Wednesday, April 27, 2011

[Leaky Water Heaters]

I don't have occasion to go to the basement every day. It's mostly tools, some boxes, my washer and dryer, my furnace, and my water heater. Sometimes, if Sassy isn't eating as much (her food is down there too in a clean garbage can), it may be a week before I head downstairs. So you can understand why I hadn't been down in the basement since coming home Sunday afternoon.

I'm sure you can also understand my bewilderment upon coming downstairs last night and seeing the wastebaskets and the other garbage can on their sides (along with a few other items that had moved). I gradually realized that the floor was wet. This last observation, of course, didn't surprise me as much; we spent nearly eight or nine months last year sealing up basement leaks, and I knew there was still a small one beneath the cellar door but that leads straight to the drain. With the deluge we've had here in the past week, the notion that another leak had been sprung didn't astonish me--disappoint me yes, astonish me no. But the more I thought about it and looked around, thinking about the moved and fallen items around the basement and signs that the water had been a couple inches deep around the entire floor, I realized there had to be something else--something like a sudden flood, not a gradual drip that happens beneath the door frame.  Not to mention the fact that it had to be sudden to not drain before a couple inches of water had managed to pool. So I thought some more.

I remembered this morning--a lukewarm shower, even with no cold water running. This I attributed to having not run the water much in the last day or so, which sometimes means the water in the water heater has some time to cool down somewhat.  Then I remembered the reason I'd come down--I'd been trying to run a bath but couldn't get any hot water at all, and I'd wondered if the circuit switch had been moved somehow. Eventually, a horrible thought occurred to me: I bet the water heater has sprung a massive leak.  I walked over, felt the container, and it was ice cold. I figured I'd know for sure by morning if I still had no hot water.

So, this morning, I ran some water in the bathtub. Ice cold. I let it run for awhile. Still ice cold.

Great. It looks like I need a new water heater. Just what I need with my finances. It could be worse (I looked at prices last night, and while they're uncomfortable, they aren't as bad as I'd anticipated, but then again... we're going to almost certainly have to hire someone to install the new one, and that tends to run the bill up a bit).

Well, that's the kind of week I seem to be having. How's your week going?

Monday, April 18, 2011

[Trivial But Cute]

For once, I got the 30% off coupon for Kohl's, so Friday afternoon, I swung by the store for an Easter dress (I've got two dresses that don't fit right that I'm getting rid of, and I don't have many dresses to begin with), and instead I ended up with two. It was a little bit of an indulgence, but they both were so flattering (an extreme rarity with me and dresses) that I couldn't pick. Due to the material, I was able to get both in petite small size (!), and I really wouldn't have wanted them any bigger, either. I did try on two others, both poplin material, but even the mediums were too small, mostly because there was no stretch to the fabric and I have other-than-standard shapes (small shoulders, curvy features, shorter arms, etc.), so those exact-cut dresses never quite end up right on me.

Here are the lucky winners:

I'm not a big fan of wearing shorts, since they look odd on me, so sundresses in the summer are my best friends.  

Okay, my friends, I'm off to make breakfast. I'm running a big slow this morning, hence the more trivial entry this morning. Have a happy Monday!

Friday, April 15, 2011

[Deeply in Touch With Her Retriever Roots]

I bought Sassy some new, hardier tennis-ball-sized balls and a Kong Frisbee on Amazon this week, and they came last night.  We managed to get about an hour of hard running (we, meaning she, while I pitched and retrieved it from over the fence when it bounced off her nose) before the rain hit.  Unfortunately, we only got to try one out, and naturally, she got quite possessive over it after the first time I pitched it.  After her brilliant move of eating half a tennis ball two weeks ago, I wasn't going to let her keep it and try to pop it, so I turned the hose on her. It took about five rounds, plus some chasing her around the yard, before she caught on that I wasn't taking it to keep it or throw it away, but rather throw it for her to retrieve.  After that, we had a good time.

I'm trying to train her to lay down before doing anything (i.e. getting a treat, me throwing the ball, etc.) as opposed to sitting down. It's too easy for her butt to come right back up when she sits, thus keeping her in that overexcited mode.  Laying down requires more of a relaxation commitment, and it makes more sense to her when I ask her to "stay" in that position. She's fully caught on to it being a necessity every time she gets a treat; the ball, on the other hand, requires more insistent reminders and longer wait times from me before she remembers that I want her to lay down. Heck, it's not like it slows her down on the retrieve at all--in fact, it just focuses her concentration more, and she actually manages to catch the ball on the bounce more often than before.

If you have a dog who is play-obsessed, particularly when it comes to fetch, watch his or her eyes while he or she is waiting for you to throw the toy.  I've recently realized that when Sassy is focusing in on the ball (etc.), her eyes dilate to the point of the irises almost completely disappearing.  It's actually a little intimidating! In fact, looking back at a video I took of her about a year ago, you can see this happening somewhat, even in the dim light (and it's not the light that's causing the dilation.... it's the intensity. It even happens during the daytime):

Let me know if you notice your dog doing the same thing! I bet it's more common than I'd realized. Either that, or my dog's more intense than most. Maybe both. It's that herding breed in her (she's part blue-heeler), I think, that intensifies the labrador focus and obsession.

Well, I'm off. Take comfort, my friends... it's Friday!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

[Indulging in a Little Unrestrained Wallow]

Once per year, on April 14, I let myself grieve. As I've gotten older, I've learned to shoulder missing her by not letting myself dwell in the past (because I know it's an unhealthy habit), and, with a few exceptions that usually hit during a hormonal time of the month, I can look at her pictures without my eyes welling up or without getting that sick, helpless punch in the gut that hits when my mind grasps the fact that she's gone, really gone--not just someone I haven't talked to in awhile. I can't live in the past, since it'll cripple my future, and my life is already stressful enough without opening that closet.

But once a year, on the anniversary of the day she died, I let myself revisit that pain.  I need to do it. I need to remember what I've missed losing my mom when I was only nine. I need to let those tears that stubbornly appear at times have their way.

I need to know that it still hurts, because if it still hurts, then I know I still remember her--not just the idea of her.

I need to acknowledge that day, eighteen years ago, when I lost my innocence and grew up in a moment--that day that formed the course of the rest of my life.

I'm 27 years old now, and she's been gone for eighteen years. Two-thirds of my life. A child born the moment she left the world became legally an adult today. While in many ways, it's been a long time, in many others, it's inconceivable that she can have been gone that long.

I've got to grieve or lose my mind. I've got to grieve, miss her, relive that moment when Mom and Dad showed up at the door of my third grade classroom and Mrs. Porter embraced my crying mother. I knew then, but I didn't want to believe it; "I've got a bad feeling about this," I whispered to myself.

An April 14 that dawns with sunshine and warm spring breezes feels like a potshot at what that day means to me.  The storms that are forecasted for tonight suit me more. It's my dark day. I hate having to go in to work and teach with a peppy demeanor like it's just another day, because to me, it can never be just another day. I've written on here before about how growing up overnight caused me to cling all the tighter to the remaining bits of childhood and magic that still survived and why, in many other ways, as a result, I waited longer than normal to grow up.

I waited until evening to let myself think about it.  I knew that once I started, I wouldn't be able to stop the rest of the day. Now, here I sit, trying to find the words to express what this grief means to me a year later, a year older, a year different in so much of how I see the world.

Mothers, write to your children--write letters, record video messages, record your voice talking to them. Don't let the awkwardness of doing that keep you from it. Mine hesitated--afraid our mutual mom would end up listening to a message meant only for me--and so all I have are stories from others who knew her better (as an adult), a tape-letter to a friend, a short-lived diary, a few video clips from home videos, and some continually fading memories. It's not the same.

I could continue rambling, but another early morning means cutting this year's indulgence short at a mere half hour. Perhaps tomorrow night I'll revisit these thoughts without the pressure to maintain a schedule. I do think, though, I'll fit in a little cry before going to sleep. It'll do me good--more good than any well-meant platitude, because I know I don't grieve for her, but for my own loss.

And, in keeping with the way our time together got cut short, so too does this, or any other similar, entry end unsatisfactorily. It's symbolic, I guess. After all, are we ever really ready to say good-bye?

Monday, April 11, 2011

[Fabulously Terrible Entertainment]

Okay, so I was a loser this weekend and didn't write (or do a few other things I meant to do, either), but in Niki-world, I had a justifiable reason (real world may beg to differ, but real world annoys me... that's why I made Niki-world):

The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader DVD came in the mail.

I watched it. Twice. Plus all the extras. Then, of course, I realized that I'd gone an unusually long time since I'd last read the series, which is, again in Niki-world, an abomination. So, in the course of a day and an evening, I devoured (in order): The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Magician's Nephew, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Horse's Boy, and the first half of Prince Caspian. And these weren't on my Kindle (I'd like to get them there, though... my all-in-one book is starting to fall apart; but I really don't have seven times $7.99 to spare right now...). If my allergies weren't killing me and forcing me to take copious amounts of Benadryl (which has slightly less of approximately the same active ingredient as Advil PM), I'd have probably finished all seven.

Yes, I love it that much. I love books that much. And yes, I love movies that much.

In fact, that brings me to what I originally planned to discuss here: my twisted love of corny, baaaaaaaaaaaad movies (no, I'm not saying The Dawn Treader was a bad film... at all. But it's a movie, and I love movies, even the ones that ARE corny-bad).

Case in point, Teen Witch (1989). Never saw it? Need proof? Behold, the song that was running through my mind during both classes I taught this morning (thus contributing to an epic battle to avoid bursting into hysterical laughter... I won, but barely):

A clear sign of a brilliantly bad corny movie? When I have to either bury my face in a pillow or run out of the room for sheer embarrassment on behalf of the character in the scene.  Case in point, see above.

Or better yet, classic import Pippi Longstocking!

Actually, anything from the 80s.  Remember the show You Can't Do That on Television (which I'd love to get on DVD... I'd watch it for hours!):

Hmm... forget writing. I'm off to go find YCDTOT clips.  God bless old-school Nickelodeon!

Friday, April 08, 2011

[July Temps in April?]

The forecast for today: high of 84.

The forecast for tomorrow: high of 89.

Whatever happened to spring?

Anyway, in other news... today's the last day to drop classes, so it'll be interesting to see how many drop.  I've had a handful so far this week who realized they'd gotten too far behind to feel confident they could catch up--either that, or they got sick of me. Either way... ;)

I'm really blanking on original ideas to write about this morning, mostly because my stomach's growling. Go eat, you say?  Well, it tends to cause problems later if I eat too soon before going in to work. I get finished around 10 in the morning (I know, lucky me...), but I usually end up heading out on errands right afterward.  I'm also one of those people who usually finds herself hungry every three hours, which would leave my stomach growling for three-fourths of the classes I teach. Not pleasant. So, I try not to eat until 6:30 if I can help it.

My skin is in acne mode this week.  It's irritating.

Sassy's sound asleep on the couch... I don't think she quite understands why the heck I'm up so early in the mornings.  She's always delighted to get up and go out when the rooster crows (literally... it's the sound my cell phone makes when the alarm clock goes off!), but as soon as she takes care of her business, she's back in and out like a light.

Well, this has been one of my more random posts. Still, I held true to my commitment to starting out my day by writing (except yesterday--I overslept a little and only had my standard amount of time to get ready for work), and the content is not so much important as the act of actually writing on a regular basis. Likely this afternoon, when it's too hot to do anything in the house, I'll have a few more things to say.

For now, though, it's off to mix some pancake batter. That is, if my head doesn't split from yawning. Yeesh.

Monday, April 04, 2011

[Sassy's Adventures on the Farm[s]]

Over spring break, Sassy and I packed up our bags and headed to Mom and Dad's house.  As is usual with a week with Mom, there wasn't much "break" involved, especially since this particular week involved helping some friends dispatch about sixty free-range chickens (the coop had been destroyed in a storm, and their buyer, a big name, refused to reimburse them).  Since I knew Sassy would be miserable with us being left at the house alone, I decided that we would tag along, but stay at the neighbors' (the friends through whom we met the couple we were helping) next door so all the dogs (minus old Bob, who's an old man-dog and grumpy around the frisky pups) could play together.

It ended up being a two-day ordeal, and at the end of the second day (which was St. Patty's Day and naturally included a tasty meal of corned beef and cabbage), Sassy and I went over to the chickens' former residence so Sassy could meet the remaining "menagerie." And oh, what a menagerie it was! In a matter of minutes, Sassy met two yappy little dogs that were up in her face (but backed off when I advanced, preventing Sassy from having to retaliate, because they were relentless), 4-6 screeching parrots (her nose was going like crazy!), one tom turkey (she clung kind of close to my legs... "Do eat it or run from it?"), two llamas and two alpacas (more clinging), two very friendly horses (this nearly resulted in canine panic, especially when one sniffed Sassy's butt and then started smelling my back pocket that had two treats stowed away, but I didn't let her run, and she gradually calmed down), and finally a herd of 30 goats, who, since they were around her size (some smaller babies and some large-dog-sized adults), were just plain fascinating. Unfortunately, their Scottish highland cows were out in the field, so she didn't get to meet them (though we're both enjoying the meat from one whose bounty my parents and I split--and it's good stuff.  Mom did buy a couple dozen of the family's last eggs, since I can only stomach free-range, non-hormone or antibiotic eggs (really... it's true; store-bought eggs almost always cause relentless stomach pain for some reason), for me to take home.

So lesson here: buy local and get to know the farmer. You get tastier food that was treated very well while it was alive and is more likely to be toxin-free.

Of course, since I was focused on keeping Sassy from panicking, I didn't get any shots of her with the menagerie, but I did get two videos and a handful of photos of her playing with Jack and Sue's (next door) two younger dogs, Ladd (a Kerry blue terrier) and Zo (a baby catahoula-boston terrier mix that's a new addition to the farm as Bob heads into his final days, poor ole sweetie).  Sassy was the only girl-dog, and boy did she get attention. She ate it up and flirted right back... in fact, they even got tired of her after awhile because she had nothing to get territorial over (so... playtime!).

These two videos are adorable.  Sassy knows she's cute and doesn't take no for an answer.

The playmates meet



New pup Zo

Zo and Ladd

Sassy wonders where everyone disappeared to

Zo plays with fuzz

Ladd plays coy

Puppies nap. A lot.

When are they coming back?

Ladd's used to quiet farm afternoons

More napping Zo

Is that...?

Where the heck are they?

Oh, just relax, will you, girl?

Looking regal

Patriarch dog Bob, trying to avoid Zo's attentions

Bob's a leaner

Really a leaner

Darlin' Bob

Click to see the full-size versions.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

[My Grandma Has An IPhone]

Yeah, I just found that out via Facebook.  She came thisclose to beating me to having a smartphone... and she did beat me to texting! I think that's awesome.

Well, I intended to do some blogging this weekend (among other things, like grading), but between the lovely weather (I had to go for a long, long walk yesterday! Unfortunately, that led to a headache and a three-hour nap), a fascinating book, and a sick puppy (again), I fell short of my goals.  Yup, you read right... Sassy did some more puking.  This time, though, I know why: she figured no one could steal her tennis ball if she ate half of it.  That's right.  I got woken up to the sound of a dog throwing up on the floor at the end of my bed, I cleaned it up, and worried.  Later on, I went outside with her, deciding to let her off the porch, and I looked down and saw the culprit: half of a tennis ball, with two small pieces scattered nearby. The rest was nowhere to be found.  I imagine it's still making its way through her gut.

It's only tennis balls, people. This dog is obsessed with them. She has remarkable self control with every other toy, but when it comes to a ball, it's her equivalent to a goose or a duck, and all your balls are belong to her (intentional choice of words). She's done this before, but not as much of one. If she thinks you want it, and not to throw it, she'd rather eat it than let you have or throw it away.

So, she's grounded from tennis balls for the time being, and from now on, she's not to be left alone with one after a rousing game of fetch. They must be put away.

Oh, Sass...

Friday, April 01, 2011

[Reading, Writing, and Being Wary of Pranks]

Today was day one of my goal to get up an hour earlier than I have to purely to do a full hour 'o' writing.  So for a MWF, that means 5:00 a.m.  I did make half the goal--I got up when I meant to get up; however, it's currently 5:35 and I'm just getting started writing after checking emails, reading blogs on my feed, and grabbing a bite to eat.  To my benefit, however, today is a peer review day in class, so I don't have to do any prep work; this means I can still get my hour of writing in.

I don't expect to say anything of any value for awhile. I've gotten out of the habit of daily writing, which (as I try to tell my students) affects my ability to think of anything useful to say. Still, I know from past experience that once I've made it my habit to write daily, the words start flowing more fluidly, and sometimes I find myself writing again later in the day because, whoa!, there's something else I want to say!

It's April 1, which normally, for me, means some elaborate, or at least small, prank, but unfortunately I let the date creep up on me without any delightfully devious ideas. I'll just have to remain satisfied with being on my guard all day and identifying all the online pranks, including one chuckle-worthy one by Don Miller.

In other news, my occasional bouts of lactose intolerance have become full-on bouts.  I had to call class Wednesday morning when I was woken up at 4 a.m. with bad stomach cramping and a need to hover near the toilet.  Unfortunately, in my discomfort and dizziness, I failed to call everyone I was supposed to and pretty much made myself look incompetent with my boss.  Bleh.  Can I have a do-over?  I'm pretty sure I blew any clout I might have had in requesting a fourth class for the fall, which officially means I'm living paycheck to paycheck for a solid year.  That also eliminates any possibility of getting a new laptop to replace my fried one (the monitor is shot and it's been overheating since the warranty ran out).  My desktop works great, but I do wish I had one to take to campus, and when I do get one, I plan to make sure it's got everything the desktop has (namely, I'm eying this one with upgrades to 8 GB memory and 1 TB hard drive. That would make it the equivalent of my desktop, both in capabilities and price). What? I'm a technophile, and I ask a lot out my computers.

Next time I write, I plan to share some photos and stories of Sassy's fabulous spring break at the farm.  She had quite the exposure to a variety of large and small animals, which, unfortunately, I didn't manage to photograph because I was trying to keep her calm and trusting my knowledge of what I was asking her to do.  I did get some great shots of her playing with Sue and Jack's dogs, though.

I got a Kindle for my adoption present from my parents (a little early, but since I had Amazon gift certificates, Mom said, Go ahead!) and I've been reading voraciously.  It came in the mail last Thursday, and in that time I've managed to read:

Churched: One Kid's Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess by Matthew Paul Turner
Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music, and the Holy Ghost by Matthew Paul Turner
Relearning Jesus by Matthew Paul Turner
Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans
Stuff Christians Like by Stuff Christians Like by Jonathan Acuff
O Me of Little Faith byJason Boyett
Love Wins by Rob Bell

and I started on A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith by Brian McLaren.

I'd recommend all of them, though the one I enjoyed most was Evolving in Monkey Town. So much of what she shared read like my own spiritual journey (not as much my life, though there are some similarities there as well). All of the memoirs, though, felt that way to some degree, because they all had a number of sharp parallels to my own walk, and I found it enormously refreshing to hear from others whose journeys have been like mine and who, rather than losing their faith, have allowed their faith to evolve. In fact, I'm getting to the point where I want to take the time to lay out my journey on paper again, especially now that I'm in a different spot in my walk.

But that's a goal to start on another day. For now, I must be getting ready to head off to class, then shop for groceries, unload them, and take a nap. Yeah, buddy. But first... something for this headache. There must be another weather change coming today--yup, the forecast confirms. It never fails.