Saturday, July 26, 2008


My friend Yvonne invited me to join her kayaking with her sisters. Of course the weather prediction changed from sunny to stormy as soon as I agreed to go. Darn that weather jinx, still with me.

Big dark clouds kept passing over us while we were out paddling down the Clinton River and out onto Cass Lake, which resulted in providing us some relief from the sun. The conditions ended up being perfect, and we had a wonderful time.

As I got into my car to drive home, one last cloud passed over, and dropped a few fat raindrops on my windshield. Mother Nature let me have this one, but just barely. Thanks, I'll take it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mega Millions

It rained on Saturday. Specifically, it poured rain during the exact 2 hour time span that I had invited friends over for drinks on the deck prior to going to see the Mamma Mia Movie. We had a nice time anyways, but it bothers me greatly that it doesn’t very often rain like that, and I don’t plan very many outdoor activities, and yet they seem coincide just about every time. What are the odds here? I tried to do the calculations: Times I try to have a party divided by the available hours to do that times the amount of those hours it is likely to be raining, times…well the odds are high and I keep beating them. Something had to be done to correct this imbalance of the universe.

So I did something I have never done before: bought a Mega-Millions lottery ticket. I figured that if I am in some sort of cosmic mode of odds-beating, I should take advantage of it. I never play the lottery because I have been educated in probability and statistics. I once heard the lottery referred to as “a tax on people who can’t do math.” I have always been astonished to learn that people do all of these crazy things like tracking the numbers picked, and buying more tickets, to try to improve their odds. I always said that if I ever played the lottery I would pick the number 1,2,3,4,5,6. People say that’s crazy, but it has statistically the exact same likelihood of being picked as any other random number. Those same people can’t seem to understand that picking two numbers is like taking two grains of sand out of the whole beach, and NOT like cutting the odds in half. I looked it up and the odds for winning this jackpot are 1/175,000,000.

The pot was up to 124 million dollars, and the drawing was Tuesday night. I didn’t want to get into my car after all of my commuting, so I combined it into my bike ride. I stuck some dollars into my bike pack and rode over to the party store by Frosty Boy. I went into the store and announced to the lady I wanted to buy a mega-millions ticket, and she hit a button on her cash register. Then I started to tell her about the number I wanted, and she said that she had already done an easy pick. Which would be ok, except that then what if my special number won? That would make me even madder than rain on a party. So I bought another one. And it sure felt like I had doubled my odds of winning!

I put the tickets in my bike pack and rode past Frosty Boy back onto the trail. Right away, I noticed that I had this springy feeling. The thrill of possibility. The excitement of having a chance at something big. In spite of all my statistics knowledge, it felt good to be riding along with what COULD BE a winning ticket right there beneath the seat.

I know that people who play the lottery get enjoyment out of planning how they will spend the money, so as I rode along, I tried doing that. Well, we could pay off the mortgage, invest, donate…not really that fun to think about so instead I imagined how my coworkers who are in a lottery pool would react when they found out that I won it on my first try, and also remembering the words to that song: Haven’t you always wanted a MONKEY? But not a real green dress that’s cruel…

When I got home I generously gave Larry, who was watching a baseball game on TV, the easy-pick ticket. He didn’t seem to understand that I had just given him 50% of my chances of winning a hundred and twenty four million dollars. I tried to start the conversation about what we could buy with all of that money, but it just wasn’t going anywhere. Jeffrey suggested that I buy a giant pump to pull all of the water back to our side of the lake. I liked that, and took it up a notch by suggesting that I have the lake re-named “Lake Mindy.” Larry looked up and said that I couldn’t buy that, it was probably up to the council members to vote on. “I could BUY them off!” Yeah! He just shook his head and grumbled something about how quickly money corrupts, and returned to the TV. Jeffrey pointed out that the lake was named after a historical founder of our town, and it wouldn’t be right to name it after me just because I was rich.

Then I had another great idea of what I could do with my lottery winnings. I pointed to the TV. “I know, I’ll buy the TIGERS!”

“Their payroll alone is 138 million, you won’t have enough.” Larry stated simply.

This amazed me for these reasons:
1) That he knows that
2) That they pay so much for playing baseball
3) That I could beat one-in-175 million odds and still not have enough money to buy this random of-the-moment desire of mine. What is this world we are living in?

Then Jeffrey told me not to get too excited about my lottery ticket, “You know, Mommy, many will play and few will win.” Whatever happened to the little boy who used to look for leprechauns in the landscaping?


Well as you probably guessed I did not win a cent. But I have changed my opinion about the whole lottery thing. I think we Americans NEED to believe that everyone has a chance to make it big, that our vote counts, that something wonderful could happen to any one of us, whether it’s mathematically likely or not. Getting those tickets made me feel like that, if just for a moment, which was surely worth the two bucks, and is less than the cost of an ice cream cone, plus no fat calories!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Fang Ooh

All day long I kept thinking about my 5:50pm dentist appointment. Dreading it. I needed to get a porcelain onlay (a kind of a crown on molars) repaired. At my last X-ray they told me that I needed 2 of these done, plus one that is a couple of years old is chipped, and needs to be replaced. I got one of the new ones done a couple of months ago, and when they were all finished with the tortuous process the hygienist stepped back and announced: "That will last you a LONG time." I muttered that the first one I got had already chipped, and she kind of grumbled back "well they're supposed to last."

So I was tired from a long journey home from work which included a stop at my parent's house to pick up the kids, and lots of road construction delays. As soon as I walked in the house Larry announced that the dentist office had called, they had a cancellation and would like me to get in there as soon as I could. Ugh.

I waited around for a couple of minutes, looked out the window at the lake, and then reluctantly drove over there. I had to wait a while so I don't know what that "get here right away" message was all about, but I didn't mind too much because I get to read the trashy celebrity magazines in the waiting room. I love to look at the pictures of the celebs caught off guard going to the store and walking their dogs, but I would never buy the magazines myself (that would make me a guilty accomplice to the death of Princess Diana.) And it's my special way to make appointments and standing in grocery store lines a little more enjoyable.

Eventually the hygienist (or whatever her job is) takes me back to a room and asks me if I would like to have Kim "numb me up" while Dr. Dan finishes with another patient. I see this as an unanswerable question. "Who is Kim? What are my choices here?" I ask her back. She looks at me confusedly and leaves the room. I do the only activity available to me, which is look at my feet. My ankles look thick, could they be swollen from so much time in the car? Maybe I'm just overweight now, when did I become a person with fat ankles? I wonder if having them up in the air like this will reduce their size.

Then Dr. Dan comes in. "We've got Pina Colada flavor for the topical!" he says as he comes at my mouth with a cotton swab. I could tell he wanted me to act excited about that but I was too focused on what was coming next, which is that horrible puncture of a shot which he then swirls and shakes around inside of my cheek and jaw much longer than I can stand to think about.

"Any big plans for tonight?" Dr. Dan asks. I can't imagine what big plans I could possibly have for a Monday night in outer suburbia with a swollen and stretched out mouth that I cannot use to eat or talk with. Since I know he's just being friendly I say:

"Oh, y'know, depends on how I feel." Then he leaves and the hygienist tells me:

"Now we'll just let that numb up" and starts to leave the room.

"How long will that take?" I ask.

"Well, it depends on your body's reaction to the chemicals and..."

I interrupt her. "Can I have a magazine?" She looks relieved that's what I wanted and not the physiology of numbing, and goes out to get some.

She comes back with recent issues of Family Fun, Good Housekeeping, and Midwest Living. All of which I have at one time had subscriptions to, so she read me right, although I would secretly rather be comparing the differences between two celebrities wearing versions of the same dress. Still, it beats having to contemplate my feet again.

Once I am good and numb from my eyebrow to ear to jaw, Dr. Dan and Kim come in and drill, and then go out and use some high technology to digitally create a custom porcelain filling which they glue in and polish, all to my extreme discomfort.

Dr. Dan tells me to bite my teeth together and asks me how it feels. I do the hand gesture and shrug that is the international sign language for how the heck would I know when I can't feel half of my head?

When it's all over they look at their work and proclaim how great it looks. I just don't care that much how anything so far on the inside of my mouth appears, but I do the only thing I can which is to mumble at them:

"Fang ooh."

I check out my feet one last time, I think my ankles are slimmer! I stagger over to the check out lady and she says that there is no charge for this, since it is a sort of warranty work on the one that chipped, and she gives me a wink.

"Fang ooh."


Hours later at home I begin to regain some of the function and feeling in my mouth, and since I am ravenously hungry I get a slice of pepper jack cheese. I'm carefully chewing the cheese when I feel something that doesn't seem like a jalapeno. I spit out a little white chip of tooth. I look at it and I can't tell if it's the piece that they drilled out, or the new one, unglued. Damn.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Mindiana Jones and the Canoe of Doom

It was a lovely warm evening and I didn't want to sit in the air-conditioned living room watching a baseball game with my family so I announced that I was going outside to kayak around the lake. I put on my life jacket, grabbed the paddle and made my way down the path to the little platform where we've been keeping the canoe and the kayak, at the swampy edge of the lake behind our backyard. I shoved the kayak off the platform into the shallow water and prepared to get in when I noticed that there was water in the canoe from the rainstorm the night before.

I stood on the platform and leaned over to heave the canoe up into the air, where I could tilt it sideways and try to shake the rainwater out. It was a precarious position to be in, and the canoe was heavy and awkward. As I struggled with it my gaze landed on the ground below me that had been beneath the canoe...

And in that moment between seeing something and registering what it is, I almost fell over onto the several big black garter SNAKES that curled around each other in the place that had been under the canoe before I lifted it up. Then when I did understand what I was looking at:

**A blood curdling scream echoes across the lake**

Which came from me as I dropped the canoe splat back on top of them and went tearing back into the house where my husband and sons were ensconced in their climate control, oblivious to the drama outside the picture window.

They were happy to go outside and investigate the situation and retrieve my kayak and paddle. Jeffrey has offered to collect all of the snakes and relocate them but still I may never go outside again.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Chick Flick Trick

Sunday night, after we had company over, we were relaxing for a moment in front of the TV and somehow the remote ended up in my hands. I scanned around looking for something other than the usual cartoons and came across one of my all-time favorite movies, just starting.

If you've never seen Meet Me in St Louis, I highly recommend that you do so. It's got everything. Everything that I like in a movie, anyways. We caught it at the beginning when the family is looking at a pot of home made ketchup. The boys were sensing that this might not be their kind of movie, and started to make comments.

"Is that BLOOD? Jeffrey sneered."

"Yes, it is. This is a vampire movie. Those people are all vampires. Just watch what happens."

I must have said it serious enough, or else the Victorian costumes made them think it, or else maybe they would do just about anything to get out of going to bed, because they acted like they believed it a little. Enough to get to the Halloween scene, and then Ester does bite John Truitt on the hand after that, and by then they were hooked on the plot. We all got to enjoy a great film and they got to stay up until 10:00.

The next movie I see I plan to not have to trick anyone into watching, because I'm going with the girlfriends. Let me know if you want to come.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

For the Cause

If you follow the news you might know that the company that I work for is experiencing a little cash crunch these days. So a memo came around asking everyone to identify any under-used IT equipment that could be eliminated, such as printers, walk-up computers, or pagers. For a moment I thought about my pager. I've had it for many years. When I was on leave of absence, my boss at the time hadn't bothered to turn it in, along with my laptop, so I got it back when returned. But I haven't had to use it since at this new job I rarely ever get calls, and certainly no need to be paged. It has been stashed in my desk drawer and with the battery run out. Until just a week ago, when my department finally agreed to my request to work from home one day a week. I wanted to demonstrate my excellent ability to communicate from a remote location, so I popped a fresh battery into the pager, and sent my boss an email with all my contact numbers, including that last.

The pager is kind of a relic of times long ago. It is big and heavy with a belt clip, and you have to dial a 1-800 number, listen to a message, put in a PIN, and then enter a call-back number. It's not convenient at all and compared to today's technology options, somewhat ridiculous.

Well I was on a conference call with my boss and after the meeting part he asked me about that pager. He wanted to turn it in, as a response to that memo that went around. I said I guess I could do that, although in my mind I knew that that would open a very slight possibility of someone out there trying to contact me on my telecommute day, and having to call him instead. I just don't want to do a single thing to jeopardize this new work agreement, it is vital to me that I continue to do it this way.

I replied, "Sure, I guess I could get by without it." The very next day he asked about it, and I casually reached into my computer case, and then handed it over. To my amazement, he proceeded directly to pager services to have the thing disabled, the deed was done.

Personally, I would have played it differently. This went off way too quietly. In these days of cost-cutting, it must be better to make our sacrifices in a grand way, before an audience. Like that scene at the dance in Gone With the Wind where Melanie Wilkes tosses her wedding ring into the donation basket, "for the cause" and then Scarlett puts hers in too. Rhett Butler is so moved my Melanie's sacrifice that he uses his blockade runner money to buy it back, and sends it to her. And he puts in the end of his letter: "I have also returned Mrs. Hamilton's ring" with no mention of Scarlett sacrificing anything.

And I've been regretting something else: I didn't have time to take that fresh battery out.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Future of Transportation

Three days after we got back from Indiana, we were in the car and Jeffrey piped up all of a sudden:

"I just thought of something."

"What, Jeffrey?"

"Well, how are the Amish going to get around in their buggies once we invent hover cars and get rid of all the roads?"

Lots of thinking going on in that sweet little head of his. All the time.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Plain Observation

Next, we were off to the vacation that I had actually planned a little bit in advance. It could be considered just about the opposite of the Cedar Point trip.

A couple of weeks ago I was looking at a list of organized bike tours and found one called The Pumpkinvine Ride that took place in Northern Indiana and advertised that it went through Amish Country. Oh, how I wanted to do that! But there were already too many commitments scheduled for that weekend. Then I picked up a book from my reading pile that my friend Gail had passed along some time ago. It was called The Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult and I hadn't even realized that it was a story set among the Amish. Now I knew I just had to go so I made us some reservations at the Amish Inn in Napanee, Indiana.

As you may have noticed from my earlier fascinations with the local Nuns and Monks, I am intensely curious about "alternative lifestyles" and have always especially wondered about those Amish. Just what was up with the buggies and odd clothes and no electricity?

Our hotel was adjacent to a historic farm that provided tours and meals and information about the Amish people and their ways. But my favorite part was driving around the back roads looking at their farms, and seeing them in the town where they gathered for the fourth of July parade and fireworks.

I now understand that they are a sort of an ethnic group as well as a religious community, and I learned about the history of how they came to embrace the traditions and rules that seem so unusual today. Very interesting.

It was fun just to see them trotting along in their horse-drawn buggies, and wearing their matching old-time clothes. Up close, it is clear that they are just regular people who do everything a whole lot differently than the rest of us. When you contrast their ways with some of our current issues, it almost seems like they might have gotten a few things right: Gas prices don't affect them since they don't drive cars or use electricity; they value their community above the individual (no wars or ego trips), and are completely non-violent and without crime. I was liking the idea that they usually work from home, are outside a lot and get to ride bikes around for transportation in addition to those buggies. Tim and Jeff were interested to learn that they only go to school up to the 8th grade and never get homework. But don't worry about us joining up, they don't take in outsiders, you have to be born into it.

Here's a picture of me with Katie and Peter, who just got engaged:

And here's a picture that I thought was ironic: Horse and buggies at the gas station. See the Amish man coming out of the Yoder Mart:

I enjoyed this trip because it felt like we had time traveled to another world. And we got to learn about another culture which at first seemed like it might be freaky and cultish but turned out to be simply another way that people live.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Roll me over

I was sitting in the kitchen still feeling proud of myself about the camping, and thinking about what we should do today, when the phone rang. It was my sister Mary Beth. She said that her husband Mark was taking the day off and had just decided to take the kids to Cedar Point. Did we want to come too? Although we were tired and the house was a mess, I couldn't think of a reason not to do this so we got ourselves ready and went to their house, and then got in their truck and headed to South to Sandusky.

I used to go to Cedar Point regularly as a teenager, and I have many memories of the place, but have not been there for years. I fondly remember being with friends, going to gift shops and shows, eating that tasty greasy park food, and oh yeah, there were roller coasters too. My first one ever was the Blue Streak, and remember waiting for hours to go on the Gemini just after it opened. I believe they have added a few more since then. OK, a LOT more, making this the number one roller coaster park IN THE WORLD. But I no longer enjoy these kinds of rides like I once did, I'm older now, and the thrill of fear no longer holds an appeal for me, now that I know the sinking feeling of real fear, such as watching my child on skates jump recklessly over a ramp into the air, hearing the phone ring late into the night, or sudden braking on the freeway. Those types of moments kind of take the fun out of feeling terrified just for the thrill of it.

As we were rolling along on the highway, Mark pointed out to me the hospital where they took him after they had to pry him out of his sprint car when he crashed it on a nearby track, and I realized that we weren't doing this for the gift shops or the junk food. I was headed into an amusement park with a former RACE CAR DRIVER who needed to fulfill his need for speed and had decided that the kids were finally tall enough to go along for the ride!

When we got to the park Mark headed directly to the Blue Streak, and before anyone could question it we were sailing over the hills above our seats, and I was showing Ramona how to scream real loud to try to make it fun. Before we could even catch our breath we were following Mark into an indoor roller coaster where you walk though darkened tunnels of black light before getting into the cart. Somewhere along the way Cale and Ramona decided that they were having no more of this and pleaded to be let out the exit door. Mark looked frustrated so I took them out of there, and looked back to see Tim and Jeff holding on tight as they zipped out of sight.

Somehow, out of these four kids not a one of them is a thrill seeker. So there was some reluctance, especially from Mark's own children, to try any more of the bigger coasters. Tim and Jeff were a little more willing, but would rather ride one coaster over and over again than try all the different ones. I can remember being like that, I would try the ones with hills but drew the line about going upside down. We eventually worked out a system where Mark would run off and go on the super-scary ones while I took the kids on the tamer stuff. When we got to the "Corkscrew" Mark said it was his first roller coaster ever and we just had to do it. But when Cale and Ramona balked I somehow found myself climbing in with Tim and Jeff. Even though I'd rather not be doing this at all, and have a lifelong policy of not going upside down, there I was screaming and twirling through the air. It was because someone needed me to sit next to them, and the one thing I ever needed to get me past my fear of this was a good enough reason to do it. Reason found.

In the end, each one of us learned that if you just go ahead and do that thing you're afraid of, even if you don't even like it while it's happening, you get this great feeling afterwards of being just a little bit braver than you were before. And then you want to do it again. Kind of like camping.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

It Burns

I've been home with the boys on GM shutdown this week and for something to do we went CAMPING. My primary objective was to try to put the new tent we bought before our trip in August. It's way bigger than the tiny one we used before, and it's cute, looks like a cabin and has a little crescent window. But way more parts to put together, and I'm proud to say I did it! AND took it down after! We only stayed over one night at a place just 19 minutes from our house. We did hiking and swimming and fishing and the apparent number one exciting camping activity: burned stuff in the fire pit. Here's a list:

  • The shrink wrapped pack of firewood that we bought at the Metamora Foodland for five dollars. It had a little handle on it that formed strange brown puddles when they burned.

  • Every stick that could be found laying around the campsite, plus a few from beyond until hey don't go over there it could have poison ivy...I sure hope it didn't.

  • These green stick-like weeds that stack together that Tim said make a popping noise when they burn up. They do.

  • Other green weeds that make an incredible stink when put in the fire so stop doing that.

  • Handfuls of dry leaves that make a lot of smoke so stop doing that.

  • Paper Plates.

  • Napkins.

  • Pizza Box (You surely didn't think I also attempted to COOK on this adventure? I have my limits)

  • Pizza Crusts

  • Box from the citronella sticks that look like cigars that we bought at Foodland.

  • The citronella sticks themselves. They should keep the bugs away when burnt this way too, right?

  • The package from the deck of playing cards.

  • Every other piece of paper-based trash from our garbage bag.

  • The "Be a Courteous Camper" pamphlet and hiking trail map.

  • Pages Tales from Riverdale comic digest. Archie and Jughead are still in High School!

  • Marshmallows. The ones that burned up too much to eat. Plus a few that just might have been tossed in to see what happens. Bubbly blobs, the best!