Friday, November 30, 2012

A Proclamation.

Historically, I hate this time of year.  Yeah, it’s the bah-humbug, I’m a jerk, how dare you sneer at the magic of Christmas kind of thing to say, but I really do.  

It’s not that I hate Christmas, per se.  Really, nobody HATES Christmas, except maybe Satan.  More specifically, it’s that stretch of time between Christmas and New Year’s Day, when I get all reflective over my year.  Of course, being Kat the Overachiever, I start “building up” for that week somewhere around December 1st.  Anyhow, I think of the dreams I had on January 1st, the expectations I had for how the next 364 days would unfold, and then I look at the reality of what actually transpired.  And then I usually drink.

This year’s review will still have its share of suckiness.  But you know what, dearest reader?  It will also have its share of awesomeness.  More so, in fact, than any year in recent memory.   Did it go like I thought it would?  Hell, no.  If you had any idea what I EXPECTED to be doing with my life in December 2012, you would probably have a stroke or a cardiac incident…especially if you had checked in with me in, oh, March or April.  Guess what, my friends.  Things change.  Life happens.  The proverbial shit hits the proverbial fan.  The best laid plans blow up in your face. People disappoint you.  People give you amazing, unexpected blessings.  People get cancer.  People you didn’t even know really liked you in the first place give you an affirmation when you really need it.  Hearts get crushed, reality sucks the life out of a dream before it even really has a chance to leave your slumber.  You meet people who you think are really noble, who then turn out to be douchebags.  You write someone off as a douchebag, and they turn out to be your bosom buddy. 

You can roll with it all, learn from it, and even embrace it – or you can let it turn you into a bitter old hag.  I’d rather roll, thank you.  I have several more years before I need to turn into a hag, especially an OLD hag.  In 2012, I parted with most of the items of any monetary value I had left…I moved to a city where I knew exactly 2 people…I got my heart broken.  I also met an miraculous man who I’m pretty sure is the love of my life, found an apartment in an area of town that fits my needs perfectly, and I look better and am healthier than I’ve been in 20 years.  I don’t make much cabbage and my job isn’t exactly going to change the world, but at least I don’t lay awake at night feeling trapped in a career that holds no joy for me anymore.  I got to go to fire museums, fire stations, fire events in 4 different states and write about them for you – and I got to meet some really, really, REALLY awesome, dedicated fire service professionals.  So, all in all, I think we are ending in the black. 

Proclamation time – this year, I will not dread December 31st.  Instead, I will embrace it and start planning my 2013.  I read a post today by Leonie Dawson, online business goddess divine, who has inspired me to come up with a list of 100 things I will do in 2013.  Yes, 100.  And yes, if I have to do it, you have to do it, too.  I will post my list in the very near future and I hope that you will email your list to me. 

Go forth and make it happen.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Exam 2 - uh, Done.

I can't say that I rocked Exam 2.  I got an 84.  But I have an excuse.

Every morning, I drop The Boy off at school at 7:45-ish and head to the office, which is only 3 miles away. That puts me to work at 8 - but I don't start until 8:30.  I usually use that 30 minutes for the drafting of these highly provocative, ultra-uber-amazing posts that you are now reading.   In my infinite insanity, I decided to use that time on Tuesday for my exam.  Why, you ask?  Because my exam time on Sunday got bumped, and I didn't want to get behind.  You know how important my schedule is to me.  Cough cough.

Anyhow, I settled into the break room at work and decided to crank out my exam.  Thirty minutes should be scads, right?   It's only 50 questions, after all.

Here's the scene.

(Break room in corporate America.  Siren Sex Goddess at a table, lounging in front of an open exam book in a way that can only be described as "stunning."  Enter Coworker.)

Coworker:  What are you doing?

SSG:  Taking a test.

Coworker:  What kind of test?

SSG:  Firefighting.

Coworker:  Do you want to be a firefighter?

SSG:  No, but I write about firefighters.

Coworker:  Oh. 

(Coworker exits break room.  Enter Coworker 2.)

Coworker 2:  What are you doing?

SSG:  Taking a test.

Coworker 2:  What kind of test?

SSG:  Firefighting.

Coworker 2:  Do you want to be a firefighter?

(continue to replay this conversation 14 more times.)


Dearest reader, are you getting the idea?  Are you feeling my pain?  Suffice it to say, 30 minutes was not enough time.  It took me two very distracted mornings to get through Exam 2.  In light of this tragic series of events, I think an 84 is a perfectly respectable score.  So be it.

Bring on Exam 3.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Exam #1 - Rocked.

Last Sunday night.  Steelers vs. Ravens and Exam #1.  Normally I fall asleep during Sunday night football, but for the next six Sundays, we have a little project that requires me to stay awake.

Okay, first of all – who, in the name of all that is holy, came up with those Gawd-awful uniforms for Pittsburgh?

Moving on.

So, exam #1 was 50 questions.  My goal is to score a 90% on each of these 6 exams.  This means, dearest reader, that I can only miss 5 on this one.  I have to be honest, it did not start well.  The first several questions were based on a passage that Thor had to read aloud to me, presumably to test my listening comprehension skills.  Of course, my goal immediately switched from “get a 90%” to “make Thor laugh to the point he can’t read anymore.”  But I rock so hard, I still got all those questions right.

I moved from section to section pretty quickly.  Admittedly, the exams get progressively more difficult, I’m guessing so that you don’t get immediately discouraged, quit, and spend the rest of your life disillusioned and bitter with a dead-end career in banking or something.  Anyhow, I got a 94 on this, the easiest, exam.  I missed 1 “house diagram” question; 1 “drive the apparatus to the fire scene without breaking any traffic laws” question; and 1 “in which direction does this gear turn” question.  I only feel badly about the house diagram one; I just wasn’t paying attention.  As for the driving question, since I’m driving a big, bad-ass fire truck, I should get to drive where I like, and people should just get the hell out of the way.  And the gear question…well, if that actual operating mechanical device were right in front of me, those gears would already be turning, and it would be a moot point.

I’m still holding to my original supposition that, on paper, I’d be a great firefighter.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Get It Together.

Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching…a time to gather with your loved ones around you; spend hours in thoughtful meditation over all that the Universe has provided; ruminate on how you can use your unique talents and assets for the betterment of all mankind.

And fire exams.  Don’t forget fire exams.

Here’s the proclamation, folks:  we have to take 6 practice exams, STAT.  I say “stat” because it makes me sound like I went to medical school and because I’m in danger of forgetting the math stuff I just learned, so time is of the essence.  Anyhow, my prep book has these exams at the end, ranging from 50 to 150 questions each.  So, Sunday night is now “exam night”.  As Thor watches football, I will be taking a math exam each week for the next 6 weeks.  My sense of self-worth, personal happiness, and love life will be directly impacted by the results of those 6 exams.

Consider yourself warned.  You may wish to gird your loins.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Always Kiss Me Goodnight.

Greetings, dearest reader.  Today is Veterans Day.  Do Kat a favor, and take a moment to ponder tonight - across the globe someplace, there's a 20-year old with an M-16 keeping the monsters of the night at bay, and across the globe someplace, that kid's mama is crying herself to sleep because she hasn't heard from her baby in a long, long time.  Think on those people and be grateful for what you have.
I decided to get all Zen tonight and look at last year's blog to see how far I've come.  I wrote this post in early November 2011 and it ended up one of my all-time favorites from the 2011 blog. I had just gotten my heart broken and had made the decision to claim my happiness rather than wallowing in self-pity over it.  And guess what - I have now what I only could dream of having back then.  I am so relieved that I didn't give up hope, that I experienced all of the wonderful and the painful of the past 12 months, that the Universe blessed me with a new life and a new love. 
Never.Give.Up.  Kat loves you.
November 2011
It's amazing how 2 short sentences, shot out in a group e-mail, can change the course of your day. It greeted me this morning at work. "He had a stroke yesterday. We do not know his condition."

He's a man I've known for a few years. Probably one of the healthiest men I know. He went from being a vibrant working man, winterizing his property, to a collapsed form on a linoleum floor in a matter of a minute. I've since heard that he came through brain surgery successfully, and he is improving rapidly. Praise be to God.

But as I sat there reading those lines this morning, I didn't think about his prognosis. I didn't think of how he had been shipped out to a larger hospital, how he had to have brain surgery; the impact on his business and family. Instead, I sat there and wondered - did he kiss his wife yesterday morning before he left for work? Did his lips brush her temple, maybe even with a quickly-spoken "Love you" before he headed out the door? What if that moment would have been their last...what memory would she be left with?

I wanted to go directly to my car, round up all of my children, hold them close and tell them how much I love them. They are scattered around the western part of the country; not terribly practical, but still, it's all I wanted to do.

So, in honor of my recuperating friend, and because I've had enough effed up relationships in my life to have learned a lot of lessons, I give you...

The Siren Sex Goddess's Guide to Life in 6 Short Points

1. If you go to sleep and wake up with someone every day, always kiss them good night and good morning. Kiss them when you leave the house, kiss them when you greet them after not seeing them all day. No exceptions. I don't care if all your buddies are standing right there and you are embarrassed. Just do it.

2. If you dating and are in love with someone, tell them. This whole concept of protecting your heart, taking it slow, not getting in over your head is complete bullshit. What's the worst thing that can happen? They don't say it back? You can't control any other person's emotions. Whether or not they love you is immaterial to how you feel about them anyway.

3. Be genuine, open, honest and vulnerable, ESPECIALLY if you are a woman. Your competition consists mostly of women who are convinced that they have to deny their femininity and be tough as nails, 24/7. If you are a girl, act like one. Men go absolutely insane for it.

4. Did your heart get broken? Congratulations. That means you are FEELING. I'm proud of you.

5. Everyone has soul mates. They come in and out of our lives; they can be dear friends, they can be lovers, you might even marry one, if you are lucky. But there are people out there who complement you and you complement them...and when you get together, your lives will never again be the same.

6. Sometimes you just "know." And when you just know, don't let your friends, family, relationship coaches, even your common sense override your gut feeling that you "know." Treasure it in your heart. If it's meant to be, there's nothing you can do, short of committing suicide, to prevent it anyway.

So that's what I thought about today. What about you? Care to add any points?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Takin' a Kat to School

My weekend held the promise of success, or the potential for complete and utter disaster.

Thor hosted a game tournament at his house on Saturday.  Not wanting to humiliate him or his friends with my wicked gaming skills, I decided to take my laptop and use the day to do some much-needed research.  On my way out the door, my Firefighter Exam Prep Book caught my eye.  Well, why not.  I threw it in the cat bag that my first grade teacher made for me in 1977.  Yes, I still have it, and yes, I still use it.

Anyhow, I settled into a comfy chair with a Cherry Coke Zero, my laptop and my spiral notebook with Sasquatch on it.  (This is where I make all my important notes.)  I fired up said laptop, and guess what – Thor is having router issues.  No WIFI for Kat.  Since he was moderately occupied, involved in a game where the words are in English but strung together in a fashion as to make sense to no one outside the circle of tables, I decided not to have a Kat fit and insist that he help me.   I instead looked for other forms of entertainment.

Five seconds later, having exhausted all other forms of entertainment, I looked in my bag.  The Book stared back at me, unblinking.  The edges of its pages curled back as in a defiant sneer.  You don’t have it, Kat.  You can’t do the math.  Surrender now.

I pulled it from the bag slowly, my mind having ceded the victory long ago.  I knew what lay ahead.  Fire Math.  Fire Science.  Physics and Geometry.  The properties of water, chemical reactions.  Mechanical advantage; gears; pulleys.  FULCRUMS.  But I have obligated myself to working through this, and work through it I must.

I stayed in the comfy chair for, oh, 15 minutes or so, reading through formulas and trying to memorize diagrams.  However, the periphery conversations kept creeping into my consciousness …”my Swamp Seeker can defeat your Landfill Elf because I have a Magenta Magic Pill card.” “What are you doing??  You know you can’t imprison Yakunamawarundaduba!” “HA HA! I’ve got the Elixir of Vad!  Die, fool!” So I beat a hasty retreat to Thor’s room and curled up on his bed with the cat.

Thor, being the attentive boyfriend that he is, brought me another diet pop and checked on me frequently.  At one point we had what felt like a 45-minute discussion about the labels on a diagram of a triangle.  It was the low point of our relationship.  He went back to his guests, and I started talking to the cat. “I can’t do this.  It’s too hard.”  And then I cried.   Serious as a heart attack, I sat on my boyfriend’s bed and cried about my homework.

Let me insert a thought here – the cat has never really liked me.  She regards me as competition for her master’s affection – and rightly so.  She tolerates me in his presence; mocks me in his absence.   More than once I’ve woken up unable to move because a cat has contorted itself around my feet.  I am sure her goal is that, in my groggy condition, I will attempt to rise, become entangled in her furry little body, and suffer a fatal fall.   In turn, I’ve “helped” her get out of the way when I’m coming up the stairs, and she tends to accidentally fall off the couch when I’m around.   Of course, my kids universally love the cat.  There’s no loyalty in the world anymore.

So this was the scene.  I was crying on the shoulder of the feline version of Leona Helmsley, my diet pop had gotten warm, and I couldn’t figure out how to calculate mechanical advantage.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.  The animal regarded me in that way only a cat can – a well-practiced stare which tells me that when cats take over the world, I will be the first to go.  When I saw those condescending eyes lower from my tear-stained face to my exam book, and then I swear to gawd, she rolled them – something snapped.  I might cower in the presence of abstract mathematics, but a damn cat isn’t going to take me down.

I decided to stop studying and start equating.  I turned to the first of 48 questions and away I went.  This is an open book practice test (THANK GAWD) so I could flip back to the equations…figuring out how to wrap the story problem around those equations, well, that’s another matter entirely.  I read the first problem.  Firefighter Bob needs to know how much pressure to exert if he’s trying to lift an 800-pound box with a 40-inch lever, said box being 6 inches away from fulcrum.  I plugged in the numbers, did the math, and … my answer matched one of the 4 multiple-choice options.  My jaw dropped and I circled my answer before Thor’s Magic Tournament could permeate the bedroom door and cast some sort of anti-math spell.  And guess what – I did it again with number 2.  Number 3.  Number 4.

I faltered in the science section; some dufus in the exam prep book department decided it to word the questions as to force me to APPLY what I had learned, as opposed to just regurgitate facts.  Fool.  Anyhow, I answered all the questions and, with a shaking hand, graded my test.  As I had reached the point where I could no longer recognize numbers, let alone calculate with them, I told Thor my score.  He punched it into his phone and announced – “You got an 81.”

An 81.  I got an 81.  My goal was 90, I would settle for an 80, I expected a 60.

I AM A MATH GOD.  Take that, kitty cat.  Bite me, Landfill Elf.  I am Kat, hear me roar.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fit for Duty

So, my CERT days are done, the fire department open houses are mostly done for the season…you know what this means.

Back to exam prep.  Back to Fire Math 101.  Sigh.

I think I’ll focus on fitness instead.  I could happily write about how I’m blowing off weight training for at least the next two weeks.  In fact, let’s start now.

 – by KAT

1.       Decide you want to start toning up your body.  Pick your personal reason.  Sleep on it for a few days to make sure it’s a really good reason.

2.       Write down your reason in your journal.

3.       Realize that, for such a momentous event, you need a new “turning over a new leaf and developing my personal power” journal.  Go to Barnes & Noble to pick out a new journal.

4.       Come home with a 50 Shades knockoff book, a bookmark with a dachshund on it, and a 2010 page-a-day calendar from the 90% off rack.  Realize you forgot to buy your journal.

5.       Four days later, go back to Barnes & Noble and pick out a journal.

6.       Write “personal reason” in your new journal.  Congratulate yourself over a glass of wine.

7.       Have more wine.

8.       Start researching various strength training techniques on the internet.  There are many, many theories.  You must research them all, especially the ones with photos of shirtless gym guys.  This will take a while.

9.       Determine your personal strength training strategy.  Write it down in your journal.  Go to and order at least 19 books which describe your personal training strategy.
10.  Wait 3 to 5 business days for your Amazon delivery to arrive.  Use that time wisely by getting your brows waxed and eating an entire loaf of pumpkin date bread.
11.  Unpack your books, look them over, and write up a list of exercises to try in your journal.  Sleep over the list for a few days to make sure you are really, really comfortable with it.
12.  Go to the mall and buy some new workout gear.  Pack your gym bag and set your alarm for 5 a.m.
13.  Spend at least a week hitting the snooze 6 times every morning.  Justify this by acknowledging that it is dangerous to make radical changes to one's sleep cycles without prepping your mind first.
14. Around day 10, get up and go to the gym.  Realize you forgot your journal with your exercise list.  Decide to wing it.  Position yourself in front of a random piece of equipment, which happens to closely resemble something you read about in the book you picked up in point #4, and exhale.
15.  Start your first set of 10 reps.  On rep 3, pull an indeterminate muscle in a portion of your leg that you never knew existed.  Spend the next 4 weeks limping.
Congratulations.  You are now on the path to an exciting new lifestyle of physical fitness.