Sunday, May 31, 2015

Val Goes Around Her Elbow To Get To Her Thumb, Only to Find It Severed

What does a teacher do on her last day at school? Take pictures, of course!

You might think a teacher would take pictures of her students who might be graduating. Or pictures of her students who are moving on to another building. Or pictures of her students who are progressing on to the next course. Or pictures of her colleagues who might be retiring or jumping ship. Or just feel-good pictures with her bestest buddies, for the good times.

You'd be wrong.

A teacher takes pictures of her electronic hookup configurations, because she never knows when the technology department will get to her room next August. It might be early, the first week of the month, so everything is good to go for her work days and open house. Or it might be the morning of the first day of school, requiring her to go to Plan B for the 100 new students who will be flooding into her classroom that day.

Yes, you live and learn. As crazy as it sounds, Mrs. Thevictorian is not at the top of the tech chain! Can you believe that other people's problems might take priority over the hookup of Val's electronic accouterments?

So there I was, my contractual obligations to the district fulfilled, gathering up my laptop to shelter at home over the free-for-all of summer school and building cleansing, on Friday morning after dropping off The Pony for his tutoring duties. I taped a diagram of my classroom furniture configuration on the corner of my hand-me-down desk. Once upon a time, the custodial staff asked for such a map. Because, you see, some years we returned to find furniture that wasn't even ours! We had to mount several expeditions, most of them clandestine, to reclaim our rightful belongings. And even if you had your own, it was kind of like looking into the mirror and seeing that you now had one eyebrow in its proper place above your peeper, and the other across your top lip, with your nose situated where Picasso might have found it aesthetically pleasing.

"You know, Val," I thought to myself, "you might want to sketch out the wire configurations on the back of your electronic accouterments. That way, you can get them all hooked up the morning your return, and you won't have to fret during your very last catered breakfast."

Heh, heh. Silly old Val! As she moved her cell phone out of the way to swing the tabletop printer around for an artist's rendering, she stopped still as a statue. Still as a freshman whose phone has just gone off in class. That happens when Val concentrates all of her energy on a single concept. "WAIT! I can take a picture of the connections with my cell phone! Then I can email them to myself. Then I can email them to my school account so I can have them ready next year as I'm hooking things up! I'm a freakin' genius!"

You see, Val tries to maintain separation of school and home. She does not check her personal email at work. She could not email them directly to her school account at this juncture, because the email account is being switched over to another email provider, of which Val is not exactly sure of the address, and the current one may or may not lose information during the transfer. Besides, the current email has just slightly less letters in the address than the longest town name in Iceland. Thus the convoluted steps in her plan.

I fired up my phone and commenced to snapping. Here's a little sample from my gallery:

Why yes, they DO progress from simple to complex! As you can imagine, Val would be at a loss without her photographic diagrams. This is not the Age of Genius, when he would stride into the room, work his magic like one of those creepy cup-stacking-champion kids, and hold out his palm to collect $20. No, this is the Age of Val and The Pony. Last year, we got lucky. And by we, I mean mostly The Pony, who shoved wires here and there until they fit, while I tried to turn things on until they worked. We were stymied by why the phone needs to be plugged into the laptop dock, but it all worked out.

But here's the problem with my geniatic plan. As your remember, because I'm sure you were reading closely, hanging onto every word, I was going to take the photos, email them to my personal account, email them to my school account, and look at them on my school laptop screen while I hooked things up. Does anyone see a problem with this plan?


I guess I'll just take my phone, and hope the lens doesn't fall out of my glasses while I'm squinting to see where the wires go.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

But I'm Older, and I Have More Insurance...

That may get Kathy Bates satisfaction over a stolen parking space down at the Winn Dixie, but it won't get Val Thevictorian a lupus anticoagulant test down at the local hospital.

Yes, a few days ago I told you about my runaround trying to get to my pulmonologist appointment. And then yesterday I told you about my deceptively simple visit to the DMV, even getting bumped ahead of an elderly guy holding a number. But Even Steven has a way of putting one in one's place. I'm not trying to work backwards here, like the worst-ever episode of Seinfeld, the one at the wedding in India.

Upon leaving the pulmonologist, his people handed me a lab order for a blood test. He had asked if I wanted to get it that day, but with the trouble I had finding his new office, I was not about to drive over to the hospital and traipse around. He agreed that I could get the test at a lab closer to home, and have the results faxed to him.

Yesterday, I dropped The Pony off at his summer tutoring assignment, and headed for the lab at the clinic where my own doctor sends me. He can't do the test in HIS lab anymore, because of my insurance, which, as you recall, is the worst insurance ever in the history of insurance, a company I refer to as Banishment Well-Being Concern. (Those of you into puzzle-solving can probably figure out the real company by perusing synonyms for those key words.)

The parking lot was full that day, my friends. Full, like a guy with a horse face, big teeth, and flared nostrils refusing to take a bite of mutton. It was as if everybody in three counties was having a lupus anticoagulant test right then. There was only one space available in all of the four rows, and I got it. I hiked an impressive distance to the building and took the elevator to the third floor. I handed my lab order to the lady behind the window, and looked at the clipboard with 50 names scratched out, and the 10 people waiting, and said, "Do I still need to sign in?"

"Who is this doctor?"

"Doctor XYZ, from Big City Hospital."

"Oh, we can't do this test here. Only if it's from one of our own doctors. The hospital lab downstairs can do it, though."

"Okay. I have one more question. On July 1, when my insurance changes from Banishment Well-Being Concern to Star-Spangled Banner, will my regular doctor be able to do my labs again, or will I still come down here?"

"Your regular doctor will have to tell you that. But if you have Banishment Well-Being Concern, the hospital lab can't do your test today. Oh, they can DO your test, but they won't send the blood out to Odyssey, the lab Banishment requires. You'll have to pay."

"Yes. That happened one time. It was $179 for a blood test. So even though I have Banishment as my primary insurance, and Star-Spangled Banner as my secondary insurance through my husband's work...I STILL can't have the test here?"

"You need to go to the Odyssey draw station. Do you know where that is?"

"No. It used to be behind Burger King."

"Now it's beside Arby's. But they're closed on Fridays."

"Okay. It looks like I'm not getting that test today."

"Well, you might go check to see if they're open. They gave us this handout in February, but I know they've changed their hours since then." She handed me a paper off a clipboard hanging on the wall.

"Thank you. I'll go check it out."

So off I went, past the 10 people waiting, down the elevator, back through the parking lot, past the three cars parked in the striped walkways because their drivers are entitled buttmunchers who need a swift lesson in fair play from Kathy Bates in a big brown sedan, and climbed back into T-Hoe, and drove across town to the Arby's parking lot, and got out and walked past the nail shop to see if the Odyssey draw station was open...and saw that it was not, and the hours painted on the front door were exactly the same as the hours on the handout I had been handed.

Let the record show that having two insurances is not all it's cracked up to be if the primary is Banishment Well-Being Concern. And that Even Steven has a way of balancing karma.

Those walkway parkers better be looking over their shoulders.

Alternate Title:
Who Do You Have To Let Suck Your Blood Around Here To...Um...Get Somebody To Suck Your Blood Around Here?

Friday, May 29, 2015

Abandon Hope, Most Of Ye Who Need To Enter Here

Yes, The Pony got his driver's permit renewed yesterday.

We arrived at the license office around 3:30. I was afraid the place would be bursting at the seams with procrastinators who waited until the end of the month. Imagine my surprise when I saw only two vehicles in the parking lot. Granted, it's a small office. But they have at least 20 parking slots, not counting the handicapped. I suppose now that people renew their licenses on their birthday, after a SIX YEAR period of using the same very, very bad photo...that the renewals are staggered. Still, there are those pesky license plates that expire at the end of the month. So I don't know why the crowd was so light.

Just as I signaled to turn, an oncoming car whipped into that lot and into the spot I had my eye on. Heifer! A little blond gal got out of her tiny toy car and hustled up the sidewalk in her high-heeled boots. "Great. Now she's ahead of us. As soon as you get in the door, Pony, you take a number. I'll carry this envelope with your vital information. Go on. You're faster than me."

Let the record show that it had taken me less than 15 seconds to park, and about two minutes to peep in that envelope and make sure I had everything those forked-tongue misanthropes could possibly want. The Pony hopped out of the back seat and started up the walk. He was halfway there, and I was ten feet behind him, when we were passed by that parking-space-stealer. The Pony slowed. Turned around and came back.

"I know what you're going to say."

"See? You were wrong. She's already done."

"Ya think? OR SHE DIDN'T HAVE THE RIGHT INFORMATION! Uh huh. Why else would she be out so soon? Now get moving before somebody passes you."

 We entered the glass-paneled wooden-frame door. The Pony milled around like an inexperienced, non-bucking bronc in the middle of the rodeo ring.

"Grab a number!" I hissed.

The Pony leapt forward and reached for number 52 on the hook. A girl at the open window right beside the numbers reached out her hand. "What can I do for you?"

The Pony gave her his number and said, "I need to renew my driving permit."

"I need the old one, and proof of residence." I handed over my check stub. "Come over here with me." She turned to go to the counter, moving behind the scenes, while The Pony and I turned the corner to walk through the waiting area. Just then that Forked-Tongue Misanthrope called out, "Oh. I'm sorry. I didn't know you had a number. You were so quiet sitting there."

I turned to see an old man grasping number 51 in his palsied hands. "I'm sorry for taking your place. We didn't know." Let the record show that this line-jumping was in no part due to the actions of The Pony or Val Thevictorian. And also let it show that I did not call The Pony back and let that man go ahead. It was all fate, due to the actions of that Forked-Tongue Misanthrope. The old man nodded, and kept sitting quietly. Which is apparently a no-no at the license office. He had virtually been scolded for entering the office, taking a number, and sitting down to wait to be called.

The Pony kept looking over his shoulder at me, but I sat down and made him do his own business. That Forked-Tongue Misanthrope told him to sit down. "Should I wear my glasses?" She said yes, if he always wore them. Most definitely. He took the eye test in the machine, seeing flashing lights with his peripheral vision, and naming road signs. Except for the merge sign. "I forget what that one is called." He passed the eye test. Then he needed $3.50. He turned to look at me like a deer in the headlights. I had told him I was taking in money in my pocket. He just stood there.

"Well, come over and get it." I forked over a five. As soon as he got the change, he trotted back to me and handed me a dollar and two quarters. The Pony is not well-versed in the norms of society. He sat down for his picture, at the scene of that terrible crime that we refer to as the day Val Thevictorian was subjected to the very first day of the new driver's license photo machine and was robbed of her natural good looks, and was told to take off his glasses.

His new permit will come in the mail in seven to ten days. In the meantime, he has a paper copy that he must carry with him every time he drives. I hope he doesn't wear it to tatters.

"Huh. Every time I get my picture taken for a permit..."(words which should not be spoken at all, because WHO renews a driver's PERMIT twice?)..."the photo is worse!"

I pulled my driver's license out of my shirt pocket, because I had taken it in just in case they needed my ID to go with the proof of residence. "Oh? Remember this?"

"Yeah. Ha ha ha ha ha! I guess mine isn't so bad."

The Pony ain't a-woofin'!


Tomorrow you shall hear the tale of my comeuppance from Even Steven for daring to revel in this easiest license office transaction ever.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

You Can Lead The Pony To the License Office, But You Can't Make Him Drive

Today after school, we have to renew The Pony’s driving permit. Yes, it’s hard to believe that another year has come and gone, and that boy still doesn’t have his license! You can get your learner’s permit in Missouri when you’re 15-and-a-half. Yeah. We’re probably just behind Arkansas and West Virginia when it comes to the youngest young ‘uns driving. I didn’t do any research on that. Don’t quote me. Genius used to scoff at me when I said that since I work with kids that age every day, I don’t think they’re ready to drive.

“Come ON! In Africa, five-year-old kids drive, and they don’t have a problem with wrecks.”

“Well, I seriously doubt that five-year-old kids are driving in Africa. I don’t think that many families have a car to spare for their toddler. Besides, a lot of Africa is…um…like the savanna or something. It’s not exactly like he’s going to find hundreds of other cars driven by other five-year-olds to run into. An elephant, maybe. So of course there are hardly any wrecks. Mainly because FIVE-YEAR-OLD KIDS ARE NOT DRIVING IN AFRICA!”

I swear. Genius could argue with Mother Teresa. Well. If she was alive, I mean. Anyhoo…The Pony took his written test, which HE says he did not, because technically, it’s on the computer, and not on paper, way back when he turned 15-and-a-half. Then it expired, almost while he was gone to be with HIS PEOPLE at the Smartypants Academy, except he noticed right before he left, because other kids were talking about it online, and we renewed it in the nick of time.

Now I guess another whole year has passed, because we have to renew it again. I told him that I think the next time he tries to renew it, he will have to take the written (AHEM, the computer) test again. I also told him that any time he gets the urge to practice his parallel parking, I’ll take him over by the church on a side street where the driver’s exam people have their orange cones and broomsticks set up. Then he can practice exactly where he’ll have to perform for his license. Can you believe he didn’t want to do that?

I called the license office yesterday to see IF he could renew that permit again, and what he needed to bring. I apparently was connected to one of the female hounds from not-heaven. “He needs the old permit, and proof of residence, like mail,” she snapped. “You can show a utility bill as long as you are with him.”

“That’s all he needs? He doesn’t have his name on much.”


Dang. My head was nearly snipped off by her biting comment. I thanked her with my mouth, while slapping her around a little with my imagination. The reason I wanted to be sure was because LAST RENEWAL, of course, we didn’t have everything and had to drive back home. As with EVERY time I go to that office for something. Not only that, but the utility bill I brought in wasn’t good enough, because it was in Hick's name, as are most of our utility bills. So I had to dig up a check stub to show my name and address. Of course then the whole DMV and all their future hackers had my personal info.

Just for good measure, today I’m taking along my most recent pay stub, The Pony’s social security card, his birth certificate, and the old driver’s permit.

I need to wear one of those white plastic neck braces for protection.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

And Now, a Word From Yisha Trearwood

Welcome to Val's blog this evening. She was gracious enough to let me take over just this once. Actually, she was kind of out of commission, and I can't help but feel responsible. Val is a fan of mine, you see. Not so much a music fan, though we all know I have a phenomenal set of pipes. No, Val is more of a cooking show fan. Not that she cooks. But not everyone who watches those home remodel shows remodels homes, either. Anyway, Val likes to watch my show, Yisha's Below the Mason-Dixon Line Cookshack.

Therein lies the problem. On Saturday, and again last evening, Val saw the show where I made my delicious Chicken Broccoli Casserole. We all know that Val is more of a warm things in the microwave (with TWO handles!) or heat them up in the oven (now with two WORKING elements!) kind of gal. But nothing would do her but to try my fantastic recipe. C'mon. Thevictorians can't live by broccocaulipeppot alone, you know.

So Val gathered her ingredients, and boiled up her big fat chicken breasts yesterday, and shredded them last night so they'd be ready for cooking this evening. In the meantime, she got to thinking how maybe her mayonnaise that has been opened and in Frig II for several months, which expires on June 6, might need to be replaced before trying my fabulous recipe. And since she was going to the store anyway, she decided to pick up some shredded cheddar, because after shredding those big fat breasts, Val was in no mood to wrestle the cheese grater. It may be one of the few times Val has stifled an opportunity to cut the cheese. Since she was already picking up mayonnaise and cheese, Val decided to get some fresher sour cream as well. Oh, and since she was already stopping for mayonnaise and cheese and sour cream, Val figured she might as well grab a lemon, because we all know she had none of that fresh fruity stuff in her homestead.

Once she got home, Val set to heating her oven to 400 to pop in a DiGiorno for The Pony, because he's not an adventurous eater, and he needs his leftovers to take in his lunch for two days while he does his A+ tutoring with kindergarteners. Then Val was caught up in the whirlwind that is my Chicken Broccoli Casserole. She was blanching and ricing and buttering and dolloping and grinding and sprinkling like a fiend. An absolute fiend!

When Val called The Pony upstairs for his pizza, she said, "I feel like a surgeon in the middle of an operation. I wish I had somebody to dab my brow to keep the sweat from running into my eyes." To which The Pony responded, hesitantly, with a couple of false starts, "Do you want me to get a paper towel and dry your sweat?" Val let him off the hook. She figured she'd done enough damage all those times she declared she was tired of holding his balls, or told him to grab his brother's package. So she just shook her head, flinging sweat beads like a Golden Retriever spraying pond droplets after fetching a duck. "No. I was just saying."

Val nearly dislocated an elbow folding all those ingredients together. But she got 'er done! After 40 minutes of heating-up time, that casserole was ready for consumption. I overheard Hick declare that it was tasty, but Val begged to differ, saying that it needed something. Well. Of course she left out that hot sauce that I add to mine. I can only do it when my friends drop in to cook with me in my Cookshack. That's because my famous husband does not like the spicy. Maybe you've heard of him: Barth Grooks. He used to sell a few records, way back when folks still bought records.

Now let's give the floor back to Val. She looks like she'd about to collapse on it anyway.

Huh. That Yisha Trearwood sure is long-winded. I'm not sure what to think of her. But I'll tell you one thing. You need to read the fine print on her recipes. Okay. It's all the same size print. But pay attention! You may think it only takes a few minutes to throw together, like Yisha does on her show. But NO! You have to make your preparations way ahead of time. It's like a full-time job, cooking. Which is not something Val wants to do after coming home from her full-time job. And it seems a little bit unfair to spend 2 hours and 50 minutes making something that The Pony only nibbles, and Hick polishes off in five minutes. Not to mention all those dishes that clamor for a washin'.

Let's just say that if you end up sweating more than a marathoner on her 25th mile during a July 4th race in Atlanta...YOU'RE WORKING TO DANG HARD TO MAKE THAT MEAL!

Excuse me. I am off to rehydrate by hooking up a homemade IV with a knitting needle and the tube that dispenses cold water out of the freezer door of Frig II.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Val Gets Her Humerus Caught In a Wringer

Today was supposed to be my last day of school. Ha ha! Funny how almost dying last year enabled me to miss the final day this year. Okay. I suppose it's not funny ha ha. It's funny peculiar.

Yes, last year on this date, I was being sprung from a three-day hospital stay for multiple bilateral pulmonary embolisms. Let the record show that I survived. My pulmonologist just so happened to schedule me for my one-year check-up today. Like he was scary psychic back then, and knew how many snow days we would have, and that this would be the very last work day for me. So...tomorrow I will be working my last, while everyone else is starting their summer vacation.

I am really quite tired this evening. This doctor visit wore me out more than going there while I was still under the influence of blood clots. Back then, even though I had to walk slowly, Hick let me out at the entrance while he went to park. Today, no such luck. My prince was a toad. He zoomed right past that entrance, all the way down to the opposite end of the parking garage, and backed into the next to next to last space. So I had to walk all the way back to the entrance.

Well, I knew what I was in for. We were in Building C, headed for the 2nd floor. We walked down a long hall and veered left and came to a dead-end with the elevators. Up we went one floor, then retraced our steps at that level, going past where the entrance would have been below, and twice as far again.

"Great. Just like last time, they're not going to open their door. I'm sitting down here on this bench until they start letting people in." Let the record show that my appointment was for 10:00, and it was now 9:40. We had left home at 8:15 to allow for traffic and walking. Last time, the receptionist was really kind of hateful to patients daring to enter her sanctuary. She unlocked the door to let us in, but wouldn't turn on the lights until 10:00. Then she didn't give out the forms until she was done chewing out some poor vendor on the phone.

Hick kept his eye peeled for the grand opening. Apparently that building does a booming business in high-risk pregnancies and ultrasounds, because women were virtually pouring out of that door right across from our bench. Hick decided that at 9:55, we would storm the pulmonologist's office and demand entrance. Indeed, the lights were still off, and the door was locked. Hick pounded like an angry mob member who had handed off his flaming torch to his buddy. "It's 9:56. This is ridiculous." He pounded some more.

A custodian came by, pushing a cart of supplies. "Oh, he moved. His office is in A Building now. Third floor."

"That explains it. Might have been nice if they had notified us. Do you know how to get to the new office?"

"Go on up this hall, all the way to the end until you can't go any farther. Turn right. Go all the way to the end until you can't go any farther. Turn right again. Go all the way to the end, to the elevators. Go up one floor. It's the first office on the right."

"Thank you so much! We never would have found it."

Off we went, with three minutes to make my appointment. The place we ended up was where we had originally driven in, before getting to the parking garage. I daresay we walked about a mile to get back to before where we started. Hick was nearly apoplectic. "I will go get the car and pick you up out front when we leave."

In the new waiting room, I was the first patient. The girl (a newer, more cheerful version) finished talking with two men untangling telephone cables, and said, "Oh, bear with me. You're our first patient in the new office." Yeah. These things only happen to Val. I filled out three patient forms while Hick kept grousing about how they moved and didn't tell anybody. An older, crankier gal came out and started stacking the magazines, as if they'd had anybody to mess them up since we came in, the very first patient in the new office.

"I'm gonna tell her!"

"Don't be scary."

"I don't care what they think of me. They need to learn how to run a business. I bet there's people who miss their appointment because they can't find this place." He complained to the old gal.

"Didn't you get a letter?"

"No. I have this card they gave me a year ago, with the old office address. I never got a call or a letter telling me any different."

"We sent out a letter to every patient on our appointment calendar. We don't make calls. We have too many patients to make calls. Besides, we put a big sign on the window of the old office."

"I didn't see no sign. Just a map that said, 'You are here.'"

"Well, we put the sign there so people can find the way here."

Let the record show that what they said was a sign was only that map, with no clue that my doctor had moved.

Anyhoo, I was called back, again congratulated for being the very first patient in the new office (you'd think they'd at least have awarded me a metal toolbox like my dad won at the Montgomery Ward grand opening in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, when I was six), and shown to an exam room without a sphygmomanometer. Or so the CNP thought, until a nurse chased her into my exam room to get back the one she had plundered, and said, "We're keeping them in the side drawer of the exam table."

Then the CNP said that I was going to be seen by her, what with me being the first patient in the new office, and the doctor not there yet. She took vitals and pumped that sphygmomanometer tighter than Popeye's hand around a can of spinach. It hurt SO bad that it was all I could do to keep from whining. And let the record show that when I had my gallbladder attack resulting in emergency surgery several years ago, the nurse said I had the highest pain tolerance of any gallbladderist she had ever seen.

The CNP said my BP was 160/90, and I replied, "From the pain." Because usually it's lower than that, but then usually I haven't just walked the equivalent of the distance from England to France, which I totally thought was possible until just last year when The Pony informed me that England is an island!

Anyhoo, my Asian doctor who must be all of 50 years old, but looks about 22, and acts around 12, sitting on his knees on the rolling exam stool, came in and booted out the CNP and made me feel very much lower-blood-pressury, because I think he's hilarious. He had me breathing into a tube, and listened to all lung lobes, and told me he was very happy that I was doing well, and that he reviewed the previous two blood tests, which were completely normal, and all he could think to advise me was to have a lupus test, because that is the third of only three blood tests he believes might actually show a reason for a blood clot.

We were out of there soon after two nurse-type people wrestled over the lab order for me to bring back home for a local blood draw, since I was in no mood to go walk all over Missouri Baptist Hospital to give my sample. Funny how that one gal tried to give me all three of the triplicate copies, but the CNP grabbed them out of her hand and ripped off the bottom one, and said, "She only needs this one," and the order-writer tried to grab it back, and said, "At least give her the top copy, because it's more legible." Seriously. She wrote it one time, and it self-carbonated. It's not like she wrote out three different forms. More legible, indeed.

It's a wonder I survived this appointment that was only to show that I'm well now. A calm day of professional development and room-straightening would have been more soothing.

When we left, Hick took off the way we had come. He told me to go down to ground level and wait out front, by the valet parking guys. It took him a good 10 or 15 minutes to reappear with T-Hoe.

I didn't have the heart to tell him that if he had only walked out at ground level, he could have taken a diagonal path over to the parking garage without going all the way back through A, B, and C building.

Monday, May 25, 2015

This Is the Stuff That Belongs To the Boy Who Lives In the Room Of the Summer Internship Apartment That Garmin Rented

As you know, thanks to Val's faithful updating of every move except the bowel kind of her precious progeny (and that might be doable if there is a demand)...Genius left Saturday for his summer internship with Garmin. Surely you know Garmin. From my favorite commercials at Christmas time a few years back. Give a, give a, give a, give a Garmin! Thevictorians, however, are a thrifty lot, and both Genius and Hick have generic Walmart GPS thingies.

Genius sent me some pictures of his new living quarters. Seems the apple doesn't fall far from the stem where the apple has been hanging for six days.

I don't know if you will be able to see the details, because Genius is the fancy-schmancy sort who likes to use such accouterments as a panoramic lens, or wide-angle, or a stretchy kind of view dealybobber to take such a picture, most likely so his loving mother will have trouble posting it on her blog, though he does love to be the center of attention.

Genius is usually a neatnik. But his room at home looks pretty much the same, what with him leaving stuff that will just need repacking for the trip to his off-campus house when he returns briefly in August. So...let's see what this room says about my first-born son.

First of all, he has a bed, a closet, his own bathroom, and a view to the outside world. It looks like he made a purchase at Walmart, because he did not have a queen-size fitted sheet. You notice that he has made sure to prepare his bed, an area in which he likes to spend part of the night, and most of the afternoon. Looks like he is going to be a little crowded. There's his office chair that he got at Goodwill and hauled all the way to Kansas. His drafting-table desk that was destined to be a car-top guillotine until I intervened. The trademark red Solo cup, which I am sure Genius filled with ice and water, took one sip, then let melt for several hours untouched until he dumped it out and filled it with ice again. The black Stonehenge-looking structure on the dresser is probably a collection of his camera parts. It looks like Genius is pretty much unpacked and ready to get down to the brass tacks of Garmining, which begins on Tuesday with orientation.

Don't you worry that Genius only has a sleeping room. No siree, Bob! He has a kitchen and a dining area and a living room and a balcony and a fireplace. Not that he plans to light it, of course. It's summer. In Kansas.

I believe he took this one standing by the sink. He even has a kitchen island! This is like the Oliver Wendell Douglas penthouse before he left for Hooterville. Genius has been used to his one-room RA cell for the past year, not even a suite with a shared bathroom. Now he and his roommate each have their own bedroom/bathroom arrangement. You get to Genius's bedroom by going between the fireplace and balcony.

I wish Genius had worn a beanie, so he could stand out by the pool and toss it in the air while catchy music played, "You might just make it after all."

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Pony At the Trap

This is the weekend when kids declare the unofficial start of summer, teachers breathe a sigh of relief, and swimming pools open their attractive-nuisance-fenced doors to admit the public. So it was only fitting that I should step out on the back porch and see Hick and The Pony attempting to open Poolio.

Oh, Poolio! How you have aged from your heyday, when The Pony could not even stand on the bottom and keep his flared nostrils above water. It seems like only yesterday, and not nine years gone by.

Genius evaded the preparation of Poolio by approximately two hours. Hick said he had been getting ready all week, draining water off the top of the cover. He said. However...I heard The Pony trot into the house, saying he just came in for his swimsuit. "Dad says I have to get down in the pool, or we can't get the cover off."

"WAIT! That water is freezing! It was down to 39 degrees two nights this week!"

"I know. Dad says it will just be for a minute. I'm taking a towel to wrap up in when I get out."

I heard The Pony changing in the laundry room. Then the door slammed. I headed out back to see what was going on. Hick and The Pony had pulled the pool cover over to the side, but there was still some residual water remaining inside. Residual water that contained leaves and algae that had been marinating on top since last September.

The Pony had just climbed down over the porch rail to Poolio's deck. Hick was already delegating duty. "Jump in and get your arms under the cover. I'll pull from this side, and you can lift it up. We'll dump it over the side."

The Pony was hesitant. "It's going to be really cold."

"You won't be in there but a minute. Jump in and get it over with. Or you can sit on the side and dip your feet in to get used to it."

"I think that would be a big mistake." But The Pony did just that.

"COLD! I'm not worried so much about getting in as I am getting out without the ladder."

"You can put your hands on the deck and jump up, then climb out."

"That will be hard to do while I'm shaking."

"I'll come get you out if you can't make it." Said Hick, with all the speed of a Galapagos tortoise as collateral for the check his mouth was writing.

The Pony jumped in and immediately slipped, just narrowly avoiding a mouthful of untreated nine-month-old buttwater soup. "There's algae on the bottom!"

"Don't worry about that yet. Come over here and grab the cover."

Let the record show that I normally don't reveal my family's faces on my blogs. I try to cut off their heads at every opportunity. However, I don't find them particularly recognizable in these photos. And since The Pony appears uncharacteristically bloated, and Hick appears uncharacteristically svelte, I don't think I have let an identifiable cat out of the bag. Further let the record show that the greenish discoloration on the pool cover is an optical illusion, most likely a reflection from the algae on the bottom, because in real life the cover was all black.

Of course The Pony could not lift that pouch of water. He's not known for his strength. So Hick developed another plan. "We'll let some of that water out, if your mom will go in and get a knife. There's a hole in this cover anyway, so we're going to need a new one."

"He's freezing! And you want him to stand there while I get a knife?"

"No. He can climb out and come get the knife when you hand it over the rail."

I accomplished my mission. As you can see by The Pony stabbing Poolio's cover with an orange-handled knife such as those made in Hick's factory. The problem was, once The Pony stabbed a hole and water started spouting out, helpful Hick pulled on the edge of the pool cover, thus raising that hole above the water line inside, rendering it useless. "Stab another hole, Pony." And the process was repeated.

"That water will never drain if you keep pulling on the cover. Let some of it come out. Or let him stab it farther down."

"That would be stupid. Water from the pool would come in. It would fill up more."

"Dad. Why don't your cinch those hooks like you planned."

"Yeah." And Hick set to securing the pool cover to his orange come-a-long ratchety rope thingy, which was hooked onto the front of his Gator, which...


As you might imagine, my advice was ignored.

Thank goodness Hick stopped at holding Poolio's cover, and didn't try to drag it over the side. Because I don't know how to take video, and that would have been a wasted redneck faux pas. No YouTube video = didn't happen. After several dozen more stabbing attempts, Hick revealed Plan C. Which I may have suggested, but which Hick thinks he thought of.

"Go get the big blue hose, Pony. We'll hook it up to the trap and pump it out." He cut a slash in the cover, and jammed his end of the blue hose into it.

The Pony stuffed his end in the bug trap part. Of course this didn't work, because the regular pool water has to be above a certain level so water is over a thingy on the side. So Hick declared a moratorium on pool cover removal for the day, and left the skinny red hose in there filling Poolio from the well. Anybody who has well water can appreciate what The Pony was sacrificing by squishing around in there for fifteen minutes.

The Pony reports that the cover has now been safely removed by pumping the water out. He is hoping to get in a swim sometime this week.

I think he already has.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

He's Outta Here, With Three Strikes

Genius left for his summer internship with Garmin this morning.

He hit the long road to Olathe about an hour after his planned departure. Yesterday he loaded up his Mariner for the voyage. There was a slight hitch when his drafting desk wouldn't fit. Hick had the bright idea of strapping it to the top of the car, like deceased Aunt Edna in National Lampoon's Vacation. I was not on board with that plan, because all we needed was a gust of wind to lift that tempting flat piece of glass like an airplane wing, sending it through the windshield of the automobile following behind like a sideways guillotine. That possible crisis was avoided when, at the last minute, Genius decided to take it apart, and they finally got the top stowed away in the hold of the Mariner.

Genius had scheduled his exit for 7:00 a.m. We got up to see him off, only to see him instead emerge from his bedroom and set sail for the shower. Still, after only 30 minutes, he was out and chucking all the leftover bits of computer guts from the living room floor into his about-to-be-vacated bedroom. As with any lengthy excursion, Genius attempted to tie up loose ends. I forked over some travel cash, even though he said he had enough in his account. Genius met me in the kitchen while I was fetching his bankroll.

"Is this the right insurance card?" he asked while laying it on the cutting block for my inspection. Like he has a Rolodex full of insurance cards. What other insurance card could he possibly have? As far as I know, nobody else is carrying him as a dependent, though the folks at the IRS begged to differ last year at tax time.

"Did you want to take any food with you? I doubt you will want to go shopping after driving five hours and unloading your car. There's that sandwich stuff you wanted. It would travel okay."

"No. I don't think so." He went on loading his last-minute clothes on hangers. Packed his laptop. On a trip back into the house, he said, "I DID want to take that pizza." Let the record show that when Genius did the shopping for me on graduation Sunday, he grabbed a two-pack of DiGiorno Supreme pizzas. I suppose that's like a gourmet treat, after fighting with that Husky last summer over the last slice of his 88-cent Totinos.

"I can pack that soft-sided zip cooler that your dad got for free." Which I set about doing, wrapping the DiGiornos in a towel, sliding them into the cooler, and flattening out half a bag of ice that I found in the back of the freezer. Just a fit.

Genius loaded it into the car. He came back for hugs, then his dad walked him out. I sat down in the La-Z-Boy to watch him go up the driveway towing a little piece of my heart. Then it hit me. "WAIT! Pony! Do you think Genius meant the DiGiorno, or did he want that leftover Chef Boyardee from last night?"

"I don't know." How could I have forgotten that The Pony does not really care about helping people?

"Have they left yet? I hope I can get out there in time." I launched myself out of the La-Z-Boy and hurried to the front porch. Genius stood in the open door of his Mariner, telling Hick to send him the specs on the 3D printer at work, because he was curious. "Genius! Did you mean the DiGiorno, or last night's pizza?"

"Last night's."

"Wait, I'll get it. I packed the DiGiorno."

Genius brought the cooler in, and I grabbed his foil packet from the bottom shelf of Frig II. We unzipped the lid and found just the right amount of space for that treat.

"Now you have two DiGiornos and a fourth of a Chef Boyardee deep dish. That should last you until tomorrow."

"Yeah. I'll be fine." Off he went. I puttered around, watching Smart and Dumber try to take the cover off Poolio. More on that debacle another day. I threw up my hands in resignation when one of them wouldn't take my advice, and went back into the house through the laundry room, and into the kitchen.


Oh, no! My almost-adult child was driving all the way across the state, and into another, hauling a sheet of glass that could decapitate him with a sudden stop, and he had NO HEALTH INSURANCE CARD! By now, an hour and a half had passed. I called Genius. He has a fancy schmancy sound system that he had installed in his Mariner, so he can talk to me through his radio. At least that's how I think it works. To me, that's cutting edge, but then I still live in the days of the tin-can-and-string phone system.

"Genius! I just found your insurance card laying on the cutting block! You don't have your insurance card! And the mail won't go out until Tuesday morning. You haven't even given me your address! What are we going to do? Can The Pony text you a picture of it?"

"Have him email it to me. I'll try not to have a major accident until I get my insurance card."

"Okay. But we don't even know for sure if you'll get your mail. Maybe I should send you a copy of both sides, then if you get that envelope, I'll mail you the real thing."

"Whatever. I can't hardly hear you. My GPS is talking. I need to make a turn."

"Okay. I'll have The Pony take a picture of your insurance card."

"All right. Oh, and on the way to town, I ran over a bunch of glass in the road on one of those blind hills by the cow lady's house. I came up over and didn't see it in time to go around. It was some kind of blue bottle. I stopped for gas as soon as I got to town, so I could look at my tires. I couldn't see anything. So if you go to town, look out for that glass."

"Okay. Be careful. If you need to get your tires fixed, I'll put some money in your account."

"I can't hear you. My GPS is talking again. I'll let you know when I get there."

Yeah. Just what we need, next to the sideways guillotine, is to replace any of the four tires we spent over $500 on last week when Genius got home.

At least he finally docked on the shores of Stonepost Lakeside, where Garmin is paying his rent for the summer. Surely nothing else can go wrong before he starts earning his keep on Tuesday...

Friday, May 22, 2015

Val Is a One-Eyed Purple PEEP Eater

Remember back when everybody was bragging about their Mother's Day swag, and I told you how Hick and The Pony brought me some PEEPS from Goodwill in Jefferson City? Yeah. It's coming back to you, isn't it? That flash of jealousy you first had, thinking, "Nobody ever buys ME Goodwill PEEPS five weeks after Easter!"

So...they brought me the PEEPS on May 10. I set them aside. No need to devour them all at once, what with me thinking I'd never see another PEEP until the day after Halloween. They were chick PEEPS, purple. I thought about having some the next night, but wanted to let them linger for a while in my dark basement lair. Not to age them. Just so I could think how I had some PEEPS stashed away. And most people don't.

A week went by. I thought about having a couple as I watched TV. But that was not a special enough occasion to waste my PEEPS. Finally, on Wednesday, during the Survivor finale of two hours, followed by the reunion special, I deemed the night PEEPworthy. After all, there are only two Survivor finales per year. I'd been watching Survivor since we were still in 3rd Quarter at school. And now this was the last week of school. Very special. A couple of milestones. No need to break out the champagne. I had PEEPS.

I sent The Pony from his couch into my office to grab one of my two boxes of PEEPS. He put them on the TV tray that acts as a table beside my blue recliner, the one with my Bubba cup of ice water, and the TV remote, and a box of Puffs With Lotion, and assorted junk that is primarily in the way. Just in time for the final tribal council, to get from four contestants to the final three, I cracked open the cellophane on my box of PEEPS. Like a marble rye, like a Cuban cigar, like a Mackinaw peach, like a chocolate babka...PEEPS were on hand as the gold standard of treats. I was psyched to delve into my delicacy.

AHH...I took the first bite...ARGH!


There was an off taste. Being the adventurous sort, and not quite believing there's such a thing as a bad PEEP, I took another bite. And another. In fact, I consumed two purple chick PEEPS. And I couldn't eat another bite. Don't think Val is a lightweight. This would be like Kobayashi eating half a Nathan's hot dog. But I had to stop. The flavor was not good. And then it hit me. Why my PEEPS were not the sugary sweet treat of which I had dreamed.


That's right. And it wasn't the mystery flavor, either. I suspect that my sweet, sweet PEEPS had been in a house fire. Who gives perfectly good PEEPS to Goodwill, right? I asked The Pony to try one. He refused. He acted like the date of a guy with a horse face, big teeth, and flared nostrils shaking her head at a bite of pie.

"I wanted to know if it's the PEEPS, or just me. Something is wrong with them. They taste like smoke."

"Aww...I'm sorry. We thought you'd like them."

"They were the best gift ever. I LOVE PEEPS! But these must have been in a fire. Or in a house with a wood stove for heating. They taste like they're hickory-smoked. It's not a good flavor on a PEEP. I still like my gift. But I can't eat them."

I set the little container with the remaining three chick PEEPS aside. The next night, as Genius, The Pony and I watched "The Starving Games" on the big screen TV, I must have nodded off.

"MOM! You wanted us to watch this with you. Now you're SLEEPING! We heard you snore! Wake up! Eat a PEEP!"

"I was just resting my eyes for a minute. I know what happened. There's no need to eat a PEEP. I'll stay awake."

"MOM! You were asleep again! Eat a PEEP!"

"I'll give it one more try. But the flavor is not good. Here, Genius. Try one. Why? You act just like The Pony. Smell it. Why? Here. I'll try one more. Hey! That smoky flavor is gone. Maybe they aired out."

Not really. If you take them completely out of the package and let them sit overnight, they mostly lose that smoky flavor. I'm sure this is really tempting those of you who profess not to love PEEPS. I'd better shut up before you all go out looking for the PEEPS meant for me.

Here is a picture of the Goodwill PEEPS that were marked 59 cents, but which Hick proudly declared he got for 50 cents.

Yeah. Kind of creepy, eh? Looks like I was a one-eyed purple PEEP eater. And come to think of it, I've never seen PEEPS in quite this arrangement before. Maybe they're knock-off PEEPS.

One thing's for sure. After 24 hours out in the open, they taste almost okay.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Maybe I Should Ask If He Needs a Currycomb

The Pony is getting ready for his adventure at Missouri Boys State in early June. Except The Pony doesn’t really get ready for anything. He told me he needed a physical on the night before our school was having free physicals for next year’s athletes. With the papers being due by 3:00 on the afternoon before he told me that night at 9:30. Granted, he had just returned from his orientation meeting. But that info was on the website.

Lucky for The Pony that Val has pull with the powers who schedule school physicals. I got him and our other delegate worked into the schedule, with the official form they will need for MBS.

He also needs a suit. The Pony has never had a suit. Even Genius had his grandpa’s old suit for his sartorial needs when HE went to Missouri Boys State. I consulted Genius for fashion input. Genius just got his own new suit last summer, you know, to look sharp at interviews. The first thing Genius did was call The Pony upstairs.

“No. That’s not going to work. Go back.” Thus The Pony was dismissed back to the basement. “He’s too short. Grandpa’s suit won’t fit him. Do you think he’s done growing yet?”

“No. I don’t think so.”

“So you just want to get him a cheap suit.”

“Well. An inexpensive one. Because I don’t think it will fit him for more than a couple of years.”

“Okay. I’ll fix him up. The shirt, the tie, the works.”

“Good. Because I don’t know what a suit should look like. And we definitely don’t want your father picking one out. But remember, The Pony is not cutting edge like you. He just needs a classic, basic suit.”

“I can do that.”

“I was thinking we’ll just go to J.C .Penney for The Pony’s suit. I was looking online. How about Sharkskin or Charcoal Gray? Or basic black?”

“I’d say you can’t go wrong with gray. Don’t get black. That just screams ‘FIRST SUIT!’ Everybody goes for black with the first suit.”

Now The Pony needs to read his handbook about government branches and their duties, and make sure he has eight sets of clothing, because there will be no laundry facilities there. I’ll have to make sure he has enough shorts that have cargo pockets. The Pony isn’t one for stretchy athletic shorts. And I have a feeling slacks are not the unofficial uniform of Missouri Boys State. These delegates are not exactly HIS PEOPLE. But they are, perhaps, fourth cousins of HIS PEOPLE twice removed.

I’m not sure how much The Pony will enjoy this eight-day event.

There are no girls at Boys State.