Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Aunt Mindy's Cooking House of Danger

I had this great idea. Cale and Ramona, my niece and nephew, were going to be spending Sunday night at our house, and I thought of something fun for all of us to do on Monday. We were going to COOK.

Both Jeff and Cale are always watching cooking shows on The Food Network, and they both received a video game for their Nintendo DS called "Cooking Personal Trainer." It walks you through each step of a recipe with detailed instructions, and you can interact with it through voice commands. Brilliant! Since of course I know nothing about cooking this seemed like a way we could all learn together.

I drove all the kids and the game to Meijer where we picked out and purchased the items we would need. We even bought a pan. We had to double the recipe, so the kids got to practice their math skills! They had selected Chicken Chillindrone which is from Spain. (Sneaking in some Geography here too)

As soon as we got home the kids divvied up the peppers, onions, garlic, and ham that needed to be cut up. Then Jeff handed out cutting boards and knives. They enthusiastically chopped away and were very careful about avoiding their fingers. They were less careful about setting the knives down hanging over the edge of the counter, or walking to the sink while swinging them around. Luckily there was no blood but there were a lot of tears from those onions.

The program said that the recipe would take 35 minutes to prepare, and even times the steps for you. I had the kids calculate back when they would need to start the cooking in order to have it ready to serve when Mary Beth came at 5:30. (Time management!)

It told us to use chicken legs with the bones still in, and to cut it up into pieces. What size pieces? We squinted at the picture but it just looked like thighs and drumsticks to me, which is how we bought them. I remembered how my mom always talks about the germs on Chicken, and washes it. So I had Cale do that, and then wash his hands.

It said to cook the chicken in some oil until it was brown on one side. Cale put the chicken pieces in the pan but they didn't fit, so we added another pan to the stove. They started to hiss and pop and spray oil all over the place. The kids got scared because it hurt when it went on their arms. The chicken did not turn brown in the ten minutes that the game told us to cook it before turning over, so they had to keep yelling "repeat"into the screen to keep it going.

Ramona was safely in the other room, ironing the tablecloth.

The next step was to create a white wine reduction sauce. They all wanted to know if this would make them drunk. The game didn't say but I told them that I didn't think so as Jeff poured in the Chardonnay. Mary Beth arrived and the meal was nowhere near complete. It was time to add the vegetables but when they did that it sputtered and Jeff got a little burned on his arm. He gave me the onions to put in and as I did that some oil splattered onto my hand, I screamed and dumped the onions all over the floor.

We scrambled all around trying to clean up the mess and get the rest of the steps completed.

An hour and a half later than we had estimated, Ramona lit the candles on the table and we enjoyed the meal. Cale noted that it took only minutes to consume yet hours to prepare.

The next day I was talking to my mother and I asked her about washing the chicken. She said that she always washes and then dries the meats, otherwise the water will make the oil spatter all over. And there's the lesson that I learned from this experiment. A computerized program can be very good at telling you what to do and when to do it, but it would take a person to look at what you are doing wrong and tell you not to do it. Lesson served!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Boxing Day Product Reviews

Well it's the day after Christmas and we are surrounded by piles of new stuff. For your reading convenience, I am providing useful product reviews of some of our family's newly acquired possessions:

Weather Prediction Machine

This handy gadget is supposed to predict the weather, but it did not include the information of the message of the girl or the boy being outside of the house. But it does mean something, and it looks as cute as the dickens hanging in my kitchen where the vegetable clock used to be.

+3 for retro kitchyness, -1 for unclear meaning.

IPod Nano

This was Jeffrey's number one wish this Christmas, and he got it, even though there are many more appropriate items for a ten year old to own.

+5 for being a newer version than the one that Timmy has. -1 for being small enough to possibly get put through the wash if left in a pocket.


This is a new product that is very popular, and Timmy likes it.

+3 for getting a thirteen-year-old interested in anything hygiene related. -3 for being a whole new way to annoy your little brother.

ZBT Cymbals

Timmy wanted to upgrade the high-hat cymbals that came with the "pre-owned" drumset that he got for his birthday. He says that they are far better than the ones that he had before.

+3 stars for crisp sound. -1 for being machine instead of hand-hammered. Whatever that means.

Noise Canceling Headphones

Mary Beth got an awesome deal on these by standing in line at 4am for the Kohl's Black Friday Sale. Worth it. I think they will change my life. They really do cancel out annoying sounds such as the moaning of our haunted refrigerator, the whirring of the computer, and, I'm hoping, the voice of that loud lady at work and all the lawnmowers in the summer.

+7 for actually working, -1 for making me look like a dork when I wear them.

Golf Ball Finder Glasses

My mom got these for Larry, and we have all looked through them but have yet to see any golf balls around, so I can't tell you whether or not they really work. But if they actually do, then think of the possibilities if they can expand this technology to other areas such as finding keys or TV remotes, or a pen to write something down when I'm on the phone.

+ 10 if they really do work, -5 if they don't but he can fake it and impress the golf partners anyways.

Chia Cat Grass

This actually did grow from seeds to 6 inch tall grass in 3 days. Jeffrey had set it up under a desk lamp in my bedroom closet (to keep it secret from Missy.) She loves it!

+10 for making our cat happy.


I almost didn't get this because there were 19 scathing bad reviews online, and only two moderately good ones. But I had to know. So thanks to lots of hinting and societal pressure from the Glenmoor Gals, Larry reluctantly got it for me. I set it up right after opening it on Christmas morning, and it promptly broke. One of the little flipper-arms came completely off and the batter distributor stopped working after 2 attempts. I nearly gave up but then I figured out a way to manually operate some of the parts and at least get a couple of donuts out of it. I was not discouraged, because I could visualize the wonder of how it would work if it really did...work. So I took it back to JC Penny today and exchanged it for a new one that performs perfectly!!! Yummy!

+ 10 for delivering hot crispy donuts just like the ones they used to have at Comerica Park. -1 for being so greasy fattening.

If you got anything interesting for Christmas, put your review in the comments or send me a link and I'll post it here.

Happy Boxing Day to the Canadians!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Joy to the World!

Merry Christmas! I hope you got what you wanted too.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Winter Travel Advisory

Well GM got the bailout money and as far as I know I am still employed. Now I'm on vacation. Somehow I ended up with a few leftover vacation days and so the Christmas break is a long one for me this year. The kids have a lot of time off from school too.

I decided that this might be a good opportunity for us to go somewhere. Since we have a little bit of money available and investing it no longer holds any appeal I am going with new approach which is to spend. I looked into cheap last minute flights to Florida, but that still seemed like a lot for a last-minute trip. Plus the weather still might not be so great there. So I decided to take the boys to the Kalahari Indoor water park in Ohio. Since Larry still has to work I invited my nephew Cale to come along. It is less than a 3 hour drive from here, so the only weather risk is a sudden blizzard but I think I can vary the travel times to get around that if I have to.

I was upstairs packing the boys bathing suits when my mother called.

"So I heard about this thing you are doing." Translation: I can't believe you are risking the lives of my precious grandchildren by driving somewhere in the winter.

I put some T-shirts into the suitcase. "Yes, the boys are really looking forward to it."

"Did you see the weather report? They are predicting 25 mile per hour winds."

"Well, it looks like most of the snow will be North of here, and I think we should be able to make it to Ohio." I said as I tucked in some extra socks.

"It could be dangerous. Are you PREPARED to do this?"

I folded Jeff's pajamas neatly so they would lay flat. "Yes! Timmy and I went to get the car washed this afternoon, and we bought gum and snacks for the drive."

Her voice started taking on a mild shriek tone. "A car wash isn't going to help you get there safely. Do you have EMERGENCY SUPPLIES?" I remembered that my mother always has a "winter emergency kit" in her trunk. It includes a coffee can and candle for melting snow to delay death by dehydration. She went on. "What if you get stuck? Do you have a small shovel in the car? And a bag of kitty litter for traction?"

I did buy a new ice-scraper at the car wash. I stretched that one. "Yes, I have some supplies for that."

"What about a blanket? And extra food?"

"Sure!" I figured I might have some beach towels with us, and those car snacks count as food.

She wasn't letting up. "How about flares? Do you have flares in your emergency kit in case you have to send out a signal?"

I was trying to think if we had anything that lights up, but then I realized what was happening here. "Mom, I am going to be on a major, highly traveled highway the entire trip. In the daytime. And I have a cell phone. And if the weather is just too bad we'll wait to leave. I don't think I'll be needing flares."

"Well, I just don't know about this. I hope you're ok."

I told her that we would call her once we arrived there safely, so she could suspend her worrying until we had to drive home on Tuesday. She reluctantly accepted this. I said goodbye and added a sweatshirt and zipped up the suitcase.

And now I'm really hoping that the weather doesn't get too bad. But once we get there is should be a lot of fun. I'll let you know how it goes.


Well, the weather was pretty crummy but we made it there and back without event. Larry put a large snow shovel and boots for everyone into the trunk, but we did not need them. When we stopped to pick up Cale Mark topped off the washer fluid in my car and Mary Beth gave me a bag of chocolates, which did come in handy.

The water park was awesome, we stayed indoors the entire time, and would only occasionally glimpse the snow outside through the windows from atop a giant waterslide. It was an African themed water paradise. Every once in a while I would notice that the piped-in music was a Christmas Carol, which seemed comically out of place, but I'm not complaining. The boys had a wonderful time and I was glad to get away from everything and take them there.

Monday, December 15, 2008

This Thing

I was surprised when Jeffrey eagerly agreed to go to the store with me to buy the cream cheese I needed for a party that night. He was surprised when we pulled up at the small market by our house.

"I thought we were going to Meijers." He complained.

I asked him why he wanted to go there, and he showed me that he'd brought along his wallet.

"I wanted to buy something." He told me.

"What were you going to buy?" I wanted to know.

"Well, it's something that the other kids are playing with at school, and I wanted to get one too."

I was interested in the idea of a toy that he might want, I've been wanting to get him a couple more small gifts for Christmas, and he's almost outgrown most of the stuff in the toy aisle these days. I told him that he shouldn't be buying himself anything this close to Christmas, but that he should describe it to me, just in case I happen to be communicating with Santa in the coming days.

"Well, it's this thing, where a thing comes out of the thing." He tells me.

Not very helpful. I ask for a better description.

"I think that there is a TV show of it. And it starts with a "B."

And that's all I could get out of him. Then later I was describing this conversation to a friend at a party, and she knew what he was talking about! The hot toy of the season! She described it a little better, and I went to the toy aisle at Target, and there it was! So I bought him one.

I would tell you what it's called, but I already forgot, except that it starts with a "B," there's a TV show of it, and "the thing comes out of the thing."

OK, figured it out. Here it is:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

On Donuts, Snowcream, Elvis, and the Bailout.

You might be wondering what it's like to be working at GM these days, being that we're all over the news with goings on about bailouts and loans and such.

Well, it has changed some things and not others. At the moment everyone who still works here keeps coming in to work each day and doing what they are supposed to do. Sometimes I hear people walking out of the coffee room talking about the very incredible news events as they unfold each day. For a while I was reading all about it and listening to the news on the radio in my car. I found myself agreeing with the points made by GM (you can read their official positions here) but then sometimes I would find myself nodding along with what the critics had to say too. The conflict of it was too much for me so I switched the to Elvis Radio on XM, broadcasting straight from Graceland! Much better.

Some of the people around here seem nervous, and there are signs of things being different. The shop went to a 4-hour workday. It's kind of spooky to drive up in the morning to an empty parking lot and the lights out in the area that I have to walk through to get to my desk. They have also turned down the temperature to save money, and so it is uncomfortably cold in the office area. Bob has taken to wearing a hat while he works.

But there are occasional bright spots such as today which was bagel day. (FYI it's funded by coffee profits.) You never know when bagel day is going to come and today I had already eaten a half bagel from home on my commute, so I picked out a donut. It was the kind with no hole and chocolate frosting on the top. I expected there to be custard inside but was caught by surprise when it turned out to be LEMON filling. That's just wrong. Of course I ate it anyways, and then later noticed there was a similar donut in there but with nuts sprinkled on the top. I had to know. Sure enough, my investigation proved that the nuts indicate the filling type. Very useful information. I told Bob that I wished I could erase the calories of the first, wrong donut after I had discovered and eaten the correct one. He suggested exercises that I could do in my cubicle. Another guy was listening and came up with an invention for exercising using hangers tied together with rubber bands. This got us to imagining the possibilities in the wide-open field of cubicle exercise. Then we stopped that and got back to work.

It has been said that if they don't get the bailout (loan!) money that GM could cease to exist. That's difficult to even imagine. So many people have had their entire careers here. At least I had my little break about a year ago, and I think that gives me some perspective on what life could be like without GM. Others are faced with considering it for the first time. Often that can lead to interesting conclusions. In addition to cubercise inventions, one co-worker came up with this alternative career idea:
Can you just imagine the fun of pushing this thing around all day selling "snow cream" to happy customers? But don't even think about getting one for yourself, we don't want too much competition around here. And if my kids ever see this I'll never get them to go to college.

So while dreams of alternative careers and Rockabilly avoidance techniques are helpful, there isn't much else to do except keep on working, and perhaps contacting a Senator in the hopes of influencing the outcome their vote, or buying a car. I can get you the employee discount again, now through Jan 5.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Abraham Lincoln

My niece Ramona is a lovely little girl. She can sing like a bird, turn a cartwheel, dance ballet, and look as pretty as any picture when she wears a dress.

She also likes collecting rocks, and fishing, and recently ate an anchovy. But, I have also seen her flat out refuse to try something she doesn't want to do, such as go on a roller coaster, jump off a diving board, or let me braid her hair.

I used to be concerned when she wouldn't try something new, because as the only girl in the next generation of our immediate family, I don't want her to believe that she is limited in any way because of her gender. But as she has gotten older I see that she is perfectly fine at keeping up with the boys, and is confident in selecting for herself what activities she will or will not decide to participate in.

And I think it's great that there could now be a generation of girls growing up in a world where they not only can believe they can do anything, but can actually do it. In my case I think I had the believing part down, but when it came to the doing, such as being an automotive engineer, it was harder than I expected in a world where there were so many other people who felt that some jobs were just for men. By the time Ramona grows up I think that will finally have changed.

So maybe she really can do anything. Even be President of the United States. In fact, she already knows that. She can even be a specific President, such as Abraham Lincoln. All she needs is to make a construction paper hat, draw a beard on some paper, cut it out, and tape it to her face. Oh, and memorize the beginning of the Gettysburg Address. All because she read a biography for school, and decided to "add a little extra" to the presentation. Yes, she can.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Go to Bohemian Rhapsody

My cousin Pammy just opened a new store on 4th street in Royal Oak. Check it out if you are in the area, or read the review:

Say hi to Pam if you go during the day. The store is an extension of her exquisitely fun and funky sense of style, as you can tell from these pics.

Monday, December 1, 2008

How to make a snow day

We got a lot of snow yesterday. It's early in the year to have this much, and I hope it's not a sign of the winter yet to come. We seem to live right on the edge of some weather system, because just a few miles south of here they hardly have any, and at my mother's house there's no snow on the ground at all.

The kids remembered all the snow days off from school they got last year, and discussed taking actions to do what they could to encourage one for today. Apparently it is some kind of kid legend to do the following things to cause the cancellation of school:

1. Flush an ice cube down the toilet

2. Put a spoon under your pillow.

3. Wear your pajamas inside out.

There must have been enough people with their pajamas on correctly to cancel them out, because school was in session as usual. I think it's interesting how all kids seem to know about these procedures, yet I never heard about it when I was little. Who starts these things?

Friday, November 28, 2008

To match the fancy necktie

About a week ago, at conferences, Jeffrey's teacher told us that he needs to work on his spelling. She suggested that he practice by writing down everyday things, such as making lists.

So yesterday he wrote down some of the gift ideas for people in our family.

I am so getting Larry that third thing, he deserves it.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Still Exactly the Same

Well the reunion was a lot of fun. Sometimes it took a minute to recognize people, but once we all figured out who was who we all enjoyed catching up, reminiscing, and speculating about the long lost classmates that did not show up. A couple of teachers were there. I noticed that the brown-noser types talked to them the most. Generally, everyone looked great. A lot of the guys looked noticeably balder and heavier, but the women all looked amazing. I suspect that they have more options for improving their appearance. (Body wraps?) Everyone said that I look exactly the same. I accepted that as a compliment but noted to myself that I have gotten the braces off my teeth and these highlights in my hair, so that's not exactly true.

I was glad to find that there was very little of the "so what have you done with your life?" conversation, we really have gotten past all of that. I did go up to the senior class president and mention that I knew of all her impressive accomplishments. She was humble about it and politely inquired about my career and family, and that was nice.

So there we all were set up for an enjoyable time and then the DJ "Solid Gold Sound" set up and started playing obnoxious music at full volume, all but inhibiting normal conversation. This bothered me a lot and I felt like a crabby old lady when I kept going up to the DJ and asking them to lower the volume, which they would do for just a moment and then crank it back up again for the next song. Also it was dark in there. Some people had brought along old snapshots that I really wanted to look at, but with the dim lights, grainy old Instamatic photo technology and aging 43 year old eyes, I could barely see the images. So the venue was counterproductive to what I wanted to be doing, which was frustrating. A much quieter and illuminated room would have been better. Such as the rec room in a nursing home! Har, har.

The one most interesting conversation I had was with my old friend Paul. He doesn't have kids of his own but is a high school biology teacher now. He told us that he was telling the kids in his class about his reunion, and trying to explain to them about how all of the rivalries and cliques that are so all-consuming in High School really don't matter once you're grown up, and that maybe they shouldn't stress about it so much. With all my parental wisdom I told him:

"Yes but you know they won't believe that until they have grown up themselves."

Paul shrugged and said "I know, but these are my kids! I so want to spare them all it if can, even a little!"

I'm doubtful that his statements will have any effect on those kids right now, but I do believe that someday they could be standing at their 25 year reunion remembering that really great teacher they had, and finally realizing that he was right after all.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Go back to High School

I recently took the kids to see the movie High School Musical 3, and I just finished reading the first two books of the "Twilight" series, both set in High School. So I've been thinking about that lately, and now tonight is my 25 year Reunion.

My high school experience was pretty typical, and I honestly don't remember much about it, with the exception of the group of friends that I spent all kinds of time with the summer after our senior year. They were just a bunch of really great kids and we had so much fun together. Here is a picture that I found, don't we look like we could just jump up onto those painted cars and burst into song:

We kept gathering even a couple years after graduating, but eventually I lost touch with all but a couple of my closest friends, and even that turned into some years where Christmas cards were our only contact. Some I know I will never see again, and other pop up once in a while. There was a 20 year reunion that I didn't go to, but when we found out that some of our old friends were there Renee (my HS BFF, center in blue) and I made a pact that if there was ever another one we would attend. So here we go, and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone.

One of the guys from the gang also works at GM, and he instant-messaged me about plans for the reunion. Then he had to go and google our senior class president. Turns out she is a lawyer. (I never did finish getting my master's degree) with a high-profile job for the US Attorney General (my company just asked the government for some money) She is president of the local Bar Association (I wish I'd gotten that patent now) and has co-authored several books (I have a blog...)and is the mother of FIVE children (I only have two!) and from the picture she's still thin....ARRGH!

I forgot about the part of reunions where everyone wants to see what became of you, to find out if you lived up to your potential. At least I think they do that. I can't change the major events of my life at this point, and losing those 40 extra pounds is likely out of the question for this evening (how do body wraps work?) and my tanning experience quickly ended with an itchy rash.

I decided that the only action I could take was to do something about my hair. So I went to Sabrina's, the nicer salon here in town, and told the hairdresser that I had my reunion coming up and to make me look gorgeous. She cut it, and put these crazy foil things in, and sat me under some kind of steamer hood, for what I think might have been a little too long while she dealt with another client. When she finally spun me around and leaned over next to me as I observed us together in the mirror, I realized that she had styled my hair to look exactly like...hers! When she asked what I thought I said the one and only thing I could "It's gorgeous!" But that same night I went to a demonstration party and the women there started a conversation about letting your hair go salt-and-pepper gray. My "highlights" came out a little too light, I fear.

And then there are the clothes to obsess about, I bought this dress, and some sparkly jewelry to go with it, but then worried that it's too glitzy and I'll look like I'm trying too hard, even if I am.

By now you are saying to yourself "Oh good grief Mindy just stop it!" and I agree. Because when I think about it I'm not planning to make judgements about my old friends, and I don't actually care what they might think about me. I just want to enjoy being together with them again for this one night. I'll let you know if anything interesting happens, such as bursting into song.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Spartan Spectacular

We took a 1 day "vacation" on Saturday. My friend JJS had recommended the "Spartan Spectacular" concert that his son the MSU music major would be performing in, and I got tickets for my family plus my niece and nephew who were staying with us for the weekend. To make the most of the drive we planned to tour the Michigan Historical Museum in downtown Lansing as well as tour the MSU campus and sights prior to the concert.

The museum is a very good one. First of all, it's free! (My favorite price!) I like it when the kids are having enjoying themselves without realizing that they are being tricked into an educational experience.

The museum takes you through Michigan history from prehistoric days through modern times. I found this sign to be sort of profoundly haunting:

Look it's me!

The concert was amazing. The first half was a variety of music displaying the kind of talent that just blows me away with awe. The kids were mesmerized, and didn't know they were soaking up some culture here too. The second half was the Spectacular Spartan Marching Band! It had everything including the flag twirlers, baton, drumlines, and the full band playing of course our favorite fight song but also the highlights of every halftime show this season. Who would have ever thought that I could get right to the part I like about Fall Saturdays without having to watch all that football! It was perfect!

Education and Culture are well and good but in stressful times there's nothing like being so happily and thoroughly entertained. I hope you had some fun this weekend too.

Friday, November 14, 2008


My 25 year class reunion is coming up. I got a new dress for it several weeks ago, but when I tried it on again recently there was something that I didn't like anymore. Actually, it wasn't the dress, it was my arms. The dress is sleeveless and I think that when I first bought it I still had my summer tan going on, and now that it's fading my arms look whiter, and...bigger.

Since there isn't even a sky anymore, just darkness that the rain comes out of, getting some sunshine in the usual way is not an option. But there is another way. I dug out the coupon book that came in the mail the other day, and found the ad for "Tropi-tan."

I was thinking about the new "spray-tans" that I have heard about, so I called the number to see what that was all about. The absolutely most perky voice on the planet came on the phone:

"Welcome to Tropi-Tan where the sun always shines! This is Sandy how can I help you?"

I explained that I was curious about their services, and that I have this event coming up. She squealed with delight and told me that they are currently offering one FREE week of Level One tanning and that would work out just perfectly for me. I asked a lot of questions to make sure that free really is free, and she assured me that it was. She was just so darn excited to be meeting someone new to tanning, and started to explain to me how they have all different lotions you can buy, and stickers! I was struggling to imagine what on earth the stickers might be for, and she went on to explain how it would make a shape, such as the playboy bunny head, onto your skin. I was starting to feel like I was being recruited...and I agreed to come in.

Since I have never done this before I decided to do some research first. Sure enough, they have a website. It was full of useful information including a Q&A page that answered many questions. When I got to this one, I was amazed:

Q. Why do we always hear that tanning is bad?

A. Tanning is an important issue to the dermatology industry because skin cancer represents the only subject that its lobbyists can promote as critical or life threatening. Unfortunately, in their zeal to scare consumers into their offices, lobbyists for the dermatology industry have twisted the facts and exaggerated many research findings. They continue to mislead the public about the dangers of tanning, whether indoors or outdoors.
There is also the issue of the “Almighty Dollar.” The fear of the sun generated by dermatologists feeds a multi-billion dollar industry lead by huge special interest groups who conduct and promote most of the research on skin cancer. Lobbyists for pharmaceutical firms that sell billions of dollars worth of sunscreens and SPF cosmetics have teamed with the dermatology industry to promote a misinformed campaign of sun abstinence.
Conversely, there is no major industry except the indoor tanning industry that makes money by promoting the positive effects of sunshine. The indoor tanning industry consists of small companies that can’t match the marketing power of the multi-billion dollar "sunscare coalition."
Over the last few years, thousands of indoor tanning professionals have supported an organization – the Indoor Tanning Association – which was founded “to protect the freedom of individuals to achieve a suntan, via natural or artificial light.” This organization is currently working to develop a national advertising campaign that will increase public awareness of “smart” tanning, the importance of avoiding sunburn, and the many positive effects of regular, controlled UV exposure.

What??? This seems awfully twisted around from what I know to be true about the dangers of the sun. Dermatology lobbyists misleading the public? Who are we supposed to believe anymore? This is reminiscent of other types of statements out there: "He's a Muslim" ..."Too big to fail"... "Detoxifying foot pads"...when someone wants you to believe something all they have to do is say it...and the people who want to believe eat it up like lunch.

The tanning "industry" for me falls into the category of things like Auto Racing and Toby Keith Music, where I am somewhat aware of their existence and yet amazed to find the enthusiastic crowds already involved when I finally check it out. The tanning salon was abuzz with activity. They have over a dozen tanning machines in there. I always figured that these places were used primarily by body builders, and maybe strippers, but clearly there is a large section of society willing to risk early wrinkling and cancer and purchase memberships.

I bought these odd little goggles and some lotion and went into the room where this giant scary glowing spaceship-like machine was waiting for me. The goggles hurt my eyes and the lotion smelled like puke but I was glad to see that there was a little sign on the surface of the tanning bed that it had been sanitized. I laid down on it and pressed the button and it started to glow, and fans whirred, and when I pulled the lid down it felt like I was closing my own coffin. After my 7 minutes of being a human pannini I still wasn't sure why anyone would choose to do this regularly, and was questioning my own sanity over the experience.

I'm still not sure if this was a safe thing to do. I know that I at low risk for burning due to my olive skin. I am usually very careful to put on sunscreen when I go outside, and the tan I do get is from riding my bike (fronts of thighs, tops of hands and forearms) and when I'm watching the boys in our backyard pool or at the beach.

I didn't consider that I would be in a different state of undress in the tanning bed than my usual summertime activities. So while my arms might have gotten a slight shade darker, I now have an itchy pink "bathing suit" that doesn't come off. Ow.

I'm thinking now about going with a fake tanning lotion, or maybe a long-sleeve sweater.

Monday, November 10, 2008

First Time White Stuff Crazy Day

Today was the first day of the season with enough of the “white stuff” (snow) to stick to the ground. Therefore everyone crashed their cars and effectively shut down the roads of Southeastern Michigan.

I am fascinated with the field of economics, the way that they take data and use it to identify trends and draw conclusions from them. I like to participate in that except for the data part, where I substitute my own observations and then make stuff up.

I have such an observation about the first snowfall in this area each year. Everyone seems to go a little bit crazy and the amount of traffic accidents are way out of proportion to the truly hazardous conditions we will experience later in the season. It is possible that everyone forgets how to drive in snow and ice and then re-learns it throughout the season. I used to think maybe all these accident-causers were the people who were new to the area, such as having moved here from the south, and were experiencing cold weather for the first time, but that theory doesn’t hold now that nobody has actually moved into this state since about 2005.

And then there’s this:

Notable expert Mindula Oblongatta has been quoted as to the spike in traffic accidents on the first day that there is noticeable snow drifting through the air. “It is due to the phenomenon of light reflecting off the snowflakes and into the retina of the eye of the driver causing a blockage in the brain that controls proper usage of a steering wheel.”
Oblongatta goes on to state the following: “The sound of the local newscasters shrieking about the weather, when entering the ear of a driver, directly affects their ability to operate a brake pedal with their foot.” These impairments are then combined to result in general driving hysteria that correlates to both the temperature and accident count trends.

I knew it! Be careful out there.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Wednesday, November 5, 2008


The past two days here have been unusually pleasant. We have had sunshine and temps reaching into the 70's. We're talking about November in Michigan! Do we still call these days Indian Summer or is than not PC now? Yesterday was a GM day off, so I could enjoy the weather by spending every moment possible outside. The boys and I rode our bikes to vote, and I took the kayak out around the lake, and went on another bike ride later...because I could! And the weather trend continues through today.

It just feels so good out there, crisp and fresh. Even though the leaves on the trees are different, and we know that winter and all of it's challenges are coming soon, for today, it feels like SPRING. Sunny, optimistic, and hopeful. Very nice.

Monday, November 3, 2008

I Approved This Message

Sometimes the boys like to grab my camera and practice taking pictures with it. This usually occurs when there is nothing to photograph except the one exciting thing in our house, the cat.

Timmy took this picture, which I think is pretty good. Then he cracked me up when he put a title to it:

"I'm Missy and I approved this message."

Can you see why he said that? You know that the message is getting across when it seeps into a kid's humor.

The only thing I know for sure about this election is that I will be glad when the campaigning is over, so we can all move on. Such as to Christmas Music, which they started playing on the radio this week.

Happy Election Day!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Horrified

This Halloween was unusual because it was light out during Trick-or-Treating time. I can't remember that ever happening before. I guess Daylight savings day falls after it this year. Due to the light I was able to get a picture of what it looks like in our sub with all the kids in costume running around. Notice the Dads standing around in the street talking instead of minding the kids while the Moms hand out candy.

Tim and Jeff went as junk food, costumes which started with that Cheeseburger hat we got in the summer. Here's how that turned out.

I got to wear my witch costume and hand out candy. My favorite are the littlest children who are just starting to catch on to what Halloween is all about. There was one tiny little girl who was dressed in a fuzzy pink dinosaur costume. She held out her little plastic pumpkin to me, and her mother stood behind her, prompting:

"What do you say?"

"Twick or Tweet!" She squeaked out while her mother beamed proudly. I picked up two pieces of candy and dropped them into the bucket. She stood there while her mom waited expectantly for the next line they must have practiced. The tiny little dinosaur smiled at me, lifted her bucket a little, and said loud and clear:


The horrified look on the mother's face was priceless, and I got my laugh for the night.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

GM just won't be the same

If you've been paying any attention at all to the news, you'll have noticed that General Motors is going though some tough times these days. Sales are way down, the stock price is as low as was last seen in the 1950s, and there's speculation that it could run out of operating cash in 2009. The company is seeking money from the US government, and there are talks going on that could result in a merger with Chrysler. Nobody seems to know what the future holds for GM except that it just won't be the same.

Most of the time at work it seems just like any other day, but there are signs of change. For example, I just got an email stating that they will be shutting down the escalators at the VEC. This is huge, it really is. Those escalators have been there probably longer than I have been alive. I first experienced them when I worked in what was then the Fisher Body Building in 1985 as a summer intern. They have this distinctive noise, and a sort of an oily smell, and for a while one of them had a little plexiglass window where you could look in and see the workings on the inside. The engineers liked to do that.

Over the years the building has been repeatedly renamed and remodeled, but the escalators remained. Periodically there would be times when we were commanded to come up with cost savings ideas for the company, and just about everyone would submit the suggestion to turn off the escalators. There are other ways to get up to the second floor, and the things seemed to be under repair about as often as they were running. Legends began to circulate about why they just wouldn't shut them down. Some thought it was in the Union agreement for the repair guys. Others speculated about some kind of accessibility law. It was what you talked about as you escorted visitors to the conference rooms. But not anymore. And GM just won't be the same.

Also, as part of a Turnaround Plan that was announced in July, a huge wave of people are leaving the company, mostly retirements. For the past few weeks I have been getting emails filled with names of people that will be leaving, and it is with some sadness that I notice the ones that have meaning to me. The first boss that I had as a jobbie out of college. The director who hired me back from Chrysler. The guy who taught me about seatbelts. My last two managers in engineering. Many people that I'd worked with in one way or another over the years, and several of the friends I've made since arriving at my current job. And on my instant messenger screen I will never again see a green dot next to the name of my pal JJS. I'm happy for all of them as they move on to their next thing, but for me, GM just won't be the same.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Iceberg, straight ahead

I was working from home and it was nice and quiet without the kids around. Almost too quiet for me, so at lunchtime I heated up a piece of leftover pizza (chicken with feta!) and turned on the T.V. for some company. The news was all about the global economic crisis, and I wasn't in the mood for that, so I flipped the channels looking for something else and came across the movie Titanic already in progress.

It was the black and white 1953 version. Barbara Stanwyk is in it. I think she is just so beautiful and glamorous. I turned it on just as the fake-looking ship was heading towards the fake-looking iceberg. They show the people on the ship noticing the jolt, and kind of saying "did something just happen?" and then going back to playing cards, and singing around the piano. Then it cuts to the scene in the boiler room where water is gushing and slamming the boiler guys into the walls. Then they showed the people milling around on the deck, not really wanting to get into the lifeboats, still unsure of what was happening, thinking maybe it was just a precaution. And it's so profound because of course you know what is going to happen, and they don't yet, and are therefore concerning themselves with the insignificant details that will not matter at all when the ship goes down.

I decided that I wasn't really in the mood to watch this either, and since I'd finished my pizza I turned off the TV, put the dish in the sink, and got back to work.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Buy a Car

GM is currently allowing it's employees to offer the employee discount to up to two friends or neighbors. (They didn't say it, but I'm going to include: Blog Readers!) If you are in the market for a new vehicle, and want to use this, let me know. (Ends Nov 3)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Pretty Pink Princess

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fall Colors

After a week of overwhelming news events, we got something here in Michigan that has nothing to do with the economy or politics. A spectacular warm fall weekend.

The English Language doesn't have enough words to describe the colors I saw, such as:

The gleam off the band instruments as they marched by in the homecoming parade.

The big bright lights shining down onto the blue uniforms of the football players, cheerleaders, and a crowd containing most of our town acting out the high school homecoming football rituals that could be anywhere in any year.

The glittering dresses and black tuxedos that I saw as a crowd of teenagers gathered in front of a nearby house, getting ready for the big dance.

The glistening chrome on Darrin's motorcycle.

The GREEN and WHITE on our TV screen as the Spartans won another one, Go State!

The silvery gray of the water and the sky as I took a turn around our lake in my kayak just after the sun set, with a bright white almost full moon glowing high above.

The blaze of a backyard bonfire, and the toasty tan on the marshmallows hovering above it.

The speckled pattern of the sunlight coming through the trees onto the brown dirt roads as Timmy and I cycled along the back roads of Clarkston in the "Back 40 Challenge."

The murky orange of a cup of fresh apple cider.

The yellow and black backs of the wasps swarming over the donuts.

The orange of the pumpkins piled up at farm stands, waiting to be picked.

A sky so vibrantly blue it almost looked fake.

Oh, and these:

Saturday, October 4, 2008

dough-nu matic

Who wouldn't want this:

It makes little donuts right there on the counter-top.

There used to be a mini-donut stand at Tiger Stadium and that basket of freshly fried minis dipped in chocolate was one of the best things I've ever eaten. And then this year it was gone. I know because I walked around the entire perimeter of the stadium, twice, searching for it.

Now the family will know what to get me for Christmas. I also think this could be solution to our nation's economic problems. The perfect invention. Someday we will wonder what the world was like before this thing was around. Kind of like crocs.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Witch Lessons

Have you ever had the sudden feeling that you have been wisked out of your normal existence and magically transformed into the main character of a Scholastic Book Club Early Reader Chapter Book?

Me neither, until this past Sunday. I wish that I had my camera with me to prove to you that the following is 100% true, but you will just have to take my word for it.

Chapter 1

Mindy was riding her bike along the narrow dirt road. It was a beautiful early fall day, and the sun sparkled though the leaves of the trees in the thick woods that were starting to show a hint of the fall colors yet to come.

Mindy loved riding on this road, it was usually deserted except for the small animals that scampered across, and the occasional deer. This time she saw four large wild turkeys. Such silly looking birds!

The few houses here were set back and isolated. There was a small live-in school on the property of an old mansion, a dog kennel and two monasteries, as well as an old cemetery that is said to be haunted. Mindy liked the feeling of spooky possibilities whenever she took this route.

She was riding along just before the hilly part when something moving in the thick brush along the sloping side of the road caught her eye. It was a little girl with frizzy hair, about eight years old. She was in the trees holding a piece of cardboard with something written on it.

Curious, Mindy stopped her bike and asked the little girl what she was doing.

"Oh, I'm just trying to hang up this sign, but it just won't stay up." She said in a squeaky high-pitched voice.

The sign said "Witch Lessons."

"Who do you give witch lessons to?" Mindy asked the girl.

"Oh, well, children...or adults, whoever wants them." She replied.

Mindy considered this, then wished the girl luck with that, and rode along on her way.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mindy hits the Campaign Trail

This is part 2, please read previous entry first.

Lately I have been feeling like I need a change. Shake things up, meet new people. When it turns out that I don't have anything better to blog about than a toothache and a wasp squish, maybe my life has started to sink further into the abyss of mediocrity.

That energetic and convincing Jody called again. She wanted to invite me to a debate-watching party on Friday, and to come along canvassing on Saturday morning. I said that I already had plans to go scrapbooking on Friday but MAYBE I could show up on Saturday.

During the scrapbooking workshop I suggested that we turn on the TV upstairs, just to check out what was happening in the presidential debate. A couple of my scrapping friends followed me up there. We heard Obama make some familiar remarks and then McCain said something about the beginning of the end of the beginning. Huh? I complimented Lynn on the rearrangement of her family room, didn't the TV used to be against the other wall? We all agreed that without the wall unit the room was much more open. Soon there was a lively discussion going on that had nothing to do with foreign policy.

I decided to go on Saturday. I was curious about what kinds of people would be there, maybe they'd be interesting and informed. And I wanted to do something new, make a difference. They were meeting at Starbucks, a place that seems trendy and slightly collegiate to me, how fitting. I wore a lightweight sweater and my khaki crop pants, looking like the suburban housewife that I am. When I got there it was Jody, a pair of bouffant old ladies, a woman with a foreign accent and her very strange long-haired son. I was picturing a larger crowd, more interesting and activist-like. Then a guy named Eric showed up, he is some kind of regional campaign leader. He had short dark hair and squarish glasses. He handed some packets and brochures to Jody, thanked the group for coming and emphasized that the brochures were to be given out sparingly, only to the undecideds. Then he left.

We had agreed that I would be paired up with Jody. She would do the talking and I would stand there and smile and hold the brochures. Our packet had us going to the Waterstone subdivision, an area where the large 3-car garage homes look out over a plush golf course. When we got to the first house, I remembered that I hate going door to door, ever since the time I was a girl scout and ran home crying after Mrs. Zabawa complained to me about the high price for a box of cookies. What was I doing here?

I reminded myself of a saying that I once heard: You must do the thing of which you are afraid. It's all about personal growth, stretching my comfort zone. I tried to focus on that.

There was no answer at most of the houses. I figured that the people were either at the soccer fields or hiding. When someone did come, Jody would introduce us as "from the Obama campaign." I thought that might be a bit of misrepresentation in my case, since all I'd done so far was order a car magnet and down a tall french vanilla latte, but I went along with it.

Of the few people who we talked to, they either said they were already supporting Obama, or else politely admitted to being Republicans. There were a couple of undecided women who Jody talked to for a bit and then I would give them one of those brochures.

Jody noted that I seemed uncomfortable. I decided to try to look less uncomfortable by kind of swinging my hip out and putting my hand on it, but then I thought I only looked like someone who was trying very hard not to look uncomfortable.

Mostly we just walked through this very nice neighborhood chatting about our kids and our houses, and noticing the people's landscaping, all very well done. One consistent thing seemed to be that just about every house had a dog. At one house two large doberman types came rushing out and jumped all over us, which is when I decided I wanted to change my "Thing I Fear the Most" to LARGE DOGS although I doubt that getting mauled is any kind of path to elightenment.

After about an hour and a half we were finished and I was glad because my feet were starting to hurt and I had to go to the bathroom (that latte.) Jody commented that she didn't think I'd be doing this again. I said probably not but I was glad that I came this time.

And I was. Even though I did not accomplish what I thought I might, such as meeting new friends or impacting the results of the election, I did learn a couple new things, always worth it:

1. Spirea and Hydrangea go nicely together in front walkway landscaping.

2. It's not too early to put up fall seasonal decorations.

3. Most people are still in their pajamas at 11:00 on a Saturday.

Political Self Expression

As I've mentioned before, I've always been reluctant to express my political opinions, although I do have them. I have never closely identified with the Democratic Party but I have consistently voted in opposition to the Republican platform. Since I live and work in predominantly "red" areas, I tend to keep my thoughts to myself whenever people I know do get political. I find it more interesting to ask questions that help me to understand why they think what they think than to try to change anyone around to my position, since I'm not very good at that anyways.

But then the Sarah Palin nomination came along, and suddenly I was energized. To simplify greatly, I feel that her selection was a huge move against women, and it bugged the heck out of me. I wanted to actually DO SOMETHING.

I read an article that said if you just let people know where you stood, it has the potential of influencing their position. So I decided that what I should do is get a magnet for my car. My first-ever attempt at political expression.

I went halfway down the stairs to our basement, and shouted down into the man-cave at Larry.
"I am going to donate $5 to the Barak Obama campaign so I can get a magnet for my car. I know you disagree, but since you go all around with the Catholic Radio magnet on your car I think it's fair."
His response: "Whatever."

So I clicked over to the campaign website, signed up, donated, and then waited for it to come in the mail. A couple of days later, on a rainy Saturday morning, the doorbell rang. Embarrassed that I was still in my pajamas, I opened the door to find 2 perky women with Barak Obama baseball hats standing on my porch. They introduced themselves and said that they were canvassing the neighborhood and wanted to know whether they had my support. I was excited to tell them that I had gone so far as to order a car magnet, that's how much I supported them. I was also curious about what they were doing out there in the rain, and just who were the people that would be so actively involved with that in this town. They said that they were energized about the issues in this election, and this was their way to help. Then they asked if I would like to join in, the leader for our township even lives in this sub. I told them maybe, and wished them good luck as they went on their way.

A couple of days after that, the phone rang. A woman identified herself as Jody, and said that I didn't know her but she is one of my neighbors and learned that I might be interested in helping with the Barak Obama campaign. I said "Oh hi Jody, it's Mindy, I do know you, you moved into Laura's old house." It actually took some talking to convince her that I was that Mindy, "the one from the Glenmoor Gals." I said that I wasn't comfortable talking with people, but that I did order a car magnet. Since that sounded kinda weak in comparison to what she was doing, I added that I was even considering getting a lawn sign. She said she was calling from the campaign office and would drop one off at my house on her way home...ok.

I put the sign up when Larry was away at a prayer meeting. I sat in the house feeling all bold and political, thinking of all the neighbors driving past and changing their political allegiances. When Larry saw it he grimaced and said, "I don't think they allow signs like that in our sub." It turns out that's what the neighbors were thinking too. The next day while I was out, the President of the Subdivision Homeowner's Association came over and told Larry that was against the rules, we'd have to take the sign down. Of course Larry readily agreed, and we gave it to my sister Becky to display in Hamtramck where they have no such rules.

Next: Mindy hits the Campaign Trail

Friday, September 26, 2008

That's better

On Wednesday I went back to work. Although the pain was gone, I was still feeling a little off. By Thursday I was back to normal, which is when I got perspective on how truly awful I was feeling before that. A good time to feel grateful that I get to feel fine most days of my life, because not everyone gets that, although I wish they did. Maybe I just needed a sock in the jaw to remind me about it again.

It has been beautiful weather this week. Which makes it hard to sit for long at my windowless desk. So I got up and did this little walk I like to do, where I swipe my card and go out one door of the building, walk around the corner by a parking lot, and come back in another door and back to my desk. It isn't much, but I get to feel the sun on my face and the wind in my hair, for a moment at least, and I think it helps to get through the day.

When I got back to my desk I clicked on my computer to undo the screen saver, and swiveled around in my chair to gaze at Bob's empty cube. As I wondered where he might have gotten off to, I noticed out of the corner of my eye something moving on my leg.

I looked closer and focused in on a giant, spiky WASP wiggling and creeping up my leg. I instinctively let out a loud, unprofessional shriek, and leaped out of my chair batting madly at the thing like a crazy lady. I ended up in the cubicle aisleway staring the thing down as it writhed on the ground. A guy who happened to be nearby came over to see what was happening. I pointed out the monstrous beast, which was kind of blending into the pattern of the industrial carpet.

In one swift motion he stomped the thing dead with his foot, squished it up in a Kleenex, and tossed it into my plastic garbage can.

If only every crisis could be so easily solved.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What a Pain

It started on Saturday. As I was going about my typical weekend activities, I kept having this feeling like something was stuck between my upper rear teeth, and toothpicks and flossing didn't seem to help. By late Saturday afternoon it was clear that something was seriously wrong, my mouth really hurt. I took some Tylenol and went to bed hoping that whatever this was would just go away. After a truly miserable night of increasing pain and little sleep, I started my day Sunday wondering how early I could place an emergency call to the dentist. By 9:00 I had called the dentist's office, listened to the message that said they would not be open until Monday at 2:00, and written down the emergency number for Dr. Dan.

I was a little surprised when he answered the call himself, and easily agreed to call in a prescription for some penicillin and pain killers. He said to call the office on Monday to see about coming in.

I took the medicine, but the rest of the day Sunday was shot. The pain was intense. It felt like someone had driven a nail up through my teeth and into my jaw. Make that a jagged, rusty supernail. No matter what was going on, all I could think was "It hurts!" I felt like there was a monster screaming in my face.

I took Tylenol with Codeine to make it through Sunday night, and after a Motrin 800 I felt I could make it to work on Monday morning. I had a meeting with a woman about my project that I didn't want to miss.

My mouth was hurting through the meeting but we got some work done, and I got to hear about her root canal experience and some advice about painkillers before going back to my desk to complain to Bob. Bob was sympathetic to my pain, and proceeded to tell me about his root canals. Another guy, Cliff, from our aisle joined in and added his stories of dental pain to the conversation. They agreed with each other that this was the very worst kind of pain, and I just had to throw in that they don't KNOW pain without having given birth to a 10.5 lb baby naturally, but my current pain was a different kind of bad and without the joyful ending.

I moaned that it just wasn't fair that this was happening to me, I'm a GOOD GIRL who brushes my teeth 2-3 times a day, faithfully goes to the dentist every 6 months, and even flosses more than most people. Cliff said it must be Karma then. I haven't done anything bad enough to deserve this pain, I wailed. Cliff said maybe not in THIS life. Bob shot him a sideways glance and suggested that I go home and call the dentist again.

So I went and told my boss that I had to leave, and after politely listening to the story of his root canal experience, I was free to go.

At home I took another Motrin 800 and laid on the couch cursing the pain until exactly 2:01 when I could call the dentist's office. They said to come right in, which I did. They took this picture of my teeth, and looked at the one that has a cavity that I had scheduled to be filled. Dr. Dan banged on my teeth with a little hammer, and said that he did not see evidence of an abscess, it must be something else. Such as what? Maybe a sinus infection? I just didn't see how this was possible, I've never felt anything like this before and the pain had been worsening since I started on the antibiotics already a day ago. He recommended that I go to the Root Canal Specialist for a closer evaluation.

I had never known there was such a thing as a Root Canal Specialist. Who would want that job? Always dealing with people in misery. They made me an appointment for right away, and after a miserable 10 mile drive I was in the Root Canal Specialist's waiting room filling out a pile of forms. When I got to the Disclosure of Costs form I then understood why someone would want this job.

The root canal Dr. took more Xrays and held ice up to each of my teeth until I screamed, and then said that he too did not believe that I needed a root canal. This would seem to be good news except my jaw hurt like hell and now what was I supposed to do? He suggested that maybe I had an inflamed jaw and should take Motrin 400 (I was already on 800) and take a rest from talking and chewing solid foods for a couple days.

As much as I knew it would amuse Bob that my problem came from talking and eating too much, I still had this incredible pain to deal with and no reasonable explanation for it. After coming home I had my third prescription filled, this one for Vicadin, which scares me. This is the stuff that can make a person steal from a medical charity she headed and have prescriptions filled in the names of the charity's employees. What would it make me do?

Monday night was I was in agony, and kept waking up in the night, writhing in pain, and calculating how long it had been since my last vicodin. When I staggered into the kitchen around 3am to look for my drugs, I crumpled to the floor and passed out.

In the morning I was useless, the pain worse than ever plus I was now sickened from what was probably a slight overdose of the narcotics. Larry got the boys off to school without me hardly noticing, and I eventually called my boss to tell him I wouldn't be coming in, and went back to sleep.

A couple of hours later I was awakened by the phone ringing, it was my mother calling to tell me that she had located the surgeon who had performed my jaw surgery twenty-seven years ago, maybe they should look at me. As I listened to her I realized something: it was GONE. I still felt groggy and sickened from the drugs, but the pain monster had left the building.

I think that I'll never know exactly what this was, or what made it go away, I'm just glad it's over. Maybe I have some unknown enemy who finally pulled the pin out of their Melinda2Mindy vodoo doll. It's a mystery. But I'm glad it's over, I feel better now, thanks.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Toby, Ike, and Me

This weekend I concluded my study of the Music of Toby Keith by attending his live concert at Pine Knob.

The reason for this experience was to celebrate my dear friend Alisa’s 40th birthday, which coincided with the concert date. It turned out that the concert date also coincided with the final remnants of hurricane Ike slapping rain and wind across Michigan as it followed an unusual path Northeast after making landfall.

But a little blast of torrential rain isn’t enough to stop the party so there I was on the top of the muddy hill huddled under a large umbrella, peeking out of my Mickey Mouse rain poncho to observe the spectacle that is Country Music.

It all started with a projection screen showing a commercial for a Ford truck, and a trailer for a movie called “Beer for my Horses” both starring Toby Keith. Then an explosion of fireworks to reveal the man himself.

He proceeded to work through his repertoire of very famous songs that I had only recently heard for the first time. Rather quickly, eminent themes emerged. These would be: drinkin', cheatin', smokin', tokin', cussin’ and more drinkin'. It was kind of a double theme if you include the act of leaving the “g” off of participles. There were also frequent references to guns, trucks, hot chicks, and “Jeee-zus.” (That last one seems like a bit of an anomaly to me, but what do I know.)

Between the wind and the accent I found him difficult to understand, but he did introduce one song with something that ended with “and they can kiss my a**!” (Who?) He frequently encouraged everyone to obtain an alcoholic beverage, and at one point asked us all to hold them up in the air and sing along to yet another song celebrating the pleasures of alcohol. It was a lot like worship, but with more stagger in the sway. He did prove to us that he was aware of his geographic location by asking the audience if there were any rednecks in Michigan which We the Crowd affirmed with a resonating cheer.

Previous to this I was under the impression that the word “redneck” was a derogatory term and not very PC but here I was witnessing a joyous celebration of redneckity and all of the clich├ęd references usually associated with it.

There were fireworks throughout the concert which served well to refresh my state of alertness as the songs went on, until finally the lights turned off to signal the interval of screaming before the encore.

More fireworks ushered in a song that was accompanied by a video that could be best be described as an armed-forces recruitment tool. I wasn’t sure of exactly how that fit in with all of the cheatin, smokin, drinkin references except that maybe you get to use a gun to defend your right to do those things “raht here in the USA.” Then came a segway into a full-blown tribute to patriotism itself, all meant to make you feel just to be so proud to be an alcoholic - I mean American.

I went into this experience with the intention to learn and appreciate a form of music that I am unfamiliar with, because I believe that music can represent a culture in a way that quickly impresses the listener with an image of the people who embody it. I feel like I was successful in understanding the themes of the music of Toby Keith and his vast base of fans, but as a person who also considers myself a patriotic American, I’m not so sure that I would describe this particular genre as one that makes me proud.