Friday, September 30, 2005

Phone Phobia

I am a decidedly odd duck.

No, really.

(Oh, hush, you.)

For one thing, I hate the phone. I hate it ringing. I hate being interrupted in what ever I was doing, even if it was cleaning the kitchen, and especially if I am curled up, about to drift off. I don't even like talking to my friends on the phone, there's something about the lack of eye contact. I especially hate calling up people I don't know or barely know. I even have a hard time calling someone to come and repair something or make an appointment. Face-to-face for me. E-mail, of course, I love, as it is answered by the recipient at their leisure and you can think over your reply, choosing your words.

Yesterday, I had two phone calls.

Now, the nice thing about having the World's Best Job is that I no longer have a pager. There has been some small talk about getting me one from time to time, and so far, I have squelched that nonsense. There is really no need. I do not take any call. I am at the office, feet from a phone at all times. The lab, x-ray, and hospital operator have my home number, should something arise after hours, which happens only a few times a year. "Why spend the money?" I squawk to those in suits. "Good point," they agree. It's all about the bottom line.

When I had a real job, with my own patients, call, hospital rounds and all that sleep-stealing horror, my pager never stopped screaming. Initially I had calls put through to me at home through the phone. That turned out to be a disaster as everytime the phone rang I went into this Pavlov's-Dog-cum-puppy-in-the-shock-box response complete with palpitations, sweating, and looking for the nearest bed to dive under. Even when I was not on call. Not very good for one's mental health, especially if one is a shade neurotic to begin with. Good thing Charles majored in psychology, huh? Perhaps that is what attracted me to him. True, he also majored in Political Science, so maybe not, unless I reminded him of a neurotic Winston Churchill. Now there's an image.

So, phone rings yesterday morning, 8:30-ish. It is a former fellow employee calling to chat. She also has news. Very sad but not unexpected news. The death of someone I had been following peripherally, someone who hit home. I had an especially hard time chatting after that and hugged Sara quite a bit more than usual.

At about 4:30, as Colin had just stormed through the door, and we had gathered in the kitchen, homework command central, the phone rings again. The caller on the other end asks if I am "Colin's Mom" and it takes a bit for me to realize she means me. I've only been doing this school-thing a year and have not learned to answer to my new name as quickly as I should. She goes on to explain that she is calling because her son, who is in 4-yr-old kindergarten, bit Colin on the bus today. I ask Colin if this is true, and he confirms it. I check the completely undamaged finger as he continues to do his homework. We then chat, she apologizing and feeling horrified, me reassuring and feeling horrible for her, because, what a call to have to make. Colin bit my friend's daughter when he was about 16 months old and I still feel bad. She admits that she didn't know what to do when she found out this happened from her daughter, Colin's friend and former classmate, but figured that if someone bit one of her children and didn't let her know, she'd be livid, so she'd better call me and check that Colin was OK and let me know what happened and all.

What a classy thing to do. I can't wait to meet her.

Still, I feel like a bit of phone avoidance today. I think Sara and I will vamoose to the woods and stomp through some public leaves, letting the answering machine earn its keep. That's my quota for phone calls for a month.

Told you I was odd.

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Sunday, September 25, 2005

New Neighbors

OK, to recap:

We live outside a small village in rural Wisconsin. We have one neighbor in shouting distance. Literally. Nice folk, but our schedules don't coincide. We usually see them at school events. There are 3 other houses that we can see from our yard, 5 if the trees are bare, and you count the ones on the horizon. There is a local paper. It comes out weekly and is 8 pages (half-sized) long, 12 pages if Homecoming Week. We have met a few of our neighbors, defining "neighbor" as someone who lives in the same zip code, usually as they pass while we are outside. One I met while signing in to vote. They own several horses a 1/2 mile down the road and identified me as an owner of the house that took down all the nice horse fencing. Being neighborly, I offered the fencing to them, should they want it. They may take me up on the offer in a few years.

We are not in the hub of the neighborhood gossip, such as it is, as the entire neighborhood is quiet, retiring, and a-ways from each other.

This Saturday, we joined all the other parents in the zip code and gathered at the grade school soccer fields for the first of the Saturday Morning Soccer Club games. Fully half of the school's kids are in soccer, which means they "practice" one day after school and "play" each Saturday morning, while the parents stand around like Jr High kids at a dance, clutching coffee and gabbing. Clearly, this is THE place to be.

Sure enough, we get there and are soon chatting with our "next door" (loud yelling distance) neighbor, S. His son is on Colin's team. After the usual pleasantries, he fills us in on The Big News. Seems there is a bear in the area. Well, actually two bears: A mother and a juvenile. There have been about 6 separate sightings, two by the milk guy, who is deemed reliable. One of the sightings was in the yard of the cool log house about a mile away. It is at this time that M wanders over. She has the farm sort of across from the log house and sells her home grown produce in the front. We discuss the sightings and M deems them "certainly credible", given the source. This is not always the case, she tells us. Apparently every few years, there is a rash of cougar sightings, mostly from one person in particular, and coincide with a flurry of his UFO sightings.

So, cougars from space.

A few years ago, the then park ranger sent off some castings of purported cougar prints. M didn't know what the results of the identification were, but as it didn't make the paper, she felt comfortable in their lack of authenticity as far as being from a large predatory cat.

Charles and I have seen bear scat once in our lives. This was while visiting my beloved aunt and uncle on the southern Oregon coast. They have a lovely place with a very productive garden and have attracted a bear, who they have named, "Buster". Buster, for our benefit, I'm sure, laid us a big old pile with a single, partially digested (yet amazingly intact) raspberry balanced on the top, just like a soda fountain treat. I am a bit concerned as Buster seemed to be in league with their deer, Buster leaning against the deer fencing, toppling it, and allowing the deer egress to the garden's bounty. I fear things may go poorly here, if such an alliance is made, and am just grateful that we did not plant fruit trees.

And, yes, the trash went out this morning, not last night.

In related news, I had my first full fledged coyote sighting a couple of days ago. He was standing along our road about 1/4 mile from our place, looked at me as I was driving toward him, and then sauntered into the woods. Based on his size and attitude, I surmise he was about 15 years old in adjusted people-years. Great. I suspect he was out having a smoke, away from the eyes of his parents. I imagine he is off to the hole in the tree where he has stashed his gum.

When we do get a kitty, she will certainly be an "inside" one. I need to keep her away from the bad influences out there. Sometimes, homeschooling may be best.


Friday, September 23, 2005

Tossed Post Salad

Just some dribs and drabs from the Friday of my mind:

Definition of "futile": Expecting your 2-year-old to hold still while you trim her hair, trying to get all the ends even.

Definition of "consolation": Telling yourself that, even though her hair would have been more evenly cut if you had used a blender, she is never still enough for it to be noticeable.

Here, in the four season delight that is Wisconsin, today was the first day of fall. Yesterday, it was not fall, today it is. It has been hinting of fall, musing on fall, for the past many weeks. Today, it is clear, crisp, and begs a bit of fleece. As usually happens, my summer lethargy drops like a branch full of leaves, and I start eyeing shovels and wheelbarrows. The shovel won, and Sara and I spent time excavating the drainage grid in the middle of the driveway.

As with many of your more rural driveways, there is at least some component of gravel. (Ed. note: That last sentence said in your best Cliff Claven, of course.) Our bit of gravel (and dirt and weeds) extends from the road, about 50 feet, to the actual paved part, a stretch of about 20' x 20', ending in the garage. Given that rain and melting snow likes to migrate with gravity onto the paved part, (naturally, the drive slopes a bit toward the garage) a horizontal drain is in place, stretching across the width of the concrete pad. Given that the unpaved bits like to migrate with gravity along with the water, there is a grate over the drain, stretching in a 4" x 20' line. Unfortunately, in order to drain, it must be clear, not clogged with the contents of the upper driveway. The good news is that despite being covered in dirt and gravel and muck (rained last night), it is easy to find as all the debris is accumulated on top of it, the rest of the drive being clean and clear. The second clue as to the location of the buried drain is the lush green strip of weeds growing up out of what is basically a 4" x 20' planter in the middle of the driveway.

Guess what my autumn project is? Go ahead, guess. Hint: It involves shovels, boiling water, screw drivers, headlighted helmets, dynamite, and a lot of resolve. I'm taking bets on my actually finishing it. Hey, a girl's gotta dream. Plus, if it doesn't get done, in the summer after a storm it is merely lake Piffle, suitable for swimming and boating for a few days. In the winter, it is our own private ice rink, complete with ice fishing shacks. Fun, yes, but getting from the garage to the road is a bit of a challenge. Today, Sara and I managed to get down to bedrock (er bedgrate) in several places and the green is now gone.

Before that, we hitched up el minivan (guess who won the car wars?) and zigged into Madison to a mall and got Colin another pair of soccer shoes, as the ones gotten for him about 4 months ago no longer fit by any stretch of the definition. Before leaving to do this, I looked in his shoe to note the size and then after a bit of a calculation, realized that he is just 3 sizes smaller than what I wear. I wear a 7+1/2. I think the lad is going to be tall. Right now, he is reminding me of a Great Dane puppy: Slender, all limbs and feet. And he is only 6! And he doesn't eat.

All this enabled me to completely skive off the cleaning of the bathrooms. I do it once a week but I don't have to like it. Plus, the more the hair and shaving cream grime piles up, the more it looks like you cleaned, right?

Sara has become a little girl, no longer a toddler. She has lost all vestiges of baby roundness, except her cheeks, and even they are on the way out as her cheekbones form. She is also becoming quite civil to go out with, making it a lot more fun to go out and about with her.

Even Emma, the dog, is growing up and can be left to roam the house for short periods alone. She has not shredded a child's toy in months. Much rejoicing.

Further forays into the making of the perfect homemade pizza tonight for dinner. Yes, both will be topped with those lovely Poblano peppers. And some mushrooms. Some ham masquerading as Canadian Bacon. (Yank Bacon, I dub thee.) Olives. Various cheeses. One will have a strip of "nothing but cheese and sauce", the only way Colin will deign to eat pizza. Silly kid. More for us.

I finally put this stash of various goodly sized stoppered bottles I had to use, putting various herbs and/or garlic and/or peppers in each and filling up with olive oil. "Brilliant, Diana!" I was heard to mutter as I did so. I then looked for a nice, dark place for them to sit and mull, and find that almost all are too tall for any of the cupboards I have. Now I have to find a spot in the bombshelter where they will be 1) not tipped over and 2) not forgotten. Brilliant, Diana.

Happy weekend to you all, and if you don't hear from me and you notice how thick and green the driveway weed planter is, you'll know who won the Great Driveway Drainage War of "05.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Purely Selfish Gardening Recap

Move along, move along. Once again a post of essentially no interest to anyone but me. Not even gardeners should find this of any interest as it pertains to my little patch of heaven on the frozen Wisconsin tundra, where only those of desperation and little sense dare to plant. USDA Zone 4. Motto: Well, At Least We Are Not Zone 3.

I'll try to come up with something of broader interest later. Say, the effect of prolonged whining about having to (moan) do (sob) one's homework (anguish) before playing, on one's mother's sense of compassion. (Answer: No effect at all. Actually, a negative effect as one's mother, after coming home to such, will actually sit next to such a suffering 6-year-old son and mock him in his performance mercilessly, while shoving dinner in her face.)

So, for me, me, me!

The Great Gardening Round-up Of '05

Late start to planting due to very late spring and the construction of the raised bed from hell. Make that the "raised bed walls" as the lack of time to fill the big bed with soil to actually raise the level of the bed prevented realizing the whole plan. Actually, it worked well as the bed became a sort of prison / fortress for the containment of the vegetation gone wild. Some of the squash vines did manage to scale the 2+1/2 foot walls, but seemed at a loss as to what to do with all the new found freedom, actually then growing back over the wall in a sort of "U" shape or lurking in the shadow of said wall, skulking to avoid the security cameras and guard towers. Next year: top the wall with razor wire.

Conditions: Very dry. Maybe 6 rainfalls from mid-June to mid-Sept. Soaker hose placed at time of planting and then covered with mulch. Do this always.

Compost was almost entirely from the big ol' pile of horse crap and straw from the former horse stable. (Now housing remnant cottagestone, boards, gas cans, and the inexplicable table the prior owners left in the basement. Some day, as God is my witness, it will become a potting shed.) Damn but that stuff was potent! Crack for the green leafies. Crack with growth hormone.

Mulched with pinebark mulch, approx 20 bags. Grass was by far the worst problem, primarily in the former grassy area. Go figure. Need to remove this better. The spring tilling was NOT adequate. (Work harder or you will be sorry, well, sorrier.)

The pest situation became progressively worse, but only shut down the cucumbers completely about 2 weeks ago and everything else is sort of soldiering on, still. Cucumber beetles (both the striped and the spotted varieties) reigned. Action must be taken to prevent this next year. Some squash bugs, which should also be dealt with next year (question: will BT work against any of these?), but nothing like the obscene infestation from Illinois '03, which had all cuke and squash plants decimated by late July (the carnage lives in my memory, still). The 13 Lined Ground Squirrels, while doing some damage to long, green veggies (based on the tooth marks), probably did their share of insect control, and did not kill any plants with their burrows, despite tunneling directly under the zucchini and strawberries. The blueberries did not fare as well, and about 4 or 5 plants dead as a direct result of the direct burrows directly under the roots, causing direct exposure to the direct rays of the sun. Damn but they are cute, though, the way they sit up, paws hooked, tails straight out. Need to watch Caddyshack. Must strengthen resolve.

Plant by Plant:

Tomatoes: Only planted 6 varieties. The yellow pear tomato had to be yanked out after just a couple of weeks due to development of virus. Some spread to the other plants, which diminished production but did not kill. The 2 Sweet Million cherries did well. (Next year, plant 4. And 2 yellow pears.) Early Girl actually lived up to her name and out produced the others. (Plant 2.) Brandywine was a bust, both for quality and production. Has failed me before, so do not plant again. Big Beef and Better Boy did OK. (Plant one of each again and see.) Next year, try to plant a couple of heirlooms if you can get the seeds started in time. Over all, recommend 4 miniatures and 6-8 large bushes.

Peppers: Once again, bell peppers disappointing. Many rotted before turning orange and none turned the red they were supposed to. (Plant 3????) for one last try, but may be better to just buy the damn things as it takes until early September to get any. The poblanos were a surprise, and not least for their incredible pizza-topping-ness. (Plant 3.) Consider a 3rd variety, say a mid-sized yellow one. Maybe in place of the bells. Damn bells. Bah.

Cantaloupe: Meh. Planted 2 mounds of 3 seedlings and got 3 melons, each the size of a newborn's head. Flavor of 2/3: Well, what flavor? The 3rd was OK. Can buy much better. Do not plant again, at least until you forget this crop and, yet again, succumb to the lure. Harvested in early September. Why bother.

Watermelon: Tricky. Planted 1 hill of 3 seedlings and harvested 1 melon the size of a small bowling ball. But. Damn good melon. "Popped" as soon as knife touched it. Seeds saved. (May or may not be "true" depending on the hybrid, of course.) OK, here's what you do: Try to start the seeds, plant 3 hills of seedlings x 3 and buy additional 3x3 starts. (6 hills total).

Bush Beans: A contribution from Colin via his teacher, Mrs B. Wonderful! Had 2. (Save seeds, plant 4 or 6. Yes, 6. Space 1+1/2 feet apart, they are quite compact.) Especially nice as they were supposed to be sunflowers, according to Colin. Oddly, the small seedlings did look like sunflowers. That I will never figure out as I certainly know what a sunflower baby and a bean baby look like. Elves? Gnomes? Anyway, serendipity.

Winter Squash: The butternut were amazing. (Planted 3 hills x 3, do the same or more, depending on room.) Sat with closed eyes and moaned while eating. Got very odd looks from Charles, who is used to my oddness. Apparently he thought I was in pain. Silly man. Acorn and Turban squash are so similar in flavor and texture, not really of use to plant both. Plus the butternut put them both to shame. (Plant 2 hills of 3 plants of one or the other.) Pumpkins produced 4 large fruit that the grubs burrowed into. Constant vigilance! Rotate those puppies as well. I think I planted 2 hills of 2. (Plant the same.)

Summer squash: Zucchini did well if left alone by pests. 3 x 3 hills. Do the same. You really need yellow crooknecks. Get off your duff and start from seeds as no nurseries seem to have these as seedlings. (plant 2 x 3 hills.)

Cucumbers: Fanfare did well. Not bitter. Burpless not so good and much spinier. Beetles liked all, though. (Plant Fanfare 3 x 3). The constructing of the boxed string and pole "L" shaped trellis worked fairly well but next year, maybe make it narrower. Hard to harvest the inner area. Ended up with about 12 Andre The Giants at the bottom who escaped your eye. Get thyself down there and find them next year. Down! Down on your knees! Down on your belly! Stooping is just not good enough.

Cauliflower: BAH. Don't waste your time. I think they need to have their leaves tied around the heads. If not, they will become freakish, yellow, tough, creatures covered in bird and bug poop. Do not plant again. I mean it. No room in this garden for anything that needs coddling or needs to be white to be consumed. Bah.

Broccoli: Did fine. Bolted late. Caterpillars munched the leaves. Closer caterpillar patrol would be good. (Planted 6, do the same.)

Eggplant: Ichiban wonderful. 'nuff said. (Planted 4. Grossly inadequate. Plant 12 or 56 or 872.)
Strawberries: Did well. Infiltrating the fortress through chinks in the stone. Beat back this fall. Planted freebee Giant-Something-Or-Others from Stark Bros. Will see next spring.

Raspberries: Coming along nicely. Also encroaching under the wall. Transplant squatters this fall.

Blueberries: Losses covered above. Memorial service planned. Here's hoping the second site by the slab of pavement (dog kennel site of former owners) works better.

Herbs: Chives, Sage, Thyme (no shit), and bit of Oregano perennial here. Also planted Italian parsley, Marjoram, Basil, Rosemary and Chocolate Mint. I anticipate the mint will come back. I anticipate a full-out turf war between the mint and the thyme in 1-2 seasons with the others caught in the crossfire. Damn, but I will miss the herbs this winter. Dried just not the same.

And, finally, The Great Thistle War of '05? Well, after a good start, it got hot and humid and then there were other things to be done, like take walks along the path in the shade with the kiddos and dog. Plus, do you know what hard work it is to dig up each one individually? The area around the house is certainly better. Some went to seed, but not as many as last year, so we will see what happens next spring. Maybe Rozanne's suggestion is not such a bad idea, after all?

So, there, dunderhead. Here's hoping you follow the advice of your wiser self next spring.



Sunday, September 18, 2005

I Can't Make This Stuff Up

The scene: Our kitchen on a Sunday morning. Kids watching cartoons. Charles seated at the breakfast table. Me making biscuits. Teapot steeping. Sun streaming.

Charles: "You know what I'd like to study after I finish my PhD?"

Diana: ......"Uuuuuhhhh".....(thinking of the most ridiculous, improbable course of study for our new citizen)..."The law?" (snort, chuckle)

Charles: "Nope. I want to learn how to calibrate TVs. I can do the basic stuff but don't know how to get into the programs and really do it."

Diana: (blink, blink, blink.) "Well, I support you, honey."

I think Somebody is taking their home theater fixation a bit too far. Hmmmmmm?

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Thursday, September 15, 2005

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Courthouse

You know that dream? The one where you are desperately trying to get somewhere important, say a big exam or a crucial meeting, and everything seems to be going well, and you just can't believe you are making such good time and you just might get to stop and grab a cuppa at that really good coffee place? And in the back of your mind you just know that things are going to go terribly, terribly wrong and you find that you are on the wrong road and there are no signs and no way to turn around and it gets dark and your lights don't work and your car won't go faster than 2 MPH and, and, and, and just before the one-hooked escapee from the mental asylum slashes through your car's roof on this suddenly deserted road, you wake up?

Yeah. That one.


Cut to this morning. A big morning in our household. Marked on the calendar and etched in our brains. 10am. Courtroom 390. The Federal Courthouse in Milwaukee. Charles's summons to the swearing-in ceremony for new American citizens.

Yup, our boy was officially cashing in his green (pink, now yellow) card and becoming a dual American-Canadian citizen. We were a bit surprised that his citizenship application went through so quickly, as he is even more left than I am and I can't imagine the current administration will be thrilled to have one more of us liberal chuckleheads voting, but oversights can sometimes turn out in your favor.

For the past week or two, we debated whether or not to have Sara and I come, Colin being in school, getting his own civic education. His bus comes about 2 hours and 20 minutes before we needed to be there and we are about 2 hours out, driving the speed limit. Now, Charles is a master at (ahem) compressing the drive time, but what about road construction? And parking. This is downtown, for Pete's sake. Parking is sure to be a nightmare. There is almost certain to be a parking garage nearby, though. We decided that, worst case scenario, if we cut it too close, we could scream up to the entrance and he could leap out of the driver's side and I could scootch over and park the car, then worry about getting myself and Sara where we needed to be.

OK, then. We were going. Yes. Plans and back-up plans.

This morning, we were up in plenty of time, got ourselves all ready, including breakfast stuff in the car and change of clothes for Sara, in case she wiped out what she was wearing. All final paperwork in hand. Gas in the vehicle. Jumper cables and street maps (3 separate sets, yes, why?) and all, because you just never know. Colin's bus comes right on time and we pull out as planned. Traffic is great. The radio is playing good music. All is well. We take the I-94 out of Madison and I pull out the Gameboy, because, well, we are on target to get there 30 minutes early and all is going better than planned. We just have to head East until we hit Milwaukee and then take 1 exit and turn left twice. We toodle along blissfully for about 20 miles.

So why is the sun behind us? Well, sort of behind and over to the right? That would make our direction Westish. Well, Northwestish. Huh. Well, freeways sometimes curve one way and then back to where they are heading. Except why is the sign telling us how close we are to the fucking Wisconsin Dells?!?

Fuck! Fuckity fuck, fuck. Fuck!!

It is now 1 hour and 15 minutes until we have to have Charles in Milwaukee, some 90 miles away. Forget parking and traffic and road construction delays and courthouse security. There is just no way. NO. WAY.

Yeah. Getting to feel just like that dream.

Charles takes the pragmatic view and decides to throw in the towel and go back home, maybe by way of the liquor store. I take the completely unrealistic hopeful view that we should just go for it, because, where else do we have to be today? Who knows, maybe someone will take pity on a nice, clean-cut Canadian and his sweet, frazzled wife and absolutely adorable daughter and swear him in, in the hallway, if we slip them a $20. We turn off at the next exit, another mile or so down the freeway, gritting our teeth, deeply regretting my coming, because if I had stayed, he would have left at least an hour before, just to be there early and park and all, like he always does. I also realize that the bribing of the federal official will not work as this is Wisconsin, not Chicago, and we may even end up in jail, including Sara, if we attempt it.

I frantically search the documents for a phone number to call to see if there is any way we can rectify the situation. There is a sentence at the bottom of the summons that says to respond in writing if you are unable to make the ceremony. Somehow I don't see this as helpful at the moment.

We drive, um, quickly. Yes. Quickly. Speedily. Not implying that any laws of the road were broken. Nope. Not us. We are a completely law-abiding citizen and soon-to-be citizen, if we had only taken the right exit to get on the freeway.

We speak tersely. We grind our teeth. I feel very, very bad for coming. We look at the speedometer and the clock and the speedometer and back to the clock and my God! just stop looking at the control panel of the car because it just isn't helping the situation at all, is it?!

We also keep all our eyes that can be spared from the worthless watching of the dashboard peeled for anything that looks like a cop car. Not that we were speeding. Nope. Just out of interest.

The miles peel away. We reach Milwaukee at 9:50. I can not tell you how. 10 minutes to navigate the seemingly easy off-ramp to the 2 left turns. We raise the arm rests in preparation for our screech-and-swap-drivers plan. The ceremony is, after all, taking place in a government institution. Maybe they are running late. Maybe they schedule like anal medical clinics, telling people to be there early so if they are late, they will still have time to fill out their insurance information and medical histories and patient satisfaction surveys and all. Or so I've heard.

We just need the exit 310B. Not "A" or "C", but "B". It is one of those 3 way exits. "A" and "C" are labeled. "B" is not. "C" says that it is for I-794, which we are looking for but does not designate "East" or "West". We have 10 feet to decide. I yell, "left!" as the instructions say to bear left and it is the only exit to the left and is between "A" and "C".

I am, of course, wrong. We should have gone with door #C, to the right.

All hope is lost. We decide to turn around and go to the courthouse, anyway, to see who we can talk to to reschedule things. We rehearse our deep apologies. We practice summoning some discrete tears. Even I give up all hope.

Dispiritedly we head off in the right direction.

And the heavens part and the angels sing and we are magically transported to the front of the courthouse. It is 10:05.

And what the hell is that? The entire curb across from the main entrance of the Federal Courthouse is open and clear. Parking meters marching along empty spaces. The sign reads "No parking from 6pm to 10am."

Movie parking for us. Movie parking when we needed it most.

Now I really don't believe that the All-Being-Of-Time-And-Space micromanages in our piddly little lives, but if I did, I would call it a miracle and go on the 700 Club.

Charles pulls up and leaps across the street and into the courthouse.

I sit stunned for 5 seconds, stagger out and plunk 90 minutes of change in the meter (all the quarters in the parking-and-toll change-cup in the car), thinking that it would be a small good deed for who ever came after us.

I gather up toddler, books, purse, and sanity and scamper to the corner. Notice I did not jaywalk, despite my urge. Very law abiding.

The two polite security guards at the metal detector and x-ray thingie efficiently get us through and, after asking if we were here for the ceremony, direct us succinctly to the room. I notice they don't seem surprised that we are late.

We get to the room, an amazing, polished, carved and gleaming oak room. (Only the floor was not oak. Seriously. That and the 2 small busts of Lincoln and Kennedy.) There were about 50 others sitting in rows in front of the bar, where Charles was, waiting to be sworn in. The 30 or so friends and family members along to watch were seated on benches (oak, natch) in the back. We camped out on one and broke out the books. And then the crayons.

At 10:45, the clerk came in and announced that in 15 more minutes, the court would be called to order and hizonner would preside over the swearing in. We should feel free to roam about the halls.

Yup. It started an hour late.

And I could do nothing but giggle with glee.

And look at my watch rather frequently to make sure the parking meter was not going to run out before we were through as I had only put in 90 minutes of change in. Good deed and all.

So, the nice, friendly judge (a credit to Wisconsin, he was) came in a bit after 11am and swore in all those newly minted Yanks (or 1/2 Yank, in the case of Charles), even cracking a sly joke in the midst of his speech.

Sadly, there was no cake afterward, so we went out for lunch and bought a chocolate pie, which made Charles and I rather sick but the kids loved. (Note to self, if you ever go back to a Perkins, do not succumb to the French Silk pie. It has little chocolate flavor and about 3 times the amount of sweet it needs.)

So, there we are. Beforehand, I had thought this trip, aside from being a notable event for us as a family, might be worth a post. Heh.

All rise. This court is no longer in session. Thank you, God and all the sweet saints, micromanagers or not.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Car Wars

Amid all the badness of the last couple of weeks, one small bit of selfish good has happened in our little household as a direct result. We were finally able to justify a 3rd car.

Let us all take time now to throw things at our heroine as she hangs her head in shame, for shameful it is.

It is true. Three. Cars. In a family of two drivers, who, truth be told, almost always carpool anyway.

Let the justification begin!

Let us now take time to go find new, heavier things to throw, having already let fly with our stock of rotted tomatoes and wormy apples. There must be a "D" cell battery or 3 around here, somewhere...

The first vehicle is el minivan, complete with 57 cup holders and a good safety record. It has surprisingly reasonable gas mileage, too, as good as the small sedan it replaced. We tote kids and often a grandparent or two, at least once a week. We anticipate that our children will have friends that will need toting in the near future, too. So, really, the van makes good sense. Fine. I am somewhat able to sleep with that and rarely cringe as I get into it anymore.

The second vehicle is a several-years-old (mumbles) SUV. It has 4-wheel-drive and is paid for. It has horrible gas mileage but there are about 10-15 days each winter that we have to have it to get to work. Neither of us has a job that recognizes "snow days". We live way out in the country with the cows and deer. Wisconsin is also surprisingly hilly, the county road that we drive for much of the way resembles a rollercoaster, enough so that Colin shrieks with glee when we drive it. We are into cheap thrills in this family. Try as we might, we just can't get around needing the shameful SUV. We need the weight as much as the 4-wheel-drive and anti-lock brakes. A nice little Subaru just won't do it. The wind in a blizzard will just blow it off into the ditch and the cows will then laugh and shake their heads when they find us come spring. Cows are like that. Bitter creatures.

That leads us to the new car. It is small, it is stripped down, it is fairly gutless, and it gets really great gas mileage. If gas stays at this price, we actually make money with the purchase, given the commute. The seats are less comfortable than a gym bleacher, the windows, mirrors and locks are all dealt with by using your hand, rather than some remote, infra-red button or switch. It has 2 demi-cup holders. The radio is pure, tinny crap. It happily takes regular gas rather than "super". It is a stick shift. It feels like you are driving faster than you are, unlike the other two cars, where you frequently glance at the speedometer and then quickly in the rear-view mirror, expecting the flashing lights of the patrol car.

It is little and black and sexy. Well, sexy to two people with a minivan and a shameful SUV.

We have taken to covertly staking our individual claims to this piddly car. I started things by saying, "I love it. This is MY car," during the test drive. Hah. Dibs. Charles trumped me by driving it home while I took the kids and his mom in the minivan. Grrrrr. I drove it last week on the day we couldn't carpool, citing some obscure law about wives getting to drive the vehicle of their choosing on Wednesdays. Plus, as principal, he often has to drive kids home (yes, chaperoned, of course, such are times). He should have the vehicle with most seating. Yesterday, we were again unable to carpool, as it was "Family Fun Night" at school and I really didn't want to wait hours after the clinic closed to go home to the kids. I again claimed the car on the grounds that he should have the more deer-resistant vehicle as he would be coming home after dark. He countered with "squatters rights", placing HIS lunch, work-out clothes, pile of papers, coffee mug, PDA, and all in the front of the car. I ceded defeat of yesterday's battle, glaring beetle-browed through the car window, MY coffee mug, coffee pot, purse and lunch bag in hand, and vowed to piss on the driver's seat in the near future. Today, we are at a limited cease fire as we carpooled.

I am drinking lots of water and coffee. Better to fill a bladder.

So, there we are. A sad, sad pair.

Fire away.

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Friday, September 09, 2005

Life In A Small Town

Our scene: A Midwestern small town medical supply store, earlier this morning. Our heroine sitting on a shower bench, entertaining wee Sara while waiting for her close friend to finish a transaction. In swaggers a young police officer in full regalia, radio spurting intelligible phrases and garbled street names.

Officer: "Is Wayne Worker here?"

Shop Lady: "Wayne? I don't know. Let me see."

Officer waits, pacing officially, while Shop Lady goes in back....

Shop Lady: (Concerned but trying not to seem so.) "No. Wayne's off on a delivery. He won't be back until around noon."

Officer: "OK, then. Would you just tell him his car lights are on. Thanks."

Shop Lady: (Clearly relieved) "Well, sure, I'll just call him."

Officer: (Cracking nice, big, cheesy grin) "Have a good day." Exits main entrance.

Call me jaded but that just would not happen in a city, would it? Here, we know many of the town's officers. A couple are spouses of teachers I know. One is my partner's son. One is my former assistant's son. One lived up the street. And on and on and on. It's rather nice to know that the cop car you see really does have your back.


Thursday, September 08, 2005

Bring Out Your Dead

Do I look smarter? Do I? Because, boy, I feel ready to bring back the dead.

Yes! It was time for the biennial shake-out-the-cobwebs, dust-off-the-paddles, get-down-and-get-me-an-amp-of epi-STAT! ACLS recertification show.

So, here's the scoop: As many know, I work in a usually low stress same day care type of clinic, sharing space with the occupational medicine clinic and the World's Best Physical Therapy team. We are located in a very unglamorous strip mall, where the Quizno's is within easy trotting distance. Our head nurse (our only nurse, if you must know) is adept at turfing those who call and want to be seen for, oh, crushing chest pain accompanied by shortness of breath, or Large Amounts of Blood Ushering From Orifices, or similar scary, stressful life-threatening thingies to the ER. The place where the competent professionals await to save them. People other than us. They are the people who have all sorts of drugs, syringes and tubes, not to mention all the machines that go "bing".

Sadly, sometimes the terribly sick get through our nurse's snares and either just show up or call wanting to be seen for a sore throat, neglecting to mention the above crushing chest pain and all the not breathing so well stuff. This is not an uncommon occurrence, either. And, oddly, many of them become quite irate that now we are sending them via ambulance to the place that they should have gone to in the first place. We shake our heads a lot.

Thusly, it really is a good idea that I know what the hell to do before the lovely, nice people with the ambulance come. This knowledge is encompassed in the certification for Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS).

Certification lasts for 2 years, during which, if you pass re-certification, you don't have to take the class over again, you just get re-tested. The last time I actually was involved in a full-fledged patient-down-no-pulse-actively-trying-to-die code was in 1994, and I was a flinty-eyed senior resident, endotrachial tube in one hand, MacIntosh blade in the other, barking out orders like I knew what the hell I was doing. Now days, out of code shape as I am, I always opt to go through the whole class, as I clearly don't know what the hell I'm doing any more. Aw, hell, who am I kidding, the critical care nurses basically ran the codes then, anyway, although I did do the tubing and the ordering. "How about some lidocaine, there, Diana?" "Yes! Great idea! An amp of lidocaine! STAT!"

This year's class was a bit different for me. Always in the past, I have taken it with a bunch of other docs. When you do this, unless it is your first time through with all of the other interns during orientation, they usually compress the 2 day didactic stuff into one morning, letting you do the testing in the afternoon, and getting you out of there at light speed. If you are really lucky, they will even let you eat your lunch in the room while you take the written portion of the test. This time, I was with 20 nurses and one of the cardiologists, who had apparently let his certification lapse. As he runs these things in his sleep, he was basically sleeping in the back. It was also really interesting to note how the class was taught differently to the nurses. Much time was spent on how to actually give the drugs, how much to flush through the lines, how to turn up the volume of the maching that goes "bing" so that, if you are transporting the patient alone, you can hear what the heart is doing, rather than having to stop every 10 seconds to check the monitor to see what the rhythm is. They don't teach you any of this stuff in doctorland. We learn how to order and how to read and what the differential diagnosis is, but not how to do the nuts and bolts. Very odd how medicine has evolved. Very hierarchal.

And, boy did I feel sorry for most of nurses. They were almost to a person from obstetrics or the GI lab or other places where they just weren't familiar with this stuff and had really not had any in-depth classes in, say, ECG reading or what most of these drugs did, and had never intubated anyone, ever. You could smell the stress. You could hear the panic. At least for me, the 500 page book assigned for "review" truly was review.

R, the nurse-educator in charge of all teaching programs at the hospital, kept shaking her head. After the morning session, she pulled me aside, as I sat munching my sandwich, going over the protocols, and offered to test the cardiologist and I after the afternoon sessions were done. We both leapt at it and, about 45 minutes after everyone else had cleared out, we were re-certified. Gotta say, it sure was less of a stress having your "mega-code" partner be a cardiologist. Damned if we didn't even bring that Resusi-Andy back to life, twice! Well, to such a life as one can have as a plastic torso without even your plumbing system intact.

Today I sit, heady with all this skill. No fear. I know just what the fuck to do if any of you were to collapse right in front of me.

Oh, yeah!

I KNOW how to call 911. As long as I have my trusty cardiologist by my side.


Friday, September 02, 2005



A definition of "Fuckin' Amazing" is to be standing outside your house in early September, with a margarita or so under your belt, a star chart in one hand, a tiny flashlight in the other and having a great deal of difficulty picking out the constellations because of all the bleeding stars!

As you stare at the Milky Way, mouth slightly open, because it never fails to inspire awe, you see a meteor streak by, over your head.

I'm just sayin'.

God, I am meant to live here. I need to align the telescope.

Have a great weekend.

Count your blessings, one by one. Bow your head for those who need to think to come up with some.


Thursday, September 01, 2005

In Honor of the Incomparable Sra R.

Ah, High School. For most, it is a time of angst, zits, and wacky high-jinks. Unless you are a horribly shy, awkward me, in which you can just forget about the high-jinks. Well, unless you want to slap your knee about the time you and the rest of the cross-country team TP'd the house of the team member who couldn't come to the soda and chip party with the rest of the gang! You should have seen it! We even got the TP up on the roof, and then it rained! Such wild times.

OK. I went to class, took all the stuff you're supposed to take to get into the college you need, to get into the med school you need, to get to do what you've always wanted to do, please, please, please! I dated, like, one guy each year for a month or two at a time, except for my senior year, when I had (gasp) a boyfriend in the fall and another one in the spring. I chose Spanish as my foreign language because it seemed that it would be very useful to be able to speak to those whom I hoped to care for, if they, say, didn't speak English. Sra. R. taught Spanish.

She was amazing and it is a testament to her person that I can not remember a single solitary student EVER mocking her for any of her rather numerous quirks. She had family in Spain, so there was some legitimacy there, although apparently her accent was absolutely atrocious, at least according to the people we met in Mexico on the trip we all took. According to them, each of us senior Spanish students sounded much better than her, with regard to our pronunciation. She was around 60, short curly hair, barrel-torsoed with these skinny little chicken legs and duck-footed. She laughed constantly, her voice raspy. She loved to play her guitar (badly) and teach us folk songs in Spanish, which I will maintain to my dying day is the best way to teach a language, as it flows better when you are singing. It is also why I know the words "machine gun" and "nightingale" in Spanish. I also know a good drinking song or two, courtesy of her. She could not carry a tune, but it was impossible to not join in, and loudly, the other classes be damned. Her class abutted the advanced math classroom, so I can attest to the effect on the outside. She also made us take part in an international dance exhibition, teaching us (yes!) the Mexican Hat Dance. AND WE ALL SHOWED UP AND PERFORMED. Quite horribly. (Although not on purpose.)

Anyway, one bleak, drizzly day in early December of my senior year, while the 7 of us in Senior Spanish were waiting for her to ditto something in the office (yes, the way-back days of dittos), we decided that what we really needed was a vacation in sunny Mexico. We announced this to her as she walked in the door. We were all kidding. She, of course, was not, when she dropped everything and we spent the whole class outlining a plan to make this happen. I kid you not. How unbelievably cool is that?

We planned the finances (none of us nor our parents had much money), the itinerary, the lodging, the getting of the time off from school, because, as her logic went, you really need to go for more than just spring break. You need to be gone for the week after, too.

For several months we fund raised. We sold shit at lunch. We did those staples of car washes and newspaper drives. We babysat and cleaned gutters. Our families chipped in what they could. We made the cash.

Bright and early on the first day of spring break found us in all loaded in the school van with Sra. R at the wheel and we headed south from Portland, driving to San Francisco. After a quick sleep on the floor of her daughter's house, back in the van and south to San Diego. Next morning found us walking across the border to Tijuana to catch the Aero Mexico flight (about 1/2 the price of flying out of San Diego, and I'm sure the plane was just as safe, right?) to Guadalajara, our destination.

The details of the trip are rather fuzzy, given that all this happened a couple of decades ago. I remember the enormous outdoor market, the rickety busses, their dashboards covered with bobbling statuettes of saints, and seeing the famed Ballet Folclorico. We saw museums and such, including the run-in with 400 male high school students from a neighboring province, who mobbed us, asking us out and taking photos. Very heady. We went out dancing and drinking with a bunch of young male friends of the family we stayed with. And yes, they were all very gentlemanly. There was a wonderful party thrown for us to say good-bye the night before we left. We visited Tequila, touring one of the distilleries (Jose Cuervo? Sauza? I dunno.) and sampling the raw tequila from the vats. (Tasted sorta like I imagine gasoline would taste.) We lunched on all sorts of local fare and rode horses around lake Chapala. Best damn trip of my life.

I firmly believe that all kids should get to go out of the country with a nutty chaperone who wants to show all about the country being visited, who wants them to taste and see everything, regardless of what might be approved or disapproved of back home. I will do everything I can to make sure my kids get to do something like this. I have not been back and I really don't want to. I don't want to mess with the dusty, tequila-sunset colored memories. I don't want my grown self to intrude on my youth.

Thanks, Teri, for goading me into writing about this.

Today is also the first day of school in these parts. Here's hoping Colin's first grade experience is grand.