Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I am overcome by the heebie-jeebies and it has nothing to do with Halloween.

Last night I was treating an area on the dog that she had scratched into a raw, oozy mess.  She does this every once in a while, and I wind up tormenting her by holding her down to clean the area and then subjecting her to wearing a shirt that covers the swollen mess, preventing her from continuing to scratch at it.

Poor thing.

While cleaning her wound, I noticed a small, brown freckle off to the side of it, near her belly. It wasn't just any freckle. It was a moving freckle--a tiny, mobile freckle with tiny, minuscule legs.


I tried to remove it, thinking it was a flea, but this freckle wasn't coming off the dog.  It was a tick, and it had already started its meal.  

Freaking out, and suddenly feeling very itchy, I started going over the dog and found several more, barely visible, ticks.  Despite the fact that it was midnight and I had been planning on going to bed, the next hour was spent bathing the dog, throwing out her bed, stripping the bedding off our bed, which she had just been laying on for hours beforehand, and pulling at least 30 ticks in various stages of engorgement off of the dog.

I shudder just retelling it.

I applied Frontline Plus, which prevents flea and tick infestations, all the while kicking myself that I hadn't been better about regularly using it on her.  We've had her for over three years and this is the first problem we've ever had with fleas or ticks.  I let myself be lulled into thinking we didn't need to use it.  Foolish me.

Now, I am completely grossed out and investigating how many pounds of chemicals I need to buy to de-tickify our lawn and home.

And I still constantly feel itchy.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pure As The Driven Snow

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou - Free Online Dating

I have to say I was a little surprised by this one.  Not that I regularly curse on this site, but I thought there might have been some commenters in the past that have.  Or maybe a post or two in which I might have used even a tiny swear word.

But, I guess not.

When I was a kid, from about the age of 11-14, I went through a phase where I thought it was really cool to swear. Whenever we weren't around adults, my friends and I would use the most foul language we knew. Really foul. Sailor foul. Still-can't-say it-on-TV foul. We would take the long way home from school and make up new words to use, combining several four-letter words into one supercalifragilistic swear word.

I don't know why.  Maybe we were bored.  Maybe it was an easy way to rebel without actually doing something very serious. Maybe the adults in our lives were a horrible influence on us. Maybe we watched too much cable TV.

The funny thing is that I eventually completely dropped swear words from my vocabulary.  I was 14 and entering my sophomore year in high school. It occurred to me that swearing made me appear to be something I wasn't. I wasn't a dangerous, bad-girl, smoking cigarettes in the bathroom kind of person. I wasn't a punk anarchist, even if I did own a Violent Femmes album. 

It didn't fit me.

I also realized that swearing profusely alienates people.  It makes people uncomfortable.  They aren't sure what to say or how to react. They wonder if you might be a little off-kilter if every sentence is punctuated with f**k.

So bye-bye went my potty mouth.

Raising kids has taken the parsing of words to a whole new level.  What words, or expressions, do I let my kids use?  I know some parents who discourage all substitutes like "darn" or "heck" or "crap". "Darn" doesn't bother me. "Heck" is something I could tolerate, but I don't encourage. "Crap"....well, that just seems crass to me.  

What's funny is that a verboten term in our house is the word "stupid".  It's not allowed.  We don't call things or people stupid, or even dumb.  I would rather hear my children curse than use that word, especially if it's directed at somebody. It is so belittling and full of contempt. 

We also avoid the term "shut up".  See above paragraph for the reasoning.

This has led to some interesting encounters.  My brother and his wife, both Christian and conservative and not too different on issues than I am, allow their children to use "stupid" and "shut-up", but not "darn" and "heck". My kids respond with shock and horror when their cousins call something stupid, or say that they're doing something stupid.  

I guess that's the natural course of swearing.....offending people with words that mean nothing to us, but are shocking to them.

Anyway....feel assured dear reader. 

0% swear level on this blog

0%...as in, not once....ever.....like, since I created this blog over two years ago.

It's about damn time I was recognized for something. 


Friday, October 24, 2008

I approve this message

Dear Obama and McCain,

I realize Florida is a battleground state.  Things are always close and unpredictable here, election-wise.  We have young people, old people, rich people, poor people, military people, Jewish people, Christian people, Muslim people, black people, white people, hispanic people--just about any kind of people you could imagine live here.

So, I understand why you find it necessary to bombard us with ads on the TV, Radio, and in our newspapers.  I understand why your poll-takers incessantly call my house.  

However...you are driving me absolutely crazy.  I'm to the point where I don't like either one of you very much.  If I saw you on a crowded street, I'd go the other way.  If I were waiting at the bus stop with you, I'd let you have the bench and stand off to the side, pretending to be interested in the traffic patterns.  

You see....I'd be afraid that I'd have to listen to one more speech from you twisting, spinning, and distorting half-truths at the expense of the other person.  It might make me lose my breakfast.  It might make me run screaming into the night to hear one more attack, rather then hear a single pronouncement about what it is either one of you is planning on actually doing if you are  elected.  And, I'm not talking about the crazy stuff you promise to people that you have no ability to truly accomplish...seeing as you will belong to the executive branch of government, and not the legislative branch.  Veto power is solely a reactive power, not an initiative power.

You have truly turned this election into a thing of dread. Rest assured, whoever I finally pick, it will be with great reluctance and reservation.  You have sucked the joy of voting right out of me.  You have ruined the words "maverick" and "change" for me.  I'll never be able to watch Top Gun, or carry extra coins left over from breaking a dollar, again.

Oh and can you please tell your supporters to stop pulling crazy stunts, and brain-washing young children to sing your praises in cult-like fashion?

It's really starting to get on my nerves.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

post of the day

I haven't read dangerous idea in a while. 

I went over this morning and found a post that reflects how I have been thinking about this election, in regards to the abortion issue, and whether Christians are bound to vote for a particular candidate.  There isn't a direct link, perhaps because of the hateful responses Reppert has received from certain bloggers, but it's the first post on his blog: "The One-Issue Abortion Vote".

It's a good post, but the comments are long and weighty, so you might want to set aside some time to read them if you're interested.

Now I remember why I linked to that blog in the first place.....good food for thought, and a different perspective.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"After School Special" moment

The Rationalist brought home a field trip form last week.  Because I'm not working this year, I was happy to offer to be a parent chaperon.  

"Oh neat, I can go with you on your field trip this year!"

awkward pause

"Do you want me to be a chaperon?"

"I don't know. Will your hair be back by then?"

"Uh....considering it's only a few weeks away, probably not. Why?"

"Well, I don't want you to go if you're bald."

"Why not?"

"It might be embarrassing. What if everyone says, 'Hey J--, your mom is bald?' What if people laugh at you?"

"What if they do?  Do you think your friends are that mean?"

"I don't know.  I just don't want them to see you bald."

"Well...I always wear a hat when I'm not at home."

"But what if it falls off, or the wind blows it off?"

"I don't think that's going to happen. Listen, if being embarrassed is the only reason you don't want me to go, that's not a good reason.  There will always be people around who can be mean and make fun of you, or anybody else, for no reason. If you don't do things just because you're afraid that someone might try and embarrass you, there will be a lot of things you'll miss out on in life."

thinking about it

"OK...you can come....just don't wear your Scottish hat.  It looks goofy."

Goofy's a little harsh....don't you think?

Dad, Part 2

I spent this past weekend going through my dad's house.  Because of the way things unfolded with his death, dealing with his house has become a major issue, requiring special cleaners and the need to get rid of most of his furnishings. By the end of the day movers had removed 90% of his furniture, and the house was practically empty.

Except for the garage.

The garage is full of tools, cables, air compressors, vehicle lifts, a mostly-finished rebuilt motorcycle, and more chemicals  than China could hold--spray paint, paint thinners, oil, transmission fluid, gas, anti-freeze and many more that I have no idea what they're for. Something auto-related, I am sure.

The garage, because it is sealed off from the house, has no odor that needs to be dealt with. Instead, I walk into it and I smell my dad as I remember him.  The combined perfume of all those chemicals, a metallic tinge and the scent of rubber hoses and tires.  It's not a bad smell, but the unmistakable perfume of a mechanic's habitat. 

I've smelled that scent since I was a little girl--usually when my dad had us for his visitation and he would take us by where he worked.  My brother and I would put our hands in the vise he used and twist it until we couldn't stand it anymore. We would bring magnets and play with the fine, metal shavings left over from rebuilding engine parts.  We would lay on the flat scooter thingy(the name escapes me), that mechanics use to get under cars, and push off across the garage floor.  It was probably dangerous for us to be there, but we had fun.

All the while my dad would be under the hood of a car, peeking his head up now and again to talk to us.  He would usually have to shout over the loud tape player which seemed to only accept tapes from The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Meatloaf, or....get ready for this one....Conway Twitty.  CONWAY TWITTY. Most of you probably have no idea who he was. A very corny country singer whose songs are all of the "loving and losing" genre.

Going through my dad's things has led to some surprises, and some laughs. When we went to his workplace to go through his toolboxes there, we came across three bags of silverware---real, silver-plated, old, silverware.  They were mixed in with wrenches and sockets. No rhyme or reason to it.  I asked my grandmother if she'd given him any family silverware. Nope.  So why was it there?  Where did it come from? Why did Dad have it in his work toolbox? 

It will remain a mystery.

As I went through his dressers, I would come across those cheap eyeglasses they have at the drugstore.  There must have been at least 10 pairs of them. I think he would buy some, they would get misplaced or covered up by the messiness of his room, so instead of looking for them, he'd just buy another pair.

I found multiples of things like that consistently. Flashlights.  Scissors.  Remote Controls. 1,000 pens.  Unused notebooks. I think his absent-mindedness about where he put things must have been the source of the repetitiveness of these items showing up in every corner of the house.

Going through his things hasn't been traumatic in any way.  

I've saved things that were signature "Dad"--like the two Indian-ish throws he used on his sofa, so he wouldn't get grease all over the couches.  I washed those and will be sending one to my brother.  

I saved two small ziploc bags of "gems"/shiny rocks that he dug out of the earth with my brother's family, this past summer, during one of his vacation weeks.  I have all of the pictures from his childhood, and the ones he had from our childhood. I have his baptism certificate from a Catholic church in Pennsylvania--another mystery considering my grandparents were most definitely non-believers in every way. Perhaps the Irish-Catholic, extended family exerted some influence there.

I'm doing OK with things most of the time. The first week after his death was so busy dealing with the memorial service, cremation, and making arrangements to deal with his house, that I would/could only mourn in brief moments when my mind wasn't occupied.  The day after his service, when the craziness had subsided, was the hardest.  I had nothing to distract myself from his passing, and finally was able to simply miss him.

Now, moments come and go of sadness.  Usually, the sadness comes not mainly from his passing, though I wished it hadn't happened, but from the knowledge that he had died alone and not been found right away.  It's nobody's fault, just a culmination of bad timing.  Still, I wish he had been at work, or out somewhere, so that someone could have attempted to help him, or at the very least saved him from the indignity of being left alone after he passed.

The sadness also comes in wishing I had said more to him over the years.  I don't have any major regrets, I just wished I had praised him more for the good qualities he had while he was here.

Maybe that's the take-home lesson.  Compliment people while they are still here, instead of saving it all up for their memorial.  Let them know what you have learned from them, while they can be encouraged by your words, instead of only wishing you had said it.

I'm going to work on that.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


On October 1st I received a call that no one ever wants to receive.  It was the police department from my father's town. He had passed away in his home. 

I had called him twice that week and he never called back, but then I remembered that he was supposed to be on vacation, so I didn't worry when I hadn't heard from him.  He never showed up for work after his week off, and after 2 days, his employer contacted the police department to check on him.  It wasn't like my dad to miss work, especially without calling. He was a reliable, dependable, hard-working mechanic.

He was supposed to retire in the next few months and had grand plans for his retirement.  He was moving to Alabama.  He was teaching himself to repair motorcycles. He had already mastered the automobile, becoming an ASE Certified Master Automotive Technician in every conceivable category.

It was a sudden and unexpected death.

My dad wasn't a perfect man.  He had his issues.  He could be crusty, cantankerous and gruff.  If you had 13 items in the 10-item checkout lane, he'd probably give you a hard time.  If you drove slowly, he was probably calling you a whole host of names you'd never heard before.  He could be downright hilarious when ranting in his sarcastic, yet not too caustic way.  He made people laugh.  He was one of those people other people call, "a character".

I knew all of his strengths and weaknesses. I knew his flaws and quirks.....a combined experience of time with him, stories from my grandmother and my aunt and uncles...and sometimes even from him, when I could get him to open up about his early years and the hurts he lived through. I knew more about him, and what made him tick, then he probably knew.

Because of that, I knew underneath that prickly exterior was a soft heart.  He would visit and wrestle with his grandchildren.  He would go to the beach with us when we would visit him. Every card he ever sent me was sentimental....at least twenty lines of Hallmark poetry across pink paper and contained in gold, foil-lined envelopes.  His Christmas cards were always portrayals of Mary and Jesus, even though he didn't believe.  He knew that my brother and I did.

As I sifted through my memories of him while planning his memorial service, I realized that my father had never yelled at me.  My parents were divorced when I was only two, so that removed some opportunity for irritation towards me, but he saw us regularly for his visitation. In 34 years, I don't recall a single incident in which he expressed anger towards me.  He saved that for that outside world.

He loved his mother and siblings, especially his oldest brother, Mike.  Mike was his best friend and the bond between them was strong.  I was always glad that my father had him to rely on for companionship, because my father had lived alone for many years. Mike was a constant in my dad's small circle of relationships.

My father wasn't a perfect man.  He wasn't a perfect father....but he was the only father I had.

I'll miss him.