Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Every Paradise has a Dark Side :)

Something I really enjoy doing is spending time at my girlfriend Nancy's farm, down in southeastern Minnesota.  It is a little piece of paradise, at least when it isn't snowing.

Nancy raises incredible Shetland Sheep, top quality Bantam Cochins, Standard Buff Orpingtons, Blue Laced Red Wyandottes, American Guinea Hogs and the obligatory cats and dogs to round out the farm picture.  She is a gifted photographer, and an amusing blogger.  Her animals are spoiled rotten well loved, and usually incredibly well behaved.  At least when she is around.  I've discovered a darker side!

It all started two weeks ago when I was visiting.  I was doing quite a bit of work outside in the yard and in the smaller barn, as well as taking breaks to visit with the sheep.  On one such stroll to the pasture, I felt a "thump!" on the back of my leg and looked down to see a Bantam Cochin roo all puffed up and annoyed, eyeing my leg for another strike.  I tried walking away, and he stalked after me, launching attack after attack.  I immediately named him Steve.  (I name everything that annoys me Steve.)  After a while, Steve wore himself out, and wandered back to his area of the farm.  Over then next few days, every time I came outside, Steve and I had an encounter.  Nancy told me to pick him up and talk nicely to him.  So I tried that.  Didn't work.  Then, I noticed a pattern.  If Nancy was in the yard with me, he was nice as could be, and totally ignored me.  The minute her back was turned, "Wham!" he'd launch another attack.

This is Steve.  Yes, Steve is very beautiful. So was Mata Hari.

The following video was taken during my visit on Monday of this week.  Nancy was gone, and I stopped by to drop some stuff off, and visit the animals.  Sorry, the audio isn't great, but the little banty roo is a hoot.

Next, I tried Nancy's way, and I picked him up.

Yup.  Still not working.

From there, I went out to the sheep pasture.   Apparently, Steve has been spreading evil rumors about me to the sheep.

Yikes!  Sheep are considerably bigger than banty roos!  I decided I'd better film the attack, just to leave a record of my last few minutes of life, in case I was unable to calm the mob down.   

Luckily, with enough head scratching and belly rubbing (these are VERY pregnant ewes) everyone backed off to a slightly more sociable distance.  Or it could be because I ran out of animal crackers.

Did I mention VERY pregnant?  This is Double-Wide Destiny.  She had triplets last spring, and to my utterly uneducated eye, I'd say she will probably repeat that this year.

This is Dazzle. She is my very favorite of all the sheep.  I have a  hard time getting a good photo of her, because she is usually about 2 inches from my face, giving me sheepy kisses.

Like this:

And this:

Next, I went into the house to drop off the stuff I had brought, when I was attacked by a new threat.


Oh, that blur was Sable!   Sable loves me.  She doesn't listen to that silly old rooster.

Now, lest anyone think that Nancy is harboring dangerous animals, this post was written VERY tongue-in-cheek!  Nancy is a wonderful friend, who has been kind enough to share her animals with me, and I love all of them very much.  (Well, maybe not Steve.  I'd love Steve in a stew pot with dumplings, though!)

When I got home, I walked into my son's room, and saw this on the floor:

Wondering what kind of target marker it could possibly be, I looked up.

That is a small potted tree that has been DUCT-TAPED to the ceiling, with half a roll of camouflaged duct tape.  

Steve must have called while I was gone.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Fish without a Bicycle

I have been electronically cut off from the world for 10 days; no phone, no Internet, no TV, nothing.  I felt very much like a Fish without a Bicycle.

While some people long to escape the constant connectivity of the world in which we live, I cannot stand being in a sustained "blackout".  More and more my computer is my driving link to the outside world.  I keep on top of the news, I can follow my friends through various sites, and I keep up with my correspondence (something that never happened when I had to actually write a letter, find an envelope, find a  stamp and then get it to the post office. )

What can happen in 10 days? 

A friend can shatter an elbow and have replacement surgery, while I remain ignorant, and thus unable to offer assistance.

We can go about bombing the snot out of another country (Libya).
Several hundred emails can accumulate, and that is not including the mind-boggling amount of spam I deleted.

An amazing number of blog posts can be logged by my friends; all of which I cannot wait to read, even though I will be Miss Tardy-to-the-Party in my comments.

So, I am once again able to connect with my World.

Hi, World!  I MISSED YOU!


Friday, March 11, 2011

Acute Paranoid Psychosis... in a Kitten?

After running my son to school, I usually head home and spend some time in front of the computer, caffeinating, waking up, and reading blogs. (It is a good thing his school is only 3 miles away... I can drive that far half asleep!)

Suddenly, from the living room, there came the most bloodcurdling yowl, and then Q'Tesh came streaking into the bedroom, fur standing on end, ears flat to the head, eyes wild, and a pair of my super fuzzy soft socks in her mouth, with a stance that said she had captured the Holy Grail of Kittendom, and woe unto anyone foolish enough to approach her! Of course, that meant that Valla the little kitten was hard on her heels. She got to close and got a nasty, no-nonsense, smack from Q who then made a "GGGRRRRUMUMUMUMUMUMum-mum-mum-mum!" noise. I was hysterical. I wish I had a way of recording the sound. This continued for a while, flying all over the house, knocking over lamps, tumbling the freshly folded laundry, and sending various household items flying. It was enough insanity that the 2 old girls actually got up, and joined the fray. Great.  Now I have one psychotic kitten being pursued by 1 determined kitten and 2 extremely wily old cats, who kept mounting ambush attacks. At one point I tried to take the socks away, and got slashed for my efforts. That is waaaaay out of character for her.

Finally, the other 3 have mostly given up (the young kitten still keeps trying off and on and gets a severe beat-down for her efforts.)

Q is is lying in the middle of my bed, half on top of the socks, chewing and shredding them, and making goofy ummm-mum-mum-mumuGRRRRUMmm-mum-mummmmm.....  HISSSSUMNUMNUMNUMNUMMM-Mum-mum-mum-mum-mum-mum noises.

She has an expression of kitten ecstasy on her face as she rolls around on, and gnaws upon the socks.

Just another strange day in the Wise household.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Qualifications and Rejections (or things that make you say, "Really??!!")

First a tiny bit of background, boring, but necessary.  Sorry!

I have been unemployed since the Army decided to medically retire me last year.  It was partially due to my disintegrating spine, and more directly due to my battle with bi-polar.  Now, I am fairly lucky, I have found a medication cocktail that keeps me very stable, by bi-polar standards. (Of course, it took over 2 years, and dozens and dozens of medication to get to that point.)  Unfortunately, however stable I am by bi-polar standards, by "normal" human standards I do have some issues blending in as well as I should.  I am pursuing a permanent disability rating, but that is very slow going, and is not guaranteed, therefore I have been job hunting as well.

I have worked in many types of jobs over the years... I've worked in an auto repair shop, I've managed bakeries, I've worked in a hair salon, I managed a commercial cleaning company, I worked as a caterer, I was a reservations phone operator for a major airline, I worked as a business trainer - training management staff to run bakeries and restaurants more efficiently, I've done costume design and production for a local theater group, I've worked as an Army administrator, keeping an entire unit running smoothly and getting them everything they need to stay that way, I've been a data entry monkey,  I've worked in graphic arts and design, I worked in financial accounting, I've been a secretary for a vice-president of a Fortune 100 company, I've run a home-based business, and so on and so on and so on.  Generally speaking, at one point or another, I've touched on just about every major job-skill group you can possibly think of.

The story:

I have been submitting job applications for various positions over the past 6 months or so.  I have applied for jobs for which I am eminently qualified. I have applied for jobs that are on the upper bounds of my qualification bubble, but are jobs which I know I could do, given the chance. For the vast majority, I might just as well have chucked my resumes into a gaping rent in the space-time continuum.  They go out, and that is the last they are ever seen of or heard from again.  It used to be, that when you applied for a job, if you didn't make it, you got a very politely worded letter that basically said, "We're sorry, but you are not qualified to work in this position; and, in fact, you are worthless pond scum, and we can't even believe that you had the audacity to submit your resume to us.  Have a nice day!"  These days, you get nothing, at least most of the time.

Now, having been unemployed for a while now, my finances are a tad bit strained, especially since I am feeding a teen-aged boy who consumes, on a daily basis, more food than your average 3rd world country; but, I digress.   This all means that I have lowered my job standards to the menial jobs for which an average Shih Tzu would be eminently qualified to perform. 

Last week, I applied for a position at the Veteran's Hospital.  Since I am a displaced government employee, I get some preference in hiring, over John Doe from the streets.  The position was as a laundry room worker.  Duties included, "Preparing standard hospital items for laundering, examining them for stains, tears, and other imperfections.  Operating the washing and drying machines, and sorting and properly folding the items for standard hospital use.  May also be tasked to perform minor repairs to items using a sewing machine."   Seems simple enough, right?

I just received a letter from the VA Hospital.  I opened it eagerly, thinking that I had received a request for interview.


The letter said, and I quote:

Dear Catherine Wise,

We appreciate the time and effort you put forth to complete the application process for a position with our Medical Center.

Your application materials have been reviewed and, unfortunately, your qualifications did not match the minimum qualifications required for this particular position; therefore, your name was not referred to the selecting official for consideration.

Thank you for your interest in employment with the Department of Veteran Affairs, VA Medical Center, Minneapolis, MN, and best wishes for success in your employment search.Scott Harvey
(xxx) xxx-xxxx  (phone number hidden to protect the monumentally stupid)

Sewing Machine Operator/Laundry WorkerLetter Value: 17F18C-49FC1

Wow. Really?!!   I am so very tempted to call Mr. Harvey and ask him to expound upon which of the obviously myriad of qualifications I fell short.

Oh, well.  Time to start thinking about my next evil plan!



Saturday, March 5, 2011

ThunderBunny above me

We recently moved from a nice country house into a city apartment so that my son could attend an excellent college prep school.  It is nice, as far as apartments go, and has more room than most.  It is near to shopping and entertainment and walking trails. In fact, it would be as perfect as a city place could get, except for the ThunderBunny living above me.  Now, she isn't really a bunny, she is a very young Indian girl, perhaps 2 years in age.  She looks like a little doll, with those big dark eyes, the tiny gold jewelry, the little patent leather shoes, and the mop of jet black hair.  Ah, but as we know, looks can be deceiving; she is a doll, like Chuckie was a doll.

Her favorite activity is jumping.  Jumping for hours on end.  Jumping on the bed directly above mine, jumping on the couches, and jumping off of any raised surface she can find.  For such a tiny little thing, she lands like a bull elephant.   Whenever she wants something, which is frequently, she shrieks.  Those guinea hens on John's blog sound like purring kittens in comparison.  She does not talk.  She can, but she doesn't need to.  She has everyone conditioned to race around and figure out what she is screaming about.  If they don't figure it out quickly enough, she lays down and screams even louder and kicks the floor and the walls with those hard-bottomed patent shoes.  She apparently has no set nap time or bed time.  I can tell when she is getting tired,  because it gets even noisier, and she shrieks and screams and kicks and jumps incessantly for about 2 hours before falling asleep wherever she toppled over, finally exhausted.    At night, this is usually about 2:30 a.m.

I have reported it to management.  They've come back and told me that the parents say they cannot control her actions, that she is acting like a normal toddler.  Really?!   Sigh. 

Some believe that the devil wears Prada.  They are wrong.  The devil wears black patent leather, size 4, and lives above me.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Passport Memories and a new trip?

Finishing up the passport tour I started a bit ago.

2004 brought a trip to Italy, via The Azores.  The Azores, which I'd never heard of, until I was told to set up lodging for 45 people there, are a tiny bit of islands 900 miles off the coast of Portugal.  It is a common overnight and refueling stop for the military, hence, our stopping there.  When you travel via military cargo turbo-prop plane, you can't go nearly as far on one tank of gas as you can in a jet plane.  Our route on that particular trip was Minneapolis, MN to St John's Bay, NF to the Azores (overnight), then on to Rota, Spain and finally landing in Rome. 20 some hours of flight time, sitting on webbing and cargo, and either dying of heat (if you were near the bulk head) or freezing to death (the rest of the plane) we won't even mention the bucket on a nail that served as the "facilities".  After making sure that everyone was situated in their rooms, I went to mine and crashed, for about 5 hours, and then I woke up.  Wide awake at 330am.  Unheard of for me, but who knows what time my body thought it was.  Rather than wake my roommates, I got dressed, grabbed a book and decided to explore this tiny cone-shaped island paradise.  I wandered slowly down the terraced roads, admiring garden after garden of tropical flowers, and found a lovely little park, facing the eastern horizon, which was just starting to show the coming dawn.   I watched the most spectacular sunrise I've ever seen (not that I've seen all that many, but I digress) and then I saw the dolphins. There were dozens of them, frolicking in the water just off the beach, leaping and jumping in the sunrise-washed waters.  I must have watched them for half and hour or more, before they headed off to places unknown.  Then it was time to head back and get ready for another long day of flying.
Rome was interesting.  We were fortunate enough to play at the embassy twice, once for a ceremony honoring the US, Canadian and British WWII soldiers, sailors and airmen with whom we were traveling (it was a tour celebrating and commemorating the liberation of Italy), and then again for the President a few days later.  The grounds of the embassy are breathtaking - wandering paths and garden after garden.  We also played at two of the large American Cemeteries, which are also very beautiful.  Then it was down to Anzio, the landing point for the multi-national forces that liberated Italy, and consequently divided the Axis powers by forcing them to divide their troops between west-central Europe and Italy.  This was critical, because it weakened the forces in western Europe, and helped to turn the tide with the Normandy landing which was to take place a few weeks later.  The most interesting part of the whole trip was talking with the service men and women and listening to the incredible stories they had to tell.
2008 brought another trip to Heidelberg, Germany, to once again replace the US Army Band of Europe, while they went on block leave.  Very little free time on that trip, and so very few memories that don't take place on one military base or another.

And that's it.  The only other stamp of interest is the one for the trip that fizzled.  I have a China Visa in that Passport.  My girlfriend and I were going to take a 72 hour trip to Beijing to go to the pearl markets and do a bunch of sightseeing (the things you can do when you work for a major airline!)  I don't remember what happened, I think it was the outbreak of Bird Flu, and all of the flights got cut, and the remaining flights were at full capacity, and so it would have been insanity to try and make the trip.

Future trip?  My son wants to go to a music festival in Donington Park this June, which is somewhere in central England, those of you in the UK can probably tell me more.  Then he'd like to hang out for a month and finish with a concert at Knebworth House, which is more to the south west, I believe.  While I think it would be an absolute blast, I have to question where he thinks the money would come from.  The flights are no problem (thank you former job with the airlines, my pension may be shit, but I can still fly for peanuts!)  it is more the living for a month between the 2 events.  Oh, well.  We have a while to dream before I dash the thought on the shoals of reality.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Kitten Madness

I meant to follow-up on the travel post, but Valla the Kitten has been very insistent today that everything must revolve around her, so, I might as well focus on the Cat part of the title today.  She is the youngest of the lot, adopted on New Year's weekend.  She was, at that time, about 3-4 weeks old, and she was a tiny kitten skeleton with grungy grey fur.  She had been found alone in an abandoned building, and probably would not have survived more than another day or two had she not been found.  We brought her home and gave her multiple baths, and started her on milk replacement. 

This is her, after the baths and feeding, curled up in a nest of blankets on the computer table where I was working, totally zonked from all of the excitement.  Notice, she isn't much bigger than the lid on my soda!

I was trying to work on taxes a bit ago, but she kept attacking the pen. I'd try to distract her with another toy, but as soon as I started writing again, she'd be up on the computer keyboard, batting at the pen.  I finally gave up and let her have the pen.   As you can see, she guards her treasures well!

She is still on the small side for her age, but she is now a healthy weight, with very pretty fur.

The other of the young cats is Q'Tesh ( a character from the TV show Stargate...  Valla is the name of the alter-ego of Q'Tesh)  She, and the rest of her litter, were thrown from a car onto the highway in front of our house back in October, when they were only about 2 weeks old.  (eyes weren't even completely open yet).  The other kittens died on impact or shortly after.  She must have taken a good bounce, because she had a face full of "road rash", a lot of ground in dirt, and a limp, but otherwise she was OK, if a bit fearful.    I cannot find my camera that has the pictures of her as a tiny kitten, but this is her today:

She healed up just fine, whiskers came in well and everything. 

The 2 old girls are hiding somewhere, so they will get a post on another day.

I put Valla on the pillow with Q'Tesh after snapping the pic, and I think she fell asleep out there, so I'd better get back to working on taxes before I lose another writing utensil!


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Who decided bad things MUST come in threes?!

I am finally venturing out of bed after a truly wretched day yesterday.  Luckily I can still laugh.

The day started off reasonably well; I got the boy off to school, and then I attacked the mountain of dishes from the "Great Beef Stew Experiment" of the night before.  It is an odd quirk of logic in my son that anything "new" that I make in the kitchen is poisonous inedible, UNLESS he helps make it.  So, we made a huge pot of beef stew together.  He peeled and chopped all of the veggies while I dredged and browned the beef. It was a lovely dinner.  

It rapidly became apparent that my garbage disposal had not properly disposed of the veggie peelings the night before, because as I started to run water for dishes, nasty brackish water started to back up into the sink.  Great.  I ran to the store for a plunger, because I have no idea where mine went in the move.  I madly plunged, but no luck.  I ran back to the store for drain cleaner.  No luck with that either, except to ruin a complete set of clothes.  About this time, I got a call from a lady that was going to come and see the beading supplies that I have for sale.  Rather than set up a scheduled time, she said, "I'm 5 minutes away!"   CRAP!  I quick changed my clothes, locked the cats in the bedroom, placed a cookie sheet over the disgusting sink, and shoved all of the dirty dishes into the oven, making a mental note to remove them later.

The lady came, purchased, and left.  Then I got a call to go out to lunch, and with one thing and another, I didn't make it back to the house until about 4pm.   About 5 minutes later there was a knock on my door.  It was a very nice gentleman telling me that he was there to repossess my car.  WHAT?!  Now, I have been unemployed since being medically retired from the Army in September.  I have gone to great lengths to make payment arrangements for all of my various bills, including my car.  Ford was kind enough to give me 2 months off, and then adjusted payments for the past several months, which I've made online, and I always print out the nice little thing that says, "Please keep a copy of this confirmation screen as record of your payment".  Apparently when Ford made the arrangements with me, they didn't give the info to the bank that underwrites Ford Credit, so according to them, I was about $1200 in arrears.  YIKES!  Luckily, I also kept the payment arrangement letter that Ford sent me.  So, there I was, on the phone with my stack of receipts and letters, calling Ford Motor Company, and they told me that they didn't have any payments.  Meanwhile the nice gentleman was on the phone with his company trying to figure out what he should do.  They're only answer was, "Take the car, and she can come get it when it is figured out." (And pay them a ridiculous sum of money.)  WRONG ANSWER.  After about an hour of calls, egregious hold music, and being passed from person to person, someone "found" the payments that I'd made, and also "found" the notes about the payment arrangements that had been made back in October.  Then I had that person call the nice gentleman's boss and explain that it was all a mistake on Ford's part, and they should NOT take my car.  After about another half hour, the nice gentleman left, leaving my car in its' parking spot.

At that point, I was completely done in, and the boy was "starving".  Of course, he is a teenager and is always starving.  I walked into the kitchen, turned on the oven to 450 degrees to preheat it for a frozen pizza, and went into the bedroom to read blogs, because I was in serious need of a bit of humor by that point.  About half an hour later, I opened my bedroom door to a wall of billowing smoke (why the alarm hadn't gone off, I don't know; it normally goes off with very little provocation.)  I yelled for the boy to start opening windows, and I raced into the kitchen and opened the oven door, which released a billowing cloud of choking, black, acrid smoke.  I turned off the oven, grabbed some towels, pulled out the entire oven rack, which had the charred and melted remains of plastic utensils, the stew pot, dishes, and everything else I'd shoved in there.  I tossed it all outside in the snow, and set my son to fanning the smoke alarm, while I ran to neighbors' apartments, pounding on the doors and asking for fans.  It took a good 2 hours to clear all of the smoke from the apartment.   I hopped in the car, drove through McDonalds for the boy, and then crawled into my bed to hide, lest the day try to hurl anything else at my frayed nerves.

The racks will need to be replaced.  I am dreading trying to clean out the melted, solidified plastic from the oven.   My sink is still blocked.  The boy did find a wonderful Dali-esque souvenir out in the snow today.  He has it sitting in pride of place in his room with a little sign that says, "Epic Mom Fail".   Sigh.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Passports, Dreams, and Memories

Well, this is the first post of my "new" blog.

(Technically, it is a resurrection of the blog that I kept for a few weeks back in 2009, when I hatched several chicken eggs in my bra, after a 'challenge' was issued on backyardchickens.com  which explains the slightly esoteric nature of the previous posts.)

I have a number of blogs that I read on a daily basis, and I truly enjoy the snippets of life they reveal and the thoughts they provoke.  As I figure out this Blogger software, I will link to the blogs I enjoy, but I'm not there yet!  I figured out how to change the blog name and the background and added a picture and a bit of text.  A large portion of the Sistine Chapel was finished in roughly the same amount of time several years ago.

I pulled out my passport this evening, only to find that it is expired, (and the picture is of some impostor, at least according to my wretched son) so I need to go and renew it, and also apply for my son's passport.  We are throwing around the idea of heading to Europe sometime this summer for sightseeing, meandering around, and catching a concert or 2.  Several of the bands my son loves are touring in Europe this summer, and since I still have my flight privileges, it just might be doable if we scrimp and save betwixt now and then, stay in hostels, and implement other creative cost-saving measures.

Passports are like little tiny shorthand memory albums.  Each stamp brings back the memories of the adventures you've enjoyed.   While I haven't traveled an awful lot, I have been to some unusual places. 

'99  Reykjavik, Iceland - we arrived early evening, and after checking into the hotel, I needed a walk. Too many hours on a military transport, packed like sardines, had left me buzzing with energy; plus, I was FINALLY in another country!  I had dreamed of traveling abroad, and it just never quite worked out before.  I walked along the black volcanic rock beach, listening to the waves crash, and the cries of sea birds.  Being that far north, in the end of May, it didn't get all that dark, so I walked a long time in the twilight, enjoying the experience.
'99 Tallinn, Estonia - The first thing that jumps into my mind, is having our flight met by armed military guards.  That was not something we saw here in the States until after 9/11.  I found it a bit unsettling.  The rest of the trip was incredible.  I could fill pages of writing, and not do it justice.  Tallinn is a fabulous city, having been occupied by many different countries over the centuries, you can "peel" the city like an onion, from the Old Thomas Church and walled Keep in the very center to the modern tech edges, each block bringing you to another change in architecture, a living reminder of governments past.  The past and present were trying to resolve themselves when we were there.  Someday I want to go back and see how it is doing.
'99 Keflavik, Iceland - I have no idea what Keflavik looks like.  We landed in a swirling mass of white snow and stinging ice pellets.  The snow and wind buffeted our hotel all night, and in the morning, we took off in a grey icy downpour.

'01 Heidelberg, Germany  An odd trip.  We spent most of our time on military bases (since we ARE a military band, it does make sense, doesn't it?) which feel exactly like any military town here in the States.  U.S. money, McDonalds, and bowling.  We did have 1 day trip into the Black Forest, and we stopped at a lovely little town, Triberg, that had the most beautiful park.  The park was built around a series of waterfalls, and you could follow the path from the uppermost falls down to the bottom, with wooden bridges spanning the river at several points.  There is a unique species of squirrel in that region, red with black tipped tufty ears.  We weren't supposed to feed them, but I was unusually clumsy on the trail, and dropped a number of morsels when I spotted one of the little imps.  They were totally unafraid, and seemed to know just who was going to provide treats.

I think I shall stop there tonight, so that the post doesn't get to be overlong.  Tomorrow I will continue flipping through the stamps and memories.

Where have you visited?  What is your favorite place?  Where would you like to go someday?   Since the comments often prove to be as enjoyable as the blogs themselves, I will leave you with those questions.