Thursday, June 28, 2007

Bashing Mitt Romney

My Bias

I don't know why anyone would want to be president. I can't think of any really really good reasons you'd want to expose your entire life to public scrutiny or why you'd want your character and integrity to be slandered.

Mitt Romney seems like a decent guy and I confess I have sympathies for him because of his religion. I expect more from him than I expect from someone like Rudy Giuliani. I expect Romney to be honest and charitable and to have strong moral fiber. I think he's probably most of those things. I don't know him, but I've come to recognize a certain amount of strength and goodness from Mormons in general. I know it's a generalization, but I have to say that the majority of Mormons I know try very hard to be good people and make honest decisions.

Time's Bias

So, when I read a story like the one found in Time, something doesn't ring true. What I see is less a story about Mitt Romney and more an illustration that Romney is not the favored candidate by Time. For one thing, the writer of the Time clip, Ana Marie Cox, doesn't mention some of the facts of the story. The original story was pulled from a Boston Globe article, which is linked in the Time news clip. But how many readers are going to go to the source?

I want to point out the bias. I think it's pretty disgusting. Cox draws quotes from PETA and some "experts" from Massachusetts who were not even around in 1983. I beg anyone out there to accurately report on the social climate regarding animal rights and how the family pet was typically viewed and treated in the late '70s and early '80s. Family pet, or bona fide member? I don't really know, I was only five at the time. My cats were still reeling from the shock of my birth, and I was still figuring out how to hold them without accidentally choking them to death.

Identifying the Bull-shit

You've got a bold and vicious headline (designed to lure readers) that makes it sound like Romney was found torturing his dog in the backyard. What really seems to have happened, at least as I perceive it, is that a father tried to make room for his entire family plus the family dog for a long trip. It sounds to me like it was important to have the family pet along on the trip because they, you know, probably love the dog.

I'm not sure what kind of excuse Romney might have for how he transported the dog. I wonder if he would do the same kind of thing today, or if he's grown into a different person. I know that when I was younger, I saw the world differently. I know that when I'm 60, I'll be different than I am now, at 29.

PETA: The Real Experts on Animal Cruelty

I question, very much, the expertise of PETA. I think it's great that on some level they give a voice to all animals great or small. But I also know that PETA encourages shelters to euthanize their animals and they facilitate, through their programs, chaining or tethering the family pet. They don't educate as much as they shock and scare the public into…what? Action? I guess.

They don't raise money to create facilities where animals need not be euthanized (something that would be extremely useful), and, on at least one occasion, their employees were found dumping the bodies of recently euthanized animals in a super market dumpster. That doesn't sound very ethical OR very empathetic (previous post on PETA).

So, where is this ethics line drawn? It seems to be very subjective. PETA answers to PETA. Everyone else answers to PETA and the law. But when it comes right down to it, I answer to me. Mitt Romney answers to his conscience. Given my experience with my own vicious conscience, I bet he's not proud of that choice he made. I imagine he tried to make it up to the dog. I could be wrong, but I also think he wouldn't choose that mode of transportation for the dog again.

Calling the Kettle Black

Me? I'm hypersensitive about how animals are treated, and I predict that, given the social climate and trends regarding animals, soon it will be considered inhumane to treat animals like luggage when we fly. That one really gets me. That we believe it's ok for a cat or dog to ride in the luggage bin of an airplane. Think of the lack of air pressure, and the wind, and the deafening noise. Can you think of it?

Stoker and I have taken our cat on a plane with us, where she rode in a carrier under our seat. She meowed the entire time. It was stressful, but at least I was there to hear her meows and touch her a little bit. Somehow PETA workers get beyond the warmth of an animals' life and, probably, its visceral protests, to find the strength of character it takes to kill the animal. Hmmm. Good ol' PETA and their double standards.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Evil, Evil Tick

I just put my running shoes on, getting ready to go for a run. About a minute later I was standing in the bathroom putting some ointment on my finger (I think it almost killed me last night -- an infected hangnail or something). I looked down and there on my ankle sock (they're running socks, ok?), was the biggest damn TICK ever.

It's raining now, so I can't go running. Not that I'm afraid of a little rain. A little lightning, yeah. It's thundering out there too or else I'd be out pounding the pavement. Oh, and here in Nashville, it usually isn't just a little rain. It's usually like a monsoon.

So I'm sitting here waiting for the storm to pass, feeling itchy and worried about ticks. My last run was on Sunday. How long has that tick been waiting in my shoe? And how many OTHER ticks have I brought in on my shoes or clothes and not known it? I know I said in this post that I'd obsessively check for ticks after every run. But I haven't been doing that. So now I'm obsessing about all the ticks that could be hiding in my closet, where I keep my shoes. Do I need to check the cats for ticks, now? Oh crap. That stupid, stupid tick.

I like bugs, ok? I'm a bug kind of person. At one time I actually thought I'd be an entomologist (along with every other career imaginable, except prison guard or politician). So I'm not afraid of bugs. I don't scream when I see them unless they startle me. The tick on my sock? Scary as hell. I washed it down the sink. I ran the water for about five minutes. A few minutes later, I ran it again for ten minutes. I'm sorry, I know there's always a water shortage everywhere except the few places where it's flooding, but that tick was monstrous. It needed to be drowned.

When it stops raining, I'll go for a run and think about ticks. When I come back from my run, I'll make sure there are no ticks in or on my shoes. I'll check my clothes. I'll drown any ticks that come near me. I will, so help me. You know ticks spread Lyme disease, right? For about a week I'll obsess about any marks on my skin that resemble a bug bite. It's going to be awesome.

How to be Moved by Art: Know What Moves You

Winter Landscape, Jared Sanders

When Dani (my sister) was dating Jason (my brother-in-law), Jason's brother was having an art exhibit in Salt Lake (Jason and Dani might have been married already, the detail isn't important to the story). I think I was nineteen or something and I probably didn't have any friends at the time because I've never been popular (I know, you're thinking: how can that be?). So I went to the art exhibit with Jason and Dani. They probably didn't invite me, but I went anyway (yeah, that's the kind of kid I was).

I've always enjoyed art and at the time I'm sure I thought I knew a lot about it because I'd taken a few classes in high school. I'd studied my share of the big guys. And I'd also seen a good deal of art hanging on people's walls. Usually I thought it sucked because it wasn't Monet or Manet or Degas or Vermeer (how many can I name? Oh, believe me, I could go on for hours). Obviously I have a different understanding of art now, but back then I had your typical nineteen-year-old's grasp on art. The grasp of the nineteen-year-old who wasn't the art valedictorian.

Jared's show was small and unassuming. I don't think they had hor d'oeuvres or wine or anything. They're supposed to have that, right? And there was your typical art gallery curator (are they called curators?) hanging around in an impeccable suit, hovering over us. My memory is hazy, but I'm sure I felt compelled to inform him that I wasn't a potential buyer, so he would stop hanging around like a vulture. Or maybe he just wanted to be ready for any questions and since we were probably the only people in the gallery, we got the special treatment.

Maybe it's because I rarely go to contemporary art shows, but Jared's stuff killed me. He does western landscapes and being a westerner, perhaps it's no surprise that I'm pulled into his work. Now that I'm older and have been to the big time museums like the Met and, uh, the Met, I've seen work on large canvases, not just the reduced pictures in books. That probably makes a difference. As well, I've always loved the stuff of the Hudson River School painters. All I'm saying is that maybe it's in line with my taste.

That day in Salt Lake, I realized how a painting can swallow you. I wanted to live inside one. Literally. Many of the canvases were large and I probably would have fit. Until that moment I didn't understand what it meant to feel the life of a painting. What it means, I think, is that it stirs the life inside of you. Honestly, I think Goya's work is great, but when I see the painting of the The Third of May, I don't think, "Oh yeah, I hear you. I feel what you're saying and I'm going to start a revolution." Or even, "Yeah man, what happened was terrible." I see it and think, hmmm. Cool. Nice pants (and if that makes me shallow, well).

But when I saw one of Jared's paintings, I finally understood how big the western sky is. It's big. Really big. And that's more than what I've gotten from most works of art.

Monday, June 25, 2007

How to Recognize the Creep in Yourself

If you feel like you're being creepy, chances are you're probably being perceived as creepy. What gets me is how many guys are being creepy as viewed from a female perspective. Well, at least my perspective.

Scenario: You're just a girl standing in line at the gas station, waiting to pay for your 32 ounce Dr. Pepper, a cream cheese Danish (a healthy lunch), and some gas. You're wearing your favorite t-shirt, a carry over from your past life when you actually DID rock climb and suddenly, out of the blue, a creepy, forty-something guy starts talking to you. He wants to know what Pusher is (as though drug dealers are going to shrug off the law and simply advertise their profession, unintimidated, recognizing the "it was a joke" potential). At the same time that Mr. Creepy is trying to strike up a conversation, the gas station attendant is also asking you what pump you're on. You finally get the chance to tell Mr. Creepy that it's a climbing company. He wants to know if you climb, you say yes (even though you don't, not really, anymore). He leaves.

You're a girl, do you find that creepy or just friendly?

Scenario: You're just a girl at a gas station. You're perusing the drink selection, trying to overcome the temptation of the fountain drink Dr. Pepper. Green tea? Yes, no? A young, twenty-something guy who looks obviously indie and totally harmless smiles at you. He's looking at the drinks too. You're friendly, you smile back, pick a drink, pay, and leave. You're out the door heading for your truck when you hear a voice behind you. It's the indie boy. You're wondering what the hell this could be. He asks you where you're headed, you say back to work (duh). He asks if it's by the West End area and you say no, it's in the opposite direction. Aw dang, he says, he needed a ride back to his car. You say sorry and good luck, and leave.

Creepy? I mean, just because he's not forty something and gross doesn't mean he's an angel, right? Would you give him a ride?

Scenario: You're at a local coffee shop (not a chain; shhh, it's important to the story) and you're buying some interesting drink like a Tazo plum juice or the like. It's your turn, you're paying. A sixty-something man standing behind you suddenly asks you out of the blue if you're a tourist. You're trying to pay attention to the cashier, but you look at him and say, "No." Then he asks if you're an artist. You say, "No," again. What is this anyway? He points to the Cash button on your bag and says, "I was just wondering because I saw the button." It's not making any sense to you. Only tourists like Johnny Cash? Hmmm.

In any case, creepy? As you walked back to your car would you check over your shoulder to see if he was following you?

Scenario: You're at work, heading back to the cubicle in your dungeon. A forty-something guy you have presumed to be a maintenance worker (he carries a radio and a lot of keys) sees you and starts talking to you. He tells you that you're hard to find and that he's been looking for you for a while. He says he's got it narrowed down and then he says you're first name must be "_______" [insert your name here, remember, it's got to be a girls' name]. You laugh uncomfortably*. Not knowing how to avoid this maintenance worker, you retreat to your cubicle, hoping he'll let you go. But along the way he says he's narrowed it down to a few cubicles. When you get to your cubicle you try to hide inside. He doesn't recognize any of the signs and he obviously doesn't care about the ring on your finger. Nor does he care that one time he actually happened to be at the same restaurant as you and your husband. He makes small talk, and you're polite because you're a polite person. After a few minutes of completely awkward conversation, he tells you that if you ever need new shelves in your cubicle, or hangers, anything, just to page him. Then he makes sure you write down his pager number and he leans in as if to show you the pager but you can't shake the impression that he's trying to get a whiff of your hair. He says you can call from any phone, not just your work phone.

Creepy? You decide.

The point is, men can be creepy and they need to be aware of it. It doesn't matter how attractive or wealthy, if you strike up conversation with a complete stranger, I call it creepy. Especially if you're asking for something like a ride. Women are ever aware of the physical advantage men have over them and if you don't want to be thought of as a creep, you need to be sensitive to that. I'm not saying to never approach a woman. I'm advising that you try to imagine the situation from her perspective and recognize where she, as a woman, might be coming from. Because you, as a man, have the physical advantage.

I don't speak for all women. Just this one and a couple others who put me up to it.

*All men need to learn to recognize the uncomfortable, this-is-awkward-you're-creepy laugh. It would do them good.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Legal Status and Women: Do We Really Want It?

I fixed my blog. I know, I know, it's white. But in a non-scientific study, I found that Web sites and blogs with a light colored background are easier to read. That's just my opinion. Me, I am the informant for the casual study, which was based entirely on personal feelings.

It took several hours but I've adjusted the majority of fonts and type color from past entries. Hopefully everything is visible and readable now. I clearly live in a fantasy world to think that people actually read this blog, let alone go back and read old posts. I assume that because I'm the reading sort of person, others read too.

In any case, I vow to never have a black blog again. It's a bad idea. Another bad idea is changing the text from the default color to a new color. Other people may realize this on their own, intelligent as they are, but if you change the default type color, when and if you change your blog template (as I have done so many times), the default type color doesn't change with the new settings. You have to go in and manually change it on each post. That takes a long time if you have many posts.

Something else that's been bothering me, though not of the blogging world -- the bother of changing your name when you get married. Ok, so it took me a year and a half to do this, and I was pushed into doing it by circumstances: I needed a social security card. I lost mine when I was thirteen or thereabouts. I put off changing it because it's a hassle, really. It's not that I have much against changing my name, I don't. Sure, I had boyfriends in the past who turned it into a power struggle and felt no empathy for the identity struggle of changing your name, and so I was violently against it. But Stoker's a doll and he's right there with me on the few feminism ideologies that I subscribe to. So I have never felt that I had to prove a point.

When I was depositing Stoker's check today (he'd signed the back of it and everything), the bank teller had some silly issue with my license (old last name), the name I'd signed on the deposit slip (new last name), and the fact that it was Stoker's check. It was nothing really, but it got me all annoyed about the name change crap. First of all -- and I could go on about this for hours, I don't know why I'm bring it up now-- back in the day, women had no legal status. I'm sure they didn't have contracts and social security cards and passports and credit cards and check books and driver's licenses and savings accounts and all that crap that is so gloriously liberating for the modern woman. So it was no big deal to change the name. Now it's a nightmare.

That's it, it just bothered the hell out of me as I left the bank. I thought about how things have changed for women in the past one hundred years and how great it is. But it's also irritating as hell for all the things that haven't changed.

I guess the saying is true: you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. Oh and to answer the question about legal status, yeah we do want it. You'd have to be joking to think I could seriously consider going back to when women were on a par, legally and socially, with luggage.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Travis: The Boy With No Name ... Battleships ... NeverEnding Story

I really like the new song "Battleships" from Travis' new album. I do. It's a great song. I downloaded it last night and I've got it on continuous play along with "Closer" and "Under the Moonlight" (from the same album), and a couple of songs by Young Galaxy, Sea Wolf, the Phoenix Foundation, and that one song, "Jenny Don't Be Hasty" by Paolo Nutini (it's so good, I can't resist even though I want to resist).

Unlike my friend Jason, I'm not a huge Travis fan, but here and there I enjoy one of their songs. I don't even have one of their albums unless I can count Stoker's collection as my own. If so, I have a Travis album! Except I think Stoker bought the album because of some floozy he was dating back before he met me (kidding kidding. She was a really nice girl, I'm sure). Since he bought it because of the influence of an ex-girlfriend, I can't count it as one of my albums. Rules are rules.

But the song "Battleships." I can't get over how that one part sounds just like the song from NeverEnding Story, the song the "NeverEnding Story." It's really beginning to bother me. I guess the guys from Travis didn't watch awesome kid shows back in the '80s because if they had, they'd recognize that the portion of their melody, when they sing "I guess it's just another day in lo-o-o-o-o-oooove," is uncomfortably similar to that part from the "NeverEnding Story" song, when the guy sings, "Turn around, look at what you see-eee-eee-eee." Or whatever.

Unfortunately I'm at work right now, and my machine is a relic. I have no sound card, otherwise I'd listen to make sure I'm correct. I'm relying wholly on memory. I mean, I guess it's not a big problem, since I've always loved the NeverEnding Story and the theme song. It's just one those things, you know. It's like what I told Stoker today when he asked me if I wanted to eat at San Antonio Taco Company, which he compared to Taco Bell -- if I wanted to eat something that tasted like the food from Taco Bell, I'd just go to Taco Bell. So we went to Bruegger's, which is kind of like Einstein Brothers.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Ear Problems

Last September, on our flight back to Tennessee from Utah, my head nearly exploded. That sounds like hyperbole, and it is, a little. So if you said, "That sounds like hyperbole to me," then good job. I congratulate you on even knowing that word.

Back to the story. My head nearly exploded on the airplane. My ears wouldn't pop and when they finally did, I thought I heard a tearing sound -- the sound of my ear drums ripping away from my ear canal -- and I nearly crumpled into a heap in the aisle from the pain. Ever since then, my eustachian tubes have been worthless. That's hyperbole too, because they've been worth more than nothing. They've done their job a little. All the time my ears are popping and cracking and if I don't consciously make them clear, I feel the pressure building in my head and I get a headache. Sometimes I can't sleep at night because every time I swallow, breathe, or even move an inch, they snap, crackle, and pop. It's like living with a bowl of Rice Crispies in my ears.

A month ago, I went to the doctor, finally. She listened to about two words and immediately "knew" the problem. She prescribed Allegra and Flonase. She prescribed the Flonase because I told her I prefer not to have the pms-like symptoms I get from antihistamines. She said I should try both of them and if I don't like the Allegra, I don't have to take it. It bugged me that she didn't really listen to me. But whatever. She said there were no signs that my ear drums had ever been ripped apart, so I guess that was good.

Unless I heard the pharmacy tech wrong, the generic form of Allegra was $35. So I said screw that and got Alavert instead, which is still mighty expensive. But at least it's OTC. I did both the Flonase and Alavert and the ear pressure problem didn't improve much. I still sometimes feel like ripping my own head apart to figure out what the hell is going on. I say "ripping my own head apart" despite the graphic nature of the phrase, to express how dire my situation is (once again, hyperbole).

If something doesn't change soon, I might start cutting myself or something weird like that. No really, little known fact, Van Gogh cut his ear off because he had the same problem with his eustachian tubes. In a fit of rage he did it, and then he didn't know what to do with the unattached ear so he sent it to his mean cousin.

That's totally made up for all you people who don't get sarcasm, the lowest form of humor (that's not sarcastic), so please don't start using that bit of false information about Van Gogh in your school reports.

To top it all off, now I have an ear infection. I went back to the doctor yesterday and got some antibiotics and explained that the last doctor's prognosis was either wrong or . . . nothing, her prognosis WAS wrong. I don't have allergies like I did before the Flonase (I stopped taking Alavert when I noticed it hadn't helped the popping and pressure headaches), but the eustachian tubes are still acting up.

Now I'm looking forward to spending $45 to see an ENT. Oh yeah. Honestly? If it finally fixes the problem, I will tell the doctor I love him/her and promise them my firstborn, who we all know shall be a genius.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Around here it seems like someone is always opening a can of soda. That click and hiss are so suggestive. I can hardly think of another sound that has got me so trained that I respond like Pavlov's dog. It's a downward spiral from there. You see, I've been trying not to drink Dr. Pepper -- all that sugar is so bad for me . . . but it tastes soooo good. Once I hear that sound all I can think about is opening my own can of Dr. Pepper.

When we went back to Utah for a visit recently, Stoker and I got Dr. Pepper at the Maverick gas station. You won't believe this, but it tasted so much better than the fountain drinks you find in Nashville. I'm not kidding. I don't know what it is. The water? Someone laughed at me when I explained that I think it's the water. But Dr. Pepper in the western U.S. isn't bottled at the same place as the Dr. Pepper in the south. And ask anyone, the water in Utah tastes better than pretty much anywhere.

So you combine better water with a delicious soda and you get a better soda. If I'm not mistaken, water is an important ingredient. In fact, I think it's the first ingredient listed on a can of Dr. Pepper. I'll have to check that later, since I don't have one sitting in front of me (oh, but don't be so quick to judge -- I have a fountain drink Dr. Pepper at my desk).

Back to the water thing . . . last year Stoker and I went to Lynchburg, TN, to the Jack Daniels distillery, and guess what makes Jack Daniels so special (one of the things)? The water. That's right. I'm not a big fan of Jack Daniels, but I do know that the big barrel house smells like pickles. So if you ever visit, be prepared to want two things at the end of the tour, pickles and whiskey. I'd advise you to just go for the pickles because the whiskey will only let you down in the end.

And if you ever visit Utah, make sure you try a fountain drink Dr. Pepper. Then come back and tell me it doesn't taste better than anywhere else you've tried it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

What Good Are Pockets if They Don't Hold Anything?

Stoker and I have it worked out where each of us gets ten dollars a week to spend however we want. We both typically use it to buy a drink here or there, or some lunch (and by drink I mean non-alcoholic beverages). Stoker gets the money out of our account when he deposits his check because my check is direct-deposited. This morning he gave me my ten dollars, which was seven this time because last night I spent some of it on a one dollar sundae and some fries from McDonald's.

I put the money in my back pocket, as I'm wont to do and have done since childhood. These days I try to take better care of my money and often put it in my humongous wallet. But we were saying goodbye to each other and I was standing there with the car door open, about to leave for work. I didn't have time to do the responsible thing and put it in my wallet.

But see, I have on these damn corduroys I got at J.Crew. They have been a problem before. Countless times strangers have come up to me and said, "Excuse me, you're about to lose some money." At first I think they're being aggressive, maybe they're going to ask me for a ride or some money. But then they tell me I'm about to lose my money. And not because they're going to steal it.

So the problem, which I never really explained, is that these pockets suck. They don't hold onto anything. Receipts, paper, paper money, you name it. If I put it in, the money falls out. Once I lost a wad of money at Best Buy. I was so distraught. I called Best Buy on the chance someone had turned it in. They had! My hope for humanity was saved! I really couldn't believe it. It killed me that someone had turned in the money.

Today I was excited about lunch. I was going to go find a bagel shop and have a bagel sandwich. I love bagel sandwiches and it frustrates me that there's no Einstein's in Nashville. Because in addition to great sandwiches, they have the best pickles. And I love pickles (in case you're wondering, the second best place to get pickles is the White Owl, in Logan UT. They make them with jalapeños and they're delicious). Before I drove off in search of a bagel shop, I checked all my pockets, couldn't find the money, and then remembered that I hadn't moved the money from my pocket to my wallet! The money was gone and I cursed up a storm.

So, instead of a bagel for lunch, I got a preservative laden, sugar laden, very unhealthy cheese Danish at the gas station. Why? Because I was depressed that I'd lost the money. I know, I know. It's also unhealthy to indulge in unhealthy food when you're sad. You shouldn't do that. Do as I say, not as I do, and don't copy me.

I looked everywhere for the money. I returned to work and checked the bathrooms. For all I know, I'd flushed the money at some point without realizing it. Literally, 'money down the drain.' I decided to email the entire company about the lost money. I just knew the money was out there somewhere, trying to find its way back to me. But I had to go through the proper channels. I emailed the lady in charge of mass communication. I told her that I'd lost my weekly allowance and asked her if she could just send out a quick email to the entire company about it.

Then she called me. She said that she hadn't done her good deed for the day and the Lord has been kind to her, so she was going to leave the money for me underneath her keyboard. She was about to go to a meeting and she wanted me to go up there and pick it up while she was gone. She, herself, has always tried to live within a budget, she can respect that about me, and wanted to help out.

A part of me felt so stupid for making such a big deal about a trifle. It was seven dollars, after all. But when you make so little, seven dollars that you've allotted yourself seems like a lot. On the other hand, everything I make goes to me and Stoker, so it's not like we're neglected.

Really, it's the principle that matters. It's so stupid to lose your money. I mean to literally lose some physical cash. I bet you fifty thousand dollars that my mom hasn't lost a cent in twenty years. I mean, literally, literally misplaced it, or dropped it somewhere, or flushed it down the toilet. It's just not respectable to lose your money.

A part of me didn't want to take the lady's money. But I always tell people that part of helping others is accepting return kindness. I know it sounds stupid and probably selfish, but it's true. I think it's also a show of character to be able to accept it graciously. This is a subject I could discuss more, but the point is, it was difficult to swallow my pride regarding the money.

I went up to her office and found the money where she said she'd leave it. I felt like a thief and worried that if someone looked through the window of the door, they'd see me rooting around her desk while she wasn't there and turn me in to security. It was probably one of the strangest feelings I've ever had. At the same time, it made me think a lot about human kindness. Have you ever thought about how we're all we have? That if all people stopped being kind, there'd be no one left to be kind? I mean, Mother Nature isn't kind. Animals are not usually kind (though some will argue with this). Yes, God is kind, but God works through people, and that's why if each of us decided to stop being kind, there'd be no hope left.

It felt like this woman whom I have never met, wanted the kindness to be sort of faceless, to be a secret. I understand that. I still told her thanks in an email and told her that I try to be kind but sometimes I get hurried and impatient and sometimes I forget that there are hearts behind the faces. And I told her that her act made me feel better, not about the money but about humanity, and that I'll return the favor in the future, to someone else.

In the meantime, I plan to stitch up the back pockets of these stupid J.Crew pants and then I plan to sue J.Crew for damages*.

*I wonder who I can get to represent me. Does anyone know a lawyer who understands the importance of pants?

My Hypochondria: Lyme Disease, and Meningitis

I can't bend my neck and touch my chin to my chest without terrible muscular pain. All my life if I had a stiff neck my mother would say to me, "Well, can you touch your chin to your chest? Ok, good, you're fine then. It's just a stiff neck." When asked what else it would be, she'd say something about spinal meningitis. I had no idea what that was, but it sounded horrible.

And my mom wonders why I'm a hypochondriac. Honestly, it's like accusing someone of being an alcoholic all the time and then being surprised to find out that they have a problem with alcohol. I don't think I started out worried that I was going to die of cancer or AIDS.

What child isn't saturated with information about all the diseases and dangers of living? And it's not complete information, either. It's just enough to make you really worry if you have even one symptom associated with a certain disease. Like the stiff neck. Turns out, the chin to chest test should be done when you're lying down and you should be able to do it without raising your legs (from WebMD).

Last summer Stoker and I went camping. Well, we tried anyway. It was over the Fourth of July and it turned out to be hotter than the bayou outside--even in the middle of the night! We're mountain people (I really love to say that) and it's typical to experience a hot day and then a cool night in the mountains or the desert. Not so in the south. Plus, in all my life, I have never seen more bugs than that night except in the Temple of Doom. Bugs are great in the daylight, when you can see where they are, but when you find a giant spider having dinner on your backpack, it's disturbing.

So, we went home instead of camping. We hadn't been able to sleep and I'm pretty sure there were potato bugs (I've always called them this, in fact they are woodlice) in my sleeping bag and gigantic crane flies inside the tent. It didn't matter that we kept things zipped up. They found a way in.

Potato bugs (I'm going to keep calling them potato bugs for sentimental reasons) weren't the only thing I was sharing with that night. I had two ticks. They were tiny, devilish, and looked like small moles. I don't think they bit me. But after that, I worried I was going to catch Lyme disease.

I remember when I was a kid, there was a television commercial about Lyme disease. Some famous girl from some contemporary sitcom did the advertisement. I'm probably the only one who remembers it. The girl came on and talked about what a devastating disease Lyme disease is and how easy it is to catch it. Most people don't even know they have it. Something like that, and then please give us some money for Lyme disease research. Very depressing.

I don't think I have Lyme disease. At least, I got through that run-in with the ticks last summer. We're all okay. Except the ticks, we drowned them. But Stoker and me, we're fine. We still go outside. It's probably a stupid idea, but I run through tall grass on my daily run. Apparently, ticks hang out on the tips of blades of grass, waiting, the way hobos wait for a train. As an animal or person passes by, the ticks hop on board . . . like a hobo . . .

Last week, this mysterious bruise appeared on the back of my thigh. I had recently read that tick bites looks like a mosquito bite, a bruise, or a bulls-eye. A few days later, my neck starts hurting. Meningitis can be caused by Lyme disease. Look it up!

Ok, so I'm pretty sure my stiff neck isn't because of an infection. I'm pretty sure I've been turning the air conditioner down too low at night, and lately Stoker has really been hogging the blankets. This morning I woke up with only a corner of the blankets covering my lower back. And I was all curled up in a ball, like I was cold. So, I blame Stoker. Ha ha.

He came in to wake me up and I said, "I think I know why I've been having a stiff neck." And he asked why. I said, "Because for some reason, I never have any covers." And he was like, "So, uh, is that my fault? Are you blaming me?" He didn't say it defensively, just with that kind of sweet, resigned tone, as though I always find a way to blame him for everything.

And I won't lie to you. It usually goes that way. I don't know, it's something programmed into the female. I remember when my sister Dani was pregnant the first time, and really close to being done with it. Jason, her husband, would tell my family that occasionally Dani would shoot him these piercing glances, as though she blamed him for her suffering. And she did. Because, it was HIS fault she had that parasite growing in her. It was really funny. Guess you had to be there.

So, don't worry. I try to overcome my tendency to blame Stoker (stupid stereotypes, I blame the stereotypes!). It only happens when I'm grouchy. It's true of him, too, you know. When he gets grouchy, mainly. But usually he's perfect.

Also, don't worry, I'm trying to overcome my hypochondria. It's just hard to find a balance with that. You don't want to worry too much and go crazy with worry, but you also don't want to ignore what you're body is telling you. I guess I could always check for ticks. Obsessively.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Death in the Morning, Death on the Highway

I came across a juvenile rat snake on my run this morning. He was coiled on the side of the road, near the grass. What I love best about running outside is all the other lives going on around me. I keep track of the animals I've seen and where I see them. It's like knowing who your neighbors are and understanding what your neighborhood is about.

Snakes are beautiful, quiet, and invisible until I almost step on them. Some people would say they're sneaky and dangerous, and while some snakes are, others are simply another life trying to make a go of it in their little niche.

When I come across a snake in my path, I like to stop and look at it, to admire it's beauty. I also wait for it to get off the path so I can be sure that it doesn't get stepped on or run over by a bike, or in some instances, a car. Not on my watch, at least.

This morning I stopped near the rat snake. He looked gorgeous and fine, until I saw the ants crawling around his mouth. I touched his body with my shoe and he still felt soft, but he didn't coil up or move away from me. So I touched his side with my finger, and he was really soft. I don't know what happened to him. He must have been run over even though there wasn't much evidence of that. Except for the ants, his body looked perfect.

I continued on my run and when I passed the snake again, I picked him up by the tail and moved him into the grass. He wasn’t stiff at all, like I had imagined he would be. I wished I could show him more respect, but at that time that was the best I could do. As a child, my sisters and I often buried the dead animals we found in our yard. But when I was young, I had seen little of death. Now I see it everywhere and if I buried all the dead animals I come across, I'd be burying something every day.

It always hurts when I see an animal that has needlessly died by human hands. I feel responsible, even though I haven't personally killed them. I'm responsible in that I use the roads that move the cars to and from places and it is on the road that I see the most death. Nearly every day there's an animal crushed beyond recognition on the side of the road. I don't understand why it is always on the side of the road.

But my mind plays it out. Driver spots possum crossing the road, driver swerves to the right to miss the possum, at the same time the possum darts quickly to the right to escape the car. That is where they meet, on the side of the road. It never ends well for the possum, but the human can drive away. I hope the driver cries, at the very least.

When I see the dead, I wonder who they have left behind. Have they left reliant young? Nature is cruel, I know, and as an old friend once told me (a Navajo), "Things die, Nik." Still, I can't help but wonder—as Barry Lopez expresses in "Apologia," found in the book, About This Life—"Who are these animals, their lights gone out? What journeys have fallen apart here?"

Thursday, June 07, 2007

How the Universe Tells You to Slow Down

Last night my younger sister, Cassi, calls. And I'm in the middle of a crisis relating to the check register and the amount in my bank account. You know the kind, I'm sure, unless you're an accountant. Sometimes I'm as detailed as an accountant and other times I get a little lazy. And then I don't record my transactions for a few days and the next thing I know, I've misplaced all the receipts I was saving to record in the register, and the amount I should have doesn't match with the amount I actually have. And this isn't a bank error (although I'm still waiting for that glorious day when the bank actually pulls a Monopoly on me and the error is in my favor and I receive $200!), so it must be me. Two words: savings account. Hail to the savings account!

But when Cas calls, I'm all frustrated; with my lazy ways, more than anything else. But I answer, because she had called the night before and I hadn't been able to answer and I didn't want her to think I was ignoring her.

"Hey, Nik."
"I can't talk right now. I'll call you back in a minute, I'm just in the middle of balancing my check register and I'm frustrated as hell."
"Ok. Well, Nik, I just called to tell you that last night, I totaled my car."

And I was like, WTF?

Let me explain a few things about my family. Cassi is the youngest. I don't care what they say about the youngest being spoiled and bratty and all that. For the most part, it's true. But Cassi is also responsible. She's a hard worker, she's talented, smart, hilarious, ambitious, and independent. Not to mention beautiful. This is all evident from her achievements (except the beauty part); a few weeks ago I flew to Philadelphia to see her graduate from UPenn. She just turned 22, and with her major and double minor, she should have taken, at the very least, five years to finish school. She scored very high on the MCAT and is working as a cancer research assistant in Omaha while applying to medical school.

So, upon hearing that Cassi totaled her car, my first thought isn't she must have been drinking, like I would think were another 22 year-old to tell me they'd just wrecked their car. When Cassi tells me that, I figure something else must be going on.

I finished balancing the check book and called Cassi back. She told me she had been stressed with work and the night of the accident she was really preoccupied with some thoughts about some cells needed for an experiment. I think she said monocytes, but the last time I had biology was in 10th grade and I could be completely wrong. She'd forgotten to pick up some monocytes because she was preoccupied with getting to the airport to pick up our mom (my other sister living in Omaha just had a baby). So instead of picking up the fragile monocytes needed for this landmark, evolutionary experiment (they're going to cure brain cancer. I'm not kidding), Cassi went to the airport. Completely spacing the sensitive cells (they could have died). Macropages and monocytes are expensive. But what do I know?

Later that night when she remembered the cells, she rushed to the cell pick-up point and then rushed them back to her lab. And then she drove home. I think this is about when Cas called me on Tuesday night, around ten and I didn't answer. As she drove home, she was preoccupied with thoughts of, "What if the cells are dead and we can't do the experiment?"

In Nebraska, as in Tennessee and other places, at night traffic lights turn to flashing red and flashing yellow. So instead of waiting an hour for the light to change, if there's no one coming, a person waiting at a flashing red can stop, then drive on when the intersection is clear. Cassi came to an intersection like this, a flashing red. She looked left, looked right, didn't see anyone coming and pulled out into the intersection. She didn't even know what hit her.

Now, I could go on and on about how the driver of the other car is also at fault, because I think they are. Probably because Cassi is my little sister, but who's to say? All I know is that I've often been sitting at a light where it turns green, I'm about to pull out into the intersection, and some bastard goes blazing through the intersection while talking on their cell phone. If I hadn't been driving defensively, I would have been hit. That's all I'm saying. My caution saved their ass.

This driver who hit Cassi could most likely see that another driver was waiting at the intersection. This driver had a flashing yellow, which means use caution, not, "Hey! You have the go ahead! Floor it, baby!" Which is how so many people interpret the yellow light. If the driver who hit Cassi had had a flashing green, I could see that it would have been only right, nay, a responsibility, to blaze through the light without so much as a hesitation on the gas pedal.

Cassi thinks it's all her fault, and it isn't. I'm not suggesting a law suit here, or anything of that nature. I just see that Cas has this weight on her shoulders and no one to share her burden. She told me that she blacked out, she didn't know she'd been hit. Had she been a second earlier into the intersection, the other car would have crushed her. As Cas got out of the car and examined the mess—her car and her life (now)—she momentarily wished she had been hit. Only two or three weeks earlier, she had paid $900 to fix a dent in her car where she'd bumped into the wall in her narrow, assigned parking spot*. And now her car is a worthless heap of metal.

I'm glad the other car didn't crush her. And I know that in the future there will be many, many others who will be glad Cassi walked away from that crash. When I was a kid, my mom lost her youngest brother in a terrible work accident where he essentially burned to death. For a long time it haunted her. I don't know exactly how my mom felt about her youngest brother, but if it's anything compared to how I feel about Cas, I'm sure it hurt like hell. As a child, when all hell was breaking lose in my family, Cassi was born, and in many ways she held us together. She was this ray of hope in a very dark time.

All my sisters are precious to me.

I hope Cassi listens to whatever the Universe** is trying to tell her. Take it easy, maybe? Slow down? Don't be too hard on yourself? Take a breather? That's just my interpretation. I'm sure there are many other lessons she will take from this experience.

*Classic Grotepas girl mistake. We typically don't hit other cars. Just stationary objects. It serves to rip us from the monotony induced stupor and then we proceed with caution from that point on.
**I won't lie to you, Universe really means God. I think the Universe answers to God. Something like that.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Running with Pepper Spray

It sucks to be a woman.

Wait, hear me out. I read stuff in the news like this, and I think, "Oh crap, I'm going to have to start carrying a gun and enroll in martial arts classes." Or something. Does anything work?

Seriously. When I run, I take a can of pepper spray. But is that enough? And as I run, I look passers-by in the face, so they know I'm not afraid and so I know what they look like. I'm hardly friendly, even though some people are very polite. I'm thinking about getting a big dog to take with me. A scary dog. And I'm considering getting tattoos and spiking my hair so that I look scary and uninviting.

Ok, the last bit isn't true. But it really bothers me that the world isn't safe. That a woman can't go for a walk somewhere without worrying that a man might decide to oh I don't know, rape then kill her.

I understand that choice is an essential part of life and that we should all be allowed to evolve at our own pace, and that a person should not be condemned before they've done something; or rather, a person might have evil thoughts now and then, but they might not act on their thoughts, so it wouldn't be right to pronounce a verdict until a crime is committed. Otherwise we'd all be in trouble.

Even so, I can't help but feel that so many bastards deserve to be banished to a penal colony before they kill. It really sucks to go through an entire life with the knowledge that men will always and forever be physically stronger than you. That's why I need to get a gun and some tattoos. And I guess that's one advantage to being a really butch woman. Maybe. Is it? Who knows.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Creation Musuem

Oh, it just kills me. Probably not for the reasons you would guess. No, I'm not going to make fun of the people who made it or the people who will visit it. I don't really care. In fact, I might go, just to see what the fuss is about.

What kills me are all the scientists and "educators" who are signing petitions. This quote is the epitome of huffy remarks (someone is really offended here):
"When they try to confuse (kids) about what is science and what isn't science, scientists have an obligation to speak out," said Lawrence Krauss, an author and physics professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. "There's no doubt these are documented lies."  
Think of the children! The children! Oh, who will think of the children!

This scientist is clearly looking out for the poor children and nothing else.

Kenny Rogers to Foreigner: How Does that Happen?

Right now I have a Foreigner song stuck in my head. It started out as the Kenny Rogers song "Lady," but around the part where he sings, "Lady, I'm your knight in shining armor and I love you," it turned into, "In my life there's been heartache and pain / I don't know if I can face it again / Can't stop now, I've traveled so far / to change this lonely life!" Yeah! "I wanna know what love is! / I want you to show me / I wanna feel what love is! / I know you can show me."

And because I know the Foreigner song better than the Kenny Rogers song, I just kept going with it. It's so sultry. So emotional. But if you really think about it, oh man, does he REALLY want to know what love is? I guess that depends on your definition of love. I, for one, don't think it's something that you're in, it's something that you do.

This morning Stoker started singing "Yesterday" while we were getting ready and I begged him to stop. He wanted to know why I wanted him to stop and I told him because I didn't want the song to get stuck in my head. That song, "Yesterday," ALWAYS gets stuck in my head. And it's such a ridiculous song to begin with. Most songs are ridiculous, you know. But "Yesterday" is more ridiculous than most. All those silly rhymes, so pathetic I won't even mention them. Great, now the song is stuck in my head.

Other crap that gets stuck in my head: the horsey horsey song ("I like to take a horse and buggy / I like to travel through the town") that I learned in third grade, and the donut song too, ("there's a hole in the donut I can see right through"); the AT&T commerical song ("all around the world," or something), which then turns into, "If you wanna change the world shut your mouth and start this minute," from the Cracker song. Very irritating. I'm sure there are about a million others, but I can't remember them right now. That's a good thing.