Hey Jude!


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Have I ever told you I have a pet cat?  Well, it’s true.  Sort of.  Okay.  I don’t actually have a pet cat, but I have a cat who thinks he is my pet.

The cat belongs to my neighbor.  His name is Jude.  The cat.  Not the neighbor.  I’m not sure why his name is Jude.  I don’t know if it’s as in, “Hey Jude.  Don’t make it bad,” or if it’s as in, “1 and 2 and 3 John, Jude and Revelation.”  I’ve asked him why his name is Jude, but he didn’t answer me.  The cat.  Not the neighbor.  The neighbor is a woman.

Anywho, this cat has adopted us, and he is needy.  He wants to be petted constantly, and he must have my full attention at all times.  He and the Goose compete for that.  Luckily, the cat lives outside, so if I want to ignore him, which is all the time, I just go inside.  Unfortunately, the Goose follows me in.

I am highly allergic to cats.  My eyes swell up, and I have troubles breathing.  My throat itches, and my neck turns red.  I’m quite a beauty.  So, I avoid cats whenever possible.  The problem is, they don’t avoid me.  Cats love me.  I am a cat magnet.  They love to rub up against me.  They love to try to sit in my lap.  They love my very essence.  At least someone does.

Pepe Chihuahua hates Jude.  He wants the cat to die.  Actually, I don’t guess he really wants the cat to die, because he won’t even attempt to touch it.  When he sees Jude, Pepe tears off after him like he is going to eat him.  However, Jude usually will only run for a minute before he stops.  As soon as he stops running, Pepe stops chasing.  He never gets closer than 10 feet away from Jude.  Maybe he’s allergic too. 

Jude took an interest in us as soon as we moved to the camp.  He began coming around to see what we were doing.  He then started sleeping on our cars.  I tried to convince him that under the tire was a nice warm spot, but he didn’t fall for it.  He’s a smart cat.

Jude follows us all around the camp.  If we dare try to walk, he is right there, trying to rub up against our legs.  (More precisely, my leg.  I’m telling you.  A magnet.)  Now, if you’ve never tried walking while a cat is trying to rub up against your leg, you should try it sometime.  It’s loads of fun.  It does not work nearly as well as it did in that Friskies commercial back in the day.  That cat was obviously trained.  Who knew?

When my best friend, Willow, and her family came for a visit, we decided to have a cookout at the camp’s fire circle.  We were all sitting around on the benches by the fire, and we had our hot dog buns, condiments, fixings for s’mores, etc. on the benches.  One by one, the items started falling off onto the ground.  We wondered what was going on.  It was Jude.  That stupid cat was rubbing up against the benches, and his tail was sweeping the items off and onto the ground.  I fussed at him and told him to go home.  He rubbed up against my leg.

Now, Jude has discovered my porch swing.  I put cushions on it, and apparently, he believes they were put there for him.  I find him curled up there constantly.  He has grown so used to being there, he just looks at me when I tell him to move.  Then, I send my killer Chihuahua out to take care of business.  Usually, Jude is so scared by Pepe that he doesn’t come back for 5 whole minutes.

Jude has gone as far as to try to come in my house a few times.  It was at that point that I told him I would kill him.  Okay, I wouldn’t really kill him, but I would do permanent damage.  Alright.  I couldn’t hurt him, but I would send my attack dog after him.  That’d teach him.

While I can’t stand this cat, Mr. Everything has taken a liking to him.  He talks to him every time he goes outside.  He pets the cat and rubs the cat and loves the cat.  Jude just lets him do it, until I come out.  Then, Jude wants to be near me and my magnetic personality.  Stupid cat.

Mr. Everything informed me today that if our neighbor ever wants to get rid of Jude, we’re taking him.  I said that was fine, as long as he did not come in my house.  Jude looked at me as if to say, “We’ll see about that.”  Somehow, I’m afraid he might be right.  -Al

There are very few people that I would wake up extra early for.  Victor is one of those people.  I didn’t even change his name for my blog, because he is that special.  He’s just Victor, and he has to be Victor.  There is no other name for him.

When Victor texted yesterday and said he would be in Jacksonville overnight, I knew we had to go.  There was no other option.  We must see Victor when we can.  He lives in Boston now, so Victor sightings are rare.  This was our chance, so we went.  He offered to drive to us, but he had to head to Orlando today.  Driving to High Springs would have put him terribly out of the way, so I told him we would meet him.  I looked up breakfast restaurants in the outskirts of Jacksonville and picked one.  A plan was set.

I got up at 6:15 this morning.  Maybe that’s not early for you, but it is for me.  We are homeschoolers and self-employed, remember.  We are night owls, so life doesn’t usually start before 8:00 AM at our house.  But for Victor, it was worth it.  I got both kids up by 6:30.  They got up willingly on the first call, because, after all, it was Victor.  We drove an hour and a half to Jacksonville to discover that morning traffic stretches to the outskirts of the city on I-10.  We finally took an exit close to the restaurant and were going to go the back way.  By this time, the torrential rains had started, but it didn’t matter.  It was Victor.

As we sat through the traffic light for the fifth time, I watched cars sloshing water all around us.  In case you didn’t know it, the south side of Jacksonville apparently has a major drainage problem.  The roads were more than ankle deep in water.  It was a good thing we were driving a Suburban, because we had to get through.  We had to see Victor.  On the seventh cycle at the light, I said to Mr. Everything, “You know this isn’t normal, right?  Normal people don’t get up on a Wednesday morning and drive an hour and a half to see a friend.”  “I know,” he said.  But, we both knew it was for Victor.  Soon, we made it to the restaurant and were met with his smiling face and huge embrace.  It was all worth it to see Victor.

I’m not exactly sure when Victor came into our lives.  It was sometime in maybe 1997.  I’m pretty sure the Beetle had already been born.  Victor started attending our church, and somewhere along the way, we became friends.  That Christmas, we hosted an ornament exchange for the young adults.  Everyone was supposed to show up with a wrapped ornament to use for a white elephant gift exchange.  Victor showed up 45 minutes late with a 1984 Disney ornament.  It was probably one of the ugliest ornaments I had ever seen.  It still hangs on my tree every year and has a place of honor on one of the front branches.  After all, it is from Victor.

The next year, our group of friends decided to meet for lunch at Rose’s parents’ house.  Victor was invited.  He showed up with another guy and introduced us as his friend.  We accepted this stranger, because, after all, any friend of Victor’s was a friend of ours.  After lunch as we were chatting, I asked the man how long he and Victor had been friends.  He looked at his watch and said, “About 2 hours.”  And this is why we love Victor.

A few years after that, Victor blew out his knee at camp because he was playing too hard with the kids in the mud pit.  When he had surgery and needed a place to stay, many of the single women at his church quickly spoke up and said he could stay with them.  The preacher was not happy about that.  Once when we saw him in Orlando, he got so excited playing tennis on the Wii with my kids that he popped the Goose in the head with his controller.  That is still her main memory of him.  He loves life and lives it.  That’s another reason we love Victor.

Victor is unique, to say the least.  He never, ever meets a stranger.  He is popular beyond words.  If you don’t believe me, just watch him walk into any church he’s ever attended.  People line up like he is a rock star.  I mean, we just got up early and survived a flood to drive an hour and a half to see him.  Victor must be pretty special!

If you have a Victor in your life, you know what I mean.  You’ll drive any length to see him.  You’ll get up early.  You’ll go out in the rain.  Because, after all, it’s Victor.

To those who say I’m “just" a stay at home mom:

I can’t count the number of times I have heard, “Oh, you’re JUST a stay at home mom?”  Other versions of this would be, “Oh, you don’t go to work?” and my all time favorite, “Oh, that’s right.  You don’t work.  You stay at home.”  For years I bottled my frustration when I heard these words.  Lately, I don’t hear them as much since I work from home.  Apparently, working from home makes me a more valuable citizen in the community.  The joke is on you, though, because, though I do have a “real” job now, I still consider myself a stay at home mom.  Last time I checked, I was, indeed, at home, and I was, indeed, a mom.

On behalf of my fellow stay at home moms, I will set a few things straight for the rest of the world.  You may think I need to be more positive in my blog, so here goes:  I’m positive you are clueless if you think stay at home mothers don’t work.  (Tee-hee, but I still like you!  The “southern” in me won’t let me be purposely rude, you know.)

Don’t get me wrong.  Going to work is a noble cause.  I know your job is important, and you are probably one of the most important people there.  Well, so am I.  I would bet your employees will never go to counseling and blame everything on you.  My subordinates may very well end up in counseling, and when they do, I can assure you my name will be mentioned.  In fact, I will be the root of all their problems.

At your job, you probably make decisions and make plans.  I do too.  The happiness and well being of at least 4 people depends on the plans I make.  While your meetings may not happen if you don’t plan them, the lives of several people rely on me.  Trust me on this.  While you may have your Google calendar pulled up on your computer at work, I have my great big calendar in my head, and it tells me who needs to leave by 8:50, who has to be picked up at 9:15, who has to arrive at a class by 9:36, etc.  The world around me would come to a screeching halt if I was not available to answer the daily question of, “What are we doing tomorrow?”

At your workplace, I would bet the future of the company depends on you.  Really.  I don’t mean that sarcastically. (Sarcastic?  Me?  Never.)  I would bet the boss will be unhappy if you don’t land that next account because it means big bucks for the corporation.  At my workplace, the future of the world may very well depend on me.  Oh?  I’m being overly dramatic, you say?  I would bet Adolph Hitler’s mother and Martin Luther King Jr.’s mother would disagree.  This can go either way, people.  Good or bad, my little darlings will affect the world around them.

I would bet you are sometimes responsible for arranging catering for your job.  At the bare minimum, you sometimes order lunch for everyone.  I share your challenge there.  I answer the question of, “What’s for breakfast? (Lunch?  Supper?)” every day.  I would venture to say that my co-workers would starve without me, because they certainly wouldn’t fix it for themselves.

Do your coworkers depend on you to cloth them?  No?  Then, I’ve got you beat.  My 16 year old would wear the same underwear everyday for a week if I didn’t intervene.  (Sorry, Beetle.)  The nasal well being of anyone in our area depends on my job performance.  Beat that!  (Okay, I must say here that the Beetle would not really wear the same underwear for a week.  He is actually a very clean child.  Well, his clothes are clean.  I won’t talk about his room.)

I’ll bet, at your job, you get bonuses and time off for good behavior.  You win on that point.

I wonder what the job description of a mom would look like in the newspaper?  It might be:

Wanted, tireless female worker who knows how to cook to please the pickiest of eaters.  Must be able to clean and needs to know how to get bubble gum out of hair.  Will be responsible for feeding, clothing, loving, nurturing, teaching.  Must be well versed in laundry, stitching up clothes and possibly dogs, cleaning and more.  Needs to be familiar with math from simple counting through trigonometry so assistance with homework can be offered.  Must be able to fix any boo-boo and heal any hurt even when the sufferer can not tell where it hurts.  Should be able to counsel, advise and guide individuals of all ages.  There is no pay except for a rare hug.  Pay decreases as seniority increases.  Candidate should not expect raises, bonuses or gratitude.  Time requirements are 168 hours a week for the next 65 years and/or for the rest of your life.

So, as you realize that my job as Head Chef and Bottlewasher at my house is an important role, I have a few more things for you to ponder:

1. Think of the last time you heard someone say, “I wish my mother had spent less time at home.”  Uh-huh.  That’s what I thought.

2. Did your own mother work outside the home?  If not, did you think less of her as a person?  Did she lounge on the couch eating bonbons all day?  If your answer to either of the last two question is “yes,” you need to talk to your counselor about that.

3. If it wasn’t for the lowly stay-at-home moms, how would the class parties and field trips at your child’s school ever get done?  (I need to add “party planner” to my job description above.)

4. Who do you call to pick up your child from school if she is sick and you have an important meeting to attend?  Chances are, it’s someone who stays at home.  (Oh, I forgot “taxi driver” in the job description!)

5. When is the last time you called your mother and thanked her?  Go ahead.  Call her.  I’ll wait…. While you're talking to her, apologize for calling her "just" a stay at home mom.

On behalf of the stay at home moms everywhere, I accept your apology.  Just don’t let it happen again.  Love, Al

My co-worker, Alice, and I have flown together before.  We have tried many strategies to keep other people from sitting beside us.  In the early days, Alice would take the window, and I would just take the middle seat.  That wasn’t too bad, since at least I knew I could touch her without getting cooties.  I don’t like to sit between two people I don’t know, because you never know.  Even though I knew she was safe, the middle seat got a little claustrophobic, especially on long flights.  Then, we began sitting with Alice at the window and me on the aisle.  Our theory was that since we both are carrying a few extra pounds, no one would want to squeeze in between our voluptuous bodies.  We were wrong, as we soon found out.  On the first flight where we attempted that, a man happily squeezed right in between us, even though there were still plenty of seats available.  He seemed really glad to be there.  Creepy.

Anywho, our next attempt was to sit apart but slide a little closer together so that middle seat looked non-existent under our butts.  Then, we would act like we were sick.  Every time someone would pass us, we would take turns coughing, sneezing, rubbing our noses with the backs of our hands, etc.  That didn’t work either.  A grandmother with a baby sat between us.  I personally nominated her for grandmother of the year.

So, on this flight, we decided to take a new approach.  We began chatting incessantly about anything we could think of.  Then, we began giggle.  Then, the full laughter began, follow by the snorts.  Who would possibly want to sit between two fluffy middle aged women who were giggling together?  It almost worked this time, because no one volunteered to sit between us.  We were pretty close to the front of the plane, and everyone had walked past us.  No one even hesitated like they were considering squeezing in.  The flight attendant closed the door, and we thought we were home free.  Then, I heard the flight attendant say, “Sir.  There’s a seat up here.”  Crud.

I’m not sure what our next attempt will be.  I’m thinking of working up a sweat so I will am bright red and dripping.  Surely to goodness, no one would want to sit by me!  (Just ask my family.  They usually stay as far away from me as possible after I’ve exercised.  I’m a sweater and not the argyle kind.)

The man who is sitting between us seems nice enough.  He is meek and mild and skinny. (Thank goodness.)  Actually, for those of you who ever watched Conan O'Brien...I'm pretty sure the impression he used to do of a nerd was based on this guy.  (But he is pretty nice...just an odd little duck.)  The one alarming thing about him is that he is reading a book about China and bombs.  I don’t want to talk about it.  I’m still on the plane.

All in all, this flight has been an adventure.  Before the flight took off, the guys 2 rows behind us made the decree that their Vegas trip had officially begun.  They asked ten minutes into drink service when last call would be.  They wanted to make sure they didn’t miss.  They are very loud but weren't bothering me.  It was when the F-bombs started flying that I had reached my limit with them.  I keep waiting for the woman who is sitting beside me with her children to launch herself over the back of her seat and rip their mouths off.  If she does, I’ll be sure to get a video so you can see it.

You know the flight is loud and bad when a trip to the lavatory is a welcomed break.  Typically, I avoid anywhere that I can play a solo game of Twister, but in this case, I might just go back.  At least it is quiet in there.  I have a few observations about the airplane lavatory that I would like to share for posterity's sake.

First, and this is directly mainly to the boys among us - if you sprinkle when you tinkle, please be neat and wipe the seat.  Seriously.  Some of us have to sit there.

Second, when you flush a toilet on an airplane, be sure to close the lid first.  If not, you may very well blow your ear drums out.  On an unrelated note, the next time you see me in public and call my name, don’t be offended if I can't hear you to answer you.

Third, when you are in the lavatory and hear a loud bang, don’t panic.  This happened to me.  I came out of the restroom, half expecting the back of the plane to be missing.  I was really hoping that half would include the potty mouths.  Too bad.  They were still there.

For the sake of journalistic honesty (yeah, right), I must also reveal that it really stinks when you visit the airplane lavatory and then return to your seat only to realize that the butt of your pants is wet.  I don’t want to discuss it.

Be sure to make a note of my lavatory research results.  They may save you or a loved one some anguish (or deafness).

On a final note, I would just like to confirm that Americans are, indeed, getting fatter.  And in case you didn’t know, I am an American.  

Ironically, to finish our flight, the flight attendant just honored the veterans on board and sang "God Bless America."  I agree, "God bless us, every one."     -Al

In some ways, I think I might be the opposite of a control freak.  In fact, I’d just rather hand the control over to someone else.  In some ways….

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m certainly not subservient.  I don’t bow to anyone, and I don’t always even compromise easily.  I like to have things my way.  I just don’t like to have to be the one to plan my way.

In case you are thinking I just humbly do what anyone tells me to, think again.  Throw the word “mandatory” into any statement you say to me, and you will see how quickly I walk in the other direction.  Just ask the homeschool group that I used to belong to back in the day.  They began calling their annual membership meetings “mandatory.”  I never darkened the door of their meeting again.  

Tell me I “have” to do something, and watch my feathers ruffle.  No, I don’t have feathers, but I grow them quickly if you give me an order.

I’m not talking about THAT kind of control.  I have no problem being in control in those situations.  I mean the control of planning.  I just don’t want to have to make the decisions.

For instance, I love to travel.  My motto is, “Have suitcase, will travel.”  (Actually my motto is, “I tried my best; cut me some slack,” but that’s a different topic.)  Anywho, I love to travel.  However, I don’t want to plan the trip.  I just want to show up and be told which bus/plane/boat to get on.  If I have to decide, I become a nervous wreck.

I’ve visited 9 countries in 21 days.  No problem.  I’ve taken a ferry from a big island in the Bahamas to a tiny cay.  No big deal.  I’ve been to Haiti and Mexico and Grand Cayman and Jamaica.  Piece of cake.  The common factor of those trips is that I didn’t have to plan them.  I just showed up.  That’s how I prefer to roll.

So, this week, I’m facing a trip.  It’s a big trip.  At least, I think it’s a big trip.  I’m flying to Reno for a conference.  Tomorrow, I will head to a hotel in Orlando to spend the night.  Then, on Thursday, I hit the road, er, uh, I mean, I hit the air.  I’ll be gone away from my beloved husband and children for a week.  Gee, I’m really going to miss them. (Insert happy dance here.)

For the most part, this trip is planned for me.  I travel with a friend/co-worker of mine.  As usual, she chose the flight, and she chose the hotel in Orlando.  Lest you think I’m complaining, I’m not.  Actually, I’m really glad she did.  It meant I didn’t have to decide.  When we get there, we’ll get off the airplane where we’ll be greeted by her aunt and uncle.  They will chauffeur us, feed us and entertain us until the conference starts.  It’s a trip made in heaven.

I am so relieved that I won’t have to decide anything while I’m gone.  Really, I break out in a nervous sweat just thinking about deciding.  I’m a grown woman (Ugh.  I’m an adult), and I get nervous over booking a hotel room.  Silly, isn’t it?  I birthed two babies and have managed to keep them alive for quite some time.  I graduated college with a 4.0.  I ran a few businesses where I hired and fired employees and did a pretty good job.  I cared for inmates, I mean foster kids, in a children’s home.  I’ve been through a whole lot, yet booking a room makes me nervous.  Go figure.

Once the flight and hotel were booked, I thought I was home-free on the planning stuff for this trip.  Then, Mr. E and I began discussing the fact that it might be better for me to rent a car and turn it in at the airport instead of leaving our car there for a week.  All at once, I was supposed to find and book a rental car.  This is actually something I’ve never done before.  I’ve never driven a rental car either.  I guess I won’t mention that when I pick it up tomorrow.  They might charge me an extra "newbie" fee or something.

I told Mr. Everything that renting a car was above my pay-grade, but he just rolled his eyes.  I began searching online to see what I could find.  My shirt grew wet with sweat.  (Well, that’s just nasty, isn’t it?)  I walked away and found laundry and other things to do to distract myself.  If I can’t work something out, I just procrastinate.  That’s my game plan.

Later, I worked up the nerve to look at the car rental sites again.  I had a talk with myself, and I said, “Self." (That’s what I call myself.)  I said, “Self.  You can do this.  You are 40 years old, and you are smart.”  My self reminded me to stop saying I was 40, because we don’t like to talk about that.  After that pep talk, I thought I could do it, so I headed to the couch, AKA my office, to once again tackle the ‘net.

When I went in the room, Mr. Everything said, “What time do you want to pick up the car?”  He was booking it. (!!!)  The 16 year old that is trapped in this 40 year old body (40. Ugh.) smiled a huge smile and said, “You’re booking it for me???”  He said he was.  I threw my arms around him and gave him a big old kiss.  This is why I love that man.  He never tells me anything is mandatory, and he doesn’t make me make decisions when I don’t want to either.  I need to add “Knight in Shining Armor” to his description of Everything.  He, once again, rescued me.  Now, the only decision left is what’s for lunch tomorrow.  Any suggestions?