Friday, January 27, 2012

Commutisms: In the beginning there was...

Yesterday morning on my drive to work I did a little bit of math.  I thought perhaps we could all benefit from this math lesson.

 My commute to work is 60 miles each way.  That is 120 miles a day.  If you are a math whiz like me you will quickly figure out that I drive 600 miles a week.  The math spiraled out of control after that:
600 miles a week  x 52 weeks in a year = 31,200 miles driven to work per year - 4 weeks of vacation (2400 miles) = 28,800 miles I will drive this year.

Here are some places I would much rather drive to if I was forced to put 28,800 miles on my car each year:
  • Walt Disney World once a month except in August, when it is too hot so I just stay home and look at my pictures from the previous eleven trips this year
  • Charleston, SC fourteen times a year to eat shrimp and pretend I am a southern belle
  • My parents' house 6.6 times a month so Annabelle could spend time with her Nana and Poppy
  • And if it wasn't for the pesky little problem of being unable to navigate my vehicle across the ocean, Athens, Greece and back....twice a year
  • And because I love sea creatures so much, the Shedd Aquarium 13 times a month, to perhaps get a part time job there feeding the squids
I'm guessing I lost a few readers somewhere in the math, not because it was too complicated, but because it appears this post is devoted exclusively to my complaining about my commute.  It's not.  But I will complain about my commute often.  The point, I think,  is that all those miles on my car also equate to two hours a day spent in the car. Two hours a day spent in the car equals a lot of time on my hands to think about things.  So to I have decided that any post that is conjured up by my brain in the car will go under the label of "Commutisms."  There is so much that goes through my brain in the car I'm sure I would be doing everyone a dis-service if I kept it all to myself.

Today's Commutism is brought to you by Pregnancy.

While driving I was thinking about Annabelle, as I often do, and how quickly the last four months have flown by.  Many people have already asked when we will have our "second." And now that Annabelle is all grown up and on a steady diet of formula, breastmilk, cereal, and dog hair...I have to confess, the thought has occurred to me as well.   And I don't have an answer to that, but I do know two things:  1. The grown up time Bryan and I have is limited.  Not because of Annabelle, but because any attempt at grown up time is usually interrupted by one of us saying "Do you smell that? I think Milton farted"  and  2. I don't believe I am ready to be pregnant again just yet.  While I love being a mama, I did not particularly enjoy all aspects of pregnancy.

While pregnant I specifically remember more than one person saying to me "Just wait until you feel your baby move. That is the best part of being pregnant."   It is?  I couldn't wait! Because until those kind people clued me in to that very exclusive info I thought that feeling as though I had the worst hangover of my life for 3 solid months was going to be my favorite part. 

Please do not misunderstand me, I am not at all complaining about being pregnant. It would be not only insensitive to do so, but it would be completely inaccurate. I am simply saying that I am not running out tonight to sign up for another tour of duty.  If I happen to get drafted, well then I will bravely and proudly fight for my country. And who knows, after some rehab I may be ready to sign up again. For now, I'm just enjoying Annabelle.

So if you ask me when we're having a "second" my response will be: Whenever the dog stops farting and I feel like being pregnant again. 

While driving, my mind drifted back to all the pros and cons of pregnancy and I remembered one of the highlights from early on. People who have been pregnant love to share their war stories to newly pregnant people.  But armed with all the knowledge of battle people shared with me, I was not prepared for my first brush with pregnancy-related humiliation.  I remember it vividly and at the time the event occurred I emailed the account of the incident to my mom and sister.  That was back when I foolishly believed I would still be allowed to cling to some shred of dignity while pregnant.  Luckily, that email is still in my sent file, so I can share this little anecdote with the 6 people who read this blog.  I suppose this technically may fall under the category of TMI, but as far as pregnancy stories goes...strangers on the street have told me far worse when I was actually pregnant.  This is very tame.

This email was sent to my mom and sister in March of 2011.  I hope you enjoy it.

To begin with, they screwed up my appointment and I had to drive to the Franklin office, only to be told they booked my appointment with the wrong doctor and I had to turn around and go back to West Allis, because that's where my doctor was today. I didn't really mind, except for the fact that I had to pee really really bad, because that's the first thing you do at the baby doctor...give them some pee.

When I got to West Allis they asked me to go ahead and leave a sample. I find that OB doctors and nurses are very casual about urine.  It's a pretty laid back process.

you go into the bathroom and they have all the "supplies" in there.  You grab a plastic cup and a sharpie and write your name on the cup (I used to do this at frat parties too, but you'll be glad to know the cup was never filled with pee).  I personally like to add a smiley face under my name just to brighten the day of the person handling my pee.

so I performed my task as requested and then opened the little metal door in the wall, only to learn that it is a SPRING-LOADED door so it is NOT the kind of door you can open and let go of and expect it to remain open.  I learned this the hard way...

so I half-opened the pee-depository door only to have it slam shut onto my hand- the hand holding the pee-cup. this sent my cup of pee somersaulting through the air with the ease and grace of a 15 year old Romanian girl.  So it's not like I just "spilled" the cup of pee...the cup flipped around sending my urine all over the pee-box, the wall, the door, the garbage can, the floor...and I'm sorry to hands and clothes.

As soon as I felt the door hit my hand I yelled out in that low, growly, slow-motion voice you seen in movies while I watched my cup of pee fly.

The good thing (if there is a good thing about flinging your own urine all over a bathroom) is that it landed right side up in the garbage and there was some left in the cup so I just left it in the pee-depository just in case. And the nurse was really very nice about it when i told her what happened.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Choose Your Column: Analyzing Units of Measure

So I woke up bright and early this morning and came down to the kitchen to make the coffee (I hate making the coffee).  And I looked at the temperature and saw that it was 14 degrees and looked out the window to make sure Bryan plugged his truck in, and it occurred to me that my definition of "normal" has dramatically changed.

Bryan's truck needs to be plugged in because it has a block warmer.  I don't really understand why, or how it works.  His truck is not brand new, but was made after the year 2000 so one would think that someone would have improved diesel engine technology at some point, but when I ask questions, the answers I get cause my eyes to glaze over and remind me of why I didn't really care in the first place. And I've already explained that our home is heated by wood, and that we have two dogs.  So let's look at this equation:   a truck that must be plugged into an outlet  +  a home that is heated by a woodstove that must be "stoked" daily  +  two dogs  =  it is almost impossible to travel as a family in winter.

From what I have gathered MOST people who have an outdoor woodburner to heat their home also have a backup furnace in their house that runs on electricity.  But in case it has not been made painfully clear at this point, we are not most people. I used to be "most people" but my relationship with Bryan and my move to the country has moved me into the "not most people" column of the worksheet. Want to know what happened to our furnace?  Refer back to Little House on the Scrapyard.  We took it to the scrapyard for cash.  At some point during the household construction and remodeling I did question Bryan about a backup method of heating the house, and I don't remember what the answer was.  But obviously the answer was NOT "we'll have an electric furnace in the basement."  

So when we plan winter activities, this must be considered.  We now have to find someone who is willing to not only watch 2 dogs, but willing to drive to our rural residence which is an hour from anything that I would classify as fun or cool, and about twenty-five minutes from any food our fuel source (though this problem will be solved when we get Annabelle's chickens in the spring), but they must also be able to fill the woodstove 1-2 times per day depending on the temperature.

What makes this even more challenging is that all of our firewood was cut by Bryan. So we are not dealing with a cute little Martha Stewart armload of firewood here. We are dealing with TREE TRUNKS. I have yet to be put in the position of filling the woodstove, and I am certain I cannot lift any of the wood that Bryan cut.  I certainly hope it will not be a problem when Bryan returns home to find that I have filled the woodstove with used Kleenex. So it is becoming clear to me that we have to find someone willing to help us out if we want to travel together as a family unit in the winter.  And  what would the add to find such a person say?  Wanted: Reliable non-smoker with own transportation to house-sit in the country.  Must love dogs.  Must be able to lift 50 pounds.  And I suppose I need to be sure whatever poor soul who would want to do this for us has not read my blog.  I doubt people will be lining up to dogsit for a dog who throws up deer parts in our bed.

The journey from being "most people" to  "not most people" is a slow and gradual excursion, sometimes you don't even realize you've made the trip. Bryan, for example, made the trip over to the "not most people" column around the age of 3.  He doesn't even know he's in a different column.  Very often when Bryan and I are having a conversation and he counters one of my points with a statement that begins with "yeah, but I..." or even a "When I.." I immediately have to stop him and say "You are not the measuring stick."  It's not that I am eager to discount his opinion, it's simply that he lives by a different unit of measure than the rest of the planet.  But Bryan's world of logic and normal is perfect for those in the "not most people" column.

Before we were together Bryan knocked out one of his teeth. When I asked him how it happened (on our second first date) he said "Oh it was raining and I slipped on some cats."  See? Perfectly logical. He did not feel that statement required any further clarification or elaboration.  Most people would require more details attached to that story. Because this was our second first date (our first first date occurred approximately thirteen years ago) I was still living blissfully in the "most people" column and did have to ask for further explanation and was still left puzzled.  But now I reside in the "not most people" column and I have come to understand that there is always a barn cat hanging out at every entrance of this home, and they are a trip hazard.  And when it is raining they will pile up together on our front stairs under the overhang, and they really don't care if you need to use the stairs or not.  So it makes perfect sense to me that he slipped on some cats in the rain.  This is now my normal.

Last summer when Bryan and I were planning a trip to South Carolina he informed me that he wasn't going to wear sandals or swimming trunks.  The horror of being on a beach with a grown man wearing workboots and cutoff jean shorts was too much for my brain to process. His refusal to ever even be within 3 feet of a flip flop surprised me. Who hates flip flops?  But I thought my acceptance of his flip flop hatred was a fair compromise. I was wrong.  He was adamant that he would not wear a sandal of any kind.  I also was struggling with his boycott of swimwear. He didn't understand why he couldn't wear a workboot on the beach, and I didn't understand why he would want to.  So a large portion of my days were spent scouring the internet for some sort of woorkboot-based sandal, and men's swimwear that was not made of a "slippery, silky" material.  I never found something acceptable to him and we never reached agreement.  Unfortunately our beach trip was canceled because I decided it wouldn't be much fun to kayak in South Carolina in the July heat while i was seven months pregnant (when in actuality I called it off because I refuse to be seen on a beach with a man wearing workboots).  These types of conversations are my normal.  A special note to Bryan: do not confuse the issue.  The conversation is my normal...WORKBOOTS ON THE BEACH ARE NOT NORMAL BY ANYONE'S STANDARD AND NEVER WILL BE. Remember, you are not the measuring stick.

In fact I took a break from writing this just now to do some dishes. There was a frying pan with a spatula left on the stove. I picked up the spatula to find it had some sort of yellowish cement-like substance on it and I asked  Bryan "what did you use this for?" and he said "fried corn pies."  So I shrugged and took it over to the sink to begin chiseling at the spatula.  Most people would have responded with "What is a fried corn pie?"  and maybe "When did you make these?" and perhaps even taken it a step further and asked "Why is a 'fried corn pie' the consistency of concrete?" But we are not most people so I simply shrugged and walked away, never again wondering or caring what Bryan's definition of corn fried pies might be.

And workboots on the beach and "fried corn pies" in winter aren't the only indicators of which column we're in.  Since our home has been and will continue to be under perpetual construction, and after our trip to the scrapyard, I didn't even bat an eye that this is now a fixture in our front yard.
This is now my normal.

I know that use of the term "normal" is taboo and excludes people.  But I spend a lot of time identifying and defining normal.  And it was not until this morning when I started to think back upon the last couple of years of my life that it occurred to me that I had drifted into the other column. The shift was imperceptible to me, but noticeable to those close to me.  Slowly over time my social activities started to evolve from going to a Brewer game into moving firewood. Nights out at the bar with friends shifted into evenings at home watching the burn pile blaze and setting off fireworks.  Going to the movies is now a second choice to a trip to the scrapyard.  I am in the "not most people" column...and I never saw it coming.

If you would have asked me three years ago what my definition of fun was, what my definition of important was, and what my definition of normal was very different than what it is today. 
This is my normal. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Dog By Any Other Name...

The other night Bryan, Annabelle, and I were enjoying some quality family time together in our living room. I was having a rough night to begin with, as I appear to be suffering some PTSD on a daily basis as a result of placing Annabelle in daycare each day.

The three of us were on the couch enjoying Annabelle’s latest trick, screeching like a wounded Pterodactyl. She does not screech because she is fussy or unhappy, she screeches because she has just recently learned that this is super fun and this unbelievably LOUD, high-pitched noise comes right out of her very own little throat! What could be more fun than that? Bryan called them “Creature Noises.”

So Bryan and I were discussing these new sounds and trying to predict how long they may last when our attention turned to the dogs. Milton was lying on the floor in front of us and Bernie was curled up under Bryan’s desk in our guest room. Bryan confessed to me that earlier in the day he had been petting Milton and whispered to Milton that he may like him more than he likes Bernie. He was afraid that Bernie heard this comment and was now depressed.

I said that it was a ridiculous statement because eve n though Milton is “my” dog, Bernie is hands down a much better dog than Milton. I don’t even know where I would begin if I wanted to create list of reasons why, but he is definitely the better dog. I think the overall reason is that Bernie is a more empathetic and sensitive dog. Last night I was feeling a little blue, and I just know that if Bernie had thumbs, he would have fixed me a drink and brought me a handkerchief to dry my tears. Milton, on the other hand, would have just said “Is dinner ready yet? What are we having?” Bernie cares more about my feelings than Milton does.

While I was contemplating which dog I loved most, Bryan called Bernie over. Bernie did not move. Bryan called him again and he didn’t move. Bryan said “come on, let’s go” and nothing. Then he said “Get in the truck,” and nothing. It was at that point that I feared the worst. I could tell Bryan thought the same thing I did. We sat there not breathing believing that on the very day bryan told Milton he was his favorite, Bernie died. And he died believing he wasn’t loved anymore. I, already on the verge of an emotional Tsunami, began to panic while I clutched Annabelle close. Bryan got up and went to go look at Bernie. We really were certain Bernie had died of what I would most likely state for years to come was a broken heart.

Fear not. Thankfully, Bernie was not dead, he was just pissed at us apparently and didn’t feel like getting up, moving, or letting us see that he was breathing. So it turned out to be a good night after all.

But it occurred to me this same thing happened very recently with Milton just before Christmas. When Milton is asleep on the floor, you cannot see his little doggy body move when he’s breathing, at all. We were eating dinner and the exact same thing happened. We called his name, and he didn’t move, and then we joked that he was dead, and then we really thought he was dead, and then I got up to poke him. Upon the death poke, he halfheartedly opened an eye and looked at me.

What I cannot figure out is why our pets look dead when they are resting. I suppose it’s possible they both have Sleep Apnea and need some sort of doggy CPAP machine, but I don’t have enough scrap metal in the house to generate the income required to pay for CPAPs for the dogs.

What is irritating about this voluntary condition our dogs suffer from, is that Bryan can silently slip one toe into a boot without making an audible noise and both of those dogs somehow feel the air shift and come running from every corner of the house at full speed (frantically clicking their DOGGY TOENAILS ON THE HARDWOOD FLOOR THE WHOLE TIME) to go engage in whatever fun activity they think Bryan is about to go do without them. But if we request their presence for an activity and they believe it isn’t worth their time, well…they just really don’t care.

As I do with everything that goes awry in our house, I blame Bryan for this affliction our dogs have. He is forever talking nonsense to these dogs. He’s always in their faces just spewing forth nonsensical babble because he believes the dogs enjoy it. I believe it has become noise to them and they now listen to NOTHING he says because they think it is all ridiculous.

For example, my dog’s name is Milton. But very quickly after I got him Bryan gave him a nickname. That nickname was Pokuernoes (pronounced POE-CARE-NOSE), because he believed that was the Spanish word for “small” or “little.” I did inform him the word he was thinking of was pequino, but he was uninterested. So Milton became Pokuernoes. Then it quickly evolved into just “Kuernoes (pronounced CARE-NOSE). Sadly, his fourth alias is my fault.

I developed an obsessive, borderline psychotic crush on the Latvian anesthesiologist who was present during my C-Section. I spoke of him often (and still do), and shamelessly flirted with him in my hospital room when I was probably the MOST unattractive a person can possibly be while still having a measurable pulse. Upon returning home from the hospital I downloaded his picture from the hospital website and put it on my phone, emailed it to friends, and briefly had it as my desktop wallpaper on my laptop. Bryan and I continually joke about him and my obsession with him often. In fact, when Bryan is not behaving to my high standards, I often threaten to leave him for the anesthesiologist. I suppose I am just assuming the anesthesiologist feels the same way. I guess it is possible that he may not share my feelings as his only interaction with me was while I was the size of a water buffalo and had not slept, showered, or eaten in 3 or 4 days.
MY POINT (yes, I have one) is that the doctor’s last name was Milshteyn. So because the name Milshteyn is so close to Milton and was getting thrown around by both myself and Bryan rather liberally, it just made sense to start referring to Milton as Milshteyn too. SO when it is all said and done Milton on an average day is called: Milton, Pokuernoes, Kuernoes, and Milshteyn..and lately, sometimes just Shteyn. Bryan commented that we may have turned him into a Schizophrenic.

The bottom line is that I threaten the lives of these animals routinely. There is not a day that goes by where I do not threaten to shoot them, punch them, hang them, throw them onto the burn pile, or shave them bald. I also routinely tell them I hate them and that they smell bad. And they do smell bad. Very bad. And everything I own is covered in dog hair. But I love both these dogs and Bryan loves these dogs more than I do. Bryan would carry Milton around in a Baby Bjorn if I let him. But these dogs are happy and fun-loving, and a part of our little hillbilly family and I can’t imagine not having them around.

Bernie is the sensitive and caring dog who will put his head in your lap if you are crying, and remain there until you feel better. Milton is the fun “look at me” dog who will lick your face from the moment you wake in the morning until the moment you go to bed at night. He will lick your face until his tongue bleeds if you let him, all because he loves you so much. They are wonderful dogs.  There is nothing that makes you love your dogs more than thinking they’re dead. Twice.

After reading this over I decided Bryan and I should probably think long and hard before having a second child, because clearly we pick favorites…and then tell the favorite they’re the favorite. I think that’s maybe a parenting no-no.

I also wish I would have sent Dr. Milshteyn a Christmas card.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Little Match Rooster

Today is the first day it has felt and looked like winter out here in middle earth. And now that Christmas is over, it's not as much fun as I thought it would be.

This week went by all too quickly after a wonderful Christmas spent with family, and several days with my mom, dad, and Annabelle in my hometown…I returned home only to be reminded that Christmas is over, the tree must come down, and I am forced to return to work tomorrow which means leaving Annabelle again.

So immediately after waking this morning, I gingerly put away all the Christmas ornaments and supervised Bryan removing all the lights and labeling each string “partially out” with my label maker. It’s much more fun to fix Christmas lights before Christmas than after, trust me on this.

As if taking the Christmas tree down isn’t depressing enough, I had to watch Bryan hacksaw ours into 3 pieces and stuff it into our woodstove and burn it. I suppose I should take comfort in the fact that it heated our house today, but mostly it was just depressing. And there’s something not right about hearing a loved one say “Ok. Going to burn the Christmas tree.”
(Feel Free to make note of Milton about to eat a mini-pumpkin that we heaved into the yard after the season of giving Thanks).

To distract myself from the impending Seasonal Affective Disorder, and the fact that I am going to be again separated from my baby for far too many hours and days, I am attempting to distract myself with one of my Christmas presents from Bryan.

Yes, that’s right, a book about raising chickens. Bryan is not going to let me skip around the property collecting eggs and giving the chickens clever names like Cluckles and Bob, I apparently must KNOW what we’re doing. Sigh. So let me share with you some highlights of chicken ownership that I may not have been aware of prior to receiving my chicken book:

1. Under the section “Poisons and Other Hazards” was the following chart:
Poison - Source
Copper Sulfate -Antifungal Treatment
Ethylene Glycol -Spilled Antifreeze
Mercury -Disinfectant or Fungicide
Lead -Paint or Orchard Spray
Carbon Monoxide -Carrying chickens in trunk of car

Ummm…is this a potential threat? Other than getting your initial chicken purchase home, when is this going to be an issue?? I’m sure those of you who are coworkers of mine will be disappointed to learn that with this knowledge I can no longer transport my chickens to and from the office every day.

2. In the chapter “routine management” I learned that if your chickens are not given space and time to “scratch” you have to trim their beaks. Chickens can develop serious eating and health issues if their top beak is allowed to grow too long. When I was pregnant it was quickly decided that Bryan was going to be in charge of trimming the baby’s fingernails, as it seemed (and still does seem) to be too frightening a task. How am I expected to trim a LIVE CHICKEN’S BEAK? How does one even execute such a beauty regime? And while the book does give simple instruction on how to handle this, I guarantee you my beak-trimming will not end well. That can be one of Annabelle's chores.

3. Under the section “how to butcher your chicken” I learned the four acceptable ways to humanely end a chicken’s life. I think if forced into that situation I will choose method number four- a handgun. “A .22 handgun makes a fast, clean job of it but is a suitable option only if you live in a rural area where shooting is legal and may be done safely.” Am I the only one who thinks shooting a chicken is a bit excessive?

4. And finally…you can learn to communicate with chickens using such chicken words like “tuck, tuck, tuck.” This point was illustrated by the author’s own personal account of using this language to communicate with a rooster. She told a story about finding a strange rooster in their yard during a snowstorm. Knowing it would surely freeze and die, they tried to catch it and coax it with food with no success. It would just fly up into a tree and remain there. The woman finally came out and said “tuck, tuck, tuck” and the rooster flew into her arms. It’s possible I’m paraphrasing.

Bryan was reading this section to me while we were driving to my sister’s for Christmas day. My only response was “Where do these people live that they have rogue roosters just flying around their yard in the middle of winter?” and of course Bryan said “that happened to me once.” He then shared his own tale of rogue roosterdom.

Basically the exact same thing happened to him. One snowy day in winter there was a rooster in his yard and he tried everything to catch it. He apparently did not know the patented “tuck, tuck, tuck” method of rooster-catching because he didn’t catch it. He said after two days he gave up. Now I assumed this story would end with the rooster meeting his demise via butchering method four- being shot with a handgun. But no…sadly this rooster froze to death. We know this because Bryan found him in the spring. I said it was just like that Christmas story, the Little Match Girl.

In case you, like Bryan, are not familiar with the story, the Little Match Girl is a heartwarming Christmas story by Hans Christen Andersen wherein a little poverty stricken girl is forced to sell matches in the street. It is freezing cold out, but she has to keep selling matches because if she doesn’t, her father will beat her when she gets home. So she decides to sit down and rest, and while resting she sees her grandmother. As it turns out, she sees her grandmother because she is in heaven as she has died in the street. Merry Christmas to you too, Hans.

It was this heartwarming holiday tale that reminded me of Bryan’s rogue rooster from the Christmas of 2007. We will never know his story.

Many thanks to my not-quite-yet-a-husband for a Christmas present that continues to amuse me daily. And while I look out the window and realize I have to get up at five a.m. to drive 60 miles to work with a wind chill of -12, I think of the poor Little Match Rooster, frozen to death under a winter’s worth of snow, having been moved twice by a snow plow, and I am counting my lucky stars...but not before they're hatched.

Happy New Year.