Where the hampster wheel always turns

About Me

My photo
Middle aged underweight high school graduate
"It is not advisable James to venture unsolicited opinions. You should spare yourself the embarrassing discovery of their exact value to your listener." - Francisco d'Anconia, Atlas Shrugged
"The soundest way to raise revenues in the long run is to cut taxes now." - John F. Kennedy

Bein' Fine

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Recently I attended my 20th high school reunion. I was really looking forward to the evening. The most influential chunk of my formative years were spent in high school, and I’m not sure I ever fully recovered from the experience. Returning to spend an evening with many of these people promised to be cathartic.

Carefully I chose what I would wear. The invitations were casual, the location was casual so I had a little trouble deciding what to wear. In the movies, reunions are quite dressy and formal. There’s usually a band and bubbles and people are crowned things. I was named “most likely to succeed”... would they be checking on me? Would there be new awards?

Do I go dressy and try and leave them with a classy impression? Casual, which is definitely more me, and be my comfortable self? Resort casual? Little black dress? Curly? Straight? Slit up the side? Slit up the back? Heels? Flats? Pantyhose? Aaauuugh! It was like high school all over again.

Finally, I took a deep breath and chose an outfit. I ran it by a friend, it got approval. She affirmed that it was “nothing that would stand out, but I looked “fine”.

“Fine” is usually what I’m shooting for. I figure it’s better than many other adjectives that have been used to describe me, so I was happy with ‘fine.’

All gussied up in my bundle of ‘fine’ my friend and I set off for the evening. After a quick check with my mother, who pointed out that my outfit selection wasn’t that good - again, like high school. We were off.

Now, for a little Big Picture clarification. In my real life, I NEVER worry about what I look like. I eventually grew up and left all those adolescent insecurities behind me. As long as I don’t have a booger hanging out of my nose or toilet paper trailing behind me, I’m pretty much OK. I worked for many years as a model, and after being both highly paid and viciously excoriated I realized that in reality, I was, in fact, just ‘fine,’ and that fine was a great thing.

Back to my story...

Motoring down the road in my dad’s convertible jaguar, in my ‘fine’ outfit, I pulled up to the event. And yes, a nice car does build one’s confidence. I walked in to the event and was thoroughly enjoying myself. It was everything I could have hoped for: reconnecting with people I enjoyed, acting like grown ups with people who were less than genial to me back in the day, and getting lots of compliments on how great I looked. I found an emotional closure that made the evening all worth it.

Then, the drinking started to take effect. Not my drinking mind you - I was, as always, the Designated Driver for the evening. No, everyone else’s drinking. It was getting sloppy, slurry, and downright pointless, but I had agreed to be the D.D., so I was stuck.

Out on the patio, I was having a nice conversation with Lisa who had moved to Bolivia to become a missionary in the Amazon. We were suddenly, rudely interrupted by laughing, screaming and the slinging of a bra.

Lisa and I just looked at the bra on the patio and shrugged. While I understand to a man, an unattended bra is like a flame to a moth, it was the kind of thing that other girls don’t really go investigate.

Then, right past our nice Bible thumpin’ conversation, as according to Lisa I had not yet been ‘saved’, a hooting pack of partygoers sprints past us. Normally this would have been a rather benign interruption, I know you’re thinking “who cares that her conversation was interrupted?”

Well, inside the posse herding by our little revival, was the owner of the bra. As well as four or five other stark naked streakers flailing arms and other unnamed body parts all over the Soule Park Golf Course.

I’m pretty sure they were breaking the dress code. They certainly didn’t have golf shoes on.

At this point I looked at Lisa and commented that apparently all my hard work choosing my outfit for the evening was rather pointless since it was highly unlikely that anyone would remember my outfit after this scene. She nodded, and was too offended to continue. She excused herself and left for the evening.

I on the other hand, was appalled. So appalled I had to lean over the railing to see who it was. Of course, they were all people I knew. One of them had occupied a good chunk of my high school crush time. I had even asked him on a date. Yep, I know how to pick ‘em. Clearly he married well since his wife was the owner of the bra, and she is currently a celebrated pole dance artist. She was toned, I can attest to that.

As I drove home that evening I chuckled that ‘fine’ just doesn’t get remembered. After witnessing the display that would get remembered for the evening, I was fine with that too.

Libertarians and Yodelers Don't Mix

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I’m a libertarian on many, many issues. My live and let live philosophy extends to my feelings about homosexuality to religion. It’s OK with me if we don’t agree with each other as long as you’re civil. You should be allowed to practice whatever crazy you like, unless you start infringing on my rights. Then, I’m not so Laissez Faire.

So imagine my joy when, all snuggled in my comfy bed in Idaho, I’m awakened this morning by a rabid yodeler. Not the recreational kind. This psycho had practiced. He had projection skills, pitch modulation into octaves that Pythagorus long ago deemed don’t exist, and stamina. In my book stamina is the worst attribute a yodeler can have.

Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good serenade. I’ve been serenaded from my window a couple of times in my life and quite enjoyed it. The light strumming of a guitar, the quiet waft of a well crafted melody. Yodeling is none of that.

Yodeling is the infomercial pitchman of music. The in your face style that forces your attention even though you desperately want to turn away. It’s a musical car accident.

So this torture goes on longer than decorum should allow. Even water boarding has an end I’m told. I’m in the bathroom trying to fashion a hose out of empty toilet paper tubes and pantyhose so I can end this nonsense once and for all when I hear “Shep! Get in here!”

At this point I’m straddling the bathtub and have filled a couple of mostly empty shampoo bottles with scalding hot water. I was just about to punch out the window screen for launch when Shep was reigned in.

Two things about his recall made me feel better. First, it makes perfect sense in the universe that an unmannered yodeler would be named Shep. This information is extremely helpful to me. The fact that he’s not named Mark, or Scott or Jeff allows me a certain perimeter I can set up. I have friended no one named Shep on Facebook, or in real life. After this morning I believe it will be prudent to continue this policy.

Second, the fact that Shep has a boss is quite comforting to me. I will spend most of today discovering who that boss is, befriending the boss and convincing the boss that Shep should only yodel inside, a padded room, with a sock stuffed in his mouth.

Like I said, live and let live... just don’t mess with me.

Not a Spectator Sport

Monday, June 22, 2009

I've been spending time with my nephews who are of the age that girls aren't yucky anymore. I feel for them, I really do.

Dating was hard. Especially as a girl. As a high school student I desperately wanted someone of the opposite sex to notice me and cycled through a huge list of crushes. My efforts to gain their favor were largely unsuccessful. I was missing all the curvy parts that normally attracted boys and my scintillating intellect landed me squarely in the “geek” pile. I just wanted to be liked for who I was: a skinny, late bloomer who carried around too many books.

My most used attraction tactic was the “Locker Stalker” technique. Loitering near the object of my affection’s locker for hours at a time, confident that it was a surefire plan. While he was twisting the digits on his padlock he would suddenly notice me, fall in love, and we’d get married.

I didn’t ever date anyone in my high school.

College was better for me. Seems the less you knew about me the more appealing I was. Interestingly enough, I was OK with that, it was working.

So, while enjoying this bonanza of attention I was spending a break with a friend. She had a date planned, and had set me up with her date’s friend. I’m not a fan of the blind date, but this was a double date, the guy was from out of town, so it really was just an evenings entertainment.

Imagine how flattered I was when her date called to quiz her on me. What I looked like, was I cute? Was I funny? On a scale of 1-10 how pretty was I? She had to promise I wasn’t dog meat. Somehow this whole endeavor had moved from a favor to more of a torture challenge. Listening to her on the phone, all my high school inadequacies flooded back in. And so did my ire.

As she hung up the phone I snarled that I wasn’t so sure I wanted to go anymore. It couldn’t be that fun with someone who was so insecure that he couldn’t enjoy a fun evening with his friends, and endure my presence.

This is where my brain went a little off the track.

When the doorbell finally rang, our plan sprang into action. As my friend welcomed our dates, I slowly descended the stairs in her home. The best way to describe what the horrified boys witnessed is, imagine 80's Madonna and Alice Cooper created a fashion line.

I was their top model. Ratted hair. Ripped black clothing. Black lipstick. Chains. It could not have been more hideous. Even Alice would have been scared. The moment the boys saw me made the whole thing worth it.

We sat in the front room to get more acquainted. Smacking my gum I recounted how my friend had helped me mainstream once I got out of my second round of rehab, that I was working as the hair sweeping girl in a SuperCuts and was saving money for my next piercing. Oh, it was just toooooooo fun.

I don’t remember how long we let it go on, but long enough the boy was going to need counseling after leaving.

Prepared to play this part all night, I realized that it had been much harder trying to be noticed for being average me. In this getup I was certainly noticed. Finally my friend had mercy on her date, since she had a conscience, and confessed our little ruse. I went upstairs, cleaned up and changed back into the mainstream me that was attracting lots of college attention. My date was beyond thrilled. After “Angry Aselin” anything was better.

But still, this dating thing never got easy. For me it was an awkward series of liking someone too much, too little, wishing caller ID would be invented, wishing I could drop out of school and just stare at someone, letting people down easy, being let down too hard, being asked out, being stood up - I don’t know why so many of us go through it. Especially because even though I played a mean, heartless trick on a hapless young man, he asked the questions everyone wants to know: What do they look like? Are they cute? Funny? On a scale of 1-10 how pretty? Dog meat?

The interesting thing is no one can really answer those questions for you. You’ve gotta be in the trenches, get your heart broken, break some hearts, learn what you like, learn what you love. Stand by a few lockers.

This is how I finally tricked my husband into marrying me.

Happy Father's Day

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Welcome “Dare to Dream” readers who have just read my post “Daddy’s Girl”. I am so honored to be chosen as a guest writer for the Dare to Dream blog.

My little blog was started as a late night dare that involved a headlock and some crying. Since then, I’ve been surprised and excited at the response that my musings have received. I’m so grateful for anyone that would spend a little chunk of their day with me - so thank you!

If you care to read more, some of the reader favorites are collected under the tag “A Favorite.” Whitney and Macy highly recommend Mammo-gram. In keeping with the parenting theme "Happy Mother's Day" may also interest you. “Expanding” gathers some funny, some painful experiences from my past and present. During the school year I post daily Monday through Friday. Summer has been more sporadic with travel and limited access to technology.

Thank you for any feedback, comments or ideas. Like the banner says, the hamster wheel in my head is always turning.

Particularly on this Father’s Day I pray you are fortunate enough to spend some time honoring your father, grandfather, father-figures. I can’t imagine my life without the powerful, kind, wise and loving influences of the great men in my life. First and foremost my own father, but as I reflect on the person I’ve become I can’t help but acknowledge many, many men who have honored their role as father’s and enriched my life.

We are in a world who is diluting the need for fathers. I only hope that more of us take the time to acknowledge that the world is best when little boys grow up to become great fathers. My own son is the proud owner of the best role model possible.

Happy Father’s Day and God bless you.


Keepin' it Interesting

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I have always had great friends. I attract interesting people with a variety of life backgrounds and experiences. I’ve also found that because I have such a warped and demented past they feel completely comfortable sharing their idiosyncrasies with me.

Fair enough you say, since I do post a series of, well, let’s call them “expanding” experiences on my blog for all the world to see. (All 26 of you).

But I do wonder how some of the topics they share come up. What sort of stream of consciousness brings us from talking about tasty dinner rolls to wearing pleather?

Most people of discretion have never come into contact with pleather, but for those refined of you who don’t know to what I am referring, pleather is the fashion equivalent of naugahyde meets patent leather. Now imagine this combo in a skin tight pair of pants. Now imagine the person next to you wearing those pants. You see how hard my life is.

It’s a challenge to look someone in the eye after they’ve shared a pleather experience with you. Yet, strangely, I embrace these eccentricities and want more details.

My cousin posted on her Facebook page last week that she had a relative who had an accident with a stripper pole. I’m dying to know which relative this is, and no, it wasn’t me. But who doesn’t want the details of that story? After reading this little blurb I lay awake bemusing the fact I wanted to know everything about what and how it happened, and I wished I had been there. I would have gladly wheeled her into the emergency room delighting to explain every detail to anyone who wanted to know. I mean, how often does a story like this come along?

Well, actually, in my life... rather often.

I keep a list of ideas for future writings, the list is pretty extensive. Sharing just a few that have yet to be fleshed out: Transgendered Cotillion, Reunion Streak, Loogie Dodging, Selective Blindness, Gunpoint at Walgreens, and a Jesus Sighting in Texas.

So I suppose tomorrow I should go out and buy a pair of pleather pants and sign up for a stripper pole aerobics class just to keep my life interesting.

Close Calls

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I’ve had two close calls this week while driving lending me to believe ‘Someone’ is looking out for me, ‘cause while I’m safe, and competent I’m not the trickster of a driver the following scenarios required.

While driving to California a semi truck one car in front of me blew a tire, jackknifed, pulled up on two wheels and was prevented from flipping over by driving up on the guardrail. Even though we were traveling at 75 miles per hour, the whole thing happened in slow motion. It was amazing how much information was processed by my tiny brain in the hundredth of a second that I had to act.

I weighed changing lanes, swerving to the shoulder, or straight on braking. My arm flew across the chest of my passenger, because I’m a mother, to prevent her from flying through the windshield as I braked. Like all ‘mother restraint arms’ I’m sure my arm was stronger than the seatbelt she was wearing.

As we skidded to a stop, freakishly close to the disabled semi it was all we could do to breathe. Miraculously, no one was hurt in the entire accident even though the semi and the guardrail had seen better days.

After the incident I immediately said a prayer of gratitude for everyone’s well being, and for being looked out for so well. Yet during the prayer I couldn’t help but think, just because no one was injured, does that mean God was directly involved? If someone had been injured does that mean His hand wasn’t present?

The whole idea haunted me for days. I’m just not ready to declare that all good outcomes are the will of God, which would conversely mean that the bad ones are His will too. I don’t think he wants any of His children to suffer. I’m more inclined to think that some stuff just happens in this life.

What I’ve come to opine is that all of us will be affected by the decisions of others for good or bad. Maybe the semi driver didn’t care for his tires the way he should have. Maybe he ran over something that would have flattened even the best tire. While I’m confident in his omnipotence, I’m not sure God is involved in all that.

Later, traveling in another long drive I passed one of those “falling rock” signs we have all seen, but never seen the falling rock. Today I met the rock. It was larger than a cantaloupe but smaller than a watermelon. It came flying into my lane leaving me two options: swerve into the occupied fast lane or try and straddle the rock hoping it was smaller than my tire height.

I straddled the rock, it was not smaller than my axle height and lifted my minivan off the road as I drove over it. It shot out like a rocket into the grill of the semi behind me making a second horrendous thwank. Again, I was immediately grateful that a semi was behind me as a sedan would have taken the rock in the windshield.
Instinctively I found myself in fervent, grateful prayer. I know He cares. I also know He answers my prayers, and before both drives I did say an audible prayer for safety, which was clearly answered. For my, and my passenger’s welfare I am profoundly thankful.

Yet, what about the times the outcome isn’t so good? I’m not comfortable declaring that God cares less about those people, or it was His will that they crash. I think if that were really the case then drug dealers and pedophiles would have fatal crashes at significantly higher rates than absentminded teenagers and elderly grandparents.

I am comfortable acknowledging that He is much more interested in how we deal with life’s rolling rocks and screeching semis than asking why it happened. Why is usually an unanswerable question when talking metaphysics. “How” we should deal with it, that’s another story.

I think He is pleased when we draw closer to Him. When we acknowledge His presence and express gratitude for the blessings we have. And when we do experience life’s rocks, bumps and bruises that we not curse His lack of protection, but we put effort into seeing the blessings in all things.

I’ve been vividly blessed this week. In those blessings I’m grateful for the mechanic who checked my car before the trips. I’m grateful for the other drivers who were not driving in a manner that would challenge Newton’s Laws of Motion. I’m grateful for the opportunity to travel. I’m grateful for the time and effort that goes into our infrastructure. I’m grateful for quick thinking semi drivers that reacted in ways that prevented further damage. I’m grateful for seat belts, deep breathing, calming music, rational passengers, good weather, manageable sized falling rocks, strong minivan engineering, flowing traffic, the list goes on and on - believe me.

I do attribute all those blessings to Him, and as I feel that gratitude I can recognize His hand in my life. Even when bad things happen.

(But I prefer it when they don’t).

15 Ways to Enjoy Life

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Recently I received an e-mail with the attached advice. I've included my own additional advice/warnings which, while the first person's advice has potential, it lacks the edge that I find fulfilling in my own life. So here are 15 ways to enjoy life, guidance on how well you enjoy it complements of me.

1. Take a deep breath each morning and think of ten things you are grateful for, ten things you are happy about and ten things you are confident in. This meditation will help you start your day in a good mood. Of course, with the kids out of school the day has the potential to devolve into the equivalent of a WWF fight using peanut butter and pool water.

2. Try something new the next time you grocery shop. You might find that a fresh brand of crackers is perfect with the low-fat cream cheese you have at home. You might find an interesting brand of chili sauce is delightful on scrambled egg sandwiches. You might even discover a different flavor of juice. Open your eyes and see what is there for you. Or, you can discover that being a creature of shopping habit is safer since the family rebellion that ensues from “changing it up” makes the Boston Tea Party look like a Girl Scout meeting.

3. Walk around your block and take photographs of small details that you usually overlook. Do your best not to get turned into the cops by a neighbor you haven’t bothered to meet.

4. Read. My blog.

5. Sit on the couch (or porch or stoop or bench) and have a quiet conversation with someone you enjoy. No one does this anymore. It seems like a quaint throwback idea until you watch what actually goes on in front of your house and start feeling your blood pressure boil as people speed recklessly by and dogs pee on your lawn.

6. Create something. There is nothing like using your creativity to increase your happiness-quota for the day. Just knowing you have brought something - anything - into the world that didn't previously exist, brings a sense of satisfaction. The problem with creativity is it usually involves cleaning up. For me, this ruins all the fun of creativity. Paint, glue, glitter, dirt, clay, flour, sugar - it’s all a disaster in the making.

7. Do something nice for someone. It would be fine if you chose me of course.

8. Do something unexpectedly nice for someone. Again, need I say more?

9. Do something nice for someone you feel might not deserve it. While I certainly don’t have lots of experience in this area, I imagine this would generate a certain amount of suspicion. If you show up on my door telling me you just mowed my lawn, washed the dog or bought me a new car I’m wondering what will come next. Likely you will wait a few days and then casually mention that you need a kidney, and you really wish you knew someone who had two. For the record, you may have my appendix, but I’m not so sure about the kidney. It would have to be something REALLY nice. Better than a car.

10. Relax and realize that everyone should have nice things happen to them. You have just been a part of making sure something nice happened to one more individual. Well this just blows my last soliloquy to bits. And no, you may still not have a kidney.

11. Write (and send) a thank you note. Now, this one I am a firm believer in. I have stacks and stacks of blank cards all purchased with the intention of thanking anyone who does anything nice for me. There they sit...

12. Sing. Yeah, I’ve been asked not to. More than once.

13. Dance to music in commercials. For this to happen they’re going to have to up the musical quality in the commercials I’ve seen lately. It’s hard to get your groove on listening to the “Hot Pockets” boogie, or the “Pepto Bismol” mambo. Although Pepto has been kind enough to provide dance moves with their jingle so you may see me bust-a-move in the near future.

14. Look at yourself in the mirror and say, "I'm lovable, loving and loved." And, mean it. And gosh darn-it, people like me. Then you get to become embroiled in a legal battle to become a Senator from Minnesota. No thanks.

15. Thank God for everything He has blessed you with. It's quite a lot, after all. AAAAAAMEN!

Mouth Party

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I like getting invited to “birthday lunches”. I’m pretty confident were it not for the group invitation to share the check at these gatherings, I wouldn’t get out much.

Recently I attended a birthday lunch that had been planned and I suspect I was invited only because I asked about any pending celebrations. I received the awkward, “Um, so and so is planning it” and then after talking to so and so was told “Yeah, I guess you can come, I don’t know who they wanted to invite.”

This is awkward speak for “you weren’t on the list”. But hey, I was in the mood for a party so I went anyway.

Ushered in to our cozy booth the conversation was entertaining and we were all enjoying a summer afternoon sans children when suddenly our waiter appeared. I’m not sure where he came from, all of a sudden he was just there, rudely barging in on our train of thought. Joining the conversation, he tried to make some relevant comments which fell flat. Although we knew he was the only way we were getting food, we didn’t want to get to know him.

As we ordered the lady closest to him kept looking down at her shoe. She had a wince on her face and kept scratching at her nose. I pretended not to notice since I could care less about her shoe, but it continued as we ordered.

The woman on my right leaned into me as she ordered. I know I’m adorable, but please, sit upright. The waiter bent down to help her with the menu and she pressed against me like sap on a tree. I turned my back to her so she could lean against my back rather than my shoulder, which she unabashedly did.

Whatever, I wasn’t really invited so I guess she was happy I was there. I felt a little like the cat in the Pepe le Pew cartoons as I squoze my way away from her advances.

Staring at my menu I placed my order and continued chatting with the woman on my left as everyone finished.

The waiter walked away and the women let out an audible gaspy exhale. What? One of the women asked “Did you guys smell that?”

This is never a good question. Since I hadn’t ‘smelled it’ I panicked. Was it me? It was probably me, I discreetly leaned toward an armpit and took a little sniff.

“I almost threw up,” another woman offered. My mind was racing. It seemed that the offender was gone, so it wasn’t me, but I still wasn’t sure.

Out of nowhere our waiter appeared with our bread. The women simultaneously coiled as he leaned over the table. He turned to me, and right in my face asked if I needed more water. I couldn’t believe the stench. I think I sustained third degree burns as part of my hair melted off my head. This was the worst case of halitosis in recorded human history. The odor was like a hamster had crawled inside his mouth, barfed and then died, six weeks ago.

Immediately I leaned into the woman on my left and tried to look at my shoes.

How can you work in a service industry and smell like that? Good grief! Unfortunately, he was an attentive waiter and every time he returned to the table we huddled toward the back of the booth and spoke into our plates.

For the life of me I can’t figure out how he didn’t deduce there was something up. He kept coming back to the table like some sort of Candid Camera skit.

At the presentation of the bill came the moment of truth... we grappled with the moral and noble thing to do. Do we tell him? One woman rightly pointed out that if she had something in her teeth she would want to know. Another said it would hurt her feelings... I vacillated between being someone who would want to know if it were me, and being too wimpy to be the one who said anything.

As we paid the bill we sat there like stoic little chickens, all holding our breath. Walking out of the restaurant I had a surge of spine and pulled the maitre ‘d aside. Wanting to be diplomatic I mentioned that I didn’t want to hurt his feelings but our waiter desperately needed a mint. She smiled and said she’d take care of it.

Hurray for copping out!

My Petting Zoo

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

There are some people who shouldn’t own pets. Of course I am not one of them. I never go overboard showering pet with odd humanoid gifts, assigning my pets human qualities, and transferring my need to mother something while my children are at school to said pet.

So, as I’m driving my dog to California yesterday to stay with my dad, because he would be way too lonely alone during the day, while we summer explore, (the dog not my dad), I’m talking to him explaining why we will be apart. I can tell by his blank stare that he’s very upset about the separation and I worry that the large package of liver flavored treats, individually wrapped beef bones and dentastix will not be enough to assuage the pain of our separation.

He licks his butt as I’m explaining the finer details of his doggie vacation. I tear a little, feeling his anxiety.

I’ve had my share of pets over the years. The first ones I remember are a couple of cats named Benson and Hedges, named by my non smoking sophisticated parents after the swanky cigarette line. I used to dress Benson, the dark brown Tanganese cat in a pink nightgown, diaper and my fuzzy slippers. I’d stuff his tail down one of the leg holes of his diaper like an errant appendage. Then I’d jam his feet in the leg holes of my baby swing wind the sucker up and watch him freak out with bliss. He was a lucky cat. Why he didn’t just slice my toddler face off with his claws is still a mystery to me.

I had a couple of white parakeets “Bud” and “Beulah” which were appropriate Texan parakeet names. They lived in a sprawling cage they had named “Twin Beak Ranch” and since their ranch had to haul in water, they preferred to shower with me. When I married I realized that hubby was not a huge fan of my feathered friends, I could tell because he rarely talked to them like I did and he never once showered with them... of his own volition. Making the ultimate sacrifice for love I gave the loving couple (actually I had no idea what their actual gender was) to a 12 year old girl I knew through church. She already lived on a real ranch with horses, cattle and a pot bellied pig. Bud and Beulah were blissfully happy living in the preteen room at CTR Ranch.

One day during a visit we had spent the morning tilling a large plot of land for a garden. I loved the power of the tiller, and the pot bellied pig hung by my side as we worked. Bud and Beulah’s cage hung from an oak tree rocking in the wind to the rhythm of their chirping. It was a veritable Texas menagerie of support and serenade. As I was turning the earth another kid walked out with his guinea pig, because everyone knows while guinea pigs like to watch other people work, they don’t do actual work. As I tilled, the musty earth smell was an elixir of progress to me; there are few scents I find more gratifying. My little zoo band agreed.

When the work was done we all retired into the house: pot belly, Bud, Beulah, lazy guinea pig and I’m sure there were other pestilence that joined our refreshment party in the teen room. The menu was more simple than my family dinner. Pig - eats anything. Parakeets - millet, Guinea Pig - pellets or crudites platter, Me the tiller - tall drink of water. As we relaxed together in the calm, Bud and Beulah sat atop of their cages twittering away - back when twittering was art.

Suddenly, from out of nowhere a savage tabby cat destroyed our utopian arrangement. Lunging at the birds he missed them sending them into panicked flight around the room. Everyone joined in the panic as shooing and vain efforts a capture were attempted. During the melee, savage tabby made a kamikaze death lunge across the room capturing dear Beulah in his teeth. He was out the door before any of us mortals had a chance to intervene.

Bud flew immediately to me, where I coddled him and put him safely in his cage. He was alone which made me cry. He was agitated, which is how I think birds cry. Beloved Beulah was gone. Looking out the window I could see the quick finish tabby was making on dear Beulah. I threw up in my mouth a little and kept on crying. I had inappropriately transferred human emotions to my little Beulah, pretending like she loved me, appreciated me, noticed the quirks in me as endearing rather than how my husband found them... annoying. Her death was the loss of an intimate friend.

Yeah, some people shouldn’t have pets. I had a lamb named “Fiver”, I walked her like a dog for months, groomed her, talked to her every day and then sold her at the County Fair Auction. Had to walk her to the slaughter truck. Talk about crying and throwing up at the same time.

I also had a beta fish, I gave it to my ex-boyfriend as a parting gift. He named it Arizona in honor of where I was moving. He asked me to keep it for a couple of days while he went to a convention. He brought it by, explaining Arizona’s regimen, and it was easy to tell he had become attached to the little red fish with flowing fins. I followed his regimen to a T. Fed in the morning, left for work, returned home...now here is where I deviated from the regimen... peel dry dead fish out of the carpet piles and try and revive him. Ever try to revive a fish? I actually did a few mouth to gill puffs before my brain caught up to the ickyness of the whole idea.

When he returned for the fish, I tearfully explained how he had jumped out of the bowl. Stoically, my ex held the bowl and said “Arizona is dead, just like our relationship.”

Awkward. Uh, yep, that pretty much sums it up. Have a safe drive home.

Tonight, in the quiet of my room, there’s something missing. The noise that comes to the side of my bed to coax some attention, the forearms on the bed pleading for a scratch. When hubby does this, it’s just not the same. The tiny yelping of puppy dreams that always involve a fruitless chase, legs flailing at his side. The snoring, as he lays spread eagle across the floor in a completely relaxed comatose slumber. Again, hubby just isn’t as cute at the late night snore. Dog snore, endearing. Hubby snore, needs kicking.

The sum of my reality is I am one of those people who goes overboard with my pets. And my nonsensical behaviors have created a collection of tender memories of unconditional acceptance, pure love, profound joy, a presence of peace, and mourning, soul wrenching loss. One only builds that collection by buying a ticket to the petting zoo. It’s been worth every cent.

If You Think it...?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Back in college I studied quantum physics. Since then I’ve had a weird hobby of following some of the latest ideas rooted in chaos theory. All the stuff that geeks love: uncertainty principle, string theory, additional dimensions and parallel universes. Certainly I don’t begin to understand it all, but what I do I find fascinating.

One of the fundamental ideas in quantum mechanics is that just by observing something you influence it. In the science world it’s the idea that the experimenter is a fundamental part of the experiment that changes the outcome. After today, I’m more convinced than ever that this idea has veracity.

This week I was in charge of putting on a program which featured a speaker on self-protection. Besides the discouraging statistics this expert espoused, he bantered with the attendees sharing ideas on ways we can better protect ourselves from everything from home invasion to identity theft. It was heartening when he shared things I had thought of and overwhelming when he shared things I had not considered.

Weirdly enough, after the evening I left grateful for the safeguards hubby and I have put into place.

Then comes check the finances day, two days later. Lo and behold, within 24 hours of the program, someone had stolen our credit card and charged a couple of e-gift certificates for themselves.

Everything was cancelled. Fraud averted. Sense of violation - acute.

This whole identity theft thing is a gyp. I mean, if you are going to steal my identity then you should really have to be me, not just get my money. You should have to pick up dog poop, mop my floor and drive my kids around. This idea alone would discourage the act better than any fraud department ever could.

It’s really a disappointing thing about our current society. So many have come to see their fellow man as commodities, things to buy, trade, steal - rather than people. This is the fundamental motivation behind not only crime but many sales tactics, telemarketing, televangelism, and the porn industry.

If you can’t take advantage of someone then somehow you will lose out. The sad thing is as this idea becomes more prevalent we all lose out. We can’t leave our doors unlocked, can’t give out our number and have to always watch out for other people - the minute you let your guard down you can be victimized, and likely will.

Throughout my life I’ve been ripped off a number of times. Sometimes it was completely my own stupidity. Other times, there was nothing I could have done. It’s just part of life. Either way, after each unfortunate encounter I vowed it would never happen again.

I certainly hope it doesn’t.

Branches in My Tree

Friday, June 5, 2009

Recently I’ve been working on my family history. I’ve always found this endeavor fascinating, but not had the time I would like to devote to the research.

My name “Aselin” is actually a surname from my grandparents. Fortunately for me when they immigrated from Canada they adjusted the spelling to a more Amero friendly A-S-E rather than the original A-S-S.

I know what you’re thinking. HA HA. Don’t think you’re the first.

Anyway, except for a bad stretch in fourth grade where the wordplay common among prepubescents got a little out of hand, I’ve always liked my unique name.

Because the lineage originally comes from France, I imagine my ancestry as cultured, cheese eating sophisticates. This last week I discovered an entire branch of the Aselin family I did not have recorded. It was an exciting event and I enjoyed entering the data into my little family history software program.

There were lots of exotic French names that piqued my interest, and I imagined the places where they lived. Soulanges, Rangite, L’Islet... I’m sure they are all spectacular picturesque locales where everyone wears berets.

As I was trying to sound out each name I came across one I had never encountered. Pierre Destroismaisons. I speak rudimentary French, understanding more than I can speak, but dang it, I understood enough to translate this one.

Historically the surnames of people come from their professions. This is why we have Bakers, Smiths, Tailors and the likes. Well Pierre, I’m not sure how excited I am to be related to you. The translation of his name could go either way. Maisons means houses. Destrois... well, he could be a demolition expert - although I’m not sure how much a demolition expert was needed in the 1600’s. More than likely Pierre was a cad. A rake. A Home wrecker. Grrrr.

Usually I’m intrigued by details of my ancestry. I’m confident I’m a conglomeration of centuries of genetic mutations and look to see elements of my quirks in the details I discover of them. Sadly, my forbearers were rather private people who left little in the way of biography behind. My paternal grandmother kept a travel diary of a trip to Europe she was fortunate to take. It’s a left-brained account of what she had for breakfast, lunch and dinner noting a few of the sights in between. It’s painfully lacking in personality, and besides the fact that it is written in her own hand, it gives little in the way of insight.

I had an uncle who served in WWII. As my father and aunt started to spin family tales I was so excited to hear about his story. All they gave up is he was mustard gassed during combat and always smelled like pickles. Really? This is all you got?

On and on it goes as the lives of my fathers are noted but certainly not elaborated upon. So the little insight of Pierre the French Home wrecker was not the sort of news I was happy about. I’m sure we all have less than savory characters in our family tree, but home wrecker? That’s a particular shame to have been proficient enough at it that you assumed the moniker like a profession and passed it on to your children. Aww, here come the little Homewreckers off to kindergarten. Ick.

Fortunately for me my mind keeps working while I sleep. I believe there is a hamster that lives in my brain that just runs and runs in his wheel. Often he wakens me with ideas, things I forgot, and inspirations. Imagine my elation when his little nudgings gave me the a-ha moment. Destroismaisons... Destroismaisons... Des Trois Maisons!!!!

Pierre was not the homewrecker I immediately assumed! He was a land baron! Des Trois Maisons really means, and is a better translation, Of three houses!!! Well this I can wrap my heart around.

Welcome to the family Pierre of Three Houses.

By the way, if one of them is on the southern coast of France, I’d love to visit!

Negligent Parenting

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Unnamed child number one is going off to summer camp again. As I’m supervising the packing I’m appalled at the state of her underwear. There are elastic threads hanging from almost all of them, they’re faded, seams have holes they look terrible. They also look pretty small.

Holding up a shabby pair and mentally eyeing her backside I’m trying to figure out how the two go together. “Can you even fit into these?” I ask.

“Well, they cut off the circulation in my legs and leave a mark around my waist, but they’re all I have.”

Ohh, my poor neglected underwear orphan. I wonder why she didn’t mention anything but shrug it off to my stellar parenting skills.

Standing in our local purveyor of skivvies my teenager and I have one of those intergenerational awkward moments where I think she should get the princess underwear that will come up to her armpits and she would prefer the sassy six pack.

OK, it’s not that bad, but clearly I haven’t been up on the growing needs of my daughter. I’ve happily kept her in the “Barney Box” denying the fact that she’s actually growing into a young lady.

I swore I’d be a cooler mom than this.

Funny thing is I remember my own coming of age quite vividly, going from a tomboy that closely resembled the Peanuts character Pig Pen to Betty in the Archie comics. I remember the awkwardness of wanting my first bra but being to embarrassed to ask for help, or money. The changes that spiraled my whole psyche out of control and the feeling that no one understood me.

I was repeating the cycle. I’ve left my kid in a tourniquet of Barney underwear trying futilely to slow her growing up. I’ve been ignoring and worse neglecting elements of helping her navigate maturation. She’s starting high school. She’s a fantastic person. I enjoy pretty much everything about her... except her shabby underwear of course.

As I pay for her more suitable unmentionables I repent of my negligence. She smiles at me, unawares of the helpful and informative talk on the birds and the bees we’re going to have in the car.

I am so “the cool mom.”


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I had a mammogram yesterday, which is kind of a joke in itself since I don’t have much mammo to gram. But nevertheless, I’m of the prudent age when us women are expected to suffer such injustices.

Checking in at the women’s center I’m surprised at the number of men in the waiting room. Hopefully they are just supportive spouses since I don’t want to be sitting gown-clad among any of them.

I’m not a very good waiter. I have a hard time sitting still when I know what’s coming. Glancing nervously around the room I note the cheap vase collection, blaring TV on a channel no one in the room would have selected and a water cooler. Loving free stuff I avail myself of some water.

The wait goes on, and I avail myself of some more water. I live in the desert. I am parched.

I followed all the pre-mammo rules: two piece outfit - check. No lotions - check. No deodorant - check. If nothing else I’m an obedient little impatient. My name is called so I gather my belongings and obediently follow an overly peppy attendant to a waiting area. She explains the drill. 1. Disrobe from the waist up. 2. Put on the uncomfortable, ill-fitting gown. 3. Gather all my belongings and exit the dressing room. 4. Find an available locker, lock my stuff. 5. Wait.

I quickly get to step 4. As I fumble with the locker you’d think I’d never encountered a low tech lock before. Trying repeatedly to get the thing to latch I’m getting frustrated. Over my shoulder a pre-pubescent voice rings out “Ya want me to help you with that lady?”

Great. There’s a ten year old in the room. I’m used to being bested at technology by my children but good grief, this is a LOCKER. She’s there cross-legged on the floor waiting for her mother. She’s too young to even have a bra. OK, well a bra is just a fashion accessory for me too, but I have a driver’s license so I should wear one.

“No thank you.” I reply as the latch finally secures.

Turning around I survey my options. On a good day I have a large personal space boundary. Now I’m gown clad in a room full of strangers waiting for my boobs to be put in a cold waffle iron. I don’t want to sit by anyone. Unfortunately, this luxury escapes me as I tuck myself in between two more fortunate souls who got to pick their chairs.

All around I’m just mad at the injustice of having to be there. And, my ill-thought-out plan of guzzling free water is starting to expose it’s flaws.

In enters an attendant that calls Ash-e-lyzz forward. I know this is me. The mispronunciation of an "A" name is always me. I jump up and she says “Let’s go in here for some privacy.” She motions to the dressing room with the curtain separating us from the rest of them. “Good idea” I sarcastically think.

She then informs me that they don’t have my old films so I will have to reschedule for another day.

WHAT??? I take a deep breath and calmly suggest we could administer the test and then compare them to the old films on another day.

This of course makes sense, which is why it wasn’t going to work. I was informed that my insurance wouldn’t pay for such madness and that I would have to come back another day.

I’m not sure if it was the slipping gown, or the urgent bladder, but I became a little forceful with the fully clothed lady.

“So, you confirm my appointment, check me in, make me get undressed, lock my underwear in a public locker, sit in a crowded waiting room only to tell me you don’t have my films?”

“Yep” the highly paid rocket scientist says.

“Yeah, we’re going to do the test today. Then, tomorrow when you have my films you can compare the two.”

“Whatever” she shrugs and walks away. Furious, I ruminate on the injustice of having to take this stupid test in the first place.

I’m all flustered, have to pee and am sweating a little due to lack of deodorant or lotions. Taking a deep breath I prepare to return to the sardine room of fellow gowners. Upon entering one woman applauds me. I’m shocked and a little embarrassed. “Sorry, I guess that wasn’t too discreet.” I sheepishly say.

“They treat us like meat” she says. Feeling camaraderie I agree, and we start to chat. Another woman blurts out, “I’m having a needle biopsy.” “Oh” is all I can manage. “I’m a fifteen year survivor” another offers, “they think it’s come back.” The fear and powerlessness in the room is palpable. Suddenly I'm not so mad about my test. Mine's just a check-up.

As we talk, my heart goes out to these sisters. We're all wearing the same uniform, but we're fighting different battles of the same war. I offer some words of encouragement, ask some questions and listen to their stories. I’m not sure how much help I was, but I am confident I was better than the droning television.

Leaving the room, I notice the ten year old, sitting wide-eyed in the corner. I smile, trying ineffectively to comfort her alarm.

Honey, this being a girl thing only gets trickier and trickier.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A few months after moving to our new home I heard a talk in church that gave me pause. It was a thought provoking moving talk advocating living by the Spirit. As I listened to the speaker I realized that I pretty much ‘winged’ my life by my own devices. Thus far, I’m not sure that method has been a stellar success. The points made by the speaker motivated me to want to try harder at using the power of the Holy Ghost as a prescient guide.

I spent the following day, Monday, trying my best to be sensitive to its promptings. I suppose I have more grandiose ideas about the life I live because it’s was quite hard to see large purpose and inspiration in my trips to the dry cleaner, supermarket and gas station. A number of times during the day I had a seemingly one way conversation with Deity declaring that I was listening, only to receive a static response.

Certainly I don’t yet have finely developed spiritual sensitivities.

That evening, hubby had a dinner meeting so I took advantage of the night off and fed the kids at Taco Bell. Driving home I felt a strong prompting, to turn into a neighborhood I had not yet explored. I mentally shrugged at the idea that I was kind of reaching, but it was a prompting so I was going with it. Since we had no time constraints for the evening I was curious to learn more about the area where I now lived.

Winding through the streets the dog, kids and I enjoyed the mini tour, and finally found ourselves intersecting with a familiar main street.

The sun was setting and the street lamps were beginning to light. Before I pulled onto the main street I noticed two women in the median, standing outside of their cars. Taking a moment to survey the situation I realized one of the women had hit a large blonde dog. Both were standing over the dog, emotional, flustered and blocking oncoming traffic that was swerving dangerously around them and the dog. I told the kids to stay in the car and approached the women.

With cars were diverting around them and the nature of the busy street, the waning light put them in a precarious position. Neither woman knew what to do, not wanting to leave the dog.

I’m a left-brainer by nature. Immediately I took over, telling the women to get in their cars and pull into a nearby parking lot. I then stopped the lanes of oncoming traffic, lifted the dog by it’s legs and carried its lifeless body over to the sidewalk. The dog had no collar, and animal control was closed for the night. At this point I wasn’t sure what to do, but had moved everyone to safety and felt OK leaving them to sort things out.

Suddenly a van pulled up onto the sidewalk a man jumped out, let out a heartbreaking gasp and knelt by his dog. The van door flung open and a boy of about eight years old came sobbing out. The women were in tears, the owners of the dog were in tears, I was in tears. I held the young boy as the man assessed his deceased pet. He lifted the animal in his arms and I ran ahead to the van to help prepare room. He gently laid the animal on the floor, and wordlessly he and his son got inside and drove away.

I turned to the ladies and offered a few words of comfort. We quietly disbanded. I returned to my van where my own aghast children had witnessed the whole scene.

I was so profoundly sorry for the family I couldn’t gain my composure for a few minutes. We all returned home, hugged our dog and said a prayer for the comfort of the mourning family and the woman who had hit the dog.

The sickening sadness was overwhelming.

Later that night I lay in my bed feeling frustrated I had followed my “prompting.” That whole scenario was a crappy experience. Laying on my side in bed I wept.

Much later that night I awoke, and had some quiet time to reflect. The whole experience dominated my thoughts. As strongly as the earlier prompting had been came the clear realization that He needed me to be with those people. By following my prompting I had not only gotten the women out of harms way, but kept the dog’s body in tact. Not many people would have been willing and able to carry the dead dog, and while coming upon their dog was horrible, had the dog remained in its place it would have been run over repeatedly, likely mangling its corpse. Moving the dog allowed his family to grieve more gently.

I was hoping for some profound spiritual experience. Instead I received direction to get in the emotional trenches. To serve, protect and comfort strangers. Exactly what the Lord repeatedly asks us to do. Too often we’re not listening to the promptings.

I wouldn’t recognize any of the people if I saw them again. But I’m deeply grateful I was able to help them. I prayed for them for days, and yes, the experience has made me more sensitive to promptings of the Spirit.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Everyone needs an alias. When working on the internet I often come across occasions where they ask for my name. I never want to give my name. Mostly because while sites I’m surfing often have information I would like, I would like to be the one who retrieves it. I don’t want anyone contacting me with information they think I need.

By using my alias, if they contact me I can tell if it’s data I really want or stuff I can delete immediately.

For a number of years I used “Zeeba Tweed.” Any e-mail I received with Ms. Tweed in the subject line could be immediately deleted. It has worked well for this cyber surfer. I’ve met people with worse names, but not too many. There are people with names that make me wonder if their parents really wanted them. A Reader’s Digest I was perusing at the dentist highlighted some recent legal name changes. One that stands out is “Lula from Taloola Doing the Hula” this poor soul recently changed her legal moniker. I suspect she also changed her phone number and address after she told her parents they were on their own in their old age. I mean, really.

Another name I came up with is “Minerva Snodgrass”, referencing mythology and Sunday morning comics at the same time. I think I’m a nomen genius. My children are lucky their father protected them from any of my naming creativity.

So, imagine my surprise as I’m going through some recently found family papers to find a real Snodgrass family in my ancestry. Get out! What are the odds? I thought Snodgrass was just a downtrodden comic character. I was really excited. This cosmic coincidence made me chuckle as I welcomed them in to my ever growing family tree. Inputing the children of Elvin and Jane into my database I doubled over in laughter. Brothers Markus and Matthew also had a baby sister: Minerva.

So much for my made up alias. I wonder if she has a record?