Monday, November 26, 2007

Brush your teeth, round and round. Circle small, gums and all....

My mother is recuperating.

I brought her a bowl of chicken noodle soup and a large shot of brandy as she whimpered and dabbed at the spitty blood dripping over her new teeth. Her blood pressure, which had been at 219/63 when she arrived at the oral surgeon, had lowered itself to something about half that.

"I woulda rather had a baby," she said, and started her shaking that is at once laughing and crying.

My brother dropped her off at the oral surgeon in the morning. She was to have five teeth removed. She was beside herself. I'm glad I wasn't there.

My class got out early, so I stopped at home first to get my book and down some chocolate and tea for stiffeners.

I picked her up around 11:30. She wheeled herself out from behind a door and motioned for the bathroom. Her face was horribly swollen, and she looked a little crazed. Wild. Desperate. She wanted me to come into the bathroom with her. My favorite. Nothing out of the ordinary happened in there – other than her washing her hands – so I assume she was just scared.

She shuffled over to the desk, where the sweet young thing with perfectly straight, white teeth yelled, "That will be $325 today, Mrs. Wagner."

My mother couldn't talk. Her mouth was packed with gauze. Lots of it, and it was saturated with blood, which had started to leak around her lips, turning them bright red. She motioned for a pen and paper and made dying-dog yelps, those sad, not-faint-enough cries that tie your guts in knots.

She inquired in her increasingly poor handwriting if that was the full amount. It was not. She wanted to pay the full amount.

Chickie looked at my mother with amusement and pity. She shook her head a little and said she would figure the full amount for her. She had this dubious grin that said it would be such a large sum no one could possibly pay it all at once.

"OK, I've got the full amount for you!" she bellowed. I didn't realize having teeth pulled also yanked out your ear drums. I'll keep it in mind when I'm 82. "That's $751 for all of it." My god. My mother would surely have to sell one of her grandchildren to come up with all that. She wrote the check and howled goodbye to the girl who has yet to learn that old people have been saving money for decades and are considerably wealthier than their tatty clothes make them appear.

Some of the blood around my mom's lips was beginning to dry and turn black.

She whimpered herself into my car and started writing on an envelope. She wanted to go to the store ("kill time," she wrote) and buy some soft food, enough for two days. We started thinking up soft food. Applesauce. Baked beans. Pudding. Soup.

I ran in and bought her food. When I came back to the car, she was taking out her gauze. I'm amazed she didn't get blood all over everything. She repacked herself and we drove home.

She spit and spit and spit and then looked herself over. Then she got laughy-teary again.

A couple hours later, after lots of spitting, dabbing, and bitching, I dropped her at the next dentist who would fit her with her falsies. The bleeding had nearly stopped. I had to leave her there to be home for Kelsey.

I arrived to get her just as she had finished. She was still dabbing her mouth, but her teeth looked great. Nice and straight and appropriately gray-brown for an old smoker. It was weird to see her with straight teeth. She always had crooked, snaggy teeth.

This is my favorite part:

I held the door for her, and she said, "They had to pull another one! That's why it's bleeding again." The oral surgeon hadn't done it all. To have to go through that again, that poor woman. Looks like the dentist didn't tell the oral surgeon about that last tooth. Oops. He didn't charge her.

Well, she could talk again. And she could eat. And, boy, did she eat. She hadn't eaten all day. She's worried she won't be able to get her teeth out to clean them and that they'll stink. She said her teeth are so perfect people won't even recognize her. Ha!

So, she's settling down now. And she looks pretty good in her new teeth.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Another toothy post – no pics

My glorious long weekend is coming to an end. After school, I get to take my mom to the dentist. Two dentists.

Tomorrow my mother gets false teeth. Only five. You'd think the world was spinning backwards or something. She's very upset. She hasn't had good experiences with dentists.

As a child, she needed a tooth pulled. Bear in mind this was 75 years ago, and dentistry has improved somewhat in the ensuing years. Anyway, the tooth wouldn't come. The dentist pulled and tugged and pounded with increasingly large hammers. Finally, he apologized, wiped the sweat from his forehead, put his knee on her chest for better leverage, and ripped the little sucker out of her face. When he finished up with her, he put her bicycle in his car and drove her home. Then he went out for some well-deserved alcoholic reassurance.

When she was pregnant with my sister (only 54 years ago now), she had a similar experience. She had split a tooth in two. She warned the dentist her teeth came out hard. He gave her the condescending smiles that doctors do when they clearly know more than their patients and offered his reassurance that all would be well. An hour later, he was shouting at his assistant to get him a bigger hammer. By the time my mother left, she was reassuring the dentist that all would be well. He said he'd never pull another of her teeth again.

So, today she is calling me in tears, terrified of what will happen. She is genuinely worried she won't live through the procedure. I guess I'll let you know tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fall to Winter

I could definitely get used to days off.

The morning started with a lazy lie-in. Kelsey climbed into our bed somewhere between 7:30 and 8. Eric ran outside to start moving the wood and raking before the THREE INCHES OF SNOW were to come tonight.

I got Kelsey some breakfast and headed out to help Eric. I think we waited long enough to rake our leaves that most of them blew into the neighbors' yards, who raked for us. Excellent.

Eric cleared the toys and big hunks of wood off the driveway. Together we scooped up the wood chips and smaller pieces that were burnable but don't fit on a rack. A neighbor took down the world's biggest ash tree this fall, and we got the wood. It takes a while to process all that wood. And the sawdust and wood chips are hard to sweep up and dispose of. Anyway, that's done now.

And the raking is done. We did most of the back together, then Eric had to go to work. I did a bit more, had a break, then dragged the kids out to help. You'd think I was asking them to dig a hole to China. But they helped, and I appreciated it. We were all rather tired afterward, I must say.

In the afternoon, we bought Kelsey some new snow boots and a pair of silver flats. Back home, she dressed in her Santa dress and wore her new flats. Very cute.

And now, it is snowing. It's those giant, wet, gooby flakes that make great packing snow. Kelsey and Eric ran out to play and make the first snowball and snowman of the season.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007



The relief felt round the world. I'm on Thanksgiving break. And it came none too soon, either.

So, my friend Kath was here last week. I felt crappy for her that she came during such a busy time. I warned her ahead of time, though. She said she was looking forward to some down time. Well, she got it. Somewhere among the funeral, chasing kids around, meetings, school, and rain, we got to do some sightseeing.

We had a quick look over the Wisconsin River to see if there were any eagles around. No luck. Ah, well. Next we visited the Baraboo Candy Company, home of the Cow Pie. Too bad they don't give tours. I've been sending Kath Cow Pies for years.

After that it was a quick ride back across the river on the ferry for a walk in the woods at Gibralter Rock. Yes, that's how it's spelled. This is Wisconsin, after all. Kath had seen our pictures on my blog last summer and wanted to go, so we were off.

Kelsey got a bit nervous because it's gun deer season. You could hear shots in the distance. Walking in the woods at dusk on public hunting grounds is not such a good idea. But after she got good and worn out walking up the hill and seeing the sun setting in the distance, she loosened up and had fun.

We picked up my mom on our way home. She had wanted to take Kath out for a Friday night fish fry. My mom was tired, though, and started crabbing before we ever got out the door. It set me on edge. Then Kelsey started whining about being hungry. Eric got our name in at the Great Dane as we drove over. Then we waited. And waited. And it was loud, so my mom bitched about that, too. Kelsey started crying because she was so tired and hungry. Then there was nothing she wanted to eat once we finally were seated. And my mom pissed and moaned about the menu not listing the fish special, so when the server took our order, my mom ordered a hamburger. Color me exasperated. She did get the fish after I asked about it. And then she bitched that it was greasy. Yeah, it's deep-fried, duh. Kelsey ate Cheerios. And we had dessert. So my mom complained about eating too much. Gah! I was glad when that night was over.

Next day was the funeral for Lynda. I cried the entire time. I felt like an idiot. Nobody else cried that much. I never used to cry so much. What has happened to me? I cry now. It's like I'm making up for decades of dry tear ducts. I had it under control as the thing wrapped up. The minister talked so much about Jesus and so little about Lynda that it depersonalized it a bit, and I settled down. But then it was over and Kira and Paul walked down the aisle holding hands, and that got me going again. I composed myself fairly quickly, then Kayleigh started crying. That was it for me again. It was exhausting.

The rest of the day was fatigue. Kath and I took Kelsey to the mall to buy a birthday present for her friend.

That was the extent of Kath's adventure here. Poor girl. It's a good thing she got to do some cool stuff with her friend Cindy before she came to our house.

Sunday Kath left to spend a day in Chicago before her flight to Vancouver. I'm sure she'll have a great time in Vancouver.

I had a ton of homework to do, and it was frustrating homework, too. I also had four stories to write for the paper. Homework got done, two stories got done.

So today, I'm happy to just breathe. I left my class early since almost everyone else had, too.

Here is a gratuitous pic of Kelsey in the leaves.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Crazy 8s

Laurie has tagged me with the Crazy 8s meme. So here you go.

8 things I’m passionate about

1. Eric. He is the nicest person I’ve ever known.
2. Kayleigh. She has a depth that attracts and frightens.
3. Kelsey. Her joy and enthusiasm are uniquely inspiring.
4. Whatever project I’m working on. Until I get sick of it.
5. Doing things well. It’s OK to call me anal and picky. (Are you laughing?)
6. Fall in Wisconsin. Leaves, apples, crisp air, family fun days.
7. Going places. Not fussy.
8. Art fairs. Starving artists make the coolest stuff.

8 things I want to do before I die

1. Publish a book, play and/or screenplay
2. Visit every continent
3. Visit every state in the U.S.
4. Know my grandchildren
5. Build washboard abs
6. Sleep under the stars. No tent.
7. Swim with a whale
8. Stop eating so damn much

8 things I say often

1. [expletive of choice]
2. Kayleigh, turn the basement light off.
3. Kayleigh, turn your bedroom light off.
4. Kelsey, close the back door.
5. Kelsey, close the front door.
6. Cool
7. Um
8. Sorry

8 books I’ve read recently or am still reading

1. Three Dollars, by Elliot Perlman
2. Round Ireland in Low Gear, by Eric Newby
3. Ten Little Indians, by Sherman Alexie
4. Hungry Planet, by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio
5. Fat Land, by Greg Crister
6. The Handmaid and the Carpenter, by Elizabeth Berg
7. Working with Words, by Brian S. Brooks, James L. Pinson and Jean Gaddy Wilson
8. We Are All Welcome Here, by Elizabeth Berg

8 songs I could listen to over and over and do
8? Are you kidding? How about 88? OK, my cheeky 8, and if I were feeling really cheeky, it would be along the lines of 69 instead of 6 feet under, so count yourselves lucky.

1. Better Off Dead, by Elton John
2. Dust in the Wind, by Kansas
3. Who Wants to Live Forever, by Queen
4. In Too Deep, by Genesis
5. Intensive Care, by Bondi Cigars
6. I Scare Myself, by Renee Geyer
7. Don’t Wanna Be A Nutcase, by Vika and Linda
8. The Cliffs of Insanity, by Mark Knopfler

8 things that attract me to my best friends

1. They put up with me.
2. They are funnier than I am.
3. They are smarter than I am.
4. They are nicer than I am.
5. They are more positive than I am.
6. They have more energy than I do.
7. They tell me to get off my dead ass.
8. They inspire me to be more like they are.

8 people I think should do Crazy 8s
I don't think I have eight regular readers whose links I know who haven't already been tagged.

1. Sarah
2. Christian (yes, this is girly, so let’s get a man’s perspective)
3. Kath
4. Swearing Mother
5. Crystal

Monday, November 12, 2007


Yes, it's getting to be that time of year. Yule logs and fruitcakes.

Way back when, Eric and I had our first Christmas together. It was a quiet day. He gave me my very first CD – Elton John's "Captain Fantastic," my favorite album of all time. He had a silver necklace of mine repaired and had the jeweler put an amethyst on it. It was supposed to be a garnet, but they did it wrong. I didn't mind, but I hope he got his money's worth. I gave him a children's book – "Love Is A Special Way of Feeling," by Joan Walsh Anglund, and a Hallmark Keepsake Ornament of two little foxes in a log. It says, "Our First Christmas Together, 1990."

But before the holiday, we visited his parents. His mother, Maxine, had a box ready for Eric's sister Marcia and her family. It was full of cheese and sausage, a very Wisconsin gift for the Missouri family. But she also had a loaf of fruitcake for them. Wrapped in aluminum foil. I thought, "God, why would you do that to them? Nobody wants a fruitcake." I turned my nose up as high as my skinny neck would let me.

Of course, there was fruitcake for all of us that night. Eric assured me it was very good. It wasn't like other fruitcake, he said. It looked pretty solid to me, brickish, black. How we suffer for love.

Eric cut me a slice. A small one. I politely put it in my mouth, preparing the I'm-not-very-hungry speech and hoping I'd be able to keep a nice face on.

But it was good. Very good, actually. I had more. And more. And more. It was delicious.

And I looked forward to it every year. I even asked for the recipe. I got that same old reply: "Oh, I don't have a recipe!" I thought she was being unnecessarily modest.

And just over five years after my first bite of her fruitcake, Maxine died, without ever having revealed her secrets to tasty fruitcake. Christmas came, the first without Maxine, and the first without my dad. I looked to Christmas sadly, missing our parents and missing the traditions that would be different that year, including the fruitcake.

I decided to try to make some, but I didn't quite know where to start. I knew she used dried fruit instead of that nasty candied fruit. Candied fruit is proof that God is vengeful.

John, Eric's dad, said he knew Maxine's fruitcake secret. Oh, happy day!

"You get a cake mix, any kind, it doesn't matter, and add a cup of dried fruit and nuts," he said. Um, sorry. A cup? Usually guys are OVER-estimating sizes.

So I got a yellow cake mix and dubiously stuffed it full of prunes, dates, dried apricots, raisins, golden raisins, walnuts and pecans. I chopped probably half a bushel's worth. I'm not kidding. I poured it into the prepared cake batter and wondered if it was enough. So I added more. And more. Until finally, it was fruit and nuts barely held together by batter. It was rather hard to stir by that point. I jammed it into pans and baked it. It took forever.

When it was finally finished, it didn't look right. Yellow cake was not the cake mix. I was disappointed.

Eric's family was all here for Christmas. His sister Laura looked at it and frowned and said it didn't look the same. She was disappointed.

I joked, though, that I would wrap it up in aluminum foil and in my best Maxine handwriting say on a slip of white paper, "Merry Christmas! All my love, Mom." Marcia said I was mean. She was maybe joking.

So we gathered and remembered and ate fruitcake. It was not the same as Maxine used to make.

But it was so close you would never have guessed she hadn't made it. It tasted just like it. It felt just like it. It stuck in your teeth just like it. It made a rock in your stomach when you ate half a loaf just like it. Not that I would ever do that.

In the following years, I tried other variations. Chocolate cake mix. Spice cake mix. Almonds. Macadamias. Chocolate chips. No raisins. Adding coffee or orange juice to the mix instead of water. Some worked, others didn't. But I always thought of Maxine when I made it and when I ate it.

So, here is Maxine's secret recipe:

Take a cake mix, any flavor, it doesn't matter. Add half a bushel of chopped pecans, walnuts, prunes, dates, dried apricots, raisins and golden raisins. Add anything else you think is good in fruitcake, but no candied fruit – because candied fruit is proof that God is vengeful. Pull out your paint-stirring drill bit and stir. Pack it into loaf pans. Bake forever. Cool. Wrap in aluminum foil. Write "Merry Christmas! All my love, Mom" on a slip of white paper and tape it on the foil. Or something meaningful and sentimental to you. It keeps well, but why would you want to save it? It's so tasty, you'll have it eaten in no time. And if you eat half a loaf at a time, you deserve what you'll get over the next day or so, and it ain't pretty. Not that I would know from experience, of course.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Pumpkin Pie

Ahhh.... Mmmm.... Smell that? Pumpkin pie. My first of the season. I have to wonder, though, how old that evaporated milk was. Ah, well. The smell of that pie is filling the whole house. I can hardly wait to eat it.

Eric's got a fire in the basement, and he is snuggled up next to Kelsey, spending some daddy time with her.

Kayleigh is asleep. She either has a bug or the events of the last couple days have caught up with her. She's staying close to the john today.

I'm supposed to be writing stories. I also have a test tomorrow. And my show comes on in a couple hours. I'm not very worried about the test. It's just a grammar and style exam. I don't always write in perfect AP style, but I know the rules pretty well, and mistakes are easy to spot on a multiple-choice test.

Well, back to my articles. Be well.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Cancer kills again

Today Lynda died. I drove past her house last night, and it was completely black. It was a bad sign.

Lynda was diagnosed with lung cancer about six months ago. If that. I can't remember. I felt so bad for her. Her daughter Kira is one of Kayleigh's best friends. Kira has some problems, and this will certainly not help. Lynda worried about her so much. And now Lynda's gone. I think it will be a hard adjustment for their little family.

Kayleigh said, "Now I'm the only one in my group of good friends who has both parents." I hope she's not tempting fate. And I hope at some level she's grateful.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

My brother

My brother Clint was diagnosed with lung cancer earlier this year. Because he is in generally poor health anyway, they've had a hard time tracking down exactly what he has and the extent of its spread. Yesterday they went to the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City.

Here's what they had to say:

He has bronchalveolar cell carcinoma, a rare form of adenocarcinoma. Non-small cell. In both lungs. Stage 4. The spellings of those seem to be questionable. You'd think doctors would agree on spellings of diseases. Unless if you stick an O in there it changes it altogether. I don't know. Whatever.

He will have two more tests, one today and one next Tuesday. After these two tests, the doctors will choose what kind of chemo would be the most helpful to him.

Without any treatment, life expectancy is about a year. With treatment, who knows? My sister-in-law says that is the miracle of hope.

Oh, looky. My sister-in-law just sent me another email. Here's what she said. It's scary.

***************UPDATE, NOTICE**************

None of the stuff below is mine. It is straight from an email from my sister-in-law. Sorry it wasn't clear.

The test Clint needs to have next Tuesday is a brain MRI. They want to see if the cancer has gone to his brain. If it has, I don't know what the treatment will be. If it hasn't, that is the really great part. If the cancer is just in the lungs, Dr. Ackerley at the Huntsman Institute will see that Clint qualifies to be part of a study group. That means that the medications will all be free. The two medications
that will probably be the best for Clint are some of the most expensive in the world.

These two medications are what most doctors try after all other chemo and radiation have failed. They are seldom used both together. The study is to try out the two medications together and before any regular chemo. The one that is given by IV is given once every three weeks. The pill is something Clint can take at home every day.

The test that Clint needs to have today is a simple CT scan, just because it has been a while since he had one.

"Expect a miracle."

One of the miracles is the relief I finally feel. We have finally found the right doctor and the right set of people to help us. It has taken months, since April.

In review, I think I am the member of my family who is most a peace with what happened yesterday. I am so much happier because the weight isn't on me anymore. It is on the medical profession, on the right bunch of people of the medical profession. All the other doctors we have seen up until now didn't lift my load, but Dr. Ackerley did. I have been looking for him for a long time.

When I called your mom last night, it was hard. She cried. I told her I felt like a Trojan horse, full of bad news and trouble.

Will you please see that Cynthia is told?


Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Ugh. I just saw that I made a mistake in a story I wrote. A $4 million mistake, give or take a few hundred grand. I don't know precisely when the paper goes to the printer, but I think it already did. Crap.

And I keep forgetting about another story I'm supposed to do. That it keeps slipping my mind annoys and baffles me.

When I was an editor, I couldn't stand people that didn't write what they said they would.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Getting Excited

Kath is in Chicago! I met Kath online a number of years ago. We were both fans of an Australian TV show called SeaChange. In 2004, a group of us fans met up in Brisbane. I stayed at Kath's, and next week, she'll be staying with me.

Kath is on a massive trip through the U.S. Eleven weeks here! Wow.

She started her trip in Colorado, carving a pumpkin, which she thought was revolting, seeing the beautiful countryside and getting to know greater Denver.

She's the last of the listchicks to visit, and I'm very happy to be seeing her again.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Why iTunes Is Evil

I load all my favorite music into iTunes. Just like everyone else does. Then I listen to it while I work.

Problem: I get far too involved in the music. It's so distracting that I can't work. It's music I love, after all.

I have to go make dinner. I have to call someone for a story. I have to take a shower. But I can't – BECAUSE I HAVE TO LISTEN TO THE END OF THIS SONG. Then the next one starts. And I have to listen to that one. And by the end of the day, I've listened to some great music and done nothing I was supposed to.

Now, I'm going to go order a pizza because I haven't made dinner. I'll just wait until the end of this song.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

My Bipolar Day

Cliche for the day: Life is full of ups and downs.

Add to that the unpleasant experience of hormonal fluctuations in the female of the species. What do we get? Frightened men and frustrated women.

I knew when I woke up yesterday that I was off to a shaky start. The song in my head was "Addicted to Stress," by Jimmy Infantino.

As I let the lyrics swirl through my emerging consciousness, I remembered I hadn't done enough work on my audio project. I had listened to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and made a few notes. I had written a lead and tried to make a rough outline of what my group should report on, including soundbites from the speech. So it was something, but not, you know, finished, thoughtful or cohesive. I tried to work on it a little before school, but mornings are chaos.

My two children were staying home sick from school. Have I mentioned illness makes me nervous? Yeah, I'm psycho. The neighbor kids arrived to walk with them. We chatted a bit, and I sent them on their way.

The van was in the way of my car, so I took the van instead. It's amazing how unused to it I am already. I couldn't even remember how to turn on the radio.

I get to school, and a girl is talking to the TA about something being good enough since it's just a rough draft.

"Going for the bronze?" I asked. The TA laughed. The girl didn't get it.

"That's what I'm doin'," I said. I sat.

My TA asked if everything was going OK or something to that effect. And I got teary. God. How embarrassing.

And everything had been OK. But those niggling doubts about ever being satisfied had hit me in the morning. I feel sometimes that writing about lifeless board meetings is not just unsatisfying, it's actually damaging my desire and ability to write the things I really love to write. So why should I put myself through this? Get an easy job that ends at 5, take the money and run. It's not as though I'm ever going to win the Pulitzer.

So I worked with my group on this project. It's hard getting three of us to agree on what's important. We got it done. It's nothing spectacular. As I listened to the other groups working on their projects, I felt again that pang that says, "You can do better than what you're doing. What is your problem? Where is your passion? Objective doesn't mean boring. Put a little life in your words or hand the keyboard to someone else." Oh, well. It was finished.

My TA stepped outside with me when I left. She asked if I wanted to talk. I shook my head and got teary again. I hate being so female. I told her I should just go be a bricklayer. She said, "Don't do that." She said I had a talent that I should pursue, and if I get some experience and find I don't like it, I can go be a bricklayer then. She said I was doing great work. It was nice to hear.

She definitely picked me up a bit. And things only kept improving.

Got home, Kelsey was effectively healed. Kayleigh was apparently recovered from her Halloween hangover, as well. So I said, "Let's go get Chinese." And we were off.

Then something truly miraculous happened. My kids ate. Real food. All of it. Stuff they wouldn't even consider eating if I made it. Egg rolls. Egg drop soup. Tofu and veggies and fried rice. They were happy and chatty. It was so pleasant. What a feeling, contentment. Nice.

On the way home, we stopped by the newly remodeled pet store to get some bedding for the rats. And the store had bunnies. In open cages. I put my hand in one, and this little rabbit came and sniffed. He licked. He nibbled. I've never seen a rabbit so curious and unafraid. The kids were delighted. We all held him. Our rats are getting old and we didn't know what we'd do about more pets. I don't want a dog. Kayleigh can't have a cat. Rats die so fast. Guinea pigs are such chickens. But suddenly there was this rabbit that liked us. I put some money down to hold him and we drove home thinking up names. I told the kids Dad had to agree to it because it's his house, too.

Eric was thrilled. He used to have a rabbit. When he heard about a friendly, lop-eared bunny, he came as close to bouncing off the walls as he ever does.

So after dinner, we picked up our bunny, and we got him a friend, too. Their names are Raven and Basil. Raven is a black lop, Basil is a black and white lionhead. We let them run around the hall this morning. They're so cute. And so soft! At the store, Raven was the laid-back one. At home, he's been a little skittish. Basil has been very curious and got comfortable with us right away. I think Raven will take a couple days of interaction to settle in more.

But before Eric got home, before we bought bunnies, he saw Doug, my former advisor, in the hall at work. Doug looked at him funny.

"Did Amy get an email from Rachel?" Doug asked. Eric doesn't read my email. He didn't know. Doug said he'd know if I'd gotten this one.

Last week was the Associated Collegiate Press national convention, held in Washington, D.C. My paper was a finalist for the Pacemaker, the Pulitzer of American college journalism.

My newspaper won. Our paper. First place. That newspaper that I poured as much of me as I could into at a time when my family needed me the most. That I was bummed about because I didn't have more to give because I knew I could do better. That I let my grades at school slip for (OK, I got one AB instead of an A) because I thought my stack of quality papers spoke louder than a slightly higher GPA. We won.

I was shocked. Delighted. I wish I'd been there. The Clarion had never won the Pacemaker before. People told me I was doing a good job. I can believe them now.

Maybe I won't go be a bricklayer. Not just yet.

Chocolate hangovers

I love Halloween.

Kelsey arrived home at 8. She was buzzing like a kid on Halloween. Uh, yeah. She made quite a recovery. She had filled her pumpkin twice. (She had an extra bag along in case that happened.) I told her dump it on the floor so I could see what she got. It was an enormous amount of candy. Gol.

Taking each piece out individually, she started giggling and screaming.

"OK," she said. "I got two awfully strange things: Fritos and Ritz Bits." She placed them on the floor between the Crunches and Snickers, seemingly unsure how to arrange these salty items among the chocolate sweets. "Ooh! I got an eyeball!"

I love Halloween.

Kayleigh had been hedging about going. She's 13. Last year's Halloween sucked. But she finally decided to give it another go. She dressed as a Pokemon trainer, just like all her friends. I ran around picking up the gaggle and dropped them off at Zoe's. Zoe lives at the far end of the very long street in our neighborhood. She knew the good houses to go to on the lake that give you full-size candy bars. Indeed, Kayleigh came home with six full-size candy bars. Cool. They also figured out that if they went in two separate groups, they got more. People give more if you don't have a large crowd. Good thinkin'. So Kayleigh came home with quite the loot, as well. Among other items, she had – hold onto your dentures – 29 Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

We had six children come. Six! And two of them were my nieces who make a special trip over here every year. Unbelievable. We have a vat of leftover candy, and you know who's going to eat it? Yes, I am. Of course, me. Because I am completely lacking in restraint, common sense, and good manners.

I love Halloween.

Kelsey is mostly recovered. Her face is still a little swollen, but her fever is gone and her energy is back to normal. Kayleigh woke up not feeling well today, though. So they were both home with the same crap.