Monday, August 27, 2007

Not so pretty in pink

In this part of the country, small, green garden lizards like the little guy pictured below are common. In fact, it would be unusual to go outside in warm weather and not see at least a couple of them on the fence or the patio furniture.

Sometimes they get in my house, which kind of spooks me, but not nearly as much as a mouse or a cockroach would.

Lately the house seems to have been invaded by a different species of lizard, one I'd never seen until about a year ago. They're pink, they're translucent (look how you can see his eyeballs through the top of his head), and these, I'll admit, give me the creeps. This guy's fleshy pinkness, not to mention a missing toe on his left front foot, made me think of him as some kind of mutant. I searched for him on Google, turning up several pages of Pink Lizard bars and jewelry stores, but I never found another lizard like him.

The pink lizard pictured here was about six inches long, a big sturdy guy, but the ones I've seen in my house lately are much smaller, only about two inches long. It's possible they're babies, I suppose, but if they are, they're not growing. I saw the first one about two months ago, and the one I saw last night (the third) was still no longer than two inches.

Of the three of them, one was in the bathroom and two were right outside the bathroom, in the hall near the dogs' nighttime water dish. Their color blends in with the lighter areas of my flooring, so I don't see them until I'm right on top of them and they move. They move fast! I managed to catch each of the first two in a towel and release them outside. The third one, unfortunately, wasn't so lucky.

When I got up this morning, on my first trip to the bathroom, I noticed that the water dish was practically empty. I picked it up to fill it and saw something hanging off the bottom of it. I was reaching out to flick it off when I realized that the little "something" was frantically waving its front feet. Its back feet and its tail just hung there, not moving at all. Apparently, when I set the full water dish down last night, I set one edge of it right across the middle of the lizard's back. Ewwwwwwww!

I thought about carrying him outside as I had the others, but in his condition I was afraid he'd be dinner for fire ants before noon. That seemed too cruel, so I did the (cowardly) next best thing: I pulled him off the water dish with a wad of toilet tissue and flushed him. His poor little front legs were paddling away as he swirled down the toilet.

Now I have mixed emotions. I feel sad about my role in his untimely end, and yet I'd feel more comfortable if I knew for sure that he died. I've found myself wondering today whether there are more two-inch mutant lizards in my house. I can picture them marching all in a row from the bathroom to the hall and then into my bedroom, a nude, wriggling, mutant army seeking to avenge the death of a brother. And if he didn't die? Then I imagine him growing to be six inches long and dragging his paraplegic self up from the septic tank and back into my toilet.

The hairs on the back of my neck are standing up. I need to go read for a while so I won't take those images to bed with me. Good night.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Kadi, you're it!

Butch tagged Creekhiker’s Mabel with the “Eight Things” meme, and Mabel, in turn, tagged Kadi. I’m glad she did, even if it means more typing for me, because Kadi keeps score of things like that.

I have to say that in all my life I’ve never personally known a nicer dog than Kadi -- “nice” in the sense of always behaving in a way designed to get in the good graces of the people around her. What’s charming about it is that the “niceness” doesn’t seem to come naturally: The girl has a couple of, shall we say, flaws. And insecurities. Still, she deserves extra points for working around the clock to be the best dog she can possibly be.

This is how I imagine Kadi would respond to the “Eight Things” meme:

By Kadi

1. Everybody says what a good girl I am, and, not to be immodest, it’s true. That’s because I really like to please people. If it weren’t for the shedding thing, I’d be perfect.

2. I can’t decide if the prettiest thing about me is my freckled nose or my amber eyes. I get compliments on both of them all the time, so I don't think it's just my imagination that people like to look at me.

3. Despite my good looks, I’m older than my human “mom,” at least in terms of dog years. But it isn’t because of my age that I'm in charge of the house. On the contrary, I gained that position by virtue of my life-long, natural ability to spot anything that’s out of order and call my people's attention to it. Like yesterday, for instance. The power was out when my mom left for work, and while she was gone, the lights came back on. When she came home for lunch, I didn’t greet her the way I usually do. Instead, I hunkered down in my bed with my head scrunched down and my ears laid back, you know, just to show her I realized things weren’t as she’d left them and I was sorry. It was beyond my control, but I still wanted to be sure she knew it wasn't my fault that the lights came on.

4. I’m smarter than my brother, Butch, whom I helped raise from a pup. He knows it, too, even though he acts like he couldn’t care less. Sometimes, when Butch and I are both lying on the floor, I see him get up and move toward the sofa. He’s a little slow (because he’s blind), so I get up fast, take a shortcut, and jump up on the seat next to our mom. It‘s so funny when he finally gets there and smells me in the place where he intended to be. I sit there and look down at him and smile. Usually he just moves over to the far end of the sofa and climbs up there, but sometimes my mom makes me move instead. (She doesn’t have much of a sense of humor.)

5. I pretty much do everything I’m told to do, except sometimes, when my mom holds the door open and asks if I want to go outside, I plop down into a sitting position so she’ll know I don’t really want to go. If she insists, I do it to please her, but then I might give her a dirty look so she’ll know I’m only doing it for her. I've totally mastered the art of cross-species communication, using nothing more than body language and the expression on my face.

6. I consider Kim, Lucy and Winston as part of my immediate family, and I’m happiest when they’re all here with Mom and Butch and me. I indulge the pups by playing with them (which Butch certainly never wants to do). Plus, I get to boss them around. I’d never hurt them, of course, but I do have to head-butt them once in a while to keep them out of trouble.

7. Oh, let me tell you about this: One time when Lucy and Winston were annoying me, I made a really mean face at them, wrinkling my nose and baring my teeth. It scared them the way I wanted it to, but then, ohmigosh, I realized my mom and Kim were watching me. I hurried and smiled at Mom and Kim, like the joke was between us and I was just teasing the pups with the mean face. Whew! I don't think they caught on, but that was a close call.

8. In the past six months, I’ve finally found my voice. I used to ask nicely for treats, you know, tap-dancing around and letting out cute little “rrrowr-rrrowr” sounds, but now I go stand facing my mom and bark demandingly. Every single time I do it, she tells me, "Kadi, stop that barking!" As much as I’d like to accommodate her, the truth is, she’s quicker about getting up and getting the treats when I bark, so what's my incentive to stop it? Besides, I’m getting old. I have neither the time nor the energy to stand around and wait for some old woman to decide she’s in the mood to do something nice and give me a treat.

I really am a good dog -- almost perfect (did I mention that?) –- but this being in charge of absolutely everything is a lot of hard work. I only hope everyone understands and appreciates what I go through. Sigh.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A meme and a special guest blogger

Earlier this month Alison tagged me with a meme: "Eight things you don't know about me." Because I've been so busy with the office move (which is going extremely well, by the way) I haven't done it yet. And because it takes more brainpower than I can presently muster up to think of eight things about me that I haven't already told you, I have gratefully accepted the help of a very good friend: Butch, take it away!

By Butch

1. I hate getting my nails cut, so I bite them to keep them from growing too long. My favorite time to do it is in the middle of the night.

2. When I’m sleeping comfortably, I don’t like to get up. Sometimes when my people call me, I pretend I don’t hear them, even if they're calling in their loud, outside voices. Then they trick me by whispering something about “ice cream” or “treat,” and I wag my tail and give myself away.

3. Sometimes I scratch inside my ear –- very carefully –- with the nails of my hind foot...and then I hold that foot up to my nose and sniff it. Mmm-mmm!

4. My fur is short, so people are always surprised to find out how soft it is. They like to rub it, and I love it when they do that.

5. I don’t watch much television, but when I hear a puppy whine or cry on TV, I sit up and pay attention until that part of the show is over.

6. I’ve been called “strange” and "weird," but I prefer to think of it as “unconventional.” Who says there’s only one right way to do something?

7. When I go to the vet’s office, I’m the star of the lobby. People always come over to ask about my eyes, then they end up petting me and talking to me. Especially the kids. I like it in the lobby, just not in that back room.

8. I like people better than I like other dogs, and I especially enjoy the company of men. Not many men come to our house, so I’m really, really happy when I get to spend some quality time with one of 'em.

I tag Spot, Mabel, Cheyenne and Ellie (or the tag team of Ellie, Duffy and Vannie), but only if their humans agree to help them type.

Monday, August 13, 2007

And the streak continues

When I reread my last entry, I realized that I forgot to tell you about a couple of other things that happened last week, both of which fit nicely into the category of "things gone wrong."

First, there was the pizza that I didn't intend to share. My plan as I cut off the first hot, cheesy slices was to have pizza for at least three meals over the next day or two. Unfortunately, while I was enjoying pizza in front of the TV, a solitary fly found its way into my home and enjoyed the other two-thirds of the pizza in the kitchen. When I spotted the fly, I didn't get the impression that it had done a quick buzz in, touch down and resume flying thing. No, it behaved as if it owned that pizza, as if it had frolicked over the melted mozzarella and hopscotched from one pepperoni slice to the next until its little fly body had contaminated every morsel.

I hated to waste the food, so I asked myself how much I'd be willing to spend not to have to eat pizza that a fly had crawled on. It turns out I was willing to pay more than the value of the remaining pizza, so I threw it out. Fly 1, Velvet 0.


Another kitchen incident occurred when I carried bags of groceries into the house, setting them on the countertop and, when I ran out of room, on the glass stovetop itself. When I brought in the next bunch of bags, I smelled something funny and noticed that the stove was turned on! I must have accidentally bumped the stove handle on the front when I leaned in to set the groceries down.

The packaging on a few food items had partially melted, so it took five minutes or so to repack the items in plastic wrap, and it took another 40 minutes to scrape all the burnt plastic off my stovetop. The most embarrassing part of this tale is that it's the second time that's happened. Wouldn't you think once would have been enough?


Okay, that brings us up to last weekend. I needed to be at the office at seven o'clock Saturday morning for the move, and I made it there on time despite the fact that my left rear tire blew out on the way. I heard the explosion, but the car continued to handle so well that I thought the noise must have been caused by something else. I was about four miles from the office when the tire blew, and I was only about a block away when the steering wheel began vibrating and the road noise got really loud.


We were finished moving by ten a.m., and it was a good thing we finished when we did. All of us were completely drenched in sweat, literally dripping from toiling in the direct sun while the temperature reached a record-setting 104 actual degrees. Between the extreme perspiration and the toting of multiple boxes from one place to the other, I was exhausted by mid-morning.


When I got home from the move, Kim was here. At one point in the early afternoon, she was in the bathroom, and I heard her say, "Oh, my gosh, you have a problem in here." My immediate thought was plumbing problems again, but no, there was a new, different kind of surprise in store for me: an ant parade, all along one wall at floor level, then up and over the shower enclosure. I picked up my camera as I went to get the bug spray.


Yesterday, Sunday afternoon, I went to the office and worked for about four hours to get semi-organized. Sunday was a pretty good day, all in all. At least if anything bad happened, I haven't found out about it yet.


When I got to work today, I discovered the cover of a four-foot-long fluorescent light fixture hanging suspended by one tiny clip directly over the chair where I'd spent the previous afternoon. I was tempted to think of it as one more in a long chain of recent annoyances, but I prefer to put a positive spin on it and call it a narrow escape. That way, I can believe my luck may have finally changed.

Whew! I'll sleep better now.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

I miss the leisurely pace of my life...

...and I'm ready to have it back, please.

Have you noticed a correlation between having plenty to write about and not having enough time to write it, or is that just me? That's been my situation for the past two weeks, and I don't see it abating in the immediate future.

Rather than abandoning my blog entirely until things calm down, I'll post bite-sized editions of what's going on around here:


The heat index reached 111 degrees today, and tomorrow and Saturday are supposed to be even hotter.


Tomorrow and Saturday, coincidentally, are the days we've scheduled movers to come in and move the office furniture to a new office. We've also scheduled me to make sure the furniture gets put in the right places, everything gets moved that's supposed to be, and nothing gets thrown away that isn't supposed to be. Maybe we'll get lucky and it will rain.


Other than the actual, physical moving process and the hours and hours of preparation for it, I'm excited about the changes. Instead of a general law practice, my boss will be concentrating his efforts in one specific area of the law. This opportunity came at a good time for him, and I'm delighted that he's taking me with him. I'm not sure yet how the workload will compare, but I'm confident that the chaos factor will be drastically diminished.


Last week, while it was almost as hot as it is now, my air conditioner went out. I called at 7:30 a.m., and the repairman showed up at 7:30 p.m. For that 12-hour period in between, we were on standby. When he finally arrived, he didn't have the part he needed, so he scheduled someone to come out the next day.

The person who came out late on the second day replaced the bad part, and the A/C still didn't work. He said the problem was electrical, and he arranged for an electrician to come out -- but "possibly not" until the next day. In the meantime, he got the A/C working again by running a heavy-duty electrical cord from the unit in the attic down through the hall, where it hung in front of my bedroom door, then hovered over the dogs' water dish, then trailed through the bathroom door and plugged in next to my curling iron.

On the third day, the electrician arrived and replaced the bad breaker that burned up the outlet that caused the A/C transformer to blow (in the house that Jack built). Thank goodness!


The moon must be in a mechanical-malfunction phase. In addition to the A/C problem, the toilet broke (the little bar-thingy that attaches to the chain inside the tank), a hard-to-reach bathroom lightbulb burned out (the last bulb of the required wattage in the house), and the batteries in my electric toothbrush died. None of these problems was hard to fix, but each required an extra trip to the store.


This happened again:

There's a warning label on the can now, so I suspect I'm not the only one who's experienced this unpleasant surprise.


In the past few days I've had two automated voice mail messages from a company claiming to have an urgent need to hear from a woman whose name I recognize, although I don't know her personally. To my knowledge, she's never even lived in this state, let alone at this address or telephone number. Our only connection? She married my second husband -- 25 years after I divorced him. WTF??? I wonder if the two wives he married in between us are getting messages, too.


I've been trying to keep up with reading my favorite blogs, and I apologize for not leaving comments. Most of my reading is done while I'm eating breakfast or lunch, and I can't handle the fork and the keyboard at the same time. I always plan to go back later to let you know how much I appreciate and enjoy what you write, but instead, I keep falling farther (further?) behind.

I'll be thrilled when the office move is over and the household malfunctions no longer hold me hostage. Once things settle down, I think life will be even better than normal.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

It's your big day, Wanda June!

Last year on this date I wrote about how important my mother’s birthday was to her. Perhaps it was the knowledge of the day’s significance that put an almost crippling pressure on me when it came time to shop for a gift for her.

I might as well admit up front that I’m not now and never have been an inspired gift giver. The intention is always there, but my desire to find The Perfect Gift festers into delays and anxiety that often lead to a down-to-the-wire, last-minute–-or even late--purchase. That, of course, undermines my confidence even further and continues the cycle.

My mother was 76 when she died. Doing the math tells me I was around for 57 of her birthdays. If you add in the Christmases and Mothers’ Days, that’s a lot of gifts. When I was a little girl, I’d spend a whole dollar to buy her nylon stockings, paperback “murder mysteries” (the dollar would buy four of them), or Evening in Paris “eau de toilette.” She always pretended to be thrilled.

As we all got older, things changed. Either my gift choices grew worse or Mother's skills at pretending deteriorated. At any rate, my gift-shopping nightmares began. I had more money and could buy nicer gifts, but almost always, when she opened them, I could tell by her face that I’d missed the mark. She’d be polite, offering thanks with a smile but without enthusiasm. “Dang!” I’d think to myself. “I’ll have to try harder next year.”

You may think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. In all the years that followed, I can only remember giving Mother one gift she really liked: the well-preserved remains of an actual blowfish, mounted on an acrylic stand. I’d never have selected that in a million years if I hadn't seen her admire it in a shop.

The blowfish was purchased in the mid-1980s. Then, in 1999, I thought I had another winner. Mother had commented a few weeks earlier that she’d like to have a nice shirt that could also be worn as a jacket. Luck was with me, and I found one I thought would be perfect. It was made of a soft, buttery yellow faux suede. The color would be beautiful on her, and the lightweight fabric felt wonderfully soft and smooth. I knew she would like it.

I traveled to Texas for the occasion and sat in my sister’s living room while Mother opened her gifts. When she unwrapped the shirt, she hesitated for a moment as she looked at it, then gave the tiniest of smiles, said, “Thank you; that’s pretty,” and laid the shirt on the coffee table.

“Well,” I thought, “I was wrong again.” I was disappointed, but I’d kind of gotten used to it through the years.

That turned out to be Mother’s last birthday. She died a few months later, and only afterward did I find out that she did like that shirt after all.

On the sad day when the family gathered in Mother's home to go through her things and pack them away so her house could be sold, one of the most difficult tasks was sorting through her clothes. Tears filled my eyes as I stood in her closet amid clothing that still smelled like her. Then I spotted that buttery yellow shirt, and in the next minute I was laughing.

On a hanger right next to the shirt I’d given her was another buttery yellow shirt, slightly older, judging by the wear, but otherwise identical. The “perfect” shirt I’d given her was so perfect she’d bought herself one before I did.

I have that shirt now. It's exactly right to wear on the first cool nights after summer ends, and I always feel connected to my mom when I wear it.

Happy Birthday, Mother! As stressful as it always was, I’d still shop for you if I could.

Over troubled waters

Thoughts and prayers go out to those affected directly and indirectly by yesterday’s tragic bridge collapse in Minneapolis. I first heard the news from my uncle, a long-time St. Paul resident who called early in the evening. When I recognized his voice, I asked, casually, “How’s everything with you?”

“I’m feeling very lucky,” he replied. “I was on that bridge three hours earlier.” There but for the grace of God...

(Sis, he wanted me to pass along best regards to you. I’m doing it here, okay?)