Wednesday, August 20, 2014

You Can't Fight City Hall

When Moondoggy retired, he decided that in honor of leaving an atmosphere that was stress heavy and meticulous, he would endeavor to be kinder and gentler.  And, he will tell you he has been fairly successful, if you ask.  So, it was with a bit of shock that I watched him slowly get spun up about something as benign as a dog license.

As new residents in SoCal, we wanted to do what's right, be good citizens, and that included getting our two dogs properly licensed with the city.  So, after we took the dogs into the vet and got them all caught up on shots, we trotted across the street to the city hall to register them and get their licenses. Easy, right?  We had immediate proof of shots in hand, cash at the ready and the desire to do the right thing.  Except, that the city hall people don't care so much about the shots as they do about making sure the dogs are fixed.  For what it's worth, mine are both males and they have been neutered.  

The city hall employee, who, I am positive was sick the day they taught customer service at city hall school never even cracked a smile when she boldly said, 'I can't and won't license these dogs.  I need their official certification that they have been fixed."  Um, ok, how hard can that be, right?  They have been seen by the vet and she can confirm that have been neutered, so we trot back over and ask the vet for official certification of neutering.  The answer? "We can't give that to you because they weren't neutered here."  Moondoggy, still of the kinder and gentler demeanor says, "No, they were both neutered in Illinois but sense you have it on record here that they are in fact, unable to reproduce, can you give me something to take back to city hall?"  The simple answer was "no."  

Moondoggy has a vein the pops out of his forehead when he starts to get frustrated and it was throbbing by this point.  But, instead of getting worked up, we went home and called the vet in Illinois who happily volunteered to send whatever paperwork they had concerning our dogs.

That paperwork arrived yesterday so today we headed back to city hall ready to be good citizens.  Moondoggy waltzed in, proof of shots, and paperwork from Illinois that included the date and bill of Porter's( my 2 year old dog) surgery and a medical record for my 12 year old dog, Moose, that was labeled "neutered."  The same city hall lady who shunned us before took one look at the paper work and said, "those aren't official certificates of neutering."  Moondoggy kindly explained that Illinois does not have those certificates but this paperwork proved that both dogs had been fixed (one 12 years ago).  She glanced at them again and said that since there was a date of surgery and a bill that said "paid", she would license Porter because it proved we paid for it, but she could not license Moose.  The vein popped on Moondoggy's forehead but he took a deep breath and said,  "I don't have a receipt for a 12 year old surgery on my dog, but the paperwork clearly says he is neutered."  She indignantly drew herself up a few inches and replied as if it should be perfectly obvious, "But it doesn't show you paid for it."  The logic of that argument completely gobsmacked Moondoggy but he recovered brilliantly, "Ok," he said, "I need a one license for my dog Porter, please."  

"What," she asked, "about the other dog?"

"Moose?  I don't need a license for him, he's a cat."

Monday, August 4, 2014

I Don't Know Why I Swallowed The Fly

Summer in the midwest means mosquitoes - swarms of them.  Some people wear bug spray, some fog their yards and some just don't go outside.  Upon moving west to the desert, I waved goodbye to the national bird of the midwest and haven't looked back. I've even been kind of smug about it, sitting outside in the evenings smirking at the lack of mosquito company.  Well, it appears that karma has caught up to me and she's thrown down the gauntlet.

I don't battle mosquitoes here.  No, instead I battle flies. Ordinary houseflies that have been bred to be bold, pesky and prolific.They say that the perfect storm of location (across from agricultural fields, a few miles from the Polo grounds, on a golf course) coupled with an overly humid summer has created a mass swarm of flies that seem to like my yard.  I know I'm not alone because neighbors and friends have commented about them, too, but it seems like I have the yard all the flies flock to just like the one house in the neighborhood where all the kids played.

As I said, these flies are bold, they aren't put off by swatting.  So, I have launched an all out assault and I'm here to tell you what has worked. . .and what hasn't.

My first line of defense was bug spray.  Not wanting to douse myself with untold quantities of DEET every day, I did some research and came up with a formula that isn't as dangerous.  It involves a magic mix of Avon's Skin So Soft Bathe Oil (bought off Amazon) with vinegar, water and eucalyptus and Lavender essential oils (also Amazon).  And it works, too . . .except that I have to bath in the stuff and it is oil. . .which is oily and, well, at least it smells good.

I looked into the old bag of pennies in water.  The reflection of pennies in water throw off the fly's directional compass. Fail.
I tried planting mint around the backyard. Fail (anyone need some mint?? I have plenty now.)
I tucked dryer sheets in the cushions of the outdoor furniture and laid them out on tables around the yard. Meh.
I tried Citronella candles.  Mild success but I think that's because I killed one fly and left it next to the burning candle to serve as an example to the others.
I tried an electric fly swatter.  (Don't ask but it does involve a very satisfying zap and sizzle if you hit a fly). Amazon Prime!

We tried fly traps (Amazon again).  Bags filled with something that smells like rotting fish guts that ended up attracting every fly in the county to my yard.  Fail.

We found a highly touted Maxforce Fly Spot Bait. . .a mixture you spray where flies congregate, attracts them and kills them in 60 seconds.  Amazon reviews were impressive.  I watched as flies started milling around the areas we sprayed acting all nonchalant, then dying, sometimes mid-air and falling to the ground.  It was great. . . for about 2 hours and then it was like we never sprayed.

The flies love us and so does Amazon.

Finally, We heard that flies don't like fans because they disturb the flight pattern.  So, we bought one.  And this is what I've finally figured out: If I spray myself with my magic mix, wear a sequined outfit or swim suit and tuck a little dryer sheet in my top, sit with the fan facing me while holding a can of Black Flag for good measure, I can go about 10 minutes before the flies figure it out.  

Truth be told, I don't believe these flies are really flies. I think they are drones and if that is the case, the next time they start flying around me they'd better be carrying my next Amazon order.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Let Us Pray

A while back. . . like over a year ago, I made a blog entry concerning my views on politics and God.  I won't rehash either but, it serves this entry to know that I do believe in God.  That is to say, I believe in God but I don't necessarily believe in religion and the by-product of it all is that I am having a crisis of prayer.

I'm not looking for debate on whether prayer is good or helpful.  I'm not looking for specific instructions on how to pray either because that seems to be from where my problems stem.

My church classes, both as a child and an adult, taught me that God is all knowing and all forgiving.  God makes the plan and as Christians, we live to honor His name in our actions. Ideally, we are to offer ourselves every day to Him and ask Him to use us to do His work.  I accept that.  I also accept that in bad times, He always provides a gift.  So, in considering the above, this is where my crisis of prayer comes into play.

In church I was taught to pray specifically.  "Dear Lord, we pray that you guide the captain, the co-captain and the navigator of this plane.  We pray that you are with the mechanics as they ensure the safety of the craft.  We pray this in God's name. Amen."  That's pretty specific; a targeted prayer . . . except that it flies in the face of the whole acceptance of "God makes the plan" part.  No amount of praying is going to change the course of His plan, right? So why are we praying?

On a daily basis, friends ask for prayers, sometimes for sick loved ones, sometimes for healing, sometimes for something more tangible like getting a job or a part in a play.  And I dutifully respond - "Praying", "On it" and I expend energy on whatever was requested.  But what if what is being asked is not in His plan?  What if His plan is to NOT let the asker get the job, or (hard to accept) not recover from an illness?

Prayer warriors,  prayer chains, prayer groups; prayer is a common bond among many.  Our beliefs might be 180 out from one another in many subjects but we come together in prayer.  The question, though, that keeps going through my head is this: If God is perfect and He made the plan, then aren't our prayer efforts in groups or alone really just collective wishing?  And if having faith means, at its core, that I trust that His plan is perfect even when is seems utterly horrendous, then isn't praying for a change like saying, "I don't like what your doing and I want it to go this way instead?" And isn't that line of thinking the opposite of believing in God is all about? Specific, targeted prayer flies in the face of Faith. It seems to me that the prayer should be more along the lines of "Please allow me to accept what is happening" or "Thank you for this difficult situation because I know You have a gift for me in all of this." I struggle with this daily, trying to realign my thoughts and prayers to be less specific, less about what I/we/others are asking for and more about how to find the Easter Egg, if you will, in what is happening around me.  What would Jesus do?

I'm seriously looking for input here, in fact, I've been praying about it. Anyone want to weigh in?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Lucy and Ethel or a Reasonable Facsimile

Before my children grew up and moved out and we moved on, one of my best friends (known in our house as My Cindy) happened to live next door.  The close proximity and fact that our kids were best friends provided countless opportunities for us to hang around one another.  Many was the day where one of us would say, "Hey! I was thinking about doing X, come with me. .. help me. . .whatever."  And sometimes (most times), the ideas seemed a little crazy to the outside world.  Somewhere there is a home movie taken by a family who came to a New Years Party My Cindy and I threw for the millennium.  And sometime during the evening after a lot of champagne, she talked me into photo bombing - even before it was a thing - their home movie of this party.  So, as we danced around the dance floor, we maneuvered ourselves in front of the video camera and Cindy whispered, up close to the lens, "Riley (name of the camera holder's son), Date my daughter. . . .Erica M." and then we danced away without the camera man really even noticing (until they viewed the video at home. . .with their family.)  It was antics like that that earned us the nicknames of Lucy and Ethel.  We interchanged who was who depending on the situation and who had the hair-brained idea.  Although I maintain I was Ethel way more often!

One of the things I miss, having moved away, are my Lucy and Ethel days. So, when Moondoggy asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I said I wanted a spa day and I wanted him to join me.  I showed him the website of Two Bunch Palms Spa and left the room.  He gave me that "Lucy????  What are you planning?? " look but 20 minutes later he emerged from the den and said, "You're booked."

"Just me?" I asked.

He huffed and conceded, "No. . .both of us.  Mud baths, herbal wraps with facial and massage, mineral spring soak and lunch."  I was elated!  Him?  He was being a good sport but, joy!  I had an Ethel

When we arrived, we were given robes and lead to the hot spring to soak before our mud bath.  "Can't we just stay here?"Moondoggy asked as we basked in the hot mineral spring. Nope.

Our therapist met us and led us to our own private hut with two tubs brimming with hot peat mud, instructed us to get naked and climb in, wiggling ourselves deep into the mud. "This is disgusting," Moondoggy murmured as he lowered himself into the tub.  I ignored him and let the warmth and weight of the mud blanket me.  And then it got quiet.  We lay there submerged up to our necks in mud with occasional sips of water provided by out therapist who held the glass and gently placed the straws to our lips.  Not a word was spoken until the therapist informed us we had 5 minutes left.  Then, out of the mouth of my ever complaining Ethel who was simply being a good sport for my birthday came this, "I don't want to get out."

By the time the herb wrap and facial with massage was started, he was like an old pro.  As we lay there on separate tables allowing the herbal oil soak into our newly massaged bodies, I said, "Thanks, Ethel, for doing this.  I've had fun."

His response, "Shhhh.  Don't harsh my mellow."  I fear he may become a Lucy.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Teaching Moments. . .Not Always What You Expect

For many years I worked in an elementary school as a paraprofessional; specifically in the fourth grade. During those years I worked in the classroom of probably one of  the most loved science teachers to teach there.  Mr. B was tall with long (and I mean very long, waist length) hair usually pulled back into a pony tail or long braid.  He wore worn blue jeans, lumberjack shirts and hiking boots most of the time and he often veered off course with stories; teaching moments about his experiences in the prairie, knowledge of rocks, his interest in native americans or other random bits of information that kids held on to like nuggets of gold.  Except, often those teaching moments were more for entertainment value, as it were. Many were the times I'd bury my head in my hands as he imparted kernels of wisdom like the fact that milk is produced in the sweat glands of the cow so, essentially, milk is cow's sweat.  Fodder for a 10 year old's brain. And he wouldn't leave it there, when passing out milks during milk break, he would say, "Cow sweat for you, cow sweat for you, etc."  

More enlightening, even, was the day he stopped whatever lesson he was teaching to tell the kids that if they needed to survive and there was no water available, they could drink their own urine.  Yep.  He said that -- and he'd emphasize, "But it HAS to be your own!" The classroom fell apart with "Eew, groooossss," and kids falling over each other in mock gag before one would yell, "May I have a pass for the bathroom?  I'm thirsty!" 

 So, once, when discussing water and energy, he began a lecture on dams of which the next town over had a nice one.  He said the word a few times and the kids started giggling, the way 4th graders do, about Mr. B saying "dam".  And he took off with it, "You can see it if you drive there.  Just park your car in the dam parking lot."  Titters and giggles. "You might even take a dam tour.  I think there is a dam store for souvenirs," he continued and the kids were rolling, trying to make up their own. "Hey!  Where does all that dam water go?" another kid piped in.  And it went on and on.  Such was the nature of Mr. B The thing is, I'll bet if you ask any kid in that class that year, they remember those moments.  

Last week we were in Alaska.  There is a lot of roadwork happening there right now and one of the companies doing work is called Quality Ashphalt Paving or as they are known in Alaska, QAP (pronounced KWAP). Sitting in front of a man who proudly wore an orange vest with QAP emblazoned across the back, holding a stop sign to keep traffic in one place until the QAP backhoe could move. . .we turned into 10 year olds.  Moondoggy said, "I wonder if he likes his QAP job?" and we started; delighting ourselves with the silliest of thoughts:
He works for QAP
QAP is big around here
It's a QAP job
That loader is a QAP loader
Wonder if he has a  QAP boss. . .

Mr B. left teaching 10 years ago to move west and work for something environmental but for a few moments last week he was right there is Alaska with us.  So go ahead. . . join in the fun.  Sometimes being 10 is the perfect stress reliever.  Throw some QAP my way and you might even learn something in the process.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

It's All About Customer Service

If the Universe has a sense of humor, her name is Karma and I got to watch her in action the other day. She really is sweet.

It's no secret the Moondoggy has a car problem.  I stopped counting long ago but just know that I have driven american, japanese, swedish, and german cars; small, large, frugal and extravagant, some outstanding and some disappointments.

Before we moved west, I drove a very nice car.  I loved it.  I loved the dealership - we'll call it M,"Can I get you some wine, Mrs. Coltman, while they wash your car?"  Loved it. But, with our then impending move from the midwest to the west, we sold the car and ordered a new one of the same make for when we arrived in the sunshine state.  That was seven months ago.

When we arrived, we picked up the new vehicle from M, let's call it GLK.  I loved it.  I loved the look, I loved the drive. . . I loved it for the first 800 miles until it suffered a massive computer glitch that threatened the integrity of the engine.  "We're sorry.  Bring it in.  We'll try to fix it."  Try. And 12 days later they called to let us know it was a software issue and ready for pick-up.  And thus began the trips to the dealership for brake issues, a cracked engine cover and yet MORE software problems. Moondoggy was not tolerating this and took it through the channels of management with dismal results.  Finally, upon the 6th time in with less than 13,000 miles on it, he asked them to just buy the damn thing back.  Hands up, palms out, the M dealership says, "Oh no, it isn't our problem." Really?  The  M dealership that sold us car GLK is saying it isn't their problem?  And worse, "We aren't in a position to buy that vehicle back"  followed by and GET THIS, "Go hire a lawyer."

Moondoggy weighed the prospect and decided it wasn't worth the hassle.  He went to a competing dealership  A, that sells a competing vehicle (lets call it MDX) that he likes and made a deal.  They bought the GLK and we are getting one of theirs.

This whole story is leading up to the following moment. . . friends, meet Karma:  After shaking on the deal, we walk out of the salesman's office and run into one of his clients.  It is the service manager of Dealership M and he is there to pick up his brand new MDX because. . . drumroll. . . . apparently he prefers to drive As.

Karma grinned.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Breaking Bad Put Me Through the Ringer

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT for Breaking Bad and my apology for a long post.

I came a little late to the party as far as Breaking Bad, the TV series is concerned.  I knew about it, understood the premise and had even seen snippets here and there but did not start watching it until some time in late October.  Through the magic of Netflix, we were able to watch 5 years worth of show in a few short weeks.  At first we figured we'd watch it when nothing else was on but, when I (we - Moondoggy was equally invested here) did start, I was hooked; pun intended.

I don't think I've ever experienced this depth of emotion with a television show; characters I loved and loathed, often in the same breathe. The subject matter was ugly, the presentation often humorous.  That's life.  One of the arguments I've read against the show was that it glorified crystal meth.

Glorified? I lost count of how many people died because of the stuff - perhaps more indirectly than directly. Periferal characters that had great potential died via murder, overdose, greed. Countless also are the many lives beyond the immediate users and producers that were negatively impacted simply by the production of the stuff.  Glorfied?  No.  To me the obvious message was Meth = Bad. I see no glory in that.  But here is where the brilliance of that message, the writers, directors and actors drive the point home.   They are not gorgeous, well dressed, financially successful people. In fact, they define ordinary with all of the blemishes that come with it. Walt, Skylar and Walt Jr. (Flynn) are just average people, we identify with them and understand that on some level, we are them. How close am I (you) to finding yourself in a desperate situation?  At what point is doing bad for good acceptable?

There are long running themes and literary devices that ribbon their way throughout all 5 seasons.  Dual identities: Walter/ Heisenberg, Walter Jr./ Flynn, Marie/ any number of personas as she flits from Open House to Open House. Good vs. Evil: Walter as the teacher and family man vs. Meth cook and murderer, Gus Fring as a Do-Gooder Chicken Franchise Owner vs. Cold blooded Meth Kingpin, Saul "Good"man as the crooked lawyer. I won't even explore the nuances of color.

What was most shocking to me was the way the show's themes stirred my emotions.  As I said , from the first episode I was hooked.  I loved it.  I wanted more.  And so, through the magic of Netflix, we set out to watch an episode when there was nothing else to watch on tv.  That quickly escalated into a episode a night, which by the 5th episode became two and three at a sitting.  We watched as Walt, in his best teacher role, guided Jessie through perfect cooks to attain the purest meth around. It's all fun and games until someone dies (and believe me, they start dying in droves).  Then, it get's intense.  What does a chemistry teacher do with a dead body?  Dissolve it in a barrel of acid, of course.  Shocking.

And after a nightly marathon of Breaking Bad, depending on the episodes, I would feel exhilarated, or anxious, sometimes sad or even downright pissy.  We both felt it. We knew it was from the high dose of "Bad" we had watched and had to force ourselves to watch something funny before going to bed just to take the edge off. We rollercoastered through seasons 3 and 4.  High highs, low lows. Moondoggy would ask, "What do you want to do today?"  I'd reply, "Nothing. Nap, maybe.  Another Breaking Bad."

With each episode and each new season, affable Walter allows his bad ass alter ego to emerge.  Through 5 and a half seasons we watched as he faced true evil in Gus Fring and later with Uncle Jack. He faces them and outwits them and continues to produce a product that has been called the downfall of our nations youth.  His justification?  His product is pure.  He is doing it to secure the financial future of his family because, after all, he has cancer and is going to die.  Does that make all of it more pallatable?  Is it supposed to? I don't know.  It didn't for me.  I despised Walter by the fifth season. And then something terrible happened, the fifth season was released in two parts; the second and final part UNAVAILABLE on Netflix.  Not only was I not going to get my fix of BB, it wasn't going to be available for awhile.  My heart pounded, I felt panicky.  And that is when I realized my addiction to BB was parallel to what addiction is like for users.  I was willing to go out and buy the whole boxed set just for the last 8 episodes (thankfully Moondoggy talked me out of it).  I checked Netflix daily sometimes hourly to see if it updated with no luck.  Finally, I found a video store (an actual store where you can rent dvds - almost impossible to find around here).  Motherlode! I could feed the monster that was my need to see BB to the end.

In a two day marathon, we watched all 8 epidodes;  the final demise of Walt. He dies. . .gunshot wound, death through meth, not cancer.  Fitting.  I worried about Jessie who wanted out so badly but was always dragged back down because of Walter until he was not only a figuative prisoner of Meth, he was literally a prisoner to Uncle Jack, forced to cook Meth to stay alive.

But even with the closure, a few concerns remain. I worry about the effect of all of this on Walter Jr. I wonder if Skylar was able to get out of her money laundering charges. Jessie is finally free, but what happens to him?  These questions weren't answered so I have taken it upon myself to sketch out what I'd like to have seen after the credits were finished rolling.

A small group of people sit in a circle.  It's a rehab group. One of the group, a young housewife, is talking about a particularly difficult  moment during the week where she wanted to use.  An unseen voice thanks her and then asks another young, withdrawn, angry looking guy if he'd like to say anything.  Anything.  He is silent, his jaw is twitching.  Finally he sneers and looks up at the group leader and snarls, "You bitches have no idea what I've seen and done,  you'd never understand."  The camera pans to the group leader, Jessie Pinkman, "Probably not," he responds, "but why don't you tell us."

Finally, in a busy Dunkin Donuts in Omaha, Nebraska, Saul Goodman runs the counter.  There is a jar on one side of the counter marked "Tips" and a jar on the otherside maked "Legal Tips".  A thug stands in line, orders a donut and stashes a handful of cash in the Legal Tip jar.  Saul Goodman hands him an envelope.  The thug leaves, Saul cleans out the Legal Tip jar and then puts a five dollar bill back in the jar .


Now I have to go watch some Big Bang Theory or How I Met Your Mother reruns.