Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Spoiled, and undeservedly so.

Why are some Christmases so much better than others? This Christmas was, well, just really fantastic. The lovely in-laws came down on Christmas Eve, and we spend a hilarious and hysteria filled evening with the family at Mark and Shan's, watching the kidlets do laps around the kitchen, dining room and living room, screaming in glee from the effects of sugar, avarice and Yuledite cheer. I love watching little kids open presents. They get so excited just when they see the first corner of the box they start quivering and shrieking before they even know what it is. We gave Kyan a little shopping cart, which he pushed around for the rest of the night, picking up all the toys and accessories he could find, like a 1950s housewife. He just needed the pearls and a twinset.

We open presents Christmas Day, and I don't know what Christian was thinking when he went shopping, but I got not only a Compact Oxford English Dictionary, but a Bernina sewing machine. Now, most women wouldn't really like to receive a dictionary and an item of domestic importance for Christmas, but this is THE dictionary to end all dictionaries and the sewing machine, it has an AUTOMATIC NEEDLE THREADER. I don't have to lick my thread and get the point of the needle stuck in my finger when I feel the need to hem something. I no longer need to knit my sweaters together as I can now sew them (after they've been blocked on the blocking board I received from said lovely in-laws), and make a tidy, shiny, pretty, neat and fancy edge that will never unravel. And, using my loupe that weighs about seven pounds, I can look up the definition, etymology and first known written example of each digitally programmable stitch I use.

I'm very excited. I now truly am Little Suzy Homemaker.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Still in the running.

As most of you already know, I was in a car accident on my birthday, last Wednesday. It was a collision with a man on a Vespa while I was turning left across Aurora to get to Steel Pig for a birthday pork sandwich. The other driver was apparently fine, which is a miracle, but due to HIPAA regulations, the police were unable to give me his name or the name of the hospital where the ambulance took him. I have not heard about his state, but the paramedics were fairly certain he wasn't seriously hurt. It was an accident, pure and simple, as the two stopped lanes of traffic that gestured for me to turn kept me from seeing the man, who was very small in stature and was hidden behind the hoods and roofs of the lanes of traffic. It was horrible, and I never want to have anything like that happen to anyone I know. I additionally and not as importantly missed my Seattle Opera principal audition. I had a hard time thinking about this audition the day it was supposed to take place and for several days afterward, as the welfare of the man on the scooter kept my mind pretty much occupied, but once the worst of the anxiety after the accident was past, I became more and more upsent that I had missed my chance to be heard for real roles with such an important house. I thought that I wouldn't get a chance to be heard again until the next round of auditions in two years time, but I was told tonight that, despite not having sung for the General Director, I would still be considered for appropriate roles.

'Tis the season to be jolly.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Welcome to the world, Blewett 3.0.

Declan Joseph Blewett was born to my brother, Mark, and his wife, Shannon, yesterday:














The little burrito is another behemoth, weighing 9 pounds, five ounces at birth. I think whatever the hospital bathes new babies in should be classified as an illegal substance due to its mind-altering properties. Has anything ever smelled as good as him? No.

My parents and Shannon's parents are all in town to help. Mom and Dad are staying with us, and I awoke this morning to Mom standing on the stepstool in the kitchen, the contents of my entire spice/tea cupboard spread on the counter and Mom scrubbing the shelves and reorganizing all the contents by type and frequency of use. "This is fun!" she said. She then wanted to iron my clothes and I'm wondering what the house will look like when I get home. Will she have reupholstered the couch? Remodeled the bathroom? Who knows. Anything is possible.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

An indigestible problem.

Cut it out, tie it up, fill it with sand and have the Fire Department decommssion it, I don't care. I just want someone to fix my stomach so I don't have reflux anymore. Singing today felt as though I had sandpaper glued to my cords, rough side down. I feel like I always have to clear my throat, acid bubbles constantly nto my esophagus and I feel wheezy all the time as my trachea is irritated.

I'm going in to a new doctor next week to have an upper endoscopy, a pressure test and a 24 hour pH monitor. I'll then have a consultation with the doctor to see if I'm a good candidate for hiatal hernia repair surgery. Cross your fingers for me.

Friday, December 08, 2006

If only we had loam instead of oak.

When I get home from work, the first thing I do is let Cyril out of his cage. I hear the rustling and impatience as soon as I open the door. The top of his cage has a "playtop" held open by a wooden perch, which he only sits on when we wants to be the highest being in the room. He usually waddles over to the little birds' cage and flaps for a few minutes, whether to establish that he could, in fact, gobble them up with one bite (although he's afraid of Fritz since the great October toe-biting incident) or to exercise, I don't know. He then climbs back into his cage, retrieves a pellet, climbs back out again and perches on the very front of the top of the cage and eats the pellet, holding it in his three toed foot, occasionally losing his balance from leaning over too far while trying to catch a glimpse of me in the kitchen, as I may be making him up a sumptous meal of beans and cooked squash. Mmmmm. Lima beans. He looks like a little spectator at a ball game, eating popcorn with one hand (foot) while watching the game with the one eye not facing the back wall. It must be hard to have monocular vision.

When we bought our first bird, all the books warned of the parrot blast radius. As parrotlets are so tiny, the amount of mess they created was equally tiny. However, Cyril is a medium size bird and makes a medium sized mess, right in front of his cage; a constant rain of bits of pellet, bits of his breakfast, bits of treats from the previous night, all in a little, filthy pile in front of his cage, into which I step every time I walk by, and then track into other parts of the house. I find broken pieces of nut shell in the bathroom, and not from my own consumption. Now, I know that the biological purpose of this disturbingly barbaric means of eating is to ensure future generations of the jungles and forests that are parrots' natural habitats, but my living room does not need to be planted. The food he eats wouldn't be good for growing anything, anyway. Well, maybe the squash. It grows well in Seattle living rooms, I hear.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I won't have to draw a line up the back of my leg.

I was browsing through Interweave looking at the impractical and odd designs, and a little article about the knitting exhibt at the V&A caught my eye. Scroll down to the bottom and note that there is a pattern to knit fishnet stockings. Yes, FISHNET STOCKINGS. I must knit them. They'll hurt the soles of my feet and leave little liney imprints on my legs, but I'll have KNIT them. Myself. And then I'll have to knit the balaclava for Christian. It's just so "defending the homefront".

Monday, November 27, 2006

Walt Disney World, November 11-18, 2006

Sunday, Nov. 12, 2006
Day 2

C: We started Day 2 at Animal Kingdom. First up upon rising was a dash to Expedition Everest (heretofore referred to as EE). We hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, but upon seeing a short line we decided “what the heck.” It was probably a wise decision in hind-site, as the ride was one of the more “extreme” rides in WDW. EE is, as usual, immaculately themed as a Himalayan base camp/Buddhist temple, with ratty prayer flags all over the place. Actually, quite dirty looking, but authentic. There are many sacred prayer bells hanging in the queue to reach up and clang. Or at least I did, prompting other teenagers behind me to do the same.

S: And every other person in line plotted how best to kill Christian for starting the cacophony.

C: We sat in line for about 35 minutes, which to date has been the longest line we’ve endured!

S: We found out that every line was shorter than the notice stated, and EE is a really fast loading ride, so the wait was really too short. I wanted to see the theming better.

C: After EE came “Flights of Wonder,” a live bird show.

S: And all of our friends gasp in shock! The Salases went to a bird show? I never would have thought it!

C: This has been my favorite attraction so far, as it featured…PARROTS! First we heard Oscar the amazing talking Amazon Parrot sing “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandee” and “Camp Town Racetrack (Oh, the Doo Dah Day),” complete with vibrato.

S: It was so adorable! I can’t even think of anything snarky to say about it. The handler had to follow his head with a microphone since he swung his head back and forth as he sang.

C: A buzzard buzzed within inches of our heads, and one lady held out a dollar bill at arm’s length for a bird to steal.

S: I wish I had been the volunteer as it was a rose breasted Cockatoo, one of my favorite birds, and I think I could have made it out with the bird in my arms before anyone noticed.

C: Finally a spectacled owl with enormous eyes came out and stared at us, and she was the outright champion of the staring contest, defeating all comers.

Other highlights were the Kilimanjaro Safari, in which we saw and photographed many an animal, (unfortunately blurry due to the bumpy ride), including the elusive lion, and “Dinosaur” in which we traveled back in time to save an iguanadon!

S: Same ride vehicle as Indiana Jones in Disneyland, more noise and fewer snakes and rolling boulders.

C: All rides and shows had mercifully short lines.

S: No kidding. Everything was a walk on and Fastpass machines weren’t even running.

C: God bless the off season! But one casualty is that we missed a lot of that special Disney theming. For instance we sprinted through the Yeti museum at EE so fast we couldn’t stop to read and even see most of the pieces. Poor us…

We then bought a Pal Mickey, which turned out to be well worth the $65 we paid for him.

S: I love him and feel the need to cuddle him constantly.

C: Pal Mickey reacts to microchips embedded around the park to inform us about where the short lines are around the park, locations of animals and fun facts. Our own personal tour guide. Case in point: as we were leaving Animal Kingdom for the day, Pal Mickey perked up and vibrated repeatedly, reminding us about the parrots and anteaters we should’ve been looking at. We looked around in confusion, and eventually found the somewhat hidden side exhibits of wallabies, pygmy deers, rhinoceros iguana and other exotic fare. Unfortunately we ran to the Macaw areas just after they had retired the birds for the night. But we shall be there again.

S: Apparently, they’re not caged and hop to and from their perches and the fences surrounding their enclosures. Hello, people, how am I supposed to refrain from kissing them?

C: Next it was back on the bus for a short trip to the Ticket & Transportation Center, and from thence onto the Monorail for another quick jaunt over to the Magic Kingdom. It’s always quite an emotional moment seeing those damn spires of Cinderella’s Castle, and Suzy shed a few tears.

S: Yes, I’m a giant weenie.

C: Walking onto main street, seeing the castle and the newly erected Christmas decorations was an amazing site.

S: And, I cried again. It’s just so GORGEOUS! And huge. Huge, huge, huge. And Gothic. Preeeeeety.

C: We got there for “Extra Magic Hours” around 6pm and thanks to our ticket package were eligible to stay until 11pm that evening.

S: Per tradition, we started with Pirates (our review of the Captain Jack additions is that you can barely tell. The animatronics are very, very good, and I didn’t feel that the storyline had been compromised. We went next to Big Thunder, which just so rocks…

C: … and then we ran onto Space Mountain, which turned out to be an excruciating experience of “almost but not quite.” We were all buckled in and heading down the track to the main coaster, when the ride shut down due to someone unloading too slowly, and stopping the whole ride. The long and the short of it was that they had to reset the ride, and turned the lights on to do it! It has been one of my dreams for the last few years to be able to see Space Mountain with the lights on. Unfortunately, we were still in the dark tunnel and stopped at the top of a short, dirty tunnel that led into the actual ride area. All I could see was a few tantalizing feet of wall at the end of the tunnel, bright in fully-lit glory! We sat in our little toboggan-like spacecars for about 20 minutes before the ride was reset and we could ride…with the lights off! If we had only walked a little faster…Ah well. I suppose the magic would’ve been ruined…

S: We unfortunately were kept company by CM Manly Cheesy Guy McKnowitall, who was quite the blustering buffoon. He didn’t even know that Rockin’ Rollercoaster goes from 0-60 in 2.8 seconds, not 2.3. Sheesh.

We had time for Buzz Lightyear (seriously pathetic scores all ‘round) and were so exhausted that we stumbled to the Monorail and back to the TTC to head back to the resort. Apparently, there is a gate slightly to the right of our view of the savannah and the animals migrate back and forth from our savannah to the neighboring one at night and in the early morning. We had gotten very lucky in that, every time we are in our room, we see giraffes and zebras and antelopes of all kinds and wildebeests and other wonderful creatures. Not the same thing as moving them from game park to game park, but the closest we’ll ever get without having to actually get dirty and sweaty.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I just can't bear it.

I know I'm a hypocrite. When I read a story like this, and get so crushed by it that I tear up whenever I think of the tiny parrotlets which were the first ones I ever saw in real life, I know that I should give up eating meat. I mean, a story in a David Sedaris book about how he tried to drown a mouse that had been injured but not killed in a mouse trap made me cry because of the mouse's suffering, so how can I still consume animals that are killed in more terrible ways than these poor creatures in either story? This is particularly timely the DAY BEFORE THANKSGIVING. I love turkey, to eat, I mean. I don't love turkeys, per se, as pet-like animals in their own right, but how do I reconcile the love of one type of bird for my disregard of the welfare of another type? Maybe this is why we should all hunt for our food. If we had to look our dinner in the eye before shooting it, we'd eat a lot less meat. Of course, we'd never have to HUNT cows, as they are, well, stupid and would just stand there, but can't we kill them humanely? I could eat them, then. Raised humanely, killed humanely...wouldn't that solve the problem?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Walt Disney World, November 11-18, 2006

What will follow in the next few days is a day-by-day diary of our wonderful trip to WDW last week on our belated 5th anniversary trip. The "C:" is Christian's entries, the "S:" is mine.



Day 1
Saturday, Nov. 11, 2006
C: Whew. We made it. The travel went mostly without incident. The alarm rang at 5:30, and we stumbled out of bed. Rich and Shelly were nice enough to drive us to the airport. Unfortunately, after grabbing the boarding passes out of Suzy’s purse, I didn’t zip it closed and when she swung it ‘round, her Treo cell phone fell out onto the floor, pieces skittering in all directions. I quickly put it back together, but alas the screen now had a giant diagonal crack going through the middle of it, and the “touch screen” function was damaged so that only parts of the screen could be clicked on…Oy. We did enjoy a healthy breakfast of Wendy’s sausage muffins.

S: We then bought 4 magazines and 5 books for reading material. I’ve apparently been out of the book loop for a while as I had NO IDEA that Susannah Clarke and Jasper Fforde each had new books. The downside is that we now have to schlep the books around. One thing we learned was that we should always print our boarding passes at home from the internet. We got our boarding pass for “Group C” which boards after groups A and B, each of which have around 50 people. So we were forced to squeeze into the second to last row for flight #1 from Seattle to Chicago. If we ever manage to sleep on a flight, the heavens will crack open and pour down manna. And everyone needs to take a shower and wear clean clothes when they board a plan. The androgynous girl next to us had obviously not changed her enormous men’s jeans in weeks and she smelled faintly of poo. Yay.

C: After a lunch of hot dogs in Chicago (S: With neon green relish! Hooray for regional cuisine), we parked in the “B Group” line for the hour wait before boarding. We were miraculously rewarded with seats in the second row, thank God, as getting off at the end of the disembarkation process is very traumatic for me. All went well and we enjoyed watching Spinal Tap, while excited Disney World-bound children kicked the back of our seats (S: over, and over and over).

Our triumphant arrival in Orlando came some 12 hours later (3 hours added for the time change). We were supposed to use the “Magical Express” service to take us to the Animal Kingdom Hotel, but after asking two different people in the airport for directions, we were getting frustrated. But we pressed on and by the third person we were able to find it, in another concourse at the very end of the (very long) hallway. Suzy was ready to call a cab, but I wasn’t about to blow $30+ bucks when the Magical Express was already paid for in our package. So a 30 minute bus ride and inspirational video later...

S: which is what FINALLY pushed me over into intolerable excitement, we were dropped off at the AKL, and oh heavens, it is so beautiful!

C: And lush and dramatic. The main lobby is an amazingly gorgeous slice of Africa, especially beautiful at night, due to the muted light from the Masai warrior shield light fixtures. We were upgraded from 3rd floor pool view to 4th floor Savanna view, which was a pleasant shock, and utterly unexpected. The only down size is that the room is at the very end of one of the enormous “octopus” arms of the hotel, so it’s a bit of a hike from the lobby, but we’ll be in walkin’ shape by the end of the week.

S: When we got our room assignment, I could see us in a few days, sobbing and weeping from exhaustion, footsore and weary, stumbling to our distant room, but it’s really not such a bad walk. We also have already seen a giant giraffe and big-horned cattle ambling by in the night! It’s actually a smoking room, but surprisingly not that stinky. There’s a faint whiff of smoke but the view is worth it. Man, seeing a giraffe amble out of the trees not 30 feet below you and no fence to peer over was just astonishing. And thus ended our first day of vacation, with the giraffes and zebras and Watusi cattle lowing outside of our room.

Friday, November 10, 2006

I swear there were brains in that tissue.

Have you ever had so much snot in your sinuses that when you blow your nose you feel as though you must be getting grey matter as no one person could ever possibly contain that much mucus in their head? I mean, it has to be stored somewhere, and the cavities aren't that big. It MUST be brains.

I got sick the day the show closed. Opening night went fantastically well, we were all very pleased, as was an audience member from another opera company who gave me her info and told me to call her for an audition. Does that really happen? I thought I had to be the eager young soprano clawing her way to the top to get that blessed phone number, not the 30-something mezzo who plays everything for laughs. Go figure. I woke up the morning of the closing matinee with that ominous feeling of needing to drink a lot of anything in the vicinity as my throat felt oddly dry and scratchy. I honestly didn't know if I would make it through the opera, but I did, only to have nothing left by the final note. Nothing. I couldn't even hum in the car on the way home. Thank God I had Monday off. Every night this week with the coughing and the heaving from the coughing. I got codeine cough syrup yesterday and had to restrain myself from chugging the entire bottle just to ensure that I would get enough sleep. I infected Christy when she came to commiserate with me on Monday and now she is feeling the snot love. I have a fear that I'm going to get to the airport tomorrow and start coughing and they won't let me on the plane because I'll sound like a plague carrier. I'm not contagious anymore, I swear by all things Godly.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Another blow to the ego.

I just read my new boss' CV. Harvard, Oxford, Phi Beta Kappa, Rhodes Scholar. I'm going to take a nap now.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Feeling fractured.

There is no better way to ensure a crushing blow to your overinflated sense of self that to start a new job and and tech week at the same time. Not only am I pathetically stupid at the office, I can't remember a damn thing about my blocking on the actual stage. Ah, I'm such a professional.

I started the new job last Wednesday, and everyone was unnervingly happy to see me. As I was getting the tour and being introduced to the other staff, every person I met greeted me with, "God! We're so glad you're here!" And apparently it's not my reputation that precedes me. I could be a reformed sociopath and they'd be thrilled to have a full contingent of staff able to count to 100 independently. However, as so often happens in new jobs, I feel pathetically stupid and woefully unprepared. My new job is several steps lower on the UW ladder in terms of both pay and responsibility than the last, but I feel as though I suddenly assumed the CFO position and am expected to have the company out of the red by next Tuesday. My God, these people are organized. They have levels of checks and balances the fussiest CPA would weep and rend his shirt over, and my nervous and over-wrought brain simply couldn't keep up on that first day. I was feeling a little concerned about expectations regarding my ability to function at a long-timer level right off the bat, so I addressed my concerns to the lovely woman training me, and she suggested I take it up with the manager, also new, and new to UW, as well. I was expecting to be told that I should be able to function fully independently by the end of next week, and was prepared to work some extra hours to make sure I wasn't letting anyone down. The manager paused after hearing my question and said, "Well, I would think six months would be enough time. Statistically speaking, even an employee coming from inside the same company needs six months to get up to speed." I must have had a look on my face of disbelief and bemusement, as she shot a glance at my co-worker and said, "Is that not enough time?" I started to laugh and told her that I was expecting a response more along the lines of, "Get your ass in gear by next Friday and you'd better have all those acronyms memorized or get out." We all had a hearty chuckle over that. I'm a little amused by my new boss, who is charming and lovely and has never really had an "assistant" before, and doesn't quite know what to ask of me. It feels odd to tell a woman with more letters in her degrees than I have in my name ask me to give her suggestions on how to best utilize me. What a change. Why did I wait so long to leave? Oh yeah, I'm chicken shit. Oh, and the whole Monday off thing? Fucking awesome.

We got into the Rialto last night, where we'll be performing this weekend. The house is this gorgeous old movie theater built in the teens, with walls the color of our dining room and plaster friezes encrusted on every immobile surface. Apparently, the dressing rooms are up some precarious and noisy stairs and there have been horrifying moments of, "Holy crap, that was my cue," with neck-breaking sprints down the clacking steps. As I'm on stage almost the entire opera and have no costume changes, I don't think I'll quite ensure my never being rehired by this company by missing a cue. I don't know what the future will hold for me with this company as I don't feel as though I'm singing my best, and the other cast members are pretty exceptional, but it has been a great and extremely well-run experience. One thing that can be God-awful frustrating for performers is working for a company that wastes time, both in rehearsals and on stage, and I certainly don't feel that way about this organization. I'm so damn paranoid, though, and I haven't heard any comments, negative or positive, about my singing, so I, of course, assume the worst. I expect comments from you all, dammit, after you come on Friday.

And now, I'm going back to sleep, because I can.

Monday, October 23, 2006

I don't want to file.

I don't, I don't, I don't! I've put it off for a reason. It sucks. I get paper cuts and end up dusty, cranky and sweaty. However, it's my second to last day and I don't want to leave this enormous pile of shit for anyone else. But, the thought is tempting.

Oh, and I got flowers today. I'm special.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Knitting for the Criminals

Miss Clara, a wonderful regular poster on the Singer's Forum (see sidebar), teaches a class full of underprivileged kids (lovingly nicknamed The Criminals), and some of us are going to put our yarn stashes and needles to good use and whip up some winter hats, scarves and mittens for these kids who sometimes go without even coats. I've gone to a couple of favorite free pattern websites and found these:

http://stitchcafe.com/freepatterns.html
http://www.knitroomboston.com/benshat.html
http://leftinstitches.blogspot.com/2005/12/dobby-hat.html
http://kisknit.wordpress.com/2006/08/31/fo-second-chemo-cap-plus-the-pattern/

And there are hundreds more here.

Let us know if you can help! I'd love to see enough hats for more than her classroom, or to provide enough for even next year.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Notice

I officially gave notice today. I'm finally quitting my job to work half time. Yes, HALF TIME. There are no two more glorious words in the English language to me right now. As a topper to the glory of working HALF TIME, I'll be working with the ever-fabulous Christy and will finally not be sitting in a hallway anymore. I'll have a door. A real door. Like a real adult.

Let the celebration commence!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The high price of success.

I have to sing a preview on Friday night at the SAME TIME as the season premiere of Battlestar Galactica. It's almost enough to make me give up singing altogether.

Monday, October 02, 2006

A remarkable woman.

We celebrated my great aunt Lois' 90th birthday this last Saturday. Lois is my father's father's sister, the youngest, and only surviving, of four children born in Butte, Montana to another incredible and independent woman and her adoring husband.

While I've known Lois and her husband Bob my entire life, I had no idea the true woman she was and didn't appreciate the life that she has lead for its bravery, uniqueness and dignity until I saw all of her friends and family gathered around her, heard their tributes and stories and watched the documentary Lois’ daughter Betty hired a filmmaker to record in which Lois told the story of her life with astounding detail and nearly unbelievable humor.

Lois is incredibly intelligent, and has lost none of her facultative abilities to age. In the documentary, she recalled with perfect clarity the Butte of her childhood, a city that in no way exists in the same form today, a beautiful and vibrant place of diversity and elegance. The city thrived on the livelihood of the "richest hill on Earth," the copper mines that brought immigrants from every part of the world and saw a social scene akin more to cities like New York and San Francisco than most small Western towns. One interesting aspect of Lois' idyllic memories of her childhood and teenage years is that she remembers the miners as dignified and gentlemanly men, men always clad in suits and ties who Lois says she never heard utter a swear word. But behind the veneer of civility laid the truth that Butte was known for being a city of easy vice, housing the longest running bordello in the history of the United States. It is a testament to my great grandparents that they allowed their children to only see the kindness and beauty of their city and kept them removed from the sordid. This must have shaped Lois’ character as she seemingly sees only the good and beautiful in those around her, and not the frailness behind them.

Lois was, I believe, and early and unwitting feminist. She was a basketball star, the only girl in her college class and a woman of moral certainty, as evidenced by the story she told of her first date with Bob, where he asked her, in succession, if she wanted a smoke, a drink or to get in the back seat, all three to which she said no, a feat hereto unmatched by any woman in our family.

Lois has lead a life that I could live only in the most ambitious of my dreams. She moved to New York to marry Bob in a ceremony that will be recorded in the annals of slapstick for an appalling cold with laryngitis, an exceptionally kind hairdresser, misplaced guests, shockingly cold weather and a never-to-be-forgotten announcement by Lois at her wedding dinner that all she wanted to do was go home and go to bed, said in the approximately thirty seconds she had her voice that day and during one of those lulls that appear in conversation at the most inopportune time. All of the bachelor guests of the wedding were thrilled by what they thought was a moment of ribaldry from an otherwise dignified woman and never let her forget her willingness to commence her marriage.

Poor and young, Lois and Bob lived a Bohemian life in New York where they would spend Saturdays touring the city with $.50 in their pocket and a candy bar for lunch. New York was cheap then, she said, and, since Bob had lived there for several months before their marriage, he knew how to show a girl a good time for free.

My favorite story that Lois told, though, had to do with the reason they left New York. She was home during the day and listening to a radio drama. The heroine was a young girl from a western mining town, which was amusingly appropriate. The heroine lived alone in New York waiting for her fiancĂ© to return to her from his overseas travails. One day, she heard a knock at her door. She opened it to find her fiancĂ©, who then tumbled to the floor. He told her that he had returned from India with backwater fever and had come home to die in her arms. Shortly after listening to his program, Lois welcomed Bob home from a day at the office, where he worked for Ingersoll Rand selling mining equipment. “Lois,” he said, “the company has decided where we’re to go! We’re being sent to India!” “No!” Lois replied, “you’ll die of backwater fever!”

But, to India they went, traveling on an ocean liner to Plymouth and then from London to Calcutta via boat and train. I can only imagine a girl, 22 or 23, having moved from Montana to New York and than to Calcutta, being asked to represent a major international company as the wife of the only American salesman, managing a house of servants and suddenly dealing with the outbreak of the second World War. They fled on the last boat from Delhi, captained by a friend who let them know, in code, that they had to be on his boat or risk being trapped in India. A 49 day voyage around Africa followed, with blackouts every night, the threat of torpedo attacks and the addition of 500 wounded rescued from Japanese U-boat attacks to add to the 1,800 already on board ship. They returned to New York and Lois found a phone to call her father, who cried in relief that she was alive. They decided that it was time to return home and drove cross-country on rationed gas with barely enough food to eat as the war raged on.

At this point the first half of the documentary ended, leaving me desperate to know what happened next. What I do know from this point on is only from what my father was told in one long evening of astonishing communications from the usually taciturn Bob. After their return to Butte, he was recruited by the Secret Service and joined the war effort. What followed were a series of the most remarkable and well-neigh unbelievable adventures that the two of them shared, almost always together.

I did not expect to come away from Saturday’s party feeling as though I had just witnessed a great and defining moment in my life. I also did not expect to be welcomed by Lois with such love and kindness, nor did I think that I would be given the gift of having her share stories of me from our times together in my childhood, times that I wish I could remember. My memories of Lois and Bob are always of a very kind and gracious couple who seemed to be somehow above my plane of existence, living a life of elegance and detachment. I had no idea that we were as loved as we are, and as valued, that their memories of my parents’ generosity in opening their house to visits gave them such pleasure.

Lois and Bob have moved now, from their large home on Bainbridge, and are living in a retirement home not 20 minutes from me. I cannot let this time go by without taking the opportunity to be witness to more of the remarkable woman that is my aunt Lois. What a rare and precious opportunity I’ve been given.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I've learned! I swear I've learned!

Please don't make me repeat this history:













I'll never get another perm, I promise.

This is what happens when you have a cousin (Camille, ahem, second from the left) who NEVER THROWS ANYTHING AWAY. This picture should have died a quiet and unmarked death.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Other Side of the Stroller

As one half of a childless, married couple who spends the majority of vacations at Disney parks and has Lion's Lair membership at the zoo (comprising two adults, no children) I have come to despise the Stroller Commandos. Not your average baby transport engineers, but those who pilot their Gracos and Bebeloves, their Bugaboos and Peg Peregos with no regard for my ankles or personal space. They are the ones who use their offspring's conveyance to clear a path, to hurry dawdlers along, to make the point that they, the breeders, have more right to be wherever you both are than you do. "It's a children's park," they cry, "adults with no children should relinquish all right of way and prime seating to us, the NUCLEAR FAMILY!" They use their three or four wheeled mobile nap inducer to save spaces for parades, for fireworks, for the best view of the animals. They leave their nylon and aluminum perambulators in aisles for everyone else to trip over on the way to their seats in the front.

I am not fond of these people.

However, I found myself on the other side of the wheels this weekend while pushing my one-year-old nephew around the zoo while my four-year-0ld nephew toddled alongside. I found myself getting irritated when people wouldn't get out of my way. It was hard to maneuver that little Jeep wonder of collapsible convenience around slow moving adults traveling uphill, and I'd make annoyed, "Uh!" sounds in the back of my throat and sigh in the manner of a petulant teenager if I wasn't allowed to push to the front of each exhibit so the sweet lad in the seat could see. I didn't understand why everyone was taking so long to look at the gorillas when other people were obviously waiting, people WITH SMALL CHILDREN, children who had more right to see the animals than the obviously infantile adults who were there without children and who apparently needed to find some more adult hobbies, like football and scrapbooking. I nodded and smiled sagely at other couples pushing one child with another dawdling behind, touching and grabbing everything within reach, a fine pasttime as how else will they learn what will burn them if they don't pick up things that are shiny and red?

In other words, things that would normally cause my innards to reach temperatures only measurable by laboratory methods and boil out of my facial orifices became sources of mild amusement and patient understanding in the presence of my nephews. After all, the zoo is for KIDS.

Maybe I can take this new experience with me to Disney World in November, and not mind when I feel the plastic drink cup on the front of the rented yellow four-wheeler larger than my first car filled to overflowing with an obese five year old pushed by Wanda May from Kentucky who came down in her fifth-wheel with her seven other kids plow into my Achilles'. But I don't think my memory is that good.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Nail by Nail

We'd be done with the porch ceiling by now, except I gouged one piece of trim with a scraper trying to remove paint drips, which was one of my more brilliant ideas.














This is the best vista as it looks like it's done:















It is best to not forget to cut out the hole for the light fixture. Christian did a bang up (har har) job.



















Now, just more touchup. Please God, kill me now.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

So, ye've come seeking adventure and salty old pirates, eh?

Today is the day where I want to strap on me cutlass and buckle me swash. I want to clench a dagger between me teeth and swing from the rigging. Yes, today is Talk Like a Pirate Day. If you want an excellent tutorial on how best to strike fear into the hearts of scurvy poltroons, go here. You'll never order a muffin the same way again.

Monday, September 18, 2006

No pictures of muffin-tops, as that would be too mean, even for me.

Collections that beg the question WHY:

One whole egg gave its life for this. Poor egg:

When I said knitting on hat pins, did you believe me? You should have:
What does the dip own? Will someone please tell me?

Astounding fluffitude:

No fair would be complete without juvenile bacon:

Demon llama? Where?!?

Our state fair is the best state fair.

Ah, the fair. That last great bastion of wholesome American 4H showmanship, that great stronghold of white trash family values, that veritable smorgasbord of all foods so lacking in nutritional content they have to all be kept in one confined space to limit their virulent spread...yes, the fair. Because where else could you eat a deep fried Twinkie, a Hawaiian Shave Ice, a double onion burger with some product vaguely approximating cheese but only glancing around the edges of foodstuffishness, fifteen corndogs and a elephant ear and still have room for a baker's dozen of Fair Scones? That's right, the Puyallup.

We spent ten glorious, footsore hours at the fair on Saturday. We ate, rode terrible rides that were only a hairsbreadth away from causing gruesome death and making some enterprising injury lawyer's career, saw some of the worst art ever forced upon the public, petted the angry llamas, marveled at the patience required to knit doll clothes on HATPINS, made fun of the fashion that only arises when teenagers of low intellect are given money to shop at Hot Topic and Rave, had our feet jiggled into numbness by the foot massaging chairs, saw some decent and desirable jewelry in a tiny hidden hall that had to be kept from the general public as they wouldn't know what to do with personal ornaments not made of dream catchers or their names bent into wire, saw Billy (Hill) and the Hillbillies, that venerable Disneyland ensemble that apparently travels the nation with one original cast member, one incredible instrumentalist who, in his daily life, plays the classical mandolin, and one disturbingly self-indulgent singer who sang Jesus-Is-My-Boyfriend songs to an enraptured and elderly audience, avoided the Avon Ladies who couldn't see that Shelly and I are NOT 55 and were in no need of their products but kept trying to give us brochures, won or attempted to win unfortunately and blamelessly frightening stuffed toys, and generally enjoyed the shit out of ourselves.

And we saw bunnies and piggies.

It was a grand day, all 'round. Pictures in the next post.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Damn that stupid baby.

The BBC just broke the news that it's another El Nino year. I hate that wretched upwelling. Words like "warm" and "dry" should never apply to the season that I personally associate with all 1,000 Eskimo words for snow.

Almost....done....

Stupid rain came earlier than predicted. We have to repaint the top of the railing as the rain ruined the fresh paint.















Imagine the steps without the blue tape. One more coat of white on the columns, one more on the step and deck trim, underneath the eaves, touchup and we're done. We still have to finish the porch ceiling and trim and also replace the trim between the red and white above the porch, but carpentry work is NOTHING compared to the horror of paint.

You know why it's red? I used my blood to paint it. We're never moving.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Come hell or high water....

we MUST be finished by Thursday. The weather is due to turn for the worse and everything must be painted and cleaned up by then. We woke up Saturday morning to sog, which delayed priming by a day, so the porch is only primed and partially painted, and that DAMN wreck of a board is looking more and more like a black eye:










The one and only thing that has been heretofore easier than expected is the replacement of the ceiling of the porch:










It's looking GORGEOUS and has been very easy.

I'm too tired and full of despair to write with emotion or color. We thoroughly destroyed the porch finish top coat with our ladders and stepstools, so that will have to be redone, as well. I'm grateful, though, that the stress of painting has usurped the stress of the day job. That's good, at least.

Friday, September 08, 2006

No, damn it, it's still not done.

No, the house isn't finished yet. I know, what have we been doing? It's never going to be done. I'm going to be 80, standing on a ladder with the small pail of red paint and a small pail of white paint, touching up the window frames with a brush that has been worn down to three hairs. The original red will have faded so much that it will look dusty rose and the white will be dingy and gray, but the window sills will still not be done to my satisfaction.

However, the porch work construction-wise is finished:
















Christian is caulking the tops and bottoms of every rail upright and I'll prime when I get home tonight. We're giving away some of the remnant wood, keeping what's viable and disposing of the rest.

We still need to figure out what kind of trim to put on the stairs, at the base of the siding and around the front, though.
















The Spantex turned out to be a great color, the kind of warmish taupey color that will hopefully hide dirt. And no more heels stuck between cheap decking.





















I will, eventually, take the tape off that last remaining window, and we will replace the porch ceiling. We WILL. I swear.

Friday, September 01, 2006

I'm torn.

I have so many cute shoes with high and wedge heels that I've neglected this summer. They are going to think I don't love them and hide in the back of the closet behind my gowns so I can't find them once I can wear a heel higher than one my grandmother would wear to bingo.

We're all injured in the household. I tore a ligament in my ankle in a supremely graceless moment two and a half weeks ago, when I biffed it in front of the entire chorus on the way to the elevator after warm ups. It took me two weeks to get an appointment, and I was certain that I'd get a lecture from the physician I saw yesterday about how I waited too long to get in and how whatever I tore would have retreated too far into my leg to be retrieved by anything other than forceps and how I'd be lucky to not lose the leg below the knee. Instead, I just have to wear a brace for three weeks. I was sort of hoping for something more drastic that would keep me out of work for an indefinite period of time, but the brace is good for pity.

Fritz took a chomp out of poor little Pierre's beak yesterday. We noticed that Pierre was bleeding, and could see the bite marks on either side of the beak from the piercing mandible of death. I just don't know what to do about those two. We separated them last night, which made them both very meek this morning, but they were pretty distraught from being apart and called for each other from the time the sun came up this morning until when we reunited them. The cheeps were in my dream as a phone that wouldn't stop ringing. I don't want to come home to a gruesome scene of carnage. This species is just so damn chompy. I wish I could give Fritz a safe birdie tranquillizer to make him a little less willing to remove flesh from whatever living organism comes within fifteen feet of him, but I like his spunk, and he is an animal, and it's not fair to expect an animal to behave in a way that is counter to their nature. I feel like we're back to square one and the way it was when Stanze was still alive. And yes, I'm considering a behaviorist again. Mock away. I want happy pets.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Porchish Pictures

The new porch will be finished on Thursday. We had to again evacuate the birds from the living room as the stench of Spantex was close to overwhelming their wee birdie respiratory systems. Progress as of yesterday:














Now, I'm undecided about paint on the porch. Christian quickly photoshopped in white on the rail and columns, and you'll have to imagine this with white on the stair risers, too:
















The wood is still vaguely flesh-toned, but will be the same white as the trim in the end. I kind of want the painting to look like this, though:














Remember, white risers, not red. I just don't know.

I brought this on myself.

I'm a firm believer in equal treatment for everyone, meaning that money shouldn't buy better medical care or easier access to it, so I completely deserve the ridiculous hoops I've had to jump through to get an appointment to have my ankle examined, that poor little joint that was injured as a parting shot from the Levaquin, the antibiotic that should be used as a torture mechanism in third world terrorism campaigns. I called the foot and ankle clinic in the medical system where I work, and they told me that they were a referral clinic only, and that their coordinators would have to contact my physican's office to get said referral and then they would call me back to make an appointment. Well, I gave them all the info, called the other hospital, Northwest, where I had been seen for the infection that started it all, asked them to send my files and waited to hear back.

A week later, nothing.

I called today and was told that I couldn't be seen because there was no referral yet. Now, the same person I spoke with first time was the one I spoke with this time, and she told me that they would get the referral for me, but I had emailed my doctor just in case to cover all the bases. Alas, no referral. No call, no email, no scribbled post it note, nothing. I called my doctor's office, was transferred to the wrong person and then was told by the right person that my doctor hadn't been answering his emails so he must be out of town and it would take at least three weeks to get into the foot and ankle clinic anyway. She actually told me that they were referring patients out of the system. So, I called Northwest Hospital's ortho group, and the cheerful woman who immediately answered the phone asked me my name and number and said, "Well, we can see you this Thursday. Is that soon enough?" "Yes," I said, "and I love you."

Monday, August 28, 2006

TLOH Part Deux with Pictures

Why am I not embedding my pictures in the original post? Because Blogger is out to get me, that's why.

Before:














After:















I also found this whopper of a picture from when we first bought the house:
















And this is how it looks now:














Of course, it's still not done, but those hideous old windows? So thrilled they've gone to their final reward.

TLOH Part Deux

I don't know what we've done either in this life or in previous lives to deserve the friends and family we somehow have surrounding us. In two tortuous weeks, we went from white trash to respectable, and without them all we'd still be buying old cars to fix them up but not getting around to it and leaving them on the lawn on cinderblocks and sitting on our crumbling porch scratching the heads of the Bumpus hounds and Christian would never have gotten out of that wife-beater. As it was, I had to pry the shotgun out of his left hand and the Schmidt out of his right.

In the four years we've lived in the house, we've refinished or replaced floors, repainted every interior surface but those in the rooms that will be remodeled, replaced all of the windows, rebuilt the porch and now repainted the house. We've spent $20,000 for all of this, mostly because we have the most amazing work crew at our disposal. It would have cost us at least twice as much to do all of these things with a contractor. Of course, we didn't install the windows ourselves as we'd have to be HIGH to do so, but the rest of it we either did or helped to do.

Christian and I worked almost every night last week after our day jobs to get the house ready for the actual paint. But, I was full of despair and chagrin last Friday, when, after working for six straight hours with Tara and Christian, the house didn't seem to be any further along. Painting white trim on white primer is pathetically anticlimactic. Our house looked like a marshmallow. On Saturday morning, I had the obligatory mini-meltdown in which I stood in the garage and cried for a few minutes over the rollers and brushes that seemed to multiply as though they were in a house painting version of the movie Gremlins until I couldn't find anything under the piles of tinfoil wrapped, oil painted and ruined rollers and I couldn't possibly foresee how the tragic disaster that was the garage and driveway could ever be clean again, and how was the house going to get painted before I died and if you've met me you can imagine this scene better than if it had been videotaped.

I started painting on the shady side of the house at about 9:30 after making a doughnut run for everyone who said they'd be helping, even though I simply couldn't believe that anyone would give up their weekend, so imagine my wonderment when Chris, Angie and Rich arrived, clothed in their painterly togs ready to grapple with the unimaginable: putting two layers of paint on our entire house, eaves included, in two days. Thank God that C&A painted their house two years ago and the paint job on the inside of their house is far more impressive than any museum exhibit of mid-century modern art, and their art is painted onto the walls instead of hanging from them, because man, are they good at both detail work and rollering. As both Angie and I are gimpy right now, we left it to the boys to scale the scaffolding and paint the difficult areas and we rollered over acres of lap siding. Those little pink rollers that have the button end and fit onto the handle that is the perfect width of the siding? I want to marry them. They shall be my new husband. They're the right shape and everything. Oh yeah. Something else? Apparently, when I'm tired and punchy, I have no inhibitions and will talk about things that would mortify me at any other time. Just for future reference. Anyway, Christian is glad that he never got rid of his javelin spikes, as they were the only thing between him and certain death from a fall of the roof of the kitchen.

I'm still not happy with the underside of the eaves as we couldn't sand them due to the difficult angle, so they're flaky-looking, but when we replace our roof, we'll be able to soffitize them. This weekend, we'll be able to finish the porch including replacing the beadboard on the ceiling and putting a second coat on the areas we couldn't get to because of the construction. The actual porch construction should be finished by Wednesday, when Tara is going to come and clean the utter filth inside our home. You can see my footprints on the dust of my bedroom floor in a little path from the foyer to my bedside to the closet.

I'm now covered in bruises and desperately sunburned on my back and shoulders and I have a big lump on my head from where I dropped the enormous ladder on it in a misguided attempt to move it on my own, but we're almost done, so it doesn't matter anyway as I now have a chance to lie on the couch and moan without having to get up right away and climb a ladder with a possibly useless ankle.

I really do want to take this time to get extremely emotional with everyone and thank:

Mom and Dad
Lynn and Sal
Chris and Angie
Rich and Shelly
Lee
Tara

and especially my Mooky, who has worked harder than I've ever seen anyone work in my life. You are my hero, sweetie.

And Chris? You can touch Christian inappropriately any time you like. You've earned it.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Progress, schmogress.

Working on weeknights on the exterior of the house is about as fruitful as cleaning a bathroom with a toothbrush. We don't have the daylight needed to get anything truly DONE. I'm hoping that Christian will be able to take a chunk out of the primering the east (and last) side today as he's working from home and can paint on his lunch hour and immediately after he finishes working. Once the primering is done, the real painting can begin, and I'm very excited for that. I am imagining what it will look like when it's all done and it makes me very happy.

The porch is looking fantastic:














As Christian said last night, it's so SOLID. I no longer feel as though the stair treads will pop off when I step on them. I mean, they have more than two screws in each, which really broke the bank. Those screws are awfully expensive and I can see why the people who built the last porch only used two per tread and three per plank on the top. That money was so much better spent on the range they bought for $3 at the Sears irregular sale.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

My God, my ass is big.

It can't even be hidden by the GORGEOUS NEW COLUMN on our front porch:
















We've read many informative and highly opinionated articles on how best to paint a house, and most of them agree that most energy should be concentrated on prepping "money shots" at eye level. As the ceiling of the porch is visible from everywhere in the yard and is one of the first sights when one ascends the steps, I decided to completely strip it, sand it down to the wood and polyurethane it to keep it the natural wood color. It will nicely compliment the door we'll get eventually when we have money again.
















I loooove scraping. Scrape, scrape, scrape! I could scrape all day. The ceiling is a blank canvas of peely goodness. And, if I don't scrape, according to one article, I could be looking at imminent paint failure. Man the lifeboats! The paint, she's going down! And we don't want that.

Monday, August 21, 2006

LOH Pictures

The house before the onslaught:















Note the patch of bare wood to the right of the porch. No one can resist picking at it.

The red on the left, RC (Roycroft Copper) is the main house color.















The third day or so:















Glad I wasn't there to see this one:





















Primed and missing the porch:

This Little, Old House

When we first bought our little house, I hated the exterior paint with an intensity rivaled only by my hatred of country music and NASCAR. We knew that it would either cost us an arm and a leg or the love of our family to paint the house with a contractor ("You paid HOW MUCH to have your house painted?? We could have done it for FREE!"), so we waited until we had the time and money to do it ourselves. We had originally wanted to wait until the garage and kitchen were rebuilt/remodeled so all the paint would match, but it became the habit of everyone entering our house to pick off loose paint from the wall next to the front door, leaving a huge, gaping bare patch of siding, so we either needed to paint or get some mangy dogs and broken down cars in the yard to complete the picture of the perfect white-trash shanty. My parents have painted their house twice by themselves, my in-laws painted their house themselves and Chris and Angie painted theirs, and all of these well-meaning and completely insane people offered to help, so we decided that we would take time off and prep and paint in one week. Heh. Heeeeeeeeh heh. Heeee.

My parents had spent the previous week helping build a deck at my sister's house, so they were in town to move on to the next stage of back-breaking manual labor that would remind them of why they had never moved to Seattle to be nearer to us. We started last Sunday by power washing the house, which was not only fun but satisfying on a deep and profound level as the house was filthy. Only pigs could live in such a dirty home. Some of the loose paint was blown off by the water, and, as we washed, we walked around the house to get a good look at the condition of the existing paint and gauge how much work would need to be done. The whole east side of the house was a nightmare. It was peeling and flaking and the many layers of paint from the first to the last coat had never been removed, just lightly sanded and painted over, so there were patches that looked like an example of sedimentary rock in a science class film about erosion. We knew beforehand that we would have to strip some of the house, so we sent away for the Silent Paint Remover, which turned out to be worth its weight in gold. We turned the SPR onto the worst parts of the paint (which turned out to be pretty much the lower half of the entire house) and it was like a peely miracle. The thickest paint would bubble and come off in huge sheets with a deft flick of the $1 scraper we all fought over, leaving only pinkish, pleasant smelling cedar siding exposed. I had no idea that stripping paint would appeal so strongly to my sickening obsession. I could have used that sucker on the entire house if I had had enough time. I should have purchased it instead of renting it. I could have walked around the neighborhood with a really long extension cord trailing behind me looking for paint to peel on my neighbors' homes.

For the first two days, we scraped and scraped and Christian went to work and came home and we were still scraping and I started to think that we just might not get this whole job done in a week. I got very upset and had one of those embarrassing breakdowns one only has with ones parents as one feels that she is twelve and being told that she can't wear those jeans out of the house as they are too tight and one has to cry and lock herself in the bathroom to regain her composure.

The inlaws joined us on Tuesday, God love 'em, and Christian had the whole day off, so we made some extensive progress with so many hands. I had to leave and go to the opera where I, of course, injured myself. I think it was a parting shot from the Levaquin. I had been on ladders and scaffolding all day and was so exhausted that I biffed it twice in my costume shoes and heard a pop in my ankle. By the next morning, the bone was the size of a golf ball and it hurt to glance at it out of the corner of my eye. I was relegated to errand runner and meal cooker that day. Guilt. Guilty, guilty, guilt guilt guilt.

The week before we started prepping, Christian cut back all of the climbing plants on the front of our house, and our porch let out an audible groan when the wisteria was removed as the plant was the only thing holding up that half-assed set of toothpicks. The more we looked at the bare porch, the more we wanted to rip it down with our bare hands, so we called the contractor who had built Tina's deck and hired him to start construction at the same time we were painting. We had the grand task of prying off the hateful decking that was screwed to our porch instead of actual contiguous material that would prevent my heel from catching every time I walked up the stairs. To save on labor costs, we bought $1,700 worth of wood ourselves, of which my sneaky mother in law bought a good portion and wouldn't let me pay her back. Guilt. Eeeeee with the guilt.

As the week wore on, more people who I thought would rather be doing anything other than the vile work we had cornered ourselves into, showed up. Angie stripped windowsills and sanded and taped and generally was a rock star. It did seem, though, that the prep would never end. There was always so much more to do. The bottom half of the house was done, but the top was flaking at me in defiance of my wishes to be finished in time to take a nap Sunday afternoon. Lynn and Sal had to leave Friday afternoon and my parents had to leave Saturday as Jayden's birthday party was in the middle of the afternoon. We would be all alone, and we only had one side of the house primered. Mom put in an amazing day of work on Friday and single-handedly scraped, sanded and primed the back of the house by the bathroom. But they were leaving!

And then the second shift showed up.

Chris and Rich came over after work on Friday and bolstered us up. They sanded and scraped and Angie taped and we primered the rest of the front of the house. They moved the scaffolding and Chris held Christian up while he scaled the peak of the kitchen to sand the eaves, wearing javelin spikes for traction. Thank God I was at the opera and didn't have to witness that.

So, as of today, three quarters of the house is primed and half the windows are painted trim-wise. The kitchen wall has to be sanded and the ceiling of the porch needs to be scraped, but we'll be done by this weekend. And our friends are coming back. I don't know what on earth we did to deserve all these wonderful people, but there it is.

And if anyone ever tells me that I should do any more house projects myself, I'm going to brain them with a paint can.

Pictures in the next post.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Bad, bad week.

Why is this week going so poorly? What hateful planet is in my house, what evil mojo has been worked on me that, no matter where I go, annoyance and vexation follows?

Monday: Did everything wrong at work. Health issues of this summer causing me to not be able to concentrate. Had wrong room number on one boss' calendar for a meeting she was chairing, and she sent out a reminder over the weekend with the incorrect room number. Had to call meeting participants and sort out. Brought other boss back from trip a day late and hotel dropped his reservation. Still no housekeeper. It was her day, she hasn't shown up but once (and then promptly left again) in the past two weeks. Broke bowl, birds angry at me for not being home all day. Aggressively bitten by Fritz.

Tuesday, still no housekeeper, no message. In addition, forgot wallet at work, and didn't' realize it until in checkout line at Safeway getting groceries to make dinner for Christy, who was coming over to watch Auntie Mame. Get in car, hobbling as legs very much hurting, to head back to work, only to find that all traffic lights between me and work out. Traffic v. bad. Turned and went home.

Today, woke up more exhausted than when went to bed night before. Haven't slept more than a few hours in past few nights as muscles are so sore and painful that am constantly awoken by knives in back and hips. Called in to work sick a half day and forgot that Mariner's game at 1 would make traffic horrific. Bird to vet for vaccinations and may have to have beak dremmeled down as crooked beak can cause jaw problems. Poor pooper.

I'm taking next week off to paint the house with the parents and inlaws, and I don't know how I'm going to stand for long periods of time. If anyone wants to temporarily donate their legs to me, I'll graciously accept, and give them back in excellent but possibly slightly paint-stained shape.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Is it pink-red or brown-red?

We're painting our house next week. This is one of those tasks that I usually believe should be left to professionals, but as we don't have that extra $10,000 lying around and I certainly don't want to take out a loan, we're tackling that treacherous home-owner learning curve with the aid of both sets of parents, our neighbors and an infrared paint remover. The last item is intriguing and hopefully will be as efficient as promised. The videos of stripping paint on the rental website were almost pornographic and made me want to pull out old copies of This Old House I had hidden under my mattress and lovingly stroke the glossy color photos of freshly painted houses.

We've decided on a color called Roycroft Copper, a dark brownish-red that sounds hideous when I describe it (too much like dried blood) but looks beautiful on the house. It's from the Sherwin-Williams Arts and Crafts Home collection, and God knows they must be right. The trim will be alabaster white. I honestly think I chose this particular white because of the simple name. I can't take descriptions like "Fair Virgin Lily" when I choose a color.

In anticipation of painting, Christian had to cut back the wisteria, which seemed to be the only thing holding up our ancient and badly-built porch:
















The wisteria is most likely around 30 years old, and cutting it seemed like a sacrilidge, despite its alien-like aggressive growth tendencies. Whenever we go away in the summer for more than two days, we come back to long tendrils reaching for the house and wrapped around the porch swing like they're going to crush the bedroom in a vegetative embrace. I just know that, if we were gone for more than a week, we'd come back to a throbbing green mass of vines and sweet-smelling blossoms. So, it'll grow back.

We know the porch looks like fifteen kinds of crap. We'll rebuild it with stone and cement and sturdier wood when we have accrued large sums of money from nefarious activities. I never thought I would wish to be a criminal, but owning an old home that needs work makes one think outside the strictly legal box.

Christian also cut back the flowering hedge that had been lovingly trained by the previous owner but one:




















All of the privacy afforded by the hedge is gone, and we can see waaaaaay too much of the neighborhood now. The trellis filtered the light so nicely and sheltered us from the screaming WT house-of-a-thousand-occupants across the street.

I shall report our progress with pictures. Of course, by the end of next week, my entries will most likely consist of, "Can't....go...on....the scraping...God...THE SCRAPING!"

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Shackles for one in the tenth level of hell.

My grandma was robbed last week. My teeny little 86-year-old grandmother was awakened at 4 am by her enormous and useless German Shepherd as he needed to go outside to wallow in the dirt in the fenced in backyard garden, and no other time would do. After letting him back in, she heard a knock at the front door. She opened it slightly to see who it was, and found a young woman who was claiming that her car had broken down and she needed to use the phone. My grandma opened the door enough to allow this young woman to push her way into the house.

Now, there are several things you need to know about my grandma and her financial situation. She is the mother of six children, who were all raised on my grandpa's income as an Air Force welder. They live in a very working class, fairly poor neighborhood, in which their house is most likely the best cared-for, as Grandma is very particular. They have never had any debt, paid off their house many, many years ago and my grandmother still walks her one utility bill to the utility company's office every month, check in hand. Grandma is living off of my deceased grandpa's small pension, their slim retirement and Social Security. It has been sufficient as her needs are small. Whatever is not provided for her by her own income is provided for her by her six children, all of whom live in her town.

Returning to the narrative, this person, after pushing her way into the house, apparently ran about babbling "Money!" as she looked for a purse or wad of cash to just to be lying about waiting for her filthy, disease-ridden clutches, which, as you can see from the explanatory paragraph above, is absurd. My grandma, being the plucky broad she is, told the girl, "If you're looking for money to steal, you came to the wrong house." The whore-bitch-from-the-depths-of-Hades did find Grandma's purse and took the small sum of cash from her wallet and ran out, but not before pushing Grandma to the ground, perhaps as a parting shot for not having anything portable worth stealing. Fortunately, we have sturdy bones in our family, and Grandma is taking an osteoporosis medication that helps the bones stay strong, so nothing was broken, but she was bruised up one side of her body.

There is no instance that I can point to more clearly than this next bit to demonstrate how strongly the "Don't Impose" mentality is imprinted on my family. Grandma waited four hours to let anyone know she had been robbed and, when she did, she didn't call the police, she called my Uncle Mike, who called the police himself. Apparently, the events caused quite an uproar, and Grandma was on the news and in the paper. I'm still looking for the story, which better not have been buried under all this Israel crap.

If they ever find the girl who did this to Grandma, there will be no hole deep enough to protect her from the Family. For once I'm glad Uncle Wayne has those shotguns.

Monday, July 31, 2006

An auspicious day!

Happy birthday, darling mother in law, and happy hatch day, Cyril!

They would be a delicacy to some rainforest tribes.

For the frogs and turtle, we purchase little lidded tubs of waxworms (wws) and superworms (sws) every week. Gwendolyn loves the sws and can eat up to ten in a sitting. The frogs love the wws, but they're quite fatty, so we have to limit their intake. You have to refridgerate the wws so they don't pupate and, we can only give the pets limited wws, they pupate very quickly if they are left out. You're NOT supposed to refridgerate the sws as they pupate at cool temperatures.

When we got the last batch of sws, the container was quite cold from being in the fridge at the store, and the worms were not as active as they usually are. I noticed that some of them looked very dark and had a strange shell. It turns out that they had started to metamorphose and I didn't know it as I had never seen a sw become a pupa. Now, when the wws change to their adult form, they become pretty little moths. The sws, it turns out, become enormous black beetles. How do I know this? I reached in to the frogs vivarium yesterday to take out the old sws in their little bowl and a beetle crawled onto my hand. Gaaaaaaack. Any bug that is too big for the frogs to eat does not belong in my house, so into the bushes they went. Christian said they actually thumped when they hit the ground, they were so big. I can't control the shuddering.

Friday, July 28, 2006

To my beloved husband on our 5th anniversary:

Hi schweetie, can you believe it? Five years we've been married, and, while I know I'm most likely cursing us for saying this, wasn't it supposed to be harder? I mean, we've had our moments like everyone else, but there isn't one of those moments that I would take back.

There are so many things about you that have surprised me, mainly your affable adaptability. I had no idea when I married you that you would be such an excellent travel companion, and that you would let me obsessively plan and not make fun of me. You have embraced the alterna-pet lifestyle with aplomb, feeding frozen mousecicles to the snakes, growing broccoli for the birds and turtle and picking out live superworms for the frogs. You understand, as not many people do, that giving way sometimes does not mean rolling over. I have to learn that better. I MIGHT let you get the PGR steering wheel for the XBox. Maybe.

I listen to my singer colleagues who have trouble with their significant others/spouses and the amount of time that singing takes away from the relationship. I don't say anything to them because it would sound like I was gloating, because you not only understand the need, but you share it, just in a different venue. We've never fought because I had to go to rehearsal again. It's the other way around; you make sure that I get where I need to be when my resolve has failed me. I wouldn't have gotten two of my upcoming gigs if you hadn't convinced me to go to the auditions.

The biggest lesson I've learned over the past five years is that security is not financial abundance, because I don't feel any differently about you with or without money. Security is, I know now, coming home to a place where you are, a place where I am always safe. If home is where one hangs ones hat, my home is where you hang your hat.

I love you, Mooky. Happy anniversary.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Completely outnumbered.

It's a boy! We got the news today. So, he shall be named Cyril. Out of all eight pets, only two are girls, Gwendolyn and Persephone, and then me. It's the house of testosterone.

Poor little pooper had his well-bird check up today. He's lost 20 grams from the stress of changing homes, so we're going to give him (that's hard for me to say-I kept calling him "her") lots of treats to fatten him up and reward him for being such a good bird for the vet. He's been microchipped and vaccinated and had bloodwork drawn, which was terrible, I understand (not having been there to witness it), as they couldn't get the neck artery and had to clip a nail and take blood from the bleeding vein. Shudder. Gack. He seems in good health, though, and the shop where we bought him has an excellent reputation for well-adjusted and healthy birds. We'll get the bloodwork results back on Friday, and then all will be well. What a good birdie.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Cure vs. Disease

I've been taking a drug call Levaquin for the staph infection in my foot, and a potential side effect is soul-sucking, life-draining, will-to-live-destroying muscle and joint pain. I want to cry, go home and lie on the couch and whimper.

Oh, but C3 said "hi" to me this morning. That makes everything much better.

Monday, July 24, 2006

A Parrot Pictorial

We brought Charlie/Chloe/Cyril (heretofore known as C3 and "she", which may or may not be wishful thinking) home on Saturday. I had mixed emotions (not about buying her, but about taking her away from EVERYONE she knows) as the poor peanut has never been out of the shop, having been hatched, hand fed, weaned and raised there, and I was terribly concerned about the heat and stress involved in moving from an air-conditioned shop to our broiling hot house. Fortunately, we were home almost all weekend, so we could closely observe C3's behavior in minute and obsessive compulsive detail. We picked her up at about 11, did our food tutorial (the shop has its own bean mix that Fritz went nuts over; his little beak was covered in grain and he snarfed it for a solid hour before we took it away), read our paperwork, bought more stuff for the cage (suckers) and let the staff say goodbye. That was tough as they really love her, and have cared for her since she was an egg. The poor girl who was helping us was quite sad, but it does mean the pooper was loved, which makes me happy.

We packed C3 up into the carrier we had purchased the week before, a fun acrylic cage that will make for excellent transportation for outings, and strapped her in the car. I sat with her in the back seat to keep an eye on her and make sure she didn't flap herself into a tizzy. It was a bit traumatic, the drive home:
















The noise, the sun, the movement...she thought that the bottom of the carrier would be a little safer, but she just slid and slipped like a little kid on ice skates for the first time.

Once we got home, she was very anxious to get into her cage, and didn't seem to have any problems with the size or amount of toys, as many of the books say new birds can:
















She saw the cage, spread her wings and leeeeeaned in, grabbed the rope perch with her beak and hauled herself up:















She seemed to approve of her surroundings, especially the opening top, from where she could eat:




















and adventure over the entire double cage, sometimes dangling precariously from the side in an effort to scrutinize every square inch, just to make sure that nothing was going to jump out or trap a toe. She was very thorough in her examination. Her grip is not the best, and she would periodically slide down the bars and have to grab with her beak to hang on, but I had to restrain myself from rushing over and picking her up and setting her back on top of her perch. One has to let ones children discover their surroundings, as long as the surroundings are safe. We've given her perches of various sizes as her feet need to be strengthened, due to the missing toe, but she's fairly dexterous already.

The first night was trying. She was frightened and had night tremors. I heard her flap desperately and fall from her perch at about 2 am, so I went and sat with her for a while, talking to her softly and scratching her head. She did eventually relax enough to sleep, but didn't seem terribly at ease. We covered her cage to keep headlights from coming in the window and waking her, but the street noise may have been too much. It was so hot, though, that we had to either keep the windows open or perish. She was very chatty on Sunday, but wasn't as willing to step up. She wasn't handled all that much in the shop as this species is not as needy as, say, a cockatoo, and there were so many birds that needed more attention sharing the space with her. She seemed to enjoy watching us from her perch and let us feed her and scratch her, which was a hoot, as it's amazing to me how far a bird is willing to contort itself to get us to scratch that ONE SPOT. She didn't eat as much as I would have hoped and she didn't find her food and water bowls, so we had to hang two more by her top perch to make sure she was eating and drinking.

She will go to the vet on Wednesday to have her well bird checkup, get her baseline bloodwork drawn and get microchipped.

I'm having a hard time with this situation. I'm so terribly worried about her health and well-being, and I'm so concerned that she's OK today while we're at work, and she didn't want to step up this morning, and it's so hot in the house, and the housekeeper is coming today (although bless Christian for reminding her of what not to use for cleaning) and I won't be home for hours and what if something happens, and what if she doesn't eat, and what if she hates me, and what if she's sick and we don't know it, and and andanandnadnadnandnandn.....

I'm very concerned. I sure do like her, though. She just breaks my heart.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Like a banana. Or a grape. Or the protective sticker that comes on electronics. I love that thing.

I'm peely. The terrible sunburn I got at Christian's track meet ten days ago has borne glorious, dehydrated, parchment-like fruit. I have spent the last hour scraping up the rough edges of unpeeled skin with my fingernail and then stripping off big sheets that look white until you ball them up, and then you can see the concentrated cell death in a lovely shade of beige.

I am, however, being very courteous and putting the peelings on a napkin to dispose of hygenically in the trash. I don't want our sweet little custodian to have to vacuum up the remnants of my poor judgment.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Don't judge us too harshly. We have no willpower.

Christian has wanted a big bird for a while. He likes the weight and substance of larger parrots and really yearned for a talking bird. I had been doing some research on bird species and characteristics, and came across the Pionus, a South American parrot not commonly sold in the US, but gaining popularity with breeders. They are sweet and shy and possessed of a quiet demeanor and will turn their backs on disliked personages rather than biting them, which is hilarious. I did some research and presented my findings to Christian, who agreed with me that this species had promise. There are two breeders of Maximilian Pionuses and Blue Headed Pionuses in Spokane, but only one store, Denise's Parrot Place on Mercer Island, fortunately, had any in house; one was a year old Bronze Winged, and two were just fledged baby Blue Headeds. We decided to go check them out on Saturday (Christian driving due to gimpy footedness on my part, and I think that standing in that shop contributed to the progress of infection) and met Charlie:

Charlie, whose name will shortly be changed to either Cyril or Chloe, absolutely slaughtered us. I have a weird and tragic fondness for special needs birds, and had a grand passion for a Cockatoo named Lola on Petfinder who was missing a foot. She was adopted before I could get my hands on her, though. I saw that Charlie/Chloe/Cyril was missing a toe, and when I commented on it, the woman helping us rushed to assure us that it was a nest box injury and that he didn't suffer from it or have any difficulty. I don't know why she thought we'd care, unless other people had rejected him based on the missing toe, but it made me love him all the more. He does eat with the three toed foot as the other is more stable for standing on, and I think his beak has grown more than it should because he only chews on one side, but that is very easily remedied by a trip to the vet. I have never seen a bird this sweet or shy, and he quivered in terror for the first hour we held him. This species is very sensitive and can make wheezing sounds when nervous or excited. Good God, could he be more perfect? And, he talks. Already, without any teaching, he says "Step up!" That was the clincher for Christian. We held him and talked to him and fed him and petted him for over an hour, and did all the paperwork to buy him. The store has a strict no same day purchase policy for animals, which I think is fantastic as it eliminates many unwanted pets, so we can't have him until this weekend, but we get to visit him several times this week. I can't wait to see this sweet little face again:



I really think it was fate or God or the universe telling us to buy this bird. He was passed over for a while as he isn't perfect, and the shop workers, who love him very much, were thrilled that he took to us so well. And then, I was flipping through channels yesterday morning, and I turned to the network channels to see if anything other than golf was on, and a pet keeping show caught my eye. I flipped to the description in the guide, and the first word was "Pionus." I screamed for Christian and pointed at the TV, surprised and kind of weirded out. I mean, these are not common pets, and here was a show touting them for how wonderful of birds they are. Sweet, funny, energetic and good natured were the descriptors the show host used. It felt like the universe was vindicating our purchase. So, Saturday sees the newest addition of chickens to the household. And then I swear we'll be done.

I thought Saturday night was date night?

If so, I'm a lousy date.

I should have listened to Dana when she told me, at drinks after rehearsal, to not scratch my mosquito bites, as they could get infected. Ha, I scoffed, such things never happen to me! The next night, I was thinking, huh, these bites really itch still, and boy, it hurts to scratch them. Oh well! Scratch, scratch, scratch. By Thursday night, I couldn't walk, and my ankle was one big blob of red and hot. Strange, I thought to myself, must be an allergic reaction. So, I took an antihistamine and some ibuprofen. Well, the next day, the pain was worse, and one of the doctors I work with, with whom I have a rapport and felt comfortable mentioning my predicament to, made me prop up my leg and, as she poked at my ankle and I sucked in air through my teeth in pain, told me to go straight to the ER. I needed antibiotics, she said. So, off I went like the obedient worker bee, and was diagnosed straight away with cellulitis. Doesn't sound so bad, I thought, as I hobbled back to the office to tell my bosses that I had to go home, per the doctor's orders. By the time I managed to get home after having to get the drugs, my ankle was so swollen and painful that, if I sat down and then stood up again, the pain was so intense it made gasp and tear up. I took some ibuprofen and the antibiotics, and thought I was better. After propping up my foot all night and the next morning, the swelling was better and the pain had decreased. Christian had a party on Saturday night, so he went without me, per my instructions. I was lying on the couch watching TV, and I suddenly got very, very cold. My hands and feet were icy. I covered myself up and thought, huh, funny. It's 80 degrees out. So, a few minutes went by and I got colder and colder, and my cheeks got hotter and hotter. I was in fever denial, as I was told that, if I had a fever, I had to go back to the hospital and by all things Godly, I did NOT want to do that. Now, my temp almost always runs about 97.6-97.9, but very rarely over 98.1. Why? No clue. So, when I saw 99, 99.2, 99.5 and up up up on the thermometer, I got a little worried. I pulled the blanket off my feet and looked down, and I saw this:

Now, I'm chubby, but I have little hands and feet where you can actually see the bones. Do you see any bones? No. Just bulgy red skin and unpainted toenails. Of all the times to lapse on pedicures. I called poor Christian in the tiniest of panics and he came home to take me to the ER. So, with the fever and the nasty club foot (the smaller circle is marking the inflammation on Friday and the line on top is marking the inflammation on Saturday) it was decided to keep me there long enough to give me IV antibiotics, and sneak in a tetanus booster while I was waiting. Shifty bastards.

I spent five hours in the ER, which isn't bad, all things considered. Usually, ER visits take 8-9 hours and one has to sit in the waiting room with gunshot victims and hookers. The Northwest Hosptial staff was fantastic, and everyone had a good sense of humor, although I'm sure things would have been different had they been busier. My video iPod was the hit of the evening. Apparently, though, I cursed them by commenting on the quietness of the evening, or so I was informed by the ER tech who came to unplug my pump so I could go to the bathroom. In hindsight, a large raspberry iced tea was not the best idea. Here is my arm shortly before the infusion began:

The nurse thought I was pretty gruesome for taking pictures, but I must blog.

But, the wallop did a good job, and the inflammation is mostly gone. I have an ankle bone again! I'm sure everything at work will be dire when I go back tomorrow, but I can always summon some tears and clutch my ankle and say I have to go home.