Monday, December 30, 2013

Z is for Zouk

Zouk - to engage in unrestrained social activity

Now that I'm strictly online, I can hang out more!  I only went to my knitting group every other Sunday when it was in my town.  (We alternate between my town and the town where we moved from a few years ago.  They are about 10 miles apart.)

Dave would give me flack about going to the other town meet-ups because I was spending $15 a day on gas for my commute to school.  Using more gas to get to the other town seemed frivolous to him.

What Dave never seems to understand is that I'm a very social creature.   I was when he met me, I still am.  He's not social (at all), so it never really occurs to him.  He acts like it's a big, damn surprise whenever I want to hang out with my friends.

I already informed him that since I was no longer spending so much money on gas, I'd be going to knitting every week now.

I also want to spend more time with friends outside of the knitting group.  I'd like to strengthen and deepen some friendships that mean a lot to me.

I can't afford to go out to lunch all the time, so I'm going to have to figure out ways to make this happen. 

I'm also going to start writing letters again.  I used to write letters all the time to my friends that were still in the military, but they are all out now.  I've started a letter to my brother.  He and I haven't been close since we were kids (nothing in common as adults?).  I figure letters are a nice way to let him know what's going on in my little world, and who doesn't like to get a handwritten letter?

Last year, I couldn't wait for the year to be over.  It was a tough, fucked-up year.  This year has been better - mostly because I made the conscious choice to see it that way.

I'm looking forward to next year being even better and seeing where it takes me!

Can't wait to get started, Ruth!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Y is for Yule

This Christmas is proving.... problematic.

I never know what to get Dave, so that's nothing new.  He always says, "Don't get me anything.  I don't need anything. blah, blah, blah."  Right.  Like I wouldn't get him anything!

The problem is that this is the first year where I really have NO idea what to get the kids!  They are at that age where they are mostly too old for toys, but I don't want to just get them more video games.

T hasn't really said what he wants this year.  D2 says he "only has two things on [his] list so far."  So far...  At least the good news is that one of those two things is a book!  The bad news is the other thing is a video game.

I love guns.  Dave and I each have one and we think at 10 1/2 and 12 1/2, they boys are old enough to get started on learning gun safety and how to shoot.  Dave wants to do this with the guns we have.   I think we should get them "starter" guns - air guns (BB guns, if you're closer to my age). 

I know, I know... "You'll put your eye out!"

Not with proper training.

Dave and I recently went to the new Cabela's that opened up near our house.  I've never been to one.  It's flipping HUGE!!  We looked at guns and they have some very nice air pistols for just $25 each.

I wanted to look at crossbows because I've always thought they were so cool, and we are also big Walking Dead fans.  Darryl is, of course, my favorite!

I had no idea crossbows were so damn heavy!!  I held one up and sighted through the scope.  My target circle kept slowly dipping down because the equipment is too heavy.  I need to work on getting some guns before I get a crossbow!  (Guns in this context being stronger arms.)

And the cost?!  Those bad boys cost equally as much as a good Glock.

I think I may get the each of the boys a Nerf crossbow and then we can really have some fun with those!

What do I want for Christmas?  I think (as previously posted) I'm really getting a sewing bug.  I told Dave I just want a gift certificate to IKEA, so I can get the pieces I want for my dream cutting table.

Dave has created this tradition that really works great!  My husband purposely buys the ugliest piece of clothing in the store that equals the amount of money he wants to spend. Thus forcing me to return it and get whatever I want! It's stupid funny, and I get to pick something that A) I'd really like and
B) make that purchase post-holiday when most stuff is on sale!  He started doing this about three years ago.  It cracks me up the stuff he picks!

Two years ago, he got me this really plain, too-small, black sweater dress.  I think it was about $80.  I took it back to Macy's and got a killer pair of knee-high, stiletto boots, a gorgeous burgundy, cabled sweater dress with a cowl neckline, some leggings, and some much-needed new bras.  It was like five or six presents for the price of one!

What are your Christmas dreams this year?

Well.  I seemed to have written this a couple of weeks before xmas.  We ended up getting the boys some books and video games.   We got them Nerf Laser tag, but apparently, they only work with smartphones which the boys don't have.  The boys returned them and got another video game, a lego kit, and a few other things (the return plus their xmas money).

Dave broke tradition and got our first-ever smartphones for he and me.  He also got me a nicer camera than the one we've been struggling with over the last few years.  The new camera has a flash that only works when you push the button to pop it up.  Also, it only takes 4 batteries - no way to recharge it.  I don't mind either of these minor issues because it takes amazing pictures!

I got Dave a new deep fryer (ours broke recently), a Husker hat, T-shirt, and keychain, and a few other little things.

What'd you guys get?

Brainstorming for gifts for next year, Ruth!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

X is for Xing

Xing or X-ing means "crossroads".  This upcoming year is becoming a major crossroads for me.

Everything is a choice.  It took me forever to get that through my thick head. 

My crossroads involves several aspects of my life: 

Keep being lazy and keep gaining weight or get off my ass.

Keep fucking around or really buckle down and get my speeds.

Keep buying yarn or make a concerted effort to knit the S.A.B.L.E. I already own.

Write lists or do things.

My knees are killing me.  That ain't good.  I know it's the extra weight.  In 2009/2010, I was still a stay-at-home mom with a lot of time on my hands.  It took me 8 months of going to the gym four or five days a week to lose 25 pounds. 

Then I got a job and went to a school across town.  I had an 80-hour week.  80 hours of mandatory sitting.  I'd lost 25 pounds, but they found me again and this time they brought friends.  Bastards.

As of now, I'm strictly online.  I have no job to speak of (although I may have a part-time one starting next month) and a lot of time on my hands again.  I plan to wake, have breakfast, practice for an hour, and then take my ass to the gym.  After gym and shower, more practice.

I made the decision to switch schools.  That decision came in week four of eleven this quarter.  Since I made that decision, I pretty much wrote off this whole quarter.  I knew that much of what I've done at my current school wouldn't count for anything when I transferred.  I barely did the minimum of homework and started playing hooky.  That's so not me!

I was so frustrated with the school I'm going to that I kind of said, "fuck it". 

That stops now.

I'm actually doing a bit of a "double major" type thing at the new school.   They have a voice writer program that only takes 6 months.  I don't even know what a voice writer does really, but I know they make $20-$25 an hour.  I figure I'll do the VW program while taking my speed courses for the next six months.  After that I'll take whatever speeds I have left and all the academics I can handle. 

My thinking is that I can be a VW for the remainder of my schooling.  The registrar says no one's ever attempted it before, and I'll be the guinea pig for it.  I'm OK with that!  We already got the go-ahead from the school owner.

Jeezly Crow.  When will it ever be enough?  (Said no knitter ever...)  I say it every year, but seriously.  I have a fucking WALL of yarn.  And now I'm sewing, too?  So fabric's next?  I already have a pretty large bin of fabric that I've been hauling around for years.  Time to use it.

I recently made a pretty ambitious list.  I've done two things off that list.  One was a much bigger undertaking than I'd suspected.  My side of our bedroom and my HUGE closet have been little more than a dumping ground over the past year. 

It took me four hours to clean it out, clean it up, and rearrange it the way I wanted it.  Four hours.  That's just stupid.  Part of that job included the second thing I crossed off that list:  Making a space in our bedroom for my student activities.  This means that for all intents and purposes, our shared office is going to just be Dave's office now.

To accomplish the space I wanted in our bedroom, I moved our bed and nightstands nearly a foot closer to Dave's side of the room.  If he's noticed at all, he hasn't said anything!  hah!

The bad news is that I may have lost $100(ish)! 

Dave went to a coin machine thing that said if you feed in $40, you can get a $50 gift certificate to Toys 'R Us.  He did it twice.  Instead of hard gift cards, it printed him what looked like receipts.  He gave them to me, and we'd planned to put them in the kids' stockings for xmas.  I put them in my nightstand.  I swear that's what I did with them.

I forgot to put them in the stockings, but no big deal, we just told them about it.  Yesterday, after the four-hour cleaning/rearranging spree, Dave said we should take the kids to TRU to let them use that money. 

Those receipt things are NOT in my nightstand. 

Worse upon worse, I had T take the two bags of trash to the curb for me since it was trash day.


I know I didn't throw them away.  I check every scrap of paper before it goes in the trash.  I do this even on a normal basis, much less a mass cleaning! 

That being said, I also know I put those little fuckers in my nightstand. 

I tore my recently cleaned room apart looking for them.  I can't find them.  It made me nauseous.

Dave says it was just coins.  "Like found money", he says.  Screw that.  It's $100!!

The receipts are good for 80 years (weird, right?), so hopefully they turn up eventually...

Anyway, other than losing that money(ish), I was super happy with my progress on the cleaning front.  I've started on the office, too.  I already have three boxes of stuff to take to Savers!

Crossing over into the New Year, Ruth!

Friday, December 27, 2013

W is for Weave

I have lots of classes from  Like 33.  About half of those are the free classes they offer.  I've got sewing classes, knitting classes, jewelry classes, and a couple of cooking classes.

I've watched 1/2 of three of the 33.  The one I've completely finished is Sewing Studio, taught by Diana Rupp.  (If you are a beginning sewer, I highly recommend it!)

One of my goals is to watch two classes per month next year.

When had their cyberMonday sale, I bought a couple classes (my current total is 33).  I almost bought the beginning serger class, but then I remembered that I don't own a serger.  Yet.  (Anybody have a serger they are looking to get rid of, send it my way!)

Strangely, the fact that I don't own a loom didn't stop me from buying a beginning loom weaving class a few months ago.

I have a friend who is a master quilter and knitter and now, weaver!  She's been bringing her weaving projects to our knitting group, and it has really made me want to learn!  I hear it's a great way to eat up a lot of yarn.  Just so happens, I have a lot of yarn!

I want a loom that's at least 24" wide.  They are SO expensive!  There are some that are nearly reasonable, but they are only 16" wide and I don't want to just make scarves and/or table runners.  I really want to make lovely towels like my friend has been making.

My friend is such a good friend that she said when she finishes her latest weaving project, she'll lend the loom to me so I may do my class.  She's so cool!  (She also has a huge floor loom.)

Looking forward to my future towels, Ruth!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

V is for Valentino

I've discovered silent films this year.

It's no secret that I'm a fool for movies.  I particularly love old black-and-white movies.  My most recent break between quarters have been spent in front of a slew of old movies.

I had a Cary Grant/Irene Dunn movie marathon while I sorted through the mountains of paperwork that have built up in my bedroom and closet over the course of a year.

My favorites are The Awful Truth, My Favorite Wife, and Penny Serenade (makes me cry EVERY time!).

I had a Vincent Price marathon while sorting two HUGE boxes of pictures to get them ready for a trip to Target where they will be scanned and put on CDs for downloading.

Vincent Price is at his best when coupled with Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne.  Spent a large portion of my childhood Saturdays with Vincent.  My brother and I would watch his movies whenever they came on.  That and Kung Fu theater.

With the exception of Chaplin movies and early Laurel and Hardy fare, I've never been into silent films.

TCM has been doing Silent Sunday Nights for a long time now.  They did a Buster Keaton marathon, so I DVR'ed them all.  He is amazing!!  I started watching them in the mornings as I ate my breakfast before commuting to school.  I would watch about 10 minutes a day.

Truthfully, 10 minutes at a time was about all I can handle of a silent film.  I usually multi-task while the TV is on.  I'm knitting or doing my academic homework, organizing something, folding laundry, blogging (Chopped All-Stars is on right now), etc.  With silent films, you have to actually pay attention as most of the action is conveyed through facial expression and sneaky script cards.

I had always heard about how great Intolerance was.  I recorded it and when I opened that recording to watch it, it's three hours long!!  I watched the whole thing.  Again, 10 - 20 minutes at a time.  It was all right.   It's not really linear in it's thought processes.

I watched the original Ben Hur for the same reason I watched Intolerance.  It's supposed to be so iconic and innovative for its time.

That one got me.  It was started out just OK.  Ramon Novarro is quite beautiful.  It's another long one - nearly 2 1/2 hours long!

If you don't know the story.  The IMDB synopsis is as follows:
A Jewish prince seeks to find his family and revenge himself upon his childhood friend who had him wrongly imprisoned.

Ben Hur and his family end up in a very bad way through a series of events beyond their control.  He ends up in slavery, and his mom and sister end up in prison where they become "unclean" - that means they contracted leprosy.

More series of events and Ben Hur regains some semblance of his former self/wealth/etc. and makes his way back to his former mansion, looking for his mom and sister.

Through their own series of events, they are released from prison and also go home.  They see Ben Hur sleeping on a stoop outside the home (he got there first, couldn't get in, fell asleep). 

This is where my heart broke. 

The sister starts to rush to her long-lost brother, but the mom holds her back saying they can't let Ben know they are there.  She explains that if he were associated with lepers, he would spend his life being shunned like they are.  They both walk up to the sleeping Ben and they want so very badly to hug him and show him how much they love him and have missed him so terribly.

They can't because they don't want to wake him or possibly infect him (back then, they still thought leprosy was contagious).

What they do instead is pretend to touch him.  The sister is at his feet and gently kisses the bottoms of his shoes since she can't kiss her brother as she would if things were right in the world.  The mom strokes the air above his sleeping head, just like I'm sure she did when he was a child.  That's where I lost it.  I was crying like a baby.

Ben Hur goes on to have a happy ending.  They are all reunited.  The mom and sister are healed by a chance meeting with a passing Christ.  They regain their previous station in life.  The bad guy gets what's coming to him.

My own son, T, is often up with me in the mornings before I leave.  I've gotten him pretty turned on to Buster Keaton.  He already likes Charlie Chaplin.

Funny thing that...

When T was first born, Dave made me a pretty sweet deal.  Dave had to get up at 4am to go to work at the golf course.  He told me that he was going to sleep in the spare room on the twin bed.   That way, he wouldn't be up every two hours with me and the baby for feedings.  He explained that once he got home from work, he would take baby duty and I could nap as long as I liked! 

It worked a charm! 

I always thought it was funny that he was on the twin bed and I got the queen-sized bed all to myself!  (Dave's a big guy - 6'1", 225-ish)  We did it again when D2 came along, but then it was a twin bed for him again and a king-sized bed for me!

With T and I in a room to ourselves, up every few hours for the first month or so, I would get sort of bored.  The star of the month on TCM that month was Charlie Chaplin!  I'd watch those while I breastfed the squirt.  It was quiet and didn't wake him up all the way.

Flash forward ten years....
T asked me if he could watch a Chaplin film.  It was sort of out of the blue, and I asked how he knew who Chaplin was?  He said he didn't know.  We watched a film or two together and he's been a fan ever since!  Weird, right?

Next to get him on to Laurel and Hardy...

For me, this year, I was watching these films as a way to pass the time before I faced my commute (as I said) and not wake anyone else in our house.  They weren't really hooking me like the Chaplin and Keaton films.  That was until the star of the month was Lon Chaney.

Are you kidding me??

This guy is absolutely astounding in his ability to convey an entire range of emotions with just a look or two.  His graceful hand movements tell the rest of the story. 

So far, my favorite movie with him is West of Zanzibar.  Not your typical American film as it is dark and unhappy and the ending?  Wow, what an ugly twist. 

Pretty early in the film, his character gets paralyzed from the waist down.  Later, his cohorts in crime call him Dead Legs.  It's true!  The way he drags himself around, gets in and out of chairs, etc....  If you didn't know it, you'd swear he did not have the use of his legs.  

There were a couple of documentaries about him that month that I also watched.  I don't think he ever did a talkie.  He was an advocate for keeping silent films going as long as possible.  His main reasoning wasn't anything like a lisp or accent or anything that might have held him back career-wise.  His motivation for silent films came from his love for his parents.  They were both deaf-mute, and he worried about their accessibility to films if the film industry went all sound.

By all accounts, he was a very good man.

I still DVR a silent film here and there.  I still watch them about 10 minutes at a time.   Strangely, I have yet to see a Valentino movie.  As far as I can tell, TCM never seems to play them.  Maybe they don't own any?  He's quite possibly the first person people think of when silent film is mentioned!

I've seen two Alfred Hitchcock silent films (he's my favorite director).  I've seen all of Chaplins that are available.  I'm working on all of Chaney's and Buster's.  I've got a few Greta Garbo's in the queue.

Silently waiting for a Valentino, Ruth!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

U is for Unethical

Exactly a year ago today, Dave's main employee, W.S. Binion, rear-ended a city plow truck with one of our business trucks.

(For clarity in this post, WS also goes by W.)

January of this year, WS got married.  He and his wife invited us to the wedding, so we went.  It was in a church and it was SUPER-churchy.  Very "the wife is obedient to the husband"-type of thing.  And this church is so far in that they don't even sing hymns out of the classic hymnal.  They have their own hymns that they all know.  

Dave and I sat through the whole ceremony with barely concealed.... lack of zeal.

I realized that I kept shaking my head here and there.  I also realized there were people sitting behind me, and I should probably stop, so I did. 

They had the reception in the church hall.  Dave only knew one other person there (another of his employees), so, of course, the couple didn't seat us with them.  Nice.

We were seated at a table with two other couples, one couple had kids.  The younger kid was seated next to me.  He has Down's and he and I had a very wonderful conversation about Sasquatch!  He was so cool!  The couple on the other side of Dave asked how we knew WS.  When they found out Dave is WS's boss, they asked, "How did he not see that city plow truck?"

I said, "Have you met him?"

JK.  I didn't say that.  Not out loud, anyway.

We stayed just long enough to congratulate the happy couple and then we split.

Shortly after the wedding, WS quit.  We knew he was going to, it was no surprise.  He decided he needed to find an opportunity where he had more room for advancement.  Completely understandable now that he has a wife and they, presumably, want to start a family.  He told Dave something about going into construction.

He has been making noises for nearly this entire 12 months about buying Dave's business.  There was talk about a church member who was going to finance him.  That fell through.  Then there were trips to the bank together. 

About 2 months ago, I came home from school, and Dave's truck was in the middle of the driveway.  This happens now and again while he loads/unloads stuff into his trailer.  I was listening to a good part of my audiobook, so I pulled up to the curb in front of our house to wait for him to move the truck. 

I saw him make a call and realized he was talking to WS.  I immediately muted my book and eavesdropped.

I only heard Dave's side of the conversation, but I got a really good idea of what was going on. 

I heard Dave say, "W, I READ the letter!!"

So basically what happened is that one of Dave's clients showed Dave a letter that WS sent to her trying to steal her business from us.

What a fuck!

OK, so many things wrong with this scenario....

The first thing that stupid punk does is deny he sent a letter to anyone.  Dave repeated, "I read the letter" like five or six times. 

Next thing that pussy does is hide behind his wife's skirts.  He tried to say that she wrote the letter, and he didn't read it before she sent it out.

One of the things the letter said was that WS always did all the work and Dave just took all the credit (and the money). 

That's like saying the register worker at Walmart does all the work and the Manager (or CEO, for that matter) takes all the credit.

Um.... no.

WS, you are an employee.  You did the job we hired you for.  You did the job we PAID you to do.  Barely. 

Dave would catch him so many times NOT working and WS spent so much time on the phone wasting Dave's time with inane questions and general bullshit, that we finally put WS on salary.  That way, he got a set pay and we didn't end up paying him for time he was dicking around.

 During the phone conversation, Dave asked if W was going to go after our snow business, too. (In the winter, Dave's company does snow removal.)  Then I heard Dave say, "Oh I think you know exactly what I'm saying, W!"

Hey, WS, backpedal much?  Such a LOSER!!

Dave also asked if W has just been stringing Dave along this whole time about buying the business.  He said, "Were you just lying to me long enough to get the balls to send out this letter?" 

Dave ended the call saying he wanted to a list of ALL the clients that W contacted.  He reiterated that it was unethical and generally jacked up to have contacted them.

When he ended the call, he told me all about it.  I was flabbergasted and SO angry.

The person I was most angry at, however, was Dave.  I told him when W left to have W sign a 5-year non-compete!  Dave said that W would never have the ambition to do anything.

Dave wasn't wrong.  According to that tiny-brained shit (WS), he didn't send out the letters, his wife did.

So what's happened is that his wife has finally come to the realization that she married a man with no ambition, no education, no prospects, and decided to do something about it.

 I was mad at Dave for several days until a friend told me that non-competes aren't enforceable in CO anyway because it's a right-to-work state. 

Fine.  I guess.  I'm smart enough (or at least married long enough?) to not have brought the non-compete up with Dave.  It would have only resulted in a fight about something that was so far past fixing as to make it a stupid fight.

I wrote out a notice for Dave to send to his clients...
It's recently come to our attention that our trusted, former employee, W.S. Binion has sent out letters trying to pilfer our clients.  We are saddened by his inappropriate and unethical behavior, and we hope this hasn't inconvenienced you in any way. 

Rest assured we continue to give the excellent and timely service you have come to expect from the Lawn Guy.

Thank you for your time.

It's "Christians" like those two that reaffirm my Atheism, Ruth!

Monday, December 23, 2013

T is for Theory

My friend, the knitting, Navy SEAL, is a bit of a conspiracy theorist.  He sends me texts or emails sometimes that make me say to myself, "I'm going to tell myself that he's kidding."  (By the way, he's an ex-SEAL now.  He retired last April with 26 years of service.  I often ask what he's doing now.  I tell him that if it were me, I'd take the rest of my life off!)

I've never been one to see conspiracy in the motives of people, companies, or governments before, but lately, I can't help but think about it.

The Obamacare thing has been an abysmal failure so far.  People are getting kicked off their insurance altogether or have been notified that due to the new regulations, it is unattainably expensive.

My thinking is this...

The insurance companies have know for YEARS that these changes in the law were coming into effect.  They did nothing to avoid this clusterfuck.

My conspiracy theory is that the insurance companies WANT Obamacare to fail so they can say, "See?!  It doesn't work.  Let's all go back to the way things were.  SO much easier!!"

I know I'm no math whiz, for sure.  But here's my simple calculations...

We are self-employed and pay close to $600 a month for our insurance.  We are with a company that starts with an H.  Say Company H covers 1 million people.   Say that most people are paying an employer and probably a more reasonable amount, so we'll cut that in half - $300 a month.

Take one percent of that one million and multiply their payments by one year...

That's $36,000,000


Don't you think they could have taken a portion of that ONE percent and hired an entire TEAM of people to work out these kinks and make it workable and attainable for their customers? 

The thing is, Company H does not cover one million people.  They cover ELEVEN million people.

And don't think I'm letting the government off the hook here.  They also knew these laws were coming into effect.  They also seemed to have done fuck-all to prevent this mess.

With the government, I keep wondering...
Did NO ONE think to consult with countries where this is working?? To consult Canada, England, Germany, ANY of them?? To ask them, "What's working?  What's not working?  How did you make the transition from people paying on their own to healthcare for all?"

If they did, it doesn't show.

My conservative friends keep putting up Internet posters about how universal healthcare means we're paying for those who won't pay for themselves. 

I keep telling them they are delusional if they think they aren't already paying for people who can't (or won't) pay for themselves.  If they think the cost of the uninsured isn't rolled into the cost of healthcare (either from the doctor/hospital side and/or from the insurance company side), they are kidding themselves.

I think it's shameful in a country as well-provisioned as ours to allow people to lose their homes over medical bills.   Or for the elderly to have to make decisions between proper nutrition or necessary medications.  Or any of the other atrocities we hear about.

Looking for a new insurance company, Ruth!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

S is for Shatner

I can't believe I did "S is for Starfleet" last year and didn't tell you guys I got to go see Shatner in his one-man show!!

My friend, Donna, alerted me to the fact that Captain Kirk was coming to Denver.  She's as crazy for original Star Trek and Shatner as I am!  I immediately looked up the details.  It was William Shatner's one-man show!

Tickets were rather expensive, so I wrote it off. 

A couple of weeks later, tickets for his show were for sale on Groupon.  I don't make a lot of money (even when I had a job last year), so I texted Dave to tell him I found my birthday present! 

We texted back and forth for awhile (details, prices, etc.) and finally, he agreed.

Here's the last of that text conversation:

ME: you rock my world!
DAVE: you expedite my demise

He cracks me up!

Donna and I had a wonderful dinner at The Corner Office.  Excellent food! 

We had really good balcony seats in the show and, other than my memories and my ticket, I have nothing to show you about it.  We followed the rules and didn't take pictures. 

William Shatner's one-man show was outstanding!  It was funny and poignant.  We laughed and we cried a bit.  It was an appropriate length of time (looking at you, B.B. King, with your $80 for a 45-minute show in 1996...).

If you ever get a chance, go see it!

After the show, we went to a dessert place (can't remember the name) and had delicious sweets.

Walking to the car at the end of the evening, we spotted Shatner's tour bus.  We went over to it and asked the two roadies if Mr. Shatner was aboard.  They said that he was not.  He flies, never rides.  The bus was for his set and equipment.  (I almost asked if we could go in anyway, but chickened out.)

On a more recent note...

Our kids met their first celebrities!  T is nuts for Mythbusters.  There's a very expensive Mythbusters exhibit at a Denver museum.  Dave found out that a couple of the show's stars were going to be at a pizza joint in Denver - promoting the exhibit.  It was free, so Dave took the boys to see them!  Unfortunately, I had an online class meeting and couldn't go.

D2 only sort of likes the show, but T was over the moon!  Dave got lost on the way to the event, but the boys got the last autographed picture along with getting this shot.
Promoting a love of science, Ruth!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

R is for Relationships

There was a girl at my school who was a coupla quarters behind me. She is a very young, 21. She friended me on FB and I don't know her at ALL, but I friended her back to be polite.
The first time I met her at school, she walked up to me and my classmates and introduced herself.  I liked that. Then I saw her shirt. It was a very "Jesus is Lord"-type shirt, and I sighed inwardly.
Because she friended me, I see her posts on FB. They are all either very Jesus is Lord or very tragic. She writes depressing haikus about her life, Friends.


Everything to her is so deep and painful, and I can only imagine I was that emotional when I was 21. Ugh.

She actually dropped out of school after becoming a stripper.  Now, we all know I have NO problems with strippers.  I just think it's funny she was so gung-ho religious, and now she's stripping.  Dave calls her Stripper Christian.  Her FB feed is my guilty pleasure.  Some people have Jersey Shore, I have Stripper Christian.
I never post anything to her posts, and I usually don't even read them, just skip over them because she and her emo life are none of my business. But sometimes it catches my eye, and I REALLY want to post stuff. But I don't.
Wellllll, once I did.
She had a picture posted that I'd seen online once or twice. It's a man's naked back with some female arms around him. On her arms are written, "He told me he loved me." On his back is written, "I lied to get into her pants. It worked."
I couldn't take it. I wrote, "I'm sorry but this picture reminds me of every sad little girl who equates sex with love. They are not the same thing. Never have been, never will be."
16 people I've never met "Like"d my comment.
I want to sit her down and give her my life advice for women. It wouldn't work. Not anymore than it would've worked on me at that age. Although, most of this drivel I'd worked out for myself by 21.
I'm posting it here and I'm doing my best to instill this junk in my own kids (at age appropriate times/language).
My life rules concerning relationships:
1. I don't give a rat's ass what anyone thinks about me. If I'm living my life to the best of my ability - doing what's best for me and/or for my family.  If someone has an issue with it (or me), than that's THEIR issue, not mine.
2. The person who made up the rule that men can fuck anyone they want and they are a star, but if a woman does that then she's a slut? That rule was made up by men. It was made up to keep women in line. Do who you want, when you want. Be monogamous if you want.  If that's not what you want, be up front and honest about it.  Take precautions and protect yourself, but don't let anyone tell you that you're a whore for doing what men do freely.
3. If my SO makes me cry or hurts me out of carelessness or cruelty..... NEXT! Why waste time on someone who is careless or cruel? Why waste time on someone who is going to judge me or make me feel less than. That kind of attitude in a person never changes and only gets meaner as long as it is allowed.

4. Don't date crazy. 

That last one, the boys already know by heart.  (We say "date" for them instead of "Don't fuck crazy.") 

There is a caveat on the crazy...

A few years ago, I had a long conversation with my ex-boyfriend (A) from the Army.  He had been with a woman for the previous 11 years, and they just broke up again.  He met her while he was installing cable in her home in GA.  She was married to a major in the Army, and she and her husband had a couple of kids together.  She left her husband for A, and over the course of the next eleven years, they would be together and break up and get back together.  She moved to Seattle with him the year previous to our conversation (he's from Seattle).  They got engaged, and a few months after that, they broke up again.  She wouldn't let A be involved in the decisions and/or disciplining of the kids.  He asked what I thought about that.  I asked if he really wanted to know, and he said yes. 

I told him that if she won't let him participate in the raising of the kids when he's been a big part of their life for eleven years??  To me that means she's telling him, "You will NEVER be a part of my family." and that's no way to have a relationship.

He asked what I thought about finding "the one" - as in, what's the criteria.  Here's what I came up with:
My whole thing is... every one has their own piece of crazy. If you find someone who's crazy you can live with and who can live with your crazy, then that's the keeper.
With our boys, that's not the kind of crazy we are talking about.  We are talking about the kind of crazy that scares you.
With my ex, we also talked about setting ideals for what one wants in a person.  He thinks that's valid, I think it's setting people up for failure.  I told him:
If you are with someone and you are always looking past their shoulder for the perfect/bigger/better thing, you'll NEVER stop looking away instead of looking at the person in front of you.
But step one of any successful relationship is definitely step AWAY from drama.  The fact that the two of them had so many breakups over the eleven years... That alone tells me it's not going to work.
I was a sucker for chaos before I had therapy in my late twenties.  I often tease Dave, saying that if I had met him just three months earlier (pre-therapy), I never would have gone out with him.  He was too normal and stable!  It's amazing what happened in my life when I stopped dating jerks and basketcases.
Happy to have found my "one", Ruth!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Q is for Quip

Dave has a wicked-quick sense of humor.  He's clever and lightning fast with his jokes and barbs. 

The boys have really picked up his timing and humor! 

Dave's sense of humor and how the boys are picking it up

A few months ago, Dave told me that he'd explained to the boys what "that's what she said" means. 
Trevor had his first successful use about a week later at a restaurant:

Waitress sets down plate of carrot sticks and ranch dressing.
Dave: You need to eat at least two. Pick the big ones.
T: That's what she said.

 He's 12.
I'm so proud!

D2's humor is usually more linear:

At dinner, we somehow got on the subject of the new Carrie movie and the "many forms of being psychic". (These are the conversations that come up at our table.) D2 (the 10 year old) said there were at least two forms. T (the 12 year old) asked what they were. D2 said, "Knowing people's minds and moving things with your brain."
T: TelePATHy and telekinesis
ME: Telepathy [telling him the correct pronunciation]
D2: T, read my mind. What am I thinking about?
T: Tacos
D2: Nope. OK, use your mind to move your glass. Really concentrate.
T: [squeezes his eyes shut and gives it a shot] I can't do it. I can only move it with my hands.
D2: If you think about it, our brains tell our hands what to do, so that means our brains are moving the glass. 
Wow. We all have telekinesis. Who knew?
D2 is getting a mouth on him, btw.  Dave doesn't help by cracking up at the smartiness.  D2's mouth may get him in some pretty decent trouble pretty soon.  I'm so used to him being a smartass that even when he's not, I think he is...
We had some laundry on the bed and D2 came in to say goodnight.  He says, "Is that a bra?"
ME: Yes. 
He picks it up, holds it to his chest and shimmies around, laughing.
ME: That's upside-down, Stupid.
D2:  I'm not stupid, I'm not a girl.
ME: What did you just say to me?!
D2: [looks to the left, scanning his brain for what he just said.  When he finds it, his eyes fly open wide.] No!  That's not what I said... what I meant!  I meant I'm not a girl, so I don't know how a bra goes!
I was laughing throughout all this.  Here's where the written word could save some misunderstanding.  I heard a comma (I'm not stupid, I'm not a girl), he said a period (I'm not stupid.  I'm not a girl.)  Get it?
Don't worry too much about me calling the boy Stupid.  Our family is very sink-or-swim with the quips.  D2 is crazy smart and he knows it.  Although, sometimes he does the dumbest things...
Recently, he was in his bathroom, about to take a shower.  I heard the water running into the tub still and then I heard a huge thump.  I rushed in there, and D2 was standing naked in the tub with the water running and his lip bleeding pretty good.
ME: What happened?
D2: I slipped.
Apparently, he has this ritual of getting into the tub before he turns the water to the shower.  He then leans out and puts his hand on the strip of countertop that runs behind the toilet.  He leans out further to look at himself in the mirror.  This time, his hand slipped and he face planted onto the toilet!  (The boys always have the toilet lids down when not in use - the solid lid and the seat lid.)  I started cracking up!  I told him to turn the water off.  He came out of the tub and I wrapped him in a towel and cleaned up his lip.  He also had a decent dent in his upper arm from hitting the corner of the countertop. 
I asked why he was looking in the mirror, and he said it was just something he always does.  I looked at him while I cleaned up his lip and said, "And we're never doing it again, are we?"  He nodded.  I said, "You are lucky you didn't break a tooth!"
Later, he came into our room while I was explaining to Dave what had happened.  Dave asked him, "Why do you look in the mirror like that?"  D2 said, "Because I'm so handsome!" and then he turned tail and ran out of the room, laughing!
My whole family enjoys word play.  Dave and I play little word games with each other all the time.  The kids are starting to get in on this too...
A few nights ago, T was sad about getting in trouble for some thing or other.  He came in to say goodnight and was still all mopey.  I reverted to toddler T and said, "Good night, Sweet Pea."  He replied, "Good night, Edamame."  So clever!
My family is punny, Ruth!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

P is for Pregnant

Don't worry, I'm not.  Dave got fixed after D2 was born. 

Have I ever told y'all that story?  It's pretty funny!  (At least I thought it was...)

T was breech, so ended up being a planned C-section.  If D2 was also C-section, we were going to tell the doctor, "Hey, while you're in there..." and get my tubes tied.  D2 ended up being a VBAC (vaginal birth after C-section).

About 5 months later, we went to the doctor together to see about getting Dave a vasectomy.

I think the weirdest thing about it all is that they wouldn't do the vasectomy unless, as Dave's wife, I signed off on it! So much for My-Body-My-Decision!

The doctor discussed the procedure for a bit, then said he wanted to do a quick exam of Dave.  He didn't even give Dave the option of having me leave the room.  He had Dave drop his pants right then and there.  Dave and I both looked behind where Dave was standing at the HUGE window.  It was dark outside and the lights were on in the exam room.  The blinds were half open!  Dave shrugged and dropped his pants.  If anyone looked, they'd see a partially louvered window and Dave's butt!

Dave's always bustin' on me for stuff.  It's what we do.  So when the exam was over and we were waiting by the elevator, I couldn't resist taking my shots...

ME:  So... were his hands warm?
DAVE: Shut up.
ME: Was he gentle?
DAVE: Shut up.

When we went for the actual procedure, another odd thing happened....

It's an outpatient procedure that takes about 20 minutes.  They just use local anesthesia, but they still wanted me there to drive Dave home.

After it was done, we were, again, by the elevators.  A woman walked up to the elevator about the same time we did.  She was pregnant with what may have been triplets (her belly was enormous!), holding one baby with two other toddlers orbiting her.  One pushed the button on the elevator and the other started screaming, "I WANTED TO PUSH THE BUTTON!!!"  She stood there calmly while they stormed about her legs.

I swear they hire this woman for the exact purpose of having the recently vasectomy-ed couple look at each other (as we did) and say, "Oh, yeah.  We just made the right decision."


This post is not about any of that!

I have a Juliet sweater that I made years ago.  2007?  Whenever the pattern came out.  I had See Jayne Knits custom dye the yarn for me.  She did a worsted and I held it double for gauge.  I adore the yarn.  The pattern was quick and easy and pretty.  I even had custom-made clasps for it. 

I hated the sweater.  Every time I wore it, I'd look in a window or a mirror and think, "I look pregnant."  So I rarely ever wore it.

The look on my face is the look I get whenever I see myself in this sweater.
I love the yarn so much, though!

I spent most of the time at my Sunday knitting group frogging the whole thing.

On a side note:  The knitting group had a cookie exchange this week as well.  I made 7 dozen of these.  They are super easy and super delicious!!

Now I have scads of beautiful yarn to make in to something I WILL wear!  I'm thinking this

Look at how much yarn!
(Standard mouse added for scale)
I also frogged this:

It's a start at Cerie.  It's a sweater for my mom.  She picked the pattern and bought the yarn!

Here are my notes from Ravelry:

1/10/13 - I frogged the few rows I’ve done. I need to restart as I’m not entirely sure where I am in the pattern.
12/17/13 - I am done with this sweater. I got one wing done. It’s a million short rows and that, coupled with the stitch pattern, makes this pattern very confusing for me. My brain can’t work like that!
That coupled with the fact that I have to make two of these shapes and then sew them together?? Yeah, I’m froggin’ this.
I’ve found a different sweater with a similar shape and am going to try that instead.

I have a small bucket of things that I'm going to frog.  I may get it all done this week since I'm on a froggy roll.

I'm officially on break from school.  My new school doesn't start until February.  I have a two-week boot camp for it in the beginning of January, then I'll have a two-week free pass for the last two weeks of January. 

For me, this means I have roughly 15 days to accomplish these tasks:
Finish this year's Alphabet Soup!
Rip the frog bucket
Clean my closet
Clean the office
Organize the garage
Clean out Dave's truck so we can sell it
Organize the mess I've made in the basement
Photograph and list on Etsy the things I want to get rid of
Organize a space for me to be a productive online student
Organize my fabric
Make a plan for my fabric
Make a practice/workout/crafting/cleaning spreadsheet
Learn how to make a spreadsheet
Practice at least 2 hours a day (starting this Thursday)

Damn.  I better get started!

Feeling froggy, Ruth!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

O is for Obsolete

I'm officially done with the academics I'm taking this quarter.  That also means I'm officially done with academics for this crappy school. 

I know our campus is dying out and they don't give a crap about us anymore, but it would be nice if they at least pretended to care.  As usual with this school's online program, my Courtroom Procedures class was a joke.  The east coast teacher (EC) can't even be bothered to discuss the class with our teachers??  EC covered SIX chapters that were already covered by our teacher in the Deposition Procedures class the previous quarter.  Nice.

Also, EC would give us a short article every week and ask us to answer between 4 and 7 questions about the article.  I wrote, "I was unable to find an answer for this question in the article" at least once on three different weeks.  No response.  It's like she just opened the file to see that there was writing for each question and then moved on.  And that right there is pretty much my entire issue with online classes.  If the class was on ground (which is what I signed up for), then I would just raise my hand, say, "I can't find that answer", and the teacher would answer/help me with that.

This EC also told us that we had to do a field trip.  Yes, that's right, a field trip.  A field trip that we had to set up for ourselves and that could ONLY take place during week five of the course.  What. the. fuck.

My classmate Amy got us hooked up with a tour of a county courthouse.  It was very cool!

We met with the Managing Court Reporter (MCR).  She answered our questions for nearly an hour, then took us on a tour. 

We got to meet the Appeals Clerk.  Things are changing in the court world!  They only use court reporters for juvenile and criminal court in this particular county.  The lawyers have to pre-mark the exhibitions (used to be the court reporter's job).  The lawyers are also responsible for keeping their exhibits.  They now take pictures/scan the exhibits and put them on a CD for the Appeals Clerk to keep on file.   She showed us a large bookcase with boxes just big enough to hold the circumference of a CD.  Each box was labeled with a year and held all the exhibit CDs for all the cases that year. 

She told us they were in the process of getting ALL the cases in the basement scanned and on CDs.  She said they had to hold transcripts and exhibits for FIFTY years, in case of an appeal. 

I asked if they also used some sort of secure Cloud storage in case of a fire.

She and the MCR looked at each other and at the same time said, "We never even thought of that."  The Appeals Clerk laughed and said, "Great, now I have even more work to do!" 

I laughed and said, "I'm looking for a job!"

We got to sit in on an actual case for a little while.  We came in to that courthouse right when they were about to go on a break.  It was perfect timing!  The court reporter covering the case showed us some of the exhibits (an AR-15!) and told us about the case.

It was an attempted arson, attempted murder case.  This guy's ex-girlfriend used her key and entered his house.  She proceeded to trash EVERYTHING.  She broke all the electronics, shredded pictures and clothes, even poured gasoline on a bunch of stuff in anticipation of lighting it up.

He came home, heard someone in the house, and called the cops.  She used one of his own guns and took a shot at him (she missed). 

When the court reporter was telling us all this and showing us the pictures of all the destroyed personal property, I jokingly said, "Allegedly."  The court reporter looked at me and said, "Oh, no.  She did it." and then she laughed. 

After the picture show-and-tell, we went to the basement to see the records that still needed to be scanned.  It's a fairly monumental job! 

Amy mentioned that it was spooky down there and the perfect place for a ghost!  MCR said, "Oh, we have three!"  She then explained that about five years ago, some really strange things were happening, so the  county paid someone to check for ghosts!!   The ghost hunter found three: a Native American Indian (and he's very angry), an old woman, and a child.  It's like every scary movie ever made.  Taxpayer money well spent!

We then went back to the court room and observed for a while longer.  The defendant got a little weepy and it was all I could do to not role my eyes. 

Also, strangely, this happened...
In the jury box, there was a woman sitting in the back row, wearing a ratty old sweatshirt.  She busted out with cookies and milk!  I shit you not.  She had Oreos and was pulling them apart, licking off the center, and drinking a little bottle of milk.  After her snack, she crossed her arms, settled back against the wall, and for all the world, looked like she was about to nod off!

I asked MCR about it.  She said some people get a special dispensation to be able to eat in the jury box.  Hypoglycemics and what not.    (Something to remember should I ever be called to jury duty!)

One of the questions we asked MCR was about the future of the profession.  There's a lot of technology that records trials now.  She told us that when she started in the profession 25 years ago, she was told that it would soon be an obsolete profession due to recordings.  Hasn't happened yet!  She has the monumental task of juggling nine court reporters for twelve courtrooms.  Each courtroom has a mixed day of civil, juvenile, family, and criminal, so it is doable, it just takes a bit of finagling. 

She told us that most of today's reporters are really starting to age out.  She requires all her reporters to be realtime reporters (which means the court reporters are hooked in to the judge's computer and sometimes the lawyers as well - they can see realtime what the court reporters are writing).  No paper machines in her courts! (That's the kind with the paper coming out of the top.)

The trip was very interesting and got us all pumped up to keep working hard toward graduating.   I can see it working for that as a reason for the assigning the field trip.  I don't see why it had to be in a specific week, and I can't tell you how difficult it was for us to get the thing set up.  Court reporters are incredibly busy people!

Still would rather do captioning, Ruth!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

N is for Needlepoint

Before I discovered knitting, I used to be crazy for cross-stitch. 

I guess I should say, "Before I had kids..." 

When I got back to the states after having been stationed in Germany for two years, I decided to check out cross-stitch.   That makes it sound like I was waiting all those years, but it wasn't like that.  It was more like going to a flea market, seeing tiny cross-stitch kits for 25 cents, and buying one. 

I'd attempted cross-stitch in junior high or high school, but it never really took.  I think my mom is still working on the ones I abandoned so many years past.

Once I started in 1994, I didn't really put those needles and charts down until our first kid in 2001.  Then in 2003, I learned to knit, and it's been all yarn, all the time, ever since!  With kids, knitting is a hundred times easier than cross-stitch.  Cross-stitch has a thousand pieces to it, knitting is two sticks and some string, the little ones were over it pretty quickly!

I had two huge bins of needlepoint and cross-stitch stuff.  A year ago, when I went through all my craft stuff, I narrowed that down to one bin of "keep" and one bin of "sell".  Neither have been opened since then.  Most of the "keep" stuff consists of my WIPs. 

I am resigning myself to the fact that I will never get to these.  There's one that I want to finish, but the rest, I should just get rid of it all. 

Previous to kids, I had actually finished quite a few pieces.  Even had them framed!  The biggest piece I finished was a blanket-type one.  It is a piece with sheep and a shepherd and shepherdess and a poem.  I did it for our wedding and put our name and anniversary date in a blank square at the top.  I had the notion that I would put names/birthdays of our kids and their subsequent weddings/kids in the other blank boxes around the center piece.  I had a backing put on by a friend and had her leave it a bit open at the top for this purpose.  I meant it as a wall-hanging.  It's never been hung, the boys' names/birthdays have never been added in. 

When we first moved to Colorado in 2006, Dave put up several of my framed cross-stitch stuff.  He did it as a surprise while I was out somewhere!  I loved that he did that!  I loved having it up! 

Then in 2009, we moved to a town a few miles away and into a much smaller house.  We never put that stuff up there.  2012 - moved again.  We've been in this house for a year now, and my stuff is not up.  I think I will put it up either this month or next.  I like seeing my finished work up.  Gives me hope that I can actually finish things!

I was looking at the big, 7-foot-high bookcase full of my craft stuff in the basement.  I've made a plan of attack for next year.  Each month, I've designated a new craft (Jan - shrinky dinks and needle-felting, Feb - beadwork, etc.).  If I try it and like it, great - keep it.  If I try it and don't care for it, great - get rid of it.  If I don't even give it a shot in it's designated month, I'm going to get rid of it.  I'm sick of hauling this stuff around for no good reason!  (JustkeepwatchingHoarders, justkeepwatchingHoarders....)

Finishing out the year, Ruth!

Monday, December 9, 2013

M is for Map

I hate being lost.

I hate it even more than I hate shopping, and that's saying something!  (BTW, Dave and I busted out all the shopping for the kids yesterday.  I've already done the shopping for him and the MIL, so I'm pretty much done!)

I hate being lost so much that when it happens, I usually start crying like a dumbass.  Even if Dave is driving, I get all panicky inside and have to look out my window so he doesn't see me getting all teary.  As is my way, when I get scared like that, I usually turn it into some pretty ugly rage.

I do what I can to circumvent this type of behavior, but MapQuest is usually a big fat liar, so that's rarely helpful.  I still use it and write down meticulous instructions to wherever I'm trying to get to.  (Obviously, only for places I'm unfamiliar with!)

Dave was talking about getting me a GPS for xmas.  While this excites me no end and I would really love one, I told him to wait until I graduate, when I will actually need one.  When I graduate, if I start doing freelance court reporting, I will have to travel all over Denver and sometimes even out of town.  I dread that, too.  Most of the things will be in downtown Denver, and I suck at parallel parking.  I don't suck at it, now that I think of it, because I refuse to do it.  I have crappy depth perception, so I never even attempt it.

I would like the GPS to go geocaching with the kids, though!  I've always wanted to try that.  Sounds like a fun treasure hunt!

What I did ask for this xmas is a gift certificate to IKEA.  I have an idea for a cutting table for my sewing space.  T's best friend's dad, Joe does woodworking.  He said he'd help me do an IKEA hack to make what I have in mind.  I'll definitely get it done in January, and post all about it then.  I've got it all sketched out on graph paper for now.

I also have an idea for some cute and useful shelves that I want to try out.  And a cat tower.  And a kid's plinko thing.  And some other easy woodworking projects.  I'm going to ask Joe to give me a bit of instruction on how to use a power saw without losing any blood.

What are you all wishing for this holiday season?

Watching Youtube how-to videos, Ruth!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

L is for Laid

Get your mind out of the gutter.  

I got laid off in April.  They seem to have moved our jobs back to Malaysia.  Or maybe it was just that the job became so hateful to me that my numbers slipped.  Not really sure.  Maybe a combination of both?

I've been on unemployment for the first time in my entire life.  I get a little less than half of what I was making at that job. 

For those that don't know, I used to work from home doing customer support for Xbox.  I hated it so very much.  Those customers take lack of personal responsibility to a fucking art form.  They'd get all bunched up about stuff, and all I could ever think was, "It's a GAME, people.  Calm down."

Don't get me wrong, there were lots of nice, fun people that I dealt with, but they weren't as plentiful as the tools.

And then there was the job itself.  They seemed to think we should have no life outside the job, so they would throw all these extra trainings at us on a monthly, sometimes weekly basis.  A lot of them were repeats of things we'd already done.  Such a colossal waste of time.

I had 15 managers (TL's or team leaders or whatever we're calling them this week) in the 2 1/2 years I worked there.  I may have had more; I believe I stopped counting around 15.

We had this chat room where we could ask questions we couldn't find on our own in the system they gave us.  (When I say, "they", I mean the company Xbox hired that hired all of us.)  They'd have 2 or 3 people trying to answer questions for about 200 plus people at once.  So we'd ask a question and sit there for 15 minutes or more, like an asshole, while the customer would get increasingly upset about the wait.  And they wanted us to make small talk ("establish rapport") while we all sat there looking stupid.  Sometimes, you'd get a customer that was OK with that.  Lots of times, the customer is already frustrated and/or mad when they call, so that wait would only exacerbate the situation.

Then there was the illustrious VKB.  VKB is a series of articles we could look up in our system that would tell us what to do.  We use VKB when the "strings" of solutions we usually use were of no use to the situation at hand.  Thing is, half the VKB articles were EMPTY.  They'd say, "This VKB is pending."  Like the Family Pack.  FP was created after my first year there.  So a year and a half later, when I was let go, those FP VKBs were STILL "pending".  Awesome.

Also, you'd sit there waiting for an answer in the chat room and, often as not, the answer you'd get would be, "Check VKB."  Well, no shit.  Already did that, that's why I'm here.  GAH!

The only other thing that would boggle me more was this:
If the customer sees an error code, why the HELL can't they make a VKB that tells us WHAT that error code is and how to solve it??

Anyway, don't have to worry about that mess and nonsense anymore.

No job for me, then.

Bad news for me.

On the plus side, I've now made school my job.  I've been doing the homework challenge - that's 15 hours a week outside of school.  Fifteen extra hours practicing on my machine outside the twenty hours a week I'm in school.  This pushed me over the top with my 140 speed.  So this quarter, I'm frustrating myself with the 160 speed.  (Again, if you're new here, that's court reporting school with the ultimate goal of captioning.  One has to reach 225 words a minute to graduate.  I've been here two years and am hoping to finish by next April.)

So good news for me?  Maybe.  Money is tight and scary, and when Dave is in his slow season this winter, I hope I can find a job!

Definitely good news for you guys.   Well, more accurately, for me and my blog here.  Because now I can post the stories I've been collecting about that job.

I was calling them Xtard of the Week, but have since realized how very unPC that is nowadays.  I'm going to call it Lamer Gamer of the Week.  And I'll be posting them here and there, should I ever finish my Alphabet Soup this year!

Here's a taste:
This first one is incredibly mild but shows the level of dumb I often had to deal with.

ME: OK, sir, what email did you use for your gamertag?

CUSTOMER: My email.

ME: [Slams head on desk] Thanks, can you tell me what that email is, please?

(Not really sure why so many customers thought we were psychic.)

As to them sending our jobs away, here's a great video that talks about that....

It always would slay me when a customer would say, "Oh, thank GOD you talk American."  After consulting my Redneck-to-English dictionary, I realized they were trying to say, "speak English."  Look, I get that the outsourced jobs may have heavy accents at times and that can be frustrating.  I've hung up on one or two in my time as well.  The thing is, why does the customer get SO mad at the accented workers, yet does nothing about it except to yell at the accented workers? 

Customer is SO angry at the accent, yet chooses to still throw hundreds and hundreds of dollars at the company that sent those jobs overseas.

Makes no sense.

Off to practice some more, Ruth!

(P.S. Obviously, this was written sometime in May - months before my previous post.)

Monday, December 2, 2013

K is for Kinetic

This is a long one.  You may want a snack....

Three or four semesters ago, the president (J) and vice president (D) of the Company that owns our school came to make an announcement. 

We all trudged unhappily to the conference room of our school as we knew what was coming.  It was a long time in the works, and we just wanted to hear it and get it over with.

D stood in front of us and told us that after a lot of "soul-searching" and "difficult decision making", the Company has decided to cease admission of new students to our campus.  (They own two other campuses "back East"). 

He went on to tell us that it wasn't fiscally feasible to continue to try and get new students at our campus.  He told us that when our time was up (as in, our allotted time to finish the program), we would have to transfer to the online program and we could continue receiving the quality education we've come to expect from blah, blah, blah, blah.

I was sitting in the front row with my friends/classmates and my hand shot up. 

ME: But none of us here signed up for the online program.  We've all signed up for the on-ground experience.  There have been a lot of changes over the last few semesters and none of them seem for the better.  We keep hearing how these changes are in the interest of making the online classes the same as the on-ground classes.   Much the same as the 1960's attempt at "Separate but Equal", that's simply not possible.  We are not online.  We don't want to BE online.  We signed up for the on-ground experience.  Our classes have been rather consistently forced online.  In fact, pretty much ALL of our academics are online now.  I took a full semester of this online program and it was.... less than ideal.
[Truth in fact, it was a joke.]

D gave me some political answer how if there was a problem, we should contact our school administrators at our campus and how they've been making great strides to improve their program every day.

My hand shot up again...
ME:  And why IS it that we can't get new students?  Last summer, I went to CA to visit family and you couldn't turn on the TV without seeing an ad for a court reporting school.  NO ONE knows this school even exists!!  Why is that?!  Is it some great secret you want to keep? 

D started talking in circles (he'll make a great politician someday) and finally, the president spoke up.  J was standing to the side of all of us.  He told us that when they bought this campus, they hadn't anticipated how very much it would cost for advertising in this region. 

I explained that I appreciated the straight answer, but hadn't they researched that before they bought this campus?  And how the fact that they couldn't afford to advertise was not our fault, but it seems as though now it is our problem as it is adversely affecting OUR education.

As J and I were having this adult, diplomatic, civilized exchange (no exaggeration there, I was doing really well!), I noticed that while J was speaking, D was still standing in front of the lot of us.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him standing there with his arms crossed and he seemed to be looking right at me.  I looked at him and realized I was wrong.  He wasn't looking at me.  He was glaring at me with a look that could kill.  It was really odd.

Me being me, I looked right back at him.  No glare, just meeting his eyes.  He glared more, and we sat there looking at each other.  I think he expected me to look away, but, pretty sure we all know THAT wasn't going to happen.  Finally I tilted my head and raised my eyebrows as if to say, "Got something to say?"  When I did that, he finally looked somewhere else.  (Really, what I wanted to do was say, "What.  WHAT!  You wanna GO, Old Man?" But, as I say, I was really trying to be diplomatic and keep my temper at bay.)

The tedious meeting ended and we all went back to class.

A classmate (we'll call her Betty) immediately posted on Facebook.  She posted in a "let's be uplifting to each other as court reporting students" page.  What she posted was something along the lines that we just got the news that our school was doing a teach-out, and we'd all have to go online.  What online schools were other students going to, and how did they feel about their programs?

Within less than a minute, an administrative person from the home office (back East) responded that, yes, that campus is no longer taking new students, but the school was still available to us through the online program providing the same quality education, blah, blah, blah. 

Keep in mind that Betty hadn't mentioned the school's name, nor did she post anything detrimental or even negative about the school.  The admin guy (let's call him Mark) is the one who said the school's name.

Students from all over gave their opinions about their schools.  One told of a program that was very inexpensive as an option.  They mentioned it was more of a subscription-type thing.  I told how Colorado recently made a regulation that if one wanted to be an "official" (a court reporter for an actual court system, as opposed to a freelancer doing depositions or other things), one had to have graduated from an accredited school.

Ten seconds later - BAM!!  Mark posted that our school IS an accredited school and we still had access to their quality education, blah, blah, blah.

Lurk much??

I said, "No one said the school is not accredited.  No one said we didn't have access to the school.  We are simply exploring our options as is our right."

Mark agreed and backed off.

Again, this whole exchange happened while we were still at school.  Within five minutes of the start of this online exchange starting, D walked into our classroom and said, "Who is Betty?"

Betty held up her hand (as unintimidated as any rational adult).  D came into our classroom and talked to us about the changes to come.  He was giving us all this political BS and how it was a hard decision and blah, blah, shut up, blah.  He asked me about my bad experience online, and I told him about it.

This school bought a software program that has 40 five-minute dictations in three categories (Lit, Jury Charge, and Q&A).  40 each category, each speed, 40 words per minute all the way up to 225 words per minute (going up ten words per minute each jump in speed).  The software breaks each five-minute into one-minute, goes up and down in speed, etc.  I hope that makes sense.  In any case, this school paid a lot of money for this software, and they feel it is the end all, be all.

I said how with the on-ground program, we get 20+ hours a week of dictations.  Dictations that take in to account what speed we are trying to achieve and what specific issues we are having.  One teacher in particular, (SH), is nearly magical in how you can give her a word, set of words, hell, even a word part, and she can come up with a dictation on the fly that addresses that need.  It's teachers like her that make the on-ground classes our class of choice. 

I explained that the online program speed class I took had ONE hour of synchronous dictation a week.  It was one paragraph of Lit (different every week) read over and over at different speeds and that was it.  I explained that a lot of the people who had been exclusively in this school's online program didn't seem to know the most BASIC of briefs or phrases.  (Briefs and phrases are the bread and butter of court reporting - less strokes means more speed.  More speed means more money.  Some professionals never use them, but they are in the minority.)

I said how our on-ground teachers would record the dictations they gave in class and email them to us.  How another teacher (C), has given us sheaves of handouts with briefs and phrases and how invaluable that information was for us.

I explained how I couldn't fathom why the online teacher did none of that.  No emailed extra dictations, no handouts.  I said, "This school acts like that software program is the end-all, be-all and that should be enough for any student, but it's not.  Not even close." 

I went on: "And why is it that all our academics have gone online?  We  have the teachers here.  They've taught those classes quite competently in the past.  They are here getting paid to teach, why not let them, you know.... teach?"

I got a blah, blah, political-runaround answer.  He was talking about academics in circles until I finally said, "You know.  It's ALL academic, as in moot.  You guys have made your decision, and there's nothing we can do about it.  The rest is just smoke."

I left the room.

A year earlier, the school administrator at the time announced how since the Company bought they school, they were changing the name of the school and making some amazing changes to the program.  They made us all sign a paper saying we agreed to the changes.

I refused to sign it.  The paper said they could change the program at any time and by signing the paper we agreed to that statement.

I remember our orientation when my class first started.  The dean of students held up the school catalog [of classes and rules, etc] and said, "This is your catalog.  When you are in Tran Lab [transcription, not cross-dressing], you have to put "Old Program" or "New Program" on your tests.  You students are New Program.  The Old Program has a different catalog and it would be against [initials/acronym] to change your program after you start a program."  He explained that the school could lose their accreditation if they tried to change programs mid-stream on a student.

So a year later, they try to make us sign this paper.  After avoiding the receptionists for three weeks, they finally corner me and point out the place on that paper that says if we refuse to sign, we can no longer attend the school.  That was the beginning of the end.

I had to sign.

I explained to my other schoolmates that by signing that, we are agreeing to ANY changes they want to make.  We could be DONE with school and they can, on our last day, tell us, "No.  Wait.  We have five new academics you have to complete before we'll graduate you."

What I should have done was call a meeting of my own, make sure everyone understood what they were signing, tell the school I was getting a lawyer, and go call a lawyer. 

What I did was sign.

So now with this new meeting a year later came new paperwork.  It told each of us when our allotted time in the program ended and that we were aware of that time frame and when our time frame was over that we could go online.  It also stated that if students behind us (thus, still in their time frame) needed classes, they would continue to provide those classes on ground.

There were exactly three students who had time left.  The rest of us were WELL past our allotted time.  The program of classes allows for 30 months to completion.  With the exception of one phenom, I've YET to meet someone who has done it in less than three years.   Most have taken three and a half to four years.

This paperwork I flat out refused to sign.  There was no, "sign or you can't go here" stipulation, so it didn't matter.

Surprisingly, they've thrown us a bone by actually having some much-needed classes on ground last quarter!  I took the ones I could and audited the class they gave that I'd previously taken online.  I learned more in one day of that audited class than I did in an entire semester of the same class online.

I researched an online school my mentor's other mentee attended. 

It costs more per semester, and my current school still had speed classes on-ground, so I put it off.

As soon as the announcement was made about the teach-out, people started jumping ship.  Most went to the current school's online program, stating they were going to have to eventually anyway, so they wanted to do it on their own terms.

I said, "The minute this school forces me completely online is the same minute they stop getting my money."

Two close classmates (Betty and M) jumped ship last quarter.  They both signed up at the new school (new to us - been in business forever).  The new school is CCR.

By this time, we only have SIX students in the entire school  Four teachers.  Four faculty.  It's a big-ass building full of empty classrooms.

Flash forward to now....

About week three of this quarter, my teacher C said, "I need to start looking for a new job."  It was just she and I in the classroom, and I said, "Is there something we should know about?"  She said, no.

That was Thursday.  On Mondays, this quarter, I have SH.  The following Monday with just SH and I in the classroom, I mentioned the comment C made and what I said.  SH said, "Yeah, there's something you should know."

SH said that she and C were going to be made adjunct teachers next quarter.  The only teachers left on salary would be the other two teachers.  L because she is head of the program, and CH because she is in charge of the internships.

Making SH and C adjunct means their pay gets cut by 75%, and they lose their benefits.  What it means for the Company is the Company doesn't have to pay them severance.  Hell, they would even have a tough time getting unemployment.

After telling me this information, she said, "Well, they didn't say we couldn't tell."

SH has worked at that school for 26 years.  TWENTY-SIX YEARS.  The Company is basically telling her, "Thank you, drive through."

This Company took a school that has been in business and respected throughout the CR community for 40 years and drove it into the ground in less than four years.  Nice.

I use all these initials and such since the Company is the main company in our industry, and they can completely sabotage me after I graduate.  Even with the initials, I expect the Lurker to be all over this as soon as I post it. 

I will NOT be graduating from their school.

After finding out how they are treating the teachers even worse than they are treating us, the students, I set up a lunch for the remaining students to meet with Betty and M and see how it was going at the new school.

After talking to them and talking to the admin chick at the new school, I decided to make the switch.  The new school has a webinar for prospective students.  I couldn't make it, but the admin person recorded it and sent me the video.  After watching the one-hour video showing how their school operates, I am literally nauseous thinking of how much time and money I've wasted on this dying school.

I've signed up at the new school already (had the receptionist at the current school fax my admissions forms for me!). 

The thing is, psychologically, I've already left this old school.  For the last two quarters, I've made school my job.  I was doing 20 hours of school at school and another 15 hours of homework EVERY week!  I was passing tests and moving up.

Since I've made my decision, I'm barely doing six hours a week of homework.

With this change, NONE of the tests I've passed so far mean anything.  I've got to test in to the new school so they can see for themselves where my speeds are.  I know I'll be nervous about those tests and will likely get knocked back at least one speed.

I had hoped to be finished by next April.  That seems terribly unlikely at this point.

A body at rest tends to stay at rest. 

I need to pull my head out of my ass and practice even MORE so that I won't get knocked back.  As of January, I'll have access to the new school's program for speed-building.  I need to keep up my hard work, but it's SO hard.  I'm so fucking DONE with this school and all it's bullshit. 

The two academics I'm being forced to take online (like I said, last quarters on-ground academics seem to have been a fluke) are a joke again.  The one courtroom procedures class?  I took deposition procedures two quarters ago.  Apparently, the teachers "back East" don't even want to speak with our teachers.  Our teacher CH taught the depo class.  This teacher back East has so far covered five of the same chapters we had already covered in the depo class.  Seriously??

And she gives us these little articles to read and then we have to short-answer questions about the article.  At least three times, one of the five answers I've given in these little exercises has been, "I can't find the answer for this.  The article doesn't seem to have any information on this question."  The teacher hasn't once contacted me or sent me the correct answer for those questions.  Again, if we were in a classroom, I could simply raise my hand, say the same thing, and my ON-GROUND teacher would answer me.  Separate but NOT equal.

By the way, that video of the way this school conducts their online program?  The comparison between the two schools is this....
My current school is Fresno Community College.  The new school is Yale.

Next quarter, there will be three or four students in that big-ass building.  There will be more faculty than students.

I'm going to miss the students and teachers.

Won't miss the commute, Ruth!