The Curse of the Goose

The Curse of the Goose is broken!!! (For those of you following along at home, I am the Goose, and the Curse of the Goose is the fact that I have never seen the Chicago Cubs win in person, much to the incredible frustration of Tony, who is a lifelong fan and likes to take weekend trips to watch the Cubs play in various cities). The Curse got so bad that sometimes I was not even allowed to watch them on TV because just being in the same room with the TV would cause my bad Curse mojo to travel back over the air waves and jinx them, typically in the 9th inning when they would decide to bring out their crappiest closer, who (totally under the influence of my Curse) would blow the game...again. Sounds a little far-fetched, I know, but Tony swears that it is true, and he is an expert on these things. (Why else would he shout plays to the team from the couch in the living room if the coach couldn't somehow sense it?)

But now the Tony rejoices, and the Cubs rejoice, and other Cubs fans rejoice, because the Curse of the Goose has been broken!!! What broke it, you ask? I'm not entirely sure, but I'm going to say Barry Williams and Combos. Specifically Barry Williams the Brady Bunch actor and pepperoni pizza pretzel Combos.

(You'll just have to imagine flashback waves...Blogger doesn't offer that option yet).

It was Saturday morning, and Tony had planned one of our traditional weekend trips...a Cubs game and a trip to the host city's zoo. This weekend's city was Cincinnati, which is a mere 4 hours from Knoxville, and perfect for a weekend baseball/zoo trip. Cincinnati has a perfectly lovely zoo, with a very strong big cats exhibit and polar bears (ooohhh!), which I will have to tell you about in another post, because this one is about the Curse. Anywho, we drove to Cincinnati, had some really good pizza at a local pizza joint close to the University, and toured the zoo. Then it was time for the baseball game. (Technically, it was two hours early for the baseball game, but Tony likes to watch batting practice, so we were there early for that). We like the seats way way up in the uppermost deck because they're cheap you get a good view of the entire field and they're cheap a lot of other Cubs fans generally sit up there too, and okay, they were only $10 each. It was 70's night on Saturday, so all of the regular baseball stadium songs were replaced by 70's songs (which was fine with me because personally, I like that song about the Convoy). Plus, Barry Williams was there as a special guest. (I wouldn't know Barry Williams if he came up and kicked me in the kneecaps, but apparently he was the actor who played Greg Brady on the Brady Bunch). Barry did all kinds of special guest things like throw out one of the 80 bajillion "first" pitches, and sing Happy Birthday to one of the booth announcers, and host the Lets make a Deal game where a lucky fan gets to pick whether they want the prize behind door number one, two, or three. (The prize, by the way, turned out to be a kiss and autographed picture from, you guessed it, Barry Williams. And since she was a nubile young thing, I have a feeling that Barry Williams also got to pick the contestant). I can only assume that the awesome star power of Barry Williams blinded the Cubs team to the fact that I was in the stands, because they got out to an early lead with a two run hit by Derek Lee in the first inning. Two runs does not a ballgame make, however, so Cubs fans were happy but fatalistic. Heaven knows they’ve blown a lead by giving up way more than 2 runs before. It was only a matter of time. We felt a little better when Soriano had a three run home run in the second, making it 5-0. I missed the score in the 6th inning on Floyd’s double because I was grumbling at the concession stand lady who wanted $8.25 for my basket of chicken tenders. $8.25! And there were only 3 or 4 little tenders in there! (Words like "Rip-off" and "Highway robbery" may have been muttered). Anyway, with my Curse otherwise occupied at the outrageous price gouging of baseball concession stand food, the Cubs were able to make it 6-1. The 9th inning is the one to be worried about though. Cubs looooove to blow the game in the 9th. But surprise of surprises, the Cubs did NOT blow the lead. Noooo! In fact, Soriano homered AGAIN (because he is just awesome like that), which brought the final score to 8-1. (Here’s a picture of the scoreboard, even though you can’t really read the score due to the angle). Tony was ecstatic! I was shocked! The Curse was broken! And by Barry Williams of all people! Of course, it was also a sold out game, so maybe the Cubs couldn’t feel my bad Curse mojo because of all the other fan mojo interference, but I’m sure Barry had something to do with it. Ohhh, if only Lou Piniella knew the real secret to his success.

On Sunday, Barry was not in attendance (at least not that I know of…I’m guessing he was still sleeping off a night of 70’s disco mayhem), so we had to think of another way to keep the Curse pre-occupied. After the $8.25 chicken tender debacle, we discovered that you can bring food and drinks into the stadium as long as they are not opened, so we stopped by a gas station on the way to Great American and picked up some much needed, much cheaper snack rations. I grabbed sugar-free Twizzlers (because I believe in eating healthy!) and a large bag of Pepperoni Pizza Pretzel Combos (because I just like them. Besides, pretzels are a healthy snack too). Tony also grabbed Combos, but he went for Pizza and cracker, and we decided to split the Twizzlers. I also brought my book to keep me occupied through the two-hour batting practice that Tony so enjoys. We found our seats again and settled back to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the pre-game action on the field which turned out to be…3 kids tossing the ball around. Apparently both teams decided that they either didn’t need batting practice again, or they did it earlier in the day. The kids, meanwhile, had won some kind of contest that allowed them to toss a ball around in the outfield before the game. (Tony was immediately jealous). So he watched three really uncoordinated little leaguers for two hours and I read. Once we got underway, Zambrano did a wonderful job of pitching, for which I credit the Combos, and my own amazing self-control by saving them all until after the game started. (Everyone knows that like Superman and kryptonite, the Curse has a particular weakness for Combos). Anyway, I spent most of the first half of the game sucking artificial pizza goodness out of the salt covered pretzel rolls, which allowed Theriot and Derek Lee to score and Zambrono to pitch a no-hitter all the way up until the 7th inning. By the time a we were singing "Take me Out to the Ballgame" for the 7th inning stretch, I had mostly finished off the entire bag of Combos, the Twizzlers, and a cherry sno-cone (yes, purchased from the evil concession stand as a defense against the incredible heat), so I was really too full to allow the Curse to eat anything else, no matter how well the Cubs were doing. It turned out to be enough though, because the resulting heartburn from all the food kept the Curse at bay while the Cubs scored twice more; a two-run homer in the 7th, and two more runs in the 9th. In the end, they had a fabulous 6-0 win…a total shutout! Tony was happy, the Cubs were happy, I was bloated but happy. Heck, Barry Williams was probably even happy, (bless his cheesy child-acting star heart).

End flashback waves.

And so ends my tale of baseball triumph. The Curse of the Goose was broken and a good time was had by all…thanks to a snack food with absolutely no natural ingredients and a TV icon from 30 years ago. You’re welcome Chicago Cubs.
(Note: If Tony's expression looks really bizarre, it's because he's annoyed that I'm making him look at the camera phone while the game is going on. He doesn't really look like that normally).

Feast With The Beasts

Well, after waiting all year, you will be THRILLED to know that the time has actually come! (No mother, I'm not pregnant). I'm talking about Feast With The Beasts which is only the most AWESOME zoo event EVER!! (And you can tell I'm serious because of all the words in all CAPS and multiple exclamation points!!!) It's on August 18th this year, which gave me a momentary heart attack because that's also the same day as my rafting trip, but the Feast with the Beasts doesn't start until 7pm, and I should be back from rafting way before that.

Tony and I make Feast with the Beasts an annual tradition, and I GUARANTEE that it is worth the price of the tickets. You eat, and you eat, and you eat, and then you walk around until you've digested enough to eat some more. And at the end of the evening, when the zoo volunteers have to roll you to the exits in the wheelbarrows normally designated for moving elephant poop because you are too stuffed to move on your own, you will still think that this is one of the best times you have ever had. It's like trick or treating, only with restaurant food and adult beverages instead of candy and costumes. And if you really like the, say, chocolate cake booth, you can go back over and over and over again.

Zoo tickets are $60 in advance, or $70 the day of the event, with a $5 discount for Zoo members (like moi). You can buy tickets
online or by phone (865) 637-5331 ext. 300 or at ORNL FCU branches, area Pilot stores, or the zoo ticket office.

Just to give you a fresh perspective on how completely AWESOME last year's gorging, er tasting event was, I'm re-posting my write-up from 2006:

Well, Feast with the Beasts was a huge hit. I loved every second of it. It was a night of intense mastication. (If you think I've said something shocking, then you need to go hit Now.) The rest of you may snicker in my totally legit choice of words while feeling superiorly smug in your advanced vocabulary.

Anyway. The food was awesome, the drinks were awesome, the Beasts were awesome (especially when the elephants objected strongly to the karaoke music and started throwing trees around. Better than the gong show). We arrived at 7 with a battle plan. Focus on meats. Avoid the breads and pastas. Save alcoholic beverages until the second go around. Eat quickly to avoid lost space through rising blood sugar. Walk it off, walk it off. Be choosy. Hit the good stuff first before the fillers. Keep the second run for the favorites. I started off well, and probably made it through the first 20 food vendors without breaking stride. By the time we hit the Kids Cove, I made the tragic amateur's mistake of hitting several complex carbohydrates in a row. Brownie from Chili's, barbecue sandwich at Sonny's, Riblets from Applebee's, egg roll from some Chinese place, steak kabob from Riverside Tavern, mashed potatoes (Mashed Potatoes! For shame!) from Peerless, shrimp from Red Lobster. All so good. It was like trick-or-treating for really really good food. I was so stuffed I had trouble walking. We actually made two different meals out of it. The first gorging meal between 7 and 8, then a period of walking to digest, then a second, smaller run at about 9:30. More walking, and then a couple of hits on our favorite vendors before heading home. If you haven't gone and you're in the area, I highly recommend it. Tony and I are going to make it an annual tradition.

Dream a Little Dream of Me

Do you ever wake up suddenly and think you're paralyzed because you can't move? Or think you're blind because you can't open your eyes? Or that you're still somewhat stuck in your dream even through you're awake?

I do this thing where I have really realistic dreams, but they happen after I'm already awake. (And no, this is not caused by excessive amounts of alcohol or recreational drug use). Like, one night I woke up and saw a mouse on the comforter. After the initial shock wore off, I figured that I absolutely must be dreaming because no sane mouse would be up on the bed with two people and two snoring cats. That's just the logical conclusion. So I shook my head. Mr. Mouse was still there, sniffing around. I pinched myself on the arm. He's moving slowly over folds in the covers. I even felt my face to see if my eyes were open. They were. I'm blinking, and the mouse is still there. It's a very realistic mouse, so I wake Tony up.

"Tony! There's a mouse on the bed"
"No there isn't. You're dreaming."
"No really! I'm awake. My eyes are open! See?"
"There's no mouse"
"Yes there is! I pinched my arm! He's a white mouse, and he's on the end of the bed right there".

Finally, Tony rolls over to see this mouse and as I'm pointing out where it is, it gets wavy like a mirage and disappears. There's no describing the level of Tony's I-told-you-so, especially when I've shaken him awake in the middle of the night to witness what can only be described as a hallucination. The whole thing was rather embarrassing. I figured that this was just the beginning of a nervous breakdown, and in no time, I'd be the crazy lady who talks to herself and bathes in the fountain in the park.

Today I came across this website on Ye Ol' Internet. (Not exactly the New England Journal of Medicine, but it explained a lot). According to it, I am not crazy (or psychically gifted and seeing visions, as I had secretly hoped). I am experiencing something called hypnagogoc hallucinations (which is less fun than being psychic, but still really impressive to say). Anyway, it goes on to explain that these are "dreams that intrude on wakefulness, which can cause visual, auditory, or touchable sensations. They occur between waking and sleeping, usually at the onset of sleep". Some people also think that reports of alien abductions are actually hypnagogoc hallucinations. Apparently, it's not even a unique quirk. 37% of 5000 people polled in the UK reported experiencing hypnagogic hallucinations too. So really, I'm not so different from 1850 people in the UK, except for the fact that I, of course, don't live in the UK, and I have better looking teeth. (I'm sorry UK people...that crack about your oral hygiene was uncalled for and only reinforces a stereotype that I obviously picked up from too many Austin Powers movies). Anyway, here's another website for hypnagogoc hallucinations, if you want a second source.

It's really kind of strange. I'm seeing the room as it is because I'm awake, but I'm also inserting dream things into it at the same time. I've seen people in the room, birds flying around the ceiling, spiders, strange cats, and just recently, I woke up to find old black and white silent cartoons playing in the reflection in the mirror above the dresser. Tony and I refer to it "as just the mouse thing again", and I've come to accept the fact that no matter how real it looks, there's no point in waking Tony up to see it because he's just going to be annoyed. (The boy really values his sleep). My test now is to check and see if the cats have responded to whatever it is. Mason doesn't judge me if I wake him up and point out the mouse on the bed. If he sees it, it's real, and if he doesn't, then I must be dreaming again. (Think Russell Crow in A Beautiful Mind when he asks people if they can also see the girl talking to him). I could see how this could alarm some people if they didn't know that they were dreaming, but now I'm just amused by it. I figure that the best thing to do is just to sit back and watch silent cartoons in the mirror until I fall back asleep again. The white mouse at the foot of the bed can split the popcorn with me.

We Partied Like It Was 1999

Remember back when I said that when we finished building the deck, we would have a big deck party? Well, I totally didn't mean it. I mean, I meant it, but in the same way that you promise yourself that THIS year, you're going to keep that New Year's resolution to exercise three days a week, or that this is the ABSOLUTE LAST piece of cake. As basically anyone who knows us can attest, Tony and I are, how should we say, anti-social hermits. It's not that we dislike's just that we dislike BEING with people. And we dislike parties in general because the idea is to make small talk with lots of people, and we just don't do that. Talk? To people? Ones that I only have a passing familiarity with? I don't think so. We're much more of the "stay at home and watch TV" type than the "go out partying with a bunch of friends" type. But lately I've decided that we need to expand our comfort zones, so I've been pushing Tony (okay both of us) to attend more group functions. This happens with varying degrees of success, but I think we're improving. We started small with family dinners, then moved our way up to a bonfire where we only knew a few people. (I'm doing okay. Tony is protesting the whole experiment by attempting to develop a stomach ulcer).

Then one day, Tony totally blew me away by suggesting that he wanted to have a cookout at our house for some friends of his! And he was serious, which can only mean one thing:

Tony has obviously been body snatched.

It seems, however, that Tony missed his zoo friends, so he wanted to invite them over to have a cookout party on the new deck. I don't know who this new Tony is, but I wanted to support any attempts at social interaction, so we decided to throw a party. And with that, Tony called up his zoo buddies to invite them (actually, he called one person and asked her to spread the word) and I looked at our house through the eyes of someone who has just invited a dozen strangers over. Suddenly, the carpet was filthy and the flower beds were full of weeds and the living room was cluttered, and I was saying things like, "we can't ask people to sit on these ratty old chairs!" And with that, the frantic cleaning began. While I was putting lattice up around the bottom of the deck, Tony had rented a carpet cleaner and cleaned the ENTIRE house. I mulched flowerbeds (because you can't let people see last year's mulch! Martha would be shocked!) while Tony cleaned windows, inside and out. I sewed new chair cushions for the patio furniture, and Tony cleaned the oven (because you never know when someone is going to sneak inside the house on the pretense of going to the bathroom and look inside your oven instead). I dusted ceiling fan blades (which were gross! I probably need to do that more often) and Tony mowed the lawn. Then we refilled the tiki torches with citronella fuel, and hung Japanese paper lanterns, and cut fresh flowers out of the garden to fill random vases, and lit scented candles in every room of the house. And we cleaned and scrubbed and disinfected until we could have put aseptically sealed hospital rooms to shame, and exactly 10 minutes after all the carpets dried and the Rug Doctor was returned to Lowes, Dixon threw up on the floor.

Finally, Sunday evening rolled around, and Tony paced around like he was about to face a firing squad as we waited for the first people to arrive. (That's my Tony!) But then the first couple showed up, and I graciously offered them drinks, and we all sat down in the living room and looked at each other, and there was a momentary awkward pause, and then Tony said, "So what's new at the zoo?" and we were off to the races, because the zoo is full of entertaining and bizarre creatures, and I'm not talking about the animals here. More zookeepers arrived, and they also added their crazy zoo stories, and just like that, we were laughing and talking and eating and having a grand old time. Mason kept everyone entertained, and Dixon even made an appearance at the top of the stairs to meow at everyone. Finally someone mentioned that it was getting past their bedtime, and I was shocked to see that it was 11pm, and that we had been talking for four and a half hours. (Tony, who never says more than a few words at parties normally, was laughing and telling animated stories all night). Everyone thanked us for inviting them and that they had a lovely time and we would have to do it again sometime as they gathered up their belongings and headed off. And that was our first official non-family party, and I think it was a roaring success, even if no one sat on my newly cushioned chairs, or commented about how clean the fan blades were, or looked inside the oven.

Deathly Hallows Reviewed...Later

Well, I finished Deathly Hallows this weekend, but I'm not going to talk about it yet so I don't accidentally spoil it for the people who didn't stay up until 3:30am last night finishing it. Besides, so much happened in it, I'm still trying to absorb everything. And the logic concerning Harry's battle and the results are so complex, I may have to map it out on paper before I can really understand it all. So continue reading if you haven't finished it yet, and we'll talk it over later in the week.

Childhood Homes

Owl Haven is having a blog carnival about childhood homes and what they were like, and it was just too much fun to resist.

My childhood home was in Savannah, GA, so the first thing that you have to imagine is a neighborhood where all the street names either have to do with boating or oak trees (or both). Our neighborhood had lots of giant oak trees filled with Spanish Moss that hung over the sidewalks. And Pine trees. And Azalea bushes. We had a lot of pine trees and azaleas in the front yard. The flower beds were mulched in pine straw, and the azalea bushes were so big that I could probably still stand behind them and be totally hidden. (A great hiding place for hide and seek, although the branches prevented any attempts at a quick escape route, so if you were found, there was no getting out before you were tagged). We had pink and red and white azaleas, and I used to pick the blooms off to make homemade "leis" out of them. It never bothered me to pick the blooms because there were always so many, you could pick for days and never make a bare spot. We lived on a cul-de-sac, which was a perfect for riding your bike in circles, or playing kick the can, or 4 square, or kickball. There was a little girl that lived across the street who was also my age, so she was the perfect neighborhood buddy (plus her dad worked for Coca-Cola, so there were always plenty of Cokes available at her house).

Our house was a single story ranch, but there were three steps leading down to the garage, so I told everyone that we lived in a two story house. (Steps are steps, right?) Steph and I shared a room. It was decorated in the Strawberry Shortcake styling, complete with white twin beds and pink canopies on top. They were positioned perfectly for jumping back and forth from bed to bed (not that we ever did that if you're reading, Mom!). We had white wallpaper with little pink hearts all over it, pink and white bedspreads, and pink curtains. We had twin closets too; one for our clothes and one to house the Barbie Empire. We had the townhouse, and the cars, and the party boats, and just about every other material thing that Barbie could ever think of owning. (Except clothes...Barbie and friends never bothered with clothes at our house due to the fact that it was just so hard to get their limbs into the little outfits. This however, did not stop Barbie from having wild adventures all over the house and yard. Barbie was a free spirit at our house).

Across the hall from our bedroom was the bathroom and the guest room (later to become Steph's room when she got older and we quit sharing a room). The living room was a big room with a vaulted ceiling and two skylights. (I particularly enjoyed the skylights, because they made the carpet warm in the little squares of sunlight that they provided. I seem to remember that the cat enjoyed that little warm patch of carpet too). We also had a brick fireplace in the living room, and there were gold silhouettes of seagulls in flight hanging above the mantle. I thought that our gold seagulls were the prettiest things ever.

The living room opened into the formal dining room, which was more like a sitting room, considering that it had love seats and a piano, but no dining table. It also had big windows at the front of the house, and Steph and I would spend hours sitting on the love seat with noses pressed to the window, watching for Granny's car to pull into the drive whenever she came to visit. Other than scouting for Granny and that brief time that I attempted to practice my piano lessons (they didn't take), I don't think I ever really spent much time in that room.

The sitting room and kitchen were separated by the front entry way, which was brick. It was also raised about 6 inches higher than the floor into the sitting room or the kitchen, which meant you had to remember to step up when running through the sitting room and into the kitchen. (Very treacherous terrain for little legs, and a miscalculated step could lead to skinned up shins in seconds). The kitchen had big windows at the end, so the room was always filled with sunshine. We had a table in the shape of a hexagon with glass panel inlays and gold chairs with burnt orange cushions right in front of the windows. Burnt orange does an awesome job of hiding kool-aid spills.

The kitchen had a door that led "downstairs" into the garage, which Mom later enclosed to make a den. (My mother is fantastic with the remodeling). She took out the garage door and put a huge bay window with a window seat in its place. This window seat was big enough to stretch out and sleep on, and perfect for cozying up with a book. Mom had also painted a giant rainbow on one wall of the den for our play space, which for two girls, was beyond cool.

The master bedroom was in the back of the house behind the kitchen. Mom and Dad had a double sink vanity area that was separate from the bathroom, which was totally fancy, because I saw the same thing once on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, so logically we must have been rich and famous too. I remember sitting at the vanity FOREVER while Mom tried to beat my curly hair into submission (it didn't help). Mom and Dad also had his and her closets, and Coco had her kittens in the back of Mom's closet. They also had a door that led out to the screened in porch, (a must if you want to survive the gnats and mosquitoes in Savannah). We used to play out on the screened porch when it rained, (which come to think of it, may explain why I like sitting on my screened-in porch now while it rains).

The back yard had a privacy fence all around it, a fort/swing set (designed by Mom), a playhouse built by my Great Uncle Buss and a sandbox built by my Dad. There was a woodpile in the back for fireplace wood, but we knew not to get around it because giant spiders lived in there. The whole yard was filled with pine trees, and our Saturday chore was to pick up all the pine cones that the trees had dropped so that Dad could mow the yard. Picking up pine cones takes forever! And they're sticky with pine sap, and the have pointy tips, and there were a BAZILLION-JILLION, and yes, 20 years later, I'm still whining about having to pick them up.

We lived in that house until just after my 10th birthday, when Dad got a promotion and we all moved to Tennessee. There were houses before that, but I only have fleeting memories of those houses. This house is the one that I consider to be my childhood home. This is where we would chase each other around the yard, and sword fight with the feathered plumes of the Cortaderia bushes, and sit in the tub with more My Little Ponies than actual water. In fact, life was so good in this house that I used to imagine that we were really stars of our own sitcom show, where problems were so slight that they could be fixed in half and hour, and the family all got together for a laugh and a big hug at the end of every show, just like Full House.

If houses really do soak up the emotions and memories of the families that live in them, then the walls of the house on Castaway Place were truly filled with love and laughter.


Wanted: A pair of Heelys in a size 9-9.5 women's business casual dress shoe. Preferably black. Wedge heel okay. Need both boot and sandal styling. Should be able to get me down this hill and into my parking garage in less than 9.7 seconds. Must accessorize with knee and elbow pads. Matching crash helmet a plus. Contact Quirky.


Ohhhhh, I hab da allergies today. Dey are ib my dose, dey are ib my froat, dey are ib my sinuses. Soooo bad. Sniff. But I am a good employ-dee, so I came to work anyway. Sniff. My dose runs like a faucet. I thought adout stuffing da kleenex right ub both nostrils, but I didn't fink my co-workers would appreciate dat. I'm sure dey prefer da constant sniffing instead. And da sneezing. Sniff. And da watery eyes. Sniff.

And my dose? When I blow it, my sinuses make dis high-pidched screaming sound like "EEEEEEEEE" as de pressure moobes around my head. Other people cab hear it too. Very embarrassing. Sniff. My dose is all red and swollen. And I useb all my tissues already. And all my co-workers tissues. Sniff. And da roll of toi-det paper. Doeses do not like toi-det paper at all.


All Hail Satellite TV

So I'm sure that you're all dying to know about Tony's satellite overindulgences. It was actually touch and go there for a little while. DishNetwork informed us that they would be there sometime between noon and 5, which was fine. Tony waited patiently like a kid before Christmas, which is to say, not at all. He paced, he checked his watch, he kept his nose glued to the front window. And at 1:30, he yelled "there they are!" and raced out of the house before the satellite van could even pull to a complete stop. Satellite guy tossed his ladder up against the house, climbed two stories up in the air like it was nothing, and attached our brand new satellite to our house. And that's when we hit the first snag. It seems that usual satellite installation procedure is to run the wire from the satellite to the cable box via the gutter system. Our gutters, however, didn't run over to the cable box. Also, our cable box was next to our power lines, which satellite guy was absolutely not allowed to get close to, for fear of being electrocuted to a crispy critter. (I didn't think that electrocution was such a major sacrifice in exchange fore giving us satellite, but he was insistent. Absolutely NO getting next to the power lines). His solution was to bypass the gutters and power lines and just run his wires right across our siding, which let me tell you, would just be c-l-a-s-s-y! No dice on that one. I'm not having a giant wire run the width of my house across the front of my siding. Tony asked if satellite guy had run across this before, and the guy shrugged and said sure, but other people usually just decided not to get the satellite rather than drape wires all over their house. If it had just been me, I would have joined those people, but Tony's face was so despondent at the very idea that I just couldn't do that to him. We all stood around the side of the house and pondered. It was actually Tony, sensing his precious satellite slipping away from him, that came up with the winning idea. Why couldn't we run the wire down the gutter to the ground, through the flower bed along the side of the house, and back up the other side, approaching the cable box from below, and thus, avoiding the power lines? Satellite guy though about it. Yep, that could work. Hooray! The satellite is saved! Hooray! With the crisis averted, I went back inside the house, and satellite guy began to very carefully maneuver his very through my very thorny rose bushes.

The second snag happened about a half hour later. Satellite guy informed Tony that the cable wire that they used for our house wasn't used anymore. He had to get his special cable converter thingie to fix it. Then they couldn't find the main cable line (I say they because when I came down a couple hours later, both the satellite guy and Tony were crawling around under the house with flashlights), then whoever wired up our house originally apparently did a crazy job of it, and wires were spliced off everywhere, and satellite guy was just sure that this would never work. Nevertheless, they installed everything, held their breaths, crossed their fingers, and hit the power button. The satellite configured for a moment, and just when they were sure that it hadn't worked after all, the weather channel popped up. Hooray! It works! Hooray! We have satellite! Satellite guy just kept shaking his head and saying things like, "Well, I don't know how it's working, but it's working. You have a very strong signal". (My guess is that the signal strength is based on Tony's sheer will for it to work). And it only took a mere 5 and a half hours to install it. Satellite guy left at 7pm, (which was good because I was wondering if we were going to have to invite him to stay for the night) and Tony did his happy dance as he flipped through his brand new 200 channels. ("Look sweetie! A channel dedicated solely to Modern Zimbabwean Hip-hop reggae! And here is it in Spanish too!")

There is a down side to satellite though. Even though Tony gets all the sports stations from across the country, the teams can apparently choose to black out the games for anyone not in their particular region (Why, I don't'd think that they'd want fans everywhere, but no). So Tony got to watch all the Chicago commercials, and all of the Chicago pre-game talk, and all the Chicago post-game talk, but not the actual game itself. Much weeping and gnashing of teeth over that one. It seems that having Fox Sports Chicago doesn't actually do us much good when it comes to watching actual baseball games. (Tony is starting an anti-blackout campaign. Write your congressman! Write your local stations! Write your teams! Express your outrage over blacking out baseball games!) Don't feel too bad for Tony though. He still gets about 80 other non-blacked out sports stations to choose from, and he'll get all the football and hockey games. So he's far from pitiful.

How do I like satellite? I don't know. I have to re-learn all the channels of my favorite stations. (Although I do know that Modern Zimbabwean Hip-hop reggae, the Spanish version, is on channel 9948). Other than that, I have no idea how to work it yet. They gave us complicated new remotes, which include buttons that do things like pause live TV, reconfigure the satellite to automatically spy on Canada, and trigger a nuclear war with Greenland. (What I can't figure out is how to turn the blasted TV off. Right now I'm just getting my lazy butt off the couch, walking over to the TV and hitting the power button on it). Every other person in the house, however, especially ones who have no desire to turn the TV off EVER AGAIN, are in 7th Heaven. Tony's actual words yesterday: "This is the best thing that's happened to me since we got married". This man obviously really loves his TV. All hail the satellite dish!

Quirky Project: Installing Vinyl Tile

I’m trying something new here in the world of Quirk. I’m calling it Quirky Projects, and it’s all about the projects that I’m doing around the house, only now I’m writing them down with easy step-by-step instructions and hints so that you can follow along at home if you wish. Think of it as a HGTV kind of thing, only I’m in no means a professional, so I probably went through the same questions and mistakes that you’ll have, and I can warn you about anything snarfy. (Yes, I made that word up). Anyway, on to the show:

We have a closet in the office where Mason and Dixon’s royal toilets are housed. (I call it the water-less closet, cause you know, it’s a closet, and the litter boxes are there…never mind). Anyway, even through we had all the carpet areas around the litter boxes covered with wee-wee pads, there were occasional accidents, and the carpet in the closet was beginning to suffer for it. Something had to be done, and quickly, before the entire office was permeated with au de cat pee. (Not a popular scent according to the Yankee Candle R&D department). So Tony and I do what we always do when something needs fixing…we went to Lowes. Lowes has a lovely selection of vinyl floor tiles and sheets of the bathroom-ish variety, with signs above them that just scream things like "Easy to clean!" and "waterproof!" and "Easy to install!" (Which is exactly what you want to see when you can’t stand the thought of scrubbing another section of carpet with Oops! Pet Stain Eliminator). We picked tiles because they’re easier to installer in small spaces than a 12’ sheet. Our particular pattern looks like a parquet floor, which not only looks classy, but avoids that whole "closet that looks like a bathroom floor" thing. If you’re looking to replace some carpet with some vinyl floor tiles, feel free to follow these easy step-by-step instructions that I have provided. If you aren’t, read it anyway (because you never know what will end up on final Jeopardy).

Quirky Project: Take kitty’s litter box closet from "EWWW!" to "OOOH! AHHH!"
Quirky Time: Depends on the size of the room, but it took me about 2 hours from material pickup to completion.
Quirky Level of Difficulty: Your baby brother could do it*.

1. Remove that oh-so-stinky carpet. This can be done by grabbing a corner with a pair of needle nose piers and lifting gently. Chances are, your carpet is held in place around the edges by tack boards and/or the occasional staple. Remove carpet and carpet pad and staples and tack board. (Tack board can be removed by a strategically placed crow bar and a few hammer taps. A great way to work off any pent up aggression…just don’t step on the tack boards, or you’ll have more aggression than you know what to do with…that, and tetanus).

2. Inspect sub floor. You probably either have concrete or plywood. You’re looking for any cracks, water damage, mold, crazy-bad warping or unidentified bodies. If you have any of the aforementioned, you may need to replace it totally, or fix it with special chemically stuff that the sell in the flooring department. Go see them, since replacing sub-flooring isn’t part of this particular project.

3. Vacuum or sweep sub-floor to get rid of all the loose carpet fiber bits and cat litter, which yes, has even managed to get below the carpet onto the sub-floor. This stuff gets EVERYWHERE!
4. Prime your sub-floor. We used Henry 336 Bond Enhancer Self-stick tile primer. It looks like skim milk, so you’ll need a brush or paint roller. (I used a roller). Dump it on, spread it around, and let the plywood sub-floor absorb it. Mine was apparently very thirsty, because it kept absorbing it. Let dry. Mine took about an hour.

5. Plan out how you want to lay your tiles. Graph paper = very good. The idea is that you want to plan it out in such a way that you aren’t having to cut a bunch of tiles a quarter inch wide because you have this funky sized strip of floor left exposed. It also shows you exactly how many tiles you’ll need. Play around with it on paper because once you have an actual tile stuck to the floor, there’s no going back.

6. Peel paper backing off of tile and lay onto floor. The glue is really really strong, so don’t press on it until you have it exactly where you want it. Think of placing stickers on a piece of paper…once you press down, there’s no wiggling it into another position. The tile people recommend that you start in the center and work towards the wall. Repeat with the next tile, getting the tiles as close together as possible for cute little nearly invisible seams. You get the idea.
7. You want to press the tile down for complete tile to floor contact once you’ve gotten it in place. For big rooms, you can rent a floor roller. For kitty closets, I found a rolling pin worked fine.

8. Cut tiles to size around wall edges. This sounds scarier than it is. Just measure how big you need it to be, then cut with either a utility knife or a sharp pair of scissors. (I used scissors, cause I’m just old school like that, and there’s less chance of cutting off my own finger by accident).

9. When all the tiles have been placed and rolled down, stand back and admire your beautiful work. I strongly recommend getting a seam sealer if there’s going to be any chance of dirt or moisture on your new floor, and unless you live in a sterile bubble, I’m guessing there will be. We used Armstrong Low Gloss S-564 Seam Coating Kit. It came with 3 bottles and a tube of "stuff", which looks serious. Again, looks scarier than it really is. The tube of stuff is a seam cleaner, which you’ll want to use even if you just laid the floor, because even new tiles are dirty. The two glass bottles get mixed together to make your solution (think of a home hair dye kit…same kind of thing, only I wouldn’t put this stuff on your head). The last bottle is the applicator bottle for precision application. (Duh Alert: If you’re following the kit instructions, it tells you to clip off the tip of the applicator bottle. What it doesn’t tell you is that the bottle has a cap on it, so it you’re clipping off bits of white plastic, you’re actually clipping a hole in the cap. If you pull the cap off, then you’ll see the clear plastic tube that is the REAL applicator tip. Don’t ask me how I know that…just suffice it to say that my cap also has a little hole in it).

10. Apply seam sealer to seams. The hardest thing about this is remembering which seams you’ve done and which ones you still have left, because the stuff is clear. It dries pretty quickly too. Oh, and ventilate, because it has a high potency, kill-all-your-brain-cells-deader-than-dead smell. The teenage glue-sniffer druggies four blocks down will be able to smell this stuff when you put it on. My closet is only about 12 square feet total, and I still probably lost enough brain cells to ruin any chances of ever working for NASA. You may want to take a couple of fresh air breaks if you’re doing a bigger room…otherwise you’re going to be high as a kite and dancing naked through your neighborhood. (And you know that the gossipy old lady next door would never let anybody forget about it…ever).

11. Lastly, add transition bar for going from carpet to tile. We used oak, since it went with our wood-looking floor, but they have metal ones too. Just cut to size and screw into place to keep your carpet and tile in place and behaving.

P.S.- I didn’t mention removing the baseboards and moving them down because we’re just going to put a little quarter round around the bottom to cover that gap. (Yes, I’m lazy. So what? A little quarter round is so much easier that prying old baseboards off). You can also do quarter round, or remove and replace baseboards…your choice.

So there you go, vinyl tile in 11 easy steps. (I wanted it to be 10 easy steps, but I just couldn’t eliminate one, so you’re stuck with 11…this is why I’m not a professional). See my lovely before and after pictures?
Before, (post carpet) lovely sub-floor. Next, laying the tiles. Then: Ta-da!

*By the way, let me just say again that I’m not a pro, so don’t sue me if you try it and it doesn’t work out. I’m just telling you how I did it…you’re responsible for your own successes and failures. (Although leave a comment and let me know if you had success with this, so that I can at least claim partial credit for your brilliance).

7/12/07 Because Piercings are Forever

Last night was my weekly pilgrimage to walmart. (We usually go once or twice a week to pay homage to the low low prices). I was in the jewelry section, looking at a display of jewelry cleaner that would hopefully restore the shine to my silver without eating giant holes in it, when a lovely young couple approached the jewelry counter. (Normally, I wouldn't have paid any attention, but they stopped directly in front of the cleaner display in order to talk to the woman at the counter, so my brand by brand comparison was temporarily suspended). Anyway, this particular couple appeared to be early 20's, and had the distinction of being completely (and I mean completely) covered in tattoos and piercings. (Obviously followers of an alternative genre, looking to express their individuality and/or socio-political views. To each their own, I say). And since they were standing directly in front of all my potential bottles of cleaner, I got to overhear every word of their conversation to the lady at the jewelry counter. It appears that the happy couple had recently gotten engaged, and were looking for matching wedding piercings to profess their undying love. Yes, I said piercings. Not rings. Piercings. They were looking for "classy" matching piercings (because when I think of classy engagement piercings, I think of walmart). The piercings were for an as yet unnamed body part, and considering all the usual visible places were already filled, I shudder to think where else one can pierce to show eternal devotion for a loved one. I'll give the lady behind the counter credit. She listened with a completely straight face. She showed them all the usual assortments of bars and studs and hoops and chains while mentioning things like, "This one is a 14 karat gold plate with a turquoise inlay around the end of the barbell". The couple wanted to know if engraving was available. Surprisingly, it is. (Obviously walmart has decided that the niche market for engraved engagement body piercings is a good one). And so the blissful couple, having eyes only for each other and completely ignoring the woman behind them juggling 6 different types of jewelry cleaner, arranged to have their matching classy engagement piercings engraved and put on layaway. Love knows no boundaries.


It hasn’t rained here in weeks. Not significantly. We’ve been in a horrible drought for more than a month. Just ask my tomato plants, who are wilted and droopy no matter how much water I pour over them. Everything in my garden is droopy. My rain barrels have been empty for the past few weeks. My yard is brown. We have a deficit of more than 12 inches. The irony that Texas and Arkansas are flooding right now does not escape me. I need it to rain here. So I wait. And wait. There is no rain. The good news is that I was able to waterproof my deck during all this dry weather. The sealer suggests 24-48 hours with no rain so that the sealant can soak in and dry on the wood. I sealed my deck Sunday afternoon, so I was not surprised to hear the sound while sitting on my screened in porch tonight.

Drip. Drip.

I didn’t even hear it coming before that. There was no thunder, no heat lightening like all the days previously. All show, but no rain. But tonight, there were exactly 2 drops of rain to signal the beginning, and then the deluge started. The sealant had roughly 33 hours to dry. I hope that’s enough. The rain comes down in sheets. The sound of it hitting the roof is so loud that Tony and I have to yell to each other to be heard. Tony goes in, but I stand on the porch, listening to the sound. Rain smells so good. I watch the water drip off of the tomato plants. I imagine it rushing into the rain barrels. And I laugh. Finally, the wait is over. And if any of my neighbors happen to look out their windows, they would see me, laughing and yelling and dancing in circles, celebrating the rain.

Tony's TV Treasure

Tony is on cloud nine right now. Actually, he's happier than that. He's currently residing on cloud 10...maybe 10 and a half. His best friend in the whole world, the TV, which is more beloved to Tony than probably even me, just got even more desirable. We currently have Comcast cable, which I thought provided more than sufficient TV viewing, but noooooooooo! Tony was ready to take his TV viewing to the next level.

I was out killing plants gardening in the front flowerbed when Tony literally flew out of the house. I swear, his feet never touched the ground. He was floating in all his excitement. And grinning like we had just won the lottery or something.

Tony: wecanswitchtosatelliteforcheaperthanwe'repayingnowforcable!
Me: You're gonna have to run that by me again, killer.
Tony (hyperventilating): Satellite! Cheaper than cable! More channels! Cubs all the time!

Now I get it. Tony's major beef with the city of Knoxville is that it has the audacity not to be located in the same region as Chicago, and since local sports stations will only show regional games, we get the Braves games all the time, but not the Cubs games. Same thing with football. Tony wants the Bears...we get the Falcons and the Titans. (Tony considers this a personal affront, purposely imposed by the city of Knoxville just to torment him. I've never figured out why the city of Knoxville is to blame instead of say, the cable company, or the local sports stations themselves, but that's the way it is. Knoxville is punishing Tony). Plus, Tony has been suffering with only about 100 TV stations for years, which is apparently piddley when compared to the 1000s of channels available. So not only is Tony forced to watch regional NFL and MLB while his beloved Cubs and Bears are overlooked by the evil, evil cable company (and/or the city of Knoxville, depending on who you're talking to), but he only has 99 other channels to flip through while the commercials are on. The last straw though, the very one that broke the Tony's back, was when said evil cable company REMOVED 5 OF OUR CHANNELS. (I had no clue that they had done this, but Tony was outraged). Apparently, one of these channels that the cable company blatantly stole from us was ESPN Classic, which featured some show called Stump the Swhwab, which Tony occasionally watched. (They also quit providing MSNBC, which Tony also claims to have watched, but I've never seen it on). He decided that enough was enough, so he started researching satellite. (We had looked into satellite before, but after talking to people who lost their connection every time the wind blew, we decided to hold off on it). It seems, however, that the satellite company has recently upgraded all of their equipment to better remain uninterrupted when there's rain, or wind, or the neighbor's sprinkler is on. That was good, but the clincher is that a certain Dish Network provides a certain package called America's Top 200, which is 200 channels of TV viewing bliss, including sports stations from ALL OVER THE COUNTRY that will show the Cubs even when they're on the road, PLUS something called NFL Ticket, which shows football games on Thursdays for some reason and will also show Da Bears no matter where they play. Oh! My! Goodness! Tony is so excited that he cannot even stand it! Which brings us back to the announcement in the front flowerbed, where Tony has been rattling off all the stations we'll get. I don't really care about the free months of HBO or all the sports stations, and Tony knows that, so he goes right for my big money winners:

Tony: yep.
Me: DIY?
Tony: Yep.
Me: Weather Channel?
Tony: Yep.

That takes care of my TV requirements, but Tony's going for the slam dunk win:

Tony: Annnnnd, it will actually be cheaper than what we are paying now.
Me: Hmmm.
Tony: And, we have a clear view of the southern sky, so service will be crystal clear.
Me: Hmmm.
Tony: Installation is free.
Me: Hmmm.
Tony: And, we'll have lots and lots of music channels. You know how you like satellite radio, yeah?
Me: Really? Radio too huh? That could be nice.
Tony: And, they'll throw in a free DVR.
Me: Sold!

So the satellite people are coming on Saturday to install our very own fancy hubcap to the side of the house. Tony has been doing his happy dance all week in anticipation, I'm sure that most of the next century will be spent in a TV-induced coma. Cubs and Bears and free HBO. It's like Tony's Ultimate Dream Christmas in July.

And I might even watch a little too.

I heart Harry

Okay, I have a confession to make. I am secretly obsessed with Harry Potter. (What? You were expecting maybe a juicer confession? I shot JFK? I've had an alien encounter? Perhaps that I was a 4th grade criminal? Sorry). The reason that this is a confession is because it's a series of children's books (or at least for teens), and I am not a child, but I really really really like them. And I'm not talking about the movies, which are okay, but I'm a Harry Potter purist, which means that it has to come directly from Rowling's pen in order to get me going). I've been lurking on Mugglenet for ages, picking up juicy bits about what everybody thinks will happen in the last book. I cannot describe how sad I am that this is the end of Harry. I mean, I know all stories must eventually end, but "ze books, they are just so well written!" I have read and reread all my Harry Potter books so many times that I have entire sections memorized. I scored a perfect 20 on this Harry Potter trivia quiz. I reference Harry Potter in real world situations, such as, "Wow Tony! Your hockey team was really flying across the ice tonight! So fast paced! It looked just like a game of Quidditch!" (Tony is not a Harry Potter fan, so he does not appreciate what a fabulous compliment that is. He actually claims that I have a crush on Harry Potter because I spend so much time reading the same stories over and over again. I say that's ridiculous...Harry is only turning 17 this summer (actually, his birthday is this month!) so he's waaaaay too young for me. Well, maybe just a little crush, in a completely platonic, he's-a-fictional-character kind of way). Anyway, I've already set aside the entire weekend of the 21st for laying in bed and reading Deathly Hallows. I think I'll have it finished before work on Monday, but if necessary, I'll take Monday off to finish it. (I know my limits. I would never be able to put the last HP book down halfway through and go to work anyway!)

Everybody's guessing what's going to happen, and Slate even went as far as to publish the "last page" of the book, which I seriously doubt is real, because I greatly disliked how they thought it would end. Here's my predictions:

Snape turns out to be good after all, and will probably end up saving Harry's life, but ends up dying in the process.
I also think Hagrid dies (Rowling claims that 2 characters die in this last book, and that she cried when she wrote it. I know a lot of people think that Hermione or Ron die, but you gotta remember that it is a children's book, and yes, Dumbledore died in the last one, but to kill off one of Harry's best friends? That would just be too crushing...besides, I think Ron and Hermione get together in the end, so you can't kill them).
Of course, Harry defeats Voldemort, because good always wins over evil.
And after Voldemort dies, I think that Harry returns to Hogwarts to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts.
Harry and Ginny end up together.
Neville does something heroic too, because he's just due.

There. I may be totally wrong on all of it, but there's my two cents. We'll come back and revisit it after the 21st and see how close I am. In the mean time, I'm rereading all the previous books one last time before the new one comes out so that I'm completely refreshed on all the tiny details.

Did I mention that I was obsessed?

4th of July

Ah, the 4th of July: The smell of hamburgers on the grill, the fireworks, the freaky green beetles that rose up out of the grass in our backyard like the plagues of ancient Egypt and dive bombed us as we ran for our lives like streakers at at football game.

First the beetles. Tony and I had planned on celebrating the independence of our beloved country by doing what we do best, which lately, has been working on the new deck. (Railings are up now, by the way! And the whole thing was sealed with waterproof, sun proof, mildew proof wood sealant). We had just stepped out on the screened-in porch when we noticed that Mason was tracking something. Something large, and green, with icky bug legs. Anyway, Tony, being the manly man of the house, managed to trap it in an empty pickle jar that we had lying around (and he said my collection of empty pickle jars wouldn't come in handy!) and take the bug out to the grass. We had been so intent on catching the bug on the inside that we had neglected to notice that there were hundreds, no thousands of these very same bugs on the outside, rising up out of the lawn and buzzing around with reckless abandon.

"What are they?", I asked.
"I think it's a kind of beetle", he responded.

I only know about two types of beetles. One is the annoying little brown beetles that are attracted to porch lights and get stuck in your hair as you try to race past them into the safety of the house during the early summer. The other kind is wood boring beetles, and I don't know what they look like, but I know my parents battle with them every year as the beetles savagely carve perfectly round holes in their deck. Since these were very large, iridescent green beetles, that ruled out the brown beetles.

"You better stay away from my new deck!", I yelled at them as they launched themselves repeatedly into the screened door. A quick Google search (specifically to this site) indicates that these are a third type of beetles. These are June Beetles. I've included the picture below so you can fully appreciate their icky bug-like bugginess. Apparently they live in the ground and come out during the day. They do not eat wood or people, so we were able to work out a trans-species compromise. (Like rival gangs, we divided up the backyard...We mostly worked up on the porch, and they mostly stayed down around the grass, so there wasn't any trouble. Cross into rival turf though, and there's going to be a throw down).

'Round 1pm, all the local backyard grills fired up for their 4th of July hamburgers. (Ohhhh, the smell of grilling meat! Is there anything better in the whole world? I'm pretty sure that heaven will smell like that.) We didn't have any specific 4th of July plans, but we did just get our very first gas grill for our birthday last month, and I've been dying to try it out. We have a shiny new grill and shiny new giant grilling forks and shiny new tongs, and shiny new hamburgers and buns (okay, the meat and buns weren't really shiny, but you know what I mean), so I thought we were all set. Unfortunately, it turns out that in order for the shiny new gas grill to work, it needs a shiny new propane tank, which the grill people thoughtlessly did not include. (I'm writing a letter). Our cars, however, were smack dab in the middle of the beetle's turf, and since they outnumbered us a bajillion to two, we didn't fancy a rumble. We went inside and ate leftovers instead. The grill will wait for another (beetleless) day.

Finally, around dusk, the fireworks started. We live at the top of a hill, so I can stand on the back porch (my turf) and watch the surrounding neighborhood fireworks below without having to leave the comfort of my home. I love fireworks. Even better, I love watching the neighborhood kids watching the fireworks. The house across the street has multitudes of small children, in varying ages, and joy of joy!, Uncle somebody or other thoughtfully brought them sparklers and bottle rockets and whatnot, and then wisely fled the premises. The children (unsupervised) immediately shot a bottle rocket across the street and onto the brand new roof of the house next door. (Seriously, I think they just finished putting the last shingle on the day before). It smoldered for a while and finally went out without sending the whole house up in flames, but I'm pretty sure that Neighbor Stan now has a brand new scorch mark on his brand new shingles. Three houses down, a father is out on the driveway with his son and daughter. The father is lighting the firework while the girl, roughly 7, instructs him to "cover his ears and move back quickly" in a perfect adult voice mimic (probably her mother's). The first one is one of those screamers that makes an unholy noise as it shoots upwards into the night. The son (about 4 or 5?) shouts "Holy Crap!" as it launches (which is really funny to hear a 5 year old say), but is yelling, "That was awesome!" over and over by the time the thing makes its final pop. (The phrase "That was awesome!" was probably shouted about 400 times within the next hour alone). Thankfully, back at the house of the Unsupervised Bottle Rocket Launchers, the children have run out of bottle rockets, and are now doing interpretive dances in the driveway with the sparklers. The smallest one, whom I have secretly nicknamed Whiny Crybaby, doesn't like the noise of the fireworks booming in the distance, and he's running around screaming like the very hounds of Hell are after him. (Why they don't send him inside, I don't know). I watch the fireworks until about 9:30. When I head inside, Whiny's slightly older sister (5 maybe?) is still out in the driveway with her sparkler, mesmerized with its light as she waves it around, cheering: "Give me a U! Give me a B! Give me a L! Give me a G! Give me a W! (I'm not sure what she was trying to spell, if anything, but everyone knows that letters aren't important when sparklers are involved).

And so ends my 4th of July. Nothing amazing or out of the ordinary, but uniquely American all the same. Thank you founding fathers for committing treason in the name of independence so that I have the freedom to stand on my porch, watch the fireworks, smell other people's hamburgers grilling, and trade gang signs with the June beetles.

More Adventures of Dad The Amazing Diving Geezer

Just in case you haven't gotten enough of Dad's diving (and really, can you ever really get enough?) here's one more interview with Dad The Amazing Diving Geezer! Channel 10 News, WBIR did their story on Dad last night. This one focused more on Dad's perseverance despite the fact that he's losing more body parts than a Mr. Potato head with leprosy. The spleen, then the knee, now both shoulders. Eventually, surgeons will just transform Dad into the 6 Million Dollar Man with all bionic parts.

There isn't catchy Freefalling music in this one, but there's more of Dad being interviewed, and you do get Dad's classic "It's not a roadblock, it's a speed bump" speech, which pretty much sums up Dad's view on any challenge (and also explains why he's still diving, even though any sane person would have quit while they still had some natural limb movement).

As you can hear in the video interview (or read in the article) Dad goes under the knife in a few weeks for both shoulders, so he'll be out of commission for a little while. We'll probably be seeing Dad The Amazing Diving Geezer back for the world championships next May though, so mark it on your calendars now.

Tony's fun-filled Saturday

Since Tony is such a good husband and all to me, and he's done such a good job of keeping the house running while I've been finishing up this semester (No more class until August! Whoo hoo!), and he's just so sweet and everything, I decided that I would plan a wonderful fun-filled day for us to enjoy each other's company and make Kodak memories that will last a lifetime. Because I'm just a good wife like that...and I'm all about planning fun-filled days.

Tony's idea of fun is laying on the couch by himself, watching a Cubs game, but I'm convinced that he only thinks that is fun because he hasn't experienced a super-duper REAL fun-filled day yet. So I did some research, found some fun, and planned our Saturday. First, we would meet Mom and Dad out on the lake for some kayaking! Kayaking fun would be done for three hours, at which point we would return the kayaks, have a delightfully fun lunch, and then get showered and changed for a fun cookout/bonfire at the farm of one of my hiking buddies! A whole day of fun! I told Tony all about our fun-filled plans on Friday night, and he was less than enthused.

Tony: "Three hours is way too long to kayak. We'll be exhausted!"
Me: "Nonsense! I went for an hour a few weekends ago and I wasn't even sore afterwards!"
Tony: "And we hate parties!"
Me: "Nonsense! We'll meet new people, eat really good food, make smores over the'll be fun!"
Tony: "I won't know anybody"
Me: "Well, this is how you meet people. Strangers come to a party, you get introduced, then you know them".
Tony: "This doesn't sound like fun..."
Me: "You'll go and you'll like it and we'll make fun Kodak memories darnit!"

So we went. Saturday rolled around, and the sky was overcast and hazy, and we were late leaving the house because I couldn't find the shorts that I wanted to wear, and I thought I remembered how to get to Concord lake, but it turns out that I didn't, so there was a little bit of searching before we could find the place that rents the kayaks (RiverSports at the Cove, for you local yokels who are interested). But I was not deterred, because this is a fun-filled day. Mom and Dad had already rented our kayaks (thanks Mom and Dad!) and had them down by the water by the time we arrived, so the only thing left was just to jump in and head off for a three hour tour (backup singers: a three hour tour). It really was a lot of fun, and I'm not saying that just because I had the fastest kayak and totally smoked everybody else in the race to the green sign. The sun finally came out about an hour into the trip, and the four of us paddled along the lake shore, talking to the cows that were cooling off in the water on one side, and ogling the McMansions that were on the other bank. (Those poor people, forced to live in those multi-million dollar homes like that). It's been quite a few years since Tony kayaked, but it's like riding a bike, really, so I knew he'd get the hang of it. I always lean back and use my stomach muscles to row row row my boat, so that my arms don't get tired. I tried to explain this to Tony, but apparently he had the longest, heaviest kayak, AND he was only relying on arm muscles, which understandably got exhausted after paddling for an hour and a half. Unfortunately, we traveled out away from the marina for the first half of the trip, so he still had to paddle back, and his hands were blistered and his arms were too tired to lift. (Shoulda used his tummy muscles!) He did make it back to shore, but you could tell he wasn't having a fun-filled good time.

On top of all that, he also didn't realize that he had neglected to put on sunscreen until after he already burned. He is lobster red today. Bright. Throbbing. Glow in the dark red. Very painful. He looks like a candy cane, only instead of red and white stripes, he has red and white blocks. (Sock area: white, legs: red, Shorts area: white, arms: oh so red. shirt area: white, neck area: crispy critter red). Not a happy camper at all.

So the kayaking wasn't as fun-filled as expected. That's okay. We'll go home, get showers and change, douse Tony in Solarcane, and head off to the cookout. Cookouts are guaranteed fun! (I'm a born optimist, and this is a fun-filled day). I'm really playing up the awesomeness of the food that will be there. Tony is food motivated. He's not as motivated about going to a party where he doesn't know anyone (Tony doesn't like parties where he does know everyone) but I am convinced that he'll find someone to talk baseball with once he gets there and have a grand old time.

When we get there, all the guys are playing volleyball. They invite Tony to play, but this appears to be full contact volleyball, and Tony's sunburn is just not happy about that, so we sit and watch a very entertaining game, full of trash talk and male testosterone. I did get him to play a little Bocce ball, and he seemed to enjoy that, even though we lost. The party food of choice turned out to be a lowcountry boil so it had shrimp in it, which Tony doesn't eat. (He had chicken tenders, which they had supplied for non-shrimp eaters, so he didn't starve). But oh my goodness the shrimp was good! And crab legs on the side! It was heaven! (Except for Tony). They also had really delicious watermelon, which Tony also doesn't eat, but I had some, and it was good too. We stayed from 4:30 to 9:30, which was an all time record for him, but way shorter than anyone else stayed. Oh well. Baby steps. By the way, thanks to Andrea for inviting us! I had a lovely time, and Tony tolerated it, which is good for him.

So I had a wonderful fun-filled day, and Tony...well, he mostly survived it. I guess he just doesn't do "forced fun" very well. I have decided, however, to make it up to him with an even bigger, more fun-filled day! One so jam-packed full of fun activities that he'll just be beside himself! It'll be so much fun, he won't even know what hit him!

We're going to lay on the couch and watch the Cubs.