Thursday, May 31, 2012


There was a radio call-in show, and some fellow called in to make his views known about John Edwards, the verdict, mistrial, and his speech afterward. He was pretty cogent about what he thought. However, he slipped in a zinger completely off track that wasn't addressed by the host. Appropos of nothing, he stated as if it were fact that we couldn't address "those gay issues" right now because the economy needed fixing.

I started simmering. First, this guy was just looking for an excuse to delay/deny the issue; no forthcoming fix intended. Second, why can't we do two things at once, walk and chew legislative gum? It's as if I said I can't fix a broken window because my roof leaks. Or I can't fix a tire because I'm low on gas. It's not like our government can only handle one issue at a time.

It's called multitasking, at least when it's all done by a single individual. You might note the the government is comprised of more than that. Many of them are capable of dealing with issues, plural. They can go from one committee on one topic to another meeting on another topic to the floor to vote on yet another topic and keep them all straight in their heads.  Don't like how they vote? Then you get out there and vote the bums out, but don't claim they're not capable of two things at once.

At any rate, as I thought about what he said, I went from simmering to boiling. It was time for me to call in to the show myself. So I did. I even pulled off the road for a couple to do so. Pat me on the back. For a moment I wasn't, myself, multitasking while driving. I kept my comments brief: it was a guest-filled program, and I wasn't one of the guests. I had a lot more to say than time to say it in. Hence, the blog topic.

If we accept the premise that now is not the time for ____ because we need to ____ , there will never be a "right" time to do the right thing. This is simply not acceptable. Nor just. The premise is not even true.

Perhaps it's a guy-thing? Common wisdom holds that women are better at multitasking. True or not, we certainly get a lot of practice at it the minute we become moms. When raising small kids, there is not a moment that goes by that we are not multitasking. Try cooking dinner. The pan goes on the stove, and a nose needs wiping. Cut vegetables and a dirty diaper needs changing, a dozen questions need answering, a fight needs ending. Set the table and the phone rings, the dog needs in/out/in, someone needs a hug, a toy needs mending, a boo-boo needs a kiss.

These days the experts say that multitasking means you don't do any of it well. Perhaps, if what you  are talking about is six simultaneous office tasks. But home, raising kids, you just do it all, and do it all day. You muddle through. And the next day you do it all again. It's what you do when you keep getting through  your days and the kids keep growing up. Nobody tells you you can't do it all, so you just keep going. Somehow it gets done, the laundry gets washed, the trash goes out, stories get read, blocks and puzzles and balls and dolls dumped out and put back and used hard in between, amid smiles and tears and shouts and naps and those precious two minutes a day of blessed silence.

It's just called life.

So don't anybody try to tell me we can't tend to justice because the economy is struggling.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Usually when I deliver a hospice meds package, it's signed for somebody who identifies themselves as Patient X's wife/husband/sister/caregiver/son/daughter/in-law. Today was different. I actually had the same stop yesterday, and the patient herself signed for them. She was basically a skeleton covered by skin with a shaved head. I had no idea of her age, except the new hair growing out was dark. I got a better idea tonight. Tonight the woman who answered and signed was just a bit younger than I am, by her appearance, and identified herself as Patient X's mother.

I realize that my delivering all those hospice meds makes my job sound depressing. It's usually not, even on those runs, and those are just a tiny part of the day, perhaps more memorable as they tend to be how the day ends. Today, again, is a good example of the opposite end of the spectrum.

On Tuesdays I do a route collecting from a chain of day care centers, or on alternate weeks, delivering to them as well as picking up, and taking the whole bunch to headquarters. What I see are blue canvas bags. What's in the bags? I don't know, but I can make an educated guess: payroll records, curriculum items, company-wide bulletins, miscellaneous records. One of the stops in particular is in a strip mall where most of the rooms have exterior doors, though not in use generally.  All have locks and a security alarm way up high that must be turned off when the door opens. Where I go at that stop is the room with the toddlers in it, and the last few times a particular little girl was curious enough to come to the door as the staff person does the hand-over to see who this strange creature is. Today she was wearing a cute sundress and was holding the skirt up over all of her face except her eyes. Adorable! Last week we both had to be sure her fingers were clear of the door before it started to close. Yep, still adorable.

I noticed today something very unusual: all the bags were flat and light. Usually one or two weighs about five pounds and has something bulky in it. Not today.

Have I mentioned that my imagination can occasionally be macabre? Or that I can entertain myself during an otherwise boring, routine workday by giving it free reign?

It started by the question springing into my mind of what was in such flat bags? And what popped up was "squished babies." I could even imagine a conversation with some inquisitive child asking me that question and the conversation heading off from there. I can just see eyes widening in shock, tears welling, jaws dropping and quivering - along with a month of nightmares, screams and tantrums before getting hustled off to day care each day, and years of unresolved therapy where nobody can identify the originating trauma.

"It's why they call it 'babysitting'. Haven't you ever heard some grownup talking about a naughty child and saying they have to go sit on them? You, well, it might hurt a bit. But babies get squished when we do that. So they have me come in and take the squished babies away before they start to smell.

"I'd behave if I were you!"

Late in the afternoon at the end of my route, most of the staff are in back or even outside with the kids getting fresh air. With doors being locked, this means it can take a full couple minutes before somebody answers the doorbell for the bag hand-off. Today a father answered it and then went to get a staff person to take care of me. While the staffer and I were involved in our jobs, he was finishing packing up his daughter, a four-year-old curly redhead in a pink print dress, busy watching us instead of paying attention to her Daddy. They exited just behind me, and I heard her ask her father, "What's in that bag?"

I thought about it. Really, I did, for just about half a second. The whole scenario played through
 my head. I saw again that sweet face, those welling eyes.

How adorable she was!

How wicked I'd be!

How angry Daddy would be!

And I didn't even have to imagine the part where I lost my job.

I just coughed, choking off that top thought, and replied, "It's paperwork."

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Singular Honor

If you live in or near St. Paul, even if you don't follow the minor leagues in baseball, you likely have heard of the St. Paul Saints. If you are lucky, you have gone to at least one game, because they are fun, the kind of thing the Twins tried to capture when they moved out of the Metrodome and into open-air Target Field.

Part of the fun is the Saints' mascot - or mascots. This year it's two. Pigs. A bigger part of the fun is their names. They are named after a famous couple, one of whom has local sports ties. However, they are perhaps not named as reverently as the famous couple might have wished. I'm certain they didn't have any say in the matter, in fact.

Their names? Kim Lardashian and Kris Hamphries.

The mascots are said to be very much in love, and will live together at the stadium for the entire season. It may be noted that this will be longer than their namesakes' marriage lasted.

Last Stop of the Day

I recognized the place even before I turned into the cul-de-sac and verified the house number. No, I'd never been there before. But the scene was set and I recognized all the pieces.

This was a hospice drug run. There were cars lined up double the length of the driveway, more in the street along every possible spot where they wouldn't block a neighbor's driveway. The oxygen equipment truck with its back open was double-parked off the end of the driveway, its driver inside the house.

This was new, this bad news, somebody just home from the hospital, and time was short, short enough that the whole family found it important to gather.

Neighbors were gathered in one of their driveways, talking and watching the commotion, watching me to see if I would park to block them in.

 I didn't.  There was one last spot, questionable most days, but nobody was going to show up tonight to give out parking tickets.

A group of young men, late high school or early college, gathered next to the garage, talking. Cousins, probably. They looked half excited at the commotion and half bored at being forced away from their routines and their electronics.  A forty-something father was keeping a gaggle of elementary-school-aged kids busy in the front yard with a frisbee, out of the house and away from the adults inside, taking advantage of a lovely May afternoon. The youngest started over to investigate me, this latest piece of strangeness in her life, but was called back, keeping her out of my way as well.

A grey SUV pulled in the end of the driveway, sticking halfway out into the street, right behind me as I started the walk up to the house. One woman came out, carrying a purse and a toddler, destined for the house. The rest of the kids piled out into the front yard and were directed to the game of frisbee. The gaggle had just doubled.

I could have let my feelings surround me. I'd been here, still too recently. But this wasn't about me. Not this night. I refused to let tears well up, put on my cheerful/helpful face, and walked up to the young men, asking where I might find someone authorized to sign for medications. I was being well paid for this little service. They needed the professionals to be professional. One of them left for inside, and a moment later a "real" adult appeared, signing and taking the medications. I wished her well as I left, knowing that she was not going to be having a good evening. Maybe not for a long time.

Every one of these people was a stranger to me, and will likely remain so, even should we meet again, here or somewhere else. And yet, as I walked back to me car, for this one moment I knew every single one of them.

Monday, May 14, 2012

What is a Noodle?

It's a conveyance, a means of transporting something flavorful from the plate to the mouth. It doesn't need its own flavor, not really. And how much better if it cooked in a flash,  didn't come with calories, fat, carbs, or even gluten. Perhaps just a bit of soluable fiber to aid digestion and contribute to that full feeling. Sound too good to be true?

Not any more.

Of course, to come without all those things, there has to be a hitch, right? It's called cost. But those magic noodles are out there, and I tried my first ones tonight. And now there are five leftover containers of yummy spaghetti sitting in my freezer, ready to be added to my work cooler, starting tomorrow.

What's my secret? They're called shiratake noodles. They come sealed in plastic pouches, floating in liquid. You drain that off, drop them in boiling water for about a minute, drain, cool, and blot dry. Or skip the blotting part and let them cook in a sauce which imbeds them with flavor as it reduces. Don't be put off by a funky fishy smell as you first open the package. It's gone when they finish their boiling water bath.

I do spaghetti by browning hamburger, pouring off the grease, and adding a few things, starting with Ragu in whatever flavor caught my attention on the last shopping trip. Onion flakes and garlic powder - not salt - get generously thrown in, followed by grated sap sago cheese, which these days I have to order off the internet. Not grated. Whole hard green cones, which I persuade Paul to grate. As a reward, he gets to use the cheese to flavor his pizzas.  Even the pricey fancy grocery stores seldom carry it, so I tend to order half a dozen cones at a time, slip the grated cheese into snack size ZipLocs, those into a freezer ZipLoc, and leave frozen until some is poured out for the next use. Strong flavor, but delightful in Italian flavored tomato based foods. It even makes prepackaged diet lasagna taste wonderful.

A topping of grated parmeasan/romano cheeses, some stirred in while cooking down, the rest added before serving, finish the job.

Since I'll be eating this while working, possible even while driving (shhhhh!), I pre-cut the noodles. My packages of angel hair came in up to 2 foot lengths, something unwieldy even at the table. I liked 2" better.

And yes, I took a taste test sample, something I was able to do without worrying about the carb count for the evening. Yummmmmm!

More Tidbits

Favorite sign of the week: On Wisconsin Hwy. 35 between Osceola and Somerset lies the town of East Farmington (unincorporated). It's big enough to pretend to slow traffic to 40 mph, and has a church or two, a bar, and a BP station. Last week the sign outside the BP sported the following: I had amnesia once. Maybe twice.

*   *   *   *   *

Gay President?  The right wing noise machine is all aflutter about Obama's comments supporting gay marriage, aka marriage equality. So, aflutter, in fact, that one might suspect something of them if one were prone to stereotyping. Some of them are even announcing that Obama must be gay himself: our first Gay President.

Yeah, right. He's our first gay president like Clinton was our first black president.

Try harder, wingnuts.

*    *    *    *    *

Timing is everything. I apparently have some.

On the way home tonight I was listening to NPR's "Marketplace". The topic was the housing market, the idea posited being that bottom had been reached. They gave Phoenix as an illustration. New home sales are booming. Resales are heating up, with many houses selling with multiple offers and over the asking price.

On the downside, many buyers are not qualifying for home loans, and a significant percentage now are paying cash.  Now that sounds familiar. And over all, comforting. It seems I bought in at just the right time and, cash being the only way possible, I'm no longer second-guessing my choice, which can be leaving me a bit cash-strapped for a couple years or so.

Now if the market picks up here in about 6-7 years, it'll be perfect. Right now, however, the house across the street has been foreclosed on and is going for $68,300. I'm hanging tight.

A Near-Perfect Mom's Day

Heck, nothing's completely perfect. But this weekend came darn close.

Let's start with all of my kids being (relatively) OK and accounted for. One is grieving a relationship not meeting his hopes, but we got a chance to have a long talk about it around a bonfire after everybody else left. But that was the end of the weekend. Let's go back to the start of it.

First, the weather: mild, sunny, and mosquito-free. Fishing opener for the rest of the world, for me it was an early morning trip to the local bead store to check out their new supply of Czech glass beads. Folks, there will be some differences in your necklaces come X-mas this year.

Then off to Crex Meadows to join in their advertised wildflower hike (free, no reservations, start 12:30 PM, chance to see small yellow ladyslipper.) I'd asked by phone about how much walking was involved and was assured it would be more driving. True, much more driving, to a spot well outside of Crex,  but at the end of the drive there was a lot of walking. I bugged out when I needed to. This was fine, because I'd already seen the pink ladyslipper, the small yellow ladyslipper, Jacks in their pulpits, and trilliums to shoot. Also some interesting mossy rocks, and bunches of other woodsy things. And had a sit-down before the trek out.

Having cut myself loose from the group, I returned to Crex proper and got my fill of reflections, (distant) sandhill cranes decked out in brown mud for spring courting as well as bug control, trumpeter swans, goose families, and even pocket gophers. A stop for a nap on the way home followed by another at KFC and the day was complete.

Sunday started with catching up a little on DVR recordings, mostly season finales, plus a few HGTV offerings.  We - Steve and I - devour those up, occasionally finding ideas we like, often shaking our heads at how high-end some folks require their homes or rooms to be, or how high a price they pay for a home without blinking. It was a semi-grunge day. Mid afternoon the whole family headed to the back yard for a bonfire, weenie roast, and marshmallow roast, plus lots of conversation.  A little more TV, and time for bed.

No packing, no major shopping or cleaning, no cooking. Yeee-haahhh!

Oh, and one of my lottery tickets won enough to replace itself! Whee.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


When (now Senator, then radio host) Al Franken says it, it's referring to himself as a fan of the Grateful Dead. For me, it's about work.  As in, traveling from point A to point B without getting paid for it.

It was a pretty weird day today. Make that weird in a good way. I was just sitting down with my morning cuppa to watch the news and weather before showering and getting dressed and packing a cooler, things I do every morning before  heading out the door. The phone rang. At 7 AM you can only hope it's work. Anything else is bad news.

Bill in dispatch was on the line. Lindstrom had one, ready now, going to Menomonie. That's double good news. Lindstrom means it's just five miles down the road, and I already knew who the pick was. Been there several times. Menomonie means no morning metro rush hour traffic, great scenery, and best of all, great pay. You can bet I was ready to chug the rest of the coffee, fast forward to the weather report, and rush through the rest of the routine to go get it. Even though it took me half an hour, when I arrived at the pick, I was greeted with, "How did you get here so soon?" Then he looked at me again, and followed up with, "Oh yeah, you live in Shafer."

I'll chalk up the disappointment in his voice to the notion that I made him rush through finishing getting the freight ready. He was expecting to have another 15-20 minutes that it would have taken a driver to head up from the metro to snag this one. Too bad.

Lovely sunny weather accompanied me out to Menomonie, and back in to to the east metro area again to wait for more work. I barely pulled off the freeway to park when a beep alerted me to my next bit of work.

Really? Montevideo? For me? Not a typo when the dispatcher typed in the driver number? Nope, a quick text accompanied the run affirming it was mine if I wanted it. Did I?

Well of course I wanted it! The part of my job I love best is getting out-state, especially in nice weather, and seeing what there is to see. Like, last night, driving around three sides of Lake Mille Lacs in the late afternoon/early evening just before fishing opener when the boats are sparse and the water becomes the horizon, trilliums carpeting the ground for miles, all for the sake of delivering drugs to Aitken. My camera phone, humble as it is, got a workout, especially on the way home when I could more easily justify pulling over to get just the right shot(s). And, apparently, woodticks.

Oh well.

As a side note, I am sure that you too have noticed that once you find and remove one tick, and circumstances prevent you from stripping then and there to seek out and destroy all possible other hitchhikers seeking a meal, your imagination supplies a myriad of other tickles that can surely only have been caused by a hoard of other little beasties?  Once home last night I invited Steve to assist in tick inspection duty. Or fun. At any rate, no complaints forthcoming, and no ticks located in what was the most thorough inspection I've ever... uh, well, nevermind.

Today this deadhead took me through the more southern part of the state, trilliums replaced by open fields, some flooded, most planted, corn shoots just brushing the soil with a light stubble of green. Pelicans were making their spring presence known, sometimes on open water, more often up high riding thermals and doing their arial dance in patterns only they can choreograph.

It was quite a deadhead, though. I'm not sure just how many miles from Menomonie to Montevideo. I do know, however, my total for the day was 494. Two tanks of gas, and a need to fill up tomorrow before my first spring trip up to Crex with the "real" camera. It's a long enough trip that today could easily have become a two-run day.

Dispatch had other plans, though. Shortly after I started back I got a call. "Hey, as long as you're out there, how about running over to Litchfield to pick up one coming back in? It's going to the same place you're dropping the one you're carrying."

This never happens. Uh-uh. Never. Two out-of-town runs from similar areas, called in hours apart, going to the same place with such good timing that one driver can scoop them both? Nope. Doesn't happen.

Except today.

So who cares about a little deadhead? I mean, really?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Political Tidbits

Michelle Bachmann is now a Swiss citizen. Or half. How do they count it when you hold two countries' citizenships? What's really intriguing to me is the idea of her fitting into such a progressive, classically European country. Abortion. Healthcare. Gay unions.  Run down the list. So anti- Bachmann. So ironic.

*    *    *    *    *

I'm proud of our President today. It's the first time I can really remember being proud of a President, though it may have happened before and I just can't pull up the memory. But today Obama declared publicly that he believes gay couples have as much right to marry as the rest of us.

It took courage, coming the day after North Carolina enshrined their brand of poisonous anti-gay venom in their constitution. It won't earn him points - or votes - with nearly half of the country. But it's a stand I applaud. It's the right thing to do, and the right time to do it - unless you want to quibble it's a bit late in coming - but far righter now than next month or next year.

Today he increased my pride as an American, and my dignity as a human being.

*   *   *   *   *

Mendacious Mitt, of course, piped right up and declared he opposed both gay marriage and civil unions. Given a choice it seems pandering will win out. No surprise there. It's what he is.

Mendacious Mitt talks about how good his state's economy was when he was Governor. What a load of crap! His state ranked 47th from the top under his reign. If that's not bad enough for you, understand that the three states which ranked lower were all recovering from Hurricane  Katrina. His state just had to put up with Hurricane Mitt.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Election Results?

No, I'm not talking about the upset in France over the weekend. Not even the upcoming and much-watched and speculated about recall election of Walker in Wisconsin. This is about an old election that wound up having different results that you thought it did.

Hard as it is, think back, way back, to the first week of February. Minnesota has what many think of as an odd system of caucuses to determine its delegates to the presidential convention, the spot where the final and "real" candidate selection process happens. The very interested are the only ones who turn out, and those only if they happen to be available during a very narrow window of time on a Tuesday evening in early February, when weather and road conditions don't keep them home. Votes are taken and duly reported in the news the next morning. Officially, Santorum won. Even if you didn't care, it was plastered all over the news in Minnesota, even nationally, the next morning.

The process doesn't end there, however. Chosen delegates go on to the district conventions and from there selected delegates go to the state convention. With Santorum dropping out, his delegates are freed from any commitment to vote for him. Those who are organized and dedicated now have a chance to change election results as far as sending delegates to the national convention are concerned.

Did you know Ron Paul won Minnesota? His supporters "won" 21 of the 24 state votes coming out of the state convention, and will go on to the national one to cast their votes for him. They were better organized, more dedicated, a pure case of a minority ruling the majority. Or if you will, a minority hijacking an election. While there are other appointed delegates "at large", folks representing the main stream of the party, earning their right to cast their convention votes by holding elected office or otherwise serving the party, those representing the people from the caucuses now will be voting for Ron Paul.

And your mainstream media told you all about it, didn't they?

What, really?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

How to Pack Up a Display Cabinet

1: Arrange to acquire a display cabinet. Some steps like this one can actually be done much in advance, months or even years. While you are waiting to pack up the cabinet, it may even used for such things as displaying decorative objects. However, should you do so, it is important to complete step 4.

2: Have a close family member find employment at a company which throws out sturdy double-wall boxes and bubble wrap. One which receives a large quantity of fragile materials from a foreign country would be ideal, such as one doing circuit board assembly. Encourage family member to bring home quantities of such discarded packing materials on a regular basis.

3: Arrange to have a reason to pack up said cabinet, such as moving the household to another state.

4: Be prepared to take advantage of an opportunity to empty out your display cabinet, such as reflooring in laminate the room of the house in which it currently sits. During this you can make decisions on sorting the contents. Which can be packed now? Given away? Sent back to the auction house to be resold, as the planned move will be expensive?

5: Locate spot in house to save the empty boxes from which flooring (see #4) has been removed. These can take up large quantities of space, and without weight inside are likely to be tippy when stacked. Choose carefully. The cardboard will be useful for many packing chores.

5: Having gotten this far, one can now spend large quantities of time simply staring at said empty cabinet in the room where it sits. You can take advantage of this period to evaluate levels of dirt on the surface of said cabinet, and their desirability.

6: Grabbing window cleaning spray and a clean towel, use a few idle minutes to wipe fingerprints and dust from the floor resurfacing off the glass and other surfaces of the cabinet.

7: Again you may spend weeks of time staring at the cabinet, now appreciating the shininess of its surfaces and the enormity of getting its many pieces of glass relocated to another state intact.

1: On a trip to WalMart, roll your cart past the end display on pillows. Choose between the $2.50 and the $3.97 offerings for suitable quality. Pick up four. Note that this may over-fill your cart, especially if you are sitting in an electric cart with its smaller basket and higher placement of basket relative to your line of sight. Try to avoid running over small children who seem to find new ways every minute to hide in your blind spot. Practice cheerfully calling out "Beep beep" rather than "Hey! Move, brat!" You may consider asking staff to unload your cart into a regular cart and have it waiting for you at the customer service counter while you finish the rest of the shopping you came for. If that action is chosen, do not forget to ask for cart and contents while in the process of checking out.

2: Have handy person in household check inside of cabinet for security of fastenings holding vertical glass panels in place and lower horizontal glass shelves to floor inside cabinet.

3: Leaving plastic bags on pillows, slide inside cabinet, standing on side and on each other to fill up space from within, giving gentle pressure to glass from inside. This helps hold glass in place during transport. Leaving plastic on pillows aids in their remaining usable once one reaching destination despite possible glass breakage during move.

4: Flatten pieces from cardboard boxes (see #5 above section) and tape together to form a large single cardboard piece to bend suitably around the front and sides of cabinet. Packing tape is ideal. Please note that tape is not attached to anywhere on the front or sides of the cabinet. Eventually it decomposes and leaves residue, making for unnecessary clean-up chores. Tape on the back side can be tolerated, however, if there is no other choice. It should only be used there to hold cardboard in place during the final step. It is possible to use another person's hands to hold the cardboard up, especially for fitting, but take care to remove the hands during the final wrap. Nobody is going to want to volunteer to stand next to the cabinet for however long it takes to move, unload, and unpack cabinet. Plus, they do tend to leave messes on the new flooring after certain lengths of time, and require hand feeding. This is not the best use of your time: you have a whole house to pack up.

5: Return to Walmart. Realize that you are out of cling-wrap, having used the last box of it up on such mundane items as leftovers. Realize also that four pillows simply will not be enough if everyone who has promised to come down and help you unload the truck and clean and paint the house actually shows up. Realize that you have another display cabinet.  Repeat parts of above sections which are relevant. Check also for remaining levels of packing tape, black markers, and other supplies.

6: Opening a new box of plastic cling-wrap, wind it around and around cabinet and cardboard until all are covered. Cling wrap holds cardboard in place, keeps doors closed and dust out, helps contain broken glass if necessary. Do not forget to include electric cords inside wrap if cabinet is lighted. You can insert a note as to destination room at other end of the move, or other important instructions under wrap. A final piece of packing tape can be used to hold end of wrap in place, again making sure it attaches only to other wrap and not to cabinet. In fact, if any pieces of cabinet are still exposed to attach tape to, you have not wrapped it sufficiently. Do not fear wasting wrap by layering over other wrap. This is not a waste. It helps hold everything together. Just remember: wrap is cheap. Display cabinets aren't. Even if you work for an auction house.

7: Now you can relax and stare at your wrapped cabinet for however many weeks remain until the move. Little further attention is required during this time, other than cleaning the floor under the cabinet regularly of accumulating dust and dog/cat fur balls.