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.