Thursday, May 31, 2007

Fields and Trenches

I wrote my first professional article yesterday. It was about standardized test results in our school district. I did some comparisons to the county and state and talked with suits. I think I wrote a good lede. The rest--well, it's test results. I think my editor wanted more statistics, but statistics are boring to read. I suggested someone do an infographic, which he said was a good idea. I certainly won't be doing it--blech. He said he or a graphic designer would do one. I didn't even know they had a graphic designer.

After I mailed it off, I thought I should probably read the damn thing. So I did, and there was a huge cut-and-paste error. I fixed it and mailed it again. I really, really, really hope he uses the corrected one.

I haven't heard anything yet, which makes me worry.

I've spent some time tailing the woman I'm replacing. She's introduced me to some people, and she said she'd give me her contact information, which is very helpful. She seems like a fine person. She's going back to school to get her master's degree in social work. She's written for the paper for three years. She writes in a completely different way than I do. We'll see how people adjust--or not.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Like a Rock

Memorial Day was pretty low-key at our house. We didn't go to the parade. We puttered in the morning. Eric worked in the shop, I watered plants in an effort not to kill them this year, Kayleigh played video games and did homework, Kelsey bounced around.

We spent the afternoon at Gibraltar Rock, a little park north of here that overlooks the Wisconsin River. My mother was always terrified at the top of the bluff, so my family never went there by the time I was born. As Kelsey got very close to the edge of the cliff, I understood my mother's terror. My god--it does make your toenails curl to see your kid so close to a sheer rock face hundreds of feet up.

The wind up there has twisted the trees and shorn them of branches landside.

We all had a good time. It was a steep walk up, and the kids were tired this morning. Heh.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Birthday, birthday, birthday, graduation, graduation

Since my birthday always falls at a busy time of year, we decided to go to Mineral Point for the day on Saturday to celebrate. Mineral Point has lots of potters and other artists. I'm a pottery slut. A couple of years ago, my friend Carolin came to visit from Germany, and Mineral Point was one of the places we went.

Anyway, I was too sick to go. My head hurt, and I was tired, and the thing I wanted to buy in Mineral Point was a few hundred dollars if they still had any, and I wasn't in the mood to drop that kind of money on such frivolity. So we went to the Bruce Company and bought a couple of apple trees and planted them in the back yard instead. I didn't have to do much digging since I was in such a condition, but Eric and my nephew Ben were here and willing. We bought a Gala and a Haralson. The Haralson isn't holding up well, but the gala has loads of little apples on it already. Or maybe it's the other way around.

Sunday was graduation. I hoped I wouldn't snot all over the place, and I hoped it wouldn't rain. I also hoped Bettsey (the college president) wouldn't be pissy at me when I shook her hand. I wrote an editorial for the final issue of the paper about graduation gripes. Namely, five tickets per graduate is not enough, parking is a nightmare, faculty aren't involved enough, and what it if rains? But--blah, blah, blah. I talk too much. Let's just say she got a little defensive.

Anyway, my nose stayed thoroughly plugged, no drips. I didn't feel like fainting, I didn't erupt in a fit of coughing.

So we walked down the street in our gowns, listened to people talk about how great MATC is and what an accomplishment this is. Our parents should be proud. What about our kids? Bettsey, dear, did mention spouses once. Just once. Ah, but I digress again.

Here we are, after the fact. Lovely Anna took this photo. I will miss her.

The rest of the afternoon and evening were spent with family. We had a party for three birthdays and two graduations: Amy, Rebecca, and Brendan birthdays; Amy and Nathan graduations. Nathan graduated from law school. Pretty dyno.

Doug cooked the standing rib that I bought my mom for Christmas on the grill. I'm glad she didn't have another heart attack. We had a four-foot sub from Cousins, two cheesecakes, two pies, and one cake. And a salad. And two bags of chips. And excellent coffee, according to my mother. The kids had fun playing. It was a pleasant day.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

They Say It's Your Birthday

B-flat, please:

Happy birthday to me,
Happy birthday to me,
Happy birthday dear Amy,
Happy birthday to me.


So, for my big day, I'm lying around blowing my nose. It's supposed to be a hailstorm this afternoon, which doesn't make me really want to go out for dinner, which I would probably have insisted on, otherwise. It's quite nice now, so I might take myself out to lunch. I was thinking of the Market Street Diner in Sun Prairie, but it looks just like all the other places Food Fight runs, so I might skip it and just have my free dessert at Borders. The way I'm feeling, food should probably be kept to a minimum anyway.

The last time I felt like this on my birthday was 1998. I decided to ignore it and went over to Madison Block & Stone and brought home a bunch of fieldstone to make a little garden by the back door. I made the garden. Then I had to go pick up my mom and take her flower shopping. As we were driving to the flower store, there was just no denying anymore how sick I was, and I told her I couldn't go. I was about to pass out. So I drove to my place and had a nap while she sat in the living room, likely snoring herself. Then people kept arriving and they kept bringing chocolate and I felt obliged to eat it. Oh, god. Over the next couple of days, I lost seven pounds. It was not pleasant.

Since I don't want to repeat that day of nine years ago, I'm not doing anything so strenuous. I'm going to go buy frames for art the kids have done over the years. Kayleigh made the coolest line cat in second grade, and it's been sitting there waiting for me ever since. Sheesh--as Kayleigh would say--how difficult is it to buy a damn frame? It really shouldn't take five years.

Usually I make a fabulous cake for my birthday. I'm going to buy a pie at Ken's instead and be done with it.

Monday, May 14, 2007

I Looked Back

I relinquished my post today.

Last year, when Heidi was finished and I took over, she was so happy. She told me I would be, too, when I was done. I wondered how she could feel that way. She had done such an incredible job and invested so much of herself--and then it was over! I thought she should be more attached, wistful, disappointed it was ending.

But now I know how she felt. It is nice to be done with it. I really enjoyed it, and I learned more than I thought I would. I have my regrets, too. But I'm not sad--well, not terribly sad. I'll miss all the chances I could have taken to be harder or to be more chummy. I suppose that's part of learning, too. Still, it really is good to be finished.

What I dislike is not seeing those people anymore. My advisor, the office people, some of my staff. I will also miss Tim and Holly and Bird and Jon and especially Mike like you wouldn't believe. I will miss not seeing Eric's face in my window or knowing I could dash up to his office and steal his sweater or leave him a love note--or find him at his desk.

I cleared out my desk and washed it off. I cleaned out the fridge--except for the beer bottles--I don't want to be seen with those. There was a nasty pasta salad and a rice dish in the fridge that's been there since, I think, September. It was not pretty. I handed in my key and had a goodbye chat with my advisor, turned off the lights, and left.

I looked back.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


My final papers have been hastily written. I figure even if I get a D on the big one, I can still squeak at least a C out of the class. The ones that were due for my other class just might drag me down to a B, but I doubt it. Regardless, once I hand those bastards in tomorrow, I am finished. I just have to clean out my desk.

So, Laurie has tagged me. Um... seven things you don't or might not know about me.

1. When I was a kid, I had a crush on Alan Alda. Hawkeye was just the best. I also had it bad for Gary Burghoff and Wayne Rogers. Other celebrities/characters I kinda liked as a kid: Jimmy from Mickey Mouse Club. It came as a shock to learn he was dead. Donny Osmond--married. Jerry Mathers--fat druggie.

2. I wanted to be a boy. Boys got all the cool toys, better clothes, and weren't expected to play hopscotch or jump rope. It was automatically assumed boys were smarter, which they weren't.

3. I don't like water past my ankles. I hate water. I get terrified just looking over Lake Michigan. You can't see the other side, you know. And it's deep and cold and things live in it and things die in it. People die in it.

4. Even though I'm not the most feminine woman in the world, I still like girly things. Like shoes and jewelry and nice clothes, even though I don't go nuts shopping, and I wish I knew how to use a curling iron and apply makeup and do a French braid so my kids with their lovely hair could have it on their heads in some way other than dripping down their necks.

5. I really, really, really like sex. I like to do it, I like to think about it, I like to write about it, I like to watch it, I like to joke about it. But maybe you already knew that.

6. I sponsor a girl named Gathoni, who lives in Kenya. She is 14 and lives with her siblings. Her mother died about 5 years ago, and after that, her dad left to go be with another woman, leaving the kids (a crap load of them) behind. Gathoni has a twin sister named Wanjiku.

7. I'm happiest when I'm in the woods, skipping over cold creeks when it's hot outside.

Now, who's it next? Trouble is, I don't read a lot of blogs. So, Sarah, you're it.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Hammer Time

I had lunch with my feature writing class yesterday. It was a nice way to wrap up the semester on someone else's tab. We had pizza at Glass Nickel, which is excellent. The teacher asked each of us in turn what we'd be doing this summer or what we wanted to be doing this summer. I said I wanted to rip out my bathroom. She was delighted, having worked as a carpenter for years. She said she'd help if I'd help her at the farm. Sounds like a plan to me. Eric says he doesn't have time to help tear out and replace a bathroom. I said he didn't need to have time because Bird does. So, not to get all 80s on your ass, but it's hamma tahm, literally.

Yesterday I wrote a paper about assimilation pressures and growing ties to native cultures from 1800 to the present. Sounds like college, doesn't it? The teacher said to footnote like crazy, so I did. I have one paragraph where every sentence is footnoted. Ha! Who needs any original ideas when you can footnote everything? See, teach? I used those precious sources.

Today I am writing about Christian influence on Native American religions from contact to the present. Joy. The easy part was mesoamerica. Can we say Catholic? Now I have to move north and further down the timeline. Fun, fun – where's my peyote?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Thespian again

Last fall, MATC Performing Arts hosted a playwriting contest. I was asked not to write anything so I could be a judge. Fine.

This spring, it was time to perform the winning plays. Directors quit, designers quit--an actor walked out two hours before curtain. Don't you love commitment?

Kelsey was in one of the plays, so we were all there ahead of time for a last-minute rehearsal. That's when chickie went home because she wasn't feeling well. She wasn't feeling well because she never learned her lines. The director, the one who was left, was about in tears and was utterly disgusted. I volunteered to go on in chickie's place. I said we could do it as a staged reading. I was handed a script.

I read through with the other actor. He said I did it better in one reading than chickie had ever done. He was great at bolstering my confidence!

Let me tell you, it takes the pressure off, knowing that no matter how badly I screw up I'll be forgiven because I've only had the job for two hours.

So, the show went on. We walked out onto the stage, and Kayleigh said from the audience, "Mom?! Oh, my god! That's so embarrassing!" and tried to get up to leave. Always my pillar of support, my personal cheering section, that one. I'm glad I didn't hear her.

It was pretty fun, actually. I'm glad I did it. Eric said people were shocked I only had two hours to rehearse. Through the grapevine, I hear that the performing arts advisor said I was "a thousand times better" than chickie.

By the way, here's a big thanks to that performing arts advisor, Mike, for nominating me for Learner of the Year. He's a kind man, a funny guy, smart as a whip, and a great friend. Hugs.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


So, my last newspaper came out this week. I must say, it's nice to be done. My section editors went AWOL, and my graphic designer had to go to Panama to save the world. She'll be back next week, having put in her two weeks' worth of imperialism. Then my job is her job; she's next year's editor. It was hard putting the paper together mostly myself. I told my advisor I wasn't going to touch the arts section. I can do boxy news, opinions, and sports, but the arts section is beyond my ability.

So, last week there was an awards ceremony at school. One of the student organizations puts it on every year. I was told I was nominated for an award, so I said I'd go. My advisor made it seem like this wasn't a big deal, that the students who put it on always give the awards to themselves, that he never bothers doing nominations because we win enough awards. So, I wasn't expecting much.

Then I showed up. It was fancy. I was wearing brown Levi's cords, dirty, with holes where the belt loops ripped out. They couldn't find my table--we had assigned seats, mother of god.

"Shawna, do you know where The Clarion table is?" asked Lori E.

"Amy's not with The Clarion today. She's at the Arts and Sciences table. Table 8."

So, I was ushered to table 8, which was right in front, right next to the president's table. One of the vice presidents sat at my table. I had a name plate, even. Then I looked around. I was one of two students. The other student was my friend Lauri, and I already knew she won the Performing Arts Student of the Year award. She told me they asked her to write a speech. So I thought, whew, I wasn't asked to write a speech. I didn't win. Yea! Save myself the embarrassment.

But all the tables were by organization. I was the only Arts & Sciences person. Gawd. Then I looked at the program, and The Clarion was nominated for outstanding student organization, and I hadn't even been told we were nominated. So, I figured we definitely didn't win that one if I, the editor, hadn't even been told. Still, it would have been nice to know we were nominated.

"(Blah, blah, blah...)"

"You better get ready," my advisor said. Huh?

"(Blah, blah, blah...) This year's winning student organization is the student voice of the college. [Oh, shit.] As the student newspaper, The Clarion informs the college community and advocates for student rights. [Megashit--why don't I dress better?] The Clarion won 24 awards this school year [Really? I don't think so. It was 21--well, 22 now.]...blah, blah, blah...[starting to get very nervous...I should have put makeup on...I should have worn clothes without holes, clothes that don't make me look as fat as I really am...shit.]...Would the representatives from The Clarion please come to the stage to accept their award?"

Right. So. So, I'm the only one there BECAUSE NOBODY FUCKING TOLD US WE WERE NOMINATED! How embarrassing. So, up I go. Past the president who doesn't like me anymore since I wrote how stupid Convocation is. Thank you very much for recognizing all our hard work and excellent publication. Does everyone like my blue Chuck Taylors? Down the ramp for a photo.

I'm barely seated when they start in on Arts and Sciences Learner of the Year. Well, guess what table I'm sitting at? Darling Nick, who just handed me The Clarion's award, starts reading all about this student. Gee, why is Lauri staring at me? She keeps looking over at me with a look on her face.

"It's you! It's you! You know it's you! It has to be you! Listen to him! He's describing you! You said you didn't win! You knew, didn't you!"

"...Arts and Sciences Learner of the Year, Amy Knapp."

Holy shit. Back past the president, up on the stage in my ripped cords, bulging tummy, lumpy sweater, and blue Chucks.

So, what an honor. I had been having a really horrible day. The kind where, if I had a real job, I would have stayed home sick. The kind where, when Anna, the nurse/counselor, looked at me, she knew instantly how I was feeling and got that puppy dog/I care about you/let's talk look on her face, and I had to stop looking at her because I'd cry. I definitely didn't look at Anna after I won.

Eric was delighted and scanned the trophy for the whole world to see. The kids were pretty stoked, too. My mom, too. Me, too.

Here it is.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Basketball, bikes, and condoms

Look at me, I missed April entirely.

I'm taking a break from writing the semester's final papers. The sky is pink and purple outside my window. It's absolutely still. I hear birds and noisy cars and the occasional screams of my daughter and her friend Hunter, who are apparently playing in everyone's yards.

I rode my bike for the first time this year yesterday. Kelsey wanted to go to the ice cream store. So we dug around on dressers and nightstands trying to find enough change to pay for an ice cream cone, pumped up the tires on my bike (which was wedged underneath Eric's and held down by the dust collector and some clamps), picked the spider webs out of my helmet, and left. It was a good ride. Kelsey still can't keep up with me, even though I'm dreadfully out of shape. I didn't have any ice cream.

I also played basketball for the first time this year yesterday. It always feels so freeing and relaxing to shoot hoops. Today I played a while with Kelsey. She is such an enthusiastic, joyful thing.

The big, funny news is the impromptu field trip I took today. My teacher drove us to the dirty book store. We must have made quite a little circus: she, the middle-aged lesbian; I, the boring mom; Brian, the young musician; and Adam, the sweet guy who hasn't admitted he's gay yet. Brian was the most vocal. He and Adam each paid a dollar to try to win a porn movie. They lost. Ah, well. My friend Chryshelle works there, but she wasn't there right then. She usually works the 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift. She says a guy breathed on her the other day. I'm not surprised. That's what they're there for, after all.

I was there to do some research, heh, heh, heh. I'm writing a story about condoms, and I got sort of stuck. It was boring reading. Brian said I should go to a porn store to find some really outrageous condoms and write about those. So Bird, the teacher, said, "Let's go." So we did. We piled into her Mini Cooper and we were off. It's workshop week, so the class was just the four of us.

I'd never been to this particular porn shop. It just opened about a year and a half ago, and it's been a very long time since I ventured into such a place. Not much has changed in the world of adult book stores. But the place was clean since it was so new. Still, I felt like they should have a hand sanitizer dispenser at the door.

I can't say the trip was inspiring. At least not yet. I bought some flavored condoms and I'm going to try to get people to taste them. Adam suggested I cut them into strips, that way I could get lots more people's comments. I think it will be hard enough getting a few comments. We'll see.

Any suggestions for my condom article would be appreciated. I need a good angle for this one.