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My father (actually, both my parents) have always had strange ideas of what I might do with my life.  My mother, as I mentioned before, pushed plumbing on me with a ferocity that was alarming, and when even she had to admit I was overeducated for it, she started on the postal service.

My father focused on something entirely different– being a tour guide.  Every time we would take a tour, he would launch into this grand vision of me giving organized tours to wide-eyed tourists, possible owning my own van or bus, and living somewhere like Hawaii.  He would drive the van or bus, I would get on the microphone and point out flora, fauna, and local color.  Partway into this elaborate description, he would get a faraway look in his eyes as he pictured father and daughter creating the kind of vacation experience you gush about to your friends afterward.

Of course, when this was at its peak, I was a sullen teenager and usually countered with a “Daaaaaaaaaaaad, nooooooooooooo, I don’t want to be a tour guide,”  and he was left to bask in his dreams.

There was never any discussion as to how to make these dreams reality, rather, my father maintained (still does, really) a child-like innocence and wonder that says I can be anything he wants me to be (nevermind the fact that he’s quite unlikely to leave the Midwest, and people are not clamoring for tours…)

Because of my parent’s insistence on touring historical site and making vacations a priority, I really, really love touring historic sites.  This is something we agree on, and I now drag my friends with me to places like Slater Mill, and the New Bedford Whaling Museum etc.

Jewish Friend loves touring historical sites as much as I do, and we have decided to spend part of our summer of underemployment making mini-pilgrimages to authors’ homes.  First stop, The House of the Seven Gables in Historic Salem, MA.

We packed a picnic lunch and planned for a lovely day, which it was.  The only wrinkle was the tour guide at the House of the Seven Gables, who was so odd that we spent most of the tour dissecting what was going on with her.

First off, she seemed terrified.  She kept pulling on her sleeves and crossing her arms like she was trying to hide in her own shirt.  Secondly, her manner of speaking was… odd.  It was like she had an accent, but not really. She eliminated whole words, misused others, and was very hard to understand.  What is now the historic site The House of the Seven Gables, used to be a private residence owned by the Turner family.  The Turner family were shippers, and lived in the house for three generations until John Turner III lost the family fortune and the house with it.

She mispronounced the name Turner every time she said it.

Over the years, I’ve had good tour guides, mediocre tour guides, and bad tour guides (to date, Mistress Vicky from Slater Mill may just be the best ever), but I’ve never had tour guide be bad because I couldn’t understand her, or because she didn’t seem to even know what she was saying.  I did have one, years ago, who pronounced the word tour as “ter,” I still get annoyed when I think about it.

As Jewish Friend put it, “It’s like she just memorized the script and delivers it in a singsong tourguide manner without knowing what she’s saying.”

I left the tour thinking, “I should work here, that would be totally awesome.”

Then I remembered my father, and his dreams of me being a tour guide, and I got a little squeamish.  When I was working at the Redwood Library, we had tons of tourist traffic come through either on organized tours, or just wandering in (part of the reason is that in the Newport Tourism brochure, it’s listed as free), so we would tell them a little bit about why the library is important, and answer questions about everything from “Where are the Gilbert Stuarts?”, to “Is that the USS Constitution?” (Answers: most are in the Harrison room, which is all the way on the end, one is in the vault, and one is hanging over the large print fiction, and No, it’s not the USS Constitution, it does look like it, but has too many guns).

I loved telling people this stuff, especially when they would get all wide-eyed and say things like, “Wow, you really know your stuff.  Is that the same painting that’s in the White House?”

I still think my father’s dream of him driving the bus while I give the information is unlikely to happen, but I doubt he remembers all this, so I’m certainly not going to tell him he may have been right.

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I’ve suspected on multiple occasions that there is one or more mice sharing my house with me, but I’ve never actually known for sure.  Once I found a bag of flour that had been nibbled, but no other real evidence.  When I expressed this notion to someone, they immediately countered with “Have you seen droppings?  They always leave droppings!”  I had to admit that I had  seen no droppings, thus my thinking I had a house mouse was reduced to simple paranoia.

Last fall, Wee Watson (kitty), starting spending nearly all of his time sitting in front of the fridge staring at it.  He would sit for hours, and sometimes get up close trying to look under it.  I found this alarming, but didn’t really know what I could do about it– so I did nothing.  Watson has always been the type of cat to get very fixated on things, so I figured there’s really no harm in him becoming obsessed with a real or imagined mouse.

About a year ago, after Watson destroyed my mother’s dinette set, she gave him a partial declawing as a “Christmas Gift” (let it be noted that this was the first, and only christmas or otherwise gift that Watson has ever received, so her phrasing it this way was strange to me–still is).  Watson no longer has his front claws– can he still mouse?

A couple days ago, Jewish Friend and I decided to take ourselves out for a lunch of delightful Indian food.  Since I had just gotten off the treadmill and needed a shower, I asked her to come to my house.  Once I was out of the shower, and wearing my robe trying to pick out an outfit, I noticed that Watson had something hanging out of his mouth.cat-and-mouse

He was running around the apartment in a playful way, and I was worried that he had found a broken rubber band and would swallow it.  It was not a rubber band though, it was a mouse, and Watson took my advancing toward him as an invitation to drop the still-living, and completely unharmed vermin on the floor.

It scurried into my bedroom, and hid itself under the piles of laundry that had been piling up on my floor since the dryer broke.

Then the situation turned into a slapstick routine.

I screamed, “Jewish Friend!  Oh God! Watson caught a mouse!  eeep! eep! What should I do?!?!?”

Jewish Friend: Find a dustpan, I can get it.

Me: But it will crawl out of a dustpan, should I get some kind of tupperware?

Jewish Friend: It’s still alive!?!?  Eep! I dont’ know what to do with living mice, my cat usually kills or maims them.

Me: It’s alive, it ran into my room!

We went into the room and found Watson stalking the mouse with a very determined look on his face.

Jewish Friend: It ran behind the table! (the table is a folded card table in my closet).

Me: Well get it! Can you get it?

The mouse ran out of the closet, past diligent Watson, I screamed like a girl and ran away, Jewish Friend screamed like a girl and ran away, my robe popped open, and I seriously contemplated jumping up on the chair.

Finally, I saw the mouse cowering on a Gap back that was lying on the floor.  By this point, Watson had proved himself to be a totally useless hunter and was stalking the wrong part of the room entirely.  I took the dustpan, and the tupperware, trapped the mouse, carried it outside (in my bathrobe and sandals), threw it into the tall grass, and ran away screaming.

Not my finest moment, but not Watson’s either.

I am reassured that Watson can actually catch mice, despite not having front claws.  I don’t know if he can actually kill a mouse, or if he just prefers the chase.  While I’m glad I didn’t find decapitated mouse head in some corner of my apartment, I’m still not pleased with this turn of events either.  Conundrum.

It turns out that the dryer I was so desperately hoping to find installed in the basement on Saturday would not fit down the stairs, so landlady was forced to get the old one repaired.  In the interest of hating draping my wet clothes on furniture, I volunteered to hang around and supervise the repairman while landlady went to work.  “I have a very flexible schedule these days,” I told her, “It’s no problem.”  Then, of course, she wound up scheduling the repairman the same day as Jewish Friend’s and my Superfunadventure Salem trip.

So I reneged on promise to landlady.  In my defense, repairman was in a common area of the house– not an individual apartment, and this particular repairman has come to our house on at least two other occasions.  He is not strange repairman unknown to me, but rather nice older man, who did a great job on my fridge.

I went downstairs, and spoke with repairman.  During this conversation, he told me that he had to replace the sdhag.kjlhdf, and deal with the sjdkfgbhl;jkh, also the drier was in about 12 pieces– this was not going to be quick work.

“Well, my friend is here, so I need to take off pretty soon.”

“Oh, you have big plans?”

“Yes, we’re going to Salem for the day.”

“What do you do there?”

“There’s a lot of Nathanial Howthorne stuff, and a witch museum, should be fun.   Would you  mind giving me the bill, so I can write you a check?”

He graciously acquiesced and started tallying up the total.  As he did his calculations, he glanced at me surreptitiously and asked, “Are you still reading the bible?”

At this question, I actually glanced around to see who he might be talking to, then realized that it was just the two of us in my basement, so he must be talking to me. “No.”

“Wasn’t that you? Weren’t we talking about the bible last time I was here?”

“No, that wasn’t me.”

Then he launched into a full on conversion narrative that caught me so off-guard that I just stood there listening and nodding and wondering how much longer he was going to talk.

After I escaped back upstairs, I told Jewish Friend what had just happened.

“What did you do?” she asked.

“Well, I listened, I didn’t know what else to do.”

“You are a lot more polite than I am, but I bet this hasn’t happened to you as much as it has me.  I don’t think an atheist is as much of a coup as a Jew.” Then she told me some horror stories about the lengths people have gone to to make my Jewish Friend into my Christian Friend from Upstate New York.

Then there was a knock of the door, and the repairman was standing eagerly in front of my door with some literature–Abundant Life New Testament, and tucked into the book, a list of suggested readings.

Again, I was polite, but by this point I was seriously annoyed.  I’m very live and let live when it comes to organized religion.  It’s not for me, but if you get something out of it, by all means– good for you!  It’s the proselytizing that I find not only disgusting, but offensive.

I don’t know if I triggered something in the repairman when I mentioned going to the witch museum (which we didn’t end up having time for), or if maybe he’s constantly casting about for people to indoctrinate, but either way, it was unwelcome.

When I dropped off the receipt to landlady later that night, I felt that I had to mention this.  I have no idea where she is, religiously, but the whole exchange was very inappropriate considering the fact that she was paying for his time.

“I’ve never used him before, so I didn’t know he was like that.” She told me, “He kept trying to talk me out of having the dryer repaired, and just knocking down walls to fit a new one in, which I’m not willing to do.”

“I just thought I should tell you,” I said, “It made me really uncomfortable.” Then I went back downstairs feeling like the whole world was crazy.  She had hired him before, he had fixed my fridge twice a little over a year ago.  Does she really not remember, or does she just not care?  This is also the second time I’ve had issues with a repairman for reasons un-understood by me.

From this point on, I’m going to be less nice and more direct.  I’ve been planning on trying that out anyway, but I think this is my breaking point.

I’ve returned from my triumphant return to the Midwest, and am now faced with the fact that I truly have very little to do.  Since the dryer situation is finally rectified, I have a lot of laundry to catch up on, but other than that, I’m kind of a lump.

I went from 2 jobs, internship, full-time class load, comprehensive exam dread to… 1 extremely part-time job that’s switching to shorter summer hours next week.  I have a very flexible (and very poorly paid) work-from-home gig that made my rather dour co-worker ask “Are you sure they’re going to pay you?”, and a screenwriting workshop to prep for.

A co-worker who graduated at the same time as me has started learning Spanish just to occupy her mind, and I screeched like a harpy at Gentleman Caller last night about how stressed I am now that I have nothing to do.

I fear I’m becoming unpleasant.

I just don’t know why I can’t relax.  I’m trying to convince myself to enjoy this downtime, and that I truly deserve a break, but either my fear of poverty or my ridiculous Midwestern work ethic are telling me otherwise.

The worst is, now I’ve started lamenting how many library classes I missed out on taking.  There were quite  few decent electives that I passed on because people said “It’s a really good class and you’ll learn a lot, but it’s a lot of work.” I did not have the time/inclination to take on a lot of work, so I opted for the easier road.  I don’t actually regret any of the electives I took, but I feel like others know more secrets about librarianship than I do.

I was talking to a friend of mine who lives in Minneapolis and who graciously put me up for the Minneapolis portion of my Triumphant Return to the Midwest.  She had recently decided to quit college, and to stop wasting money on classes she was either failing, or getting incompletes in.  She has been in college since I met her (about eight years ago), and goes to such elaborate measures to not go to class, that what she does in avoiding actually winds up being more work.

“Every time I go to class, I sit there for the first two session thinking it’s interesting, then I realize that I’m not learning anything new, or that the other people in the class are idiots, and it just feels like a waste of my time.” she told me.

While I agree with the some of the classmates being idiots part of the statement, all going to class does is make me feel like I know less.  Even f it’s something I’ve heard 100 times before, I feel like there’s a new fact or nuance that has previously eluded me, and that’s the point of the class.   Even if I know all of the answers, I get bogged down in convincing myself that the teacher must be telling me something new, or else why would they be teaching this class?

This dichotomy has resulted in me never having had a full-time job but having two masters degrees, and my friend making tons of money as a server and not enough credits after eight years of off-and-on college attendance to equal a degree.

I can’t decide which of us is better off because we seem equally frustrated.

I pay my landlady $15 a month to use the washer and dryer she has in the basement.  Even though these machines are probably older than I am, they usually work well, and I don’t have to go to the rather scary laundromat a few blocks away.  The dryer is quirky in that after you tumble one load of clothes (usually it takes two cycles to get things dry, three if it’s towels), you have to wait for a bit to let the machine cool down before it will work again.

If it’s not cooled down, pushing the start button will just make a sickly groaning noise that sounds a little like a cat warning you to get away.  Usually, it only takes about twenty minutes to cool down, so it’s not a major hassle, just a slight inconvenience.  Except this most recent time when I did laundry and the thing just would not work at all.

I had a full load of clothes washed, put them in the dryer and tumbled for one cycle.  By the end of that, this stuff was barely dry at all, so I pushed the button for another tumble– angry cat noise. 

I waited an hour– angry cat noise. 

I took the wet clothes out and left the door open– angry cat noise.

I unplugged it, and let it sit overnight with the door open– angry cat noise, and an email from landlady asking why her dryer is unplugged.

By this point, I just draped all of the wet clothes over various pieces of furniture and let them air dry, then I emailed landlady again and asked if she had any advice as to how to make the machine work.  She said she had decided to replace it, but was waiting for a good delivery time.

That was two weeks ago.

We are the only two people who live in this building, and I know for a fact that she has not done laundry in at least a month.  She washed a small load a month ago, and hasn’t even taken to washing and air drying things like I’ve had to. 

What the hell is this woman wearing?

My bedroom is presently a mess of dirty clothes strewn about the floor waiting for the new dryer to arrive so I can tumble and fluff after drying.  My couch/chairs/rustic stove/treadmill are covered with drying towels, underwear, and shirts.  Does she just have a lot more clothes than me, or what?

I hate to sound like a crazy person who constantly spies on her landlady, but I really have no idea how she occupies her time, or how she can get away with doing laundry so infrequently.

After she gets home from work around 5pmish, she goes into her apartment, turns on music, and doesn’t leave the house.  Except for the occasional trip to the Philippines for work, she never leaves the house.  She used to bike a lot, but got into an accident last summer, and now just stays home all the time.  She pays for cable, but I never hear the tv, just the constant music (usually good music, she has good taste).  She’s a very slow responder to email, so I feel like she’s not internetting all the time– I can only assume that she reads, or has some hobby that I’ve never heard of.  Perhaps she’s writing the Great American Novel. 

I just can’t figure it out, but I think the dryer got delivered this morning before I went to work– I hope so.

My running mix is a rather laughable collection of songs that I would rarely listen to in real life.  I’ve been fine-tuning it for years, and the songs are chosen so that when my Ipod is set on shuffle, I almost never hit a song that lags and makes me want to stop running.  There are a few gems that make me want to run even harder though– run over children, sprint, and make people remark “wow, she’s not messing around.”

These songs are:

Eminem: Lose Yourself

Bon Jovi: Shot Through the Heart (not to be confused with You Give Love a Bad Name- this one rocks so much harder)

Natasha Bedingfield: Not Givin Up

Ting Tings: That’s Not my Name

Madonna: Hollywood

Raconteurs: Steady as She Goes

Rob Thomas: This is how a Heart Breaks

That’s right, Rob Thomas. I don’t know what it is about that song, but it jacks me up in a way that is just silly.

Last 1/2 marathon that I ran, I was flagging pretty hard around mile 8.  I had never run more than 5 miles at one time in my life, and even though I did the first six rather easily and with some joy, I reluctantly started dragging ass soon after.  Finally, someone gave me some energy goo, I psyched myself up, and my Ipod clicked over to Me Against the Music, by Britney.

It was a perfect storm.

This time around, it was 38 degrees out, and my legs were so frozen for most of the race that I could only run in bursts, but I did my best, and had fun as well.  There were also two hills (the course was promised to be flat!), and Rob Thomas’ sweet frenetic jam carried me up them (fairly) happily.

Near the end of the race, I tried to find the perfect finishing song that would allow me to tear into the Fargodome and wow the spectators with my energy and speed, despite the fact that if they were actually paying attention to my time, they would realize I hadn’t pushed myself too hard.  That song was Lose Yourself.  I turned it up, and started sprinting.  One of the race spectators saw me speed up and yelled “Yes! Finish strong!” I yelled back, “I intend to!”

Once I was almost inside the dome, I really regretted the sprinting, or at least starting as far away as I had, but it was too late– people could see me.

As I’ve found to be standard in racing situations, the runner tears across the finish line with as much strength and determination as possible, then runs right into a crowd of people who have also just finished, a snack table, and the people handing out medals.  So I went from 8 mph to STOP very abruptly.  One does not have to be an exercise physiologist to realize this must be a bad idea, but it’s always like this.  I jogged in place for a bit, and wended my way over to the medal holders for my prize.

Once I figured out what each color ribbon meant, and that I would be getting orange, I waited for someone to give me one.  When no one acted, I walked up to some chick and said, “Can I have one of those?”  She seemed a bit shocked and scared, but gave me the medal.  Then I had some nutter butters.

All in all, it went pretty well.

  • I did not beat my old time, I actually added on a minute, but considering the fact that I feel like I walked the whole damn thing, that’s pretty good.
  • I managed to ditch my father after mile two, which sounds cruel, but I never promised that I’d actually run with him, and if he had conferred with me beforehand, I would have told him that flat out.
  • I ran by a former co-workers house, and got a kleenex, a hug, and some encouragement, which makes me feel a bit like a celebrity.
  • I saw two people I went to elementary school with.
  • I was fairly sore the following day, but not really that bad. I certainly didn’t get as sick after this one as I had the first one, which was the goal.
  • I now have two rather ugly medals, which is less weird than just one.

The day after the race, I washed and dried my Ipod and now it is completely unresponsive, but my earbuds still work.

My father called to sort out the logistics of my upcoming visit.  Because I’m flying into Minneapolis and then driving to Fargo, I’m not going to also drive to Bemidji (where they live, about 90 minutes away from Fargo).  From my perspective, I’m mostly going back to Fargo to see my friends.  Considering all of the intense time I’ve spent with my parents (15 days non-stop) over the past year, I think this is perfectly reasonable.  Plus, whenever I do go to their house, we just sit there watching HGTV, which I just don’t enjoy as much as they do.

I thought having them come to Fargo for marathon weekend made much more sense.  I’m running the 1/2, my dad usually runs the full, my mom and brother did the 5k two years ago– fun for the whole family!  Now it seems that my father will not be running the full marathon, but the 1/2, “I’ll be running right next to you, Annie.” he told me.

I don’t want to sound like a total brat, but that is not ok with me.  I’ve never run with another human being (except next to strangers), and I really have no interest in taking that on.  I’m not a chatty runner; I clap on my headphones, get in the zone, and proceed to sweat and huff and turn red in the most unattractive way possible.  I just want to be left alone.

Then my father asked where I run. “On my treadmill,” I told him, “watching TV”

“Oh, you don’t have any friends to run with?”

By the end of the conversation, I not only felt like a horrible daughter, but also like a friendless nerd who runs only to get away from bullies.

I picked running (or had no choice but to pick running, since it seems to be in my DNA), because it’s a solitary activity.  I don’t need to form a team of varied skill, or do any kind of administration, or worry about letting anyone else down– it’s all me.  Now it’s getting all mucked up because I keep choosing to run in from of people.

Part of me thinks I should have kept my jock tendencies a secret like I used to, but, too late for that now.  Plus, for some reason, I’m excited to get this free t-shirt…

It will be fine.  The thought of spending timewith my parents is often much more stressful than the actual act– keep reminding myself that.  Also, free food.

I love bats– love, love, love bats.  In a perfect world, I would have a pet flying fox who loved me completely and who would wrap his leathery wings around me and eat all the bugs in my backyard.  In reality, I just force my friends to stand far too long at the bat exhibit every time I go to a zoo, and I do the obnoxious pointing thing “Look at that guy!  Oh, that’s so cool!” etc.

Imagine my joy when Gentleman Caller posted on his blog that Brown University does awesome stuff with bats, and has rad videos that I can watch all day long, like this one:

and this one:

Which reminds me of a picture I took at the Royal Ontario Museum, which has a rather large bat exhibit (for some reason).

misc-139… so I guess that’s true.

Many more videos, and much better quality here.

BATS!

I had to complete my Direct Loans exit counseling the other day.  I’ve done this before, the first time I went to grad school, but apparently I needed to be reminded that this new chunk of money will need to be paid back as well.  This time, however, I immediately applied for the Income Contingent Deferment.  This is not something I’m going to slack off on, as I do not want any more interest to accrue than necessary.

They asked what my present salary was, and as I typed in the figure $90/week, I realized that I haven’t made that little money since I was working at Dairy Queen when I was fifteen.  Once the entire process was complete and they seemed satisfied that I both understood that the money must be paid back, and how to do it– I re-thought my previous figure and realized that I make $70 per week.

I knew this was coming, but I keep thinking of it as my summer of underemployment failing to take into consideration that I’m not going back to school in the fall.  I won’t have a cushy assistantship to carry me along, and I may remain underemployed (soon to be unemployed, I fear) far longer than that.  I think I missed the window to apply for more grad school too (I can always use a third masters, right?).  Even though I swore up and down that I wouldn’t take that route…. academia is less scary than real life.

I’m really not freaking out as much as I thought I would though, for two reasons: 1. it really hasn’t sunk in yet 2. I’ve been so busy giving myself assignments that I simply haven’t had the time.  Rather than scour the want ads and painstakingly crank out cover letters, I’ve taken to scheming.  It may be less financially rewarding, but the feeling of accomplishment I get is stupendous.

Schemes include:

Filling out online surveys, which I mentioned before.  This nets me a little bit of cash, and points which can be redeemed for amazon giftcards or airmiles.

Becoming a coupon goddess.  There is a coupon exchange at the library where I work, I’ve started going in about five minutes early for every shift and seeing what new deals there are to be had.  Unfortunately, most of the coupons seem to be for food I would never eat, but every now and then, there’s a great deal.

I’m going to start writing fiction again.  This won’t make me any money, but the sense of accomplishment will give me warm fuzzies to last and last and last.

I’m going to blog more.  Culture Friend got in my face last week as she was preparing a delightful meal for us and said “If you’re going to have all this spare time, there’s no excuse for you not blogging more!”  This is true, although, if I’m not having wacky adventures, what the hell am I going to write about?  I’ve got time to scare up some wacky adventures, or I’ll start a series of posts about sitting in my chair.  Maybe I’ll get all introspective and examine my life, or something.

I’m going to do more cooking.  This will not only save me money on food, but potentially make me healthier.  Gentleman Caller is a bit miffed that I’ve refused to learn to cook meat (it’s gross, and I’m not touching it), but I’ve told him that he can add his own bacon to whatever I prepare.  That will have to be good enough.

Free-lancing type stuff.  I’ve got a gig teaching screenwriting at a library, Don the Appraiser has said he now wants to write a book, and, as his assistant, I feel like I’ll be playing some kind of role.  I’ve always meant to try to find freelance writing work, and I realize that this is not the best time to find projects, but I have the time, I might as well see what’s there.

I’m going to read more.  Last time I finished a masters degree, had no job prospects, and had a mini freakout, I gave myself an arbitrary reading assignment.  It gave me a goal to work toward and made me feel less useless.  Library = free books.

Sew more.  I really like sewing, but my skill set is a bit limited in that I’ve never moved past skirts and pillows.  Just so happens that I need some pillows and skirts, and I’m going to recover the cushions on my bamboo lounger.

I’m going to watch more classic movies.  I’m fairly well-rounded when it comes to cinema, and when I first got netflix, I made a point to watch a lot of movies I’d heard were essential, but never seen i.e. Casablanca, North by Northwest, The Seven Year Itch etc. Gentleman Caller and I just watched the original Cape Fear, and are now all set to compare and contrast it with the Nick Nolte/ Robert Deniro version.  It’s entertaining, but I feel like I’m learning something.

So I’m swamped, book your time with me now because it’s chaos.