Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Last weekend, I was parked on my quasi-couch with the cat in my lap when I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. When I glanced over, I spotted a house spider zooming across the floor - a sizeable one. Legs included, he was probably two inches across. It was almost under the couch when I realized that one of its little legs was crooked - it was George! And George has grown significantly.

I'm not sure when our adventures with George actually started, since I have always had a catch and release spider policy. Maybe I've only ever had one spider and he keeps coming back? In the summer, I shoo them outside, and in the winter I release them in the water heater room in my apartment building. (I've mentioned how much my neighbors love me, right?)

At any rate, late last summer, I noticed a spider behaving quite strangely. The cat was sprawled across the floor with her fuzzy little feet sticking up in the air, and this little spider was running up to within an inch of her and then doing this weird little bowing thing and then running away again.

This happened several times, with the cat remaining completely oblivious. (I have a PERFECT Garfield cartoon, if I can only remember to bring it in and scan it.) The cat looked over at me when I started laughing, and noticed the spider. That woke her up. She rolled over and kinda batted at the spider, which darted backwards out of reach and then immediately forward again. This continued for a while until finally Sophia rolled onto her feet and started following the spider. She wasn't really chasing it, per say, she just put her nose very close to it and followed it along the floor. This is not normal behavior for my cat, who usually considers spiders to be crunchy kitty yum-yums.

As I watched, fascinated, the spider scurried under a bookshelf. The cat stayed right there where the spider had disappeared, while the spider snuck out another side, circled around, and started that bowing thing behind her. Finally Sophia noticed and she whacked him - which is how his leg got all crooked to begin with. At that point, I intervened, scooped up George and dumped him outside.

A couple of weeks later, he was back challenging the cat. She's never whacked him again - she just follows him around. It's the weirdest damn thing.

I hadn't seen George in several weeks and I wondered what happened to him. What is the lifespan of a common house spider, anyway? I hope that somewhere in his little spider brain he realizes that not everyone is as open-minded about spider visitors as I am. I'd hate to think of George scurrying up to a neighbor, bowing away, and getting squashed like... well, like a bug.

But for right now, I know where he is. He's under my couch, waiting to take on my cat.

Monday, March 27, 2006


I just went to the Ford Center in downtown Chicago to see 'Wicked.' It was wonderful! The play is based on the book by Gregory Maguire called 'Wicked.' As the ads say, a lot happened in Oz before Dorothy dropped in, and this is the life and times of the Wicked Witch of the West. You'll never look at the movie the same way again.

But the play was fabulous!! A coworker bought tickets months ago and then couldn't go, so a friend and I bought them from him. The seats were great - front and center. I was fascinated by the set - it was really cool!

It was a clever play, very well done, and I definitely recommend that you go see it if possible. One word of caution - if you see it in Chicago, don't sit under the balcony as your view of the really cool dragon at the top of the set is cut off.

Here's a neat link with pictures and such for more information. (It's also where I stole the graphic above from.)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

My Family... The Fahcowee Tribe

One of my dad's favorite stories is about the time that he and his best friend (Chuck) were eating in a diner somewhere. The waitress was wearing roughly her weight in silver and turquoise jewelry, and when Chuck commented on it, she made herself comfy and proceeded to spend the next 20 minutes or so of their lunch break regaling them with her entire Native American family history.

So Chuck told her that he, too, was part Indian. She got even more enthused and demanded to know specifics of what tribe, where, etc. Chuck told her that he was a member of the Fahcowee Tribe. At this, she looked puzzled and said that she'd never heard of them.

Chuck kicked back in his chair and proceeded to spin quite the yarn around the lineage, culture and traditions of his tribe. Finally, she asked if he knew how they had gotten their name. His answer was that his tribe was woefully lacking in any sense of direction, and that every now and then, they'd send a scout up a tree to look around and try to figure out where they were. As the scout was looking around, he would chant 'where the fuck are we?' and eventually, this chant was shortened to form the name 'Fahcowee.' This tale ends with the waitress belting Chuck hard enough to flip him and the chair backwards, and Dad and Chuck having to find another restaurant for lunch, but it leads in to my adventure last night. Sorta.

I cross-stitch, and I'm currently taking a class (My Stitching Treasures by Jeanette Douglas) at a wonderful little shop - that is unfortunately located a bit over an hour from my work. The class started last night at 6:30. We had to complete the border around all the boxes as homework prior to the first class. Since I procrastinated until the last minute, as usual, I had planned on spending the whole weekend doing it. Then a friend showed up unexpectedly to visit, and I ended up finishing the last box at about 4:45 am on Monday morning. I fell into bed for a couple of hours and then I was up and on the way to work.

So I wasn't exactly firing on all eight cylinders by the time I left work to head to the class. But the traffic light gods were smiling down on me and I went soaring right along - until a major intersection, where the light was down. Gah! You don't realize how much traffic lights help the flow of traffic until one dies and that intersection becomes a very backed up four way stop. Finally got through that, turned onto another road, that leads through a dinky little town and got jammed up again. I sat for 45 minutes, and the only time we moved at all was when someone snapped and turned around. The problem was that I don't know the area well enough to have any idea where to go.

After enough time had passed, however, I no longer cared. Screw it! I'll make my own road! I thought I could just block it and get away from the worst of it. Then I picked up a duckling, which always makes me feel guilty. [A duckling, in my world, is one of those people that decide that you must know where you're going, so they'll follow you as you attempt to make your own detour.] My poor little duckling is probably still wandering around out there somewhere. I tried to be logical about the whole thing, but the very curvy roads thwarted me. I got so lost! It was dark, and I had NO idea where I was and then the deer started jumping at my jeep... Oh, it was awful.

I spent significant portions of my life wandering around in an automobile with no real idea where I am. It's actually one of my favorite activities. But I don't like it when I'm already late to someplace that I'm supposed to be. And I really don't like it when I'm also cold, hungry and exhausted. I've never been so glad to see a speed trap! But, by the time I found a place to turn around (losing the duckling in the process), the cop had moved on. *sigh* So I continued on my way, and by this point, my sense of direction had abandoned me completely. Finally, I wandered into a small town, complete with - Oh happy day! - an open gas station.

I went into the station, and in a desperate rush babbled something frantic about how glad I was to find the station, and could you please help me find the city I'm supposed to be in, please, please, please?!? The attendant's response? "Hello. Today is Monday!" delivered with a big smile. When I blinked at him and tried again, it became obvious that he didn't speak enough English to help me. He was friendly though.

I gave up on him and moved on to the next gas station. The man working at that one told me that I couldn't get there from here. Crap. But, he called his cousin in the next town, who did know how to find the town I was headed for and then he gave me directions to that gas station. Once I arrived at the third station, the nice man there had already consulted maps and such and had directions written down and waiting for me.

Once I arrived in the right town, I figured out how to get to the store and I was there - and only an hour and a half late. I was so stressed and freaked out that the remaining hour is kind of a blur, and I was very glad to get home that night.

Before next week's class, I will have figured out an alternate path that will let me avoid that little armpit of a town. *grumble* As a special bonus, maybe I'll manage to get my homework for next week done before the night before. Okay, probably not.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Alone Again

You know that let-down feeling you get after you return from a too-short vacation? That I-prepared-like-a-crazy-person-and-this-was-it feeling where you're looking around wondering what the hell just happened? Well, that was my feeling yesterday.

For the last 2 weeks, I've been frantically cleaning in order to be sort of ready for my brother's visit last weekend. Most of my activity has been centered around the spare room, since that is also the guest room and I had it so stuffed with stuff that the door would only open partway. But the rest of the house merited attention as well. I unburied my kitchen counters, cleaned the bathrooms, swept the walls, scared all the spiders into inconspicuous corners and tried to convince the cat to not shed for a couple of days.

Friday I left work early to get home and do a final check of the homestead. At 6, I headed to the neighborhood Irish pub to meet friends from work. Scott finally managed to thread his way through Chicago traffic and arrived around 7. We stayed out late, staggered home and fell into bed late Friday.

Saturday, we didn't really show significant signs of life until well after noon. Then we foraged for food, and spent the rest of the day watching movies. We went to the theatre for The Libertine. We tried to rent The Ice Harvest at the not-so-friendly blue and yellow video store and they only had one copy, which was out! WTF?!? They have an entire wall of some movie I've never heard of (Into the Blue, Out of the Blue - something like that) and only one copy of the movie I want. Figures. So we went to a different one. That store had three copies, all checked out. At least the guy there was kind enough to call several other stores and try to find it. So we ended up renting The Man with Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy. And after we finished that, I had a copy of Madagascar that a friend let me borrow. Then off to sleep.

Sunday, my plan was to go to the open house of the hideous mcmansion they planted on the former site of a beautiful garden. It's been on the market since before it was built. Maybe something about being able to hand your neighbor a cup of sugar through your nearly adjoining kitchen windows is a turn-off to the $1 million+ house buyer crowd? At any rate, by the time we got back from lunch, the open house was over and it was time for him to head back toward home. *sob*

Then I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the apartment, amazed at how empty it seemed. *sniffle*

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Significance of Stones

Years and years ago, at my grandmother's grave, my aunt and her husband put three oval river rocks, each the size of a small fist, on her marker stone. My uncle told me then that it was a Jewish custom, to let the dead know that you think of them. The third rock was for one of my other uncles, who lived far away and couldn't be there that day. It struck me then as being quite profound - one little rock holds love and loss and memories and grief. To look at that little row, you'd probably not realize how much it meant.

Through the years, I've spent a fair bit of time there. It's a beautiful spot - wooded and quiet, with carefully tended flowers. I've whiled away many summer afternoons, spending time with Grams and a good book. Now, more than fifteen years later, a single small rock remains on her stone to let her know that someone's thinking of her. I wonder where the other two have gone. Maybe a bored child, not really clear on the significance of where he or she was, wandered by and spotted the little row. Those rocks were the perfect size to pick up and play with, rolling them around in your hand, and slipping them into a pocket. I know, I've done it too.

I'll almost certainly never know where Grams' rocks went, but the idea sprouted in me then and flourishes to this day. Scattered throughout my little home, and stored in boxes in my parents' garage, I have quite the collection of stones, rocks, shells, etc - little bits of nature that I brought back to remember where I've been.

Anyone else would look at them and see just a bowl of rocks but to me, they are so much more. The small pinkish one is my last walk on a California beach with my now-ex boyfriend - the one that I thought might be the one. The perfectly flat brown one is from the lake where we vacationed every summer of my childhood. The little bit of gravel with the perfect tiny shell is from a walk with my best friend, right before she married and the wonderfully round green speckled one took me 45 minutes to discover on a beach on Puget Sound, visiting with my very aunt and uncle.

It's not just rocks - nestled among my pebbles are shells as well - like the odd looking white mollusk from a teenaged adventure on the shores of Lake Erie. There's a tiny, perfect pinecone from a trail along the Skyline Drive in the Smoky Mountains. Nearly everywhere I've been, I've collected some little bit to bring back with me.

Several years ago, a friend and I went to an exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art entitled 'Treasures of the Vatican.' For the first time ever, some of the most prized items from the Papal vaults were on tour. One of the most heavily protected was a small box of rocks. At the time, I thought it was ridiculous - did they really need to have this little thing behind heavier glass than the solid gold, jewel encrusted cross with some saint's finger bone in it? Then I learned that, to prove how faithful you were, you had to venture forth on pilgrimages AND you had to bring back a receipt. So all of the faithful went on journeys to holy places and shrines and then they chipped off a bit for their shrine box. So many did this that a lot of the holiest of the shrines and holy places no longer exist. The little box of rocks was some ancient pilgrim's souvenir box and it was so important to the Church because it was all that was left from hundreds of years of people visiting and then taking a chunk home with them.

So I suppose I should rethink my collections. I've managed to convince myself that it's different. I haven't ever chipped a piece off of something else, but I guess that if enough people go seeking stones on the beach, Arizona will end up with waterfront property. Then I'd visit, and hunt down a pebble to bring home with me...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Here, Have Some Cardboard...

My apartment is driving me insane. Gah! Everywhere I go, clutter. Piles of stuff on every flat surface, including the floor.

And the cardboard, God save the Queen, it's everywhere! I went through over 20 boxes of books. I sorted them into piles - children's, sci-fi/fantasy (hard and paper back), fiction (hb and pb), cookbooks, art books, how-to books (banished to the spare/craft room), an engineering degree's worth of math/science/etc, other non-fiction, comedy, etc.

So, now I have all those boxes added to the foot-high stack of broken down moving boxes. Oh, and the massive cardboard towers that housed the two bookcases I've managed to assemble. And the waist high pile of unassembled bookcases. And the boxes of candles and other assorted junk still not organized into anything other than a random pile. Then you have to take into account the piles of books everywhere. And the two end tables that I dumpster-dived over a year ago and haven't taken to Goodwill yet.

My plan for the weekend after my brother is here is to make a trip to the cardboard recycle place, and to Goodwill. Hopefully that will help a bit. And maybe Ikea, for the corner bookcases.

I did manage to fill one of the bookcases, but the other one needs to be the one in the dining area with my cookbooks. That's because I managed to put it together backwards, and I realized it after I had securely nailed the back to the front. Whoops. It'll be fine, it'll hardly show at all, as long as the bookcase is by itself and not near one of the others like it.

Even the cat is having a hard time getting around. I have too much crap! Arrgh!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Ever laughed so hard it hurt?

Last Friday, I laughed so hard so often that my stomach and sides still hurt on Saturday.

I have a circle of friends here at work. (Fortunately, since I know no one else in the state!) We celebrate the tres every month. This started last May when three of us went out on the third of May instead of the fifth of May. When June rolled around, we decided to go out on the third again - it made a convenient excuse. And so our tradition began.

This month, we had a game night at someone's house. Everyone brought food (and alcohol) and we set it up like a buffet in her kitchen. We began the evening's festivities by descending like a small hoard of locusts on the foodstuffs, then we retired to the living room. Let the games begin!

We played 2 games of 'Scene It!' - which is really cool. It's a board game with an accompanying DVD, so you divide into teams, roll the dice, and have to answer a question from a card (a la trivial pursuit) or answer something from the DVD. If it's an all-play, then it's a free-for-all. Sometimes they show a clip and you have to answer a question, sometimes you have to put movie titles in chronological order, and so on. The first team around the board wins. We had the movie furby on our team so we won before they made it a quarter of the way around the board. I think the fairest way would have been all of us against him, and we probably would have lost.

From there we moved to 'Thumper,' which is supposedly a game taught at girl scout camps. You sit in a circle, everyone had a sign. (Mine was smelly tepee, where I held my nose, then made a triangle over my head; someone else's sign was humping bunnies where they make the v-for-victory sign with both hands and bump their fists together; another sign was claimed to be the official American sign-language symbol for bullshit and so on.) You start the game slapping your hands on your thighs in unison (or approximately so), and the leader says "What are we playing?"

Everyone chimes in with "Thumper."
Then the leader says "How do we play?"
"How dirty?"
"F*ck*ng dirty!"

Then the leader makes their sign and then someone else's. That someone needs to make their sign and then another, and so it goes until someone goofs up. This was usually due more to laughing too hard to move than anything else.

After several rounds of "Thumper" we played "Catchphrase," which is another hysterical game. You sit in a circle and there are two teams. If you're sitting like A, B, C, D then A and C are a team and B and D are a team. The catchphrase gizmo looks like a handheld videogame. You pass it around and when you have it, you have to get your team to guess the word. There's a timer built in and the team not holding it when the timer goes off gets a point.

From "Catchphrase" we moved on to "Family Feud" then to a drinking game called "Zoom" then to "Pictionary" [one highlight - "Obviously that is a horse with a group of f*ck*ng men in it!!!" to describe an attempt at 'trojan horse.' The other team got it when their draw-er sketched a condom and a horse-like creature.] then to a card game called "Oh Hell." This card game is similar to Eucher, but you bid on how many tricks you think you'll take. The first hand deals one card, the second hand two and so on. Points are awarded to those who are correct in their bidding. It's complicated, and I'll probably not ever be able to do the scoring on my own, but it was fun.

The evening ended late in the night, and our group has a host of new inside jokes. I don't think I've ever had so much fun in a single evening. Gameplay stopped at several points during the night because several of us were laying flat on the floor laughing so hard that we couldn't breathe. I can't wait for next month!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Yay, Furniture!

I have already shared the adventure that led me to my wonderful china hutch. Not only do I love my hutch, so does Sophia. That shelf is hers, and anything that I've attempted to put there has been unceremoniously removed.

Well, that hutch was the start of it all. I managed for quite a while without real furniture, but once I had that hutch, I got itchy. Suddenly I cared about things I didn't have. I've been rather haphazardly meandering through furniture stores for a couple of years now. The things I found that I liked the best were in Nashville. *sigh* That figures, doesn't it?

Then I went home for Thanksgiving. A store was going under that I used to spend a fair bit of time in - they started as a quilting store and then branched into interior design. I quilt, and I have gotten quite a bit of fabric there over the years. I happen to have a backlog of quilting to do and I'm in need of fabric. At the time, all fabric was being advertised as being 40% off so I went in to root around. I walked into the store and, just like with the hutch, a light shone down and a choir sang and I've mentioned my imagination before, right? Anywho, there was a really cool dresser sitting right inside the door. I did not need a dresser. I need a couch, a chair, something to sit on for crying out loud.

So, I called my mom and told her that I needed her to come talk me out of this dresser. A few minutes later, she comes in, sees the dresser and starts 'oohing' and 'aahing' over it. Ma, talk me out of it remember? The salesman oozed over and said that no reasonable offer was being refused. Mom, in the meantime, noticed the mirror attached to it, and started cooing over it. (My mirror is different that the one in the picture. Mine's prettier.) The salesman went on and on about how it was a Vaughan-Bassett and solid wood and heirloom quality and so on and so forth. So my mother, the strong one, the one here to convince me that I do not need a dresser, looks over at the salesman and says, "She'll give you $900 for the mirror and the dresser." Um. Wait a minute. The long and the short of it is that my mother ended up talking me into a dresser/mirror. It's beautiful, but it's going into my craft room to hold art supplies. Right now, it's living in a storage unit in Ohio.

While I was in line to buy my dresser, I overheard someone saying that there would be a final auction to dispose of all inventory on December 29. Coolness! I was planning on being home for Christmas all that week!

First thing that morning (okay, well, not first thing - I had a dentist's appointment first), I arrived at the store. It was a grey, cold, misty day but I still had to make my own parking across the street from the store. There was a food vendor set up out front (with very yummy fries, I might add) and the whole atmosphere was like a party. I had mixed feelings - I like the lady who ran the store, so I felt bad for her, but I was excited over the idea of furniture. So I wandered around and got an idea of what they had. I even made a list of what I wanted and how high I was willing to go. Then, of course, I caught auction fever and all that went out the window - but I should get credit for trying, right?

Oh goodness, it was a very good day. I had so much fun. And by the time I was done (stayed 'till the bitter end, too), I had quite a haul. Now, all I need for my apartment is... a couch and a chair. *sigh* But, here's a list of my new furniture:
  • 4 drawer locking file cabinet (for Dad, for his manuals and such that live in the garage)
  • Cherry end table (okay, technically it's a bedside table)
  • Cherry coffee table (huge, but really pretty)
  • Console/hallway table with matching mirror
  • Sweater Chest (matches both the previously mentioned dresser and the dining table - which works 'cause it's going in the dining area to supplement my palty kitchen storage)
  • Dining room table with 4 chairs
  • Red oak mission entertainment center (The kind meant, I think, for a bedroom 'cause there's room for the TV in the top and bins underneath, but my VHS collection will fit quite well.)
  • Blonde oak dining room dresser thing with wine rack (which will look wonderful in my brother's kitchen)
  • Pale maple butcher-block table with leaf that is perfect for my sewing machine
  • Cute little table with a lamp built in
  • Two rugs - a smaller cream floral rug and a huge area rug with nifty birds around the edges
  • Two pictures - the one I wanted, which was a pretty daisy and this other hideous picture with a ballerina frog holding a teddy bear. (The frog went with my brother to a friend of his with a thing for frogs.)
  • A shelf of glassware including 2 pretty glasses, a wine bottle (o-O), and the really nifty large glass ginger jar thing that was what I wanted
  • Four boxes of really ugly Christmas ornaments
  • Seems like I'm forgetting something, but can't think of anything else

The really ugly Christmas ornaments were the first, auction fever-crazed thing I won. After that, I simmered down and mostly kept to the list. Most of this is currently living in the storage unit with the dresser. Not bad for around $2200 total, IMHO.

Then, Ikea had a sale and I picked up 6 bookcases. As far as my craft room, a friend gave me a dresser, which is now loaded with office and art supplies. I also won an auction at work and have a four drawer metal filing cabinet for my important papers, and a four drawer lateral filing cabinet that is perfect for all my needlework charts and patterns.

Right now, my apartment is in total chaos while I go through boxes, organize everything, and find places for things to live. But I'm getting there. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I still need to get a lot of stuff, but for the most part, I know what I want and where to get it.

Still to get:

  • Couch (okay, no real clue here, but I'm looking)
  • Chair (the one I want is expensive so this may have to wait)
  • Baker's Rack (I have a plan...)
  • Leaning bookcase
  • 3 corner bookcases
  • Some sort of cabinet for my plant stuff
  • Corner display unit (or cat tree, haven't decided)
  • Davenport (desk, not sofa)
  • Lowboy
  • Plant stand (I don't think I can buy the one I want anymore, so I may have to build it.)
  • Possibly a couple more bookcases

All things considered, it's not that much. Really. I know exactly where everything is going to go, it's just a matter of getting there.

My first step had to be bookcases, 'cause I had a HUGE honkin' pile of boxes of books taking up a significant portion of my floor. I have gone through all those boxes and sorted the books into groups. I have two bookcases put together. Now I need to move the one bookcase into position and anchor it to the wall. Once I get it filled, I'll have enough room to assemble another bookcase. Then I really need at least one corner unit. This should keep me out of mischief for a while. I can't wait for it to be done! It'll look like someone lives there for a change.