January 31, 2004

 got 'em! (part two)

within 2 hours of the traps being emptied, another squirrel was caught.

this is getting expensive.

the party last night at sarah's was fun. saw people i hadn't seen in a long time, and met some cool new folks too. plus, cocktail mermaids!

i started patching the gaps in the baseboards with putty this afternoon, until i started getting queasy. i'm not sure what's wrong with me, but it caused me to take a 3 hour nap this afternoon, which i never ever do.

i have to go MC the durham symphony's fundraiser tonight at the croasdaile country club. i'm more than a little nervous. i'm used to talking to thousands of people over the air, but i'm still terrified of doing it face-to-face.

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January 30, 2004

 got 'em!

ray just called to say that 2 squirrels have already been caught!

Posted by xta at 5:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


i slipped last night on the ice. i didn't fall down, but only because my ankle twisted in a weird way as i caught myself. the top left quarter of my left foot is now a gorgeous shade of purple and green. i was contemplating posting a photo, but my guess is that you don't want to look at damaged goods.

it was a struggle to find a pair of shoes this morning that didn't press on the bruise. i finally ended up choosing a pair of heeled mules; the open back makes it easy to take them off, thereby giving relief to the injury, but the open back also means my feet are really cold today.

before i went to work i had my appointment with the guys from critter control. they were very nice and seem every bit as interested in removing the squirrels from my attic as i am. of course, they walked away with $114 of my money this morning, so the reason for their interest is a bit different than mine.

so now there are 2 traps sitting on the roof nearest the hole that seems to be their most likely entrance/exit point. bob (the owner/operator of this particular branch of CC) seems to think we'll have full traps by tomorrow. i suspect that's an optimistic outlook, but who knows. they charge an additional $50 each time they come out to empty a trap... and it's easy to imagine that i've got 2 or 3 squirrels up there. (lisa had suggested i just "throw money at this problem", and it looks like i'll be throwing quite a lot.)

interestingly, the CC guys also found evidence of mice while they were doing their inspection up in my attic. we have had mice in the house (maybe 3 over the course of 3 months, and mimo always catches them) but i always thought they were coming from behind the dishwasher, or from behind the washer/dryer. if they're really coming from the attic, i forsee terrible nightmares in my future. ("there are mice falling from the ceiling!!")

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January 29, 2004

 the weirdest thing 

i saw the weirdest thing on the drive home from work.

while passing one of the 4 (!!) golf courses on my commute, i saw a group of 3 young men, all dressed nicely in sports jackets and suits, milling about on a snow-covered fairway. they had parked their SUV alongside the road and had hauled a bookcase and shelves full of books up a steep incline to a spot where they'd also set up a nice camera on a tripod.

one of the men was posing for a picture in front of the bookcase and the others were setting the scene. (just what scene i do not know.) i imagine the photo must have revealed something like a Young Republican On A Ski Slope. but why the bookcase?

to confuse things even further, the majority of young people in that area attend the baptist seminary nearby. i suspect these young men were students there.

i'm totally confounded.

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 feelings of abandonment

i was sad when i first learned that wasp auto closed their shop at guess road & I-85.

i was sad when my vet told me she'd left the cat hospital.

and now i'm sad to learn that the local branch of the honda specialists might be closing. apparently business there isn't so good (the other locations are doing fine, though). they've undergone 3 relocations and 4 name changes in the last 5 years or so, and that's what pam (the ultra-sweet front desk lady) attributes the lackluster business to.

over the past couple of years i've become rather vocal in recommending my favorite places to friends, just so things like this won't happen. but it's happening anyway.

other places i never want to see shut down, ever:

the garden salon
the pizza palace
los portales taqueria, holloway street
my favorite dollar store, "just dollars", in wake forest
vis-art video
regulator bookshop
peek-a-boo bar & grill, 9th street (home of the world's best onion rings)
carolina theatre
cosmic cantina
durham symphony
mad hatter bake shop

and probably a zillion others...

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January 28, 2004

 Grown Backwards

david byrne's new album, "grown backwards," will be released march 16!

as promised, it contains 2 opera arias. a surprise addition is "the other side of this life", which i believe he wrote several years ago but is only now getting its official release. (in fact, he performed it at the cat's cradle during his last tour.) and just i can't wait to hear "the man who loved beer"... that's the most straightforward of all of the song titles, which usually means it will be really quirky.

he's already scheduling his european tour in support of the album. traditionally he tours the united states after europe, then finishes off with more european dates. so i suspect the US tour will begin around june or so. looks like i'll be making a few road trips this summer! (my friends tony & mary anne are already planning on seeing the 3 shows in italy in march!)

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 gratuitous listing of google searches that brought people to this site: 

the gutter guys
Goodness Bra Revelation
hottest girl on the face of the earth
puron heat pump smells bad coming out of vents
pictures "piles of aluminum cans"
boobs that cannot fit into a bra

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January 27, 2004

 it's all about work and food

the guilt of being away from the office for a week finally drove me back today. actually, i drove myself back today (har har)... slushy streets and all. the road conditions were actually drastically improved from yesterday and it was a pretty easy drive.

as i pulled into the parking lot i saw my boss sitting on a lawn chair in the snow, bundled up in winter gear from head to toe, watching ice fall from the tower. when the ice hits the reinforced roof at the transmitter building it sounds like mortar fire. incredibly loud and spectacular. of course, no one is allowed to go down to that building in weather like this... can you imagine getting hit by a sheet of ice falling 1,200 feet to the ground?

there were 1 or 2 people at the station who had been there for a couple of days. this is how it works at a radio station... you've got to have a human on the air 24 hours a day. (this assumes the station is not run by clear channel.) and being that we work way out in the boonies, it's often too difficult for the regular staff to brave the elements in weather like this, so the few people who can get out there end up staying for days on end and constantly rotating air shifts. it's not pretty. i've done it before. sleeping on an office floor and taking bird-baths in the bathroom sink is only something i'd wish on my worst enemy. plus, people get a little delirious and start making goofy mistakes on the air.

of course, some really kooky-fun things can happen, too. i think it was during one of these marathons that several of us went nutty while listening to handel's messiah. we got giggle fits over the line that goes "all we, like sheep, have gone astray..." the way it's phrased it sounds like "oh we like sheep!" and we do... we like sheep.

maybe you had to be there.

it's mozart's birthday today. every year the station celebrates by playing 24 hours of his music. and people love it. i, on the other hand, have a really hard time figuring out creative ways to keep from saying "mozart" more than once each voice-break. you back announce the previous work... "that was mozart". then you forward-announce the next work... "and this is mozart." it really takes some thought and planning to keep from sounding like a total dork. and on top of that, i still feel like i'm talking through a head full of cotton (and i totally grossed out my office mate with the vast amount of snot i blew out of my nose this afternoon), so it was a doubly-challenging day at work. plus the death-defying commute... i guess that makes it triply-challenging. i clearly need a raise.

ray & i decided to invite joe over for dinner after we heard he'd baked home-made cinnamon rolls earlier in the day... and still had leftovers. heh heh. it should surprise no one to hear that they were incredibly good. joe's a fabulous chef. he was telling me about the cookbook he got that recipe from, and it sounded like a compliation of 'easy recipes'. i wish i could remember the title or author. d'oh.

but that conversation about cooking really made me want to pull out some of my old cookbooks and pick a couple of new things to try. i get stuck in a rut pretty easily and it would be nice to consciously break out. plus, i really do love to cook... but i hate spending a lot of time doing it. (i've got so much knitting to do!) that probably explains why "30 minute meals" is one of my favorite shows.

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January 26, 2004


Directions for use:
It is a violation of Federal Law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with it's [sic] labeling.

Use Restrictions: To kill clothes moths, eggs and larvae in clean, air tight containers (e.g., chests and trunks), garment bags and storage closets. Do not use in containers, dry cleaning and garbage bags, or closets that allow vapors to escape into occupied rooms. Do not use the Naphthalene containing product with any other moth control chemical. For use only on cloth containing wool or wool blends.


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 stay home and knit

so last night i learned how to cast off (or "bind off" as my knitting book calls it) and i just went crazy with the knitting. i got 2 whole squares done. to reward myself i thought, "i'll have some ice cream after i finish one more row." but i just kept knitting. it was over an hour before i finally got up and had ice cream. it seems i like knitting more than haagen-dasz.

so it's a beautiful winter wonderland outside (all of the school systems are closed today, along with most businesses) and apparently the squirrels need shelter because they woke me up again this morning, scampering in my attic. so i sucked it up and called critter control, but they can't get out here until friday. if i feel brave i may try to put some moth balls up in the attic in the meantime... i read somewhere that squirrels hate that smell, but i do, too! plus i just don't want to confront a frigid squirrel. that just doesn't sound like fun.

this morning i had my last call with ruth. it was a pretty emotional experience for both of us. we promised to stay in touch, though, so our 'goodbye' was more of an 'au revoir'. i'll miss talking with her and hope i don't forget all the things she taught me.

the scroll at the bottom of the tv said that duke clinics were closed today, so i thought my afternoon appointment with my orthopaedist would be cancelled. but his office called & asked if i could come in earlier, as they were trying to see patients who could get there and then leave the office before the second wave of freezing rain began. i didn't have a problem with that (other than facing the slushy streets), so i said ok.

well, the streets in durham SUCKED. big time. it was horrible horrible horrible. it looked like nothing had been plowed. thankfully everyone was going slow. but it was bad driving.

but good thing about everything being closed today and employees not getting to work was that there was no one to man the parking deck at duke hospitals, so i got to park for free! plus, there was hardly anyone in the clinics, so it was easy to find a space close to the walkway. it was like a ghost town in there.

anyway, dr. nunley suspects i may have a torn ligament in my left wrist (or a ligament that's ready to tear), but rather than undergo the expensive MRI right away he prescribed vioxx and a glucosamine/chondroitin supplement to see if that will help the swelling & pain. he also gave me splint... after i asked if i should have one. (he doesn't seem to think it will help, but we might as well try, right?) i've got a follow-up appointment in 6 weeks. he also charged me with trying to get my desk set up ergonomically at work... which made me laugh out loud. we're so poor at work right now, i'm lucky to have a desk (let alone a job). my boss is likely to freak if i tell her i need specialty equipment. we'll see how this goes...

so after the appointment i decided to brave the roads again to try to fill my new prescription, and i coupled it with a quick trip to the grocery store and vis-art, too. hopefully the approaching ice storm won't leave us without power... groceries and movies sort of require electricity. 3.5 hours after i left home, i was glad to make it home in one piece... the roads are really, truly crappy. (had i mentioned that before??)

plans are afoot to try to carpool to work tomorrow... i really should go (i haven't been to work in 4 days due to my cold) but given how terrible the roads are now (and how bad they'll be tomorrow morning after this second wave of ice) i'm really not looking forward to it. it's normally a 40-minute drive; it'll likely be close to an hour-and-a-half tomorrow. bleah!

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January 25, 2004

 a night out of the house

if it were anyone else i probably wouldn't have left the house. but it was lisa and it was her birthday party. so i loaded up my purse with kleenex, throat drops and chapstick and headed out.

to say that bubba ho-tep was surprisingly funny is an understatement. it was incredibly hilarious, in a kind of quirky way that's becoming more and more rare. (people who like schizopolis or rubin and ed would like bubba ho-tep.) initially i was worried that the film would be too scary or gory for me (it was part of the nevermore film fest after all), but i think i must have been laughing too hard to really fully ingest the scary stuff. (either that or it just wasn't really that scary.)

i felt overly-conscious of my constant nose-blowing at lisa's house later, but no one seemed too groded-out. i heard myself talk through my clogged up sinuses and thought i sounded like a frog. people kept talking to me, though, so it must've sounded worse in my head than it did to others.

scott told me about a friend of his who was recently on a reality tv show... a new one called "make my day". (i think it's supposed to premiere in the next month or two.) i liked the concept... that all of these amazing things happen to you (totally scripted by the producers, of course) if you pass these little tests... tests that you don't realize are tests. this is one of those 'truman show' reality shows where the object of attention doesn't know he's on tv. anyway, it sounds kinda cute and i'll probably check it out when it airs, mostly because i like the idea of amazing things happening to people.

anyway, i made it to about midnight before i realized i was about to drop from exhaustion. so my body caused me to leave the party earlier than my mind wanted to. it was a fun night.

i slept pretty well (thanks to another dose of the magical cough syrup) and am feeling ok. still lots of congestion, though. thankfully i'd previously scheduled tomorrow off from work (i have an appointment with an orthopaedist for my bum wrist) so it looks like i'll have another day to recuperate.

it's snowing now. coming down pretty hard. ice is supposed to be here by tonight, but right now it's just really lovely. we live at the bottom of a hill and there are lots of kids sledding down the street, right in front of our living room window. it's a nice view.

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January 24, 2004

 my drug of choice

may the good lord bless charo for bringing over that prescription cough syrup last night. hydrocodone rules. i slept like a baby and feel a whole helluva lot better this morning.

'cept i feel totally drugged now. cotton-headed. dumb. fuzzy. unable to complete my thoughts...

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January 23, 2004


still feeling like crap. i can't get a full night's sleep to save my life. i got 4 hours last night, which was the most in 3 nights. (unfortunately those 4 hours came in 2 2-hour increments.) i'm not a napper, either... if i try to sleep while the sun is still shining nothing will happen. it's causing me to slowly go mad, i think.

i watched "the miracle of morgan's creek" this afternoon... a non-singing, non-dancing film of betty hutton's. it was actually pretty racy for the time. betty hutton's character, trudy, has a wild night on the town which results in not only a spur-of-the-moment wedding to a soldier whose name she can't remember (and who ships out the next morning, before she can recall it), but it also turns out this guy knocked her up, too. whoops! still, he's a soldier and no one seems to blame him for any of this. the burden is left to trudy.

interestingly, we never actually see her pregnant (and that word is never used; 3/4 of the movie elapses with only obscure allusions to the "P" word until she finally simply --and only once-- admits to her father "i'm going to have a baby"). she's tormened throughout the film... the shame she's caused herself and her family. but everything ends happily, with trudy's ol' pal norval (eddie bracken) stepping in with an offer of marraige. this, of course, makes her happy, but not as happy as giving birth to sextuplets, proving just how fucked up "happiness" in the 1940s was.

of course there's some real screwball comedy in there, too. still, i feel like someone could write up a really feminist response to this movie for bitch magazine. not me, though... charo has given me some codeine-laced cough-syrup and i feel lucky to be making any kind of sense right now.

this afternoon i bundled up and walked around the house to see if i could find another entry point for the squirrels. i found another section of soffit screen that's torn. it requires an extension ladder to get to it, though, so it will have to wait. we haven't heard any critters in the attic for 24 hours (believe me... i've been awake for most of them). if i hear them again i'll call critter control and resign myself to spending money on the problem.

lisa and i were supposed to get together tonight for another knitting lesson, but i think it's best she stay away from me right now. she just got over a bad cold; i'd hate for her to get it again. it's a shame, too, because i feel lke i could have gotten a lot of knitting done these last few days, if only i felt like i was doing it right.

ray has been home all day with me; work is slow for him right now and he took a vacation day to help around the house. he's out getting us some dinner right now. i haven't had much of an appetite these last few days, but when i do eat i feel better. (what's that saying? "feed a cold...?") i want some soup or chicken & dumplings or something. ray wants arby's. i crinkled my nose at that idea. i hope he comes back with something nutritious.

i also hope i feel better for lisa's birthday party tomorrow. i'm not going to be very good company if i'm surrounded by nasty, damp kneenex, i'm afraid.

so it looks like an ice storm is on the way this weekend. i hope that my natural-disaster-karma has been built up sufficiently and we weather this storm well. after ray forwarded me this article i feel lucky to have my new gas pack right now. the heat is working well... let's just hope the power stays on and we can actually use it during the storm.

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January 22, 2004

 there's something living in my attic

this sound has woken me up before... it's a light scampering right above my bed. i've heard it before, but in the past i've been better able to ignore it. since i'm sick, though, i'm having trouble sleeping and the noise pissed me off so much that i finally got out of bed to investigate.

as i put my slippers on and bundled up in ray's bulky winter coat i kept hoping i'd find a cute little squirrel sitting on the roof. one that could be easily shooed away. nope. nothing at all on the roof. but i did see a big hole in the screen of the soffit vent.

so there must be a squirrel in my attic. and i haven't the foggiest idea how to get him out.

clearly i need to fix the hole in the screen, but i don't want to trap the squirrel in there. how do i make sure he's out first? i guess i could go up there and try to flush him out, but i've heard bad stories about this. i'm scared.

maybe he'll leave on his own during the daytime. that makes sense, right? he'll want to go out for food? maybe this afternoon i can put the cats in a bedroom (to minimize chaos should the squirrel actually get into the house), open the back door (just in case) and run up the attic stairs like a crazy person, trying to scare him out.

god, i don't want to do this.

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January 21, 2004


feeling pretty bad today. scratchy throat, congestion, general malaise.

i buried myself under my grandma's afghan for most of the day and watched decorating shows on HGTV. for sustenance i made some potato soup, which turned out smashingly well. so, bolstered by that success, i also decided to try baking something called a "cardamom roll", which also came out well... it's like a long cinnamon roll, but, uh, with cardamom. tasty sweet. apparently when i'm sick (and by all accounts should be sleeping) i like to cook.

the cats like it when someone is home with them all day. in fact, i like it when i'm home with the cats all day. i get to lounge around on the couch and they get to lounge around on me. it's a win-win situation. except for the aches and drippy nose, i mean.

i have to be careful not to get the flu. my boss requires all of us to get a flu shot each fall. i strenuously object and have never yet gotten one. so if i come down with the flu i'm going to have to face a bad case of the i-told-you-so's. it's not the flu, though. i'm sure it's not the flu. it's not the flu, it's not the flu, it's not the flu...

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January 20, 2004

 dig if you will, my closet: 

this was one of the easiest projects in the bathroom. nowhere near as hard as installing the toilet or figuring out the sink drain. it doesn't matter, though... i still have a fine sense of accomplishment.

oddly, though, this was one of the most expensive projects in the whole room. go figure... it's only plastic-covered wire! (but man, you should have seen the tool they used at the HD to cut the shelves down to size... a pneumatic wire-cutter! it would work great with my air compressor! *drool*)

so just one more thing and the closet will be totally done: i'm going to hang a simple sheer over the "door". the cats' poop-box is going to go on the floor in there, hence the lack of a proper door. i guess i'll hit the fabric stores after work tomorrow.

i bought myself a pair of size 8 bamboo knitting needles today. hopefully the next photo i post of my baby-blanket project will be much more attractive than yesterday's. (i'm putting a lot of faith in the needles, granted.) i bought them at cozy, on 9th street. my first time there since the place was called 'fiber space', and i have to say the woman behind the counter was not very friendly. granted, i popped in only 10 minutes before they closed, but i barely got a half-assed grin out of her. i wanted to ask about their knitting lessons, but i got the impression she didn't want to have a conversation with me.

last week i posted something about ray's habit of leaving cute little love-notes for me in the mornings, when he has to leave before i get up. today he left me a multimedia note. in fact, it took me quite a while to figure it out. ray had put the digital camera right on top of my computer keyboard... i had no idea what it meant, but i knew it meant something.

so i turned the camera on and looked through the photos he had taken. there was only this one of himself:

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 al green

watching al green on tv... there is an infectious joy that just surrounds this man. i felt it take over the whole audience. the twinkle in his eyes, the wide smile that reveals every sparkly white tooth, the power in every chosen word... it was magical. his total embrace of... everything... i just don't think there are enough words to describe...

i get that same feeling when i watch willie nelson perform. it's like they're both in on the inside joke of life. the crinkles around the eyes from years of laughing, and a gentle peace...

who else has this? what other performer? i want to know them all.

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January 19, 2004

 i think i'm knitting

is this knitting?

part of it looks good, i think. but part of it looks bad. i'm pretty sure i dropped some loops in a couple of places, and it looks like some loops are bigger than others. i don't know how i did either of those things.

are you a knitter? can diagnose what i've done? i want to improve. i need more lessons. (here's another photo, if you're interested in a close-up, you geek.)

by the way, i'm only knitting... i'm not purling. i think i forgot how to purl. plus, i don't fully comprehend what purling does, and how often i should do it. (every other row? help?)

so i'm probably going to unravel it and start over. aside from the errors, this thing has mysteriously become much bigger than i thought it would be. i want squares about half that length, i think.

how big is a baby blanket supposed to be??


holy crap, i just heard david letterman say that al green is going to be on his show tonight. suddenly my priorities have shifted.


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 someone strap an electrode to my head or something... 

yesterday was far more productive than saturday. i finally made it to the home depot and i now have all the tools in hand to create an honest-to-goodness closet in the renovated bathroom. perhaps i'll get around to actually assembling it all tonight. or tomorrow. let's not be too ambitious.

of course on the way home from the HD i got lured into one of my favorite clothing stores by their immense "SALE" signs. i'm such a sucker. so not only did i buy 2 pairs of shoes on saturday, but yesterday i bought 2 pairs of slacks and a new top. and a belt! i've been beltless for far too long.

i've really gotta curb my addiction to shopping. it's gotten ridiculous. plus, i'm suddenly $4800 in debt, due to the new furnace; i don't really have any room to be splurging on cute red boots. i need some sort of shock therapy, maybe. something pavlovian to keep me out of the stores. i'm taking suggestions. i wish they made a patch, like those nicotine things for smokers. an anti-shopping patch. it could pump checkbook ledgers into my bloodstream and keep me focused on my debits and credits.

ray & i watched the season 4 finale of the sopranos last night. oh. my. god. i won't ruin it for those of you who haven't seen it, but man... it's a doozy. i cried. honest-to-goodness tears ran down my face. (and i'm not even PMS'ing, so you know it must've been powerful.) i don't know if i'm going to be able to wait until season 5 comes out on DVD; i might have to buy some HBO in a couple of months just so i can watch season 5 all the sooner.



i need HBO like a need a hole in my head. focus on the debt, christa. focus on the debt.

last night lisa taught us how to knit. well, sarah already knew how, so she was just there for a refresher course. but mary, lisa's mom & i had never knit before, and lisa really had her hands full... none of us are very crafty, i'm afraid. however, i enjoy doing things with my hands so i persevered. i even brought some needles home so i could practice. i want to knit an unconventional baby blanket for my brother & his wife (who are due in may), so i'd better get crackin'.

oh, it sucks having to work on a national holiday. what sucks worse is having a really busy workday on a national holiday; i feel like i've barely had enough time to breathe today... and i sure that ray is at home, napping. bleah.

on a happier note, here's a little of a joke ruth sent me last week:

> By following the simple advice I read in an article, I have finally
> found inner peace...the article read:
> "The way to achieve inner peace is to finish all the things you've
> started."
> So I looked around the house to see all the things I started and
> hadn't finished...and before coming to work this morning I finished
> off a bottle of red wine, a bottle of white, the Bailey's, Kahlua,
> and Wild Turkey my Prozac, some valium, my cigarettes and a box of
> chocolate. You have no idea how freakin good I feel...

Posted by xta at 1:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 17, 2004

 how to cure a hangover

there must've been something ultra-potent in those cosmopolitans last night, because this morning i woke up with a hangover to beat all others. i felt like crap on toast until lisa suggested we go shoe-shopping.

i never realized that shoes are a hangover cure, but apparently they are. i feel great now, having bought a pair of very sexy red boots and some brown slip-on heels. (both are relatively pointy-toed.) i put the red boots on immediately after purchasing them, and i got whistled at a little later. actually it was more of a "wooo!" than a whistle, and i'm not entirely sure it was meant for me. but i'm just going to assume it was meant for me, and i'm going to assume it was because of the boots.

ok, also... this is so weird: a week and a half ago lisa and i were shopping at the apple store when our friend mary popped in on us. she just happened to see us inside while she was on her way to another store. it was pretty freaky, actually. well, today the exact same thing happened... lisa & i were shoe-shopping and all of a sudden mary was there! i think there is probably some deep meaning to these two coincidences, but i haven't figured out what it is yet. the universe is probably trying to tell lisa & i that we need to take mary shopping more often.

so the good thing about getting a slow start to the day is that you can listen to this american life in the shower. that never happens if you get up early.

also, you can reward yourself for a day of hard shopping with dinner at dalat... "V-18" is my favorite dish. a pile of stir-fried rice noodles with a myriad of meats and vegetables thrown in. sort of like vietnamese lo-mein. yum. next time, though, i might order lisa's favorite dish, which is essentially a pile of green beans stir-fried with chicken and ginger.

but getting a late start to the day means i didn't get any of the home-improvement projects done (or even started) that i planned. i've set this birthday/housewarming party in late february as a decorating goal (yes, you're invited) and i'm starting to think that maybe i'm being a little too ambitious. there's painting, organizing, hanging, and a little building to do.

plus, right now there are a couple of specific places in the house that are just driving me crazy. one of them is the front hall, which has been stripped of wallpaper and has had several holes patched... it looks awful. i want to get that painted, pronto. and i need to do some work on the closet in the renovated bathroom to really make it a functional space. oh, the home-project list, she is very long. i'm going to try very hard to be productive tomorrow.

also, ray & i discovered this afternoon that our outdoor water spigot isn't working. it's right next to the new package unit; i wonder if the heating guys knocked something loose. i really should to go down into the crawlspace and see if i've got a leak somewhere. it would be terrible if we did. at the very least i'll call griles monday morning and ask if any of the workers are aware that they might have caused a problem.

it's always something. i mean, i love working on the house. i really do. that's why i bought a fixer-upper. but damn... i could use a little bit of a break!! ever since we moved in it feels like it's been a constant stream of work. i'm tired. very, very tired.

Posted by xta at 8:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 16, 2004



and isn't the package unit sexy?? ooh, baby!

shortly after my last woeful post the inspector arrived, the PSNC guy came shortly after, then griles fired it all up.

the people at griles are the best. really, truly wonderful. i urge you to hire them for all your heating/cooling needs.

ooh, and here's a picture of my ductwork, too ('cause i know you're just dying to see the underside of my house):

(well, this is only as much as i could see from the crawlspace door. i wasn't going to go slithering around in there just to get a better photo for you. sorry.)

but I HAVE HEAT!!!! it's 72 degrees in here right now!!!!!!!!!

i think i'm going to run around naked for a while, just to thoroughly enjoy it.

Posted by xta at 4:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

 almost heat 

it's 2:35 and the potential for heat is very great.

the new package unit has been set. the ductwork is fully installed. everything is ready to be fired up.

but first the guy from PSNC has to come out and put a meter on the gas line. but he can't do that until the city inspector comes and signs off on everything. in fact, the PSNC guy was just here, but he left when he saw the inspector hadn't been here yet. on his way to his truck he even called the durham inspections office to see if he could personally get someone out here pronto, but no such luck.

so now everyone has left and i'm waiting for the inspector by myself. when he appears i am to call griles, who will then call the PSNC guy back to put the meter on the line. of course, if the inspector comes late this evening there's a good chance the PSNC guy won't be able to come back out until monday (unless i pay some kind of on-call fee), which means i wouldn't have heat for the whole weekend.

so let's hope the inspector comes in the next couple of hours. if not, it's likely going to be a tough weekend. maybe i should run out and get some more firewood.

Posted by xta at 2:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 15, 2004

 please meet my two new boyfriends:

boyfriend #1: short, square, unobtrusively warm boyfriend that can be placed near a wall.

boyfriend #2: tall, round boyfriend that cranks out an ungodly amount of heat.

plus the not-so-new, real boyfriend, of course, who scoops the cat poop, takes out the trash, and makes me laugh until my bladder explodes.

as you can see, i've got the best of all possible worlds.

so, yes... those 2 kerosene heaters kept our house quite warm last night. (we built a fire too, but it mostly resulted in a smoky house and not so much heat.)

i had been so terrified about freezing our buns off while the new furnace was being installed... but thanks to the heaters it's not so bad. if everything goes as scheduled the new furnace will be up & running late tomorrow afternoon, meaning tonight would be our last kerosene-powered evening. cross your fingers...

i realized something weird about myself this morning while i was pumping gas. maybe you're this way, too. maybe everybody is this way. when the tank gets full and the pump shuts itself off, i don't just hang up the nozzle and move on... i have to keep pumping up to the next even number. this morning the pump stopped at $12.36 and i kept squeezing the trigger until i got up to $12.50.

but why? it's not like i was paying with cash and wanted to avoid excess coinage. (does anyone even use cash anymore??) in fact, i always put my gas purchases on my BP credit card then pay the whole thing off with a check at the end of the month. so why do i feel compelled to strive for the round numbers? do i think i'm making my end-of-the-month accounting somehow easier? do i really like things that tidy? am i impossible to be around??

it was an existential drive to work this morning.

Posted by xta at 1:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 14, 2004

 clinton & stacy would be proud 

i got a postcard in the mail a couple of days ago advertising a sale at my favorite shoe store. the place is thrillingly called "the wide shoe warehouse". i love it. i walk in, inhale deeply and proudly, and think to myself, "i can wear any damned shoe in here!" it's a beautiful feeling.

anyway, last night i told myself to take it easy... i don't really need any new shoes. but i'm fool enough to know that mantra never really works; i knew deep in my soul i'd walk out with a new pair of shoes.

and the owners, they knew that, too. because they placed the most amazing pair of black suede pointy-toed heels right near the entrance and i was immediately sucked into their powerful vortex. i had to have them. they told me so. besides, on sale (and with the $5 coupon that was on the postcard) they were half-off retail: $30! so i'm only feeling a little bit of guilt. a half-priced amount of guilt. (plus, that guilt disappears whenever i gaze at the shoes, so right now they're on the dining table next to my laptop.) i wish the photo up there better showed off the pointy-ness... i think it's literally possible to put someone's eye out with these shoes.

the north carolina symphony has a new conductor who, in this campy little blurb, says one of his least favorite things is "shopping and all it stands for." i remember a time when i would have stood up and cheered for that kind of public statement. but now i'm torn... yes, shopping for things no one really needs is bad. but shopping for food & clothing is good, isn't it??? i want to get him out to the station for an interview and question him thoroughly about this.

ray & i went out to dinner last night with josh, ray's old high-school friend who we both absolutely adore. he was in town for a day while his company tried to get him to agree to relocate from san francisco to durham. (bahaha!) while josh is actually quite amenable to the cultural switch (i told you we loved this guy... he already believes durham is a hip place!), he's not so sure he wants the job they're shoving at him and he's pretty torn up about what to do. anyway, we thought a night at pop's would be nice after his whirlwind day of schmoozing.

pop's, as you may or may not know, is under new ownership (their website hasn't even been updated yet). ray & i go to pop's a lot and have witnessed their subtle transformation over the last few months. the bar seating area is now extended to the right of the door (thereby removing some previously painful booth-seating). the wait staff now all wear gorgeous burgandy shirts (the previous drab gray is now gone). and the food seems a little less hit-or-miss, too. all of our entrees were phenomenal (breaded tilapia over garlic mashed potatoes for me, please!) and of course the desserts were great too (panna cotta with pear butter and almond brittle). we had a really nice, long dinner and fun was had by all.

josh is a gadget geek, and after dinner he showed us his new cell phone/microwave oven. (ok, it's really not a microwave oven, but i just wanted to make mr. pinky's ears prick up.) he played us some of the nutty ringtones he's downloaded... and i've gotta say, the audio that comes out of these phones now is pretty amazing. i tried to get him to download the sex & the city theme, but he just looked at me like i was insane. i think i made a lttle more headway with the laverne & shirley theme song, but it's more likely that he'll just stick with the days of our lives theme song. (kidding! he's an i love lucy and star trek guy all the way.)

so, the heating guys are here today. it sounds like the freakin' civil war is being reenacted in my crawlspace. they are currently ripping out all of the old ductwork and i hear them, down there below my feet, hollering at each other over the noise. the cats are totally freaked out... mimo was hiding behind the washer, but i didn't know that until i put in a load of laundry and he came bolting out, looking for a new place to hide. there are no hiding places today, sweet kitten. sorry.

i guess i need to go spend some time out in the garage figuring out how to run these kerosene heaters y'all have graciously let us borrow. i think greg fishel said it was going to be in the 30s tonight.

Posted by xta at 10:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 13, 2004

 The moment I wake upBefore I put on my makeupI say a little prayer for you 

in the letters section of the latest issue of utne, one reader submits, as a folllow-up to an article in a previous issue, her list of songs that serve as "pick-me-ups." she mentioned "I Say a Little Prayer for You" by Dionne Warwick, and now i can't get it out of my head.

Forever, forever, you'll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever, forever, we never will part
Oh, how I'll love you
Together, together, that's how it must be
To live without you
Would only be heartbreak for me

yesterday afternoon i got an email from my vet. she said she was listening to the station, heard my voice and was surprised to learn i was a radio announcer. she also said she had some news for me and to please write back or call her at home.

well, i immediately wrote back, and it turns out that the news is that she's no longer working at the cat hospital. this makes me very, very sad. she is far and away the most compassionate vet i've ever encountered. i don't know what we'll do without donna manley.

i actually plan on calling her in the next week or so to get a better picture of what's going with her future plans. i will happily follow her to wherever she goes next. she's that amazing.

this morning i woke up to find a love note on the bathroom sink. ray leaves these for me every once in a while... little scraps of paper that say "i love you!!", or "good morning, sweetie!" or something equally wonderful. it melts my heart into a big pool of butter when i find them. the day is off to a good start.

then, the doorbell... the gutter guy arrived. 2 of my brand-new gutters got knocked off during hurricane isabel and i didn't put a great priority on getting them repaired quickly. however, when i scheduled this work for january i didn't realize that i'd also be paying for a new furnace this month... so once again i'm in a tight squeeze, financially speaking. but at least i'll have shiny new gutters that are the envy of the neighborhood.

speaking of the furnace, the gas line was laid by PSNC yesterday, so we're good to go for the folks at griles to begin work tomorrow morning. so far i'm really happy about choosing griles... they've been very communicative. and when i called today to tell them the gas line was in and ready for them, troy griles said, "ok, thanks... but now you just sit back and relax... we'll show up tomorrow and do everything else so you can enjoy your new heating system." how nice is that?!

i had a dentist appointment this morning. i normally have a pretty good time at my dentist, believe it or not... everyone there is really sweet. this morning was even sweeter, though, when i discovered that they now have cookie dough flavored tooth polish! you sit through the tartar-scraping and flossing and spitting and you're rewarded with such a sweet treat when they polish your teeth with that little spinny thing! it's a nice change from the tired ol' tropical fruit or mint flavors. they're very clever, these dentists.

Posted by xta at 2:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 12, 2004


this is going to be the most difficult post i've ever written. but i really feel like if i just do it... get it out there... i'll have less to hide. and maybe you can help me make a difficult decision, too.

for the last 5 or 6 years i've been struggling with alopecia areata. i have 2 distinct bald spots on my scalp, one at the back of the crown of my head, the other at the top of my neck.

i remember the day i discovered it. i was sitting on the couch, talking to my friend andrea, and i started playing with my hair... when suddenly i realized there was a smooth spot right under my fingertips. it was totally, absolutely, completely bald. i *freaked* *out* and scoured the internet for terrible diseases with hair loss as symptoms while andrea tried to console me.

it was quickly apparent that i had alopecia areata. not a "terrible disease" in the sense that it's going to kill me, but depending on the severity it can be a really traumatic experience. luckily the 2 spots i have are easily camoflauged (though i hate windy days and you'll always see me wearing a hat in a swimming pool), but other people are not so lucky. millions upon millions of people have alopecia, and it ranges from mild cases (like mine) to total loss of all body hair. given the range of severity, i feel pretty lucky, i guess.

still, i do go to a specialist for treatment... and so far nothing has really worked. i've tried steroid injections, topical creams, and home concoctions of essential oils. i do occasionally get some downy hair growth inside the bald spots, but it's nothing like the texture of the rest of my hair and the spots never get smaller. (the stuff that grows in is pure white and really, really fine. you can see one long strand of pure white hair at the bottom of the lower bald spot in the picture.)

anyway, the reason i'm posting this today is that i had an appointment with my specialist this morning. i really really really really really really really don't like going to see her. she's the leading alopecia specialist in the area, so of course she sees people a lot worse off than i am (there was one totally bald child in the waiting room today)... still, that's no excuse for the brush-off i feel i get every time i go to her clinic.

today she had a visiting doctor with her, and rather than discuss my treatment options with me, she discussed them with the visitor. i felt totally ignored, and if it weren't for the friendliness of her med students (who were actually the ones who administered the treatment) i probably would have blown up at her.

as i was getting the injections in my scalp (it had been years since we'd tried this, so i decided to give it another go) the med students were the ones telling me about the steroid, the concentration, and its purpose. they also told me something i'd practically already formulated for myself: that spots of alopecia that haven't grown back during the 5 or 6 years i've had mine will likely never grow back. and even if it does grow back, alopecians often lose what they regained, over and over again.

fun, yes?

so my head is a little sore today from the injections and i have to go back in 6 weeks for a progress check. i'm dreading the visit and am almost to the point where i'm ready to just deal with this on my own. there is no proven remedy for alopecia, and every time i go see this doctor we're just taking a stab (literally, today) at what might work... there is no guaranteed way to ensure hair regrowth.

since alopecia is an autoimmune disease some of my friends have suggested that maybe i go beyond just treating the symptoms and try another route... like a chiropractor, or hypnotism. something more holistic. there are a thousand different things i could try on my own, i suppose (if i had the cash). how much unengaged, non-personal --yet insured-- care does one have to endure before setting out to take their health in their own hands?

this is not a rhetorical question. if i had an unlimited supply of money i would be seeing all sorts of alternative therapists, but financially i just can't swing it. so do i stick with my current, subsidized doctor... or just give up?

Posted by xta at 1:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 11, 2004

 i'm a genius

well, a sub-genius, anyway.

the drain in the bathroom is now all hooked up. sexy, isn't it? i've never worked with PVC before, but it's pretty easy (and the fumes from the primer & cement really produce quite a nice high).

i could have put it all together without another trip to the home depot this morning, but it occurred to me that i might want to -at some point- actually take apart this whole thing (say, if an earring went down the drain or something). so today's purchase is that big wedding-cake lookin' thing on the left, right where the PVC meets the metal pipe. it allows the whole glued-up unit to disconnect (along with the similar nut on the other end) so i can retrieve errant jewelry if i need to.

now all i have to do is wait 2 hours to let everything cure and then i can run some water down the drain to check to see if it actually works. ;^)

Posted by xta at 2:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 10, 2004

 another productive day 

  • made a bacon/potato/egg/havarti frittata for breakfast.
  • opened the pneumatic nailer, went through the 15-minute 'break-in' period, and learned out to load nails in both the brad & finish nailer.
  • set up the miter saw & finished cutting baseboards for the bathroom.
  • used the nail guns to attach the baseboards to the wall. (this job is now done!)
  • did a little organizing in the garage.
  • went to home depot to try (for the 4th time) to get the proper fittings for the sink drain. (i think i finally succeeded, and will complete this project tomorrow)
  • talked to both my dad & my brother on the phone.
  • helped ray say goodbye to his old CRX as the new owner took posession of it.
  • going to raleigh to see the north carolina symphony in a few minutes!

    Posted by xta at 6:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
  • January 9, 2004


    here's one reason i love my job:

    > From: my boss
    > Date: Fri, 9 Jan 2004 09:50:47 -0500
    > To: christa
    > Subject: DON'T COME IN!

    ok, then. twist my arm.

    the forecast is for anywhere between 1"-3". the roads here in durham are fine (i was Good Girlfriend and took ray to work this morning so that he wouldn't have to ride his bike in slush), but apparently in rural wake county all hell has broken loose. one of my co-workers even called me from his cell phone to tell me how terrible the roads are near the station.

    so here i am, in my pjs, wondering how to spend the day. sex & the city? bathroom drain? sleeping with kittens?

    at least (knock on wood) the heat is still working. i did call and schedule the replacement of the package unit for next week, though. the gas company will lay the line from the street "sometime between monday & friday", and my heating contractor thinks he can start ripping out old ductwork on wednesday and be ready for the gas line by friday.

    which means it's going to be a couple of coooolld days in the house next week.

    Posted by xta at 10:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    January 8, 2004

     "So that's the reason you're 37 and single. It's the trouser suits. Who knew?" 

    someone brought shortbread cookies to work this morning and just abandoned them in the kitchen. shortbread has to be my absolute favorite cookie-type, and i'm pigging out on them in a bad way right now. a very bad way. lorna doone is one of my best friends.

    i really enjoy sweets that don't have any taste. do you know what i mean? shortbread cookies, simple pound cake and plain cake donuts. dry, vaugely sweet, buttery things. yum.

    oh hey, it's taco thursday!! i love thursdays, because after work i have to drive straight to divaville and this provides me with a great excuse to stop and get dinner at my favorite little mexican drive-through restaurant ("los portales"). i always get chicken tacos. sometimes i get 2, sometimes i get 3... but always chicken tacos. they're so damn good! the cute little mexican ladies load them up with this weird white cheese, fresh cilantro, and a salsa verde to die for. i'm sure i'm one of the few gringas that go to los portales, yet they're always very nice to me... our communication is basically limited to little smiles and nods since i don't speak any spanish, but i can still feel their love.

    before i go any further, single ladies in their 30s should read this article, then consider whether you should brand yourself as clorox or hemorrhoid cream. yeesh.

    last night turned out to be an immensely fun evening. i started cooking a nice dinner for ray & me (pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, green beans) when lisa called, asking for assistance with her car troubles. ray went down and helped, and then brought lisa back to share in our meal.

    dinner conversation turned to computers (what a shock) and lisa said, "let's go to the apple store!!" so we abandoned ray, hopped into spacepod, drove out to southpoint mall and played with lots of shiny things (new ibooks and powerbooks, ipods and cameras) and basically had a gay old time.

    then, out of the blue, mary appeared. she had been shopping at that organizer store and happened to walk by and see us playing with computers. so the 3 of us decided to go get a glass of wine at one of the nearby restaurants.

    i love totally spontaneous evenings! i had been planning on simply cooking dinner, watching "the west wing" and going to bed. and now i was suddenly drinking a glass of penfolds koonunga hill shiraz with 2 of my bestest friends. yay!

    listen, though. the bar we were sitting at was inside "maggiano's little italy", where it was dark & cozy with a woman at a piano singing sinatra tunes. very nice. but i began to wonder about the "little italy" part of the name when i noticed that practically everyone who worked there was 4 feet tall. i'm not joking. it started to freak me out a little.

    so, do you like the blog's new color scheme? i got to feeling a little creative this morning and just went nuts. those fall colors are my favorite.

    also, i'm now linking to a bunch of people that i've been reading for a long time. i feel like i'm suddenly legit after having spent months secretly spying on your lives. :^)

    Posted by xta at 2:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    January 7, 2004

     a hairy situation 

    do you read bitch? you should. it's quite good. i remember saying "amen!!" while reading one particularly fine article a couple of years ago, and i even emailed the author (one of the few men who occasionally write for the magazine) to tell him how much i loved what he'd written. we struck up a flirty email exchange. he was witty and lived in NYC. i lusted secretly from afar. so, subscribe to bitch! you might meet interesting men!

    several years ago i decided to have a little electrolysis done on my eyebrows, upper lip and chin. i went for a consulation, where i learned that for a whole month prior to your first session you cannot shave, pluck, or wax the area to be zapped.

    now, for a lifelong obsessive plucker this is an incredibly traumatic realization. the thought of having to go outside -in public- with scraggly eyebrows and stray chin hairs is almost too much to bear. but my constant hair-patrol had finally worn me down... i was too tired of spending inordinate amounts time yanking black wiry hairs from my face. it's exhausting. i was pooped. so i gave in. a month without plucking. i hid my tweezers, told my 2 co-workers (both female) what was going on, and went out in public as little as possible.

    until the opportunity arose for me to travel to new york. at this point i looked like a spider had nested over my eyes, but what the hell... no one knows me in new york.

    except for bitch-author boy. who of course was eager to meet me during my trip. heh heh. i tried putting him off with silly excuses, but he was not to be dissuaded. i finally agreed to meet him at the whitney museum. i figured with so much groovy art to look at he would easily be distracted from the hair farm on my face.

    apparently it worked, because he wanted to take me to dinner afterward. then after dinner he wanted me to come back to his apartment with him. which was confusing, because i figured he must have noticed my copious amounts of eye-fuzz during dinner... the salmon hadn't been all that distracting. maybe he couldn't get enough of my wild eyebrows. maybe he was a hair-pervert or something. i couldn't stop thinking about how weird i must look and how desperate he must be.

    at one point i actually apologized for my eyebrows, and i waited for what i was sure would be a fake nonchalance about not even noticing. and that's what i got... except not fake. he really hadn't noticed!

    when i got back to north carolina i sent him magnetic fields' "69 love songs" as a thank you gift.

    Posted by xta at 2:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    January 6, 2004

     really, quite a number of products are discussed below 

    last night i decided to stop by kohls to return several christmas gifts sent to me by geographically distant relatives. while i was aware that there are a couple of these stores being constructed in the durham area, i had to go online to discover that the closest operational one is at durant & falls of the neuse in raleigh.

    while my experience with all of the employees at this store was really good (especially the woman from the 'seasonal' department, who had to be called in to help with the return of some truly hideous bobble-head santa candlesticks), i have to say that the store as a whole was in a total state of disaster. call the governor and send the national guard... it looked like a tornado hit it.

    there was crap lying all over the dressing room floors. there were shelves upon shelves of balled-up, wrinkled clothing (not to mention the dozens of shelves that were just totally empty). and words cannot even begin to describe the state of the rug aisle in the housewares department.

    that said, it still appeared as if the quality of the stuff at kohls is slightly superior to that at target, may lightning strike me down. kohls seems to limit itself to clothing, housewares and jewelry, while target really is just a glorified wal-mart what with the cleaning supplies, DVDs and pharmacy. not that i'll stop shopping at target... god, no. but i'll be anxious to see what these newly-constructed kohls stores will be like, and if they quickly descend into the state of chaos that enveloped the one in raleigh.

    by the way, with my kohls credit for the returned items i succumbed to my continuing quest for comfortable, sturdy support and bought yet another bra.

    when i got home there were piles and piles of boxes on my front porch that had been mis-delivered by UPS. they were for our next-door neighbor, who we hadn't yet met. so ray & i lugged them over and rang the doorbell. (ray's courage was in no way swayed by the realization that the return address on the boxes was a division of amway.) the 2 people who answered the door (mom sheila and son-in-law ron) were very nice and immediately expressed their condolences for the tree in our roof last september. sheila said she heard it happen and it was so loud that she thought something landed on her house. talking about it with her caused all-too-real flashbacks of that horrid THUD! that i'll never, ever forget.

    oh! i should mention that one of the boxes on our porch was actually for us... a christmas present from my immensely creative cousin joy. she put together this really cool gift "basket" for us: she melted an old record album (christopher cross - "sailing" :^) into a really groovy dish, and placed inside the most incredibly delicious tea i've ever had, some spice cookies, a beautiful star ornament and a yummy candle. thanks, joy!!

    after dinner i made a point of watching A&E's show, airline, since rebecky mentioned it in her blog the other day. i enjoyed the program and i even caught ray sneaking a peek or two at it.

    i do like reality shows, but this one really made me wonder (more so than others) just how much of what i was seeing was affected by the presence of cameras. the segment with the 3 flight attendants laughing and playing games with everyone in the cabin seemed just a little too silly and lighthearted. (though i do know from previous experiences on southwest flights that the employees do get goofy from time to time.) there were instances of customer service conflict, though, that did seem pretty real. (a manager kept demanding a birth certificate from the mother of a supposedly less-than-2-year-old boy, in order to prove that he was still young enough to fly for free... that was a pretty tense scene.)

    after that and a late dinner, i went to bed. when i woke up this morning one of my pillows was on the floor. i looked at it and said "why are you down there??" sometimes i really wonder what goes on while i'm sleeping. a dozen or so years ago, i guess, i used to find pillows on the floor pretty often. but not latetly. what does it mean?

    finally, ebay is back in my life. i don't know how it happened. wait, yes i do. i typed in "funky necklace" and the rest is history. in the last week or so i've won these three, for a total expense of $35.50 ... that's not bad, is it?

    except that i'm also buying one from a local jewelry designer tonight. it was displayed in my hairdresser's salon when i was last there, and the designer is finally done lengthening it for me. when i get my hair cut tonight i'll pick it up. it has gorgeous brown beads with an antique square gold locket as a pendant. i'm not telling you how much this one costs.

    Posted by xta at 10:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    January 5, 2004


    for years, i've been a client of ruth's. i met her years ago (1998?) when my then-therapist recommended i go see a vocational counselor. i was making myself miserable in a job i hated, and i needed some concrete direction (more direction than the therapist could offer with his "how-did-your-father's-absence-cause-you-to-get-here" schtick).

    ruth is a 'life coach'. that sounds terribly touchy-feely, i know. what she really does is help people figure out what they want out of life, and then helps them create a plan to get it. she started out as a vocational counselor, but quickly migrated into her own coaching business shortly after i met her. because i was one of her very first coaching clients she cut me an amazing deal on her fee.

    coaching happens by phone and email. i have probably seen ruth less than 10 times in person since i've known her; i feel like she's one of my best friends but i am hardly ever around her. the phone calls with ruth happen weekly, and she's also open to talking whenever i "need" her. (i've needed last-minute help/advice every now and then, so it's nice to know someone is just a phone call away when you need some grounding.)

    she's helped me find my ideal job. she's helped me come to terms with how money affects my life and happiness. she's helped me figure out what kind of man i want. she even helped me nail down the requirements i needed in a house. (let's not forget that she was the one who even made me realize that i could buy a house!) in short, she's been my source of inner strength for a long time. i feel like i've grown immensely since our relationship began.

    but over the last few months our phone calls have become almost gossipy. chatty. i catch her up to date on what my mom is up to, what's going on with the people in my office, and how things are with my boyfriend. she also tells me about the things going on in her life. of course, whenever i'm facing a big issue we do talk it out, but those instances are becoming more and more infrequent.

    so this morning, during our weekly call, i suggested to ruth that maybe we should call it quits. both of us cried a little (and i'm getting teary right now, just recalling it) but she agreed that i've achieved all of my goals, and there's little reason to keep going. (especially when i can use her monthly fee towards the purchase of my new furnace. i tell you, she really did instill in me a lot of fiscal responsibility! :^)

    i'm really going to miss talking with ruth. she has a wonderful way of making me see complicated situations in a totally clear, simple light... and i'll hate not having her vision just 7 phone buttons away. but hopefully i've learned enough during my time with her to be able to come up with my own answer to "what would ruth suggest?" questions that i encounter.

    we have 2 more calls scheduled. she's asked me to prepare a kind of 'retrospective' of all of my accomplishments while i've been with her; that's going to be a very emotional thing to do.

    i think that after our final phone call, i'm going to paste her motto --"PLAY BIGGER"-- to my computer monitor. or write it on a sticky note and post it on the bathroom mirror. or something. i just don't want to forget the way she makes me think.

    Posted by xta at 12:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    January 4, 2004

     happy birthday, mary! 

    that's me, opening what is probably the 184th bottle of wine of the evening.

    mary's birthday party was last night, and i had the time of my life. probably because i got fall-down drunk, blabbed my mouth for hours and laughed myself silly watching ray & scott air-guitar to KISS.

    miraculously, i don't have a hangover today. ray kept pumping various vitamins and supplements into me when we got home, and i think that helped.

    even though i don't have the pounding headache, i still only got 4 hours of sleep. i've been dozing on and off all day on the couch. it's 6pm and i'm still in my pajamas and ray's getting ready to grill bacon-wrapped hot dogs for dinner.

    so much for working on the drain in the bathroom. i'm glad i was productive yesterday, 'cause today has amounted to a big pile of nothing.

    but it was worth it.

    Posted by xta at 5:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    January 3, 2004

     spring cleaning 

    sure, it's not spring. but it sure damn feels like it. what is it, anyway... 75 degrees?? the windows are open and the house smells like comet and wet swiffer.

    thanks to lisa's kitchen project i got inspired to clean the house today. the north end of the house is pristine now. downright sparkly!

    the biggest difference is that my giant tool chest is now out of the kitchen and back in the garage where it belongs. i feel like i've had tools in the kitchen since i moved into this place. there has been constant construction in the house since we arrived, and the fat layer of dust i just removed from every flat surface is a testimony to how much work has occurred in just a few months. but i finally feel like i don't need to keep those tools that handy anymore.

    i started to re-assess the drain installation in the bathroom again today, but i fear it's going to take me another trip to home depot to straighten it all out. i've decided to forego the cheap plastic p-traps and go the hardcore PVC route, but i need a couple of slip joints and some elbows to make it all fit properly. but i'll try to conquer that tomorrow.

    i also mended a bunch of clothes this morning that had holes, drooping hems, or missing buttons. i'm feeling very domestic.

    i've really been very productive today. it makes me feel extremely good. if you know me at all, you know i hate clutter and dirt. blech. i like things in order. tidy. these last few months have been very hard for me, what with a tree in the roof and all. cleaning makes me feel like i have some control over my environment. i'm feeling happy today.

    so i'm thinking about throwing a big birthday/housewarming party on (or near) my birthday. this would give me the goal i need to finally start doing some serious decorating and painting. i just ordered two books to provide some inspiration (thanks to joe's thoughtful amazon gift certificate), so my mind is already starting to churn.

    how 'bout it? you want to come to a party in late february??

    Posted by xta at 4:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    January 2, 2004

     the heating saga continues 

    i think our heat is broken again.

    i felt a little chilly last night but didn't think much of it. i thought i was just tired. but this morning i felt cold air blowing out of the vents, though the thermostat was still reading "68", right where we had set it. by looking at the thermostat it seemed it was still working (previously the temperature in the house quickly dropped below 68 when the cold air started spilling out), but who knows. the cold air confuses me.

    i looked more closely at the thermostat just before i left this morning and i saw that the unit was set to "cool", not "heat". which is curious, because neither ray or i have touched the damn thing. so i flipped it back over to "heat" but i still felt cold air as i was walking out the door. hrm.

    i guess we'll see what the situation is when i get home.

    thankfully my final bid for the replacement of the whole unit came in today, so i feel like i have all the information i need to make my decision.

    the final bids: (drumroll, please)
    carolina heating & cooling: $9200
    accu-air: $7785
    griles: $5800

    so i just called troy griles and told him he's got the job. part of me worries that i shouldn't be picking the cheapest bidder, but since he's gotten such high recommendations from my persnickety neighbor i'm going to tell myself not to worry too much.

    here's a picture of the gas pack i'll be getting. isn't it beautiful? you can click the picture to learn more about it, if you find that kind of thing interesting.

    as a bonus, i'm looking forward to not having to deal with freon. i'm also looking forward to spending $4k less than the highest bid.

    initially i was unsure how i was going to pay for all of this. griles will help me finance through the gas company (who is coming out next week to lay the gas line to the house), but they charge, like 12% interest. so i thought about just putting it on my credit card, but that has 9.9% interest which still seemed kind of high to me. so i called my credit card company just before christmas and asked if they'd lower the rate for me... and they said yes. to 7.9%. so i figured i had it made.

    then i got a credit card solicitation in the mail offering 5.9%. i usually just throw those offers right in the trash, but this was timed right and caught my eye. so i just called them and got hooked up: 5.9% on all purchases, cash advances, balance transfers... plus i earn 'world points'. which are a type of frequent flier miles, i think.

    so there you go. terribly exciting stuff, i know. only joy is on the edge of her seat.

    speaking of joy, check out her new blog!

    i have to share this tip with all of my curly-haired friends. this is the only product i've found that will keep my hair in decent shape during this dry weather. i use the entire 'curl friends' line now... shampoo, conditioner, gel... everything. it's expensive, but worth it. i would love to not have to use any sticky product in it at all, but i can only do that when it's reasonably humid outside. i kind of want the hot humid summer weather back, just because my hair loves it.

    plus my furnace would love to take a break, i'm sure.

    i wonder if griles would cut me a deal on repairing the current outage (if there really is one) now that i've promised him $5800.

    Posted by xta at 10:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    January 1, 2004

     guest entry by my mom 

    My vist here in Anguilla is winding down. I wanted to go to Scrub Isalnd
    today, but the seas have been too choppy the last several days. Scrub
    Island is a seashell haven. But oh, well, I did find Paradise Beach
    today--and it IS. Paradise, that is!!

    Impressions of Anguilla:

    GOATS everywhere. They often tether them, but I saw a goat proudly
    bounding down the "highway", dragging her tether, a gaggle (or is it herd?)
    of goats behind her! They roam the entire Island (country) freely--except
    the very "heavily" populated areas, but that wont stop them, I'm sure, as
    they will literally eat anything. I got out of the car the other day to
    talk with someone, and felt a tugging. Looking down, there was a goat,
    happiply munching on my skiirt!! Goats here provide meat and milk for the
    diet, fertilizer, and hides for many objects of use. They are low
    maintenace, and everyone seems ot know to whom particular goats belong.
    Thye will climb on anything, go any where, even roofs to eat the fruits off
    the toips of trees. Sicne they roam everywhere, it becomes necesary to be
    ware of them, as much as being aware of "traffic"

    "Business".. You can drive a "country" road and find shops , in between
    houses. Pubs as well-- Also restaurants. there seems to be no rhyme or
    reason for thier placements, but it seems not to matter either. This
    couintry is 16 miles long--if you want a thing, you just diove to that place
    to get it. Stores that were originally named something such as "the tackle
    box" keep their names, even when the stores "morph" into somehting else
    entirely--in this case, the tackle box became a camera and gift shop. But
    stores have no resembalnce to anything like oin the states. they can be the
    front of a ramshackle house. There is no sales or income taxes here--but
    everything must come in by boat, and has heavy duties attached to it--approx
    25% of it value. Clothing is expensive. Food is terribly, horribly
    expensive. A pint of milk costs what a gallon buys in the states. There
    are few if any vegetables, and little variety. Goat is on the menu in most
    restaurants, as is chicken (which also ranges freely--I wonder how they
    collect the eggs?). You can drive down a country coountry road (looks like
    a gravel driveway, but it is actually a raod), and find signs for Tailor
    shops, recording studio, etc.. I think this may be a way for people with
    nice houses to help to afford the "mortgages". Many different curriences
    are used here. One must keep exchange rates in your head, though grocery
    stores automatically cal;culate the toatal in all the curienceis. Mnay
    peole go to St Maarten ot shop, because they prices, even with handling fees
    for the ferry boats is a lot cheaper.

    Housing. Itty bitty shacks to luxurious multimillion dollar houses.
    There are no Mortgages here-(but the banks are beginning to encourage that
    premise) -you pay as you build, which explians why there are so many
    unfiininshed houses here. And they are made of concrete and cinder
    block--hurricaines, you know.

    You drive on the left side of the road here. Watch out, Las Cruces! I
    wonder how long it will take for me to "right" myself??? three cars
    constitute a traffic jam, except in the Valley, where as many as twenty cars
    can be seen on the raods.

    Yoga and their form of martial arts is available here--but if a Martial Arts
    instructor were living on the Island, he could make a good living, I

    The beaches! Jimminy! I do not know if I can describe these. Rob has been
    to Hawaii, so he may have a clue. Anguilla is sided by both the Atlantic
    and the Caribbean seas. so the beaches differ radically. Sometimes they
    differ just in a mile or two distance. Snorkeling is good ionly in several
    places, but equally well on eihter sea. Ther is a resort here that costs
    $6000 a day. NO, I didnt add too mnay zeros! There are some that are only
    $85 a inght--wiht a 3 night minimum. All the beaches are public, so on mater
    which you want ot visit, it cn be done. If tihs is the high season, the
    busiest time of the year, then the beaches would be even less crowed at
    other times. i am surprised that the beaches are ont more crowed than they
    are. However, St Maarten 's beaches are Heavily populated. St Maarten also
    has topless beaches, so you see that there . Here, it is illegal, but it is
    still done, tho ont nearly as freguently. I saw a huge, heavily musceled
    inky black many with long dred locks roaming the beaches of St Maarten. He
    had on some sort of string. Looked like a long knit "cap". My oh my. The
    water is clear clear blue., with a light brown demarcation close to the
    shore--where the sand is churned up when the waves crash against the beach.

    So much more to say, but I am convincing everyone to take the rest of the
    day off and go exploring. My camera officially died, so I will have to put
    the snapshots in my head and have ya'll come back here with me one day. For
    no matter what the above may sound like, this is a terrific place to
    visit. I am fortunate to have been able to make this trip. I am like
    Dorothy, though: "There's no place like home, Toto"


    Posted by xta at 8:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack