A New Look

Fiddling with the look of the website today. It has been a long time since I’ve freshened it up! I don’t believe in the thirteen or so years that I’ve been running this thing that I’ve ever gone with a light theme. What do you know, I kind of like it!

I think I basically have it how I want it (mostly just cleaner, dare I say, more professional?), but don’t be surprised if you notice some additional changes in the days to come.

— The Management

RIP Nala, 1999 – 2017

So Nala has been dead for a while now, and I have always found something else to do, other than write this post. But it seems like an event that needs to be recorded here, since Nala is woven so much into the fabric of this blog. Sara and I got Nala before we were married, and Nala lived with me a while, just the two of us. Nala lived in 4 apartments / houses with us. She was there when we brought each of our kids home from the hospital.

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In fact, my 2nd post ever, way back in February of 2004, was about how annoying my cat was. If I would have had any idea at all that cats could live to be 17 years old, there is absolutely no way I would have agreed to this in the first place.

Nala was old, and sick. I was rubbing thyroid medicine into her ears, twice a day. She wasn’t super mobile, basically sticking to one spot unless she had to go to the bathroom, was rail thin, and to top it off we moved, which was a lot of stress for a 17 year old cat. So for some time we had been saying to the kids, “You know, guys, Nala isn’t going to live forever…”

Even still, it was a bit of a shock. We were coming home from our trip to Arizona, arriving home late from the airport. Often Sara and I will run in to do a quick check to make sure Nala’s okay before letting the kids in, but this time we didn’t because someone had checked in on her while we were gone and she had been fine. So Evelyn is the one who found her, and it was a rather unfortunate end to our trip.

The next day the big kids and I drove her up and buried her at the Haven. It was raining a little bit, and the three of us sang, “Goodnight, goodnight, sweet baby” to her. Ollie seemed pretty unphased, but Evelyn was a bit broken up about it, and I was sad to see Evelyn be sad (and certainly ONLY crying for that reason!)

We tried to explain a little bit to Alex, telling him, “All done, Nala” and “Bye bye, Nala”. He just shook his head and said, “No! More Nala!” However, he still calls all cats “Nala” and still looks around for her from time to time. I know he won’t remember her (though he will probably wonder why he called cats “Nala” for years).

As for me, I will mostly remember the years of spraying her with water and yelling for her to shut up, her peeing pretty much wherever she wanted, and getting matted up hair on everything. It’s easy to want to remember a glorified version of her, but any search through this blog will quickly show the TRUE nature of that nuisance cat. If you want to hit the highlights (or lowlights), here are a few “greatest hits” to get you started:

  1. I Wish the Cat Would Stop Talking With Her Butt
  2. Grumpiest Cat
  3. One Nuisance Cat For Sale
  4. Email From the Past

Although I’m glad that ankle-biting, loud-mouthed, worthless hunk of fur is gone, I cannot deny that this is the end of an era. Say what you want about her, she sure was good at Acquire, though…

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Quote Monday is bad

Lady 1: ::sigh:: “I need to take down my Christmas tree.”
Lady 2: “You haven’t taken your Christmas tree down yet? It’s St. Patrick’s day!”
Lady 1: “Well, it’s green, isn’t it?”
Me: ::laughing::
Lady 1, to me: “Well, it’s green isn’t it?”
Me: “I cannot deny that it is green.”

Oliver: “I’m going to the moon, and I’m bringing the bad word that starts with ‘F’…”

::Alex trying unsuccessfully to scoop sweet potato chunks onto a fork::
Me: “No, poke it. Alex, you’ve got to poke it. Poke it.”
::Alex looking at me, then slowly extending a finger towards his nose like, “if you say so…”::

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return

I had planned to lead with a picture of my Mystery Science Theater Revival League membership card, but my mugger is now enjoying it (because of course I kept my Mystery Science Theater Revival League membership card in my wallet…what if I needed to show it at a moment’s notice?)

I know I’m a tad late to the game on watching these here; you’d think someone as devoted as me would have been there on day 1. But there’s been a lot going on, most of it bad, and needless to say, I really needed something this week.

This was exactly what I needed.

I was a little nervous about it: how could they possibly capture the magic, the low-budget feel, the cheesiness? After raising all of that money, how could they keep from taking themselves too seriously? How could anything that was such an integral part of my childhood ever live up to the hype?

And then as soon as the opening credits started, I knew. I just knew. They did it. It is perfect in every way. It is exactly everything I ever could have hoped it would be. It was different, but it was exactly the same.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I almost cried. I’ve only seen one episode so far, but I laughed so hard I could barely breath. Like ridiculous “heee heee heee” laughs almost too high pitched for the human ear to hear. Granted, I am a little sleep deprived, but then again I was the first time around when I would try to stay up until midnight to catch an episode. So even that felt nostalgic.

To quote myself from 2012:

As is the case with writing about any of the things I love, I just don’t know how to convey how much I loved mst3k. I’d have to explain how funny the show is, or how I would practically prop my eyes open with toothpicks to try and stay up until the episode started at midnight, or how much I loved my mst3k tee shirt in college, or how devastated I was when Joel left the show, vowing I would never like Mike no matter what, only to later like Mike so much that I had trouble deciding which host I preferred, or how my and Sara’s first date involved watching Manos: The Hands of Fate. Eleven years and 197 episodes, not to mention how many times I’ve watched the ones I have on DVD (and even more that I can’t watch anymore because they’re on VHS!)

I needed this so bad right now. I literally can not wait to watch the 2nd episode tonight. I told Sara, “Don’t worry about doing the dishes for the next 13 nights.” She said hopefully, “Maybe you could watch half an episode a night and make it 26 nights?” (Of course I can…doesn’t she remember the Mystery Science Theater Hour, when they used to play 1 hour half-episodes on Comedy Central??)

Thank you, so, so much to everybody who made this happen.

Officially a Chicagoan, or, My First Mugging

I assume most people have heard about this at this point, but a lot of people are curious about the details, which I totally understand.

I have to walk a little under a mile from the train to home, and rather than walking on the main, busy street I have taken to walking one street off the main street. It’s much quieter and full of these huge, old, interesting houses.

On this particular day it was pouring rain and I was carrying a giant Amazon package which had been delivered to work (a birthday present for Oliver), so my hands were full. I was coming towards a giant puddle and there was someone walking toward me from the other direction.

We were both angling in the same direction and I remember thinking, “Why is this guy forcing me to walk into this puddle?” I noticed that he had spotless white sneakers on so I thought maybe that was why he was taking such a strange angle. “No worries,” I thought. “I will be the nice guy and walk in the puddle,” and I tried to squeeze between him and the fence.

When I got close enough to him, he kind of chest-bumped me with his body and said, “Don’t say anything or move, I’ve got a gun. If you say anything, I’ll shoot you.” He kind of indicated his right coat pocket, but it was closed so I didn’t see if there was really a gun or not.

Now, you’d think this would be kind of panic inducing, but honestly I was not at all scared in that moment. Not even angry. I feel like I was just thinking really fast and I just kind of felt like, “Okay, this is new.”

He reached in my pocket and took out my phone. “Oh, it’s an iPhone 4s,” I said, honestly thinking surely the guy would go, “Lol, nevermind.” He didn’t. “Give me your wallet,” he said instead. “Hey, take the cash, but not the wallet, okay? All of my stuff is in there,” I said. I mean, even a robber understands what a pain it is to go to the DMV, right?

He was not convinced.

I feel like this part took a long time because I didn’t really know what to do, and there were a lot of fumbling exchanges and things. I kept thinking, “Surely someone will look out the window and see this and call for help.” But I guess 1) time might have been a little sped up for me, and it might not have taken as long as it felt like, and 2) anybody who happened to see us probably would have just thought two people were talking.

“What else you got?” he said. “Nothing else. What else would I have?” I said. What I did not say is, “DEFINITELY NOT A HUGE WAD OF CASH IN MY OTHER POCKET!!” Because, see, I had just gotten out an unusually large amount of cash (seriously, who uses cash? What are the odds this happened on this particular day when I just happened to have cash?) (and before you ask, no, he did not follow me from the bank)

He started patting down my pockets. “You holding out on me?” he said when he hit my pocket. “No, I don’t have anything!” I insisted but he reached in and grabbed the cash. His eyes lit up and he ran for it (at least one of us was having a good day). I didn’t realize it until that minute, but there was a car running, waiting just up the block, and the guy hopped in.

“Hey, can you leave the wallet though?” I forlornly called after him. “Just leave the wallet, okay?”

As they drove away, my first thought, crack detective that I am was, “Oh hey, I should get a picture of the license plate!” and reached for my phone. Which of course had just been stolen. And then in my confusion and disappointment from realizing I didn’t have my phone, I didn’t actually catch the license plate (which I have been kicking myself for ever since…stupid, stupid!)

I stood there for a minute, and then started walking home. I just started walking quicker and quicker until I was almost running. I think that’s when it started sinking in. I really hadn’t felt bad or anything more than frustrated until then, not even as he was running away with my stuff. Honestly, it didn’t seem real, like it was a scene from a movie and I was playing a part.

It was raining pretty hard but I kind of forgot about my umbrella, which was just dangling from my hand. When I got home I remembered that I had given my gate key to Sara and the buzzer didn’t work and naturally I didn’t have my phone. I had no idea what to do. I really didn’t know what to do without my phone, and I think I wasn’t thinking that clearly.

This was my lowest point; it felt worse than the robbery. I was cold and soaking wet and the adrenaline was starting to ebb, I scraped up my arm trying to break into the fence and everything just felt so, so hopeless. I thought, “If I just stand here in the rain, maybe eventually someone will start wondering where I am and come looking for me?” It just felt like there was a big weight pressing down on me.

Finally I managed to force the gate open and came inside. “Sara?” I yelled. “I’m really busy right now!” she said in a no-nonsense voice from the kitchen. “I’m busier!” I yelled back, voice cracking, verging on hysterics. I think there was something in my tone, because she did come pretty quick. I was pretty close to crying.

The kids were a little upset (I really wish I could have handled all of this without them knowing, but it just would not have been possible), and of course we needed to call the police and cancel the credit cards and everything. The CPD were surprisingly quick and they canvased the neighborhood with surprising efficiency. My phone was registering that it was nearby, so they took off over there, but it turns out they had just chucked my phone out the window of the car (hey, I tried to tell them…nobody wants an iPhone 4s!)

Getting my phone back seemed like one bright spot in all this, but it turned out not to be since the phone was damaged. I’m still glad to have it back. It feels so…weird that someone has all of my stuff. My mind keeps going to the business card Evelyn gave me when they made their businesses in 2nd grade and how somebody else has that now.

I always imagined if I were in a situation like this, I would fight back. “I bet he didn’t even have a gun,” I told Sara. “There are a lot of guns in Chicago,” she said, “I think it’s safe to assume he had one.” It’s like there is the logical part of me that says, you did the right thing, everything worked out okay. Obviously the main thing is that I was not hurt; the rest is just money. And then there is another part of me that thinks I should have fought him off or called his bluff or ran or taken another route or infinite other possibilities. Hard not to keep replaying it.

That night I thought I was fine. I had a lot of extra energy; I couldn’t stop pacing. “Maybe you should run on the treadmill,” said Sara. Everything just kept looping in my head. By the next morning I was really wishing it could stop looping in my head. By the time I was waiting for the train, I was feeling some massive anxiety. My heart was racing and I felt sick to my stomach. I just felt like there were so many people and I was trying to look at all of them. Why is that guy looking at me? Why is that guy coming toward me? Oh, he’s just getting on the train. I had to put my back to a wall.

I had planned to walk home from work, but Sara had offered to pick me up, and I uncharacteristically took her up on it. I knew that I was going to have to walk sooner or later, and usually in that case I figure might as well get it over with. But I put it off until Monday.

Naturally Monday was rainy, just to simulate the exact conditions as closely as possible. I got anxiety just looking at the weather report. But of course it was fine, and Tuesday was fine, and every time it’s going to get a little bit easier.

At this point, I think everything is more or less back to normal. I have wavered on publishing this post, because I feel like I want to talk about this and put it out there as honestly as I can. I wrote most of this the night it happened because Sara, understanding very well how I work, encouraged me to write it down, knowing that’s how I process things.

But on the other hand I don’t really want any sympathy from anybody. I really, truly don’t. It’s a thing that happened, and now it’s over. Life moves on.

The thing that gets me the most is that I don’t want to walk around my neighborhood anymore. That’s what was really stolen from me. I was really enjoying that walk, and now instead I have to go on the busy street and evaluate everybody for threats. I worry about Sara walking, or the kids. I wonder if by sharing this I am somehow justifying every person from back home who thinks that Chicago is not safe and you shouldn’t live here.

One last thing I want to say. If someone tells you that they’ve been mugged, do not say to them something like, “Whelp, you gotta be aware of your surroundings!” I can tell you from many experiences over the past few days, this is the absolute worse thing you can say. It is the worst kind of victim-shaming nonsense. I assure you that I was 100% aware, and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. I saw him, I stared at him, I knew something was strange about him. It’s why I had such a good description of him for the police. I am not the one who did something wrong.

I could have walked a different way. I could not have taken that package home and had my hands full. I could have had less cash. That does not mean I deserved to be mugged. That guy was going to mug someone, and I was the only one on the street at the time.

I understand that people say this as a way to reassure themselves. I was the same way; I always thought, “Well, I don’t walk around at 2 am” or “I don’t walk around with my phone out” or “I don’t do the dumb things that *those* people do, so it won’t happen to *me*.” Well, I was aware and it wasn’t 2 am and I didn’t have my phone out and it happened anyway. If you want to reassure yourself, fine, but don’t do it on my back thank you very much.

In a weird way, I guess I’m glad that it was me that was at the wrong place at the wrong time. If I would have taken a different route or looked like a less tempting target, then the guy would have waited for somebody else. It could have been Sara or someone else with a kid, it could have been a teenager, it could have been someone who already had some kind of mental problems. It could have been a tough guy or a nervous guy who could have tried to fight back, and it could have gone poorly.

I came through unscathed. Let’s hope that was my one, and I’m good now. You hear that universe? We could really use a break.

 

Happy Birthday to Ollie

The year of first grade is such a big year, and Ollie has changed so much. Reading and writing, having real friends, just being like a person rather than a little kid. He has real interests, he has things that he’s good at and things that he’s not good at, likes and dislikes…he’s not a baby anymore.

At the same time, though, there are so many things about him that are exactly the same. Do you know how many pictures I have of Ollie making a goofy face? He’s still goofy, still such a sweetheart.

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One pretty significant change in the last year is Alex, and how much he loves his big brother. “Oliver!” he tries to say the moment he wakes up. “Oliver! Oliver!” It is so…heart warming to see the way that he looks up to his big brother, and I’m interested to see how that continues to develop.

Here’s to another year, buddy. Hope you continue to carve your own way in the world.

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(Photos courtesy Jeremy Sanderlin)

Battle Baby

Oliver is afraid to go downstairs by himself. Who can blame him? I sure as heck didn’t want to go into the basement at my house when I was little. Unfortunately, his bedroom is down there so he has to go down there about 30 times a day. “Oliver, you forgot your socks.” “Oliver, put all of this stuff away.” “Oliver, that’s enough, go to your room.”

I tried giving him different strategies, like “try singing a song” or “maybe take this fierce dinosaur stuffed animal with you” but he wasn’t having it. For some reason, he has decided that none of that is sufficient.

However, he spontaneously came up with his own solution. Out of nowhere, he decided the only thing that can protect him is this sweet little stuffed baby, which he has dubbed “Battle Baby”.

Behold the might of Battle Baby! Look upon it’s terror and weep!

ASSUMING YOU ARE STILL READING AND HAVE NOT FLED IN TERROR:

When things get particularly dangerous he grabs the strap at the top of Battle Baby’s hat and swings it around like nunchucks. I’m not sure how Battle Baby feels about using her body to batter his enemies, but hey! At least he can go downstairs without accompaniment. I mean, look, I’m not sure why he’s decided this baby can keep him safe, but he’s happy, I’m happy.

Kids, man. Kids.