Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Nyquil Dreams

Apparently deriving some sort of inspiration from the recent Winter Olympics (which I did not watch), the other night I dreamed that I competed in them. I've been taking Nyquil at night in an attempt to subdue the cold I've had for the past 437 days (give or take) and let me just say that I've been having some very strange dreams. My husband refuses to take Nyquil. I have no idea why. I mean, aside from the weird dreams, I've been sleeping GREAT. When I ask him about it, he doesn't seem to be able to articulate why he won't take it. Last night he was coughing so hard that he moved from our bedroom to the couch in the middle of the night. I guess he didn't want to disturb me but I mean to tell you that I was in a near-coma. I think that taking Nyquil is probably the equivalent of drinking a shot of brandy with an aspirin floating in it.

Anyway, about that dream.  You're probably wondering in which sport I competed.  Swimming.  Yes, that's right. I competed in swimming at the Winter Olympics. I didn't have to do anything to qualify for my spot. I just had to fill out a sign-up sheet. Some of the swimming events were already full, so I signed up for the 600 yard event. Yes, I know that swimming distances are not actually calculated in yards, but apparently my sub-conscious does not.  I'm guessing that it (my dream brain) selected 600 yards based on my pure hatred for the 600-yard dash when I was a kid.  We had to take a physical fitness test at school each year and the 600-yard dash was one of the tests . . . although in my case there was nothing very dash-y about it.  I think I usually just jogged around the track for a bit and then walked the rest of the way.

In my dream, I arrived at the event, which was held in a murky pool that had a lot of trees around. There were a few dead leaves floating in the green water. It didn't feel very Olympics-ish. I should also take this opportunity to mention that I can't really swim. I mean, I love to swim and I can swim, but I never took swimming lessons as a kid and never learned any formal strokes or anything like that.  When I swim at hotels and stuff, I just kind of paddle my way from one end of the pool to the other, swimming either backward or forward. I've never really been terribly concerned about my lack of swimming skills. You see, I have big boobs and the odds of me drowning are pretty slim.  Anyway, back to the dream.  As far as I can recall, I didn't actually do any training in order to compete in this event at the Olympics.  As I looked out into the pool, which just had two lanes, it occurred to me that I wasn't sure whether the length of the pool was 600 yards or if I'd have to swim across once, do one of those fancy turn-flip things, and then swim back the other way to complete the other half of the race.  I decided I'd better watch the next person who swam to find out.  She jumped in and swam across, but just as she approached the far end of the pool, she had to dodge a little girl who was already swimming in the pool.  The little girl wasn't competing in the Olympics like we were - she was just cooling off on a hot day (in Russia, during the Winter Olympics). So, I think the competitive swimmer was disqualified because she couldn't finish the race.  She seemed really frustrated.

Right about then, Tim Gunn walked out, stood on the pool's edge, and made an announcement that one lane was for women and the other was for men and if you used the wrong one you WOULD BE DISQUALIFIED.  This made me even more nervous.  I sat on the edge of the pool with another athlete. She said, "I'd better take this out before I compete."  She then reached up and cut a braided extension out of her hair.  It was purple and blue. She set the braid on the ledge of the pool, right between us. It began slithering towards me across the wet concrete. Alarmed, I got up and backed away.  And then my alarm went off.

I never got to earn a medal for my country.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

What are the topics we're supposed to avoid discussing?

Oh yeah, politics and religion. Let's go with religion. 

A while back, The Oatmeal posted a comic called "How to Suck at Your Religion."  Matthew Inman is very sharp, very funny, and very perceptive. Also super cute but that's beside the point. I have read his comic called "My dog: the paradox" at least ten times and still laugh every single time. Either the comic is very good or I'm very simple-minded and have no short-term memory.

The religion comic stuck with me because it rings true, at least for me. I am very careful not to force my religious beliefs on my daughter (a point Inman makes in the comic). I do take her to church with me every Sunday, but I tell her regularly that she's free to choose her path when she is older. One good thing (well, there are many good things) about being a Unitarian Universalist is that our religious education programs teach children about many religions. We don't pretend that they don't exist or that they are "wrong." In fact, our religion draws from Judeo-Christian traditions.

I also try very hard not to mock or to make light of anyone else's religious beliefs (another point made in the comic). It's hard not to wonder about folks who attend the Westboro Baptist Church, though. What bible have those people been reading?  People do some pretty awful things in the name of religion. Warren Jeffs, anyone?

Tomorrow, I am coordinating the worship service at my church. We don't have a regular pastor at this time, so I am part of a committee that brings in speakers and coordinates the services. We also facilitate the services, meaning that we stand up at the front of the sanctuary and announce the hymns, read announcements, etc. For tomorrow's service, I am excited to welcome a Catholic priest who also happens to be an art professor. He's going to show us images of art and talk about how art results in outreach and action. The topic reminds me of the art history classes I took in college - I loved them! If I thought any employer would have been willing to pay me to look at art, I would have taken nothing but art history classes. I also can't find an employer who will pay me just to pet doggies. But, I digress. I guess my point is that I think it's very cool that even though I am not Catholic, a priest can nonetheless add some value to my personal spiritual journey.

I don't know that this blog entry has any larger point, though. For many years, I sat in various churches (United Methodist, Congregational, etc.) because I was looking for something. But, I wasn't finding it. I did meet a lot of nice people, but I always felt like I was a little too rough-edged, a little too cynical, a little too smart-assy to fit in. Over time, I started scrutinizing the Apostle's Creed more and more. Finally, I allowed my long-buried doubts to surface fully. I wasn't in the right club.

In 2006 I attended a UU service and found what I had been missing. What I found was a community of NPR-listening, liberal-leaning, doctrine-questioning people. Some of them are also smart-asses. UUs generally adhere to the religion's 7 Principles, but their personal beliefs tend to vary greatly. I feel so lucky to be among them. I learn something new every week. Far from dreading the old "church on Sunday" routine, I sincerely look forward to it.

If I do have a point, I guess it's that I would encourage everyone to question what you've always assumed to be true. You don't have to attend a Lutheran church just because your parents did. If it doesn't feel right in some way but you still want to be part of a religious community, try some other church on for size. Sometimes a church's religious leader can also make the difference between a meaningful church experience and a less satisfying one. I attended a United Methodist Church for a long time, not because I believed everything I was told there, but because I just liked the pastor so darned much. I still think he's great and I learned a lot from him.

I may cover my personal beliefs in detail in some other blog entries but I will say that I believe that when you're dead . . . you're dead. This life is way too short to spend all of your Sundays feeling bored/disenchanted/unfulfilled. Get your smart-ass self out there and find your own way. Whatever you do, just don't suck at it.

p.s. This is somewhat unrelated, but I thought it was awesome that the UUA's president, Peter Morales, was arrested last year for protesting immigration policies.  I don't have any plans to be arrested but I believe he is on the right side of history. 'Nuff said.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Um, thanks?

Earlier this evening, my mom told me that every member of our family has purchased a ticket. They've all gone to the concession stand to buy popcorn and M&Ms. And now they are all taking a front row seat so that they can be there to observe the scene when my daughter hits puberty. "We can't wait!" she said.

People say this sort of thing to me all the time. "Hoo boy," they say with a whistle. "Is she ever gonna be a handful when she's a teenager."  It's a shame that more people have not had an opportunity to witness the morning routine at my house because then they would really snap up those tickets. We tell her to get dressed and she turns the tables on us and somehow makes it sound like her dad and I are the ones who are doing the wrong thing.

"You're MAKING IT WORSE!" she screams.

The photo below? It was taken using the night setting on my camera. It was also taken 1/2 hour after Her Highness was supposed to be asleep.

Pray for me. Or meditate for me. Or something. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Weekend Away

My daughter got me the sweetest gift for my birthday - a huge, snot-filled extravaganza of a cold*. I shouldn't complain, in as much as I haven't been sick in at least a year, but this one's a doozy. I can feel my asthma kicking in, which is obviously problematic.

I did my best not to let my malady ruin my weekend, though. We picked up the kid from school on Friday and headed to our destination. As soon as we had our room key, she started asking about the pool. "Can we go to the pool? How about now? I'll just put on my swimsuit and wait here by the door for you."  For the record, she got to swim three times over the weekend (two with us and one where we just watched).

After a good swim on Friday night, we ate some birthday cupcakes. My husband knows me well, as he told the bakery to put together six cupcakes and just to make sure all of them involved chocolate in some way. Later, he and I drank some wine and watched a couple episodes of "The First 48" while the kid hung out in "her" bedroom playing Minecraft. I woke up in the middle of the night and wondered if I had accidentally eaten a handful of razor blades before bed. My throat was killing me. On Saturday morning, we grabbed some breakfast and then headed out for some fun. I first stopped at a drugstore and bought some Dayquil. I usually avoid cold meds because they make my stomach all oogy, but I was pretty determined to power through this thing.

The three of us went out to lunch and then did a little shopping. I had a vodka cranberry with lunch because  . . . what's that old saying? Starve a fever, drown a cold?  Something like that? After lunch, we hit a candy store and a few other places. It was pretty cold so we didn't want to walk around too much. Eventually we decided to go back to the resort for yes, some swimming.

I love to swim but didn't stay in the pool too long this time around. Every time I went underwater, my ears threatened to explode. So, I left my family in the pool and headed back to our suite. Later, we ate the rest of the cupcakes and then repeated Friday night - the adults watched TV while the kid played Minecraft. Every so often, I try to watch what she is doing and to ask questions. I admit it: I just don't get it. She showed me how she had built a cemetery and put a torch on top of every grave. She'd even made up names for all the dead people. "How did that guy die?" I asked, pointing to a headstone.

"He was just old," she responded.

"Oh, old like me and Daddy?"

"Ye - NO! Older than that."

Then I spotted some rectangles near the cemetery. "What are those?" I asked.

"Those are yoga mats," she answered, like it made perfect sense.

"So the people do yoga right before they kick the bucket? How does that work?"  She rolled her eyes and walked away.

Later, I took some Nyquil and slept like the dead. And no, I didn't do any yoga first.

Anyway, my birthday weekend didn't turn out exactly as planned because I had the plague and all.  But, it was very nice and very relaxing. During my shopping excursion on Saturday I had picked up some fancy-schmancy organic bath salts and enjoyed a long soak in the whirlpool tub in our suite. All in all, it was a good birthday. My sisters and my sister-in-law gave me Amazon gift cards, so I was able to order my new Kindle this afternoon. And the gift cards covered the cost so Mr. "That's-Too-Extravagant" didn't even have to pony up any cash for it.

*She also got me an iTunes gift card. Her dad took her to the mall Tuesday night to shop for my birthday. Later, he admitted that they bought the gift card at the first store they saw, then spent the rest of the time sitting in the one-dollar massage chairs and eating candy.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Garbage Day: I Can Do This

"Just drive right down the middle," he said.

"Like a perfect field goal," he said.

"Please don't hit them again," he said.

In other news, someone should tell the people across the street that it's safe to take down the Christmas decorations now.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

You know it's been a long winter when . . .

. . . there's so much salt and gunk on your back window that when your husband puts the big blue recycling bin at the end of the driveway on garbage day and doesn't tell you it's there, you might just back right into it with your mom-mobile. And when you do that, the stupid thing might just tip over and the lid might fling itself open.  What might happen next is that a wine bottle and a plastic Rich Chocolate Royale SlimFast container might roll out of the recycling bin and skitter across the cul-de-sac on which you live. And you might have to hop out of your van in sub-zero weather and chase these items across the ice-covered asphalt. At 7:00 a.m.

For the record, I had my van washed the next day.  The salt is about an inch thick on the floor of our garage. I often walk around with salt streaks on my pants or coat from grazing a parked car (whether mine or someone else's). I purposely moved to an area of the country known for long winters so I know I shouldn't complain.  But geez, this winter has been just brutal. The three of us have been stuck indoors together for far too long. I can't walk my dogs and I can't kick the kid out and tell her to go ride her bike.  The whole scene is just getting old.  Today I put the opening of the farmers' market on my calendar so that I can pretend it's coming soon.

In other news, I am thinking of going back to Weight Watchers. Another side effect of the long sucky winter is having more time to do nothing but think about the next meal/snack/whatever.  I was doing pretty well before my sister's wedding but have struggled since then. I read somewhere that it takes something like 30 hours of exercise to burn a pound of fat. I continue to go to the gym and to yoga regularly. But I need to remind myself of what I've always known - that it all comes down to the food. So, we'll see.  I haven't been to Weight Watchers in over a year. I've been logging my food (sometimes carefully, sometimes not) on SparkPeople, but I think I may need the accountability of weighing in every week.  Mostly, I just get tired of worrying about my weight all the time.

Speaking of yoga, I'm headed there now. A funny thing happens when I enter the yoga studio, take my shoes off, and spread out my purple mat. I suddenly feel like I just might be amazing and strong and even a little bit beautiful. Then I'll leave the studio and the universe will find little ways to remind me that I am, in fact, none of those things. Blah. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

I'm losing track of who to boycott

I first became aware of the idea of boycotting when I was in high school. I learned that Gillette engaged in animal testing, so I made it a point not to buy Gillette products. Today, the list of companies engaging in animal testing is shorter than it used to be but is still plenty long. When I was in college, every time I had the opportunity to write a research paper, I chose antivivisectionism as my topic. Well, except for that one time when I had to write a paper on Victorian lace for a literature class. I might fall asleep just thinking about it. But seriously, I knew about alternatives to animal testing (from my research) 20+ years ago. I'm betting there are even better alternatives now. And really, how many chemicals have been left untested at this point? 

I don't have a lot of money to throw around but it makes sense to me that I shouldn't give my money to companies that engage in sucky practices.  However, it's become profoundly challenging to keep track of what and who to boycott. Some entities are easy to remember, of course. For example, I am involved in a boycott of the Shrine Circus locally. I think everyone should boycott every circus that features animals, but that's just my opinion.

I remember years ago one of the major gas companies got in trouble because it employed no women and few minorities in its executive positions. Was it Texaco? I can't seem to recall. My stad jokingly called it "White Guy Gas" for a long time. 

I'm currently aware that I am supposed to boycott the following:

Barilla because in 2013 the chairman stated that Barilla's pastas are best enjoyed by families with no . . . gay people in them. I've been buying a store brand ever since.

SeaWorld because it engages in all sorts of horrible practices involving the enslavement of marine species of all kinds. What they do to orcas is particularly heinous. It's a good thing I can't really afford to go to SeaWorld anyway. When I was (briefly) a marine biology major in college, I remember someone telling me that when SeaWorld builds a new facility, they actually factor in a certain percentage of the animals dying (when they are "installed" in the new tanks and whatnot). It's no small feat to duplicate the exact environment that a seahorse or a dolphin came from. (So maybe people should stop trying???)

Lululemon, which makes high-end yoga clothing, because the guy in charge has publicly stated that fat people should not even think about wearing Lululemon stuff. I read an article that exposed how Lululemon employees are actually instructed to hide larger sizes in the back. And by larger, they mean anything over a 6/8. My yoga pants are from Old Navy so I'm all set, I think.

Chik-Fil-A because its head honcho is a raging homophobe.

Walmart because it does not pay its employees a decent wage and discourages the formation of unions. 

Now there are calls to boycott the Winter Olympics, currently underway in Sochi, Russia. You may have noticed that I am not what you'd call a sports nut, so I don't tend to lose any sleep over sporting events anyway. I may watch a bit of figure skating, and that'll be the extent of it. However, I am heartsick just thinking about how LGBT athletes must feel, knowing that they are staying in a country which has basically outlawed their sexual orientation. It seems like for every country on the planet that could not care less what people do with their private parts, there are two other countries that care about it so much they pass legislation dictating what combinations of private parts are acceptable.

Should we (the U.S.) have boycotted the Olympics?  I don't know enough about it to understand the issue fully. I do know that host countries are selected at least seven years in advance and that there are lots of politics that go into it. I'm just not sure that my refusal to watch the Olympics would have much of an impact.

The more I think about boycotts and who/what I should boycott, I just keep coming back to the same thought: why can't everyone just do the right God-damned thing so that I don't have to worry about it so much?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

I need some stuff

I was going to take this opportunity to tackle a weighty topic of some sort, like immigration reform or Obamacare, but I don't feel like it. 

My birthday is coming up on Valentine's Day and I'm sure you're wondering what to get me.  I've asked my husband for a Kindle Fire.  He said, "But we're going out of town for your birthday."  Now, this is true. Every year, the three of us drive about an hour north and stay at a resort for a weekend in February. It's very affordable if you go in the winter - they triple the rates in the summertime.  However, I'm having trouble understanding how going to a resort = no gift for me. We spend the whole weekend swimming and playing games and sitting in front of an artificial fire. We also go out to eat and then buy chocolate at an old-fashioned candy store. If resort = no gift for me, then I demand that they not have any fun that whole weekend. After all, it's MY birthday, dammit.

You know how Oprah has her favorite things?  Except that her trinkets are roughly equivalent to a mortgage payment?

Here are Claudia's favorite things, at the moment.

I really want this Buddha candle holder from World Market. It seems very serene, doesn't it?

I luuuurve Vitalicious Muffins.  I order the chocolate ones, put them in my freezer, and then attempt to stab anyone who glances in that direction. As has been established, I don't share food. I also love Charms' sweet n' sour pops, but prefer the green and white ones. You can have the other colors.

Few things in life make me as happy as bath bombs from Lush.  As an added bonus, most of them are vegan. My husband never buys these for me because he'd have to order them online, and that requires PLANNING AHEAD. In other words, out of the question.

I need this Fozzie Bear to go with the Gonzo I already own.

And, since I'm on a roll, feel free to hook me up with one of these candles from Bath and Body Works.

I'll stop now, but I could also go for: a new stove because mine is really old and I don't really know how to clean it,* a new refrigerator with one of them there fancy water spigots on the front, some snowpants, a fancy-schmancy bicycle with a cushion-y seat, and a largish flat-screen TV for the bedroom because right now we have an old-school one and you have to smack it with the palm of your hand to make it work.

I also need a kid who gets up on time and doesn't take a solid hour to put her socks on. Can anyone hook me up with that? 

*Don't know how = just don't want to. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014


My daughter and I volunteered at a pet expo yesterday. I volunteered in the Boxer Rescue booth. The kid chose to work in the reptile education area. My friend Cindy is heavily involved in the reptile world (and Pit Bull rescue as well).  She gave A a tee shirt imprinted with the words "My snake is bigger than your snake" and sent her over to work with a local herpetology club.

For the next three and a half hours, my daughter stood behind a table with a snake wrapped around her neck. I walked over to check on her a few times (I was two aisles away in a massive expo center) and at times there was a crowd in front of my daughter that was three or four people deep. She was also standing behind a bin that had (I think) a tortoise in it. I say I think because I am not up on these things and I'm never sure of the difference between a tortoise and a turtle.

At one point, she asked me to go and buy her a drink. I stood in line for an eternity to buy her an overpriced Sprite. When I went back to the reptile area to give her the drink, I asked her what kind of snake she was holding. "A ball python," she answered. 

Later in the day, she asked me if I could go and buy her a snack. She had money but did not want to leave the booth. She cautioned me not to buy her a cold snack (like ice cream) because the snake would not like it if her hands were cold. I got her a hot pretzel.  This time, when I went to give it to her, I thought she was holding a different snake but I wasn't sure. "Is that one a ball python, too?" I asked.

She looked at me like I didn't have two brain cells rattling around in my head. "Um, it's a Bredli's Carpet Snake." This was accompanied by a slight eye-roll. Well, excuuuuuuuse me and my dumb self.

A few moments later, I watched as my daughter asked a largish man if he wanted to hold the snake. "Nooooo," he said and took a step backward. I am pretty sure her whole afternoon was like that.

At the end of the day I was so proud of my baby girl, mostly because she focused on one thing and stuck with it. She learned a lot and maybe taught others a thing or two as well. I know I am always saying that she has trouble focusing but I guess she CAN focus on certain things. The reptile people said she did a great job. The expo was scheduled to end at 5:00.  At 4:30 I went back to the reptile education area and asked her if she'd like to end her shift so that she could walk around a little. A lot of the booths had games and stuff, so I figured maybe she'd like to win some worthless junk. She shook her head no and stayed in her appointed spot until the expo ended.

Color me proud. She's growing up.  ::sniffle sniffle:::

p.s. Tell me the truth. I'm going to end up with a snake in my house someday, aren't I?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Overtaken by ennui

My middle sister and I were chatting on the phone last night. She is not working outside the home right now (because she is taking care of a two-year-old and two other children as well) and said she is bored. I know the feeling. Busy - oh so busy - but somehow bored at the same time. Is winter over yet? I'm over winter, I can tell you that. Yet another day of school was canceled this week because of the extreme sub-zero temperatures. At this rate, my kid will be in class until the 4th of July.

Updates on a couple of things:

I haven't mentioned Time Warner Cable in at least a week so I know you were probably getting worried. The good news is that Time Warner Cable found my payment and credited it properly. They also waived the late fee they'd slapped on my account. I thought it was safe to send my January payment electronically via Chase.  Would you believe Time Warner Cable rejected the payment?  I called Time Warner and a customer service person told me that TWC's mailing address had changed in December and that she'd heard from many people whose payments were rejected.  This must be why my December payment got lost (you'd think that the ten million people I talked to at TWC could have mentioned that). I don't fully understand how a changed mailing address affects an electronic payment but what do I know.  I logged into my Chase account to update the address, but Chase doesn't recognize TWC's new address.  It has pre-set addresses for each payee. I tried overriding it and manually entering the new address, but Chase basically said, "We don't recognize this address and therefore cannot send an electronic payment. We will mail a check on your behalf, which will take 5 business days."

So now the problem was with Chase. I decided to send an email to their support people from within my account.  They are usually pretty prompt to respond. My basic question was this: "Is it possible that you have not yet updated your database to reflect the new address for Time Warner Cable?"

Everything went downhill from there.  They did indeed respond promptly, but apparently did so without actually reading what I had written.  I tried again; they responded with instructions on how to change the payee's address.  I tried again and even gave the address for TWC.  They responded to say, "Sorry, but we can't change it for you."  I gave it one more shot and explained that I was not asking anyone to do anything for me except to confirm that the correct address is not in their database. Basically, I was trying to figure out if Chase had plans to fix the issue or if I should just go old school and plan to mail checks for the rest of my life. The final response: they suggested that I spend a bunch of money to send an overnight check. I responded and said, "Never mind. I give up."  You see, Chase was still holding the rejected payment from TWC. I was not about to send TWC another $200 when Chase was holding that amount. When Chase finally gave me my money back, I called TWC and made a payment over the phone using my debit card. A day later, TWC left another one of those "pay up or we'll break your kneecaps" messages.

You'll be happy to know that I am mailing a check next month and, in theory, this should be my last rant about Time Warner.  Well, until the next time they raise their rates, I guess.

Update on Kaiser: he seems to be doing well in his new home. I haven't heard of any issues, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that all is well.  I worry that he thinks I abandoned him, but at the same time I am just so happy for him.

As soon as Kaiser got adopted, the rescue was asked to take in two dogs sitting at a stray facility. Their time was up so they needed to be moved ASAP.  I had hoped to have at least a few days with my own dogs before I had to take in a new dog, but such is the way of the rescue world. The dogs were one and four so I said I would take the four-year-old.  I figured maybe he would be slightly less crazy than the younger one. Ha ha!  He arrived at my house Tuesday evening in a blaze of slobber and testosterone. I had him neutered immediately. I'm glad the vet had a surgical opening the next day because otherwise I was thinking of doing it myself. After all, I've watched every episode of The Incredible Dr. Pol (did you see the episode last week where he castrated some miniature horses and then tossed their testicles into the grass? It was very . . . tragi-comic, I guess?) and have a rough idea of how such things are done.

Anyway, here is a picture of my adorable new foster dog. I named him Mr. Bates after my favorite character on Downton Abbey. The canine version is nothing like the butler to Lord Grantham, I can tell you that. The TV version doesn't try to hump other dogs while they are pooping, for example. (Gideon is still pretty mad about being violated that way).

I'm off to a pet expo now. Catch ya later.