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.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Telecommuting with Integrity

I've mentioned before that I have been working from home 1 day a week. Because I see this as a privilege that I need to work to keep, I always make sure that I put in my time, and then some, on my telecommute days, to demonstrate that it can be done successfully.

This week Tim and Jeff both decided that they would like to be picked up from school, instead of taking the bus, on the day that I was home. I didn't want to do that. I explained that my boss expected me to be working the whole day, and that I couldn't take the time away to do that.

Always ready to argue (these boys must have inherited this from their Grandad) Tim said:

"But you're allowed time to go to the bathroom!"

"Driving to your school and back takes longer than that." I countered.

"I know! Just tell them you were CONSTIPATED!"

My kids continue to impress me with their creativity, but Tim did NOT get a ride home from school and I did not have a discussion with my boss about bodily functions.

Attack of the Gigantic Musical Instruments

This year our local school district introduced a brand new String Orchestra program to the Elementary Curriculum. Jeffrey was interested at first but then his enthusiasm waned when he found it out meant going to school 1/2 hour earlier every day of the week. I wanted to encourage him to try this, and offered to pay the rental on ANY instrument he chose. OK then. He picked the Double Bass.

The thing is bigger than he is. By a LOT. When we went to pick it up they said that they would be adding tape lines to the stem to mark the frets. I'm thinking we could also use it as a growth chart to record his height.

Now our house is filling up with extra-large musical instruments. We already had the Baby Grand Piano that fit much better into the living room of our last house than it does here.

When Timmy joined 7th grade band he picked french horn for his instrument, which we were renting to own, and then switched to Trumpet. Since we'd already paid in so much we eventually owned it even as he switched his instrument choice again to Barritone. Slightly smaller than a Tuba but still so big that the case for it is about half the size of a casket.

And for Tim's last birthday his one heart's desire was for a full-size drum set. We found a good deal on a used one through Craig's list, but that thing takes up an entire room (originally intended as Larry's office) in our basement.

Now Tim has announced that he would like to replace it with this one that he found on the internet:

Our house is overflowing with this stuff. Maybe the next home improvement project should be to build a conservatory.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


I usually try to keep my political convictions to myself. Some sort of psychological need to be liked.

Then last week I found myself suddenly mesmerized by the selection of Sarah Palin for John McCain's Vice Presidential Running Mate. Right away, I had all these opinions about it, and I had to do something.

Next thing you know, I'm reading everything I can find on the internet, and in the papers. I watch the conventions on TV. I stop listening to music in my car, now it's just election coverage. I want to know the gossip, the rumors, the accusations, the speeches, the finger-pointing, the opinions, the opposing opinions, the humor, the outrage. I can't get enough.

Sarah Palin is all I want to talk, read, hear, write and learn about. I am obsessed.

It's all I can think about.

And now...


When I met her last weekend, she thought I was hilarious:

Monday, September 8, 2008

So Scrappy

This past weekend I went on a scrapbooking retreat. This is something that I have been doing a couple of times of year, but to anyone who's unfamiliar with the hobby of scrapbooking, it can seem like an unusual way to spend two and a half days.

So for the uninitiated, here is a picture of what it looks like in the scrapbooking room:

The scene doesn't change much except for sleeping and eating, and the occasional walk outside.

This time we were in a facility that was a former Victorian-era church that was renovated and is now exclusively used for just this purpose. It's called Creative Passions and we had a wonderful time just scrapping and chatting. Often times these events are referred to as a "Crop" because that's what we do to the pictures. (Cut them smaller)

Our leaders, Lynn and Jenny, had suggested that we bring CD's of any music that we might like to hear. I brought my new Toby Keith Biggest Hits CD. The reason that I have this is that I am studying his music before attending his concert next weekend. I have never paid attention to Country Music, and when Alisa invited me to go to the concert to celebrate her birthday, I had to look look him up on the Internet to find out what kind of music it was. Turns out he's been around long enough to have a double-disc biggest hits CD.

Most of the other scrappers in attendance were fans of this music, some even sang along. I thought that the songs all had similar themes, and they sounded a lot alike too. Maybe that's the idea.

I joked that I could write a country song, they are so simple. How about scrapbooking? Here is the result of that effort, to the tune of Lynn's favorite Toby Keith Song, "I love this Bar."

We got scissors, we got papers

Die cuts and letter-makers

We got diff'rent colored pages

White, black and three beiges

And you don't have ta leave the room to shop

Hmm Hmm Hmm I love this Crop

We got markers, we got special pens

We got rubber stamps and fancy ink pads

And there's thousands of stickers

A bowl of chocolate with snickers

Hmm Hmm Hmm I love this Crop

I love this Crop

It's my kind of place

Just walkin through the front door

puts a smile on my face

I'm wearin a cute top, suckin on a cough drop

Hmm Hmm Hmm I love this Crop

I've seen small albums, some with simple looks

Christmas themes and digital storybooks

And we got big rolling bags

Organizers so stuffed they sag

And I've even seen someone making Dinner

with the personal trimmer

Oh yeah we like to use our tools to chop

Hmm Hmm Hmm I love this Crop

Yes I do

Scrappin' tool hairdo on Lynn