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I want to see some thunderstorms, Sarah said.

I wish there was more to do around here to help out, Sarah said.


Around 6am this morning, John jumped out of bed to use the bathroom and I woke up to him squishing his way into the bathroom.

The basement flooded. He was standing in a puddle of water. On my carpet.

I went and checked the basement rec room–flooded. The dog’s bed was soaked, and she was laying in a puddle of water. I took her upstairs and dried her off–she’d obviously gotten up and layed down again on the other side, since she was wet on both haunches, but why she didn’t get up and leave her bed is beyond me. Then I woke my parents up. Then Amy.

This is the worst flood yet, according to my mom. My old room has water welling up inside the closet, along one outer wall, and around the doorway, all spreading towards the center of the room, where the bed has been pushed all the furniture has been piled. The laundry room is flooding from the same wall that my old room is, and together these two leaks are flooding my bathroom. There’s also more wells up under the stairway, flooding Amy’s old room’s closet, and another one right in her doorway. There’s one where the laundry room empties into the rec room, filling the bottom of the stairs, another in the rec room over by the sliding glass door, and another somewhere along the long wall. All the furniture has been piled or put on 2×4 pieces or taken upstairs.

Dear god, it’s a lot of water.

When I wanted rain, I meant an innocent little thunderstorm or two, not tornados, not torrential downpours while I was tramping through fields, and not 3 straight days of rain that flooded the basement.

Brat, we watered our roots, but too much, I think. The roads are flooded in some places, lots of farmer’s fields (and thus their crops) are flooded, the golf course is flooded, the creeks are swollen, we’re under flood AND flash flood warnings. The water needs to stop coming now. Fortunately, as I write this, the sun is starting to come out, and the radar map shows no precipitation anywhere west of us all the way to Lincoln, Nebraska. And I think Saturday and Sunday are supposed to be fairly warm and sunny, so that’ll give it time to dry out. If the rain started again, we might have to give up.

So it’s now 10:30, and we’re taking a break from shop-vac-ing up all the water. John went and got his mom’s (that’s how we know the roads/fields/golf course are flooded), and between hers and ours, we’ve pulled gallons of water out of the carpet. Problem is, the basement’s still below the water level, so it just keeps welling up. My mom stayed upstairs, away from any potential mold or anything, and cleaned the kitchen and frosted my birthday cake. I moved stuff. Dad and John shop-vac-ed. Amy napped on the couch upstairs.

Yeah, you heard that right. We moved all her furniture, in her old room and her current room/my old room, and all her shoes and stuff that was on the floor, and have gone over her/my carpet so many times now it’s not even funny. And she slept through it all. I don’t know where she is, maybe in my parent’s bed, since I turned on the lights in the living room to vacuum, but I don’t really want to see her right now. I think she’s biding her time until she can leave to drive to South Dakota to visit some friends for the weekend. Bah.

Anyways, mom went off to work to get some stuff done in the lab (yes, my parents are Mad Scientists, too, only with birds, not viruses), and we’ve gotten the spreading water up, and fans to dry the areas, but wherever there are cracks, it just keeps coming, and if we leave it alone for too long, it just starts to spread again.

This is gonna be a fun day.

Back to stemming the flood, I suppose. I’m just glad we’re here to help, since my mom’s not capable of it right now, Amy’s apparently not willing, and I don’t think my dad could have done it alone.


The constant rain.

We went out in the fields today, helping my parents with their work, and came home soaked from the waist down. Or at least from the edge of our rain coats down. Tramping through tall, wet grass will do that to you.

Now we’ve just got to hope for (a) no more tornados, and (b) the basement doesn’t flood.

We got to go to Hickory Park and have lunch. That’s the local meat joint. If a meat item comes off a chicken, pig or cow, and isn’t steak, they serve it. Usually breaded and fried. (Is it any wonder Iowans are obese?)

The ham sandwich? Is to die for.

The grilled cheese and chili? Only slightly less so.

And the most genius part of the whole enterprise? The placemat is the dessert menu.

By the time you’re done eating your dead animal covered in homemade BBQ sauce, you’re salivating over the potential for ice cream.


We plan to go back tomorrow with Pamela and Beatrice. Already had the chili, gotta get the ham. And John has to have his breaded pork tenderloin sandwich, which they just don’t make in California. Too unhealthy, probably. But darn good.


I’ve forgotten what Iowa can be like in the spring. It’s green everywhere. The woods my parents live in are overgrowing with everything. It’s nice. The weather, though? Is wonky.

We arrived Saturday without problem, and my parents picked us up at the airport. My mom looks good, all things considered. She’s pale, probably due to the anemia, and bald, but looks fine. She’s tired a lot, and goes to bed early, but she’s doing okay. Seeing her was both harder and easier than I’d thought it would be.

My parents drove us up to John’s family’s house, and we all went out to dinner after sitting around and talking for a bit. After my parents left, there was some more sitting around and talking. The day was windy, and cool, and we went to bed early and slept almost 12 hours.

Sunday was 85 and sunny. High humidity. Stormy. John did some home repairs for his mom (the lists she has each time we come home are amazing). I talked with Pamela and Beatrice (John’s mom and grandma) about California and caught them up on our lives out west.

We went and picked up John’s youngest brother and his newest chickiepoo girlfriend to celebrate the brother’s 21st birthday. This girl seems to have her head on straight, and I hope she can keep the brother in line, but the number of times I wanted to smack some sense into him during the day? Only about rivaled by the number of times I wanted to smack some respect for his mom and grandma into him. I admire Pamela’s “they are my children and I will love them regardless” attitude a lot, but having seen John threatened with a butcher knife by this kid while I was on the phone with 911? Makes me not so forgiving. We keep hoping he’s on the right path, but he’s never managed to stay on it before. I’m not holding my breath this time.

Around dinner time, the storms came rolling through. The one that spawned the tornado that hit Parkersburg (1/3 of town gone, many homes and business destroyed, 7 dead) went south of us. The tornado hadn’t started where we were, but we were only 90 or so miles from Parkersburg. Scary. I feel for those people. The storm we had go south of us at dinner time was a massive lightening storm, and the thunder rolling just wouldn’t stop. To me, those are the dangerous ones. The ones where the thunder starts as a low rumble and just never quits. No big bangs or claps, just the long, low rumble. We had a tornado in Ames 10 or so years ago and the storm did the same thing.

I love the storms when they come through here, and miss the thunder and lightening in California, but the ones that spawn the tornados are scary. I’m not bit on living where the ground can suddenly quake, but living where the wind can rip away everything in it’s path? Hrm.

We drove the brother and girlfriend back to Ames, and ourselves to my parent’s house, around 10pm, and got a pretty good lightening show just south of us for the whole drive. Most impressive, but the pictures on the news from the tornado were pretty fresh in our minds.

Monday was warm and windy again, but the clouds cleared out by noon and it was sunny the rest of the day. In order to help do our part in helping out the economy, Amy, my mom, my aunt and I wall went shopping. John came along to hold purses. My mom bought me some new clothes for my birthday on our shopping expedition. I’ve gotten to the point where our clothing styles are a bit closer to one another, but she still sometimes picks out what I’d call “old lady clothing”. Sort of grandma-style-ish. But I got some lovely clothes.

The last two days, it’s been more like early spring here. Cold and windy and wet. I went with my mom to chemo yesterday, then John and I did some errands for his mom here in Ames, then spent the day with Pamela and Beatrice, crossing off more items on Pam’s “please do this one last thing” list. We just laughed each time she said it was the last thing. Then we taught the two of them to play Hearts. His grandma? A real card shark.

Today, it’s been drier, but still windy and cold. We’ve been working around my parent’s house, doing the little tasks that my mom’s too tired to do and my dad doesn’t get to when he’s taking care of my mom. So far, we’ve replaced 3 sink faucets in 2 days. My goal here is to just do whatever we can to help out. I feel like there’s not a lot we can do, but I know every little bit helps, even if it seems trivial at times.

I think it’s just good to be here. The first couple of days, I was incredibly tired. I think it was a combination of being away from work, and destressing from that, but also seeing my mom and seeing that she was all right. Apparently, the tumor didn’t even show up on the last set of scans about a month ago. She’s got one more month of chemo, then a short break, then surgery. Gotta buy those plane tickets to come back out here soon. Everything seems to be going well here. Like I said, she’s tired, but life is moving forward.

Just gotta keep it that way.

I’ve been running, running, running all week to do what needed to get done. And now we’re packed, except the last load of laundry, and the house has at least been vacuumed, and I’m breathing for the first time all week.

Amelia found my parking permit, which made the week much easier. Rhiannon and Elizabeth provided lunchtime entertainment, and Amelia a dinner and coffee companion. And the rest of the time, it was work like crazy. Inevitably, when I’ve got 4 days worth of work, and 4 days before I go home, nothing works like it should, screwing up my very limited time frame. But I kept plugging away, and got a decent amount done. And there were baby duckies in the pond on the way too and from work, where I might have lingered a bit to keep my sanity in check.

Also, we treated the cats and rabbit, and I haven’t been bitten since. This is good news. The bites I do have are almost gone. Unfortunately, I really wanted to test Laura’s advice on how to drown the fleas and never got the chance. I fell into bed almost every night and was somewhere in almost-asleep-land when the “put out a soapy pan of water” thought floated into my head…and floated right back out as I continued to fall asleep. Next time, and I’m sure there will be a next time, I’ll try it. For now, everyone gets treated once a month for three months.

And now, it’s Friday night.

Tomorrow I fly home to see my mom.

I’m currently pretty apprehensive. I’m so looking forward to seeing her, but I haven’t seen her since she started to look sick–tired, hairloss, etc. It’s going to be hard, I know that. But at the same time, seeing her will take away some of the worry created by being so far away.

It’s going to be a hectic week, with spending as much time as possible with family, helping my parents with their field season, and a wedding in the middle of it all. But it will be with our families. Which is the important thing right now.

They have internet now, faster than a 56k modem. I’ll report back.

Ok, some of you are going to get the previous post twice, due to your feeds. Basically, I was bored, and whiney, and I wrote it, then went off to shower and actually do stuff. Whereupon, I decided it was boring to whine, came back and deleted it. Not soon enough for it to not show up to Laura from Almost Never Boring and Bratfink from Bratland. Both gave me some lovely advice involving fleas, and it’s in the comments of the last post.

Anyways, long story short, the cats have brought fleas into the apartment (this is probably the 3rd time in 4 years it’s happened), the fleas eventually make the move to the rabbit, and all three are happily infested. Then I start getting bit. And with my allergies, I get big, nasty, swollen bites. That itch. A lot.

Last time, when we finally asked the vet about it, they assured us rabbits couldn’t have fleas. Despite treating the cats, and finally bombing the apartment, we didn’t get rid of them. Then Fred the Bunny’s hare started to fall out. Not shedding, falling out. So I took him to a (different) vet, who said he had fleas. We treated all three of them and that was that.

We try hard not to let the cats out, but the Gray One has become a bit of a Houdini lately, trying to escape at every turn, and all it takes is one momma flea on him when we bring him back. He also meows incessantly when the doors are open, which grates on your nerves after a bit. I think he made a friend during one of his longer escapes, but he’s been de-maled, so nothing will come of it. Tubby McFatterson, or the White One, really doesn’t give two figs about being outside. But a couple weeks ago, while we were in the backyard, John let them both out, hoping it would cure the Gray One of his meows. It didn’t. And now there are fleas.

Since Thursday, possibly Wednesday, I’ve discovered 10-15 bites. 7-8 yesterday, but I’ve got several new ones that have popped up in the last few hours, and I don’t realize they’re a bite until I’ve itched it enough to raise the skin a bit, at which point I’m doomed and the bite is off to the races. And the bites are all in fun, socially awkward places. The back of my knee. My lower hip. Right under my bra’s underwire line. My neck.

So Laura has suggested giving the fleas a dip of their own, and Brat has suggested salting them.


I’ll report back. In the meantime, if anyone’s got any ideas, I’d love to hear them before we resort to bombing the apartment and generally poisoning the place we and our animals live.

Anyways, other things that I have learned this week that I’ve been meaning to write…

If you boil some test tubes at 110 degrees, and then take them out of the heat rack, they will be at 110 degrees, which is a wee bit warmer than your skin might appreciate. I’m just sayin’.

I have made several new mutant viruses. Or just managed to contaminate everything. I’m suspecting option number 2. (Pick three, my lord, pick three! (Brat, I know you know this one.)) We’ll know by the end of this week.

I’ll be home in less than a week. I’m both excited and terrified. According to Pamela, John’s mom, my mom’s looking good. And Beatrice, John’s grandma, is out of the hospital. More on this later this week, probably. And then we’re off to a wedding. More on that later, too.

Oh, and I’ve got an appointment with a counselor about my snake phobia. I decided it was time to do something about it. I’ll let you know how that goes, too.

Rhiannon’s birthday party last night was actually much more entertaining than I had anticipated. We don’t know a lot of her other friends, so weren’t sure how it would go down, but a Bourban Peach Smash and a Mojito sure made things much more entertaining. Key word there being “smash”. John and assorted others had several pitchers of Hurricanes. It was a fun night. There were some phrases I wanted to remember and report back to y’all, but they’ve been lost in the fuzziness. Oh well. We had a fun dinner, and then graciously bowed out of going to play Guitar Hero at some unknown person’s house.

If you rant about something that might make you sound a bit prejudiced, you might want to check your audience. I’ve got to remember to just keep my damn mouth closed, I think. Scratch that, I know. Or just let go of it already now that the problem child will never return and I’ve almost solved the problem that was left to me.

One of my cloning enzymes (science, sorry) is cutting at a sight it’s not supposed to recognize. And thus deleting 400bp of an essential gene, and not my gene, either. New mutant, anyone? Bah. Freakin’ 5-step cloning process. I hate cloning. But what would a Mad Scientist do without it??

Husbands who get up and go to work at obscene hours of the weekend morning and leave behind a coffeepot with two cups in it are wonderful.

On the other hand, cats who want to nuzzle your cheek and lick your earlobe at said obscene hour of the weekend morning are not so wonderful. Especially when they bring fleas with them.

*This was originally posted yesterday, Saturday the 17th, then deleted. Now I’ve reposted it. Sorry.*

(”Y’all” just for the benefit of Amelia.)

I’m bored. I’m about to whine–feel free to skip all this.

My mother used to tell me, only boring people are bored. Maybe today I’m being boring. Or there’s just nothing on my to-do-list that’s at all entertaining. It’s the weekend, and I want to be entertained.

John’s at work, and Amelia’s at home visiting family for a couple days. I have no one to play with. Wah, wah, wah.

There’s no more email to read, and I’ve finished my book.

There’s laundry to do (John got rib sauce down the front of his shirt and on his shorts last night at dinner), but that’s not fun. There’s a house to clean, but it’s too hot to move. Ditto on that for riding my bike, which was a vague plan I had. What I was planning to do at work today crashed and burned because yesterday, things didn’t go as planned. (That’s science, bitches. It works…sometimes.) There’s a present to be bought for Rhiannon (her birthday tomorrow, thus dinner plans tonight). There’s Safeway to be visited to buy milk and flea medication.

Yes, fleas. John brilliantly let the cats out in the backyard a week or two ago, and now I have seven, make that eight, random bug bites (just realized the random spot my knee that I was scratching wasn’t quite so random). Last time this happened, it was the beginning of the end. Or at least, fleas on the cats and the rabbit, and bites on me. I get covered in them. John doesn’t get bitten, but he’s at least sympathetic to the huge, swollen, red, nasty bites I get.

Ugh. Hope the Safeway sells is good enough. Last time, we had to go to the vet, and that was a wee bit expensive. Dear god, flea medication can cost a lot.

I should just get up off my lazy ass, go start the laundry, wait until I can throw it in the dryer, go get Rhiannon’s present, stop by Safeway, and voila! it’ll be time to head to dinner.

But. I. Don’t. Wanna.

I’m just being whiney. I know. Sorry. But it’s hot, and I itch.

Any ideas?

I’m not superstitions, except for sports.

And my theory was, and had held true for two years and 3 games, that if the Astros and the Giants played at AT&T park, and someone scored 4 runs, they’d win.

Happened 2 years ago, at least at the game I went to with Amelia and John.

Happened last year for every game.

Happened for the first three games of this past series. We went to the first two, and I saw the third on TV, then watched the ESPN Gamecast of the 4th.

In the 4th game, the Giants scored 4 first, and ended up with 7. They should win, then, right?

Then the Astros scored at least 4.

Ah, the calamity!!

Then they scored 4 more.

And won, 8-7.

New Theory: Whoever scores 4, or a multiple of 4, first, wins.

That still works, right?

4:45am dawns gawdawfulearly when you go to bed after 12. I’m just sayin’. James F’s float sprung a leak, so we had to take a field trip to Greg’s house late Friday night to get his float, and between that, John getting off work at 10, and having to figure out if we could fit James’ stuff in our car (no) and then packing his car (bah), it was a late night.

But we were off. This class was Advanced Open Water, with 4 students, 3 guys and a gal. Advanced class is basically the first dive of five different specialty courses, with mandatory navigation and deep. I think. Maybe mandatory boat? There used to be a mandatory night dive, but they nixed that awhile ago. Dive plan for Saturday was to do Peak Performance Buoyancy (PPB–where you learn not to smash critters on the sea floor or shoot to the surface like a missile-propelled grenade), then Navigation (can you swim a square with a compass?), and finally either Search and Recovery (there’s a weight belt out there, kids, go find it or you owe us one) or Night (ooo, dark! hope you’ve got your lights to see the octopi!).

For staff, it was myself and John as Divemasters, Nate and Shelly as Divemaster Candidates, and James and Ben as Instructors. James and I were going to take Nate and two of the students, and leave the other two to Ben, John and Shelly. Brilliant plan. We were all off to have fun, right?

Then James threw his back out putting on his BCD. He thought he’d be all right in a minute or two. Nope. Then he thought he’d be all right if he could just get into the water (no weight from the BCD). I told him to sit on his tailgate and move his legs like he was kicking. His expression? Priceless. You use your back muscles for a lot of things, apparently. Including deep breaths–he could only breathe shallowly, which isn’t so good for diving.

So he was left behind with copious amounts of ibuprofen, and students were rearranged. I got Nate and Shelly and two students, John got two students, and Ben watched us all. We went down to do our skills, Nate and Shelly each taking a student, and then Nate toured us all around. (By default, whoever looks the least comfortable, leads the tour–it’s good practice, and instills confidence in the leader that s/he can do it. And I was following right behind, no worries.)

We saw nothing, and had chunky viz. Lots of big particulate matter. However, it was beautiful day for diving–sun was out, it was warm, light breeze, very nice. The lack of wind and water movement meant the particulate matter just hung in the water column. Thus, sucky viz.

The second dive wasn’t much better. It was navigation, and the student’s had to swim lots of lines and squares and whatnot. Same plan as the first. The viz was, if possible, even worse. Like pea soup. Fun. And John and I were left behind to pull up the augers that we’d used to tie down all the guide lines. That’s not easy underwater. At least there wasn’t much to look at to distract us. Bah.

We went off to Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch, and crammed our gullets full of clam chowder. Mmmmm. Then back to do Search and Recovery. The viz was such that we’d nixed a night dive. However, by the time we got in the water, it was late, late afternoon. 6ish. And the light was coming down at such an angel that in the upper water column, we had beautiful rays of light lighting up all the pea soup. And in the lower water column, it was just dark. There was some minor confusion with the students (when we tell you to come down the anchor line, we mean come down the anchor line, not swim 25 feet away and sit there until someone finds you by freak happenstance), but eventually everyone did what they were supposed to do and found what they were supposed to find.

So, after 13 FREAKIN HOURS at the beach, we packed up and headed out. Some hot tubbing, gallons of water to drink and dinner later, and life was looking pretty good. Except for James and Ben being all tetchy with one another, which may have been partially due to James’ back. Poor guy. End of the day summation: beautiful day to be on the beach, and great diving if you don’t mind being able to see anything.

Sunday was the boat dives, so we got up at the not-quite-as-early hour of 6:30, and were at the docks by 7 to prep the students and ourselves. We headed down to Carmel, and did our first dive off of Pebble Beach. Yes, that Pebble Beach. There’s some good diving there. Anyways, it was a bit…choppy…on the way down, to say the least. I took dramamine the night before and that morning, and still ended up staring fixedly at the horizon for the second half of the trip down.

However, the dive was amazing. Beautiful 30-50 foot viz, nudibranchs out (we saw a San Diego dorid), kelp blooming, just lots of neat stuff. Our first dive down was the deep dive. I took Nate and the same two students, and had them do a “stupid human trick” at 88 feet–we demonstrate nitrogen narcosis by showing them how difficult stuff becomes at 88 feet.

I was a bit nervous, since the second-to-last time I did this dive, students got low on air and had to be taken to the surface on James’ and my octos, and James wasn’t there. New ground rule: when a student’s used up 1/3 of their tank, we’re heading up. No ifs, ands or buts. The dive is done. And we actually hit a decent amount of time underwater. All in all, it was definitely an awesome dive, despite the shortness.

At that point, some storm was sweeping into the Monterey area, and faster than predicted, so the boat people made the decision to head back into the bay before the second dive, hopefully resulting in less waves on the way in than their might be in an hour. We were glad they did–if it had been an hour worse, we’d probably have had more than 2 people feed the fish. Ugh. I stared fixedly, and basically refused to talk to anyone, and made it in safely.

The only exception came when John wiped the powdered donut powder from his hands on my drysuit, leaving white finger prints. I managed to get up, get a donut, and smear it all over his legs. Yes, we’re 6 like that. Good thing we love each other. (Side note: Diving does not remove powdered donut powder from drysuits. Bah.)

The second dive was the opposite of the first dive in many respects. We were diving in emerald green pea soup, with very short viz. I led my students around, with Shelly following close behind them. We saw some more nudibranchs, a huge anemone, and lots of other creatures on the rocks we were on, so long as we were within a foot or two of them. One of my students was not having a good dive–mask leaking, disoriented, just not having fun. So about the time we hit 20 minutes and found the anchor line, I called it good.

There was, however, one more obstacle. Stinging jellies. They get blown in on the wind (which we had) and they feed on the plankton that make the water so emerald (which it was). They’re actually very pretty–yellow mushroom tops, long red tentacles that sting, shorter clear ones that may or may not sting.

Last 4th of July, we went out, and there was pretty much a solid mass of them from the surface down to about 20 feet. This time, there were enough to cause problems, but not so many that you couldn’t dodge them. We still spent the safety stop whacking them away from one another. At the surface, while letting all the students get back on the boat, I realized that what I was holding was not my regulator, but was, in fact, a jelly. And I now had tentacles all over my gloves. Bah.

We made sure to rinse everyone off in fresh water–makes the singers fire–and made it back into harbor without incident. All in all, again, good diving out at Carmel but a crummy trip there and back, and good diving in the bay, but crummy viz.

Ah well, Monterey is never going to be like tropical diving, but it has it’s own rewards. Especially the teaching part.

Vatican says aliens could exist.

More people creatures to convert!


May 2008
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