"Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration."
Charles Dickens Read more!
Friday, June 29, 2007
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Just after noon today, I entered the bank as discreetly as possible. In the lobby between the outside world and the inside office, a man dialing on his cell phone looked up and said "Hello there!" quite loudly and cheerily. I said "Hi" back in my best what-are-you-so-happy-about-tone.
A young teller called me right over and asked what I needed. I had the amount necessary for my house down payment written on a cloudy blue Post-it note. I stuck it on the counter facing her direction.
"Are you buying a house?" she asked brightly. What was with these people today?
"Yes." And I'm on the verge of a major anxiety attack because of it, so let's keep it quiet.
When someone asks me a question, I can never plead the fifth. Can't keep my mouth shut to save my life. My gravestone will read: Died Talking.
"First house on my own since the divorce. It's a little nerve-wracking."
"Hey, Jane! It's her first house!" Three tellers turn my way and begin to applaud. For some reason that's when I notice my old wedding song, Sarah McLaughlin's "Angel," playing in the office. I feel my balance tipping in an unfavorable direction. I started re-arranging my wallet, ID, checkbook and bag on the counter to stall the waterworks. Stupid anxiety attack waterworks. Can't stop those with the Hoover Dam.
Jane comes over to authorize the cashier's check and positively beams. She reaches over to shake my hand.
"Congratulations! You must be so excited!!" Hmm, try nauseated and dizzy. My life savings sit neatly in one small piece of paper now on the desk before me. The teller has already crumpled up the sticky note, so apparently there's no turning back. Seems like someone has turned the radio up incredibly loud. That song always did go on forever.
I unsuccessfully try to fit the check in my wallet, then my checkbook, and find it not as conveniently sized as I originally thought. I shove it in my little shoulder bag and turn around slowly.
This is the definition of anxiety. You do something very exciting and worth celebrating and you feel like the world may end at any moment. One way I can tell when it's happening is by the fact that I can't type unless I go very slowly, and even then I have to keep backing up and correcting myself. There is a disjoint between my mind and my fingers.
No one saw me crying when I left the bank and got back into my car. I knew it was a regular release: crying stopped being a cause for alarm in my life very early on. As I turned on the car, Sarah McLaughlin was still singing the same song. I sat for a minute until it finished, then pulled out of the parking lot.
I was about to turn off the radio when they announced that this was a back-to-back show, and they had one more song from Sarah. The song they played is called "Ordinary Miracle," and its lyrics are below.
It’s not that unusual
When everything is beautiful
It’s just another ordinary miracle today
The sky knows when it’s time to snow
Don’t need to teach a seed to grow
It’s just another ordinary miracle today
Life is like a gift they say
Wrapped up for you everyday
Open up and find a way
To give some of your own
Isn’t it remarkable?
Like every time a rain drop falls
It’s just another ordinary miracle today
Birds and winter have their fling
But always make it home by spring
It’s just another ordinary miracle today
When you wake up every day
Please don’t throw your dreams away
Hold them close to your heart
Cause we’re all a part
Of the ordinary miracle
Do you want to see a miracle?
It seems so exceptional
That things just work out after all
It’s just another ordinary miracle today
Sun comes up and shines so bright
And disappears again at night
It’s just another ordinary miracle today
It’s just another ordinary miracle today
Don't misunderstand me: Sarah McLaughlin is not a cure for anxiety attacks, but she can be a nice distraction. Maybe I'll remember how to type tomorrow. Read more!
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Monday, June 25, 2007
Who do I have to talk to to get the road from Madison to Columbus designated as a wildlife crossing? Driving up last weekend my windshield was nearly taken out by an enormous male turkey who took flight (poorly and slowly, I might add) right in front of me. I must pass a dozen raccoon carcasses each time I make the trip--though thankfully I've sent none to their calling on my own. Tonight I passed three oblivious woodchucks munching away happily just inches from the roadway (and goodness knows those oblivious woodchucks are so much more bothersome than the focused and attentive ones).
The dogs and I went up to Columbus tonight to check on the progress of the new roof being installed on my new/old house. They are doing a great job so far. Unfortunately, they must be doing it on someone else's house, because mine looks the same way it did last week. Still, Ginger had many, many Columbia county squirrels to chase tonight--my favorite pastime of hers, as I am firmly affixed to the other end of her leash. Driving home I pondered whether the bank would still be willing to close if they don't complete the OMIGOD THAT BUCK IS GOING TO LAND RIGHT ON MY HOOD AND I SHOULD REALLY CHECK MY REAR-VIEW MIRROR BEFORE SLAMMING ON THE BRAKES LIKE THAT roof on time, as they had originally promised.
Nothing like an indecisive white-tailed deer to remind you of your mortality. I was certain we'd hit it: I just didn't know for sure if we'd hit the head or the tail. No one was close enough behind me to rear end me, nor did either of my dogs go through the windshield as I braked. And as the deer and I made eye contact--for what I figured was the first and last time--we each made a decision to swerve. And we both swerved to our respective right. That is why I am writing this to you from my desk at home and not in traction from a hospital bed.
Damn it, I need some ice cream. Read more!
As a veterinary technician in a small town, I worked for a veterinarian who had been in practice for fifty years and had seen just about everything. One day I received a call from a very concerned dog owner. The owner’s husband had been gardening and was using a common chemical fertilizer. When he left the yard for a moment, their Yorkshire Terrier found the bucket and started lapping it up like water. The wife discovered him doing this and panicked. Though the dog seemed to be acting okay, she was anxious to hear the doc’s opinion on what she should do next. Ingestion of any chemical by an animal is dangerous, and with small breeds it can be even more so. I concealed my own concern and told her I would ask the doctor immediately. Placing her on hold, I called out to the doc: “What should this woman do about her Yorkie that just ingested some chemical fertilizer?”
“That depends,” he replied. “How big does she want him to get?”
Before anyone tells me to submit this to Reader's Digest, I did. Here's the fine print you see after sending in your piece. "Thank you! Your submission makes 20,711,711 jokes, quotes and funny true stories received to date. So far we've paid $25,313,500 to RD readers! If we decide to publish your submission, we'll send you a check! Due to various considerations, even usable items may not be published for six months or more. The competition for publication is intense; last year, editors selected only a few hundred stories from over a quarter-million submissions." Read more!
Saturday, June 23, 2007
With all the sadness going on in the world at the moment, it is worth reflecting on the death of a very important person, which almost went unnoticed last week.
Larry LaPrise, the man who wrote "The Hokey Pokey" died peacefully at the age of 93. The most traumatic part for his family was getting him into the coffin. They put his left leg in. And then the trouble started!
Shut up. You know it's funny. Read more!
> Read more!
Friday, June 22, 2007
This Father's Day weekend saw the annual Columbus Carriage Classic in south-central Wisconsin. It was very hard to watch knowing my Percheron Julian was just sitting home mowing the grass. If he wasn't such a dancer (he takes his ancient Arabian lineage very seriously) he'd make for some stiff competition up here. As it is, he'd probably just break some undesired speed records.
There were a few Percherons and Percheron crosses represented this weekend, along with the Belgian crosses and Shires or Shire crosses. The carriages were, without exception, exquisite, and their drivers managed to smile through their wool period costumes very convincingly!
The parade on Saturday evening seemed to go without a hitch (pun intended), though the number of cars making their way through the route was a bit disturbing. As I'll soon be a Columbus resident myself, I hope to volunteer next year to keep those gas-guzzlers a little further at bay.
Click here to see a few pictures taken with my most expensive disposable camera.
To check out the official link for the Columbus Carriage Classic, click on the title of this post. Read more!
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
What is World Refugee Day?
The United Nations General Assembly designated June 20 as World Refugee Day to recognize and celebrate the contribution of refugees throughout the world. Since then, World Refugee Day has become an annual commemoration marked by a variety of events in over a hundred countries.
Click on the title for more information from the UN Refugee Agency. Read more!
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
[Julian still seemed "normal" when checked at lunch. Collective sigh of relief...]
Got a call early this morning from the stable owner. Julian was lying down and refused to budge. If you've ever tried budging a 1600# horse, you can see where this would be a problem.
The main cause for not getting up is colic. Colic is the number one cause of death for horses. Needless to say, I was dressed and out the door within moments, headed for the barn with my vet's number in my back pocket.
Julian was still lying, though sternal, when I got there. He was in the large barn with the other horses, who were all milling about and finishing up the morning hay. Occasionally Jack would stop and sniff at Julian, who looked over at me when I went in.
Asking him to get up had no effect, so I leaned over his massive frame to listen for gut sounds which, luckily, I heard. No gut sounds in a colicking horse is a very bad thing. He turned his head to sniff my hair as I lay across him. When I stood up, he groaned slightly and rolled onto his side, laying his head on the floor. This was not encouraging. I went and got his halter, put it on him, and tried to get him up again. Jack was right under my feet the whole time. Julian did roll back sternal and place his front feet out in front of him as if to get up, but that's as far as we got.
As I stood in the tack room calling my vet's emergency service, Julian decided to get up on his own. He also pooped right then which is a very good thing to see when colic is involved. While I waited for the vet to return my call I walked him around the property, and he seemed to return to his normal self, even trying to pull me over to the front yard to graze. His temp was normal and, after talking to the vet, we decided he seemed okay for the moment. I will head over at lunch to check on him again, and I can say this morning has really dragged. This is definitely one of those times I wish I could see him from my window. Read more!
Monday, June 18, 2007
After a very hard-fought battle against an aggressive cancer, today Dad and Steve's cherished 13 year-old kitten, Little Bits, was released from her pain and discomfort. It was a very difficult but very brave decision for her parents to make, and I know she is looking down upon them from heaven surrounded by many of our very dear friends, who were right there to make her feel at home in the clouds. Needless to say, the skies still wept for her tonight.
Till we meet again, Miss Little Bits... Read more!
I received some unexpected training in the 100m sprint this Saturday. It only confirmed what I already knew: I am not a fast runner.
Saturday midday I went out to the stables to wrestle a ride out of Julian, my 11 year-old Percheron. We had a mildly successful training session and are well on our way to the next freestyle dressage championships. As I turned him out with the rest of the horses, one of the owners of the ranch released the Party of Five into one of the front pastures.
Several people were working on the ranch that day, and this led to a bit of miscommunication. Someone had apparently created an opening in the front pasture fence to allow a tractor in. I noticed this as I walked out the other end of the long barn--just as the horses noticed it, too. This unexpectedly open portion of the fence could not be seen by the owner as he let the horses out into the field from behind the barn.
They say accidents slow your perception of time, but it all seemed to happen in a split second. It is habit for the horses to break into a trot or canter as they make their way down a side run to the front pasture, and they were moving at a good clip when they discovered the hole in the fence. Four of the five swerved automatically and spilled out into the front yard of the house. Julian, thankfully, had paused for a bite to eat. (God bless draft horses and their insatiable hunger.)
The house on this property sits high on a hill, next to the barn. Immediately adjacent to it is the opening into the long, straight driveway that leads about 100 meters down to the road. This drive is lined with pine trees which obscure any clear view of cars or horses heading in any direction. Though there is a gate where the drive meets the busy country road, it was open that day for car and tractor traffic. Now it was also open for horse traffic.
The four horses heard a few of us yell for help and turned themselves immediately onto the drive. Though they had stopped briefly to graze on the front lawn, they soon headed at a trot down the pavement. Another owner was behind them, but any attempt she might have made to go after them at that point would have done nothing but chase them further down the drive, so she ran back for halters. I had just dropped my equipment by my car and was at the top of the second front pasture. Knowing the horses could not see me well through the trees along the drive, I set out at the fastest sprint I could muster from my 40 year-old body.
This second pasture had recently been mowed for hay collection (which was going on that day as well) and was criss-crossed with small hills of cut grass. There are numerous rocks and the occasional gopher hole in this field. All these things flashed through my mind as I ran in my riding boots, jumping the periodic rows of drying hay. My goal was to make it to the bottom of the field without breaking an ankle, jump through the electric tape and cut the horses off before they hit the road. Traffic on this road was common, and people used to this area drove very fast on this well-paved stretch. A driver would have almost no chance to see the four running horses before they appeared in front of his or her vehicle. It would mean certain death for the horse(s) and possibly the driver as well.
These are thoughts which make you run surprisingly fast. In this case, it was not fast enough. I was still a good twenty feet from the finish line when my small Arabian Jack ran across the road, followed immediately behind by the owners' Arabian, Shire, and another boarder's Quarter Horse. That moment in particular was one of the worst moments in my life. I stood gasping for breath as I watched them cross the road and head for the open pasture across the street, knowing my view could instantly become one of complete and irreversible horror. I thank God no car or truck was in the road at that instant.
It is safe to say that my adrenaline level was at its highest point in about a decade.
With the horses at least temporarily out of harm's way, I stopped in the road to catch my breath and slow traffic flying by. Suffice it to say that heightened adrenaline does little for this brain's ability to think logically. As I was bent over puffing for my life, the owner who had accidentally let the horses out came jogging down with more halters. These horses are their kids, and I knew he had to feel terrible. He just shook his head as he passed me and said, "Have you ever felt about this big?" He held two fingers very close together. "All the time," I told him.
By this time, three neighbors on an adjacent horse farm had been alerted by their galloping herd that something was up and had come out to investigate. They were trying to corral our horses, but our herd was having none of that. About 1/8 mile away they galloped back and forth, well out of reach of any humans. The one with the largest stomach, a black Shire draft mare with a tendency to founder, eventually stopped to eat the wild alfalfa and was caught by a neighbor. The rest ran on in ever-widening circles.
Through it all, Julian had followed his herd from the inside of the fence (where I preferred him to be) as far as it reached. He trotted back and forth, whinnying frantically to the others. So much for loyalty, he must have been thinking. We had all been so startled that none of us had even closed the hole in the fence at the top of the hill: Luckily Julian was too distressed to think of going all the way back up to get out and join his buddies. (I was standing right at the gate, so his escape would have been unlikely.)
The owner's wife soon put the ATV to work and roared past us to "cut 'em off at the pass." There were now five people trying to catch three horses and I stayed at the road for when they'd eventually head back in our direction.
Now, I am quite cynical and I have very little faith in the inherent good nature of my fellow man, but I was shocked at the behavior of drivers during this emergency. I was basically standing in the middle of the road. As a car or truck would approach from either direction, I would give the traditional signal to "slow down." After a few trucks nearly ran me over, I considered switching to a different, but perhaps more effective, traditional signal. A few--and I am grateful for them--slowed immediately and looked around for the nature of the emergency. They would then proceed at a crawl with their hazards flashing. No doubt these were the people who also owned horses.
After a solid fifteen minutes--which seemed to take an eternity--another horse was caught and the remaining two, my Jack being one of them, headed back in our direction at a gallop. If they kept going straight they would cut right across the road again and shoot up the driveway, whereupon we could shut that damn gate. As they moved closer, a sedan had made its way up behind me. I had already turned once and asked them--an older couple--to stop. When I turned back to check on them, they were only feet away from me. I must have been using the wrong signal again. The horses were in plain sight to anyone, and clearly out of control.
I started calling out to Jack and the other horse to entice them back to the ranch, and Jack actually stepped out onto the road. I glanced back at the car again and it was almost at my back. I was livid. I turned to face the car and placed both hands on the hood, mouthing the words, "Stop, please!" as clearly as I could. The driver's wife turned and looked at her husband. I wondered what was going through her mind. I can't write what was going through mine.
I turned my attention back to Jack who, by this time, was grazing at the side of the road, about ten feet from the entrance to the ranch. Between the owner's parents and me, we carefully convinced first Jack, then the last runaway to go up the drive. I slapped Jack on the rump to get him going, and grabbed those gates.
For someone with anxiety issues, this was what we could call a somewhat traumatic experience. I cried with relief all the way back up the drive to catch Jack and his buddy, still loose but safely within the ranch perimeters. As the owners and their parents congregated to re-tell the story, I pulled it together and tried to make a graceful exit before falling to pieces. I loaded my car and headed down the drive.
At the bottom of the drive I paused to watch all five horses grazing as if nothing had happened. I pulled out my camera and took a couple of shots of the herd INSIDE the fence. I thought the picture might reassure me later. I made my way out, closing the gate behind me. I got back in my car and hit the road, relief washing over me. All the stories I had heard in the past of horses getting loose and being killed in car accidents ran loose through my mind.
I made it about 1/2 mile before I crumbled. At a turn-off for a local gravel company, I pulled over and let it out. Twice after starting out again I got calls on my cell phone and tried to answer, but both times lost it trying to talk to the person on the other end. I was still shaking when I got home, and for at least an hour afterwards.
Later that day, at a horse and carriage parade in the nearby town of Columbus, I watched repeatedly as careless drivers cut through the horses in the parade instead of finding a way to go around. I found myself wishing I had one of those roll-out strips that police use in high speed chases that I could unfurl in front of these idiot drivers.
Watch out, Columbus. I'll be ready with one next year! Read more!
Friday, June 15, 2007
If I see a dead raccoon lying in the road when I am traveling, if it is not in the middle of a six-lane highway or just over the crest of a blind country hill, I always stop to pull it off the road. It is not for the raccoon. The raccoon could care less at that point. It’s for me. My raccoon’s name was Bandit, and he was mine for about a year before he reverted to his natural instincts and forgot I was his friend. I was eleven then. He had the softest paws of any animal I have ever met, and they rested like a tiny hand inside my palm. After the age of two, they were known more for their razor sharp claws, which could swing at you with blinding speed and accuracy. His other notable characteristic was that he could eat an entire stick of butter in one sitting. One can’t help but be impressed by that.
When I see a raccoon, dead or still deciding which way to run across the road, I am reminded of Bandit, or rather, of the memory of his going back to the wild (if indeed that is really where the animal control officer took him after he loaded him into the back of his truck in the “humane trap” they had used to catch him in his hideout, a decades old barn in central Kentucky). Apparently, it still hurts; enough that I am compelled to stop and drag bloody Procyon carcasses out of sight into the weeds by the road’s shoulder. I know the chance that I will return by that road is great, and I don’t want to experience the same feeling when I see his or her lifeless body again. So I hide it. And I tell myself it is out of respect for the raccoon, who in no case deserves to be killed more than once by careless passers-by. It doesn’t mean I don’t know why I really do it—it’s just something I tell myself to create a better self image. I like to think of it as positive visualization. That sounds much better than hypocrisy.
When I learned my mom would actually allow me to keep the kit we found back in the early 1970’s—something surely that must have required an act of Congress at the time given her sentiment towards vermin of all nature—I was aware that there were two acceptable names for raccoons at that time: Rascal and Bandit. Sterling North, whose book inspired the movie I won a viewing for after reading so many books over one summer vacation, had had Rascal. Rascal could have no imitators, I felt, so Bandit it was. My respect for Mr. North and his friend, Rascal, lingers on this day to the point where, having just discovered that one of the towns in which I was searching for my first home on my own (no husband, no children, no roommates) was the town in which they lived their adventures, I found myself more determined than ever that this would be the town I would permanently adopt as my own. Though I settled in the end for a home in the equally historic town of Columbus, Edgerton has been rendered as sacred in my mind as Pepin, that other Wisconsin town in which Laura Ingalls Wilder spent her childhood. I never did check the tax rates in Pepin…
Website of The Sterling North Society Read more!
I just got my umpteenth chain letter about how no one cares about our soldiers except for patriotic Republicans. (That's redundant, of course. All Republicans are patriotic; it's those damn Democrats who are so un-patriotic.) I was, in fact, wearing a red shirt this morning, but I had to change into a clean one. I think most soldiers would feel better as they serve their country in Iraq in 120 degree heat knowing I am wearing a clean gray shirt as opposed to a dirty red one. I could be wrong. I usually am.
I get so tired of all these chain-mail messages that claim that people who support the soldiers are a "silent majority." Who in the world is glad or uncaring that American, or British, or Albanian soldiers are dying in the name of George Bush's war? I know no one who doesn't think that it is a tragedy, a crime that we send these men and women to fight and possibly die in this war.
I have absolute respect for these men and women, but that does not mean I am blind to the real reasons our country has sent them there. The Pentagon has recently admitted that their aims are to establish a permanent base in Iraq (http://www.timesheraldonline.com/ci_6139319?source=most_viewed) which is a great way for us to babysit their oil reserves and governments. America believes it owns the world and its resources, and God help the foreign national who doesn't believe or respect this, because soon enough we will we parking on his front lawn (if he has one) with an armored vehicle. Then we have to explain to that soldier's parents that someone far, far away took offense at tanks in his front yard and killed their son or daughter. And to clarify, that yard we drove onto was NOT Osama bin Laden's house. It was someone who never knew the bastard. If we wanted to get to the bottom of that, we'd be in Saudi Arabia, which we will never do because we don't want to offend our largest oil source, and personal friends of the Bush empire.
That is not a fight for freedom. It is a fight for resource control. To confuse the two is extremely dangerous and delusional. And deadly to more than 3500 American soldiers and innumerable Iraqis. (But why bother counting them? They aren't Americans, after all.)
Patriotism is all well and good until it starts discounting the rights of everyone on this planet to enjoy peace and prosperity UNDER THEIR OWN AUTONOMY. I understand that Saddam Hussein was an evil man. There are MANY very evil leaders in this world right now. We only seem concerned with the ones who sit on very large oil reserves. Otherwise we'd be invading China, North Korea, Libya, and many more.
I love my country, I love its soldiers, and I love and appreciate that I have the right to compain (and vote to change things), but I do not believe in our presidency or its intentionally mis-labeled international policies. The more damage Bush does in our name, the less of a democracy we become. As a matter of fact, countries in the Middle East generally do not see us a democracy, rather as an autocracy. They don't claim they are democracies, either, (Lebanon comes closest in that regard, with regular elections) but they recognize abuse of power when they see it, perhaps because they have often been victims of it themselves by their own governments, and certainly for centuries from the British, French and American empires.
So let's all put on a clean shirt for our soldiers today, and be here for them when they need us, as we should. And for God's sake, let's think of them as we vote in the 2008 election! Read more!
Thursday, June 14, 2007
This is one angry bison. We were just driving along, minding our own business, when this herd started acting like it was "their" park and started crossing "our" road. I was okay with that, until he starting getting nasty with us. When he took a step in my direction and starting emiting a very disgruntled grunting sound, I must say I was somewhat offended. This was followed by a feeling that could be better described as abject fear. As soon as it was possible, I backed our rental car up ever so slowly. This seemed to placate the beast, and eventually he wandered off. For more pictures of aggravated wildlife, see Yellowstone and Grand Teton #4.Read more!
Because they are afraid to leave their houses. Because it's hot outside. Because it's cold outside. Because the traffic is bad. Because gas is expensive. Because agoraphobics prefer Picasa photo albums to Walgreens--though Walgreens sells fresh Reeses Cups and Picasa doesn't. Because agoraphobics like to think they're on the cutting edge, when in fact they are simply "on the edge."
I'm starting this for all the personal nonsense that has no business being on my niece's more innocent blog. And because it seems only natural to progress from talking to oneself to typing to oneself. It is the 21st century, after all.