Friday, December 29, 2006

Thanks!

Thanks to everyone for the notes and the phone calls regarding Dizzy. I am very touched by the sympathy, and empathy, that has come our way yesterday and today.

I'm feeling better tonight, which is due in no small part to the fact that The Man gave in to my dismal countenance and took us all out for Italian food at Mandola's Italian Market tonight. The girls were well behaved, the food was excellent and reasonably priced, and the $15 bottle of chianti was HUGE. We toasted Dizzy and reminisced about our favorite memories of her. (If you have a grief that needs to be processed, I highly recommend going for closure over handmade cannolis, iced lemon cookies, and chocolate-hazelnut gelato. )

I also did engage in a little haircare therapy this morning, treating myself to a nice cut and highlight session over t' JR Salon. (Good place; Aveda salon, $30 haircuts, no tipping allowed.) They did do a great job, and I'd take my picture to show y'all if it weren't for the puffy pink eyes. Seriously, I felt like I needed to explain myself to every person I encountered today, because they all looked at me as if my husband had been beating me. Sample conversation snippet:

Salon Gal: "Good morning, ma'am, how can I help you today?"
Me: "Um....I have a haircut at 9:15. And my cat died yesterday."
Salon Gal: "Mmmmkay! We have you down with Ashley! So sorry about your cat! Would
you like a cup of coffee?"

So, the banality of everyday life returns; and I'll be back to my regular everyday banality very soon. Thanks for tolerating.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Dizzy The Cat: ?/?/92 - 12/28/06

You know my cat Dizzy? Not the one that was IN the hospital all last week, but the one that I JUST NOTICED was sick?

She died in the vet's office today.

I cannot believe this.

Before we left for Kansas City last Friday, I noticed that she looked a little lethargic, and told Mick, our magnificent pet sitter, that she might want to keep an eye on her. (Remember, Molly, the other cat, was in the process of running up astronomical emergency room/Christmas break hospitalizations/multiple IV fees due to her severe foot infection.) Mick, like the two of us, noticed the lethargy, but could get her to respond to petting and could get her to eat and drink a little, so we were all still on "guarded" status as of our arrival on Tuesday.

On Tuesday night, she was getting around, sitting in the window and such, and came to get petting from Lee and his buddy Bill, so we were hopeful that whatever it was wasn't too serious. But, yesterday, she didn't come to eat, and when I brought her to her food, only took a bite and then walked away.

I took her to the doctor today, and at first the nice young doctor at Brykerwoods Animal Clinic (best clinic in town, y'all Austinites) diagnosed a urinary tract infection, but was bothered by her labored breathing. He took an x-ray and blood work, and her liver panel came up irregular. He called me to set up an abdominal sonogram to check her liver, and I said fine - but she collapsed on the way into the sonogram room. They tried CPR and intubated her, but to no avail.

Nice Young Doctor did an autopsy - free of charge, because I'm literally awaiting the vet bill of my life for the two cats combined - and found masses of tumors in one of her lungs. So, it was probably cancer that did her in, and we couldn't really have done much for a 14-year-old cat with lung cancer, even if we had picked up on it sooner. There was some consolation in that.

The girls are fine - I don't think they either one actually "get it," even OG - but I'm still recovering from the shock.

Seriously, two weeks ago she was her pesky, irritating self. Yes, she was thinner than in the olden days, but it wasn't horribly noticeable, and she gave absolutely no sign that anything was bothering her up until last week. I feel terrible that I just took her in and left her without giving her a hug and kiss. I mean, I was worried that it was serious, but I was thinking we'd have some time to process this, you know? Give her lots of hugs, take the girls' picture with her, that sort of thing?

Thanks to the advent of digital cameras, I have no pictures to post of my darling girl. I used to take pictures of my cats to use up the last picture on a roll of film, but there's no such thing anymore. I do have some pictures of her, but I'm going to have to scan them, and the scanner stopped cooperating with Old Bessie when I switched to Mac OS X.

So, I understand, in the big scheme of things, it's a cat, and not a person. Many of my friends have suffered powerful losses of people in their lives, and I promise that I understand the difference. But, if you would, please indulge me in a brief eulogy:

Dizzy, you were our best cat. (I know, that's not saying much, as all of our other cats have serious mental problems, but I really mean it.) I never saw you bite or scratch. Even when the girls were trying to pull your ears off of your head, you just sat there and took it.

However, adorable and sweet, you were also a little shit. There was apparently nothing more pointless to you than reading. You were known to run across the room just to jump through my newspaper. The love bites you gave to The Man on his head when he had just washed his hair were absolutely hilarious (to me). And, every so often, you loved to fly down from whatever perch you were on to briefly whale on one of the other cats, who was just happening to walk by. (Completely hysterical to the human watchers; not so much to the little kitty victims. "Dum dum dum, dum dum dum, where's the kibble, dum dum HEY, GET OFF ME! WHAT ARE YOU DOING? AIIEEE!!)

You liked the rough stuff, didn't you, you little petting whore? Couldn't get enough. Twenty solid whacks on the backside in fast repetition was the path to total heaven for you. Nut case. And you just. wouldn't. leave. "Pet me, pet me, PET ME MOOOORE. I'm not DOOOONE."

Sigh.

I'm going to miss you, baby. You'll be immortalized in a posting whenever I can find me a working scanner.

Hug your people and pets, y'all. Take some pictures. Ain't nothing permanent.

To bed with the puffy eyes,
Mags

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Holidays: A Retrospective

Days gone to Kansas City: Four. (Three, really, as we got in on Friday at 5:30 P.M., and our flight back to Austin left at 6:45 AM Tuesday morning.)

Checked bags we left the house with: Two.

Checked bags we returned with: Five.

Number of FIVE POUND HERSHEY BARS given to me by my father: One. It could have been two, if I had wanted.

Pounds gained: I'm going with four. Fuck if I'm getting on those scales for another week.

Amount of money spent this afternoon on essentially nothing but green vegetables and chicken breasts: $200.

Number of times I wished to throttle Older Girl in three days: Several.

Number of times I wished to throttle my mother: None. Fran and Dick were well-behaved.

Days cat was in the hospital: Four.

Exact number of dollars (plus $750 already spent) that cat will cost me: Mercifully undetermined as of this evening. One last day of breathing deeply.

Number of soda straws said cat has sticking out of her foot at present: None, thankfully, or at least none that I have seen. There's a big ol' bandage on her foot, and she can't walk on it very well. I have to carry her to her food and water and put her up on the bed with me at night. Frickin' pathetic.

Medication doses cat has per day: Three.

Number of OTHER cats in the house that suddenly look terribly sick: One. Dizzy is really lethargic, and isn't eating. They're both going in tomorrow morning. Again, fuckity fuckity fuck fuck fuck.

Number of Christmas presents I have put away and/or found a home for: None. No, I got out the girls' mechanical toothbrushes; that's about it.


That's about it. Hope you all had a lovely holiday. Please come take my Christmas tree down for me.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Holiday Hiatus

I'll be posting sporadically, if at all, for the next several days. (Family visits tend to suck my creativity dry; plus I intend to be comatose on sugar and Christmas beer until the day after.)

The commencement of the holiday break was not without drama, of course. Last night, 'round about 8:00 PM, I noticed that my cat Molly - the big-boned gal - was out of sorts (read: not eating) and limping. I got down to examine her, and lo and behold, she has an enormously swollen front paw that is literally dripping with pus. (I know! Puts you in the mood for some egg nog, doesn't it?)

I was uncheerful about this development, what with it being after my vet's hours and the night before Mags Family Christmas Extravaganza 2006.

I dutifully pushed her 16-pound girth into the carrier and hauled her to the emergency animal clinic, wherein they told me it would cost me Seven. Hundred. And. Fifty. Dollars. to do the surgery needed to clean up the abcess and keep her overnight.

This morning, I got up at 6:30 to go pick her up and transfer her to my vet's office. When I got there, there was literally a soda straw poking through her foot - seriously, from the top of the paw through the pad. (I so wish I had had my camera with me, just so you could share in my joy.) They told me that she had punctured it somehow, like from a dog bite or from stepping on a nail. Plus, the damn thing was still swollen twice its normal size, and in its shaved state, resembled nothing more than a hairy gray sausage with claws. Ew, ew, ew.

From seven until eight this morning, I waited for my vet's decision - to come home or not? The verdict is no; she needs twice-daily IV antibiotics and monitoring to make sure the infection doesn't go to the bone. Amputation, and all that. And, they were careful to remind me that she's an awful, horrible, biting bitch (they used the word "fractious" several times,) so they have to sedate her pretty much every time they walk past the cage.

I'd say I'll be getting off easy if I have to spend $500 more on my darling 12-year-old obese girl. So, I'm afraid that the dreamed-for new computer may have to wait.

Fuck, fuck, fuckity fuck fuck.

On that note - and with slightly more sentiment than it suggests - Merry Christmas from the family; happy holidays, y'all.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

I said I love the holidays? I lied. I HATE THEM.

I have two days until seeing the parents, and I am not ready. And I'm not in any mood to GET ready, either.

OG is still in school - and at night, she's wigged out on sugar, some fluctuations in the ADHD medication, and the change of routine. YG is taking advantage of her sensitive sister and bugging the everbejeezus fuck out of her.

I'm bloated from party food, and spending more of my workday than I probably should talking to contractors about doing some closet work (not "secret" work; work done on my closets). The house is a mess, there are already toys covering every square inch of this house; why on earth did I ever think that buying more was a good idea?

After the cookie-making bacchanalia of last week, this week I've been baking Cheery Cranberry Chocolate Chip Bread for several friends, teachers, and co-workers - 7 loaves at last count. It's good; or at least I hope it is - I cannot bear to even taste any more sweets or pastries, can you? (Oh, but if you make it...buy excellent chocolate, like Valhrona or Scharffenberger, for the chocolate chips. And instead of the cocoa glaze, make one out of that really good chocolate, heavy cream, and butter. This tea cake recipe has a great glaze (and is also a really great holiday-party-going treat to make. Christie made some in mini-muffin tins that were fabulous).

Oh, lord, and there are going to be two parents soon. With more fruitcake. And possibly potted cheese. I ask; is it just me? Are you ready? Are you really?

I'm tired. So tired. I can't believe my own partner attacked me!*

*a la Bookhart, five points if you can identify the source of that phrase.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

Austin, TX; December 17, 2006: 80 degrees and sunny.

I turned the air conditioner on at one point. I believe that may be a record.

I alternate between being thrilled about weather like this - I moved here from Missouri because I abhor cold weather, remember - and worried that this is just another sign of our impending environmental collapse. So, today's theme was "angsty joy." (There's not another kind, is there?)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Five Weird Things About Me Meme

Stolen from Karla May and Karla Karla. Damn, Badger is going to be way behind.

1. I cannot stand to hear someone misuse "lie" and "lay." Seriously. It's like a cheese grater on my skin. (And my own darling YG, at the tender young age of 2 1/2, has already figured this out, and misuses it on purpose to annoy me and then looks at me to see if I'm annoyed.)

2. I have no protruding ankle bone on the inside of my ankle. It's completely flat. And I cannot stand for anyone to touch it. If you try, I will kick you across the room.

3. I do not personally see this as weird, but I have been told it is: I refrigerate my peanut butter. (Seriously, is that weird? It's important; my marriage may hinge on this.)

4. I generally do not screw lids back onto things. I get them about halfway on, and I stop. I don't know why; it's a pathology.

5. I am missing my top lateral teeth; the "eyeteeth," I think they're called - the ones closest to your front teeth. I was born without them, and have had to wear false teeth pretty much since my baby teeth fell out. Even in my braces; they were little movey false teeth stuck into the wires. And when I smile big in black light, they don't show up, and I look like a hick.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Nutty as a...


My father keeps sending us fruitcakes.

Oh, I'm not trying to sound ungrateful. They're from the Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, and they're pretty good, actually; less a fruitcake than a pecan cake. If you have to eat a fruitcake, these are definitely the one to get. The Apricot Pecan Cake is especially nice. (They even sell them at Central Market now, for all y'all other foodie snobs.)

It's just that, you see, we are drowning in them. He sent us THREE last year, and TWO this year. We ate one last year...it literally took us until August, but we did finish it...and we gave one to Todd and Aimee, and we put the other in the freezer, so we could have it THIS year.

And lo, last week, I look in the mailbox, and there are TWO MORE. I gave one to Bill and Julie, and we've cut a piece or two off of the other, but god DAMN it, there is still the fucking fruitcake from last year in the freezer.

So, tonight, my mother called me, distraught. She asks, "Have you gotten any fruitcakes from your father?" (She lives with him, remember.) I reply, "YES, do not send me ANY MORE." It appears that he has ordered her no fewer than SEVEN fruitcakes, my sister two, my brother and his wife two, and one each for every single one of their old friends. My mother got the bill for them, and he spent over $400 on fruitcakes this year. (And, after all that, he still even sends me the Pineapple Pecan Cakes every year instead of the Apricot Pecan Cake, which is the one we like.)

My father is 75 years old, and in failing health. His mind wasn't that sharp 20 years ago, actually, and it's way less so now. He just gets these catalogs - and, may I ask you, do these catalog people just prey on the elderly and infirm? - and I think that he does not remember buying them, and that it is just some weird compulsion.

I'm sure that means that I should be more charitable, no? But, as I suck, I am not feeling particularly charitable about it. I know it's the deterioration that's causing this...but we so desperately need $400 right now, or even $40. We DON'T NEED FOOD. PARTICULARLY NOT SWEETS. The Man and I are on the never-ending diet, and we won't eat anything for a month after the holidays; the kids eat enough sweets as it is. But I need...oh, say, a new computer! Bookshelves! Clothing to conform to the rapidly-changing clothing rules of the first grade fashionista police! Money for theater/piano/girl scouts/soccer/art/Society for Creative Anachronism or whatever the fuck freaky organization OG has decided she's into this week.*

It's not just the fruitcakes, though. At home, Mom receives pound after pound of cheese, nuts, dates, smoked sausage, that type of crap. Plus bizarre kitchen gadgetry - I have a pan with a hinge (to make ONE pancake with,) a cheese grater with a little box attached, a plastic knife guide to slice bread with - seriously, shit you cannot imagine. Mom gives me what's overflowing from her cabinets, and I summarily give most of them to charity. But I have guiltily held on to just enough of the crap that I can feel like it wasn't just wasted money and effort.

I begged Mom to start throwing away the catalogs before he gets to them. I think she's finally gotten to that point. I doubt she could pry the checkbook out of his hand, but maybe she could just call to get off the mailing lists. Maybe I'll do that for her when I go home.

Guess I know what I'm having for dinner at their house, anyway! (But - good news; there'll also be a case of Boulevard Nutcracker Ale. Beer makes it all better.)

*Note to SCA types: I was just kidding around with thou.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Five

The five foods I would take with me to a desert island:
1. Peanut butter
2. Hard, sharp, aged white Cheddar cheese
3. Crusty sourdough bread
4. Scharffenberger dark chocolate with almonds
5. Either grilled salmon or very expensive Porterhouse steak

The five best Christmas songs:
1. "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"
2. "O Holy Night"
3. "Santa Baby"
4. "Silver Bells"
5. "Baby, It's Cold Outside"

The five best (scripted) shows on T.V. right now:
1. Heroes
2. The Office
3. My Name is Earl
4. 30 Rock
5. Scrubs

The five coolest (and/or most eagerly anticipated) presents I got for OG:
1. A Razor Scooter
2. Magnets
3. A semi-precious stone jewelry-making kit (to indulge her new fascination with rocks)
4. A "Littlest Petshop" - um, petshop. (That one was not my idea.)
5. Her THIRD Magnadoodle-DoodlePro thing, as she has literally worn out the first two.

The five coolest presents I got for YG:
1. A fairy costume
2. A fairy doll
3. A fairy headband
4. Her own Magnadoodle
5. Brown Mary Janes with pink flowers on them that I wish were mine.

The five most fun episodes from this year:
1. Sex with my husband (Sorry! He was standing right over me! What else could I say? I was going to say winning the election...but of course he's correct. Honey, every time you come round, my London, London bridge wanna go down.)
2. Visitage with old friends who either came here (Connie, Chuck,) or I went there (Anita) or I saw them in Kansas City during the biannual Parent Visiting Confluence (Erin, Tricia)
3. The trip to Port Aransas
4. The San Antonio trip to see The Lion King
5. (Future speculation - going to see the Rolling Roadshow production of Xanadu at Playland Skate Center this New Year's Eve, followed by the most kick ass ELO cover band I have ever heard (K-Tel Hit Machine playing with Tosca, the string quartet). Tickets include skates, buffet, AND beer! (I won't dress up, but I MIGHT wear my 70's copper sequined jacket. I guess I could do leg warmers...)

Anyone? Five?



Monday, December 11, 2006

The Domestic Freak that I Become During The Holidays...

...is loose in my house, and baking cookies.

Here we have the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cookies (thanks, Inga's mom; Renee's was the first of these that I ever had. I'm still trying to recreate them):


and we have the Almond Crescents*:


*Yes, I can
SEE that they are not crescents. I only had the one cookie cutter. Don't hate.

I have made three batches of each now, and am READY for the Christmas Cookie Party. (Ironically, however, I believe that if I see or smell another cookie, I am going to vomit.)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Thoughts on my Graphite iMac, bought circa 1999

My iMac is SO OLD...

...that it thinks "OS 10" refers to its age.

...that it needs to take Viagra just to find its hard drive.

...I have to start it with a hand crank.

...it's getting hard to find those 7" floppy disks for it anymore.

...I think Thomas Edison installed it.

...the date and time were originally set to B.C.

...my iPod's hard drive is more than twice the size of that of my actual computer; thus, iTunes will put approximately 20 songs on it at a time before crashing the entire goddamn system.

Ha! Ha! Ha!!!!!!

It's getting a baseball bat smashed into its monitor tonight; yes, this is the night.

(Anyone got any other good jokes? These are the best I could do late on a Sunday evening with the unfolded laundry waiting...not to mention the ever-hopeful husband.)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Friday, December 08, 2006

They only get more colorful from here!

My baby uttered her first epithet yesterday!

This is the transcript, as we were driving past the North Lamar McDonald's:

YG: "There's Old McDonald's! Can we go to Old McDonald's?"

Me: "No, honey, not tonight."

YG (peeved): "DARN IT!"

It was admittedly pretty mild, but I am relieved by the knowledge that my progeny will eventually have as foul a mouth as I.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Some Holiday Sugar for you

I have a confession to make.

For a weaselly agnostic, I am inordinately fond of Christmas.

I know every verse of "Jingle Bells," including the one about the bobtail nag and two-forty for his speed. I own a set of ornaments that are a little marching band that ding out 12 carols on their bells when you plug them in. I have several versions - album, cassette, and CD - of the Chipmunks Christmas album (which OG is very into right now. Joy!)

I like Christmas songs, Christmas lights, Christmas trees, Christmas cookies, Christmas beer parties, wrapping presents, and pretty much everything about the holiday except all that religion. (Though, strangely, Bing Crosby singing "O Holy Night" will bring me to tears. As will the ending of "A Charlie Brown Christmas," I found out a couple of nights ago. It went: "Lu lu lu, lu lu lu luuu, [sob, sniff]".)

So, the (tiny, but appropriate for the tiny house) tree went up over Thanksgiving, and my half-assed white-trashy attempts at throwing up some lights around the front door went up last weekend.

We went to the beer-tasting party last weekend, are going to see Santa and the Trail of Lights this weekend, and next weekend will have a cookie swap party and the obligatory Xmas with the family of The Man. Presents for the children will be somewhat diminished, due to the enormous money-wasting enterprises of last month (what with the lost keys and the washed cell phone and the entirely-too-difficult basketball league that just did not work out for OG, there was a good $500 down the drain,) but they will still be well-compensated.

But this week, it was time for the special ritual that the OG and I have adopted...the gingerbread house.

I had never done one before, but one year, I signed up for one of those sessions at the Children's Museum. Since then, for OG, it has just become something that must be done.

And, I have to admit, it's good for me, too. An activity I can do with my spirited child that encourages getting messy, playing with our food, and licking sticky icing off our fingers is just what we need sometimes. There's no fights, no arguments, no power struggles; just us, candy, and a blank canvas.

This year, I bought a kit at Central Market and some extra candy, and we just did it ourselves for the first time. We put several days and a lot of thought into it, and this is the final product (with icing on the face to emphasize the point that this is a DIY project, people!)


I think it is really good, don't you? Seriously! I totally love this thing! I put it on its own little table, with a tablecloth, so we can all admire it for a while. (But, I must ask: Do people eat these things? Not having come from folk who do them, I just don't know the answer. OG is all ready to do so, no matter how stale it is.)

And, just for equal time, I'll post a picture of YG, who was generally unhelpful at the whole gingerbread house making thing, as she just stuffed the candy in her mouth. For some reason, Blogger won't let me post the picture I really want to post - wherein she looks just like Cindy Lou Who under the Christmas tree - but will let this one through, so here ya go:


(See, you're supposed to put those on the cats, but they won't tolerate it. So, we put it on the two-year-old, who can't fight back. Haw!)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Women Aren't Funny

Or so says Christopher Hitchens in his new article in Vanity Fair. (No, wait, he says some women are, especially if they're "hefty or dykey or Jewish.")

I'd like to suggest that you pop over to that link and read it, just so you can join me in my spluttering, incoherent rage; however, I'm concerned that any linkage to that bastard will just inflate his gin-soaked ego or encourage Vanity Fair to continue printing this bloated, alcoholic freakshow.

My women, I will tell you, are the freaking funniest people in the world - to men AND women. And a real man - mine included - is attracted to, not threatened by, a woman who is funny.

It's really too bad the DT's have rendered you impotent, Chris. My funny women friends are hot. Here's hoping you get a better perspective in your next life; meanwhile, sorry 'bout all that cirrhosis.

Seriously. Samantha Bee? Amy Poehler, Andrea Martin, Jamie Pressley, Paula Poundstone, Rachel Dratch, Maya Rudolph, Carol Burnett, Molly Shannon, Sarah Silverman, Amy Sedaris, Jane Lynch, Catherine O'Hara, Kerri Kenney, Jennifer Coolidge? Gilda fucking Radner?

Two words that should not be allowed to exit from your bulbous lips and greying teeth: Madeline Kahn?

Looks like his take on women is about as spot-on as his position on the war in Iraq. What a sexist, chicken-hawk pig fucker.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Your Geography Lesson for Today

Just in case you did not know, there is a large, crescent-shaped island between Russia and the North Pole called Novaya Zemlya.

Its main claim to fame is that it has been the site of many nuclear bomb tests since the 50's. Its natural resources include zinc, copper, and lead, and the few indigenous people that live there generally subside on fishing and polar bear husbandry. Its terrain is either glacier or tundra, and many walruses, along with about 2700 people, live there.

And, thanks to the satellite feature on Google Maps, my oldest daughter is obsessed with it. She and The Man were playing around, looking at satellite views of the world, when she focused in, laser-like, on this frigid, barren, glacier-covered island.

Since then, we have learned EVERYTHING about Novaya Zemlya. In fact, OG has declared that she'd REALLY like to visit there sometime.

So - I figured, what the hell; let's be different! I did have all that money saved up for DisneyWorld, but now, I'm thinking: Novaya Zemlya! We'll fish! Go walrus-watching! Tundra-hiking!

Jesus, our children are so doomed to a life of nerdiness.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Commitment Issues, and Mags Pop Culture History 101: Texas

Um, I clearly screwed up that NaBloPoMo thing.

I just couldn't post every damned day this month, and I couldn't keep the pop culture theme going. The last half of the month, with the birthday and Thanksgiving and $400 spent on the cell phone that I washed and the lost keys (which were soon found,) and the brief identity crisis and all, was just kind of a mess.

Even my TV watching has suffered, damn it. I still have Scrubs and Veronica Mars on the TiFaux. (But I'm totally watching Heroes tomorow, kids asleep or no.)

So, ending up what I was supposed to end in November, here's the next-to-last Mags Pop Culture History installment, which entails the time period after college and my pre-marriage years in Texas.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

After Mizzou, I drifted around my parents' house in KC for a year and a half or so, working and figuring out where I was going to go next. I knew it would entail graduate school, and I knew it would be outside of Kansas City. After some particularly stinging grad school rejections and wait lists for English masters programs - which as it turns out, are pretty competitive - I decided to switch my major to special education. Of course, all problems were eliminated insofar as getting accepted with an education program - these people offered me stipends and scholarships!

Being 23, I of course did not make my decision on grad school based benefits or the merits of the program or the stipends. I decided to attend UT because I had just seen "Slacker" and I thought Austin looked like a cool place, and I thought the guys in it were hot. (And also because I never, ever wanted to be cold again.)

Austin was a hard place for me to break into at first - it is not as friendly and welcoming as residents here seem to think it is. There are lots of little "in" places, lots of little groups, and it takes a bit of time to get the groove of this city. So, I made a few friends my first year here, and hung out with the "lounge" music scenesters (when that was the thing to do in the early 90's).

I met The Man in 1994. At he time, he was a (totally hot) long-haired-hippie music critic, which was just what I had moved to Austin for. We saw each other - and eyed each other - at Hole in the Wall the week before we actually met for the first time, at a party. We hit it off and began dating, but I actually hesitated when considering dating him because he liked country music. I had never hung out with ANYONE who liked country music, and at first did not think my black-wearing alt-chick self could deal. Fortunately for us all, the chemistry was there, and I stuck it out.

On our second date, I think, The Man took me to see The Derailers at the Continental Club. I was skeptical, but from the first song, they had my complete attention. The Man, being who he is, dragged me to the dance floor and forced me to learn to two-step, even though we were the FIRST PEOPLE dancing in the club. I tell you, I had the best effing time, and I kissed him goodnight that night. (There was a rapid and sordid progression within week or so after that, but I will not bore you with those details.)

We ended up dancing soooo much that first year. We saw The Derailers every chance we got, and Don Walser, of course, among many others (Cornell Hurd, Dale Watson, The Naughty Ones the Gulf Coast Playboys, etc.) The Man being a music critic, we also got comped everywhere, which was sweet. He also liked cajun and zydeco music, and we took two vacations to western Louisiana cajun country (Mamou and Opelousas) to dance at Fred's Lounge and Richard's and Slim's Y-Ki-Ki. Fucking amazing. But unlike anything I would have ever thought I would have liked, ever.

The Man put a definite twist in my music buying that persists to this day. I am just as likely to have Robert Earl Keen or Dwight Yoakum pop up on my iPod as I am to have some bit of jangly guitary alterna-pop.

I think my biggest cultural influence on The Man was turning him into a moviegoer (and, he claims, reinvigorating his interest in college and professional sports, which has morphed into a full-blown obsession). So, we morphed and moved on into the land of the smug marrieds, wherein we enjoyed a brief bit of no-kids time in which we saw lots of movies, ate at lots of great restaurants, and could still buy whatever CDs or go to see whatever movies we liked.

The next chapter, the final one, will be the shortest, and it will be entitled "The Years After Children: The Endless Dearth of Sociocultural Activity That Does Not In Some Way Involve A Playscape."