Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Inappropriate cards for every possible occasion

So Linda and I were having an instant message conversation the other day about greeting cards. She recently sent me a bunch of awesome “I’m sorry” cards (go here to see them) and I was telling her about how I sent one to my friend Chris in Croatia and he loved it. So we got to talking about if we made our own cards, what they would say. Behold the conversation of card-creating GENIUS…

Amber says:
We should work on some cards like that
Linda says:
Seriously. I need cards like that.
Linda says:
Most of mine would start, "You know what?" and then go from there.
Linda says:
You know what? (and on the inside)...you aren't Mr. Right. I just like the sex.
Amber says:
...Just because I call you doesn't mean I'm trying to figure out your china pattern preferences
Linda says:
…I'm just here for the vodka and the sex. -- that one would be popular.
Linda says:
...In this day and age of cell phones and email, your excuses are JUST NOT GOING TO FLY.
Amber says:
...Just because we had sex, it doesn't mean that I want anything more than sex
Amber says:
...Why are you such a monumental ASS?
Linda says:
...Just because we had sex, it doesn't mean that we should do that again. Ick.
Linda says:
...Is your real name ass, or is that just what I call you?
Amber says:
...Did you really think I wasn't going to find out about your girlfriend? It's a frickin' small world and you're clearly an idiot
Linda says:
For sure the one about the "I feel you make me ...whatever it was....that one you always used to say.
Amber says:
...I you make me feel like shit
Linda says:
...Check my blog. I mock you there.
Linda says:
(no not you ...that's another card)
Amber says:
...Everyone on my blog hates you -- I have proof
Amber says:
(again, not you -- a card)
Linda says:
HA HA HA!!!!!
Linda says:
Those would be awesome!
Linda says:
...Survey says: You're an ass
Amber says:
...I was drunk and you looked good. We're not together.
Linda says:
...P.S. who taught you to kiss? She was wrong.
Amber says:
Linda says:
Oh my god are you writing these down or printing them out or something?! We're not even drunk and we're so funny
Linda says:
...Your "routine" just isn't working for me.
Amber says:
...I've been patient. KISS ME ALREADY
Linda says:
...Either work on your foreplay or skip right over it.
Amber says:
...Either work on your foreplay or this is the last time you see me naked. Ever.
Linda says:
Ha ha
Linda says:
...On a scale of one to ten? Nevermind. I'm not that mean.
Amber says:
...Yes, I hate your ex wife too. Probably not for the same reasons, though.
Linda says:
Linda says:
...You've been hurt? Get over it. You'll have to eventually anyway.
Amber says:
...I especially hate her because now I have to deal with the repercussions
Amber says:
...Thanks bitch
Linda says:
...Hey ex-wife? He said I'm the best he's ever had.
Amber says:
...Yes. Size DOES matter.
Linda says:
...The other guy I'm dating doesn't know I have other options either.
Amber says:
...When I said I'd wait for you, I didn't mean I'd be waiting alone
Linda says:
...Drunk dialing IS a sign of affection. Get used to it
Linda says:
...STRIKE THREE. You know what that means.
Amber says:
...I don't hang out with you because you're good company
Amber says:
...I have things to do -- can we cut the small talk and just have sex?
Linda says:
...There's a reason I haven't told my friends about you.
Amber says:
Linda says:
...Enough with the chit-chat. Take your clothes off.
Amber says:
...I know, you like to talk about FEELINGS. Fine. I'm feeling pretty horny.
Linda says:
...It's a myth that girls always want to snuggle. You can leave now.
Amber says:
...Get off me. Yes, I know, I'm so funny. Seriously. Off.

And there you have it folks. Look for the Linda & Amber line of very useful greeting cards for pretty much any occasion, um, somewhere. Eventually. You know, once we actually make them. And feel free to leave suggestions for more. Genius loves company -- and so do we.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Thanksgiving a-go-go

I'm not sure why I titled it that way, I just thought it sounded good. Anyway.

So my aunt and uncle were in town from Illinois for Thanksgiving, which was totally fun. My mom comes from a family of seriously hilarious people, and in order to marry into the family, you also have to have a great sense of humor. And a big mouth, otherwise you’ll never get a word in edgewise. I can’t imagine where I get it from…anyway, my mom and her sister went to town in the kitchen on Thanksgiving. Turkey and ham and a brazillion (tm Alice) side dishes – for six of us. It was borderline ridiculous. Ridiculously YUM. Plus, my dad made pies, and he makes the best pies. I was so full after dinner, but my aunt had made this sweet potato dish with brown sugar and pecans and it was so good I just wanted to lay my face in it and take a little nap. Oh no I didn’t. Ok, yes I did. But I didn’t actually do it.

However, all the fun stuff came later. My aunt and uncle are in a band, and for as long as I can remember, we’ve always sang at family gatherings. So my uncle and my brother got out their guitars, and my aunt and I sang songs we’ve been singing since I was little, plus songs everyone knows. My uncle plays and my brother improvises with him, and my aunt sings and I improvise the harmonies – I’m just going to brag here and say we sounded pretty damn good. Then it turned into “hey, have you heard this song?” and we were getting out cds and playing different songs here and there, all sounding awesome on the surround sound in my parents’ living room. Somehow we got on the subject of one of my favorite renditions of “Proud Mary” – nobody does it like Ike and Tina Turner did it. So we put that on and I start doing my imitation of Tina Turner and the dance she does to “Proud Mary.” Then my mom and my aunt decide they’re going to be my back up dancers. We’re laughing and there’s a lot of hair tossing and strutting across the living room, and frankly, I don’t know how Tina Turner could do that show and still stay on key what with the throwing your arms in the air and the running across the stage in stillettos. That’s a lot of moving around when you're also trying to sing. My dad videotaped it, but luckily the song ended before my brother got his camera out – otherwise I would have been at the mercy of his blackmail pictures for the rest of my life.

Anyway, it was so much fun. I can’t really tell you all of the hilarity that ensued over the few days that they were here, because not only would you have to be there, but you’d have to understand my family’s humor, and it’s just not something I can explain. But man, did we ever laugh.

Saturday night was my night out with the girls – Karen, Kendra and Beth (look at my pretty friends!!). We went to dinner at our favorite restaurant (CafĂ© Jordano) and then went to Karen’s and hung out. As luck would have it (or not) I was the focus of all the teasing for the evening. Which is fine – I’ve been on the giving end plenty of times before and am confident that the time will come again. Muahahahahahahahahaaaaa. What? Luckily, Karen’s husband John came home and tried to divert attention from the girls’ single-minded quest to make me want to sink further into my chair, covered completely by a down blanket. The diversion was successful for about .05 seconds, and then the train got back on the track. And since I know they’re reading this – no, I’m not mad, yes, I know why you were doing it, and yes, of course I would totally do it for you. I can also say that no matter what, I always love nights like that, because I may have mentioned it before – I have the best friends in the entire world. Unfortunately, now it’s Monday and my four days of living in a work-free, fun-only zone are at an end. But I won’t focus on that, and instead be thankful for the pretty much constant fun of the past four days with my family and my friends. I’m so lucky.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I'm thankful

I’m thankful for my dad. He has been the kind of dad every kid should have. Someone to read to me every night before I went to sleep and someone who would play any game with me whenever I wanted. Someone who bounded up the stairs every night after work yelling “Daddy’s home!!” Someone who always pretended to be surprised when I would jump out of my traditional hiding place. Someone who built me beautiful things. Someone who would drive to 5 different 7-11s just to find the perfect Slurpee flavor. Someone who would sing songs to me in French. Someone who is generous with his time and his money. He’s such a hard worker. His family is his priority and always has been. Someone who overcame nature and nurture and became an incredible person. Someone who has a kind heart and a funny sense of humor. Someone who left me a message on my answering machine last week when I was feeling down, singing a song that we both like and telling me to keep my chin up. I’m thankful for 85 million other things about my dad. I’m thankful that because of him, I know what a good father and a good husband can be and should be.

I’m thankful for my mom. She’s the kind of mom that every kid should have. Someone who took me everywhere with her when I was little. Someone who encouraged me to do the things she saw that I was good at. Someone who still does that. Someone who was always home when I got home from school. Someone who, even after my blatant rejection of any sort of faith, never gave up and continued to hope for a change there. Someone who isn’t a hypocrite about church – she lives what she believes, whether it’s easy or not. Someone who is a hard worker and who is always willing to do things for others. Someone who loves her family more than anything. Someone who will go to my house while I’m at work and play with my cats and vacuum the living room and leave food that she knows I like in my fridge. Someone who makes me laugh and who always laughs when I tell her something funny. Someone who I talk to every day at least once, and who is the first person I think to call when something happens. I’m thankful for 85 million other things about my mom. I’m thankful that because of her, I know what kind of mother and wife I want to be.

I’m thankful for my parents. Because of them, I grew up with great examples of how to be a good person and how to be a great parent. And seeing them together after 32 years, I have a fantastic example of what I want my relationship with my husband to be like. They still love each other A LOT and most importantly, although they do their own individual things, they genuinely enjoy being together. I want that, and I am lucky to have seen that that truly exists so that I never settle for anything less.

I’m thankful for my brother. It took us a long time to finally get him, and so when we did, he was a treasured baby. I’m glad I got to see him grow up – and that I remember that. I’m thankful that though there’s a huge age difference and that we fought like crazy, we’re friends now. Someone who makes me laugh. Someone who is an amazing artist. Someone who is an amazing musician. Someone who sees the good in people that others may not bother to look for. Someone who is a good and caring friend. Someone who is willing to help others that he cares about. Someone who hugs me and tells me he loves me.

I’m thankful for those three as a whole. I love to spend time with my family (including my extended family). We laugh until we cry and have fun and fight and get annoyed with each other, but ultimately, we enjoy each other’s company.

I’m thankful for my friends. People who I’ve known for 24 years, 15 years, 2 years, 6 months. Doesn’t matter – my friends are the best. I’d be here forever if I listed what and who I’m thankful for. The bottom line is that I’m thankful that I have so many people who love me so much. Old friends, new friends, blog friends – I’m thankful for them all.

I’m thankful for my cats. Yes, my cats. Little fuzzballs who greet me at the door every time I come home and who want to constantly sit by me and lick my face and sleep with me at night. Who are always good for a hug when I’m sad, and who don’t mind if I get tears on their fur. Who will purr and purr because they love me, and always will, because they don’t know any different.

I live a blessed life. No question about it. I could pretty much write a book about the things I have that I’m thankful for. I know it, and I try every day to make sure that the people who make my life so great know how much I value and adore them.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Things that are official...

…I am no longer one of the millions of people who find love on match.com. I actually never WAS one of those people, but now that I have officially cancelled my subscription, I’ll never BE one of those people. And I’m not sad about that. At all. Because while I didn’t find love, I did find lots of fodder for the blog, and clearly, that’s what’s important in this case. I finally got tired of the emails entitled “Your Matches.” Dudes, those are so NOT my matches. I can pretty much guarantee you that. And how could they be, since I hid my profile like two months ago? Anyway, my foray into dating websites has ended. Thank God.

…I’m accident prone and as a result, I broke my pinkie toe on my left foot. I was running (yes, running -- I don't know why) out of my room on Thursday night and caught my toe on the edge of my partially closed door. I fell, and proceeded to roll around on the floor in pain. I was talking to my neighbor downstairs the next day and asked if he heard a big thunk the previous evening and he said yes. He wasn’t concerned, because if he called me every time he heard a loud thud from upstairs, we’d be on the phone all the time. He did call me the day after I may or may not have fallen into the fireplace that one time because apparently that was pretty loud. Hypothetically.

…I can now call myself a true Coloradoan because I have joined the masses of people in this state who own Crocs. For those uneducated on the newest ugly footwear craze to sweep this state, for the low low price of $30, you too can own a pair of rubber clogs. Frankly, I’m surprised that I didn’t get kicked out of the state for not owning a pair before now. I kept hearing how comfy they were and I’ve worn Sally’s, so I know that that’s true. Only they’re ugly. However, I found a black pair – apparently they’re called “the Metro” – that I can live with and I bought them. Because in the past three days I realized that I can’t wear backless shoes because it hurts to flex my foot, and I can’t wear tie shoes because they smush my toes together and flip flops are ALWAYS an option in my world, except for when it’s 30 degrees out. Crocs it is. And dammit, they ARE comfortable. Stay tuned for when I buy a pair of these – and then commit me, because it’ll be a clear sign that I’ve lost my mind.

…I’m looking for a new job. I know, I know, I keep saying that, but this time it’s OFFICIAL official. Due to circumstances beyond my control, my job may be in jeopardy – AGAIN. And then again, it may not. Stupid job uncertainty. I think I’ll find out in early December after our board meeting. Whatever. I can’t do anything about it, so I might as well do what I can, which is send out resumes. And go shopping. What?

…My new bedspread looks so good and I got all new pillows. Because my mom freaked me out with her retelling of something she saw on Dateline about dust mites and how you need to replace your pillows every year because they’re probably filled with dust mites. Gaaaaaahhhhhhh!! I seriously could not buy new pillows fast enough. And, as soon as I get Sally’s final take on paint colors, let the painting commence. I hate painting with a passion, but my house WILL be painted before the end of the year. That’s all there is to it. Now I just have to find new art for my bedroom, since the flowers are moving out. I’m looking at Ansel Adams stuff, because I prefer photography and I like the black and white images – and it’s pretty (for lack of a better word) nature stuff without being flowers. Any suggestions are helpful – keep in mind that this is art I’ll have to look at every morning when I wake up because it’ll be on the wall facing my bed. No pressure though – just the burden of knowing that if I choose your suggestion for art, you will be solely responsible for my mood when I get up because the picture makes me happy or sad. Just a small disclaimer.

Ok. That’s all. I have a busy day today, between going out to lunch and going to the mall. I love the fact that I can forward the phones at the office to my cell phone. I have no clue why I haven’t found a new job yet – it’s obvious that I’m the best employee ever.

Monday, November 21, 2005

When you're just too lazy to write stuff

I’m kind of out of things to write about today. However, I give you these links to one of my favorite websites ever. I could probably come up with many more links, and maybe I will. we'll see how the week goes. Until then, here you go.

This pretty much sums up my feelings during my daily, long-ass commute.

This I just thought was funny as hell and probably a conversation I would have with myself.

And this one will make total sense to you if you know me BUT AT ALL.

Thank god I only have to work 3 days this week.

Friday, November 18, 2005

What I lost

I'm not sure if I ever mentioned it, but I was a nanny for seven years. I started when I was 20 and the boys were 1 and 3. Even after I stopped being their nanny, I had become a part of the family and I had gotten to be really close with their mom. They owned restaurants and clubs around Denver, all of which my friends and I could go to pretty much free of charge whenever we wanted. She was unbelievably generous with everything – time, money, whatever – you needed it and she could provide it? Done. She was there for me through two big boyfriend breakups, and countless dramas. When my roommate got evicted two months after we moved in, she immediately put me on their cell phone plan so that I wouldn’t be without a phone. Birthdays and Christmas were extravagant – I usually had as many presents as the kids did, and when I graduated from college, she gave me a pair of diamond earrings. We went to Napa Valley together on vacation. We went to kid events, we did family events – I was one of the family, through and through. I learned about cooking – she’s a chef, and I watched her cook a million times – I loved coming into the house in the winter because it smelled like her unbelievable homemade spaghetti sauce. Big dinners, small dinners, simple dinners, fancy dinners – you name it. Sundays meant Mexican food, Saturdays in the summer were barbecue. If she happened to be in the kitchen when I came into one of the restaurants, I didn’t even have to order – she made me what she knew I would love. Which, I’d like to say is no small feat, what with my myriad of food issues. Anyway. I learned how to properly set a table and I learned how to host a fabulous party.

I learned how to deal with an alcoholic. I can see drunk a mile away now, no matter how hard the person tries to hide it. I can smell it, I can see it, I can recognize someone hiding a problem. I learned how to overlook it, to gloss over it, to cover it. She used to call me when the boys were little so that I could come over and put them to bed because she was too drunk to do it. I've hauled her out of numerous neighborhood parties – literally hauled, as I dragged her down the street back to her house, after she'd pissed off her friends for the first time... after she'd pissed them off for the last time. I’ve driven her home from numerous occasions and stayed the night because she said she'd be home at 10 and didn't show up until 3. I’ve stayed up for hours trying to listen to and console her drunken ramblings, to keep her from calling anyone, to make sure that her husband was home before I left in case the boys needed something. I've endured ten and fifteen calls in an evening, and I've endured calls in the middle of the night, even when I had to go to work the next morning. Most of all, I've made countless excuses for her behavior. She is a very powerful and intimidating person, and in all the years I’ve known her, she is always the boss of everyone because no one dares to say otherwise. Including me. I knew she had a problem. But I didn’t know what to do – she lost so many friends because of her drinking behavior that I couldn’t leave her. She'd done so much for me. She needed me. The boys needed me. I did what I did because I loved her and I love those boys and I thought I was helping.

But a year ago came the last straw. My boss lives across the street from her, and mentioned to me how the older of the boys (he was 10) came over and asked to borrow a cooking ingredient. When my boss asked him why, he said “because mommy drank too much and can’t cook me dinner.” I lost it. See, in my head, I could tell myself that the boys didn’t know, and if the boys didn’t know, that was somehow ok. But for a ten year old to know what drinking too much is, much less that his MOM was drinking too much, much less that he had to make dinner for him and his little brother because of that? No way. I had let countless “incidents” slide over the 8 years that I knew her, but this? This was not something I was going to let slide.

That day after work, I drove straight to their house and walked in, looking for the 10 year old. I found him and told him I needed to talk to him outside. I asked him if what my boss said was true, and he said no, but I knew he was lying to me. I told him that I needed him to tell me the truth, because I was going to talk to mommy about her drinking. His little lip began to tremble and he finally told me that what my boss said was true. It was all I could do not to cry as I hugged him and told him that he was a good boy for telling me the truth.

Just then, she walked out of the house and asked what was going on. I sent him back in and told her that we needed to talk. I am a patient person. But when I do get mad – I get really mad. Especially if it has something to do with someone I love. I was furious – so furious and hurt and sick to my stomach that I was shaking and I wasn’t sure I could even talk. I told her I couldn't do it anymore. That her drinking was out of control and I couldn't deal with the calls every night and the drunken crying in the middle of the night. That most of all, I couldn't watch her destroy the lives of her boys.

She sent me an email the next day, apologizing for putting me in difficult situations, but that that drinking was her way of dealing with the fucking worthless son of a bitch that she’s married to (MY words, not hers – I have no use for that bastard). She said that the story my boss had told me must have just been a misunderstanding. I wrote back and told her that she didn’t need to apologize to me – that she didn’t do anything to me that I couldn’t forgive her for. I told her she needed to get help, and that I would do whatever it took for her to do that, because I loved her. I would take the boys, I would stay at the house – anything she needed, but she had to get help. That the people she needed to be apologizing to were those boys. But she refused to admit she has a problem. I haven’t seen or talked to her since.

This was by far the hardest decision I’ve ever made -- harder than any break up. And I constantly question and second guess myself, wondering if I did the right thing, or if I was just being selfish. I love those boys as if they were mine. I would throw myself in front of a car for them without a second thought. But this wasn't something I could protect them from -- and I felt totally helpless.

I miss them so much, especially the younger one. He was MY baby. He came to me for hugs and stories. When he was a little bitty one year old, he'd get up from his nap and want to dance. And we'd dance around the living room forEVER. When he learned how to talk, mine was the last name he said -- he called me "Ma ma ma", which got confusing, because that's also what he called his mom. I got all choked up the first time he got his blonde baby curls cut off, and when I looked at him one day and realized that his fat baby belly was disappearing. When I'd spend the night there, I’d put him to bed and without fail, he would come in and want to climb in bed with me. We talked about lots of stuff, and he went everywhere with me. He's 10 now. I miss him so much. I still see him when I'm in the neighborhood -- it's the place where I'm always housesitting and also since my boss lives across the street. My boy always runs to my car to give me a kiss and then he follows me around while I take care of the dog. He asks me why I don't come over anymore, and I tell him that it doesn't mean that I stopped loving him because I didn't and I never will. And from what I hear from everyone (but never him), his mom has gotten worse. It tears me up. I feel like I deserted them. I feel like I left them to a life...what kind of life? What did I leave them to? I feel like if I keep thinking about it, my heart might break. I feel like that every single day when I think about them and I feel awful.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I am the consummate corporate professional

Marlene: Can you write the names on these invitations for me?
Amber: Sure. *looks at list, sees name of guy they can't stand* Ugh. Are we using their titles?
Marlene: No.
Amber: Ok then. Is "fuckhead" one word or two?
Marlene: Maybe it's hyphenated.

Half Naked Thursday!!

Welcome to Half Naked Thursday. It's obvious from the picture that I'm in public, therefore, not actually naked -- half or otherwise -- because I'm just not that kind of girl. What's also obvious is that I'm dancing. I'm dancing at Karen and John's wedding last October, and as you can see, my girls standing behind me are not dancing. Which makes me think that perhaps I'm jamming out to "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." In case you didn't know, I love this song. Oh so very much. And therefore I was THRILLED when the DJ put it on at the reception. While my girls all like this song, no one was as ecstatic as I was about it, and clearly? I didn't care. You know why? Because by this point in the evening, I had had, *ahem*, a few vodka tonics and some champagne. If by "some" you mean "mine and everyone elses's at the head table." Mmmmmm. Champagne. Yaaaayyyy "The Devil Went Down to Georgia"!! Oh, and also, since that's Kendra standing there with her back to me (see how they are??), this is serving as her contribution to HNT. Happy HNT!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

How to make me fall in love with you

With words. Write me letters and emails that are so unbelievably good that I can’t help but fall so hard for you. Tell me things about you that not many people know. I like secrets -- and I'm pretty good at keeping them. Tell me random things. Tell me your feelings – your feelings about me, your feelings about life. Really talk to me. Be descriptive – use big words in the correct context AND spelled correctly. Nerd, party of one – your table is ready…yeah, that’s me.

I have a cedar chest at home that holds all of my important tangible memories. I have a large box of every note that Beth wrote me when we were in 7th grade. I have a ton of notes from Becki and Kendra from when we were trying to stay awake in 11th grade English (a.k.a “the class where time stood still”). I have programs from when I played Chava in “Fiddler on the Roof” in 11th grade, with a note printed in the back from my parents (they bought ad space) wishing me a happy 17th birthday. I have my first teddy bear that my dad brought to the hospital when I was born. I have a box of love letters.

It seems like no one writes love letters anymore. In fact, hardly anyone even writes letters at all. But these letters are from the summer before my senior year of high school, the summer before my freshman year in college, and the summer before my sophomore year in college. It was the mid-90s – we weren’t big on email just yet.

They were from a boy named Justin. He was a tall, dark haired boy from Nebraska. He had a gorgeous tenor voice. He was a big jerk. When he moved to Lakewood and joined our show choir junior year of high school, I did not like him one bit. He was cocky and arrogant and it seemed that NOTHING could possibly measure up to his beloved Nebraska. He came from a small school where he was a big fish, to this big school where nobody knew him and most people didn’t even know he existed. But after his initial really bad impression on us, he slowly began infiltrating our tight knit group. He lived in a big house, and so eventually, every weekend there would be 10 or so of us at Justin’s, eating them out of house and home, listening to music until all hours, playing games, making out, staying the night. When spring came, the parties included the pool in his backyard and afternoons of sunning ourselves by said pool once school was out. Justin eased up and began to let us in – he realized that his Nebraska friends were good, but shocker! Somehow in all the resistance to us, we had become his best friends (and vice versa). And we realized that underneath the cocky exterior beat the heart of an incurable romantic with an enormous capacity for love.

I say we, but I guess I mean me. Justin and I got along for the most part, but when we clashed – we’d clear a room in no time flat, because everyone wanted to escape the inevitable fiery combustion. I kept a little bit of distance between us, because there was another girl in our group who was IN LOVE with him, and I didn’t want to step on that. He had no interest in her, but for some reason, I attracted him like a magnet. He asked me to prom about 40 times – I kept saying no. It bruised his inflated ego, because he’d never experienced that before – a girl? Turning him down? Impossible! And so we’d fight and make up and fight and make up and fight and then kiss. What? I can’t remember when it happened, but it did. Probably one of those late nights hanging out at his dad’s house, talking the deep talk that you so often do in high school. And when it happened, I think I told him that that was it – it was just a kiss and wouldn’t happen again because I didn’t want to hurt my friend. Which of course made me ever so much more attractive to him because now we were competing. I wasn’t going to give in, and he wasn’t going to give up – it was on now. He clearly underestimated me.

This is still all in the course of one year. We finally managed to come to an understanding and let down enough to create a friendship. And we did this just in time for him to leave for the summer. He spent every summer working on a ranch somewhere in Nebraska. And that’s when the letters began.

He told me he had a lot of time to think out there in the fields all day and that maybe he’d been too hard on me. That maybe the things that irritated him so much about me did so because they were the things that irritated him about himself. That we clashed so hard because we were so much alike. That maybe I made him so mad because he liked me so much. Once we got past the initial apologies, he would talk about the other stuff he thought about. His honesty was amazing – he told me things about what he was scared of and what he wanted from life and what the stars looked like when he was in his sleeping bag at night. I wrote him back, and I got a letter from him every week for three months. He went back to his school in Nebraska for his senior year, but he spent most of his time that year in Colorado. With his best friends.

I fell in love with that Justin. The Justin of the letters. And when he came back? He was that Justin with me. We never dated, but we loved each other THE MOST. We always joked about how we’d end up getting married one day. We eventually went our separate ways, but always stayed in touch.

I went to his wedding a few years ago. My mom made me go – I didn’t want to. It was so silly, but I didn’t want to see him marry someone else. I didn't think I could bear it. I sat in the church before the wedding, bawling. I saw Justin looking so handsome in his tuxedo, standing at the front of the church. His bride started walking down the aisle, and when I saw the look in his eyes as he looked at her, I stopped crying. I recognized that look and I knew that she was his world now -- and that's how it should be.

Things are different. Times have changed. But I will always have the box of letters to remind me that once? Someone great adored me and told me all about it. And with those words he made me fall in love with him. Simple, right?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Leave the worrying to me -- I'm a professional

I’m a worrier. If there’s something that needs to be worried about, well, you’ve come to the right place. If there’s something that doesn’t need worrying about, well, I’m your girl.

I’m not sure why I’m like this. I didn’t have a hard life as a kid and I’ve never had to worry about things like school or money or anything serious, really. Things come pretty easily to me and so the amount of worrying I do has no basis in reality.

The things I worry most about are people. When I was little, I couldn’t go to bed at night without telling my parents that I loved them, because what if they died in the night and never knew that I loved them? Yes, that was my thinking at age 5. I am petrified of losing my parents. Petrified. I am really close to them – I was an only child for many years until my brother came along, and my parents spent LOTS of time with me. I live a mile away from them. We’re a tight family. And I am scared to death of losing that. I am not afraid of dying myself – not in the least. But I worry about my family dying. I worry that my kids will never know their grandparents and know how phenomenal they are. I worry that my parents will never know their grandkids, or get the chance to be the phenomenal grandparents I know they’ll be.

Ever since Vannie died, I’ve worried about losing my brother. Not for any reason other than when you’re faced with the sudden death of someone young, you can’t help but think “what if.” Well, maybe you can, but I can’t. Especially because I took care of him all the time. He was MY baby. I carried him around and played with him and fed him and mothered him practically to death until he was 18. I let him go finally, but I still worry.

I worry about my friends. I worry that one day, we’ll finally reach the point where we’ve grown apart. I worry that we’ll stop talking to each other and never start again. I see statistics about how one in 5 women will get breast cancer, and I think “there are five of us – will one of us get that?” I know, it’s morbid. It’s not like I think about it all the time, but it’s there.

I worry about my youth group kids. I worry that they’ll make an irreversible bad decision. I worry that something will happen to one of them. I worry that my girl M, who’s at college in Greeley will come home after one year and back into the clutches of her overbearing, CRAZY father (I know you’re reading this M – I worry about that, ok?). Don’t come home! I miss you, but don’t come home! I worry that my boy D will get jaded by the way silly, stupid high school girls treat him and turn into a jerk. I worry that he’ll give in to the large amount of peer pressure that kids face. I worry that one day, he’ll stop telling me things because he’s scared that I’ll be disappointed. I’m scared that when I find out what he ISN’T telling me, it’ll be too late.

I worry about being alone. I worry that I’ll be alone forever. I worry that I’ll never have kids. I worry that I’ll have kids and then be so worried about them that I’ll have some sort of ridiculous breakdown. Oh the things I can find to worry about. I even worry about the cats. I know -- stupid. And the stupidest part is that they’re all purely hypothetical scenarios and also? I couldn’t stop them from happening no matter how much I wanted to.

But don’t YOU worry. I don’t worry all the time. I also obsess. And when I’m not doing either of those things, well, I’m probably making fun of people. I have to balance out my CLEARLY DUBIOUS mental health SOMEHOW, right?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Creepy Situation: Averted. Thanks Mom!

The United States has an early alert system for terrorism. Terror levels are denoted by color – red is the highest, and on down from there. Towns have tornado sirens to let people know that a tornado is coming so they can prepare. My disaster alert? My mom.

Example. The other night when I was driving home, my mom called to tell me something, and as we were getting off the phone, she’s like “Don’t stop for any weirdos!” And I was like “Uh, okaaaaay.” So she tells me that apparently there’s a guy posing as a cop and pulling over young women (which I would know if I watched the news, but who needs it when I can just get the highlights from my mom, right?). So I said “Ok, mom. I won’t pull over for any cops. Only hobos.” And she’s like “What?” And I said “Hobos! Can I stop for hobos?” So she’s cracking up and is like “No. Don’t stop for anyone.” I said “What? What? I’m getting to a place where I’m going to lose you. I have to go – there’s a hobo I have to pick up.” I hung up as she was still laughing – it’s a good thing my mom understands me.

The most recent example was this morning at church. Here’s the thing – churches attract quite a cross-section of people, people who are educated, uneducated, wealthy, poor, EVERYONE is at a church. They’re there for a reason, and so it makes it difficult from the standpoint of dealing with them socially. Since I work there, it makes it even MORE difficult, because it would look so bad if one of the staff was rude or unkind to a church member.

So there’s this guy there. He’s the parent of one of the youth group kids, and he’s kind of a loner. Like I said, every church has it’s oddballs – ours is no different, and you just deal with them. But this guy? This guy creeps me out to no end. He’s one of those who doesn’t have a great amount of social skills, and is maybe not aware of the, um, level of appropriateness of certain comments. I’ll just say it – he hits on me and it freaks me out. Usually I can deal with the weirdos just fine, but there’s something about this guy that gives me the heebie jeebies. Plus, the rest of the weirdos don’t hit on me. It started about a month ago and I’ve avoided him ever since. He doesn’t seem to get it though. He hovers around outside my office, and if I’m somewhere talking to someone, he keeps walking by, trying to catch my eye. I pretend not to notice. So far, it’s worked great, especially since there is rarely a time when I’m by myself – I’m either talking to people or I have my posse of youth group kids with me. I’ve told my pastor (since she’s also my boss and I figured I should let her know) and I told my mom, since she’s there every Sunday as well. And because did I mention I’m so creeped out? Anyway.

This morning, I was sitting in my office talking to one of my girls, and my mom came in to say hi. As she was leaving, she walked through the outer office to the hallway, and I hear her say REALLY LOUDLY “HI (creepy guy’s name)! How ARE you?” I kicked my door shut, and me and my girl kept talking. Way to be mom. Thanks for the warning.

I’m not sure how long I’ll have to avoid this guy before he gets the picture. But as long as I have my protective kid force field and my early warning mom, well, I think I’ll be just fine.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

I Like Pelicans.

So here’s a little bit of insight into something that started out as a simple comic that made me laugh and has evolved into a way of life.

The above comic is “Robotman” (now “Monty”) and it is circa 1994. I’m not sure how I got a hold of it, because it wasn’t published in the paper that I got at home. I was probably reading this other newspaper during class. I mean I was LEARNING. LEARNING. I was probably perusing the NEWS and accidentally glanced at the comics section. Oh no I wasn’t perusing the news. I was totally reading the comics -- I never read the news, especially not as a senior in high school, which is when this was.

Anyway. For some reason, this struck me as hilarious. HI-LARIOUS. Seriously – who hasn’t been in a situation where there was an awkward silence and in your desperation to think of something to say, something totally ridiculous comes out? Don’t lie – you know it’s totally happened to you. Hope and Alice -- I know you've got something for me here.

So I showed the comic to my girls, and they also thought it was funny. And so was born one of our “timeless catch phrases.” Whenever there was a long silence, someone would say “I like pelicans.” Whenever someone would say something random or out of the blue, the other ones would look at them and say “…and you like pelicans?” I get that a lot, which may come as a surprise to all of you, since I am always so LOGICAL and SENSIBLE. And not at all random.

My parents caught on to my amusement by this comic, mostly because they kept hearing “I like pelicans,” followed by loud laughter, and so a few years ago, they started buying me pelican paraphernalia. It got off to kind of a rocky start when they went to Mexico and brought me back a bracelet that was all penguins. I didn’t get the significance, which must have showed plainly on my face, because my mom said “it’s penguins. Because you always say ‘I like penguins.’” And I started laughing and said “It’s PELICANS, mom. I like PELICANS.” Oh mom, you're always good for a laugh since you usually only half listen to me. Anyway, so once my parents got it straight and my firends caught on, the pelican stuff started to filter in, because, lets face it, there isn’t a lot of demand for pelican merchandise in a landlocked state such as this one. But then we went on a family vacation to Virginia Beach 3 years ago. We always do the touristy shopping thing (and we did a lot that week because it rained the whole damn time) and since it IS a beach town, there were a LOT of pelican items to be had. Thanks to my dad, I’m pretty sure that I left with one of each of them. And what I didn’t get in VA, I got the next year when we went to Florida. Thanks, dad!

Anyhoo, that’s the story of how I started collecting pelican stuff. And also the story of the advent of one of the best catchphrases ever. In my opinion, that is. Feel free to use said catchphrase whenever the awkward situation warrants it.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Elevator Thinking

I thought maybe I'd regale you with my thoughts as I sat stuck in an elevator by myself for an hour one morning a couple of years ago. We had recently moved our office to the building we're in now, which is about one mile from our former building. I really loved our former building, because it had a little locker room in the bathroom, and I was pretty much the only person who ever used it. So one morning, I had just come from the gym and I decided that I would go to the old building and shower there, sharing the space with no one, rather than showering at the NEW building, where there were always other people. It sounded like the perfect plan. Until I got stuck in the elevator. Yes, on my way up to the 4th floor, the elevator just stopped. Ah yes, a smashing start to a Monday.

After I decided that abject panic and/or crying was not going to do any good, I rang the emergency elevator bell. Not without reluctance, because while I very much enjoy the spotlight, I would prefer it to be in a situation that isn’t embarrassing as all hell and also where I don’t look like something the cat dragged in. More on that later. "Help!" I said. "I'm stuck in the elevator!" Distant voices drifted down to me as the people who heard me sad that help was on the way. Super.

So I sat down, and I'm thinking to myself "Ok, what if the cable breaks and the elevator free falls to the bottom of the shaft??? What if there's sparks and it ignites and I'm trapped??? Oh wait, I'm in between the ground floor and the second floor, so I'm probably out of danger. Though I do bruise rather easily. Even so, I haven't heard a lot about those falling-half-a-floor elevator casualties, so I think I can breathe easy. Breathe easy?? Oh my god, is it me, or is the air getting thin in here? What if the elevator guy takes so long to get here that I suffocate because I only have this little box of air? I mean, how long can you go with only the air that is in this elevator RIGHT NOW -- oh yeah, and the air that I also noticed coming through the crack in the doors. Hmmm. I guess I'm doing ok in the oxygen department. I mean, if all else fails, I can put my mouth up to the door crack and breathe that way. Though that might look a little strange when whoever comes to rescue me gets here – ‘why no, I was NOT french kissing the elevator doors, I was simply trying to get some fresh air.’ Really, this situation just gets more and more humiliating by the minute.”

More thinking. “Ok, so if someone comes through the roof to rescue me, will he let me bring my boots? Those are my favorite boots. I guess I could put them on and leave behind my running shoes, but then again, those shoes were over $100. Oh wait. The elevator will eventually get fixed, whether I'm in it or not, so I think no matter what, I would get to keep both pairs of shoes. So what if the guy who comes to rescue me is like Mr. July in the firefighter calendar? That would be awesome. Wait, no, I haven't taken a shower yet and I just went running. And I slept on my hair funny and my mascara is at the bottom of my gym bag and I forgot to bring lip stuff. Plus, it's pretty dark. I don't know how it would turn out if I tried to apply any sort of makeup in this lighting. Probably not good. Not good at all. Here’s hoping for ugly and/or old and/or married firefighters. Or maybe one hot one who is enthralled by my natural beauty. Hmmm. No -- better stick to ugly/old/married.”

“Why oh why did I think this would be a good idea. This is what I get for being all high-maintenance and in the two years we were here before we moved our office, I've never talked to anyone else on the other floors of this building, and yet now they're all trying to be encouraging -- "hang in there!" and "you're ok!" Not to split hairs here, because I appreciate them not just leaving me here alone, but a) how do you KNOW I'm ok -- what if I had some horrible heart condition or I'm abnormally claustrophobic? I would be decidedly NOT ok if that were the case. And b) Hang in there? Really? Now I’m thinking of that poster of the cat hanging from the tree branch, and I’ve realized that my plight has been reduced to a punch line from a 1970s-era “humor” poster.”

“I wish my cell phone worked, because I’m getting pretty bored in here. Plus, I need to call work and explain to them why not only am I going to be late, but also why I’m going to have to be even later because I still have to take a shower. I’m thinking my boss is going to sigh and roll her eyes when she hears my excuse. Like a couple of weeks ago when I called to say I’d be late because I got lost on the way to the office. That’s right – lost. Granted, our office is in a new place, but it’s practically in the backyard of the old office that I’ve been coming to every day for the past TWO YEARS. And I got lost. See, what happened was I thought I’d miss this one traffic backup and take a detour, only it wasn’t as much of a straight shot as I thought, and well, I drove around for a while until finally I was like ‘AH HA! I know where I am now.’ I was like an hour late. I think everyone just smiles, shakes their head and says ‘it could only happen to Amber.’”

“Ok so what if I have to climb out of the elevator through the roof? And what if while I'm doing that (ever so gracefully, I’m sure), I fall? The paramedics would have to come and again, I hate calling attention to myself for stupid stuff. I swear, going to the gym today has just totally worked me over. Speaking of being worked over, remember in 'Silence of the Lambs' when Hannibal Lecter kills that guy and takes his face and puts his dead body on the roof of the elevator? Oh my god, what if the guy who comes through the roof is a psychotic killer who loves that movie? What if this isn't just an ordinary power outage? What if this is like some sort of plot concocted by someone who loves action and/or horror and/or psychological thriller-type movies involving elevator mishaps? Crap. I'd be screwed then.”

“Hey -- is this thing moving?”

Monday, November 07, 2005

Things that rhyme with "writer's block"

Lots of things rhyme with block. I won’t go into what they are right now, but lots of things do.

First of all, I’d like to show some love to the BRAND NEW EVEN MORE HIGH TECH ergonomic wireless keyboard. I don’t quite know how to work all of your bells and whistles yet, o keyboard my keyboard, but I will learn. Oh yes, I will learn.

Here’s something that I’m having a hard time with, though – this fancy new keyboard curves differently than my other one, and so until I get used to it, it’s typo city around here. I’m going to attempt to type the rest of this post and leave it just the way it is so that you too can enjoy the typing related hijinks. Chances are though, the Word OCD will kick in and I’ll have to change all the misspellings and weird punctuation because I just can’t stand it.

And now that I said that, I can’t think of anything else to write. Actually, I think I’m getting sick, and so Marlene gave me some Advil cold and sinus medicine and I now feel a little silly and probably even more random than usual. I’m warning you of that in advance as well. I’m just full of disclaimers today. Sorry. In advance.

Christmas is coming. I know that for those of you who live under rocks, this is going to come as a great shock, because apparently you didn’t walk into the aisle next to the Halloween costumes back in October and suddenly become confused because it was 70 degrees outside, yet Aisle 7 had already become a veritable winter wonderland. I was somewhere this weekend (yes, I know – that narrows it RIGHT down) and I all of the sudden had the urge to get out all my Christmas decorations. Marlene and I were somewhere recently (again, the specifics are mind-boggling) and I was saying how I was thinking about getting a Christmas tree again this year and she looked at me and said “Oh how quickly the memory fades.” She’s referring to the fact that last year I waged a full-on war against the pine needles in my house. They were EVERYWHERE. I came into work every day with an update of the odd places in which I found pine needles. The last straw (or needle, if you will. And I will) was one day after I had gotten rid of the tree. I was rejoicing over the fall of the pine needle regime, and part of the rejoicing involved taking a shower. I went to turn on the water, and lo and behold, in the bottom of my big bathtub, was one lone pine needle. Laying there, taunting me. Anyway, when Marlene reminded me of the pine needle debacle of ’04, I was like “sure, but this year I have a vacuum that actually WORKS.” What can I say. I’m a sucker for Christmas.

Ok, I’m going to leave you with a shout out to my girls Karen and Kendra – we had dinner with Kendra’s mom on Saturday night and as a result, I think Kendra has a future either as a mime (but I hope not because mimes are scary) or as one of those people who translate for the deaf. Could be either, but whatever it was, it was funny as hell. Even though the rocket scientist at the restaurant wouldn’t give us an ETA on those awesome smelling cinnamon rolls. Jerk.

And yes, no typos = Word OCD. I’m sorry, I just can’t do it.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Dear Wireless Ergonomic Keyboard

Sometimes when I type, I get good sentences because the keyboard does what I want it to. But sometimes, I can’t get it to do what I want it to and I don’t know why. Maybe it just hates me. Maybe it’s all in my head. Because I’ve been typing along for a couple of sentences now with no issues. Stupid keyboard. Make up your mind because I don’t need your intermittent crap. I have stuff to do and you are not being helpful. I want to like you because you are so high tech what with your ergonomic design and your wirelessness and your cool immediate buttons and your sleek black look. I want us to have a good relationship because, let’s be honest, I spend a lot of time here at my desk with you. I use you to do work and to write papers and emails and blogs and all kinds of stuff. You know, important stuff. And now here I’ve gotten through a whole paragraph and you’re acting as if I’m crazy for thinking that you aren’t working and so when the IT Guy shows up to check out the situation, I look like an idiot who doesn’t understand all of this newfangled technology and whatnot, and then you’re going to gloat for a while and then as soon as he leaves, you’ll start acting all wonky again and I’ll be forced to get REALLY ANGRY. Did you hear me keyboard? Angry. I’ve gotten veeeeery frustrated with you today – I mean, at first it was sort of amusing to see which letters you were going to choose to type. Like yesterday, when I was on IM with Linda. I accidentally sent her a message that was supposed to say “I swear” but actually said “swrgjsanjkfnsdjf” because I got mad that you wouldn’t let me type the necessary vowels and so I was hitting keys randomly, including the “enter” button. Oh ho ho – I know – soooo funny. But after a while, well, it got to be less and less funny and more and more angry-making. Maybe my anger makes you angry and then you become passive aggressive in order to put me in my place. If that’s the case, well, you can just stop it right now because I know people who do that and when they exhibit that sort of behavior, all it does is further piss me off and then I begin to look for fights because I hate it when people (and keyboards) are passive aggressive. However, the big difference is that with you, I can throw you across the room in anger. With other people, I just have to take it and hope that it passes. See what I have to deal with when I’m not dealing with you, keyboard? See how I want you to make my workday better and more comfortable? So that when I have to deal with mean people, at least I’m not already on the warpath because of all the keyboard frustrations I’ve had for THE ENTIRE day. I know you saw me working on actual work-related items, and I know you know that The Boss is here – no, not Bruce Springsteen, you idiot. I’m serious here – quit making jokes. The Boss is here and therefore I have stuff I need to get done. So why don’t you help me do that instead of sabotaging my every move? Can’t you be happy for me that I actually have stuff to do instead of just mindlessly staring at the screen as I google endless things? Just because you don’t have a boyfriend doesn’t mean that you should take it out on me. What do you mean what am I talking about. I’m talking about the fact that maybe this passive aggressive behavior is due to something rooted a little deeper than the water I spilled on you yesterday. Oh yes it was an accident, quit saying I did it on purpose. And quit trying to change the subject. What, now you just cannot be happy for me when I’m dating someone, and so you get all judgmental when I try to type stuff about it, so much so that eventually I just learn not to type about it here because it’s not worth the irritation. Yeah, you heard me – I have a laptop at home that I’m MORE THAN HAPPY to write stuff on if this behavior continues. You’ve been here when I typed all that stuff about the LOSERS I dated all summer, why can’t you just be cool when I want to write something NICE about someone? Instead of complaining that there are no decent guys out there by only letting me type the occasional vowel and alternate consonants. Well, there aren’t any decent guys out there – not if you keep being such a light bulb bitch and not getting yourself out there. Light bulb – on again, off again? I’m sorry, but a man is not going to magically appear on your doorstep with no effort put forth by you, and even if he did, chances are you would hate his shoes or the way he stands or how his left ear is a fraction of a centimeter higher than his right ear, or that he’s a hunt-and-peck typist instead of typing fast and with correct form. Because all of those are deal breakers. Yes, I realize that I was the one who purchased you at Office Depot, and had I known that this is how it was going to turn out, well, I would have left you there so that someone MALE and BETTER LOOKING would have bought you. Yes. Someone like The Guy With the Hottest Ass Ever. Exactly. But that didn’t happen now, did it. What, I already said I was sorry. Let’s get back to what I was telling you. Being picky is one thing, being scared is quite another. And denying that you’re scared will get you nowhere except a one way ticket to alone land, where you’ll be ALONE because you’ve become so bitter that you alienate all of your friends, even your faithful sidekick the ergonomic mouse. So think about that, keyboard. Don’t alienate me. Because I want to be your friend, but there comes a point when it gets to be too hard. And you know what? That point is today. After I post this, I’m taking you back to Office Depot and REPLACING YOU. Yes. So now you can have a second chance at the love you want that CLEARLY I am not capable of giving you. Don’t start with the crocodile tears. I know you’re secretly happy. Yes, we did have some good times – don’t cheapen it now by pretending you’re all broken up about it. And yes, if you must know. It’s NOT me – it’s you.*

*I got that from Paul

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Damn it feels good to be a gangsta

So this is me as Little Red Riding in tha Hood. You can see that I’m iced out – thanks to my boy Mark, who, when I called to borrow the giant earrings and the best ever “Pimp” belt buckle, gave me all of his bling. I’m just going to say that he pulls it off much better than I do. Because this picture is of me attempting to look street. And failing miserably, I might add.

I made the “Little Red” emblem on my shirt, because I’m crafty. It reminds me of a song: “She’s crafty – and she’s just my type!” You know who did it. Yeah you do.

And not to be all old or anything, but how in the hell do those kids walk around with their pants hanging so low? First of all, it’s hard to keep them up, especially when I start to, oh I don’t know, MOVE? And second, I was walking on my pants all night. I guess I needed bigger shoes so that my pants wouldn’t drag on the ground or something. I think what I really needed was a whole other person, because I’m thinking that they could have fit in my pants and my sweatshirt quite comfortably and then maybe my issues with keeping my pants from falling down would have been resolved. Maybe next year.

So yeah – word up to Halloween and whatnot. See? I just can’t pull it off.

The least spooky black cats you'll ever see

I'm not sure how it happened, but Karen, Beth and I all ended up with black cats. Karen owns Rocco, who (although you can't see it in the picture) has a prominent underbite, due to the fact that his jaw was broken when he was a kitten. The family decided they didn't want to pay to have his jaw fixed, so they just left him at the animal hospital. Dr. Karen, vet extraordinaire, to the rescue! She fixed his jaw and took him home. The caption of this picture when she sent it to me was "isn't he handsome." This picture doesn't do him justice, because he really is.

Beth has Boy. Boy is the boss of Beth. He is the cat that will sleep where he wants and do what he wants whenever he wants whether Beth likes it or not. Boy has a prominent overbite, and so it always looked like his fangs were out. He looked very menacing. Not really, but he tried. Anyway, he no longer has the fangs, as the vet decided they should be pulled. Beth cried when that happened, but did decline to take the fangs home in a jar. She has her limits, you know.

I have the Inspector. He is the best cat ever (and is this picture not just PRECIOUS?). I got him as a tiny little one pound kitten who was sick and needed a foster home to stay at until he got better. He was so gross -- boogery and sneezy and his eyes would get all stuck shut. I used to have to get up in the night and wipe his nose so that he could breathe again. But he had THE CUTEST personality -- he will win you over in seconds flat. He is not like most cats in that he would like to be with you at all times. On you, licking your face and purring. I named him the Inspector because he was into everything when he was a kitten, plus, I thought he needed a unique name. However, because he was such a gross little thing, I always called him "Booger Cat" and now he only answers to "Booger," or "Boogie," which is what I usually call him. But at least he has a cool REAL name so he's not embarrassed when his name is called at the vet.