Sunday, December 28, 2008

The weather outside

Let's just say it has snowed a lot this December. To be fair, a lot did melt the last few days. Thank goodness. We couldn't see out the end of the driveway. Thanks to the monster dumping of the white stuff, even Eric is dreaming about points south, so there is hope for me yet.

(I took this picture in Madison last week.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

In the moment

Today is a gift; that's why it's called the present.

Sometimes I get so caught up in distractions that I forget the things I really want and need. I hope today can be more focused.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I can't wait

I'm in full-on freak mode. I have a 10-page paper due Tuesday at 5 p.m.

I haven't actually started yet.

What a duh.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

I thought I'd be out of college before my kids started. Hmmph.

Kayleigh registered at MATC this week. It was a little weird signing my kid up for a college class while she's 14. High school and college at the same time sounds challenging, but she is very excited. She said it's different taking a class she really wants to take instead of stuff she has to take in high school. She also likes the idea that she'll be in class with more mature students. Even though it's open enrollment, she still had to apply and be accepted into the program. So she has a college email address and ID, which I think is pretty cool.

We told her if she was getting too frazzled or wasn't able to keep up with her regular high school stuff we'd pull her out. She said that was OK, but she doesn't seem to think that will happen. She has a study hall next semester, after all.

She's taking web programming, of course. HTML. In the fall, if she continues, she'll take javascript with dear old dad. That will be especially weird.

I hope she has a good time, learns lots and kicks some serious collegiate booty.

Her dream is to become an animator at PIXAR. Not a bad goal at all. She's been interested in storytelling, movie making and special and visual effects since she was 3, when she figured out people were creating reality, not recording it. For all my frustration with her living inside her head and being so wrapped up in fantasies, I can only support her now that that separate life is becoming a tangible part of this one.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Funeral Black Friday

My mom said I looked like the friendly undertaker. This from a woman dressed in a dirty sweatshirt, inside-out underwear and nothing else. She had just gotten up.

I arrived at 8:55, five minutes before the agreed-upon 9 a.m. She couldn't remember the time she had told me to come and help her dress.

After sloshing down her lukewarm coffee, she stood. The crumbs of her Thanksgiving-leftover breakfast disappeared between her dimpled thighs. They could still be there.

Supporting herself on her walker, she shuffled down the hall to her room and dug through her closet, looking for the pants she wanted to wear. They zip up the back, so I'd have to do that for her. She found a gray suit and set it on her bed.

"Here, sister. Take the pants."

"Just the pants?" It was a nice looking outfit. I didn't remember it. The top had short sleeves, and she wouldn't want that. The embroidered flowers she wouldn't mind.

"Just the pants. The blouse looks too summery."

She ambled around her little hospital bed. The mattress has been squashed nearly flat in spots. It can't be very comfortable, but she can raise the foot of it and drain the fluid from her feet and legs, something she doesn't do often enough.

Lowering herself onto her rumpled sheets, she groaned and caught her breath. "Here. Put my socks on."

Her socks are for male diabetics, black and gigantic and very, very stretchy. I'm glad she finally found some that fit, and I'm glad when she wears clean ones. Her feet are at once dry and flaky and moist and stinky.

"Do you think I should wear a brassiere?" I can't remember the last time she wore one. She is big.

"Yes." She knew she should, but I suppose she hoped I'd say she needn't bother. No such luck.

"Oh, I guess so." She heaved a sigh. "Get the new one that clasps in the front."

I held up one that clasps in the back.

"That's the one," she said.

She slipped her arms through the wide straps and started jiggling herself into the cups, which might be better called bowls. Mixing bowls. I tugged hard on the hooks, trying to stretch them enough to clasp them. I think I broke a sweat. Finally she was attached, the cloth digging deep into her skin.

"That looks like it hurts," I said, coming around to the front of her.

"I think I'm falling out the bottom," she said, pressing her escaping boob up inside the material. The cups were pointed to the sky. She looked like Madonna in her cone period. A really big Madonna. And old.

"You need a bigger one," I said.

"This is the bigger one! This is the 'Oh, my God' woman one." When she'd gone to get fitted for a new boulder holder, the fitting diva/mistress/technician took one look at her and said, "Oh, my God." They had to special order something.

"Well, it's time for her to call upon the Lord once again," I said.

She chuckled. "Don't make me laugh. Now I've piddled."

Looking in her drawer for new underpants, I saw more bras. 44DD. 46F. 50G. That's the one.

I handed her some clean undies and started unhooking her. She was happy to be out of the 42 we'd managed to squeeze her into, happy to be breathing again. I put the little mite of a brassiere in the trash. The 50G went on much more easily.

"Hell, we forgot my toe thing," she said. "Don't let me forget my teeth!"

We got her assembled in plenty of time. She sat in her chair for a while, fretting about what coat to wear and when to be there. Eric would meet us there.

We were soon off to the funeral of a friend. John had been our minister for a while. He married Eric and me. He was a gentle soul, and his wife, Margaret, was and is one of my mother's best friends. When Eric and I got home from our honeymoon, Margaret was the first person after my parents I went to see. As a minister's wife, she had a public persona. But we know the woman behind the smile, and we love her.

We came to honor John and give our love to Margaret and her family. It was a fine funeral full of mostly old people. You don't live to be 90 and have many young friends. There were a lot of white collars in attendance, and one of the ministers who used to work at the church came to participate in the funeral. I was happy to see her. She is looking older, too. We all are.

People said nice things, honest things. We sang and we prayed, and then we went downstairs to eat.

Watching my mother and Margaret together made me sad and hopeful. When I was a little girl, these two women were strong and smart and kind and jubilant and I wanted to be just like them. Now they are old and a little teetery but still smart and kind, though less jubilant. My mother has shrunk and gotten fatter. Margaret has shrunk and gotten skinnier. They both have white hair and wrinkled everything and gigantic glasses. How their bodies have changed, how their minds have not, how lucky they are to have gotten old together.

"We're both widows now," Margaret said to my mom, holding her shoulders. Margaret is actually a widow for the second time. It wasn't any easier the second time, she said.

They chatted about their failing bodies, the deaths of their husbands. They'll talk more later, they said. And they will.

I hugged Margaret's stooped, slight frame and wished her well, then my mom and I made the slow, deliberate walk to the church elevator.

At home, I unzipped my mom's pants and unhooked her bra. I took off her shoes and socks and cut off as much of the callous on the ball of her foot as I could.

"You should write about dressing Mother," she said to me.

So I did.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Going to the printer--Thank you!

Well, thanks to you and many others, we have raised enough money to get our magazine printed! Yea!

We are all very happy – and relieved! We have a launch party on Dec. 9. I'm telling you, come Dec. 10, there will be a such a collective sigh of relief we might alter weather patterns the world over.

Thank you!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Brother, can you spare a dime?

So, I'm taking a magazine class. I'm one of the lead writers. My story is about niche farming. I got to talk to lots of farmers, visit their farms and their sales stands, pet their cows, eat their organic veggies, hold ostrich eggs. It was fun.

The editorial philosophy is "Move Wisconsin Forward." We've got cool stories about advancing the state in the areas of body, mind and soul. We've got Trek Bicycle, we've got Chad Vader. (See the clerk at the three-minute mark? He was in my play.) We're in the final throes of getting this thing put together. Check out last year's class Web site: Curb. Ours is still under construction. Every year, the class starts from scratch.

We have to raise money to get our magazine published. Our original plan was to print 10,000 copies, but it became apparent quickly that we would not be able to raise that much money. So we cut it in half.

Selling ads has been quite a task given the downturn in the economy, but our business team has done pretty well. They've raised almost $6,000. We only need another $230 to get printed. But we need it fast.

So I'm asking for your help. Can you send a few dollars our way? Can you send a lot of dollars our way? Instead of stopping for a $5 coffee, could you please help fund this magazine? Next time I see you, I'll buy your $5 coffee. I'll even get you that pumpkin chocolate chip pound cake to go with it, and I promise not to drool while I watch you eat it.

Please, donate here. It's a completely secure site through the University of Wisconsin Foundation. All money will be directed to our class for the purpose of publishing our magazine.

Thank you! Now, go on. Do it for me. Do it for higher education. Do it because it feels SO GOOD! Yes, yes, yes!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

We don't need no education

Kelsey skipped school yesterday.

There was about 40 minutes left in the day, and the teacher was talking about the buses. Kelsey thought since she was talking about the buses, it was time to go. So she put her stuff on and left. Out the door. By herself. No one stopped her.

She realized as she was walking home that she'd made a mistake, but she just kept coming home. By the time she got here, she was bawling, a little confused, and terrified she was going to get in trouble.

I was at work, but Eric was home, thankfully. He called the school, but no one answered. So he called her teacher directly, who was upset a child could just leave without being noticed. I'm sure she was imagining the wrist-slapping she and the school would get for allowing it to happen.

It's not the first time a kid has wandered off from school, and it's hard to keep track of every child at every moment. But, geez.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


You can tell it's those high-flying days after Halloween. Kelsey is sick. And Kayleigh – well, Kayleigh is Kayleigh:

"Mom, I've licked this Tootsie Pop 340 times, and I still haven't gotten to the center."

UPDATE: "It's been 460 licks now, and I exposed a little bit here [she points to a mocha-colored spot on the right side of the cherry candy]."

The coolest part of this is that she's only licking one side. So the other side of the Tootsie Pop is still perfect, never-been-licked.

Hmm, there's something vulgar passing through my mind.

Stay tuned. I wonder how much Tootsie Roll she wants to expose before she has the answer: How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? The world may never know, but Kayleigh will.

And you can, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Kayleigh is chomping the cherry Tootsie Pop, having found the center of the Tootsie Roll in the center of the Tootsie Pop at 640 licks. That's a lot of licks.

Now, let's consider the science of Tootsie Pops. Sometimes the Tootsie Roll in the center of the Tootsie Pop is not actually in the center, and it's rarely spherical. Nor is the candy surrounding the Tootsie Roll. Also, we probably need to consider the quality of her spit. I mean, warmer spit would dissolve the candy faster. And what about her spit viscosity? And how about the age of the candy? I would think that older candy would have deteriorated a bit already, thereby requiring fewer licks. Perhaps temperature and humidity would come into play. So, really, we (as in, she) needs to conduct more trials.

She said she tried this experiment once before, but she got bored after three licks and just chomped the sucker, so to speak. Must have been in the pre-Adderall days.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

When it's time to change, you've got to rearrange who you are into what you're gonna be

Sha-na-na na-na na na-na-na, sha-na-na na-na....

Right. I'd rather hear the Brady Bunch than the hip-hop that's suddenly pumping out of my favorite music station. Former favorite music station. They've had a format change at 93.1, The Lake. Suddenly it's 93.1 Jams. They can jam it, all right.

Friday I was happily singing along to the Moody Blues, Elton John, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Heart. Well, not so happily singing along to Heart, but you get my point.

You know, I had a boyfriend who was totally in lust with those chicks, and I just couldn't see it. I mean, what's to like about big boobs and husky voices, right?

Anyway, what's to like about this bass-driven drivel? Oy, I think I'm channeling my father.

So I turned the radio on after class and switched it off Air America – don't even start – to my afternoon tunes. Except they were playing some unremarkable rap that had no melody, no harmony and scarcely audible lyrics. Format change fear hit hard, but I hoped maybe it was an ad. Alas, the song finished and their little station identification came on to notify me that this was a twin broadcast from something much further up the dial. As if one frequency weren't enough.

Ugh. I had been so happy that there was one station that played music I liked. I guess I'll have to move over to the oldies station and suffer through "Earth Angel" to get the occasional Beatles tune.

Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away. Now it looks as though they're going to play that awful crap all night and day....

Monday, October 27, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008


So, I finally joined Facebook. It's probably another distraction I don't need, but it's interesting to poke around and see who's on and who isn't. I certainly haven't figured it all out yet.

It's funny – I bumped into someone at the grocery store a while back, and he said if I was on Facebook I should look him up. So when I joined, I did look him up and sent him a friend invitation. But instead of friending me, he sent me a friendly message. That's OK by me. We were never close, to say the least, and I had wrestled with whether to send an invite in the first place. I guess our mutual noncommittal is fine with both of us. Our ties are superficial.

And so is so much of what we do on these social networking sites. Like this blog. Like Facebook. I've met a good number of people in the flesh after having met online. I really hit it off with a couple of them, definitely not with others, and then there's the third category of people that, well, we did fine together, but that's probably as deep as it will ever get unless we spend more time together.

But for the most part, I keep this blog superficial. I write about candy and walks in the woods, and I whine about school. Those are fine, benign aspects of my life that make up the big Me. I consider laying it bare sometimes, the good and the ugly. But negative comments (you know who you are; knock it off) have recently made me want to keep it to the inconsequential.

When I see a guy's MySpace page, and he has more than 30,000 friends (seriously, I just saw this yesterday) who leave such pithy and perceptive comments as "Thanks for the add! You rock!" I have to wonder precisely what the draw is. But it's there. I visited his page, too, after all.

What are we really doing online? That I could feel so involved with someone else's life, someone I've never met and probably never will, someone whose life I seem to know better than the old couple next door, better than some of my family – should I?

It's fun to read about ordinary people and their ordinary lives and their ordinary ups and downs. And it's quite pleasing to check in on them and have them check in on me. I like it.

So even though I don't say much that matters, I suppose I'll keep saying it. And I'll see some of you around.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Going Down?

What is this world coming to? This album makes Time-Life look cutting edge. Ooh, I really need a sick version of The Young and the Restless on my iTunes. God save us.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Putting the bone in Blog to the Bone

So the other night, Eric and I got a little loud. Let's face it: I am a screamer. But, because I don't want to wake the neighbors or frighten the children, I usually restrain the primal yell well. Holding back the cries of ecstasy takes a lot of fun out of mingling our skin and secretions, however. And think how long until the kids move out. Ugh.

But on this recent night, Eric couldn't hold back the release of decibels that accompanies the release of Mt. Vesuvius.

"That was loud," I said. "I think Kayleigh's still awake."

"Gonna give her an education," he said.

Fast forward about 18 hours. We were all in the kitchen, and Eric dropped some utensil I can't remember. And what did he say?

"Mmwuhhh, arr, uhhh." Or something similar and similarly reminiscent of the previous evening's party for two.

And Kayleigh said, "You sound funny when you say 'mwuhhh.'"

Eric looked at me and smiled. I burst out laughing and finally left the room. Kayleigh was mystified. And I'm glad. Education is fine, but the finer points she's going to have to work out herself. At a much later date. And without an audience, if she's lucky.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Family time

Last Saturday was a lovely day, so we skipped out on work and had a little fun. We headed up to the apple orchard and spent a little time poking around in the woods that were pretty thoroughly washed out in this spring's floods.

It's so hard to get Kayleigh to look at a camera, and then not to make a disgusted face.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Political Sunday

We're getting close to the election. I hope you're paying attention. There's more to the candidates than sound bytes. The person we put in office does matter. Please look at the issues and where the candidates stand on them. Maybe this quote quiz (Thanks, Dorothy!) will help. Want to try to guess my score?

Friday, October 03, 2008


October is my favorite month. It's not hot, it's not obscenely cold. When it's not raining, it's gorgeous. The leaves are turning and beginning to fall, apples are ripe, pumpkins are ready, the farmers' market is bursting with the fall harvest, and kids are thinking about Halloween. I suck down vats of hot tea in front of the fireplace and fantasize about all the trails I could be hiking instead of doing homework. (Hi, Katy! Hi, Lew! I love school!)

You need to get your fill of fall hiking before gun deer season starts. Last November, not heeding common sense, we set out into the hills just before sunset, gunshots echoing around us. The charm of little wisps of snow floating down with the crisp, fall leaves sort of fades when you're wondering if you're going to be mistaken for a turdy point buck.

October also means it's time to turn the heat on. I think we could have suffered a little longer, but I make it policy not to bitch about turning the heat on once 10/1 rolls around. (You should hear me howl if someone dares to try to turn it on in September. Ha! Not happening. Bake a pie if you want to get warm in September.) October is settlement month with the utility company. They check our annual power use against what was budgeted, and we either get a refund or pay up. Refunds are nice though infrequent. The downside is that you don't get cheap-cheap bills in the summer when the only things running are the computer and the Wii.

The thing I really dislike about turning the heat on is the smell. All the dust that's collected since April or May comes whiffing out the register with that stale, burned sugar odor. And it's so dry. I think I could peel my face off in sheets.

Do you have a favorite month? Does it have anything to do with face peels?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Kayleigh says my name should be Jo

Last week at the paper, a friendly debate began over the phrase "openly gay lifestyle." The parties involved agreed that being gay is a fine way to be, but they disagreed on "openly gay lifestyle." Two of the three parties involved were gay. The phrase was used in the paper in a quote by a woman who disapproved of any gay lifestyle. The article was written by the gay guy in the discussion. He had no problem with it. He thought it reminded people that not all in this world are free. The straight guy didn't like it because he thought it was demeaning. The woman (also gay) agreed it had negative connotations.

They started trying to figure out different ways to say gay and straight and every other manner of sexual identity that weren't so loaded. I must say, it was rather distracting.

So I chimed in.

"What do you call someone like me who's straight but everyone thinks is gay?" I asked.

"In the closet."


We settled on butch.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Seeing the world through my sweet tooth

If you've been paying attention over the last couple years of this blog, you've noticed I like to travel and I like to eat. Some of the most fun I have is eating while traveling. Seeing what delicious or peculiar fare is offered around the globe always fascinates me. And returning to favorite places makes me gooey.

On our way to Boise, we stopped at a gas station outside Twin Falls and perused their candy section. We walked out with an Idaho Spud, which I had tried once before and not liked much, a Cherry Cocktail, a Big Hunk, a Skinny Hunk, and a Rocky Road.

The Idaho Spud: Gross; I still don't like them. The Idaho Spud is a spongy, marshmallowy, gelatinous cocoa mass with more aftertaste than flavor. Coated in chocolate and dessicated coconut, it was like eating frozen Cool Whip with fingernail clippings of newborns tossed in for a little al dente sensation. Spew.

The same company makes the Cherry Cocktail. I can't help but wonder if perhaps the suits at Owyhee, makers of these pathetic confections, aren't a bit sadistic. The Cherry Cocktail is a sticky mound of chocolate and crushed peanuts, and the cherry cream center holds a whole maraschino cherry. It might politely be described as having the appearance of a tremendous gum drop. It would be more accurately described as looking like a horse apple. The flavors are quite strong, and it doesn't taste bad. It doesn't really taste good, either, though. It's definitely edible but too damn big for something so sicky sticky sweet. The texture is fairly off-putting, however, and it's just so awful looking! This is desperation chocolate only.

The Hunks: Strange. The Big Hunk is sort of a chewy nougat or taffy with peanut pieces. It's very chewy, definitely not for the loose tooth crowd. It tastes quite nutty, which I liked. But it was really sweet, which I didn't like. It's also, as they say, big. More than enough to satisfy. You have to chew so much that you start to drool and your jaw gets tired. The Skinny Hunk is a smaller, nutless version of the Big Hunk. Without the nuts, it's like eating condensed marshmallows. This is one girl who likes her Hunks to have nuts.

We were getting pretty full of candy and starting to feel a little puky. Also, I'm not thrilled to eat marshmallows (gelatin), even for cultural understanding. So we decided to put the Rocky Road away for future sampling. Then we forgot about it. I found it in the van several days later. Thank goodness the packaging held in the heat or I would have had liquid Rocky Road absolutely everywhere. It was totally melted. I mean totally. Squeezing the package, it seemed like a warm bag of diluted Hershey's syrup. It went in the trash. Oh, well.

A travel favorite: When I go to Salt Lake City, I always go to Marie Callender's for pie. We don't have Marie Callender's here. I like pie. Marie Callender's has about 20 kinds of pie available daily. It's really hard to choose. Tradition calls for coconut cream, but with so many varieties to try, it's a little narrow-minded to get the same thing every time. Not that I'm in Salt Lake very often.

Once, my mother brought me a Marie Callender's coconut cream pie home on the airplane. Airline regulations wouldn't allow her do that anymore. Ooh, scary pie! It might be an explosive. I was pretty impressed she would lug a whole pie home. That's love.

Anyway, this time, there were 11 of us at Marie Callender's, all eating pie. Someone thought we should share – take a bite and pass it on. I thought not, although I did allow my nephew to try a forkful of my lemon cream cheese slice. We agreed it was good, better than his Key lime. He managed to get a bit (or several) of his mother's, too. I think she got this colossal piece of triple chocolate cheesecake. It looked really good. Really good.

I'll need to go back.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Scenic Byways

After the funeral, the family started going their separate ways. I headed to Boise with the girls to visit a friend of Kayleigh's who moved there in June. We decided (rather, I decided) to take a scenic byway to get there.

As it turned out, it wasn't as scenic as I would have hoped considering how much extra time it took. Still, there were some interesting spots along the way. Huge canyons, some waterfalls, spots to walk along the Oregon trail.
The Oregon Trail was pretty amazing, really. Think of how many people walked there or sweated in a jostling wagon, trying to make it ever further west. They didn't travel at 75 MPH in air-conditioned comfort with a convenience store plopped down every 20 miles. It was so hot, so dry, so windy, so shockingly free of wildlife – so shockingly free of anything edible. We saw the occasional tiny lizards that moved so fast you couldn't focus on them until they sat still. Scarcely a bird, seldom a river, never a deer or antelope or even a gopher.

There were warnings about rattlesnakes, scorpions and deer ticks, but we didn't see any. I thought it was a little funny to equate a deer tick with a rattlesnake, but my brother, the E. coli-infected one, has had Lyme Disease twice, so he might not find it so amusing.

It made me grateful for the wet green of my home.

Boise turned out to be different from what I expected. It had a big-city feel, even though it's only around 180,000 plus its rapidly expanding suburbs. We never saw a cloud, nor was it awfully hot – in the low 90s, which, with the breeze and nonexistent humidity was thoroughly bearable. People always talk about the dry heat being more tolerable, but I always thought, Right, ovens are dry, too.

We sent Kayleigh off with her friend and Kelsey and I wandered around town. The downtown was quite nice. It had loads of places to eat, and most offered outdoor seating. We found a funky little coffee shop where we both had rather odd iced mochas. I think they must have used whole milk. I noticed on our walk around the city that it must not get as cold there as I thought it did. They had outdoor escalators, which would be laughably impractical around here – snow, ice, salt, torrential rain equals no way. There was something else, too, but I can't remember anymore. Regardless, the winters seem as if they must be milder there than here.

We visited an old prison on the edge of town. It started as a federal territorial prison in the 19th century and closed as a state prison in the 1970s, if memory serves me. It housed men and women. We certainly treated (perhaps, treat) our prisoners poorly. We saw the isolation chambers, which were about 5 feet by 10 feet and held up to six men. There were no lights, no toilets, no windows. Solitary confinement, a spot for one man, was about 3 feet by 8 feet, and again, no lights, toilets, or windows. There was a hole in the ceiling about as big around as a coffee can for fresh air and light, a hole in the floor for the toilet, and a tiny grate at the bottom of the solid cage door for a little more air. One man was held in one of these rooms for 8 months.

Our last stop was the gallows. I stood there and looked up and looked down and looked out at the observation room. The trap door opens to a large room with a huge door where the ambulance can pull right up and take the body away.

I don't believe in capital punishment.

My mom thought a prison was a peculiar place to take my 8-year-old. Kelsey thought it was interesting, though. I'm glad it didn't scare her.

In the afternoon, we stopped at Sierra Trading Post, one of my favorite catalog/online stores. This was a little one. The one in Cheyenne was much bigger. Kelsey got a Stetson, a perfect memento of our westward wandering.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


We arrived in Bennington, Idaho, on Thursday night after a fun but long Wednesday. It was nice to see everyone again, and it was fun to watch my daughters so easily fit with their big cousins.

Ah, those big cousins. Kayleigh went along with James and Daniel to do some errands. She said it was the most fun she'd ever had running errands. James, I'm told, is almost as crazy a driver as I am. Later, we took turns on James's motorcycle, which, fortunately, doesn't go very fast, but it does go through ditches quite nicely. And after that it was time to go shootin' in the orchard. We blew Mountain Dew out of trees, at which point, Kayleigh was feeling like she never wanted to go home again.

Kelsey was a bit more sedate, choosing to make bead jewelry after she burned her leg on the motorcycle. She regrets not going shooting now, but at the time, her leg really hurt.

More family arrived later, and it was getting to be quite the reunion. I told Lee, my sister-in-law, that it bugged me it took Clint's death to get us all together, then I started to cry. She said that's the way it always is, which I suppose is true. But Clint would have enjoyed himself with everyone around, and it just reinforced what a raw deal he got.

The next day was the graveside service, and Lee was very nervous. I just hoped I could keep it together. One look at the hole in the ground and a rock with my brother's name on it and that was blown to hell. I wandered toward some trees away from the group and started tearing up. The harder I tried to stop, the more I cried. Kelsey came over and held my hand and rubbed my back, the sweet thing, so I just blubbered.

After mostly composing myself, I turned back to the assembly to find the small kids peering into the hole and shouting about how deep it was, and one of them took a seat and dangled his legs in, ready to jump. I thought it was kind of funny, but the parents of those involved did not.

Lee's sister Lyona offered a shoulder, literally. She said if I needed someone, I should just go stand shoulder to shoulder and we'd hold each other up. Then she pressed into me, and we held each other, shoulder to shoulder, our eyes getting red and drippy.

I won't say too much about the service itself. Mostly because I can't remember what people said, but I do remember it was quite nice. Lee spoke about their courtship, marriage, and family and some about Clint's last day. Each of Clint and Lee's kids did their part. Daniel sort of ran things, Sarah said a lovely prayer, Ben consecrated the ground and James lowered the box, which he had to drop because the hole was so deep. After that, I sprinkled some Wisconsin dirt over the box, and that was pretty much the end of it. Ah, the bishop was there, too, but he didn't say a lot.

We took some pictures, then went back to Lee's for food. Lee's cousin Susan brought her scooter over for people to ride. Kayleigh took it around the back yard a bit, but didn't venture onto the streets. I gave Lee's nephew Cole a ride. Cole was hilarious. He held on so tight and giggled as soon as we got going. At the end, he proclaimed, "I was brave!" My sister Martha has a scooter story now, too, but that's hers to tell.

I slipped away to Lyona's house around the corner for a visit with Lee's sister Jackie and her partner Dorothy. When we met last December, I felt an instant bond with them, and it was nice to have some quiet time together.

The evening was spent in front of a fire pit just talking and enjoying each other. After a while, a couple of neighbor friends stopped by and talked about their time in Russia farming. The man, whose name I can't remember, asked Kayleigh where she was. She gave her 14-year-old "huh?" as a response. He said, "Are you pre-mission, post-mission, married, high school...." She said, "Um...." So Lee asked her where she'd like to do her mission, which also got an "um." I said she'd like to go to Pixar. In the dark after a day like that, it wasn't the place to explain our nonconforming ways. We just had a laugh and moved on.

And that was pretty much it. On Sunday, we shared a pancake breakfast, then, for the most part, went our separate ways. The girls and I went on to Boise to visit a friend of Kayleigh's for a few days. Much of my family went to Salt Lake City, but my sister Cynthia headed to Las Vegas where she won $1,000 on a penny machine. Nice.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Have credit card, will travel

Home again, home again.

In the last 12 days, I've stayed at six different motels, and I can tell you, you get what you pay for. I don't need a fancy room, but crickets in the bathroom and mattresses that have seen more action than Hugh Hefner start pushing up the sphincter factor.

Speaking of sphincter factors, my brother (the live one) came down with a nasty case of E. coli a few days ago. His stay in the frontier has been prolonged while he recovers. I have never seen a man – and he is a big, strong man – vomit with such force, intensity and length. The poor guy.

I think the next time I travel, instead of noting license plates from different states and provinces, I'm going to keep track of museums. There are a lot of museums in the world, and some are truly bizarre. Like the Danish Immigrant Museum. The SPAM museum. Or the Bob Feller Museum. Who the heck is Bob Feller? Why does he need his own museum? Ever been to the Museum of the Fur Trade? Or the Museum of the Mountain Men? I haven't.

Anyway, I'm tired.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Way Out West

Greetings from the land of Larry Craig, who is not and never has been gay.

On our way to bury my brother, the XX-chromosome van wound its way through Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Idaho. Soon we'll be on our way to Utah. We shared the road with about 500,000 bikers on their way to Sturgis.

South Dakota is still my favorite. I like the lumpy hills in the east and the Black Hills in the west, and the Badlands are fun to jump around in and so alien.

My mom always told me she hated the Badlands. I could never understand why, and when we got there, she said, "I've never been here before." She doesn't know what she thought of as the Badlands, but she had the wrong place in mind. I don't know how much she enjoyed it, but she was interested at least for a little while. Kelsey and I could have stayed all day.

I was worried about my mom. She's 83, overweight, can hardly walk, and was terrified she was going to die getting out here. She didn't want to do anything fun, but when I said that meant driving through Nebraska, she changed her mind.

She might change it back after driving through Wyoming. I was fortunate the last time we drove through Wyoming, as it was dark much of the time. Wyoming is mile after mile of a nearly unchanging landscape. Ugh. It's interesting at first because it's so vast and so different from anything at home. But after several hours of hills and sagebrush, it gets pretty dull. At least in Nebraska there are cities and traffic. Wyoming is just desolate.

Take, for example, Lost Springs, Wyoming.

The last time we went through here, the population was 4. I wonder what happened.

Anyway, we also hit Wall Drug, Mt. Rushmore and Custer State Park while in South Dakota. When I was a kid, the Wall Drug bumper stickers said, "Where the HELL is Wall Drug?" Now they say "heck" instead.

Kayleigh ragged about going to Mt. Rushmore. She wasn't too impressed when she saw it when she was younger and hated how touristy it was. My niece Estelle, however, said it was the most exciting thing she'd done all year. I had always wanted to see it as a kid, and my brother Clint, the dead one, said, "It's just a big rock." I guess now I think it's interesting to see, nowhere I'd need to return to, and nowhere I'd really spend a lot of time. I'm glad Estelle got to see it, and my sister, too. My mom stayed in the car.

We drove past the Crazy Horse monument. It's not done, and they were going to charge us $27 to get in. We said no thanks and turned around.

The highlight of the day for me was driving through Custer State Park. We took the Needles Highway through some spectacular rock formations and fabulously twisty mountain roads. We saw loads of wildlife – buffalo, pronghorn, deer, prairie dogs. We had a picnic by a little lake, where Kelsey ate Fritos and a nasty Little Debbie cake and declared she was going to barf. She did not barf, thankfully.

Finding a place to stay was hard with all the bikers around. And because all the bikers were around, prices were jacked up. We drove and drove and drove, hoping to find a place cheaper down the road. We finally got on the phone to Eric at home who called every motel in every small town in southeastern Wyoming. We got gouged, but we got to sleep.

My mom was pretty beat, and I worried. But she seemed to recover pretty well over night. We arrived in Bennington, Idaho, the following evening, grateful to see our family.

And then the real fun began....

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Out of Town

In approximately 35 minutes, I am headed to Idaho with my kids, my mom, my sister and my niece.

Normally, I enjoy getting out of town. This trip is to bury my brother. And it's a long drive with a lot of people. Pardon me if I'm a little bummed about the whole thing.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Peculiar Anniversary

For our anniversary, Eric and I went to a vegetarian restaurant in a little town near by. Somehow I had come across their Web site while I was looking up a recipe for something I have long since forgotten. The menu offered so much that sounded so good I really wanted to go there. So off we went.

As soon as we walked in, Eric's freak-o-meter started pinging. I have little experience with religious fringe and didn't notice anything other than a rather quiet hostess and a rather empty dining room. But he, far more versed in such matters, spied the dark blue books on a little etagere, and those, with the smiles and demeanor of the employees, as well as the fact it was a vegetarian restaurant, had him squirming. He, apparently, had our server squirming, too. I wondered if the server didn't like women or just me in particular. Everything Eric ordered was an "excellent choice." One item was whipped up with the chef's special ingredient – love. I didn't get any love, and my choices were not so enthusiastically received. Ah, well. I guess I didn't appear receptive to enlightenment.

The food was good, and the selections were numerous. Everything was quite attractively presented. We thought we'd go again, but now I'm not sure.

When Eric went to the bathroom and I paid, I peeked at their blue books and free DVDs. I grabbed a couple of the DVDs out of curiosity, although I still haven't watched them. Eric was so right about the place.

At home, I looked them up on the Internet. There were buzzwords galore: advent, atonement, accord, later days, light energy, perfect, love, fear, depression, God, Jesus, forgiveness, peace, enlightenment, and my favorite, hologram. As far as I can tell, it's a New Agey thing that combines a whole bunch of ideas from a whole bunch of religions. We're all on our way to departing our bodies and the time-space continuum through forgiveness, and when we do, we'll be gods ourselves, or something like that.

People can believe whatever they want to believe, and that's fine with me, as long as they don't get too crazy and decide it's time for all of us to depart our bodies and slip a little cyanide into the Kool-Aid (oops! too late) or bomb the shit out of the Middle East because God told him to (oops! too late) or fly airplanes into the World Trade Center so exalted martyrs can be greeted by virgins in heaven (oops! too late) or ... yeah, it's endless, isn't it.

So, that was my anniversary. We drove around the countryside a bit, then came home. It was nice. Odd, but nice, too.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Grand Day Out

Last weekend, I sprang it on Eric that I wanted to go somewhere. Anywhere would be nice, but that particular day I had Point Beach in mind. He doesn't like it when I spring trips on him. Eric needs to make things, and he plans on making things most weekends. I am not a good planner, however. I am more of a spontaneous planner. And I need to go places.

We decided to go, but Eric would finish something first. But by the time he finished, it was rather late for a day-trip of that length. So – shudder – we planned to go on Wednesday instead. And we did.

Getting out the door proved challenging. We kept forgetting things. We left three times. And the trip took several detours around Fond du Lac, but that was OK, because we found a cool spot in town – a park across from Lake Winnebago with a merry-go-round, a little train, a petting zoo, bumper boats. I'm surprised my dad would have never taken me here. Maybe he did and I don't remember. Or maybe he was too busy chasing dead relatives and his next brandy. Regardless, I don't remember seeing it before, but when Kelsey saw it, she wanted to go. So we did.

Kayleigh felt a little weird going on the train. She's at that age where doing little kid things is embarrassing.

It was a fine little distraction. But off we went again.

Next stop was High Cliff State Park. I remember going here once for about five minutes. My dad and I met my uncle, his gal pal, and my aunt and uncle for a weekend when I was about 11. We did lots of driving, and High Cliff was one of our many stops. We got to get out long enough to look at the lime kiln ruins and that was about it. Apparently my rotund uncle couldn't do much walking. It sucked.

We did some walking on Wednesday, though. Not a lot, but enough. The park overlooks Lake Winnebago. There are some effigy mounds, the ruins, an observation tower, and a statue of Red Bird, a Ho-Chunk (still called Winnebago at the time the statue was erected) chief. The park is built on the lake as well as in and on limestone cliffs.

I've never been very impressed with Lake Winnebago. It's big, and that's about all you can say for it. It's so dirty. Gack. My dad told me his dad got drunk and drove their Model A into it once. Or maybe that was a friend of theirs. The stories run together, and I haven't heard them since I was little.

Next stop was visiting my dad. It made me sad. Before we left home, I took a penny from the year Clint died out of Clint's Coca Cola glass to take along. At the cemetery, I found a spot by my dad's stone and dug up a little dirt. I pushed the penny down as far as I could, then covered it up again. I know it seems a little silly, but I wanted them to be able to share something. They had a difficult relationship, but they loved each other in a desperate, ferocious, longing way.

We cleaned up some old flowers and faded flags. I stood there and cried, trying not to. My family was sweet to me. Kelsey never got to meet my dad, but she likes to hear about him and look at his photos. Kayleigh has one strong memory of him stepping on her foot and apologizing. She was 19 months old when he died. She adored him, and he adored her. She called him Baba, and he was easily her favorite grandparent. She used to shove my mom out of the way to get to him.

She was very upset when he died. She just didn't understand death at such a young age. My family is not one for really pouring out their emotions, either. After he died, people didn't want to talk much about it. When she asked where he was, my mom said he was gone. I heard a phone conversation she had with my mom about a week after he died.

Grandma: We love Kayleigh, and we love Grandma, and we love Daddy, and we love Mama–
Kayleigh, backing away from the phone, starting to cry: And Baba, too! And Baba, too! And Baba, too!

It didn't help that Eric's mom died 8 weeks later. "Gamma Mack" was her second-favorite grandparent. Nine months after Maxine died, Kayleigh was still looking for her. Sad. It took a long time before Kayleigh trusted us again. Years. Not kidding, not kidding myself, either.

Anyway, we wandered through the tiny cemetery toward the church. My great, great-grandparents got married there, I guess. I can't remember anymore. The farm around the cemetery is still in some part of the family rather far removed at this point. I don't even know their names. For all the tramping around we did in the area when I was a kid, my dad never seemed interested in seeking out his living, distant cousins.

Next was a stop for ice cream, which scored quite highly on Kelsey's daily events scorecard.

And then it was off to Point Beach, finally. It was getting late, and shadows were already long by the time we got there. We didn't mind. The water of Lake Michigan was cool and fairly clear and very high. There was hardly a beach at all, in fact, at least compared to years past.

Kelsey played in the water and collected shells

while Eric took pictures of dragonflies,

Kayleigh sat on a towel and thought and doodled,

and I wandered among the three of them. There weren't many people there. It was quite pleasant, nicely relaxing.

As the sun set, we left for home. Kelsey got sand in areas she'd rather not have, so I gave her lots of water, and we had to stop a couple times. We got some hot chocolate and some gasoline as the night animals started their prowls. Sadly, one of them will prowl no longer. A family of four raccoons was making its way toward Lake Winnebago, and I didn't see them in time. I hit the brakes, but my front right tire got one of them. I always wondered how people could not see raccoons. Now I know. They weren't there, and then they were. I suppose that's the way it is with deer – and small children. God.

We got home about 11:20, tired but happy for a day together.

Tomorrow is our 16th wedding anniversary, so we're going out again. Without the kids this time.

A note on the pics: Some are from my cell phone, but some are ones that Eric took with his nice camera. He took the one of the forest, the dragonfly, Kelsey in the water, and the last one of Kayleigh on the towels on the beach.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Kelsey's tarts

It's raspberry season again. We've had a few weeks of little, red glory. They ripened a little slower this year, probably because of the obscene winter and resulting spring floods.

Kelsey looks forward to raspberries every year. We do, too (not Kayleigh), but Kelsey is always very enthusiastic. The birds like them, too. We can tell by the color of their whitewash, which turns pink and purple.

Last year, Kelsey made some little tarts. She's been dying to make them again, and she finally got the chance. The recipe, if you can call it that, was hers.

Raspberries are an ideal plant for us. We can abuse and neglect them, and they keep coming back, loaded with flavor and color. The plants cost us $3 apiece. We bought six, three each of everbearing and summer-bearing. They arrived from McKay the day we were leaving for a long vacation. We just popped them in the ground quick and left. All the ever-bearing ones died, but the other three certainly made up ground.

They say you're supposed to cut them back in the fall, but we never do. We're too lazy to actually work on our yard.

Fortunately, we're not too lazy to pick the berries. I like them best when they're still warm from the sun, while I'm standing in the thick of them, my daughter by my side, our bowls slowly filling.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Happy birthday

Today is my mom's birthday. She is 83 ... 84 if the Navy is asking. She lied about her age to get in over 60 years ago. I always wonder what would happen if they found out now. Would they strip her of her veteran's benefits? They've done that to other people.

She was stationed at the San Diego Naval Hospital. She worked at the information desk. Pretty cushy for war-time service, I suppose. I don't know why she was so antsy to join. She said she wanted in and didn't want to wait another year. I always thought joining the Navy was an odd decision to make: she gets sea sick.

Anyway, I will be making the cake. I'm cheating and using a mix. It's a Duncan Hines French vanilla. It's what I had for my birthday, too, and it was actually very good. Two layers (well, mine was three), with whipped cream and strawberries between them and whipped cream on top. Hard to go wrong, really. Yum.

Kelsey made her a worry doll. Kelsey is heavy into worry dolls right now. Worry dolls with big heads, for some reason. Then she wanted to make her a box to put her worry doll in when it wasn't worrying for her. So, with some help from Eric, and not nearly as much help as you might think, she made her a box on the lathe. It's curly maple and gorgeous. I'm sure Grandma will be very happy.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Family history in trinkets

Boy, am I glad we stopped by my mom's on a whim last Friday night. As we sat and chatted, my mom gave Kelsey a bracelet that my dad had given my mom. My mom was never a bracelet person, and it always annoyed her that my dad couldn't keep that little nugget in his head. Anyway, it's a rather gawdy thing, but Kelsey was happy to get it. My mom suggested we look in her jewelry box for a matching necklace. I didn't find one, but as I walked back out her bedroom door, I noticed the garbage can was full to the top. I saw my grandfather's face and newspaper clippings and bits of frill tossed in with dirty kleenexes and deteriorating latex gloves. (I am so glad I haven't needed those gloves recently.)

I grabbed the garbage can and wandered back to the living room.

"Are you storing this stuff in here or throwing it away?" I asked, starting to pick through it all.

"No, I'm throwing it away," my mom answered.

Like hell.

I had a gas looking through all that stuff. I couldn't believe she would throw it away. (Well, I suppose I can, and I don't blame her, really, when I look at the stacks of accumulated stuff in my own house.) I salvaged my grandpa's business cards from Kodak. He worked there for 33 years. There was an ad for senior housing from a Winter Haven, Fla., newspaper in which he was the model. There was a little aluminum booky thing that he had made in 1918 when he was in the war. My mom figures it was a cigarette holder. There was a cigarette lighter with my mom's cousin's name on it. There was a bookmark her friends gave her when she retired and an engraving plate, never used, from my parents' wedding stationery.

I asked her what other things she had thrown away. She said nothing, she had only gone through one drawer, but she was sick of all this junk lying around. I told her I wanted anything that had someone's name on it if she didn't want it herself.

Those old trinkets mean something to me. They're a connection to the past. I don't have memories of her cousin Quin, and my kids didn't even know what my grandpa looked like. These people are part of me and part of the future.

Just the other day, a woman told me Kelsey looks just like me. She does. She also looks just like her Aunt Marcia and her Grandpa John and her great-great (I think) Aunt Nina. That face is living history. That face won't live forever, but little bibs and bobs will hang around long after we've all gone. It's sad in a way. But without a cigarette lighter from Traverse City, I probably never would have known about Quin or the fact that his sister still lives in Grand Rapids. I'd've looked her up the last time I was there if I'd known.

I still don't know anything about Quin other than he was always very nice to my mom and her sisters. But that's nice to know.

(I blurred out Doug's phone numbers because I didn't want people pestering my mom. Heh. I don't think he did the handyman thing very long.)

Detail of my grandpa's handicraft. He used to make jewelry, too. Oh – my mom said she probably shouldn't have thrown that out, but she couldn't see well enough to even know what it was.:

Friday, July 11, 2008

Breaking News: Woman's ass declared 51st state

Seriously, someone who would like to lose weight and get in better shape should probably not accept assignments to write about food. But seriously, someone with an ass with its own ZIP code is probably someone who likes food. So what do you do? You take the assignment and say it's all for the experience, for the clip, for the money – for the good of the reading public. And you giggle about your incredible luck in getting this plum assignment.

And then you go out and eat. And eat. And eat some more. You get drinks, you get appetizers, you get the entree, you get desserts. You have to be thorough or the readers won't get an accurate picture of the establishment. What kind of reporter would you be otherwise?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Old Photos

My cell phone has a camera on it. I use it to get snapshots now and again. Yesterday I dumped photos from the last year and a half or so. It's sort of a pain, so I haven't bothered. And we couldn't find the little thingy that lets us get them off the phone for free. These are in no particular order. Gotta love Blogger. And I'm too lazy to rearrange them.

Eric, Basil and Kelsey

Reese's Puffs frowning and crying

Mmm... cherries.

A little something for the Witches of Eastwick.

Kelsey in chalk

Smokers' lounge outside Madison Newspapers, Inc. Charming.

Turtilla. Kelsey has a thing about taking pictures of food.

My great-nephew Sam. I call him Sammo de Mayo because he was born on the fifth of May.

This year's pigs aren't as nice as last year's. But they still come to greet me when I visit the farm.

Snowtubing Kelsey

My mom having lunch at O'Malley's Jet Room, a fun spot to eat a lot.

My mom's retina. She has macular degeneration in her right eye.

Flat bread from Noodles eaten into the Apple shape by Kelsey.


Last year's pigs were so fun and cute. They've long since been slaughtered and digested. Poor little things.

Kelsey sculpted the cream from a few Oreos. Gross.

The glow of the computer on Kelsey.

The view of the Wasatch Mountains from my plane leaving Salt Lake City after my brother's funeral.

Snowtubing Kayleigh

Kelsey waiting while we fill out paperwork to buy our new car.

Eric's rain detector

A gorgeous swallowtail outside the swimming pool.

This bat hangs around Olive Garden. We saw it again this year.

My mother at rest

Kayleigh at the dinner after my niece's wedding in St. Louis.

This is the elephant that could scratch his foot with his penis. Nice.

This little fawn was lying in the grass outside American Player's Theatre last summer. So sweet.

Kelsey and I enjoying a Lake Mendota sunset at Picnic Point.

This is the car Kelsey wanted us to buy.


Kelsey waits for her soccer game to start.

My feet, Eric's cell camera.

Another shot from Eric of his favorite subject.

Kelsey at my niece's wedding dinner in St. Louis.