"Black Bear, Black Bear What do YOU see?"

Monday, August 27, 2007

My brain is filled with odd, trivial and at times useless information. My penchant for watching the History, Discovery, Learning, and National Geographic channels has rolled itself into the seething mass of facts, information and bizarre ability to recall information that is my brain.

Seriously. From song lyrics to the mating habits of Pandas. It all rolls around in there, waiting to be plucked out with absolute authority at the right time.

Sometimes I seem preternaturally smart. Others? Freakishly quirky.

Several years ago, I was helping to "facilitate" a intensive, week long graduate seminar. The person I was helping asked if I would grab her piece of cheesecake before we walked back to the hotel. It was late and we had finished prepping for the following morning.

I grabbed her cheesecake and we started to walk back.

Now, understand that this seminar was being held at a lovely resort in New Hampshire. A resort in the wilderness. With Bears. Lots and Lots of Bears.

Dee and I were walking with one of the Instructors. Chatting. Laughing. General Merriment.

When I spotted something moving. Over there to the left. Hmmph. Kind of looks like a big dog. Lots of dogs here at the resorts with their families.

I continue to walk, holding my friends slice of cheesecake. The "dog" continues to walk towards us.

I say, "Hey.....Is that a bear?". I stop walking to get a better look. I then, in my best helpful Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom voice, say this: "If it is a bear, we should stay very still so they ignore us and keep moving."

I may have heard this on a "surviving a bear attack" segment on Discovery channel. I may have also forgotten that I was holding a piece of cheesecake.

I freeze per the helpful Discovery channel instructions.

I glance behind me to see Dee and the Instructor running back to the conference center. I then realize I am holding a delicious piece of cheesecake and that the "dog" IS, in fact, a black bear. Walking towards me. Snuffling with intent.

Having committed to my tactic of "freezing to make the bear believe I wasn't there", I remained in place. Frozen. Cake in hand.

The bear continues to approach. Snuffling. He glances at me, swinging his black bear head over to the right to look at me and the cake. While I would like to believe that it was my quick thinking that made the bear decide I was not worth mauling, I suspect that this bear was fat and happy from the garbage left around the resort. My body, ample as it may be and topped with a slice of cheesecake, was no contest when faced with the gourmet haul this bear was gorging on every night.

But let it be known. My friend HAD her piece of cheesecake that night. And I had a martini. A very strong martini.

Pit(s) of Despair

Saturday, August 25, 2007

I noticed something about a year and a half ago.

My deodorant stops working.

I mean - STOPS working. I sweat. I smell.

At first, I assumed it was some kind of hormonal change that came with turning 36.

Lady Speed Stick had to be put aside. It was not doing the job. I moved to Degree, which seemed to help a little more. Then IT stopped working. I went back to Lady Speed Stick, thinking the 6 month break would have renewed it's potency.


After a few weeks of realizing that I was sweating like a 17 year old Dawn waiting for her period, I went back to the store and began READING bottles. I needed the Highest level of sweaty and/or smelliness protection legally available in Canada.

Secret (for women) seems to be doing the job at the moment. At least I don't SMELL as bad as I did before. Or maybe I do and my hermit, misanthrope ways simply prevent other people from being consumed by my funk.

I fear, however, more hormonal changes approaching with the Big M - and let's face it - I ain't smearing Teen Spirit on my pits.

So my bloggy friends - are you all finding this same "issue" as we rapidly approach our collective 40's?

Oh, and for the record - the bullshit about the cramps being better AFTER I had a baby? I think not.

Gnome Technology

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Seriously, you guys slay me.

From here on out I will pretend that I am writing about Gnome technology.

You know, wheelbarrows and rakes and other gnome innovations.

"XXX has been leading the industry in gnome innovation. Through partnerships with Pixies, Inc, XXX has created several exciting new products for use in the gnome home and office"

Now I will just have to control my giggling every time I am in a meeting.

Cause the other day, this phrase was used...

"Instantaneous penetration"

and I thought I was going to fall out of my chair.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ever been thrown onto something so foreign that you had a hard time figuring out whether you were up or down?

I mean - aside from parenting?

I took a new job last week. A job not in my field. A job that I need, because I have got to get some income flowing into my bank (or banque) account. A job writing about Genomes. And how they can be used to create personalized medicine.

Has that sunk in?

Me either.

I am drowning in this place. A world of acronyms and things that I do not understand and am not sure I want to understand. I read reports, I read articles, I read charts and still, I feel confused. People ask me questions about what I want or what I need and all I can do is stare at them, mustering my best "pretend you know what they are talking about face". My saving grace? Five years in government allows me to bullshit well enough to get by until I can get some kind of bearings in the terminology.

I was asked today - "Do you have enough to work on?" Um. Yeah. In fact, I can feel my brain shutting down, a defensive mechanism for when I am overloaded with information.

It is hard for me to sort out if it is the job itself - or if it is the return to a regular job schedule, from which I have been on hiatus since June 2006. I came to enjoy my meandering, extremely broke, existence. However, I have liked getting up and coming to work - my sleep schedule seems to have snapped right back to regular hours, and it is nice to talk with the people in this office.

(Dawn whispering to self - "Interactions with humans is good, interactions with humans is good!")

Plus, since no one was beating down my door to employ me as a free lance observer of life, the money will come in handy as Em goes back to school and we get walloped with the associated fees.

Sigh. It is time for me to go back. I will catch up with you all soon.

Meditations on a Theme

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Dear Period:

You psyched me out this month, I'll hand it to you. That little "cramping and spotting on Thursday night only to disappear until she had forgotten about me Sunday afternoon and was in Vermont" trick was new. I fell for it.

Dear Tampax:

I bought your "jumbo" box of assorted tampons today. Two things. First Kudos on coming down in price. I think these boxes were like 15 bucks when I first started my "cycle" 25 years ago. Of course, now that I think about it, you are probably using chemical soaked faux cotton from China....so I need to STOP thinking about it before I get all freaked out. Second, come close Tampax. I see here in this box many of the Super version, and some of the Regular...but whats this here? Lite? Lite tampons?

Tampax, Tampax, Tampax. I am 37 years old. I have borne a child. What am I supposed to do with these "lite" tampons? Tie three of them together and make a Super? Construct a house for Playmobil people from them? No adult woman needs these tampons. If you believe that we do, then your marketing and research people must be fired immediately. Actually, I think they must not sell, so you trick us into buying them when we buy the Jumbo boxes. Crafty bastards.

Dear Always Overnight Pads:

Stop changing your damn packaging design. I finally found what I am pretty sure are the ones I buy, only to find that you have changed what the pad looks like. But that didn't bother me as much as removing the backing and finding that the wings portion of your product has ADDITIONAL backing to remove. It is not a Present. I do not need twelve layers to unwrap. This is clearly not the moment to spring design changes on me.

Dear New Job I start tomorrow:

I will try to be very medicated (Hurrah! Advil Liquigels and Prozac) and have ingested as much coffee as I can hold before arriving on your proverbial doorstep. The fact that you have booked me into meetings/lectures kind of scares me, as this is not my primary field of expertise. In fact, I would say that this lies about 286 degrees away from my primary field of expertise. However, I am willing to give it the old broke graduate student try. I only hope that I do not break down and cry due to the reasons stated above. If I feel so inclined, I plan on poking myself in the eye in order to fake an injury which would require tears.

I pity the fool

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Montreal QC-

In a shocking follow up to our earlier feature, the Metal stairs granted a never before given interview.

Although rather demure in appearance, the Stairs clearly pack more of a punch than one might expect.

"I pity the fool who attempts to step down my treacherous passageways without first answering my questions...", the Stairs exclaimed. "Why, you should have seen her - Talking away on the phone, shucking corn - pretending like I wasn't even good enough to be under her feet!"

The Stairs followed with this tidbit of gossip, "Speaking of feet, she often paints her toes out here right on me. Let me tell you. Her feet aren't as special as she would like people to believe!"

Asked about the rumors that Metal Stairs had been seen canoodleing with a certain Walmart metal carriage corral, the Stairs had no comment. "Who I canoodle with is none of your damn business", said the Stairs menacingly.

The tell tale corn husks still littering the ground around the bottom, the Stairs expressed no regret for the six pack of whoop ass that it opened on the unsuspecting Dawn.

"She deserved it.", the Stairs sneered.

When reached for comment, Dawn spoke in guarded terms about the Stairs. "No, I haven't spent any time on the back porch area since. And Yes, I am still requiring the Advil Liquigels upon my awakening in the morning. The bruises are fading, but good lord. I don't heal as fast as I used to."

When asked about the alleged "questions" asked by the Stairs prior to her fall, Dawn looked up thoughtfully. "I think it was something about the air speed velocity of a Laden African Swallow...but I didn't know the answer."

Dawn Vs Stairs

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Montreal,QC. -

In a stunning display of lack of coordination yesterday, Dawn was handed a crushing defeat in her long time rivalry with the back stairs.

Witnesses tell Balefulregards that Dawn seemed to be simply minding her own business, shucking sweet corn on the back steps yesterday when the unthinkable happened.

" I was talking with her on the phone, and heard her walk back into the house, place the now denuded corn on the counter and walk back out to gather the bag with the corn droppings when there was let loose an other worldly scream", the elusive other Mrs Baker is quoted as saying.

"I kept saying, "Dawn? Dawn?" when I heard a voice say "I'M OK", the witness continued. "It was clear, however, that she was NOT Ok as her voice had that funny clearly injured quality to it." Ruling out the assumption that her spouse pushed her down the stairs the other Mrs Baker continued, "Then I heard Terrance Yell out the window, "What happened?" to which Dawn yelled back "I fell down the stairs!!"

It was at this point that the other Mrs Baker grew solemn. "Then he made the mistake of saying "How did you do that?".I could tell that really pissed her off cause she began to yell at him that she didn't know and that she thought she was really hurt and to come help her! Then, I heard a voice say "I'll call you back..." and the line went dead."

Witnesses in the home tell Balefulregards that Dawn then crawled back up the metal stairs, into the kitchen and lay face down on the floor, sobbing. Phrases overheard included "I can't feel my arm", "I think I broke something" and "Imreallyreallyhurtdonttouchmejesuschristimeanitdonttouchme".

Following a gingerly administered exam, Terrance determined that Dawn did not break her arm, but did bruise the hell out of several parts of her body. He then pulled her to an upright position and led his hysterically crying wife to the bedroom where he applied a sack of ice to her elbow and offered her copious amounts of Advil.

Reached for comment today, Dawn expressed admiration for the sneak attack methods applied by the metal stairs in their overwhelming defeat of her dignity and physical well being. "I can barely fucking move", said Dawn through her haze of Advil. "And this massive bruise highlights my arm fat to perfection. It is as if you CAN'T look away from my fat, bruised arm. I hurt muscles I was unaware of possessing. I salute you, metal stairs."

A rematch is not expected anytime soon.

Diametrically Opposed

Monday, August 06, 2007

Me: "Its so weird to have cool air blowing in the window - and RAIN!"

Terrance: "I don't know if it's weird..."

Me: "It is if you consider how hot it was just a few days ago."

Terrance: "I don't know if it was SO hot...."

Me: "Are you kidding!?!? It was like the devils ball sack!"

Terrance: (loooooong pause) "Um ....Ok."

My people

Friday, August 03, 2007

I have never suggested than I have come from anything than very humble beginnings.

I was born in West Virginia. You can all insert the banjo music right now and be done with it. Yes- Wheeling, West Virginia is my birth place.

My father was one of five kids, and my mom was one of four. They were neighbors of a sort, my grandparents, as they lived on farms which were near each other. Maybe a ten or fifteen minute walk. They both still live in those houses in the Ohio Valley.

My mom's family was middle class. My Grandfather, after the world war, became a meat cutter at a local grocery store. My Gramma gave up her brief career as a congressional secretary to raise her family.

My father's family were farmers. Of German heritage, they remained farmers until the kids grew up and moved away. Some of my fondest hot summer memories are of ponies and plum trees, cicadas and garter snakes under cucumber leaves. It was no big deal for the grandchildren to disappear into the woods for the whole day only to reappear to get sleeping stuff and disappear back into the woods surrounding the fallow fields. There was hunting and eating of what was brought back. There is a rather "infamous" story of my mother's attempt to barbecue squirrels my father shot during a rather lean time. Let's just say that even the dogs refused to eat them.

My parents married the October before I made my debut in April 1970. They were eighteen, which was more common in 1969 than it might be today. My father had enlisted in the Marines during the height of the Vietnam war and departed after the wedding and my mother stayed in nursing school despite my father's vehement disapproval. She had to double up on her coursework, squeezing three years into two, as the school made an exception for her stay. Only unmarried, not pregnant ladies were to be educated - and she was now both Married and quite pregnant. The nuns, I am sure, were appalled.

Of the children in my fathers family, there were 18 grandchildren produced. This may be a low number, as I suspect there are a few more floating around the valley and parts unknown who may bear a striking resemblance to my father and uncles. The Rouse's are not known for their lack of fertility. In fact, nearly all of my cousins had their first baby during their teen years. Most dropped out of high school. Some got their GED's. Some did not.

My grandmother Rouse once told me that my brother and I went through high school so "quickly". She was not being ironic. She was of old time valley stock, and still used the word "colored" to describe my now husband. To her, it was a wonder than Donnie and I seemed to go forward without falling into the pitfalls of teen pregnancy and early marriage. My subsequent college career must have seemed other-worldly to them, for both Donnie and I went to and finished undergraduate degrees. To my knowledge, this is something that the other members of my family did not do.

Anyone who has been in the Ohio Valley knows that this is one of the faces of poverty. Deep, generational poverty wrapped in coal mining and the decline of the steel industry. These are people who worked hard for their living - brutally hard, that is if they could find work. My mothers brothers, who came of age in the mid 70's, ended up being caught in a cycle of closing steel mills and foundries. I am not sure than either of them ended up ever finding meaningful long term work.

Work in the foundries was hard. I recall going to pickup my father after a late night shift with my mother. He worked there between enlistments in the Marine Corps and my most pressing memory of the foundry was the front of the building.

It was open to the night air. I always imagined that Hell looked like the inside of the building, as you could see the red hot metal being poured into the molds. The cauldron would tip and the molten metal would pour out. My father would tell stories of men being burned by the metal, or otherwise injured and I worried for him until I would see him emerge ~ Sooty, sweaty and smelling like hot liquid steel.

Work in the coal mines was not much better, and my aunt took a job as one of the only female coal miners in her company. It was not a profession that took kindly to the intrusion of women into what was considered a mans job, but it was by far the best paying job around.

When I began working with families in poverty in New Hampshire, I realized that these people were MY people. The people that I helped straighten out issues in their assistance cases, making sure their child care providers got paid - or that they had the correct information regarding their re-application dates, or what they needed to provide to determine eligibility - They were my family.

I did not feel better than they, nor did I feel that they needed to be punished for being poor. I understood them. I understood the histories, the dramas, the cycle of being caught in something bigger than yourself, for that is the story of my own family. I treated the clients with respect and equity, never allowing them to be abusive or threatening and reminding them that screaming or swearing at me would not get the problems solved. My co-workers would tell me how calm I was on the phone, even on the face of some very difficult phone calls.

Perhaps this is why I have always been attracted to the underdog causes. I mean Early Childhood Education? The year I was accepted to Columbia for my Master's degree I earned a whopping 13,000 for the whole YEAR. That was with a B.S. in education, working 40 plus hours per week.

Perhaps this is why I have often considered myself a translator between two very different worlds that exist in American society, and why I have never been afraid people who are living in poverty.

For I am no different, deep down. I am from the same type of background and family. My life, however, took a different path and I was given a skill set which allows me to navigate the waters of academia and bureaucracies.

So even with a Bachelor's degree, a Master's degree and a PhD in progress, I am no different.

Those people are my people.

Promiscious Luggage

My luggage has arrived.

Well, not really - I had to drive to the airport in Montreal and pick it up, since they couldn't deliver it because it had no customs paper declaring it to be safe to enter Quebec.

And those "Bliss" travel bottles I swiped from the W? Could be used to start some kind of in country revolution.

I am not really sure where my bag has been. We parted in Chicago at 4:45 a.m.on Sunday.

I know exactly what I had in my bag. I mean, after all - I did not let anyone else pack my bag. I KNOW THE RULES FCC!!!

So to open your bag and find this? Something you know for SURE you did not pack?

And to furthermore find it inside your open shoe box?

If one of my shoes becomes an unwed mother, you and I are going to have big problems, United Airlines. Not to mention the STD tests I am going t have to take them to the clinic to get.

Jesus. You let you luggage out of your sight for five days, and it goes whorin' it up through god knows where with satchels and clutches. I am sure some of those damn backpacks and duffel's were involved - those scraggly "back pack through Europe" types?

Such smooth talkers....

Mea Culpa, Schick

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I looked down my nose at you.

I thought I was far too good for you.

I ran around with the high end, pricey gang.

I wrapped myself in my environmentally conscious rationale.

But, I have to admit. When the shit hit the fan, and my luggage was/is lost from Sunday until Thursday, you really came through for me.

I love you pink, disposable razor.

Odd Girl Still Out

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Despite the feeling by some present at this years BlogHer, it did feel different for me this year.

Perhaps it was my year long foray into the year of the deep dark mental illness - you know - the unpretty side of being crazy that made me more sensitive to the feeling that I just didn't belong anymore.

Since I got home, I have been sitting with these feelings. Trying to wrestle out what is my stuff, what I perceived, what I felt. Why did I just feel so sad after being at BlogHer?

What I am coming to realize is that Blogging is a business. I don't say that with scorn in any way, as I am earning a very modest amount from my collection of blogs and contracts. This money allows me to buy some of the things I need without asking Terrance for cash, and gives me some of the freedom I lost when I gave up not only my employment, but my ability to seek jobs freely. I am an American in Canada on a student visa. I am not allowed to work, except in very specific places ( like on campus).

Having taken a year in which I wrapped myself in a bubble and struggled through the murky waters of my brain, I failed to watch what was going on in the outside Blog-o-sphere. The world has noticed that there is money to be made here, writers of considerable talent who can talk about more than how cute their child(ren) may be on any given day.

While I slumbered in my medicated cocoon, things changed. My beloved hobby is now a business and I am forced to view myself and others through these new eyes. I am a business. As such, there is an element of competition and self promotion that leaves me feeling like academia is right for me. At least that game, the one of professors and teaching assistantships - getting co-authoring credit on academic writing, I know how to play.

This other game? The one of cocktail parties and social networking? I suck at this. It makes me nervous and uncomfortable. My anxiety levels rise and I get silent...or start to drink to calm myself...which means I get goofy and decidedly UNSMOOTH.

I see others for whom this seems easy and wish I knew the secret. I feel jealous at their ease, the way in which others are drawn to them. On one hand, I want to know how to get invited to the reindeer games. I want what will also horrify me and make me deeply unsettled ~ I want admiration, I want the cooing, the squealing, the fussing over and being best beloved of people.

I wish I knew the secret. But I don't. I haven't figured it out in 37 years and I doubt the grand epiphany will occur any time soon.

Blogging has grown up and I remain hoping that the other blogging ~ the one I fell in love with ~ will return to hold my hand and tell me that it still loves me.

But you can never go back.
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