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?