Wednesday, December 27, 2006


I arrived at work yesterday morning to find the store in a state of confusion. It seems that there was a power outage some time Christmas Day (6 p.m., the theory goes) and there's a reason they're called "perishables."

Also, the grease trap apparently has an electrical component of which we were previously unaware, 'cause damn. Wanna smell a grease trap? Stick your nose down a clogged drain and take a deep breath. Then cube that. Yeah.

Soooo, we had to pull all refrigerated product off the shelves, write it off, throw it in ye olde Dumpster and start again. We didn't open until 2 p.m.

I'm tired.

Also, meh.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

*THUD* ..... mmmmrrrppppphhhh

-- Is the sound of me being buried under a mountain of laundry. That I have to do today. That I don't wanna do. (Did that sound whiny to you? If not, back up and read again until it does.)

Auughhh! I am aware that the Christmas (or Christmahannukwanzakah) season is a joyous one. But from the retail perspective ..... waldskjg;awlrethyg. Totally crazy.

I've seen customers leave long register lines to fetch something for a total stranger.

I've been cussed out by a customer for not selling her liqueur candies before noon on Sunday. (FYI -- Glen Ellyn Villiage ordinance prohibits it. We could lose the liquor license and I'd lose my job. So totally not worth it.)

I saw a woman stop her shopping to make sure a crying little girl found her mommy.

I've had customers try to force me to open a register to which I am not assigned.

Two days ago, a little boy (about 2 1/2 years old) was singing, "Jingle bells, batman smells, Robin laid the [sic] egg .... batmobil mumble a wheel, Joker got away, HEY!" Over. And over. And over. And all the customers in line around him were just cracking up. (Mom was mortified.)

One woman complained the she couldn't get her Napa Creek (or is it Valley? We've had several geological features of Napa in wine form) wine anymore. I tried to explain that it was a one-time deal, we put that on the sign, es no mas. "But my family drank it all the time. You don't understand -- wine is like water to us!" Then she was upset about the potstickers. Well, ma'am, that vendor went out of business. Can't get no potstickers from a factory that don't exist, you see. "But they were so good! I don't know why you guys get rid of everything I like!" Rrgh.

Every morning I knock on the glass with my keys. Someone opens the door for me, I sign in. Check the Daily Log for morning instructions. Trudge across the front (dodging flower pallets), say hi to Alicia (flower child), the Bread Person, Joe (produce guy). Right after seeing Joe, I always notice this one case of onions. It's there every morning by the time I get in. Same place, on the floor right under the conventional cherry tomatoes. It's got a cartoon of a figure with an onion bulb for a head. This "head" has a pink bow on the top (tying up the remains of the stem, I guess) and long eyelashes. The Onion Girl is wearing a knee-length white skirt that "she" is holding up as she curtsies. Right next to this character are the words "Sweetie Sweet." Every day a new box, but always the same place, always from the same vendor.

This is a very disturbing recurring image to have. Little Miss Sweetie Sweet has started showing up in my dreams.

So I'm OK. Have good moments and bad moments at work, I try to remember the good ones more. (The last customer example above I have decided is hilarious. Oh so frustrating at the time, because communication was so not happening, but it's funny now.)

I'll post more later after I dig myself out from under this pile of chores.

See you in February!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Wow! It's not all about the *%^@ squirrel!

Just another really, really fun (retail) website. I think the magnets have all the images in the collection. HA!

Y'all are gonna get sick of this

Pic1: Still blurry, 'cause I'm still figuring this out. But it's Kerm in his pouch, trying (in vain, thanks to me) to sleep.
Pic 2: Trying out the broccoli. He ate it all, so I guess he likes it. He left the banana.
Pic 3: Checking out the Christmas tree from all angles. I found out this morning that he dug all around it (I was planning on vacuuming, anyway) and gnawed on the trunk. Hm.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Kermit's Nut. He will not yield it to Any One.

Actually, he's not that posessive yet. But he does tote it around with him (just in case he wants to work on it at odd moments), thus resulting in a very amusing Security Pecan effect.

Kermit has found the One Place Mommy Can't Get To:

I admit, I had to give up on this one. His loss: no breakfast for him! (Or my loss? He was already full on the previous night's Leftover Walnut.) (Which is a good name for a band.)

In other news, he has discovered our Christmas tree. He approves. But it needs more Squirrel. He has also informed me that I'm No Fun At All; He's a Big Squirrel, and Big Squirrels Belong In Trees, Even Fake Ones.

As a compromise, I have gotten him a real tree, in miniature, for his cage. I hope he's happy.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Kermit at rest

"Whaaaat? It's tooooooooo eaaaaarrrllllyyyy ..."

[The yellow fuzz by his nose is from his hammock. He's started to extract lint and carry it around with him.]

Saturday, December 02, 2006

New Quirks

Kermit now has a favorite toy ... I suppose one could call it a toy, anyway.

It's a cotton rope we hung from the top of his cage. There are a few knots along the way, but it is otherwise unremarkable for a rope. We've never seen him climb it, or even interact with it in any way. But one morning, I noticed he had brought the end of the rope in through the entrance of his nesting box.

Well, that got undone when I cleaned the cage. He has since opted for his hammock over the nesting box. It's a 2-ply hammock, where he can burrow in between the layers. He's brought the rope with him. This time, it involved bringing the end up several levels of cage. The end of the rope eventually worked its way through the hammock, and Kerm had to bring it back in. Unfortunately, he looped it back through the original way in, thus pinching off his hammock. Oops.

I've fixed it this morning (he had retreated to curling up inside a log). I'm sure further hijinks will ensue.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Stuff to drool over

I'm not going to lie about this: I'm posting these links in part because I hope my brother and other assorted relatives who feel the obligation to buy me unnecessary stuff can see it.

But I'm also posting these because they're cool, funky little ebusinesses/analog businesses that have awesome ideas and I'd love for them to stay in business. In other words, so that y'all can buy stuff for your relatives from these places. Or just look at the stuff and rip off the designs in your own creations ... whatever.

An all-women designer cooperative in Toronto: Fresh Collective
Littlecat Designs -- look at the profiles of the cartoon characters! Lot of sturdy messenger-style bags for the grad student in your life.
Coccoon in downtown Geneva, Illinois
ModCloth Vintage
Pixelgirl Shop -- where else are you going to get sushi earrings?!?
For alternative, reusable giftwrap options, EcoBags

Friday, November 17, 2006

One of the reasons I married him

My husband has -- should I say developed? Exhibited? -- the habit of, whenever we drive by a Canada Goose, crying "Goose!" at it. This is not a, "Look! A goose!" sort of cry. No, this is a, "You are Goose!" Therefore, every goose gets a "Goose!"

As in, "GooseGooseGooseGooseGooseGoose!" There were six geese.

Now, y'all remember the Wheaton area? Former wetlands? Lots of water retention ponds?

A few weeks ago I was driving us down Roosevelt, turning right onto Main. Hubble Middle School is right on the corner, with a nice big football field. Geese parked as far as the eye can see. My eyes got big. "Oh, no."

"Wait! Stop the car! This is the moment I was BORN for!"

Why Flying Squirrels Are Better Pets Than Hamsters

Kermit was playing by his water dish when I came in the living room this morning. He played Keep Away from Mommy for a few moments, then backed up and jumped on my arm, scampering all over my back. (He likes to hang on my back and hop sideways -- yes, while I'm standing straight up.) I lured him onto my hand with the bottle (syringe); after 4 1/2 ccs (a big breakfast) he was back to playing all over me. I brought him over to the cage and he jumped onto it as soon as we were in range. He played Keep Away for a few more seconds, then stopped at the edge, bopped his head around (gauging distance) and leapt to my face. As in, forepaws on forehead, aftpaws on nose. Tail in mouth. Then he turned himself around and leapt into his cage.

I think he's getting used to me.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

He's here!

I would like to announce the addition of Kermit, one Southern Flying Squirrel, to the Rivet household. Once I either get a digital camera or figure out how to send the pics on my phone I'll get an actual picture of the guy up here. Suffice it to say that he's incredibly cute. He's about 5 1/2 weeks old and weighs maybe 2 ounces. I'll be bottle-feeding him the next couple weeks (it's a combination of puppy formula and heavy whipping cream, administered through a 3cc syringe), but we also shared a snack of pecan bits this afternoon.

We've got his cage pretty pimped-out, too. Michael had the inspired idea to not only get branches that screw on to the sides of the cage (found in the bird dept. of your local pet store), but to get some snakier pieces of grapevine (from the reptile section -- oy ... pun not intended) and wire them to the sides for extra fun. Kermit also has his choice of log-like items to crawl through, a rope ladder, a hammock (that I knit -- yes, I'm psychotic, what else is new?), a nest box and a wheel.

Strange behaviors thus far: Kermit will fall asleep wherever his activities lead him. Last night, he explored a narrow crevice between the cage wall and his nest box -- and fell asleep wedged in there. Clinging to the side of the cage. He's been known to use the nest box (how he managed to plan that far ahead as to be at the sleeping place when he wanted to sleep is beyond me) and the hammock (eons of cuteness), but he mostly ends up just curling up in his precious wheel. The wheel he can't use for very long at a time, because he ends up running too fast and flipping himself around. He's also convinced that vertical blinds are climbable, and shows signs of developing a definite Thing about Climbing on Top of the Cage. He's not allowed on the furniture (for fear that he'll just keep exploring, and he's just too tiny for that), but he seems to think that because it's His Cage, he can Go Where He Wants -- even On Top. In theory I might see his point, but I know that this is merely a premise to get him to his Everest, a.k.a. the Tall Bookshelf. He's already figured out that he can get a grip on the rough plywood on the back of the shelves and shimmy himself up.

He's been here 48 hours, he's a baby, and he's already rebelling. I'm so proud.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Down, alpha male!

I'm really digging that my blog is now a hotbed of controversy! Sweet!

Jordana reports that while she'd love to comment, her silly school's firewall prevents doing so while she's supposed to be enriching young minds. Typical. We all know those so-called impressionable young minds are texting each other under cover of desk, and there's no firewall for that now, is there? Unfair treatment, I say!

In the meantime, I've received notice that my squirelly friend is ready to be ripped from mother and siblings and placed in an alien environment wherein there will be none of his kind. YES!!! So this Friday it's Squirrel Time! If I can navigate my way solo to the breader, anyway. (Did I ever mention the time I tried to drive 4 hours to my grandma's house in Iowa -- a straight shot down Highway 30 -- and ended up in Wisconsin?)

Only four more sleeps.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Sorry, Will ... and Jordana ...

Do I even need to say that I'm incredibly amused? Talk of drunken, golfing ninja, giving Will the ugly stick, eye-gouging -- my life almost can't take this much excitement!

Finished The Little Lady Agency. Thoroughly entertaining, had some interesting points about self-confidence (female self-confidence in particular) and its development within one's family of origin. The denouement was overdone, with almost every character weighing in, comic-book-final-battle style. I suppose I could care, but I don't.

-- Speaking of final chapters, Mary (now that I know you're there!), I read Bonfire of the Vanities after you recommended it (two years later, but still). I liked it well enough up to the epilogue, whereupon I wanted to find my own bonfire for more fascist purposes. For someone who probably has read a few newspapers in his life, Wolfe's "news story" ending was shameful. I saw red on so many levels, I'd better not even start.

I hope we haven't alienated you, Jord, from the discussion with our wanton abuse for old Shake ... I'd actually like your opinion of this particular topic (if you've got the time/inclination). It would be incredibly interesting to get the perspective of someone who genuinely loves Shakespeare's plays and is trying to rope adolescents around to some kind of understanding of classic literature. Does the state set your curriculum especially with re: which plays you teach? What would you like to teach, were you given the freedom/time to prepare? What literature do you think would get the best reception/most attention/reflection from your students?

Confession time: I never actually read the introduction to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in high school. Our teacher assigned it, even handed out photocopied packets of a (a modern translation of) the thing and gave us two weeks to read it. I gave it 20 minutes during the lunch right before class -- not even with full concentration. I was curled up in an instrument cubby in the band room, keeping my feet away from the furious game of "Snapple cap kick-hockey" taking place right below me. I managed to BS my way through that class period by pretending I was letting the other students get a word in edgewise. Heh.

Two years ago, I took some grad-school classes at Northern Illinois University (as a grad student-at-large -- a way to take classes not for credit, in preparation for maybe applying for grad school). My favorite by far was Chaucer, which we read in the original Middle English. By now I've got my minor in German, though, and I had a blast. (My German accent has suffered a bit as a result ...) My grade, had I been taking the class for credit, was an A. (Yippee!) I felt like I should call up Mrs. Meir at Capital High School with a much belated explanation and apology.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

More book assignments

While I generally agree with Chris' comment (see comments to post below), at least in regards to some of the fluffier fiction, it's not always that easy to designate lit as "easy" and "hard." I find Austen difficult to read (at least on little sleep), but that mostly has to do with the simple mechanics of understanding a vocabulary and syntax that are chronologically foreign to my own. The deeper meanings I generally ferret out on later reflection -- just the way I think.

But then read Jennifer Weiner (another unfortunate name) -- anything will do, I prefer some of her other work to In Her Shoes, but just about every library should have that title on its shelves.

I think every woman should read I Don't Know How She Does It, by Allison Pearson -- and then make their consorts read it as well. There's nothing new to puzzle over, but it encapsulates the biological clock vs. career issue heartbreakingly well.

All I'm getting at is that some (and these could be exceptions) Chick Lit contains uncanny self-awareness and surprising social commentary -- in short, hidden depths.

But for now I'm going to go eat chocolate and read The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne. For the record, it's just fun. And contains blonde wigs.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


(Great. Now I've got Weird Al's new "Confessions Pt. 3" running through my head. Excellent.)

I thought I'd try to keep up a side list of the books I've been reading, just for fun. This should be accompanied by a warning: I no longer read much ... um ... "serious" literature. I've found it impossible to read anything requiring concentration during my lunch breaks, because I'm constantly interrupted. At night, I'm usually too tired to try anything harder. Thus, I read a lot of literary candy. My biggest vice: Chick Lit.

There. It's out. I have to admit that the more high-fashion upperclass escapism is in the book, the more I enjoy it. The Devil Wears Prada? Hilarious. I'll one up you and suggest Everyone Worth Knowing, also by Lauren Weisberger.

However, my absolute favorite author is Rafaella Barker, of Hens Dancing and Summertime. Hard to find, worth the trouble.

As bad a rap as Chick Lit gets, though, the content (at least most of what I've read) isn't bad. A lot of these authors (all female, however much Nicholas Sparks wants to join the club) are incredibly well read, can string together a decent sentence and have a marvelous knack for voice and pacing. They can research what background they need, or else they know to keep their subject matter limited to what they know. The materialistic subject matter is, by and large, handled with an addictive satire. These women know their stuff.

Trouble is -- and you former English majors can take a deep breath and get ready to scream now -- I find myself more and more comparing the range and subject matter to those of Jane Austen. Let's face it -- there's a reason the Chick Lit authors continue to rip off the mighty Austen's plots.

So here's the issue: Austen and Leo Tolstoy(i) are considered "serious" literature. What makes their work more important than, say, Bridget Jones' Diary? This question is not meant to offend -- I honestly wonder about this. I especially find it hard to understand why the likes of Jack Kerouac and Earnest Hemingway are so all-fired worth our time. Sure, Kerouac was "experimental," but most of the experimenting had to do with drugs -- the typewriter just happened to be handy, and now high school students must suffer. Don't even get me started on John Updike. I'm starting to think the only thing cringe-worthy for (most) Chick Lit is the often garish cover art.

For further research, I'd recommend:

Rafaella Barker
Lauren Weisberger
Marion Keyes
Sophie Kinsella
Haven Kimmel
Sarah Mlynowski
Jane Green
Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez

But really, he's ferocious

Seen last week just outside the store:

A Yorkshire Terrier. Named Rocky. Wearing a Harley-Davidson doggie t-shirt.

Monday, October 16, 2006


It's hardest to post when one hasn't in a while. Do I apologize? That would be weird -- but then, I get annoyed (inappropriately so, I know) when my friends don't post for a while.

So, anyway, what I was doing -- among other things, taking care of sick husband who may or may not have been battling a case of the mumps. Blood tests came back negative, but then there wasn't any other better reason for the very large lump that temporarily took up residence along Husband's left jaw.

In an effort to rally the troops, I borrowed one of my mother-in-law's cats for an afternoon. That turned out well (cat vomiting in transit notwithstanding), but now I really miss not having cat in the apartment.

It was an unexpected (pleasant!) surprise to be able to see Hannah a few weekends ago when she showed up for Homecoming (we ran into each other at the French Market). But I wanted to give you a heads up, Hannah -- you were probably exposed to the mumps while on campus (which is where Michael may or may not have caught it the week before), and while it's not a severe case that's going around, it is draining. He's still pretty exhausted.

I'm pretty drained, too. Don't exactly know why ... could be I've caught a micro version of what Michael had, could be PMS, could be SADD (no sun for a while), could be a simple case of ennui, don't know. I'm just going through a time where dealing with customers -- people in general -- is really driving me crazy. I'd like a little hut in the woods right about now. A simple cabin with a vegetable and herb garden in back, a little goathut past that, and an anonymous Chocolate Fairy who leaves offerings on my doorstep every morning.

Yeah, sounds like PMS.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Too many ideas, not much substance

Lots of things I could post ... today's happenings at the animal shelter:

  • Dutton the Overgrown Kitten is going through a phase of Not Looking Before Leaping: off my shoulder (almost into a trash can), onto the windowsill (by way of an -- oops, open -- bin of cat litter), up on top of the cages (which were almost too far away), etc.
  • The sight of a teeny kitten in a dogcatcher's net, spitting and swearing at the top of its lungs What It'll Do When It Gets Out.
  • A slightly older kitten with very wet sneezes who starts purring and making starfish-paws as soon as he sees a human looking at him.
  • Roni and Mac are still there, and still keeping me posted on all the goings-on at the shelter while I'm not there.
Another bad day at the store yesterday ... why do Some Mothers think it's OK to let their kids run completely wild in public? I'm sure I'll have a different perspective when I have my own, but ... I've seen other moms with very active kids who still manage public outings without any bloodshed. If I based my opinion of children completely on my experiences yesterday, oy.

Turns out druids come in handy -- their animal companions in particular. Out druid's eagle handily killed a couple huge spiders for us and saved our skins. And I thought druids were just a bunch of sissies. Might need to re-form that opinion.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Picture this ...

Find a (legal) recording of AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" (or any AC/DC, for that matter) -- iTunes has it, the 30-second demo is fine.

Then ...

Imagine Elmo singing the song instead.

Not much changes, but suddenly AC/DC gets a whole lot better -- and funnier.

Thought I'd share. My brain works funny in the morning.

Friday, September 22, 2006

If you can't see the picture, somebody help!

This, my friends, is a lovely photo of my wonderful little boy, Scratchy. This was taken a few years before he died. There never was a more deliberate, serious, earnest cat -- who also had a tendency to do the strangest things (see previous blogs).

I had forgotten to mention that he developed a taste for yogurt when he was about 10. All of a sudden, he'd come up to a person and tell them that he Needed Something Really, Really Bad [sic]. He'd then lead them to the fridge, where he'd inform them that he Needed Yogurt, and that's where they came in.

But he wouldn't eat it out of a bowl or off the foil cap -- he had to share it. From the spoon. We worked out an agreement (a spoonful for him, a spoonful for me, etc.) wherein I'd share the spoon with him, but only if he cleaned the spoon completely. Thus I got out of the habit of eating yogurts with fruit chunks, because that was the one stipulation Scratchy had: he said he'd clean the spoon, but only if there weren't fruit chunks. Cats Don't Eat Fruit. He made a passing bid for yogurt with meat chunks, but that discussion closed very quickly.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Today's episode of cuteness is brought to you by the letter "Grrrr"

Two little girls (Girl One is on a playdate with Girl Two, who is shopping with Mom) were waiting in the checkout line today. They were having the most fun two four-year-old best friends spending a Birthday (Girl Two's) together could have.

At one point, they crouched down behind their carts and looked through the bars at me. "I'm a monster! Boooooooooo! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!" "Me, too! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!"

[Cascade of giggles]

Alarmed, I looked around. "Hey, Kevin! [First Mate] Is this the Monster Lane?"
"Ah, no it's not!" Kevin called across the store -- where he can't even see the action.
"What do I do?"
"You're just going to have to deal with it!" At this point, the girls are taking turns growling and giggling. I turned to them and sighed.
"Well, it's a good thing I've got my Anti-Monster Gloves with me today." I proceeded to grab my freezer gloves from under the register (conveniently green-colored) and painstakingly put them on. I showed my now gloved hands to the growling Pig-Tailed Girl Monsters of Doom [my name].
"Whew! Alright -- let's do this!"

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Hey, I want one!

If only this T-shirt existed ...

Quoteable, D&D update

"What are you, uncivilized? We cook rats on a grill!"

There is still some discussion as to whether I, as a cleric of Jan Querion, would have actually grilled anything (let alone a Dire Rat) on the altar of said deity for personal consumption. I say -- I'm a level one cleric with hardly any knowledge of religious things, didn't know it was a Dire Rat, and my dad made me sleep in the dang hayloft all my life! I see food, I cook food, I eat food! Ha!

Also, I am no longer a Dungeon Master. The intrepid party of level one adventurers ran headlong into a room of level 3 critters and all died. Turns out there were a couple of things I could have done as DM to prevent that from happening (mostly involving tweaking the rules), but this is what happens when the DM is inexperienced, I'm afraid. Ah, well. It's nice to take a turn as a character again and get some more experience from the sidelines.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

They only like us for our opposable thumbs

Last Tuesday morning saw me at the DuPage County Animal Shelter to clean out the cat room. I've taken to listening to my IPod while working, in an effort to conserve my last few shreds of sanity.* The last few weeks someone has been letting almost all the cats out of their cages Monday night; Tuesday morning therefore sees me chasing everyone around with a microchip reader in a desperate attempt to restore order. This particular morning I was trying to convince Toonces that I was not a Bad Person when I felt several prickles on my right leg. Whirl around to be almost face-to-ear with Flocko, an adolescent black longhair.

He was hanging in the vicinity of my waist by three paws -- YES, ON MY PANTS -- using the fourth to investigate the headphones' cord, swatting happily away and asking me What's This For?

I spent the afternoon at my mother-in-law's, attending to our Laundry Problem. Since I'm there alone in the evenings (MIL works evenings), I use Tuesday supper to explore those area culinary offerings which do not tempt the Husband. This particular week was White Castle Week.** I curled up in an armchair with my two miniscule Cheeseburger Like Objects, a small pile of fries and a book when Missy, Cat-in-law Number Two, decided to join me. -- Or, rather, join my fries.

She gave the plate a few tentative sniffs, then an exploratory lick on a fry. Hmm, she said. I've Had Better. She sat down, still ruminating. But Then, I've Had Worse. She then proceeded to lick over the entire pile of fries, hunkering down next to the plate and purring away. Finally she came upon The One she had been searching for, snatched up the fry and dashed away.

Mother-in-Law and Husband agree that this is simply the way Missy eats fries. If you try to give her one of her Very Own, she sits in a huff and ignores it, because it Wasn't The Right One.

* Excerpt from this week's Running Commentary while working:

Flocko [looking out the window into the rabbit cages in the lobby]: What's That Thing? Can I Eat It?


Rose: You Missed A Spot On The Floor! Right Over There! Here -- Let Me Out And I'll Show You!

[Matilda and I aren't speaking currently. I never let her back in her cage when she wants back in -- which is mid-cleaning -- and she spends the rest of the time looking Hurt and Accusing. This happens every week.]

Rally: You!! I Don't Like You! Yeah -- You Over There, Behind The Human!


Cali: I Think I Left My Favorite Jingle Ball Up On The Climbing Tree! Help!

Misty: Is That My Brother?? I Think I Hear My Brother!! Yell If It's You!!

It's maddening. Thus the IPod, using only one earbud so I don't miss all of the conversation and can point out to Mac that claiming to have timed an outing is ridiculous when one is not in posession of a timepiece.

** Never, ever again. Ever.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Name that Squirrel!

I'm finally going off the deep end, guys! As of sometime in late November/early December, I will be the mommy of a baby Southern Flying Squirrel!

But in the meantime, I'll need to come up with a name for the little guy (I requested a male, we'll see). I don't want Rocky, Nutter or any of the obvious names. There is some bias in our family toward pets having human (or humanesque) names, but if the name fits, it fits. I used to want to name it Dragonwick, which I'll admit is still on the short list.

But anyone else have any suggestions? Please?

D&D Quotables Part 2

"So, have you been a wood elf long?"

Monday, July 31, 2006

D&D Quotables

Dungeon Master: As you pull aside the red curtain, a figure leaps down from the balcony above. It is roughly humanoid, its naked, sexless, blue-tinged body standing over six feet tall.

Player: David Bowie, what are you doing here?

Monday, July 17, 2006


Update for those who may have lost various housing lotteries:

Saint and Elliot are down! I tried finding some news in the online alumni magazine, but got quickly bored. Anyone know what's up? I saw a trailer parked between the dorms a few months ago, with a banner on it that said something about a fire department training course ... then extensive smoke damage staining the bricks of Elliot ... then, last week, Elliot was almost completely razed. I haven't seen the progress this week yet (am home sick), but curiosity is indeed piqued.

Oh - and the former First Chicago/Bank One/Chase Bank building located directly across the street from the Public Library is also torn down -- they're putting up condos.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

There are more!

And I thought Scratchy was the only cat who made his household suffer from his rubber fixation:

Except that he never needed his stomach pumped. Although in retrospect, I can't figure out why he never had a problem. Among the countless pedestrian rubber bands he consumed, these also fell prey to his sharp, pointy teeth (and came though intact):

hair bands (fuzzy thread included)
the back off my mom's best swimming goggles
a bra strap
rubber buttons (exclusive to rugby shirts)

Good Lord! The cat was part goat!

Monday, June 26, 2006

The worst thing

OK, so occasionally (?) I've harped on a few of my pet peeves, job-wise. It can be maddening to see different people make the same mistakes ad infinitum -- understandable. Customers leaving empty carts willy-nilly across the front of the store now drive me almost as crazy as the rogue apostrophe.


There is one thing that I absolutely loathe. It's been known to send me to the bathroom in tears (not as regular an occasion now, former roomies!). That is when customers treat me as mentally inferior -- not when they simply repeat an instruction multiple times. I can handle that. I mean the full-on, over-enunciating, complete-with-miming-hand-gestures, spoken-with-wide-open-eyes-and-raised-eyebrows treatment. I get that and average of once every other week. More during the holidays and right after an ad campaign.

Now, mind you, much of this isn't the customer's fault -- I already came to this job with certain issues. Namely, I absolutely hate it when I'm treated like an idiot. It's incredibly important to me that I be recognized as an intelligent person.

So naturally I have a blue-collar job which contains in its job description certain skills that are usually delegated to individuals who (since there's no delicate way to put it) perhaps rode the short bus to school.

Jordana, I do believe that I'm going to pull out my mammoth copy of The Riverside Chaucer so that I can learn to recite whole sections of Troilus and Criseyde in the original. I imagine that it'll work like a charm to calm fussy toddlers.

All that to say, how are the rest of y'all faring? This is especially directed to those college graduates of us who may not be (in the words -- or thoughts -- of our parents) "living up to our fullest potential," but I'd love to hear from those lucky ducks who actually are doing something related to their respective majors and/or requiring a college education.

Slightly different from the old "if you had it to do all over again" question: if you had the opportunity (or ill fortune) to be headed into college as a freshman (bachelor's degree, you mental giants!), what would you major in? Same degree as before, different classes? Same classes, better grades? Same classes, better social life?

I'd major in anthropology. Seriously -- I wish I had taken a little more while at Wheaton, because it would come in handy with my current job.

Friday, June 09, 2006

(Wo)Man vs. Nature: the Suburban Years

First, an apology to those of you who may have made arguments for my sanity in previous years -- I have made a liar of you. Of course, it should be noted that I wasn't a very good bet to begin with, so there.

I have been engaged for the last two years in a contretemps (insert corrections here, Jord) with a certain Bastard Squirrel. [Mental Husband here protests, "You don't know that his parents weren't married." - To which I state, firmly, "Yes, my dear, sometimes you just know."]

To be fair, I have given this squirrel mixed messages. I hate wasting food, so if it looks like some fruit will not be consumed by humans, out onto the balcony it goes. It is always consumed within two days. This food is never in a container and obviously then has never been buried in dirt.

Cut to two years ago, when I attempted a container garden. I knew it was going to be difficult to discourage the squirrel from digging, so I spiked the topsoil with lots of chili powder. This, I have read in multiple gardening publications, should discourage them. Squirrels don't like spice, you see. It seemed to do the trick; only a few scrapings occurred in the pots for the next few months. I lost a few green Roma tomatoes, but they could have fallen off in the high winds we get on a third floor in Chicagoland.

Then came the time when we had some beautiful jalapenos ripening. Normally these are picked green, but I was waiting for them to ripen so I could smoke them (somehow) and make chipotles. I noticed one missing one busy morning, another the next. They kept disappearing at the rate of one a day until they were all gone. I thought nothing of it, as Husband was making breakfast omeletes at the time, and his love for all things spicy will one day become the stuff of epic songs. About a week after the jalapenos were harvested, I remembered to ask him how he'd liked the jalapenos. I told him I wasn't upset that he'd used them before I was ready -- after all, they were for his consumption, be they jalapenos or chipotles. "Wait -- we had jalapenos?" was the reply.

Bastard squirrel.

Cut to this year. I'd given up gardening for food as lost, but I still have a few precious houseplants that love the balcony in the summer. One of these is a purple shamrock, my special pride and joy, simply because it was a spontaneous purchase 5 years ago, has survived multiple splittings-off, the parent plant has died, and still it thrives. Until two weeks ago, when BS decided this was its personal playground. Not the imminently replaceable Peace Lily, not the scrawny Jasmine I've almost given up on, but the beloved Purple Shamrock. And only the shamrock.

I've used the hot pepper wax spray (note: don't ever stand downwind while spraying. You'll feel like you've been screaming for hours.). Didn't work, but it did damage the deep purple color of the plant's leaves. Now I've put up a fence of toothpicks in the dirt surrounding the plant and have sprayed the toothpicks with concentrated Red Fox urine. I can't begin to describe the scent of my balcony; suffice it to say that I'm glad the neighbors moved away last week.

Further bulletins as events warrant.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

And the winner is ...

The award for Originators of the Singlemost Traumatizing Name Ever goes to ...

The parents of Richard Wankit!

How much you want to bet he goes by "R.W."? I hope he sued.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Up on a hill

Ten extra points if you can guess the title's reference.

Quick update on volunteering at the DuPage County Animal Shelter: I pulled up today in front of two pens of livestock. It seems some local farmer surrendered his dozen or so goats (5 ewes - does? - and 7 or so kids) and 2 sheep. Lots of staff members standing around and staring, perplexed furrows between their eyes.

Goats are good comic relief.


A Royal Snark that I'm sure all the girls will understand (except, perhaps, for the veryvery skinny ones) ...


Honestly, does anyone know? I actually like some of the vintagey-frillish things that are out there right now, but they're never styled for anyone with, how shall we say? Jordana could help me out here, anything of a chest. Even larger sizes don't work. It's like clothing designers don't realize that when a woman, well, is a woman, she doesn't get bigger at the exact same rate all around. The proportions are different. Just look at Lindsey "Nyah-nyah, they're real after all" Lohan -- 15 or so pounds was the difference of a couple cup sizes.

I'm healthy, I bike to work, I eat my leafy greens, I can lift dozens of cases of wine a day, I can do everything except find a decent blouse (non-Oxford-type -- sorry, Land's End) to wear to a wedding.

If anyone knows of a retailer -- online or otherwise -- who makes sensible clothing, please let me know. I'm just not a good enough seamstress yet.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Just came back from 6 days on the road, fairly literally. We left town Thursday morning, got to Santa Fe Friday just in time for my step-brother's wedding rehearsal dinner, attended a wedding Saturday, had breakfast with best friend Susan Sunday morning, then headed back Sunday afternoon, finally coming to a halt back home last night.

When I get back to work, everyone's going to ask me how my vacation went.

On the more positive side I got a definite break from normality, which is a vacation-of-sorts. For those of you who might be doing the grand road trip experience, I offer the following travel advisories:

Iowa: truckers are the more aggressive here than anywhere else in the country. Stay on multilane highways if you can, because a semitruck stuck behind you for hours is a scary thing.

Nebraska: around dusk, you can see lots of deer in the fields. We even saw bucks wading in a pond -- very cool, very, very big racks. The truckers are more patient once you turn south.

Colorado: sign posted in our hotel room at the Budget Host Platte Valley Inn of Julesburg:

Please do not clean birds in the room

There is a cleaning station beside the trailer on the South side of motel.


New Mexico: in the midst of a 3-year drought. Bring your own water, leave matches at home. About half of the pinon trees are dying, so expect to see prices for pine nuts skyrocket in the next year and buy accordingly.

Texas: didn't see much. But they do put up official "don't mess with Texas" signs alongside the highways.

Oklahoma: very into road construction signs, not so into the road construction itself.

Missouri: just because actual construction has left highway traffic with one lane, it's night, it's pouring rain and a pervasive mist has reduced visibility to five feet doesn't mean anyone slows down. Lots of small town eateries with clear, well-maintained signage advertising great food ... and boarded-up windows.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Everybody needs a hobby

In reference to that last line in the previous entry:

We recently moved our coffee from right in the front of the store to the back. Serendipitously, it was right after Ash Wednesday that we did this. I had an inappropriate amount of fun telling customers that the store gave up caffeine for Lent.

One of the recurring Customer Complaints/Questions is, "When are you going to build a store in ____?" with varying degrees of frustration, exasperation, accusation, and salivation. I'm aware that "you" doesn't mean me personally, but the wording never changes. One day, I had been joking around with some friendly customers when the outed with the Question. My answer:
"Actually, I'm working on building the store right now. I drive up on weekends to work on it. But the problem is that I've only got my old Corolla, and I can only fit so many bricks in the trunk."

They're watching you

In case you've ever wondered if the clerk ringing up your stuff is paying attention to what you're buying, the answer is probably.

I've found that I can usually guess the marital status of my customer by what they buy (I only check the ring finger after I've reached a conclusion).

Divorced dads bring their kids with them to pick out food for the weekend -- it's usually pizza. Frozen pizza, not pizza dough plus ingredients. They only buy just enough food to get through the weekend.

Guys -- when (if) you retire, don't go grocery shopping with your wife. It will drive her absolutely crazy, and you'll just be bored. Ditto for her daily errands.

Metabolism aside, obese people and skinny people do shop - and eat - differently.

If you have a juicer, I bet you buy a lot of carrots. By "a lot," I mean 20 bags at a time. That's a lot of carrots.

Bringing husbands along (if the wife does all the shopping) always means a much higher grocery bill.

Saturdays are Pizza Night for a lot of Chicago's Western Suburbs.

Unless you have a ton of kids, having a reserve deep freezer is a slippery slope.

You've never known panic until you walk into your local store and they've moved the coffee.

I never thought of that

Favorite conspiracy theory to date (as provided by a customer):

Jimmy Hoffa is not dead. In fact, he is simply in drag, very much in the public eye. Yes, folks, ol' Jimmy's new name is Tammy Faye Bakker.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Rainy day

It's been raining all day. Now, I really like these days. No, wait. That's not quite right. I learned to like these days after reminding myself that I wasn't in Santa Fe anymore. An all-day rain would make me nervous, because in Santa Fe that meant that all the main roads would be flooded, and getting home from anywhere (which, since I didn't have a car back then, always involved some walking) meant a huge hassle. And lots of flash flood warnings.

In Wheaton, however, this is not the case. So I love the rainy days. (Ouch. I've got a song running through my head. There's one that goes "I love the rainy nights" or something ... I always heard it when I was little riding in the car with my dad, who would listen to "secular" music. Now I'm gonna have to Itunes it to find out who it's by.)

What was I saying? Yes. Rain. Is good. Is fun. Sometimes involves flooding on Wheaton campus -- remember when we went wading in the Edman parking lot, AndreaW (if you're online, that is)? That was so much fun! Even after Public Safety came and told us to get out of the raw sewage!

But back to the rain. Me: all sorts of happiness. Customers: very, very cranky. Grown-ups need more naps, less coffee. I've come to the conclusion that my nerves can handle just about any child's breakdown: it's the adults' that I can't stand. It turns into psychological warfare, where anything they perceive as wrong is my fault.

All the more reason for why I shall never grow up. It's not good for the public, having one more snippy tall person every time it rains.

Instead, I shall look outside and think, "I need a cat."

Sunday, May 07, 2006

My brain hurts

For the second week in a row, Crazy Baci Woman has struck. She's a customer who insists on talking to a manager, and then tells him (or her), "You have to start carrying Baci candy! It is the greatest! I have to go all the way to Chicago to get it!"
Each time, I tell her that she can get it at Bende's European Foods, which is a half-mile away. On the same street. On the same side of the same street.
"Oh, no," she says. "I never go there." Today she explained. "There's never anybody there!" In response to my (and MichaeltheManager's) puzzled frown, she elaborated. "It's just so creepy, how there's never any customers, I just can't stand to go there!" She finishes up by admonishing us to get on with the import contracts with the Perugina Chocolatiers in Italy.

I give up.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

We're doomed

In my "interests" section, I put down Dungeons & Dragons. This is because I'm now in a D&D group (or, as Brent "Chuckles" Brollier put it "D&DSG"). We're a motley group of Christians who got together because we knew someone who knew someone (all the connecting people have since dropped out). In other words, a small band of Drow kicked our ... um, can I say "asses" here? I guess I can. They kicked our asses. Hard. My character was vaporized by a "Scorching Ray" spell. Ouch.

But now we're getting ready for another campaign. We're going to add a few more people (I hope) and meet on a more-regular basis (again, I hope).

The catch: I'm the Dungeon Master. Oy.

The power is mine! All mine! Bwa-ha-ha-haaaa.........

except that there's an awful lot of rules to remember. *Whimper.*

The more I play this game, the more I realize that the idea of Dungeons & Dragons leading young people to the Dark Side is completely ridiculous. We have no time to murder our parents -- we're too busy trying to figure out if there's a feat that allows us to go full defensive in a melee attack and still get the backstab bonus! (Answer: probably. Just have to find the right publication with the details.)

What's Going Around

In case anyone hasn't noticed by the dour themes in my last few posts, I'm sick. Blech. Not even a straightforward kinda sick, either -- that really obnoxious, "no-energy-just-don't-feel-right-dizzy-malaise."

And, in answer to the raised eyebrows that always follow that description: no, I'm not pregnant. Honest. You'll be the first one to know -- before me, even.

Which reminds me of a tangent -- I love Brooke Shields' new daughter's name (Grier). I love even more that she let everyone know what the name was before the baby arrived. I just loved how against-the-norm that was.

Also, has anyone noticed how if someone's reading over your shoulder, you suddenly can't type to save your life? Seriously. I just had to hit "backspace" about 13 times once Husband walked into the room.

In addition, CONGRATULATIONS, BECKY DEL CARLO, ON YOUR NEW DAUGHTER! [Jord, can you maybe pass it on? :) ] For some reason, I'm less able to email than blog ... maybe because it doesn't involved searching for email addresses that I've usually lost somewhere.

Plus, I'm tired.

The end.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Kvetcher in the Rye

I know that they provide for my paycheck, but sometimes the customer isn't right. There. I said it. The Thing that is to blame for my current rant is actually a recurring Thing, therefore worthy of a Rant.

For those who are no longer living in Chicago's Western Suburbs, I'll let you in on a geographical/topographical tragedy: Alas, the Suburbs are sundered. This area has joined the ranks of the Dakotas, Korea, Germany (pre-1989) and the Twin Cities.

No one, apparently, can cross I-355.

This is a problem when our store is exactly one mile from the highway, which crosses Roosevelt Rd. via an overpass. Why problem? If I try to give directions to a customer (the best place to get weird nutrition supplements, herbal hair dye, dried legumes in bulk, etc.) that involve crossing this barrier, the customer freaks out. "All the way over there? You've got to be kidding! That's in the next town!!!"

This weirdness is similar to another one, that I shall call When Are You Building a Store On My Street? Such as in Lombard (that one mile away) or in Wheaton (two blocks away).

These complaints fall on the unsympathetic ears of a girl who learned to drive in a state where for years the best store-bought coffee was located a full 80 miles from home.

Sometimes convenience is a very, very bad thing. It makes me cranky.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Childless Woman Sticks Her Oar In

This post is to all the new mommies* out there (the horror! we're too young, people!) who may find themselves grocery shopping with wee kiddlets. It's also a potential chance for me to snark by reverse-implication. (I think. I get lost in that last sentence.) It's not intended as any kind of criticism on your mothering* skills (if you don't follow these tips, for example), just a guide to make grocery shopping easier. Easier for you, easier for the offspring, easier for those around you, and did I mention easier for you?

1. For those with small humans (out of the carseat, still in the cartseat), invest in one of those ridiculous cloth cartseat-liners. Turns out they're useful: protects the fragile kiddie from other germs, protects future cart-handle-biters from your precious one's germs and makes the seat much more comfortable. I've never in 3 years seen a kid in one of these try to climb up and out of the seat. Squirming is kept to a minimum.

2. If shopping cannot be avoided during or around lunchtime, do let the poor child eat something. If you don't like the idea of bribing your impressionable ones, then consider it a toll of sorts. Besides which, it's a blood sugar issue -- people with low blood sugar cannot be reasoned with. My old roommates should know. Clif, Odwalla and Lara bars are all excellent, relatively healthy emergency snacks. Just keep the wrapper for the clerk to scan, and all will be well.

3. If the child is now mobile and out of the cart, try to keep him/her engaged. If they can talk, they have opinions. I once saw a dad shopping with his 3-year-old daughter. She had a kiddie cart and was following him. He stopped at the eggs and said to himself, "Do we need eggs?"
"No," she replied as she drove past the eggs. "But we're out of grapes." I'm not kidding -- if you give them a job, they'll stay with you.

4. Stafety plea: for the love of all that is holy, please do not let kids hang on the carts. This includes letting kids (usually toddlers) stand up inside the basket. Turns out those illustrations on the carts for what not to do are there for a reason. I've seen kids tip over carts with a baby sibling still inside. I've seen cart-surfing kids take a header into a wooden display unit. Just please, please, please keep them safe. Some spills take more than a fruit leather and a kiss to make better.

Finally, this is not a tip but an observation, or a potential tip if I could figure out what to do with it. Kids with or without little carts have a tendency to run into people or get in the way. They get better with age, but a lot of parents get frustrated with the especially short ones. But from the knee-and-butt viewpoint of the kid, what's "in the way"? They just can't necessarily tell where they're supposed to go unless it's spelled out for them. As in, "hold on to my belt loop" or similar.

On a related note, it's gotta smell funny when you're that low to the ground. No wonder kids are obsessed with farts.

*Or daddies/fathering, respectively.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Seven Days

Just finished watching "The Ring" with Husband. I could swear that the video (in the film) was ripped off of one of Greg Schrek's students. I should know -- putting music to one of those videos was my final project for my Technomusic class. (I lucked out, however, because my assigned student seemed to understand coherence on a level not appreciated by her fellow classmates.)

But anyhow watching that movie brought up a very important point:
What would happen if Gore Verbinski did a project with the Coen brothers?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Mistaken Identity

Let me first state that I am a WASP. My mother's family comes from Germany and Denmark; my dad's from a mishmash of Great Britain, Switzerland and maybe Germany. I refer to this mix as "Northern European Mutt."

When my family first moved to New Mexico, my classmates gave me a mixed reception. I found out why when one classmate leaned toward my desk and whispered, "Hey, chica, are you Hispanic or what?" I thought he was kidding.

Fast foward a few years to the summer before senior year in college. I'm a waitress at a doomed Thai restaurant, and I meet the dishwashers for the first time. One of them asks, "Como te llamas?" [Note: does anyone know what the foreign language shortcuts are for MS Word?] I tell them that my name is pronounced "Alee-sha." They ask how it's spelled. When they find out (ALYSIA), they start laughing, "Hey! That's a Spanish name! You said you were from Mexico, right?" No, New Mexico, but apparently that's a sign of denial.

For the rest of the summer, the dishwashers spoke to me in Spanish. I could figure out enough to answer their questions so as to not seem rude, but that just goes to prove their point (that I am a closet Latina).

After a few weeks of this, one of the Thai cooks gets in on the action. Except that he believes me, that I'm not from Mexico. But, he says, I do look like I'm from this one country ... over there by Egypt?

Turns out he thought I was Lebanese.

And so it goes. It doesn't help that my name tag at work says "Meesh" (I didn't want people mispronouncing my name, plus there's another Alicia at work already). I get a lot of questions about my name and/or my family's ethnicity. (By the way, "meesh" means "mouse" in Hungarian.) The closest anyone's come to guessing was when a customer stopped me just to ask me if I was Irish. (We don't know exactly ... accounts differ. My money's on Welsh.)

Three days ago, one of our truck drivers automatically started speaking to me in Spanish.

Anyone else have a bizarre ongoing theme in their lives?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

New Hobbies

I'm pleased to say that I've started something new. Watch out, DuPage County Animal Shelter -- I'm your newest volunteer!

I figured it was time to get some more fur in my life. Usually I spend a couple hours brushing the cats. Soon it'll be High Kitten Season, and there'll be tons to do.

Aside from a bunch of very, very cuddly cats, not much to report yet. But I did walk my first Pit Bull today ... or she walked me, it's hard to say. Just when I thought I'd gotten her good and tuckered out finally, she saw a Pit Bull puppy and yanked me over to say hello. I'm not a very yankable person, but holy mother of aardvarks, was that dog strong!

Conclusion about Pit Bulls: potentially nice (this one was), just like any other dog. I think the thing that can make them so scary is their sheer potential for power. This one liked to fetch more than anything.


Like most cats, Scratchy looked down on dogs. Some he accepted (i.e. our family dog, Mandy), others he tolerated (i.e. the farm dog, Lucky, and Kyle's dog of the same name). But never, under any circumstances, should you ever treat him like a dog. He would not come (unless food was involved), he would not go where you wanted him to on a leash, he didn't do tricks.

It was strange, then, that he did do a few dog things. As mentioned before, he liked to play fetch with his rabbit's foot ... but I guess he allowed the exception since he would only fetch with that one toy. Cats have standards, after all.

Weirder still, though, was the first time he trotted up to me, meowed, and started trotting away from me. I stood there, watching him. He stopped, looked over his shoulder at me, and meowed again. After a few repetitions of this, I got it: "Follow me, you idiot!"

I think my best friend Susan scored one for the humans when she first saw him do this little act. "Lassie, what is it, boy? Did Grandpa fall in the well again?" It made me feel a little less like Scratchy's servant (or as I like to think of myself, Opposable Thumbs with Legs).

Oh - what did the furball want? Usually he'd lead us to a sink, where we were to carefully open the tap to the smallest stream of water possible so that he could get some fresh water. If he was feeling particularly ambitius, however, he'd take us to the fridge, where he'd tell us that what we really wanted to do right now was eat yogurt. And we also wanted to share it with him. I'm thankful that, thanks to my cat, I was one of the few teenage girls not threatened by calcium deficiency.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Because my mind just works this way

Imaginary future comment to husband about as-yet-unconceived future children:

"I know it's weird to dress up the kids as Grendel and Beowulf for Halloween, but what does it mean when that's what they chose to be?"

An ongoing thread

For my own sake, I'm going to continue to post "Scratchy memories" as they come back to me. I hope it's not too macawbre ... I just want to get everything down in one place. My own personal Pensieve, in a way.

Scratchy's favorite toy of all time was rabbit's feet. He had a few minor dalliances with the more commercial cat toys, but the simple good luck charm won out over the years. Every time he got his teeth on one, he carried it around with him until he'd eaten every last bit out of the metal cap.

Yes, he ate them. Artificially colored fur and all. Purring the whole time as he munched. He never got sick from them, either. When we tried to throw the "empty" away, it would somehow find its way back into the house, and we'd hear loud protests if we were caught carrying it away. We learned to throw the beaten-up metal caps away directly in the big trash bin in the garage.

What would he do with this empty cap with probably not the slightest bit of rabbit left anywhere near it? He'd carry it around, lick it, chew on it, and if he could catch a likely mark, he'd play fetch with it. We'd throw it as far as we liked, and he'd tear off, sometimes hurtling over people (like my grandma, who was crocheting at the time) to get to it. We started messing with him -- pretending to throw it and laughing when he'd come back with a confused "maow?" He caught on to us; eventually he learned to watch the direction of our throw, then look up at our hands. If we showed him empty hands, he'd dash off. If not, we'd get a Very Dirty Look.

At one point, I guess he'd been out of Rabbit Foot for too long in his opinion. He ate the tail off my uncle Mark's childhood authentic coonskin cap, which I had just inherited from my grandma. The entire tail. As in, we never found a single trace of it, not even in the litter box. When I showed the remaining coonskin pillbox hat to the ScratchMan, he didn't even bother to pretend not to recognize it. He tried to get a nibble. I threw out the rest of the hat in the big trash bin, but I waited until trash day, just to make sure it got out safely.

If you ever read this, Uncle Mark, sorry about that. I never knew those things held their original scent that long.

Friday, April 07, 2006


I lost my little boy today.

Scratchy Norman Williams was born sometime in June of 1989 in Decorah, Iowa. He was one of a litter of 3 kittens, all of them pure white. I picked him, because I knew that my great-uncle Roger shot all tom kittens before they grew up, in order to protect his Alpha Cat, Tom. He was named after the main character of a children's book I had been reading about the time I adopted him.

Scratchy was a true farm cat. He had plenty of old John Deeres to climb on. He wasn't scared by much of anything; he paid no mind to most of the livestock, except cows. He was terrified of cows. The first time I lost him was in a cow pasture. He took one look at their swishing tails and clawed his way out of my arms. It took the better part of an hour to find him again.

First and foremost, Scratchy was determined. When he decided something, it happened. The one exception I can think of, is when we took him to get his rabies shot at a pet shop. We were waiting in line between two very big German Shepherds. Scratchy decided that he wasn't going to be anywhere near those dogs. We caught him in the parking lot right before he started crossing Cerrillos Road. I had to hold him like a football, upside-down, my hands holding his paws (two paws per hand) with his head clamped firmly in my armpit. He did get his shots that day, much to the amusement of the other customers, who had noticed that my armpit was making very, very angry growls and yowls.

In fact, the only other thing that could inspire such operatic cat protests was my horn playing. Every week during my lessons, he would pace the upper landing, yowling to wake the dead.

When we first adopted Scratchy, it was against my dad's protests. Dad gave in to his little girl's pleas, but didn't want to have much to do with what was basically an asthma attack on four legs. Like most cats, Scratchy was always drawn to those who wished him away. After several nights of pushing him off the bed, my dad threatened to throw the kitten against the wall if he tried to sleep with my parents again. In the wee small hours of the next morning, I heard a distinct thump from the wall of the room above mine. Sure enough, Scratchy had attempted another assault. He lost that battle. As for the war, well, let me just say that until today, Scratchy slept with my dad every night.

And Scratchy's nighttime rules were strict. He sleept in the middle of the bed. Preferably between your knees, where his skinny body could get some heat. Rolling over was prohibited, and was punishable by cat sighs. If you had to get up in the middle of the night, a corner of the comforter laid over him was all he needed to know that you were coming back. If you left him bare, he'd leave.

As a kitten, he didn't much like being pet. When it was time for attention he'd let you know. He'd also let you know where to administer affection, and with what hand. By about 8 years old, he had mellowed into a regular cuddlepuss, however, and no lap was safe from him. He especially liked long football games, where he'd be guaranteed my dad's lap (always his favorite) for several hours at a time.

In fact, he won over my dad so much, that after I graduated from college and hinted that I might like my cats back when I found a suitable apartment, I found that I couldn't take him. The look on my dad's face made me realize that the kindest thing to do would be to leave the two pals together. I don't regret that decision; Scratchy lived out his retirement the way he wanted, with a running cat fountain, a lap that belonged to a telecommuting human, and a humanside warming plate (AKA "laptop computer") for those times when the human needed more space.

There's so much to say about this wonderful cat that I'll never quite be finished. He was the fulfillment of years of girlish dreams and yearnings. He kept me company when I tried to cry myself to sleep during difficult teenage years. He started a Sunday nap ritual when I didn't get enough sleep during the week. He endured at least a dozen moves, including two cross-country. He rolled in red desert dirt and stood startled in two-foot-deep snowdrifts. He survived an interloping pet dog who tried to drag him about by the head, and another dog who mothered him as a kitten and bathed him within an inch of his life.

And now he, too, is gone. I'm grateful that his end was relatively quick; his last illness (pretty much his only illness, for that matter) lasted only a few days. He was in the care of humans who took care of him, and knew when to let him go. It doesn't come close to say that he was loved. He gave me the basis of much of my understanding of what "love" meant. It's also insufficient to say that he'll be missed. My first sweetheart, my little boy.

Thank you for listening.

Different perspectives on high school

I just finished Smashed by Koren Zailckas. In a nutshell, it's a memior of teenage drinking. Very well written, a clear and cautionary tale for any prospective mothers of teenage girls out there. But man, she had a different high school experience! In my version to "go all the way" meant "become a professional musician."

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Yeah, I just posted, but ...

Mid-composing, I got a sales call. From TruGreen. A lawn company.

"Did you know this is an apartment?"

"Ahhhh ..."

"On the third floor?"

"Errr ...."

They can call anytime. Makes me feel superior.

They're getting uppity

The birds around here have got it good. A couple years ago I was late to work because I got stuck behind a Canada goose. A goose that wasn't crossing the road -- no, it was sauntering along, in my lane, right in front of me. I flashed lights, I honked (it honked back), I got within inches -- nothing doing.

A goose I can almost understand. The geese around here are no longer migratory. They seem to prefer waddling around to actual flying.

Today I had to stop and wait for a robin to cross the road.

That's it -- I'm getting a gun license.

Please pardon the cuteness


Monday, April 03, 2006

A Not-So-Great Idea

Seen today: camouflage clothing on toddler boys.

"Where did he go? He was just here!"

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Crazy Thursday

It's a Thursday. This translates into "put Meesh on a register for four-plus hours straight and leave her there." I've finally come to understand that this, indeed, is just Thursday. So fine. New game plan.

Put hair in pigtails (note to old roommates: hair is now in pigtails). Tie a complimentary Trader Joe's balloon to each pigtail. Proceed with Thursday.

Result: it actually did help the day get along better. Granted, I did first rip a contact, then find that my car's battery died (my fault) and I couldn't get home until I borrowed a coworker's car, only to find that I'm out of contacts and thus had to wear my headache-inducing, away-with-the-peripheral-vision glasses. But I made grown men in suits laugh, and that's a hard thing to do.

But the best thing was the kids. Some were afraid to let me know that I had balloons on my head. So they whispered to their mommies. Some got up the guts to ask me why I had balloons on my head. Favorite answers:

"Because it's Thursday."
"Well, why don't you have balloons on your head?"
"Some days, you just need balloons on your head."

Note that answers one and three made the most sense to kids. With either answer, the response was a grin and a nod -- especially to number three. Number two resulted in some confusion. Why, indeed, were they not wearing balloons? Then we generally tried to remedy that omission.

"It must be a Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays."
-- Arthur Dent, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Name Explained (ouch, passive tense!)

One of the perks of my job is messing with customers. Since I work at a grocery store, many newbie customers assume (perhaps understandably, if not accurately) that I am barely capable of coherent speech. Now, I have a BA; I've aced a couple of graduate courses (not my major subject, thank you very much); I speak English, German, and can scrape along reading Dutch. I love Middle English. I also spent way too much of my undergrad years as a copyeditor for the college newspaper. I love red pens.

Result? I'm constantly correcting coworkers -- customers, too, if I know them. One day I had a feeling I'd corrected one coworker a few too many times, so after the last time I threw my fists in the air and cried, "Yes! It's Captain Semantics to the rescue!" to let everyone know that I do
know when I'm being intolerable. Even if I still don't stop.

A few months later I threw my husband a birthday party where all the guests had to come as superheroes. I, of course, was Captain Semantics. I had a tiny Oxford American Minidictionary hooked up to an extendable janitor's keychain-beltclip. My superpower was to use the right word every time. Not the most exciting, but if you know me, it fits. At the same time weird, nerdy, and not a little bit silly.

Welcome to my blog! If you have any copyeditorial comments, please let me know! I'll probably completely disregard them and consider it character-building.