Thursday, December 27, 2007

Rinse and spin

On my break, I'm questioning what to do with my reporting. My professor told me I need to get an internship with one of the local dailies. She says my little job at my little paper is fine if I don't get the internship, but that I need to go somewhere bigger where my skills would be appreciated. I thought they were appreciated where I was. Sure, I don't use all of those skills to the highest degree. Heck, I don't use some of them at all. But I've got it pretty cushy. And I get paid pretty well considering. I guess I don't want to jump ship and stuff envelopes somewhere else.

I'm also wondering about working at one of the campus papers. It feels sort of like a been-there-done-that, but they're both dailies and the community is much bigger than what I'm used to. It just strikes me as a chore. But maybe a good opportunity.

Anyway, enough navel-gazing.

No heart attacks this Christmas. Yea!

My mom came over Christmas Eve. We had homemade pizza, just like last year, which worried me a little given last year's big event. We watched some Vicar of Dibley, which was pretty funny. It was the 10th Anniversary special or something. I hadn't seen those particular episodes before. I haven't seen my mom laugh that much in a very long time.

My brother and his family also came over that day. It was nice. The kids played hard. In true Aunt Amy fashion, I got my nieces self-inflating whoopee cushions. Man, they sound real.

My mom took Kelsey's bed, and Kelsey slept on the top bunk in Kayleigh's room. Kayleigh whined a bit about it. She said Kelsey keeps her awake wanting her to tell stories. And she snores, Kayleigh says. Ah, well. They got to sleep some time after 11.

The day itself was pretty low-key, which I like. We watched some more Vicar of Dibley after gift-opening. I dropped my mom off at my brother's in the afternoon for standing rib and Yorkshire pudding.

My spoils: Adobe CS3, Forrest Gump, season 4 of Goodnight Sweetheart, the soundtrack to Into the Woods, and a penguin watch. Eric got a great deal on CS3 from work. Pretty darn cool.

The kids seemed pleased with their gifts, as well. Eric kind of got short shrift this year. The guy owns just about everything, and the stuff he wants that he doesn't own is impossible to find.

We went snow tubing on Wednesday. It was fun, but not delightful. It got faster as it got colder outside. The lines got shorter as it got colder, too, which was also nice.

Today I took my mom to the doctor, did some of her shopping, some of her laundry, and shoveled her driveway and sidewalks. She took me out to lunch. I like that. We went to the Jet Room, a little family-style restaurant at the old airport. While you eat your hash browns, fancy planes wheel up next to your window. She'd never been there before, and she liked it.

Anyway, laundry list over.

I hope you had a fine Christmas, if you're so inclined. Any grand plans for New Years?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Coca-Cola Glass

When I was in Salt Lake City, my sister-in-law said if there was anything of Clint's that I wanted, I should ask. I hadn't expected that offer and didn't have a clue what to ask for, but I liked the idea of having something that was his.

I thought. His Book of Mormon. Well, it was meaningful for him and his family, but not really for me. His music. Hooked on Classics on LP. It screams Clint, but, nah. A fountain pen – maybe. He constantly had ink blobs all over his shirt pockets and desk top. But I just didn't want a pen. I'd probably lose it.

I put it out of my mind. I don't need mementos of my brother. I have my brain.

But my kids don't have a lot of memories of him. It would be nice for them to be able to look at something and think, "That was Uncle Clint's. He liked that."

I asked about his pennies. He always had a bucket of pennies that he played with. They made a clinky noise on the bed as he sifted through them, sorting them, playing a game only he knew the rules to. I didn't want all his pennies; that would be asking too much. Just one for each of us I could keep in a special spot. But Lee said the pennies were stolen when someone broke into their house. They built up the collection again, then cashed them in one year to buy Christmas presents. It made me sad that his pennies were gone.

I popped open the fridge, and there was a can of Coke. It was the only one in there, so I asked if I could drink it. As I sucked it down, I realized it was Clint's Coke. That was his drink, good Mormon that he was. Lee said she should have known something was wrong when he stopped drinking his Coke.


I asked for one of his Coke glasses. He had several. Sarah took one out of his bedroom window for me. Lee told her to get a different one. That one was a new one; I should have one of the old ones. I was glad.

Sarah handed me a glass. It has that traditional Coca-Cola shape – a wide bowl at the top, then skinny like a schooner. It says Coke on one side and Coca-Cola on the other. It was full of dust and dirt. And it was cracked. Just like Clint. It was perfect.

I wrapped it in my neighbor's Hawaiian shirt and my sweat pants and stuck it in my backpack.

Back home I cleaned it up and put it on my dresser. It was a bittersweet feeling putting it there. Knowing he's dead and that's my piece of him in my room. But life goes on.

We rearranged the furniture in the living room to put up the Christmas tree. Kelsey found a penny under the couch when we slid it toward the closet. I told her that was her tip for helping.

She said, "Maybe I can put it in Uncle Clint's Coke glass since you said he liked pennies."

I told her that was a good idea, that she was sweet to think of him.

"Be careful putting it in the glass," I said. "I don't want the glass to break."

"It's already full of cracks," she said, dropping the penny in. It made a lonely clink in the bottom.

We're filling Clint's Coke glass to the rim with pennies.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Random thoughts after the funeral

I'm back. I don't know what to say.

It was nice to see my family and meet Lee's relatives that I only have met through group emails before.

They had a couple of photos blown up huge, like 3 feet tall. When my sister-in-law pulled the protective paper off the first one so I could see, it was horrible. It was so big and bright with Clint's face right next to mine, it was like he was there. It was very startling. The photo was great, and I'm happy they had it at the funeral, but to be so confronted with my celluloid brother took my breath away.

Flying home, there was a problem with the number 2 engine and we had to wait on the ground. I had to haul ass to make my connecting flight, but I made it. They had already started boarding. It would have been such a let-down not to get home on time.

When I looked over Salt Lake City from the sky, I thought, I'll probably never come here again. My sister-in-law plans on moving to Idaho next summer. She and Clint have (she has) a trailer and some land there. Clint wanted to move up there, but Lee kept saying no because the medical facilities were too primitive and too distant.

We went to Marie Callender's one night. I always want to go there. So we did. None of us were very hungry, though.

Clint's old roommate Bob made a box to put the ashes in. He brought it over one night. It's nice to have someone who cared about him make the box. It sucks that there's a box for my brother. Lee sat it on the living room floor. People used it as a foot rest and coffee table. She said that was OK until he was in it.

Lee put me on the program to speak. I didn't know what to say. I scrawled a few things in the morning when I couldn't sleep. Here's basically what I said. I was babbling a bit. I'm trying to recreate the babbling so you get a sense of how nervous I was. I thought my hands would shake so much I wouldn't be able to see my notes. It was almost that bad. People told me I didn't seem nervous at all. People are nice at funerals. So here it is. Some things really didn't come out well. Anyway –

Clint was my big brother. Even though he was a lot older than I was, he still treated me the way brothers treat their sisters, the way Sarah's brothers treat her. It's nice to see that tradition passed down through the family.

Lee mentioned that some things were Clint's fault. I'm going to continue on those lines. I blame Clint for some things. I blame Clint for my addiction to peppermint tea. When I was three, he made me some peppermint tea, and I thought it was wonderful. It was the kind that you add hot water to those little cubes. I started just sucking on the cubes, nasty little things. My parents weren't too pleased, but I thought it was wonderful. And I blame him for that.

I also blame him for my fascination with fire. He used to hold a magnifying glass to the furniture and focus the sunlight on it until it started to smoke. It was great. Once he set his desk on fire. It was scary. But I share that, and it's his fault.

But Clint taught me some things, too.

He taught me to put marshmallows in my hot chocolate. He taught me to add more flour to my chocolate chip cookies so they didn't turn out like cow pies, even if the recipe didn't say to.

He taught me about generosity. He was always generous with his love. With his family. But he taught me about generosity with money, too. Once when I was in Girl Scouts, we went on a walk in the woods to the top of this long hill. It was steep, and really nice, and at the top there was this little chapel. A man built it in the 1800s to thank God for sparing his family from diphtheria. It's a tiny thing, and really pretty, and there's a donation box, of course. So I fished around in my pockets for some money, and all I found was a nickel, but I put it in the box. When I got home, I told Clint about it, and my family's sarcastic, so I said, "Really generous of me to put a nickel in the box." And he said, "If that was everything you had to give, then it was generous." And it blew me away and made me think and he gave that to me.

He also taught me that a large man can run really fast when he's chasing a naughty little girl.

Lee also wanted to apologize to me for not keeping Clint alive longer, and, yes, that's foolish. But I also have a foolish apology to make. I'm sorry you married someone with such bad genes. That's my family. Sorry, Lee.

As an adult, Clint taught me about being a parent. When I saw how he was with his kids, he was always so loving and patient, and I hoped I could be that kind of parent. I haven't always managed it. But I'm trying.

Clint didn't suffer fools gladly. He suffered, and he occasionally made them suffer. But the people he loved, he gave everything he had to give.

Lee, I am so grateful he had you and these kids, Ben, Sarah, James and Daniel. You and your family are the best thing for him, and I thank you for that. I love you.

Whether he was helping make Swedish meatballs for Girl Scouts – and Swedish meatballs, come on; it's no wonder I'm vegetarian now. Blech. He gathered photos and names for my daughter when she was doing a genealogy project and sent it out with Sarah when she came to stay with us for a little while. He did anything he could. He gave everything, and he loved me, and it was my privilege to know him.

Thank you all for coming.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Back to Life

Thanks to all of you who've sent condolences and other kind words. It's been a peculiar week.

For whatever reason, I thought I'd be able to just keep doing what I do. What a dolt.

I spent Saturday fussing with my class's web site, but not doing much building. I couldn't think hard about construction, but I could certainly put bylines in the right style and other BS like that. When I wasn't fussing, I was wandering the house, eating, staring at the fire in the fireplace.

I spent Sunday crying.

Monday was more normal, having to go to school. But I still didn't do much. Same yesterday. I'm supposed to be finishing work on my date rape drug story, but I just can't work up the gumption to call sources or the motivation to sift through statistics.

Today I've managed to go Christmas shopping. Walgreen's had Russell Stover 12-oz. boxes on sale for $3.99. $3.99! I mean, hello – I'm going back tomorrow.

I hate it when people buy that mega-cheap chocolate at Christmas. It's gross. It's not worth the calorie bomb if I don't swoon. And Steamboat Ray's or whoever else's is on sale for $5 for five pounds does not make me swoon.

Not that Russell Stover's is chocolate perfection, but it tastes good and doesn't have any pig hairs in the chocolate creams.

We had a monster snowstorm yesterday. Even Eric's school was canceled. We got the ice storm that moved through south of here, but because it was colder here, we got it as snow. It started icy, actually, and then got five inches of snow on top of it, which made driving pretty horrific. I was so glad Eric didn't have to go to work. He's got a terrible cold and really didn't want to go in, anyway. And it was so nice to just hang. And not work on my final story.

Here's a morning-after photo of my gazing ball.

I leave Friday for Clint's funeral. I'm crashing on the couch at their house. I'm glad. I was going to stay with one of Lee's friends, but if I'm not at a motel, I'd rather be with family.

I borrowed a Hawaiian shirt from my neighbor Scott. Clint wanted everyone to wear Hawaiian shirts. My sister-in-law T sent out a jar of Wisconsin dirt. I have no idea how she dug it up – the ground is frozen and covered in several inches of snow. Clint said if he couldn't be buried in Wisconsin (and Lee said he couldn't) he wanted some Wisconsin dirt spread over his grave so he could be buried in his native soil.

I'll be back Monday for my final exam. Then I'm done, and I'll make the house merry.

Oh, Eric's dad is having hip replacement surgery today. Good luck, John!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Video and death

OK, I'm trying to post the video again. This is about the sixth time. I swear this is my last try.

Before you see the video, I have to share some bad news. My brother Clint died this morning. I posted in July, I think, that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Just last week the doctor said he expected Clint to recover, so he wasn't eligible for Hospice. It seemed like good news. I was skeptical because it seems that people with lung cancer don't ever recover, but I certainly didn't expect this. I'm glad, though, that he isn't suffering, and I'm thankful he has such a wonderful family. His wife, Lee, is the best thing we could have ever hoped for for him.

Now, I'm going to try to post that damn slideshow.

Friday, December 07, 2007

My Slideshow

So, as part of my individual project in journalism boot camp, I had to create a multimedia component. I made this slideshow. It's just a compilation of quotes set to an appropriate song. I haven't been able to get the dumb thing to upload, but I'm trying again....

And I just got an error message. So, again, forget it.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Final Stretch

Right, so I've been absent a bit lately. It's the home stretch for school, and I've got a lot to do.

I'm doing a story on date rape drugs. I did a quickie Google News search since I need to supply the teacher with three previously published pieces. Here's a headline I found:

Lawyers in rape trial argue over bag of vomit

Read all about it.
Charming stuff.

Today my fellow editors and I started building our class web site. It's cool, I must say. Except we didn't uncheck the little box in iPhoto that plays music on slide shows, so we have heroin addicts and joint rolling to the tune of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring."

What would be a good song for our site? I'd say "White Rabbit," by Jefferson Airplane. "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." "Cocaine." Anything by the Allman Brothers. Others?

In two weeks, I'll be done with school for the semester. Yahoo! I might even visit your blogs again. Well, I've been lurking. But you know that.