was at work, in another zip code mind you, when I felt a familiar poke. "FRIGGIN CACTUS!" I screamed out before I could stop myself. My coworker leaned out into the hall with eyebrows raised. "I've been attacked" I said trying to fish out the needle and then under my breath, "by a cactus" Co-workers eyebrows went up even further. "I know it sounds crazy, but I have this cactus at home and it keeps stabbing me with needles even when I am nowhere near it. I don't know what to do." I didn't even have my tweezers so I had to try and pull them out with my fingers. This continued all afternoon. In total, I pulled 14 attack cactus needles out of my hands and arms this afternoon. I hate that stupid cactus.

Here's the thing I don't dare dig it up. Can you even imagine? Attack cactus would go for the throat or worse yet, the bad eye. So, my faithful readers (and lurkers), I need your help. How do I bump off the attack cactus with out being showered in a deluge of fiery orange needles?

To be continued...

Monday, October 8, 2007

Garden Fencing

Fall has arrived. So naturally, most of the plants in our vegetable garden are done producing for the year. Each year we need to cut them all back so that they have time to compost into the soil before next spring when we replant. Chris typically does this.

It is at this point it feel it is pertinent to mention that my husband, and this is a direct quote, "has this awesome sword that almost never gets used!" So naturally what better time to remove it from the wall where it is displayed (yes, I realize I was somehow tricked into allowing him to hang it on the wall of our home as a "decoration") and use it to chop down the garden plants.

He never tells me when he is planning this he just does it. So inevitably, I will look out the window totally unprepared, and see my husband standing in the middle of the garden, fencing with an invisible opponent amongst a flurry of flying corn husks, zucchini vines and leafy greens. Garden Fencing, as I now refer to it, may or may not include the following activities:

  • Yelling "Yarrrrrgh!" (like a pirate)
  • Throwing pieces of vegetation into air and attempting to slice them in half with the sword on their way back down.
  • Shouting "En Garde!"
  • Batting practice
  • Swinging the sword from side to side vigorously so it makes that 'shwing shwing' noise
  • 'Knighting' the dog with the sword
  • Grinning mischievously
When he is done, the garden is gone with only piles of minced vegetation in his wake. The sword is cleaned and goes back into the sheath. And despite my best efforts, back onto the wall. Until next year, that is.

Friday, October 5, 2007

They got a dog

Last night, while I was counting the minutes until CSI, I suddenly heard loud hysterical wailing and yelping coming from next door. Yes, that next door. Chris and I exchanged worried glances and Warp began having a doggy meltdown complete with whining, gasping and rolling around on the floor because we wouldn't let him outside to investigate.

I seriously debated whether or not to even go look. "What on earth is that noise." I shouted to Chris. He responded by glancing incredulously at me over the tops of his glasses. "You aren't the least bit curious? I'm going to check it out." I said more to myself than to him. I had to see where all the noise was coming from without appearing to be interested or concerned. My biggest problem: I couldn't see what was happening from the window. I was going to have to go out there if I wanted to find out. Doing my absolute best to appear disinterested and nonchalant, I opened the back door and stepped out onto the porch. Warp of course raced out after me and I practically had to throw myself down the back steps to catch him before he streaked past. When I looked across the yard here is what I saw:

All the neighbor children, with their friends, were jumping on the 15 foot wide trampoline. Ascending from the center of the throng of children, a teeny tiny puppy dog. This little guy couldn't have weighed more than 5 lbs. They were all jumping in unison which caused the dog to repeatedly catapult skyward. Each time, he let out a series of terrified yelps and wails.

I completely forgot about appearing disinterested and nonchalant. I stood there clutching my wiggling, screaming dog with my mouth hanging open staring at this poor puppy. Suddenly, all the children, turned and started yelling and waving at us; calling for Warp to join in the fun. Uh, no. I went back inside, leaning against the door once it was closed behind me. Chris looked over at me. "Well?"

"They got a dog" I replied.

"Oh no" He whispered.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Things this weekend that made me laugh

Earlier this week I called miss-dig to locate the utilities in our front yard. We needed to dig a large hole to plant a tree . So, naturally I wanted to make sure we wouldn't hit the gas line and blow ourselves to kingdom-come while digging. I arrived home Friday to find a small herd of children literally having a parade in our front yard. All 10 of them were marching around in a single file line waving tiny orange and blue flags over their heads feverishly. Coincidentally, these are the very flags miss-dig used to mark our utilities. The child leading the parade was riding a bicycle and tooting a whistle. When I was spotted blocking the parade route across my driveway the child at the front let out a long piercing blast on the whistle and motioned for me to move.

Chris and I took the cat to the vet first thing Saturday morning after we found some blood in his litter box. The vet quickly looked him over, and said she needed do a rectal exam to find out what was wrong. Yikes! She quickly assured us that "actually, you are lucky because I have the smallest hands of all three of the vets working today by far." Serioulsy? Ew! Flanked by a vet technician on either side Chris and I watched as they hauled away our 18.5 lb cat. After a few minutes we heard "MEEEEEEEYOWWWWWWWW!" and then utter silence. Poor, poor kitty.

The next project for Saturday was planting the 10 foot tall tree we purchased for our front yard. First we had to dig a gigantic hole in the front yard. Chris and I thought it would go faster if we both dug at the same time but when we leaned forward to shovel dirt out, we banged our heads together. We sat there on the lawn with stars and little birds flying circles around our heads for a few minutes and after that, we decided to take turns digging. The remainder of the weekend was punctuated by going outside to water the tree, then, coming inside, and immediately forgetting the hose was on. Approximately 15 minutes later, one or both of us would remember the now drowning tree in the front yard at which point we would dash outside, sprint across the lake forming at the base of the tree and make a dive for the hose.

Sunday morning, Chris decided to make an omelet. Everything was going fine until it was time to turn the omelet. He began to shake the pan menacingly to and fro. Once the egg was err, loosened, he gave one final shake while he lurched the omelet into the air. In his mind I'm certain he pictured the omelet flipping in midair and gliding back down smoothly into the pan. Here is what actually happened: the wad of egg cheese and vegetable, now airborne, began its rapid descent in a pattern that was clearly not headed for the frying pan. I sat watching, transfixed, the oatmeal spoon halfway to my mouth. The dog and cat appeared from nowhere, ready to eat the eggs that would soon be falling from the sky. Chris lunged foreword to catch his escaping breakfast. He managed to net about half the eggs out of mid air. The remaining eggs hit the stove top, and the dials on the back of the stove, and the tea kettle, and the wall. It was a big omelet.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

It is [almost] vest season

There are a few items in my wardrobe that are of particularly great value to me. They include bell bottom jeans, Chaco sandals, anything kelly green, and topping the list, vests. Specifically, fleece vests.

I. Love. Vests. I can't decide what I love more, the fact that they go with nearly everything (they do so!) or, the fact that my arms never get too hot. On my most recent camping trip, I wore a vest every day. Over a tee shirt. It was the greatest week of my life.

My justification for my love affair with vests can be best explained by a turn of phrase I am particularly fond of: "think like an onion". Onions, like most of my outfits, have layers. Its the best way to dress if you don't know what to expect. Too hot? Remove a layer. Too Chilly? Add a layer. Better yet, add a vest so your arms don't get to hot and your middle doesn't get too chilly. Usually if Chris hears me say "think like an onion!" he rolls his eyes dramatically and says "You are going to put on a vest aren't you?" The answer is *always* yes.

I have at least 5 vests (last time I counted). I wait all summer with unrelenting anticipation for it to get cool enough to wear my vests. Inevitably, each year in a fit of zeal I get one or two false starts. It is rather cool when I leave the house for work so I put on a vest. Then as the day goes on, it gets warmer. And warmer. AND WARMER. Left with no other option I remove the vest, just prior to collapsing from heat stroke.

I had one such false start last week. Around lunch time, in the break room, a coworker looked at me inquisitively in my vest and said "You know it is like 80 degrees out right?"

"Yes" I said, standing in front of the freezer fanning the cold air onto myself. "I guess it is only *almost* vest season."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


I did on of those online quizzes today. The topic? What would your obituary say?


'What will your obituary say?' at

Yeah, that sounds about right.

When I was little there was a terrible, mean, old woman who lived on our block. She used to chase Girl Scouts selling cookies off her porch with a broom and 'confiscate' balls that accidentally bounced into her yard. You get the picture. Children in the neighborhood refered to her as Oldie-locks, since by our best approximation she was no less than 158 years old. A few years later the woman died, presumably of old age.

My mom found her obituary in the paper and was discussing it with my dad when I walked into the room. "What is an obituary?" I inquired. My parents exchanged glances.

"Honey," my mom said, "Mrs. X (her name escapes me) from down the street died so they put a obituary in the paper, as a way of letting people know ."

"So the obituary is for Oldie-locks?"

"Yes" my mom answered. "I know Mrs. X was not very nice to you kids but can you please stop calling her Oldie-locks?"

"So this word, obituary" I continued, "it's an abbreviation?"

"An abbreviation? What do you mean?"

"Obituary" I said slowly. "Old bitches who have died."

My mother and father did their best to stifle their laughter. "No, it is not an abbreviation" said my dad.

"And it does not mean old bitches who have died" my mom interjected sternly.

To this day, when ever the topic of obituaries comes up in my family we all burst into snickers. It makes for some great comic relief in an otherwise humorless situation.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Cook 'n Mow

Our phone books were delivered this week in those yellow sacks they hang off the mail boxes. Upon pulling into my driveway, I observed the gigantic first grader who lives next door pedaling madly across the front yard atop a hot pink bicycle that was *clearly* far to small for him. He was swinging the phone book in wide circles over his head using the handles of the plastic phone book sack. Then, he let out a battle cry so piercing that a small flock of birds in a nearby tree took flight. On the other side of the yard, directly in his path stood one of the really little kids that lives there. The grass where she was standing was approximately, up to her chin. He was headed right for her! The mother rushed outside just in time to stop the little one from becoming bicycle road kill or having to surgically remove a phone book from her head. Events like this usually serve to alert our neighbors that it is time to mow their grass.

The grass next door. To say that it is long, is, well, an understatement that doesn't really do it justice. They could lose a small child in that yard . They can not cook out because the grass is so long that it will light on fire beneath the grill. They also can not find the lawn mower in the grass. So really, it becomes a vicious cycle. This is why, when the grass becomes so long that they can no longer get their cars in and out of the yard, or they cant find the children, they have to spring into action. They host what Chris and I have come to refer to as a cook 'n mow. This consists of inviting about 20 of their closest friends over. Each friend brings something to grill and a lawn mower. They do this because 1) the people who live there can not find their own lawn mower in the jungle yard and 2) even if they could, the grass is SO long that one mower would break down from the sheer mechanical stress after one pass across the yard.

So, all their friends come over and start their mowers *simultaneously* to make sure they work. One mower is loud, 20 mowers are *VERY* loud. Fortunately, most of the mowers break after about 10 seconds so after the initial deluge of noise, there are only 1 or 2 running at a time. Priority 1: mow a path to the grill. After the grill is lit, they mow concentric circles around the 15 foot wide trampoline in the middle of the back yard. After there is a clear path to the trampoline, all the children (that they can find) are herded onto it. This includes the baby. Now that the kids are out of the way, they continue mowing concentric circles around the objects in the back yard in order of importance.

Honestly, it's pretty amazing to watch, there are guys who mow, guys who fix lawn mowers as they break and guys who just run back and forth exchanging broken lawn mowers for working ones. The remaining guests are in charge of grilling.

This brings me to the "cook" part of the cook 'n mow. I observed at this weekend's cook 'n mow, a man using what appeared to be a large metal snow shovel a sort of gigantic spatula to flip food on the grill. Why didn't he use a regular spatula you ask? Well my only guess is that it was lost in the grass.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Talking in my sleep

Preface: I am a science nerd. If you already know about my fascination with CSI (Las Vegas) and the various laboratory activities that are featured on the show, feel free to skip ahead. If not, read on. Each night when I arrive home from work, I immediately go into the living room and turn on CSI reruns. I Watch CSI while I cook, while we eat dinner, while I check my email, while I surf the web and while I do house work. I love CSI. I especially love how they use all kinds of wacky lab techniques and scientific methods to catch all those sneaky criminals. My absolute favorite lab instrument is the centrifuge. I mean, what's not to love? It is like a tiny amusement park ride for your samples. Anyway, needless to say, anyone who watches as much CSI as I do is bound to dream about it from time to time and that is where the story begins.

The last morning of the camping trip when I awoke Chris turned to me and said with an inquisitive look on his face, "What were you dreaming about last night?"

I immediately started describing in great detail a dream I had had about being an employee of the Las Vegas crime lab exactly as it is portrayed on CSI. I had interacted with all the characters during the course of my investigation and had spent a great deal of time analyzing data in the lab and using all the "cool equipment". I concluded by stating the obvious fact that "it was a really awesome dream."

"OK, science nerd, it must have been, because in the middle of the night last night you screamed out YEAH at the top of your lungs and woke me up. What part of the dream was that?" Chris then gave me that teacher stare he does so well, you know the one over the rims of his glasses where the eyebrows go way up.

I started laughing. I mean LAUGHING. Chris watched with a mixture of amusement and concern. I finally managed to explain that in my dream, Gill Grissom, the lab supervisor and head honcho, had come into the lab while I was processing data and had asked me a question. I responded yeah, but he couldn't hear me over the whir of the centrifuge combined with his character's mild hearing loss so I had to yell "YEAH" as loudly as I could. Apparently I had not only dreamed that I yelled yeah I *actually* yelled yeah.

Chris's face changed from concerned to relieved, then he started to shake his head and said "Man, you really are a science nerd."

Monday, August 27, 2007

S'more marshmallows please!

Without question, the best part of camping is s'mores. And the best part of s'mores is the marshmallows. So much so, that I love to just eat them toasted all by themselves. As it turns out, marshmallows have a lot of sugar in them. This becomes important for two reasons:

First, all that sugar means that marshmallows are highly combustible (read: BB never means to, but, always somehow manages to light them on fire). I put the marshmallow on the stick. I place the stick over the fire. I think to myself: "yeesh, this is really taking a long time. Maybe I'd better move it a little closer so that it gets nice and golden brown. I can't wait to eat this toasty marshmallow." At that very moment, as if on cue, the marshmallow bursts into flames. I am, however, thinking about eating the marshmallow and paying no attention to the fact that it is now engulfed in fire. I smell something burning. I look down in dismay to discover what has happened. My immediate reaction is to wave the stick back and forth furiously to extinguish the marshmallow. At this point, the person unlucky enough to be across the fire from me begins to weave and bob frantically in an attempt to not be hit by a flaming, aerial, marshmallow attack. In response to their yells of protest, I stop waving it around to extinguish the fire I begin to blow on the marshmallow in a manner reminiscent of the big bad wolf. Although, by now, the whole thing is pretty much black. I do not wait for it to cool off. I eat it right away. I burn my mouth. I gasp in pain which then causes me to choke on the little pieces of black ash. I swallow the molten marshmallow, and ask for another. This cycle repeats itself until we run out of marshmallows or I fall asleep on the picnic table when the sugar high wears off.

This brings me to a second interesting point about marshmallows having a lot of sugar. As it turns out, if I eat enough of them I bring amusement to not only myself and those around me but also to the unsuspecting folks at adjacent campsites. This past week, while camping, Warp, Chris, Chris's brother, and I were sitting around the campfire. I had consumed an unusually large number of marshmallows that evening was was halfway into a knock knock joke about a duck and a spatula that I can not seem to recall, when I became suddenly and overwhelmingly tired. "I'm very tired and I need to go to bed right away" I announced.

Chris and his brother exchanged dubious glances. "What right now?" Chris asked.

"Yeah, you can't go to bed now, your just lit your marshmallow on fire!" his brother said.

"Crap!" I yelled as I began frantically waving the marshmallow stick back and forth.

After I ate the marshmallow I decided to sit at the picnic table and wait for Chris and his brother to put out the campfire. Then, I thought I would just put my head down for a minute while I waited. I awoke with a start to the hiss of the campfire being put out with a bucket of water. As I turned my head, I noticed a long black line across my field of vision and I felt a poking sensation on my forehead. I reached my hand up to discover that I had fallen asleep on the marshmallow stick which was now firmly affixed to my forehead with residual goo. I quickly pulled it off before anyone noticed.

"Come on" Chris said "we need to get another bucket of water to put out the fire."

After a quick stop at the bathroom, I told Chris I would meet him at the water pump. When I got there I thought, maybe I will just sit down on this stump for a minute while I wait. Once I sat down, I thought, maybe I will just close my eyes for a minute while I wait. I must have dozed off again because when the squeak of the pump startled me awake I yelled "ARRUGH!" and jumped to my feet. Evidently, I was not the only one who was startled. The guy using the pump stumbled back while simultaneously sloshing himself with water. He then turned and stated walking very fast in the opposite direction. Moments later Chris walked up, picked up our bucket and we headed back to camp together.

"Ready to go to sleep?" he asked.

" You have no idea" I replied.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Scare a racoon in 10 easy steps

Night one of the camping trip: we realized we were in for a long night when 10 minutes after zipping the tent shut raccoons began to emerge from the woods and surround us. The dog, of course, went ballistic. This is when Chris must have gotten the idea for how to scare a raccoon in 10 easy steps:

Step 1: Select an isolated area with lots of hungry wildlife and no one to hear your screams.
Step 2: Prepare a fragrant and delicious meal outside.
Step 3: Wait until dark, then go inside your tent and zip it closed.
Step 4: Sit inside tent, in the dark, listening with mild alarm as the raccoons begin to close in.
Step 5: Cover ears as dog goes ballistic and begins to bark continuously and with great zeal.
Step 6: Attempt to calm down dog.
Step 7: Jump back as raccoons bump into wall of tent while wrestling with each other outside.
Step 8: Carefully select weapons in case you must defend the tent fortress. Recommended weapons include large rocks, a pudgy pie iron and a camping lantern with a loud warning siren.
Step 9: Go to sleep.
Step 10: Sleep in silence as a 47 lb raccoon tippy toes up to the tent window and peers inside. Lay in silence as the dog attempts to attack the 47 lb raccoon *through* the tent wall. Then, with out warning, snap open eyes while you sit bolt upright in sleeping bag zipped up to the neck and simultaneously scream at the top of your lungs. *NOTE* For best results, make a noise that sounds like both the Tasmanian devil from Loony Toons and a person puking up a large shoe.

It is probably worth mentioning that Step 10 not only scared the 47 lb raccoon but also the wife and the dog.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Avian Nose Job

While I was in the driveway the other day after work, I looked up to see the gigantic first grader who lives next door out on his porch with the parakeet. This the very same child who nearly collided with my car while reading the grocery store circular just days earlier. The boy, clearly bored, was 'playing with his pet'. This consisted of wedging his nose in between the bars of the bird cage while making noises that could only be described as a frighting hybrid of a rabid owl and a run away freight train. "Woooouh Woooot Wooot Woouuuuuuhhhhhh!"

As usual, the parakeet was squeaking away but in an attempt to put some distance between himself and the weird kid the bird had crammed itself into the far corner of the cage. I stood there for no less than 10 minutes watching transfixed as the noises continued and the bird became more and more irritated. The kids face was now pressed so tightly against the cage that little bulges of skin were popping up between the bars. Perplexed I turned to head back inside. But I did not make it through the door before hearing a short series of flapping noises followed by an abrupt halt to the hooting , an indignant wail and finally a loud thud.

I guess the bird must have had enough because when I turned around, the boy was sitting in the middle of the porch with both hands clamped over his nose screaming at the top of his lungs. I can only assume that left with no other alternative, the pissed off parakeet flew across the cage and pecked the kid right on the nose to silence him.

I managed to keep from bursting out laughing until I made it inside and the door was shut behind me. Chris wondering what was so funny, listened to my story accompanied by the screams which were clearly audible inside and said "That kid has been out there for a couple hours hooting at that bird. I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner"

As we left later that night we saw the boy sitting on the front steps, looking particularly miserable, with a bandage on his nose made from a sock. The bird was eying him suspiciously and each time it moved to a new spot in the cage, the kid would shrink back gripping his bandage tightly lest he might become the unwilling recipient of a second avian nose job.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

What is creepy meaning?

My computer has been broken for a month. Since it is still under warranty, Dell has to cover the repairs. Their technical support has been pretty bad so far, I've dealt with one batty technician after another none of who seem to speak very good English. Too bad I didn't know about the survival guide before I called. I have had 4 service techs sent to my house to replace the mysterious inner workings of my laptop one part at a time. This was only after I spent an hour arguing with a particularly stubborn tech who insisted that removing the mother board of my computer was "no big deal" and "that even a monkey could do it". Evidently there was only a small amount of welding required to reattach the processor to the new mother board. "Is this a joke?" I asked "I am not doing anything that even resembles welding. I want to speak to your supervisor." At this point the tech started to hyperventilate which made him even harder to understand. Three days later, the parade of computer parts began and didn't stop for a month.

After the fourth service call to the house, the tech says to me, " I have no idea what the hell is wrong with this thing. Ship it back it Dell and let them figure it out." So that is what I did. Yesterday, after being gone less than a week, the computer was returned to me in a box unrepaired and left on my front porch with a note inside that said the part they have determined will fix the computer it is out of stock. They will ship it to me to install in the computer myself (with only minor welding required). Coincidentally, this is a part that the service tech already replaced. It did not correct the problem. This was my approximate reaction:

Chris tried to calm me down, he really did, but there was absolutely no chance of him derailing the tirade to which I was entitled. He slowly backed into the corner and surrounded himself with couch cushions to shield him from the impending blast. I called Dell. The technician who was unlucky enough to get my phone call got an ear full. After the 10 minute recap of replaced parts and hours spent on the phone trying to troubleshoot with technicians he interrupted me and said, "Dell sent it back and it still doesn't work? So what is wrong with it now?"

I'm quite certain that my scream shattered every window in every home for a 3 block radius. The pillow pile in the corner was shaking. The dog and cat were huddled together under the table. Then, in a dangerously calm voice I said "The computer will not turn on. The same as before. Nothing has changed."
"Then we will have to troubleshoot " he said. The dog, cat and Chris fled downstairs in terror.

During the next hour and a half I ran all the diagnostics I had run 10 times before but unlike any of the previous technicians this guy felt the need to fill the long silences with small talk. He asked me if I had seen the Simpson's movie and if I liked sports. Before I had a chance to respond, he told me all of his favorite American movies and sports teams. The he talked about dog fighting, the NBA, his work schedule and finally, global warming during all of which I remained utterly silent. Then things started to get a little creepy. He asked me what time it was here and then he said "It is very quiet there, are you all alone?" (WHAT?!) "Are your mother and father in bed asleep?" (OMG!)

I didn't know how to respond so I said nothing. I was flabbergasted. This dude was wacko. To say an awkward silence followed would be an extreme understatement. As I sat there I thought to myself, if he asks me what I am wearing I am hanging up. Screw the computer. Finally he blurts out, "I hope you are not pissed off, you did not answer my question."
Silently panicking I tried to think of something to say."That is because your question was inappropriate"

In a quivering whisper, he said "It is a very personal question in America to ask what sports team you like? I had no idea. I am so sorry. In India we discuss this all the time." Oh God, I thought, he is going to start crying. I made him cry. I am a terrible person.
"Please hold ma'am" After a few minutes he returns to the line and triumphantly announces "I have asked my coworker who has been to America why it is in appropriate to ask what someone's favorite sports team is. He said it is not an inappropriate question. He said asking you if you are alone was the inappropriate question. He said it is creepy. What is creepy meaning ma'am? I am now trying to stifle a fit of laughter, I cleared my throat and said "Why don't you ask him."
"Please hold ma'am!" *long pause* "He says it means, like, weird. Oh, and a little scary."

"Yes, that's very good" I said. "Can we please get back to fixing my computer now?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Bicycle drive by

While driving home from work last night, I noticed a small bicycle weaving erratically back and forth in the street ahead of me. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the young rider (no more than 8 years old) was in fact reading the paper. This was problematic for two reasons: first, he was using his arms to hold the paper open across the handlebars and therefore could not steer the bike. Secondly, the paper was so large that he could not see over it to watch where he was going. The resulting effect being a bicycle that appeared to be driven by a drunken newspaper.

I stopped the car completely and watched with mild alarm as the bicycle continued to swerve towards me. As it got closer, I could make out the headlines of the paper, which was not in fact the paper, but the grocery store circular. The bicycle was less than 3 feet from the car now, and headed right for me. If I didn't do something, this kid was going to run his bike into my stopped car. So I honked, just a little one, but it must have gotten his attention. I saw a head peek over the top of the grocery store circular and upon realizing he was hurtling towards a collision made a face I may never forget. Eyebrows rocketed up, eyes bugged out and the mouth dropped open as he swerved away missing the car by inches.

From a safe distance behind the car, the child stopped the bike, and turned to look at me. Then he shook his head as if to say "watch it lady"! Aghast, I watched as he turned back to his grocery store circular and continued reading as he rode off.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Things that don't float

Many years ago on a sailing trip across Lake Erie, I lost a pair of expensive sunglasses. At the end of a long day of sailing, I was up on the bow pulling in the jib (which is one of the sails). I was leaned over the edge precariously grabbing at the sail fabric when I heard a kerplunk and looked down to see a small ripple spreading outwards in the water. My hand instantly flew to the top of my head where my sunglasses were no longer resting. I let out a dismayed wail. My Oakley sunglasses were in the lake. I contemplated jumping over after them. We were, after all, only in a few feet of water since we had pulled into a protected cove. As I looked around I noticed a large sanitary sewer outlet pipe on the shore less than 20 yards away. OK, maybe not I thought. No poo diving today. I made my way to the back of the boat where I told Chris what had happened.
"And the worst part" I said," is that the sales person who sold me the glasses, told me they would float."
A grin began to spread across Chris's face. Barely able to contain his laughter he slowly repeated my words back to me "told you...... they......would.....float.... the sunglasses, made of hard plastic with heavy lenses would float."
"Yeah!" I said, squinting up at him in the now, blinding sunlight.

At this point, Chris found it necessary to sit down so as not to injure himself when he began cackling hysterically. Each time his laughter slowed, he would look up at me as I stood there alternating between squinting and scowling and start laughing all over again. This went on for several minutes before the man got a hold of himself.

For years after this, in fact it is still going on, Chris will hand me something very heavy such as a tire iron or a vacuum cleaner and ask me if I can check to see if it will float. "Its a special one, the salesman says it will float." He informs me with noting less than glee. What a comedian.

As for the sunglasses, I replaced them shortly after that. But somewhere in lake Erie, there is a carp swimming around in my shades.

Yesterday we went water skiing. Eager to get started, I jumped into the lake with my sunglasses still on. When I broke the surface, Chris leaned over the side with his hand outstretched and said "those don't float you know" I removed the sunglasses from my head, folded them up and being too far to hand them off, I tossed them to him. The sunglasses rocketed through the air and bounced off his outstretched hand. *insert loud dramatic gasp* Together we watched as seemingly, in slow motion, the glasses tumbled through the air. I think even the dog held his breath. In a move that was nothing short of miraculous, Chris lurched forward out the side of the boat with two outstretched arms and caught the sunglasses inches above the water.
He looked at the sunglasses and then at me and shook his head. "That was close" he said.

"Yeah" I agreed, "and those don't float!"

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Rule of 3

This afternoon at the gym an alarming series of events was set into motion by an unassuming coworker. As you may or may not know, I am not capable of having only one freak accident at a time, they come in groups of three (or more) which I now refer to as the rule of three. There was the time I was struck by a senior citizen in a motorized shopping cart, and then slipped on a banana peel and sprained my ankle while grocery shopping or the time I got stung by a bee, a hornet and a yellow-jacket in one afternoon at a picnic. I think you get the picture. It is probably also worth mentioning that I am a little clumsy. I single-handedly drove several ballet teachers into early retirement as a young child. I have been known to crash into tables, walls, file cabinets and other seemingly stationary objects for no apparent reason, without warning or the aid of alcohol.

Earlier today while huffing and puffing on the stair stepper, a rogue exercise ball pelted me in the back. After a narrow escape from the grinding inner cogs of the stair stepper, I turned to discover that this ball had in fact been launched at me dodge-ball style by a coworker. He stood there grinning in a manner that could be described as nothing less than demonic. “I could have been maimed!” I informed him. He appeared puzzled, yet amused; clearly he was unfamiliar with the rule of three.

Several minutes later I switched to the treadmill. Much safer, it’s a flat surface right? Wrong. Moments after the treadmill started moving I noticed a marked increase in speed, my hand had evidently been resting on the speed up button. After some flailing of arms and a plaintive yelp, I noted the console was getting further away. As for the recommended method of exiting a treadmill, I *do not* suggest airborne dismount off the back.

Upon returning to the office I grabbed my lunch out of the fridge. Better skip the microwave meal, I might burn myself or set it on fire. I started with the grapefruit. Upon slicing into it, I promptly squirted myself in the eye. The bad eye. Ow.

I’m hoping that, cosmically speaking, nearly being ground up by the stair stepper counted as freak accident number one because if it didn’t, I’m sure as heck not getting in the car to drive home!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

There goes the neighborhood

There's one in every neighborhood. The crazy house full of weird people doing strange things. For me, it's the next door neighbors. This demented cast of characters consists of 10 people living in the house who come and go at all hours of the night and day. There are at least 4 kids one of whom is unnaturally large for a first grader. There is a man who wears only business suits, even to mow the lawn (which he does in the dark). There is a guy who "fixes"things around the house (read bangs them with hammers and wrenches and then swears in Spanish when they fall apart). And to top it all off, a parakeet who spends all of his time outside on the porch in his cage squawking like a fiend.

Their house has been for sale for close to 2 years now and so they must have decided that they needed to step it up in the home improvement department. Last fall they "landscaped" the side of the house. This consisted of filling the 20 foot long planter box with cactus and then pouring quick setting concrete around them. It's not mulch people. Also, this is Michigan, not the desert, the cactus will die when we get one of our routine blizzards which dump a foot or two of snow on us in October. To protect the cactus, they placed miniature garbage cans upside down over each plant. This spring when the snow finally melted, the cactus were dead. I mean, bent over sideways, with the needles falling out dead. One of the little girls didn't give up though, every day she goes out there and pours a 5 gallon bucket of water on each cactus. *Water* on the *cactus*. Next Topic.

After the garden tanked, they decided to build a garage. At least I think it was supposed to be a garage. I'm not really sure because it was in the middle of the backyard. The thing was at least 15 feet tall and might have fit a small pickup truck. The structure consisted of a frame of 1x2 inch lumber stapled together. Then it was time for walls. They started with wood but the the frame wasn't as strong as you might think being held together with staples. So they switched to plastic sheeting halfway up the first wall. They had no ladder so they were only able to put the plastic up as high as they could reach on the sides so, there was no roof or sides over the 6 foot mark. They also forgot to leave one side open so that they could get in and out. Eventually, the building inspector made them take it down but they kept the pieces stacked up in the back yard so they could use them later.

Over the holiday, while looking out the window I observed them grilling, in the rain, under two of the walls they had leaned up againsted eachother teepee style. Mr. Fix-it stood there in the downpour with the lighter fluid in one fist, a gigantic spatula in the other grilling hot dogs.

I'm not really sure what they are going to do next, but personally, I'm rooting for an addition!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

A turkling, you know, a baby turkey

To celebrate the 4th of July, Chris and I went to see fireworks with some family. We arrived to scope out a spot around 8:00 even though it wouldn't be dark enough for the show to start until about 10:00. Since we had about 2 hours to kill, we just sat around catching up. The conversation eventually turned to food (as it often does) and Chris mentioned how much he enjoyed turkey at Thanksgiving and how we should buy a turkey sometime soon and make it for dinner. Chris loves turkey and lately, he talks about "getting a turkey for dinner" all the time as thought it were approximately the same amount of work as a bucket of KFC. "It is just the two of us" I said, "How in the heck are we going to polish off a turkey?" With a knowing look on his face, Chris announces "I can make you turkey sandwiches every day and pack them in your lunch. Also, we can make turkey pot pie, and turkey stew and...

At this point I think it would be helpful to explain my three point Thanksgiving philosophy:
1. I love turkey at Thanksgiving.

2. Thanksgiving is only once a year for a reason, namely, you are only supposed to eat Turkey once a year.

3. After that , I don't want to see it (turkey) again for another whole year, no exceptions, including leftovers

... and turkey burgers and turkey..."
I interrupted Chris: "Stop. Please repeat my Thanksgiving philosophy Chris"
Chris moans dramatically and puts his hand to his head. "But I looooooooove turkey. What if we didn't have any leftovers, what if we got, like, I dunno, a turkling?"
"A turklinkg?" I inquire incredulously.
"Yeah" he says, "A turkling, you know, a baby turkey"

I look at the other people sitting with us, being family, they have come to expect this sort of, um, linguistic creativity, from him. I have too, although the frequency of these events still amazes me. You would think eventually he would run out of strange, made-up names but he never does.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Nocturnal Knock Knock Jokes

Any one who has spent more than, say, 20 minutes with me has heard my favorite joke. Anyone who has lived with me has probably banned me from telling it because they have heard it so many times. I learned this joke from an enthusiastic 3 year old in one of the swimming classes I used to teach. It's a really good one:
Me: Knock Knock
You: Who's there?
Me: Impatient Cow
You: Impatient Cow Wh (Me: MOOOOOO!) o?

Now, until recently I thought this was the funniest knock knock joke ever but then, last night at approximately 12:15 AM the greatest knock knock joke of all time occurred to me (yes that's right I make up knock knock jokes). Chris was asleep but this was not important. I woke him up by shaking him vigorously.
Me: Chris! Pssssst! Wake up!
Chris: Mmmmph?
Me: Knock Knock (I am now shaking with anticipation and snickering)
Chris: You have got to be kidding me.
Dog: Loud groan
Chris: See even the dog doesn't want to hear the impatient cow joke. I am going to train him to groan just like that every time you say knock knock.
Me: actually that would be really funny, how do you think we would teach him to do that? I mean, we would have to somehow get him to associate the words knock knock wi...
Chris: Oh. My. God. It is 12:30. Is it *absolutely* critical that we discuss dog training right now?
Me: Yeah, sorry you are right.
Chris: Thank you . (Rolling over)
Me: I'll just tell you the joke and we can talk about teaching the dog to groan on command after that. Knock Knock
Chris: *loud dramatic sigh* Who is there?
Me: (with great zeal and taking care to clearly enunciate) exploding cow
Chris: exploding cow wh( Me: BOOM!) o?

There was a long pause, then he started to laugh.
Moments later:
Chris: Knock Knock
Me: (gleefully) woooo! Who is there??
Chris: Cow
Me: Cow who?
Chris: Cows don't say who they say moo!
Me: Hysterical laughter and then a loud thud
Chris: What was that?
Me: I fell out of bed.
Dog: Loud groan

Friday, June 22, 2007

Thread the needle

I have a cat. Specifically, an 18 lb, morbidly obese, narcoleptic, Houdini-imitating, tabby cat (Exhibit A). I also have a screen door, with an increasingly large hole (Exhibit B).

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket A Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket B

Recently my cat has become quite determined to escape this prison he calls home. To an outsider it would appear he is spoiled rotten, he gets to sleep at the foot of the bed, he spends all day napping in the lazy boy recliner and watching the birds at the 6 feeders outside. He gets eggs and fish as treats and try as I might I can't seem to keep him from eating copious amounts of dog food in addition to his daily allotment of cat food. But despite all this, the cat is compelled to escape.

It started as a small hole barely big enough for the cat to fit his nose into but he worked at it and pretty soon he could get his head through and then his front paws and shoulders. One day I found him stuck in the door his enormous behind lodged firmly in the opening mewing desperately and whacking his tail from side to side. I tried to block the screen off but he always seems to find a way around so I finally resigned myself to keeping the door shut.

The other day, I opened the door to go outside and heard an enormous thundering gallop from the other side of the house. I turned just in time to see the cat streak by me headed straight for the hole that he could only fit most of the way through. As he approached the door I grabbed for him but he slipped through my hands. He hit the screen full speed, his head shoulders and front legs all passed through the hole unhindered. Then his rear haunches got stuck but he had built up so much momentum that he was unable to stop. I watched as the cat hurtled forward, butt firmly lodged in the door on a arced trajectory until the springs on the screen door stretched to their limit and recoiled. With a wail of protest, the cat flew backwards and when the door slammed shut he was blasted, backwards out the hole in the screen. Stunned, he lumbered off clearly confused.

Next time you try to thread the needle Kitty, make sure the string will fit.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

This vacuum sucks!

The place: our driveway
The time: rapidly approaching dinner
The victim: my unsuspecting and curious husband

This evening just as we were getting ready to cook dinner, a clanker van stuffed to the gills with people came screaming into the driveway on two wheels and screeched to a halt. A woman, who could be described as nothing less than exuberant, leapt from the vehicle and informed Chris that he could get a "free gift" if he would give them a few minutes of his time. Before I knew what happened there was a Kirby vacuum sales person in our home, with her shoes off assembling a vacuum in the middle of the living room.

After a 60 minute demonstration of the $2,000.00 contraption which included vacuuming the entire living room, shampooing the carpet, and showing how the amazing Kirby vacuum could unclog a drain or function as an air compressor, we managed to get her out of the house. Only one problem, the van had disappeared and there seemed to be no sign that they were ever coming back to get her.

In the 90 minutes that followed we sat on the porch with her waiting for her ride to pick her up here are some of the highlights of the conversation:

Sales Lady: did you know that there are only, like, uhhh, 150 pediatricians in all of Illinois, Michigan, and Indiana combined? And none of them know anything.
Us: Wow.
SL: I'm going to Western Michigan University to be a pediatrician but I'm having a really tough time passing math. It is so hard!
Us: *utter silence*

SL: The Kalamazoo promise program is a fraud. I know this one lady who has 12 kids and triplets and twins (I think that would bring the grand total to 17 .... again, not so much with the math) they all went to school in Kalamazoo and none of them got free tuition, what a scam! They all had 4.0s and none of them even got kicked out!
Us: 17 kids huh?
SL: Yeah, she had them all in like 10 years.

SL: I fell *through* the stairs at my apartment complex.
Us: Oh my gosh, were you hurt?
SL: Yes but I got better real fast so cut my cast off early and went back to work selling vacuums. Do you know any good lawyers? I want to sue my land lord and my boss said not to take less than 20 grand.
Us: We don't know any lawyers.

SL:It is so hot out here it is off the chain!
Us: Um yes, off the chain.

Us: Is your boss on her way?
SL: Oh, she is probably lost, she always gets lost. Can I use your phone to call her?

When the van FINALLY pulled into the driveway, we bolted into the house, locked the doors and shut the drapes. Apparently we aren't the only ones who had a bad experience; check out these consumer horror stories! I can not emphasize this point enough: do not let these people into your home! Our free gift? A roll of paper towels and some off brand cleaning wipes.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"Are you experiencing any confusion or disorientation?"

About a year ago I was diagnosed with a corneal ulcer. It was unbelievably painful and I have no idea how I got it. After a lot of eye drops and multiple exams by zealous Dutch ophthalmologist I was pronounced healed.

Today, while sitting in a meeting, I inadvertently rubbed my eye (the same one). Instantly I experienced a searing, blinding pain. Tears started squirting straight out from my eye in a decidedly horizontal trajectory. I stumbled out of the meeting and after carefully examining my eye in the bathroom mirror I determined the following:
1. I have no idea what happened.
2. It freakin hurts! Perhaps if I dig the eyeball out with a spoon it will stop hurting.
3. It is very red.
4. The words "cry me a river" are really overused, but seem to apply here.
5. I am going to have to go back to the zealous Dutch ophthalmologist.

After several hours, and much angst, I was sitting in the exam room. The doctor then produced a spot light approximately 2 feet in diameter and turned it on. " You aren't experiencing any light sensitivity are you?" he asked rhetorically.

"Uhhhh, not yet" I thought to myself. Thankfully, the exam didn't hurt, the doctor used florescent dye and a special light to make the affected area on my cornea appear visible. It was like something you would see on CSI, only I wasn't dead.

The diagnosis he informed me was a condition know as corneal erosion. "Good one!" I laughed and slapped my knee remembering how during my last visit we had briefly discussed my work as a soil erosion control inspector. He must have remembered this and was now making a joke to lift my spirits. "Perhaps I should install a silt fence around my cornea so that it doesn't erode any further. I wouldn't want to have to send myself a violation notice." Ha ha ha.

The doctor looked at me perplexed. "Are you experiencing any confusion or disorientation?" I instantly stopped laughing. He thought I had gone nuts! As he explained that the condition, I thought to myself: this has got to be the ultimate cosmic retribution. The soil erosion inspector's eyeball is eroding away. If that isn't irony, I don't know what is. And as for all you contractors out there sticking pins into the eyes of your Voodoo dolls, you can stop anytime.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Service with a smile

The plotter where I work broke on Friday. This morning, a repairman arrived to fix it. The plotter is a very large printer that we use to produce large format maps and engineering drawings. It is big and loud and expensive and old. When you load the paper you have to remember to say please don't get a paper jam, and then you must bow down before the plotter while providing burnt offerings and incense. If this doesn't work, you must then call a repairman who will do the following to fix the plotter at $225.00 per hour:

1. Scratch head
2. Sniff the plotter (Yes I said sniff, according to him, the plotter smelled like "burnt fire")
3. Completely disassemble the machine
4. Using a manila envelope folded to a point to poke the interior while squinting and shaking head

At this point, I left the room I could not watch anymore. Sitting at my desk I heard several loud thuds followed by a crash and then utter silence. I struggled not to laugh since the plotter is in a room across the hall and I'm certain the repairman would be able to hear me snickering.

Moments later, the man poked his head into my office and asked if there was a sink nearby. I directed him to the bathroom down the hall. I then saw him parade past my office no less than 7 times with parts of the plotter. I thought to myself, "Is he washing them in the skink?"

After the cleansing ceremony was completed, he must have decided the plotter was dusty because I could hear him using a can of compressed air to clean out the interior but between intermittent sprays I kept hearing fits of sputtering and coughing. I couldn't see what was going on in there but I suspect that it was like that scene in dumb and dumber when Jim Carey sprays that guy in the eye with the Binaca because the nozzle is facing the wrong way. I also suspect that he was using the compressed air to "blow-dry" the parts of the plotter that he had washed in the sink.

Next, he reassembled the plotter. I definitely heard crashing, banging, clanking and grunting. Later, when I thought I heard growling noises, I got up and nonchalantly walked by the doorway. When I turned my head to look in I saw the repairman holding a gigantic wrench up in the air behind his head with both hands. I could almost hear the theme from psycho playing in the background "reeeet, reeeet, reeeet, reeeet". Poised to attack the plotter, he turned to see me and slowly lowered the wrench. I am virtually certain that when he saw me he could not have been anymore surprised to be caught brandishing the wrench. In fact, if his eyebrows had gone any higher on his head, they would have been indistinguishable from his hairline.

"Well, I'm about done here he mumbled. After signing the service sheet, I examined the graphic logo at the top, which depicted a printer and a wrench. Nice.

Friday, May 25, 2007


I came to the unpleasant realization yesterday that many road bikers look down their nose at someone out just enjoying the sunshine and fresh air on a "cheap" bike. Near the end of my ride I happened across 3 of those hard core road bikers at an intersection. As the bikers rode by I waved at the first man, he did not acknowledge me. "Hmmm weird, maybe he didn't see me." I waved at the second and third bikers. One ignored me and the other gave me what distinctly appeared to be a sneer. As they road away, I could hear them laughing at me!

OK Seriously guys, you are not that cool. The only difference between you and me is that *I am not wearing skin-tight padded ass pants* get over yourself. I have decided that if I run into these 3 again, I will do two things:
1. Suggest the route that I discovered last week- the one on which Cujo nearly ate me.
2. I will furiously honk my bike horn which looks like this:
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

7 Random Things About Me

This one goes out to Estee, my randomness rival. Someday I aspire to be nearly decapitated by a ceiling fan or maimed by a flaming lawn mower but, in the mean time, here are some things that you probably already know about me but tried to forget.

1. Each morning when I get up, I must find the perfect shirt to wear. I do not know what shirt it will be until I try it on and inspect it closely in the mirror. Some days, I go through 5 (or more) shirts just trying to find the perfect shirt. Once in a while I get it on the first try. Rarer still is the "night before perfect shirt prediction". It is the perfect shirt because I cannot wear any other shirt; I must wear the perfect shirt, of which there is only one. That day. Until the next day. When it will be a different shirt. Both my husband and old roommates can attest to the piles of "rejected" shirts that litter the floor once the search has ended. And God help me if the perfect shirt is in the hamper.

2. All iPod play lists must have cryptic and arbitrary titles such as: "strap on your helmet" (biking music), "hippies on a treadmill" (oldies mix for the gym) and my personal favorite, "club Lysol" (techno music to listen to while cleaning the house). On a recent car trip I had very difficult time deciding between "yellow stripes down the middle" and "are we there yet?"

3. All cleaning is best done after 11:00 PM. There is a very sound reasoning behind this. Many of you may be familiar with the following phenomenon: you spend the day cleaning the house and once you are done you decide to relax in a bath or perhaps go to bed early with a book. When you wake up in the morning, there is stuff everywhere, a sink full of dirty dishes and dirty clothes on the floor. It is as though the laundry waits until you are in bed to reappear from its hiding place under the bed. The dishes go into the fridge get food on themselves and then jump into the sink. Books and magazines leap from the coffee table and the entire contents of the pantry appears to have engaged in an edible version of musical chairs. If I do not start cleaning until late at night, I can catch the offending dishes and laundry in the act. I can replace books and magazines as they hurtle towards the carpet. I can fling the pantry door open and bellow "AH HA!" at which point the canned goods sheepishly return to their assigned locations.

4. I have a gigantic head. I mean, really, it is like a watermelon. I can't find hats that fit. Once on a trip to Disney land, I had to go to 7 different souvenir shops before I could find a hat that fit to take home. It's embarrassing. Don't even get me started on headbands; it is like trying to put a rubber band around a beach ball.

5. French fries taste better on the burger than with the burger. It is a documented fact. (Documented by me.) Here is my procedure for eating a hamburger: first, take the top off the burger. Second, place French fries lined up, in parallel, on top. The ends of the fries should not stick out past the bun so be sure to select fries of the appropriate length OR "trim" the fries first by munching off the end. Finally, place the bun back on top of the fries and enjoy. I'm told this is intriguing to watch.

6. Many people have told me that I am like a walking version of Trivial Pursuit. The sheer volume of random crap I know that has nothing to do with *anything* is mind-boggling. For example, a team of physics graduate students recently disproved the widely accepted idea that a duck's quack does not echo. I have a co-worker who regularly says to me "WHAT?!? How could anyone possibly know that off the top of their head?" But I do. And all that useless crap taking room up in my brain is probably why I couldn't tell you what I ate for lunch yesterday. Or what color socks I have on right now. Information on duck quack echoes just seems more important.

7. The thing that has caused me the most shame and humiliation in my life to date is my utter inability to keep houseplants alive. I can kill them within hours, not days of bringing them into my home. This is problematic for two reasons. First, everyone else I know seems to be very good with houseplants and second, I am a FRIGGIN BIOLOGIST! I have a master's degree in environmental science for crying out loud. My husband says I have a black thumb; specifically, the black thumb of death, on both hands. I think it is pretty much hopeless.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Nearly Eaten

Last night I headed out on my road bike for a long ride through the countryside around Fennville. After I had been riding about 40 minutes I made a quick stop to get a drink of water and tinker with my iPod. I always try to stop at or near the top of a hill so that I can use the momentum I've built up going down hill to get back up the other side of the hill. You see the area where I live, by Michigan standards, is quite hilly. (By BB standards, it is roughly equivalent to biking up Everest.) I had already biked up several hills and being in a particularly zealous mood, I decided to continue on and bike farther than usual. Why not?

I will tell you why not:
Once I got going again and got to the bottom of the hill I heard a strange sharp noise coming from behind me. It was difficult to hear it over the blaring iPod but I could definitely hear something. I looked in the rear view attached to my handlebars. Looming behind me in the distance was a gigantic set of white chompers affixed inside the mouth of a 150 lb yellow lab. The dog was barking and galloping at full tilt towards me. "Uh, this isn't good." Then, I looked from the rear view mirror back to the road, the hill in front of me rose up from the ground at what seemed to be a ludicrous incline. "I am going to get eaten."

I started to pedal faster, halfway up the hill a quick check in the rear view revealed the dog was gaining on me. The strange thing was even though he was barking and showing some serious teeth, the tail was flying back and forth like a metronome. "I think he is enjoying this! Maybe he just wants to play." The dog growls and speeds up. "Maybe not."

The dog was gaining on me, near the top of the hill he got close enough that I'm pretty sure he was drooling on my back tire. The barking was right behind me and I was just hoping that once it got to the top there would be a nice steep slope on the other side so I could pick up some speed and get away from this Cujo wanna-be. Just as I crested the top of the hill I checked the rear view. I could not see the dog, which meant he was in my blind spot and less than a few feet away. As I started down the other side of the hill, which was mercifully, very steep, the dog dropped back unable to keep up with my screamin' fast Huffy road bike. He re appeared in my rear view mirror as he slowed to a trot and stopped barking.

As I road away I turned to see him standing halfway down the hill with his tongue hanging down to his knees panting and tail still wagging. "That was a great workout" I thought to myself "but tomorrow, I am going a different way!"

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Black Dog, White Donuts

Who Drank the orange soda

This video reminds me of something that happened at our house a few months back:

On a recent trip to the grocery store, Chris and I had purchased one dozen powdered donuts. In a hurry to leave for work a few mornings later I did not shut the pantry door in the kitchen tightly. Coincidentally, this is where the 11 remaining powdered donuts were sitting still in their box.

Upon returning home from work I found Warp, my dog, running around the house as though he had a rocket attached to his rear. He was MANIC! After closer inspection I noticed a strange powdery white substance all over his muzzle. "Oh no" I thought, "he got into the donuts. I wonder how many he ate." When I walked into the kitchen, I found the pantry door wide open and a few small shreds of the white donut box shoved into the corner of the doorway. The dog had eaten the entire box of donuts (minus 1) and then, desperate not to get into trouble, had eaten the box including the cellophane as well, presumably, to hide the evidence. What my black dog didn't bank on was that fact that the evidence was literally written all over his face.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Hey, you've got some mud on your pants.

I have received many inquiries regarding the origin of the picture of the mud caked jeans. So I will now explain how this happened to my pants.

I would like to start by clarifying that while this was an accident, it happens on a somewhat regular basis due to the "muddy" nature of my job. While I was out doing construction inspections after a recent rainstorm I was walking on a particularly muddy site. When I am walking through an open construction site, I have to be careful, there are bulldozers and cranes driving around, large open pits and piles of sharp rusty metal. It's not like I'm out for a stroll here people. After it rains, the ground becomes soft and squishy and it can be quite tricky to stay clean while you are walking around. The best way to ensure that you don't get too muddy is to be sure the ground beneath your foot is firm before placing any weight on it. That way, if the mud is soft and gives way beneath your foot, you will not sink in.

On this particularly day, it had rained very hard for the three days prior. I was walking in one of the soggiest areas and came to a 15-foot tall pile of soil that I need to climb over. I placed one foot on the side of the pile and it felt firm so I put my weight on that leg and then brought the other leg up onto the pile. Everything seemed fine… 3…2…1… and then I began to skink. Not just up to my ankles or even my knees, nope I sank in to the top of my hips, both legs. It was vaguely reminiscent of that scene in Money Pit, the one where Tom Hanks sinks through the hole in the floor that is covered by the rug. And he can't get out because he is in so deep so all he can do is hang there wiggling and crying out for help.

I am no stranger to public embarrassment so the fact that I was firmly lodged up to my waist in very sticky mud was bad, but not the worst I've ever been through. As I tried to free myself I looked over in horror to see about 7 contractors all putting down their tools and pointing and staring in disbelief. OK, this was not good, but it got worse. One of the men came over to try and help me only to discover that the mud was so sticky that he himself became stuck and neither one of us could get out. To make matters worse, he spoke no English whatsoever so I had no idea what he was yelling although roughly translated, I think it may have meant, "You %)*&! I can't ^&!# believe you got me %(&)*# stuck!"

Finally, one of the other men came over to survey the situation from what he determined to be a safe distance (read 20 feet). He says, "Are ya stuck?" I purse my lips, and give him an un-amused stare. He snickers, barely able to contain his glee, "OK, OK, hang on we'll get you out."

He walks away and around the side of the giant dirt pile. Moments later I hear the loud roar of a diesel engine and a gigantic bulldozer comes blazing towards me with the one man driving and two other men standing in the bucket pumping their fists in the air and whooping. "Oh God" I think to myself "this is it, I've written one too many violations and now they are going to run me over with a bulldozer and no one will ever find me." The bulldozer hurtled forward and screeched to a halt, literally, two inches in front of me. The two men reached down to help pull me out of the mud. My legs were so entrenched that they created a vacuum suction seal. I am going to die here I thought. "We could try digging her out" one man said to the other with a smirk. "Yeah!" the other guy said, he then turned his sights on the man who was stuck in the mud next to me. "Quit laying around and go get a shovel," he yelled over the diesel engine. Now, this man did not speak English but evidently, he understood it because right at that moment he flicked off the guys in the bulldozer. Seriously, I am going to die here I thought.

After a lot of pulling they managed to get both of us out. At the moment I broke free of my vacuum seal a loud slurp echoed across the site and a plume of mud sprayed up like old faithful and showered us all in brown spatter. I sat in the bucket of the bulldozer and looked at my pants, and boots which were caked in mud 2 inches thick from my hips down. There was mud spray in my hair and on my shirt. I'm pretty sure some even went up my nose.

When I got back to the office around lunchtime, I went into the break room and everyone stopped and stared. "Oh my God what happened?" they all asked.

"Oh you know, just another day at the office!"