The Good, The Bad, and The Sad

The Good

The Boy arrived on the 22nd of December and spent Christmas with us. We had a good time (well, the Spouse Thingy and I did, I can’t speak for the Boy, who may have been simply humoring us…) We saw a couple of movies, ate out a lot, laughed a whole lot (especially when the Boy clobbered the Spouse Thingy with a gigantic snowball right upside the head), and had a very nice Christmas Day – complete with 5 inches of snow. Which is, thankfully, already melting. I wanted a White Christmas but have no desire for it to stick around.

The Bad

We completely trashed the house. Now, I’m not the world’s greatest housekeeper by any stretch of the imagination, but since we moved in here we’ve managed to keep it looking halfway decent. But, the day before the Boy got here the vacuum cleaner broke, and with a dog that sheds like crazy, that’s a bad thing. Everything is covered in a thick layer of golden dog hair. And we left things laying around, didn’t really pick things up… so there’s quite a bit of housework to do now. And the Boy went back home yesterday.

The Sad

Today is the one year anniversary of the death of one of my most treasured friends, Moe Brennan. She was far too young to die, only 50, and left a huge hole in not only my life, but the lives of many others who were drawn to her sparkling personality, and the love of her life, Rick.

Moe was an amazing person; she lived with incredible amounts of pain due to a long list of medical problems, but she somehow managed to be completely supportive and positive, even though her life was lived through a cloud of pain. I miss her still, and can’t imagine how much Rick must miss her. And how hard this day must be hitting him.

Most days I think of Moe with a smile, but I think I’ll let myself feel a little sorry for myself today, sorry for no longer having her in my life. But only for a little while, because if she could, she’d kick my ass if I dwelled too long on things I can’t change. But damn, I still miss her.


Return To Sender

Today I made a woman cry at the post office. Oh yeah, Merry Christmas from me!

I got there right at noon; normally they have 3 or 4 clerks at the counter, but with it being lunch there were only 2; one of them was helping a person who had about 15 packages they were trying to get off. The other was taking the trickle of people; there was only one person in line ahead of me, so I figured I’d hit the post office jackpot.

I got in line, and within a minute there were 15-20 people behind me. I felt even luckier, if I’d hit one more red light along the way, I’d be at the end of that line.

And then it happened. The lone person ahead of me got to the counter, and immediately started to whine. I kid you not, this was a fully grown woman whining in the voice one might expect out of a very tired and cranky 4 year old. She’d gotten an envelope from the wall display, where she saw a sign that said “39 cents.” The envelope she’d chosen, however, was 99 cents. And she didn’t want to pay the difference. She really didn’t want to pay the different. She let everyone know she didn’t want to pay the difference.

The clerk very patiently tried to explain to her the cheaper envelopes were right under that sign and she’d picked one from the display just under that, and showed her where, on the envelope, the price was clearly marked.

Well, now she didn’t want it. Not at 99 cents.

Sorry, m’am, but you already addressed it, you have to pay for it.

For three or four minutes, she argued. She demanded to see a supervisor. The poor clerk’s eyes got wide, and he said—nicely—it’s only 60 cents difference. It didn’t matter; she wanted that envelope at 39 cents.

He went to get a supervisor; she, too, told the woman she was sorry, but she’d written on that envelope and had to pay for it. And again the woman whined but I don’t waaaaaant it now.

This is when I’d had it. I wasn’t especially nice, but I piped up, “Look, if it’ll speed things up, I’ll give you 75 cents for the envelope.”

If looks could kill. She spun around and whined “It’s not the money, I have the money, it’s the point.

“But it’s just sixty cents.”

“It’s the point!

Thumper no longer cared; I took a deep breath and seethed, “The point is that you’re holding up an entire line of people who are holding heavy packages over sixty cents. Either take it from me, or pay it yourself, just pay it already.”

At least ten people behind me were snickering. The clerk was trying not to smile.

Envelope Lady burst into tears. “But the sign says it’s thirty nine cents!”

Okay, this is when I started to feel like perhaps I’d made a huge mistake. Here was a woman who looked to be about thirty years old crying over sixty cents. She either wasn’t quite stable, her emotional age was not the same as her chronological age, or she was completely stressed out and was about to go postal in the post office.

I felt bad, yet I also didn’t. Kind of that, ohhhh, I should have been more patient and/or kept my mouth shut feeling. Yet if I hadn’t said anything, we probably would have been there an hour later while she argued in that spoiled little-kid voice about having to pay for an envelope she’d written on.

I probably ruined her day.

Or maybe she got to her car and realized how foolish she’d sounded to the entire post office. Over sixty cents.

Probably not.

OTOH, after I left there I went to buy doggy toothpaste (poultry flavored, yum… anything has to smell better than the poop-breath he already has) and decided to buy the PsychoKitty his Christmas present. I’d been eyeing it but it was more than I wanted to spend. I decided the hell with it, Max was getting it no matter that it costs too much.

I got to the self-cashier thingy, scanned it, and it was on sale. Half off.



Ahem... Well... Apology Retracted

Of all that snow and ice predicted for yesterday we got... nothing. It rained all day, never got cold enough for ice, not even at 2 a.m. when I was up checking on why Hank was whining (bad dream, I suppose; he was alseep when I got down the stairs and seemed fairly annoyed at being woken up).

For that we didn't go see the new Star Trek movie.

So, I'm not sorry, Dayton! Cuz we didn't bring bad things this time around!


I’m Sorry, So Sorry…

Everywhere we go, something happens. As high schoolers in Northern California, there was drought. Water was rationed, lawns went brown, and Folsom Lake began to shrink. The few odd rainy days were quite the treat, though never quite enough to make up for the dry days.

Then we went to Utah. They got enough snow that come spring, the runoff was so strong that the Jordan river overflowed and went right down the middle of State Street in Salt Lake City. That wasn’t too bad; the city sand bagged and kept the damage to a minimum.

In San Antonio flash floods whipped through the area, including one sorrowful incidence of a school bus caught in the path of the Guadalupe River as it swelled suddenly, sweeping several kids away.

Back in CA, we were there when San Francisco was hit with a huge earthquake. The damage was severe; a double decker freeway system collapsed, crushing the cars on the second level. I don’t remember how many people died, but it was far too many.

We took floods back to San Antonio with us, and then up to Saint Louis. Twice flood waters lapped up the steps leading to the Arch while we were there.

In 1996 we headed for Grand Forks, North Dakota. That winter they got 100+ inches of snow, several blizzards, including one that knocked the power out for a week (life is kinda chilly when ice is floating in your toilet.) That was a late season blizzard; just a couple weeks later it all melted, flooding the city to the point it had to be evacuated. Entire houses were under water. People lost everything.

You see the pattern here, right?

When we got orders to Wright-Patterson AFB, people told us the winters wouldn’t be bad; they get an inch here and there, but it melts after a day or so. Nothing major. Our neighbors all assured us the last few winters had been pretty mild; one said that if they got an inch of snow all totaled last year, he’d be surprised.

Well, we’ve had snow a couple times already, and some ice. Today it’s been raining, and as the temperature drops, that rain should turn to sleet, then snow. Anywhere from 2-6 inches. Lots of snow on top of ice. Should make driving fun in the morning.

Daytonians… this is our fault. If we had stayed in CA you’d be having a nice, mild winter, like last year. Since we’re here, tonight’s snow will probably hit the 6 inch mark, and it’ll be like this all winter.

We bring bad things.
If it’s not snow, it will be floods or fire, quite possible some famine and pestilence.
We’re sorry. Really.
It should only be 2-3 years. We’ll probably leave after that.

Unless we like it here, then we’ll retire and Dayton will just have to suck it up.


Ice, Ice, Baby

We had warning last night it was coming, freezing rain coating the streets, driveways, and porches, that would solidify even further during the cold night hours to form a slick layer of ice. We pulled the truck into the garage so the Spouse Thingy wouldn’t have to spend half an hour scraping the windshield off at 5 am, enjoying the knowledge that all but one of our neighbors would be out there in the cold, trying to create a decent sized visual field on their respective vehicles.

Wives were surely complaining to their husbands, “Their garage is cleaned out enough to park. When are you going to clean out ours?”

Sooner or later one of the husbands will wise up and point out that gender knows no bounds when it comes to cleaning out a garage; after all, most of them saw me hauling stuff in and out, creating ample truck space soon after we moved in. They know who did the grunt work.


Like the weathermen promised, there was ice when I got up this morning. While Hank had his breakfast, I grabbed a king sized sheet and went outside, covering the back patio so that he wouldn’t slip. The guy that lives behind us was outside smoking his cigar, watching me, with that look of “what the heck are you doing?” And later, “you did that for your dog?”

Well, yeah. Hank is very old and falls a lot. A slip on the ice might be the last move he makes. I’d rather ruin a sheet than break the dog. And new sheets might be nice. Something bright purple. That would be cool.

Hank dutifully used the sheet as a mat, walked across it to the lawn, and walked back, avoiding the cement on either side. When he was done he came back in to the warmth of the living room, curled up on his big fluffy bed, and went to sleep. I peeked outside occasionally to see how bad it was getting; it never got really bad, but an hour later my neighbor was back outside with his dog. And a sheet on the patio.

It’s nice to start a trend.

By late afternoon it warmed up enough to melt the ice, but after eating dinner, when Hank goes out again, he waited at the back door, and looked up at me expectantly.

“There’s no more ice,” I told him. “Go on. It’s okay.”

He looked up.

I went and got the sheet, and spread it out for him again. As I was pulling the edges out, my foot hit a slippery patch and I almost went down. So I apologized to him for not wanting to get the sheet, his eyes are obviously still better than mine.

Or he’s just spoiled, and it was a coincidence.

Tomorrow it’s supposed to be near 40 degrees, so we’ll see if he sits by the door and waits for the sheet.

Watch him pee on the floor. Or worse.

At least there won’t be any ice. I need to go places, and I’m too big a wuss to drive on it. The effects of having flipped a truck over on the ice, I suppose.

But I’m still a wuss.


Ho, Ho, Ho, It’s Just Snow

When it snowed in San Antonio, January 1985, it was understandable that a mere 13 inches shut the city down. After all, snow is not what you expect in southern Texas, and the city has no snow removal equipment. Nor do many people there know how to drive in it. Closing schools, businesses, even the Interstate, makes sense when a foot of snow hits in a normally warm place.

Now, this being Dayton, Ohio, you’d think a little snow would be no big deal. At least I wouldn’t think so. Maybe I’m just a little surprised, having lived in North Dakota for three years. When they got snow, they got snow. Three foot drifts across the driveway were nothing unusual. The Boy was 14 and learned to drive in snow there; when he was 15 he was driving after 5-6 inches had fallen with no appreciable problems. He slid off the road once, but that was on ice and a sharp curve, and there was a lot of snow at that point.

Last night we got maybe two inches of snow. It’s kind of pretty outside, but it’s nothing to blink twice at. Just little bit of nice fluffy white stuff.

Schools were delayed a couple of hours today, if not completely closed. Kids were outside playing, throwing snowballs, knocking our Christmas decorations over, sledding down the hill behind the house. They were home, having fun, and not in school, learning about math and English and the science of 1 small hill + 2 kids on slick cardboard = smashing into someone else’s fence.

(There’s a guy on TV who just said “Ice and snow are slippery.” No! Say it isn’t so!)

I wonder what’ll happen if we get a foot of snow here…
Spouse Thingy and I may be the only two brave enough to venture outside ;)


Tis The Season To Be…

…mean? Roughy over at Unrealistic Expectations had a Really Nice Idea -- use his website to start a little fundraiser, and collect $500 for people who really need stuff this time of year.

It is a nice idea. It’s a pretty bowl of Holiday Cheerios that a few people seem to have some pressing need to pee in. They’re harping at him, suggesting he should just cough up the $500 himself and quit bugging everyone else for donations.

Eh? In what world does putting a suggestion on a website and inviting people to participate constitute bugging? It’s a simple enough idea: If you want to kick in $5, then kick in $5. If you don’t, that’s fine, too.

I just don’t understand people sometimes.

…stupid? I was at a store (not to be named 'cause some people don’t need to know where I was shopping) yesterday, and overheard a woman talking to her small child. It was late afternoon, and I gathered from what the child was saying that they had not yet had lunch. The kid was hungry, and was letting her know in a typical 4 year old way: he whined a little. Just a little. “Mommmmmmy, can we go eat now? I’m hunnnngry.”

He didn’t cry. He didn’t stomp his feet. He didn’t scream or kick or hit or bite. He just asked, with a tiny little bit of whine in his voice, if they could go eat.

Her answer? “If you don’t shut up I’m telling Santa what an awful little boy you are, and you won’t get anything for Christmas.”

I don’t care if the kid had been a pain in the ass all day. You don’t talk to a kid that way and you don’t threaten them with cruelty. Sure, my kid drove me nuts a few times over the years, but it never would have occurred to me to be so snotty to him. I saved “Santa is watching you” until he was well into his teens.

Just… damn…

…cute. The other day I went to McDonald’s to have a soda, and sit at a table in the corner to work. I take a notebook and make notes about the manuscript I’m working on; changing my environment helps quite a bit, so I tend to go sit in fast food places to work.

While I was sitting there, an older woman and her two granddaughters sat at a nearby table. I was engrossed in my notes until my ear perked up at one of the little girls talking. She asked of the older woman, very sweetly, “do you have someone who loves you?”

“Yes,” she answered, “Grandpa loves me very much.”

The little girl clenched her hands to her chest and squealed “Oh, that is just so wonderful!”

I was not the only one trying not to laugh out loud. Ten tables all around me erupted in hushed snickers.

Yep, kiddo, that is so wonderful.

…funny. We put up 95% of our outside Christmas decorations the other day (and yes, it was cold! We try to do it up right – we have 5 artificial trees that we light and place in the yard, we string lights along the gutters, we have a snowman and penguin and polar bear that light up and are in front of the tree. By the time we’re done, there are enough lights for an airplane to use as a navigational point.

While the Spouse Thingy was staking the last tree into place, a neighbor’s kid opened their door too peek outside; he turned around and yelled into the house “Dad… they’re gonna make us look bad!”

Heh. That wasn’t intentional, but it’s nice to know, anyway.

…kind. Just be kind. Don’t let people piss you off, don’t get mad even if you feel rushed. Just let the season happen. Drop a quarter into the red bucket even if the bell ringer annoys you. Hold doors for people.

And smile. ‘Tis the season, after all.


Jack Frost Nipping At Your…

It’s cold. I mean really cold. It’s so cold that if I were to start sweating, I’d probably have icicles hanging from my nipples. It’s cold enough I remember the One Bad Thing about living in North Dakota – all that shivering. You’d think the more one shivered the warmer one would get, but no. I shiver and my goosebumps just grow more goosebumps.

If we were in North Dakota, I’m sure it would be even colder. Right now it’s 25 degrees Fahrenheit outside, that’s cold enough, dammit. It can warm up now. I’ll forgo a white Christmas (which sounds like it’s hit and miss here for that anyway) to be warm. We want to put up Christmas decorations tomorrow, but sheesh, it’s gonna be cold again!

The one nice thing was snow today. It was fluffy and white and pretty and it didn’t stick to the roads. Little kids were outside, running with their little arms flung wide and mouths open, trying to catch snowflakes on their tongues.

But, trust me… don’t try that in the mall parking lot. People look at you funny and the Ricky Rangers start watching you very closely.

Eh, think how closely they’ll be looking when I start pulling those icicles off my nips…


Drip, Drip, Drip...

I’ve written a little bit about having diabetes insipidus; I don’t think I’ve touched on any of the details, other than it was a symptom of the pituitary tumor and it basically meant I peed a lot. An awful lot. The last week or so people googling for information on symptoms of thirst and frequent urination have emailed me, wanting to know what it was like. What it is like. How they can differentiate between those symptoms and just a bad stretch of dehydration or peeing a lot.

The truth is, I have it and I don’t know a whole lot about it, other than how it affects me. The frequent urination came first – I think. I’m sure the rate increased and I didn’t pay particular attention until I was getting up five or six times a night and searching for the nearest restroom every hour. Then came the thirst. We’re not talking “I’ve been working out and I need extra water” thirst. We’re talking extreme thirst.

Violent thirst.

Painful, painful thirst.

I’m not sure I can do justice to a description of what this type of thirst feels like. I can tell you that I would drink until my stomach could hold no more, and I’d be miserable until enough left my stomach that I could drink more. I can tell you that we’d be out driving and I’d have to stop at the first soda machine we could find and I’d buy 3 cans of cold tea and down them all in about 4 minutes, and want for more. I can tell you that we’d be in a fast food place and the Spouse Thingy would get in line while I sat down and fidgeted endlessly, like a junkie waiting for a fix, until he could pay for a drink cup – then I’d be able to get unlimited refills. I never got ice; ice took up precious beverage space.

Imagine the worst sunburn you’ve ever gotten. Your skin flaming red, searingly hot, blistering, peeling in drying, blackened layers. With untreated diabetes insipidus your mouth and throat feel like that, and no matter how much you drink, how often you try to sooth the pain, it doesn’t go away.

So you drink. And drink. And drink.
Then you have to get rid of what you had to drink. In copious amounts. Every 15 –30 minutes.

The average adult urinates 6 times a day and drinks 2 liters of fluid. If you’re going 20 times or more and drinking a couple of gallons a day, there’s an obvious problem that needs to be addressed. The first thought is probably diabetes mellitus (“sugar” diabetes) but if your blood sugar levels come back normal, investigating diabetes insipidus (“water” diabetes) might be worthwhile.

I wish I knew more and could be more helpful; mostly what I know is that I have it, I can manage it with a daily dose of DDAVP (Desmopressin), and I know what it feels like when the medication wears off. I know I have to monitor my weight for sudden fluctuations and pay attention to how much fluid I take in. I know what will happen if I stop taking the DDAVP and don’t keep hydrated (blood sodium levels will skyrocket, and if that doesn’t kill me, thickening blood might). I wear a medical alert bracelet in case I’m unconscious and can’t tell an ER doc I have it – something that would be important were the DDAVP to wear off while under emergency care.

A good place to start looking for information is The Diabetes Insipidus Foundation.

And if you have symptoms of extreme thirst and frequent urination, don’t take a “wait and see” stance. Get it checked out. Now.





Ok, I’m a wimp. A big one.

I had an MRI scheduled for today; I even went, all by myself, no problems. I sat there in the waiting room, calmly, watching CNN. The tech told me they were running a few minutes late; that was no problem. I had nowhere I had to be. When they were ready for me I handed her my Bare Naked Ladies CD, locked up my watch and other assorted crap in a locker, and went into the room, where I plopped my ass down on the table and laid back, let her slide me into the tube…

…where I promptly freaked out. I lasted a grand 15 seconds in that tube.

The nice med tech didn’t laugh at me, she just let me reschedule for mid-December, leaving me enough time to get a scrip for valium from my doc. The last MRI I had, I’d been given valium and did fine. I thought I could get through it by closing my eyes, but that didn’t work out at all.




The Tooth, The Whole Tooth, and Nothing But The Tooth


One of my biggest phobias is going to the dentist. Usually I have someone go with me, mostly to make sure that I actually go, that I don’t get to the parking lot and chicken out. And if I were to have a full blown panic attack, complete with passing out or curling into a tight, wimpering ball, it would be nice to have someone there to throw a glass of water on me.

I had to go today. Having an escort wasn’t an option. The Spouse Thingy had to work, and the Boy is clear across the country, so I had to suck it up and bravely venture out on my own. Chickening out wasn’t an option, either; I have a broken tooth that needs to be taken care of.

So, I went. I got in my little purple rolling grape and drove to a dentist I was assured was great with complete wusses. The entire appointment took only about 20 minutes, just long enough to be x-rayed and told “the tooth cannot be saved.”

Well, that’s just craptastic.

My options? Have it extracted, either at her office or by an oral surgeon, then get an implant onto which a crown can be placed. This not only means I have to go back, but I have to endure Really Painful Things. Being the World’s Biggest Dental Weenie, this is a problem. I’ll probably go catatonic two weeks before I have to have the tooth removed.

Double bleh.

Tomorrow I have a MRI, just a peek inside my head to make sure there’s nothing growing there that shouldn’t be. I’m not worried about this one, mostly because the tumor they yanked out in June was a type that never (ever?) recurs.

But the dental thing…


But I Don't Do Anchovies...

Apparently, the inside of my nose smells good.

That’s the only conclusion I can come to, after being woken up the past three mornings by the cat trying to stuff his face up my nose, while sniffing as if a fish factory had opened up for business in my sinuses. The notion was just reinforced; the little furball was lying on the bed and I bent over to pet him, and =wham= his little nose was trying to jam its way into mine.

One of these days he’s going to do that and sneeze, I just know it…


It’s Cold, and My Balls Are Blue

Ok, I only have one blue ball, but it weighs 16 pounds. And it was cold, very cold, when the Spouse Thingy and I decided to play with it today. I jammed two fingers and a thumb into that sucker, took a few steps, and let it fly.

Get your mind out of the gutter. I’m not equipped for those kind of balls…

We went bowling today. It’s fricking cold outside – there are even a few snow flurries in the air – and there was nothing playing at the theater we wanted to see (other than the new Harry Potter movie, but we’re not nuts enough to try to see in on the opening weekend), so we decided to pick up our balls and go bowling.

When we bowl frequently, we’re both decent bowlers. Not stellar, but we don’t suck either. I think we both have averages around 155-160. The problem is, because of my health problems, we haven’t bowled much over the last few years. We wanted to get into a league at the beginning of this fall, but I was still recovering from surgery and wasn’t sure I could safely fling a 16 pound ball around. I had visions of flinging the ball down the lane and having my brains squirt out my nose and ears.

Today was Family Day at the base bowling alley. For $6 each, we could bowl 3 games, and get a free soda and slice of pizza. That’s a decent deal, when you consider that other wise it would have been $2.40 a game. Yeah, that’s way too expensive for bowling, but I suppose the days of a dollar a line are long gone – and crud, I remember when that was considered too much.. We paid our $12, put our ugly-ass shoes on, grabbed the balls, and started to play.

When my hands are cold, they shrink. I think. All I know is that I can’t grip the ball well and it slips quite a bit – a few times in North Dakota I lost the grip on my ball on the back swing and sent people scurrying for cover. Today it just resulted in 2 sucky games, and one decent one.

Still, sucky games and all, it’s a fun way to spend an hour or two, even better when you get free pizza. Better still when the pizza doesn’t suck anywhere near as much as your game does.

With the cold weather – aside from not being able to grip my ball very well – we were both reminded that the holidays are zooming in on us. We started Christmas shopping, and have picked up a few gifts for the Boy that we’re pretty sure he’ll like. This is my favorite time of year, the smell of winter in the air, finding the perfect gifts for people, watching little kids get excited in the mall when they spot Santa sitting there, waiting to hear their wishes.

I wonder if Santa can bring me a decent bowling game…


:::Scratches Head:::

Okay... yesterday I tried to make a very small change in my blog template -- I tried to add a bold tag -- and the whole thing hosed up. I managed to out the template back the way it was, but for some reason on 2 out of 3 browsers I viewed the page in, the typeface is suddenly huge. I can't figure out why; the code is identical to previous blog versions. I personally don't like the larger font, but until I can figure it out, I think I'm stuck with it.

If you have a clue what went wrong, please let me know.



Finally. I have a car. Wheels. Something to get me from point A to point B without having to wait for the Spouse Thingy to get off work.

We almost missed the ad for it; I’d read the comics and was casually going through the classifieds, looking for the big “New Today” icons. It was in a list of cars available at a local dealership, listed right after a 1985 Honda Civic for $495.

Heck, we had to go just to see what kind of car can be found at a dealership for under five hundred.

Think rust. And lots of it.

I thin they keep the Civic there to show people so that when they turn around and see the other cheap car, they feel much better about it. In our case, the other cheap car turned out to be a very nice looking ’95 Hyundai Accent. Only 78,000 miles. Ran very well, has a gas friendly 4 cylinder engine. And it’s purple.

Not just purple, but purple. Zooming down the interstate, it must look like a Concord Grape on wheels.

It’s not perfect; it runs like a 7 year old cheap-ass car, lots of noise, but it runs well. The brake pads probably need to be replaced. And it’s not a convertible, something I still covet. But it’ll get me to doctor appointments and dentist appointments (broke a tooth, dammit), and it’ll get me out of the house.

Ooh yeah.
Look out Dayton.
Thumpa’s got wheels.



Dairy Queen.
Small Butterfingers Blizzard.
Lactose Intolerance.



Good Manners 101

By the time my son was two years old, he had learned some basic etiquette. Don’t pick your nose in front of Grandma. Don’t show us the chewed food in your mouth. Don’t take someone else’s toy without asking first. And don’t talk during a movie unless your hair is on fire.

It was easy enough to teach him this. We looked down at that little face, smiled nicely, and said “Don’t talk once the movie starts. If you need to, whisper, and we’ll take you to the lobby.” It was that easy. If he’d talked, we would have left the theater. Once or twice would have drilled the lesson in.

The Spouse Thingy and I went to see a movie today. Santa Clause 2. Fun movie, a good sequel… that would have been better if not for the chatter behind us.

Now, we knew going in there would be a lot of kids there. It started at 3:30, a perfect time to bring kids. Right after school and before dinner. Kids whispering and giggling and laughing out loud doesn’t really bother either one of us, especially when it’s an appropriate movie for kids and it’s just downright funny. And kids sometimes have questions, and don’t stop to think… they just ask.

Behind us sat two adults and two kids. The kids were pretty good. Laughed a lot, whispered a few times. Tolerable.

Their mother, however, would not shut up. She spoke loudly, commented on stupid little things in the movie – “oh, no, he’s going to run out of magic!” – and laughed far too loud than was appropriate – a “oh, kids, this is funny and I think you’re too stupid to figure that out on your own, so let me show you!” kind of laugh. She was verbal enough that I was starting to get pissed off, truly pissed off, and the Spouse Thingy was visibly annoyed. At one point he finally turned around and asked her to turn the volume down.

It worked for about 10 minutes.

This was not a child, this was a grown woman who had kids of her own. Kiddie matinee or not, there was no excuse for it, and the only thing she’s teaching her kids is that it’s perfectly all right to disrupt someone else’s good time, even when they ask you, fairly nicely, to stop.

In any case, the movie was good. I coulda bitch-slapped the lady, but… The holidays are coming, I don’t want to spend them in jail.


Diabetes Insipidus 101

I’ve spent the last couple of days surfing for information on Diabetes Insipidus. I know the basics from experience: you pee a lot, it dehydrates you, makes you incredibly thirsty, so you drink a lot, and then you pee a lot. Pretty simple.

And I know what caused it for me – the pituitary tumor. The mass was on the stalk of the pituitary, which inhibited its ability to produce Vasopressin, which is the body’s antidiuretic hormone. Without it, the kidneys don’t know when to hold water – so they just release it. A lot of it.

I learned quite a bit while surfing for DI info.

I thought that it was really only something people got who had pit tumors or brain injuries. Yet 25% of all DI cases are idiopathic – meaning there is no apparent cause. Some are genetic. DI appears in animals. And sadly, in small children who often go a very, very long time without being diagnosed.

Knowing how uncomfortable untreated DI is, this really breaks my heart. The thirst you get with this is like no other thirst there is. Nothing quenches it – you can drink until you throw up, and you still need to drink more. Little kids, who pee a lot and have accidents anyway, are often tormented by having liquids withheld – the idea being that if this kid doesn’t drink so much, he won’t pee so much.

That’s like torture. Some of these kids get so desperate for liquid they get caught drinking out of the toilet.

It’s been a sort of running joke that if my medication wears off I’ll stick my head in an aquarium in a store and suck all the water out, leaving only an inch for the fish. I never thought about a small child, frantic for something to drink, in those terms. Can you imagine? Being so completely desperate that you’d stick you head inside a toilet to drink? And you’d drink it dry, and still want more…

Frequent urination and increased thirst are signs of both diabetes mellitus (the more commonly known diabetes, sometimes called “sugar diabetes”) and diabetes insipidus (sometimes called “water diabetes” and “diabetes sip and piss.”) Both require medical attention. Both can kill you if left untreated.

If you have these symptoms, see a doc. The first thought will be diabetes mellitus, but if your blood sugars come back as normal, press for further testing. Find out the cause. And especially, most especially, if your child just can’t get enough to drink and pees like crazy, fight until you know why.

I know when my medication wears off, it becomes more than just a little uncomfortable. I can pee off 2-3 gallons a day and just can’t drink enough. I don’t sleep much because I get up every 30-45 minutes to use the restroom. The thirst hurts after a while. But I’m a grownup, I know why this happens and what I need to do to fix it. A child doesn’t.

I’ll be on the medication for the rest of my life. Every day. But at least it’s not as painful as not having it.

Damn. Poor kids.


Jumping Jack Flash…

Hank is a Golden Retriever, and by Golden Retriever standards, he’s getting up there in years. On November 8th he turns 12 years old. His muzzle is showing signs of silver, and flecked throughout the fur on his face are little dots of gray. His eyes are getting cloudy, that blueish shade of milky that old dogs get behind their eyes; he doesn’t have cataracts, he just has old eyes. Bright, happy, wise old eyes.

These days he doesn’t do much. Breakfast and medications at 9 a.m. followed by a nap. He wakes to look out the window in my office, which sits low enough toward the floor that he can plop down on his side and still have a first class view of the world outside, which sometimes includes the neighbor’s dog Nick, or the squirrel that drives him nuts. Then he naps again, off and on, waking when the Spouse Thingy comes home. The two generally share a conversation of grunts and odd howls, after which he takes a nap, until his stomach wakes him for dinner.

Dinner is at 6 p.m., his favorite meal, because he doesn’t get stuck with the dry kibble-like diet food; he gets a can of Alpo, all meaty and filled with stinky dog pleasure. And no pills to worry about. After dinner he tends to nap, resting up for that 10 p.m. snack of dry diet food and more pills.

Canine senior citizenship seems to be riddled with the same amount of drugs as for humans; during the day Hank winds up swallowing 8 pills. Those pills used to be hidden in his dry food, until he figured out that if he picked the food out of his bowl piece by piece, he could spit out the pills and only eat his food.

The process took about 45 minutes. He seemed quite pleased with himself.

So the pills became wrapped in a small piece of bread dabbed with a little peanut butter. If he’s figured out the pills are in there, we don’t know; all he cares about is the peanut butter. Any concern over the added calories is tempered by the knowledge that at his age, simple pleasures shouldn’t be withheld. He’s lived long enough to deserve a dollop of peanut butter every day. Life’s too short to not have… well, peanut butter, if you’re a dog.

His life is pretty good, for an old furbag. There are no real expectations of him, other than to get out the back door before the whizzing commences, and to not bite the cat. He dreams most of his day away, curled up near my desk, where I sit and write, and where I look down every few minutes and moan “ohmygod, can you go do that outside?”

Hank has reached that part of Canine Senior Citizen Life where flatulence incorporates a good deal of his activity. Better for him, he doesn’t even have to be awake to manage this. He sleeps, shifts comfortably on the floor, and aims that cannon in my direction.

Thusly, I spend a good part of my day with the collar of my shirt pulled up over my nose, trying to breathe through a layer of cotton or fleece.

Hank, my Booger Bear, has, in his old age, become the Fart King.
I think he rather enjoys this position, too, to be honest.

When he’s awake, if asked “Did you do that?” he smiles his floppy doggy grin, complete with tongue hanging out his mouth, his eyes shining brightly, and does it again. Just to be sure I knew for certain that it really was him.

The lifespan for a Golden Retriever is 10-15 years. At 12, especially when faced with the knowledge that his liver barely functions, and he has major hip and elbow dysplasia, along with epilepsy, I know his time here is limited. But he enjoys every minute of it, and when it’s over, he’ll romp happily to the Rainbow Bridge in search of his momma cat Dusty, let her lick his face a few times, and sigh in his canine way, “Man, that was a gas.”


The Dark

I hate, I mean really hate, having to turn the clocks back an hour every fall. Now, I like getting that extra hour of sleep, but overall, it sucks.

The only thing turning back the clock really means to me is that it gets dark earlier every night. And as the year wears on, darkness descends earlier each day, until it reaches a point where if I’m out by myself, I have to head home around 4:30 p.m.

I’m night blind.
Going home at 4:30 makes me feel about 12 years old. Or it used to, until my then-12 years old nephew pointed out that he didn’t have to be home that early.

Great. Wonderful. Now I feel like I’m 8 years old.
If an 8 year old has a later curfew, I don’t want to know about it.

Turning back the clocks also screws up the animals. They get breakfast a little after 9 a.m. The last few days, however, they’ve been whining and pestering me at 8 a.m. Hanks whines from the bottom of the stairs, a steady, annoying, shrill sound that eventually gives way to a howl, and Max jumps up on the bed and pounces on me. He starts by crawling over my body, sticking his face in mine and sniffing – looking to see if my eyes are open, I think – and if I don’t get up, he head butts my nose.

My nose is still tender from surgery. Four months ago. Cripes.

No one has ever been able to give me a satisfactory answer to why we turn the clocks back every fall (and dammit, I can never remember which is daylight savings and which is standard time; whichever, I wanna be in summer-time clock settings year round). I’ve heard the rhetoric about farmers (oh come on, you people get up when it’s dark anyway), and energy savings (Tsk. Really.) But the thing that stands out the most to me is that going back an hour every fall is discrimination against the night blind.

There. I’ve said it.
It’s outright discrimination.
I feel so abused.


On The Issue Of Hygiene

Imagine, if you will, being stuck in a line behind someone who smells. We’re not talking the garden variety “oh this person just went to the gym” kind of smell. We’re talking 3-4 weeks of old sweat coupled with the inability of this person to properly clean themselves off after using the toilet. We’re talking everyone in a fifteen foot radius of this person is going to be completely grossed out, and half of them will become nauseous. One might even throw up.

Today, while standing in line at WalMart, waiting because the cash register imploded, refusing to open, and all the other lines were 500 people deep, we got stuck behind this person. Now, normally I am sensitive to odors anyway; I cannot tolerate perfumes nor colognes on other people – not because I’m a bitch and don’t want other people to smell funky, but because my lungs immediately seize in protest and my throat begins to itch as if I had swallowed a cup full of fire ants. I begin to cough, mucous thickens in my throat, and it feels as if my chest is about to cave in. My ability to draw in a simple breath is seriously compromised. For the same reason, I can’t tolerate cigarette smoke and wind up leaving restaurants where people are smoking, even on the other side of the room. Standing behind this woman, I began to wish my ability to breathe had been impeded.

There was nowhere else to go. The place was packed, and they only had 5 or 6 registers going. We could have put back the things we intended to purchase, but that honestly required more effort than I wanted to make, since it would have meant walking the length of the store again; we could have done like other people and just dumped out intended purchases on top of the display at the end of the counter, but I don’t want to be one of Those People – people too lazy to go put things back where they got them, thus creating more work for employees already paid too little.

And we really did need what we had gone to buy.

So we were stuck. And it was disgusting. I find it hard to believe that this woman could be so oblivious to this odor (and yes, I do understand that some people, in spite of their best efforts, just smell; that type of body odor is of a particular uniqueness that I would recognize – this woman just stunk). I felt sorry for the kids who were with her; or perhaps they were used to it, though I can't imagine being able to get used to that smell.

It doesn’t take a tremendous amount of effort to manage some basic hygiene. A little water. A little soap. Some deodorant if you feel like it, though that’s not required to maintain a humane type of air about oneself. You don’t even have to do this every day – every other day should suffice.

But come on… if you only bathe once every other month, stay home. Please?


So What'd You Do Tonight, Thump...?

20 cans of Coke in the fridge, 20 cans of Coke... you take one out, scarf it on down thenruntotherestroomandmakeroomformore, then go back again, 19 cans of Coke in the fridge.

There is no thirst like the thirst of someone whose DDAVP has worn off 6 hours early.

Just give me your cold liquids, back away, and no one gets hurt.

And leave my stuff alone while I run to the restrooom... again.


How To Freak Out The Cat...

While the cat is upstairs, sound asleep, rearrange all the furniture. Move something big from one room into the other, stick a piano in the hallway, and then sit back and wait for him to come down.

He'll think he moved again.

He'll be upset.

But it will give him something to do the rest of the day - slink around on his belly, eyes wide, making sure that all his toys are there and that when we moved while he was sleeping, no one misplaced the food.

Poor cat.


This is making the rounds online so most of you have probably already seen it, but it totally cracked me up, so I'm shoving it in your face again. Because I can.
A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8-year-olds, "What does love mean?" The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined.
See what you think:

"When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love."
Rebecca - age 8

"When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth."
Billy - age 4

"Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other."
Karl - age 5

"Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs."
Chrissy - age 6

"Love is what makes you smile when you're tired."
Terri - age 4

"Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK."
Danny - age 7

"Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen."
Bobby - age 5

"If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend whom you hate."
Nikka - age 6

"There are two kinds of love. Our love. God's love. But God makes both kinds of them."
Jenny - age 4

"Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday."
Noelle - age 7

"Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well."
Tommy - age 6

"My mommy loves me more than anybody. You don't see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night."
Clare - Age 5

"Love is when mommy gives daddy the best piece of chicken."
Elaine - age 5

"Love is when mommy sees daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford."
Chris - age 8

"Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day."
Mary Ann - age 4

"I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones."
Lauren - age 4

"I let my big sister pick on me because my Mom says she only picks on me because she loves me. So I pick on my baby sister because I love her."
Bethany - age 4

"When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you."
Karen - age 7

"Love is when mommy sees daddy on the toilet and she doesn't think it's gross."
Mark - age 6

"You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget."
Jessica - age 8



There was a time, not very long ago, when I would go into the bathroom, step into the shower stall - fully clothed - slide down the wall until I was sitting, and I would cry. Not just your garden variety, oh-I-feel-sad kind of crying, but that deep, gut wrenching, oh-my-god-I-don't-want-to-die kind of crying. I buried my face against a crumpled up towel so that no one would hear - even when I was alone - and I wailed.

I was feeling sorry for myself. I don't feel bad now that I was feeling sorry for myself, because there was a purpose to my sorrow. The terror of not knowing.

Then I got the fortune cookie that told me I would live a long and happy life (the sign I prayed for), and I stopped hiding in the bathroom.

It's been almost four months since my surgery, and my outlook on life is vastly different than it was before. For the most part I've let go of the insults of the past. Stupid things people said or did, hurtful things, unintentional wrongs and things I probably considered abusive at the time. I've been much happier these last four months; I have energy, hope, excitement for the future. Everything is out there, just waiting to be discovered.

I remember feeling hum-drum, kind of blase about life, indifferent about the indignations of the past. I just don't care anymore. The past is relatively unimportant, at least in terms of the things I didn't like about it. People did and said stupid things; oh, well. I'm sure I did, too.

Years ago I watched a black belt testing headed by Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee. One of the things he talked about was his philosophy on happiness; he beleives that we're born with everything we need to be happy. We just need to make that choice.

Now, I never thought it was that simple; there are people for whom genuine abuse is a reality; kids who cannot escape it, women who don't now where else to turn. But for the rest of us, I think it probably is that easy. It requires some re-thinking, and focusing on what's truly important, but it's not that difficult.

And no, I don't think it requires a brain tumor to figure it out.

I surf around online a lot, and what I'm seeing is a whole lot of bitching and whining about how bad life is.
I'm bored.
My parents are terrible awful people. They don't understand me.
I can't find a job, I mean, I get out of bed around 4pm and then I throw on some shorts and a t-shirt and go look, but no one will hire me. It's not fair. I shouldn't have to conform to their standards in order to work.
I don't want to go to school. I don't want to work at McDonalds. I don't want...
I want everything to me my way when I want, when I say I want it.

It's like a giant cloud of Woe Me has settled on the internet.

A couple of questions for the Life Sucks crowd:
Do you have a roof over your head?
Reasonably good health?
Friends, even just the online variety?

I've said it before: attitude is everything. You can waste the life that you have, worrying about what you don't have, grousing about the unfairness of growing up and having to be accountable and responsible for yourself, blame other people for your unhappiness... or you can take a deep breath, take a good look at everything you do have in your life, and rethink just how miserable you really are. Don't let it take a brain tumor, or cancer, or any other experience that has you looking at the end of it all in order to discover the joys of being alive. Don't be that grouchy person that even you don't want to hang around.

Go outside, take a deep breath, feel that first tingle of crisp autumn air, and make the decision to do whatever you have to to make yourself happy. It'll be worth it.

Life is good.

written very quickly, after a dose of benedryl; if it makes no sense, it's the benedryl talking



Ever struggled to figure something out, I mean really struggled, when you get to that point where you're positive you'll never 'get' it - only to suddenly have the lightbulb go off, the heavens open up and stream the Sunshine of Bingo!You-Got-It on you, and you finally understand?

That's a fricking awesome feeling.

I spend a good part of my weekend wanting to bang my head against the desk because I could not figure out how to paginate a novel-length (or any length, really) document in Adobe PageMaker without paginating the front matter (you know, the pages that have the title, legal mumbo-jumbo, dedication, and the title again...) I sat here with an incredibly thick PageMaker textbook, and I could find all kinds of neat tidbits on changing the way the numbers show up, how to manipulate master pages (I already knew that, thankeweveddymuch), how to have numbers not show up for the first dozen pages, but then the number picked up at 13... I needed it to start at 1.

The screams you probably heard riding on the wind every half hour or so yesterday - that was me.

Then it hit me. I have to distill the PageMaker document to Adobe Acrobat at some point to create a PDF File. So maybe the answer was there. Use Acrobat. I dug out my Acrobat For Dummies book (no kidding, I figure I know nothing, so Dummies is the place to start) and started to read. But there was no way to change the pagination after the document was distilled to PDF format.

Then something else hit me. Combine two separate documents. Create not only a PDF of the manuscript, but of the front matter as well. Yeehaw. File merging! w00t!

But, I couldn't find it in my Dummies Book. I was heartbroken.

You know what? Most software comes with a little button that either says help or just ? I didn't occur to me until late, late at night that perhaps I could find the answer there.

I clicked, and looked for Merge. Nothing.


All I wanted to do was combine two... eh? What's that? Look under Combine!

Well, I'll be... There it was. In black and white. Combining PDF files. And it was easy! Man, I got so excited I had to run upstairs and tell the Spouse Thingy, who was lounging in the bathtub, reading a Tom Clancy book. He was thrilled for me, I could tell.

At least, he didn't laugh until I was out of ear shot.
Good Spouse Thingy.
Yay me.



Starting a business just hurts your brain. I'm learning this bit by bit. All the mundane little things you have to think of, then suddenly remembering something in the middle of the night, hoping you remember it again in the morning because your paper and pen are downstairs and you're night blind but can't turn the light on because you'll wake the Other Creature in the House...

Then coming to the realization that a car just is not in your future, because every penny you can scrape together has to go into the business... Taking out a loan is out of the question, because past debt is getting in the way, no matter how timely payments are made. It doesn't help when the military has screwed up the Spouse Thingy's pay so badly that there may not be a paycheck November 1st, and it's already certain the midmonth October pay is going to be less than half what it should be. That retention bonus would have covered all the business expenses, but it's not coming in, either. Probably not ever.

Business license, bank account, merchant account, PO Box, web site, rate schedules, fax machine, additional phone line...

Well, everything combined just makes for one giant Brain Ache.

It'll be worth it in the end, when the business is running (hopefully smoothly) and there's Genuine Income dribbling in. But until then, I need a big-ass bottle of Motrin with a Tylenol chaser.

Cripes, I'm turning into a grown up.


Go Visit Another Blog... Please

Go check out This Post at Unrealistic Expectations. Then click on Roughy's link to emailing the greedy people involved in the 3 Day Breast Cancer Walk. You'd think a CHARITY event wouldn't have strings attached... would you?


It's Not All Bad...

Lest I give off the impression that I've turned into a bitter, angry, military-hating little witch in my old age...

I don't hate the military. It's been very good to us over the years, and the time spent in it has been worthwhile. I'm just tired of the problems that go along with it. But in general, life is good. Very good. We're healthy. We're happy. We're living in a decent place surrounded by nice people. There are things to do here, and while it's not as cheap as we'd been lead to believe, it's still cheaper than California (which I loved, and is still home in my heart).

Life would be easier if I had a car to get around, but the lack of one isn't making me miserable. It's just inconvenient. Like today - I had a doctor's appointment. The Spouse Thingy had to get off work as early as he could, rush home, then rush me to the hospital. It was a PITA. But doable.

Life would be easier if the base housing we'd gotten was actually on the base. This section is off base, and too far to walk to the places on base I need to be. Like doctor's appointments. But considering the neighbors we have, where we're at is pretty good.

Life would be easier if that bonus had come through as promised. We were counting on it not only to get a cheap car, but I'm in the middle of starting a business. I needed it to purchase equipment. So I'll be delayed a bit. Christmas will be a little tight, but it's not the stuff that counts; the Boy is coming, and that's all I need.

The Spouse Thingy might be spending Christmas in some Saudi sandbox, or on a mountain somewhere, unable to make contact of any kind, and that will suck... but it's what we signed up for. We don't have to like it. It's a necessary evil, and part of being military.

I have enjoyed being a military family. It's been a good life. Don't let my whining fool you...

But I would like that cash back!


Still Bent Over, Waiting For Uncle Sam To Finish...

Yeah, I'm still pissed off. But not for the same thing, necessarily. A related thing, sure, but it's not exactly the same.

When Uncle Sam tells you to move, you do it. Uncle Sam is also supposed to pay for the move, the reasonable expenses, anyway, like gas, lodging along the way, and a nominal amount of food. Enough to cover a couple meals a day at McDs or BK. It's reasonable.

Now, Uncle Sam used to figure out about how much the move would cost, and give the active duty military member (ADMM) the cash up front. If incurred expenses were over that amount, well, the ADMM was probably screwed. But it was usually enough, with a few bucks left over. Enough to get a pizza on the other end of the move, not enough to get rich on.

A few years ago someone got the bright idea to give each ADMM a credit card. This card is supposed to be used for only Official Government Purposes, such as transfers, deployments, and TDYs. The ADMM uses the card to pay for gas, etc, or living expenses while deployed, and on the other end of the move, or when they get back, Uncle Sam gives them the money to pay off the card.

One big problem.

Uncle Sam never reimburses the ADMM before the card is due. And Bank Of America wants their money, all of it, when it's due. The card is tied into the ADMM's credit rating. You get the picture. Uncle Sam doesn't cough up the money for a good 3 months, and if the ADMM doesn't have that much money in savings, his credit rating is screwed. Guys have been in the field - fighting for this country - and discovered that their cards didn't work. Why not? Because B of A hadn't yet been paid. As if soldiers in Afghanistan sit there and worry about paying a credit card on time.

This happens a lot, by the way, ADMMs having their credit rating trashed because of that gov't card. You tend to not be able to save a lot when you're military, especially in the junior enlisted ranks, where the pay is sub-minimum wage, basically. With no savings, you can't pay the card off when it's due, while you're waiting for Uncle Sam to get his ass in gear.

This happened to us on our last move. We've been here for two months and still haven't gotten that travel pay. The government (yeah, right) credit card came due a month ago. We had to cough up $700 to make sure it got paid off and didn't screw us on our credit rating.

When we got here, we immediately got base housing. This is a good thing... usually. The base housing here is "privatized," meaning a private contractor has taken over base housing. Part of military pay is called "Basic Allowance for Housing." When you live in base housing you don't get it - of course not, you live on base (so no, military people don't get "free" housing... they just don't get part of their pay when they live on base). It's just easier for them to keep the BAH. But with this privatization, the ADMM is supposed to get BAH, but sign it over to the private contractor; rent, as it were. It should work the same way as living in regular base housing - the ADMM never sees the money, the contractor gets his money, and all is right with the world.

We signed in, signed over the BAH, and thought that would be it.

Come October 1st, the contractor had not received our BAH. We had not received it, either. The Spouse Thingy marched over to the Finance Office, only to find out that as far as they were concerned, even though he had signed in, we were still in transit from our transfer. We weren't the only ones; several people who arrived at the base about the same time were in the same boat. It was a matter of catching up on paperwork that got delayed because of some deployments. He was assured that the money would be in our bank account in two days, and next month the BAH would go directly to the contractor.

Now, the contractor wanted rent. Period. We dipped into savings again and forked over $1006 dollars, on the promise we'd have that - plus the travel pay - in two days.

Yeah, right. We've been here two months and we're down $1700.

Can you imagine the hell that would break loose if a private company suddenly withheld $1000 of someone's paycheck, on top of not repaying their moving expenses? At the very least, a private citizen has the right to sue on his own behalf. The military member doesn't.

So we get to wait for someone in Finance to get it right, and to repay us money we never should have had to pay. And you know damn well they won't pay any interest on it.

We're tired. After 18 years of this, we're tired. The military has been good to us, for sure, but dammit, a person can only take so much. We're tired, and we're stuck. And we want our money back.


Pass Me Some Cheese, Then I'll Bend Over

I hate whining, but damn, I'm gonna....

This is a lesson on when a contract is not a contract; or at least when a contract means "ok, not really, not on our end, but you still have to hold up your end." This is a lesson in Government Bullshit 101. Take notes; there will be a quiz.

Prior to last September there were several (read: way too many) critical medical military members eligible to either get out of the service or retire. Many of them were planning on getting out and heading to greener (read: civilian pay at 2-5 times military pay and the end of the military merry go round) pastures. Then 9/11 happened, and out of necessity the military was placed on Stop Loss - meaning no one could get out, not even those who had their paperwork to retire in order. There were few complaints; consider the circumstances. No one knew how bad things would get, and the military needed those positions staffed.

People made some serious personal sacrifices when ordered to stay in the service; some lost very high paying jobs in the civilian sector, some wound up being moved from the area where they intended to retire to fill positions in some really ratty places. Some wound up sitting on mountains in Afghanistan or playing in Saudi Arabian sand. Some wound up places they weren't allowed to tell even their closest family members. Those not deployed often had to work extra hours to fill in for those who were playing in the sand or on a mountain, hours on top of weeks that often tipped over 50-60 hours.

When Stop Loss was lifted, the military risked losing tons of critical medical people. General surgeons, neurosurgeons, anesthestists, dentists; a mass exodus was possible. In order to entice military members eligible to leave, retention bonuses were waved in front of them. They weren't huge bonuses, but enough to make people sit back and think "Hmmm... this might make staying in for one more year worth it."

So they were told they would get the bonus if they signed on the dotted line. Many did; they committed themselves to another year of service in exchange for a retention bonus. It was to be paid before the end of the 2002 Fiscal Year, which ended on Monday, September 30.

Monday came and went, and no one got paid.

Tuesday - the start of the new fiscal year - came and went, and no one got paid. Same thing with Wednesday. But on Thursday, word came down.

The bonus is not being paid.

Some Congressman in California, don't yet know who, heard about the legislation enacted to give all these people a one time, keep-em-in-the-service bonus, and enacted some kind of legislation that effectively stopped payment on the money. Don't know why yet, either. Chances are he or she wanted that money for a pet project. Whatever the reason, there are several (many) military members who agreed to stay in exchange for the cash.

Selfish and crass? It doesn't matter. What matters is that there was a contract, and the government is not going to uphold their end of the deal. All because of one Congressman.

Can these people get out? Ideally the contract is null and void. But they're not getting out. Nope. They're being held to it until "the issue is resolved." When will that be? Who knows?

We know this much - Stop Loss is rumored to be on the way again. Once in effect, they're stuck. All those people who served their country and could have gotten out but stayed because of a promise unfilled will be stuck, and in risk of being back in the line of fire.

If a private company did this, all hell would break loose.

But hey, this is the military. Not real people, after all, just the guys who work 12-16 hour days to be a part of the peace process. Who cares if the government screws them to keep them in?

Evidently a Congressman in California doesn't.



Today we found a Rally's.

I missed Rally's. The last time I had a Rally's burger was when we were stationed at Scott AFB in Illinois, and we left there in July 1996. I reallllly wanted one. We thought we had found one a while back, but we got there and it was closed. Permanently.

Today we were leaving the base and had to stop by the post office (oohyeah, those of you who ordered books, they're on the way) and decided to see what was just past the place where we normally turn off.

There it was. The Spouse Thingy spotted it first, and I thought he was kidding. Cruelly teasing me. Yeah, right, there's a Rally's this close and we never saw it before. I mean, we looked in the phone book and never saw it there. But there it was. On the right. Just a couple miles away from the Number One Gate of the air force base.

A Rally's.

Oh yeah.

So we stopped, and The Spouse Thingy treated me to a Rally's combo. Burger, fries, and a coke. Yes! Yesyesyes! I was having Rally's for lunch!

And you know what? It sucked.
This is a good thing, over all. I don't need the temptation of a nearby really good Rally's.

But, damn!


Holy Brain Surgery Batman!

Ok, it wasn't rocket science, but it was brain surgery. Slowly, envelope by envelope, the bills for my surgery in June have been trickling in. A thousand here, and few thousand there, until the total reached about $30,000.

Today we get another envelope in the mail, just as we're heading out the door to go see a movie. Did you hear a wild "HOLY SHIT!" riding on the air outside your house today? That was me, after opening said envelope.


No, there are no typos there. Eighty seven thousand, one hundred seventy five dollars and five cents (I think the 5 cents was the price for me blinking freely in the recovery room; after all, the movement did displace air...). That brings the grand total to well over one hundred thousand dollars. $100,000.

This, boys and girls, has made all eighteen years of military bullshit worth it. Eighteen years of moving every 3 years, leaving friends behind, having to find new and inventive ways to keep myself occupied whilst the Spouse Thingy is at work and while I know no one and have no where fun to go.

Our share? About $50. Yep. Fifty dollars.

God Bless the United States Air Force.



Major kudos to Scary Duck. Our Webfooted Web Weaver was voted Best British Blog on the ‘Net, and deservedly so. He’s got a funny-assed blog, loaded with memories from his childhood, told in a way only the Duck can. Be prepared to spend a lot of time there reading.

It started raining here yesterday afternoon; a nice, steady soaking rain that we really need (oohyeah, I want those leave to change to all the pretty colors!) Now, don’t ask me why, but an hour after the rain began, one of my neighbors was out there mowing his lawn. I understand enjoying a walk in the rain, but cutting the grass? I wonder how thrilled he was later that afternoon when maintenance workers brought a mini-bulldozer over and ripped his lawn up to get at a broken water pipe.

I wondered, too, when the rain was coming down in torrents this morning – we got a good 4 inches – why he was standing outside, shaking a carpet runner…

Cats are supposed to hate water, right? (nice segue from the rain, eh?)

PsychoKitty doesn’t want to get in it, but he sure wants to watch it. It’s not possible to take a bath or a shower without his help. He stands outside the tub, waiting patiently for us to finish, so that he can stand at tub’s edge and watch water go down the drain. A flushing toilet fascinates him (for this reason all toilets are closed when not in use…) To keep him occupied for an hour, I can just dump ice cubes in the sink, and he’ll stand there and watch them melt.

Eh, I don’t get it, but whatever floats his little boat.

My books are still for sale, and I still really need a car.
No pressure, though…


Shamless Self Promotion

For the many, many, many (okay, all 3 of you) who have asked about signed copies of my latest book As Simple As That I finally got a shipment in. It only took a month [insert rolling of the eyes]. They're $14.95 plus shipping. I still have signed copies of the first book, Charybdis available, too.

No pressure. But I really need to buy a car...


Ack! Pooey! Furball!

I occured to me today, while I was vacuuming up enough dog hair to be able to knit three blankets and a couple of sweaters, that I'm not a dog person (though I love Hank), and if something happens to the Spouse Thingy, it's likely that I'll become a Cat Lady. You know, those freaky old women who live in the dark house at the end of the street, with the grass that never seems to need to be cut but still looks pretty bad, who have 22 cats roaming around inside and a couple of dozen outside. I'm going to be one of them.

I realized this while I was vacuuming, because the constant shedding of dog hair annoys me, and I had just had a conversation with the cat. Yes, I talk to the cat. He talks back. What's worse, is that we seem to understand each other. I never have conversations with the dog. I talk to him and he stares back with this vacant "I want food" look. I talk to the cat and he answers. I'm definitely a cat person.

I'm not much of a people person, either. I suck at casual conversation with other bipeds. But I can talk to cats.

Yep, I'm going to be that freaky old lady at the end of the street, who chases kids off the lawn with an old broom. =sigh=


Here, Have Some Cheese

Maybe I’m just being on the sensitive side lately, but I’m hearing a lot more whining these days: life sucks, my parents/boss/job/siblings totally blow, my friends are turning into little pricks, and I just don’t like the way everything is going. I want everything on my terms, and dammit, I’m tired of waiting for that to happen. Does the world not realize it revolves around me?

Ok, so maybe the whiners don’t feel things to quite that extreme, but it’s how they sound.

Venting is one thing. It’s a one-time, get it off your chest blowup that’s over 2 seconds after the last word escapes your lips. Whining is chronic. At some point it becomes noise, that background static people train themselves to ignore. Listen to yourself speak. If you’re complaining most of the time, if you’re snapping at people because they don’t seem to be treating you fairly, if friends are avoiding you… maybe it’s you.

Face it, you get out of this world what you put into it; if it seems like your parents are always on your ass, you can’t find a job, your siblings seem to walk on water which makes you look like scum, everyone is snapping at you, it may very well be because they’re reacting to the you treat them. It’s like parasitic symbiosis. You’ll continue to feed off one another until one of you changes.

Why not be the one to make that first step? Be the adult, be the mature one. Start being nice, even in the face of nastiness, and see how the people around you respond to it. Attitude is everything. If you can change that, you can change the way you see the world, and the way the world sees you.

But whatever – don’t whine… it only makes you look immature and annoys the holy bejeezuz out of everyone around you.


Butterfly Kisses

Remember that song? It was a hit a few years ago, a very sappy but kinda catchy tune about a dad mourning his little girl having grown up. I suspect most kids at the time thought it was a gag-me sort of song, and most adults thought it was sweet. I liked it (didn’t love it), but I always wondered… how freakishly long were the eyelashes on that little girl? If she was hugging her dad and he could feel her eyelashes fluttering against his cheek, she either had mutant lashes or he was holding so tight her eyes were popping out and the poor kid couldn’t breath. It’s amazing she survived long enough for him to write the song and smother the airwaves with it.

I thought about that song yesterday morning as I was climbing out of bed. I wake up every morning – a lot earlier that I would actually like – to whisker kisses. They start at about 4 in the morning; Max jumps up on the bed and very quietly creeps up to my face, sniffing my nose, checking to see if my eyes are open. I can feel his whiskers tickle my face, but I know better than to open my eyes. Once he’s satisfied that I’m still asleep, he crawls over me and either plops down on the bed to sleep, curling up and jamming his furry little body as close to me as he can (what is it about my ass? Is he trying to flatten it or what?), or he jumps onto the nice, soft window perch that the Spouse Thingy hung for him.

Like clockwork, he’s back at 8:30. During those 4½ hours that he lets me sleep he snoozes a while, then gets up when the Spouse Thingy does and helps him get ready for work (because, after all, we all know that the Spouse Thingy could not get ready properly without his help), and then he waits. Sometimes patiently, sometimes not. Once in a while I hear him, standing out in the hall by his dish, meowing his little head off, but for the most part he waits until the time he knows I should be getting up. He jumps on the bed and starts to sniff, his whiskers tickling my face.

He’s not so willing to let me stay asleep by then. If my eyes don’t open, the whiskers on my face become his head butting into my nose (which is still pretty tender from the surgery almost 3 months ago), and he starts nagging me. I don’t need to speak Kitty to understand what he’s saying.

“Get up. I’m hungry. Get up, I want food. Get up, dammit, get up get up get up!”

I either roll over – which does no good because he crawls over my body and starts the whole thing up all over again – or I open my eyes and let him know I know he’s there. That’s all he needs, to just know that I’m awake, and that I’ll get up soon to feed him. As soon as my eyes are open I get another healthy dose of whisker kisses, and he drops down onto his side to cuddle up against me, squirming and twisting, trying to get me to pet and adore him.

It used to annoy me, the clockwork precision way he’d check me out at 4 in the morning, every morning, and how he pushes me to get up before I really want to. But I thought about that corny little song, and realized that if he stopped doing it, I’d miss it.

At least I don’t have to squish his little head that close to feel his whiskers. I still wonder about that kid in the song, and if her head is all squarshed out of shape…


CNN Late Breaking News!

It has been reported that Osama bin Laden was captured this morning at 4:22 AM Pacific Standard Time by US Special Forces.

The prime suspect of the recent terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, bin Laden was captured at gunpoint as he fled an underground passage in a remote mountainside of southern Afghanistan.

Northern Alliance troops, who witnessed the events unfold, explained that moments earlier United States war planes had sprayed liquid Viagra across the southern Afghanistan countryside, and the little prick just popped up!

Heh... stolen from a post on Wil Wheaton's Soapbox
Carpe Diem

If today is your birthday, celebrate it. If it’s your anniversary, celebrate it. If it’s your kid’s recital, talent show, first lost tooth, go, enjoy, celebrate the changes. Take a deep breath and be glad to be alive, and take back your day.

Take it back. It’s yours. Don’t let them have it.

Will we have another surge of National Pride today? Will it last? Will people haul out the flags they out away, or replace they ones they just weren’t ready to store? And will Other People not grind their teeth at the show of what they think is bandwagon patriotism and just let them fly a flag without being made to feel like a lemming?

Yes, people started flying the flag last year. But it wasn’t out of pretentious patriotism; people had their reasons for it.

For some, flying the flag was an in-your-face, red-white-and-blue Fuck You to anyone in this world who would blink twice in the direction of the U.S. It was Empowerment. Capital E intentional.

I suspect for most people, though, flying the flag fulfilled an emotional need. It wasn't sudden patriotism, it wasn't jumping on the bandwagon to be that Perfect All American, all apple pie and cookie cutter God Fearing US Citizen... it was a blanket, a bandage to cover a deep, deep wound.

Face it, for most of us, even those of us who had friends in NY who are still suffering the emotional backlash of a year ago, and for those of us who had friends who are still grieving the loss of family, there was literally nothing we could do. Someone kicked us all in the teeth, but individually we couldn't hit back. There was a collective owie, and people needed a collective Band Aid.

That Band Aid was the flag... People wrapped themselves in it for comfort, not necessarily out of a surge of patriotism, but of a need for something indefinable. The flag became Mom's late night, make-you-feel-better cookies and milk. It's tangible, something that can be touched, felt, seen...

And as the healing began, people began to take the Band Aid off. The pressing need to fly the flag wasn't as great. Yes, greater respect should have been paid to the flag itself, and those that became tattered should have been removed and replaced, but the circumstances are not the norm. Some people are not, not even now, ready to give up the thing that made them feel even just a tiny bit better, not even to replace it with something identical.

They still need time. And that should be ok.

I don't think it was ever bandwagon patriotism. For the most part, the surge of flags flying was the Band Aid, the security blanket people needed.

Seize the day, friends. Be glad you’re alive.
I know I am.


By Any Other Name...

We learned something this weekend. It may prove to be invaluable in the future, when we’re trying to decide what we want to do on any given weekend, as we peruse the newspaper for local goings-on. “Festival” in the Midwest generally means one thing, no matter what else is tacked on to the title.

Saturday we went to the Starving Artists Festival. I assumed, naturally I think, that there would be artists there. You know, as in “I paint pictures” kind of artist. There were some awesome displays of woodwork, homemade jewelry, tie dyed t-shirts, quilts, embroidered shirts and skirts… but no paintings.


Today we went to the Beavercreek Popcorn Festival. I like popcorn. It seemed promising; 200 booths, and all were supposed to have popcorn in some form (according to the Dayton Daily News, anyway.) There was also a nice little car show, with enough classic cars and ragtops to give us both minor cases of drooling.

I only saw 5 or 6 booths that had popcorn. The rest was, well, woodwork, homemade jewelry, tie dyed t-shirts, quilts, embroidered shirts and skirts. The skill of these people is incredible – at both festivals – so good I wondered a few times why they were hawking their wares there instead of setting up shop in the mall. But I also wondered where the heck all the popcorn was.

I can only conclude that in the Midwest, “festival” when coupled with any other word really means “craft show.”

I wonder what we’ll see if we go to something advertised as a craft show…


Coin, Shiny, Other Side

We’re coming up on 18 years in the United States Air Force. Technically, the Spouse Thingy is, but since I’ve bounced from place to place with him, I’m a part of it. Eighteen years; that’s a fricking long time.

Now, granted, it’s not what I want for my son, not in terms of a career anyway. Over that 18 years things have shifted back and forth so much in terms of whether its worth it or not, that for the most part, I don’t think it’s worth it. Not for the long haul. I have serious issues with how little the enlisted troops are paid (hey, our military members should not qualify for food stamps, not even an E-1 or and E-2; and no, very few really know what they’re getting in to when they sign up, and no one can just quit if it turns out to be less than desirable for their family circumstances). I have issues with the rules of fraternization, though I do understand the basic “why” of them; I just think those rules are carried too far. I have issues with the way retirees are treated, like 3rd class citizens who seem to exist only to block the commissary aisles. I have issues with the officers' wives who seem to think they wear their husband’s rank.

But for all the reasons I wouldn’t want my son to make a career of it, it really isn’t all bad. It's been very good to us.

When the Spouse Thingy went in 18 years ago, it was as an enlisted guy; he was roughly 3 semesters short of his BSN, but we had a baby and needed to pay rent on more than an orderly’s salary and what little I could make working at International Fitness Center. He enlisted, and started bringing home the megabucks. All $800 a month.

One of the benefits of the military is the educational programs available. At the time, if he had wanted to take college classes in his off-hours, they would have paid 75% of his tuition. That’s up to a full 100% now. There are several programs available through which an airman can get a degree; the Spouse Thingy applied for, and was granted admission to, the USAF Bootstrap Program.

Basically, this gave him 3 semesters off work, at pay, to finish his BSN. When he graduated with his degree, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant, and began working as a medical ward nurse. He had his eye on cardiac care nursing; six months later he was transferred to the CCU. It was invaluable experience.

His eye shifted to anesthesia; he wanted to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. The Air Force had their own training program via the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. After two years of CCU nursing – a requirement for the program – he applied and was granted admission. By then he was a Captain… and the pay was better than $800 a month.

Two years after that he had his MSN in Nurse Anesthesia and a required commitment to spend another 4 years in the Air Force. By the end of that 4 years he was at 12 years in and made the decision to stick it out for 20, reasoning that the pension would be worth it.

And it will be.

But the gist of it is that he took advantage of the military education benefits in the best way he could, and when he retires he’ll have another career waiting for him. One that pays pretty danged well.

There are risks to being in the military, obviously. Being shot is one of them. Tours in the desert in the middle of summer. Being called at 3 a.m. and being told you have to be on a plane to an undisclosed location in an hour, for an undetermined length of time. War. The wrong end of things that go =boom=

But the benefits are there. Education. Medical care (hey, I got a $30,000 surgery and we’ll wind up paying a whopping $50.) Travel.

It’s worth it for the short term, I think. Four to eight years. Serve your country, get an education, see places you never would have, like endless cornfields in the Midwest and huge fricking desert scorpions. And you get really cool food, like dehydrated pork patties.

Yep, that’s worth it.


A Case Of I Want

Some of the simplest things can be a big thrill – I saw a commercial yesterday for Rally’s and literally stopped what I was doing and sighed “Oooh, I want that.” I haven’t been to a Rally’s in at least eight years, and dang, it sounded so good. As I recall, it was nothing but cheap burgers and seasoned fries, but I really liked it.

The Spouse Thingy, being the Good Person that he is, looked it up in the phone boo, saw there was one not too far down the road, and declared Night Off From Diets and Cooking. After feeding Hank and PsychoKitty this evening, we jumped into the car and headed down Airway Road.

Yep, there was a Rally’s there.
It was closed.
Not just closed, but Out Of Business closed.

I was so bummed. Now granted, it’s just a burger, but dammit, I wanted that burger. We pulled into Wendy’s instead, and I had a burger anyway. Heck, it was good, I love Wendy’s burgers. It just wasn’t Rally’s.

Before we left I decided I wanted a Frosty. If I can’t have the burger I want, then by golly I’ll have a Frosty. The Spouse Thingy went to the counter to get me one, said “one small Frosty to go, please,” and the counter person handed him one.

For free.

Ok, so I’m still bummed the Rally’s was closed, but a free Frosty? Heck yeah!

We know for sure we’re in the Midwest now. Aside from the various county fairs, tomorrow Beavercreek is having its annual Popcorn Festival. Yep, an entire festival dedicated to Popcorn. According to the newspaper, every booth there has to off popcorn in some variety; a local church is planning on having popcorn noodles and chicken.

Um. Yum?

We’ll check it out on Sunday (because Sunday they’re also having a car show, and even though I lack the requisite testosterone, I want to see the cars).

Saturday there’s a Starving Artists Show somewhere in Dayton that we’ll try to see. I need to pick up a cheap crappy painting to match the cheap crappy painting I bought at WalMart just before we left California. I like my cheap crappy painting; it kind of goes with the Thomas Kincaid the Spouse Thingy bought me for Christmas.

If the Spouse Thingy would get his stuff out and get back into Bob Ross painting, he could create the cheap crappy picture I can’t seem to find anywhere else.

Surely some Starving Artist has created the ultimate cheap crappy painting…

More than Rally’s, I want a car. A convertible. Almost any convertible will do at this point. Yes, I’m pouting.

I want Jelly Belly Jelly Beans too.

Mostly, I want the car.


Serve Your Country, Then Bend Over

Imagine that you’ve spent 20 years working for a company who promised you, in writing, that if you stuck it out for the full 2 decades with them, you could retire with a pension (50% of pay) and full medical benefits. That’s the contract: 20 years for full medical and a pension.

Now, imagine what you would do if you reached that 20 year mark and they turned around and said “Well, no. We meant it when we said it, but we changed our minds. You have to pay for your medical.”

You’d sue their asses, right?

Military members don’t have that luxury. They are property of the U.S. Government, and as such don’t have the right to sue Uncle Sam on their own behalf. So when, years back, the government decided to not honor that part of the contract and shifted medical benefits to the HMO-like TriCare, hundreds of thousands of military retirees found themselves faced with losing their medical care, unless they were willing to pay hefty premiums for what had been promised to them for free.

These are the guys who served in World War II, Korea, Viet Nam. These are the guys who uprooted themselves at the government’s whim, frequently, moving their families with them, to every corner of the world, serving this country with not just their sweat, but their blood as well. To thank them, the rug was yanked right out from their feet, the promise reneged on.

It took several years for them to get back that “free” medical care. Recently TriCare For Life was implemented, giving retirees back their medical care. Sort of. They also must be enrolled in Medicare, which becomes the primary payee on medical costs. But, essentially, they got back their care.

That leaves the pension promised. For the most part, if you serve 20 years in the military, you get a pension that equals 50% of your base pay (it does not include any housing or subsistence allowances). If you gut it out for 30, you get 75% of your base pay.

If you leave the military officially disabled and can’t work because of that disability, you get screwed by a law that prohibits the military retiree from drawing a pension in excess of a disability check.

In a nutshell, that means that if a civilian retires from a private company and has a pension of $2000 a month, is certified disabled and his disability check is $1500, he has an income of $3500 a month. If a military member retires with a pension of $2000 a month, is qualified for disability at $1500 a month, he has an income of… $2000 a month. $1500 of that is disability, and his pension drops to $500.

Those are generous numbers, by the way. A $2000 pension is for the ranks of major and above. Junior officers and enlisted won’t see that kind of money.

The numbers don’t matter, though What matters is that this is legal discrimination, invoked on people by the government they spent the better part of their lives serving.

Spend your career on your knees loading bombs or repairing airplanes, destroy your lungs while serving as a Fuel Specialist, or have them seared from the fires in Kuwait… Become 100% disabled – meaning you cannot work after your 20 years are up - while serving your country, and you will not get the pension to which you are entitled.

Most retirees go on to other careers; they have the ability to earn for themselves a second income, enough to put bread on the table and their kids through school. Disabled retirees, however, cannot work. They don’t have the options. And then they’re expected to live on anywhere from a few hundred to about $1200 a month. Pretax dollars.

If they were civilian, they would get both their pension and disability.

And people wonder why I want a generations-long tradition of military service to end with my husband. Why I don’t want my son in the military.

Why would I?


Wandom Wabbit Musings

Know what? You can find tons of cool things to do in a new place, but if you lack transportation, all that cool stuff might as well be in another state. I’m excited; I’ve got Things To Do here, and once we get a second car, I can do them. And I don’t think it’ll be much longer until we can get that car, maybe a month. Maybe two. I can wait that long.

Until then I can just get my sorry ass back to work, both writing and learning how to start up a business. Yes, boys and girls, I want to start up my own business, a small publishing company. I know the basics, I just need to learn the specifics, and then buy the software and stuff that I’ll need.

For Pete’s sake, if you’re stoned out of your gourd, don’t make telephone calls. You won’t make any sense at all, the person to whom you are speaking will become very irritated, and avoid calls from you for a very long time. There’s nothing funny about protracted silences, changing subjects in the middle of a sentence, and pontification upon subjects about which you honestly know nothing. If you have to call someone while flying higher than the proverbial kite, make sure it’s someone equally as stoned.

Pet peeve: Stay out of the freaking handicapped stall unless you have a legitimate need to be in one. Having a toddler with you, and using the space so that it’s easier is not a legitimate need. Millions of mothers and fathers before you managed just fine in regular stalls with their tiny offspring. Needing to change your pantyhose is not a legitimate need. Become more flexible so that you can do that in a regular stall, or just shed some inhibitions and do it outside a stall.

Why does this bug me so much? I spent several months in a wheelchair. I now understand how important it is to have that lone, roomy stall available to someone who really, truly needs it. Your only excuse for using the handicapped stall is if there are only 2 stalls to begin with, and you have no idea how long the person in the regular stall will be there; if there are 7 stalls and one handicapped, stay out. Wait your turn. I don’t care how badly you have to go, unless you’re 3 years old, you can wait. What would you do if every stall were occupied? You’d wait. Pretend the big stall is occupied.

Face it, you can fit into any stall. The person in a wheelchair cannot. The person needing a walker for mobility cannot. They have only one choice, and oftentimes do not have the bladder and bowel control you do.

Whiners irritate the beejeezus out of me. I don’t mean a regular, everyday complaint. Those happen, and usually for a reason. I mean people who couch everything in chronic whining. Work sucks, school sucks, life sucks, my hair sucks, my siblings suck, my ex sucks, everything is someone else’s fault and never my own.

Get over it. Grow up. Stop whining.

I’ll stop now. I’m starting to whine…