Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Wait! There's Still More Left to the Day

With a car full of goodies from the Lithuanian Picnic and Bread and Circus, we were finally ~ yes, FINALLY! ~ on our way back home.

Both Ariana and I were immensely pleased with the wonderful day that we shared. Put this one down for the memory books.

However, we knew that once we got home, there was still more to be done.

The refrigerator was full of old stuff and mutated life forms, not to mention it was also in desperate need of cleaning. There was no way we were going to be able to fit all those cheeses, yoghurts, and deli treats without the refrigerator first having to experience a major purge.

As we came home, to be greeted by a pack of noisy dogs barking their heads off like lunatics, it was time to get to work. Shunting the miscreant mutts into the next room, I brought the big garbage can and the compost bucket into the kitchen.

Let the tossing begin!

Ariana and I got to work ~ but not before putting those mouth-watering escargots in the oven. After all, we were going to need some sort of reward for all this dirty work that we were about to do.

First order of business was to totally empty the fridge ~ even the shelves and bins.

Spoiled veggies that turned into liquid in their plastic bags, thus becoming too gross to handle, went straight into the trash ~ not the compost bucket. There was no way we were going to open those bags and subject ourselves to contamination fit for haz-mat clean-up. No way!

By the time the entire fridge was emptied, the escargots were ready. Quickly spraying down the inside of the fridge with a mild cleaning solution,we turned our attention to those delectable snails.

Escargot! Food for the gods!

Is there anything that is far more skillful in seducing the taste buds than escargots? I don't think so.

We offered some snails to Neil, but he didn't feel brave enough to try. Oh good! More for us! Yippee!

(Not counting the dogs, who will eat anything ~ including kitty nuggets and half-decayed squirrels ~ Ariana and I are definitely the culinary adventurers of the the family.)

Anyhow ~ back to work!

Now that the entire refrigerator was emptied and cleaned out, and I was reinforced with the food for the gods, I was all set to tackle the challenge of returning the refrigerator shelves and bins back to their original pristine condition.

Maybe we needed the haz-mat crew in here after all. This was going to be dirty work.

Because there was only enough room at the sink for one person, I elected to do the dirty work while Ariana went on to tackle the second culinary conquest ~ making pizza.

Progress was being made.

The inside of the fridge was gleaming. And after much scrubbing, the shelves and bins were sparkling.

However, try as must, no one was able to put the meat and deli drawer back to its original configuration. It was easier to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again, even without all the king's horses and all the king's men.

Now was the time to purge the items that were out-dated and no longer deserved a spot on the refrigerator shelf.

The timer beeped to signal that the pizza was done. We paused to take a bite. Delicious!

Putting the stuff back in was not a task that I relished.

Having been sitting on the floor on a warm summer evening, all the previously chilled items started sweating profusely. It was tedious work wiping each one down so that I would not have puddles collecting on the bottoms of the shelves and bins.

But soon that odious task was done. Only two more small and quick tasks remained before I could throw myself at the thrall of Harry Potter.

Thank God it took nowhere near as long to make Neil's lunch for the next day and dole out all the meds for the week.

Harry Potter, here I come! The rest of the night is yours!

The Day Is Not Over Yet

You would think that after spending a deliciously full afternoon at the Lithuanian Picnic that we would be all set to high-tail back to Mattapoisett.

Now way, Jose! The day was nowhere near being over.

After leaving the picnic, we drove about 45 minutes, heading east on Route 44, to my mother's house in Providence.

Being exhausted from the long day (so far), and more so from having forgotten to take her meds in the morning, Ariana was not all too keen about me spending a whole lot of time at my mothers.

At my mother's house, time is measured in the number of cups of tea that are drunk during a visit. The way Ariana was feeling, a one-cup visit was the best she could manage.

While waiting for the tea to steep, Ariana decided to take a walk a few blocks up Smith Street to the corner 7-11. She was on a mission to get her favorite (and deliciously red grapefruit flavored) energy drink, Kronik, which she has only seen in Providence.

After Ariana came back, and as I swilled my cup of tea, we showed my mother the spoils from the loterija.

We managed to foist off on my mother two aprons, a pathetic African violet plant (that I felt sorry for and would not have minded keeping had it not been Ariana's prize), a gigunda frosted glass snowman candle holder, and a much smaller frosted glass angle candle holder. No luck in unloading more of our šūdas.

After finishing my cup, it was time to leave.

At this point, Ariana's energy drink was starting to kick in. Not only that, she was getting hungry. So when I suggested that we go to Bread and Circus (now called Whole Foods Market) on the way home, she was all for it.

(The Bread and Circus that we like to go to is located in the very hip and politically liberal East Side of Providence. It has got to be one of the coolest supermarkets ever.)

Seeing that I had done my grocery shopping the day before, I wasn't planning on going all out ~ just enough to satisfy Ariana's rumbly tummy and little treat for myself.

Boy! Was there a greatly delayed reaction in that Lithuanian beer reaching my brain! I was sorely deluded to believe that I could just walk out that store with only one bag of groceries.

For one thing, mangoes were a buck a piece.

And they were in cahoots with the mouth-watering Casaba melon that had no problem in convincing us (with free samples) that the mangoes would be lonely without its company.

Then there were the bulk-packaged raw nuts. Cashews! Brazil nuts! Macadamia nuts! I bought them all.

The bulk-packaged cornichons and assorted organic Greek olives were just too tempting to pass up.

Temptation struck again ~ big time ~ at the exotic cheese section. Five cheeses that we never even heard of flew into the shopping cart.

Then Ariana saw this delicious looking herbed pizza crust. "Ooh! I wanna make pizza tonight!" Into the cart it went.

The decadent desserts ~ with far too much class for the likes of Stop and Shop or Dunkin' Donuts ~ would not allow us to pass without three of them high-jacking the shopping cart. (Better hurry up and eat your chocolate bombe, Neil, before it goes off in someone else's stomach!)

If the desserts weren't bad enough, we now started to wander into even more dangerous territory ~ the deli counter.

We could not resist the siren's call, "Escargot ~ 59 cents each!"

"Gimme half a dozen. No! Make that a dozen."

There was spicy kimchi linguine, golden fried sesame tofu, and a perfect and nearly raw slice of steak for Ariana.

Yoghurt Land was a dizzying array of tiny yoghurt cups in exotic flavors like Vanilla Chai, Pomegranate and Açai, Plum Honey Lavender, and many other unusual and tempting flavors.

We lost count of the number of yoghurt cups we harvested for Ariana to bring to work for lunch.

And speaking of lunch, Ariana also got an udon instant soup bowl and a box of instant miso and seaweed soup.

Exotic drinks of black current, maté, and pomegranate and blueberry soda landed in our cart.

So did a jar of garlicy-garlic spaghetti sauce for Ariana to make pizza with.

And did I mention a nice bar of exotic (There's that word again!) dark chocolate that had a very subtle hot pepper after taste?

Seeing that Ariana needed a new pair of sunglasses (because she's constantly losing them) there was this darling pair with tiny cloth flowers embedded in the plastic temple arms. In the cart they went!

But the ultimate of our indulgence were two Sigg metal water bottles that came in the most outrageously cool designs.

Lest we neglect to pay homage to frugal practicality, a humble bottle of that delightfully lemon scented ~ and very long-lasting ~ Ecover All Purpose Cleaner completed our raid on Bread and Circus.

It was now time to check out before more damage got done to my wallet.

No Passport Required

Now that I am no longer a prisoner of Harry Potter, I can write about our fabulous Sunday outing.

After a very rough start in the morning, Ariana and I left at quarter past 10 heading for the Lithuanian picnic in Putnam, CT.

The picnic is a once-a-year event that is hosted by the sisters of the Immaculate Conception and held on their vast and idyllic grounds. The picnic is the main fund-raiser for
Camp Neringa, a Lithuanian camp that's run by the sisters up in Marlboro, VT.

One of the first things we noticed after arriving, getting our hands stamped, and parking in the great field was this strong sense of having crossed the border into another world.

It wasn't just the fact that almost everybody spoke Lithuanian that made it feel as though we stepped into a different country. It was the place itself.

The convent is located in a rural section of Putnam. The grounds are vast with wide open areas, wooded areas, and even a cemetery.

A little, stone-lined brook traverses the grounds separating the wooded picnic area from the open areas that contain the cemetery and are dotted with devotional stations throughout. There are little bridges here and there that cross the brook, even though it's easy enough to just step over the brook and cross to the other side.

Beyond the cemetery is another wooded area. When you enter that little forest, you'll find a stone walkway and stone steps that lead to the pilis ~ the castle.

The pilis is not exactly a large and full size castle, but a small stone structure that looks like it could have come a
from castle tower.

A door leads into a dark single room that is simple and unadorned except for a wooden chandelier-type thing hanging from the ceiling. Because it's so dark, you can't get a good look at the details in the room.

To the left of the door, there is a metal ladder that leads to the roof of the pilis. While I have climbed the ladder to the roof ~ and in a skirt no less ~ I didn't bother this year.

After arriving, the first order of business was to find a bathroom. Seeing that the outdoor Mass was still going on, I headed for the ladies room in the convent, knowing that there wasn't going to be a line winding outside the door.

We still had to wait because both stalls were occupied. I was just about to make a bee-line to the first stall that opened up when I heard a loud "Hey!"

It came from Aldona, the daughter of my mother's best friend (who died 2 years ago), as she was exiting the stall.

She teased me by saying "You can't go in."

"Why? Did you stink it up?"

We had a good laugh over that. And after our pleasant chat and catching up on bits of Lithuanian gossip we went our separate ways.

Next order of business was to check out the outside vendors.

Many of the regular vendors were there, including the Russian guy whom we didn't like too much because he was too much of a wheeler-dealer type who made it a habit of sounding as though he was giving you a great deal when he actually wasn't.

Still, he had some interesting stuff at his table. And against my original intentions, I bought a ring that had a large leaf-shaped design studded with amber of varying shades.

(Oh yeah! In case you didn't know, the Lithuanian picnic is THE place to get amber jewelry. And you know that you're getting real amber instead of plastic, except for maybe at the Russian guy's table.)

Moving onto another table, we saw that artist
Rolandas Kiaulevicius finally had copies of the children's book he illustrated. Even though I bought one of Rolandas's prints (which he graciously autographed for me) last year, I did not leave any money at his table this year.

I was considering in buying a book of Lithuanian folktales from his friend's table. But I never got around to it. Oh well, there will always be next year.

One of our favorite booths is the Lithuanian import booth. Not only are the prices great ~ like $29 for a lovely amber necklace ~ there is also a wide variety of goodies.

In addition to the ubiquitous amber, there's pottery, wood carvings, clothing and accessories, CDs, books, and all sorts of other neat stuff, including the darling linen crocheted scull cap that Ariana got for 10 bucks.

Further down and around to the other side of the open vendor area there was a dealer/collector of Lituanica who sold mainly books. However, I did spot a stunning copper metal plaque of the Geležinis Vilkas, the Iron Wolf of a well-known Lithuanian legend.

I loved the interpretation and details of this particular Geležinis Vilkas. And seeing that I had been designing Lithuania-inspired tattoos, I bought the plaque so that I could have something to work from when I designed my next tattoo.

Next stop was the loterija. But once we got to the loterija hall, the door was closed and a sign on the door said that the loterija will open after the Mass was over.

Seeing that we had to wait for the loterija to open, Ariana and I went to grab some food.

Because she's not too crazy about Lithuanian food, Ariana headed straight for the very short hot dog line, while I picked the longest line for the popular sausage dinner, where you got:
  • two pieces of mild Lithuanian sausage
  • a boiled potato
  • cooked sauerkraut
  • a cucumber slice
  • two small slices of rye bread
  • sour cream
  • horseradish ~ lots of it

A true peasant feast!

I was still way in back of the chow line when Ariana came back with her hot dog and both of our Cokes. Instead of standing in line with me, she left to find an empty table under the trees in the apple orchard ~ a rather sensible thing to do.

By the time I got my grub, I went to the orchard in search of Ariana. She spotted me and called out.

I seated myself at a table that was pitched at a 20 degree angle and where the edge of the table came just inches from my chin.

Seated with Ariana were Andrius and Petras, two early 20-something lads who came from Lithuania some ten years ago. Both lived in South Boston. And one of them worked doing environmental disaster clean up.

(I had prayed on my way up to the picnic that Ariana would meet someone close to her age so that she wouldn't be bored just sticking around with someone as ancient as myself. I'm SO glad my prayer was answered!)

Andrius and Petras were a delight. They certainly weren't like the farty Lithuanian mama's boys that my mother's friends tried to fix me up with when I was Ariana's age.

These boys were very polite and respectful gentlemen ~ all without sacrificing the cool edge that I can still appreciate, even while now owning an AARP card that bears my name.

Ariana and I were not the only ones who enjoyed their company.

Likewise, Andrius and Petras seemed to greatly enjoy our company in that they hung out with us the rest of the afternoon.

(They were also impressed that one of my ancestors was Antanas Baranauskas, a Lithuanian poet whose famous poem ~ Anykščių šilelis (The Forest/Pinewood of Anykščiai) ~ was required of all students to memorize.)

Having learned that both boys also spoke Russian, I asked them to translate a phrase that my father would often say to my grandfather, which would then cause my mother to yell at my father.

All I knew from the phrase was the word idite, which means go. The rest of the phrase remained a mystery to me, despite my many pleas for my father to reveal to me this most forbidden secret.

So now I finally had the opportunity to have this mystery solved.

The boys laughed when I told them the phrase. Yet they were hesitant to translate, saying, "You don't want to know."

"Oh, yes I do!"

The best that they could do for me without getting embarrassed and risking offense was to tell me that the rest of the phrase referred to female anatomy, and not in the clinically neutral (and socially acceptable) sense.

So now I FINALLY knew why my mother yelled at my father. Imagine that! It took me 30 years to solve that linguistic mystery!

(I also learned the Lithuanian expression meaning "to get high.")

After lunch, Ariana and I decided to introduce the boys to the loterija. Even though they have come to the Lithuanian picnic before, they never knew about the loterija.

We entered the loterija hall and explained the drill: For one dollar you get two slips of tightly folded paper. The blank slips were duds. The ones with numbers were winners.

While picking out my 10 folded slips of paper from the deep box, I further explained to the boys that while there are some good prizes, most of them are šūdas (shit).

I told them to expect one of four šūdas prizes: a pillow; a mug filled with candy (though that's not always bad); some crappy, stupid, or useless thing that is knit, crocheted, or made out of needlepoint on plastic canvas; or someone's cast-off and unwanted Avon item.

Sure enough, as I was saying this the loterija worker brought me one of my many prizes, a coffee mug filled with candy.

And true to my prediction, the other 3 items shortly followed.

Both Ariana and I won pillows, of which Ariana gave hers to Aldona who thought it was cute and who was also trying her luck at the loterija.

We both won the predicted needlework item ~ a cheap plastic doll with a crocheted skirt for me and a plastic canvas needle pointed Kleenex box cover for Ariana.

And it wasn't until later, when going through our spoils, that we discovered that Ariana lucked out with the cast-off Avon items, which in this case were glass votive candle cups. Not only that, the previous owner did not even bother to clean off the wax on one of the candle cups.

Of course, there was some good stuff amongst the twelve some-odd bags of šūdas.

Ariana won the vase that she was eyeing on the Lithuanian table. And I won a nice wall/door basket that was embellished and filled with lots of seashells.

Being a big fan of the loterija, Aldona was dying to find out what we won. I pointed her to the growing pile of bags by the wall and told her to go take a look while I was waiting for the rest of my numerous prizes to arrive.

(I've always had great luck winning numerous prizes at the loterija.)

Ariana had left with the boys, saying she's going out to the car. I left shortly afterwards. Yet when I got to the car ~ no Ariana. In fact she was nowhere in sight. So I called her on my cell, only to find out that she and the boys returned to the table under the apple tree.

Newly unburdened, I returned to the spot under the tree to see the table crowded with Ariana's many bags from the loterija. Ariana had given both boys one of four miniature matroyshka dolls that she won.

I noticed that the boys had drinks on the table that were in suspicious-looking MacDonald's cups. Even though the picnic is a dry event with no alcohol allowed, I seriously doubted that the boys were drinking the apple cider that was being sold at the concession booths.

OK, so it was beer as I suspected.

But that's as far as the suspicion went. Thinking that Andrius and Petras were drinking that ubiquitous Bud Lite, I was very much surprised that they had real Lithuanian beer. Not only that, it was damn good ~ one of the best beers I've ever tasted! It even tasted great warm!

All these years that I have been attending the picnic, I had never known that there was this fellow, Algis, who was selling Lithuanian booze out of his SUV in the parking lot.

After doing the bottoms up, I told the boys to take me to the beer truck so that I could buy my own case of that very tasty Lithuanian beer.

On the way to the beer truck, we hear this loud "Hey!" (Guess Lithuanians like to do a lot of loud "Heys.")

It was Vytukas (Little Vytas), my old childhood friend from when we were still in diapers in England. And my God! He was actually in a cheerful mood and not wearing that sour-puss grumpy look that I though was a permanent feature on his face.

So we all stopped to say "Hi" to Vytukas (who rushed to Ariana, giving her a big hug while exuberantly proclaiming "Here's my girl!"), his mother, and the rest of their companions as they all sat in their usual spot under the trees right by the parking lot.

Seeing that Petras had taken off, I introduced everybody to Andrius, making sure to tell them that he's from Lithuania. That's a big deal among Lithuanians, you know.

After making the required small talk, we continued our quest for Lithuanian beer. Andrius showed me Algis's SUV. But Algis was nowhere near in sight.

Oh well. Andrius did say that Algis comes and goes and that you don't know when you're going to catch him.

Seeing that my Lithuanian beer connection was nowhere to be found, Andrius led us to his car so that he could give us one of his bottles to take home with us. The opened door revealed the many empties that sat in the once full case of beer.

Next was a trip to deposit the beer and Ariana's many bags into the car.

Once that was done, there was another trip back to the convent where Andrius wanted to score some Lithuanian rye bread and where Ariana and I wanted to check out the nuns' gift shop.

(It seemed that wherever we went, a lot of people knew the boys. They must be very active in the Lithuanian organization in Boston.)

At the nuns' gift shop, Ariana spotted a giant rosary that had this really cool metal cross. The attending nun sold it to me for $10~ a real bargain.

After leaving the pious environs of the nuns' gift shop, I shared with Andrius a profanity that I made up about a former Lithuanian president whose last name lent itself exceptionally well to obscenity.

Andrius laughed heartily. Apparently I wasn't to far off the mark, because in Lithuania they would say something similar ~ and just as nasty.

By now, we have been at the Lithuanian picnic for 3 1/2 hours.

I wanted to join the boys in watching the folk dances (where they're easily entertained by catching the mistakes the dancers make). But because Ariana had forgotten to take her meds during the morning's excitement, she was having a hard time staying awake.

Regrettably, it was time to leave. Andrius walked us to to our car to say good-bye. (Petras was still missing ~ probably trying to hunt down that elusive Algis.)

It was hard leaving. I felt like I was being yanked out of an idyllic world to be thrust back into the world whose difficulties and challenges I sought to escape earlier that day.

But the day was not yet over.

Instead of going home, we were wending our way down to Providence for the traditional visit to my mother's house and to see how much of the loterija-won šūdas we cab foist off on her this year.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Could This Be Hope?

Wonder of wonder! Miracles of miracles!

Neil starts his new job on Monday. That's just four days away!

Not only does Neil have a new job, he'll be getting a lot more than what the company was originally prepared to offer him. In fact it's more than what he got paid by the company that let him go after he became disabled.

Oh yeah ~ being disabled.

Our excitement over Neil getting a job is tempered by our concern that he has not yet fully recovered enough to rejoin the work force and that he runs the risk of being hospitalized due to premature employment.

But at the same time, we need to look ahead and focus on the positive instead to those downer "could haves."

There is hope ~ hope in that going back to work and doing the things that he was trained to do and actually enjoys doing is therapeutic for Neil.

How long have I prayed for Neil to get a job that he enjoys doing, finds personally and professionaly fulfilling, and pays more than his former job?

I have a feeling that this may be the job for Neil.

And there is another hope ~ the hope of dusting off my put-aside business plans and actually starting my business.

That would be a great thing.

Let's hear it for hope.

Eyeballs Falling Out

It's been one of those days.

I didn't get much sleep, my sleep having been punctuated by bad dreams where there was something wrong with Ariana. Thank God they were just dreams, and that Ariana is actually doing quite well except for a very slight bout of being under the weather.

But still, who can get back to sleep after disturbing dreams like that?

Any hope of getting even two more hours of sleep before the alarm went off were dashed when Ariana came into my room and said, "Something's wrong with Hannibal."

(Hannibal is one of our cats ~ Hannibal the Kitty Cannibal, named after our favorite villain, Hannibal Lecter.)

Something was definitely not right with Hannibal aside from the fact that it looked like he lost too much weight to account for "summer slimness."

Hannibal's head moved in jerky motions. The quilt underneath him was wet with cat pee. His fur was wet too. Not only that, this normally aloof kitty was all of a sudden more affectionate and clingy.

However, his appetite had no problems. In fact, Mr. Hannibal tried to climb in the cat food storage container as I was emptying the bags of cat food.

He ate heartily again two hours later at 6:30 in the morning.

I brought Ariana to work for 7:00.

At 8:00 I called the vet and got an appointment with Jill for 11:00.

Fifteen minutes later Ariana called to have me pick her from work. She had a slight fever and felt too sick too work. And we certainly don't want a sick worker infecting all those sprouts, do we?

Ariana felt a little bit well enough to accompany me to the vet with Hannibal.

It was a longer than usual wait. All that time Hannibal was becoming increasingly more affectionate as well as increasingly more desperate to get back into his cat carrier. He was literally dragging the carrier across the exam room floor in order to open the latched door and seek refuge inside the box.

There is a possibility that Hannibal may have suffered a seizure. That would account for his change in behavior and his bladder letting loose. When Ariana first saw him just before 4:30 in the morning, he must have just been coming out of his seizure.

The vet also had some blood drawn to do a complete blood count and to see if Hannibal's thyroid has something to do with his present skinniness.

The test results will be in tomorrow.

And for the time being, Mr. Hannibal has to stay inside where we have to keep a close eye on him and record any unusual behavior.

It's going to be a challenge keeping Hannibal inside. That cat just loves being outdoors.

The day is far from being over. However, it feels like it's gone on forever. My eyeballs feel like they're ready to fall out. But I really don't want to be taking a nap this late in the day, especially since I may not wake up until it's time for me to go to bed.

Maybe I'll go and check up on Hannibal.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What I Did On My (Internet) Vacation

Mother Nature (or was it an act of God) forced me to take a one week vacation from the Internet.

And while the summer lightning storm also knocked out the cable TV, it was the losing the Internet that got me most upset. After all, I can live without TV, and I have easily proven that many times before.

But losing my connection to the rest of the world ~ well that's a different story.

I had to use my cell phone to send quick emails to my friends and regular contacts, letting them know that I will be off-line for awhile.

It's a real pain using a cell phone to send emails. We have very spotty cell coverage where we live. The signal is constantly getting dropped, causing me to have to re-send my message. Connection time is slower than dial-up, and that's maddening as it is, especially when you've been spoiled by high-speed broadband Internet.

And because of the slow connection time and having to constantly re-send my messages, doing emails over the cell phone is a big drain on the battery. So I need to keep the phone plugged into the charger at all times.

Also, for some reason, I am limited in the length of the message that I can send through email on my cell phone.

Now you can see why I prefer not to use my cell phone for emails.

I was simply going to have to wait until I had a proper Internet connection.

Because I had no Internet, I could not do my on-line job search. Seeing that the past weekend's papers had no job listings that were appropriate for me to apply for, that wasn't all that a big deal.

Now that I had no Internet around which to center my life, I had to find something else to do.

First order of business was to place a call with the contractor we hired to fix the damaged ceiling in my studio that resulted from when the pipes burst at the end of January.

All that was left to be done was to have the ceiling painted and to have the lights installed. I've been working with no lights in my studio for 2 months.

And for 5 months, our house ~ including the front porch ~ has been so crammed with stuff from my studio (which is a HUGE room) so that the only way we can get from one room to another is to travel on the tight goat paths that intersected each room.

What we quickly discovered while travelling these goat paths is that they make great hiding places for the marauding herds of dust buffalo that lie in wait to ambush the weary passer-by. We've been having to deal with quite the invasion of dust buffalo.

Anyhow, both Neil and I had left messages with the contractor ~ both on his voice mail and with a real live person. Yet three and a half weeks went by without a peep. At this point even a call with a lame excuse would have been more acceptable than the total ignoring that we've received.

So I placed my call that Monday morning, telling that real live person that if we don't receive satisfaction by the end of the week, that I am going to call the insurance adjuster to discuss our getting another contractor to complete the job.

In 15 minutes, the contractor called. The painter will be there first thing tomorrow morning.

In order to be consistent with my extreme displeasure in the situation, I let my inner bitch do the talking. So instead of my usual, "Oh, how you're doing? How's the baby?" the first words out of my mouth after I answered the phone were, "When's my job gonna get done?"

I guess all it took was an old-fashioned threat, along with a little bit of help from my inner bitch.

Shortly afterward, Neil and I took a ride up to the Wareham Career Center so that Neil could apply for membership and register for an up-coming resume workshop.

While checking the Hot Jobs listings I didn't find anything that was suitable for me. However, I did find something that was a suitable for Neil ~ a mechanical engineering position in Taunton that starts at 85K. Not bad.

We stuck around a bit longer for Neil to talk with a career counselor about the position.

As promised, the painter was here first thing Tuesday morning, the same day the cable guy showed up to swap out the cable box that got fried from Friday's lightning strike.

That day I decided to tackle a long-neglected project ~ cleaning out ALL the litter boxes as well as "doing the parrot cage."

Of course, doing the parrot cage requires more than just picking up and throwing out the old soiled newspapers and then laying down a fresh new layer.

First of all, I had to make sure that the parrot, an ornery cuss, was secure in his cage. No need to have him trying to take a chunk out of whatever available body part that happens to be within his reach as I clean.

Next comes removing the broken baby gate sections which I tie around two sides of the cage to keep the dogs from getting to the "doggie treats" that find their way under the cage.

You see, under the parrot cage there is former ferret cage bottom that has been reincarnated as this really humongous cat box. The dogs' hearts break over not being able to get to those delectable "kitty nuggets." But that still does not keep them from trying.

Before I can move the cage and get to the papers underneath, I have to clean out that giant litter box. It's not a simple process of "pick up the box and dump the contents in a trash bag."

No sirree, Bob.

In this case I have to painstakingly remove the contents a little at a time, using the dust pan as a shovel before I can actually lift the pan out from between the cross bars of the parrot cage. And I have to do that without spilling the well-used and marinating cat litter on myself while avoiding kneeling on the bird-poop crusted and little dog pee-soaked newspapers.

Once that is done, the rest is easy. All I have to do next is gather up the nasty newspapers, sweep up the floor, give the floor a good wash with the Swiffer, and then put everything back together again.

(With such a required production, it's easy to see why we easily neglect this task. If only it were as straight forward as cleaning a regular cat box.)
After getting everything together and back in its place, I still had to figure out a way to keep the dogs from getting to the cat box.

Because one side of the cage is against the wall and two sides are blocked with the broken sections of an old baby gate, I had to leave a narrow gap between the cage and a second wall in order of the cats to fit through.

The only problem with that is that the big dogs manage to find a way to the cache of kitty nuggets.

I've tried placing something heavy near that corner of the cage, creating an L-shaped passage for the cats. However, the dogs remained unthwarted. They merely muscled that heavy object out of the way.

So Tuesday, after I got the parrot area re-assembled, I decided to put a new idea to the test.

I extended one of the baby gate sides so that it touched the wall. Then I took my Dremel tool and cut one of the bars to a height that would allow the cats access to their kitty water closet, but not allow the dogs to stick their heads and reach in to grab the buried (and often unburied) treasure.

So far that seems to work.

Wednesday is Ariana's day off from work. Normally her day off means that I can sleep in since I don't have to go through the ordeal of trying to get her up for work.

However, this day I had to be up bright and early for the electrician and his crew. They arrived on time and quickly installed the new lights that have been sitting in my studio for two months.

Let there be light!

And finally there was!

After the electrical crew left, Neil and I had to travel to Fall River to get him a new suit for an interview that he had scheduled the following day. Because my big guy had gotten bigger, he needed a bigger suit.

We stopped at Professional Image, one of the factory outlets in Fall River. The sales girl was extremely helpful in finding Neil the perfect suit right off the bat.

(However, she was totally lacking in personality. She did not react to any of my jokes, which would have caused others to snort their Diet Cokes out through their nostrils.)

Tony the Greek tailor was a peach. Despite the short notice and extremely pressing time constraints, he promised to have Neil's trousers altered within an hour.

(And he told me that he makes the best gyro ~that's "yeer-roh" ~ when I told him that I like to go to our local Greek restaurant for my gyro fix.)

I took Neil to Caldera, mine and Roma's favorite Portuguese restaurant, to help pass the time.

As I was hoping, our favorite waitress, Vera, was there. She is such a sweetheart.

Seeing that last time I was there I was cheated out of my left-over Portuguese ribs because the waiter accidentally accidentally switched them with someone else's left-overs, I had to order the ribs to assure myself those tasty left-overs. Neil ordered a Mozambique chicken dish.

Of course I had to order a glass of Casal Garcia. But seeing that Roma was not with us, it had to be just that one glass and not a whole carafe.

Not being one to say no to dessert, I had a serving of passion fruit mousse (which I would have preferred it being fresher and not dried around the edges) and a nice tiny cup of espresso.

Ah! There's nothing like fine Mediterranean dining! It's not just the food, but the whole experience. And I drink in that whole experience.

But not my dear hubby. He would have been much happier with simple American fare. But he was still a great sport in humoring me in my dining choice. (Thank you, Neil!)

By the time we were done, so was Tony the tailor. In the time that it took me to return from the bathroom, Tony had informed me that I missed the fashion show. Neil had already returned to the fitting room to change back into his regular pants.

Tony the Greek did an excellent job. And because he made sure that the work would be done within the hour, Neil felt that Tony deserved a nice tip on top of his tailoring fee.

Of course, being the polite man that he was, Tony refused. But when we insisted, he gave us a big smile of gratitude. So did his 75-year-old father who still came to the shop every day to work.

After we got home, Neil and I moved the heavy studio furniture out of the library and into the studio so that when Ken the painter returned the next day to paint the library ceiling (seeing that there is no separation between my studio and the library) he would be able to do his job without any obstacles standing in his way.

Later that evening, I got to thinking about the kind of tattoo design I would like for myself. I've been thinking about tattoos ever since I took Ariana to Sinners and Saints Tattoo in Wareham for her graduation gift, which was a tattoo job to cover up her not-so-aesthetic attempts at home tattooing.

Because Ariana had an extensive area to cover up, we had to make easily more than one trip. As such, we've gotten to know the artists, Roger the owner, and our dear Joey the "shop slave," or as he likes to call himself, the "shop bitch."

Making all those trips to Sinners and Saints got me started on thinking about the kind of tattoo I would like.

What kind of tattoo would I like? Because it is an indelible statement on my flesh, it would have to be something that would remain constant, surviving the many whims that pass through the changes of time.

One thing that will always remain a constant is my Lithuanian heritage and the intense pride in my culture. Thus my tattoo design would have to reflect something Lithuanian.

So I dug out my Lithuanian books and jewelry and started sketching while I had Neil do some scanning. I transferred the scans into the computer where I imported them into CorelDRAW so that I could start refining them.

I was so into doing the design work on the computer that I had gone to bed much later than I planned.

My design was going to be a simple wide bracelet on on left forearm. It was going to consist of two design elements: a grass snake with a crown from the well-known Lithuanian folktale Elgė and the Serpent King and sprigs of rue, the national herb of Lithuania.

Next morning, having discovered that I drew the snake with the wrong curvature. I had to quickly sketch out the correct curvature and have Neil scan that before he left for his orientation at the career center and his interview up towards Boston.

From there, it was easy refining the line work. After several attempts of various rotations and placements of the rue sprigs, I finally got a design that had no overlapping and crashing of design motifs. I printed up two copies ~ one with just the line work and the other with the color placement.

From there I decided to do some more design work on my computer. I went into the file where I was working on the business cards for my business.

It took no time at all for me for finish designing my business card. After I was done, I followed the suggestion of my former computer graphic design instructor to print the cards on photo paper and then apply a plain sheet of paper to the back with spray adhesive.

A bit easier said than done, especially for someone who was becoming impatient like I was.

While I was able to find my can of spray adhesive, it would not work, not even after I cleaned the gunk out of the nozzle and established a good air flow. Thus, I had to resort to ~ yuck! ~ rubber cement.

Still the end result came out neat, and I was rather pleased with myself.

And I was pleased that I got a lot done on the computer despite my not being connected to the Internet.

Not only that, I was pleased that the repair work to the ceiling was FINALLY complete.

Before you know it, it was time for me to go and pick up Ariana from work. I took with me my print outs of my tattoo design so that we could immediately head to Sinners and Saints and make an appointment to get inked. I was especially hoping that I could get the tattoo done in time for the Lithuanian picnic this coming Sunday on the 22nd.

Anyhow, I did better than just getting an appointment. There was an available artist right then and there. Even though I was a bit disappointed that I would not be having Ariana's tattoo artist, Ken, do my tattoo, I was excited over the idea of getting a tattoo that very night.

Well it seems that there was no need for my disappointment because I got a phenomenal artist working on me. Fred is the only artist at Sinners and Saints who was trained in the West Coast tattoo style (whatever that is) and the only artist there who does three-dimensional coloring and shading.

I really lucked out because Fred and I share the same sense of shading and coloring. How cool is that?

It's been around twenty five years since my last tattoo, a butterfly on my hip. Remembering the pain from that tattoo, I braced myself for the worst. So imagine my surprise to feel a sensation that was akin to running a fingernail on my skin!

I couldn't believe how relatively painless it was. Could my new degree of pain tolerance have something to do with my giving birth without the benefit of any pain killers?

The most uncomfortable thing about getting the tattoo was returning my arm back to its normal position after having to hold it at an awkward angle for several minutes. My God! It felt like a dislocated shoulder being popped back into place. Well, maybe not that bad, but still bad enough.

Wow! I had a really gorgeous tattoo. Not only that, mine is an original design. No one else will sport a tattoo like this one.

Yet already I was giving thought to my next tattoo. However, I decided that for the time being, I want to savor the elegant simplicity of this design. And I was anxious to show off my new piece of body art.

Certainly getting my tattoo was the climax of my Internet vacation. What followed afterwards was simply ho-hum, including my visit to the dentist.

Breaking Loose the Vaults of Heaven

This time I can't blame myself for being a slacker in not maintaining regular postings on my blog. This time the honor goes to Mother Nature.

Two Fridays ago we had a typical summer thunder storm. It was a fast-moving storm that brought a sudden downpour of rain and plenty of pyrotechnics.

It was bright and sunny when Ariana and I first started out after my picking her up from work. We stopped in Acushnet to pick up her friends, Jessica and Josh, and their baby Alexia.

We went to the snake store to get Ariana's snake a rat and then to the bank for Ariana to set up a checking account and deposit her first pay check. I also had a check to deposit.

As I was doing my transaction, I noticed that the sky had gotten dark very fast. In fact, everyone noticed.

After the bank, we had to go to Shaw's so that Jessica could pick up some formula for Alexia. Josh, the baby, and I stayed in the car while the girls went in.

While waiting for the girls, Josh and I watched the lightning in the west and the clouds moving in an easterly direction at a fast clip. I had predicted that there will be a downpour by the time the girls got out.

I was less than a minute off in my prediction.

It already started to rain by the time Ariana and Jessica left the store. By the time we were out of the parking lot, the vaults of heaven broke loose. Raindrops the size of cats' paws came down hard on the windshield.

We still had one more errand to run. I had to stop at Denise's Pet Care to pick up a gift card that Peter, the store's owner, was donating to my church for it's Chinese auction.

Sylvester, the shop cat, definitely decided to stay in today. Can you blame him? The rain was coming down in buckets so hard that I got soaked just running from my car to the store.

With each flash of lightning, the lights flickered in the store, causing me to wonder if we were going to lose power at our house.

Going back home, I realized that the gas tank was running low. So I stopped at the Mobile station just further up the road. There was no gas because the service station had lost power.

We all wondered if we were in store for the same fate at home. But while pulling into the driveway, we could see the living room lights through the windows.

However, once I got into the house, I noticed the dishwasher flashing "PF" on its display and the clock on the stove reading "RESET." So we did lose power after all.

Being a somewhat anal stickler for accuracy, I used the time on my cell phone so that I could set the clock right down to the last second. I was waiting for the minute to change so that I could punch in the final digit on the clock.

But before that could happen, there was a flash of lightning and a VERY loud crack in the kitchen that sounded like it was just behind me. I jumped at the sound. And as I jumped, my finger hit the last key that I was waiting to press. Well, I wasn't about to quibble over a few seconds this time.

What was strange was the Neil also heard a very loud crack that sounded like it came from inside the house. However, Neil was in his room in the diametrically opposite corner of the house.

The lightning must have hit something on the house that caused it to travel through the house.

But what?

We had a lightning arrestor installed on the electrical service to the house decades ago when my in-laws used the house for their consulting engineering business. So the lightning could not have travelled through the electrical wires.

However, the mystery was soon solved when someone went on the computer to get onto the Internet. There was no Internet connection. Nada.

And the cable box was dead, too.

So instead of travelling through the electrical wires, the lightning travelled through the broadband and TV cables.

Somehow, Neil's computer was not affected as adversely as mine. After some fiddling around, he managed to get Internet on his computer.

No such luck with mine.

Apparently the lightning strike fried out the computer router and the cables running to my computer.

A replacement router that Neil had kicking around did not work. He was going to have to order a new router and new cables and pray that would do the trick.

Getting the cable TV back in order was no problem. I called the cable company on Monday, and a technician arrived the next day to swap out the damaged box. It didn't even take 15 minutes. The cable guy spent far less time in our house than he did in his van across the street.

Now we had to wait for the parts for my computer to arrive.

The router arrived on Wednesday while the cables arrived on Thursday. However, Neil could not work on my computer that day because he had to attend an interview up towards Boston.

I finally had Internet late in the day on Friday.

Yay! Yahoo!

I am once again "connected."

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Happy 4th!

Yesterday's 4th of July was a bit of a fizzle with the wet weather we were having. New Bedford cancelled its firework display, rescheduling it for this coming Saturday.

Yet, the Bay Club just down the street from us launched their rockets despite the heavy drizzle. However, I chose to watch the fireworks from a somewhat tree-obstructed view from my second floor window rather than climb the neighbor's retaining wall while it was precipitating outside.

The damper on yesterday's pyrotechnic activities did not matter all that much to me because of the spectacular show I got to enjoy the night before.

Normally, every 4th of July we would go to my mother-in-law's where we would enjoy a pleasant cookout in her backyard. Once the sun would set, we would all walk to the beach and claim our spots on the jetty so that we could watch the fireworks from Marion as well as those on the Cape across the bay.

The only problem with that, aside from the hoards of ravenous mosquitoes, was that the fireworks were so small that they looked as though you could pinch them between your thumb and forefinger. For someone who liked being where the action was, that was somewhat anti-climactic.

So imagine my great excitement when we were offered an invitation to see the Marion fireworks from a boat out in Marion Harbor!

Our gracious hosts were Linda and Gordie, the aunt and uncle of Ariana's friend Ryan, and really two of the most warm and down-to-earth people to walk this earth.

Thinking that Linda and Gordie were planning on getting on the boat at 6:30, we quickly headed out for Marion on our way back from a necessary visit to New Bedford. Little did we know that Linda and Gordie had prepared a generous feast for us to partake in before the main festivities.

There were 6 of us ~ Linda, Gordie, Ryan, his friend Heather, Ariana, and myself. We enjoyed a leisurely dinner on the deck over-looking Marion Harbor. The Toasted Head Cabernet Sauvignon that I brought along as a gift for our hosts made a fine accompaniment to Linda's tender pot roast. (And how glad I was to find out that I'm not the only one who liked Cabernet Sauvignon!)

Linda and Gordie's two young yellow labs ~ Sierra and Destiny ~ lent their friendly and mannerly presence to the delight of all.

After our meal, we were joined by Wendy, Linda and Gordie's daughter, and Scupper, Wendy's Bernese mountain dog with those beautiful David Bowie eyes.

As the dogs, along with Tom the orange tabby, stayed to guard the house, we four-leggeds made our way to Gordie's boat, which was docked practically at his back door.

I've never been a boat person, so most things about boats are alien to me. I could not help but be impressed with how skillfully Gordie piloted his craft through the boat-clogged waters of Marion Harbor. There were more boats than what Gordie and Linda had remembered in the past. Part of this could have had something to do with Onset cancelling its 4th of July fireworks this year.

Our hosts' game plan was to be the last to get into the harbor so that they could be the first to leave. Just like motorists need to plan for rush hour traffic, boat skippers need to plan for the same on the water.

Dropping anchor, the stern of the boat faced the barge from where the fireworks would be launched. We could hear the band playing from the shore.

At around 9 o'clock, the band started to play the 1812 Overture. Shortly after that the show began.

Not content with just watching the pyrotechnics, the kids stripped down to their bathing suits and jumped right in the water.

Even though the water was awesome, Ariana and Heather shortly climbed the ladder back into the boat because they wanted to watch the fireworks from the bow. But not Ryan. He stayed in the water for most of the show, his bobbing head only visible with each burst of the rocket's red glare.

What an awesome show!

I was torn between solely enjoying the pyrotechnics and making sure that I grab plenty of pictures on my camera. I think I managed to do both. I snapped 118 shots ~ most of which I dumped after I up-loaded them on my computer.

The sky became smoky the further along the show progressed. Once in awhile I could feel the ash from the sky-ward explosions rain down upon my face. Ariana caught a piece of one of the rockets as it floated down.

What a spectacular grand finale! Air horns blasted from all the boats in the harbor. We did not have an air horn, so we used our lungs to yell our cheers.

Now that the show was over, it was time to head back to the house without hitting any boats.

Shortly after we got back, the kids all headed to my house in Heather's car. I stayed a bit to chat with Linda, Gordie, and Wendy until after the traffic from the beach had dissipated.

In another hour Wendy left with her dog Scupper. Right after that, it was my turn to follow suit.

Sleep did not come easy once I got home. My mind kept having to replay the evening ~ just one more time.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

More On Ghost Hunting

It's official! Floss is a bona fide ghost hunter.

I received a video that attests to that fact.