Thursday, October 28, 2010

Infestation Revisited

I do realize that the cold season has abruptly come upon us here in MN and that this means that all manner of creatures in addition to humans are seeking warmer environments, but it has been causing some problems for me lately.

I know that I wrote about having mice before, but usually it is just one here or there.  Not so much this year.  I have already had two to clear out of traps and I'm not sure if there are more.  So far there haven't been any in my toilets and my kitchen seems remarkably free of chewed up items.

It all started about a week ago when I found another mouse in my downstairs bathroom trap.  OK, I figured, this is where they usually show up, I can handle it.  Then, a couple of nights ago, I was moving a box in my loft/office area, and I saw something dark dart out from behind the box and go into my guest room.  I knew what it was.

As there had never been any traps set in my guest room to this point, I had to adjust my layout a bit.  I put a trap in the guest room and I then shut the door and barricaded the bottom as I'm pretty sure the sneaky little buggers can get out.  I then departed for two days.

Upon my return home tonight, I cautiously entered the guest room to discover that I had been successful in capturing (and killing) yet another mouse.  This set me off to check the rest of my traps.  After walking around and seeing that none of the other traps had been triggered, I came to the last one that sits behind my living room couch.

As soon as I pulled the couch away from the wall, I knew something was wrong.  Outside the trap (which looks like a little black plastic box) there was a bunch of shredded red material.  I had no idea what this could be, but the trap had been set off.  Oddly there was no mouse tail sticking out the back.  I put on my rubber gloves and picked it up.

To my surprise, not only was all the peanut butter bait gone, but the mouse had actually started to chew and destroy the red plastic covering that sits on the killing bar of the trap.  I was honestly quite shocked - it was like the little creep was giving me the finger!  My only hope is that this cheeky little brat was one of the two creatures already captured by my other traps.  If not, I am in for an interesting winter.

So far, my only method of mouse extermination has been setting traditional traps at various places around my house.  While I feel I have been quite successful, if anyone has any additional tips to offer, I would certainly appreciate it.  I should probably add that despite the plummeting temperatures, I have yet to turn on the heat in my house.  Not only is this conducive to my sleep patterns, but I am also hoping that it will encourage my little rodent house guests to go forth to the warmer climates of my adjoining neighbors... who have cats.  :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bringing Up Baby

There are many people who subscribe to the school of thought that our birth order greatly influences our personality. I have not spent a great deal of time looking into this, but my mother has. According to her, I definitely embody many of the stereotypical “oldest child” traits. I’m not here to argue with that idea, but it makes me think about I came to be the oldest child.

Obviously, I was the first child born to my parents, plain and simple. However, for almost the first three years of my life, I was not the oldest; I was the only.

For most two-year olds the concept of “baby” is a bit one-sided. I hadn’t met many of them, and I certainly hadn’t been allowed to play with one.

So when my parents started talking about “the new baby,” I really had no idea what to expect.

The only “baby” I was well acquainted with was the beat-up doll that I carried around with me everywhere. It used to belong to my mother and I called it “Baby Jennifer.”

Although I didn’t really know what a baby would look like, I gathered that they were cute. This made me wonder if they were anything like kittens, something that I also found to be cute.

All confusion aside, the date quickly came when my mom was due to deliver this “baby.” I don’t remember much about this time, but I do remember what we were doing when she went into labor.

As a child, most of my good friends came to me courtesy of the fact that the women my mother was friends with had children my age. Fortunately, we all got along very well and would play for hours while our moms sat and chatted over refreshments. I really don’t know what they ate and drank, but I always assumed it had something to do with Hostess Cupcakes.

Somehow, my mom and a couple of her good friends ended up getting pregnant in very quick succession. This meant that our play times were supervised by increasingly larger mother-figures.

On the day that the “baby” arrived, we were out at the house of one of these pregnant women (she was carrying twins) who was due about two months after my mom. I spent the time playing with her other two daughters and generally having a grand old time.

Whilst we children continued our merriment, up in the adult world, things were starting to happen. Basically, my mom went into labor. A hasty decision was made to leave and go to the doctor. Sounds simple, right?

Well… not really. As a child, I was quite attached to my social play time. At this point in my life, I was still technically an only child, so any interaction with other kids was a big deal to me. I was also a bit stubborn at this phase of life, but to be fair, I was still in the “terrible twos.”

Perhaps you can guess where this is leading. My mother came to fetch me for our quick departure and I did not react well to her unwanted interruption of what I’m sure was an intense game of My Little Pony or Sylvanian Family.

Not only did I become quite irate, I had to be forcibly carried (kicking and screaming) by my 9-months pregnant in-labor mother. Nice.

The rest of this day is a bit of a blur from me, probably because I took a while to come out of my super-charged rage episode. After that, I was likely quite worn out, so I am not sure how much I noticed that my mother did not come home from the doctor’s office and that I had to spend some time at the neighbors.

The baby, who turned out to be my brother Michael, arrived around 5 p.m. that day. Talk about your easy deliveries – go into labor in the morning and pop out a 10 pound baby before nightfall. When my grandfather called to speak with me about my new brother, I managed to carry on a successful argument with him over the name of said new sibling. It was the first of many debates that would teach me an important truth: sometimes kids are smarter than adults. My grandfather insisted that we had named the new baby Matthew, but obviously I knew better (and I was right).

My first interaction with my new brother and true confrontation of my loss of only-child status came with our visit to the hospital. I was accompanied by several relatives, including my father. The hospital in our small town was not large, but it did boast multiple floors, which meant that it had need of one of the most fascinating pieces of equipment known to most 2-year olds: the elevator.

Upon our arrival, we all rode up to the baby floor in the elevator and my father let me push the buttons. Not ALL of the buttons, mind you, just the one he told me to push. While this was not ideal in my mind, it had to be enough under the watchful eyes of so many adults.

When we finally made it to the room where my mom and new brother were waiting, I was picked up to see what all the fuss was about. I’m pretty sure I was happy to see my mom, but I do not really remember registering any strong feelings of interest in the wrinkly little red thing she had in her arms. If THIS was the baby I had been hearing so much about, it would really need to get a lot more interesting for me to focus attention on it at this point.

Anyway, after our brief introduction, I was placed back on the floor and promptly ignored. Rather than wallow in self-pity at the fact that I now found myself demoted to second cutest child, I opted to ditch the boring baby-love session and find my own adventure.

After casually exiting the hospital room, I wandered away down the hall and approached the only item of real interest to me since entering the building. Obviously, this was the elevator. Once I had carefully ascertained that no adult supervision was imminent, I boldly pushed the call button. When the doors opened and I still was not being pursued by a grown-up, I decided to walk right in to the unoccupied chamber.

As the doors slid closed, I pondered the switchboard. Normally, I was restricted to only pushing one button and it was always the one that my parents told me to pick. This time was different. I had no one telling me what to do, and I was free to push as many (or all) of the buttons. So I did.

When the doors opened again, I was on a new floor. I decided to check out my entertainment options in this new location, so I wandered down the hall. As there were still no adults in sight, I decided to check out the scenery a little more closely. From my brief perusal, the only familiar item appeared to be a drinking fountain. Feeling a bit parched from my journey, I decided to demonstrate my working knowledge of drinking fountains to the invisible hallway audience.

It is at this point in my story that an adult reappears in the form of my father. I’m not really sure how upset he was, but it was apparently entertaining enough to warrant a photograph of me by the drinking fountain that turned out to be too tall for me to reach. I don’t have a copy of that picture here, but I have recreated it in this artist’s rendering:

This shall be the conclusion of my faithful retelling of the day that represents the end of my solo reign as top banana in my family’s child pecking order. The ensuing adjustment period had occasional rocky periods involving pacifiers, My Little Pony and hair rollers, but I eventually learned to accept the fact that I was a big sister. I also learned how to exert my continued dominance in our sibling dynamic that continues to this day.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Loverly Advice

WARNING:  Please do not be misled in thinking that the tone of this blog entry is angry or overly bitter.  My intention (as with most of my entries) is to be a bit sarcastic.  Although there is a legitimate grain of truth in most of what I am saying, I wish to emphasize that this is illustrative and hopefully instructional.  It is also NOT specifically directed at any one person. 

Just to warn you, this entry is going to get personal. Not in a bad way, hopefully.

In case you have not been able to pick up from my blog entries to date, I am single. In my situation this means that not only am I unmarried, but I do not have a boyfriend, am not “seeing” anyone nor do I appear to have any possibilities on the horizon for dates.

Please note that I am not saying this to inspire sympathy, so if you already went there, get yourself out. Believe me, as a 30 year-old female in the midst of friends who are mostly all married and starting families, I am well aware of what people think of my situation.

Normally I would not be drawn to write about this subject, but I was inspired by an interesting comment that my mother relayed to me over the weekend. She had been speaking with a friend of hers and they fell on the subject of marriage or lack thereof. My mom’s friend told her that her sister knew a woman now in her 40’s who is still single. No matter how many times she has been set up on dates or other similar ilk propitiated by well-meaning friends and family, nothing has really clicked.

Thus far, the story is not that inspiring, but eerily familiar. The next step in the conversation is what brought me to this entry. Apparently, the conclusion was that the reason all the attempts to create romance failed was that this woman simply did not really want to be married.

At first, this statement really irritated me. It seemed to be a non-single person’s attempt to explain a single person’s apparent failure to find a mate. Most likely, this non-single person has tried on numerous occasions to set up their single friend with people that they deemed to be high quality, or at the very least, of a certain age and still single.

After I had time to think about it, I started to realize that it is not all their fault. It really just shows how ignorant non-single people can be about the intricacies of dating. Once you are “settled” and do not have to worry or think about finding a date, your instincts for the game almost completely disappear.

In the interest of spreading awareness to the world and to benefit people like myself and this 40 year-old spinster, I am going to give you non-singles some helpful advice.

1. Do your homework. If you’re itching to play matchmaker, make sure that you are well acquainted with both of your set-up subjects. This is extremely important. It is not sufficient to know only one of your subjects as this leads to a major imbalance in the pre-date information exchange. When I am approached by someone that wants to set me up, I always ask important questions, and if my yenta-of-the-moment does not have ready answers, I cannot proceed.

Examples of answers to know: How old is he/she? Where does he/she live? How long have you known him/her? How do you know him/her? Have you spent time with him/her socially? At work? Why do you think I would like him/her? Be specific.

2. Vocabulary. There are certain words and phrases that all singles have been subjected to by almost every non-single they have ever had to speak with about their love life, or lack thereof.

“It will happen when you least expect it.” This is the king of all trite statements and it is completely USELESS. If you learn nothing else from this entry, remember to NEVER use this phrase EVER AGAIN. It is in no way constructive and is solely based on the person’s selective memory that their own special someone magically appeared when they were in no way shape or form seeking a romantic partner. This is pure baloney and you know it.

“You should really join a [insert lame club here].” The location or type of club can changed based on religious affiliations, athletic abilities and/or hobbies, but in the end it is all the same. Yes, SOME people do meet future life partners at such events or group meetings. But if you join solely with the intention of meeting your future spouse, there is a great likelihood that you will be disappointed and that you may lose enthusiasm for the religion/sport/hobby that you once loved.

“Have you tried online dating?” Anyone who has been single for more than six months in this century has probably at least checked out an online dating site and possibly even tried one if not several of them. Online dating is big business, and it places dating firmly into the same category as online shopping. You can pick and choose your way through different pictures and profiles, selectively choosing your favorites. You can even communicate with several people at once, thereby hopefully increasing your odds of finding a quality person amongst the riff-raff. The behavior that would make you a cad in real life is perfectly acceptable in the virtual world.

Again, I realize that this method has worked for some. However, it does have the high probability of destroying your faith in humankind just as easily.

“See that guy/girl standing over there? He/she is cute! You should date him/her!” Really? REALLY??? I sincerely hope people are joking when they say these things.

3. The whole “picky” situation. For some reason, people seem to think that singleness is somehow a function of being overly picky. This would conversely suggest that people who settle down early in life have no standards whatsoever. How does that sound? I thought so. Compatibility is a strange and mysterious subject. If there is any phrase that I do put some faith into, it is “you know when you know.” If we all knew if or when this moment was to occur, there would be no need to waste time dating people who were wrong for us. It doesn’t come down to being picky or not.

To conclude, let me remind you that I am coming to this subject with a spirit of hopeful understanding. Yes, I am single. Yes, I do hope to someday be in a happy and loving relationship like so many of my friends and family. In the meantime, I am living my life and doing what I want and need to do to take care of myself and my own happiness. If I want your advice or judgment, I will ask you for it. I will even consider going on a blind date with that “perfect” guy you have for me, provided you do your homework. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Gone in 1800 Seconds

So normally I am not much for current events, but I have just received word of a story that I simply must recount.  I have already mentioned that my 10 year-old cousin had some car troubles recently.  What I may have neglected to mention is that my cousin lives on a farm.  Perhaps this makes his story a bit less troubling, but at least you all know that it happened on a rural gravel road and not the freeway.

Anyway, I should also tell you that the farm that my cousin lives on is in the same general vicinity as the farm that my grandpa owns.  Yes, this is the grandpa of the rock-picking, poultry literature reading and water microwaving fame.  Technically, my grandpa is retired from farming, but old habits apparently die hard.  He has been known to appear back on the farm to "help" my uncle and cousins with their work, or at least to offer up his uplifting critique of their farming style. 

To be clear, no one is asking or forcing him to assist on the farm.  In fact, I think that most persons involved would be perfectly content for him to remain safely ensconced in his town apartment, only venturing forth for social visits to his other retired farmer friends (who also live in town).  Unfortunately, he still has the use of a car and possesses a valid license. He isn't a bad driver and certainly knows not to drive in bad weather given his slower reaction time.  However, we have been enjoying unseasonably good weather for the past few months, which means that he has been quite mobile.

Anyway, apparently sometime recently (perhaps yesterday) my grandpa was out and about in his normal routine of unasked-for assistance when he had a bit of a vehicular mishap.  Somewhere between the old farm and my uncle's farm, his car suffered a flat tire.  As a cell phone would be both useless reception-wise and confusion-wise, he does not have one.  Fortunately, the weather was nice, so he started to walk to my uncle's farm. 

Along the way, he arrived at another neighboring farm.  As an 84 year-old man who is unaccustomed to walking long distances, he decided to try his luck with the people at this farm.  Don't worry, they weren't strangers, they are probably related to him in some fashion.  Apparently, no one was home.  Too bad, right?

Here is where it gets interesting.  Although no one was at the house, there were apparently several cars sitting in the yard.  Lest you think that this meant people were hiding from him in the house, remember that this is a farm and it's very likely that the owners were out in the field. 

Always the resourceful fellow, my grandpa made an interesting decision.  He checked out the cars that were parked in the yard and found that at least one of them had keys in it.  With what I'm sure was supreme stealth and speed, he got into the car and took it over to my uncle's house.

Now, I do not know the full conclusion of this story, but I am guessing that the car was later returned, possibly without the owner ever knowing it was gone.  However, my grandpa must have been a bit proud of his grand theft auto experience, because he called my uncle in Arizona to brag about his adventure.

So to summarize, in the past month, members of my family have experienced the following car related mishaps:  rear-end collisions resulting in thousands of dollars worth of repairs, vehicle demon-possession resulting in ditch entry and tree collision and flat tires leading to car theft.  Sweet.

If I had to pick a winner, I would have to say that my grandpa takes the prize.  After all, they don't call him the "Mayor of Northfork" for nothing.

UPDATE!  My uncle gave me the rest of the story involving my grandpa's adventure.  Apparently the first truck he tried in the neighbor's yard wouldn't start (the battery was dead).  The second car started, so that is the one he took, but he figured that it belonged to one of the boys because there was loud rock music playing on the radio when he turned it on.  Oh, and it turns out that it WAS the farm of a relative.  It's all sounding very "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" to me for some reason...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cruel and Unusual: A Tribute to the Piano Recital

Perhaps I am feeling a bit high on power at the moment.  Due to the much deserved vacation of my follower and coworker, Mary, I had to run the circus today at work.  It was thankfully a smooth day, and I can sincerely only hope that the rest of the week continues in this manner.  I really do miss the entertaining sound effects that Mary brings to the job.  Hm.

In keeping with my wave of powerfulness, I am going to write a blog entry.  My week is off to a good start - no car accidents so far!  Due to the fact that I have a group presentation looming on Wednesday, I do not have weekly readings for one of my classes, so I've got that going for me as well!

Rather than write more about my school work in its various boring incarnations, I am going to write about something that was inspired by my former boss today at work.  To give you a brief background, I know how to play the piano.  I have played since childhood and still play (for fun) nowadays.  My ex-boss is aware of this fact.  He has a 10 year-old daughter who also plays piano.  This means that he likes to share her progress and problems with me as he feels I will be sympathetic.  Who knows, maybe I do help give some perspective, but responding to parental point-of-view can sometimes be tricky.

The point of this background story is to say that it made me think back on my own music performance issues, particularly the bane of my youthful experiences, the RECITAL.  Even now, my stomach turns and I start to get sweaty palms.  Is this weird?  Was I unusual in my reactions?  Probably not.  While there certainly are people in this world who genuinely like to be the center of attention and to perform publicly (look at American Idol), most people would rather eat boxelder bugs.

I was first introduced to the phenomenon known as the recital at the end of my first year of parent-enforced piano lessons.  Honestly, I didn't know what to expect at first, and once I was finally sitting in front of the whole group to play my song (the classic piece, "Auntie Gravity") I had my first out-of-body experience.

I remember nothing.  I don't remember playing anything, but I think that I did.  What I do remember is that my other song was a duet with my mother, another well known piece, "Fishy Fishy In the Brook."  Thankfully I have never seen a video of the actual recital, but my parents do have a home video of the more intimate family version complete with vocal accompaniment by my then infant brother, Matthew.

In the years that followed, I was forced to continue this torture.  Once we moved to Willmar, the process got even worse.  On top of my piano teacher's recitals, I now had to participate in judged activities that had the potential to lead to more recitals.  This seemed like a pretty perverse prize to me, which is probably why I was a bit hesitant to get on board with the idea.

Unfortunately, one year I managed to perform well at two levels of judged competition and was "awarded" the "honor" of playing in a big concert performance at the University of Minnesota.  Everyone was pretty excited, so I was careful not to let anyone know that I was secretly terrified out of my mind.  Sure, I would be performing with a group and no one would really know what (or if) I was really playing.  But still.

Again, the whole major concert experience was a bit of a blur to me.  My only consolation was that it was a very long and probably boring concert, and my piano-lesson endorsing parents had to sit through it all.

After middle school and junior high, I actually started to enjoy playing the piano and started to do it for more recreational purposes.  I accompanied different groups, I played for nursing homes, I even played Christmas songs at Target one year.  I truly discovered my niche as a supplier of background noise - I was live elevator music.

Unfortunately, most of my piano teachers were not on board with my new mission to blend into the background.  They still attempted to push me into the world of recitals.  Through sheer obstinacy and force of will, I managed to extricate myself from the judged competition scene by my sophomore or junior year of high school.  I did run into a bit of a road block in the form of my 10th grade instructor who was rather insistent that I participate in an end-of-the-year recital with my peers.

I tried everything I could think of short of simply not practicing at all.  I purposely did not memorize any music in the belief that he would never allow me to perform with the book in front of me.  Sadly, he called my bluff and allowed it.  I am pretty sure I really frustrated him, and in the end I did have to perform, but I did so under extreme protest.  Fortunately, this instructor moved away after that year to take a job in the Cities, so I was never to face that battle again.  I am almost completely positive that teaching me had nothing to do with his decision to move.

In hindsight, I probably should have thrown in the piano lesson towel then and there.  For some reason (probably my mother's wishes) I kept going.  Happily, my new teacher for junior and senior year was much nicer and considerate of my lack of desire to perform and be praised.  I was therefore not forced into some mockery of a senior recital and did not have to learn the multiple memorized pieces to go along with it.  Instead, I got to play one major song (with music) at my senior voice recital.  Don't even get me started on those, they were pure insane painful icky torture as well.  However, in the end, I think I got off easy.

To bring this all back to present, I often find that the physical reaction I get when facing school presentations to be similar to the trauma I experienced in connection with piano recitals.  To all you people out there that think forcing your kids to perform, whether it be sports, music, speech, theater or whatever, don't fool yourselves.  You aren't teaching your kids to have confidence.  You aren't helping them build communication skills.  You are only creating long-reaching emotional scars that will haunt your children into adulthood.  If you need proof, just look at me.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

When the going gets tough...

Even though I don't think that my lack of entries this week have raised anyone's ire, I still feel like I should apologize.  My time management seems to have gone out the window lately, and I had planned to give a list of excuses, but that's lame.

Instead, I will give you some good news!  My car was finished this week, so I am once again driving my own very special little Toyota.  It was so wonderful to pull into the lot and see my very own car waiting for me with all its cracks and dents repaired.  Perhaps it is a bit lame that I was so excited, but I won't deny it.

Other than that, life has been pretty normal.  I have a group presentation due for my Management class this week that includes a Power Point presentation.  Let me just say that I find Power Point presentations equally useless on both presenter and presentee ends of the spectrum.  I would rather watch golf on TV than be in the same room as a Power Point show.  Unfortunately, my course grade is dependent on this presentation, so my options are limited.  As it is a group project, my teammates are also dependent on my participation, so I cannot in good conscience avoid participation.

On a happier note, this weekend is one of meetings with good and long-time friends.  Tonight I met my favorite blog-reading newlyweds (and marathon runners), Rox and Bill for dinner.  We shared stories, quoted South Park (at least Bill and I did) and ate good food.  I really hope that they weren't locked out of their B & B due to our extended conversation!

If you know me outside of this blog and spent any time with me this week, you probably noticed that I have been a little bit crabby/tense/psychotic.  While part of this can definitely be chalked up to PMS, I am afraid that I might be in the midst of a mid-semester break-down.

In my former educational experiences (especially high school) I was a bit particular about my grades and GPA.  College mellowed me out a bit, but my unexpected good performance so far in grad school has set my personal expectations a bit too high.

After laying awake for many nights troubled over all the impending doom hanging over my head, I finally remembered something that my summer class professor told us: grades don't matter to future employers.  Apparently, for most places looking to hire MLIS grads, the most important part of the qualification is that you have a degree and that it is from an accredited institution.  Getting a grade lower than an "A" will not disqualify you as an applicant!!!

In order to make this work for me, I have adopted a mantra that my dad likes to use that he learned from Bill Murray's character in the movie "Meatballs."  IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER!  When I am stressed out about beating the grading curve, I will repeat this phrase (out loud or in my head).  It will become my mantra.  I will use it to remind myself that once this course is done, I will never have to repeat it and can move on to classes that are really interesting to me.

OK, now it is quite late and I still have some online searching to do, but if you happen to see or speak to me in the next 7-8 weeks, be sure to remind me of my new slogan.  I'm sure I will appreciate it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

I'll have the chipper chicken!

I have just completed a most awesome and lazy Monday off of work thanks to Columbus Day.  Tomorrow I must return, but hopefully I will hear some good news about my car and the day will go quickly.  I still have a bunch of reading and prep work to do for class this week, but I thrive on chaos.  Right?

As I sat here tonight checking Facebook and emails, I suddenly realized that the past few weeks have been full of exciting news for people in my life.  Engagements, pregnancies, anniversaries, etc.  One of my best friends even announced that she and her husband are relocating to Missouri because of his job promotion.  While I am super excited for this opportunity and what exciting things are in store for them, the selfish part of me is a little bummed to have them move away.  Thankfully, her hubby's job is with an airline, which means that it should be relatively easy (and cheap) for her to come home to visit somewhat often.

For me, this weekend was all about vegging out and catching up on my rest, which is great.  For my father, it meant going out to the family farm and checking the status of the roof on the farmhouse which was supposed to be completed over a week ago (they have yet to start).  During his brief visit, he spent time with my grandfather (of microwaved water fame) and as usual, hilarity ensued.

Before I get into the story itself, I should probably make a confession.  As you may or may not know, I have a tendency to recall random and sometimes useless facts.  By no means do I mean to say that I'm some sort of genius.  I simply mean that one of my personality "quirks" is to break off into tangential explanations when asked simple questions or conversing on a specific topic.

Until recently, I believed that this was unique to me, at least in my family.  However, one day while having one of these moments of tangential thought, it suddenly occurred to me that this habit was quite definitely inherited from my paternal grandfather.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that he is better at it than me.  After all, he has had 84 years of practice.

Now that I have made this connection, I shall make another.  My grandpa likes to read, and he makes good use of his local library.  He tends to prefer non-fiction, but I have no quarrel with that.  Recently, his obsession has been with bootleggers who operated during Prohibition in his MN county of residence.  My dad has strangely taken a bit of an interest as well, or maybe he has just had to listen to my grandpa too much and has been brainwashed.

Anyway, on this weekend's visit, my dad discovered that my grandpa had checked out a new book.  Brace yourselves, it's pretty amazing.  It is "Poultry of the World" by Loyl Stromberg.  At first I found this quite humorous.  To make the jump from rural MN bootleggers to international poultry seemed a bit far-fetched, even for me.  Then I did my research.

Not only did I locate this book on, but I discovered that it is not cheap to acquire.  To buy it NEW from Amazon would cost $144.24!!!  This kindled my interest further, so I Googled the author, Loyl Stromberg.

As a good library student, I will include a link for his mini-bio:

After reading this webpage, I discovered many more reasons why this book would appeal to my grandpa.  My initial assumption was that as a retired farmer who at one point had raised chickens himself, he had personal interest.  Also, my cousins (his grandsons) are raising chickens for egg production at the moment, so perhaps this triggered his curiosity while perusing the library.

Further investigation revealed that the author, Loyl Stromberg, lives (or lived) in Minnesota.  In a blog from 2007, it appeared that Loyl was in his 90's and still alive (  From the mini-bio, it sounds like Loyl may have been a Norwegian.  This fact alone was probably enough to interest my grandpa.  Heck, for all I know they are buddies from his Hallinglag club.  (I'm not going to explain the Hallinglag right now, but I'm sure I will later.)

Why am I sharing this story?  Is it because I am bored?  Am I afraid that the screaming Vikings fans in my neighbor's house will keep me from getting to sleep?  No to both.  I am sharing this because I would like to give you an idea of what kind of interests I expect to have when I am 84.  It's always good to have time to prepare.

My final piece of useful information from my father's visit came courtesy of my 10 year-old cousin.  Apparently, he somehow managed to put his father's truck in the ditch this weekend somewhere by their house (on their farm).  He was fine.  When asked what happened, he claimed that the truck had become possessed and driven of its own accord into the ditch and then into a tree.

Rather than question the plausibility of this statement or wonder why my 10 year-old cousin was behind the wheel in the first place, I am going to take this explanation and use it for the future if anyone else asks me how my car came to be in the repair shop for two weeks.  It was a case of demon possession, pure and simple.  Case closed.  I wonder if my insurance company would believe it?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Update and Discovery!

I am starting to feel guilty about not blogging since Sunday, but I haven't had too many interesting things to share lately.  To be fair, I've been a little pissy lately, so you probably wouldn't want to hear my daily rants anyway.  Here is the quick and dirty update:  my car is STILL in the shop and is likely to remain there until sometime next week, so I am spending money every day to drive a rental car so that I may continue to work and make money to pay for said rental car.  Boo.

On a different note, my October looks to be a bit busier than I originally thought it would be.  Not that I am HAPPY about not taking the trip to Florida, but I am a bit relieved now that my schedule is getting more hectic and I have mounting car repair/rental costs to consider.  Rah. 

The Boxelder Bug situation continues to plague me, but only mostly at work.  Honestly, I believe that I have squished and vacuumed up over 30 of these critters in the past three days.  Most of the time, they do not create a huge disgusting mess when I destroy them, but every once in a while, there is a "juicy" one that creates an absolutely revolting sight on our windows.  Ew.

There has been a bit of excitement lately in MN over some big news in sports.  Now that I have identified myself as quasi-aware of professional athletics, I feel I should make a brief mention of it.  First of all, the Twins are in the playoffs versus the NY Yankees.  Of all the sports teams I've ever followed, the Twins sit at the top of the heap in terms of who I really care about.  The Yankees sit very near the absolute bottom.  I would love to see the Twins beat the pants off the Yankees and show them that substance can beat out huge inflated salary budgets, but ultimately I have no control over the outcome, so I'll just watch and hope.

The other big news is that apparently Randy Moss is coming back to play for the Vikings.  I really have no opinion on this piece of information.  I know some people think that now that we have Moss to play with Favre, we should be unbeatable, but I'll believe it when I see it.  To be honest, I have a hard time not seeing this as a blatant attempt to drum up more interest in the Vikings in order to make another idiotic attempt to secure a new stadium.  In true Vikings fashion, I have a sneaky suspicion that this ploy may not work out quite as amazingly as everyone hopes.

Wow!  I can't believe that I spent that much time on current sporting events! 

For the record, I would really like to write and possibly illustrate a new full-length "memory" themed entry sometime soon, but I have to consult my notes and see what seems most inspiring.  With some big assignment deadlines looming on the horizon, I have to remember that schoolwork is a priority...  This weekend is a 3-day special for me thanks to one Christopher Columbus and his awesome country-discovering ways.  I actually drew some pictures for work to put on the signs notifying people of our closure, but they were not approved for use.  So YOU get to enjoy them!!! 

Good old Chris was not a very smiley guy
I saw three ships come sailing in...
That's right.  Land ho!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sleep to dream...

Happy Sunday to all!  For those of my readers and friends (Bill and Roxanne) who ran or are presently running the Twin Cities Marathon, I hope it exceeded your expectations.  It certainly looks like a beautiful day outside to run 26.2 miles!

I would normally not be writing an entry again so quickly after a long and illustrated one, but this will be a "mini."  I promise. 

Somehow I was able to do a massive sleep-in today, which probably signals that I have NOT been getting enough sleep during the week.  I blame my new attempts to get up at 5:45 a.m. to exercise and my seeming inability to fall asleep before midnight.

Anyway, the interesting thing that came out of my late morning snooze was a semi-repeated dream theme of being back in high school.  Specifically, senior year of high school.  Now, in reality, I would probably rate 12th grade as my least favorite year overall.  I was more than ready to be done with high school, my family had moved away to Wisconsin leaving me back in MN, one of my best friends decided to go post-secondary and take her senior year at the community college, all the hot boys were gone, blah blah blah...

However, in my dreams, these things do not enter into the equation any more.  Essentially, the underlying theme is that I am now BACK in high school but I have forgotten all of the important details of high school life.  These details include:  my locker combination, my class schedule, how to play my clarinet and my band locker combination.  Sometimes there are extras.

Additionally, I seem to enter these dreams with a record of truancy.  I find myself wandering through the music area and feeling quite guilty that I have not been to band or choir practice in several years.  Technically speaking, this is true.  I have not been to band or choir practice for more than 12 years.  But apparently in my dream, some of my former classmates have continued their dedication to practice and are now making me look very bad.

In last night's dream, I found myself again wandering the music area and discussing with one of my friends how I had just decided not to be in band or choir by simply never showing up to class.  Why I was not freaking out over the potentially fatal effect this would have on my GPA, I have no idea.  I then found myself back at the main office with my friend searching for my student ID so that I could eat lunch in the cafeteria.  We also picked up my schedule.

Please remember that this is a dream, so my sequence of events may be extremely non-linear.  The next thing I remember is that we were crammed into an auditorium/lecture hall space (which do not exist in reality at WHS) listening to a teacher and writing in spiral-bound notebooks.  On my right hand side was my friend, Kellee, and we were busy making snarky comments about the teacher and the course material.  This is something that we likely would have done in reality.

On my left hand side was a male classmate with whom I was marginally acquainted in high school but was apparently super close friends with in my dream.  Given the cramped space of the auditorium, we were sitting very close together.  There was a lot of disruptive whispering going back and forth among students, and I think the teacher was pretty angry.  Again, this was something that would have deeply bothered me in high school, but not here.

The rather embarrassing conclusion to this dream was that I started making out with the boy on my left.  Again, completely out of the realm of reality for my actual high school experience as I most definitely did not experience my first kiss until I was far away from Willmar.

Does this mean anything?  Nothing?  Should I start practicing my clarinet?  Should Kellee and I road trip it back to Willmar and visit the old alma mater?  Should I attempt to reconnect with the male high school acquaintance and ask him out for coffee?  Hm.  I think it is more than likely that the only one of those things even remotely likely to happen is that I connect with Kellee, but it probably won't be in Willmar.

However, there IS a good chance that I will be back in town sometime in November for a wedding, so who knows?  Stranger things have happened.  I will start practicing my clarinet just in case.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Battle of the Bugs

Alright, so I started a blog entry about this topic a week ago, but I didn't find it to be very inspiring in its original layout, so I have ditched that article and started afresh.  Hopefully this will work out better.

This past week has been a bit of a rough one for me and my overall sense of well-being.  On Wednesday, I had a small car accident in which no people or animals were hurt.  Basically, I rear-ended someone at the breakneck speed of less than 5 mph.  You would think that this would not be a big deal, and for the other car, it wasn't.  His minivan had nary a scratch on its back bumper.

Sadly, the same could NOT be said for my car.  When we pulled over to examine the damage, I think that the other driver actually felt sorry for me when he saw the HUGE crack in my front fender.  After refusing several times to take any of my insurance information, he left me to begin the long process of phone calls that eventually led me to missing a day of work while I filed an insurance claim, brought my car to the repair shop and obtained a rental vehicle.  I could go into more depressing details, but as this incident is not to be the focus of today's entry, I will hold off on that for now.

As everyone is well aware, the fall season is fully upon us.  Leaves are changing color and the need for air conditioning has ceased.  As far as I know, we here in the Twin Cities area have yet to experience a full overnight freeze, which explains why my allergies have not yet fully abated.  It also explains another troubling yet unsurprising phenomenon:  boxelder bugs.

If you are familiar with these insects, you may be able to tell where this entry is going.  Boxelder bugs are a common insect in MN, especially during autumn.  Technically speaking, these creatures fall under the category of "True Bugs" and have the scientific name, Boisea trivittata (see this Wikipedia article for a mini-description: Here is my artists rendering:

I have been familiar with Boxelder Bugs for a very long time, most memorably dating back to my childhood visits to my grandpa's farm.  Images of entire walls and floors covered in these nasty little creatures come to mind quite vividly to this day.

After my childhood farm traumas, I actually saw very few Boxelder Bugs in my lifetime.  Until I became a homeowner and was reintroduced to their creepiness.

One of the amazing skills of the Boxelder Bug is their ability to creep through small spaces or cracks in window sills or siding to enter indoor living areas.  For some strange reason, in my small townhouse, the primary place of entry appears to be my upstairs bathroom.  My first experience with this came about several years ago in a very memorable fashion.  I was actually using my toilet, which is situated right next to the window, when one of these guys came crawling out from behind my window shade.

Being surprised by the presence of an insect is never a pleasant experience.  If this happens to you while seated on a toilet, it is even worse.  Unless you have planned ahead, you will likely not have a swatting utensil within easy reach.  Thankfully, I survived this encounter and was able to use it to formulate a disaster plan for the future.  I now keep a single flip flop shoe in the cabinet next to the toilet in my bathroom.  It is a decision that has paid off numerous times in the years since this first encounter.

While I have been able to successfully address the presence of Boxelder Bugs in my home environment, I have not always been able to dominate them as well in other places.  For instance, the workplace.  For some reason, this year has been terrible for insects in the office.  I work in a open space with plenty of windows and other surfaces for insects to hide and land.  Although I have made a valiant effort to seek and destroy as many Boxelder Bugs as possible, there always seem to be three more for every one I kill.

I should perhaps pause for a moment to explain something about the structure of a Boxelder Bug.  If you have never had the unfortunate duty of disposing of one of these creatures, you may not understand the magnitude of the exercise.

Although they have been gifted with wings to fly, they are not very quick to escape which makes the hunt rather simple.  Unfortunately, the simplicity of the squishing does not continue from that point.  Boxelder Bugs are apparently filled with a yellowish and stinky fluid that is immediately released upon squishing.  I am guessing here, but I surmise that this fluid also causes a noticeable popping or cracking noise upon squishing as well.

Therefore, while you may rejoice in the fact that you have successfully eliminated another one from your living or work space, you must also face the prospect of a messy and smelly cleanup effort.  Trust me when I say that it is nothing like cleaning up a smashed spider, fly or wasp.  It is way juicier.

You may be asking at this point whether or not it is worth it to destroy Boxelder Bugs.  Are they really that much of a nuisance?  I mean, they don't bite and they aren't highly destructive.  Seriously, can't we live and let live?

The answers are as follows:  yes they are, and no we can't.

Here is why - if you let one go, you will soon find that the situation is out of control.  These things like to congregate.  If you need an example, I will give you one.

Several years ago, I found myself back in my hometown for the wedding of one of my best friends at the end of September.  It was a wonderful weekend and everything with the wedding went almost completely as planned.  The only snag was a $5 parking ticket that I received from leaving my car parked in one spot for more than two hours in downtown while we were getting our hair and nails done.

I wasn't too upset about the ticket, and I followed the instructions for payment.  To make sure that this was taken care of before I left town, I enclosed my money in the provided envelope and went to the city administration building to drop it off.  As it was a Sunday, the offices were closed, but they did have  drop slot located on the south side of the building.

If you read the Wikipedia article, you may have noticed that Boxelder Bugs, you may remember that they like to gather in sunny areas on the sides of buildings.  It should now be obvious where this example is leading.  I parked my car and approached the building, envelope in hand.  As I neared the drop slot, it became quite obvious that the Boxelder Bugs of Willmar had come together in order to make my drop-off as traumatic and dramatic as possible.

As I stared in fear at the black and orange-red wall covering on the brick of the building, I eyed up the small slot in the wall and planned my strategy.  I opted for the quickest method of running, dropping and running again.  Screaming a little as I ran, I completed this mission as quickly as possible and spent the next few minutes outside my car carefully inspecting my clothing for any stowaways that could potentially surprise and accost me on my two hour drive home.

Maybe you think that this wasn't a scary example.  Trust me, if you had to do it, you would understand.  Just pray that you never have to experience it.

So, to conclude, I continue to anxiously await the first freeze of the season.  Not only will it cause great relief to my allergies, but it usually significantly decimates the Boxelder Bug population for the season.  In the meantime, I shall continue my private crusade to remove them from my home and workspace.  There really are some things work fighting for.