Monday, December 20, 2004

Here We Go Again...

It's just another day on the roller-coaster I like to call "How Home-Buying Can Be Your Own Personal Hell." We stepped away from the "gee, I'm sure we can build a house with our bare hands" camp for a few minutes, and, given my two fab new freelance jobs, decided that we could possibly afford to buy an actual, real, already built house. Maybe even a nice, real, already built house. It didn't take long to identify the perfect house. The one where, when you step out of the car with the realtor, you hear angel voices singing and the sun shineth upon you, etc. For us, the perfect house is only five miles down the road from our farm. So far, so good.

The first lesson in harsh reality hit when we approached the bank for a loan. Get this: before, I was working as assistant editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, making not much over minimum wage, part-time, hardly covering fuel, daycare and the required Thursday night cocktail with the office mates (oh, come on, you *know* that counts as a legitimate work expense). Now, I have two really good freelance jobs and one OK freelance job, plus that pesky custom quilting business that I started from the ground up, and I'm making, well, a lot more these days. In fact, I'm pretty much doubling our income. The bank should like this, right? Umm, no. See, I'm now self-employed, and the crappy thing about achieving that part of the American dream is that the bank HATES self-employed. Especially newly self-employed. Hey, thanks for letting me know!

So after our first discussion with the bank we learn that, thanks to my income not counting AT ALL, we can barely afford the tiniest mobile home on a weed-infested half-lot. Since that actually wouldn't be a step up from where we live now (I know, that's really hard to believe, a place worse than this!), we declined to work with said bank.

Now I think we have a new bank lined up, one that is actually willing to work with us on a loan, so we may be making an offer on this place soon. Wish me luck, because after all that we've been through on this house madness, we really need a break. If anyone reading this happens to be an incredibly wealthy benefactor looking for a charitable cause, I am that cause! I'll even take a pic of my daughter looking sad in front of the shack of impossibly small proportions, just to show you how cramped we are. But hey, at least the hole in the floor is fixed now, so you can't hop into the crawl space from the foyer....

The new house, on the other hand, has no gaping holes anywhere, has about 6 times the amount of space we currently take up, and is on 7 acres with a lake and a gorgeous view. Please stars, align for me this week! I'd like nothing better than to get a call on Christmas Eve (while, incidentally, I'll be relaxing on a Florida beach, thanks to my parents choosing a warm retirement spot), saying that we will finally become homeowners. It's been a long road. Let's hope this is the end of the line!

Friday, December 03, 2004

Festive Holiday Cellulite!

So I was signing up for a coupon site the other day, in hopes of finding some formula coupons. No, I'm not pregnant, and my three-year-old isn't going to start drinking formula now. Let's just call it a work experiment. This coupon site had some really bizarre questions on it, and they had to be answered before you could see any actual coupons. The first thing that struck me as odd about this site was that, no matter how many times I clicked that I wanted coupons and deals for baby products, it kept giving me links for Hormel meat products. Does anyone else see the connection? Am I missing something here?

However, the Hormel thing wasn't the weirdest. I'm reading along, answering bizarre question after bizarre question, until I get to THE question. The one that takes the cake. The one that made me pause to wonder whether this particular survey writing company has any proofreaders, or whether the proofreaders are smoking crack. Read along with me. Let me know if I'm the only one who thinks this is the weirdest freaking question ever.

As the holidays approach, which of the following worries you the most:
a) eating healthy
b) credit card debt
c) removing unpleasant cellulite

Huh? Are there really that many people who take time as holidays approach to dwell on cellulite? First, why the holiday connection? If one were terribly concerned about cellulite, wouldn't it be a year-round thing? Is there some strange obsessive disorder that causes holiday cellulite panic? All I want for Christmas is some anti-cellulite cream? Jingle Bells No More Jiggle Lotion? Festive Hannukah Anti-Cellulite Eight-Night Gift Set? (Guys, if you're reading this, let it be said right now that actually buying anti-cellulite cream for your sweetie at any time would be a very bad, even horrendous, idea and I'm definitely not advocating the practice. So don't blame me if you try it and end up with an anti-cellulite-cream-bottle-shaped indention in your head.)

Second, unless you live in a tropical clime, which I do not, as the holidays approach, your cellulite is happily ensconced in a triple layer of winter warm clothing. No one can even see it under your corduroys! And I suppose if they can you probably need more than a discount coupon site cream to handle the job. I'm still not sure what the link is between the holiday season and removing unpleasant cellulite, but I'm guessing that, if this coupon company has its say, it will somehow involve Hormel meat products.

Happy holidays, folks. And please, don't spend your holiday season worrying about your unpleasant cellulite.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


Like many people in southeast Kansas. I own a weather radio. For those of you who get to watch TV and have fancy local radio stations, you may not see the value in these contraptions. They're kind of annoying, especially when the mechanical radio man voice interrupts your sleep with a very urgent test of the emergency broadcast system. And if there should actually be a weather event worth mentioning? Trust me, there's no way even the people at the cemetary a mile away could sleep through the beeping that radio emits. My husband hates it. I hate it, too, but during the summer tornado season, it's my best friend. We don't get the weather channel out here, and the closest severe weather siren is 4 miles away. In other words, we wouldn't hear it. So you can see why a storm-phobe like myself would require such a radio. It's the only thing that allows me to sleep during thunderstorms, because I know there's no way a tornado could sneak up on me with that weather radio blaring in my ear.

Right now I despise the weather radio. See, I've been trying to deny that winter is coming for a while now. Mother Nature has, up until now, played along with my charade, providing unseasonably warm weather and lots of sunshine. Gray November? Not this year. But winter *is* coming. In fact, winter has charged in like a bull in a china shop today. The first sign was the wind. Not just a little wind, but the howling, gusting, leaf-swirling kind of wind that even sounds cold as you listen from inside your warm house. (The shack of impossibly small proportions does have an up-side - it's easy to heat!) Next was the rain. Cold, half-freezing, sloppy rain, driving in wind-propelled sheets. And now, the weather radio is sounding its shrill warning. Pretend no more, summer-lovers.

I'm trying not to listen to it. I'm trying to pretend I didn't just hear 6 inches and snow in the same sentence. Please, someone make it stop!

If there's going to be 6 inches of snow, let's at least hope it's a nice snow. Not sloppy, wet, half-snow. The only good thing about a big snow is cross-country skiing. I'll try to look at the bright side. I do look really cute in my ski gear. ;)

Monday, November 22, 2004

Copy Machine Part 2 and Cheap Wine

1. You may recall my ongoing feud with the copy machine at my office. Fortunately, there haven't been anymore flames, other than the verbal kind I launch at it when it refuses to spit out a mere black & white 11x17 copy. However, it has developed a new and equally as irritating habit of jamming when I even get near it. How is that even possible? All I know is that twice in the last week, I've been walking by the copy machine when, somehow sensing my presence, the machine begins flashing the paper jam message. It's taunting me.

2. Meanwhile, I've recently learned that one of the new, giant machines in the back of the newspaper office is a copier of enormous proportions. And it's fast. 120 copies per second. If I can cause a regular copy machine to catch on fire, can you imagine what I can do with this machine? I've been trying to steer clear of the behemoth copier, but since it's near my new desk (the desk furthest from the other copier, naturally) I have a hard time keeping my distance. I'm a little nervous, though, because if I somehow offend this new copier, or it senses my hostility towards a smaller member of its species, things could get ugly. I'm just saying that if you hear about a girl in Kansas being crushed under a rogue copy machine, or that a giant nuclear-sized copier-machine-induced explosion has made a crater out of the whole Midwest, you'll know why.

3. Random note: I heard someone today talking about how they'd finally found a wine they liked. It wasn't too dry and tasted much better than other wines. What is this miracle potion, you ask? Boone's Farm. Yep, the $1.99 wine. Now, I'll admit that the stuff isn't awful, but calling Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill "wine" is like calling that processed cheese food "cheese." It might look vaguely like its natural counterpart and taste somewhat similar, but it's definitely not the same.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

"Real-Life" Friends

My husband says I'm internet-addicted. He laments the amount of time I spend staring at my computer monitor, reading my various forums and laughing at the antics of my forum friends. I've been involved with forums for almost 4 years. Some days I can't believe it's been that long. Other times I feel like I've know my online buddies forever. Lately, I've been noticing how some people on the forums distinguish so much between forum friends and "real life" friends. I've decided that, for me, it's high time I stop making the distinction. Friends are friends, no matter how you meet.

Most of them I've never met face-to-face, though I've had the pleasure of hugging a few of them in a non-virtual way. All I know is that living in the middle of nowhere is a lot more pleasant knowing that I can log on and laugh with other kindred souls. Like any friendships, we share harder times, too. In fact, I feel more free to share my own struggles knowing that if a tear slips out as I'm typing I won't feel like I need to hide my face. Life is a little easier with a cheering section, even if you can't see their faces.

In the past four years I've shouted joyous congratulations for countless babies born, threatened to strangle several unruly or otherwise obnoxious husbands, prayed for sick family members, waited on news of new jobs, rejoiced at long awaited positive pregnancy tests, cried over miscarriages and family deaths and giggled at countless bawdy jokes and late-night chats. What's not "real life" about that?

OK, so you're wondering what the point of this rambling is. I don't really know, to be honest. There's not a deeper meaning to be had. I'm just glad to live in an age where internet has made it possible to have a group of "fake internet friends" spread across the country and across the world. Huh. I guess I could have said that in one sentence.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Woe the Humorless Hack

So, it's been a while since I've updated my beloved blog. I'll be honest. There has been almost nothing funny that has happened to me in the last few weeks, hence my lack of blogging. I like a blog with some humor, and at this moment, mine is lacking. It pains me, but I'm also not willing to create situations like the bicycle and crazy nephews incident just for your amusement. I'm sick, but not that sick.

One of the reasons I've been absent is because I spent the last few weeks slaving away in front of my computer to create a sample website for in hopes of becoming their new Guide to Baby Products. Thankfully, I got the job, so the lack of sleep paid off. I also have a new freelance writing job with Bullseye Midwest Edition, which you haven't heard of unless you run in my fabulously bitchy, I mean bitchLy, farm circles. While these things are great for me, they have resulted in a serious lack of time for funniness. Weep for me!

Right now I have the flu, which sucks immensely, and I can't sleep because of a particular flu-induced pain in my back. So here I am, desperately trying, at 3 a.m., to think of anything mildly amusing to add to my blog. All I can think of is a dream I had recently, which is uproariously funny to my co-workers. We'll see how it fares with you.

As you know, unless you live under a rock, we had some elections recently. The election fever must have reached a limit in my brain, because I started dreaming about local candidates. One such candidate, in a hotly contested county commission race, earned an extra-special spot in my normally tame dreamscapes, though. We'll call him Bob. I've never actually met Bob. His name came up often during elections, though, because his competitor was engaging in some illegal campaign tactics, like stealing Bob's signs and hanging disparaging posters around town. In my dream, I went to an election night soiree, dressed to the nines, with my husband. I was looking fine in this dream, and of course, I was 30 pounds lighter (I *love* dream-world!). Picture a presidential inauguration, and you'll be getting close to the type of event this was in my dream. My husband was in a tux, which realy should have tipped me off that it was a dream, but I digress. Someone in my dream introduced me to Bob, who leaned in as though he was going to give me a kiss on the cheek. Here's where it gets odd. Instead of kissing me, Bob licks my cheek. Not just a little lick. More like a St. Bernard lick. I woke up just as my dream-self was hissing under my breath to my husband, "Oh my God, Bob just LICKED me!"

OK, dream interpreters, I dare you to take that one on. I'm scared to speculate on it too much. Even weirder, though, is that I saw Bob in person a week after the dream. He announces the local football games, and my husband pointed him out to me as we cheered on his alma mater in their bi-district game. I'm telling you, Bob looked *exactly* like he did in my dream. How weird is that? Not only did I dream that the man licked me, but I dreamed him with dead-on accuracy. Bob has never, as far as I know, given any indication that he would actually lick a person, so let's count the possibility of prophetic dreams out for the moment, eh?

One final note - the shift key on my new computer (new to me, not new overall) doesn't like to work with the i key. If you notice lots of lowercase i's, it's not because I'm channeling e.e. cummings.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Copy Machine from Hell

Let me first say that electrical objects in my office have a tendency to act up for me and no one else. Especially the copy machine. It has never once gone through a run for me without jamming. Does it jam for others? No, not really.
Last Friday, I was working late, alone in the office, and making my usual copies of the newspaper layouts to take home to proofread. Miraculously, there was no paper jam, but I did hear a strange popping sound, and smelled electrical smoke. I noticed that the area around the copier plug was blackened, so I unplugged it, left a note not to plug it in, and called my boss to explain. He said he'd have it checked.

Monday morning, the copier worked fine, no sparks or smells, so I was teased mercilessly the whole week about my copier paranoia. Did the copier have any more issues during business hours for the whole week? Umm, no.
Last night, I again was working late. A co-worker came in after shooting football pics, just as I was getting ready to make my layout copies. I joked that I was glad he was there to witness the copier freaking out on me. He laughed, until the first pop rang through the office. I glanced warily over at the plug and saw a flame shoot out. "George, oh my God, the copier is actually on fire!" I shouted. Another pop echoed through the building. This time, not only did the flame shoot out of the plug, it stayed out, and grew larger. I had one of those moments where you don't know what to do, so I shifted from foot to foot, anxiously, trying to formulate a plan to take down the flaming copy machine from hell. I turned off the copy machine, grabbed the cord and yanked it out of the wall. The vicious whipping of the cord through the air extinguished the flames. I dropped the cord and surveyed the damage. Foul-smelling electric smoke and the scent of charred plastic filled the office.

George was now standing beside me. The look on his face was sheer amazement. I'm sure he was wondering how the copy machine could hate me so much that it actually burst into flames. I told him I was glad he saw that so he could tell others it was true. He said, "Well, even if they didn't believe you, the char marks on the wall pretty much corroborate your story." He was right. Black streaks snaked up the wall and over the formerly cream-colored speaker plug that was in the top spot on that outlet. The bottom outlet hole, previously occupied by the copier, was all melty and weird-looking.

After more notes and another call to the boss, I'm banned from using the copy machine at work, especially after hours. I think I'm cool with that.
Admittedly, I did enjoy springing this story on my husband and sister-in-law when I got home on Friday night. I often use the phrase "putting out the major fires" when describing the tasks I have to finish before leaving the office. Imagine their surprise when my story involved actual flames!

Monday, October 04, 2004

Time is running out...

I've had a secret for the last four years. A dirty, shameful secret. Well, actually, I'm not all that ashamed, but the dirty part, yeah, that's accurate. I'm a slob. A hopeless, can't-throw-anything-away and can't-declutter-to-save-my-life slob. Somehow I've managed to (mostly) hide this fact from my husband for the last four years. Why did I not think about the everyday horror of keeping up this charade when I convinced him to marry me? Sure, he probably would have married me even knowing about my secret dirty side. But you can't just let all of your flaws hang out while dating, right? No way. All bets on disclosing secret shames are off in the dating world.

Why am I letting you in on this now, you might ask. On Saturday, when I called my husband in Kazakhstan, he announced that he had done all of the damage he could do in that country, and would be returning home to continue his reign of terror in the good ole U.S. of A. "Oh, when will you be back?" I tried to ask casually. The fear was creeping in. Tuesday. The answer rang ominous in my ears. Tuesday. As in three days. I had to face the facts. My daughter and I were complete slobs. I had to reverse all of the damage that we had done our little house in a mere three days or risk unveiling a perfectly good cover-up operation that has been going on for quite a while. No. The mess will not win this battle. I will not be exposed for the neatness fraud that I am.

On to the next problem. This one, not a secret from my husband, mind you, is possibly worse. I'm a procrastinator. In addition to the messy house, which by the way I have not even started cleaning yet, I also had a specific list of tasks to be completed that my beloved could not do while he was away. Some tasks, marked *urgent*, remained to be completed. Since I learned of his imminent arrival on Saturday, that really only left me one weekday in which to complete any tasks involving service or stores, since nothing is open on weekends around here. Yikes.

Naturally, being the procrastinating slob that I am, I didn't feel the need to do much this weekend. I did sort out laundry that needed to be washed. I sorted it mentally and not physically, though, so I'm not sure if it counts. My living room still looks like a toy store exploded in it, and my sewing area has fabric samples heaped precariously high over patterns and spools of thread. The kitchen is not so bad, thanks to the fact that I use my mother-in-law's kitchen to cook most meals. Thank heaven for small favors. The laundry situation, though, is most dire. How many loads of laundry have I done since Gaylon left? One. One load of laundry. Being the amazing shopper that I am, Maya and I have plenty of clothing to go for a while without doing laundry. I hate doing laundry because in this tiny house I have nowhere to put the laundry when I'm done, with only one closet and all. So not only do I have to wash the clothing tonight, all 589 loads, I have to fold it all and find some new nooks and crannies in the closet in which to shove our spectacular clothing assortment. I may need to find a hammer and some boards and just build a laundry shed on the side of the house. In fact, building a laundry-concealing structure might even be faster than fixing the laundry problem by actually washing the clothes. It's really that bad. Perhaps Ty Pennington has an emergency phone number for Extreme Laundry Makeovers. If so, I'll be calling him STAT.

So, here I am, with less than 24 hours until I must leave to pick my husband up from the airport. I managed to complete most of the items on my *urgent* list today. I sweet-talked the guy at the co-op into fitting my appointment for an oil change in this morning. I balanced the checkbook. I checked to see that the old pickup battery was working. I hand-harvested 50 pounds each of goldenrod and liatris (don't even ask why my husband's to-do list involves picking wildflowers). I'm sure Gaylon will know that I did all of these tasks last minute. As I said, the procrastination is no secret. Yet, I wonder if there are penalties for forging the date on those little oil change stickers they give you. It would save me the merciless teasing on the way home from the airport, you know.

The house, however, must remain a secret. I'll likely get little sleep tonight, instead roaming the house in search of rogue toys and old magazines. Maya? She's of no help whatsoever. Suddenly, after weeks of not sleeping, she's tired. Imagine that. So tonight, before you snuggle into your warm bed and sleep, think of me. There's a heavy price to pay for keeping secrets, folks.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Baby Weight. Yeah, that's it.

I've been clinging to the excuse, admittedly, longer than necessary. While technically, my current excess poundage was gained in the course of a pregnancy, said pregnancy was three years ago. I had a pretty good excuse for a while. You know those gals who lose 20 pounds a day by nursing? I'm not one of them. In fact, I didn't lose an ounce while nursing, no matter how little I ate or how many times I paced the floor each day, soothing my fussy infant. I weaned Maya at about 15 months, though, so even that excuse has fallen by the wayside. So I need to step up my efforts. I've lost a few pounds here and there in the last few months. My challenge to myself, during the next 5 weeks, is this: eat sensibly and make a solid effort to exercise each day. I want to see how many pounds I can safely lose in that time. No weird gritty faux food shakes. No fancy carb counting or points watching. Just old fashioned food pryamid and common sense. Maybe when I'm done I'll write a book about it and make millions as the next diet genius.

As part of my quest, I bought a new bike. I have a fine bike already. It's in the barn, where it currently is cobwebbed to the side of an old dresser. My reasons for buying a new bike were twofold. One - My old bike has skinny tires made for city streets, and out here there's not a paved road for miles. Two - Gaylon is gone and you know damn well I'm not touching those cobwebs on my own.

So the new bike is way cool. It has 21 gears. I actually don't know what that means, or how to use the many gears, but isn't it cool? It has fat tires that should handle the gravel roads near our house. It's red and shiny. My nephews think it's a sweet ride. They thought I was ultra-cool for buying such an amazing sports machine. That is, until they saw me ride it. You know the old saying "it's like riding a bicycle," that people use to describe something that you just don't forget? That saying is hooey. Lies!

My new bike made its debut on the railroad trail in town. My nephews and I got all set to go, them on their elementary schooler sized bikes, and me on "Big Red." Maya and her cousin, Lizzie, were in a trailer behind me. Maybe that had something to do with the mayhem that ensued, I don't know. We took off. I was a bit wobbly at the start, but did OK for the first few feet. Then it started.

My hyperactive nephews, fresh from a day spent sitting in their classrooms, were ready to blow off steam, which they did by pedaling furiously along the trail, criss-crossing in front of me in a serpentine fashion. I was trying to pedal and decide how to change gears and watch the boys and not pull the girls in their trailer over a curb, etc. The first incident took place as Timmy, the younger of the boys, made a classic mistake, Trying to imitate older brother Ian, Timmy attempted to spin his bike pedals backwards. Problem: Timmy's bike has pedal brakes. As he came to a screeching halt in front of me, my life flashed before my eyes. The good news is that Timmy thinks my bike is ever so much cooler now that he can tell his friends he's been run over by it. Apparently, it didn't hurt, because while I was stopped in the middle of the trail hyperventilating and wondering how I would explain to my sister-in-law that the lazy afternoon bike ride turned into a bloodbath, Timmy was off again on his bike, his maniacal laughter echoing off the trees.

I was spurred into action again by two small voices from the trailer behind me. Lizzie's contribution was this: Aunt Heather, it's naughty to run over my brother. Maya's: Mommy, GOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Go faster. No stopping!

I took off once again, slightly relieved that the boys were farther ahead now, doing their voodoo bike dance for some other unsuspecting trail user. By now, I was getting tired. Remember those days as a kid when you'd take off on your bike and ride for hours, all around the neighborhood? Well, the only way that's going to happen for me right now is if my neighborhood only spanned a distance of say, three feet. My butt was starting to hurt, despite the fancy gel-cushioned seat I had purchased mere hours earlier. My quads were on fire. I was thirsty. For a moment, I contemplated the ramifications of stopping at the local bar for a cold beer, but thought the trailer full of toddlers might look somewhat suspicious parked in front of such an establishment.

After what seemed like an eternity, I located my nephews and convinced them to turn back so that we could go home. As we began the ride back to my truck, I prayed that I wouldn't faint from exertion and slide down the edge of the trail into the trees. While my nephews surely would have thought it was cool, and Maya certainly would have liked the momentary speed increase, I think Lizzie, the motherly one of the group, would have chastised me for such behavior. After all, it's not nice to run one's bike into a tree.

Back at the truck, I managed to get off my bike without alerting the boys to the fact that my legs now felt like rubber bands. I convinced Maya and Lizzie that attaching the trailer to the back of the truck was a bad idea, and got them in their respective car seats. Timmy, being the wild child that he is, wandered off in search of excitement while Ian and I loaded the seemingly endless supply of bicycles into the truck bed. When we got home, Timmy and Ian regaled their parents with stories of the bike ride. I noticed, but chose to ignore, the quizzical look in their eyes when Timmy mentioned that he had been run over.

It's been a few days since the fateful bike ride. While my muscles don't hurt as much as I imagined, my rear end is still kind of sore. I don't remember having a sore butt after riding a bike when I was a kid. I wonder if they make those banana seats for adult bikes?

Friday, September 17, 2004

Happy Birthday, Sweet Baby!

Today my little girl turned 3 years old. Though some of the details are beginning to fade from my mind, for the most part, I can remember the day she was born like it was yesterday.

It was a dark and stormy night. Really, it was. Rain everywhere. I awoke a little after 1 am as my water broke. Ladies and gentlemen, I was freaking out. I thought I was 37.5 weeks along. I awoke Gaylon, who was groggy until the words registered "MY WATER BROKE, WE NEED TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL." Then, he was out of bed like a man on fire.

We had started packing the hospital bag that week, so we were slightly prepared. For some reason, my nesting instinct told me to go to Sam's Club and buy a case of Gatorade and 867 different types of snacks. So we fired up the forklift and hauled our bounty to my 2-door sports car and jammed my "hospital necessity" collection into the trunk. The tires looked a little compressed by the time we finished, but what did we care? Our new bundle of joy would soon arrive!

During this time, I kept waiting for contractions, which never arrived. I was waiting, wondering what they would feel like and if I'd back out of my natural birth plan at the first sign of pain. We got to the hospital, got checked in, got assigned the the stereotypical mean nurse and began our wait. At our childbirth prep classes, we were told that we could make requests and do things our own way when we arrived at the hospital. Well, this nurse didn't give a crap what you heard in that class. You were going to do things her way or you could just go birth in a puddle on the street for all she cared. Under her command, I was unable to leave my bed. Not even for the rocking chair. Now I was pissed. She wasn't following my manifesto, I mean, my birth plan.

A few hours passed and the mean nurse was off shift. In came the nurse who all other nurses of the world should study under. She was a goddess in a white uniform. She freed me from my prison, otherwise known as the bed, and allowed me to try moving around to see if that would get Maya started on her exit. It didn't. The clock was ticking, thanks to my GBS+ test, so we started talking about drugs to get things going. Two hours after the meds, those contractions I had waited for were in high gear. I spent a good three hours after that in the jacuzzi in my room. I didn't want to get out, but eventually they made me. I rocked in a rocking chair, spent time on my knees using a birth ball and walked the halls a bit. Finally, I could move no more. I wanted to curl up in bed, so that's what I did. About an hour after that, Maya was born.

She was tiny. 5 pounds 14 ounces. I cringed when they first laid her on my chest because, let's face it, a newborn is kind of slimy, and I wasn't sure I wanted to hold her until after she'd had her spa treatment. I held her anyway. I remember thinking that it was awkward to hold a baby in the position I was laying, so I passed her to Gaylon, and later we let my sisters-in-law hold her, too. About that time, maybe an hour after she was born, a new nurse came in to check Maya over and admit her to the hospital. She noticed right away that Maya was bluer than she should be, and started giving her some oxygen. It didn't help, so she carted Maya off to the nursery for further observation.

The next time I held Maya, it was only for a few minutes, and she had to have the oxygen under her nose all the time. When I was done, they put her under an oxygen dome, which is really bizarre if you haven't seen one. It looked like her head was in Tupperware. I cried most of the night, worried about my baby, but was confident that all would work out well. As the night wore on, the doctors ran tests trying to see if she had an infection. She continued to decline in her ability to breathe. Monitors made seemingly endless high-pitched alerts. Just as one was shut off, another eeped out a new warning. They determined by morning that she was earlier than we thought and that her lungs were not fully developed. By this time, Maya's breathing was very labored. Her little chest heaved up and down with every breath. Sometime late that morning, as she struggled to breathe, one of her lungs collapsed. Her doctors were very concerned for her life. In between sobs, I begged God not to take this baby that I barely knew yet.

So, on the second day of her little life, she had emergency surgery, right there in the NICU, to insert a chest tube to reinflate her lung. I couldn't watch. Gaylon stayed with her. He says now that he will never forget just how strong our little girl is, because he saw the force used on her that day, and he knows if she can take that, she can take anything. I couldn't sit still and wait for the surgery to be done. I hovered near the NICU door. At one point I peeked inside, hoping they'd be done. They weren't. They were inserting an umbilical line, and I saw a stream of blood shoot out from Maya's tummy and land on the floor. The doctor noticed me standing there and tried to shuffle a towel over the blood with his foot. I'll always remember that image of him trying to minimize my trauma in that way. After the surgery, Maya got a surfactant treatment to unstick her lung surfaces. She began improving fairly shortly after that.

She'd been on this Earth for two days and I had only held her twice. Oh, but I knew her face by heart. I sat by her crib and watched her. She was so small, surrounded by equipment that sounded out a rhythmic, oddly reassuring lullaby. All of those hours looking down at her, I memorized every curve in her cheeks, the color of her mouth, the way her hair curled on top of her head.

She graduated from the ventilator to an oxygen tube under the nose about a week later. She hated that tube. In fact, she ripped it off of her face so many times that the nurses gave up on her with it. She was grateful enough to be free of the tube that she breathed remarkably well on her own at that point. She's been stubborn like her daddy right from the start. I think if she could have reached the bow the nurses glued to the top of her head, that would have been gone in an instant, too.

She was in the NICU for two weeks. I was there every day, going home only for a few hours sleep, a shower or a quick bite to eat. The funny thing about having a baby in NICU is that even though you know that baby is yours, it seems like she belongs to the nurses and doctors, too. I couldn't wait to take her home where she could really be mine. My heart broke when I saw other new moms carrying their new babies proudly to their cars, headed home with flowers and balloons and well wishes. Maya's flowers were long dead and the balloons sadly drooping by the time she came home. I bought her a new balloon, because I thought she deserved the fanfare.

Maya is still a tiny little thing. A chest tube scar on her chest and a barrage of tiny scars on her heels from the many blood tests are now the only outward reminders of her rough beginning. She runs and laughs and amazes me every day. I still long to hold her, only now it's because she won't sit still long enough for cuddling, unless she's desperately tired. So, happy birthday, my sweet baby. Your momma will never forget those first few days. The strangest things bring the memories flooding back: the smell of antibacterial handwash, the beeping of my computer, a doorbell that sounds like the door chime at the NICU. But that's OK, I don't intend to forget that time entirely. Those days taught me that you're precious and tough all at the same time, and I'll never take you for granted.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Typhoid Juli

I was just discussing with some friends the "lip curl of disgust." You know, the face you make when something horrifies or offends you so greatly that you just don't know what to say? That's it. The look. The LCD, as it is now known (thanks Janet). I originally gave a name to this look of supreme snarkiness in honor of my friend Nessa, and in her case it's the NLCD (copyright Heather 2002). Now that we've got that out of the way, I need to tell you a story. A story so horrifying, so full of ignorance and lack of tact, that it causes me to affect my own version of the LCD at the mere mention of the name Juli.

Allow me to introduce my coworker, Juli. On the first day of work, my boss warned me about her. How bad is that? When your boss warns you about someone on the first day? OMG. Things started out well enough, and the only things I noticed about Juli that were out of the ordinary were her obnoxious laugh, which sounds suspiciously like a wookie from Star Wars, and the fact that she falls down a lot. And I mean really a lot. When she falls down, even if it's just on a carpet in the middle of the room, somehow she manages to make a hell of a lot of noise, like in the cartoons when a character crashes into a stack of garbage cans and there's a period of loud noise followed by the can lids rolling about on pavement for a while. That's what it sounds like. How does she do that?

After a while, there were other things. She stands impossibly close when she talks to me. This is a problem, because I'm a gal who likes her space. She often stands over me while I work, causing me to have to fight back snarky words and take a deep breath and ask, "Can I help you?" She wears chopsticks in her hair and a weird feather and bone choker necklace and granny boots and capris - all on the same day. I kid you not, this girl is so weird that another coworker had to quit because of the supreme weirdness.

I refer to her as Typhoid Juli when relaying the stories of truly bizarre behavior to my friends. This is because, while she often calls in sick to work, when she is actually sick, she comes in to the office. Not only does she sit in the office with all of her germy goodness, she continues to hang over me, cough on me, sneeze on the papers that she's handing to me and make disgusting phlegm sounds that very nearly make me run screaming from the office in agony. My boss follows her around with a can of Lysol.

All of this is weird, mind you, but not the weirdest. Juli has an odd affinity for trying to sell me her lunch. Seriously. She does. The first time, we were on a short deadline, and I wasn't sure I'd have time to grab anything, and we'd be working late. Juli pipes up. "I have two Hot Pockets in the freezer, and I'm only going to eat one of them." Wow. She who has no social sense has just offered me part of her lunch? How kind! My heart was beginning to swell with happiness when the rest of her sentence came out. "You could buy the other Hot Pocket from me for $4 or so." Stop the presses. $4? The whole package of two Hot Pockets costs, what, $3.50? I decided I'd rather starve than play into Juli's black market Hot Pocket scheme. Plus, those packages are marked "not for individual resale," and if I'm going down for something in this life, it will not be Hot Pockets.

Other lunch-purchasing schemes have included the sale of coupons, which, as you know, say right on them that they have no monetary value, and more horrifying, the offer to use a "buy one get one free" coupon from Sonic so long as I bought the one and she got the free. Apparently while I'm thinking that Juli is pretty damn stupid, she is thinking the same of me.

The most recent lunchtime incident was two weeks ago. I had some time on my hands and was going to go out for a leisurely lunch. I thought maybe I'd head to the local cafe for some of their delicious fried chicken and mashed potatoes. I mentioned this to another coworker. Juli, who is always listening to every other office convo, piped up once again. "Hey, you know, I have a gift certificate for a free lunch buffet at the cafe. I hardly go there, and when I do, I never get the buffet. You could take the certificate if you want to." I should have known better, but once again I got that feeling of hope in my heart. And then it happened. "You could pay me $7 for it, or something like that," she said, with her usual blank look in her eye. The lunch buffet costs, with drink, a whopping $4.95. I opted for Subway instead.

Stay tuned for more installments of Typhoid Juli weirdness. You know they won't stop. We'll see how long I can go before I just *have* to say something. I'll admit, I'm itching to ask about that feather and bone necklace...

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Mass Confusion

I really feel like that's the perfect description of my adult life so far. Mass confusion. I do believe that there is some plan for me in this big ole universe, but I wish the universe would quit confusing me about it already. As you know, we're trying to build a house of some sort on the farm, so that we can move out of the shack of impossibly small proportions. Sounds like any easy enough task, right? Oh, no. Not so.

First, there's the money issue. I'll cut right to the chase and tell you that we're fairly young, and we're farmers, so while we grow a great many things, money ain't one of them. What kind of house can we afford? It has basically come down to this: anything that we can build completely by ourselves. Now, I'll give you a minute to stop laughing about me wielding any tool more powerful than a hammer. But really, that's what it boils down to. I'm exhausted at the prospect of doing *any* of the work myself, let alone a whole house. We thought we'd build a garage and live over it for a while. Do you know what that would mean? We would have to build two houses. So you can see why that idea is dying an agonizing death by the wayside.

Since the chance of me figuring any of this out while Gaylon is in Kazakhstan is minimal, I'll solicit help from any kind strangers who are willing to give it. Floorplans, prefab designs, log cabins, I'm willing to look at all of them. Maybe I'll post some of my favorites here. My friend Kalah sent me this link a while back, which I think is intriguing for a start. I dig the container houses, but I'm not sure that our banker would approve. ;) This company has a great idea, too, with traditional house plans and inexpensive kits. If only we could come up with a suitable floorplan.

Meanwhile I'm thinking of investing in a nice wall tent. Can I put one of those on a basement?

Monday, September 13, 2004

Bye, bye love.

I married Gaylon right out of college. That was four years ago, and I still feel like hitching up with him was a good move. One of the results of marrying young was that I went right from relying on my parents to having a legally documented partner in crime with whom I've shared my "growing up after college" phase. We've learned some lessons, some fun, some notsomuch. The underlying theme, though, is that Gaylon is my rock. Where he is grounded and level-headed, I'm impulsive and prone to letting my emotions take the lead.

So maybe you're wondering where I'm going with this. Gaylon is gone for 6 weeks, and I actually have no clue how to take care of myself, my kid, my house, the bills, the garbage (how many times do I have to empty it a day, anyway?), the feeding of the animals (a dog will eat catfood if it's all you have, btw) and everything else that is happening around here. Usually, I pretty much take care of the kid and I make quilts. This other stuff is new and I'm not sure I'm doing a very good job of it, hence feeding kitten chow to the hound dog.

We're trying to build a house, a project that we started before we ever knew Gaylon would be going to Kazakhstan. I am filled with panic about handling any official house business alone. Today, the banker tells me that we have to demolish the old house on our property before we can get a mortgage for our new house. The fact that the old house is not near the new house site matters not. Its mere existence is a major problem in the banking world. And yeah, my journalism degree prepared me for a great many things, but I assure you, demolishing a house is not one of them.

So, after I get to a point where I stop crying every five minutes because Gaylon is gone, I have to learn how to do a few things. I think I've got the garbage system worked out, but the house demolition, that may take a while.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Things You May Not Know About Rural Life

You know how all those city folks talk about moving to the country to have some peace and quiet? Well, you can certainly find that here. However, if you're looking for any *other than* peace and quiet, I can tell you right now that you will grow tired of the country life very soon.

Reason #1: Dial-up. People in the city have all kinds of fancy cable modems and web TV and high speed access to the net. In the country, we have one thing: dial-up. And if you're really lucky, you'll be dialing up to a local number.

Reason #2: Carrie who? There will be no Sex and the City watching for you, missy! Cable doesn't reach this far out of the city limits. Get yourself a dish or you're not going to see anything but Will and Grace re-runs. Don't get me wrong, I *love* the Will and Grace re-runs, but it sure would be nice to see all of the other shows people are talking about. Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that if you don't invest in a really big antenna of some sort, you'll get no channels. That's right. None. Zip. Zilch. The antenna is a bare minimum for sanity out here, I think, because believe me, no matter how much you love your DVD collection, thos beloved flicks will get stale faster than Paris Hilton's TV show. (See, without the antenna, I wouldn't have been able to bust out that pop culture reference!)

Reason #3: Interaction with Neighbors. When you live in the country, you have to wave to everyone. This means that a quiet ride into town becomes an aerobic workout of sorts, depending on traffic. Also, you must execute the wave correctly. The proper form is to rest your right arm on the steering wheel (the wheel should hit your arm at the crease bwteen your wrist and hand) and when someone passes you, lift your hand only slightly, then give a quick two finger wave to the passing party. At no time should your arm actually leave the steering wheel. If you wave madly from inside the vehicle, people will laugh. Ask me how I know this.

Reason #4: Learning the Lingo. You'll need to spend some of your quiet time learning to fit in around here. Listen carefully to the local accent and special phrases. I am not kidding that when I open my mouth, people say, "You're not from around here, are you?" The city is somehow obvious in one's voice. I haven't figured out how yet, but I'll let you know if I do.

Monday, June 28, 2004

My Holy Grail

Before I go any further with this blog business, there is something about me that you must know. I live in the smallest house in the world. Well, maybe not the world, but quite possibly the smallest house in my county and most definitely the smallest house on our road. You know those beautiful old farm houses that you see scattered out all over the countryside? We don't live in one of those.

I'm grateful for the roof I have over my head, all 576 square feet of it, but let it be known that at this moment in time I am sick to death of looking at the interior of this 24x24 "cozy cottage." As I mentioned before, we've been here for two years now. And we have a toddler. You don't have to be a genius to see why two adults, a toddler and the 8,569,342 toys, animals and books that go with the toddler would have trouble peacefully co-existing in a house with one bedroom, a bathroom, a small living room and a kitchen(ette). There's a cat, too. A very smelly cat. In a small space. Nice!

We have one closet. One! Whoever put just one closet in this house did it for the sole purpose of mocking me, I'm sure of it. I can hear them snickering. "Yeah, can't you just see her trying to fit winter coats and sweaters and baby dresses and tattered farmer work shirts into that closet?" Yeah, it all fits in the closet, if you'll allow me the liberty of considering my bedroom floor to be an extension of my closet.

I also share a kitchen with my mother-in-law. I love the woman. She produced one of the most wonderful men on the face of the Earth. Yes, we're ignoring the pregnancy test/Superbowl commentary for just a minute. Anyway, she's fun gal and I admire her in many ways, but we don't do well living next door to one another. That's the other thing that I need to mention. Our tiny shack sits a mere 50 feet from my in-law's house. Ahhh, family. My daughter has certainly benefitted from living so close to her grandparents. They're great with her, and always willing to help, and she adores them. My husband and I are definitely ready for our own space, with a real kitchen (no "ette") and TWO BEDROOMS!

That brings me to my mission. I must have a house. Any sort will do. One current plan is to build a garage with an apartment, complete with two bedrooms, over it, on our land about a mile from here. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be so giddy over blueprints. But I am. This place has more than one closet. I think I'm in love with the architect. Seriously. I don't know who he or she is, but to the architect at UCanDo Designs in St. Louis, I love you, man. Thank you for making a kitchen that doesn't require the suffix of "ette." Thank you for five closets and a pantry. Thank you for space for a full fridge and dishwasher. I will think of you fondly in my prayers, and I'm so not kidding.

So the plan would be to live in this garage with apartment until we can save enough to build a larger house. Then the garage, which by the way, is twice as big as our current shack of incredibly small proportions, would become a guest room and space for my quilting projects. You can expect that there will be a lot of discussion of this project in the coming months. We'd likely move in this fall, and would do 90% of the work ourselves. Crazy? Yes, possibly. But when you're living in 576 square feet, crazy is pretty much a constant.

A Grand Entrance

So here I am. On the web. My mom would be so proud. Seriously, she would, but you can't ever tell her that I have a blog, because if I ever feel the need to vent about her, or make fun of her, say, for her obsessive cleaning frenzies, she might get mad. Now I don't know if anyone else's mom is quite like mine, but I'm 26, and I still know that Mom could take me. Yes, she's short and much smaller than me, but she's a tough cookie, so let's just keep the blog thing to ourselves for the moment, eh?

As I said before, I'm 26. This age still seems old to me. In fact, I was actually referred to as old by someone just the other day. He was 17, and I believe his exact quote was "I can't believe that an old person doesn't know any Kansas songs and I probably know all of them." So, resisting my urge to cast down my cane, remove my dentures and throttle that little whippersnapper, I squeaked out, "Umm, I'm not old. I'm not even thirty yet." Yeah, I'm that tough. Clearly I could learn a thing or two from my mother about being tough, no?

I am a mother, too, now. I had my little girl, Maya, when I was 23 years old. She was a bit of a surprise. My husband and I found out we were expecting the little bundle of joy before we were married even a year. Superbowl Sunday, it was. Let me tell you how that conversation went down, because I think it's important to immortalize these kinds of things, especially when you can taunt your husband with the tale for a few decades. I suspected there was something going on, so naturally I bought myself a pregnancy test. I slipped, unnoticed, into the bathroom to use said test. Well, I probably could have driven into the bathroom naked on a brand new Harley and holding a torch made of flaming cats and my husband wouldn't have noticed, Superbowl Sunday and all. It was pretty obvious after a few minutes that there were two lines on this test thingy, and that one of them wasn't going away. I called for my husband. I showed him the test. He took it and examined it, and then realizing what it was, exclaimed "Where'd you have to stick this thing to get it to work?" Ignoring that, I told him it was positive. He looked a little shocked, and then he said, "That's great. Can I finish watching the Superbowl now?" So much for a big moment there. Ahhh, my life.

Actually, it's a pretty good life. We live out in the country. Really in the country. Not "in the country" as in "actually just a few miles outside of a major metropolis." No, we live 20 miles from any town of reputable size (let's say, population greater than 4,000). We live an hour away from a Walmart. An hour from Target! (My friend Vanessa would faint if she knew that. Life without Target, how can it be?)

I'm a city kid. When my family moved to Kansas, my first year in high school, I swore I'd never marry a farm boy. I probably wouldn't have even met very many real farm boys, except that I decided mid-college to switch my major to one in the ag college of the university. And that's when it happened. Farm boy comes along, city girl swoons at the sound of his slight southeast Kansas drawl, and the rest is history. The next thing you know I'm riding in a rusted pickup truck that runs on propane and wondering what the hell my husband is talking about when he gives me directions that include things like "turn east" and "up by Spencer's crossing." A little note on the truck... If you ever date a guy with a propane-fueled truck, he probably doesn't have a gas problem. It's the smell of the propane. I seriously wondered what myhusband had been eating those first few dates.

Back to this blog.... I'm going to chronicle what happens when a city gal like me moves to the sticks. I've been here for two years now, on an actual farm (I'm choking on dust from the wheat harvest right now, I swear!), so I've been saving these stories up for a while now. Let's see if that college degree in journalism prepared me well enough for blogging. It doesn't pay as well as other jobs in my career track, but when you're the mother of a toddler, it's hard not to get excited about the prospect of using words with more than two syllables!