Sassyhacksaws http://sassyhacksaws.com Musings on an English Degree Sun, 20 Apr 2014 14:54:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9 Walking the Cathttp://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/04/16/walking-cat/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/04/16/walking-cat/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 15:00:49 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=6084 Recently, Ellie and I have tried to get out of the apartment as much as possible because the weather has been nicer and we both have cabin fever from the longer Winter than usual in recent years. We try to walk for a bit before dinner when possible, just to stretch the legs. On the weekends, we search for geocaches. Any excuse to move is a good excuse. Marley, however, we neglected and is why we decided to start walking the cat. Now, I’ve heard about Continue reading →

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Recently, Ellie and I have tried to get out of the apartment as much as possible because the weather has been nicer and we both have cabin fever from the longer Winter than usual in recent years. We try to walk for a bit before dinner when possible, just to stretch the legs. On the weekends, we search for geocaches. Any excuse to move is a good excuse. Marley, however, we neglected and is why we decided to start walking the cat.

Now, I’ve heard about different ways to train your cats to make them a little more user-friendly and easier to take care of (read: less poop scooping and furniture destruction). In college, I knew a  girl who was working to potty train her cats because the effort needed to train them would pay off in the long run. I really see what she meant. Poop scooping is hardly fun and it’s a never-ending process. Other things I’ve read about include covering things in tinfoil so the cats will leave them alone. Apparently, cats do not like tinfoil. Rightly so? You can spray them with water bottles if they do something you want to train out of them (though a number of the articles on this topic said you should make sure the cat associates the water with doing the offending act and doesn’t associate it with the person spraying, any ideas on how to do this?). But of all the things I’ve read about thus far, the least common one is walking the cat.

How often do you think, I wish I had a cat to take for walks? How much more often do you substitute cat for dog? What would you do if you saw a full-grown man or woman walking a cat on a leash? Would you assume they’re doing it for the benefit of the cat? Or would you think they were crazy and trying to draw some attention to them and their beloved feline? Until recently, I thought the latter.

Back in college, I bought a leash and a harness for Marley so I could take her for walks. It didn’t work out. She would wrap the leash around me and end up on my shoulder. Walking the cat turned into becoming the cat’s chariot. Also, she didn’t like running into dogs and sometimes it was too hot for her to be out. I did it all wrong.

My problem was that I thought once I put the harness and leash on her, she’d be ready for a walk just like a dog. She hated the harness and I thrust her into a whole new world. What I failed to do was consider how Marley reacts to new places. Every time I move, she ends up under the bed for a couple of days before she decides to come out and investigate. Pulling her into walks where there was so much new to her and nowhere to hide but my shoulder was the wrong way to get her to walk.

Walking the cat on a leash

Walking the cat on a leash

So, in an effort to retry what I failed at in college and to include Marley in mine and Ellie’s outdoor activities, we decided to start walking the cat. This past Sunday, we strapped her into the harness and let her adjust. I gave her some treats to get her more comfortable. Then we scooped her up and took her out to the patch of grass behind my building. Naturally, she had a bushy tail and didn’t really want to be out there but we persisted and eventually got her moving around comfortably.

So we didn’t stress her out, we brought her in and gave her some treats as a reward. We’ll do this a couple more times before trying to get her to the corner of the block. Eventually, I’ll walk her just like I’d walk a dog. People will stare and assume I’m a crazy cat guy who has no friends, but the jokes on them because it’s true and I own it.

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Mabelhttp://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/04/14/mabel/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/04/14/mabel/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 19:38:16 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=6081 You know that ever running gag in TV and movies where a family dog dies while the kids are away and the parents deal with and then offhand mention it to their kids at a later date as though it doesn’t really matter? I do, because that shit happens. The Threat My father has always been difficult to get presents for. He’s the kind of guy who has the things he needs, and if he doesn’t then he’ll go out and get them. He doesn’t Continue reading →

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You know that ever running gag in TV and movies where a family dog dies while the kids are away and the parents deal with and then offhand mention it to their kids at a later date as though it doesn’t really matter? I do, because that shit happens.

The Threat

My father has always been difficult to get presents for. He’s the kind of guy who has the things he needs, and if he doesn’t then he’ll go out and get them. He doesn’t care for the fancy or the novelty the same way most other people seem to. It’s a respectable trait, if you ask me but it’s what makes him hard to shop for. When he says he doesn’t need anything or to get him nothing, he truly means it.

As a middle school aged child, I had some ridiculous and not very well thought out ideas. For example, in the sixth grade, I thought it would be a good idea to use the Exacto knives we were using in class slash at random through a pile of newspapers instead of using them to cut styrofoam into bricks to build a castle like we were supposed to. I can still remember holding my bleeding finger up to my teacher and with a straight face saying, “Ouch”. In the seventh grade, my friend and I would use our lunchtime breaks to play what we called bi-plane. I would carry him on my back, the both of us with our arms stretched wide and we would pretend to be an airplane. Also in the seventh grade, I decided that I would end my father’s lack of gift ideas by threatening him.

When we got Rosi, we thought we had hit the jackpot.  We finally had gotten a dog after years and years of begging and pleading and promising we would take care of her (that’s the standard practice for anyone out there who needs to convince someone to get a dog). The thought of having a second dog wasn’t even on our radar but that’s what I used as my threat to my father. If he wouldn’t tell us what he wanted for his Christmas gift that year, I was going to get him a puppy.

Most people would have assumed I was bluffing. At first glance, you wouldn’t assume a thirteen year old would be able to get a dog for his dad for Christmas, I would have needed to go through the parental committee for an action life that. But somehow, it got approved by my mother after telling her that I knew of the very place I could get a puppy. My best friend’s across the street neighbor’s dog had recently gotten knocked up on one of her grand escapes into the neighborhood. I had asked if I could have one of the puppies, and it was approved. Approved all around. After they were born, November 15, and before Christmas, I went over and picked out the runt of the litter.

That year, for Christmas, my father got his threat. He got Mabel.

Mabel and Danny, a first meeting

Mabel and Danny, a first meeting

Mabel and Rosi

Rosi was always my first love. She was my first dog and she was fierce and protective and we had a mutual understanding of each other. Everything about her, however, seemed to be the opposite of Mabel. Where Rosi was hard, Mabel was soft. Where Rosi was lean and strong, Mabel was plump yet strong. In the ever rare event you could get a kiss from Rosi, her tongue was soft. If Mabel saw you, she would lick you with a much more coarse tongue. Rosi would greet everyone  who came to the house with intimidating barks, Mabel would greet them looking for a good back scratching. Rosi would bark at anything that passed the house. Mabel would bark at nothing because she thought that’s all Rosi was doing. They were very much different dogs and as I mentioned a couple of years ago, they tolerated each other at first and became the best of friends in their lives.

It was curious then, when we brought her home that Mabel and Rosi shared a common feature, a feature which I think made them far more beautiful and unique than any other dogs I’ve met. Rosi and Mabel both had one blue eye on the left and a brown one on the right.

Mabel and Rosi, saying goobye

Mabel and Rosi, saying goodbye

Mabel and Me

Mabel pushed her way into my life. I was completely content with having only Rosi even though Rosi wasn’t the cuddler like I had always hoped she would be. I think Mabel picked up on this and she sought to fill that gap for me. She liked to be close to people. She liked to be have attention. Once, I left her gated on our back porch as a puppy while I went up front with my father for only a few minutes and since she had a need to be by people, she jumped off the 7-8 foot high porch to come find us.

When she got big, her full-grown weight was always somewhere around 70-80, she still considered herself a lap dog. You could sit on a chair and she’d come over and put her chin on your knee, waiting for an invitation to climb up. Outside, she threw her weight into her playing. She’d barrel on and on, a hulk of a dog who you could tell was just enjoying her life. But for me, the most important way Mabel showed me she needed to be by me was by climbing in my bed with me at night. I’ve always been a tall 6’1″ and she’s an 80 pound mass of fur and muscle, but somehow the two of us could comfortable sleep in a twin bed. She would curl up between my feet.

I knew Mabel loved me by the way she would get excited for me when I came home from school, or work, or Ukraine. She’d squeal and wag her whole body in delight to see me. She’d run from one end of the house to the other to be there when the door opened, more than once hitting her head unknowingly. Once, she was sitting outside as I left to walk to the bank. She got up to follow me, but I told her to wait and that I’d be back. I was gone for fifteen minutes and when I got back, she was waiting for me in the same spot I left her.

Mabel

At Christmas, Mabel wore a Christmas light headband. At Halloween, she was a daisy.

Mabel at Christmastime

Mabel at Christmastime

We could cover her in blankets, coats and clothes. She would take it in stride, or nap. She wasn’t bothered by much of anything. Once, when it was rather hot for a Wisconsin summer, we decided to dress her up in a fleece vest. Instead of squirming and putting up a fuss, she let it happen and would have gladly posed for pictures had anyone had a camera at that time.

Mabel in a coat

Mabel in a coat

 

Mabel keeping warm under a blanket

Mabel keeping warm under a blanket

When she was hungry or thirsty and her bowls were empty, we knew. She would push them around the kitchen with her nose and her paw. I can still hear the metallic scraping of the bowls on the floor. It was just as effective as when Rosi used to softly bark at us for the same reasons, just a different approach from a different pooch.

She would sit next to you while you sat in a chair or on the couch and give you those big old puppy dog eyes while slightly whimpering because she wanted you to scratch her head. Or maybe not even that, she just wanted to be touched and reassured she was loved.

Mabel, a face you cannot say no to

Mabel, a face you cannot say no to

In her later years, she loved to go for walks. She always loved to go for walks but she would demand them in her later years. She bark for them and once she knew she was going, she would bark with delight to let anyone and everyone know how happy she was to be going for a walk.

But then the walks got slower and shorter. The pace slowed down–she used to pull so hard on walks that we’d need to stop to let her breathe because the collar/lease were too tight because she pulled so hard. She hobbled then limped. When she got home she gulped water and passed out.

She didn’t run any more. She wanted to cuddle, but she couldn’t climb up to the chair so you had to go to her chair. She couldn’t climb stairs. She couldn’t climb into beds.

Then she started licking her belly. Her belly got raw and she was taken to the vet. The vet said she had a tumor but didn’t know what it was. They could do a biopsy, but for a dog her age, would it be worth it if she was going to die of natural causes only a year later? She lost weight, fast. The hulk who used to bound through the yard to find her favorite bits of grass to munch on, the hulk who was covered in muscle and soft fur, was bony. You could feel her ribs and see her hips pointing out. Her spine started to arc. A ridge formed on the top of her skull. She no longer got up to greet me when I came home for visits. That’s when I knew it was bad.

Mabel, life catching up to her

Mabel, life catching up to her

I knew it was bad, but I wanted to live in denial. I had always said that Mabel would live forever just for the sake of demanding us to pet her and love her and be near her, more as a nuisance that you could never get away from. I had said it and hoped it. When I saw her, I babied her. I fed her scraps from the table even though I never shared my food with her. I sat with her and talked to her while she slept. I wanted her to make it another month or another week or just another day. Always one more day would have been better than not.

But then, Friday, after work I got a call from my mother. She started with small talk and deep down I knew it wasn’t about that and told her to cut to the chase. She told me they had taken Mabel in to the vet for a scheduled visit to the vet to have her leg checked out. It had been swollen and she was having trouble walking. I was told she slept and when she didn’t, she would get up to drink and to step out the door to pee and then come back in. Her meals were brought to her. The vet saw her and forgot what she was there for.

It was decided that she needed to be put to sleep to ease her suffering. And so she was.

When I heard the news, I was outraged. I was still in denial. Maybe, if I had seen her one more time, she would feel better and keep on going. At the very least, we could have said our goodbyes to each other. That’s all I ask, to tell my pooch, my Mabel one last time that I love her. Truly, I do.

A boy and his dog: November 15, 2001 - April 11, 2014

A boy and his dog: November 15, 2001 – April 11, 2014

So sometimes that shit on TV happens. It’s not ideal for everyone. Some people really need to be able to say goodbye and they feel robbed of that opportunity like I did. But when this happens it’s because it’s easier for the people who immediately need to deal with the situation. It’s done without thought of everyone, only for the one whose time has come. It was done not to make my life more difficult but to make Mabel’s life easier.

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Dash App Review for Efficient Drivinghttp://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/04/10/dash-app-review/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/04/10/dash-app-review/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 19:05:48 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=6064 If you’re environment conscious in any way and own a car and want to get the most out of that car through efficient driving, I highly recommend you read on. I want to talk about an app or your phone which I read about a while ago and recently had the opportunity to take advantage of. That app is Dash (Android, iTunes (I know the app exists for Apple products, but I can’t find the link at the time of writing)) and it will change Continue reading →

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If you’re environment conscious in any way and own a car and want to get the most out of that car through efficient driving, I highly recommend you read on. I want to talk about an app or your phone which I read about a while ago and recently had the opportunity to take advantage of. That app is Dash (Android, iTunes (I know the app exists for Apple products, but I can’t find the link at the time of writing)) and it will change the way you drive.

Dash: Smarter. Driving. Everyday.

Dash: Smarter. Driving. Everyday.

Dash aims to turn your car into a smart car (not a Smart Car, no one wants that). By using a built-in port on 1996 model cars or newer, you can get more out of your car than you could imagine. All you need to do is connect a bluetooth device to this port (mine cost about $15 with shipping from Amazon) and then sync the app with it (this is a very similar device to the ones insurance companies use to watch your driving, but instead of connecting to their servers, it connects to your phone). It couldn’t be much simpler to set up. Once you’ve done this, your phone can get all the information out of your car’s computer. With that information, it can tell you whether you’re a good driver. I know a lot of people who need to use this, mostly everyone on my daily commutes.

My favorite part about the app is that it tells me how my driving affects my fuel economy. In the “Advanced Mode” I can see the instantaneous MPG, but I’ve found this really this doesn’t help your overall driving so much as the trip average does MPG. This is the main screen while driving. There the number for your MPG and then a bar that changes colors while you’re accelerating and decelerating to let you know if you could be doing it better. Red is bad. Green is good. Simple. Many times I catch myself trying to get the number just one higher before I shut off my car. For me, it makes driving more fun and a challenge.

Dash: Advanced Mode

Dash: Advanced Mode

When you’ve finished your trip, Dash gives you a summary of it with the basic information highlighted and tells you a few ways to improve on your score. The one that gets me the most is “Avoid Idling” which happens a lot in a city which is overly populated with stop signs and traffic lights. In the app’s perfect world, you’d be driving at a steady speed from your origin to your destination. Dash also assigns a score to your trip and it averages that score in with all the others. I’ve hovered around 89 and 90 since I installed the app. After the first fill-up while using the app, my MPG for the tank (which was about three-quarters full) went up two points over the past couple months of average MPG. In a twelve gallon tank, that’s like adding an extra gallon of gas at no charge.

Dash: Drive Summary

Dash: Drive Summary

In addition to helping you drive more efficiently, Dash lets you know where the best place nearby to fill-up is. You can view local gas stations based on both nearest and cheapest. More than helpful for me to find out that the station 0.2 mile from my apartment is not always the cheapest (though more often than not it is).

But one of my favorite features of the app is the ability to tell you what the “Check Engine” light means. I can’t count the number of times the light has come on in my car and I’ve had no idea what it means. I’ve been able to read the code with a friend’s code reader and then by using my own, but even then it doesn’t really tell me what’s wrong. Dash will read the code for you, tell you that there’s an engine problem, tell you what the code is, and give you a general idea of what needs to be fixed. It goes even further and giving you an estimate on the cost to repair the code (though for the code my car had it didn’t know how to fix it and told me it was $0 to fix, but in their defense I don’t think my car even knows if it has a problem or not because the light comes on every now and then and then goes away mysteriously).

I’m told that I can compete with my friends with my driving scores, but since none of my friends are using this yet, I can’t (if you decide to get it, or already have it, hit me up). I like the social and gaming aspect this creates. I would need to be the best driver.

Finally, there’s a lot of potential for the app. Since the app is automatically connected to the car when my phone is in range (this can be disabled) it’s ready to go as soon as the car starts with nothing else required from you. But it has a lot of things it could do, say the makers of the app. In theory, it can control most aspects of the car. It could (un)lock doors. Roll windows up or down. The developers even talked about the possibility being able to do a remote start (though it wasn’t clarified whether this could be accomplished on a car that already had the functionality or not). Really, there’s a lot of potential for this app and it’s all resting on the backs of the developers.

In short, I highly recommend this app for anyone wishing to improve their car efficiency and health. If you do decide to give it a try, consider trying it on the cheap Bluetooth I suggested above as it’s worked great for me (then maybe move up to the more expensive ones if the situation calls for it). And in all seriousness, hit me up danny@sassyhacksaws.com and we can find a way to share our scores and compete.

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Peace Corps Fundraiser Lunchhttp://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/04/08/peace-corps-fundraiser-lunch/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/04/08/peace-corps-fundraiser-lunch/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 18:40:52 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=6059 I did it finally, I took the leap. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how I was planing on getting more involved in the RPCV community around where I live and this past Saturday, I took the next step. This past weekend I went to the Spring Peace Corps Fundraiser lunch hosted by the Milwaukee Peace Corps Association. It was fantastic and I fell silly for worry about meeting people and trying to fit in. The lunch was to raise money to support Continue reading →

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I did it finally, I took the leap. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how I was planing on getting more involved in the RPCV community around where I live and this past Saturday, I took the next step. This past weekend I went to the Spring Peace Corps Fundraiser lunch hosted by the Milwaukee Peace Corps Association. It was fantastic and I fell silly for worry about meeting people and trying to fit in.

The lunch was to raise money to support projects for current volunteers. These projects focused on volunteers in Latin America. Half of the funds raised went to support a volunteer whose father came to the lunch to promote his project. This volunteer wanted to build a volleyball court and soccer field to bring his community closer with a shared space for sporting events. For the other half of the money, we voted on one of three projects to support. One project wanted to create a collective of family gardens. This project was the one we voted to give the remaining money to. The second project sought to fund entrepreneurial women of the community by buying solar panels to help power a community space which would offer services to the women. The last project sought to create a camp for boys to learn to respect other people regardless of race, gender, anything out of the ordinary (personally, I thought this was the least worthy of our funds as it seemed to be more of a response to Camp GLOW which teaches girls to be leaders than a solid idea for a camp).

But the fundraising part was only a small aspect of what made the lunch so enjoyable for me. The best part of it was that I got to connect with other volunteers. By chance, I sat down by a group of volunteers who hadn’t been to any MPCA events before and all were recently returned (compared to many of the attendees). We had a great time trading horror stories and successes. We all seemed to gripe about the job search when we got back and how we felt far from ready for it. I met Laura from Kazakstan as a TEFL volunteer (she learned Russian but seemed rather hesitant to speak it with me). She had been back for three years and now works in the area in business development for a car dealership. Then there was Laura who had just gotten home in December. She served in Vanuatu as a TEFL volunteer and is currently struggling to find a job. I think she was in similar shoes as me in nervousness as she brought her sister for moral support. Then there was Mira. I didn’t catch when Mira served, but I know she served in Zambia as a community health and education volunteer. She brought her parents to the Peace Corps fundraiser lunch and they were very nice. Mira works for a non-profit, Healthcare for the Homeless.

I already signed up to take part in the next event, NAMI Walk, in May. I like that if I go full steam on this, it doesn’t mean much more than one or two monthly commitments. It’s the perfect group to fit into my schedule and make me feel like I’m doing what I really want to do again.

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@PutinRF_Eng please come protect me!http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/04/07/putinrf_eng-please-come-protect-me/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/04/07/putinrf_eng-please-come-protect-me/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 18:37:29 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=6056 Владимир Путин, иди сюда и защитить меня. Я говорю по-русски. Vladimir Putin, come here and protect me. I speak Russian. I’m appealing to you, Mr. Putin, because you’re interested in protecting Russian speakers now and I’m one of them. If it helps my case at all, I learned to speak Russian while I was in Ukraine (if you’re unaware, it’s the neighboring country to your West). If it furthers my case, I learned Russian in Chernigov, which isn’t very far from your border. And as a Continue reading →

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Владимир Путин, иди сюда и защитить меня. Я говорю по-русски.

Vladimir Putin, come here and protect me. I speak Russian.

I’m appealing to you, Mr. Putin, because you’re interested in protecting Russian speakers now and I’m one of them. If it helps my case at all, I learned to speak Russian while I was in Ukraine (if you’re unaware, it’s the neighboring country to your West). If it furthers my case, I learned Russian in Chernigov, which isn’t very far from your border. And as a final nail in the coffin on why you should come protect me, I don’t think Kyiv has any intent of protecting me from the bandits. Therefore, I desperately seek your aid. I’m unable to fend for myself.

You see, I don’t feel safe in the world these days and a couple guards would do me some good. At home and at work and in conversations with my friends and family members, I hear little more than the major global events going on in the world. It appears a big country (the name escapes me at the moment) is bullying a little country (also, I forget the name of this one but I think I had been to it during my travels) in the interests of securing more land for the big country. That doesn’t seem fair to me at all and I really hope you will protect me from bullies like that big country. I wouldn’t want that big country coming to America and trying to take my fellow Americans away from me.

So, what I’m proposing is that you send two soldiers to guard me (maybe two men named Nikolai and Dima). Nikolai and Dima must be big burly men who can stand behind me to intimidate everyone with their silence. If you want to avoid any political snafus, you’re welcome to have them deny their allegiance to Mother Russia and I’ll claim they’re local militia (but if I start throwing back the vodka with Nikolai and Dima, there’s no guarantee our cover won’t be blown but we’ll drink American vodka just to help our case). Don’t worry, I will take care of Nikolai and Dima. I will cook them some tasty treats like borscht and meat and potatoes. It’s a fair trade, I believe, for my protection.

So Mr. Putin, please send me Nikolai and Dima to help protect me. I don’t want to be bullied.

 

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Little Free Libraryhttp://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/04/03/little-free-library/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/04/03/little-free-library/#comments Thu, 03 Apr 2014 18:22:08 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=6052 Ellie and I were out for a walk yesterday when we came across the Little Free Library near my home and we saw this: In case you cannot read it, the note says: Notice: I put this Little Free Library here to teach my son about sharing and kindness. When you take all of the books out of the library at once without even leaving a book, you make it very hard to teach that lesson. Be neighborly. Take a book, leave a book. Thank Continue reading →

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Ellie and I were out for a walk yesterday when we came across the Little Free Library near my home and we saw this:

Near my apartment, Little Free Library

I had to check this one out to see what the note was even though I had visited it not too long before.

In case you cannot read it, the note says:

Notice:
I put this Little Free Library here to teach my son about sharing and kindness.
When you take all of the books out of the library at once without even leaving a book, you make it very hard to teach that lesson.
Be neighborly. Take a book, leave a book.
Thank you

What kind of world do we live in where people can’t make sharing books and knowledge a wonderful thing without people ruining it? It’s a simple concept that has the tragedy of the commons lurking all around it.

I’ve come across a few of these wonderful bits of humanity during my travels, and I always browse through to see what’s there but I never take a book because I’m always caught off guard when I come across them. I’m always empty-handed. So, like the sign above points out, I don’t get to take a book.

Things like this worry me because I really want to have one of these once I have a place of my own. I doubt it will bother me as much as it bothered the owner of the one in the picture because a book for someone to read is still better than not offering one at all.

Give me some hope for us all, and promise you’ll try to always leave a book to keep the sharing going.

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April Fool’s Treatshttp://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/04/01/april-fools-treats/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/04/01/april-fools-treats/#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 18:13:35 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=6050 This is a rather cruel joke, but one of my coworkers brought April Fool’s treats into work today and left it on the break room table for all to share. In case it’s hard to tell, this was her idea of an April Fool’s Day prank. Brown Es. Brownies. What a terrible person. I wanted a chocolatety and delightful snack. I hate today. I hate April Fool’s treats because I want real treats.

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This is a rather cruel joke, but one of my coworkers brought April Fool’s treats into work today and left it on the break room table for all to share.

Brown Es

This is the worst prank a human could possibly pull on another human. A cruel, cruel joke.

In case it’s hard to tell, this was her idea of an April Fool’s Day prank. Brown Es. Brownies. What a terrible person. I wanted a chocolatety and delightful snack.

I hate today. I hate April Fool’s treats because I want real treats.

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Milwaukee Peace Corps Associationhttp://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/03/28/milwaukee-peace-corps-association/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/03/28/milwaukee-peace-corps-association/#comments Fri, 28 Mar 2014 18:20:20 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=6047 Ever since I’ve gotten back from the Peace Corps, I wanted to do more with my life. I wanted more than a job and an apartment and a car to get between the two. There was this need to be doing something that helped the community, no matter how small or large. It was a feeling of fulfillment in what I was doing with my life, a feeling I had come to love while in Ukraine. I struggled with the get up and go, however. Continue reading →

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Ever since I’ve gotten back from the Peace Corps, I wanted to do more with my life. I wanted more than a job and an apartment and a car to get between the two. There was this need to be doing something that helped the community, no matter how small or large. It was a feeling of fulfillment in what I was doing with my life, a feeling I had come to love while in Ukraine. I struggled with the get up and go, however. Part of this was because I didn’t know where to start and part of this was because I was afraid to start. What if I was bad at it or people didn’t take me or my experience seriously? What if it just wasn’t right for me?

Sometime last year, I tried getting involved with Habitat for Humanity. The local chapters had built some houses around the block from me, and it seemed convenient because of this. I also liked the idea that while helping other people, I’d be helping myself with the practical skills of building and working on a house. However, when I signed up for more information and to be kept in the loop, I never really could figure out where I could sign up to actually help with the building. They had a page for it, but no information. I eventually abandoned my pursuit of this kind of fulfillment.

When Andy and Kathryn visited me in November, I heard a lot from Kathryn about her involvement in her local Returned Peace Corps Group.  She absolutely loved it and she mentioned that it was nice having that support network of people who knew what she had been through. I really liked the idea of that community of volunteers again. I looked up the local one and investigated it. It seemed promising, but I never could bring myself to go to their meetings.

The Milwaukee Peace Corps Association is the local group and last night, I finally went out to meet them. They had one of their monthly social hours at a bar which seemed like a good way to get a feeler for the group. I asked Ellie to go with me so I’d feel more comfortable (which is always a problem for me when meeting new people). The small group of volunteers there was absolutely wonderful. They were very welcoming as nearly all Peace Corps Volunteers are. They had stories. They wanted to know mine. True to form, I don’t remember anyone’s name but a quick look at their Board of Directors and my memory of where everyone served allowed me to deduce names.

I’ve decided to get involved in the Milwaukee Peace Corps Association. I want to be a part of their efforts and I want to do what I can to better the world through Peace Corps ideals. There’s a fundraiser lunch next Saturday which I’m going to go to. While I’m there, I’ll sign up for the group and make sure I can get involved in more events.

Wish me luck.

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Thursday 3-27 Lunchtime Walkhttp://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/03/27/thursday-3-27-lunchtime-walk/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/03/27/thursday-3-27-lunchtime-walk/#comments Thu, 27 Mar 2014 18:21:46 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=6045 The post Thursday 3-27 Lunchtime Walk appeared first on Sassyhacksaws.

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It was kind of crummy today, chilly and rainy, but the walk still felt good. It wasn’t too chilly or too rainy.

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March Madness Bracket and the $1 Billion I Never Hadhttp://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/03/24/march-madness-bracket-and-the-1-billion-i-never-had/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/03/24/march-madness-bracket-and-the-1-billion-i-never-had/#comments Mon, 24 Mar 2014 14:05:15 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=6037 If you didn’t hear, Quicken Loans is giving away a $1 Billion to one person who picks a perfect bracket for March Madness. This is backed by Warren Buffet. Really, if you didn’t hear, you should pay attention to get rich quick articles on the web. Granted, the odds of winning are slim to none: Odds of Winning. The odds of winning the Grand Prize depend on the outcome of each of the Tournament games and the skill of each Entrant. Mathematical odds of winning Continue reading →

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If you didn’t hear, Quicken Loans is giving away a $1 Billion to one person who picks a perfect bracket for March Madness. This is backed by Warren Buffet. Really, if you didn’t hear, you should pay attention to get rich quick articles on the web.

Granted, the odds of winning are slim to none:

Odds of Winning. The odds of winning the Grand Prize depend on the outcome of each of the Tournament games and the skill of each Entrant. Mathematical odds of winning the Grand Prize are 1:9,223,372,036,854,775,808, which may vary depending upon the knowledge and skill of the Entrant, and the odds of winning a First Prize depend upon the outcome of each of the Tournament games, number of eligible Entries received during the Entry Window and the skill of each Entrant.

But I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring because $1 Billion. Also, it was only open to the first 15 million people who signed up; I managed to get in that so no big deal. But I didn’t win. I knew after the first day of games. I never was going to win.

Anyone who knows me, especially around this time of year, knows I absolutely abhor basketball. I’ve never been good at it because I never understood the point of it. That’s why I don’t bother following it. But if someone puts an easy dollar sign in front of it, I’ll grab for it.

So, that being said, I knew nothing about basketball when I made my picks and it showed. I made my picks based on schools I had heard about around this time of the year before, possibly. I know some people pick based on mascots and some pick based on colors or other silly methods. I chose to go with my gut. My gut is dumb.

Here’s my bracket, as of writing:

Danny’s Definitive Bracket

Clearly, I’m terrible at this. I don’t have time for stats or colors or mascots. I filled out two brackets (another for work) and each took me about five minutes. No harm done, really. But that billion would have been nice.

This morning, my coworkers and I imagined the scenario where we had perfect brackets up to the final. I proposed the thought that it’d be the worst day for that person. By the end of the day, they would either be a billion richer or have barely missed it. That’s a stressful day, if you ask me.

Then I thought of the perfect way to handle that day. Double down on your betting. If you’ve got a billion dollars potentially coming in if one team wins, go out and make a few bets which would net you $10,000 each. But not too many because you’re going to be betting against yourself. That way, regardless of the outcome of the day’s game, you come out on top. If your bracket falls apart in the last ten seconds of the game, at least those $10k bets will pay out a bit to help console you. If your bracket holds together, then you lose a few 10k bets from your billion. Chump change and a small price to pay for peace of mind (when you’re an instant billionaire).

Did you set up a bracket to win a billion? If so, how quick did you lose that billion? If you haven’t lost that billion, we should grab a beer. I’ll even buy it.

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Paczkihttp://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/03/23/paczki/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/03/23/paczki/#comments Sun, 23 Mar 2014 18:06:29 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=6024 You know it’s Lent, right? If not, it is. As a Catholic, I have very strict rules about things I can and cannot do during Lent, which I mostly ignore. I don’t “give up” (or fast as it’s called) anything other than meats on Fridays because that’s still a challenge for me. Maybe someday I’ll feel as though I’ve mastered it and then I can work on fasting in an additional way. You know I’m Polish, right? If not, I am. Half, for what it’s Continue reading →

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You know it’s Lent, right? If not, it is. As a Catholic, I have very strict rules about things I can and cannot do during Lent, which I mostly ignore. I don’t “give up” (or fast as it’s called) anything other than meats on Fridays because that’s still a challenge for me. Maybe someday I’ll feel as though I’ve mastered it and then I can work on fasting in an additional way.

You know I’m Polish, right? If not, I am. Half, for what it’s worth. Both my parents are half Polish and some days it shows, other days it doesn’t. Ever since my stint in Ukraine, I’ve been fascinated with my Polish heritage, mostly focusing on the food. I have a cookbook full of recipes which I tell myself I’ll get around to cooking one day. Most of them are kind of weird, like duck blood soup (Czernina) and far too may recipes calling for calf brain (which I’ve learned is hard to find due to mad cow disease). But as a whole, they’re not weird. They’re delicious and hearty and will stick to your ribs. There’s one, however, that I’ve meant to make because it’s Lent. Paczki.

Fresh Polish Paczki

These delicious homemade paczki can be made in an afternoon. Best enjoyed fresh.

Granted, the recipe I used I got from my mom and it didn’t come from my recipe book but whatever, that isn’t really the point of this, is it? She got it from an old newspaper clipping and transcribed it for me and every ounce of me is grateful for it. Why, you might ask? Because paczki are a traditional pre-Lenten treat made to use up the milk and eggs and sugars in the house so they won’t spoil in the 40 days of Lent in the pre-refrigeration state of the world. I didn’t have the time to make them on the Thursday before Lent, as is the tradition, because I didn’t have the recipe then and I barely could have managed these four-hour delicacies after a full day of work. But paczki are Polish jelly donuts. And you need to make them.

These damned fine donuts take a long time to make, they’re not a Sunday morning breakfast treat, unless you want to get up at 5 a.m. to start them. Every second is worth it, especially if you have something to kill the waiting time. You mix. Let rise. Punch. Roll. Cut. Set aside to rise. Fry, cool, and fill. Again, every second of it is worth it and fortunately they’re not too complex that the average person can’t make it.

Filling the paczki

The recipe says to slit the side and spoon in some jelly, but we found it was easier to use a pastry bag to inject each one to bursting point.

And there’s a secret that makes them not overly soaked in oil. Vodka. I’m a big lover of vodka ever since that stint in Ukraine, I get it and I marvel in its beauty and taste and swish it around in my mouth before swallowing. But vodka in a donut? Perfect? The vodka is actually what keeps the dough from being laden down with oil. As the dough cooks, the vodka heats and evaporates, offsetting the oil from seeping to the middle. It’s genius. A colleague of mine speculated this is why beer battered fish is less greasy than non-beer batters. While I can’t confirm that, the logic is there.

So, want to take the plunge and make your own homemade Polish jelly donuts? Here’s the paczki recipe I used, the one my mom clipped and transcribed from the old yellowed newspaper:

Paczki

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 envelope yeast
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t vanilla
  • 1 T grated lemon or orange rind
  • 2 T unsalted butter, melted & cooled
  • 2 T vodka
  • 3 cups flour, divided
  • Vegetable oil or shortening for frying
  • Thick fruit jam for filling
  • Powdered sugar

 

Instructions:

In a small saucepan, heat milk and sugar to 115 degrees. Add yeast, set aside for 5 minutes until yeast foams. Pour into mixing bowl. Stir in egg yolks, salt, vanilla, rind, butter & vodka. Stir until smooth. Beat in 2 cups flour, one at a time, until dough is smooth. Gradually add all but 2 T of remaining flour.

Spread some of remaining flour on work surface. Knead lightly with scant amounts of flour for 1 to 2 minutes just until dough is smooth. Place in greased bowl, cover and set aside for 1-1/2 hours until doubled in bulk. Punch down and divide in half. Keep half covered. Roll out other half of dough on very lightly floured surface until 1/4 inch thick. Cut with 2-2-1/2 inch biscuit cutter. Place rounds on lightly greased cookie sheet. Cover with waxed paper. Repeat. Scraps can be re-rolled after sitting for 10-15 minutes. Set aside to rise for 45-60 minutes, until light.

Heat 4-5 inches shortening or oil in large heavy pan to 350 degrees. Fry for 1-1/2 -2 minutes or until browned all over. Place on paper towels to drain.

Let cool and slit with knife Squeeze gently to expand opening. Spoon 1 teaspoon filling into slit. Dust generously with powdered sugar.

Makes about 32

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6-word memoirhttp://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/03/21/6-word-memoir/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/03/21/6-word-memoir/#comments Sat, 22 Mar 2014 01:11:39 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=5899 I grew. I helped. I yearned.

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I grew. I helped. I yearned.

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Lunchtime Walkinghttp://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/03/19/lunchtime-walking/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/03/19/lunchtime-walking/#comments Wed, 19 Mar 2014 18:44:07 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=6029 This past week, I started a new way to help pass the days at work. It’s no secret that I have trouble sitting in front of my work computer all day. Some days are busy and some days aren’t but that’s not what makes it difficult. For me, the difficult part is that I’m just sitting here, far from being active. I find myself making up small excuses to get up and walk around the office. I print documents one at a time so I Continue reading →

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This past week, I started a new way to help pass the days at work. It’s no secret that I have trouble sitting in front of my work computer all day. Some days are busy and some days aren’t but that’s not what makes it difficult. For me, the difficult part is that I’m just sitting here, far from being active. I find myself making up small excuses to get up and walk around the office. I print documents one at a time so I can make multiple trips to the printer to get each file. It isn’t inefficiency, trust me, it’s just trying to keep moving.

Then, over the weekend, I had a brilliant idea. Instead of sitting alone at lunch on my phone (I eat before everyone so I can try to get some quiet during the time I’m at work), I would take that half hour and my lunch outside for a walk. So Monday, I grabbed my small lunch and stuffed it into the pockets of my coat and headed for the door. I was fortunate enough to find a route which I can easily walk in 30 minutes right by my office. Not all of it has sidewalks, but I’m not going to let something like that be an excuse for not getting out and enjoying some fresh air.

The walk was perfect. It was exactly what I needed. The fresh air and the exercise woke me up. It sure as hell beat sitting inside way from the sunlight and fresh air and quiet all day. In the afternoon, I was more alert and I just all around felt better about the day.

If you’re in a similar situation as I was, stop making excuses and get yourself outside for your lunch break. It’s the best choice you’ll make this week.

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Why Mrs. Mosby is Going to Diehttp://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/03/18/why-mrs-mosby-is-going-to-die/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/03/18/why-mrs-mosby-is-going-to-die/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 18:24:27 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=6021 It’s long been rumored that the future Mrs. Mosby is actually the late Mrs. Mosby. It’s also a gut feeling I’ve had for a long time. Somehow, it’s always made sense to me that she died sometime before the beginning of season one. Why else would Ted feel the need to sit his kids down and explain to them in excruciating detail how he and their mother met and got it on? And with a recent episode having Ted choke up when the mother asks, Continue reading →

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It’s long been rumored that the future Mrs. Mosby is actually the late Mrs. Mosby. It’s also a gut feeling I’ve had for a long time. Somehow, it’s always made sense to me that she died sometime before the beginning of season one. Why else would Ted feel the need to sit his kids down and explain to them in excruciating detail how he and their mother met and got it on? And with a recent episode having Ted choke up when the mother asks, ten years in the future, what kind of mother misses her daughter’s wedding, I knew for certain it would happen. The scenario I created in my mind justifying it is beautiful.

Mrs. Mosby will die because it ultimately doesn’t matter if she lives. She has spent a perfect decade with Ted and they made children together and her memory lives on in them.

It makes sense that she died from the moment when Ted decides to tell the story. How many of us have living mothers and fathers who never got around to telling the story of how they met? I only know vague details about my parents’ lives before they were married. There’s always the chance that they could tell us the story tomorrow because they’re still living. Assuming Mrs. Mosby dies, Ted is exactly the kind of person to want to sit down with his kids and tell them about the most amazing adventure of his life, the one that made his life complete. It was the adventure that he yearned for and the one that shaped him as a person. It’s the story that tells his kids that there were a lot of other options for him to choose, one of which he got caught up on for a long, long time but in the end he found their mother and knew that there was absolutely no other option for him.

Ted is the kind of guy who will appreciate the time he spent with Mrs. Mosby after he is gone. He’s the kind of guy who will visit her grave every week and will talk to her and cry. He won’t ever look for another woman to fill the void in his life, because no one ever could take her place.

Mrs. Mosby will die. It makes sense to me, but in the scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. Sure, I’ve become attached to the chemistry between her and Ted, but she hasn’t been along as Ted or Robin or Marshal or Barney or Lily. Not even Carl the bartender. I was more heartbroken by the thought that Robin couldn’t have children than determining that the mother dies. I had known Robin so long, and had seen how Barney was around kids, and I knew that this blow would be devastating for their characters. But Mrs. Mosby showing up sporadically during the last season isn’t enough for me to really mourn her future death.

Mrs. Mosby will die because she was perfect for Ted and because it doesn’t matter if she lives.

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Unclehttp://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/03/17/uncle/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/03/17/uncle/#comments Mon, 17 Mar 2014 18:21:41 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=6025 I’ve been swamped and haven’t had a time to post this, but as of 1:16 AM on Friday, March 14, I am an uncle. My sister announced she was pregnant back over the summer with her then boyfriend (they had only been dating a few months at the time so it came as a surprise). At the time, it was early so I didn’t want to say anything so I wouldn’t jinx it. Then it got later and later and I kept forgetting to say Continue reading →

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I’ve been swamped and haven’t had a time to post this, but as of 1:16 AM on Friday, March 14, I am an uncle.

My sister announced she was pregnant back over the summer with her then boyfriend (they had only been dating a few months at the time so it came as a surprise). At the time, it was early so I didn’t want to say anything so I wouldn’t jinx it. Then it got later and later and I kept forgetting to say anything. But she’s here now and she quite cute and I’m pretty happy to be a first time uncle.

I think my sister got the good end of the stick when it came to labor. You always seem to hear stories about women being in labor for a day or more. My sister when in Thursday morning because of contractions and the doctors said she wasn’t dilated enough so they sent her home with some medicine to relax her. Late Thursday evening, the contractions got to be about 3.5 minutes apart so her boyfriend (the conceiver and the now dad) decided they should probably go to the hospital. It was good timing. She got to the hospital and they barely had time for the on-call doctor to come in and deliver the baby. Four minutes in “labor” is the number being thrown around.

Amelia Jo

I went and saw her on Saturday and since I’ve interacted with absolutely no other babies in my life, she was by far the best. Quiet and active. The photo above shows her cry but I kid you not when I say that she hardly made a sound the twenty or so minutes I held her before those pictures. She started cry once I told her that she didn’t give anything to the family and she needed to get a job. She calmed down again once I suggested she could be a model.

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Speedhttp://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/03/13/speed/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/03/13/speed/#comments Thu, 13 Mar 2014 20:52:18 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=6016 I’ve been obsessed with speed lately. Page speed. You might have noticed that this website loads damned quick. Or you didn’t really have time to notice. That’s because of me. When I redesigned the website, I only took looks into account. I wanted clean and simple so that’s what I built. Then I came across a page speed tool, Pingdom. My website averaged a couple of seconds to load. It was requesting information from a hundred different places. The page size was huge compared to Continue reading →

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I’ve been obsessed with speed lately. Page speed. You might have noticed that this website loads damned quick. Or you didn’t really have time to notice. That’s because of me.

When I redesigned the website, I only took looks into account. I wanted clean and simple so that’s what I built. Then I came across a page speed tool, Pingdom. My website averaged a couple of seconds to load. It was requesting information from a hundred different places. The page size was huge compared to now and it was ranked rather poorly.

Now I average 800 ms to load a page. The hundred different sources of information has been more than halved. The page sizes were cut into thirds. And now my page loads faster than 94% of all the tested websites by Pingdom. That’s something to write home about. These stats are better than Google.com. If you’re from Google and would like me to work for you, I can be contacted at danny@sassyhacksaws.com.

The work website that I wrote about earlier this week, however, is a whole different story. When I designed that, I didn’t consider speed or complexity or anything really that I should have. Working as a committee, with each person bringing ideas to the table really muddled the thing up too. The speed of that website is abysmal. Pingdom tells me that it’s slower than 80% of all websites that it has tested.

I think I know why. The website is bloated. It’s filled with plugins and requests for information and it’s poorly coded. Because of all this, I’ve been obsessed with making it better. I’ve stripped the test version of the site down to the bare bones. I’m working on a redesign of it using a the same theme I use as a basis (though I will have it looking identical to the current version so no one will be the wiser and I can avoid the tiny company red tape). I’m pulling plugins and I’m reassigning which things do what.

At the same time that I’m doing all of this, I have this fear that it’s not going to help nearly as much as my website. I have a hunch that the sever that hosts the company site is what’s slowing it down. Consistently, with my tests from Pingdom, I see long wait times for the core parts of the site. I think the web server or the MySQL server is underpowered and it’s killing me. I need it to be efficient otherwise it’s a testament to my work, but not a good one.

I’ll keep you updated on the progress.

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Website Redesignhttp://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/03/10/website-redesign-2/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/03/10/website-redesign-2/#comments Mon, 10 Mar 2014 14:41:33 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=6010 As I mentioned recently and as you may have noticed, I redesigned my website because I felt it was a little dated. It was a lot of fun and it took me nearly no time at all when I think about it. But that’s not the only website redesign I’ve done recently. I redesigned my company’s website. To was it was an experience is an understatement. Let me explain. The translation company I work at is small, when I was hired there were only 7 Continue reading →

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As I mentioned recently and as you may have noticed, I redesigned my website because I felt it was a little dated. It was a lot of fun and it took me nearly no time at all when I think about it. But that’s not the only website redesign I’ve done recently.

I redesigned my company’s website. To was it was an experience is an understatement. Let me explain.

The translation company I work at is small, when I was hired there were only 7 other people who worked there. Now, we’re up to 9.5 people (half because we have a couple of people who are on an on-call kind of basis). It’s tiny. For each department, there’s really only two positions: boss and the level below the boss. Straightforward without any room for advancement. That’s not the point of the post. The point is that the company is small, and redesigning a website is still an effort.

The website that the company had been designed in 2007, if I have my facts straight. It’s easy to tell:

This is such a terribly dated website. The worst part about it that the image doesn’t convey is that the text expanded and shrunk with the size of the window. This could lead to quite unexpected results in formatting. Also, stock photos. No.

At some point in the early summer last year, we had a meeting and somehow I offered to work on the website. I got all the information I needed to play around on the server and started by moving the old website from static HTML pages to a WordPress install. I chose WordPress because even a person without any knowledge of HTML could still update the website if they really wanted to. Most of this work was done in my downtime and it moved slowly some weeks.

Then we had another meeting and my bosses asked for an update. I felt they had forgotten about my offer and my work on it had been put the back-burner  (I also had run into some formatting issues here and there which threw me off my game as I wrestled with ways to fix them). They asked for an update and I told them of the progress I had made. They wanted another update in about a month.

All of a sudden, I found myself leading the website meetings (rightly so as no one else expressed any knowledge of web design or coding). It was an odd experience for some reason even though I had led meetings before. I like to keep the meetings on task and moving along because no one likes to be stuck in a meeting all day. Also, I like to cover everything I need to cover. I soon found out that not everyone shared my same point of view and at times the meetings really got derailed. Somehow, we still managed to talk about what needed to be changed. Most of the comments I received was positive and there were suggestions on what should be changed and how (I was left with the task of figuring out how to implement it).

I didn’t do it all myself, I needed help on the copy rewrites as technical writing with a marketing flair was never my strong suit. The production team proved to be a valuable asset for this.

The cycle would go like this: I would hold a meeting and collect feedback. I would implement the feedback. Hold another meeting and then collect more feedback (once or twice contradicting earlier feedback). It went on like this for months. I think I led five or six meetings before all the content was set and the design was set and it was ready to push live. I think it could have gone on and on and on had there not been a deadline of having the website ready a month before this past week’s expo in Las Vegas. They wanted a more professional website for potential clients to view once they started making calls.

The result is this:

Cleaner. Modern. Organized. Easy to update. There are still things about it I might improve on, but overall I’m rather happy with the result.

All that being said, I’m not done with it. There’s more features to implement but were marked as low priority. Also, I’m obsessed with another aspect of the site, but I’ll discuss that later this week or early next week.

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Lunahttp://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/03/08/luna/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/03/08/luna/#comments Sat, 08 Mar 2014 19:27:24 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=6004 The long story short is that Luna was a lemon. The sweetest of lemons who loved to snuggle on the couch while we watched TV. She stank, but we loved her. She was broken, but I have a special place in my heart for broken things (see my motorcycle projects). She needed love, so we brought her home and gave it to her.

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This picture has defined my relationship with cats since 2007, the year I got Marley.

Marley and Me

She’s been a huge part of my life since I inherited her. I’ve kept her safe and she kept me safe. Because I had her, I never thought I’d want another cat running around because it would feel like I was doing her an injustice by sharing my attention. She doesn’t deserve that.

Then I started dating Ellie who might love loves animals more than I do. I had known for a while that she wanted a cat or a dog that she could call her own and I knew that she knew it didn’t make sense for her to have one until she settled into a post-college life. It would reduce stress on the animal and it would make it easier for her to find a place to live and work and all that jazz.

Then she found Luna. Even though Ellie knew she shouldn’t get a cat quite yet, she would troll Craigslist looking at what she could have. Admit it, you’ve done it before (I do it with motorcycles). Every now and then, I would get a report about the cats she fell in love with and I looked them up myself. She was right, each one was beautiful in their own way. But then she sent me a link to Luna, and I had a deep personal dilemma. She sent me an ad for a Maine Coon, the breed I’ve wanted to have since I found out about them. The dilemma revolved around Marley. Do I do her an injustice just so I could get a Maine Coon? To I take that special place in my heart for her and expand it a bit a lot so it can fit a Maine Coon?

Ultimately, I decided against it. I truly felt I didn’t need another cat in my life no matter how pretty she was and whether she was a Maine Coon or not. Ellie, however, fell for that cat. Truly, truly fell for the cat. I get it, she was beautiful and fluffy and could be the perfect bit of comfort. I saw this before Ellie asked if I could watch Luna for her while she lived at her parents’ house, which wasn’t exactly cat friendly. I agreed because that’s what good boyfriends do and I wouldn’t mind having a second cat temporarily.

So that’s why a month ago, we could have been found driving through a pretty bad day of snow to pick up some beer (a belated Christmas gift for my dad) and to go and take a look at Luna to decide if she really was the cat for Ellie. We went to Forever Homes Rescue and met Debbie in the bar where she kept the cats (mind you, this was during this extra cold winter). When we met Luna, she was as beautiful as the pictures showed. She had a few lot of mattes, she stank, and there was a chunk of something stuck to the end of her tail. But she was a sweetheart and Ellie and I both fell in love with her the first day.

Luna, Day 1: She loves faucets. Everytime someone goes near one, she’s right behind and then underneath it, waiting for the water to come out. Case in point: Luna Drinking from the Faucet

Ellie agreed to adopt her and we loaded her into Marley’s crate and brought her home. The car ride home was full of Luna meowing to get out of the crate, rightly so, as she was a larger cat in a small crate. When we got her home, we quickly found out that Marley did not approve of the situation. She hissed a bit and ran under the bed, refusing to come out. Luna, however, ran around my apartment to investigate the space and decide how much of an upgrade her new digs were from the smelly old barn. I think she approved.

Ellie and I had to run out to take care of some errands, so since Luna was new to the space, we closed her up in the bathroom while we were out so she couldn’t destroy too much. Luckily we did, since she decided to poop on my bath mat. Normal poop I could have dealt with, but this poo was STINKY diarrhea and the worst part was the blood. Ellie and I instantly started to worry. We were on our phones looking up how serious and common runny blood stool was for cats. We quickly determined that it wasn’t very serious as long as it was treated.

Still, we couldn’t help shake the feeling that we had been cheated a bit. We adopted the cat only to find out it wasn’t in tip-top shape when we were led to believe she was. We gave Debbie a call and let her know what we found. She told us that Luna had had the same thing happen about a week earlier but it cleared up and she didn’t think it was much to worry about. Shouldn’t we have been told? I certainly thought so. Ellie and Debbie arranged a day for them to take Luna to see a vet, on Debbie’s dime (I thought this was fair as it was a preexisting condition that should have been treated for the cat’s well being).

This little stinker loved Calvin and Hobbes books

She also loved sleeping on plastic bags.

 

At the vet, Luna was checked out as was her stool (she plopped a fresh one before I left for work, so I bagged it for Ellie so she wouldn’t need to do it herself). I think the vet said she had a virus of some sort and prescribed some pills to help clear it up. Debbie paid again, rightfully so.

Feeding Luna the pills was one of my favorite things. We stuck them into a bit of soft food so we could get her to take them and it turns out she loves soft food. Loves it. She would get super energetic when she knew it was coming and pace and meow like it was the best day in the world. Then, when the spoon of food and pill was lowered for her to eat, she’d jump up and wrap her paws around the hand holding the spoon and pull it closer, faster. I loved it.

After the full course of the pills, it seemed as though she had been cleared of whatever ailed her bowels. Ellie had also become obsessed with getting her as healthy as she could be again. Since when we picked her up she stank and had mattes of hair everywhere, Ellie took her to the groomer to get a lion’s cut. This was the best way to get the mattes out, to start fresh. It also cleared up the smell.

Luna the Lioness

The downside of it, however, was that we saw how little Luna was. She was longer than my Marley, but far skinnier and very much looking to be underweight. This is what prompted Ellie on her quest to feed her the best. I think the food I feed Marley is fine (Purina for indoor cats, I believe). She eats it when she’s hungry and doesn’t when she’s not. Her weight self-regulates and I’ve never needed to take her to the vet (though maybe I should to figure out why she vomits so often, but I think that’s mostly unrelated). Ellie did her research and determined the food I feed Marley is generally considered to be very unhealthy by people who care deeply for their cats. There was something about grain and how cat’s should only be eating meat. So Ellie bought what I thought to be an overly expensive bag of grain-free cat food in the hopes that the healthiness of it would put some weight on Luna. It started to, but Marley discovered she liked it and it seemed to put more weight on Marley. Eventually after a few days, Luna was looking less sickly and pooping more normally.

But her poop problems came back. There was diarrhea again and some blood and at first, I hoped that it was a fluke but then the overpowering stench came back with it and it was a non-stop stream of diarrhea and smell coming from Luna (okay, not non-stop but when she pooped, also I find it funny that Ellie used to remind me how much Marley smelled bad and then she went off to get this cat which made Marley’s poop comparable to the spiciness of a red bell pepper to that of a Habanero).

This time around, Ellie made an appointment at her family’s vet and just kept Debbie in the loop about it. Boy was that appointment an eye opener.

Remember that chunk of something stuck to her tail? The groomer had cleared it away and left a stubbly chunk of tail a the tip for all the fur to grow back. One evening, while I was talking to Ellie on the phone, Luna was on the back of my couch staring at me. Then, out of nowhere, she grabbed the tip of her tail in her mouth and yanked out the fur. There was blood everywhere. I grabbed a paper towel to try to stop the bleeding and contain the mess but after I adjusted it to put a non-blood-soaked part of it on the tail, Luna wouldn’t let me touch it. She did this a few more times before she went to see Ellie’s family vet. It turns out that the tip of her tail was dead, in need of amputation, and Luna was trying to do it herself.

The second thing that was wrong with her was that she was grossly underweight. We knew this, obviously, and had tried to fix it. Apparently, the weight of 8.6 pounds on her vet paperwork from a few months before we adopted her was off by 2-2.5 pounds. That’s a quarter of her body weight which she lost in a few months. How do you not see that kind of difference?

The third, which might have caused her diarrhea (though the vet still wasn’t sure if it was) was that she had a very large heart murmur. Ellie’s family vet couldn’t see how this could be missed by the vet who had checked her out before. Ellie pointed out that the previous vet who had checked her out a few times was from a vet college and they were likely still learning, and to that I say, don’t give that person a license for a very long time. No animal should be so glaringly misdiagnosed like that.

Fourth, Luna’s canine teeth were in terrible shape and needed to be pulled. If they weren’t pulled and sealed properly, her sinuses would get infected as the canines on cats lead to their sinuses, I’m told. yet another operation needed on this poor cat.

Another thing was that the vet told us that Luna wasn’t necessarily the spry young six-year-old we were told she was. The vet estimated that she was older. I’m not really sure how he can tell, and it is only an estimate. The story we got from Debbie’s online advertisement for Luna’s adoption was:

Luna and her brother Biff were adopted from our rescue 6 years ago and due to an unfortunate circumstance, their adoptive owner had to return them to our rescue. We are hoping they can be rehomed together since they’ve been together since they were kittens but they may able to go to separate homes as well.

But then Debbie said she was six to us in person. It’s hard to know what to believe.

The last thing, which the vet really didn’t need to tell us because we could have found it on her paperwork, was that we were lied to by Debbie. You know how we were very excited to get a Maine Coon? That would have been nice to have, but Luna wasn’t a Maine Coon. All her paperwork said DMH which means she was a plain old, yet beautiful, Domestic Medium Haired cat. That’s like taking a Toyota Camry and slapping a Lamborghini badge on it before putting it up for sale.

The long story short is that Luna was a lemon. The sweetest of lemons who loved to snuggle on the couch while we watched TV. She stank, but we loved her. She was broken, but I have a special place in my heart for broken things (see my motorcycle projects). She needed love, so we brought her home and gave it to her. But neither Ellie nor I could afford to treat everything we found out was wrong with her (this was even before I found out about my tax situation). Luna, very sadly, needed to go back.

I was very hesitant about this. Yes, when Ellie adopted Luna, she signed a piece of paper stating if she couldn’t take care of her for any reason then she would return her to Forever Homes. But at the same time, Forever Homes didn’t take care of her like she needed. I’m suspecting the previous owner’s “unfortunate circumstance” was that all this about Luna came up slowly and didn’t treat it then the vet said you need to treat it and they couldn’t afford it. So when Luna was returned, Debbie was likely fed some story (what I don’t know) and believed it. Maybe it was the truth, but whatever it was Debbie didn’t put nursing Luna back to health as a priority. Part of this might have been incompetent vet students looking at her (you get exactly what you pay for). I don’t know. There was a lot about Forever Homes that I really am wary of and I didn’t want to send Luna back there even if Ellie had signed a piece of paper. This broken thing pushed her way into my heart (through the murmur I was diagnosed with as a child) and she stuck there. She deserved only the best.

She was my broken thing.

But Ellie looked around and all the no-kill shelters in the area (which Luna definitely needed), were not accepting new cats at the time. There were no other options but to return Luna. With a heavy heart, I drove Ellie and Luna back down to Forever Homes in Harvard, IL to a Debbie who promised to get her better. I said next to nothing during the exchange because I didn’t want to accidentally start feeding Debbie a piece of my mind and then let that get out of control.

I truly hope that Luna gets healthy again. I hope that maybe Debbie will let Ellie know and maybe we could adopt her again (though I could see us being written off as potential adopters because we couldn’t care for her the first time around–which is a really gray area if you ask me). If she does, I’ll take her in a murmur filled heartbeat.

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Parents’ 31st Anniversaryhttp://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/03/05/parents-31st-anniversary/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/03/05/parents-31st-anniversary/#comments Thu, 06 Mar 2014 05:13:48 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=6000 I’m running a little late on this, but today is my parents’ 31st wedding anniversary! And I know that these days that kind of number seems to be less and less common so really, they must be doing something right and if you get a chance, bug them about it and try to figure out how they’ve kept a great marriage for so long. Even though I’ll probably get some flack for this, I’m still going to post some great pictures of them over the Continue reading →

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I’m running a little late on this, but today is my parents’ 31st wedding anniversary! And I know that these days that kind of number seems to be less and less common so really, they must be doing something right and if you get a chance, bug them about it and try to figure out how they’ve kept a great marriage for so long.

Even though I’ll probably get some flack for this, I’m still going to post some great pictures of them over the years.

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad!

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How Peace Corps Caused Me to Owe Taxeshttp://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/03/04/how-peace-corps-caused-me-to-owe-money/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/03/04/how-peace-corps-caused-me-to-owe-money/#comments Tue, 04 Mar 2014 20:08:34 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=5997 See that title? That was trying to draw people in by crying wolf. It worked, I hope. But really, Peace Corps is the reason I  owe taxes of about $4,500 right now, sorta. It’s a mix of a few things and none of it really can be resolved other than by me cutting a check. The issue started mid-December 2012 when I started my current position as a project manager for a translation agency. I had to fill out my W4 and I’m going to Continue reading →

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See that title? That was trying to draw people in by crying wolf. It worked, I hope. But really, Peace Corps is the reason I  owe taxes of about $4,500 right now, sorta. It’s a mix of a few things and none of it really can be resolved other than by me cutting a check.

The issue started mid-December 2012 when I started my current position as a project manager for a translation agency. I had to fill out my W4 and I’m going to be the first person to say this, but tax language is hard to understand. Nevertheless, I think I navigated them quite well. Even to the point, which caused the problem, that read as follows:

I claim exemption from withholding for 2013, and I certify that I meet both of the following conditions for exemption.
• Last year I had a right to a refund of all federal income tax withheld because I had no tax liability, and
• This year I expect a refund of all federal income tax withheld because I expect to have no tax liability.

I was told that if both these statements were true I should write, “EXEMPT” in the box. They were both true due to the Peace Corps and the timing of when I started the job. I wrote EXEMPT in the box. It was all true.

But then the new year came about and really, this form should have been updated. It wasn’t because I forgot about the line and my boss didn’t really process that line because he sent the form off to his accountant.

There should have been a red flag when I looked at my pay stubs and didn’t see a line item for FICA. But since I hadn’t seen a pay stub since before Peace Corps, it didn’t really dawn on me. I also had line items for Social Security and Medicare, so I figured everything was normal.

Jump to this past weekend when I sat down to file my taxes, expecting to see a hefty return (I had estimated my return with Turbo Tax’s online calculator). I started entering my information only to realize that there was no federal or state tax withheld. That was not a good afternoon. I did manage to bring the amount owed numbers down a bit with deductions, but not nearly enough.

I came into work this week to talk to me boss about figuring out what the issue was and how to get it fixed. He checked his records and was just as confused about why as I was. He got the accountant on the phone and they worked through what the issue was. That exempt thing.

Now I fully understand that it’s my obligation to pay back the taxes, and I’m not upset about that other than it throws off my plan to have my student loans paid off by the end of the year. I’m upset that this wasn’t brought to my attention before. To me, that line that I wrote EXEMPT on should only have applied to the calendar year it was filled out before it needed to be reviewed for the following year. I believe that this was an oversight from the accountant which caused the problem.

Anyway, feel free to give to my tax fund, it’s going to be a tight couple of months to gather the cash to pay it back, but after that I should be good (thought my student loan payments will be less because my checks will be less as they’re going to start paying taxes).

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Car Accidenthttp://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/02/26/car-accident/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/02/26/car-accident/#comments Thu, 27 Feb 2014 04:46:15 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=5992 As I left for work a couple of weeks ago, I got into a minor fender bender on my way out of my apartment parking lot. Initially, my emotions soared as I do not like when other people mistreat my expensive things I meticulously maintain. You see, I was driving out the last straight shot of the parking lot and I saw the girl’s backing lights turn on and saw the car start moving, so I stopped  and started honking to let her know I Continue reading →

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As I left for work a couple of weeks ago, I got into a minor fender bender on my way out of my apartment parking lot. Initially, my emotions soared as I do not like when other people mistreat my expensive things I meticulously maintain. You see, I was driving out the last straight shot of the parking lot and I saw the girl’s backing lights turn on and saw the car start moving, so I stopped  and started honking to let her know I was there. But I stopped still in her path and she didn’t see me and she ended up hitting my front fender. Had I kept driving, she would have backed into the side of my car. Really, not much damage was done, the front fender was scraped and dented but I got her insurance information and filed a claim with my own.

After a couple of days of spending my lunches on the phone, it was declared she was at fault and her insurance would pay to fix my car. Rightly so, if you ask me. Before that could happen, I had to get my damage assessed by both insurance companies which took a bit of time. After that, I had to wait for a slot to open at the body shot which was preferred by her insurance company. I’m glad that I did.

You see, I went to Marshall Auto Body which isn’t too far from my home and they treated me really well. They assessed the damage and made sure both the cost of repairs and the rental car were billed to the insurance company (no hassles). When I asked for an estimate on how long it would take to repair, knowing full well that the amount of time needed might change, I was given an estimate and not some beating around the bush. That alone won me over.

When I dropped off my car, they had the rental waiting for me. It was a 2013 Nissan Altima 2-door. I would not recommend it. It felt like I was driving a boat that was very large on the outside but tiny on the inside. There were other things about it I didn’t like, but that’s not what I’m writing about.

While the car was being fixed, they kept me updated on the progress with phone calls and text messages sent from their customer tracking software. It was nice to be in the loop. I also got a call about some extra damage to my car they found which they wanted to know if they should repair, on my dime. I knew about it because I saw it while changing my oil and since it wasn’t affecting my drive, I let it be. I’ll see if I can do anything about it come warmer weather (if that happens).

When I picked up my car today, it was gorgeous. Freshly washed. I had forgotten that my car could shine because of all the salt the county throws down to keep the roads from being icy had turned it a disgusting white color. They had replaced the fender and painted it to match the rest of the car. Additionally, they had noticed that the pin-striping on my car didn’t extend to the fenders so they had that all did up for me (the guy handling my car suspected that the dealership I bought it used from had repainted the front end to get rid of some road rash and forgot to re-pin-stripe it). That went on the insurance company’s dime. Woo!

The last bit of goodness was that there were some cookies left on my seat for me as a thank you for my business. It’s like they know me.

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An Open Letter to Ukrainehttp://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/02/25/an-open-letter-to-ukraine/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/02/25/an-open-letter-to-ukraine/#comments Tue, 25 Feb 2014 21:11:24 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=5988 An open letter to the Ukrainian People, I’m proud of you. From the beginning, I’ve been watching you. I’ve kept my eyes on the news and I’ve gobbled up every piece of information I can find. Some days, I would even read the same story multiple times, but from different sources hoping I could find a new bit that I hadn’t read before. For the past few months, I’ve been obsessed with your politics like I’ve never been obsessed with politics before. Some of you Continue reading →

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An open letter to the Ukrainian People,

I’m proud of you.

From the beginning, I’ve been watching you. I’ve kept my eyes on the news and I’ve gobbled up every piece of information I can find. Some days, I would even read the same story multiple times, but from different sources hoping I could find a new bit that I hadn’t read before. For the past few months, I’ve been obsessed with your politics like I’ve never been obsessed with politics before.

Some of you know me personally. I spent two years in your wonderfully beautiful country feeling welcome. I refrained from commenting on anything slightly related to politics or policy or things that just don’t quite sit right with my American point of view because that’s what we are advised to do as Peace Corps Volunteers. We don’t want to rub people the wrong way. We also don’t agree with you openly because that might rub your neighbor the wrong way. It was a long two years of keeping these thoughts and opinions to myself.

That time is now long past. I’m free to say what I wish and I’m going to attempt to do just that.

My dearest of Ukrainian friends and colleagues from Konotop, I agreed with you. Your president was not a good man–a crook. You deserve better. I’ve read and heard over and over how he became president under some questionable situations and these things alone convinced me that he couldn’t be trusted for long. You were right all along.

When I read that Ukraine was nearing the final steps towards a trade agreement with the European Union, my heart cried out with joy. This, I thought, was exactly what Ukraine needed to pull themselves out from their current economic situation. I was elated. Then, I came into work one morning in late November to pull up the news only to find that Yanukovych had pulled out of that deal and leaned towards Russia. At this, my heart cried out in sorrow and pain. I wanted only the best for my friends.

Each morning, noon, and night I followed your story. I hoped and hoped and hoped that no one would die in your very well executed peaceful protests. You protested better and with more vigilance than any other group that comes to mind. I smiled because I knew your protestors truly wanted peace and the hopes of Western Europe, not an uprising.

Then one morning, I read that the first deaths had started. Slowly, the count climbed and climbed and some days it spiked. I worried that people I knew would be in those numbers. I knew so many bright young men and women who expressed to me thoughts and beliefs that might pull them into the foray. That’s good, but I wanted your safety. I hope you all are safe.

But the point of this letter is to hopefully caution and guide you a little. It because I care so deeply for your future that I write.

You’re at a pivotal moment in your country’s recent history. You determined that your president was a bad person who abused his power, his nation, and his citizens. You threw him out and how he’s wanted for mass murder. That’s the right step. I’ve seen the pictures of his ‘palace’ and it’s disgusting extravagance which I contrast to rides across Sums’ka Oblast on a yellow mashrutka. The countryside was beautiful, but the mashrutka and the villages lacked the extravagance that your former president lived in. How could a man lead a country when he lived in a completely different one?

Yanukovyvh is gone. It’s time to select a new president. Be wary of every candidate. No one can buy your vote, they can only earn it by being genuine to you. Look beyond their words, their promises, and their offers. Who is going to do the things they say and who is going to just say things? Choose the person you think is best. Choose the person who will keep all Ukrainians free. The one who would never turn a gun on its own citizen for wanting something better. Choose a Ukrainian who lives in the same Ukraine as the rest of you because that person will know exactly where Ukraine is and where Ukraine needs to go.

You’re a smart nation now and you can do things on your own. Listen to my advice, and choose to accept it or reject it. The choice is all yours. The future is all yours.

With love from the deepest varenyky filled crevices of my heart,

Danny

 

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Website Redesignhttp://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/02/23/website-redesign/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/02/23/website-redesign/#comments Sun, 23 Feb 2014 18:45:40 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=5983 I’ve been talking about redesigning my website for a while now but I finally got around to doing it and designed it in a way that I like. That last part is so important, you don’t even know. I think I had two or three designs I scrapped or never pushed live because I couldn’t get them to look quite right. The colors were a bit off or the formatting didn’t work how I wanted it to, or something. Finally though, I sat down yesterday Continue reading →

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I’ve been talking about redesigning my website for a while now but I finally got around to doing it and designed it in a way that I like. That last part is so important, you don’t even know. I think I had two or three designs I scrapped or never pushed live because I couldn’t get them to look quite right. The colors were a bit off or the formatting didn’t work how I wanted it to, or something. Finally though, I sat down yesterday and churned out a design I’m really happy about in no more than an afternoon.

This time I did it right too. My last design didn’t take advantage of child themes and was essentially just a copy of another theme with every page customized in tedious detail. Even then, there were bits of it which weren’t quite finished. For example, if you typed in a URL wrong, the “404 Page Not Found” page would show up but the formatting on it wasn’t finished. And to think I left it that way for a couple of years knowing full well what I hadn’t done.

Take a look around. Agree with me on the beauty. Tell me if something isn’t working quite right. Tell me if you hate it.

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Valentine’s Dayhttp://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/02/19/valentines-day-2/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/02/19/valentines-day-2/#comments Wed, 19 Feb 2014 15:55:53 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=5979 I was ambitious with the gift I made for Ellie for Valentine’s Day and because of it, and my lack of knowledge on what I was doing or how to do it properly, I still haven’t finished it. I plan to have it done this weekend and then I’ll do a post about it because it really was a fun process and I learned a ton (also, I took a great deal of photos and I wouldn’t want those to go to waste). Ellie, however, Continue reading →

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I was ambitious with the gift I made for Ellie for Valentine’s Day and because of it, and my lack of knowledge on what I was doing or how to do it properly, I still haven’t finished it. I plan to have it done this weekend and then I’ll do a post about it because it really was a fun process and I learned a ton (also, I took a great deal of photos and I wouldn’t want those to go to waste).

Ellie, however, finished my gift on time. It’s beautiful and a perfect representation of our first year together.

 

She made me a decorative pillow and embroidered it herself. It’s rather beautiful and cheesy and she said she was worried I wouldn’t like it. I don’t. I love it. It’s perfect.

Also, we both got each other the same box of chocolates, but Ellie got me the one with a cat on it (I would have gotten her the same one but I didn’t see it).

We went out for dinner and then went to a wine and painting bar to drink and paint. It wasn’t a class this time so I had to freehand and I’m not disappointed with what I did considering the time.

 

Ellie went a little safer with hers, and the quality showed:

How did you spend your Valentine’s?

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Arizona Vacationhttp://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/02/17/5973/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/02/17/5973/#comments Tue, 18 Feb 2014 03:53:00 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=5973 I’m really kind of late on this but last month Ellie and I took a vacation to celebrate her graduating, my ability to take a vacation, and our one year anniversary. It couldn’t have been timed better either because Wisconsin had just taken a hit of -20 degree weather and we needed to warm up. Warm up we did in Arizona. A while ago, I had read about airbnb and thought it was a neat concept but didn’t really see myself with an opportunity to Continue reading →

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I’m really kind of late on this but last month Ellie and I took a vacation to celebrate her graduating, my ability to take a vacation, and our one year anniversary. It couldn’t have been timed better either because Wisconsin had just taken a hit of -20 degree weather and we needed to warm up. Warm up we did in Arizona.

A while ago, I had read about airbnb and thought it was a neat concept but didn’t really see myself with an opportunity to test it out. I happened to mention it to Ellie and she loved the idea and fell in love with more than one of the places in the US. I told her she had to pick one and after some deliberating, we decided on a place on the north side of Phoenix. We had a whole guest house to ourselves and it was beautiful. It was also warm, so that might be affecting my judgment but I really don’t think that mattered.

The view from our balcony, in January no less!

Now, we had a lot of things we wanted to do and we did our best to fit them all in, but number one on my list was to see the Grand Canyon, and see it we did. Since we flew to Phoenix, we had to get a rental car to get us around. Because of this, we had freedom to come and go as we pleased and weren’t confined to public transportation or tour groups and it made for the best of weekend. So, when we decided to see the Grand Canyon at daybreak, there was nothing stopping us. Our first morning in Arizona, we got up at 4 a.m. to drive 3.5 hours to catch the sun rise over the canyon. The drive was long and dark and all I really knew was that we kept going up and up and up. Had I know that the road was as treacherous as it seemed in daylight, I doubt I would have been going the full 75 MPH, or rather 80 MPH, speed limit. But the drive was worth it (and for a brief time, we drove on Route 66, so I can cross that off my list).

When we got to the Canyon, the view was far from breathtaking. Far beyond. Words aren’t enough to describe it for me, so take a gander at what we saw.

Oh, and…

Stunning, absolutely stunning

We also didn’t realize that this big hole in the ground was high up in the mountains. We were a little under dressed for the outing but we were troopers and powered through because oh so beautiful.

Happy, but the cold kind of happy.

After an adventurous and freezing morning spent exploring the views of the Canyon and marveling at the vastness, we set our compass towards home. Albeit, a meandering compass home. We drove through Navajo country and the desert. The drive was beautiful as well, maybe I have a soft spot for vast expanses of open and empty land (protip: I do). My perception of the desert was also changed. I always pictured the desert to be like the African deserts with sand dunes that blow around all day. This was a lot more alive and still.

In the late afternoon, we decided to see another canyon before heading home. This one was much smaller but the drive to get to it was more taxing than that of the Grand Canyon. It was a slow weave back and forth which taught me the value of a semi-manual transmission because I could keep the car in low gears to prevent the car from rolling too fast. Boy was it nerve-wracking. Totally worth it.

And…

Oh, yeah, and…

Only a slight bit warmer.

Even after the second canyon, we weren’t done for the day. We stopped in Sedona to wander. It’s also known as the land of way too many roundabouts. Seriously.

The next morning, after sleeping a long, long sleep. We slowly woke up and decided to hike in the desert in our backyard.

There were no road runners or coyotes, but it was kind a of nice to just wander outside and really be in the nature and the desert. Also, we really needed time to recuperate from our excursion to the Canyon.

In the evening, we went to the Desert Botanical Gardens to wander around. We saw a nice car parked outside:

And then some nice cactuses (because that’s one of like three things you can have in a botanical garden for a desert because nothing grows there).

Oh, and they had an art installation all over the Garden which I kept mistaking for plants. No joke, it wasn’t funny. Pretty, for glass, but not funny.

Then for dinner, we celebrated the anniversary of our first date and had a really nice, fancy dinner at a gem tucked away in a residential neighborhood. They had cheese curds as an appetizer and well, I never thought anyone out of close proximity to Wisconsin knew what cheese curds were. Our minds were blown at how decent they tasted (and we would know as that seems to be our appetizer of choice when we date night).

The next day we tried going to see a ghost town but got swindled into going to a tourist trap re-enactment ghost town. It wasn’t completely terrible. Kind of amusing in its own way. There was a mock gun battle and we went down into a replica mine where I actually learned a few things about mines. Oh, and we had ice cream in fresh waffle cones and if you’ve never had fresh waffle cones, Yelp the closest place that makes them and get your ass over there right away I’m not sorry for saying ass because seriously it will change your world when it comes to eating ice cream from a cone.

Then our last day before we flew out, we just wandered around to see the last few things we wanted to see before he had to leave our paradise. We went to the Pueblo Museum where I think we were the only customers because that’s what you get when it’s the middle of the day during the week and there’s school. Then we went to the ASU campus because we thought there would be a nice park there but we were severely let down.

When we left, we cried on the inside for days. The whole trip was something out of a dream. Neither of us had been to Arizona before and it was the perfect time of year to visit. I miss it a ton still, and I don’t see how anyone could complain about the heat there (those people must never have left it for Wisconsin’s weather).

 

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Kawasaki KZ650http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/01/28/kawasaki-kz650/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/01/28/kawasaki-kz650/#comments Wed, 29 Jan 2014 05:13:15 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=5966 Today, I only have one motorcycle because today, I finally sold the 1978 Kawasaki KZ650 I bought a few years back with the intention of getting it running. It’s a good feeling because I felt guilty in recent years for not having the time to work on it. I put the bike up on Craigslist for about three times what I paid for it. I had a bunch of emails with people interested but they were nibbles, not bites. Then I got one which was Continue reading →

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Today, I only have one motorcycle because today, I finally sold the 1978 Kawasaki KZ650 I bought a few years back with the intention of getting it running. It’s a good feeling because I felt guilty in recent years for not having the time to work on it.

1978 Kawasaki KZ650

I put the bike up on Craigslist for about three times what I paid for it. I had a bunch of emails with people interested but they were nibbles, not bites. Then I got one which was kind of shady. It was from a guy saying he was coming to the States to pick up some other bikes and wanted to take a look at mine. I was skeptical, for what I assume to be obvious reasons. Oddly enough, he followed through by giving me a call once he was in the States. It was an Irish man named James, and he arranged a time to come look at the bike. I was going to go meet him at my parents, but today was the day that the weather took a turn for the colder than [insert something really cold] and my car wouldn’t start because the battery was frozen (no, colleagues, my battery isn’t bad and in need of replacement, it’s just -17 F and that breaks things a bit). My dad ended up being the salesman. I bet he was more than eager to get the bike out of his garage. Rightly so.

I’m both happy and sad to see the bike go. I’m sad that I never got it running. It taught me a lot about engines and I always felt like I was just this close to getting it running. Maybe someday, when i have a place to store it of my own, I’ll get another and restore it properly.

 

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Ellie’s Christmas Gifthttp://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/01/07/ellies-christmas-gift/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/01/07/ellies-christmas-gift/#comments Wed, 08 Jan 2014 04:49:53 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=5956 In my mind, gifts need to be perfect and that’s why I hate them. I have trouble giving something to someone if there’s no utility or practicality or any real reason the recipient would like to receive the gift. I can’t just go to the store and pick something out for someone and think it’s good enough because I feel like I’m failing the relationship I have with that person. There also have been too many movies and television episodes made where someone decides to Continue reading →

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In my mind, gifts need to be perfect and that’s why I hate them. I have trouble giving something to someone if there’s no utility or practicality or any real reason the recipient would like to receive the gift. I can’t just go to the store and pick something out for someone and think it’s good enough because I feel like I’m failing the relationship I have with that person.

There also have been too many movies and television episodes made where someone decides to make a gift for someone and it turns horribly wrong. The recipient wants to love it because of the time and effort put into it but in no way, shape, or form is it something they could see themselves every needing or wanting. They try to use it, or hide it, until the end of the story when the giver finds out how horribly they messed up. This has always discouraged me from making gifts because I assume this is the standard reaction from everyone for everything. Thanks a lot, media.

This year I decided to go rogue. This year was Ellie and my first Christmas together and I decided that I had no idea what I’d get her. She, being the wonderful girlfriend that she is, sent me a list of 39 DIY Christmas Gifts You’d Actually Want To Receive with a note saying, “I like most of these.” It was up to me to figure out which ones, but I appreciated the thought and dove right in. As I looked through the list, I found a handful which seemed like possibilities for Christmas gifts and I saved them to try to execute later. Most of them didn’t really work out or I didn’t get around to trying them, yet.

But there was one that caught my eye. The one with the picture frame for hanging jewelry I thought was perfect. I loved the idea and since Ellie will soon be entering a new world of moving into her own place to live and living on her own budget, she might be in a smaller place than anticipated with less space for things to be strewn here and there. Plus, white walls in apartments are the worst thing ever, if you ask me, and something nice to hang on the wall would be a good way to break the impending snow blindness. I set my mind on it, and set out to find the right frame to use.

That’s where I hit the speed bump. You see, I had this grand idea for a frame that was old and intricate and made of wood. Something that would be absolutely hideous around any picture. That’s a tall order for a frame. I did find a few which would have done, had I wanted to fork over the $100 because I couldn’t buy the frame without the “precious” painting inside. I couldn’t justify the price because I’m sure most of it was for the painting. I looked at a lot of thrift stores, and I had no luck at all. Then I tried Craigslist, on a whim, and found exactly what I didn’t realize I needed for the project. I did a search for “frame” and got mostly bed frames. But the gem I found was a window frame taken out of a building built-in the 1930s, glass intact too. It was cheap, so I altered my Thanksgiving break schedule to run and pick it up.

The frame was beautiful. It had a nice red stain on it, lacquered over the years, starting to crackle in only the right places. I knew this was the frame I needed.

For most of the project, I had my dad guide me and help me where he wanted to, all of which I was immensely grateful for because I don’t think I could have figured any of it out without him. The first step to the project was to remove the glass because I couldn’t attach anything to it with anything but glue and glue wouldn’t hold like I wanted it to. To do this, we had to scrape out the putty, some dry and some still soft, which held the panels into the window. For the six panels, it took us three hours to get them out and each one broke. It would have been easier to break the glass out, but it would have taken a lot more work to clean out the window wells so I could place wood panels in. Once the panes were out, I took a Dremel to them to clean up the edges. A Dremel with a battery does not last long for this kind of work.

Once I had all that cleaned up, and there was a fine coating of dust all over my apartment, I needed to figure out how I was going to decorate the wood panels I’d be replacing the glass with. Plain wood, boring. Non-plain wood, non-boring. Before I took out the glass, I thought it’d be cool to paint something on the rear of the glass so it would shine through, but then I realized I was removing the glass because I couldn’t stick anything through it to hang jewelry on. I felt dumb when I realized that I couldn’t paint the glass. Then, I thought, why not paint the wood? That would be nice and I was just coming off the high of painting pints for my birthday. The problem was, I didn’t know what to paint and I was afraid it would look bad, so I searched for something better to do to the wood.

Then it hit me. You see, my parents watch a lot of home remodeling shows and while I’m at home, I happen to watch them too. I had seen one recently where a guy made a stencil out of wood, placed it over some more wood and then took a blow torch to it. I liked how it turned out and I liked the idea of using a blow torch. I decided this was going to be what I did. I sneakily asked Ellie what she’d like to see when she looked out the window. She said sunshine or gentle snowfall. I determined those were too hard to replicate using a stencil and a blowtorch, so I settled on a barren tree. I got to sketching.

It’s around this time that the real fun started, I got to use my dad’s power tools. I used a table saw to cut my plywood pieces down to sized that would fit into the window panes. I used a band saw to cut out my stencils. I used a planer to clean up the edges and to make the pieces fit nicely. I used a blowtorch to char the plywood. I used a lot, and I learned a lot and all that made it a lot more fun for me, even though it was a lot of work.

After I had the pieces cut and the pattern torched on the wood, I placed the panes in and used points to hold them snug. After that, I flipped the window over and started drilling pilot holes for the hooks I needed to screw in. The hooks are for hanging necklaces and bracelets and whatever else from. I got some painful blisters while screwing these in.

In one of the panes, I wanted to have a way to hang earrings. I decided that the best way to do it was with a bit of netting, as it matched the wood well and it could be used for hooking things to, or to push the earrings through a bit of the net so they stay.

Finally, in the bottom center pane, I decided to add a mirror. What’s a jewelry board without a way to admire how you look in the jewelry? For this, we got a cheap mirror from Walmart and cut it to fit the window pane. Since it was cheap, it wasn’t too sturdy, so we reinforced it with another piece of plywood.

All in all, I’m really happy with how the project turned out and I’m really glad that Ellie likes it. It makes me want to work on more projects of similar nature, just for fun. I really want to build a table, and I have a design in mind but that’s not going to be for a while.

Anyway, now I need to get Ellie some jewelry to fill her board up with.

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A Look Back at 2013http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/01/03/2013/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2014/01/03/2013/#comments Sat, 04 Jan 2014 05:37:45 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=5891 I struggled in 2013. I grew. I survived. I loved. I hated. I laughed and I cried. But I struggled and that’s what really made 2013, 2013 for me. Let me break down break it down. 2013 started and looking back, it was clear that I didn’t know how I was supposed to treat it. New Years Eve was spent with friends, and I desperately tried to relive the last New Years Eve I had in America but the friends I spent it with, had Continue reading →

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I struggled in 2013. I grew. I survived. I loved. I hated. I laughed and I cried. But I struggled and that’s what really made 2013, 2013 for me.

Let me break down break it down.

2013 started and looking back, it was clear that I didn’t know how I was supposed to treat it. New Years Eve was spent with friends, and I desperately tried to relive the last New Years Eve I had in America but the friends I spent it with, had been a few years past that kind of things. They had moved on and I hadn’t realized it because I had been gone so long.

New Years Eve Plans, 2012

New Years Eve Plans, 2012

Shortly thereafter, I struggled with my friends growing up and moving on to the next stage of life. My roommate from college and one of my best friends, Joe, got married. I was his best man, and I couldn’t have been happier doing so. the problem was, I didn’t know how to be a best man. I didn’t know how to move on to the next stage of my life with him, or if I should even try. I struggled with the idea that I had wasted twenty-seven months of my life pursuing a dream which in the long run, set me behind the rest of my friends who had built their lives even stronger in my absence.

 

For the record, I don't recall either of them really drinking from that bottle, no matter how much I urged.

For the record, I don’t recall either of them really drinking from that bottle, no matter how much I urged.

But that wedding changed the rest of the year for me for the better. It gave me a focus when I didn’t really know what I was doing with anything. I met a girl. I was the best man, she was the maid of honor. Usually I’m not the one of New Years resolutions, but I had made one last year and it was to not deny myself the things I truly wanted. When I saw Ellie, I knew I had to at least give it a shot. I got lucky that she accepted my invitation to dinner (via text, no less, which she doesn’t like me to forget). The rest of that story is still being written.

February rolled around, and I was still working at the job I had taken because it was a job. Each day, I desperately waited to hear something about the job that had so much potential for me and every bit I knew about it made me loathe what I drove to and from each day for the sake of a paycheck and unwanted stress. I lived at home with my parents, my cat, and the family dog. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what I wanted. I knew I had potential to be something great, but everything seemed to be holding me back.

A cat and dog, tolerating each other. Neither knew that the other was an absolute sweetheart.

A cat and dog, tolerating each other. Neither knew that the other was an absolute sweetheart.

It was late-February, early-March when my grandmother started to die. She had been dying for years, fighting off a rare case of leukemia, but she really started to fade quickly. She had beaten breast cancer years earlier, but in her old age, the leukemia was too much. Family came to visit and say their goodbyes to a woman who had been through a long and full life. I still can hear the sound of her breathing and I can see her weak frame grasping for air as I struggled to say my goodbye. It was short and simple, as it was all I could manage, but to me it was enough. We buried her in her plot, next to family, in Chicago.

Joanne and George Ferraro

Joanne and George Ferraro

It was in April that I decided I needed to move out. I had planned on living at home as long as I could so I could fuel as much money as possible into paying off my student loans as quickly as possible but the stress of driving to and from work each day (over an hour each way) coupled with living with my parents who didn’t remember how to live with their son anymore became too much for me to handle. This was a really hard time for me. I struggled with living with my parents because I have always had a good relationship with them and it was hard staying there when I felt unwelcome (which they said was because I had gone off and changed myself as a person and they didn’t know how to deal with the new me). It’s true. I changed, but somewhere, deep down, I wanted to be the old me. I wanted to go back to the way things were before. But I couldn’t, so I started to shop for apartments. I found one, and the move in wasn’t until the first of May.

It was also in April, that I visited Ellie in Minneapolis for the first time. She had been back a few times to see me and we had kept in touch via text. Once she gave me the okay, I planned a trip to go see her. It was also due to this trip that I decided cruise control in the Kia Rio was a must, if I wanted to survive another trip up to see her.

We went to the sculpture garden on a surprisingly nice day during my first visit to Minneapolis.

We went to the sculpture garden on a surprisingly nice day during my first visit to Minneapolis.

In May, I moved into my own apartment. It is the first place I’ve ever lived alone and that I paid for myself (Peace Corps paid for my apartment in Ukraine).

An empty bedroom. I have since gotten furniture.

An empty bedroom. I have since gotten furniture.

Surprisingly, me moving out didn’t really solve my problems with my parents. Those wouldn’t be brought out into the open until the summer and it’s hard to admit, but I’m still working on dealing with those things now.

I had also been spending the first part of the year training for a half marathon, which I ran in late May. I did rather well, better than I hoped to do. I also learned a valuable lesson; I don’t like running for that long. It’s hard.

Participant. You see that? I participated and got a medal because America!

Participant. You see that? I participated and got a medal because America!

In June, my apartment started to feel like a home. I had spent a good chunk of change getting the items I didn’t already have to furnish it and I was pleased with the results.

A panorama of my living room area.

A panorama of my living room area.

It was in June that Ellie studied abroad in France. Even though our relationship was already long distance, the longer distance was somehow harder for both of us. But we survived. It meant compromising on late-night or early-morning Skype calls and putting up with fussy internet. Fortunately, I had lived with that kind of thing already, so it didn’t throw me off too much.

Postcard from France

Postcard from France

After Ellie got back through, I got to spend some time with her before she went back up to school. We opted to explore Milwaukee. It’s a city neither of us are particularly fond of. I live here because of my current job. Ellie lives here because that’s where her parents live. Hopefully, it will someday just be a blip on the map of life where I paused for a moment or two. Even so, it can astound me from time to time with some of the views.

Panorama of Lake Michigan

Panorama of Lake Michigan

In June, I saw a double rainbow, I got a raise which made the job more tolerable, and I took part in eating a five-foot long pizza. But deep down, I really was in deep with whatever struggle I was having in life and I didn’t know how to pull myself out of it. That worried me because I took pride in being able to keep my head above the water and for the first time in my life, I was drowning. I was going to drown longer, but fortunately, not too long.

Double rainbow, what does it mean?

Double rainbow, what does it mean?

This is how I celebrate a raise.

This is how I celebrate a raise.

Okay, so a five foot pizza was really two 2.5 foot pizzas.

Okay, so a five foot pizza was really two 2.5 foot pizzas.

Then July happened, and this is when I had my big breakdown. It started so many months before as anger towards my parents because it felt like they were pushing me not only out of their house but also out of their lives. We didn’t know how to connect with each other since I got back from Ukraine and that wore me down. It really took a toll on who I was for a long time. I didn’t seem to know anymore and neither did anyone else. I just needed a reminder, and it never came. I had a big fight with my parents. During the fight, I felt bullied and cornered and that no one was really hearing what I was trying to say. I needed people to hear me and to notice me and to treat me, for once in the past six months, as though I didn’t just get up and leave everyone’s lives. It wasn’t until the end of the fight that I really realized what was getting me down. Up until that moment, I hadn’t realized it because I hadn’t said it out loud. It wasn’t just my parents who made me feel like I wasn’t wanted, it was everyone. No one knew what to do with me and no one took the time to find out, at least that’s how I felt. By going away, I had given up any place I had held anywhere and I desperately needed to have at least one of those places back. I needed to feel needed. I wanted people to care about what I had done. Upon realizing this, I was able to start working on ways of making myself feel better about things. It was the beginning of the end of my struggle. But more on that later.

In July, I had good moments too. Ellie met my family for the first time. I saw Sir Paul McCartney in concert. And I went up to see Ellie a few more times.

Sir Paul McCartney

Sir Paul McCartney

The Mighty Mississippi while visiting Ellie.

The Mighty Mississippi while visiting Ellie.

In August, Ellie and I spent more time together. She came back to her parents for most of the month as she was in between apartments at school. I liked that. We took a weekend trip to Chicago and went to Navy Pier, a first for both of us. We stayed in a hostel, a first for her. Then we went to my cousin’s wedding, a first for him. Ellie was pretty sick the whole time but she powered through like a champ. Then I got sick and it crippled me for two weeks. I even broke down to go see the doctor about it. Some where in the middle of my illness, Ellie and I went to a charity prom in Madison. We wore fancy clothes and in the morning, I fainted shortly after waking up. As much as I’ve tried to figure out why it happened, I really have no answer. Then Ellie went back up to school, and once again I was alone. Not completely, but alone enough that I noticed.

In September, I challenged myself to open up online–to write more often than not and to be honest with myself in public. It wasn’t always easy but for the most part, the responses I received were positive. I talked about my fears, my body image, things that bother me, things I’m bad at, and things that are just important to me in general. I loved that month of writing and I wish I could force myself to commit to it more often. I have my 642 Things to Write About book, so maybe I can set up some goal for myself and once again I can be honest with everyone, myself included.

Then October, after a month of writing, I fell off the map a bit. I don’t remember why but I’m sure I had my reasons. The best part of October was that I fulfilled a recent dream of mine to be a dungeon master. I finally convinced some friends to play with me and it was a great success. I just need to convince them again, and again and we’ll have a lot more fun again.

I also visited Ellie again. We went to the Mall of America and a corn maze and petted a bunch of animals I never really expected to pet. It was a lot of fun, as always.

Corn on the cob at a corn maze. Corn-ception.

Corn on the cob at a corn maze. Corn-ception.

November was a big month. A busy month. I went up to visit Ellie the last time for the year. I helped her escape her roommates for a weekend and we both had fun. But there was more fun on the horizon. I had talked to a couple of my friends from Peace Corps about me visiting them or them visiting me. Since I still hadn’t gotten my vacation time at work, and they lived just too far to for me to visit on a weekend, they decided to come see me and I’m infinitely grateful for it. I had started to wonder if the Peace Corps thing really happened. No one talked about it ever with me. It seemed like it was easier to pretend it never happened, as if I had offended everyone and they thought it more polite to shrug it off. But my friends came to see me, and that brought it all home for me. It turns out, those same friends struggled with a lot of the same things I did over the past year. They felt lost and left behind and didn’t really know how to move past Peace Corps without feeling like we were betraying the experience. It really helped me with my year-long struggles to hear a simple, “Me too.”

Me, Kathryn, and Andy--we all survived Chernobyl together.

Me, Kathryn, and Andy–we all survived Chernobyl together.

While they were here, I showed them as much of Wisconsin as we could in a weekend. We did three tours in the Milwaukee area one day (Frank Lloyd Wright House, a distillery, and a creamery). The next day we went to the art museum, ate Ian’s pizza, and I showed them Madison. It was a very busy weekend, but it was more relaxing than tiring and I cherished every moment of it, even if no one really talked about it ever happening.

Milwaukee Art Museum

Milwaukee Art Museum

I also turned 26 in November. My birthday was enjoyable, but a bit of a disappointment. I’m not really ready to talk specifics about it but the odds are is that it wasn’t your fault. I grabbed a cigar and had some drinks with close friends. It was exactly what I wanted. Then, when Ellie was back for Thanksgiving, she took me painting for my birthday and it was exactly what I didn’t know I actually wanted. I loved it.

My painting while drinking pints.

My painting while drinking pints.

December was spent sneaking off to my parents house as much as I could to work on Ellie’s Christmas gift. I’ll post about it later, but I’m really happy with how it turned out. I liked making something with my hands and I felt like I put a lot of thought and effort into making it something I would want to receive as well.

December was also the holidays, and it was the first Christmas that I brought a guest. So did my sister. The house wasn’t packed though, because family decided this was the year to not show up. We were missing three cousins, one aunt, one uncle, one great-uncle, and a grandma. Most of those, we suspect, weren’t there because grandma wasn’t there. It’s a sad realization to come to, that the only reason you see family is because they want to see one mutual family member and not you. Without all of them, we still managed to have a good time. It felt more like a beginning of future Christmases than the old, bickering Christmases past. And I like that.

You see, I had a lot of things to struggle with throughout the year. A lot of them were personal and some of them were shared. I’m not looking for pity because everyone has a bad year here and there and we all survive. I’m glad that I did. I survived. More importantly, I worked on getting past things and taking the first step. It was all a part of my goal to not deny myself things starting last year, and one of those things was happiness. I don’t wish I could go back and redo 2013 nor do I wish I could change anything about 2013. It is what it was, and it brought me to here.

I hope 2014 is as fulfilling for me as 2013 was. The same for you!

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Fill in the Blank: The Bookhttp://sassyhacksaws.com/2013/12/29/fill-blank-book/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2013/12/29/fill-blank-book/#comments Mon, 30 Dec 2013 03:22:54 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=5889 So Christmas came and went again, and while I’m not entirely sure about it, I do believe I complained at some point about how I hate shopping for gifts and how it stresses me out. Somehow, I managed to a fine job of it this year and had ideas for everyone by around Thanksgiving. I still haven’t received the gift I ordered for my sister’s boyfriend yet, but given the estimated delivery date of December 13th to December 31st, I still have some time to Continue reading →

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So Christmas came and went again, and while I’m not entirely sure about it, I do believe I complained at some point about how I hate shopping for gifts and how it stresses me out. Somehow, I managed to a fine job of it this year and had ideas for everyone by around Thanksgiving. I still haven’t received the gift I ordered for my sister’s boyfriend yet, but given the estimated delivery date of December 13th to December 31st, I still have some time to wait.

I’m not going to go into what I got people in this post, and I’ll really only cover one thing I got for Ellie later this week. Additionally, look for my yearly wrap up to come later this week as well. Today, I want to talk about one of the gifts I received which is shockingly simple, yet exactly what I didn’t realize I wanted.

Ellie got me this:

Fill in the Blank

Fill in the Blank

For those creative types out there who have lost the time or energy to be creative to their fullest capacity, I highly recommend getting this book for yourself and to use it as a jumpstart. Why, you might ask? Because the book gives you the topic to doodle, and even starts the picture for you. Then, you can take it in any direction that suits your fancy. All you need is a decent pen and some time to kick back and relax. In about thirty minutes, I spit out these gems:

I made the cat better, by turning it into a dragon.

Dragon-cat? Cat-Dragon?

The heading for this page said something about a copycat and the first image was of a young tiger followed by a bunch of these white cats. There really wasn’t any direction on where to take it and since I’ve been on a dragon drawing kick lately, I decided the cat needed to be a fierce dragon. I plan on replicating Marley on one of the remaining cats. Maybe I’ll make one a superhero as well. The boundaries of the page are the limit!

Trailer-trash or Daisy Duke? Or the same thing?

I apparently creeped out the girlfriend by sending her the above pic. She thinks, for some reason, that baby-dolls shouldn’t be dressed up in Daisy Dukes. I don’t think it’s creepy at all. At least she’s wearing clothes. And she’s owning the heals like a Slavic woman.

Ellie also picked up one of these kind of books for herself, but her’s is geared more towards kids. The problem with Ellie’s, though it’s still usable, is that a lot of the pictures are very dark. Keep that in mind if you grab one for yourself, dark pictures are hard to draw over.

On a related note, I had seen a similar book while at Anthropologie with Ellie, except instead of drawing, it’s 642 things to write about. It’s a workbook with space to write about all 642 writing prompts. While downtown yesterday, I broke down and picked up a copy of it for myself. I think, throughout the years, I’m going to work my way through these books and post the results here. Maybe they’ll inspire you as well.

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Friendshipshttp://sassyhacksaws.com/2013/12/27/friendships/ http://sassyhacksaws.com/2013/12/27/friendships/#comments Fri, 27 Dec 2013 14:03:37 +0000 http://sassyhacksaws.com/?p=5883 Umm, this: Yes.

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Umm, this:

Yes.

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