Saturday, March 29, 2008

In Flux

Katherine is settling in nicely.  She's learning the joys of chasing paintbrushes, empty dinnerplates left on the counter after a prime rib dinner, a steady food supply, toilet water (ugh!) and kitty laser pointer games.  I'm still worried about her.  She sits a little funny and her hindquarters aren't very strong.  Still, she gets around and has enough energy after a day-long nap to play, explore and knock things over.  I'm teaching her the joys of stealth, aka not knocking things over, and areas that are out of bounds.  She responds very well to intimidating body posture, so I haven't had to yell at her, which is great.  I just stand in her way and loom and she backs down.  She's not fearful, just responsive.
Such a perfect little kitty.  No calls yet in response to the ad or the Humane Society file.

Meanwhile, we've had more snow.  Right around dinner time we had a big fall that kept the big flakes coming until sunset.  We ended up with more record-setting snow and pretty sky colors despite the warmer temps today.  It's really fun, wondering whether I'll wake up to rain, snow, or clear skies.  After many years of dreary, rainy springs with non-stop cloudy skies from early March through early June, I feel like we're actually getting to experience a new season as opposed to enduring the long, drawn out death of winter.  
I celebrated by taking some pics, some movies, and I wrote some and painted some.  Technically I'm still painting.  There's a phase in watercolor called leave it the hell alone.  So I'm leaving it alone so that the color can dry and stabilize before I go play some more.  Katherine informed me that it was time to leave it the hell alone by hopping up onto the dining table and sniffing around the watercolor palette.  Something smelled intriguing enough that I was worried she might sample, so I picked up the palette.  She would have none of it.  She followed the escaping palette by climbing onto the chair.  When I swung it out behind me she made a jump for it and tipped the paint tray just enough to splash a little Hunter's green onto the soon-to-be-eradicated white carpet.  
Time for the kitty to go play with Orion.  She purred madly as I picked her up.  I let her play with the paper towel I've been using for blotting while I carried her down the stairs.  I let the boy know it was his turn to entertain the thing.  She has served her purpose.  She got me away from mucking up the colors.  Now it's time to get back to work.
I hope everyone is having good, or at least fun, weather!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Blame the humans

Katherine's ad in the Columbian:

Found B&W cat, Washougal, call to ID, pay vet bill to claim.

At the store the day before yesterday I had a real ~gem~ of a customer.  She was all right to work with, but ... well, it went like this.

"I'd like to return this."  She sets an air soft gun and ammo on the counter.  
"Was it defective?" I ask.
"It didn't work for what I wanted it for," she says.  "The dogs didn't leave."
I pause in my scribblings.  
"I shot them in the butts and they just stood there.  They're over at our house all the time, pooping everywhere."
"Did you call animal control?"  I try to sound sympathetic.
"Oh, I wouldn't do that," she protests.  As if anything worse would happen to the dogs.  As far as I know the owner would just get a stern talking to, or maybe a fine.  But maybe she's right, they might get hauled off.  But she's shooting at them.  As long as she gets them in the body I'm sure they'll be fine but what if she gets an ear, or an eye?  And I can't get over the fact that she's shooting at her neighbor's dogs.
"There's always mediation if your neighbor won't talk to you about it," I tell her.  "There's an excellent service offered through the shelter, and I think it's free--"
"Oh, I suppose I could talk to my neighbor," she says.
My mind proceeds to boggle.  She's shooting at her neighbors dogs and she hasn't talked to them, informing them that there's a problem yet.
"I could try firecrackers," she muses.  "That worked on the goats."
I'm so done with her, but I provide excellent customer service, as always.  So she comes back and asks for my opinion on some clothes.  She compliments my hair, and I say nice things about her hair, and she decides I'm her friend.  We exchange names.

I'm so ready to not go back to work just to avoid this woman.  Argh.  And yet, she's very pleasant.  The character that springs to my mind is Umbridge from the Harry Potter series, but she doesn't wear pink sweaters.  Her favorite color is blue.  

Maybe she'll figure out that talking to her neighbors about their dogs coming over might be more helpful than using air soft or firecrackers.  She seems intelligent.  You'd think she'd figure out that the dogs (and goats) are just doing what animals do naturally and the responsibility for where they're doing it falls on the shoulders of their humans who should have some modicum of control over them via a fence, leash, etc.

Argh, I say, argh.  What is it with animals getting the worst of people these days?  I know, it's constant, but right now it's very much in my face.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Kiss Me Kate

As you can see in this pic, Katherine is pretty beat up.  The vet thinks there were several events that led up to her condition--abrasions, possibly from being thrown out of or hit by a car, some scratches and possibly a bite from one or more fights.  Despite this she's in good shape.  She's negative for feline leukemia and feline HIV, so she's roaming the house now.

I have yet to meet a cat that's as non-plussed by everything as Katherine.  When Huntress hisses and growls, Katherine ignores her.  She'll walk up to anyone for attention.  She purrs readily.  She's wary of but not afraid of Dakota.  She explores with complete fearlessness.  She's faithful about using a litterbox and loves people.  She's quiet and polite.  I can't imagine that this cat has ever been neglected or abused because of her temperament and the fact that she's reasonably well-fed, but then there are the recent injuries all over her face and the fact that she's not home, wherever home was.  A large scab is peeling off her lip.  She's raw and she was so hungry when we took her in that she went straight for the food, halting in her assault only briefly to lap up water before eating more.  I don't know who didn't want this cat.  I can't imagine her running away from anyone.  She has no interest in going outside, and her curiosity is entirely for her immediate surroundings.  If you close a door on her, she doesn't paw at it or even wait beside it.  She moves on.  In the cat carrier on the way to and from the vet she curled up and took a nap.  

The only thing that's really thrown her off were clippers.  She decided she was not getting her belly shaved under any circumstances, and so she still has all her hair.  Unfortunately that means that we don't know if she's been spayed or not, but the vet is thinking not.  That means there's a chance she's pregnant, of course.  If she's not, she'll be spayed on May 1.  That will give us enough time to find out if the little miss has been running around with the bad boys.  If she is, well, looks like we'll be having kittens around here.  One is already spoken for and we don't even know if she's having any yet.  She's that lovely of a cat.  I've seen more beautiful cats, friendlier cats, cats with more grace and dignity.  Katherine has an amazing something about her.  No, several somethings.  Patience.  Kindness.  Trust--amazing trust.  Peacefulness.  Acceptance.  She has an iron strength at her core and a self-assurance that blows me away.  If she has kittens with even half of her qualities, they'll be truly wonderful pets.

But for her sake I'm hoping she's not pregnant.  We won't force the matter if she is pregnant.  I think it would be traumatic to have an abortion/spay event, plus I have this thing about giving unborn things a chance at life if the circumstances allow for a little joy and comfort, or at least the hope of a good life.  I think she'd be better off without kittens, though.  She's young, we can't tell how young, and she's been through a lot.  She could stand to have some time to heal without the added pressure of a pregnancy.

Katherine has found cat paperwork at the SW Washington Humane Society in case anyone is looking for her.  Unfortunately she has no microchip, so if there's a family missing her desperately out there, that will make it harder to track her down.  We'll call in an ad in the paper tomorrow.  

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Oh Dear

Meet Katherine.  When I got home today a black and white kitty went into our garage.  It's been snowing and raining and hailing all day--I thought someone let Huntress out and she was taking shelter in the garage.  I called her name, assuming she'd follow me back to the house.  When she didn't, I figured she'd gone mousing.  Thought nothing of it.

The kids were out playing.  I went inside and got a snack, settled at the computer, read my email.  The kids march in.  "Hey mom!"
"This isn't Huntress."
"What?"  I have to get up and see what the heck they're talking about.  By now the black and white kitty thing has completely left my mind and so what they're saying sounds as sensible as "Hey mom, you're not an ostrich."  
I look at the cat in Orion's arms and, hmm, it has a white spot beside its nose.  That's not Huntress, I realize.  It all comes back to me now.  Actually, not all.  I still haven't made the garage connection.   "Where ...?"
"I was walking by the garage--" Orion begins--
Aha!  Now it's all really coming together--
"And," he continues, "I saw this cat and I thought it was Huntress, so I scooped it up and it started purring.  I turned it over onto its back to tickle its belly and that's when I realized it wasn't Huntress."
My mind starts turning, beginning with Oh Dear.  I send the kids on a mission.  Go forth next door and ask our neighbor TTBD if this is one of his cats.  He has three (?) cats, all feral adoptees, the most feral being far more feral than Wiz started out to be--difficult to touch after months of work but will come inside for food.  They return.  All of TTBD's cats are inside.
The inevitable words--
"Can we keep him?"
I look under the tail.  "Her.  This is a she cat, as far as I can tell."  So I give them the usual spiel about how we have to put an ad in the paper, contact the Humane Society, take it to the vet to see if it has a chip (and for a health checkup, of course) but we all know this is useless.  It would take a miracle to get rid of this cat.  I mean, it's in the house.  No one is going to claim a beat up, neglected little thing that was very likely dumped on the side of the road by a Super Poopyhead within the past day or two and washed up in our garage because the weather was so bad.  It has been owned at some point.  Its unstoppable friendliness and complete lack of alarm at being locked in the boy's room is evidence of that.

Please, please help us!  Surely someone knows this cat, and loves it, and will take it away.  It's a tuxedo kitty.  Argh!  As soon as it becomes comfortable it's going to turn into a yowler, I know it.  A 2am yowler no less.  And it's going to be a barfy yowler too.  With health problems.  


Hey kids, want to just take it to the shelter?  I'm sure someone will adopt it.


People are such poopyheads.  But maybe I'm jumping to conclusions.  Maybe this is a poor, lost kitty and we'll see her posted on a sign somewhere--Lost, Kitty, Reward, Please Bring Our Beloved Muffin Home to Us, Children Crying Nightly ...

We've named it.  We're so doomed.

Sigh again, I say, and Sigh.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

March of the Acronym People

Collectively at the store we had an interesting day yesterday.

The Barbie lady came in.  No, she didn't buy barbies.  She bought three 25 pound bags of cat food (among other sundries.)  Is this an uh oh moment?

I haven't mentioned the OCD (Obessive Compulsive Disorder) lady before (that I remember) because she's very nice and compared to a lot of our other customers, she simply doesn't stand out as much as, say, Mr. Boston with his lovely accent, gambling habit and the wonderful way he learns and uses all our names, or Pretty Lady man who comes to BiMart because of all the "pretty ladies" and goes around the store telling us all how we're the prettiest.  

Yesterday, OCD lady really stood out.  She got one of our best checkers, thank goodness, a young lady with the patience of a saint.  I've never seen OCD expressed through another person before, so I thought I'd mention it.  After the checker rang through the entire order, the debit card didn't work due to insufficient funds.  The OCD lady was convinced there were sufficient funds, there had to be.  So she instructed the checker to void one of the items, put it back on, and then the OCD lady would try the card again.  For half an hour.  The checker's break came and went.  This caused a service snafu (effectively leaving us with only one checker) but we handled that from the sidelines.  The trouble was how to finish the transaction with a minimum of trauma.  Finally I flagged down our RVP superhero guy (Red Vest Power) and sent him over to help.  No dice the first round.  RVP guy retreated, watched for a few minutes longer, then decided to take a chance.  He broke the cycle by convincing her to go home and call the bank.  She didn't want to until he assured her that we would keep all her selections in their current bags, in her chosen shopping cart, until she returned.  So that'll be waiting for me when I go in to work today.  I'll guard it with my, well, not my life, but every customer service bone in my body.

I feel badly for her.  At least she came to our store.  I doubt other places have the patience with her.  I'm worried that she's standing out now because she's either off meds or she never was under medical care and is getting worse.  Sigh.

Finally, at the end of the day, our RVP guy came up to the front with a customer and he seemed enthusiastically agitated.  ??  We'd locked the front doors and had turned out most of the lights trying to get all the customers up front and taken care of (no paint lady, thank goodness, just regular orders so it was going quick) so I seemed puzzled by how RVP guy was apparently trying to keep this customer up front.  RVP guy wasn't taking his time so much as going way above and beyond our normal spectacular customer service.  ??  And then I caught a critical part of the conversation.

"I don't know how this could be happening.  You guys see me come in here all the time," the customer said.  "And I write checks all the time.  I haven't heard anything about bounced checks from my bank."

Bing!  It's thousand dollars of check debt guy!!  TDoCD guy was standing right there within throttling distance of my super, but my super wasn't working that day.  Lucky for him.  I could imagine her launching herself, grabbing him by the throat while her weight powers him down, and shouting "Call the police!!"  RVP guy decided that he couldn't do that, it turned out, because all the bounced checks, (did I mention there was a thousand dollars worth of them?) had already been shipped off to loss prevention only three days ago.  He was certain that if we did call the police, we'd have no proof of wrongdoing.  Denied!  TDoCD guy was trying to make it sound like he was a victim of identity theft or something--I even suggested it and he got all coy with me.  Unfortunately for him, RVP guy and every other manager at the store had seen this guy's signature quite a few times by now on checks.  It was burned into their brains.  They'd also had to initial quite a few because some of them were for over $100, and they check ID on checks over $100, so most of them had looked him in the eye, looked at his ID ...  Yep, this was him.  The checker didn't recognize him, but TDoCD guy was trying to, guess what, write another check for over $100 and RVP guy went over to initial it--and then said he wasn't going to accept the check.  That's when the games began.

But we had no proof on site for fraud, so TDoCD guy walked out a free man.  For now.  Little does he know that the phone number RVP guy gave him was for loss prevention, not customer service.  Hopefully they'll convince him to come in to 'straighten things out' where he can land solidly into waiting handcuffs.

So I was late getting home, and sore, and drained.  It was kinda fun, but sad, and exciting, but annoying, and worrisome, and I guess just one of those days.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Starling

Yes, it's a starling.  But as much as I don't care for them, being a non-native nuisance bird that causes problems for native birds, this bird and starlings from around the world are among the most beautiful birds in the world.  I think part of the reason that I'm immune to a starling's good looks is because I was taught from an early age that they're a dirty, nasty pest.  But who could not love faces like these:

Maybe European starlings are dirty, nasty pests, and I don't like the fact that we'll probably never see any bluebirds around here because of them, but you know, I have to admit, they are rather pretty.

Right now we have one that visits daily.  I doubt that will remain the case.  Down the hill from us a barn has a plague of them, where once nested sparrows only a few short years ago.

Let's Talk About People

If you haven't been over to Steve Barnes' blog lately you might take a peek, especially if you study human behavior, politics, or are simply interested in a good discussion.  One entry in particular generated 46 comments (at the time of this post.)  I went in for a swim as well as this one really resonated with me.  Steve gets me thinking about community, culture, and the complexities of managing real life on both a personal and macro-social scale.  

Steve also discusses health, writing, movies, all kinds of stuff.  It's definitely worth a few minutes of your time.  He steps on toes sometimes, but I feel that if there are too many things that become off limits because of fear of offending someone, there won't be room to explore.  There might not even be room to think.  As long as I feel secure that a person's intentions are good, I allow them the benefit of the doubt.  I think Steve has very good intentions.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

ORC smash, orc burn!

Open Read and Critique, aka ORC.  I didn't realize how much I'd enjoy it until I'd been in one.  OryCon is a long way away, but I'm already looking forward to the ORCs--wondering what I'll bring to read, who will be there, what I'll hear, the dialogue that'll sprout up.  Good times.  Writing can be very isolating at times and I hunger for interaction with other writers.  INK is great for that, and ORCs are like a mini-convention within OryCon just for those of us who are willing to sacrifice schmoozing time to hone the craft that informs so much of our lives.  At our hearts we love to create whole worlds from nothingness and the critique sessions teach us how to create better, more badass worlds.

In contrast to today, which was satisfying in its own way but the reverse of a writing event that helps grow and create art.  In anticipation of the equinox (which, as far as the Earth's position around the sun, has will happen within minutes of my posting this, at 22:48 (10:48pm)) I did some spring cleaning today.  Not as much as I'd like, but still, there's less mess and best of all, we got to burn a bunch of stuff.  Two items in particular that went up in flames were the original print out and the agent-intended copy of Beggar Smith, the version that I definitely should not have sent to Donald Maass agency because it was so not ready.  Now that particular albatross, though still dead, no longer hangs around my neck.  It's all ashes, a unique something that has been reduced to its original form--a thought in my brain.  Well, not entirely.  I'm not that brave.  There's still a virtual copy, which I'll reference for the rewrite.  Some of the scenes I plan to steal whole cloth because they're memorable enough that I can almost recite the dialogue from memory.  I'll dye the cloth with some editing to hide the stain of my more primitive prose from that era.  The rest will be blue-screened.  Then again, I may read those old scenes and realize that they're better in my memory than on the page, in which case it'll all get blue-screened.  I'm game.

Much as I look forward to working on Beggar Smith again, though, I need to play some more with Masks.  Must ... reach ... end ... on this last (ha ha) edit.  It's polished, but there are some plot and characterization improvements that can be made.  I'm trying not to muck with it too much because I don't want mud, but at the same time I think if I'm careful I won't screw it up too badly.  

Oh, and yay!  I can participate in the writer's workshop this year!  Woot!

Creation, destruction.  It's been a very ORC-y day.  Happy vernal equinox!  Blessed be.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

They're Here!

I finally snagged some pics of the grosbeaks.  Today was probably the most bird-diverse day we've ever had.  The grosbeaks mingled with juncos, varied thrushes, house finches, chickadees, robins, stellar jays, scrub jays and our lone nuthatch.  All at once.  Unfortunately it was raining when they all came so I could only sneak out once during a dry spell when the grosbeaks had chased the juncos out of the feeder.  By looking at our feeder it appears that we have only a slightly heavy sunflower seed mix, but looks are deceiving with this mix from Costco.  It includes quite a few shelled sunflower seeds.  It also has peanut pieces, but I don't know if the grosbeaks like those.  They're really picky about what they want as far as feeder food.  If you don't have enough sunflower seeds, they'll move on.  Our flock today was about ten individuals, mostly male but a few females.  I've seen as many as a dozen and maybe this year we'll see even more.  They tend to return to the same feeders on their migratory paths so there's an opportunity to get more and more each year as the chicks accompany their parents.
Also new today, hyacinths.  I'm sure they've been around for quite some time in the valley, but seeing them in full bloom here for the first time gave me one of those yay moments.  The low-growing tulips are stretching their necks, and all the early daffodils are open now.  The daylilies are tall enough that the fish don't look silly.  Roses are sending out their first leaves.  The tree peonies are opening their first flush of purple leaves and the regular peonies have buds peeking out.  Primroses are going crazy.  Hostas have their noses poking out.  Pansies have got their faces painted on.  The daphnes are getting ready to pop open while the lenten roses have been open for a good month and are wondering what everyone else is waiting for.  The place is starting to look up.  Maybe someday I'll have a garden that looks good year-round, but for now I have to wait until spring for my show and I'm so glad the opening act has started.
We had just enough sunshine that I managed to dash out and get our Christmas tree from this year planted, and I yanked more baby blackberries and put out slug food.  I know every year I lose quite a bit to slugs and most of the time I shrug it off, but this year I was very disappointed to see that slugs had destroyed several of those kewl tulips.  I don't know what's more heartbreaking--seeing a bud eaten down to just a little color showing or having the stem chewed through and the blossom laying in the mud.  The stub, I guess.  At least I can bring the blossom in.  Die slugs die!  I need to encourage more snakes, although this time of year the snakes are still napping most of the time and won't be eating much in slugs.  

The equinox is the day after tomorrow.  I don't know if I'll be doing anything special except welcoming the day.  I have to work, drat-0.  Maybe I'll celebrate by coming home to a clean house.  That means lots of work tomorrow.  Cleaning out the house is a semi-tradition here at the household on the equinox, not exactly a party, but really rewarding.  The mini-cleans I've done over the past weeks will help set the stage for a great spring cleaning, I hope.  Yay clean house, yay birds, yay spring!  Even when it rains, when the flowers are blooming it's a beautiful day.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy Shamrock Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone!  Actually, I wish it was simply Ireland's Day, but that would be a bit silly--there's no Germany Day (though Octoberfest sort of applies) or Japan Day (although some folks like joining in the Obon Festival) -- okay, I give up.  Anyway, I'm not very fond of St. Patrick.  It's partially a pagan thing, although there are saints, like St. Valentine, for whom I have a certain fondness.  I'm very fond of Ireland, though, and I'm happy to wear the green.  Hopefully I'll be able to vacation there sometime.  

You know, that sounds kinda goofy.  I'm fond of Irish accents, Irish music both old and new, Irish art, and the Irish myths and legends.  Things get a little fuzzy with what's technically Irish and what's Gaelic of a mixed flavor and what's Norse and all but anyway ... I haven't been to Ireland, so I can't logically say I'm fond of the place and the people.  Hopefully I'll get a chance to find out if I do.  I'm plenty fond of my half Irish husband (from both sides of the family, oddly enough.)  If there's more like him over there, grrrroooowwwwl!

I'm going through another cleaning fit.  Maybe it's because the equinox is sneaking up on us, or the fact that it's raining and I'm in the mood to garden.  What to do with all that energy?  Clear clutter and vacuum seems to be the answer.  I have a desk that I'd planned to take to the dump, but it's been raining every day that both the dump has been open and I haven't been stuck doing something else.  I'd give away the poor thing but I don't think anyone would come all the way out here to take it away.  It's pretty beat up.  At one point it started to fall apart and we rather crudely screwed it back together.  It's solid again but certainly not attractive.

The workouts continue.  I plan to go this afternoon/eveningish, prior to dinner because I don't like to workout with a full belly.  If anything, I prefer to be a little hungry.  Which brings me all the way back around to St. Patrick's Day.  It's time to put the corned beef on to boil.  Got cabbage, got potatoes.  It's a much less expensive dinner to put together than, for example, Yule dinner or Thanksgiving or what have you, and much, much easier to cook.  

Be careful out there.  There's going to be a lot of drinking.  And Happy Not Orange Day!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Weird Things

I started to gripe about a coworker because I felt like I had to carry her today, but I decided that eh, there are much more fun things to write about.

Like, Six Weird Things About Me.  I won't be able to beat Josephine's six, but that's not the point of the exercise.  Speaking of exercise, I went working out again today after work.  It's not a habit yet, but my body is remembering the drudgery, er, I mean, the joys of workout.  Without consciously deciding to do so, instead of going home right after doing my aerobic thang, I went to lift weights.  Which starts me with:

1.  I used to be a dedicated weight lifter.  My broad shoulders aren't all natural in the sense that they aren't just genetic.  Once you put that width onto your frame, it tends to stay though it can get flabby.  Just like big biceps and triceps, if not maintained, will simply turn into a grotty set of prayer flags.  Over time, if not used, my shoulders will bow.

2.  I love to fish.  It's probably no surprise that I don't mind baiting hooks with worms and whatnot, and that I don't mind braining a fish on a rock or with a stick.  I'm sure it's very understandable that I enjoy spending hours by rivers and lakes with nothing to mind but a fishing rod despite the fact that I'm normally chatty and gregarious, but not very many women outside my family fish, at least as far as I know.  Hmm.  Closet fisherwomen?  There's an image for ya.

3.  I used to get paid (handsomely I might add) to sit naked in a room with artists.  I later expanded to having naked pictures taken of me.  It's a combination of I don't care if people see me naked (unless it makes them uncomfortable) and gee, people need naked people for some stuff, like life drawing, and they have trouble finding models.  It's a match made in somewhere, but probably not the Christian heaven.  Maybe other heavens.  I bet there are lots of naked heavens.

4.  Apparently I'm a freak with numbers.  I can remember a large list of account numbers, passwords, phone numbers, physics constants and the like.  I have a limited (large) capacity, though.  When I forget a number, I can remember a new one.  If I had no control over this it could get even more weird, like remembering the next license plate I see, but thankfully it does take a little front work to remember a number.  I have some extra space at the moment because I don't need phone numbers anymore and misuse has me forgetting some of my older ones (but not the one from our last house which is now six years out of date.)

5.  People have trouble pronouncing my favorite food in the whole world, and most of them don't like it when they try it.  I don't have the right accents to spell it out here.  It's fresh fruit wrapped in dough that's then boiled for a few minutes and served with either:  cottage cheese, melted butter and a sprinkling of sugar -or- bread crumbs sauteed in butter and then mixed with sugar -or- poppy seeds and sugar.  When I was a kid I only liked the cottage cheese topping, but then I started liking the bread crumbs a lot as well.  My tastes haven't changed enough to accept the poppy seed topping, and may never change enough because despite being a full-blooded Czech, I don't enjoy beer except when I'm in a weird mood.  The connection between the two is the bitterness.  The not liking beer in and of itself is weird--a Czech who doesn't like beer.  It's sort of like a fish that doesn't like water.  Hey, I'm a lungfish!

6.  (Husband sneaking in) I can't even describe this.  If you go to any gathering and sit quietly in a corner, people will start moving towards Kami.  It sometimes takes an hour or two, but even in a large group of complete strangers she will become the center of a mass of happy, relaxed people who just seem content to be in her presence.  I've seen her do this with writers, with fans, with martial artists and with cops.  If we could put what she does in the water supply, peace would prevail on earth.  That's weird.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Debt Races and Strawberries

Still waiting for all the various checks and accounts to clear and adjust.  I wonder if in the future we'll have the capability to track things better.  Then you can have horse races with various institutions.
"And they're off!  IIV has the lead, but they're slow coming around the bend as an employee is sick, creating a backlog  of  unconfirmed funds.  Golden Express is edging up--oh!  Due South leaps to the finish line, bypassing the home stretch!  Risky move.  They must have a helluva claims department."
I'm not surprised we've seen no movement in the snail mailed stuff, but I'm hoping it will happen sooner rather than later so that I can pay off any extra balances that will inevitably be there thanks to fees, late purchases and so forth.  It would have been nice to have checks cut for the exact amount.  We did, in a way, ask for checks to be cut for the exact amounts but we knew that information would be weeks outdated when it came time to close.  And so it was.  I was surprised to see that Radcon stuff appeared after that last balance check.  It's nothing we can't handle in one payment, though.
One payment!! Woot!
Meanwhile, in the rock garden, I'm contemplating the strawberries.  I'm pretty well settled on yanking them all out, and yet, they're strawberries.  I mean, who doesn't love them?  They're sort of messy, but they're a fun ground cover, but sloppy and invasive and uneven and this is a really tall variety ... but they're strawberries.  I mean, c'mon.  Strawberries.

One lone daffodil stands fully opened while its sleepy neighbors snuggle inside their protective sepals and murmur "five more minutes, mom."  The small pink flower on the mid-left is an anemone.  The anemones in that bed are mostly pink although we have a few other colors.  Here you can see how big the chionodoxa are by comparison to the daffodil.  By the way, that one pink anemone is the first one to pop up every year, often weeks in advance of all its sisters, brothers and cousins.  Weird.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Fly by Kite

Silver skies today, rain and the kind of wind that whistles and makes our flag snap with enough force to raise welts.  The wind is 'backwards,' meaning it's a west wind rather than our standard east winds.  That usually spells interesting weather out here, storms of almost every kind imaginable.  It also means that it's very likely that it's calm deep in the Gorge.  The windsurfers look at such days with serious dismay.  Paragliders, on the other hand, get their wings out and hope for dry weather.  A paragliding wing only has a penetration of about 25 miles per hour, so if you're landing, heading into the wind when it's more than 25 mph means you're flying backwards.  If you're landing with the wind, that's 25 mph plus whatever the wind is doing.  So despite the fact that the Gorge is perfect for flying in many ways, paragliders must wait for calm days before they can have their fun.  Same thing with the coast.  That brisk sea breeze that blows hair in your face?  If it's going too good it grounds those insane fools who fly with kites.

If you have the day off and you enjoy a spectacle, it might be worth it to check the wind speeds around Hood River and see if you can spot some paragliders.  Even if they aren't out today, the drive over from Portland is worth it.  Just remember to bring snacks.  The food pickings between Troutdale and Hood River are pretty slim.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

How does your garden grow?

The grosbeaks have stubbornly refused to come back.  I think they know I'm waiting with camera in hand.  Either that, or someone around here has an all sunflower seed feeder out, rather than a heavy mix.  Guess I'll be getting sunflower seeds at work soon.
But even if I don't have sunshine on the wing around here, at least I have some flowers.  chionodoxa isn't grown as much as I'd expect considering how well it does in our area.  Maybe it's because it's a small flower, but I don't see that as much of an excuse considering how many people grow violets, snowdrops (the normal-sized ones) and lily-of-the-valley.  I have blue and lavender and they're both great to tuck into those small places where you can bend down and get a close look at them without having to put your nose to the ground, like in a rock garden or under deciduous shrubs in a raised bed.

This is the first year I've grown low-growing tulips.  I had no idea the variety I picked out was so early.  I don't have a hint of bud on my other 'normal varieties' and I have only a few of the early yellow daffodils, yet here are some Greigii tulips I got at work.  They're not the earliest of the tulips, either.  I may have to look into getting some Kaufmanniana tulips to add to my collection.  Or maybe these are Kaufmannianas.  That's the trouble with buying generically packaged bulbs.  Often the scientific names are left off, sometimes because the plant is so hybridized it's not truly one thing or another and is then designated generically species.  In this case it would be Tulipa spp.  I guess it doesn't matter.  What matters is that they're early enough that the slugs didn't get them all, and I get to enjoy a nice show to carry me over until the garden comes into its own.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Burden

Today we hit a financial milestone.  We've done some major financial shuffling before, but nothing on this scale.  We refinanced and folded some big debts into our mortgage.  It increased our mortgage payment  but removed over three times that a month in credit card and loan payments, not including what extra money I've been dumping in to try to whittle our credit cards down.  We've been down to zero credit card debt before, and it came back with a vengeance.  The challenge now is to make sure that it doesn't return.  

The cards will not be in my wallet anymore, for one thing.  I've used them successfully in the past.  For years I successfully paid credit card bills in full every month.  I used them predominantly for purchases at businesses where checks weren't accepted.  Now that I have a debit card, though, credit cards aren't as important.  I'll still use them for business and travel, but other than that, they can nicely collect dust in the safety deposit box with our passports and other seldom-used, important documents.  There's a possibility we won't use them at all, even when traveling, at which point we'll probably just cut them up.  It all depends on how things will look in the checking account without the constant drain on the disposable part of our income.  It may be possible for us to do the big stuff without having to reach for credit.

I was definitely giddy woman today.  After working with a thin and sometimes deficit budget for household expenses, I'm looking at the possibility of depositing spare $$ from my checking account into a savings account where those $$ can accumulate interest.

I know, blah blah blah money blah blah blah.  But when you've carried the burden for years, the relief is unbelievable.  The whole household was affected, but as the financial drudge I got to face it twice a month, every month.  I'd watch it slowly shrink and then something would inevitably happen and it would hop back up with gymnastic effortlessness.  I couldn't even have the comfort of buyer's remorse.  I knew I couldn't promise myself that I wouldn't overspend again.  The cars and truck had to keep running.  Animals needed their veterinary care.  Kids needed clothes and school supplies.  When we were able to save and plan then we did fun things like buy cameras and computers with cash.  When our savings was hammered and September came around, buying jeans and sweaters with cash was a pipe dream.  We paid for Mojo's adoption with cash.  I paid for his extensive medical care on credit cards.  I paid for my Nova with cash.  I paid for all it's repairs with credit cards.  And so on.

And so it goes.  But now we have a cushion in addition to the lack of credit card debt (I love you refinance genie!)  As that cushion builds, the less likely it is that we'll need to resort to credit cards to pay for large, unexpected or expected but unmanageable expenses.  

This is the way things ought to be.  I know this.  The Richest Man in Babylon and Suze Orman have taught me how things ought to be.  At times I lived very responsibly, but when kids came into the picture I lost my way.  I could make excuses, but really, I stopped looking at finances as closely as I did as an independent woman.  I got out of the habit.  I lost control.  I've had chances to get that control back and I failed.  Hopefully I've learned a lot through my failures and this time I hope for success.  To be fair to myself, before I had a family I had only my own crud to juggle and that was pretty darned easy.  It's a different game with a family.  Although the same rules apply, it's much more complicated.

So here's a toast to those who have gone before me on the road to a credit card debt-free life, and those who shall follow.  Live and learn, learn and live with one less burden.  

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Missing Friends

My friend Mauricio says:  A warrior's Heart is forged in the fire of adversity but tempered in love and understanding.
Mau is very wise.  I wish he lived closer to us.

Pictured:  Mauricio, Brandi, their daughter Anisa, Rory and Teo.  This pic is old--Anisa is twice as tall now.  Mau, if you're reading this--if you don't visit us soon, we'll have to come visit you in Montreal.  Consider yourself warned!

Grosbeaks: Not a Cheep Date

I saw my first evening grosbeak of the season this morning.  Hopefully I'll snag a pic of them tomorrow.  They tend to appear in flocks, and up here the birds that come to the feeder are mostly male.  I used to see very, very large flocks of them congregating on the OSU campus, where it became unpleasant to walk under the trees.  They're aggressive and unpleasant to each other and other birds, but I sure do love them.  If you want to attract evening grosbeaks you'll need a steady supply of sunflower seeds and a feeder large enough to accommodate them.  Patience is required.  It seems like one individual stumbles on the feeder during a migratory period and attracts the others by making happy sunflower seed noises over the course of a few days.  If they run out of sunflower seeds they move on.  It took several years running with a seed mix that had extra sunflower seeds in it before the happy accident occurred.  Since then I've tried to keep the feeder consistently full through winter and spring in the hopes that they'll learn to stop by earlier and stay longer.  If your neighbors already have them it won't be long before you have them as well.  They're voracious, so be warned.  If you want them around they'll make you pay and pay and pay.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Bird brained part 2

Varied thrush (Oregon juncos are also in that same frame,) song sparrow, pine siskin and a reappearance by our local red-breasted nuthatch (in the same frame as the pine siskin.)  Not pictured in either post: scrub jay, fox sparrow, robin, evening grosbeak (seasonal,) western gold finch (when we put out thistle, usually just in summer,) rufous hummingbird (seasonal,) Anna's hummingbird (seasonal,) golden-crowned sparrow (rare, for us,) cedar waxwing (seasonal, transient,) european starling (sigh,) barn swallow (seasonal,) violet-green swallow (seasonal,) tree swallow (seasonal,) pileated woodpecker, northern flicker, great horned owl, barn owl, American kestral (if you're local look up on the wire near the big cow barn across from Windy Ridge--there's almost always one sitting there in plain sight.  They come up to our house too but they're so small we rarely see them,) red-tailed hawk, osprey, great blue heron, osprey, and turkey vulture (sometimes we get a whole flight of them soaring just a few feet off the blackberries.)  We've had pheasants, but they're delicious so they're usually eaten by coyotes, owls, hawks, raccoons or other predators before they can reproduce locally.   

Maybe I'll make a project of getting pics of our local birds.  I predict that the most difficult real possibility is going to be the heron, because they never land on our property, just overfly, but never is an awfully strong word and you never know.  Unfortunately I see no possibility of capturing an image of our owls with my current equipment.  I'd need a tripod, a scope and a camera that attaches to it and a very clear, bright, full moon night combined with the owl very kindly settling for a long time on our snag so that I can do a long exposure.

Yeah.  Not gonna happen.

Or maybe someday Rory will have a camera in the car with him the next time a barn owl flies onto the road in front of him and stands there staring, offended that the car would dare shine its nasty light on its loveliness.  Click!

These images are clickable for the semi-full-sized view.  I didn't want to download the humungous files onto the web because it would take forever on dialup.

Bird brained

Cloudy weather kept me in.  Normally I ignore clouds and go garden anyway, but I had some projects to work on inside and the clouds were a handy excuse.  "I'll just wait until they burn off," I told myself.  Well, the sun only managed to burn a few holes here and there.  The clouds remained.  
When we got that smidge of sun I snuck out and parked myself on the ground near the bird feeders in three different spots, trying to catch a pic of a new visitor.  The yellow-faced bird visited very briefly yesterday and promptly vanished before I could get a solid enough look to ID it.  Poopy bird.  It didn't return today but I got pics of most of our usual suspects.

Oregon junco, red-breasted nuthatch, house finch, Steller's jay, spotted towhee, black-capped chickadee.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Sunshine Kisses

The garden is starting to wake up.  I've been working like a maniac (when it hasn't been raining) trying to get the young blackberries pulled out of the wildflower garden before I run the risk of crushing too many volunteer seedlings.  I can't say that it's looking good, but except for one corner it doesn't resemble an empty city lot anymore.  The goldenrod that grew to incredible proportions (no fair! it was only knee high in the meadow and I would have never planted it so close to my Shakespeare 2000 rose if I knew it could reach 5') got moved into the wildflower garden, as did a chunk of bouncing bet (anyone want some bouncing bet? I got lots) and some daylilies donated by my sister last fall (ahem.)  

We've finally had the grand opening of the first few daffodils, aka sunshine kisses.  There are only about a half dozen that actually opened in a spotty fashion today.  In a few more days hopefully I'll have whole patches open, and then I'll take many pics.  As we get even later into spring (the pic was taken April 5, 2007) I'll have enough daffies up that I may even cut some to take inside the house.  That's always a good day, the first day with flowers in.  Sometimes I force forsythia, but most times I wait until my bulbs do their thing.  They last a long time and they're so darned cheerful I can hardly stand it.

Fifteen days until the vernal equinox.  I'm so ready for spring, and yet, the winter went by quickly this year.  Now that I have a little floral sunshine, I'm okay with things slowing down.  Any time now.  Go right ahead, world, slow her on down!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Muddle Headed Fuddle Duddle

I've been writing like a maniac these past few days.  Between bouts of housework and taking care of the animals while the rest of the family visited relatives in Redmond (they're due back today, yay!) I've been in alternate realities of my own making.  

Pardon me while I philosophize for a bit.

You'd think if someone went through the trouble of creating an alternate reality they'd make it as comfortable and beautiful as possible.  Well, my realities aren't much fun, though they have their gardens and their romps and parties and joyful moments.  Playing deity in my imaginary places has taught me quite a bit about what a constructed/created universe might look like if a monkey-like intelligence was in charge.  I don't think it's a good argument that we have a world of suffering, etc. because that's the way a mighty super-intelligence of unimaginable power wanted it, though.  If anything, the finger we want to point toward Who/What's responsible for all this points back at ourselves, and through us to the whole of the world.

Like ants, bees, grass, birds, etc. we change our environment in order to suit us.  The pieces of this world have been made, not by us alone but by everything on it, into a quilted arena where we all fight it out and try to make the best of the chunk we have.  If you take out the fight (or pretend that you've taken out the fight) I think you run the danger of removing the purpose of life itself.   Thrash about with that for awhile.  Why are we all here?  Because we were made, because we were born, because we evolved.  While we're here competing for resources and changing stretches of ground that several generations of ants worked so hard to make into a perfectly good place for themselves, we fight and strive.  When we're no longer here, the world is something a little bit less and the only remedy is for something else to take our place and fight for itself.  If  there's a lesson here it would be to make sure that what you're building/creating/fighting for is what you really want, and that how you build/create/fight for it will give you the result you expect.  There's another lesson.  Often people ask, what's the point?  I guess my semi-zen answer is, let's sit and have tea in my garden and after let's go to the museum.  Want to sleep out under the stars tonight?

Now, back to the stress and strife of an imaginary life, and a little more housework.  My environment isn't how I like it so I'm going to spend some time rearranging things just like the flickers in my yard.  They're looking for nesting materials and it's such a pain to find just the right stuff and get it organized into something habitable.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

March Madness

It turns out that the March snow I remember didn't happen on the 1st last year but on the 9th and 10th from the year before, 2006.  So I was going to make this post about a year ago today and all that.  Not going to happen.  But I still like the pics.  They're so, I dunno.  Festive.  Something like that.

What really happened in the garden one year ago today is the Great Burn.  Rory and I worked on clearing out a huge mass of blackberries.  Rory cut a channel through the blackberries, which worked out to be a fire break.  Everything uphill from the break got lit.  It didn't go up all at once, which was a very good thing.  The network was loose enough that it needed to be constantly fed and watched to keep going, largely because it was pretty wet out and the stalks were soaked.  They dried quickly over the pile of coals that built.  
I grew the wildflower garden there and planted some serviceberries, as well as put a bench there, as you may all remember.  This year I'm yanking out the few roots that survived, plus yanking the one million gizillion seeds that, now that they have enough light, are deciding to sprout and make happy new blackberries.  If history repeats itself, right around March 7 to 10th the first daffodils will fully open.  I'll take pics, as I always do, and do another compare/contrast thingy.

In the meantime, I really, really have to do my taxes.  But only while it's raining.  The garden is calling my name, and I can't resist its sweet song.  

I'm not the only one who finds the weather signs irresistible.  Yesterday I saw two fox sparrows in a courtship dance.  The only problem was, they decided to do this in the dog yard.  Hormones and sunshine.  Makes us so impulsive.  It worked out, I think.  They flittered too close to the house for me to keep an eye on them, the male fluttering and displaying his wings, the female walking along the ground a foot behind him watching with enraptured fascination.  When Finn showed up he didn't dive for the house so I can only assume they had their fun and got away with it.  If daddy ever finds out when the boy led his daughter for their little tryst, though, daddy's going to come after him with a shotgun.

No, daddy, no!
You took my little girl to a dog yard??!!
I swear I didn't know, sir!

Happy March, everyone!