Once Bitten Twice Shy

One day a snake dropped out of a tree and landed on my Grandma’s head. This happened when my Grandma was in her 30’s. She lived to be 102 and she never got over it.

“Once bitten by a snake, he/she is scared all his/her life at the mere sight of a rope.” ~ Chinese Proverb

I’m not particularly afraid of snakes but I’ve never had one bite me or drop on my head which may be why I’m more afraid of spiders. 

Last month was the beginning of a new year on the Chinese Lunar calendar: The Year of the Snake. Swell. I’m not superstitious but the sound of it doesn’t give me a warm, pleasant feeling. However, folks who are into that type of thing are more optimistic:

Ancient Chinese wisdom says a Snake in the house is a good omen because it means that your family will not starve. ~HanBan.com

Hmm… This is just a guess, but I’m thinking a snake in the RV would mean H, H & I in a motel room which would mean our family might eventually starve. Anyway, we haven’t seen any inside but we have seen several outside snakes since relocating deep in the heart of Texas. Most are just the regular garden variety.

Around this time of year down here it’s the Season of the Snake. When the snakes start sunning, the tails and the tales start spinning. Everyone that comes through the gate has a story.

A fellow couldn’t wait to show this one to Heidi yesterday.

A 5 footer - I'm not sure if that was with or without the head.

And a friend stopped by to show us another.

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I’m arachnophobic. I’m shy with spiders having been more than twice bitten – I think.

All I know for sure is there have been red bumps on my legs and squished spiders in my sleeping bag/bed on more than one occasion.

And I’ve bitten back. This I know this because the other half of the spider was still swimming in my Grape Nuts.

I used to catch garter snakes in the back yard when I was little. They didn’t bite but they do kind of pinch if you stick your finger in their mouth, which I did. I came close to being bitten when I caught a 5 foot water moccasin on a hiking trail. It was almost, but not quite, dead which is probably good or I might have been almost, but not quite dead, too, since I was only about 6 or 7.

Anyway, everyone has a snake story now. Last night, the guys at our TSL said the buzzards were feasting on a rattlesnake just up the road a ways. I’m hoping it was one of the 3 or 4 that have been spotted circling the wagons this week.

I was standing right beside this one when I took the picture, but one of the guys had made sure he was already under the weather.

It may be that I’m not afraid of snakes because I’m not real sharp or maybe, like I said, it’s just because I’ve never had one drop on my head – yet. I figure if we stay in Texas long enough, anything can happen!

The upside of having snakes around (it’s good to try to find an upside) is that it should keep the mice population under control and out of my door.

Although, I’m beginning to rethink that. The other night, the guys stopped to tell us about a bobcat that was 15-20 yards from the RV. Heidi was real disappointed not to have seen it. Me, not so much, although I would have liked to take a picture. Anyway, I was telling that to one of the guys who said:

Hey, I’ve got a picture for you. My boss just sent this from a rig about 30 miles from here.

OK, that kind of took the comfort out the mouse prevention bit.

I looked at the picture and then at Henry VIII. The upside of not getting enough exercise is that Henry has put on a little weight and is now officially bigger than a rabbit.

Last night, a driver was warning me about the rattlesnakes. I told him about the picture and he said:

Oh ya, I just saw one chasing a rabbit across the highway.

Really? I think we may have a crop of rabid rabbit chasing rattlers this year!

The folks at Shorty’s BBQ and Grill seem to have found a solution that works for them.

We have Wasp spray.

I just had a driver come in and say:

Be careful, Mama (they say Mama a lot here), I’ve seen six 6 foot rattlesnakes in the last half hour. They’re on the move!

It makes me feel like I’m in Tremors and they’re going to start popping up through the caliche!

I’m trying to remember to stop for a second and scan the area before I fling myself out of the RV in the dark. I don’t expect a snake to charge me, but I doubt he’d be keen on being stomped on. According to Buzzle (lots of rattlesnake facts here), rattlesnakes hunt mostly at night and can bite even after being beheaded. OK…

I’m issuing a warning to any kind of snake out there even thinking about coming too close, I’m pretty sure I’m a dead-eye with the Wasp killer. I haven’t ever actually tried it, but I’ve always been able to handle a spray can! And then there’s always the long, long-handled hoe.

As the African proverb says:

A weapon which you don’t have in your hand won’t kill a snake.

So y’all take care and be safe. Remember to keep your weapons handy and keep one eye on the ground and one on the sky. You just never know.

And Happy Easter  – again this week!

If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Texas

If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium Texas. If you’re not old enough to remember the movie, never-mind. It was pretty forgettable. Just like the day of the week or the month of the year is forgettable when you’re a Top Secret Agent in Texas.

Life as a TSA is jam-packed with redundancy.

We work every day  – all day and all night. Heidi and I are year-rounders so we work every day and every holiday and every birthday, which makes every day pretty much the same.

That’s a fact, not a complaint. We’re extremely grateful that we’ve almost never been without a job since we started gate guarding. It’s just funny to hear someone say on the news: Have a great weekend! That’s something you never hear in the oil field because we just have days – not week days and weekend days and holiday – just days.

I’m writing this on Saturday but it might as well be a Tuesday in Texas. I may not know what day of the week it is or sometimes even the month or season but I always know I’m in Texas. It’s the unforgettable part of life as a TSA.

Texas won’t let you forget you’re in Texas.

The Texas flag flies high and proud everywhere. It’s often accompanied by the Confederate flag which seems like a little bit of a contradiction to the US flag to me, but there it is.

Michener sums it up for us Yankees.

What you northerners never appreciate…is that Texas is so big that you can live your life within its limits and never give a (darn) about what anyone in Boston or San Francisco thinks. ~ James Michener

I can’t count how many Texans I’ve met who’ve never been outside of Texas. Seriously. Not ever. Grown-up people who’ve never once been out of this state. We worked for a rancher (a retired postmaster) who had never been out of his county. Hmm…

We’re well into our 3rd year now as Top Secret Agents. People are always asking us how/why we’re here working as TSAs in TX.

It’s a great question. If I had a bucket list, which I don’t, Texas might not fit in it because I’m a:

  • Water lover
  • Forest lover
  • Bug hater (spider fear-er)
  • Cool temperature lover
  • Nature (involving things that don’t want to bite or sting me) lover
  • And an avid walking on the beach type of bum

You can find things like water in Texas but you’re not likely to find a TSA job nearby.

I lived most of my life in the Midwest of Grant Wood. It was lovely. I don’t miss the freezing winters but I do miss having 4 real seasons.

For the three years prior moving to Texas, we lived on the southern Oregon coast. Growing up in Indiana, my family spent almost every Spring Break in Florida, where I fell in love with the ocean.

But Oh! the ocean in Oregon with the mountains and forests falling off into the sea; the whales spouting; the fog horns; the crab boats; the lighthouses; the agate and jasper covered beaches. It seemed like a place people made up in books.

Walks in Oregon were in the beautiful old growth forests or, if Henry got to vote, on the beach.

Henry enjoying a romp and stomp with the seagulls
Henry’s favorite thing was a wild romp and stomp with the seagulls, no leash, ever. Those were his halcyon days – and ours!

Heidi and I both worked as managers at a beautiful ocean front resort. The location was idyllic but the chest pains that Heidi started having from the stress became alarming. At the end of a particularly hard week, I made a just catching up phone call to Joanie who used to work for me at the resort. She and her husband were full-time RVers, gate guarding in Texas.

To tell you the truth, the job didn’t really appeal to me but it was clear we needed to make a change. Heidi already owned a motorhome which was sitting empty in a lot since we had a 2 bedroom apartment at the resort.

Acting on impulse and with no idea what to expect, we talked it over, took the Level II Security tests and headed to Texas with the assurance from a gate guard company that they’d find us something eventually after we got in state.

We started working the day we called to say we’d crossed the border. And oh gosh, it hasn’t been anything like anything either of us have experienced before. Not Texas, and not gate guarding.

Continue reading

Odd Interlude

Fate isn’t one straight road…there are forks in it, many different routes to different ends. We have the free will to choose the path. ~ Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas

Fate has presented some interesting forks lately. I read Odd Interlude by Dean Koontz during my own odd interlude last week. I don’t have enough internet umph tonight to write about Pleasant (which includes, I hope, a short video clip) so this will be an odd interlude of its own.

Life, or the joy in life, is largely a matter of perspective, don’t you think?

We’ve had an interesting couple of weeks.

  • The rig we’d been following for a year, stacked… that was sad
  • Our Company Man called and said he wanted us at his new rig … that was great
  • There was a week lag time and we spent it at Choke Canyon State Park … that was lovely

It’s was lovely and so very quiet. Although I always say I live a quiet life, I think I may mean something more like a life of very little stress, not very little noise. With the tons of trucks coming and going all day and all night and the gas station hose bell ringing and ringing, and the portable generator continually humming, it isn’t as quiet as I thought. The park was really, really quiet.

I took this picture through the window from my chair with my propped up leg but Heidi lived outside all week

  • Heidi spent almost all of her time outside bird watching
  • I spent almost all of my time inside reading with ice packs on my knee (I had fallen down the steps at the last job. I landed on my well padded seat but really wrenched my knee)
  • I did hobble down to the lake twice to go fishing
  • The glow in the dark night-crawlers the convenience store lady sold me were all mushy
  • I traded the $4 night-crawlers in on a $4.29 bag of chips which I left on the counter
  • The lady was out of minnows so she sold me frozen shrimp
  • I’ve never fished with frozen shrimp and I kept ripping their heads off with the hook
  • I didn’t catch any fish but a very big stick put up quite a fight
  • I also hooked the camp chair once

It was fun to camp for a week. I loved the cooking and you can’t beat the clean up.

Well, the clean up was easy for me. I just stuck the fork in the fire. Heidi, on the other hand, worrying about the wind that had picked up, put the fire out with hands full of sand. Sand that had hitherto been the happy home of hundreds of fire ants.

It took a lot of Epsom salts and Lanacane spray before the swelling went down. We’d been working 24 hours a day for 6 months (which isn’t s big deal – we worked 264 days straight last year) but Heidi’s hands were stinging and it seemed like a great time to visit our favorite local hot spot in Tilden,Texas which was only about 15 miles from the park.

We began our career as TSAs in Tilden so we knew that it’s hard to beat the ambiance or the Nacho’s Supreme at Max’s Cafe and Motel.

After a week of not really fishing, really reading and intense bird watching, we headed for our next gig on a rig at a new TSL.

  • We started to set up
  • The Safety Man said to wait, they were dozing a pad for us by the rig
  • We worked the not busy gate for 4 hours from the dually
  • While waiting, we discovered 2 bad tires on the truck

  • A carpet of cacti and mesquite and tangled weeds were dozed away
  • Sunday evening we moved to our new spot and settled in

  • Monday we had an entire day of Texas dust devils and 55+ mph winds

  • During the peak of the whirling-dervishes, our new pea gravel pad was spread around us
  • The winds also covered the RV and truck with little drops of oil based mud

  • Tuesday SA H made it to town to get 2 new tires for the dually
  • Wednesday was pretty regular
  • Thursday a mobile repair man came out to look at the toilet that runs on its own and the VCR that doesn’t run at all and the convection oven that cooks in 3 time zones all at once and the valves that are becoming resistant to releasing our grey and black water (all under an extended warranty)
  • Friday we moved back to the spot where we had been on Sunday
  • Saturday rig washers dropped by to power wash the oil based mud off the RV

  • The rig washers had never washed an RV and they inadvertently flooded the vent to the frig, frying the mother board.
  • When power washing the truck, that high pressured water hit the windshield and the small poc from a rock picked up on the way to our new TSL cracked a 15 inch line

Nothing is worse than being alone on the evening of the day when one’s cow has exploded. ~ Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas

See, that’s what I mean about perspective. Two new tires, 3 moves, a cracked windshield and a dead refrigerator are nothing compared to an exploding cow. We did, however, take the fork that led to remedying our new dilemmas. Special ordering the tires was simple, the windshield is temporarily on hold but the frig was the real puzzle.

  • We called our dealership back in Iowa and got instructions
  • SA H set out with a hairdryer to try to dry out the soggy mother board
  • Being very tenacious, she did this for a long, long time

  • We gave it the night to repair itself  – it didn’t
  • Sunday I asked our CM if he would give away our food as we were having some frig issues (I didn’t mention the rig washers)
  • He had an extra refrigerator in his trailer so we hauled our bags and bags of food down there (the double frig and double freezer were pretty well all stocked up)
  • Saturday and Sunday we ate a lot of cereal to use up the remaining warm but not spoiled milk
  • Monday SA H called the manufacturer and got the name of a certified roving repair man
  • This great guy talked SA H through a magic magnet fix
  • Today we will retrieve our food and wait to see what new adventures await

All in all, it was an interesting week. We SA’s are grateful for a multitude of kindnesses and blessing and even for the bell that rings all day and all night. As always, Henry remains cheerful and optimistic.

Loyal companions are an unequaled grace. ~Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas

After struggling with the internet for months, it looks like SA H may have found a solution. If so, I’ll get back to Gig on a Rig Tip #4 – Pleasant next time. As Odd would say:

Being polite is not only the right way to respond to people but also the easiest. Life is so filled with unavoidable conflict that I see no reason to promote more confrontations. ~ Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas

Gig on a Rig Tip #2: Don’t Worry Be Happy

Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.  ~Abraham Lincoln

Don’t worry, Be Happy. I remember when Bobby McFerrin released that chart topping hit in 1988. I remember it mostly because Heidi’s son, who was 7, loved it! I thought it was kind of catchy but trite. And I thought he only loved it because he was 7.

I’ve come to think he loved it because he was smarter about some things back then than I was – things like how worry will rob you of happiness. If you don’t remember the song or if you do, this is a mini-version (all my limited internet can handle):

~

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I tried to address the Don’t Worry part with Tip 1. Be Flexible but I’m adding Be Happy. I’ll be honest here, I used to roll my eyes when I heard people say things like Happiness is a Choice. I didn’t discover the truth of it until years and years after Bobby McFerrin’s song.

Of course everyone is circumstantially unhappy sometimes. Bad things happen. Sad things happen. But there are people who have a happy constitution. Others not so much and y’all know the type. Just like being happy seems to come naturally to some folks, it’s as foreign as French to others.

I was reading a blog a while back  written by a writer who keeps a list of things that annoy him. It’s a long list. It’s a growing list because once you start looking for things that annoy you it’s real easy to become a collector.

Anyway, this whole Be Happy spiel is a bridge between Tip 1. Be Flexible and Tip 3. I Recommend Pleasant – which I’ll write about tomorrow if the internet is happy and smiling on me after sunset.

Those who can laugh without cause have either found the true meaning of happiness or have gone stark raving mad.  ~Norm Papernick

Gig on a Rig Tip #1: Be Flexible

Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.                       ~ W. Somerset Maugham

Do you remember the 1995 movie starring Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman called While You Were Sleeping? In the movie, a guy wakes up from a coma to find he has a fiance (Bullock) and a life that he doesn’t remember. He wakes up in a whole new world.

That’s a lot like working nights as a gate guard on an oil rig, except for the coma and the fiance part. I usually go to bed around 6:30 in the morning and when I wake up, 6-8 hours later, it’s very possible my world will have rotated sideways.

You get used to it like you get used to the way the Big Dipper hangs at the wrong angle in the sky down here.

For years, Heidi and I taught a seminar on change called: As Long As You’re Green You’re Growing… But As Soon As You’re Ripe You Rot.

If you’re going to be happy as a gate guard, you need to stay green.

That brings me to my first tip on a Gig on a Rig: You Have To Be Flexible

You may get a 3 week assignment that lasts for 3 months. You may go to sleep believing that you’re about to be moved to Smiley and wake up to find you’re headed 300 miles north to Paradise instead. Smiley’s a long way from Paradise!

Even though I taught seminars about it, I haven’t been a huge fan of change. There’s something comforting to me in the knowable and the predictable. Gotta tell you, this job isn’t that.

Take this past week as an example.

  • I went to sleep last Thursday morning thinking I had the next 4 years all planned out, following this great rig, with these great guys, working for a great oil company
  • I woke Thursday afternoon to the news that our rig was stacking, the yards and parks and campgrounds were all full and we would be out of work in a week with no place to stay
  • I went to sleep Friday morning, wondering how to find a spot for the RV
  • I woke up Friday afternoon to news that fellow gate guards had offered to let us stay in their spot in a lovely RV park for as long as needed (we’ve only met once) – now that’s kindness
  • I went to bed Saturday morning feeling encouraged that we had a place to park

I don’t think a whole lot changed on Superbowl Sunday. I guess it did for fans of the Ravens and the 49ers, but not so much for me.

  • I went to bed Monday morning  counting down the 3 days until our job ended and we left for the RV park
  • I woke up Monday afternoon to the news that we had a new job, 35 miles away with our same oil company but new Company Men and drilling rig
  • I went to bed Tuesday morning with plans to meet the gate guards we’d be replacing to get the lay of the land on Saturday
  • I woke up Tuesday afternoon to find out we wouldn’t be done here until Sunday so we couldn’t meet anyone on Saturday
  • I went to bed Wednesday morning, grateful for a new job and a few more days with this rig
  • I woke up Wednesday afternoon to the news we wouldn’t be done until here until Tuesday
  • I went to bed Thursday morning (yesterday) thinking the two moves were in sync since the other gate guards would be finishing up on Tuesday
  • I woke up Thursday afternoon to find out that we now had two job offers – our Company Man had been given a new rig and put the call in for us to join him
  • I’ll go to bed this morning knowing that we’re moving 90 miles instead of 40, that we’re moving south instead of west, that we’re rejoining the Company Man we’ve loved working with for a year now, instead of starting over with a new rig… at least I’ll go to sleep thinking that I know all that

I have no idea what I’ll wake up to this afternoon. I’ll get up, start the coffee and hold my breath until Heidi’s done filling me in on how my world has changed – While I Was Sleeping.

Stacking the Deck

Some things are meant to be stacked –  things like pancakes and books and rocks.

But most of the time when you hear the term stacking, it’s tied to the deck, which isn’t such a good thing.

I grew up in a family of really good card players. Not competitive card players, but good enough to hold their own in Bid Euchre or Pinochle or any of a dozen other card games. Playing cards was something we did after dinner at virtually all family gatherings.
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Everyone was pretty equally matched except for my Uncle Max who was a border-line savant and counted cards. Playing against Uncle Max was like playing with a stacked deck.
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The only person in my family who didn’t play cards was my Grandma. She quit playing Go Fish with me when I was 4 because she said I cheated. I didn’t. Each fish color had a different expression so I always could tell what she was holding. My Grandma was pretty cut-throat.
~

The only other not fun card playing experience I can remember was when my sister brought Ray home from college. I was in first or second grade. He asked me if I wanted to learn a new card game? Thrilled to be included, I said Yes! He took the deck of cards, did an impressive one-handed shuffle and then shot cards out of his hand all over the room. That, he said, is 52 Card Pick Up – and you get to pick them up.

He thought that was really funny. If you’re a clever but unscrupulous card player, you may have an idea how to stack the deck. Ray probably knows how to do that, too.

We’re stacking here but it’s not cards and it’s stunning and not a bit funny.

Our ability to adapt is amazing. Our ability to change isn’t quite as spectacular. ~ Lisa Lutz

Stacking an Oil Rig: To store a drilling rig on completion of a job when the rig is to be withdrawn from operation for a time.

Since becoming TSAs, we’ve bounced around only a little bit – surprising little for this business. Our first job in December of 2010 was on a hunting ranch way down south. It was such a Top Secret Job, we didn’t even know what we were guarding. It was short – 3 1/2 weeks. The day after our TSA ended, we got a call to join a rig. We stayed with them for almost a year, until they stacked in the winter of 2011.

We subbed for a couple of months. We took a break to replace the side of the brand new 5th wheel that we’d owned for 2 weeks when I ripped it off on a baby palm tree.

Then, almost a year ago, we joined a new TSC with a drilling rig that was less than a year old and we’ve been with them ever since. We thought we’d be with them until we retired. They thought we’d be with them until we retired. Turns out, the rig is retiring and we’re all looking for work.

We have about a week left until we stack. We don’t have a job or a place to stay to wait for one. This time of year the yards and RV parks and campgrounds are all flooded with Winter Texans. The day we learned the news, we signed back up for Workamper and started a job search. It lasted for about a half an hour. Then we stopped. The thing is, for quite a number of reasons, we really love our job as TSAs.

What’s been striking about stacking is that everyone, up and down the ladder (with us being the bottom rung) has had the same reaction: It’s so hard because we’re like a family. That doesn’t usually happen but it did here.

We’ve been saying goodbye to guys we’ve prayed for every day for a year. That does something to your heart, I think. Something good. It’s been a gift for us.

We aren’t likely to get another assignment like this one, which was pretty close to perfect, but we’re counting on being assigned some place, eventually, that’s good for us for other reasons and, hopefully, we’ll somehow be good for them in return.

I’m not inclined to worry so I’m expecting another job and a place to stay until then. I don’t often get scared about practical things. I was scared the other day when there was an enormous spider on the ceiling. Not enormous like a tarantula, more like a golf ball enormous.

When I get scared, I’m kind of the deer-in the-headlight type. Heidi, on the other hand, gets mad when she’s scared. Except when she used to get mad at me, I’ve found this to be a greatly beneficial opposite reaction. She was scared of the enormous spider, which of course, made her very mad. She got right up on a stool and walloped it with her sandal without even staining the paint. She hollered, Henry hid and I froze. It all worked out.

And it’ll all work out with a new job, too. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about why I like this job that I seem so ill-suited for. We have minimal internet access but if I can stay connected, I’ll write about some of the quite unexpected things I’ve learned as a TSA.

In case you ever want to try stacking Multi-Grain Cheerios, it helps if you lick them first… just sayin’. I found this out quite by accident.

A Very Un-Shakespearean Comedy of Errors

What is the course and drift of your compact?
~William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors

It seems our course has run somewhat adrift of late. Picking up where I left off last time, I’m still on the rebound from the fluke of a non-flu bug. I think that I might have been nearly well yesterday, if not for another unfortunate chain of events.

I broke my toe once. I was on a beach in California looking for sea glass. I ran away from a wave right into a rock. I broke my 2nd toe which took the brunt of the hit because it’s longer, if not bigger, than my big toe. I share this only to preface what’s about to follow. Stubbing a toe which sticks out anyway, particularly underwater, seems understandable. What’s happened here, maybe a little less so.

By the way, it was a beautiful beach and I did find tons of sea/beach glass. If you’re terribly bored and are inclined to hunt, there are 15 obvious pieces of sea glass in this photo (green, brown, clear and blue).


The first time Heidi broke her toe, her little toe (this was years ago) she was at my house helping in the kitchen and she ran into my foot. At her request, I took her to the E.R. where the Dr pushed in back in place and taped it up. As it turns out, there’s not much else to be done with broken toes.

The next time she broke her toe – the same one – she was coming up her basement steps and somehow caught her little toe that doesn’t stick out at all on the step and broke it. She called me. I went over and, in an attempt to help, I accidentally set it by grabbing her foot too hard. She hollered and then I taped it up.

Every why hath a wherefore. ~ William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors

Although I’m not questioning the words of the bard, night before last when Heidi broke her toe – same one again – going up the steps (inside), I began to wonder about the why and wherefore. Somehow, she snagged it on the step, even though her little toe still doesn’t stick out at all, or didn’t until then. Not appreciating my last effort, she decided to set it herself. She hollered (only a little) this time and I taped it up.

She went to bed with her toes taped and wrapped in an icepack. Yesterday, predictably, business was booming which meant quite a bit of foot time for Heidi. I got up early to help. I worked while she kept her foot up and cold-packed.

All in all, things were going pretty well until I decided to fix dinner. I’ve done a lot of cooking in my time but this is the first time I’ve had a convection oven. The problem with the convection oven is that it looks just like the microwave oven because it is the microwave oven.

There should have been nothing to it since I was just baking fish.

I’m not sure what happened. I think I forgot that I’d pushed the magic button that transforms the microwave into convection. The timer beeped. The fish was ready and I brushed my hand against the side of the convected-micro and fried it.

Heidi had discarded the icepack by then, so after some cold water and burn spray, I stuffed it with little baggies of frozen Ragu because cold-pack was warm.

I’m pretty stoic when it comes to pain so I was surprised by just how much the burn hurt. I was even more surprised when, a little while later, I looked down to see blood trickling down my arm. It hurt, but I didn’t think it hurt that much.

The thing about baggies of frozen Ragu is that they thaw pretty quickly when your hand is on fire. I was in such a rush to cram something in the ice-pack wrap before Heidi hopped up and hurt another toe that I didn’t notice they weren’t in a freezer bags.

Upon closer examination, I realized that it was Ragu, not blood, trickling in a sticky sweet line down my arm. While I was washing up, Heidi ended up hobbling over after all and found a bag of peas which worked much better.

For some reason all this excitement reignited my diminishing flu systems which left me in the bathroom and Heidi with no choice but to tromp in and out with her taped up toes and sandals (even though everyone else is wearing parkas again).

By 8:30, she was sleeping, the wind was roaring and the newly promoted SA Henry VIII had taken the helm. He’s unflappable under pressure and has yet to break a dewclaw or burn a whisker.

Yet this my comfort: when your words are done,
My woes end likewise with the evening sun.
― William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors

Postscript:

I wrote this early this a.m.  Because some of you are given to worrying I wanted to wait to publish until I could add a health update:

Heidi’s toe is healing nicely and it barely hurts at all.

After a night of burn spray and peas and a day of sleep, my hand is healing nicely and it barely hurts at all.

The entire misadventure has worn Henry out. He’s sleeping in front of the fake fireplace, relieved of all Secret Agent responsibilities, and he barely remembers any of it at all. 😉

Feeling Funky: Flu or Fluke?

The trouble with being a hypochondriac these days is that antibiotics have cured all the good diseases. ~ Caskie Stinnet

I haven’t written much because I’ve been sick a lot of late in the non-hypochondriacal, funky non-flu fluke kind of way.

It all started when I got the Cruise Flu back in September. At least I thought it was the flu. Turns out it was just a fluke. The cruise flu, according to the CDC, isn’t THE flu. It’s a norovirus, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, sore throat, headache and fever and as the CDC explains, outbreaks occur more often where there are more people in a small areas such as nursing homes, restaurants, catered events, and cruise ships.

It looks like the flu, feels like the flu, smells like the flu and spreads like the flu, but it’s not the flu. Any similarity in symptoms are just a fluke.

I made a speedy recovery.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch…

We TSA’s* returned from vacation and soon relocated to a new TSL*.

At our next TSL* there was some TSS* floating around and pretty soon I once again had vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, sore throat, headache etc… as did just about everybody there except SA* Heidi and Henry VIII.

I divvied up my time between toilet bowl and the big red mixing bowl (which I just kind of carried about with me – handy-like).

For me, this second not-the-flu fluke lasted for, oh, off and on most of November and December.

Just before Christmas we moved to a new TSL* and after about a week I started feeling down right regular again, peppy even.

It was lovely.

Then, my the-first-Doctor-I’ve-had-in-5-years, called and said I needed to come in and have a physical. Feeling fairly fit and needing her to renew my RSL* Rx*, I complied and arrived at the office Monday afternoon. She listened to me breathe and looked in my ears. All clear. Her nurse gave me a cup, took some blood and told me to come back in a week for the 2nd half of the exam and test results.

Oh, and then she gave me a flu shot.

I’ve had flu shots in the past. SA* Heidi, however, refuses to get a flu shot. She worked in a hospital for 7 years. They required all employees to get a flu shot. For 7 years she got one and the next day, 7 years in a row, she was sick with the fluke flu.

Every year, rumors circulate claiming the flu shot can cause the flu. Every year flu shot authorities say it isn’t possible. They do list potential side effects of the flu shot as vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, sore throat, headache etc… Just like the cruise flu and THE flu but different.

As a night-shift SA*, I sleep in the day time (obviously). There’s a good bit of noise so I sleep with a sound machine chugging like a freight train by my head and ear plugs stuffed in my ears. My symptoms didn’t hit until Tuesday morning.

For the 3rd time, I have/had the not-flu-flu. It’s been back to toilet bowls and red bowls and bowls of chicken noodle soup. After a slight relapse this morning, I’m once again on the mend and can sit down without feeling like the cow who just ate the cactus.

Since I’m something of a non-flu pro now, here’s my advice:

  1. The flu shot? Shoot, I don’t know, that’s up to you
  2. Wash your hands 57xs a day until your skin falls off (if you’re like me, you’ll get sick anyway but it’ll just be a fluke)
  3. If you’re thinking of throwing up, take your ear plugs out first (I was really sorry I didn’t think about that ahead of time – I just about blew out my right eardrum)

I’ll leave you with this tale of just how far you can go with the flu and a fluke:

The patient went to his doctor because he had flu and the doctor wrote out a prescription for him in his usual illegible writing. The patient put it in his pocket but forgot to get the tablets from the pharmacy.

Every morning, for two years, he showed it to the conductor as a railroad pass. Twice, it got him into the movies, once into the soccer stadium, and once into the symphony. He got a raise at work by showing it as a note from his boss. One day he mislaid it. His daughter picked it up, played it on the piano and won a scholarship to the conservatory of music.

Be safe and stay well!

~

Decoder code:

  • *TSA – Top Secret Agent
  • *SA   –  Abbr for TSA
  • *TSL – Top Secret Location
  • *TSS – Top Secret Stuff
  • *RLS – Restless Leg Syndrome
  • *Rx   – Prescription

Time Flies …

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana. ~ Groucho Marx

We started working as gate guards Top Secret Agents 2 years and 5 days ago. Wow!

Time flies… sometimes. The thing about being a TSA is that time carries no inherent sense of proportion. Time flies, time drags, time stands still.

I almost never know what day of the week it is, sometimes I don’t remember what month it is and the year is mostly entirely irrelevant (apart from log sheets) which I’ll have to remember to change to 2013 today.

Today is the one day of the year, according to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, that nearly half of all Americans, will make resolutions. Not too many will keep them, only about 8%. But today, and for about a week, a lot of folks will feel overwhelmingly optimistic! 😀

 _______________________________________________
Statistic Verification
Source: University of Scranton. Journal of Clinical Psychology
Published: 12.13.2012
Rank Top 10 New Years resolutions for 2012
1
Lose Weight
2
Getting Organized
3
Spend Less, Save More
4
Enjoy Life to the Fullest
5
Staying Fit and Healthy
6
Learn Something Exciting
7
Quit Smoking
8
Help Others in Their Dreams
9
Fall in Love
10
Spend More Time with Family
News Years Resolution Statistics Data
Percent of Americans who usually make New Year’s Resolutions 45%
Percent of Americans who infrequently make New Year’s Resolutions 17%
Percent of Americans who absolutely never make New Year’s Resolutions 38%
Percent of people who are successful in achieving their resolution 8%
Percent who have infrequent success 49%
Percent who never succeed and fail on their resolution each year 24%
People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions
Type of Resolutions (Percent above 100% because of multiple resolutions) Data
Self Improvement or education related resolutions 47%
Weight related resolutions 38%
Money related resolutions 34%
Relationship related resolutions 31%
Age Success Rates Data
Percent of people in their twenties who achieve their resolution each year 39%
Percent of people over 50 who achieve their resolution each year 14%
Length of Resolutions Data
Resolution maintained through first week 75%
Past two weeks 71%
Past one month 64%
Past six months 46%

_____________________________________________________

Funny conclusion in the center of the study: People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions. OK…

That seems a lot like saying people who set goals are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t set any. Goals and resolutions aren’t exactly the same, though. Goals are mundane. Goals lack that sparkly magical thinking of a Special Resolution Holiday. Dave Barry shares some insights on NYR’s.

No, seriously, you need to make some New Year’s resolutions so that you can become a better you — a more-attractive you, an organized you, a you that is … well, less like you.

At this point, you are saying: “Dave, I would love nothing better than to be less like myself, but every year I make the same New Year’s resolution, which is that I will lose weight, and currently my thighs are the diameter of the trans-Alaska pipeline.”

Don’t feel bad! Many people have trouble sticking to their resolutions, and there is a simple scientific explanation for this. In 1987, a team of psychologists conducted a study in which they monitored the New Year’s resolutions of 275 people. After one week, the psychologists found that 92 percent of the people were keeping their resolutions; after two weeks, we have no idea what happened, because the psychologists had quit monitoring. They’d lost their motivation.

I have some goals. I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. This is probably just as well since the study says that the number of people over the age of 50 who are successful in maintaining their resolve tops out at 14%.

I don’t know if that’s because we’re more realistic or more forgetful? But that’s not why I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t make NYR’s because of my propensity to procrastinate.

What if I waited until January 1st to set about meeting new goals and then procrastinated? I’d have to wait  a whole year until it was time to resolve again. Instead, I try to set small goals, daily resolutions. Things like:

Today I’m going to…

  • be a little kinder
  • be more generous in my thoughts toward those with whom I disagree
  • learn something odd (makes conversations more interesting) 😀
  • read/watch things that makes me look at different perspectives
  • laugh out loud
  • smile at everyone – even cranky people – especially cranky people
  • beat Henry in Cribbage (well, maybe not this year – he’s very good)

I like small resolutions – little things, doable things. It works for me and when I follow through, time flies! And as Kemit says:

Time’s fun when you’re having flies. ~ Kermit the Frog

Christmas, Trucks and Easy Bake Ovens

We’re all hooked up and ready to rock and roll to yet another TSL at daybreak. Having almost, but not quite, conquered our HUAD (Hitching Up Anxiety Disorder) we decided to do all the hooking and unhooking today so we can hit the road before we get parked in tomorrow. That meant hauling around the furniture and pulling in all 4 slides.

We’re successfully hitched and the slides are back out but it certainly wasn’t worth dragging the furniture around again. I’m holding the computer – which is the first time my laptop has ever been on top of my lap – sitting in the recliner, which is perfectly upright, wedged between the table and the sofa.

The satellite and sewer and water hose are all packed away. Only the electrical line remains as a tentative umbilical cord, tying us to the nurse wagon until morning.

Getting ready a day ahead did give us a smaller audience of onlookers than usual. It’s a little like a being an old-fashioned carnival side-show attraction. Whenever we get ready to hook up, crowds gather. Step right up folks! You have to see it to believe it! Two Women, One Truck!

People (men mainly) are amazed that a woman can back up a dually. Seriously, it’s just like driving forward, except in reverse. They’re stunned that two women, with no help from a fellow, can hook up and haul a 40 ft 5th Wheel.

I feel like that little girl who started a petition for a gender neutral Easy Bake Ovens. I think that just meant an EBO that wasn’t pink since boys aren’t supposed to like pink. If you’re a boy and you like pink, you might grow up to be a man who likes pink. And everyone knows that if you’re a man who likes pink, you’ll have to become a professional football player or join the WWF to prove your manliness.

Most folks down here in Texas know that boys can cook. They just don’t all know that girls can drive trucks. Anyway, as my fellow TSAs know, we never know until we arrive at our secret assignment whether or not we’ll have any internet or phone service. Since I may be out of range after tonight, I wanted to wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

If you’re a frequent flyer here, you know I’m crazy about The Piano Guys. I recently posted Steven’s cheery cello rendition of Carol of the Bells. I thought it might be fun to include the piano guy (Jon) this time. 😀

I liked the Christmas message they posted with their video. It seems to fit with my readers, too, so I’m including it here:.

We love the Holiday Season. Why? It’s a great excuse to be extra nice to each other. =) … And we love Christmas music, lights, presents, and the excitement of our sleepless children anticipating the advent of Christmas day. We know there are many out there who do not celebrate Christmas or believe in what it may represent. This song is not meant to exclude anyone. We hope this song is an opportunity to reflect on everything we are blessed with in life — family, a beautiful earth, a place to rest our head, the warmth of the sun. The lyrics of this piece speak of being “ransomed” from captivity. In general terms, at some point or another in our lives we find ourselves at the receiving end of a “ransom” — a rescue by someone or something — even as simple as a note from a friend, a hug from a child, a much-needed vacation, or the unconditional affection of a loyal dog. That is what this song represents to us. People may define the “rescue” moments in life differently, but the meaning of the moments remain the same. To many, including us, the story of The Savior is the sweetest and most priceless “ransom” of all. To Him we dedicate this song.  ~The Piano Guys

O Come, O Come Emmanuel – traditional
Performed by
Steven Sharp Nelson: Cello
Jon Schmidt: Piano

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
[Refrain] Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.
[Refrain]
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.
[Refrain]
O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
[Refrain]
O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
[Refrain]
O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.
[Refrain]
O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.
[Refrain]
O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace

Before my signal fades away, Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!