Friday, April 30, 2010

"Those poor rats..." followed by a heavy sigh.

You're saying, "Wait, we already know the story of the Rats with the little Nike shoes."

That's true, you do. This is an update. You didn't realize that it could be updated, did you? You thought your rat history lesson was over at the end of that story. Well, it turns out that it is not.

I've made mention about how we need to raise funds for our youngest daughter to go to New York City with the high school orchestra. And there's an Interweb person who is going to help us out by mentioning the attempt at fundraising on her insanely popular website. I have to set up a Paypal and an Etsy shop and the lovely and psychotically funny April Winchell of Regretsy fame will tell her brethren about us and hopefully we can raise enough money to send two kids (our own and another). There's no set goal in cost, because any money raised will be put into the pool and lower the overall cost for everyone. But, more on that later...

Thursday (April 29) I had parent/teacher conferences at the high school. I told Mr. P (the orchestra teacher) about the fundraising we were hoping to do. I had to talk as fast as I could because the high school conferences are set up in the gymnasium and the teachers are alphabetically set up at tables. You go to who you need to and that's that (lots of walking and standing). Anyway, I'm one of those courteous bastards who tries not to take up too much time. Anyway, Mr. P was very interested in our proposal and wrote down this website (Hello, Mr. P!) and to Regretsy.

The plan, thus far, is to have DG make up some little birdhouses or bird feeders. You know, something small and easily mailable. April Winchell of Regretsy fame told me how to price things so the shipping is included and all the profits will go to the orchestra fund. Now, along with small wooden things that DG can make, one of us ("us" being me, Kat or Ceej) will draw up a picture of a rat wearing little Nike shoes (or wearing "globally trademarked athletic footwear"). We'll get prints made and sell those too. And there is where the conversation today started.

We were going over what we have planned in the near future- Jase's high school graduation, our dog is having puppies, Ceej's 17th birthday is coming and DG needs to drive down to North Carolina to take a big porch swing and a plant stand to his parents. And I told him about talking to Mr. P last night (because as I type this, its still Friday). I said, "You have to make a bunch of small stuff for me, birdhouses or bird feeders- your choice." DG agreed and said something about how he knows he has to do that... and I added, "I still have to draw up a picture of the rat wearing little Nike shoes."

Then, I told him about Ceej's concept of what the picture should look like: A rat, sitting down, reading a book ("Rat History" of course), wearing globally trademarked athletic footwear, and a group of younger rats are gathered around to listen to the story... and they are also wearing the little Nike shoes.

DG: "You know that's sad. They have to listen to that story so they don't make the same mistakes. Always wear your little Nike shoes. You don't wanna get stone bruises and blisters on your little rat feet."

Me: "That's why they take rat history class."

DG: "They're wearing little T-shirts too, not all of them, just the ones who do it- the 'Walk for Life'."

Me: "Whose life? All the rats on the road are long-dead. It happened in Shakespeare's time."

DG: "I know. They walk in a marathon- some of them run- and they raise money for the rats."

Me: "Why would they raise money for dead rats?"

DG: "Not for the dead ones, for their families, you know... what's the word? They're desss... [I said "descendants"]... yeah, their descendants. So they never have to go without little Nike shoes. And those rats who can't afford little Nike shoes. They have to get shoes somewhere. But you know those poor rats, they're not wearing Nikes. They're wearing cheap-ass shoes. But that's okay, because if they wear those, they won't get bruises. Nikes are better, but any shoe is better than no shoe. [pause] Well, shoes, really, because who only needs one shoe? Rats need four."

Me: "How is the rat holding a book if he's wearing shoes on both sets of feet?"

DG (looking at me like I'd grown a second head): "What? Who- what are you- OH! Yeah, yeah, okay, the rats walk on the back feet. Like that rat in that movie. You know that rat? He was in the movie?"

Me: "Ratatouille?"

DG: "Yeah, he walked on his back feet and he did just fine. But he was a city rat. They don't have to walk on rocky dirt roads."

Me: "So, let's get this straight- rats wear little Nike shoes to keep from getting little stone bruises and blisters because their ancestors all died on the 'Road of Death' leading out from London and they hold a walk for charity to buy shoes- not always Nike shoes- for poor rats who can't afford it?"

DG: "That's right. [pause] You know those shoes that are on the wires?" (you see them in cities/towns, thrown over power lines. Some say its a gang thing, but its also a military thing). "Those are put there by rats to honor their dead ancestors who died on the road. And its a reminder to never go on a long walk without your little Nike shoes."

So, there you have it. Rats listen to the story, go on charity walk-a-thons, and throw old shoes over power lines all to honor the poor dead rats from Shakespearean days who needlessly died on the way out of London to the Royals' "country home" ten miles outside of the city's walls. The next time you see a pair of shoes over a power line, you will remember the rats and you will mourn for them.

EXTRA UPDATE: I finished typing the above and before I could add links and such, I had to get up from the desk and deal with "real life" (who needs that?!). I told DG that I was getting ready to post the updated story. He said, "Why? They don't do nothing."

Me: "Who doesn't do anything?"

DG: "The rats. They already know the story."

Me: "But don't you think the story should be shared with humans? Rats can't share it, they don't speak 'human'..."

DG put his hand to his head and said in a gravelly, intense voice: "They come to me in my sleep! They share things with me! Gruesome things! The rats! The bruises! OHHHH!" and then he pretended to pass out.

DG is nothing if not dramatic.

And a photo bonus. Some of you may have heard about "Boobquake". If not, you should Google it. There's a Facebook group for it. The gist of it is, an Iranian cleric blamed women who dress provocatively for earthquakes and leading men astray, and contributing to pre-marital and extramarital sex. So, to prove this person was... insane, they staged "Boobquake". Women the world over wore cleavage-baring shirts. I got DG in on the act.

This is my photo from Boobquake (I added text in Photoshop, it isn't official text). Mine is also my daily submission in my 365days Self-portrait project on Flickr.

73 of 365 Boobquake 2010!!

Now, after I did my photo, DG decided he should get in on it. As you recall, DG likes boobs. So, he showed his support for Boobquake in his own way. He suggested putting his shirt up like that and he posed, making that face all on his own.

He posed all on his own...

Rock the boobs... rock the boobs.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

High Definition is brainwashing!

A few years ago, we gave in and got a new TV. The big-ass console TV (forever now to be referred to as BACTV) served us well, but had started to die a slow and painful death. Randomly, BACTV would cut to black and white. It would get a weird green-ish arc across the top of the screen. To get it back, we'd have to tap the sides. Really hard. Plus we had picture-in-picture, which was handy when we first got it, but then cable companies started to only offer movie channels with a cable box and lo and behold, PiP is gone!

So, we got a wide-screen HD TV. Its nice. It also has these settings we don't understand. For a few years- and I've told this story before- HD sat on top of BACTV. We were almost a Jeff Foxworthy joke in that we had a new TV sitting on top of an old TV- but the old one was still a working TV (unplugged). Then, finally, DG made that aforementioned and photoed cabinet.

One of the settings we kept screwing up (and Shawn can attest to this) was the screen. We had it set to "automatic" so it would switch itself when we changed channels. But it didn't really. So, we put it on wide-screen and left it there. After a while, we never noticed how stretched out and flat-looking everything appeared, even people's faces. When Shawn came for his visit in March, he showed me that it did, indeed, look bad. I tried to convince DG that it was bad, but he kept switching the picture view back to wide-screen.

In March, the cable company offered us a deal we couldn't refuse. Basically, we'd get ALL the movie channels, plus the Internet upgrade, plus HD channels and we'd get our phone switched to them- cutting our overall output for it all by about forty bucks (which is what our landline cost us). Along with the HD movie channels- which I really like- we got some regular TV channels and some cable channels- to which you're saying, "Well, duh, Patty, we get it, you got HD now."

The HD cable box, as some of you know, comes with the HDMI cable thingy (that's an industry term, I swear). So, our TV now automatically switches from wide-screen to not-wide-screen for the older shows. And the picture looks great- even if seemingly cuts off the sides for the older shows. We (as in, me, Shawn, each of the kids) have explained to DG how and why HD does what it does and how much nicer HD is in just a general way. DG swears he can't see the difference. And he says we're wasting "three inches of screen!" on the sides. I asked him why we weren't wasting three inches of screen on the top and bottom when a movie on DVD is "letterboxed" (which is old-timey speak for wide-screen). He had no answer (because you can't fight the brain-washing, I suppose).

We have showed him, literally, the same show- in fact, with NASCAR. "See? See how vibrant the colors are and how shiny the cars are? Look, you can see the wrinkles in Mark Martin's forehead!"

DG replied: "They're all stretched and skinny!"

Me: "That's how they're supposed look. That's normal."

DG: "No. They're stretched."

Me: "No, it means the other way is wrong. They're not supposed to be wide and flat."

He doesn't believe us. No matter how much we show him the difference. And thus brings today's Conversation with the Disabled Guy.

DG: *yelling in mock anger* "They got you brainwashed!"

Me: "Who?"

DG: "The stuff that looks real!"

Me: "You mean, real life? We're brainwashed by how things are supposed to look?"

DG: "Yeah! And they got you thinking TV is supposed to look real! The TV people, the real life people! They got your brain all washed up! You don't know, but they do!"

Me: "But that's how things are supposed to look... bright, vibrant, not flattened out and stretched to the sides."

DG: "You're all just brainwashed! Things don't look real! They look fake!"

As I was typing this, he changed his story- apparently, "the government" has us brainwashed into believing HD TV is better than regular TV.

"High Definition is a LIE!" he declares, raising his hand in the air. "You don't see things in real life! You just think you do!"

I told him: "I'm using my eyes. I don't think I'm seeing things, I AM seeing things."

DG lowered his voice and hissed: "You're in the Matrix! You see what the Matrix wants you to see!"

Me: "Now that's a movie that would look good in HD!"

On top of this- the HD being a lie enforced by the government and brain-washing all of us into believing stuff looks better- the DVR we have is "evil and from the devil!"

How is that?

Because he's recording the race that was canceled from yesterday and Jase is recording the new episodes of "The Simpsons". At the moment, we have I think, three things recording at the same time.

"How is that possible!?"

Kat said, "Its magic, Dad. Magic!" followed by a gesture with her hands implying she knows magic.

We had chicken for dinner tonight (bawk-bawk!). DG asked if he threw the chicken bones on the floor, which one of us could read them... because we're all brain-washed, evil-machine owning magicians.

But he's watching the new episode of "The Simpsons" in HD. So... we won.

Monday, April 19, 2010

You can't have my eyes, I'm still using them

Kat, our oldest (she's 20), resembles DG more than Ceej, our youngest (16). DG exclaimed that she does not look like him. We all declared that she has his eyes.

DG: "No! She doesn't have my eyes!"

Me/Ceej: "Yes, she does, look!"

DG: "If she's got my eyes, what the hell am I seeing with!?"

I explained that Kat does have his eyes (really squinty eyes) and Ceej piped up that she had his chin.

DG: "Not my chin! What is this?" He stroked his chin. "I have a chin of my own."

Ceej: "I look more like Mom. I have her eyes, and luckily, her eyebrows. I wouldn't want your eyebrow."

DG: "What do you mean? Eyebrow? I have two!"

Both girls declared that he does, in fact, only have one... over both eyes.

There the conversation disintegrated into a discussion of eyebrow plucking and wild "old-man eyebrows". Then... out of the random blue, he said: "You know Bruno?" (of course we know Bruno, he's the 14 pound puppy of Luna and Jasper). "He's like when a tiger and a lion have sex."

Dead silence. Finally I said, "What?"

DG: "You know, when a lion has sex with a tiger and it has a baby and its a Liger. You take a toy (Jasper) and a standard (not really Luna, but okay), you get a Liger."

All three of us stammered around another: "What?!"

Apparently, in DG's mind, Jasper- who weighs four pounds- and Luna- who weighs six pounds- are like a tiger and a lion being bred to create the giant "Liger". DG is comparing a Chihuahua puppy to a 1400 pound cat of prey.

I really don't know how to explain the entire randomness that was this whole conversation.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Three Conversations in less than ten minutes

DG loves the show "iCarly". Its a teen show on Nickelodeon and the kids have watched for years. DG just discovered it in the last six months and now we have to watch it ALL the time even though he has caught up on all the seasons he missed. Every now and then, he'll ask a question about an episode or a character, so I go over to the IMDb website and look stuff up. Why me? Because I'm ALWAYS in this computer chair.

I don't even remember the original reason for looking stuff up today, but it became about the actors' ages. If you know the characters, the three main ones (Carly, Sam and Freddie) are all under 18, but "Sam" has her 18th birthday this summer. There's another character named Gibby who is a chubby kid who likes to take his shirt off. I know all this sounds ridiculous, but if you know the show- you know what I'm going on about. So, I said something about Gibby that someone posted on an IMDb (which is a hilarious place to read because some of those people are insane). DG came into the room in the middle of my reading it out loud (that Gibby looks like a kid on "Cake Boss") and asked me who I was talking about.

I asked if he knew who Gibby was (and I have to call them by their character names because he hasn't a clue to their real names). He did- "the chunky kid who always takes his shirt off." So, I told him- and of course, he had no idea who "Cake Boss" is, much less his nephew, who looks like Gibby. So, I continue reading and saying little facts out loud.

Me: "Hey, Gibby has four siblings. Three brothers and a sister. But it doesn't say if he's the youngest or not."

DG: "How old is he?"

Me: "About fourteen years old."

DG: "And he's got KIDS?!"

Me: "No... he's got siblings."

DG: "What are siblings?"

Me: "Brothers and sisters."

DG: "Oh, thank God... because fourteen is way too young for him to have kids. Even though he's famous and stuff."

He kept muttering- about the "iCarly" kids and about the new DVR thing we've got on our cable. As you all recall, DG is an avid NASCAR fan. He was looking to set a reminder about the race tonight (its a night race) and suddenly realized he could set the DVR to record it tonight and then watch it in the morning. He's been busy in his shop, building a swing (done) and a wooden trunk for his mother. He doesn't like to stop working- seriously, sometimes I have to remind him to eat.

So, those of you with DVR know that it gives you the option to record "beyond the program length" because of it being a live sports program. And NASCAR is like football- it can and does go past its scheduled time. DG was muttering to himself and saying random things louder that made no sense.

I sighed and said, "Oh, my gawd."

DG: "Yes? Can I help you?"

Me: "You're not God."

DG: "You don't know that, I could be."

Me: "But you're not 'God'... you're not even 'a god'."

DG: "Fine, be that way."

Me: "God, or 'a god' would know how to program his DVR..."

DG: "Oh, then YOU do it!"

Three seconds later, I had the DVR set to record the entire NASCAR race and two hours past it. He called me a showoff then said, "Wait, can I get this in that dee stuff?"

Me: "Yes, you can get it in HD." So, I deleted that recording and then had to find the HD channel for the local FOX network.

DG: "Oooh, you're not so fast now, are you, you showoff?"

Me: "If you don't shut up, I'll punch you in the face."

DG: *feigning shock* "That would be uncalled for!"

Me: *as I clicked the buttons to add the program (plus two hours) to the DVR* "But I would feel better." and I handed him the remote.

DG: "It wouldn't be a good feeling."

Me: "I just said it would make me feel better, BETTER is good." And I touched his cheek with my fist. "Just imagine that in high speed."

DG: "OH! I've been hit!"

Now, I was all ready to leave you with these three conversations that took place in less than ten minutes. But, as I started to type this up, an anti-virus scan update started. So, I saved the first paragraph and went to make lunch. By then, DG had gone to his shop and come back in. He's staining that wood trunk and was washing out the rags and stuff he uses to stain with, in the sink. I loathe sandwiches. I will only eat a cold sandwich if it is from a nationally-known sandwich chain or if I'm really hungry. So, I decided to make a sandwich.

I said, "Don't tell Kat (our oldest child who buys her own lunch foods for work), but I'm going to eat some of her spinach on my sandwich."

DG: "Are you Popeye the sailor man?"

Me: "No, but if I have to eat a sandwich, I'm going to have spinach leaves on it, its good and I need the dark, leafy green stuff."

There was a slight pause as I made my crappy sandwich (crappy because I don't like them). Then I added, "I suppose its not a big deal that I eat this, if I don't, it'll go bad."

DG: "Why would it go bad?"

Me: "Because Kat doesn't always eat fresh stuff fast enough."

DG: "Is that her spinach?"

Me: "It usually is when I say 'Don't tell Kat, but I'm eating her spinach'... that should have been a big clue to you, don't you think?"

DG: "Yeah, you'd think so, wouldn't you?"

Me: "Are you having a conversation in your head without me? Because if you are, you're not going to understand our conversation."

DG: "I might be, but I can't tell you. Its classified."

Now DG is a spy in the secret conversation network.

So, we had four conversations today- three within ten minutes and the other about fifteen minutes later. And for all three, he was having some other conversation in his head.

I asked him, a few moments later, if the world in his head was a pretty place. He sighed and said it was. But there were no unicorns. "Everyone knows unicorns are cranky bastards."

Sunday, April 4, 2010

My Very First Conversation with the Disabled Guy...

Oh, friends, I'm going to take it down a notch today. Shawn left last Wednesday and I've been feeling melancholy in general, but its also April. DG became DG fifteen years ago this month. He says that his "anniversary" doesn't bother him, but he becomes a right jerk around this time of year. His stroke happened on April 13, 1995.

I've told the story many times, how it was payday and I was out of the house with the kids when the trucking company called. This was before everyone on the planet had a mobile phone. I was on the phone with the Ask-a-Nurse helpline because our then-five year old had chickenpox and I didn't have a family doctor yet. Jerry- as he was called back then- had gotten out of the Army on October 3, 1994 and we had six months of health coverage left. It ran out on April 3 and nothing had happened that I needed to find one sooner. It was just one of those things I put off. Well, the nurse helpline was finding a doctor that accepted our new insurance and I got a special call-waiting beep which meant Jerry was calling. I told the nurse I'd call back and she said she'd mail the info to me anyway. I clicked over, expecting Jerry to reply. Instead it was a woman named Linda Sue for Schnieder National Trucking.

As she told me about Jerry collapsing, a million things ran through my mind. It had to be the heat, he never drank enough in the heat. He didn't eat breakfast because he slept in the truck after reaching his destination, so he just sort of passed out. Its not hot in [Washington] D.C. in April, you idiot. He drank a couple Cokes for breakfast, so he's fine... Linda Sue stayed on the line with me and connected me to the ER doctor. The ER doctor didn't want to tell me anything on the phone. He was being extremely vague and seemingly annoyed with me. I said, "Look, I've got three small kids. I'm in Savannah, Georgia. I need to know what's wrong with him now so I can make some arrangements and get up there."

"We think he's had a stroke."

Jerry was 28 years old.

Now, fifteen years later, we know how and why and we basically live our lives day-to-day. And, as you know from reading this blog, sometimes, he's fun and funny. I don't post about the non-fun and unfunny times because any time I try to explain it, it seems angry and I don't want this to become a sniping, bitter blog.

I hope this will be my only serious blog.

After I found out what happened, Linda Sue gave me directions, her personal office number, and I made arrangements for our dog and cat to be looked after. (turns out that was a mistake, the person never really did look after our pets and my mom and dad returned to our house a week later to an extraordinary mess- alive pets, but MESS!)

I'll skip most of my trip. It was extremely uneventful. Although I want to pass a nod to the truckers on I-95. They gave me spontaneous "Smoky reports" and somehow managed to keep that far left lane clear as I drove north from Savannah at 85+ miles per hour. One guy even paid for my $20 worth of gas so I wouldn't have to get all three kids out of the vehicle and walk all the way into the gas station. And I mean that- he paid. He refused to take my money.

Jerry was unconscious when we arrived in record time. Near Fayetteville, North Carolina, I was supposed to pull off at a rest stop and wait for my in-laws. I didn't have to because as I passed the highway on-ramp, they were coming down. We acknowledged each other, clogged up our CB radios talking for a few moments and didn't stop again till we needed gas and food.

It wasn't till Saturday that Jerry woke up with any kind of coherency. Apparently, when a person has a stroke- basically a brain injury- the brain swells and the person sleeps. Sometimes they put a person in a chemically-induced coma so the brain can heal. But, Jerry always slept off illness anyway. When we were alone in his ICU room, he looked at me and then the right side of his face fell. He was trying to hold back tears, but his paralyzed side couldn't be controlled. His lip curved down, tears fell from his right eye. He held up his paralyzed hand and let it drop. He picked it up again, and let it drop. We were both crying freely by the third time and he dropped his hand and motioned to it. Then he shrugged and shook his head.

I said, "I know. They told me." We cried for a little while.

Okay, now that I'm crying AGAIN, let's move on.

They had given him a feeding tube up his nose. It couldn't have been very comfortable because two days later, he pulled it out. So very casually, Jerry reached up and simply pulled the tube out of his nose. It was decided to leave it out till morning, when they would do a "swallow test" to make sure he could swallow real food.

This woman- I can't remember her title, but she was with the physical/occupational therapy people- came in with a clipboard and two little cups of pudding. We stood around and watched. ("We" being my mother-in-law, father-in-law and one of Jerry's uncles who decided he should come and be a major annoyance). She fed Jerry a little spoonful of pudding, watched his swallowing effort, turned, made some notes on her clipboard... and repeat.

She did the spoonful of pudding thing several times. While she was making some longer notes, Jerry reached up with his good hand and picked up the spoon. He proceeded to eat the rest of the pudding- both cupfuls. When she turned back to pick up the spoon, Jerry was sitting, calmly staring at her. We all burst out laughing- Jerry included (though he didn't make any noise). She chuckled and decided he could be put on a "soft food diet" till they did a better test later in the day. Jerry's dad and the jerk-uncle went down to the vending machines and bought all the pudding they could carry.

Later that day, he was put on a normal food diet. His swallowing hadn't been compromised by the paralysis.

Now on a totally different note- I don't have anything set up yet, but our youngest daughter, Christine ("Ceej") is in orchestra in high school. She'll be a senior next year (that's the last grade before college, for my non-American friends who don't keep track of USAian school customs). The school's orchestra has been invited to New York City and we have to raise funds for that trip. Now, to lessen the blow on parents, the kids and their teacher will be doing fund-raising through the year (we have till next March). Through the help of a famous online person (details to follow as soon as I have them), I'm going to set up a donation account on Paypal and DG will make some small things out of wood. Kat (our almost 21-year-old artist daughter) or I (because I used to be an artist) will draw up a rat wearing "little Nike shoes". We'll be selling stuff through an etsy store where the funds will go to help get the high school orchestra to New York City. (the fact I'll be selling stuff on "etsy" should clue a few of you in to who it is that will be helping me).

Shawn, in his total awesomeness, has already given us some money. I'm going to use that money to open a savings account for Ceej's funds. Anything extra we get will go to the orchestra's funds.

Here's a couple photos taken four months before Jerry became DG. The kids (Kat, Jase, Ceej) were all under the age of five.

If you look closely, you can see some "Wolverine-esque" growth on Jerry's face. He was attempting to grow a beard, but it never got past the "I forgot to shave for five days" look.