Friday, October 22, 2010

A Haiku for Dallas Sanitation

City of Dallas,
you are officially on
one sweet girl's bad side

Thanks for not picking up my recycling. And apparently not picking up my neighbor's, which they were kind enough to heap on top of my full cart.

Thank you for having a shitty phone system that hung up on me twice while I tried to complain.

Thank you for ignoring my husband's call 3 weeks ago, he's going to love coming home from a long day at work to find the side of the house covered in refuse.

I feel like a second class citizen, and this better not have anything to do with my neighborhood. Just because the neighbors don't have a recycling cart and don't seem to care about recycling doesn't mean you don't have to drive down my street with your truck and empty my cart. So help me Google, I will bury you in emails.

I hope something smelly gets all over you when you finally do return my calls and emails and pick up my stuff.

Monday, September 13, 2010

I'm sorry my crazy fell on your roof. Nice to meet you.

So I'll be the first to admit that from time to time, when I experience periods of stress, I get a little extra neurotic. It's hard to hold the OCD down when I'm tired.

I'm at the kitchen sink several times every day getting water, and for a week it seems, it had been raining out my kitchen window. There's an overgrown Cedar Elm over the neighbor's house that dapples the light in the late afternoon, and while the neighbor's house is not very pleasant to look at, I still like to look out when I'm there.

Saturday afternoon, on the way out of the house, I was enjoying my window when I noticed something hanging out of the neighbor's gutter. A squirrel tail and two little back paws. It was terrible that a squirrel had died up there, but now it was all I could think about when looking out my kitchen window. I started to think about ways to get the remains down from the eave of the house since I certainly couldn't watch the poor thing decay, but finding the neighbor lady scaling your house to get dead rodents off the roof is certainly no way to meet those neighbors for the first time.

Bart was already in the car waiting for me to leave, so I went out to run errands and see if he had a better idea for getting the squirrel down. We came home really late and had to be at his sister's house early on Sunday. When we were finally home Sunday afternoon, Bart wanted to assess the situation so I pointed out the kitchen where the carcass was, but it had MOVED... I shivered in terror thinking that I could have helped this poor sick animal yesterday but thought it was dead and it lay suffering all night because of my assumption. It must have dragged its poor little tired squirrel body a few inches down the gutter trying to get comfortable. Now what do I do? It's Sunday afternoon, Animal Control probably won't come out until morning, and here I am with a mostly dead squirrel 15 feet from where I do my dishes!

At that moment I look to the right, and another squirrel sits staring at me, 10 feet down-gutter from the first. We make eye contact as he drapes himself over the edge of the gutter and coughs as dramatically as a squirrel can. Two dying squirrels on the neighbor's roof? Bart, who is still standing next to me, says something about poison... Are my neighbors poisoning squirrels? What kind of people do I live next door to? How can we ever get a dog now? What if the dog catches a poisoned squirrel? Will the neighbors poison the dog too?

Overwhelmed with panic, and sickened by the suffering unfolding before my eyes, I go to the other room. I think about how I'm going to end their misery, most of the options involving lots of courage I can't seem to find right now. Bart, who is a veteran in coping with the Katy-style panic attack, offers to go talk to the neighbors. He walks next door and introduces himself and comes back through the house a few minutes later to get the ladder.

I was just getting the hysteria under control when he came back in the house. Do I ask him how he did it? Do I even want to know? All of the images of squirrel euthanasia swirling around in my head were surely worse than reality, right?
"Well, our neighbors think we're crazy", he says. Crazy? Are they as heartless as I thought? He tells me he met the family, but the teenage son is the only person in the house who speaks english, and he and Bart got up on the ladder. I brace myself as he recounts reaching for the sick squirrel, all the while thinking how this was way braver than him stepping on a cockroach for me.

He reached up in the gutter, ready to fight the potentially contagious squirrel, and both of the squirrels hopped up out of the gutter, ran up the roof, and away into the trees.

Carlos, the teenage neighbor, laughed as Bart climbed down the ladder. Bart, the neighbor he has never met but has lived here for 8 months, just knocked on his door and climbed up a ladder to point out that squirrels were lounging on his roof. Lounging!

All this time, the squirrels were just kicking it up there in the gutter. I guess they sleep in very unconventional positions, like the one I saw on Saturday upside down with his hind legs and tail up in the air, and the coughing squirrel, who draped himself over the edge of the gutter like he lacked the strength to properly lay down. LOUNGING!

Bart, as usual, had to pay the price for my insane little episode with his dignity. Now Carlos and his family, who are not actually squirrel-poisoners, know us as the crazy white couple next door, who came knocking to tell them squirrels were on their roof. No squirrels suffered.

Today, since it's been long enough since the incident for me to talk about it, I went to the window while talking on the phone. One of them is sitting up there right now, mocking me. That's right, the squirrel is back lounging in the gutter again. He probably told his friends to come over and mock me too. That's fine, it's no secret that I'm nuts, you little varmint slacker!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Don't trust your burger. It is NOT your friend.

Its been 5 years, 7 months and 16 days since I last ate a piece of animal flesh. I'm sure at some point I've been slipped some chicken stock, the occasional splash of fish sauce and a few gelatin-containing candies during that time. I'll even admit that I've knowingly eaten the candy - since Brach's candy corn is like Katy-Kryptonite.

In that time, I've learned to be extra-vigilant. Reading ingredient lists, pestering waiters, trusting no one. Once I was diagnosed with an onion allergy all the checking became even more important as I was not only checking for any kind of meat product but also any onion, leek, chive, shallot, or scallion. I've grown to embrace any food that didn't contain any forbidden ingredient, good or bad... mostly because there wasn't anything else to eat.

I've been fortunate to have fewer reactions to onion product after strict avoidance so I've become less concerned with my "checks". Well today, my lax check policy caused me to make a mistake that I consider unforgivable.

We went to Fat Daddy's for dinner, and Bart and I both ordered Gardenburgers. I used to freak out regularly while eating a meat substitute and make someone else taste it, or dig through looking for recognizable signs of veggie life, but my lax checks must mean I trust the system more lately... In any case, we added our lettuce and tomato and went back to our table to eat. I was starving, so I tore into my burger. I was thinking this was the tastiest pickle I had eaten in a while when I looked at my burger.... and looked at Bart's. And had the terrifying realization that they were different.

We should have had identical burgers since we both ordered the gardenburger, but mine had a distinct irregular quality, and his was definitely formed in a Morningstar factory. I didn't even need someone to check for me. I knew mine was a turkey burger. And I had eaten a third of it.

Thanks to my OCD taking a vacation for the day, I ate turkey. The manager felt terrible, of course, once he realized. Not as terrible as me. Let that be a lesson to all my veggie-saurus friends. Don't trust your burger. It is NOT your friend. Deep-down, it wants to be meat, that's why we like them so much... they are familiar substitutes for a staple of american life.

Safe and domestic is not a good thing when you're a vegetarian. It means you could be eating meat and realize too late. And all of this overshadows a relative tofu victory yesterday, a beautiful baked marinated tofu taco recipe that I was ready to brag about. I'm too defeated to report about it now since someone slipped me the bird.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I would love to be a chef, but my execution is less than perfect... And there are no vegetarian culinary schools. So I think I should focus on eating instead of cooking.

Today, the best thing I made was some microwave lime and salt popcorn sprinkled with parmesan and romano cheese...
The worst thing I made was scrambled eggs with bell pepper and jalapeƱo. The eggs tasted fine, but I made a royal mess of my griddle. I need egg practice.

Here's to being humbled by food.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Walking Through Harlem

I'm struggling for a break from email, so I thought I would stop by here and catch up. I spent last week in the garden state with my whole team and our director. We were recording the audio for our next training CD, so we had a little fun. I got to dust of my musical chops and create some music for a game show I wrote and "hosted" and had a pretty good time! Of course the creative freedom had to be punctuated by little sessions with the director to discuss actual business, but there were a few moments where I thought - "Man, I can't believe I get to do this at work!"

The weather was crappy until Thursday, when it warmed up and perked up all the flowering magnolias and cherry trees. Friday, Teresa and I made it into the city and had a ridiculously expensive snack that took so long we missed the last hour of MOMA. I really can't believe people take vacations to go to New York, I don't see the attraction in shoving yourself in with humanity so you can see a few tall buildings and shop in places you'll never afford. When you travel a lot I think you feel so at home on the road that you don't consider yourself a tourist anywhere.

I missed the last bus back to Jersey, so I crashed on Teresa's friend's couch in south Harlem. (Thanks Erica!) The most enjoyable part about the whole trip, besides good company, was my walk in the morning to catch a cab. I walked about 25 blocks before even seeing a taxi, down first avenue past the Jefferson Houses and then down 2nd for another 10 before deciding to hail a ride. Pooping dogs and their owners were the only others on the sidewalk... it was quiet, cool, almost serene. I forgot how bad my feet hurt and just soaked up the calm. After a week of extraverting myself to record the cd, I needed to feel like a little island floating through manhattan.

I was a happy tourist then, catching the city that never sleeps taking a nap.

As the cab took me downtown, people were out and I recognized the crowds from the night before. Next time you're in new york, take a walk through the 100's in the early morning.

Friday, March 26, 2010


So usually obsessive-compulsiveness is cute or quirky. Someone counts something strange, or washes their hands repeatedly, or has a set of routines they have to do along with a task. I just spent 6 hours bleaching my kitchen and bathroom because of one cockroach. This might seem like overkill to most people, but last night I tried desperately to sleep and couldn't because I could imagine that solitary roach wandering around in my house, helping himself to the contents of the cabinets, pooping wherever he wanted. So I cleaned.

The result is an exhausted girl, some wicked dishpan hands, and my mind now coming up with places I might have missed.

I should mention that this little compulsive bout didn't extend to any other rooms in the house (trust me they're on my mind too), although Bart - always my saviour - vacuumed with vicarious obsession in the other rooms in the house and cleaned just as long with me.

Just before I sat down I saw a paint chip on the door frame that looked like a bug and the hair on the left side of my neck stood on end... just the left side. It wasn't a bug after all, just old house, I'm probably just hallucinating from the fumes, or the fact that they're on my mind.

Little disgusting pervert squatter.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

You've got to be kidding me!!

So I think we're all aware that I'm in a pretty fragile state after the squirrels and the dilemmas they pose. The squirrels that I am still afraid to trap because they are so small and wild.

I've been working from home for fear the squirrels will chew through wiring and start a fire, since this house is a big tinderbox waiting to go up at any moment. If I wasn't home and something happened to the cats I'd never be able to forgive myself.

Today, I woke up a little late and had to start the marathon conference calls first thing. I decided I'd grab a shower when I had a break long enough. Finally after 5, I had a breather and started the hot water. I couldn't help the feeling that I was being watched. I have a set of obsessive checks I do before I get in the shower when I'm home alone... making sure there is no one hiding behind the shower curtain, obsessively cleaning my toothbrush, checking the drain for bugs (I once lived in an apartment with no p-trap on the shower drain and all kinds of things would stumble in).

Today, the coast was clear so I stepped up into the shower. I still had a nagging sense that I was being watched, so much so that at one point I got a chill up my spine. I looked through the shower curtain at the window, no one there. I looked out into the hall, no one there. Both cats were sleeping. Must be my paranoia. I was just about to rinse my hair when I looked up...

The house has had several bathroom incarnations, including a built in shower enclosure that the previous owner removed and replaced with our claw-foot tub. He was a little lazy and didn't replace the ceiling tiles and as a result we have some ugly ones and a little gap in one spot where the false wall used to be. The ceilings are 10 feet high and are usually blissfully unimposing and airy.

You can imagine my horror when, while scanning the room, I noticed the source of the creepy feeling, and it was coming from above me.

In the little gap left from the remodel, about 5 feet about me, watching me shower, the owner of a pair of antennae lurked in the shadows. A peeping tom cockroach. I shrieked and dropped the conditioner bottle. I was terrified that at any minute he would become mobile and crawl or fall or worse - fly - closer to me and I still had to wash my face which meant for a few seconds I would have to close my eyes. I finished my shower with haste, jumped out of the tub and stood in the hallway dripping wet and completely terrorized. I could still see his antennae moving around, little pervert.

I called the pest control company and they'll be back out Friday. Looks like Bart needs to go up a ladder again, this time to close that hole.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Religious Tolerance

One of my personal goals is to acheive tolerance in all facets of my life. Tolerance for people with whom I disagree, tolerance for people who are not like me in stature or background, and tolerance for those who believe differently about the origins of the universe.

I have tried very hard to accept all groups without judgment, smile politely and try to see their point of view, but today... I have found a religion I simply cannot tolerate.

He follows his deity around, wherever it goes, basking in the apparent glow... He makes his entire day's schedule around moments where he can glimpse this deity. It's impossible to get him to be anywhere else if he's going to worship. This practice is really testing my patience. I need him in one place, you can bet he is worshipping in another... sometimes, he goes to worship and his deity doesn't even appear! Yet he waits quietly and patiently for the chance to sit at the deity's feet and receive the warmth.

My cat, Enzo, is a sun-worshipper. In true ancient egyptian form, he follows the sun around the house every day, practicing little rituals to soak up as much as he can. He starts in the front window, then he moves to the bedroom close to noon. He saunters to the laundry room mid-afternoon and spends the end of the daylight with the orchids in the dining room. If you need him during this time, forget it.. he can't be bothered to appear anywhere else unless it's raining outside.

Today, as the sun moved to the west for the evening, Enzo literally cried out for me to open the blinds so he could see his beloved. I resisted in my intolerance, but he is extremely devoted, persistent, and annoying.

I'm sad to say I will not achieve my personal goal of tolerance today, because I just cannot take this kind of extremism in my home.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sticky Notes

I attended a training class today that has me writing time management tips down on sticky notes and posting them around the house. I had thought about interspersing random words with them so Bart would have to look at one on the bathroom mirror that says Conquer Procrastination and one on the refrigerator that says Shave the Cats.
I decided against it since I can't come up with a decent response for when he asks "What does shaving a cat have to do with time management?"

Can't Sleep

What's the difference between a tickle and a chill? Depth... And impact.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Squirrel Saga, Chapter 2

So I was just settling in last night after finishing the post-process on a recent photo shoot (a little victory), had my dvr queued up and ready to watch Brothers and Sisters when I heard a scratching noise behind the bed.

We located both of the cats, and they were curious too. Soon, Tungsten became less curious and more petrified with fear and hid underneath the bed.

It was definitely coming from under the house, not the attic (squirrel central), which Bart and I thought was very odd. He has sealed up a number of the holes to the crawlspace since we found evidence that a cat was living under there. We figured something must have found a way in and was now trying to get out... scratching wildly at the crawlspace door, which - incidentally, is directly beneath me where I sleep.

We both dressed and prepared for critter battle and went outside to open the door. Bart is a little more comfortable with the idea of pest control than I am, but not a killer by any means. He graciously opened the door so I wouldn't have to confront the varmint head-on, but we were both prepared to run. I should mention that I was standing outside in a stiff wind with an old-lady flowered housecoat on, a head-lamp, no socks and clutching a ragmop for protection. Bart had assured me the handgun I suggested would not be necessary.

You might be wondering why a cruelty-free vegetarian pacifist would want to bring a handgun out to meet the wildlife under the house. It seems like overkill, I know, but to me, bludgeoning some creature to death with an ineffective instrument prolongs their suffering. I'd rather just end it quick if that's what has to happen. I once watched my dad kill a rat with his bare hands when it startled him in the cat food bag. Not because he was a ninja, or Rambo, but because there were no appropriate implements around. He was upset for a long time that he didn't have a more humane - and less violent - way to end the fight. I still think of that rat and his suffering. I also cry during nature films when the predator violently kills his prey, but I digress... back to the crawlspace.

Bart opened the door to the crawlspace, a much bigger area than usual underneath our 94-year old house. I readied my ragmop for the fray... and nothing. There were no animals under my bedroom. We could still hear the desperate scratching from the opening, but now it seemed to be coming from above.

Bewildered, we went back into the house, leaving the door open to the crawlspace in case the little guy was indeed in there somewhere. Bart went up into the attic to see if one of our nemesis squirrels had fallen into a wall cavity. The way the house was built, many of the walls are open on the top or bottom and you can see inside the void. I should mention at this point that these are the moments I am so thankful to be married. Sure, I could muster up the courage to venture into the attic after a rodent with claws and teeth. I might even be able to knock it unconscious without passing out myself, but Bart went up instead because he loves me. I am also thankful that he can handle the breakdown I had right about the time he went up the ladder.

"I can see where it fell", he shouted down from above the bathroom. The critter had fallen down into the cavity where the sewer vent pipe comes through the attic. This meant that it was trapped in the wall, and if we didn't do something, it would be buried alive in my house and scratch until it died right behind where I sleep. I imagined the little guy scratching the inside of his coffin while a foot away I was lounging in my pj's. I would likely require years of therapy and medication to get over that... and I still might with what happened.

We started to think of ways we could saw a hole in the wall and free the unseen creature. A wall stud very close to the vent stack meant there was a very narrow cavity he had fallen into, and we would likely injure him trying to cut a hole in the floor beneath where he was. We stood in the bathroom listening to him scratch, trying to come up with a solution. It was now nearly 3 am, I was exhausted from the night of squirrel partying the night before, and running out of problem solving power. My OCD had taken over at this point, and I was obsessing over the squirrel's plight to an incapacitating degree so the details of our search and rescue operation are a little fuzzy from here. I know Bart went back under the house to make sure we couldn't access the wall cavity. I stood guard with my ragmop. We heard the scratching still, each little tear of its little claws making my blood pressure and my migraine (which I had wrestled with all day) more critical.

Unable to find any more structural clues, we went back into the house. Bart listened to the wall in several spots trying to hear where the critter was and then... stopped.

The wall fell silent. In fact, the whole house was silent. My "fearless" grey cat slinked out from under the bed where he had been hiding, the wind calmed outside, and there were no sounds in the house.

Bart gave me a hug, and exhausted we crawled back into bed. Of course I wasn't satisfied with the outcome, since I hadn't seen the creature to safety. For all I know he might still be behind my headboard. Bart thinks he must have crawled back out of the void. I guess it could be true, squirrels can climb anything, right? This wasn't good enough for me though, and I spent another 2 hours in migraine agony, unable to sleep for the visions of trapped animals and the overwhelming sense of panic and claustrophobia I was vicariously feeling. Mercifully, I finally fell asleep.

I have worked from the bedroom all day, and heard no more signs of life from within the wall. I hope he made it, but only time and smell will tell. Until then I'll just have to obsessively worry and wonder if something is suffering very nearby.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tiffany got a new friend

The Lipsetts are the proud parents of 6 mason bees... We watched as one crawled out of hibernation to nibble on some pollen. He started out covered in white fur and ended up with orange all over. For a moment he didn't seem like a scary stinging insect.

Friday, March 12, 2010


I was compelled to join Facebook by the strange and powerful force that consumed my house this afternoon.

I was working quietly in the bedroom when the sleeping cat at my feet perked up his ears. My next breath choked as a thrashing sound came from the back of the house and I ran to see what the noise could be. The trees outside were whipping wildly with a sudden gust of wind, but I couldn't see anything to blame for the noise. I disarmed the alarm, unlocked the back door and ran outside in my sock-monkey slippers.

After looking around the strange scene for a few seconds, half expecting a green-faced witch to cackle down at me as a twister dispatched my house to Oz, the other half thinking my slippers might sprout wings and fly off with the house instead. I looked up in case the witch thing was right, and noticed a little squirrel face looking back at me from a knothole near the eave of the house. The squirrel's head was barely smaller than the hole it poked out of. It snickered at me from inside my cozy house.

I went back inside, amused, and emailed Bart that we needed a trap. I went back to work.

For the next hour, the cats chased the sounds in the ceiling. Tungsten ran from front door to back nervously. He stopped every other time through to nervously nibble the shower curtain before darting back down the hall. The noises grew louder and soon a symphony of knocks and bumps were coming from the attic, accompanied by a rhythmic pit-pat of an anxious tomcat below. The concerto climaxed with a sudden frenzy of bumping and several gunshots from down the street. The cat made only one more nibble-lap through the house before settling down in a window, pensive.

Bart came home and I dispatched him up the ladder to look for the squirrel. It had been hours since the cats and I heard signs of life. He found a nest near another opening in the front of the attic space. Thinking that the birds would be trapped there after he closed the opening to the outside, he decided to move the nest. Armed with a head lamp and cardboard box, he poked at the pile of grass and was startled to see it move. A pair of eyes met his gaze... then... another.

Not only is one squirrel in my attic, but he's moved his whole family in there. And they've been there long enough to get comfy.

Why did the squirrels just now get our attention?
How did they get past the supersensitive cat ears for this long?
Why was my Friday afternoon interrupted by this cacophony?
Did I suddenly break a new plane of consciousness allowing me to be more aware of my surroundings and the living beings around?
And did the cat transcend as my companion, at once becoming more human as I became more animal?
Would this new consciousness make living in the house harder for us with a new set of distractions - previously ignored?

I'm not sure what I witnessed today. The cat is still a nervous wreck and we have a family of rodentia to relocate. I have moved on to worrying for the well-being of the squirrels upstairs.

Will they be able to get out for food? We just trimmed the tree that was allowing them in.
Will they suffer without food or water until we can move them?
Will they chew through the ancient wiring in my 94-year-old attic?
Would they start a fire and hurt themselves or us?
Was the first noise I heard the driving instinct of a tiny parent willing themselves through an impossibly small hole in dangerous wind to feed its young - desperately clawing through a tiny opening, compelled by nature to break its own plane of consciousness and adapt to its environment?

It's quiet now, except for the normal sounds. Or is it only me who is quiet and normal again? If I listen hard enough I might be able to hear the squirrels moving and convince myself they will be alright until we can get them down.

Seemed like a good time to plug myself in with the rest of the collective and listen.