Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Third Time's a Charm

Now, while I can’t say this is necessarily true for love and marriage, the third time seemed to do the trick for convincing the nice fellow from the local building inspection office to approve the integrity of the wiring and electrical system in the house. Unofficially, we passed our electrical and plumbing inspections yesterday. Big sigh of relief.

The cynic in me says the poor inspector was just tired of combing through the unintelligible mess of the construction process, but K, being the sweet-natured optimist she is, credits Carl.

Carl is the electrician dispatched to the house to resolve all remaining electrical issues on Monday, just in time for the Tuesday morning inspection. Aside from being a capable and competent electrician, Carl apparently has quite a story to tell. And he told it to K. His whole life story. Two brain surgeries. Divorce. Previous vocational aspirations. History of electrical wiring experience. His own personal homebuilding journey.

Here is the thing: people love K. Without an ounce of hubris, I say that babies and animals nearly universally take a shine to me. Without meaning offense to the intelligence of any, note the difference: creatures who can talk gravitate toward K; creatures who do not, like me.

People don’t just love K, they love to talk to her. And talk, and talk, and talk. I don’t blame them – I myself love talking to her, and most people who spend about five minutes with me figure out quite quickly that I am a talker. I have often thought my snide observations about people talking to K evolved from a jealousy – not from a perceived threat so much as an assertion of my perceived right of first refusal to her attention. “Hey, back off, mister – that’s my K to talk to!”

Although I am not surprised at the comfort others find in talking to K, I am sometimes taken aback at the topics, level of detail, and lack of sensitivity people feel compelled to share with her. On more than one occasion, I have found myself thinking, “If so-and-so said something like that to me, it would’ve been the last thing said for a gooooood long time.” When I find myself coming upon K in the midst of a grocery aisle confessional, the lines from one of my favorite movies, Harold and Maude, run through my head. In the movie, Harold says to Maude, “You sure have a way with people.” To which Maude responds, “Well, they’re my species!”

Of course, as Carl was sharing his life story with K under the pretense of asking her advice on something (that’s another thing – people often turn to K for advice, and unlike the people who call me for the purpose of reinforcing their pre-ordained plan of action, people seem to actually listen to and take K’s advice), I was at work, so it’s not like he was cutting into my talk time. With the rigors of my Monday at work, I was in the infrequent mood where I had nearly talked myself out for the day, so I wasn’t in the space to thrill and delight K with my usual banter and repartee. Carl’s life was an interesting byline for the day, and more importantly, his good work has cleared the way for what we hope to be real progress on our own homebuilding journey.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Lunatic Ravings of the Sleep-Deprived

I had an epiphany of sorts this morning.

I wasn’t doing anything special, just standing at the gate to the pasture, holding it open for the dogs, when I “captured” a very distinct feeling.

As I completed my morning walk with the dogs, I tried to sort out whether it was a true epiphany or just the lunatic ravings of the sleep-deprived before ultimately deciding the two were quite possibly differences without distinction.

I was standing at the gate to the pasture, holding it open for the dogs so we could continue our morning routine, when Mercy came barreling up the hill, bounding, leaping, spinning, and running straight for me. All at once, I was seized with an overwhelming sense of how strangely at peace and calm I was with the beauty and wonder of her madcap dance, and imminently frantic and scared I was of what seemed to be our inevitable and impending collision.

Thankfully, disaster was averted as I executed a well-practiced matador sidestep and Mercy pinwheeled gracefully through the open gate.

Walking with Mercy is a lot like playing a marathon game of low-speed “chicken” without having first obtained all parties’ consent. You find yourself constantly checking over your shoulder to keep her in your sights, lest you be bowled over unawares.
As with this morning, some times you think a collision is impending and fated, when she will pull up or careen around you at the last minute. You learn that her movement or trajectory can be affected by just the slightest touch to a hip or flank. You discover the Cha Cha DiGregorio deep within by swinging open the front door to release the hounds, exhorting Mercy to pull up and press on, or celebrating a perfectly executed lope across the yard.

Perhaps epiphany is overstated. Possibly all people walk through life with a mixture of jubilation and terror, although I tend to think not. Maybe this is just the texture of emotions we call life at MisFit Farm.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Synonyms and Self-Perception

Using the definitive online thesaurus, a search for the word “judgmental” redirects the user to the main entry for “arbitrary,” with synonyms of “discretionary, personal, subjective.”

On the other hand, a search for the word “judgment,” yields the following robust vocabulary list: acumen, acuteness, apprehension, astuteness, awareness, brains, capacity, comprehension, discernment, discrimination, experience, genius, grasp, incisiveness, ingenuity, intelligence, intuition, keenness, knowledge, mentality, penetration, perception, percipience, perspicacity, prudence, quickness, range, rationality, reach, readiness, reason, reasoning, sagacity, sanity, sapience, savvy, sense, sharpness, shrewdness, sophistication, soundness, taste, understanding, wisdom, wit.

My last blog entry and video was essentially a subtle anti-paean to the protracted timeframe associated with one very small but very important piece of our homebuilding process, the construction of our deck. We have, at every step of this process, tried to be patient and understanding of the demands placed on the various parties involved in the homebuilding process. We, o.k., I, really have tried, and patient is not a vocabulary word many would associate with my personality type.

On the final day of deck construction last week, an unfortunate convergence of events resulted in K driving in to work, leaving me to tend to business here at the trailer and use the motorcycle as conveyance into the office.

While finishing up my tasks, the crew of two men who had been more or less working on the deck arrived and began doing precisely that. In the meantime, I took a series of phone calls, prepared myself for what promised to be a chilly trip into town on the motorcycle, tried convincing the motorcycle it was warm enough to start so we could get moving on our day, brought the trash barrel up from the road, and undertook a number of other enterprises while essentially waiting for the motorcycle to get warm enough to want to start. It is a little warm-blooded. Like its primary rider, the motorcycle prefers not to set out while the temperatures are anything below 70 degrees.

As I was basically fiddling around, the fellow who has done most of the deck construction came walking up the drive. I hopped off the motorcycle where I was happily perched, enjoying the warmth of the sun on my black jacket, and headed towards him. When I asked him if he needed anything, he responded by saying that actually, he was checking on me to see if everything was o.k. or if I needed a ride to town or something.


So the whole freezing ride into work, all I could think of was that probably the reason it has taken so long to build the deck is this boy scout of a construction guy has probably been delayed by helping little old ladies cross the street, delivering kittens safely from trees, and catching babies falling out of sixth story windows. Thankfully, the temperature was 44 degrees, so by the time I arrived at the office, I was too busy thinking about the involuntary muscle contractions in my legs and the frozen throttle-position of my right hand to continue to perseverate on the poor, beleaguered, maligned deck builder.

As I sit here, over two weeks after the first day of deck-building, and enjoy the view and the deck's superlative construction and design, I can say honestly, I forgive all those old ladies, kittens and babies who caused the delay in completion for this part of the house.

And when I look closely at the synonyms for the words judgmental and judgment, it reminds me of the punch line of a bumper sticker: you say that like it’s a bad thing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Take Me Back to Sunny Country Side

I have come to the conclusion that homebuilders must be baseball fans.

I will let that thought sink in for a minute, because I can hear the questions: homebuilders? baseball? Hitting the sauce again before lunchtime, Ami?

Here is my explanation (the long version):

Baseball is a game of failure. A good batter has a hitting statistic of .300; an awesome one checks in at .500. As a former softball coach explained to me one time, that means the best of the best in baseball only hit the ball 1/2 the time they are at-bat, and each at-bat, they usually get at least three swings at the thing.

My problem with the coach's explanation to me was twofold: first, we were playing slow-pitch, which I quite frankly thought was a poor analogy, what with the ball taking a slow, loping arc and sailing across the plate at, say, 2 miles per hour, versus the screaming 90 miles per hour at which most baseballs are hurled. I mean, when someone says, "I threw him/her a softball," the idiom describes the opposite of a "hardball" or difficult question, right? If you fail to hit something small hurtling 100 mph at your face and instead do something smart like duck or run, that seems to be a lot less of an indictment than failing to hit something bigger ambling in front of you at a snail's pace.

Secondly, I am not o.k. with 50% In academic terms, that's not even a "C" grade. I don't know if 50% is even an "F" grade. I never looked that low on the report card. My agency is preparing to have our annual chili cook-off. This year, I designed lovely aprons as prizes (courtesy of cafepress - check out the line of Great Dane Rescue of the Ozarks products at First place boasts: 2008 Chili Cook-off Winner. I resisted the temptation to print on the other two: 2008 Chili Cook-Off First Loser & 2008 Chili Cook-off Second Loser. In what I consider to be a tremendously selfless act of sacrifice, I instead had the other two aprons adorned with: 2008 Chili Cook-off Runner Up.

An additional observation about the sports analogy: baseball, like many other sports, is an activity where the meaning of time does not correlate with any notion of "real time." After many years married to a television and sports addict, my step-mother learned to always ask the clarifying question, "Are we talking real time, or sports time?" An inning in baseball, just a matter of three outs, can last a lifetime.

So, to make my point. Homebuilders appear to be satisfied with abysmal statistics. Homebuilders do not appear to operate on time that correlates to calendars or watches. Hence the connection between homebuilders and baseball.

But don't just take these wild, unsupported allegations at face value. I present the following demonstrative video exhibit as further proof:

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Of the Pope and Fried Pickles

I don't remember my parents having conversations like many of those we have here at MisFit Farm. For that matter, I don't remember many people having conversations like many of those we have here at MisFit Farm.

K and I snuck out for lunch one day last week, to partake of the seasonal delight of pumpkin pancakes at a local greasy spoon, Hanover's Pancake House. If anyone should find him or herself in the Topeka area within the next couple months, Hanover's pumpkin pancakes come highly recommended. So do their fried pickles, but I would not recommend both in the same sitting.

In the booth behind us (well, behind me - which was a blessing as I would have been completely engulfed, had I been able to both look AND listen), two women spent the entire time talking about other people. We don't have that problem here at the Farm. We have lots of nonsense to keep us entertained.

K: Uh – oh, looks like you have company.

A: Huh. Trinity. Hey, Trin, I was trying to accomplish something here. You stink. You still smell like skunk on your face. Maybe you can sit on my lap later this decade.

K: She’s coming up anyhow.

A: So I see.

K: How can you continue to type while she’s squirming up into your lap?

A: I dunno. Is this a trick question? Is the answer: a ruthless devotion to the Pope?

K: Eeeeeewwwww – she smells like skunk.

A: Only the head part.

K: Eeeeeewwwww – she’s putting her head on your shoulder. It’s right by your face! How can you stand it?!?!?!?!

A: The smell or the fur in my mouth?

K: Eeeeeewwww – all I can say is, you must really love her.

A: Nah, I just respect her for having such low standards.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Don't It Always Seem To Go

It was bound to happen. On some level, it is nearly unfathomable it hadn’t happened before now. Big, active dogs. Country living. Close proximity to nature and her many creatures. To quote the Joni Mitchell song, “Don’t it always seem to go/ you don’t know what you’ve got/ ‘til it’s gone.”

One thing we won’t have an opportunity to miss anytime soon is the lovely bouquet d’skunk Emmett and Trinity introduced to the family this morning as we were trying to complete daily hygienic rituals and zip off to work.

What does one do in this situation? Although I find K’s olfactory hyperbole with regard to skunk odor to be quite amusing, when said odor comes bounding in the front door attached to two loveable, large dogs, what is one to do? Emmett and Trinity clearly took direct hits to the face. Upon entering the trailer, they each began a painful series of snorkel maneuvers across the living room floor, butts high in the air, faces rubbing across the carpet whose overall aesthetic value is improved by adding a scratch-and-sniff feature.

I like to think of myself as a responsible person. I have a responsibility to lead by example and show up to work “on time.” I have a responsibility to look after the safety and overall welfare of the animals. I have a responsibility to keep K in at least a minimally habitable environment, until the house is completed. The introduction of one pissed-off skunk threw all of these responsibilities into a calamitous mental and emotional train wreck.

Not having any easy answer, I decided to take a shower. Whereupon I was joined by Trinity. How miserable does a dog have to be to ask to get into the shower with you? And how weird to you have to be to allow it, 10 minutes post-skunk spray? I tried washing her with the Hy-Lyt dog shampoo that was handy just outside the shower, and the result was a Trinity that smelled like wet dog, skunk and flea shampoo. I was able to wash out her eyes and face with enough water she quit exhibiting signs of distress. But the overall affect for the odor in the trailer was non-extant.

Having refreshed myself with an invigorating shower, I decided to clear a bunch of my clothes (well, o.k., t-shirts) out of the trailer, in case the odor became so pervasive it infiltrated the dresser drawers. I set the clothes I intended to wear to work that day out on the front porch. I turned on every fan available in the 14x 50 foot space we call home. Not knowing what else to do and seeking to bring order from chaos or at least escape the horrifying smell overtaking our living space, I headed out to work.

Here is the list of attempted antidotes and a very unscientific review of their effectiveness:

Tomato juice; didn’t try it, but thanks for asking; the chemical explanation I located on the Internet explains that the poison from skunk spray paralyzes some sinus nerve endings and tomato juice works on others, so the skunk smell doesn’t go away, you just quit smelling it. I have meetings to go to. I have an office where my presence is required in way that does not make others vomit upon entering. I don’t need to not be able to smell, I need to not smell.

White vinegar; I read that I was to boil a pot of white vinegar on the stovetop, simmer it until ¾ has cooked off, and then open the place up, turn on fans, and the odor would be escorted out by the vinegar. It smells like we have opened a pickle factory here at MisFit Farm. The smell of overcooked vinegar is seething from the walls of the trailer, which greets you just before you get knocked off your feet by the smell of skunk as you cross the trailer threshold.

Krebaum’s Formula; A chemist, Paul Krebaum, wrote an article in 1993, proposing that the best remedy for neutralizing skunk spray is to apply a wash consisting of ¼ c. baking soda; 1 Qt. hydrogen peroxide; and, 1 – 2 teaspoons of dishwashing detergent. This chemist was not fooling around. This stuff works. Unfortunately, it only works on the part of the dogs not close to the eyes or face, so while we have managed to de-skunk 7/8 of each of the dogs, there is still a very stinky 1/8 that likes to kiss, rest on my shoulder, and be rubbed. Also, I can’t figure out how I would apply this solution to the entire trailer.

Neutroleum Alpha Concentrate; Underneath the bold letters announcing the exotic and effective-sounding name of this product, purchased for top dollar from the Vet college here in our fine state of KS, is printed in tiny, fading letters, “Odor masking formula.” Never mind.

Despite my under-functioning at the time of the event, we have all survived the great skunk attack of 2008. We have learned important lessons about the chemical composition of skunk spray, the likes of which we had never before entertained. Additionally, we were given an opportunity to offer another quality product analysis and endorsement for our faithful readership.

Oh yeah, and K submits the following as proof of my undying love for Trinity, skunky face and all.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Soak up the Sun

It has been pointed out that I have been extraordinarily remiss in my blogging of late. Work on the house continues and being a constant nag with the various contractors has demanded a lot of energetic and emotional capital. We now appear to be about two – three weeks from completion, and the feeling of being held underwater with my arms bound, a leg missing, and a foot on my neck is less intense, albeit not gone.

I don’t blog much political, but I do blog brutal honesty, so if I were to say that I hadn’t thought to myself once or twice across the past few days, “what in the world are you thinking, buying into a mortgage in the middle of the downward spiral into recession?!?!?!” – I would be lying.

Luckily, the dogs don’t know anything about the slow march into economic purgatory, so they continue to soak up the sun in these last warm days of the summer. The trees are beginning to turn. Hope springs eternal that we will be settled into the house to host my family’s Thanksgiving dinner this year. Given my nephew’s insistence on saying grace and then the brutal honesty he uses the platform to express, I may re-think the whole offer to host Thanksgiving. Last year, his prayer was, “Dear God; Thank you for this food, and please do not let any of us get sick from it.” I shudder to think what the dear boy must pray about on my behalf.

Not that I am making excuses, but over two months ago, I began packing, anticipating our impending move into the new house. Stupidly, I packed away what I mistakenly thought would be “frills,” including my entire CD collection. This explains part of the lag in blogging. Access to the music I rely on to accompany these video clips has been limited, as it requires moving six boxes, removing the tape from the box containing half of the CDs, digging through the CDs only to discover the one I may want is located in a different box of CDs, systematically opening all of the boxes of CDs (which we packed into smaller boxes after discovering that placing over 100 CD's into a single box made it quite heavy) and being unsuccessful in locating the CD I had in mind, returning to the original box to find the disc I was looking for in the hurly-scurvy and now completely un-alphabetized jumble, replacing all the CDs into the boxes, re-applying tape to the boxes, re-stacking them, and retiring to the living room to complete the video.

So tonight when the chaos at the new house was too much, I opted for the above, and while not the greatest video ever – let us consider it proof of life for the inhabitants of MisFit Farm.

As soon as I am done laying the hardwood bamboo flooring in the spare bedroom at the house, painting the laundry room and kitchen, hanging the Mickey Mouse wallpaper, tiling the master closet and bathroom, installing a customized roll-in shower, putting up ceiling fans, and moving all of our worldly possessions and those other possessions we are being gifted from various and sundry locations, I swear I will re-chain myself to the computer, and get to work on bigger and better ways to share the joy that is life here at MisFit Farm.