Classic: Nobody Likes Team-Building

One of the absolute best things about working from home is I am no longer subjected to the dreaded “team-building events.” I estimate 90% of people hate these things, but we’re all forced to endure them. And let me tell you, extreme introverts hate it more than the less introverted can possibly imagine.

This is a Classic Fermented Fur post from ten years ago. How many of you can relate?

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It is a well-known fact, to those who know it well, that I hate those participatory, team-building, touchy-feely, business seminars. Let me be absolutely clear about this.

I hate them.

Loathe. Abhor. Despise. Detest.

I do not like them. And I need a bigger thesaurus.

And yet that is exactly what I’ll be doing next Tuesday. All day.

We recently re-started our work with our ActionCOACH (yes, that’s how they spell it), which is a worldwide business coaching network. Our coach is an unbelievable dynamo. She’s from Australia, and she does not have a low gear. Think “ADHD hummingbird on crack.” She rock climbs, surfs, bungee jumps, kayaks, and (for all I know) participates in triathlons with entire populations of third world villages perched on her shoulders. Still, she is always impeccably dressed, has lovely – if very pointy – shoes, perfectly sculpted nails, and a dark tan.

As a part of our return to the ActionCOACH fold, we’re being subjected to participating in a Team Alignment Day. I understand the importance of strengthening our team relationships, and finding ways to get along and work better together, because (unfortunately) this is one of our ongoing struggles.

I’d just really rather not be there.

As the Practice Manager, though, there’s simply no way out of it. I must attend, participate, and pretend to be happy about it. I do have enough experience from years of front desk work, pretending to like people, that I will likely pull this off, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’d rather have all my skin peeled off, strip by strip, and fed to rabid jackals.

Tell me if this agenda sounds like fun:

(Setting, a meeting room at a local hotel. The room will be too chilly, I won’t get to sit where I want, and there will not be nearly enough breaks.)

8:00 AM: Welcome and overview

Welcome team

(Yeah, yeah. Yippee.)

Why we are here today

(Because somebody made us be here. Oh, and they’re paying me $15/hour.)

Why to invest in a business coach

(Because we’re clueless, and you’re that damned persuasive)

Introduce business coach

(Hi. We’ve met.)

8:10 AM: Introduction

8:20 AM: General Principles of Success

(By now, I already have to pee, and I want a cigarette. Brain cells may already be starting to atrophy.)

8:45 AM: Setting RAS: What I want out of today

(My answer: More smoke breaks, free lunch, and an early dismissal. An open bar would also be appreciated. And a cab ride home.)

9:00 AM: Game

(I do not like games. And these “games” are never, ever fun.)

9:10 AM: General Principles of Success (Continued)

(Oh, goodie. The 25 minutes of this we’ve already had weren’t nearly enough.)

9:45 AM: Break (15 minutes)

(Translation: Two cigarettes and one quick potty stop. I will probably return to the meeting room out of breath, my pants half zipped, and toilet paper stuck to my heel.)

10:00 AM: 6 Keys to a Winning Team

(If she can just help me get them to stop whining and do their damned jobs, I’ll be happy.)

10:15 AM: Strong Leadership

(Easy. Get a bigger baseball bat team motivation device.)

10:30 AM: Common Goals (Created prior to Team Day)

Business Vision

Business Mission

2007 Goals

(I’m pretty sure that last agenda item should read either 2008 or 2009 goals. Of course, if I re-write my 2007 goals, I could make it look as if I actually accomplished some of them.)

11:30 AM: Rules of the Game

Business Culture Statement (Created on day with Team)

(We’re a holistic veterinary practice. Our vision and mission from the 10:30 segment, and our culture statement, are all very new-agey, all about respect, empowerment, trust, healing, and harmony. Sounds lovely in theory, very tough to pull off in practice when you want to slap someone silly for remaining an idiot after all your generous attempts to de-idiot-ize them.)

12:15 PM: Game

(Perhaps I can pretend to have diarrhea, and thus get an early start on lunch.)

12:30 PM: Lunch (45 minutes)

(Lunch. Is. Not. Included. I am not amused. I shall have to venture several blocks to Chili’s, which I normally wouldn’t mind, but 45 minutes is not enough time for a dozen people to eat lunch, take care of necessities, and get back to the meeting. Especially if they take a detour through Bismarck, which I just might do.)

1:15 PM: Action Plan

5 Ways Profit and 4 Ways Business Building Strategies (Created on day with Team)

(“Created on day with Team” means “We’ll all talk simultaneously and spout off a bunch of random, inconsistent, impractical, off-topic nonsense, and Lori will write it down and attempt to form it into something that won’t make us look like absolute vapor-brains.”)

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2:30 PM: Support Risk Taking

(How risky would it be to make a break for the door right now???)

2:40 PM: 100% Involvement/Inclusion

(I can only promise 75% involvement. Any more than that and my brain begins to swell. I shall have to fake the other 25%.)

2:45 PM: Break (15 minutes)

(See “9:45 AM.”)

3:00 PM: IVVM (Dream Builder)

(I have a huge problem with this part every time. This coach is all about attracting wealth and success, much like The Secret, and simply saying “I will achieve/have/experience this by this date” and it will happen. This has thus far not proven true for me. The other part of the problem is that they encourage our personal dreams and goals as much as business ones. Since all my personal goals and dreams involve things like a remote northwoods island full of dogs, a wildly successful writing career, and never, ever having a “real job” again, I’m not sure my goals are exactly compatible with dreams for the business. With work, I have a hard time looking ahead to next month, let alone 5 and 10-year plans.)

3:15 PM: Top 7 Things Learned Today

(1. Next time, claim to have leprosy.)

3:45 PM: Team WIFLE

(Do you know about WIFLEs? It stands for “What I Feel Like Expressing Is.” You then express whatever needs expressing. Work-related, personal, weather, good news, concerns, whatever is on your mind, always concluding with, “and that’s what I feel like expressing.” Everyone then says, “Thank you, Lori.” I cannot spontaneously WIFLE. When we do this at staff meetings, I have to mentally compose my WIFLE the night before. This is one of those spectacularly lame “getting to know each other as individual human beings” things.

Hey. Remember me? I’m an introvert. That’s all you need to know.)

4:15 PM: Conclusion: Time to Get Into Action

(“Time to get ready to take a nap.”)

At 4:30, I get to exit the parking lot, leaving behind skid marks and a huge, billowing cloud of dust.

Naturally, no Team Day is complete without a bunch of personality profiles and “what I think of our team and business” stuff. We had to fill out and fax in all that stuff this week. I’ve done about 688 of those personality profiles over the years, and guess what? I’m an introvert. (See Team WIFLE) I’ve always been an introvert. I will always be an introvert. Anyone who knows me at all is aware of the fact that I’m an introvert. They also know I’m highly anal-retentive, non-confrontational, and very unpleasant when pushed past my tolerance levels. They’ve seen the results.

Still, I am tired of a lot of the intra-team behaviors that we haven’t managed to change or eliminate. If by some wildly improbable chance this helps fix some of those, it might be sort of worth it. Maybe. Possibly.

I will be ten times more tired at the end of this Alignment Day thing than I ever am after a regular work day. All this people stuff sucks the energy right out of me. It’s a ton of effort and extraordinarily draining for an introvert to pretend to be able to function with normal people, non-stop, for an entire day. That’s why I was so thrilled when we were finally able to assign me to practice management full-time and get me the hell away from the front desk forever.

It may be somewhat more uncomfortable than usual this time around, though, since at least some of the staff probably sees me as the Wicked Witch right now, following last week’s careless screw-ups and subsequent Consequences. We’ve been saying for ages, “Hey, one more screw-up or one more crappy attitude and there are going to be some Consequences, gosh darn it!” Yet until then, no Consequences ever manifested. So maybe it’s not so strange that people actually were surprised when it happened. But I know how to be the Bad Guy now, when I have to be. I don’t like it, but I like warning people about the same errors and attitude issues till my tongue goes numb even less.

Maybe the cure for being an introvert is just getting too pissed off to remember that you are one.

 

Classic: Brody The Mouse-Barker

Some of you might remember Brody, our dearly departed Great Pyrenees, patroller of the yard and guardian of all the things. These classic posts took place ten years ago at our house in Minnesota.

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Rodent Rescue Part One:

I’m not at my most mentally acute at 5:25 a.m. Or at 6:25. Or, truthfully, 7:25. This morning at 5:25 I was in the shower when I heard Brody barking outside. Admittedly, Brody does bark outside a lot. Every day. Until I go outside and chase his fluffy Pyr-butt into the house before the neighbors call Animal Control.

But this was not his usual guardian-type “Brrrrrrrr-ROO-ROO-ROO!” It was a constant series of short, staccato, emphatic yips, and he sounded a bit agitated. The last I’d seen him, he was near the pool, an area in which he doesn’t tend to spend a lot of time due to the risk of accidentally dampening his paws. Brody isn’t a fan of anything moist, unless it is frozen and piled in drifts in the yard.

I told myself I’d just quickly finish my shower, and then go see what his problem was. Then I got thinking, “What if the big idiot fell in the pool?” He’s never been in there, so he isn’t aware of the stairs at the shallow end as a means of exiting the dreaded aquatic death trap. I began picturing a 100-pound, soaking wet, massively furry, coat-blowing, freaked-out, pissed-off Great Pyrenees who would take until September to dry and decided I’d better get out of the shower and see what was going on.

I wrapped a towel around myself and ventured out to the sliding glass doors, where I observed Brody lying by the pool, front paws draped over the edge, staring intently at something in the water, and barking like a broken record. Clearly, further investigation was in order. I hopped back in the shower to rinse off, then threw on some clothes and headed outside.

It wasn’t hard to figure out what was inspiring Brody’s bark-fest. There was a mouse (or possibly a vole; I don’t really know the difference) swimming in the pool. Actually, he was drowning in the pool. He’d paddle frantically for a few seconds, slip beneath the surface, then fight his way back up. I had to help him!

I’m an animal-lover, obviously. I go out of my way not to kill things, at least as long as they stay in the Great Outdoors where they belong. If this mouse (or possibly vole) were pooping in my silverware drawer, I would immediately set a death-inducing trap to put an end to his intrusion once and for all.

I looked around for the pool net and didn’t see it. I did see the pole on which the net belongs, but the net was nowhere to be found. I stuck the pole in the water, and Mr. Mouse tried to climb up on it, but it was too narrow and slippery, and he kept falling off.

Next, I grabbed a beach towel that was lying near one of the Adirondack chairs, and tossed that onto the surface of the water, thinking he could scurry up onto that and I could pull him out, without having to risk actual hand-to-mouse contact. He did not see the carefully thought-out logic and refused to approach the floating towel.

Finally, I picked up a stainless steel bowl, waited for drowny-mouse to get close to the side, and scooped him to safety. I deposited him in the mulch near the fence, hoping Brody didn’t pounce and eat him. That would have been bitterly ironic after my heroic efforts to keep the little rodent alive. Brody continued to monitor the pool for wildlife, and I watched the mouse (or vole) huddle by the fence and begin to groom himself back into composure.

This was a lot for me to accomplish by just after 5:30 in the morning! Plus, it totally blew my morning routine, and we all know how I thrive on routine, especially in the early morning hours when independent thought is far more difficult than it is later in the day.

I hope Mr. Mouse (or Vole) returns my good deed by staying out of my pantry and silverware drawer. If he is foolish enough to pack up his entire rodent family and move in, I will have no qualms about smushing all their little heads in my decidedly not humane mousetraps. I have rules. Just stay out of my house, and we’ll get along fine.

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Rodent Rescue Repeat:

Something suspicious is going on in the rodent world. Once again, before 5:30 a.m., Brody discovered a mouse swimming in the pool. I’m pretty sure it’s a mouse now, because I think voles have shorter tails. I probably need to research that. But if these guys would just stay the hell out of my pool, I’d be spared the necessity of answering this crucial question, which would be fantastic because I really don’t have the time.

This mouse was in much better shape than the one yesterday (if, in fact, it is a different mouse at all), apparently having gone into the drink not too long before he was discovered. Tom had returned the pool net to the patio area, since yesterday it had been downstairs somewhere so he could repair some tears in it.

I scooped mousey-boy into the net and began raising him out of the water. You’d think he’d be grateful, but was he? No, he leaped out of the net and back into the water (which made Brody eight different kinds of crazy) several times before I basically dipped and flung him in the general direction of the fence, where he rustled through the grape vines.

Now I have serious questions. What is going on with these mice? I haven’t fished a mouse out of the pool all summer, and now I’ve done so two days in a row. I have several theories.

  1. This was the same mouse, and he either has suicidal tendencies or was brain damaged in his near-drowning yesterday and returned to the pool as the result of a post-traumatic episode.
  2. These mice were contestants in some kind of rodent reality show, the object of which is to last the longest in the giant, chlorinated ocean. 5:00-5:30 a.m. is prime time for mouse television viewing.
  3. These are teenage male mice, and this is their version of Jackass.

Butch: Hey, Ralphie, bet you can’t swim across that pool, bite the dog on the nose, and then swim back.

Ralphie: Sure I can, Butch, just watch me!

(Splash, paddle-paddle-paddle, gasp, sputter, glug)

Ralphie: Hey, Butch, little help here?

Butch: (Coming from the bushes) Snicker, snort. What a moron.

  1. For some reason, Brody has become the nemesis of all the neighborhood mice, and this is an assassination attempt. They are trying to lure him to a watery death, and the Suicide Swimmer is bait.
  2. They are not mice at all. They are lemmings.

I suppose it could also be a well-planned diversionary tactic, keeping me focused on the back yard while hordes of mice are moving into our laundry room. I hope that’s not it, because I really don’t enjoy tracking mouse-trap casualties on the whiteboard in the kitchen (much). At one point a few years ago it read: “Lori, 11: Mice, 0.”

Ultimately, I just hope Brody’s bladder doesn’t explode. He’s so focused on patrolling the pool for mice that I think he’s forgetting to go out in the yard to take care of necessities. Which, of course, could also be part of the mice’s global dog-destruction plan.

I would feel a lot better if I could decide if these mice are really smart or really dumb. That would help me narrow down the possibilities.

 

 

 

 

Classic: Risky Research

The following is a post from my old blog, Fermented Fur, written in February of 2009 when I was doing research for my first book. Some of my fellow authors have been discussing research, and–as usual–I have a unique, slightly warped view of things, so I decided to find and share this post. Authors, is this how you feel when you research?

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(Note: The scenario below took place only in my own imagination. So far. Really, this couldn’t happen. Right???)

Heading out to the garage, I am, as usual, blissfully unaware of my surroundings. I know this isn’t very street-smart. Experts are always saying people should be especially alert while going to and from their cars, whether at home or in a public lot. But there’s way too much going on in my head, so I’m generally busy up there pondering imponderables and composing future blogs, which is also one of the primary reasons I fall down so much. That, and the drinking, which isn’t a factor at this particular moment.

Approaching the corner of the garage, the lid of one of the trash cans raises up a few inches, and I see a pair of shifty eyes and hear, “Psssssst. Hey, over here.”

Realizing that it’s unlikely that Oscar the Grouch has taken up residence in my trash can, I am somewhat suspicious. Most people I know don’t lurk about in trash cans.

Clutching my keys, which experts also claim can be an effective self-defense weapon, I ask, “Who are you, and what do you want?” Because if there’s somebody hiding in your trash can, these are things you need to know.

“I’m Blaster625, from the Anarchist website. I hear you have some questions about incendiary devices.”

“Wait, how do you know that?”

“I have my sources.”

“I was doing a lot of research yesterday, and visited a lot of websites. Some of which, I must say, were more than a little disturbing. Are you from one of them?”

“Maybe. So, I hear you need to blow up a bus.”

“No, Blaster, I most certainly do not need to blow up a bus. I’m doing research for a book I’m writing, and my bad guy is going to try to kill someone by blowing up his bunk in a tour bus.”

“Yeah, sure, right, whatever. About blowing up this bus, though…”

“I do not want to blow up a bus. It’s for a book.”Ballot Box Bunny melon bomb

“Look, if you’re going to keep saying ridiculous shit like that, I can’t help you.”

“Fine! I don’t want help from some wacko anarchist who hides in trash cans and says corny stuff like ‘psssst.'” And what are you, about 15? Shouldn’t you be in school or at the dermatologist or something?”

“No school today. It’s an in-service day for the teachers. I mean, the establishment.”

With that, I stalk back into the house, telling Mr. Blaster he’d better be gone when I come back. I’m thinking I need to get the mat-splitter from the dogs’ grooming utensil basket, as it is the closest thing to a deadly weapon I own. I haven’t read any expert opinions on the viability of a mat-splitter being used in this manner, but it seems like a safe bet.

Making my way back to the garage, mat-splitter tucked in my coat pocket, I’m much more aware of my surroundings than I had been earlier. I notice a brief flash of movement by the garage.

“Look, Blaster, I thought I told you to get lost.”

Suddenly, I am blindsided and find myself sprawled on my back in the icy driveway, a large, masculine figure pinning my arms to the ground. Ordinarily, being pinned under a large, masculine figure has the potential to be of significant interest, but in this case the black body armor is spoiling the mood.

A second riot-gear-clad form steps from behind the garage and says, “Good work, Corporal. Search her for weapons.”

Hauling me to my feet, the Corporal quickly locates my mat-splitter and confiscates it. “What’s this?” he asks. “Some sort of torture device?”

“My dogs think so,” I reply.

“Should’ve known. You anarchists are all sick and twisted individuals.”

“It’s for getting mats out of the dogs’ undercoat, you moron.”

“A likely story. Should I bag it as evidence, Captain?”

The Captain considers this for a moment and says, “Sure. Can never have too much evidence against anarchists and terrorists, I always say.”

I snatch my purse off the ground and whip out my cell phone. The Corporal slams me back against the garage and grabs it from my hand. “Won’t do you any good, sister. We froze your service.”

“What the hell??? Are you people out of your fucking minds? I’m trying to go to work, here.”

The Captain stomps over to me and leans way too far into my personal space. “We know what you’re up to, lady, and you’re not going to get away with it.” He hasn’t actually pulled the assault rifle from the holster over his shoulder, but he looks like he’s thinking about it.

“What I’m up to? Trying to get in my car and go to work?”

“Do you deny that you just met with a member of an anarchist group known as Blaster625?”

“That kid? Well, he was hiding in my trash can when I came out here a few minutes ago. I told him to get lost.”

“Was that before or after he gave you the instructions for building a pipe bomb to blow up a tour bus?”

“He didn’t give me any plans. I don’t want any plans!”

“Uh huh. Then why were you visiting all those bomb-building websites yesterday?”

“As I explained to Blaster-Boy, I am writing a book, and my bad guy is going to try to off my lead male character using an explosive device planted in a tour bus.”

“That’s what all the terrorists say.”

“I think I’m going to have to ask to contact a lawyer.”

“Suspected terrorists don’t get lawyers. We just send you to Gitmo.”

“No, you don’t. George isn’t president anymore. They’re shutting that place down.”

“Well, I haven’t gotten a memo about that yet, so I’m still going with ‘lock ’em up and throw away the key’ till I hear different.”

“This is ridiculous! I swear, if Ashton Kutcher climbs out of my trunk and even whispers the word ‘Punk’d,’ we’re going to discover just how effective mat-splitters are as an instrument of torture. I can’t stand him anyway, except for when he’s playing Kelso. All I did was Google some sites so I could make the bomb part of my plot sound plausible.”

“You did do that, and you also wrote to a couple of bomb squads and asked them about jurisdictions and investigative process, as well as how to blow up a bus.”

“I never asked how to blow up a bus!”

“Did too.”

“Did not.”

“Did too.”

“Jesus H. Fucking Roosevelt Christ on a Crutch, what is wrong with you people??? I never asked how to blow up a bus.”

“Did too.”

“Arrrrrggggh. Look, do you want to search my house? You will find nothing there even remotely incriminating.”wile-e-coyote-tnt

“Already did.”

“You did? When? How? How did you get past the dogs?”

“Last night, and your dogs are real nice. Probably not terrorists. They like cookies.”

“Might’ve been the last cookies they ever see. So if you didn’t find anything, why are you here?”

“Can’t be too careful.”

“Look, do you want to see the novel I’m writing? Would that help at all?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. What’s it about?”

“What difference does that make?” Sigh. Blank looks from the Corporal and the Captain. “Fine. The male lead is a musician, and someone is trying to do away with him, and so the male and female leads have to figure out who it is so they can live happily ever after.”

“Sounds like a romance. I don’t read them girly-books.” This, from the Captain.

“Oh, for crying out loud! You don’t have to read it, you asshat! I’m just trying to prove to you that I am really writing a book.”

“Well, okay. Are we going inside so I can visit with the doggies again? That little gold one is real cute. He drools kind of a lot, though.”

“No, I am going to get my laptop out of the car and show it to you.”

“I kinda wanted to go inside. It’s cold, and I have a couple more cookies for the dogs.”

“We are not going inside.”

“Fine.”

I approach the car, with the Corporal hovering over my shoulder, and retrieve my laptop from the back seat.

The Captain says, “Corporal, I want you to open up the computer. Don’t want to give her any chances to try something funny.”

The Corporal looks worried. “What if it blows up? I don’t want to get exploded.”

“That’s the kind of funny stuff I’m talking about. Not that it’d be funny. No, not funny at all, blowing up a federal officer.”

“I really don’t want to open it.”

“Oh, just open it, you big baby. You’re wearing body armor and that Darth Vader mask thing. You’ll probably be fine.”

The Corporal doesn’t look reassured, but does as the Captain ordered.

Nobody gets exploded, and in a few minutes, they are perusing my novel-in-progress.

“I was right,” says the Captain. “This is a girly-book.”

“Yes, it is. I am a girl,” I point out.

“Kinda hard to tell in that coat.”

“Go to hell.”

“Now, that’s not nice. We’re just protecting America, you know.”

The Corporal has been reading avidly, scrolling down at considerable velocity. “Are they going to have sex? ‘Cause it sure sounds like they want to.”

“Yes, they are,” I say. “But I’m not up to that part yet. I’m still working on the bomb thing.”

“When you get to the sex part, can I read it?”

“No, not unless it’s published and you fork over full retail price. Now, are you two going to go away? I’m going to be late for work. And give me back my mat-splitter. Darwin’s been running in the mud, and his britches are becoming a mess.”

The Captain gives this some thought, reluctantly hands back my canine torture device, then says, “I guess we’re done here. You don’t seem to be an imminent threat. But we’re watching you.”

I sigh. I’m free to go about my business, but now I’m on some sort of Federal Watch List or something. I’m disconcerted to learn that my home, cell phone, computer, and – apparently – my dogs can be compromised so easily just because I clicked on a few web links and sent a couple of emails.

I’m starting to think I should just write porn and leave the suspense/thriller genre to the terrorists.

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Classic: Bunnies Should Be More Durable

Flashback to 2010 and recall the lovely, gentle, wonderful, gentle-giant, puppy-and-kitty-loving Ozark, a Great Pyrenees/Lab mix, and his unfortunate interactions with bunnies. In his defense, he probably just wanted to play. But since this was not the first time such a thing occurred, maybe he should’ve figured it out by now.

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Seriously, does this look like a bunny-mauler to you? Either of them, but particularly the one on the right.


Maybe my days off aren’t quite as boring as I think. You can decide.

I woke up at around 7:15 a.m. and wandered out to the kitchen for the customary and metabolically necessary first cup of coffee. The first thing I saw was a note by the coffee pot. Aw, how sweet! My honey-bunny left me a note! I wondered if it would be of the romantic or naughty variety. Or both.

None of the above. This is what it said:

“There is a wounded rabbit out there somewhere. After Ozark dropped it on the deck and I got him in, it was still there for a few minutes, then gone. But I think it was “damaged.” You probably want to go out with them and be prepared.”

See? Neither romantic nor naughty. Upsetting and anxiety-inducing. I had to ingest enough coffee to feel functional, then go search for a damaged-and-probably-dead bunny. Bunnies are not very durable.

Actually, dead is sad, but I was more worried about finding him not-quite-dead, because then I would have to figure out what to do about it. My options were:

a) rush to work and let them try to save it (which never works; see above mention regarding bunnies’ lack of durability)

b) let it suffer and hope it dies soon

c) whack it with a shovel

I do not like any of those options.

While I was in emergency caffeine consumption mode, Ozark came over for his morning stopsignskritch-fest. Lovely, except I quickly discovered his entire head was crawling with fleas.

Apparently, a whole bunny-load of fleas realized their meal ticket was about to be punched, and migrated onto the huge, fluffy, delicious (if spleenless) creature that was currently attached to the bunny. By his teeth.

I also must assume that if the other dogs aren’t infested yet, they will be within about 37 seconds. Awesome.

I found two doses of Frontline Plus for 45-88 pound dogs. I put 1.5 doses of it on Ozark, and put a few drops on the other two, hoping to stem the tide of infestation until I can get more Frontline at work tomorrow.

I also realized I can’t take Ozark to work tomorrow while he’s a walking flea-circus. The owner of Ozark’s puppy, Murphy, would go batshit insane. For a veterinarian, she’s unusually upset by fleas.


Scene we will not witness tomorrow. Sorry, boys!

I went outside and quickly discovered the deceased bunny between the deck and the steps. He was missing large portions of fur. And skin. His eyes looked sad. I watched to make sure there was no blinking.

There was not.

He’s not only merely dead, he’s really most sincerely dead. (Read that part using your Singing Munchkin voice.)

I got a shovel and transported Poor Dead Bunny, who was in full rigor mortis, to his not-quite-final resting place. I am glad tomorrow is trash day.

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Ozark, deceptively innocent-looking bunny-muncher

Ozark has spent an unusual (for him) amount of time out in the yard today, lying in wait. He is hopeful that a search party consisting of the Poor Dead Bunny’s friends and family will show up. He is anticipating another velveteen chew toy.

Given the flea situation, I’m content to let him stay out there a while.

 

That Time I Might Have Been Replaced By An Alien

These two posts appeared a few days apart in 2010. The only significant changes since then are I do cook and bake more often, I now prefer rum to wine, I no longer apply eyeliner to go to the store, and we did escape Minnesota for the more hospitable clime of eastern North Carolina. Oh, and no aliens or clones showed up to help us pack. Stupid aliens.


If It’s Not Aliens, It’s Something Just As Bad

 

Dear FFFans,

Try not to panic, but I have reason to believe Lori has been abducted and replaced by a simulacrum.

Erth

Creatures of interest in possible abduction

Earlier this morning, she professed her determination to remain on the Sofur, reading smut on George-the-Kindle all day. In fact, last night, she had this conversation with Tom:

Lori: I worked my ass off today. I’m not getting off the Sofur at all tomorrow if I can help it.

Tom: Do you really have to get off it? You’ve got the computer and George right there.

Lori: Yeah, I love it. It’s like Command Central.

Tom: So, why get up?

Lori: (points to the right) Because the bathroom is over there. (points behind) And the kitchen is back there. (pauses, considering) But seriously, if I had a mini-fridge and a potty-couch, I’d never have to move.

She is, obviously, quite committed to her Sofur Slugdom.

Yet this morning, she did some disturbingly out-of-character things. Before 10 a.m., she put on jeans. While it is true many people leave the house in their plaid flannel jammie pants, she never does that.

She also applied eyeliner, because if she doesn’t have on her terribly dated eyeliner, she claims to be unable to recognize her own face.

Then, she put on shoes. Shoes.

She drove to SuperTarget and began buying (brace yourselves) ingredients. She has a powerful, nearly pathological aversion to ingredients, because those imply an intent to cook, which she avoids at all costs. Yet there she was, with her red shopping cart, cruising up and down the aisles, selecting ingredients.

She is now, as we speak, in the process of making vegetable bison soup. And chocolate chip banana bread. Both. From. Scratch. Read those last three words again. It’s the only way you might start to believe them.

I don’t know how she’s going to accomplish this, but must assume by the end of the day there will be a huge cauldron of soup (because she can’t make a small batch) and a loaf of chocolate chip banana bread.

It’s terrifying, actually.

On top of that, she was seen emptying the canister of the vacuum, implying that she may actually make use of it sometime today, probably when BroZarkWin are outside. Why would she do that? She’s developed the inability to see dog hair on the carpet, much to Tom’s everlasting disappointment. But the evidence speaks for itself.

Are you hiding under the bed yet? Should we suspect a doppelganger? Alien possession? Pod people? Some sort of personality-altering brain worm?

If you weren’t already prepared to barricade yourself in the basement, you should start collecting boards and nails and enough supplies to last you till this situation is resolved. (There’s no telling who might be next!)

And the most unsettling part of the story is about to be revealed.

She did not stop at the Liquorette on the way home, despite having barely a single glass of wine left in the fridge. True, there is bourbon, but still. Wine is yummy. She loves wine. Currently, Alice White Lexia, to be exact. Yet she did not stop to visit Tim and Bill and Young Guy and Woman With The Long Hair, or any of her other Liquorette friends.

If this bizarre behavior continues, I’m going to count on you to mobilize the Men In Black. There’s no way Tom is going to do it. He’s going to think this impostor is a definite improvement.

The fate of this household – or possibly the world – is in your hands.

 

 

All Clear

For those of you who took Tuesday’s advice and boarded yourselves in the basement and are reading this on your smart phones, it’s safe to come out now.

It seems I entered some sort of fugue state a few days ago, and while there I – or someone impersonating me – made a full cauldron of soup (Yes, a “cauldron.” What else could it be?) and chocolate chip banana bread.

She/It also vacuumed copious amounts of dog hair from the carpet, and did not guzzle any wine. I know – it is still freaking me out a little bit.

I’m still unsure if it should be attributed to alien abduction or a doppelganger, but the point is I’m back now. I’m sure you remember me. The cynical, self-centered, apathetic, lazy, wine-swilling, reclusive bitch with all the dogs. Yep, that’s me.

I was probably returned because I had to go to the dentist yesterday, for what was the final time, regardless of the opinion of the staff at Otsego Dental. What alien or doppelganger wants to sit through a “full mouth debridement?” Probably none, and definitely not the one who had gained temporary control over my brain.

Hell, I didn’t even want to be there. I don’t know how long a regular dental cleaning takes. I can, however, testify that a full mouth debridement takes an hour and a half, and leaves your gums looking and feeling as if you’re suffering from an advanced case of scurvy.

This is what happens when you have not had your teeth cleaned in eight years. The procedure is apparently only slightly less involved than excavating a pachycephalosaurus from a 75-million-year-old fossil bed. I can definitely confirm that it uses many of the same tools.

So, I have returned. The best part about the whole situation is that there is still plenty of soup and some chocolate chip banana bread left. Whoever was handling things in my absence sure made some yummy stuff.

And if she’d show up again for a while when it’s time to bulldoze junk out of my house so we can get ready to sell it, that’d be awesome, because that’s one part of the whole “Leaving Minnesota” adventure that I’m dreading.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled, non-basement-hiding activities.

 

Classic: Fun For the Frozen

This post appeared on Fermented Fur nine years ago today. Since it’s currently approaching 80 sunny degrees here in eastern North Carolina, I’m enjoying the contrast of what February used to be when we lived in the Frozen North.


When you both have the day off, and you’ve been in sort of a rut, it would seem to be a good thing to say, “Hey! Let’s go out today and do something fun!” There are three reasons why this is not true.

  1. This is Minnesota
  2. It is February
  3. I am neither a polar bear nor a Siberian husky

When going anywhere involves donning a coat that is essentially an Everest-rated sleeping bag with sleeves, just so you don’t freeze and start dropping appendages in various parking lots, your options are somewhat limited.

Yes, many Minnesotans thrive on winter activities, such as ice-fishing (two problems, ice and fishing), snowmobiling (don’t have one, don’t want one), cross country skiing (talk about excessive physical exertion), or skijoring. This involves dogs pulling you on skis, like a sled dog race without the sled or the diptheria. However, my dogs would take off chasing a squirrel or something and drag me into a river.

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They look like they know what they’re doing. I’d be face-down being dragged through the underbrush.

Bowling. This is technically a physical activity, and I avoid those whenever possible. However, it does take place indoors, and there is the possibility of snacks and adult beverages, so I’m occasionally willing to consider it.

Still, there are a couple of problems. Bowling alleys have started to get all militant, at least around here. It’s hard to find a place where you can still eat and drink at your lane. They want you to go back behind the rail to the area designated for eating and alcohol consumption. This adds way too much inconvenience (walking), and when combined with the physical exertion inherent to the activity, drops bowling way down my list of desirable “fun day” activities.

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The bowling alley closest to us isn’t there anymore. (Try not to choke on the irony…) A few winters ago it got so much snow on the roof that it collapsed. Winter in Minnesota. Sigh.

If you choose the bowling option, it will burn maybe four hours of your day before your bowling arm is limp with painful exhaustion and you can’t drink any more and still get home without a DUI.

The Mall. I am not a recreational shopper. I haven’t even set foot in a mall in several years. When I need something, I go to the nearest retail establishment that has it, make the purchase, and come home. Walking around a local mall might kill a few hours, but even if you don’t buy anything it will still cost some money, since lunch is a requirement. Otherwise I could have just stayed home and not bought stuff on eBay.

As you are probably aware, Minnesota is the home of the Mall of America. I’ve lived here for 13 years, and I have been there several times. But no more than necessary, believe me. It’s an easy way to kill the better part of the day, if you are so inclined, but there’s a lot of walking. Like, Appalachian Trail amounts of walking. And since I don’t shop for fun, it would be a lot of totally unrewarded walking.

Factor in lunch, and little to no alcohol since the Mall is 45 minutes away, and I’m seeing an outlay of cash that is not providing sufficient amounts of fun.

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Oh, and there are people there. Lots of people. Many of them children. Another valid reason to avoid MOA.

Going Out To Lunch: Simple concept, right? But we have the time/money ratio dilemma again. A nice lunch (because I ain’t going to Denny’s), with drinks, is going to cost at least $50, maybe as much as $75, depending on whether we have appetizers and the number of beverages consumed. If there are significant drinks (which in my book determines the quality of any lunch date), we have to be close to home. I mean like close enough that we could walk if necessary, which leaves all of maybe 2 options, and “going out” somewhere that you could still see your house from the parking lot is kind of pathetic.

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Rockwoods…close to home and super delicious

Even the nicest yummy, drink-filled lunch close to home is going to kill perhaps two hours of a long, dull day.

The Casino. On the surface, this would look like a stupid idea. When you don’t have a lot of money, why would you want to go out of your way to give it all to a bunch of happy, smiling Ojibwe? Allow me to explain our reasoning.

When Tom asks if I want to go to the casino, I never want to.

Tom: Wanna go to the c–?

Me (cutting him off): No.

He likes to throw this randomly into any conversation or period of silence, just to see if I’m paying attention.

I am.

It’s about an hour and twenty minutes to the casino, and the drive is boring as hell. The drive home is even more boring, because it’s usually dark and I can’t read without the map light, and that’s just annoying. But after I run the other “day of fun” options through my head, I sometimes give in.

We never take money we can’t afford to spend, so it’s usually around $100. A typical day goes something like this. One of us does well in the morning, cashing out machines for more than we put in. The other one can’t hit anything to save their life. We consume many free Diet Pepsis, then we break for the buffet lunch, for which we have a coupon for a free or discounted meal thanks to the players’ card.

After lunch, our fortunes usually change. The person whose luck was good in the morning is suddenly swearing at machines or wandering around muttering, looking for a machine that seems like it would like to give us a bunch of money. The other one is now on a roll, making up the deficit. At some point, we go, “Oh, hell, the dogs have got to be starving by now.” Then we cash out and go home with almost the same amount of money we had when we got there.

True, sometimes we end up spending everything we brought, but not usually. It tends to be a break-even day, and we’ve killed 8-10 hours, and had lunch. No drinks, though, because the casino is on Ojibwe land and is dry. Unless you’re staying the night and keep a bottle in your room. Which we’ve done. But not recently.

grand-casino

It’s like a teeny-tiny, alcohol-free Vegas. Sort of.

Since we have such a long drive home, though, day-trips to the casino can’t be a drink-fest, so the whole “dry” thing is fine. I can always drink when I get home.

I don’t care what you say. You never, ever leave the mall with more than you had with you when you got there, unless you have a gun and a ski mask and a competent get-away driver.

Since I have none of those, and the whole “running away” part is too much physical activity, I’ll stick with the casino.

 

Classic: Innocent or a Diabolical Plot?

In November of 2007, we welcomed a three-year-old golden retriever into our pack. He was under 60 pounds, emaciated and neglected, saved from that life by golden rescue. We named him Darwin.

DarwinPortrait

Despite his trauma, he was the sunniest, bounciest, happiest, cutest golden retriever I’d ever seen. He was also extremely ornery. This Classic Fermented Fur post describes when I pondered that he might actually have an evil agenda.

Though I describe him as “barely sixty pounds” in the post, which first appeared exactly ten years ago today, he was still recovering. He eventually chunked out at around 85 pounds, which was a little too much, despite his enthusiastic fence-running, but he was healthy and happy, and we sure did adore him.

darwinleap

Darwin didn’t know how to not be enthusiastic about every single thing.


Darwin doesn’t play fair. He is some kind of canine nuclear reactor with the ability to take a finite number of cute doggie molecules and fuse them in an out of control chain reaction, creating an infinite Cuteness Output.

He’s a smallish golden retriever, but he has about a million dogs’ worth of adorable packed into his barely sixty pounds.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a direct correlation between Darwin’s Cuteness Output and the Orneriness Quotient. If I could find a way to break the link between those, he’d be the perfect dog. I imagine it’s some sort of evolutionary defense mechanism. In fact, the more I think about it, the cuteness is probably multiplying in proportion to his orneriness because it’s much more difficult to bash a really, really adorable dog in the head with a boot. Clever, Darwin, very clever.

It’s impossible to throw him off the bed when he gets all curled up just where I need to be and looks at me and flutters his tail. When he has his head on the pillow, too, I can’t even muster up a good glare.

It’s impossible to refuse to pet him when he’s draped over the back of the love seat, toy in his mouth and tail wagging.

DarwinDog4

Try to resist this. I dare you. It cannot be done.

I can’t yell at him when he slurps up all the coffee in the cup I left on the end table, because it makes him so happy, and he seems to make a real effort not to make a huge mess. Clearly, I am the untrained one, if I’m still leaving coffee on the end table in the first place. And this is a dog that does not need caffeine.

It’s impossible to ignore him when he finally comes back in after an extended fence-barking episode, because he looks at me with that huge golden grin on his frosty, bark-breath encrusted face (Seriously! Whisker-cicles!), seeming to say, “Wow, I just had the best time, but now I’m overflowing with indescribable joy merely to be in your presence.”

There’s no way I can shove him down to the foot of the bed so I can reclaim some small scrap of my own blanket because he then rolls over on his back and I am compelled to scratch his chin and chest and hold his enormous paw for a while.

When he first began getting clear up in the bay window, my instinctive reaction was to make him get down. Dogs don’t belong in the window, right? But he looked so cute standing up there. Plus, his tail thumping on the screen greets me as I make my way from the garage to the house after work.

Then he started sacking out on the windowsill, watching the world go by, and that was even more adorable. It is now Darwin’s window. I’ve given up my claim. I’m thinking of padding the windowsill so he can be even more comfy. One additional benefit is that Brody gets up there less (though he mostly confined his window-time to only his front two paws), because when he got excited over something outside, he tended to claw the screens to shreds.

DarwinComfy

After coming across the Obey the Purebreed website, I’m developing a new theory. Dogs use cuteness as the ultimate weapon. If they amass enough “cute,” they gain the ability to get away with anything they want, moving them further along in their diabolical plan for world domination.

I’m not sure, but I think Darwin may soon become their leader.

I just hope the chain reaction which generates all that dog-appeal is not truly nuclear. Because if it is, I am so doomed. He does have that golden glow, but so far I have no reason to believe he is radioactive.

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