Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Twas early today at one in the morn, not a creature was stirring, not even the newest born....

It was peaceful this morning at one in the morning. The crickets were chirping and the frogs were croaking. All was quite in our neighborhood and my wife and I were deep in the restful sleep of the deserving. I was in la-la-land having some dream about who knows what. It was quiet. It was blissful…………….THEN ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE AROSE SUCH A CLATTER!!!!!!!!!!!!! I clawed my way up through the fog of sleep frantically trying to reach reality. Finally I made it to the surface and sat bolt upright in bed saying with a sleep-thickened tongue, "Whaddat?" in unison with my wife. "I don't know," we both said back again in unison.

I gathered my senses and realized that the sound had appeared to come from our hall bathroom. I walked into the bathroom and peered into the blue glow of the night-light above the sink but didn't see anything out of the ordinary. As I started to turn, I saw a white cylinder like object lying on the floor and my heart ratcheted up the pace a little. I bent down and carefully touched it and my heart ratcheted up another few notches. It was a pair of rolled up socks but that meant that they didn't cause the noise and SOMEONE WAS IN THE HOUSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I crept on down the hall and down the stairs. I stayed close against the wall at the base of the stairs waiting for someone to see me and take off or shoot me. I looked at the living room window that I had left open to allow the fresh air into the house. The screen didn't appear to be in the window and I imagined it to be lying with a twisted aluminum frame on the outside of the house. I peered around the corner in the kitchen and in the glow of the stove clock light, everything appeared in order. The kitchen and great room were just inky masses. I reached around the corner and flipped on the kitchen light. Light filled the house blinding me. I quickly shut it off and allowed me eyes to readjust in the darkness. No sound was heard.

Feeling way to vulnerable, I quickly went back upstairs and put on some more clothes. If I was going to fight an intruder I wanted something more between him and me. Dressed, I repeated my moves and again flipped on the light, this time crouching down and waiting for my eyes to adjust. When they did, I crept towards the window that still looked screen less and finally reached out to feel for it all the while keeping track of anything that might possibly jump me from behind. The feel of woven wire beneath my fingertips never felt so good. Feeling a little relieved and my heart ratcheting down a couple notches, I thought about the great room and how the sound could have been the sliding doors being broken. Again my heart ratcheted back up to full throttle. I crept into the great room and quickly saw that the door was intact. Heart throttles back down.

I walk back through the rooms and see nothing out of the order. I shut off the light and start walking back upstairs wondering what had caused all that noise when my wife emerged from the hall bathroom saying that she thinks she knew what it was. A couple weeks ago she had bought one of these razor things that suctions to the side of your shower wall and holds your razor. For some reason, it has chosen one this morning as the optimum time to let loose and clatter down to the tub bottom. Relieved that the culprit had been identified we went back to bed but sleep was a long time in coming. It took me a long time to get my mind to stop thinking about how I was going to present this in my blog post later this morning.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Speech of Prophesy

I stumbled across this speech this past weekend. Can you guess who said it?

We are at a turning point in our history. There are two paths to choose. One is a path I've warned about tonight, the path that leads to fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. That path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and immobility. It is a certain route to failure.

All the traditions of our past, all the lessons of our heritage, all the promises of our future point to another path, the path of common purpose and the restoration of American values. That path leads to true freedom for our nation and ourselves. We can take the first steps down that path as we begin to solve our energy problem.

Energy will be the immediate test of our ability to unite this nation, and it can also be the standard around which we rally. On the battlefield of energy we can win for our nation a new confidence, and we can seize control again of our common destiny.

In little more than two decades we've gone from a position of energy independence to one in which almost half the oil we use comes from foreign countries, at prices that are going through the roof. Our excessive dependence on OPEC has already taken a tremendous toll on our economy and our people. This is the direct cause of the long lines which have made millions of you spend aggravating hours waiting for gasoline. It's a cause of the increased inflation and unemployment that we now face. This intolerable dependence on foreign oil threatens our economic independence and the very security of our nation. The energy crisis is real. It is worldwide. It is a clear and present danger to our nation. These are facts and we simply must face them.

This was an excerpt from a speech given by Jimmy Carter on July 15, 1979. To me it reinforces my earlier argument that we've had 30 years of warning that we were going to be in this boat that we are in right now and we didn't solve it. How is tapping ANWR and offshore oil thus creating cheaper oil going to motivate us to change?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Congratulations to Mrs. Abbey!

We filed through the doors and immediately had to empty our pockets and were searched with various detectors. Once inside a little room off to the right, my wife was forced to give up her green card and was hustled off to one side of the room while I was forced to sit on the other. It was hot, more families were brought in and summarily split up just like ours. Fortunately, my parents, grandparents and even an uncle were already there waiting for the oath taking ceremony which would make my wife as much of a United States Citizen as I was. A process that we began in the fall of 2003, almost five years ago this month, was finally coming to an end.

The ceremony itself was pretty disappointing. There were no emotional speeches and the speaker whom I refer to as Nurse Cratchett, seemed rough as nails. She actually made comments like, "this is the part where you should stand up and waive your little flags around" that I felt belittled the solemnity of the ceremony and the participants themselves. But in the end, I don't think anyone minded too much because this day had been so long in the coming, upwards of fifteen years for some of the people, so they were more focused on life after the ceremony.

The one highlight for me was Ted Tran, a very famous Hmong refugee here in Iowa who came over in 1981. He and many others were the result of legislation signed in 1975 by former Iowa Governor Robert Ray which made Iowa one of the first in the nation to take these people into our care and give them new lives. Ted Tran was "adopted" by the Farmer family and has been the focus of several documentaries. Unfortunately, he didn't speak and just handed out welcoming packets to the new U.S. citizens.

After the ceremony, we drove up to the park north of the capital where my grandparents were camping out in the motor home and had a traditional picnic of barbecued pork chops, potato salad, baked beans and some garden fresh tomatoes (from my parent's garden). It doesn't get any more American than that.

My wife has been emotional about the whole process but for her, I don't think it has to do with becoming a U.S. citizen. Instead, I think she feels that she is less patriotic towards her home country of the Philippines. Although the United States doesn't recognize dual citizenship, they don't have laws saying you can't remain a citizen of another country so my wife can still retain her Philippines citizenship. Although I'm excited that she has the same rights as myself, I will not care a wit if she chooses not to exercise them. That is now one of her freedoms.

Looking back through the five-year process, I can't say that it has been bad. Years ago as a member of the ASAWA forum which mostly dealt with others in my position (Americans married to a Filipinos and applying for visas, residence and citizenship), it seemed scary reading of the many bad experiences people were having. But in almost every case, I would see a form that was fudged, a requirement that had not been met, etc. My wife and I filled out the forms truthfully and met all the requirements such as no criminal records, sufficient earnings, etc. and never had problems other than the many lengthy waits and trips to far off government buildings. Those are over and my wife's journey to become a citizen is over but our dealings with the government must continue. Mrs. Abbey must take her resident status off her social security number so that she can receive her benefits when she retires. She needs to obtain her passport which allows her to go almost anywhere in the world without first obtaining a visa and she can register to vote so that if she choose to participate in our election process, she may do so at any time. Finally, she may decide to someday pass this opportunity onto someone else such as her brother by petitioning them to become a United States citizen, a process that takes fifteen years to complete. But for now on this day, she is just a United States Citizen and I am her very proud husband.

Congratulations Mrs. Abbey!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Exerting Her Independence

I noticed Little Abbey's independence street perhaps first when she refused to sit in a highchair almost as soon as she could walk. She allowed us to use a booster seat for a time but even that too was soon relinquished to the dusty corners of the basement. Other things followed. The refusal to eat with her hands no matter how difficult eating with silverware was for her, refusal to drink from a sippee cup, refusal to have her hands held while walking and even refusing to ride in her stroller all eventually showed their heads and after much fussing, we would relent and let her have it her way.

Then a couple months ago, she went from laying down and going to sleep or taking a nap without a fuss to doing everything in her power to avoid being near her bed, which was a crib that I had lowered down and taken one side off so that she could enter and leave at will. The tantrums would usually last only a couple of minutes before she would give up and go to sleep but they were consistent throughout those months. Only by coincidence that we learn that if she was put to sleep on our bed or the guest bed, she was happy and didn't fuss. After awhile, I began to suspect that her independence had reared its head again and she wanted to sleep in an 'adult' bed. So the search began.

We kept tabs on the auction circuit and eventually found an auction with twin beds. I wrote about that here. I eventually stripped as much of the old paint off of the bed that I could and repainted it. After some searching, we also were able to find a mattress where the price and quality seemed in-line of each other and we set the whole works up this past weekend. Little Abbey seemed thrilled and hardly wanted to leave her bed, even for lunch. After lunch on a lark, we told her to go take her nap, something that would have been ignored on any other day. Immediately she went up stairs and was silent. I went up to check on her ten minutes later only to find her sound asleep in her new bed. As the week has gone by, the fussing has been reduced dramatically. She still fusses when she thinks it is not time for bed but she doesn't fuss anymore about her bed. With that she has exerted her independence and is happy.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

What Does It Take To Become a Mattress Outlet? Apparently Not Much.

I live in a small town of roughly 10,000 people with much larger towns scattered around in almost every direction so it was with some surprise when I first noticed that a mattress outlet store had moved into the small storefront where a cake decorating business had been. I couldn't imagine them being able to fit more than 6 or 8 mattresses in the place at any given time so thus couldn't fathom how it could be an outlet. But in my quest to locate a mattress for Little Abbey, I stopped in over my lunch hour the other day.

On the door there were no hours posted and no sign saying they were open. Just a hand lettered sign on the window saying Midwest Mattress Outlet and a phone number that wasn't local to our area. I tried the door and it opened so I walked inside. Inside there was a small room with three mattress sets set up on those cheap metal bed frames with no headboards or footboards. There was absolutely nothing else either. No desk, no rack of brochures, no telephone, no signs saying restroom this way and no people. Only an empty room with three mattresses and a doorway leading into another room. I headed through the door.

The second room was a similar story. There were three more mattresses set up with no desk, no rack of brochures, no telephone, and no signs but in this case, there were two guys, sleeping on two of the beds. I suddenly felt like Goldilocks in the story of the Three Bears. I cleared my throat and one of the men opened his eyes and asked if he could help me. I told him what I was interested in and in the span of about five seconds, he said, "We have this one or that one." I inquired into the prices and availability and he said that he would sell me the better mattress that was a show model for the same price as the cheaper one. Not really knowing how to respond, I stalled for time by asking him what brand name they were to which he vaguely replied that they were an Iowa manufacturer. Not knowing where to go with this conversation, I said I wanted to check out the furniture store off the square and then I would be back. I walked out only five minutes after I walked in.

I did go check the furniture store and they didn't have any mattresses in stock nor were they even close to being reasonably priced so I went back to work. Despite my tingling spidey senses, I decided to go back to the Mattress Outlet store after work because I thought I could probably wheel and deal a little bit. I tried looking up Iowa mattress manufacturers beforehand so that I could get some pricing information to bargain with but had no luck in Googling any. So after work, I pulled up in front of the store not knowing anything more than I had obtained in my first trip.

Again, I walked through an empty front room except for the mattresses into the second room. In the second room, it was devoid of all human life and one of the mattresses I had looked at over lunch was now leaning against the wall and the sign was removed. I continued into a third room which consisted of a box of telephone books, a beat up tubular and Formica office desk that looked as if someone had picked it off the curb, and on the desk was a running laptop, an old metal receipt machine with hand crank, a money bag, a few receipts and a pen. The only other accessory was a phone hanging on the back wall. I loudly asked if anyone was there and got no response. There was another door so I opened it up and walked into the final room that was empty except for three more mattress sets leaning against the walls. This must be the outlet storage part I smirked.

Back inside, I wandered around and started looking for labels on the mattresses for where they were manufactured but couldn't find anything. The only thing I could find was the model number taped to the walls above some of the other beds and a cloth banner draped over a couple that said Stylution. I went back to the office for a pen and tore a corner off the box of telephone books and jotted down the name Stylution and a few of the model numbers. I also jotted down the number painted on the window outside and went into the back room to call it on the wall phone. No dial tone. Fifteen minutes had now gone by and I decided to leave and go home.

Back home I tried Googling Stylution up with Iowa but got no results. After trying just Stylution, I was rewarded by a page in Chinese. After clicking the translate page link, I found out that Stylution is the largest mattress manufacturer in China and even found a Youtube video. I decided that since I didn't get the hint the first visit, this second visit and uncovering the lie about where the mattresses came from would be the only other hit I need. I won't be going back. The only thing I wonder is where the guy stole the mattresses to begin with?I

Monday, August 4, 2008

A Black Cowboy Rides Into Subway On His Mercedes

**Warning: This post contains cursing**

I was in a Subway killing time with Little Abbey while Mrs. Abbey got her hair done next door and five minutes into our wait, a black Mercedes creeps into the parking lot out front. It wouldn't have caught my attention except for the fact that it was moving so slow and the driver took a half dozen attempts to get it backed into the parking space next to our minivan. After the driver got the Mercedes parked and situated, he sat our there in the hot sun for the next five minutes before finally getting out. The man turned out to be an old short black man with a closely cropped white beard, white Stetson perched atop his head, an enormous pot belly that strained the buttons of his white button up western style shirt and cowboy boots. He waddled over to the passenger window and proceeded to have a lengthy discussion with someone sitting there. I think it centered on money as they passed one of those bank envelopes that you get when you cash a check back and forth counting the contents.

Eventually he took the bank envelope with its contents and waddled across the parking lot and stepped into Subway. His boots sounds like they had steel soles and he clicked across the tile and over to the cash register where he hooked his thumbs in his pockets and waited behind someone who was paying for their sandwich. Five other people were stretched out along the counter and the sign that said "Please Order Here" in various stages of getting their sandwiches made up. I thought that this was going to be interesting and I wasn't disappointed.

When he stepped up to the cash register and started to order, the clerk politely pointed out the "Please Order Here" sign and the five people who the old black cowboy had just cut off in line. The man clicked down the line and I thought proceeded to order. However, my attention was again directed towards him when I heard a commotion in the back and looked towards him again.

He started yelling out loud in a southern drawl, "I've been all OVER the world and yet I get back to America and you all can't read or write. You're just a bunch of IGNORANT bastards." He started clicking towards the door at a much faster pace when he stopped and looked back at the clerk running the cash register and said, "Fuck YOU." Then he looked up and saw all half dozen or so other patrons of the Subway looking back at him and he waggled a finger in our direction and said, "Fuck YOU ALL," as he clicked on out of the restaurant.

We all snickered a little a wondered what it was all about but I couldn't take my eyes off the old black cowboy. He clicked across the parking lot and proceeded to have a very animated discussion with the passenger pointing back at the Subway and waving his arms in the air. He finally got in the driver's side and proceeded to creep out of the parking lot. All was good for ten minutes or so until the Maharishi men across the aisle from me made a comment that he was back. Sure enough I looked up to see a black Mercedes creeping through the parking lot. The two Maharishi men immediately got up and exited Subway while making comments that he might have a gun and shoot the place up. My mind certainly headed that direction and I looked towards the back to make sure I knew where the exit was. However the black Mercedes just kept on creeping and left that parking lot once again.

Minutes after the black cowboy rode off into the sunset in his Mercedes the second time, my wife came back and we left. But I can't help but be amused that the black cowboy had been all over the world but evidently had been a virgin when it came to ordering at Subway.