Maybe I Should Play the Lottery Next

Sometimes you do something so stupid and potentially dangerous it puts a pit in your stomach and lingers around you for a whole day.

I-SEE-DUMB-PEOPLE

I’m not talking about something irresponsible, like, say, for example, staying far too long at a happy hour and not eating anything except a couple of chips and a teaspoon of guacamole, which, as everyone knows is not a sufficient anti-hangover base for 3 top shelf margaritas and a sickly sweet shot. Just as an example.

No, I’m talking about some stupid mistake that makes you question whether you should even be allowed to walk by yourself to the metro.

And every time you start to feel comfortable or safe or push the incident out of your mind, there it is again, sending a cold sheen of sweat over your upper lip.

My guardian-boyfriend XFE is out of town for work this week, so of course, when I went to bed last night, I checked every door and window and made absolutely certain they were locked before I went to bed.

I have recurring bouts of insomnia. I’m currently in one of those bouts, I’d say for going on about 2 weeks now. My insomnia is kinda interesting. To me, at least. I fall asleep easily, then wake up around 3 or 4 in the morning and cannot get back to sleep until about 20 minutes before my alarm goes off. So….super restful, that. If there’s anything worse than waking up for no reason, it’s finally being able to drift back to sleep only to be jolted awake again. It is exhausting, and frustrating, and mystifying.

So, last night, per usual, I woke up around 4 am and tried to lie still in the hopes that I could somehow quiet my mind enough to get back to sleep. I finally started to slowly sink back into sleep after an indeterminate amount of time when I heard the very distinct sound of our front door. Our door has a pretty unmistakable sound. It has a rubber weathering seal around it that makes it sound a little bit like a suction noise. That’s the best way I can describe it, and it’s totally inefficient.

apocalypse bird

Anyway, I know I heard something because even Petunia jumped up from her favorite sleeping spot — ie: between my legs (I also have a theory that perhaps my insomnia stems from the fact that I am physically trapped by a 13 pound cat and can’t roll over to a more comfortable position — I have a lot of theories about my insomnia. You think a lot during those extra 2-3 hours of wakefulness every night).

what was that

I stayed very, very still, holding my breathe and listening; watching the cat to see if she was hearing anything. Nothing. No footsteps on the wood floor. No sound of the door closing. It must have been our collective imaginations. Time to get up and get the day going.

I went through my normal morning routine – brew coffee, feed the cat, pet the cat while she eats, pour cup of coffee plus to-go mug, pet the cat while she eats some more, escape the cat-petting session and get showered and dressed.

Finally, it was time to leave. I open the door and hear the distinct tinkle of my keys still in the lock of the front door, left there from the evening before. Just hanging there vulnerable and exposed. Tempting evil doers of all shapes and stripes to gently turn them and come in our house. I immediately felt sick to my stomach.

defencedoormat

I’ve done this before. XFE has found my keys still in the door lock on at least 2 occasions that I can think of.

I immediately put down my raincoat, my purse, my to-go mug of coffee. I grabbed my phone and a very lethal looking butcher knife and began looking in every closet, behind every door, just waiting for my opportunistic murderer to jump out. I went out back and checked the shed, and behind the shed, my heart caught in my throat.

The scariest moment was the downstairs powder room. That door was completely closed. Was someone in there? What would I do? Also, I’m right handed. So, should I hold my phone in my right hand in case I need to call 911, or should I hold my knife in my right hand, so I can swipe and stab with premium skill?

armed

 

Luckily, my stabbing versus dialing skills were never put to the test. No one was in the house. But could I be sure? I mean, really, really sure? It worried me all the way to work, all day at work, on the way home, and especially while approaching my front door.

Obviously, everything was fine and normal and as it should be.

But I’m not out of the woods yet. I still have to get some sleep tonight and who knows how that’s going to go with the state of my nerves. What fills me with most dread though, (besides the possibility of making that mistake again and not having as much luck the next time around) is how much trouble I’m going to get in when XFE reads this. He hates these kind of stories, quite naturally. He’ll be worried and exasperated and it will come out as harsh and I’ll get defensive and teary-eyed.

But I’ll try to nod and agree and understand that he’s not mad at me, he’s mad at the situation. That I’ve put myself in. He’s far away and completely helpless. He’s only concerned and sad that he can’t do anything to help me or save me from my idiocy.

 

At least this time I didn’t need a locksmith.

Silence of the Cat Lambs

My precious little angel face is sick. No, not XFE. Our cat, Petunia.

That’s not really a good angle for her.

(OK, so you’ve been warned: this post is all about me whining about my sick cat. I get that this is not for everyone. If this isn’t your cup of crazy-cat-lady tea, you can skip this. We’ll still be friends tomorrow.)

I know this makes me an incredibly bad cat parent, but I had not taken Petunia to a vet in about 10 years. I took her to the vet at six weeks old, after I had found her under a car meowing her little head off. They cleaned her up, gave her some shots, and sent me on my way. I took her back for her boosters a couple of times, and, of course, took her to get spayed. But that’s been pretty much it.

I always figured she’s a completely indoor cat, with no exposure to any other animals, no parasites, no weird plants. She eats a diet consisting solely of dried cat food – I never give her people food or wet food or milk or anything other than the same dry food I’ve been shoveling into her bowl twice a day for the last 10 years.

That’s better.

And, for the last 10 years, she’s been completely healthy. She’s playful and frisky, she always, ALWAYS uses her litter box (no matter how negligent I’ve been on the cleaning front. She literally has never gone to the bathroom anywhere else), and hardly ever even meows. Her teeth are clean and in good shape, and other than being a bit chubby (ok, a lot), she’s healthy.

Continue reading Silence of the Cat Lambs

Honestly, I Blame Birds for This Particular Poe-Tastrophe

Well helllllllooo, kitty cats (man, I miss me some Brandi Glanville. Hopefully those BV ladies will be back on Bravo soon).

Let’s jump right back into this blogging thing, shall we? Should we start with a sad little story of a not-at-all young girl and her lost keys? Well, technically, they were not lost, per se. They just weren’t safely ensconced in her little grubby hands like they should have been.

And so we come to the latest edition of “Poe-tastrophes: Lessons for Supposed Grown Ups.”

At least I was fully clothed.

Last Wednesday, I came home, laced up my shoes and went for a nice little run. My forever travelling partner XFE was out of town for work again, so I ran a nice leisurely sweat-flecked three miles. On my way into the house after my run, I noticed that XFE’s black car was parked under a tree and covered in little bird souvenirs.

As I’ve mentioned here before, I am part of a dynamic two person car washing team that practices its’ skills every weekend, so I have a very vested interest in minimizing the workload ie: keeping bird crap off the damn car.

I went inside, took a shower and came back downstairs to go out and move the car, grabbing my cell phone just in case XFE called. I moved the vehicle and tried to get back in the house, only to discover that I had locked myself out with nothing but the car keys and my phone. (Since I don’t really drive, I do not keep the ginormous key fob on my key ring with the house key. In fact, my key ring, which I carry every day, only has the one house key on it.)

Now, obviously, this is not the first time I’ve ever locked myself out of a house. Far from it. I used to do it all the time at our old place, which is why I had a key in a tiny Ziploc bag hidden under a rock in our backyard. I would just squeeze into the narrow passage behind our house, retrieve the key and unlock the back door and no one would even know about my blunder. Including XFE.

However, this is the first time I’ve locked myself out of the new house. I had no similar system set up as of yet.

I ran through my (admittedly limited) options: smash a window (probably in the back of the house) and reach in and unlock the door. But the idea of gashed wrists kept me from pursuing this one.

I could just go to a friend’s house and drink wine and feel sorry for myself. I have three such friends that live near me. But that didn’t really seem like it would solve the whole not-having-a-key problem. Plus, Petunia might die if she had to skip a meal.

The only person I knew with an extra key to our house is our maid, Elizabeth. I immediately called her and demanded to know if she was in the vicinity. Her English is a bit limited, but I quickly surmised that she did not spend her evenings hanging around Old Town hoping to come to my rescue. Nor was she eager to leave her own family and come hang out on the stoop with me.

So, I had her text me the address and tried to drive over to her place. I used my supposedly-smart phone to get directions, and learned that this mere 15 mile journey would involve I-95 South, I-95 West, I-495 West, VA 236 and I think a few I-395s thrown in for good measure. All to go what is approximately 15 miles.

Now, as I mentioned, I really don’t ever drive. I ride the metro. Or, I read my magazine while XFE drives us to wherever it is we’re going. And I had no idea how to get to Fairfax. I mean, I kinda know where it is on a map in relation to Old Town, but I couldn’t tell you for the life of me how to get there.

I tried three different times to navigate my way to Fairfax and failed completely. I was so determined to figure this stupid driving thing out all on my own. Every time I’d retrace my steps and end up back near the start, I would talk myself into giving it just one more try. It suddenly had become vitally important to my self-worth that I conquer this seemingly mundane little project.

Eventually, about an hour in, I finally did find myself on the correct road towards Fairfax. I was soon detoured to a semi-familiar road near my house, at which point, I gave up and called XFE crying. He suggested I just call a locksmith. About 45 minutes (and $225) later, a very nice young Soviet-bloc accented man came and opened my front door.

Dude, I feel your pain.

It was actually pretty interesting how the locksmith did it. Apparently, we have quite a good lock that can’t actually be picked, so he inserted these two small inflatable plastic pillows in our door jamb and pumped them up. Then he used a very scary looking crowbar-type thing to jimmy the lock. It literally took him seconds and caused no damage whatsoever to the door jamb.

He complimented me on our house, wrote up the bill, took my credit card information, told me about their frequent user program (the next time I lock myself out of my house, they take $20 off the bill!) and left me to a sleepless night as I fretted about just how easy it was for the locksmith to get into my house. I literally didn’t sleep a wink. Instead, I spent a lot of time thinking about my bruised self esteem and places to scatter extra keys (ie: my neighborhood friends’ houses.)

 

I Bet It’s Exactly Like ‘Under the Sea’ – CSI Edition

I’m halfway through my online scuba lessons and I’m becoming very, very worried.

We’re taking online scuba certification classes, with plans to do the actual dive portion in Puerto Rico in December. All of this is to prepare us for diving in the Great Barrier Reef next year.

I am, as you may have noticed, a very risk-adverse and worried person. I worry about brain eating amoebas. I worry about sharks, of course. Now, thanks to President Obama and his trip to Australia and a little gift he received from some diplomat, I’m now also worried about crocodiles. (Thanks Australia!)

This shark is probably at least 33% smaller outside of the water.

Look, I have a really great life and I don’t want to jeopardize it. As much as I like pretty fishies, I’d like to keep living. And doing nonsensical things like trying to breathe underwater, seems a bit foolhardy to say the least. (And I’m saying it.)

But I also understand that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Plus, I know other people who scuba dive and they seem to get through it without losing any limbs or anything.

Anyway, since I am so prone to panicking, my scuba-buddy-for-life XFE and I thought that the pace-yourself-approach might work best. We could take the online courses, at the slower Poe pace, reviewing and rewatching the slides until actual learning somehow, miraculously, penetrated the haze of panic and settled into my little brain.

Add the allure of going to Puerto Rico and getting out of DC in the midst of a probably cold December for the in-water portion, and I slowly began to feel a tiny bit better about the whole certain-impending-underwater-death thing.

(By the way, the lessons in Puerto Rico will be private ones. You do not want to see me in a group lesson setting. No bueno. Lots of tears and panic and confusion. I think we all learned our lesson from the Great Copper Mountain Ski Debacle of 2008 [or was it 2009?] Either way, someone had to be rescued off the mountain and out of her group ski class by the nice men on the skimobiles.)

So, with a plan in place, I was starting to feel in control, a bit calmer even, while envisioning myself swimming alongside giant sea turtles and frolicking with Nemo under the sea.

That dog looks as excited as I feel.

Then, I started taking the online PADI classes and Holy Fear Injection. What. The. Hell.

So far, it’s all about stuff I should be worried about. They’ve mentioned things that can go wrong that even I, in my wildest dreams, never considered. For example: the second half of last night’s section discussed what to do if you encounter an “unresponsive diver.” This is not something I’d ever even thought about, but my first reaction is to  say, get yourself out of there, get to the surface and undertake a combination of screaming/swimming/thrashing until help comes along. However, that is not proper scuba procedure. Apparently, you are supposed to help the person to the surface. And, some other stuff I wasn’t really paying attention to.

Also: entanglement. Which can come in all kinds of forms like, plants, fishing lines, loose lines and old nets. Where the hell do they think we’re going to be diving? What kind of underwater “Wipeout” are they planning here?

Then there are all these boating terms to remember, and hand signals (25 of them, which they blew through in about .5 seconds), and procedures for weights and BCDs and alternate inflator regulators, and on and on. I have to know how to use a compass. A compass??!! I have no idea how to use a compass. They didn’t really teach that back in the trailer park. And there’s math. Very important math related to how deep you can go and how much air you have.

Plus, did you know that things like water movement affect your ability to see and not get disoriented? Other things that affect visibility? Oh, just the weather, suspended particles of plankton and algae, and the composition of the bottom of the ocean. How am I supposed to account for that??

Oh, and good luck with that whole seeing thing anyway, since apparently refraction magnifies everything by 33% so everything looks larger and closer. That includes sharks, by the way.

Apparently, sharks are PADI certified as well.

My favorite advice, however, is what to do if there’s an aggressive animal around. That’s right. An aggressive animal. First, there are the list of precautions to keep from being shark dinner:

  1. Treat all animals with respect (CHECK)
  2. Be careful in murky water (again, not really something I can control)
  3. Avoid wearing shiny or dangly jewelry (Hmmm, guess I better not wear my grillz then)
  4. Remove fish you have speared from the water immediately (Not going to be a problem because I’m sticking with point number uno, and spearing fish is NOT very respectful.)
  5. Wear gloves and exposure suit (welp, since we covered the loss of body heat in the water in section 1, I’m pretty sure my wimpy cold butt is going to be covered up. Also: see refraction factoid. I do not want my imperfections—few as they are—to appear 33% larger.)
  6. Maintain neutral buoyancy and stay off the bottom (this one is hilarious and I will point out why in just a minute)
  7. Move slowly and carefully (pretty sure I’m not going to move slowly or carefully if and when I’m confronted by an aggressive animal. Pretty sure that’s not going to happen.)
  8. Watch where you’re going and where you put your hands, feet and knees. (Since I’ll be tucked into a fetal position and crying underwater, I’m sure this won’t be an issue.)
  9. Avoid contact with unfamiliar animals. (They’re ALL unfamiliar to me. I don’t know any of these animals. I’ve never met them before. I’m not going to be playing fetch down there with any of them.)

So here’s the advice they give you if all the above precautions don’t work and somehow, you, in your skimpy bathing suit decorated with dangling sequins and bugle beads and carrying a line of speared and unfamiliar fish in the murky water behind you somehow managed to attract the attention of an “aggressive” animal.

This girl appears to be breaking multiple precautionary rules. I'm pretty sure she's gonna get eaten. That one on the left looks hungry.

Advice:

  1. Remain still and calm at the bottom. (WAIT. You told me to stay off the bottom in precautionary point 6. Now I’m totally confused. What am I supposed to do??)
  2. Do not swim toward it. (No. Problem. You can’t swim if you are actively in the process of soiling your wet suit.)
  3. Watch what it does. (Also known as, ‘push your scuba buddy towards the nice fishie’).
  4. If it stays, calmly swim along the bottom and out of the way. (As if I’d have the presence of mind to do any of these things.)

There better be some really awesome and friendly fish down there. I’m bringing a gun, just in case.

Shark Week is Apparently EVERY Week in Australia

The problem with planning your vacations far in advance (well, the problem with XFE and I planning our vacations far in advance) is that it gives one of us plenty of time to hyperventilate over any news story coming out of that vacation location.

For example: My wanna-be-Crocodile-Dundee-boyfriend XFE and I are going to Australia in March for my 40th birthday. One of our “fun” activities is going to be scuba diving, which I’ve never done before. But being an extremely risk-adverse drama queen/mild hypochondriac, I’m convinced that this “fun”-tivity will not end well.

In fact, if it’s anything at all like our attempts at skiing over the years, it will end with one of us lodged in a snow bank (or perhaps in some coral, to make this analogy work in a diving context), producing copious amounts of snot-crying and shouting profanity at her loved one, who just happens to be a much better skier (and, probably, because that’s always the way things go, a much better diver). We don’t ski much anymore. And by much, I mean at all.

"I told you I wasn't ready for the green slopes! I'm a bunny slope only!"

Widely reported stories like this do not help. According to the Washington Post:

 Shark hunters set baited hooks off Australia’s southwest coast on Sunday hoping to catch a great white that killed an American recreational diver in the area’s third recent fatal attack.

Let that sink in for a minute. THIRD recent fatal attack. Not a one-off. Not some weinie messing with the shark getting what he deserved. We’re talking Sharks Gone Wild off the Australian coast, and I’m just a big piece of floating chum in a fetching floral bathing suit.

"Don't mind me. I'm actually not very tasty at all. Kinda tough and stringy, really."

“Scientists have warned against an overreaction to the third fatal shark attack off Australia’s southwest coast in less than two months. Australia averages a little more than one fatal shark attack a year.”

Oh, really? You don’t want people to overreact. Well, well. Let me stop OVERREACTING THEN. When the average number of shark attacks goes up by 300% (wait…math…dammit, is that right? Somebody check my work) in a mere two months, I think it might be time to overreact just a tiny bit.

“Barbara Weuringer, a University of Western Australia marine zoologist and shark researcher, urged against a shark hunt, saying there was no way of telling which shark was the killer without killing it and opening its stomach.

“It sounds a little bit like taking revenge, and we’re talking about an endangered species,” Weuringer said.”

Listen, Babs: It’s a LOT like revenge. And I for one am Down. With. It. Let’s cut the damn sharks open. Where I come from, you shoot first and ask questions later. If poor, innocent, non-killing sharks don’t want to find themselves filleted on a beach, they better find a less incriminating place to hang out. And stay away from the humans. Consider yourself warned, Australian shark population.

“Barry Bruce, a marine biologist and great white expert, said it was unlikely that the same shark was responsible for all three fatalities.

“A more plausible explanation is that this is the time of year when sharks move along the coast, and there are undoubtedly multiple sharks out there following this exact pattern,” Bruce said.

Wow, Barry. That is incredibly reassuring. So I don’t have to just watch out for one rampaging, blood-thirsty shark, but three? Awesome.

"mmmm, get in my mouth!"

“But a southwest coast-based diving tourism operator has called on the Western Australia state government to kill sharks that pose a threat to humans.

‘The nuisance sharks, the problem sharks that move into an area and are aggressive, should be dispatched to remove the risk of future attack,’ Rockingham Wild Encounters director Terry Howson told the AP.

Howson has been campaigning for government action on sharks since one of his tour guides, Elyse Frankcom, was injured in a shark attack last year.

“It’s absolutely hurting the tourist trade,” he said. “Australia is getting a name for itself as being full of dangerous animals.”

Damn straight, Terry! Also: Not going to sign up for a tour with you since you don’t seem to have a way to protect folks from getting attacked by sharks. I’m sorry, I know it’s not fair. It’s not you, it’s…..actually, yes, yes it is you. And you’re little shark friends.

I will admit, however, that these shark attacks have been taking place off the far western coast of Australia, which we’re not going to. Nevertheless, sharks can swim and they’ve got plenty of time to get all the way to the east coast by the time I arrive in March.

Actually, maybe I shouldn’t be encouraging the government to hunt those sharks. Those fleeing sharks might decide to go someplace else where people aren’t (yet) threatening to gut them. Like the eastern coast of Australia. Shoot! This is how my best-laid plans always backfire. I’m definitely going to make sure I bring my homemade shiv to the beach in Australia.

Just think: there’s only 4.5 months more for me to stress and kvetch about my upcoming dream-vacation-of-a-lifetime.

Also: There was a damn 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Turkey. Which is where we’re going in January. Awesome.