Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Again with the neighborhood

In my last post, I attempted an illustration of our new (neighbor) 'hood. Thankfully, this morning, Providence provided me with better illustration than I ever could have dreamed.

This weekend, Ryan's family is in California and they tasked us with taking their Very Fancy Car to be repaired while they were away. They dropped it off about three days ago and we left it parked across the street until we had a chance to take it to the shop, which turned out to be this morning. Imagine our delight to find this note, which I have transcribed as closely as possible for your enjoyment, written on the back of an envelope, tucked under the windshield wiper:

Please If ur visisting Across The Street please park there we don't take other peoples parking & we would Appreciate If u done the same (thanx) Our brother Died & we need all our parking space for family members That our coming In. From out of town. Please do not park Here. We do not park in There Front yard if we Did they would be complaining About our cars Its only Right u park were u live or visit we Have Family that live In these 2 Houses & the Red Apartment Building next 2 us & we don't Take each others parking
PS we Took ur licence Plate (number If we need it)

Pity they don't know that street parking is public parking. And ur welcome.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Won't you be my neighbor

Unwittingly, Ryan and I moved into the home that acts as a clear divider between a cute little neighborhood for Young Urban Professional types (the ones with macs and priuses) and a neighborhood that has a higher than average number of meth labs per square mile.

Our neighbors on the east side have lived there for eight years. They have two Schnauzer-mix mutts that they rescued from the pound and a three year old son with a squeaky little voice. They just had a baby. The first day we moved in, the husband came cheerily peeking around the fence to greet us and introduce himself. He was so nice it made me feel almost awkward, but mostly just really warm and cozy. He filled us in on some neighborhood gossip and offered to help if we ever needed anything.

When we discovered that our swamp cooler was non-functional, this dear man lent us his ladder and spent hours diagnosing the problem. He checked in with us the next day to make sure everything went ok. He is not messing around. The man is taking his neighbor-duties to the next level.

Two doors down to the west of our house, in stark contrast, there live eight hundred children between the ages of zero and ten. I can't tell them apart. They all look like Mowgli and run around, half-clad, waiting to be hit by cars.

One afternoon, we spied one of the littler Mowglis sauntering down our driveway, coming from the direction of the backyard, wearing nothing but a diaper. She is a cute little one, so we just said hi and didn't think much of it.

Two mornings later, there were some serious thunderstorms, so I went out in the morning to see what kind of toll had been taken on the vegetable garden. Things looked blown around a bit, so I set out picking up the wind-blown refuse, or so I thought. "Boy," I mused. "I wonder how this plastic vegetable start container managed to get itself wedged up here in the tomato plant! Furthermore, I've never seen a wind, myself, that could blow hedge trimmers to the other side of the patio!" As I continued my investigation, I discovered that the poppies Ryan had been painstakingly nurturing had been uprooted, as had a sugar snap pea plant.

When I alerted Ryan to the mayhem, first he spent twenty minutes spitting expletives over the lost poppies, and then proclaimed "That kid! That little girl! She must have been in the yard!"

The next evening we set up the sprinkler in the front yard and went for a little walk. When we returned we found the sprinkler moved and the grass mangled like a dog had been having a good roll around. More tragically, our potted tomato on the front porch had suffered an amputation of the limb with all the baby tomatoes on it. Still more tragic, the perpetrator had left behind a full diaper in the middle of the lawn, as a token to remember her by.

It was the final straw. We were banking on those tomatoes--they were our first of the season! So we picked up the broken tomato branch, the full diaper, and marched down two doors.

An eleven-year-old Mowgli opened the door.

"Can I talk to your mom or dad?"

Mowgli looked perplexed, but went and alerted the woman sitting at the kitchen table in front of the computer that there were visitors.

I started things off. "Hi! We're your neighbors!"

Her sullen face beckoned me on.

"Um. We have noticed that your daughter likes to play in our backyard..."

Sullen-face perked up. "You need to talk to the mom. I'm the Grandma."

"Oh, ok. Can we talk to the mom then?"

Sullen face retreated and returned with a woman who was her exact replica, save a few gray hairs.

"Hi, are you the mom?"

Sullen face Jr. just stared at me.

"Well, we have noticed that your daughter [gestures to diapered child in the next room] has been getting into our backyard..." I proffered the branch, Ryan the diaper, as evidence.

Sullen face retorted, "He's a BOY."

Evidently she didn't know how difficult it can be to accurately ascertain the gender of a child who never wears clothing and has never had a haircut.

"Oh, sorry. My mistake. Your son, then. I think he ripped this branch off of our tomato plant. And he left this [gestures to full diaper in hand of unlucky spouse] in the middle of the yard."

"He don't wear diapers."

I was flummoxed. The child before me was wearing a diaper.

She continued, "Mowgli, do you go into their yard?"

Mowgli piped up, "Yeah! Into the garden!"

Finally, victory was in sight.

I, with all the gentleness I could muster, said, "Could you ask Mowgli to stop playing in our yard? He has done quite a bit of damage already."

Sullen face stared back. We just backed away slowly and decided to take matters into our own hands.

We have started keeping the trash cans in front of the gate, but if we catch that kid in our yard once more, I'm getting an electric fence.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The New Me

The title of this post and accompanying picture may have you thinking that "The New Me" plans to eat a lot of what you see above. On the contrary. Allow me to explain.

Saturday evening, I returned from a nine day sojourn to the land of my birth and childhood, The District, The Nation's Capital, Washington DC, loveliest city I know. I had a visit with my parents and wish I lived nearer to them. How strange to be separated by thousands of miles from our families, as many of us are. I wonder if it is right sometimes.

But this is not a post about my visit home. It is about the first few hours I was back in Utah. I flew in, discovered my unsurpassable friend Jami and her children were in town, and got into the car to go visit them before I even got the suitcases into the bedroom. When I arrived at her parents' place, they were having a Peachfest, all of them eagerly diving into a box of peaces purchased from a roadside stand. Never having been one to decline any sort of Fest, especially one centered around the High Empress of summer produce, I dove right in and ate a couple of peaches. I love peaches the most.

We all sat around visiting and catching up, the kids singing and dancing around like they were in a movie, eating peaches, blueberries, chips and guacamole and any number of other summer delights, when I noticed my throat felt itchy. Moments later, my eyes did, too, and my eustachian tubes. My stomach began churning, and my face turned red and I started to sweat. I decided to go into the bathroom and hang out in there until I felt better.

The bathroom proved no relief, but was at least useful. Let's say, for the sake of decency, that my primary decision was whether to sit on the toilet or bow in front of it, and I did a fair amount of both. It was by far the most pain I have ever experienced. If any of you have ever felt that I sympathized inadequately with you in any of your abdominal crises, please accept my apologies. I now know the meaning of the word cramp.

When I emerged (crawled) out of the bathroom, Jami and her mom were waiting for me and looked horrified. Evidently, I looked pretty horrible. I proceeded to moan and write around on the floor until I noticed I was having trouble breathing and my hands and arms were tingling. They called 911.

The paramedics came and did helpful things like ask me if I knew why I was having trouble breathing. I managed to muster a look of at least mild incredulity between moans. They also took my blood pressure, I suppose to make sure I was not bound for anaphylactic shock. I wasn't, and I don't have health insurance, so they left. I continued to thrash around like a caught carp on the driveway for another half hour or so, and then the pain began to subside. Another half hour later, I was completely back to normal, just exhausted.

I have one thing to say: I will more vigorously than ever refuse to judge any woman who finds herself requesting an epidural in labor. Potential drawbacks though there may be, I would never begrudge a woman experiencing anything remotely akin to what I experienced relief. In fact, if I had been able to articulate a sentence, I may have asked the paramedics if they had an anesthesiologist on hand. Jami, mother of two, assured me that labor was different. All I'm sayin' is if I want to escape epiduralized births, I now know I will have to deliver a minimum of one thousand miles from where one is accessible.

The other thing to say is that I am now pretty scared to eat anything, and even scareder about the impending reality that my life may soon be decidedly sans peaches (awful!), avocados (worse!), or both (no longer worth living). Maybe it was the pesticides?

If anyone is an expert on diagnosing severe allergies, your advice is welcome. In the meantime, I'll be clutching an epipen and eating only rice.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Lucky Duck

We let our vehicle registration expire. Happens every time. The only way I ever discover this unfortunate annual act of negligence is that I receive a gift under my windshield wiper from the city police, requesting a sum to the tune of thirty dollars. That's sixty bucks a year I pay for being irresponsible.

The truck got ticketed in May. I went to contest the ticket (I've got this system down to a science) and they knocked off ten conciliatory dollars--better than nothing. Yesterday the car got ticketed. I felt like an idiot but commenced the routine. Go to the court, contest the ticket. Take a number.

The woman who helped me was a sour-face. She wouldn't make eye-contact, or laugh at my jokes--can you imagine? My jokes are so funny! Anyway, imagine my shock when she told me she had waived my ticket. I gave Ryan a high-five and kind of hopped a little. I didn't know they could just dismiss the tickets, because in the past, they have merely reduced the fee. Wahoo!

The traffic court was not the only piper to pay today, however. There was another score to be settled. Two words: library.

Ryan has a little habit of checking out large amounts of library materials. He gets really excited. The CDs! Audiobooks! DVDs! AND BOOKSBOOKSBOOKS! The man can't be stopped and, really, it't not a bad problem to have. Some husbands watch ESPN.

It would be a perfectly fine habit if it weren't occasionally challenging to keep track of bulk library checked-outs. From time to time they get forgotten, lost in the trunk, or simply remain on the to-read shelf past their expiration date. To get to the point, the man has racked up a serious fine.

Not that I can't relate. Ever since we got married, we have used only Ryan's card because I used to have a little fine-racking habit of my own. His fines were lower, so we used his card. But then, somehow (maybe the lost library books stole it) Ryan misplaced his wallet. With his library card in it. Meaning the only remaining card was mine. The card with the epic fee, the fee so large we forgot what it was and spoke of it only in hushed tones. So, we figured, we got to play with that money for a few years, and we need library books for the plane tomorrow. It's time to pay up.

We went to the library, picked up our loot, and, tails betwixt legs, went to the counter, muttering excuses for the fine so long unpaid. "There is no fine on this card," said the woman behind the counter. For a minute my brain choked. How could there be no fine? The fine was so monstrous, so overwhelming, that I have not used my own library card in three years! Seriously?

"When you don't use your library card for several years, eventually, they just erase the fine. You'll have to apply for a new card."


It takes some special moments to make a person feel like she won the lottery when all she did was spend two hundred bucks on safety and emissions testing and run some errands.

Monday, August 3, 2009


In a recent post I claimed I was unemployed. An observant friend reminded me that I am actually just underemployed, which is very true. The issue, now, is whether to remain underemployed.

Today I received an email from my boss that Salt Lake County's police department has a position open for a part time Victim Advocate (domenstic and sexual abuse, I think). I currently work as a victim advocate for a local non-profit, but it is an on-call position so the schedule is very unpredictable and the hours are few (except for this weekend when I did five cases in eighteen hours. Sheesh, Salt Lake.) Beginning the first of September, I will become the Hospital Response Team Leader, meaning I will take on some additional responsibilities and hours, but nothing overwhelming. When I saw the position at the police department available, I was intrigued because I have only seen the realities of sexual violence through the Feminist paradigm employed at Rape Recovery Center. I have a feeling that participating in this system through the avenue of Law Enforcement would be pretty interesting and informative. I think I could learn a lot, and that having multiple perspectives would ultimately benefit my clients both places.

Even though this position doesn't exactly command a princely wage, ever since BOTH Ryan and I quit our jobs the thought of a steady anything seems appealing. Especially with all the recent IHOP visits to pay for.

However, last year I worked two jobs and was EXHAUSTED. My brain couldn't keep up. I stopped working out, I didn't cook food, my house was a mess, I neglected all my relationships. I was completely overwhelmed. And profoundly cranky.

This year, I will be taking fewer classes, but I will also be working on my thesis. I want to say that I can find twenty extra hours in there, but I'm scared that I will hate my life again. This summer has been so happy and carefree. Ryan and I have been the BFFs we were meant to be, and I have reconnected other important relationships, too. And I ate some peaches.

What would you do?

A letter

Dear Summer,

You have always been my least favorite season because you are so freaking hot. However, this year I think I have finally come to love you more than I hate you. I consider this an act of heroism on my part.

You have been redeemed by the food you make possible. Last night I served a plate of tomatoes as a side dish and it was the most delicious thing ever. All I had to do was slice the tomatoes. That's all. It took five seconds. It was amazing. Today I ate a strawberry that grew in my back yard. Summer, you took sunlight and dirt and concocted something so delicious it was worth the million dollars we spent getting that garden working. I also ate three peaches today, maybe four. I lost count. They were so good. So, thanks, Summer.

Placated by a functioning swamp cooler,