Friday, December 23, 2011

The Last Delivery

When I was a sophomore in high school, I was a member of the Exchange Club which was a service organization and that's all I can really remember about it.  I can't tell you how it came to Ritter or why, but I showed up for a meeting and walked out a member.  I know we did service projects but I can only remember two.  The first was sorting cans in the basement at Little Sister's of the Poor in Indianapolis and I only remember it because the nun we worked for took us down to the basement left us down there for hours with no choice but to work because no one knew the way out of the basement.  (Well played Sister, well played.)  The second project was delivering Christmas baskets.

As a junior or senior (I can't remember which, all I know was I had a drivers license), we partnered with the local Westside Exchange Club of Indianapolis to provide the manual labor for their Christmas baskets.  We showed up on December 22, in a cabinet shop somewhere off Washington Street in Indianapolis and we were quickly put to work assembling baskets with food and toys.

The following day, I borrowed my mom's green minivan and we went back to the cabinet shop to deliver the baskets we had prepared the day before.  

Stop and think about this for a minute.  There was no GPS in 1997-1998.  I didn't have a cell phone, and if I did, I was told to only use it in case of emergency.  And getting lost and calling for directions didn't constitute an emergency.  And since we only had dial-up internet at home, I couldn't have called home for someone to MapQuest them (Google wasn't a verb then) because that would have taken forever.  We had a paper map of Indianapolis and my mom's green minivan.  I'm not even sure where I could get an updated paper map of Indianapolis today.

I know we delivered several baskets that day but I only remember one delivery.  The last delivery of the day.

The paper said 11 people lived in the house, 4 adults and 7 children ranging in ages.  So we loaded up the minivan with the basket and since it was the last delivery, any extra food and toys were thrown in as well.

We found the house and knocked on the door.  The men that came to the door had no shirt on (its a strange detail to remember, I know) and the inside of the house seemed dark.  We told them we were here to deliver their Christmas basket and from out of nowhere, kids start rushing the door jumping up and down and screaming, "now we can have Christmas!".  We handed everything over and wished them a Merry Christmas.

The ride home was quiet.  I think we were all pondering the same thing, those kids would not have had a Christmas at all without that basket.  No presents, no stockings, nothing to wake up to Christmas morning.  And here we were, three girls from good middle class families whose biggest concerns were what dress to wear to the dance and making curfew.  Talk about geting slapped across the face with perspective.

I think about that family every Christmas.  I wonder if they think about us.  I wonder how their next Christmas turned out and if they received another basket or not.  I wonder about the kids in that house.  How did they turn out?  Did they pay it forward to another family who needed help when they got older?  

It was a five minute interaction that will stay with me for a lifetime.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holiday Conversation

While doing some holiday shopping with Matt, we had the following conversation.

Me: What about a fake snake?

Matt: Sure, what color?

Me: Whatever color is obvious that its fake.

Matt: Yeah, that's not going to happen.

I'm predicting an increase in snake stories on the blog.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why Be Like Most People?

Let me introduce you to...

Beyond The Defaults is a collaborative effort between my friend and colleague, Sam Bridegroom.  We both were trying to maintain our own blogs and answer the steady stream of technical questions we receive when we decided there had to be a better way.  Our solution is a website for people to go to find answers to technology related questions in terms they can understand, written by people they trust.

We plan to offer tips, suggestions, hardware and software reviews, and general technology thoughts for the average non-technical person.  Most people take the device out of the box, buy a piece of software, of sign up for an account and only use a fraction of its functionality because they don't know where to start or the idea of technology makes them anxious and feel overwhelmed, so they give up without trying.

Don't be like most people and suffer through technology.  Make technology work for you.

Check it out and let me know what you think.  If you like it, don't be shy about it.  Add a comment, share the link with your Facebook friends or Twitter followers, or email the link to the site to someone who would benefit from it.  We will be posting new updates on a regular basis and you can sign up for free email updates whenever a new post is published or you can subscribe via RSS (and don't worry if you don't know what RSS is, we'll get to that).

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cheating On Thanksgiving

I can't believe I am admitting this as I am a firm believer that you should celebrate one holiday at a time but my Christmas decorations are out.  I used to berate my mother for playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving and couldn't believe it when I learned my friend Brandi would start listening to Christmas music around Halloween.

I feel like I've cheated on Thanksgiving.

This past weekend was the first weekend in a long time where we didn't have to do anything and it was the best and only time to get the decorations out.  We also hoped it would help us enjoy the holidays more and find our Christmas spirit.  I usually get so overwhlemed with everything that I have to do to prepare for the holidays that I usually turn into Scrooge.  I'm hoping this year is different.

I'm not ready for Christmas music yet but there's something about white lights and garland that makes everything feel a little bit more cozy than usual.  And the tree isn't up yet, so we haven't full embraced Christmas yet.

I'm hoping Thanksgiving will forgive me.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

We've Got A New Ride

As we were getting ready to start the car shopping process, Matt laid out the ground rules.  The only thing missing was a shirt that said "Coach", a whistle, and a clipboard.  

If you know me personally, then you are aware that I generally do not take direction or being told what to do well, or at all.  I am sure my husband and parents will testify to this, but we aren't going to ask their opinion on the subject.  However, he has bought and sold several cars and has more experience with this than I do.  

Add the fact I haven't had a car payment in 2.5 years and the thought of having a car payment was giving me heart palpations, I was fine with letting someone else take the reins.  My job was to follow his rules and find a vehicle I liked enough to drive for the next several years.

The Rules For Car Shopping

  1. Ask as many questions about the vehicle as I want.  Make them show me how every single feature works.
  2. Matt will handle the negotiations, which I was fine with because we already had agreed upon our budget and what we were looking for.  If I remember correctly, at one point during his pep talk he told me to "sit there and look pretty".  I'm pretty sure I smacked the last guy that said that to me, but since it was Matt, I let it slide.
  3. I can never, ever say "I have to have this car" or "I love it and must have it".  And if I let it slip out, it had better not be in front of the salesman.
  4. The reason I can never say "I have to have this car" is because I have to always be willing to walk away.
  5. Remember, we are paying them and that means we are in control.
And then we high-fived.  I wanted to put our hands in the middle and yell "Go Team!" but Matt said no.  So I settled for a high-five.

Hello Minivan!

It took most of the day, several test drives, multiple nervous pees on my part but we finally found a vehicle we liked (2010 Dodge Grand Caravan) with a price we could live with.  Matt did a great job with the negotiations and we left the Mazda behind in our new minivan!

Minivans are not sexy, but they are affordable, practical, and I can open the sliding doors with a click of a button.  I'm definitely a function over form kind of girl.  I've noticed people are firmly in two camps: pro-minivan and anti-minivan.  I think my minivan is awesome, but I also realize they aren't for everyone.  To each their own.  

Do I still get surprised when I walk into the garage and see a minivan instead of the Mazda?  Yes.  I imagine this will go away after a few weeks.  Can I park the minivan between the lines on the first try? Not yet.  Can I back the minivan into a parking spot?  Uh no, I couldn't do that with the Mazda and its just not going to happen in the minivan.

Its an adjustment for everyone but I think we are all going to be very happy together.

Thanks to everyone who let me know that I am not the only one who has emotional attachments to their cars.  I appreciate you sharing your experience and it made me feel better about my reaction to saying goodbye to the Mazda.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend

Dear Mazda 6,

I am so sorry I had to say goodbye to you and that I ugly cried in front of you and the salesmen at the car lot.  I know you will say that it wasn't that ugly, but I caught a glimpse of myself in the new car's window and I know I was a hot mess.  You were the first car I picked out, negotiated for, made every payment for and I took pretty good care of you for 7 years.  I am sorry we had to part ways but I have a family to think of and our relationship has run its course.  It was time for us to part ways.

I will always remember you fondly.  Some of my favorite memories are of driving you with the windows down and music tuned up, usually rocking some 80s or whatever popular hip hop song at the time.  You were my first major purchase and you symbolized that I was an adult and free to do whatever I wanted.  I drove around looking for my first house with you and once I found it, you helped me move in.  You hauled my friends and I around town and no one heats up my seat like you do.  

I got you stuck in the mud once at the old St. Malachy in Brownsburg and I had covered us both in mud by the time we got home.  I didn't attend mass that evening because I was trying to get you unstuck before mass ended and someone would see what I had done.  After 15 minutes of rocking and a lot of swearing on my part, I prayed aloud to God, "God, I am getting out of this mess with or without you but it would be nice if it was with you".  You were unstuck on the next try and I prayed the entire ride home.  Do you remember the look on the guys face at Mike's car wash when we got you cleaned off?  I always wondered what he thought of us.

You were driven by my roommate one St. Patrick's day, where I am told I met a friend of my roommate's named Matt.  I have little recollection of that meeting (my Irish heritage dictates I celebrate St. Patrick's day to the fullest) but I do remember spending time with a guy named Matt and his adorable son Daulton the next day.  It was the same Matt that I would meet several times over the next few months and would then become friends with.  Our friendship turned to romance and then you became our family car.

You were the car that drove my husband and step-son to the church and you drove us away from that same church as husband and wife and an official family.  

We've had some good times together and I would have liked to keep you longer, but things just didn't work out that way.  I know you will find a new owner, and I hope she's a young, single woman who will take good care of you like I have.  As I drove off the lot without you, I told Matt that if felt like I was leaving a child behind.  (I also didn't want to take a picture of the new car in front of you, but I think that was more of a result of the stress of car shopping all day, no snacks, and riding an emotional roller coaster which had me vomiting emotions at every turn.)

Thanks for the good times and you took care of me until the end.  Because of you I was able to get a newer, more spacious vehicle for my family and for that I will be eternally grateful.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Great Date

I had the best date today!  He asked me out late yesterday afternoon and I usually prefer to play hard to get, but he is so cute and I couldn't resist so I said yes right away.  Our date was a little unconventional, it was a morning date instead of your typical evening date but I didn't mind.  I woke up this morning and made sure my hair was styled and my outfit was perfectly put-together-without-looking-like-I-tried-very-hard.  I walked out into the living room and told my date I was ready to go!

Can you guess who my date was?

Here's a hint, I had to drive as I am the one with a license and I had to pay for breakfast as he typically doesn't carry around cash (or a wallet).

The correct answer is, "Who is Daulton?".

Daulton's school had a Wake Up & Read event today and since "reading is my thing" (that's a direct quote), Daulton asked me to go.  I was very excited to go and that he wanted me to be the one to go with him.  Usually Matt or Daulton's mom get to do the school activities and I pack lunches or ask, what they would consider an excessive amount of, questions.

We stopped at Dunkin Donuts (my mother, the dietitian, will be mortified when she reads this) for munchkins and we sampled coffee and hot chocolate.  I couldn't help but compare my adult dates with Matt where we have done wine tastings before (ok, technically I taste and he drives) to my dates with Daulton where we discuss the chocolate-ly smell and taste of his hot chocolate. 

Once we got into Daulton's classroom, the lights were out, spooky music was playing, and we read The Haunted Ghoul Bus by flashlight.  We took turns reading and holding the flashlight and ate our munchkins.

I had a great time and like any good date, I am left with that perma-smile (when you walk around all day with a smile you can't wipe off your face) and "I hope he asks me out again" hope.  And since I don't get to do a lot of the school functions, I love getting to see Daulton in the place where he spends the majority of his day.

Like I said, it was a great date!

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

October at the Indianapolis Zoo

We spent the Friday of Daulton's Fall Break at the Indianapolis Zoo.  It was a gorgeous day and we loved every minute we spent at the zoo.  I am always surprised at how much fun I have at the zoo.  It seems there is always something new to see and its nice to be outside and to spend time together.

I have no idea how to use the majority of the functions on my camera, but I think these turned out pretty good.

Doesn't he look like he's posing for the camera?

The second after I took this, the one in back pushed the other one in the water.

Best nap position ever.

Why did no one tell me we had a baby bear?

Say cheese!

Daulton, don't look now but there is a baby bear right behind you!
There was a standoff between the turtles on the bridge and the lemurs.

You don't see that every day!

Loved this bird's colors and they were tiny.

Photo op!

2 words: cat nap

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Animals Gone Wild

Matt and I were discussing the exotic animals on the loose in Ohio tonight while he was making dinner (I was drinking a glass of wine if you need a visual).  And it reminded me that I've never told you about our Rocky sighting this summer (unless you follow me on Facebook, then you probably already know this).

Daulton and I have had two Rocky the Racoon sightings since we released him.  We were taking Dixie for her daily walk and Daulton sweet talked me into going to the playground.  Daulton was busy working on his monkey bar technique when Dixie dragged me over to check out the storm drain.  (I know she looks and acts like a big baby, and she is, but she is also incredibly strong when she wants to be.)

You can imagine my surprise when I hear something hissing at us and then see the shadows move.  I admit, I had a moment of panic until I remembered there was a heavy steel grate between us.  Daulton ran over and together we confirmed that it was our raccoon.

Just like when we discovered the raccoon missing, we hauled ass home to tell Matt what we had found.  Once Daulton was out of earshot, I shared with Matt how disappointed I was that Rocky had chosen to live in a storm drain.  I thought we raised him (or her) better than that.

The next time we went to the park, I took the camera and this was the best picture I could get.  I know my camera has settings that I can manipulate, but I have no idea how to use them.

Do you see the raccoon nose? 

We haven't had any raccoon sightings since, but we do have a rabbit living in the evergreen tree in the front yard and chipmunks in the back, so Dixie has been a hot mess.  And after reading about what's going on in Ohio, I cannot imagine how she (or I) would react with a tiger in the backyard.  (In case you are wondering, Matt would be locked and loaded and out the door hunting exotic animals and not frozen in fear as Dixie and I would be.)

And while we are talking about raccoons, this All State commercial is even funnier once you've had a raccoon living in your garage.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Worm

During a commercial break during Glee tonight, Daulton wanted to show us that he could do the worm.  (The worm is a dance move that looks like it sounds.  Look it up on YouTube if you need a visual.)  After finishing the worm, he then told us he was practicing it today during computer class.

Matt & me:  What?

You were doing the worm during computer class?

Where was your teacher?

Daulton:  I don't know.

Matt & me:  Do you think doing the worm during computer class was the right choice?

Daulton:  Probably not.

Matt & me:  Okay, no more doing the worm during computer class.  And by the way, that was a pretty good worm.

Daulton:  Thanks.

The end.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I'll Take This Art To Go

I was given a new travel mug last Christmas.  I took it into work and I liked everything about it, except for the picture of the family that was not mine staring back at me with every sip.  Yes, I have had the mug since Christmas and I never bothered to replace the picture with someone I actually know.

Rather than find a new picture, which I think I have proven to myself and to you, wasn't going to ever happen.  I decided to delegate the mug situation to Daulton.  And I really like how it turned out. 

If you can't tell, the person in the picture is saying "Wow".  I've gotten several compliments on it and I like having a little piece of custom artwork to look at when I'm in my office or in a meeting.

I like it so much I decided to follow through with one of my 30th birthday resolutions and actually be in a picture and then show it to you.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The End of the Baseball Season

Baseball season is finally over for us.  We played a regular season and then had the All Star season.  Most of our summer has been spent at a game or traveling to a game.  Matt and Daulton spent their time on the field and I spent my time in the stands cheering them on.  Spending this much time in the stands has given me the opportunity to observe fellow baseball parents and fans.  I have come to the conclusion that baseball parents fall into five categories.

Types of Baseball Parents

The Yeller - The Yeller yells at his kid, your kid, the coach and the umpire and disagrees with every call and every decision.  You can spot The Yeller easily because there is usually no one sitting next to them as no one wants to have their eardrums blown out.  The Yeller is also likely to get into fist fights and display the complete opposite of good sportsmanship behavior.  Avoid this type of fan at all costs.

The Pacer - The Pacer never sits down at a baseball game or any other sporting event.  They can be found pacing the sidelines and can be found giving advice to those in the dugout.  Whatever you do, do not try to get a Pacer to sit down and watch the game with you.  You both will be miserable and it will not end well.  Let the Pacer do his/her thing.  (For the record, I married a Pacer and it took some time before I realized it wasn't that he didn't want to be seen in public with me.  I no longer mind being left on the bleachers where I can chat with other parents and catch up with the grandparents.)

The Cheerleader - The Cheerleader is baseball's equivalent of the eternal optimist.  You could miss every ball that comes by you and strike out at every at bat and The Cheerleader will continue to cheer regardless of your performance.  If cheering too loud, The Cheerleader will be spotted sitting alone but can most likely be found sitting with other Cheerleaders.  The Cheerleader is also most likely to be the team mom or snack coordinator.

The Fair Weather Fan - This type of fan can only be seen when the temperature is perfect for baseball watching.  You will not see The Fair Weather Fan in rain, snow, or any temperature below 65 degrees.

The Living Vicariously - This is the worst type of baseball fan.  This fan, usually a parent, had aspirations of their own baseball domination and fell short.  So now its up to their kid to make their dreams happen.  The Living Vicariously has their child's rise to athletic stardom already mapped out and failure is not an option.  Its sad and frustrating to watch. 

Most fans fall into those categories.  Occasionally a jerk shows up.  But the good people outweigh the occasional jerk or two.  For the most part, everyone is there to cheer on the team and the boys playing the game.

This baseball season we learned that you win some and you lose some.  Its important to be a good sport and to always give it 100% effort.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Mix Tape

I started college right around the same time as Napster started.  I didn't realize it then, but this would set the musical background for my college experience.  Applications like Napster allowed us to have access to free music that we could download and share on the computers our parents bought us (when we weren't writing papers or homework of course).  

With an extensive library at our finger tips, my friends and I made mix tapes for everything.  Taking a shopping trip to Louisville?  Make a mix tape.  Want background music to get ready for Saturday night?  Make a mix tape. 

As we graduated and started getting married, the mix tape tradition stayed with us except now we made mix tapes to provide the background music for bachelorette parties.  The best part was, one person would create the mix and it would be a surprise for everyone else.

I still have my mix tapes but I haven't listened to them for a long time.  Until last week.  I had a crappy day at work and I didn't like anything that was playing on the radio.  So, I started digging through the CDs in my car and I found the CD from my friend Elizabeth's bachelorette party.  I put it in and my mood instantly turned around.

Every song brought back a flood of memories.  I remembered Elizabeth's bachelorette party and the crazy, fun times we had.  I flashed back to our senior year spring break trip to Panama City, Florida and all of the fun and shenanigans we got ourselves into.  The times spent talking and laughing around the sorority house went through my mind.

I miss the mix tape.  Today we have iPods and cell phones and we don't have a need for the mix tape anymore.  I can make my own playlist but its just not the same.  So, if you see me singing my heart out in my car with a big smile on my face.  Just leave me alone as I am taking a trip down memory lane.

When I say mix tape, I really mean CD.  I don't have a tape player and mix tape sounds much more nostalgic than mix CD.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

30 Is Not The New 20, Its The New Me

I celebrated my 30th birthday today.  I didn't anticipate celebrating.  I anticipated a lot of moping, whining and possibly even tears.  But I didn't do any of those things.  I truly celebrated.

It didn't hurt that my husband had a little "Come to Jesus" meeting with me a few days before today.  (For those of you that don't know what a "Come to Jesus" meeting is, you clearly haven't experienced one yet.  During a "Come to Jesus" meeting, the facts are laid out on the table for you and you have a choice to make.  The right choice brings you to Jesus, aka the right choice, or the second choice brings you a lot of pain.  I have led and received many "Come to Jesus" meetings over the last 30 years.)  So yes, Matt and I had a "come to Jesus" talk and I made the choice to change my attitude.

My 20s were spent wanting.  I wanted to graduate college, have fun, buy a house, get married, have a child, etc.  I got everything I wanted and more.  But I also didn't enjoy everything I had because I was worried about fulfilling the next want.  These past 30 years have gone by quickly and I imagine the next 30 will go by even faster.  I don't want to look back 30 years from now and wish I would have been more present, worried less, or enjoyed myself more.

I have decided that my 30s will be different.  I am going to appreciate what I have instead of worrying about what I don't have.  I will live in the now instead of worrying about what's coming next.

A few months ago, I read a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  Gretchen spent an entire year focusing on 12 areas, one area per month, that she wanted to improve upon.  While I am not going that far, the book inspired me to set some new goals for myself.  As I was discussing this post with Matt he asked me if I realize that putting my intentions on the internet means that I am now accountable for these resolutions.  Accountability is exactly what I need to succeed. 
Be present.  Put down the phone and pay attention to what's going on around me.  Spend time with people and projects that are important to me and my family.

Do something with the pictures I take. Print them. Update my picture books. Hang them up. Stop leaving them on the camera for 8 months.

Get out from behind the camera and be in more pictures. 

Capture more family pictures.

Take better care of myself. Get plenty of rest. Eat better. Exercise more. I have to take care of me first before I can take care of anyone else.

Find my clothing style.  I would love to wear yoga pants everywhere but I realize that's not socially acceptable.  Getting dressed should not be a struggle and I can stop buying clothes that aren't really me.  (I have already started this one and I have a massive Goodwill pile started.)

Find my house style. We still have the furniture I got from my cousin when I first graduated college. It works and it was free but we are ready for a change.

Keep an eye on the future, but my feet in the present.  As Matt will tell you, I have a habit of over analyzing and worrying about things that haven't happened yet or may never happen.  And that makes it hard to appreciate what's in front of me.  I think its important to plan for the future but I can find a way to balance planning for the future while still enjoying the present.
Let go of expectations.  (Click the link and read the article.  Its a game changer.)

Its not a complete list.  But its a start.  I also like that there is a lot of "me" resolutions.  I think women have a tendency to put our own needs last and as a result, our needs are usually rarely, if ever, met.  I am a very important person in my family and I have been told more than once, usually via "Come to Jesus" meeting, that I set the tone for the day and how everyone else's day is going to go.  If I don't take care of me, then I can't take care of my family.

A few weeks ago, I thought today was going to be a sad day.  Today was better than I expected and the best birthday I can remember.  We didn't do anything fancy or even out of the ordinary.  But Matt, Daulton, my family, and friends made an effort to make sure I had a great birthday.  The fact that so many people made an effort for me, is quite frankly, a very overwhelming feeling.  So overwhelming that I can only write about it as speaking the words would end in happy tears and its not pretty when I cry, so I am going to stick to writing.

My 20s were great, but I have a good feeling that my 30s are going to be even better.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Frog Induced Panic

First, it was something breathing outside and then the raccoon.  Last Wednesday, it was a bull frog.  I know what you are thinking, how could I be afraid of a bull frog?  It turns out, very easily.

Matt took Dixie outside for her final bathroom break of the night.  He came back in and asked me to come back outside so he could show me something.  My first thought was, "crap, the raccoon is back".  Instead, he showed me this guy.

I removed the red eye from the picture to make him (or her) less menacing.  Your welcome.

Matt then placed Daulton's shoe next to the bull frog to show how big he is.  Daulton is currently wearing a size 3 shoe. 

And then Matt made, in my opinion, the poor choice to pick up the bull frog.  As soon as Matt made a move for it, it started to make its bull frog noise which caused me to panic and then yell at Matt for always trying to pick up wild animals. 

I think I have made it pretty clear that I am easily frightened and have a strong dislike for wild animals on my property.

The bull frog agreed because as soon as Matt had it by the legs it started screaming.  Seriously, it screamed.

My panic then turned to fright and my flight instinct kicked in and I ran inside.  Somehow, I managed to take this picture.  Sorry for the lack of focus, you try to run away while taking a picture. 

Did I overreact?  Probably.  Will this scenario happen again?  Unfortunately for me, probably. 

The only way this story could have ended happily for me, was if the frog would have peed on Matt.  It did pee, but his reflexes are too fast and he was able to not get peed on.  I know its wrong to wish a frog would pee on my husband, but its the fear talking.



Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My Irrational Fear Is In My House - Part 4

Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 if you are new to the story.  Sign up to receive new blog posts delivered directly to your inbox!

Is the suspense killing you yet?  The short story is, the raccoon has been released and should be happily living in the wooded area behind our house. 

And here is the long story.

Everyone, except Dixie and I, had gotten too comfortable with the raccoon living in the garage.  The garage had turned into the raccoon's room.  And the raccoon was eating grapes and bananas out of Matt's hand and it was still taking the kitten milk replacement.  It was living the raccoon high life.

Unfortunately for the raccoon, it was also getting very hot outside and in the garage.  And since we are not investing in proper raccoon housing, it was time to let it go.  Matt's goal was to get it big enough to survive on its own and he accomplished that goal.

So one night after a baseball game, Matt loaded the raccoon into a small box and we walked back into the wooded area behind our house.  Matt and Daulton walked into the woods while I stayed safely in the yard. 

Matt sat the box down and the raccoon made no attempt to leave the box.  So, Matt carefully removed it from the box and the raccoon looked back at Matt, not quite sure what to do.  I believe the raccoon thinks that Matt is its mother, so I imagine the raccoon is going to have some abandonment issues.  Matt walked away from it and that was it.  No more baby raccoon. 

We haven't seen it since, but I was back there the other day and something was rustling around back there.  Needless to say, I didn't stick around to see what it was but I like to think it was the raccoon.  

This was definitely a learning experience for everyone.  I learned that Matt is a country boy at heart and I can move him to the suburbs, but I can never truly move the country out of him.  Matt learned that I don't deal well with wild, potentially rabies infested animals.  We learned that Dixie is an excellent tracker but cannot handle the stress of having a small animal so close for that long.

The ending of this story is significantly less dramatic than everything it took to keep it and feed it.  But I think this story has a happy ending.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Irrational Fear Is In My House - Part 3

Read Part 1 and Part 2 if you are new to the story.  Sign up to receive new blog posts delivered directly to your inbox!

I hate to admit it, but the raccoon has become part of our routine.  Daily feedings, check.  Keep Dixie out and away from the garage at all times, check.  Container of kitten milk replacement and bottles on the counter, check.

Who am I?  What has become of my life?

Rocky, as my husband named him, seems to be thriving in our garage.  In addition to the bottles of kitten milk replacement, he has also started eating grapes, bananas, and kitten food.  I am pretty sure the raccoon thinks Matt is his mother and Matt is ready to trade the dog in for the baby raccoon.

The routine seems to be working, until the raccoon escapes.  Again.

It was a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon and I was settling onto the couch for a nap.  Matt was out in the garage, doing whatever it is guys do in garages.  He comes back in several times asking me why the dog keeps scratching the air return grate by the door and why wasn't I doing something about it.

Uh, I was trying to take a nap.  That's why I wasn't doing anything about it.

Again the dog is written off for being crazy, which she has been because there has been a raccoon in the garage.  Except there is a problem with Matt's assessment of the situation.  I watched Dixie because my nap ambiance was disturbed and she wasn't scratching at the grate.  She was intensely staring at it and her ears were perked up and her head was cocked in such a way that says, something is not right out there.

I fear the worst.

Matt quickly came in and confirmed my fear that Rocky, the raccoon, had escaped again.  And then he quickly added that I shouldn't worry because he had the situation under control and the garage is sealed off from the house.

We all know I am useless in these types of situations, so I stayed on the couch and took a nap.  Dixie was once again retrieved to locate the raccoon which this time had crossed the garage and was located on top of the small fridge.

I drew a terrible picture of our garage layout to give you an idea of how far it escaped as compared to the first attempt.  Nothing is drawn to scale and the measurements are not even close to being right.  And yes, that is my attempt at drawing raccoon tracks. 

 When I woke up from my nap and ventured into the garage.  I was told that the raccoon had been found and was placed back into his clearly-not-secure-enough-because-he's-escaped-twice-now container.  I was very alarmed at how quickly he had gotten to the door that leads to the house and that he was climbing all over stuff.  I feel like the entire garage needs to be decontaminated from the raccoon germs (I call it raccoon juice) that are everywhere.  And why are we not paying more attention to the signals Dixie is giving us? 

Needless to say, it was time for Rocky to go.  Everyone, except for me, had gotten a little too comfortable with the raccoon living in the garage.  Matt had accomplished what he set out to do which was to get the baby raccoon healthy enough to live on its own outside.

Part 4, Rocky's Release, is coming soon!  Again, thank you so much for your interest and raccoon stories.  If you like the story, share it on Facebook and Twitter with your own irrational fear or raccoon story!


Monday, June 6, 2011

My Irrational Fear Is In My House - Part 2

Read Part 1 if you are new to the story.  And if you are from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, this story is fiction.  If you do not work for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, keep reading.

The first night with the raccoon was rough because the dog went crazy barking and scratching at the garage door.  I was sound asleep, worn out from the trauma of having a live representation of my irrational fear in my garage.  My husband thought the dog was just being crazy, which she can be, and put her in the bedroom with us.

When Daulton and I woke up the next morning, Daulton wanted to go check on the raccoon.  I did not.  But he (Daulton, not the raccoon) is so cute in the morning and Matt was busy with other things so it was up to Daulton and I to check on the raccoon.

I put on Matt's work gloves and had my yellow duckie robe on for protection and slowly reached in to pull away the first towel.  It wasn't under the first towel.  I was ready to call it quits and leave it to the professional, a.k.a. Matt.  Instead Daulton tried to talk me into continuing to look for the raccoon.
Me:  Daulton, I'm scared.  I don't want to do this (look under the second towel).

Daulton:  Abby, don't be a sissy.  Just do it.

Me: Don't call me a sissy. I am really afraid and I don't want to do this.

Daulton: Don't act like a sissy and I won't call you a sissy. Now just do it.
I hate that he knows how to play me. 

I pulled the second towel out and still no raccoon.  At this point, I knew something was wrong.  The combination of Dixie acting crazy last night and the raccoon not being under the towels was sending my irrational fears into overdrive.  Daulton and I hauled ass inside to find Matt and report what we found, or technically, to report what we didn't find.

Matt took a quick look, laughed and said, "yep, its not in there".  At this point, I am ready to throw on the hazmat suits or never go in the garage again.  But I had to go to work and Daulton had to get to school, so Matt very calmly told us not to worry and he would find it later.

Well, later came and it was actually Dixie who found the raccoon.  Matt couldn't find it so he turned Dixie, the beagle, german shepherd mix, loose in the garage and she found it in about 5 seconds.  Apparently a bottle of kitten milk replacement will give a baby raccoon just enough nutrition to escape.  Its like steroids for baby raccoons without the roid rages and back acne.

Again, I get a call at work, this time telling me the baby raccoon has been secured and the dog is now on red alert because she has visual and smell confirmation that there is a woodland creature in the garage.

A side note on Dixie.  I've never been around hunting dogs but I would have to imagine that Dixie would fit right in, if she liked being around other dogs, which she doesn't.  Dixie once caught a chipmunk in our backyard and goes bat shit crazy whenever she sees a cat or coyote in the yard.  So having a raccoon in the garage almost sent her to the nut house.

It suddenly becomes crystal clear that this raccoon isn't going anywhere anytime soon and I'm not going near the raccoon, so basically I stopped going in the garage.

Raccoon: 1  Abby: 0

And why am I the only one who has the appropriate amount of concern and anxiety about the wild, possibly rabies infested, raccoon in the garage?

Thank you for your kind words and raccoon stories!  I am comforted and terrified at the same time.  I appreciate the support and I no longer feel like my raccoon fears are irrational.  If you like the story, share it on Facebook and Twitter with your own irrational fear or raccoon story!


Saturday, June 4, 2011

My Irrational Fear Is In My House - Part 1

If you work for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the following story is fiction.  I made the entire thing up.  If you do not work for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, feel free to keep reading.

It was a sunny Tuesday afternoon and my darling husband was in his hometown helping with a pest issue at the rental house he maintains.  I had heard they had previously caught a raccoon in a live trap and released it far, far away from the rental house.  I had also heard that they later realized this raccoon was actually a momma raccoon and her two babies were left in the garage.

My husband being the rugged outdoors type and good landlord he is, was going to retrieve the baby raccoons and release them somewhere far away from the rental house.  I had hoped the babies would one day reunite with their momma in the wild, but I grew up watching Disney movies and perhaps this wasn't a realistic expectation.

I would like to take a moment to explain to you, faithful reader, that I have an irrational fear of raccoons.  It all started from a camping incident the summer after I graduated from high school.  I have been terrified since.  And no, I don't want to talk about it.  And yes, I realize its irrational.

So you can imagine my surprise when I receive a phone call at work from my rugged, outdoorsy, landlord husband.
Me:  Did you catch the baby raccoons?

Matt:  I caught one, the other one got away.

Me:  Well, one is better than none.  Where did you release it at?  (I start picturing the Disney-esque mother and baby reunion in the woods.)

Husband:  (silence)

Me:  Matt?

Husband:  I didn't release it yet.

Me:  What?

Husband:  Here's the thing.  Its pretty tiny, smaller than I thought it was and if I release it right now, it will just die and I can't do that.  So I am going to keep it in the garage and let it get bigger and then release it.

Me:  What?  (The Disney movie that's playing in my head comes to a screeching halt and the raccoon incident flashbacks begin.)

And that's how my irrational fear became a reality.  In my garage.  In a recycling bin with an exercise trampoline on top.  Yes, that was its cage.

That evening was spent Googling "what to feed a baby raccoon" and calling the local Petsmart to see if they have baby raccoon food.  We found out that the baby raccoon, which was later named Rocky, loves kitten milk replacement.  Or he hadn't eaten in the few days since his mother was captured.  It was probably a combination of both because he sucked it down.

I had always known that Matt is a self-proclaimed country boy.  But I am a city girl and we live in a suburb and not the country.  This kind of thing doesn't happen in the suburbs, until now.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Yes, I Do Chase After Cars I See Speeding In My Neighborhood

I take the dog for a walk almost every day around my neighborhood. Its 10 minutes or more of everyone being outside, stretching our legs, and getting some fresh air. As a result, I know my neighborhood and my walking path pretty well and I can tell pretty quickly if something isn't right.

Stop SignA yellow, 4 door Chevy running a stop sign and speeding down a residential street isn't right.

A yellow, 4 door Chevy running a stop sign, speeding down a residential street, and not slowing down despite the woman on the side of the road waving her arms and screaming for you to slow down isn't right.

A yellow, 4 door Chevy running a stop sign, speeding down a residential street, not slowing down despite the woman on the side of the road waving her arms and screaming for you to slow down, and driving on the left side of the road to get as far away as possible from the waving and screaming woman isn't right.

Did I mention I had Daulton with me? He was safely on the sidewalk on his bike and even he noticed how fast the car was going.

I attempted to talk to the driver of the yellow, 4 door Chevy but she wouldn't come to the door. So, I waited for the adults who live there to come home. The conversation didn't go as well as I would have liked but I can live with that. (This is not the first time I've made someone mad, and it won't be the last.) I wanted to communicate to my neighbor that the driver of this car was speeding, not obeying stop signs, and is a danger to all of the children who play outside in our neighborhood. She didn't like what I had to say but I could tell my words struck a nerve because instead of defending the driver, which later turned out to be her daughter, she chose to attack me instead. Why go on the extreme offensive if your child did nothing wrong?

My neighbor did ask me "if I chase down every car that I see speeding through the neighborhood?". And my answer is and will always be, "yes, I do chase down those cars that I can catch" because it is my responsibility as a neighbor and a parent to keep my neighborhood safe. So if that means chasing down cars, knocking on doors, and having conversations with my neighbors is what I have to do, then I will do it. I would expect my neighbors to do the same for me and my family.

The irony of the situation is that after our conversation, 3 of her 4 children were at my house hanging out and playing with Daulton.  A fact I am pretty sure she was unaware of.

I wasn't sure how this situation was going to turn out but considering the fact that my neighbor made a point to drive by me tonight, while on my walk, and do a textbook perfect stop at the stop sign, I think it is going to turn out alright. I doubt she ever asks me for a cup of sugar, but she heard my message and has responded to it exactly how I had hoped she would.

What would you have done? Said nothing and let the reckless driving continue? Or say something to the neighbor?  How would you react if someone came to your door to discuss how your child was driving?


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Elementary School Carnivals Are Like Zoos

I recently had the pleasure of going to Daulton's school carnival.  Matt makes the school runs and does the class parties and field trips.  He sees Daulton in the school setting more than I do so I was very excited to go to the carnival and be a part of Daulton's school experience.

We are also frequent visitors to the Indianapolis Zoo and I could not help but notice how quickly the elementary school carnival resembled the zoo.
  • Bounce houses are like cages for the wild and crazy kids.  They go into the cage resembling a wild animal and after 10 minutes or so of bouncing, they come out resembling your child again.
  • Tickets are like rewards for good behavior.  Animal trainers use food rewards to train animals to do tricks and it works on kids too.  Kids that behave, get tickets.  Kids that step out of line don't get tickets and instead have to watch the good kids get tickets and play games.
  • Everyone cheers when you win a game similar to cheering for an animal that does a trick. 
  • Kids run in packs like wolves.  If you aren't part of the pack, you don't really matter.  And good luck cutting your kid from the herd.  I would suggest dangling some tickets in front of his face and he will come a-running.
  • Its important to remember that like wild animals, elementary school children can turn on you in an instant.  They can go from sweet, happy children to screaming, tantrum throwing monsters with no warning or cause.  Have an exit strategy in place should you find yourself in this situation.
  • Some animals are cuter than others.  I am not saying your kid is ugly, but sometimes the way he or she acts can be.  There is a reason why people stop to watch the dolphins and quickly walk past the warthogs. 
Observing Daulton in "the wild" was interesting and entertaining.  Its also comforting to watch your kid when he doesn't know he is being watched and to see he is good, kind friend. 


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Spring Scenes

Spring has definitely sprung at our house and we are loving it.  The windows are open, flowers are blooming, and the wildlife has been out and about.

Can you spot the rabbit?

There he is.

The mama duck is out with her babies.  I originally called them chicks but my editor, Matt, corrected me that this duck did not adopt baby chickens.  He also reminded me the proper nomenclature is ducklings.

The rabbit is back.  If this rabbit is going to be around for a while, I think he or she will need a name.

My daffodils and tulips were beautiful.  Well worth all the hard work last fall to get them planted.

Seeing the tulips in my garden makes me happy.  Its a sign that spring is here and its time to put away the winter coats and break out the flip-flops and shorts.

Some days it looks like we live on a swamp.

And I've had the song "How Much Is That Doggie In The Window" stuck in my head.  I wonder why?

Spring is here and we have been spending time at the baseball diamonds, riding bikes, and enjoying walks around the neighborhood.  I also know spring is here because I got Matt's car stuck in the mud at the baseball park and have been wearing my pink rain boots to baseball games.  Its a good thing I'm cute enough to get away with both.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Year Ago Today

A year ago today, Matt and I were married.

A year ago today, I officially became a step-mom.

A year ago today, I got ready for my wedding day with these lovely ladies. 

A year ago today, I remember being excited and anxious to see Matt.

A year ago today, I remembered it rained on our wedding day and I could have cared less.

A year ago today, I remember thinking "a girl could get used to this".

A year ago today my parents threw Matt and I a fun and wonderful wedding.  My mom is smiling because the wedding day was beautiful and all of her hard work paid off.  My dad is smiling because he doesn't have to write anymore checks.

A year ago today, everyone at our reception was on the dance floor for the YMCA.

A year ago today, there was some serious booty shaking going on.

A year ago today, we were surrounded by our family and friends as Matt and I got married.  It was a wonderful day and the perfect way to start off our marriage. 


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