Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ghost in the Garage

I haven't written here in a while. I had to relearn how. Most of what I need to write goes on Facebook and then is forgotten.  This is a story that I won't be able to forget.

Three nights ago, near midnight, I heard a car start in the garage. I thought it was my old van, the vehicle that I allow my nephew to drive. I thought it was strange he was leaving the house so late especially on a school night, but he had been working on an AP class project all day and I thought maybe he had an emergency run to a store for some needed item. I fell back to sleep quickly, but then Carlos got up to use the bathroom. I was settling back into lala land when I felt cold air and smelled something. Carlos came back into the bedroom and I asked him what was that smell. He said the door leading into the garage was open so he closed it. I thought that the nephew, who I thought had just left, had accidentally left the door open. I grumbled something about the nephew and went back to my pursuit of sleep. Almost immediately, I heard strange noises like banging so I jumped out of bed and opened the door leading to the garage. Both cars were there so the nephew obviously hadn't left the house. My car headlights were on, and, this is the FREAKY part, my car was trying to start. BY ITSELF! It was cranking for a second and stopping and cranking again for like three or four times. Then it started and immediately shut off.   My first thought was someone must be in the car. I looked at the door leading outside and it was locked and the garage door was shut. I looked closely inside the car, but no one was in it.  I had left the keys in the ignition from a shopping mall run six hours earlier so I pulled the keys from the ignition. That's when the fear factor kicked in and I started yelling for Carlos.  He would have thought I was nuts except when he had closed the garage door, he saw the lights of my car turning amber and shutting off.

I hadn't told Carlos the full story of my brother-in-law until three nights ago.  To recap an old story, my brother-in-law drove home drunk as a skunk around 2 AM on Thanksgiving morning, November 24, 2011.  He parked his car in the garage, closed the garage door, and promptly passed out before shutting off his car. The boys found him dead after the carbon monoxide detector went off around 7 AM. Their mother died in an car accident on February 24, 2010. I moved back to Iowa immediately to get custody of the boys and moved into their house.  I also told Carlos that my dog Daisy, who was old, deaf, and blind, would sniff, scratch, growl, and bark at the door leading into the garage for weeks after I moved in, which, of course, freaked the hell out of me. Then nothing happened, that I can recall, for nearly three years until three nights ago. I don't really believe in ghosts, the supernatural, Loch Ness monster, Big Foot, UFO's, and other such things so I started searching the internet for Chevy Cruze's recall notices and problems of it starting itself with keys in the ignition. We couldn't sleep anyway. No reports. Nothing. Nada. It doesn't even have a remote starter. The next day I called the dealership's service department and they have never heard of a Cruze trying to crank on its own even if the keys were in the ignition.  My mind keeps telling me there has to be some logical explanation. My logical explanation is telling me that...

MY CAR WAS TRYING TO START ON ITS OWN, WITNESSED BY MY OWN EYES, IN THE SPOT WHERE MY BROTHER-IN-LAW DIED ON THE 5TH ANNIVERSARY OF MY SISTER'S DEATH.

Since everyone swears they did not leave the door open and I didn't feel any cold air coming in before Carlos went to the bathroom, some force must have opened it to let the carbon monoxide fumes in the house from the car that was trying to start itself.

My car is going in for service at the dealership tomorrow. I hope they can perform an exorcism.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Suck It Up, Buttercup

   What!  I am suppose to wipe off tables in the school cafeteria and sweep the floor?  Me, the Spanish substitute teacher?  You mean to tell me I went to college for four years and I am now half way through to a master's degree so I could clean up after a bunch of 1st graders who can't keep half their food on the plate?  Doesn't this school have cafeteria workers to do that? I admit these questions went through my head last Friday when I found out that cafeteria clean up was part of my duties. Also the regular teacher's duties, I might add. Can you imagine what would happen if purchasing agents, journalists, or engineers were told part of their jobs was to wipe tables and sweep the floor at their places of employment?

   And then I remembered Mike Seaton, an old boss of mine back in my IT (Information Technology) days. I don't remember the circumstances but I was asked to do something that was way out of the realm of my job description. I told him, "It's not my job."   He replied back to me, "It's not my job to sweep the floor, but if it's dirty I will grab a broom and clean it."

   Well said, Mike. 


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What Happened To Me?

     Like a lot of bloggers, here I am apologizing for the long absence. Last spring, on a whim, I applied for graduate school at the University of Northern Iowa. Not that it is so difficult to be admitted as long as the money is there, but they let me in. Crap. Now I have to put out or shut up. I am about 1/4 of the way to obtaining the MA TESOL (pronounced tee-saul) which stands for Teaching English as a Second Language, something I have been doing for years now anyway. I guess the master's degree will just validate me. I am working full-time as a teacher and I also teach English to immigrants on Saturday mornings. I still have custody of my nephews, now ages 15 and 9. Andrew is a freshman with a 4.0 GPA. He's on the basketball team. He's also in band, archery club, and is vice-president of student council. Alex is in 3rd grade and just achieved his penmanship award. I've only gotten one phone call from the principal this year about his behavior (a major improvement). He plays baseball, basketball, football, and will definitely be in track because, as he says it himself, he's fast. Most of my needs to poke fun at them is taken care of on Facebook.
     My beloved Miss Daisy Dog died on January 13. She would have been 17 some time this year. We got her when she was about 5 years old from the Cedar Valley Humane Society. My son, 16 years old at the time, had been begging for a dog so I agreed we could go to just "look".  Yeah, right. As we walked down the aisle of pens with all the big dogs barking, there was Miss Daisy in the last one, paws up on the cage, telling us with her eyes that we were taking her home. And so we did.  We never had a squirrel in our yard again. Miss Daisy got around. She went to Mexico City once and she lived in Texas and Mexico before returning to Iowa. Gecko chasing replaced squirrel chasing in Texas. She didn't know what to do with the tarantulas so she left them alone. I still wake up thinking I need to let her out and I swear I can still hear her snoring in the middle of the night. I miss my little doggie.

     I still find time to occasionally do some stupid stuff like skiing although I no longer jump the moguls from fear of smashing my bones into a million pieces. I am proud to say I did not fall once all day even while taking this video, unlike my companion who did it over and over again like a champ. Since he may only be the second Mexican to ever ski, right behind Prince Hubertus, the 55-year-old Olympian from Mexico, he should get the consolation prize for trying.
video

     I have not given up on the blog. When I get time, or a wild hair up the wazoo, I will make an appearance here from time to time.  Don't give up on me yet. I still have lots to say.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Haciendo Tortillas (Making Tortillas)

The other day I was lamenting the fact that there are no fresh tortillas in Marion. I never learned to make tortillas in Mexico because you can run down to the corner 7-11 (and there is a 7-11 or Oxxo on ever corner) and pick up a package of fresh hot tortillas.  Here in Marion the best tortillas I can find are at only one Hy Vee (Iowa's version of HEB) which come uncooked and I put them on the comal (a flat rimless pan). They're OK but I still would like to buy a package of the hot and fresh stuff. Asi es. Don't get me started on the nearly nonexistent jalapeño section at the store. And if I every buy anything exotic like tomatillos or serrano peppers, I bet 10-1 the clerk will ask me what they are. Anyway, back to my tortilla story. As I said I was lamenting the fact that I can't find good tortillas so I asked one of my Saturday adult students if his wife could show me how to make them. As I related the desire to make tortillas to Will  (he's another story for another time, but I will tell you he's from Reynosa, Mexico), he interrupted me to give me some very important information. Apparently one should not say, "Quiero hacer tortillas con la esposa de Florencio" which translates to "I want to make tortillas with the wife of Florencio".   It's a perfectly good sentence but it has another meaning in Mexico. When two women are making tortillas (hacen tortillas) it means they're in a lesbian relationship... not that there is anything wrong with that.  Basically I told Florencio that I want to get lovey-dovey with his wife and somehow he kept a straight face.  I won't make that mistake again. Just like I won't order "camarones sin ano" - shrimp without assholes - again.

The Oboe. Oh, Boy!

I hate to be one of those apologetic bloggers so I must hate myself for saying I feel bad about not writing more often. I have a lot to say. Being silent is not one of my stronger points. Last spring I applied for grad school at the University of Northern Iowa. Surprise, surprise, they let me in.  It was more like an oh, shit, what the hell were you thinking moment when they accepted me. I am midway through my second class in linguistics and I am proud to say I got a 94/100 in my first class. Facebook has taken over for the immediate need to say things like when my nephew recently decided to take up the oboe. Do you all know what an oboe sounds like?  Check out this youtube video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlFTXAxNKYA

Yup, that's what I am listening to as I write. A stepped-on duck. A stepped-on dying duck. He already plays the piano for which I have to listen to Christmas music through March until I scream ENOUGH ALREADY. And then when he joined the school band, they put him in the percussion section so I get to hear pound, pound, pounding of unsteady beats (I'm used to that - my son Brian played drums for 13 years). At least he doesn't get to bring the crash cymbals home. Then I found this website for oboe jokes that I yell to him above the screeching sounds. I played flute in the band. We all knew that oboes were the butt of all jokes.

All kidding aside, the kid (he's in 9th grade) hatched the plan and did all the footwork to start oboe lessons. He is the class vice president and he is thinking of going out for basketball and tennis. Did I mention he had straight A's last year? And straight A's so far this year. Can't complain about any of that. I won't complain about the oboe when he stops sounding like a dying duck.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Online Dating

One of my Facebook friends pasted a link to online dating site profile called IWontMurderYou.  I couldn't resist. Basically this guy's premise is if you go out with him, he won't murder you. He justifies it by saying he's never murdered anyone in the past and will not do so in the future. I especially like his favorite movie Silence of the Lambs that he only likes ironically.  I bet he gets a lot of willing women. I'm tempted to contact him just to find out what is his success rate.

I started nosing around to see what other dating sites are out there without paying a subscription fee and came across DateHookUp and Badoo.  In the interest of not wanting to further publicly humiliate some of the guys (they've already done a good job themselves), I won't post links to the winners I found.  Here is my list of what you should NOT do with your profile:

1. Shirtless.  Not too many guys can pull their shirt off and look good. And if you do look good, then you might come across as a cocky asshole who knows it. 
2. Stupid profile names like HotSexyStallion or anything with the number 69.  You will have a lot to live up to and my bet is 9 times out of 10 the women are disappointed and that is why you have resorted to online dating. Stupid names like that make you look desperate.
3. Shots of the crotch even with clothes. We are not interested in photos. It's how you use it. 
4. Photo of you shaving. Really?  No more explanation needed. Next
5. Photo of you standing in bathroom with one foot on top of the bathtub. No more explanation needed. At least it wasn't the toilet. 
6. Private profile photos. Admit it, asshole, you're married. You shouldn't be lurking around dating sites.
7. The obviously fake profile photo that was taken from a professional advertisement. 
8. Sunglasses.  Eyes are windows to the soul. You're hiding something.
9. Laying on the sofa. If you're too lazy to sit up for a profile photo, I can imagine what it would be like to get you to cut the grass. No thanks. 
10. Sideways shots. If you can't bother rotating your photo, I can't be bothered with turning my head to the side. 

Now excuse me while I go back to profile viewing. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Safe In The Frozen Tundra

It's been cold here in Iowa.  The massive amount of rain over the massive amount of snow this past weekend created massive amount of flooding.  Our garage included. The area between our house and the neighbor's house became a lake because the rain caused a snow slush dam. The dam overflowed and went to the lowest point, our garage. The sump pump in the garage was sucking it out back to the lake which overflowed back to the garage. Vicious cycle.  I have two wonderful neighbors who have come to my rescue more than once and so they did again Saturday. Randy created a trench in the snow out to the street and the lake flowed like a river away from the house. The sump pump pulled out the water and the garage is dry again. Nothing was ruined.

As much as I complain about the Iowa winters, at least it is safe compared to the city I lived in just south of the border. Over the weekend, residents of Reynosa cowered inside their homes while a war was raging outside. Been there. Done that.   And here is a report of some of the shit that went down yesterday. http://www.borderlandbeat.com/2013/03/detonations-and-blockades-in-reynosa.html  I've read about videotaped beheadings (I'm warning you, don't go there)dismembered bodies (again, you don't want to go there), but a friend's comment on facebook just grossed me out. He witnessed street dogs eating the remains of a dead body yesterday.  

Damn. Makes my bitching about water in the garage seem petty.