Saturday, December 29, 2007

Art Appreciation

Today we visited the newly renovated Institute of Art Museum. We got a coupon for free admission in the mail, and my mother who is a member wanted to go too, so since the boys have never been there we drove the 50 miles into the city to check it out.

Once we got there and found parking we had to get our little metal admissions tabs, and check our coats, and find the bathrooms, and stand around looking at the visitors map trying to figure out where to find all of that and which exhibits everyone most wanted to see were. There was a puppet show starting when we got there but everyone wanted to see art first so we skipped that for later.

I was pleased when my boys took an interest in the suits of armour, and the Egyptian artifacts. The armour reminded Jeff of a video game, and the Egyptian artifacts included a mummy (cool old dead thing) but still I was glad they were appreciating it instead of just running past to the drinking fountains. Shortly after we made it through the bizarre African part Timmy mentioned that he was getting hungry. Well it was lunch time so we went back across the museum, quickly went past the modern art and downstairs to the cafeteria. The puppet show had just let out and and all of the people were in line. After finally getting through we ate our overpriced food and talked about what we'd seen so far. Larry had to make the tired joke about how the minimalist art looked like nothing. He put his fork across his plate and said "There I just made art!" I said "To me it reflects sacasticism with judgementalist tendencies." Which got me the look.

Then we went up to the third floor and found the bathrooms there. The DIA has an extensive Dutch Art collection. And British. And Greek and Roman and Medieval and Renaissance. Timmy shyly pointed out that "sometimes they show people without their tops." Which is weird if you think about how we try so hard to protect our children from inappropriate material and then come and drag them through this. I know it's different but at that moment I had a hard time coming up with an explanation for it.

I could sense that we were starting to lose the kid's attention so I found my favorite art piece from when I was a child, the Bronze Donkey. The one piece of art that you are allowed to touch. I showed the boys how its back has been worn smooth from all the hands over the years including my own. They acted politely impressed but were starting to look like they were wondering when something exciting was going to happen. Around then we had to find the bathrooms again.

They have rearranged a lot of the pieces differently in the renovation. There are sections for "Decorative Arts" and "Fashionable Living" which show some of the elaborate articles such as furniture and tableware that the museum has in it's collection. Beautiful and I get their point but I found myself imagining how a lot of the things I've seen at Target lately would also look pretty good behind glass with a spotlight shining on them just so. Who knows someday maybe they will.

By now the boys had developed all kinds of physical afflictions unlikely to be present in study youngsters who had no complaints about spending hours out skating on the frozen lake the last week. "My legs are hurting." "I need to lay down!" I pointed out that I'm the one with varicose veins and their Grandma is 67 years old and we're not complaining yet, but I could see where this was headed. So we went "fast walking" through more of the museum because I wasn't leaving with at least glancing at the Van Gogh, and Renior, and DIA classics like "The Nut Gatherers" and "Watson and the Shark." So we did that and got ourselves to the entrance where our coats were. Then my mother suggested that we peek into the gift shop. A fine idea except that it was on a different floor and all the way across the museum. Well we went there and stood in line to buy one postcard. By now the place had really filled up with people and we made our way through the masses of them BACK to the entrance and came popping out the door. That's when I found out we'd just missed the second time of the puppet show.

I'm glad we went but I had this familiar feeling like from some trips we've taken that our experience mostly consisted of finding parking and bathrooms and overpriced places to eat, looking at a little map and crisscrossing all over the place, going to the gift shop and missing the shows. In fact I just described our last trip to Disney World. Oh well, at least I feel like I'm not missing out on taking my family to the Louvre in Paris. I already know what we'd be doing there.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Full Throttle T-Bucket

I had to wait until I was a grown-up to get to have the experience of having brothers. My family consisted of my parents and their 3 little girls born very close together. When my sisters and I got married we added husbands to the family mix, and I got to have brother-in-laws.

Subjects such as dolls and fashion and hairdos and shopping and decorating are all familiar enough, and my father had his hobbies like fishing and collecting and art. But when the guys came along they brought with them interests that were entirely unexplored by our family. Then my sons were born and there were these fascinating men around for them to learn from.

Hal is into computers and trivia games. He can do a headstand, swim across a lake, and knows all about baseball. Mark can play the guitar, shoot a hockey puck and is a race car driver.

Although my aunts married men who were into cars and racing, I hadn't really paid any attention to the sport of it until Mark came along. I know I work for a car company, and I did occasionally attend the Grand Prix when it used to run downtown, but I could tell you more about the food that was served at the buffet than what was going on with the cars on the track. So you push on the gas and they go real fast around in circles, so what? When Timmy was just a preschooler I took him to see his Uncle Mark race his sprint car. I had no idea what to expect but Timmy was enchanted with the cars and the race. Mark came up in the stands to talk to us when he was wearing his fireproof suit. After he left some guys turned around and wanted to talk: "You know that driver? Wow! How fast to those sprint cars go?" I had to admit I had no idea, but Timmy caught on to the excitement of it. For months after that he would play with his little playmobile race cars and even named some of the people after Mark and his brother.

Mark raced for a few more years after that but eventually had to give it up in exchange for just filling up their garage with various old cars and parts that he is "working on." And now he has found a new avenue for exercising his grease monkey talents. It is a club though their church which is building a hot-rod car based on replica parts from a model-T. There is a blog that is chronicling the vehicle as it goes together, and when it's finished they are going to raffle it off and donate the profits to the Open Door Rescue Mission. Check it out: and while you're there buy a raffle ticket, I'm going to!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Visions of Sugarplums

There are moments in the Christmas season (which seems to last way too long) when the whole thing feels like a great big hassle. I'm not a shopper so I don't enjoy the process of figuring out what everyone wants, and then running around to find and buy it all. And then when it's just too late to do any more, I take inventory of what I've gotten and worry about whether it's enough. And there's that nagging feeling that all this giving and getting of STUFF that we all don't really need anyways shouldn't be the focus of this religious holiday about a humble birth.

BUT...I just have to remember about my very favorite part of Christmas, which is not the too quick ripping open of the presents, and the smiles and the gratitude. That part is good, sure, but my best moment is on Christmas Eve, when the boys are getting tucked into bed. They are just brimming with excitement about the day come, willing themselves to fall asleep (the opposite of usual) and yet least able to do it, on this Night of Wonder. As in: "I wonder if Santa really is out there? I wonder if I will get what I wish for? I wonder if I dropped enough hints to get what I really want? I wonder if it's not too late for one more..." And they lie there knowing one thing for sure which is that tomorrow Christmas will come, and the questions will be answered, and there will presents and food and church and relatives and cousins and things that are new and different and maybe even better than before.

So that is what I remind myself as I try not to get scotch tape stuck in my hair while wrapping all these presents. That the real gift is the moment of going to sleep and looking forward to that next day, because even though life has it's hard parts there's always hope for a moment of joy sometime after you wake up. So maybe the whole present thing does make sense, if it brings it around to remember who brings us believers just that: hope for joy.

Merry Christmas to you, and my wish for all of us is that every evening we can have even the tiniest portion of what floats through these little boys heads this one night: a bit of excitement about what might happen the next day, because it just might be something real good.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

One Hundred Blogs and Counting

JJS informed me that my one-hundredth blog posting was coming up, and so I feel compelled to acknowledge the occasion. You know, 100 is a big, round number and therefore deserves some attention. Although it's a little confusing to know exactly when it is. My records on blogger say that it's this one although on my page itself I'm one short, I think that's because I deleted "Getting Over It" (the one about forgiveness) after some people seemed uncomfortable with what I wrote about in that post.

Anyways, what is most amazing to me is not that I have managed to find 100 things to write about (the subject matter is infinite) but that some people in this world have actually bothered to READ 100 things that I have to say. It is both flattering and surprising to me that anyone would take an interest in this stuff.

Writing this blog has had some interesting results that I could not have predicted. I originally started it as a way to keep connected with the people I knew from work who I would no longer be seeing on a daily basis when I left. I imagined that I would post pictures of the fish I caught and that would be about it. It turned out that only a few of the work people kept checking in. But then it became a way for some old friends that I don't communicate with nearly enough to keep an eye on what's going on with me. And some relatives found out a way to get glimpses into my life that just don't come out at family gatherings. Some of the people that I do interact with more regularly have also found it fun to watch for what appears in here, probably just in case it happens to include a mention of them! (defensive blog reading) Just to keep my ego in check there are plenty of people in my life who have no interest whatsoever in looking at all of this, and I do get that. (But I get to mention them all I want, heh heh heh)

Also, now that I've been doing this for a while sometimes when something happens that clearly amuses me I'll notice whoever I'm with questioning whether it will show up in the blog. Usually not, but you never know.

Another thing that has happened is that some of my readers have turned into bloggers themselves! It is a total delight to be able to read about other people I know, and all of them have far more interesting things to write about that I ever have. (There are links on the sidebar, check them out!)

I like to keep tinkering with different things I can do. I put an advertisement on because I was curious about the messages they were sending me, that google would automatically crawl my site and then post ads with relevance to the subject matter. It amuses me to see how the automatic program interprets my posts. Plus I have earned a virtual 30 cents!

I also have google analytics on here, which doesn't tell me what I really want to know (who's looking at this and what do they think about it?) But contains fascinating information nonetheless. It has counted over 4,887 page visits from 886 different visitors in over 30 countries. Before I start feeling too famous I see that most of them are random hits from people who are searching for something else. The neat thing is that it tells you what they were searching for. Such as "monkey head string lights," "what does dew point have to do with dragon breath?" and "person behind baby bop costume." So far as I can tell nobody who has arrived through random means has ever elected to return!

And finally, I have found that I just like doing this, as I said it's my "artistic expression" and everyone needs one of those whether it's music or painting or decorating cakes. Sometimes this serves as a way to work something out that I'm thinking about. Other times it's like I'm communicating with an imaginary friend, always there to listen when I have something I want to talk about. And every so often I get some feedback, either through comments or conversations, where someone tells me that something I wrote made them laugh, or think a little, or reminded them of their own experience. To make a connection with another person, in whatever way, well it just feels great to do that.

So happy 100th blogaversary to me! I am humbled and appreciative that you choose to read this, and I hope that you continue to do so. Blog on!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts

So there I am, making my way forward through the water, pushing my hands back and forth against the resistance, legs kicking out in front. I feel like a crazy subterranean robot. I am bouncing up and down and my hair is pointing straight out from my head in wild fuzzy spirals. I look over at Lynn, she is bobbing through the water with a determined, experienced look on her face. I see the perky woman dancing on the edge. She holds up a brightly colored strap of rubber and tells all the people to wrap it around their ankles and start doing jumping jacks. They all comply. How surreal would appear if someone were to view it from above. Wait, there are people viewing it from above, and they are pedaling bicycles.

No, it's not a dream: it's the water aerobics class that Lynn invited me to join her in at the health club she belongs to. I agreed because I need to burn off the calories from all of the holiday food that I have been consuming, and it's not realistic to ride my bike in the snow.


Last night I consumed an extra large amount of that holiday food. I hosted an ornament exchange party for the women in my neighborhood. Here is a picture that I took of some of the guests. Aren't they all lovely? Everyone dressed up all Christmassy except for Heather who did not wear pants.

Patty made bacon-wrapped water chestnuts, delicious! Here is her recipe:

1 lb bacon (I usually get the kind already cooked)
2 (8 ounce) cans water chestnuts
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup chili sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cut each strip of bacon in half. Wrap one strip around one water chestnut. Secure with a wooden toothpick. Place in a shallow baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

While the wraps are baking, in a small mixing bowl combine the brown sugar, mayonnaise and chili sauce. After the wraps have finished baking, transfer them to a second shallow baking dish (I skip the whole transfer thing if I have used the precooked bacon. You are just getting them out of the grease by transferring them and there is little or no grease if you use the precooked). Pour the sauce over the wraps.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 additional minutes or until bacon is crispy. Serve hot out of dish with toothpicks.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Take a place in the cyber race

One of the things I like about my current job is that I am learning new skills, particularly on the computer. There is a program that they use here to put together the web-based training courses, and for me it is fun to learn. When I actually get something to work, like “click here and a picture will appear” I get all excited and feel like doing a little dance in the cubicle aisleway. Ok, a couple of times I have actually done that. And of course the reaction is lots of eye rolling and suggestions that I get a life. But you know the feeling, it’s like when band-aids used to have that little red string on them and you would try and try to get it to work right and then finally one would rip open the right way and it was thrilling. Well for me it was! And now they don’t make them that way anymore anyways.

So when I completed my first course I showed it to my family on my laptop computer. They acted appropriately impressed although what else could they say when I was standing there beaming with pride in my big accomplishment. Timmy was interested in the way a little box popped up telling you if a question was answered right or wrong in the quiz at the end. A minute later he called me over to our home computer where he showed my how he could duplicate the html code that caused those boxes to appear. Drrr.

I mention this not to brag on my kid (although I am always happy to do that) but because it exemplifies the vast difference between the knowledge and abilities of the generations when it comes to computers. I came across an article recently that listed out the skills that will be typical of children at certain grade levels in the future, and it included things like “create an animation” that I am only just learning and my kids already know. It’s a reversal of the older people with more experience being ahead of the younger ones. When it comes to the workplace it’s clear that some of us are going to have to row pretty hard to stay ahead in the race.

I like to think that because I am open minded to learning new things that I can consider myself rather hip and happening when it comes to cyberspace. After all, I have a BLOG! I can email and IM and am learning how to do things with pictures. But not everyone aspires to this. Last month at Thanksgiving I was sitting there eating pistachios with my brother-in-law Mark and listening to my Mother and my Aunt Judy have a conversation about using computers. They were agreeing with each other about how confusing it all is, and their lack of desire to know how to do anything. Aunt Judy has email because she had to have it for her job, but my mother just shuns all of it. At least I am safe from ever having her read my blog, but I find the aversion to even try it on her part exasperating. When my other brother-in-law Hal walked in Mark and I shouted out warnings to him not to listen to this conversation or his head might explode. Hal is the kind of person that figures out how to do things just for the fun of it.

And then this past weekend we were at a party with my old sorority sisters from college and their families. A group of us girls were sitting in the dining room over dessert talking about maybe planning a trip together and the hostess pulled over her laptop and tried to look up some information. She was struggling with it which turned into a conversation about how hard it is to do things on computers and some of the other women complained that they had been applying for jobs and how inconvenient it was to have to fill out online applications. Our hostess is going to nursing school right now and is feeling very proud and important about that, but acted mystified about some online registration procedures she needed to know. YEE GADS! They were having the old lady “Dang these newfangled contraptions” conversation! Like on Thanksgiving all over again except that these are my PEERS, the very people I graduated from college with, ready to take on the world with our degrees in hand and our ambitions high. And now here they were ready to close themselves off from the very thing that could propel them to success as they move forward with their lives activities. Because I care deeply about these women and want all the best for them, I think I said something to the effect of suggesting that they embrace the technology and be open to learning it. “Well I don’t need to know computers to SAVE LIVES” was the response I got from the nursing student. But you do, possibly to save your own, I thought.

So I worry that the world soon be split into two categories of those who will or won’t embrace technology as it comes at us fast, which has been going on for the past 100 years. You can choose to be like the Clampett family marveling at the cee-ment pond, or go and find out what all this stuff does and how your life could be better for knowing about it. Of course I don’t mean YOU, if you’re reading this you are already in the game as far as I’m concerned. But I do wonder what defines that line of separation. It isn’t age, because I can to point to old Bob at work, 67 years old and able not only to figure out all of the ever-changing online processes over here but can teach them to others as well. It could be a gender thing because Bob doesn’t have a computer at home for his wife. But then how do you explain the difference between my mother and her sisters Chris and Kathy? I don’t think it’s intelligence either. It must be attitude then.

So somebody out there please keep an eye on me that I don’t become like that some day, clinging to the easy ways of the past and hoping that all the new stuff just goes away. It’s easy enough to do but when grandparents miss out on the chance to see pictures of their out of state grandkids in their Halloween costumes that same day, it’s a shame all around.

Sorry this is so long and ranty. I’m going to go now and try to figure out how to unlock the security codes Hal put on our wireless modem so I can get rid of the big blue cord running across our dining room.

And if anyone ever gets a cut and the only thing around is a 20 year old band-aid still in the wrapper, let me know I’ll be right there to help.

Friday, December 14, 2007


I am still trying to understand the rhythm of the people at work, and to fit in. There are some definite differences from the part of the organization that I worked in before. These people like to have parties and to EAT. I sit within view of the coffee room and with some regularity wonderful treats show up in there. Sometimes they are leftovers from workshops or meetings, and other times they are from the extra money from the coffee fund. A couple of times a month they have bagel and muffin day. Thursday was the annual Cheesecake Day, 3 different kinds. I had the chocolate turtle. For breakfast AND lunch. There was the big Halloween Costume business meeting and luncheon that I mentioned before, and last week was the Christmas Luncheon which featured a rather bizarre animated talking snowman. It's not all about food either, this past Tuesday was "Christmas Sweater Day" and they also do a whole variety of charity projects.

The driving force behind most of this is a very sweet woman named Amber who (among other things) is in charge of the coffee room and the party planning committee. A few weeks ago a message came out asking for volunteers for that and I was quick to respond. I love planning parties and I got a kick out of there being a committee for it like on my fave TV show The Office. When I went to the planning meeting it became clear to me that Amber already had everything figured out and was looking for people to do the footwork. I was pretty much sitting on my hands until she started talking about the charity projects, one suggestion was to do something for the troops overseas, possibly through the Aunt Nancy Project. I know Nancy! She's a former coworker and good friend of mine who started a project of sending cards and gifts to cheer up the troops since her niece was over there, and over the years it has evolved into a regular thing. Whoops my hand was in the air, that means volunteering to do it.

Another woman named Jackie teamed up with me to work on this. I liked the idea of getting to communicate with Nancy who has retired to California. She's one of those people that makes everything she's doing a bunch of crazy fun. Right away she sent me the name and information about a soldier in Iraq who is in charge of several teams of troops doing some dangerous mission. He wrote about how they liked to build relations with some of the local civilians who helped them by playing soccer with them, but didn't have nets for the goals. Also he mentioned that they liked to do things to take their minds off of the job by watching dvd's. Amber approved the funds for us to order soccer nets, and Jackie put a box in the coffee room for anyone to donate DVD's for them. I thought we might get one or two to add to some Christmas cards. We collected over 100 movies and TV shows, most of them new. Jackie and I went to the post office and shipped it out in several boxes, and I put a letter in there explaining who we were and what was included.

Well yesterday there I was sitting in my cubicle talking to someone and a guy walked up and handed me a package. It was a little thank-you note, and a folded up American Flag. There was a certificate in there that said it had been flown over their battalion in Iraq and was now being sent to us in appreciation. How very cool and unexpected. I right away got Jackie and we presented the flag to Amber. She put her hand over her heart and kind of staggered backwards a couple steps, she was overcome!

Amber is going to find a place in the office area to display the flag and certificate. It made me feel good that I was able to be a part of doing this, and as always with these types of things I seemed to get a whole lot more out of it than I put into it.

I was messaging an old friend about Sweater Day and she chuckled at the image of the people in our former department ever doing something like that. Hard to picture it. There have been the occasional attempts at social and charity activities, usually reluctantly organized by the overworked admins and a few eager up-and-comers anxious for any form of attention. I remember back when 9/11 happened and our big, loud, self-important executive director happened to have an all people's meeting just after it. He made a really corny speech and then pressured us all into pitching in money for a donation, and told us we should give blood too. I still remember sitting there snarling under my cloud of cynical negativity because it was so clear that the effort was all about him, and how good he thought it made him look to do this great thing, and the only people who put anything towards it were the ones who wanted to be seen doing it. And the coffee rooms are run by people who do it on work time and keep the profits for themselves.

I could be imagining the difference here but the thing that seems clear to me is that this new department is a place that I would like to fit in with, and I hope I eventually do.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Sweatshirt

The store is not convenient to get to, I have to drive several miles to get there, park far away, and walk through the cold to get to it. I heave open the enormous doors and my senses are accosted. Strong scented perfume shoots right up my nostrils to the back of my brain. Blaring music rocks so loudly that I can feel my eardrums vibrating. And there is a wall-sized poster of a very young man and woman with very little clothes on and very much muscle definition that I can't more than glance at because it's impossible to look at that and think of anything but...and that's just the entrance way. I walk further in and it's dark except for spotlights shining down on the racks and tables of clothes. They all have the name of the store or it's symbols plastered plainly across the front. Everything looks like it's been dragged behind a truck: the hems are ragged, the colors faded and blurry. And the prices are about 8 times of that which I could get similar, newer looking ones at Target. A beauteous floating head comes towards me. Does it come from one of those impossibly shaped headless wooden mannequins? No, it's salesgirl. She's wearing clothes that make her blend in with the rest of the store. I hold up a sweatshirt that costs as much as a new vacuum cleaner. "Does this come in extra-small?" I bellow over the music. She can't understand me. She screams: "At the mall?" I point to the tag and try to pantomime "smaller." She shrugs the negative.

This is a bad place. I seem to remember something about a problem with their catalogs being rated X by some group for the pictures in them. The prices are outrageous. It sends all of the wrong messages about status and value and other things that have little to do with clothing. Yet...

I know that my son has figured out that it is the number one place to have your clothes come from if you want to be perceived as "cool" or whatever the word is for that nowadays. And I do remember picking him up from school and seeing other kids walking out with the name across their chests. Those were the kids that walked with a confident stride, heads high. And I can still vividly remember what it feels like to be in the 7th grade, when everything is changing, and the things that matter the most are what other kids think about you, and fitting in. And the deep pain of fearing that you won't. His joy is my joy, his pain is my pain, times a thousand, this child of mine that I would do anything for: walk through a burning fire, even die myself. It even came close to that when he was born, yet I would do it again for just a moment of looking at his face. I love him so much it overwhelms me to think about it. So what price is too high to pay to put a little confidence in his stride, his head up a little higher? Well here I am paying. It costs more than money. But I pay it.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Those Crazy Cranes

Today the cranes were out on the lake. I hadn't noticed them out there for a while, and thought maybe they had migrated south for the winter. At first they looked bigger to me but then I figured out that they are standing on the lake instead of in it due to it being frozen. They still bend down and peck their beaks at the ice, which makes me wonder whether they are able to get at things somehow or if they're just not very smart.

I wish I had a better zoom on my camera so that I could get clearer pictures of these birds. They are probably between 4 and 5 feet tall and have this prehistoric look about them. Their calls are indescribable: very loud and odd sounding. I feel lucky that I get to look at them out of my window. Some of the most expensive places to stay on the Walt Disney World property are those that have a view of their safari animals. So in line with that thinking my house must be very valuable.

The most amazing thing that the cranes did recently was on Thanksgiving Day. I looked out and guess what they were doing? Hosting a party! Jeffrey thought it made perfect sense that they would have family gatherings just like we do. But if you think about it you wonder how do they get the message out to everybody? They can't exactly send out an email with the place and time. But somehow they had to communicate that because we actually watched them fly in from all directions and drift down to the meeting spot in small groups. Incredible.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Tree. Tree. I see a tree.

I hope that tree won't fall on me.

Yesterday we put up our Christmas tree. It is an artificial one. I long ago decided not to bother with the fresh-cut, but even this one seems to take an entire day. Larry has the job of getting the thing upstairs and put together, and stringing the lights around it. Then the boys and I decorate. None of our ornaments are especially valuable, but together they form a set that to me is priceless. They kind of tell a story of our Christmases as a family. The garlands are strings of pearls. This is in remembrance of the first tree I had during my brief time as a bachelorette. I went and bought a tiny potted tree for my small apartment and since I didn’t have any decorations I strung my jewelry all over it. My friends found that hilarious to no end and I like to remember them laughing about it. Then in the early marriage years nothing but beauty and glamour would do and I went to the Hudson’s Day After Christmas sales and stocked up on gorgeous blown-glass ornaments, half-off. Then the kids came along and kept bringing home creations such as a gingerbread man cut out of sandpaper, frames made from popsicle sticks, and pipe-cleaner candy canes. And my mother likes to buy them each an ornament every year, usually in the shape of things they like at the time, such as fish, frogs and fire trucks. All of this goes on there together. For a while it was sorted into zones: The glass stuff up high where I put it and the kids things low where they could reach. But now they are taller and think it is great fun to stand on the step ladder so it’s all mixed up.

So after the boys went to sleep I sat in the living room under the glow of the lights and listened to the wind beating against the house as a developing storm was sending huge gusts across the lake and sending sleet, leaves and twigs smacking against our big window.

I flipped on the TV and caught a bit of the show Desperate Housewives. A tornado was touching down on Wisteria Lane and they showed a man getting skewered by a fence picket. With that disturbing image against the soundtrack of our own storm I clicked it off and went to bed.

Around midnight Larry came and woke me up with the news that the dead tree in our backyard had crashed into the house. With heart and head pounding from the jolt of waking up, I staggered out to the living room and looked out the window to see the big dead tree forming a right triangle with our roof, just outside the window from the Christmas Tree inside. I watched Larry go out in the snow and shine a flashlight on it while the wind slapped around him all crazy. It didn’t seem to have crushed anything, it was just leaning there with one big branch flapping against the window like a great big claw trying to get in. C-click c-c-c-click. I stumbled back into bed and listened as Larry put a call into the local tree service. Then I only partially slept all night as the storm carried on and I kept listening to hear if the tree shifted or if that big arm made it into the house.

That tree has never looked very good since we moved here, it probably got injured when they built the house, and is too close to it to fully recover. But I did like that birds would land in it’s branches and we could see them close up through the window. This summer it was finally obvious that it was to be pronounced completely dead. Kendrea pointed that out when she was over having Margaritas on the deck with the Glenmoor Gals. I agreed and said we should probably take it down, in fact a tree company had put a brochure for tree removal in our mailbox that very day. "Ambulance Chasers" she called them. We both love big trees and hate to see them go away. It came up again when my brother-in-law Hal stopped by on his way back from cutting down a dead tree at his family cottage in Oxford. I pointed at ours and he looked at it and tried to figure out how it could come down without hitting the house. He’s good at thinking things through like that. A job for professionals was his assessment.

So in the morning the tree guy came and told us it would cost $300 to take it down, only $200 if he didn’t have to haul anything away. We signed up for the cheaper option, and he attached a series of pulleys and yanked the thing away from the house and right towards our deck where Larry was standing and was able to deflect it with a push so it landed diagonal across the backyard.

There really wasn’t any significant damage to the house. Good thing, because it could have gone through the window and destroyed our Christmas Tree and television. Or it could have scraped the shingles off the roof. It could have brought down the gutters. Good thing. Of course, we COULD HAVE had it taken down before this happened, but let’s not talk about that now. Anyone need some firewood?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Dinner Conversation

I had been feeling like I hadn't been out anywhere fun lately. Then today I got an email from Alisa, let's go out to dinner! Yes! Lynn could come too! So we went to Sagebrush Cantina, a very good Mexican restaurant that everyone else thinks is a good place to go for dinner on a Friday night too. We had to wait around for an hour before getting a table, but it wasn't too bad, they make excellent Margaritas there.

Do you ever look around when you are in a restaurant and wonder what the people at the other tables are talking about? Well I had the unusual sensation of feeling like I was listening in on the conversation that I was already in on. Maybe the tequila caused that. But now I will share it with you:

Alisa: Nolan swallowed a marble and thought he was going to die.

Mindy: Why was a marble in his mouth?

Lynn: I hope it wasn't magnetic. They had that on Grey's Anatomy, it was serious.

Alisa: It wasn't Magnetic, but it was from the Magnetix toys but the ball is made of metal, I checked.

Mindy: I am suprised that he put a marble in his mouth.

Lynn: Our dog swallowed a marble, but it was a real marble. I called the vet and he said if the dog didn't choke on it then it would probably poop it out.

Alisa: Nolan was scared because it hurt his throat going down. Remember when he put the corn kernel up his nose?

Mindy: That's why I'm surprised he would be putting that in his mouth. I remember the corn kernel incident was awful, he had to go to the hospital to get it out.

Lynn: And then you put the corn kernel in your scrapbook.

Alisa: Well he hasn't pooped it out yet.

Mindy: How could you possibly know that?

Lynn: I had to check the dog's poops for the marble. Since they're small I could tell.

Alisa: Nolan's poops are big and soft.

Mindy: Refried beans anyone?

Lynn: The other day Emily had a little skateboard in her mouth, and I got mad.

Alisa: I looked up "swallowed objects" on the internet, there's not much out there.

Mindy: Poison control center is very helpful. At least they were the time that Timmy bit into that glowing necklace...

And then we moved on to other subjects. It was a great night out as it always is with these good friends. And in case anyone were to look over at us and wonder what we were talking about, well, now you know.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A White November

Seasons are out of whack this fall. Some trees still have leaves when they should be down already, and now it's snowing. Pretty, though.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Ah, Thanksgiving. A National Holiday rich with tradition going all the way back to when the first pilgrims traced their hands on construction paper and made a turkey out of it. No? Oh, right, it's when we fill our hearts with gratitude for all the wonderful things in our lives such as our health, and our loved ones all around us, good food and shelter...but then what about those who aren't in such good health, or are missing someone dear to them, or lost their job and maybe their homes this year. It starts to seem like what we're really being grateful about is good thing it's them not us, and that seems uncomfortable so we donate some canned goods to the local food bank to try to even things up a bit.

I wonder if there are some billionaires sitting around the table on their own tropical island giving thanks for the private jets that got them all there, and for the skill of their personal chefs, and for how nicely the renovations to the waterfall in the pool came out. And what they're really doing is being thankful that they're not like us, and they donate an old Porsche to Mother Wattles to make themselves feel ok about that.

And then there is the vision of people who have almost nothing, but are happy and grateful anyways, like Bob Cratchit's family in A Christmas Carol. There they were all cheering around that weird figgy pudding, and cute little Tiny Tim..oh it's so confusing.

So I was going to try to come up with a list of things to be thankful about that weren't so much about having or not having, such as "the love of my family and friends" or "freedom" or "Jesus for saving our souls" or "sunsets and sunrises" but I risk making you want to hurl your sweet potato casserole all over the freshly pressed tablecloth, so I won't do that. I considered listing the irrelevant but nice things like: cranes in the lake, my close parking spot at work, blog comments, warm weather in November, a cat that curls up in my lap and purrs. Stuff that just happens, whether I deserve it or not, that makes me feel fortunate. But you know that somewhere within me is another possibly longer corollary list of irrelevant undeserved things that really TICK ME OFF and the thankfulness out there is that I'm finally learning that it's best not to go on about all of it quite so much.

So here's what Thanksgiving really means to me: Going to my Aunt Judy's house and eating the most incredible meal I will have all year. She is a phenomenal cook and goes all out to put forth this amazing spread of food for our family and hers, over 20 of us counting the kids. Of course we bring along our own pathetic little food offerings, a pie or a side dish, but it never seems like enough in comparison to what she has provided for us on that day every year. I do know that she enjoys doing this and that it's important to her to keep a connection to her brother's family and see all us kids and our kids interacting together. That's when I feel gratitude. Thankful to her for giving of her talents in a way that has come to mean so much. It makes me want to be like that. Except for the cooking part, you know how that's going for me.

This summer I got a chance. My niece and nephew were already here for a sleepover, and we worked it out that my mother and Aunt Judy would come over to visit with her two grandaughters. I served deli sandwiches so it wasn't about the food. It was about these 6 cousins, so close in age, having a ball of a time swimming in our backyard pool, going around the path in the park, and playing "tiki bar." So there we were on the patio in the perfect sunshine and the kids were serving us lemonade and cut-up hotdogs that they made themselves, and Aunt Judy was sitting there remarking about how very wonderful this day was for her. She was feeling grateful to me. How good that felt.

So that's what I think thankfulness is to me. It's being able to share the good things you do have, be it a talent for cooking or a sunny backyard, and someone appreciating it. It's such a great feeling, they should make a holiday out of it.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Go out and shoot a Feral Swine

This weekend we got an extra day off for what I call Hunting Day but is officially associated with Veterans Day, which falls earlier in the week. I have mixed feelings about hunting. I can see the attraction of hanging out in the woods, feeling close to nature, and looking for something. It's just the shooting it dead part that makes me uncomfortable. Largely because deer are so pretty, with those big eyes, and the way they run, I just love looking at them. Except when they are staring at me blank-faced from the top of a truck on I-75.

But then on the radio I found out that this year they are allowing a new kind of hunting: Feral Pigs. I never knew they existed around here, but according to the DNR they are a problem that must be stopped, and hunters are invited to take a go at it. I must say I have never seen a furry tusked pig trotting past my backyard but they are even here in this county. There's something about the mental image of those big bad hunters in their camouflage suits driving home with a pig strapped to the truck strikes me as funny and not as disturbing as the deer.

Maybe that's because I don't find pigs as pretty as deer. Or because pigs are already considered food, and deer seem more like lovely forest decorations. And I believe that pigs are supposed to be smart. Perhaps that is how they got to be feral pigs in the first place, they escaped their captivity. If they're smarter than the hunters then it could get interesting.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Mystery from the Mud

Jeffrey and his friend Jerrod were walking around out in the lake, exploring. It is still very low and mostly just mud on our side, due to the low precipitation and a broken dam. (Don't even get me started on that...) I was in the kitchen, where I could look out and see them poking around in the muck, turning over logs to see what hid beneath. Looks like I'm going to have to launder his winter jacket already, the second time he's worn it this season.

The next thing I knew, there was a cacophony of stomping up the deck stairs, shouting and shrieking and muddy hands pounding on the doorwall. Breathless, they were both talking at once: "We found something!" "There's a driver's licence!" "It's a purse!" Jerrod produces a smeary card. "I used my pocket knife to rip it open and I got this out!" (File for later consideration: a 9 year old who carries a knife) I asked where the purse was now. "It's still in the mud! We'll get it out! We need help! TIM! TIM! Get your boots on!" Of course, when nine year olds need assistance, an authority, someone with skills beyond their own, it has to be...a twelve year old!

So they managed to ply the thing out of the muck and lay out the contents on our patio for inspection. Everything was soaked in mud and badly decomposed, but you could make out the contents: A case with some glasses, 2 sets of keys, a checkbook, a 10 dollar bill, loose change, a calculator, a velvet ring box (with a folded paper in it, no ring) a matchbook, makeup.

How very interesting, to be looking at someones possessions like this, uninvited and unexpected. It reminds me of the "Artifacts of the Titanic" exhibit we went to see downtown a couple of years ago. All of those personal objects, retrieved from the bottom of the ocean after so many years, from an event so haunting and dramatic. They seemed to speak the story of the people who once owned them, crossing time and distance to that moment, right there, when you are looking at them and thinking about it. Make me wonder what someone would think if they contemplated the preserved contents of my purse: Hey look a single gold hoop earring...

So here we have an actual mystery: What in the world was the purse doing there? The location of the find is actually in a place that is difficult to get to and unlikely for anyone other than migrating deer and exploring little boys to access. Ramona was over and joined in the speculation, wide-eyed. Here are the theories they considered:

A pick pocket absconded with it from the library to our lake

An animal got ahold of it and dragged it there

The woman was going to change her identity and pitched the purse to erase all evidence of her former self

A murder case...maybe she was buried in the muck along with her purse! (They went to check, no bones found)

Eventually, they agreed upon the one most plausible solution, to their childhood minds, which was, of course:

It must have been dropped from a hot air balloon flying over the lake, as they often do. Yes, that has to be it, they concluded.

Back in the house, the obvious first thing to do was go to the internet and check the National Registry of Missing Persons for the name from the license. Nothing. Next, I googled the name, looking for clues. Not much came up, but there were some videos posted under that name, mostly scenes from a drag race. I couldn't identify the location of the track. There was one video with people in it, a woman doing a silly dance...hey she just mooned the camera! I was trying to match her face with the tiny picture on the driver's liscence when Larry walked in holding the local phone book and dialing the cordless telephone. "I'm calling her." No answer.

Jerrod's father came to the door looking for his muddy son who enthusiatically related the whole exciting story. He asked if we had called the police. Um, no, but we could do that too, sure!

Well, eventually we did reach her on the phone and arranged for her to stop by the next day to pick up her purse. She explained that it had been stolen from her car when it was parked at the house two doors down from ours. Her son had borrowed her car and was over there visiting late at night. She was incredibly nice and certainly not the woman from the internet videos. She said it felt a little weird that strangers had looked in her purse (if only she knew!) So we handed her the plastic bags full of muddy purse contents and she handed each of the boys a gift card to ColdStone Creamery as a reward.

I have to wonder if this is one of those situations that the kids will recall someday when they are older and more tuned in to the realities of the world. When they'll look back at the situations that seemed so incredible and thrilling from a childish perspective, and sit around and recall them with a "hey, remember the time" and for a moment the magic is back. When everything was perceived with the possibility of adventure and excitement. For now we don't know, but the ice cream was really good.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Unpack Your Adjectives

I drove the boys over to the high school to sign them up for wrestling. There is always wrestling going on in our house and it drives me crazy, so I figured this was a way to get them to do it in a place where there aren't any table lamps and maybe release some energy. I can get my money back if they don't like it after the first two practices so I agreed to the sign up even though Sharon told me that I will hate it. I suspect that she is right but we'll see what the boys say.

Anyways, we were driving home and Jeffrey was poking Tim in the back of the head and I had to holler at them to be quiet and don't make me have to stop the car! So it was quiet for a few moments as we drove along and then I heard a little lilting voice singsonging: Un-pack... your first I wasn't sure if it was coming from the deep recesses of my inner brain, like a leak or something. I asked "What was that?" Timmy hesitated, and then said, "we're learning about adjectives in school, and the teacher played a video." So the rest of the way home the three of us sang the chorus loudly and repeatedly, and when we got there we looked it up.

It is, of course, from the Schoolhouse Rock series of mini-cartoons that played in between Saturday morning TV shows as a sort of mental experiment on the young Generation Xers to see if they could sneak some education into our brains sideways in between episodes of Bugs Bunny and Scooby Doo. I don't know if it made anyone smarter but those SONGS will be forever burned into my memory. I just wasn't expecting one of them to come out of my own kid's mouth like that.

It turns out that this one was first shown in 1975. I was ten, about the same as Jeffrey is now. And try not to think about this: Tim's 7th grade teacher that showed this video was born in 1981. He probably thinks of it as some quaint retro curiosity. I suppose it is.

So you too can have this tune playing uncontrollably across your consciousness, here it is. This is my first time posting a video on this blog, let me know if it causes you any problems.

Grammar Rock Adjective

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Contempt of Court

Maybe you remember the time I stopped to help after witnessing the Rollover accident, and then later got subpoenaed to court as a witness. I like to think of my self as a good citizen, which is why I stopped at the accident scene in the first place, and why I planned to attend the trial. That and the fact that the subpoena was an official document with a Seal of the Supreme Court on it and had this sentence in bold black print:


This wouldn't have been too difficult except that the court date was for October 31. I happen to have other things to do that day, #1 being be at work, and I'm out of vacation days. But I asked and found out that there is a policy for this and I would be excused similar to jury duty. #2 is that it is a half-day at the elementary school. So I signed Jeffrey up for a field trip with the extended day program. It's expensive but I wanted to make sure he would be cared for. #3 is that I have always attended (and often organized) the class party and school parade, usually I use vacation time for this important day. This time I donated chips ahead of time and hoped that if my obligation at the court ended early there might be time for me to at least stop in. #4 is that Halloween is always a day with a huge traffic jam because all of the working husbands have been instructed to get home early enough for trick or treating. #5 is that at work they were having a week long international business meeting in my department, and the highlight was to be a department-wide luncheon that day with everyone in costume. On my very first day when I met the executive director he encouraged me to participate in this. Since I knew I couldn't be there, I offered to help organize my work group's costumes, there was a circus theme. I put together a spreadsheet of costume ideas, and my boss liked the "Lion Tamer" idea. He would say he needed to talk to me and I'd get the status of my project together only to find out it was about the costumes. I had to repeatedly explain why I would be absent that day, and did not pay for the lunch.

The subpoena came with a letter from the attorney that contained the line:

"It is always wise to call the court the day before, or the day of the scheduled hearing to verify that the case has not been rescheduled."

So I did that, and after finally getting through the recorded-menu maze I got a clerk on the line and asked about this case, by number. She looked it up and said: " looks like that was rescheduled for October 23...but the defendant didn't show up." Incredulous, I asked: "So I shouldn't go anywhere? Why wasn't I informed of the change?" She assured me that there was nothing for me to attend, but suggested I call the lawyer's office for an explanation.

So I did, and got an assistant on the phone. I asked her if I would be in contempt of court for not showing up anywhere. She said no. But why wasn't I told of anything? She said: "Oh, well that's why we put that disclaimer on there, because we really don't keep track of who we sent subpoenas to."

I am flabbergasted.
I ended up working from home that day and taking an hour to go over to the school, and of course having a good Halloween. But still...just who was in contempt of whom in this case?

contempt (kən-těmpt') –noun
1.the feeling with which a person regards anything considered mean, or worthless; disdain; scorn.
2.the state of being despised; dishonor; disgrace.
a.willful disobedience to or open disrespect for the rules or orders of a court (contempt of court) or legislative body. act showing such disrespect.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick or Treat

Things I love about this night:

All the neighborhood lit up, and everyone is out in it.

Adorable little toddlers dressed as fuzzy animals who just make noises for "trick or treat."

Our porch decorations, added to every year, to make sure our house is a "must go to."

Giving out glowing bracelets to the kids that I know the best.

The little Smiles girls, even more lovely when dressed up like princesses.

Timmy stopping home for a minute and letting me dig out some chocolates to munch while I sat on the porch.

When Tim's friend Lewis was at our house when they finished the sub, and he laid down on the lawn and then jumped at kids that walked by.

When Missy the cat went darting out into the darkness and thank goodness we caught her.

Jeffrey as Elvis saying "Thank you, thankyouverymuch" and getting a laugh.

When the little Spartan football players thanked me for putting on the sub parade on Sunday.

That Nee Nee who moved away this year was in the neighborhood again, but crying because she missed everyone.

That a lot of the dads walking down the street were carrying "beverages."

The sense of community I get when I realize I know almost all of these people and their kids.

When people know about my kids allergies and try to give them candy they can have.

Betsy the spoiled little white dog in costume.

Scaring the kids with our bowl with the fake hand on the outside and the black glove on the inside.

That the blasting rain paitently waited until after it was al over to come pouring down.

And my favorite, when a girl looked at me and asked: "Is that your real hair?"

Friday, October 26, 2007

And what are you supposed to be?

Today was the deadline for getting Jeff's Halloween costume ready: the first party of the season. After this it's the subdivision parade that I organize every year, and then his class party and finally trick-or-treating on Halloween night. There is less for Tim to do this year, but he is going to go trick-or-treating. At first we had the idea that they could be the guys from their favorite TV show "Mythbusters" and we started thinking up how to do those costumes but I was concerned that when Jeff went to things alone his wouldn't make sense. And then he announced that he wanted to be ELVIS. How could I argue with that one? Luckily they had an Elvis costume at our local costume shop, although I had to spend a little more on it than I would have liked. I figure that there aren't many big costume years left, so I justified the splurge. Plus Tim's costume won't cost that much, he wants to be a Christmas tree, and I think we already have everything we need in storage.

I just love the Halloween holiday for a lot of reasons, but most of all the dressing up. It is great fun to pull together an outfit, making every detail just right. And you get to pretend to be someone else, it's fun! I already wrote about the ill-fated orange-princess-over-the-winter-jacket fiasco from my childhood (Oh look she's a pumpkin!) but that didn't stop me from trying again every year. In my memory the costume thing was left up to us kids to figure out from what we had around the house, we rarely went out and bought anything. And if you weren't creative the fallback was "bum." Nowadays that would translate to "Homeless Person" and would be extremely politically incorrect.

Another way I know that times have changed is when I look at the flyer for Halloween USA that comes in the mailbox this time of year. It lends credence to the scene in the movie "Mean Girls" where Halloween is a contest for who can look the sluttiest. I know that it wasn't that way when I was that age, at least for me. In those years I made good use of my Grandpa's high quality Knights of Columbus cape and went as a witch.

It's been a while since I've had the occasion to dress up myself. Probably not since last year for Alisa's groovy 60's party. Which was great fun, I found the best miniskirt, and then went and got a lot of mod accessories to go with it. I know I put far more effort into that getup than I would for a similar event wearing "regular clothes." It was a great party, and all of the outfits were hilarious. When I showed my mother the pictures, she gasped. She was horrified that we were wearing things that she used to wear, and now they were silly costumes.

So when do someone's "regular clothes" become a costume? When Elvis Presley pulled on his white jumpsuit could he ever have imagined that 30 years after his death a 9 year old kid would be instantly recognizable as him when dressed that way? I fear that anything we are wearing, at any time could someday be considered a "costume." In a way, everything is. Any time I assemble a special "look" that's really what I'm doing. I'm dressing up like a bike rider, or a wedding guest, or an engineer, witness in a courtroom, stay at home mom going to pick her kid up at the bus stop.

I remember in college the sorority had a special event called "Senior Send Off" where the juniors would make a special breakfast for the graduating seniors, and then perform skits making fun of them. And they would dress up like the person by sneaking into the closets and pulling out someone's signature "look". It was hilarious. And I still remember when a girl named Julie dressed up like me; she put on my ratty old plaid bathrobe and carried an engineering textbook and a pile of junk food.

So maybe that line in between everyday fashions and way out there costumes is actually more of a blur. But if you think about it: if someone went as YOU, what would they have on?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Like lipid pools of nuclear waste

My eyes have been bothering me when I have my contacts in, and I am starting to get that problem of not being able to read things with small print. I did pick up some very cute purple reading glasses with little rhinestones at Target, but they don't really work for me. So I went to the optometrist, it was time for that anyways. When I got there the desk girl showed me a description of a new machine that they have that takes a picture of your retina. It isn't covered by insurance, she said, but it can find serious problems. I agreed and I got to look into this enormous space-age looking contraption. When I went back into the dark eye exam room, the Dr. pulled up a picture on her screen of my eyes. Left eye looked good, right eye has a little white blob on it. She pointed it out and told me that is what something called "mascular degeneration" would look like, but in my case it was probably just a reflection. They we did the "what is the last line that you can read" routine and she gave me a package of new contact lenses to try. We were going to do an experiment of what she called "monovision" where one eye is for close up and the other is for far. Okay. Then I went back to the desk girl and forked over a pile of money for the retina scan and contact lens fitting.
Well by the time I got home my vision was already weird, but she told me it would take a while to get used to it. For the next several days my vision got worse, especially in my right eye. At work it got so bad I could barely read my computer. Good old Bob tried to help, he got a box for me to put my computer on to position it for better viewing. He suggested that sometimes vision problems are caused by diabetes. Another symptom of that is extreme thirst. Hey, I have been feeling thirsty. I also made the mistake of mentioning this to my mother, who totally freaked out and looked up vision problems in "Merck's Manual" and came up with a big list of horrifying things that could be wrong with me, and then kept calling me to ask about it. Finally it got so bad that I just ripped the contacts out and turned to wearing my glasses, which I don't normally do because they make me look like Jimmy Neutron's teacher Mrs. Fowell. And I went back to the optometrist.
I told her about my bad vision, hurting eyes, and sense of terror about the inconclusive retina scan. She re-did the scan, and then checked my eyes another way by putting in florescent yellow eye drops. That allowed her to scan for scratches with a black light. After she put the drops in there was nothing to wipe my eyes with so she went looking for kleenex while I blinked and cried this stuff all over my face. Finally, she was able to determine that there's nothing seriously wrong with my eyes or vision. It was that the contacts I was trying were a smaller diameter than my usual ones and had irritated my eyes. She ordered a different kind and wrote me a prescripton for eye drops.
Since I was nearby I went to Kroger to get the prescription. While I was there I walked around the store looking at things. I like that center aisle called "seasonal." I was looking at the Halloween decorations, there were all kinds of spooky things with fake blood and yellow eyes...YELLOW EYES! I hadn't looked in a mirror since she put the eyedrops in! I was a spooky thing with florescent yellow eyes! I hurried home as quickly as I could, I hope I didn't scare anybody too much.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Get thee to a Monastery

The city that we live in is at the very outer edge of what can be described as a metropolitan area. It is only in recent years that it started to become "suburban" with new construction popping up all around the few structures that were already there. The "country." So we have these recent subdivisions all mixed in with cottages and some formerly secluded properties such as the Dominican Sisters Motherhouse that I have mentioned before. It is actually a campus of buildings that consists of an old mansion facing a small lake with a darling white glassed in gazebo, a daycare/preschool, several structures for retreats and offices, a small cemetery, the giving garden, and a main structure that is newer which is really a nursing home for nuns and a chapel that is open to the public for mass on Sundays. There used to be an old abandoned mental hospital on some property in the back and I when I would ride my bike around there I'd get a creepy feeling. Then they sold that property and ripped it down and built luxury homes where it used to be. (Do they know?) We often attend mass at the chapel and I get to see the nuns. Mainly they are extremely elderly but there are a few "younger" ones (in their 60s) who always impress me as sort of strong yet gentle women in incredibly comfortable looking shoes.

Several miles east down the same road is a Benedictine Monastery. The road is dirt and it goes up a hill where the land is still mainly undeveloped, very beautiful area. On my more ambitious bike rides I used to go past the entrance and wonder about it. You can only see the sign and a driveway through the woods from the road. I always wanted to make a lot of noise when I drove by, break that vow of silence, but I didn't.

Then recently I found out that they have mass there that the public can attend. A chance to satisfy my curiosity! I have this fascination about monks, and it's not from reading The Mermaid Chair in book club. Really. I just wonder what they're all about.

So today we went there and I got to take these pictures so I could share them with you. It would have been a great place for viewing the fall colors except for that the odd weather we've had has made for a dud of a color season so far. The property sits upon the highest point in Oakland county, and the view from the chapel is incredible. It is nothing like I expected. I guess I thought it would be dark and gothic and made of crumbling stone. The architecture is very unusual and it seems relatively new.

The monks were there, there are only about 1/2 dozen of them, and they look like normal men. They were wearing black robes with hoods, but they had normal dress shoes on with them, not ropey sandals. Apparently they spend their time in this beautiful place tending to their large garden, playing with their 2 large dogs, doing art, writing poetry, and praying. It sounds lovely, doesn't it. Oh! And they make jam and salad dressing. I know this because it was there in THE GIFT SHOP!!! Yes, there really is a gift shop there. Now you know too.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

High Maintenance

"Did anyone ever tell you you're high maintenance?"

That's what the man who sits across the aisle asked me today. The answer is NO, I have not been told that. The situation at the moment was there were 2 facilities men laying on the floor of my cubicle with flashlights and tools trying to rescue my lunchbag and purse who had somehow gotten themselves trapped inside my desk file drawer. They finally got it open by smashing into the thing with a giant bang and then wrenching it open. Before I called them I had asked Bob to to help to try to get the drawer open and we tried our own series of banging and jimmying and wrenching.

Earlier in the day I had decided that the screen on my laptop was too smeary and asked Bob if he had any cleaner for it, which he did but when we inspected it decided it might not be the right kind and I got the IT guy to give me a special little wipe, like a wet-nap. And I also noticed that my cubicle smelled weird and ended up going to Wal-Mart at lunchtime and buying some citrus scented cleaner, and showing it to Bob. And the day before I had managed to pinch a nerve in my back by sitting down too quickly. When I complained about it to Bob he showed me some stretches that might help and we stood in our cubicles practicing them.

Oh dear. I have become "high maintenance." When did that happen? It must stop.

Note to self: Try not to bother poor old Bob so much.

Sunday, October 7, 2007


We are having a bout of unusual weather for early October. It is in the 80's, sunny and humid. I am LOVING it. One last blast of the weather I like the best. Today I took a long bike ride where I could see a lot of the lakes around here, and then I planted some tulip bulbs that Jeff and I grabbed last week when we were at the hardware store for something else. They caught my eye because they contained my favorite tulip that I had at our last house, called Shirley. It is an ivory color with a purple edging, almost lacy looking. And I always remembered that name, it reminds me of my best friend's mother. I wonder if she knows she has a flower namesake. I've always liked it that roses and some tulips have names, it adds to the fun. The other ones I put in today are called Demeter, and "Mauve Mix." (boring!) I like planting bulbs in the fall because when they come up in the spring I get to remember what I was doing when I planted them. And they look so great when everything else is still struggling to get going. But then there are those ugly brown stems to look at later. I know that there are ways to hide them but I've never had success at that. If all goes well then sometime in May I will put up pictures of beautiful flowering tulips.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Potential Chaos

There were two big “news items” recently that I found I had a similar reaction to. The first was the national strike at GM last week. I drove to work hearing about how the strike was set to begin at 11:00 am unless an agreement was reached. So at 10:59 I got up and asked people if a bell was going to go off, or what. There wasn’t much activity that I could notice but at the end of the day there were some picketers at the end of the drive into the property. It was nice out so I had my windows down, and when I stopped at the light there was a man standing there with his sign, just a couple of feet away. It was hard not to make eye contact, and he had one of those blue worker shirts on, and reminded me of my Grandpa. I said “Well you got a nice day for this.” He nodded. Light still red, I went on: “I hope it doesn’t have to last too long.” He nodded again. Then the light turned. “I wish you well with it!” I said as I pulled away, and he kind of lifted his sign to me, like a thank-you gesture. The next day at work there were a lot of emails about what to do if strikers tried to block your entrance, and how to avoid altercations with them. There were also emails about how our building would be affected, such as closing down some of the bathrooms, and what to do with your food garbage since building maintenance is union. I was amused to see some ladies in high heels struggling to empty a garbage can into a dumpster. (They had supervisors performing some of their worker’s tasks.) And I wondered whether I as being a SCAB when I walked over to the main garbage area to toss out my apple core, instead of letting it rot in the can at my desk. But then agreement was reached and it was all over. Inventory adjustment? We’ll never know.

The other was the big buildup to the state government shutdown that was going to happen by Sunday night if a budget agreement wasn’t achieved. Since I was up north watching silly movies I was insulated from a lot of that but I still had the sensation of going to bed not knowing if the next morning there would be prisoners out roaming the streets and people not being able to apply for trailering licenses or whatever the impact would be. But agreement was reached and everything went back to normal except for the effects of the new budget on taxes and services.

All of this reminded me of the time we all believed that some BIG thing was going to happen which was Y2K, when all of the computers were going to shut down on New Year’s Day 2000 and so we had to fill our tanks with gas and bathtubs with water and buy cans of SPAM to eat when all of the grocery stores shut down after the looting was over and there would be no food left and giraffes would roam the streets since the gates to the zoo were electronic. I felt a kind of disappointment that I didn’t go to any parties that year because we were sitting at home checking the batteries in our flashlights. And then the next day when Larry said he had to go to the store because we were out of diapers and formula and I had to think what were we doing with SPAM and all this bottled water but not enough supply of the essential things for our baby to last even 2 days? But again, nothing actually happened after all the big buildup.

I am almost ashamed to admit that there is a small part of me in these situations that wants to wish that the BIG THING will happen, and shake everyone up and out of their mundane daily lives and force them to really think about who and what is important, and sort of start over with a fresh perspective, do it all different. This is probably why I even LIKE it where there are disaster drills at work, where everyone has to stop what they are doing and go and stand in the hall, or outside. And there we all are, a big group of carbon-based life forms all equal as we follow the instructions, and no one gets out of it just because they have an office with walls or wear a blue work shirt or have the authority to put a stop to that Engineering Change you were trying to get approved. Just for that moment, we are all just people who just might need each other’s help someday just because they are they ones standing nearby when IT happens.

And of course there have been some actual BIG THINGS that actually have happened such as 9/11 and Katrina that maybe could have resulted in everything changing for the better, but then, sadly, didn’t.

Maybe it’s time I realize that there isn’t going to be some external BIG THING that comes along and rocks my world. But I can rock my own world by making big changes like the ones I have in the last year. And though they don’t affect the collective consciousness of the people around me like I wish something would, I now know that I do have the power within me to shake things up enough to make it all seem different. Even if only just a little.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Packing List for Chick Trip

Tomorrow evening I'm heading up north for a girl's scrapbooking weekend. Everyone shares responsibility for meals, and because of That One Time (Okay, those VERY FEW times) that I just happened to fill the cottage up with smoke in my attempts to make French Toast, I am in charge of "other." Here is what I have ready:

2 Rental Movies: "Evening" and "Music and Lyrics." Chick Flicks. There will also be the full series of SATC. We have been known to just put "Bridget Jones Diary" in and let it repeat in a continuous loop, but it's time for something new.

Ho-Ho's. Hostess brand, not the Little Debbie kind that I picked up once when I was in a rush, and will now forever be know as "Faux Ho's." Also Raspberry Milano Cookies, Gihardelli Mint Chocolates, and frozen turtle cookie dough.

Kettle flavor popcorn, Garlic Hommous, Salsa, and Chips.

Frozen Pizza Rolls


Margarita Mix

Oprah Magazine

Paper plates and napkins. I went with a red-and-white checkered theme. No one wants to do dishes.

Plus my clothes and gaint roller-luggage of scrapbooking supplies, ready to go.

I'm looking forward to a fun weekend. I hope you have a good one too!


We had a nice time, and I got a lot of pages done. I brought too much food (possible oxymoron?) and those two movies were BAD. I still don't understand why the nurse was wearing that white party dress. But it's always great to get away, and have fun being with the girls.