Saturday, March 29, 2008


I had my first front-page story today. It's such a lame story, too. But I'm not going to complain about its placement. There's just so much more I could have done with it. They only wanted five inches, though, and they were pretty specific about what was to go in those five inches.

Anyway, I'm happy.

And it only took me about half an hour to do.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I wish this were true

You Are Clogs

You are a solid and down to earth person.

You seek – and almost always achieve – a really sound balance in your life.

You are stylish yet comfortable. Mellow but driven. Excited yet calm.

You are the perfect mesh of contradictions.

No matter what happens, you have the ability to stay well grounded in your life.

People know that they can truly depend on you.

You should live: In Europe

You should work: At a company dedicated to helping the world

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hump day comes with an unusually large hump

I lay in bed last night wishing I hadn't eaten so much for dinner. Apparently Kelsey wished the same.

I heard her door fly open in the dark. She stepped clumsily into the hall, stopped at our door, and emptied her stomach. The sound, the smell, the extraordinary quantity spilled on the floor and walls, the feeling already in my stomach, the knowledge that I had to interview the governor in seven hours all added up to me having a freakfest with myself.

I have been terrified of puking ever since I was about 10. It was Christmas, and my sister and her tribe arrived with the stomach flu. They gave me the gift of hurl and neurosis that year. I've only barfed once since then. I was visiting my brother in Provo. The airplane food got me. It was 1986. You'd think after almost 22 years I'd get over it.

I sort of have. Or so I thought. Having kids means vomit. Kids barf. It's all there is to it. And Kayleigh was a puker. I cleaned up plenty of spew without too much trouble. But not last night. I completely flipped. Eric had to do everything. The best I could muster was to tell Kelsey to clean off her chin and put a bucket next to her pillow. Then I sat on the toilet, literally scared shitless, holding onto the walls, sweating, panting, wishing I could cry.

Kelsey got back in bed. Eric stayed with her a while. She couldn't lie down; it hurt too much. Then she fell asleep, Eric came back to bed, and he fell asleep.

I did not.

Every sigh, every wiggle, I was convinced she was going to puke again. It would go everywhere, and I'd have to clean it up, and it would make me sick. Eric did all that cleaning and caretaking. He would get sick. Kayleigh would catch it next. I'd try to go to my interview with the governor and barf. I wouldn't be able to find the door, and everyone would see and smell and I'd never live it down.

Finally I gathered my pillow and a bucket and went downstairs to sleep on the futon. The floor was wet and cold. We were flooding. I picked up the wet blankets and a book of Eric's that were on the floor, found a new blanket and curled up to sleep.

I did not sleep. I fretted. Then the water softener came on.

I finally fell into a fitful sleep and probably slept about two hours. Then it was time for the governor.

The interview was fine. My professor arranged for our class to have an hour with him. We each got one question. I asked mine first. I figured it would be good to get it over with in case I had to run from the room. He's thinner than I thought he was. He looked at me as he answered my question. He spent a long time with me. He looked at me as he answered the next person's question. He looked at me a lot. He was probably surprised to see an old bat like me in class. When he left, he turned to me and smiled and said goodbye. Maybe he will give me a job when I graduate.

But, eek, then it was time to go home again. I called Eric. We decided I'd buy bread, pop, milk, and chapstick on my way home.

Kelsey seemed to be in pretty good spirits. I was exhausted. I tried to soak up some water in the basement, and I found a space heater to start drying it out. Eric had already started a fire. He found a fan, and I went to bed after a while.

And then my lucky day continued. I left in plenty of time for my next class, but there was a malfunctioning railroad crossing, and the person in front of the line wouldn't move. So we were stuck in this lane with nowhere to go. I considered driving over the boulevard to get around it, but traffic the other direction was pretty heavy. Some people ahead of me were able to maneuver around the wimp in front and switch into a turn lane for the other direction of traffic. I was hoping the guy/girl/incompetent twit would get the idea and move. No luck. Finally a cop came and blocked traffic behind us so we could escape. Traffic backed up at the traffic light as we all got out. After a while, I could shift lanes and get my freedom.

I wouldn't normally worry so much, but it had been a worrisome day, and we were having a guest speaker in class. I didn't want to be late. That would be rude.

So I got out of the tangle, only to get into another one. Since construction season has begun with so little snow left, the lane I was in was closed, and apparently everyone and their third cousins were driving in downtown Madison today. Traffic was backed up everywhere. I couldn't make it to my parking space and get to class in time, so I headed for a ramp closer to my building. I made the bell by about 20 seconds. I hate that.

We'll see what this evening holds.

Now I have to write a paper based on that interview with the governor. I need to start finding the rest of my sources. Yuck. I'm not in the mood. Not even a little.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Flying the friendly skies

OK. I should be getting packed. We're heading home.

A quickie post on what we've been up to:

The day after the dolphins, we went to EPCOT. I had heard from everyone and their third cousins how nice it is. After the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT was just more of the same. Which is fine, but we were not really in a magical mood. In fact, we were tired, whiny, crabby and desperately in need of a day off.

I will say that the Mission Space attraction was fantastic. Kayleigh had been feeling dizzy and sick, so in our wisdom we went on the more intense option. There were barf bags inside your unit. Nice. Baggy, as we might say. Anyway, it was a great ride. Four people go together inside this tiny space where you are strapped in so you can hardly move. It is dark, and it spins and shakes and you experience massive Gs as well as weightlessness. Anyway, at the end of the ride, Kayleigh felt fantastic, and I was a little worried about myself.

The next day it was supposed to rain, so we said we'd have a down day. And it did rain, for a while. But when it cleared up, I wanted to go back to the coast. The kids were not pleased. I was not pleased with their whining and crying. It was not pretty. But we went. And we saw cool stuff. Like an armadillo. And these wild pigs.

It was a windy day and a little chilly. We had the entire ocean beach to ourselves. As if the kids gave a flying leap. But I did. We wandered up and down the shore for a while. Kayleigh finally went and sat in the car to warm up. She talked on the phone to her friend Sam, which made her feel much better and helped improve all our moods.

From there, we went on a drive through the reserve, which was gorgeous. The kids weren't especially impressed, but they were glad to be sitting.

We headed south to Cocoa Beach and got there just as the sun set. There was a surfing competition that day, but it looked as if the surfers and their hangers on were busy doing other things. Again, there was no one at the beach. Nice.

I did not get along with our rental car. It destroyed my back. Our bed and pillows didn't help, either. Something was bothering my skin, especially around my boobs and belly. And no, it wasn't sunburn. Those parts of me stay covered. My head hurt like you wouldn't believe, and every day I hoped I wouldn't hurl or faint from the pain. Eric worried that roller coasters would only make me feel worse. I worried that, too, but went on them anyway.

See in the picture how everyone's heads are down except mine? See how it flew backwards off the back of my seat? Can you hear my neck snap? I could hear it. It went, Crack! Snap!

I pulled it back into place and figured I'd be in to see the doctor when I got home. As it happened, it actually helped, and my neck and back have been almost normal since then. Guess I got a chiropractic appointment for nothing on the Scorpion at Busch Gardens.

So. We're out the door shortly.

One last funny: Around the corner there is a restaurant called the Crab House. It's right next door to Hooters.

Swimming with Dolphins

When I decided we would spend our spring break in Florida, swimming with dolphins was high on my list of things to do. I looked into wild versus trained, and trained was the way for our family to go. We did the Trainer for a Day program at Discovery Cove in Orlando. It cost a fortune. Ugh. I don't want to think about that part of it.

I want to think about this part of it instead:

As trainers for a day, we went behind the scenes to learn about and see how they care for the many different animals they have there. We got lots of private time with them. We hung out with a kinkajou, a spectacled owl (and a load of other birds), a nurse shark, an anteater, stingrays, reef fish, and a sloth. We also saw the engineering involved in running Discovery Cove, which is pretty intense.

They grouped us with another family of four. Their kids were sort of afraid of things. They were 14 and 9, compared to my kids of 13 and 8. I know it's a little weird to have stingrays sucking on your toes, and the sound of a shark snatching its meal inches from your fingers is startling, and large, colorful birds landing in your hair might make you a little concerned. But my kids were pretty into it. Kelsey asked questions everywhere we went. Kayleigh even posed for pictures, even though she lives in a constant state of adolescent self-consciousness and camera mortification.

There is a deliciously warm river that flows a portion of the park. You can swim through a cave, through the aviary, and past the reef. They've buried things deep down so you can swim down and investigate. (A snorkel and mask are provided, as is a wet suit.) There's a cannon, some urns, some statues. It's kind of fun. It was a coolish day, so we were glad to get in that warm water at the end of the day.

So, the dolphins. There are three pools and a lot of dolphins. We worked with about six. One was a nursing mom. One was named Kaylee. They are big. And strong. The trainer talks to you about their bodies and their training. The dolphins show off their different parts for you to learn about, they do a few tricks, they let you pet them and hug them. It's fun to hear the different noises they make; the clicks, whistles, buzzes, squeaks.

We had two sessions with them, for a total of about an hour in the water with them.

When your time is up, they pull you to shore as you hold onto their dorsal fin. The last time, though, you're pushed ashore with a double foot push, where you spread yourself out like an upside down pelvic exam. Two dolphins stick their noses on your feet and push you to shore. It's amazing how they can move through the water. I had the feeling if they had even a tiny streak of violence in them, we would all be dead. They are so strong.

It was fun to see their different personalities and different bodies. Kaylee was a little bitty thing, CJ was pretty big. Some are dark, some are light, or streaky or more solid. Some have short noses, some have long noses.

I was the last person to go at the end, so as the others were doing their double foot push and waiting for everyone else, I was having time with Kaylee. She was a gentle girl, so easy-going. It was kind of fun to just hang out and touch her while the trainer talked about her.

Being a trainer for a day had perks we weren't aware of. We got sling bags and T-shirts and got to go to the front of any lines, if there were any (there weren't). We had reserved tables in the shade. If we were doing a training session, they kicked everyone else out of that area until we were done. Heh. We also got passes to SeaWorld or Busch Gardens for a week. I knew we got passes, but I didn't know we could go for an entire week. Not that we would.

There are so many theme parks in Florida; one roller coaster is much like another. But this was a unique experience. We were so fortunate to be able to do it. And grateful. Even the kids were grateful. That's worth it right there.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Glass Bottoms

May I just say again how tired we are? We are tired.

After a day at Disney, we needed a sleep-in. We finally rolled out of our hotel at 11:30, headed to Silver Springs.

I had been there as a kid, and I liked it. They have glass-bottom boat tours of the Silver River, which is absolutely clear to the bottom, and it's deep. Steve Irwin did some filming there, as did lots of other Hollywood types, because the water is so clear. You can see a 500-year-old dug-out canoe and a Spanish rowboat.

There are wild rhesus monkeys along the river (didn't see any), and alligators galore. You can see the springs that feed the river and all the fish, turtles and occasional eels that live in it. There was even a gar fish, which was cool to see.

On the way there, we stopped at a Florida Citrus Company store, or something with a name very like that. We were all a little embarrassed to go somewhere that's such a tourist hole, and Kayleigh was about ready to crawl under a rock. But my mom asked for some cumquats, so I thought I'd look. They didn't have any. They had lots of tacky shell decorations made in the Philippines, though. Kelsey got an orange-slice bouncy ball. Eric got some evil coffee.

Lunch at the Olive Garden, a few missed turns, and we didn't arrive at Silver Springs until 2:30. They close at 5. They gave us our tickets half-price, though. Nice.

Kayleigh said it was interesting, but not as cool as she thought it would be. I think it would be a pleasant place to hang out for a while. It has a retirement feel to it. Not sure why, but Eric got the same feeling.

On the way back, we stopped at a different fruit stand. The guy who worked there said they hadn't sold cumquats in about 10 years, and the place he bought them from doesn't even grow them anymore. Sorry, Mom. I think cumquats are a dying breed.

Speaking of dying, we passed this lovely little shop. Florida is full of outlet malls and pawn shops. This one was unique.

An unmagical post about Disney World

What can you say about Disney World that hasn't been said before?

We took the hotel shuttle. Giovanni, our driver, was pretty funny. As we passed through the gate, he said in his Italian accent, "Ladies and gentlemen, this makes the 36,423rd time I have seen this sign. In 50 years, I am gonna be drivin' a bus through this gate."

We love the FastPass option they have now. You put your park ticket into a machine, and it gives you an hour window when you can show up and go to the front of the line. It's fantastic. You get your own separate line to walk past everybody else. The catch is you only get one FastPass at a time. So, get your pass, go do other stuff until your time, then walk to the head of the line. Beautiful. The lines weren't terrible, anyway. The longest we waited without a pass was half an hour, and that was only once.

We started with Space Mountain. It just doesn't get any better at Disney. Way cool. Kelsey screamed the entire time. She loved it. We all loved it.

The animatronics throughout the park were quite a bit better than the last time I was there, which was 1982. They use some projection to make faces better. The kids thought it was cool but also a little hokey.

We had no trouble getting food. I had heard the lines were horrendous, and I was a little worried about what there would be for us weird vegetarians to eat. There was plenty, and the lines weren't long, and there were plenty of places to sit. We seemed to arrive just before the crowds did for every meal.

I was happy to go, happy to take my kids there.

I heard a woman talking the next day about Disney. She said, "You know what I don't like about Disney World? Everything is fake."

Duh. It's all about wishes, magic, imagination, fantasy, hope. I hope "It's a Small World" comes true. How about a day of magic? It sounds pretty nice.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Florida makes me tired

Getting to Florida was a hoot. Our taxi arrived ten minutes late. The bus broke down. But we made it to the airport on time. Thank goodness we're worriers and decided to leave early.

Kelsey was enchanted by everything at the airport: security, cheesecake, a dinosaur, planes taking off and landing. Kayleigh had just been through the same terminal only last month, so she gave us the lowdown on where to get good food. Kelsey said the plane taking off was the most fun ever.

Blooming, tropical plants; palm trees; warm breezes that bathe you in heat and humidity – it was a dramatically welcome change of setting.

We spent the evening eating expensive food at our hotel, buying groceries at Wal-Mart (gack) and making plans for our vacation.

Day One was spent at the Kennedy Space Center. I had always wanted to go there, Eric had always wanted to go there, and it was the only place Kayleigh wanted to go at all. We did an up close tour, which took us around launch pads and loads of buildings. It was interesting, but to me, the most interesting part was the animals.

We saw dolphins, alligators, huge turtles, ospreys, eagles, pelicans, storks, scads of other birds we couldn't identify and definitely don't have at home, and – this made me cry – manatees. The Kennedy Space Center is located on a wildlife refuge, believe it or not. Our up close tour also afforded us the pleasure of a motorcoach with an operator and tour guide who stopped to point out a bald eagle's nest with babies poking their heads up and all the other animals we saw.

Another plus – it was Saturday, so the place had a skeleton crew and the roads were clear.

Kayleigh was feeling a little ill, so we left before seeing everything we wanted to, but that was OK. You can never see everything, anyway.

So we went up the Atlantic shore to Playalinda Beach, part of the Canaveral National Seashore and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The sand was very clean and loaded with small shells. There weren't many people. Families, mostly, spread up and down the beach. I was surprised at how clear the ocean was. Kelsey went body surfing under Eric's tutelage, Kayleigh cazhed on the sand, and I traipsed up and down the shore, finding shells and one jellyfish.

We headed home at sunset, tired after a full day of fun and sun in Florida.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Clover Choco-Paws

In 12 hours, my taxi comes to take me to heaven. I better get packing. Kelsey is packed, of course. She packed last week.

I spoke with the Easter Bunny earlier tonight, and she will not forget us on Easter. She is very excited to come to our house.

Your Easter Bunny Name is

Clover Choco-Paws

Get your Easter Bunny Name at

I covered a cool story this week. The night editor decided it wasn't so cool and didn't run it. I asked about it, and it ran without photos today. People at work said it was a great story that screamed for art. I agree. Apparently the other daily ran a story with cool photos yesterday. We would have beat them to it if they had run my story with those nifty photos on Wednesday morning. Them's the breaks.

A while back, I got an email that I had been nominated for an award at school, an Outstanding Returning Adult Student Award. I had to write a five-page essay answering a number of questions. The winner would get $1,000. Today I got the paper that said I did not win. I'm not surprised. I've only been back for a semester, and I will graduate in December. And I don't face the hardships that previous winners have. I didn't come here as a widow with seven children from a small African country that's been in the midst of civil war for years. I'm just a mom doing a little to get off her dead ass.

I better get packing. Have a good week or two.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Heading South, in so many ways

My family and I will depart the frozen tundra in a couple of days. The sunny shores of the Florida coast await. We will swim with dolphins, we will smile at Mickey Mouse, we will stand in long lines, we will cover our feet in sand. We won't need down jackets or Gore-Tex boots. We will use our car's AC, not the heater.

So I will not be around, posting pointless perceptions for both of my readers. If you still remember me in a couple weeks, check back then.

Ciao, baby.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Susan Powter whispers

Thank goodness for YouTube.

Have you seen the fabulous HBO series "Six Feet Under"? We don't get HBO, but we had heard the show was good. So we started watching it on DVD a couple years ago. Like many shows, the first season combined irreverent humor and dramatic plot twists that were somehow believable. Over time, the humor faded and the soap opera quality oozed in. I mean, if that much crap happened to people in so short a time, it would be loony bin time. Well, I guess that happened, too.

Anyway, we had all the disks for the last season except the final episode. After a couple of episodes into it, though, Eric couldn't watch it anymore. He was going through some craziness of his own (not technically crazy) and couldn't deal with the horror, the anguish, the intensity, the potentially lethal final season. That was a year and a half ago. He said someday he hoped to be able to watch it with me.

Last week, I was surfing YouTube while I waited for Eric to come to bed. By utter fluke, I found a major spoiler in a comment on a video tangentially related to the show. Bummer. I mentioned I had seen the spoiler, but didn't say what it was. He told me I should just watch the last season without him because he didn't think he'd ever be able to.

Also last week, Eric had to go out of town. Guess how I occupied my time alone?

I got through all the disks I had, then ran to our local hippie video store and got the final disk. The people at the store said it was the best final episode they had ever seen, including MASH. (I was disappointed with the final episode of MASH, but I know it is well-regarded by most people.) I could hardly wait to watch it.

It was resolving nicely, a satisfying ending to a series with a lot of ups, downs, laughs and tears, an ending with consistency and intelligence.

And then

THE FUCKING DVD STOPPED WORKING! Fifteen minutes left. FIFTEEN MINUTES! I invested years of emotion in this program. YEARS! And it wasn't easy to see the worst part of my life acted out on screen in that last season, either, but there it was. (Eric was wise not to watch it. I bawled audibly.) AND THEN IT STOPPED PLAYING.

I tried cleaning the disk. It worked for another couple seconds. I tried again. No dice. I took the disk out of my fancy Macintosh and stuck it into the world's cheapest DVD player. I got another five minutes. But that was it.


So I went back to YouTube. YouTube had given me the spoiler – which I'd already witnessed. It also gave me a clip of the last ten minutes of the series. How odd someone would have posted the last ten minutes, which is precisely what I needed. It was like the video store people knew their disk was wonky and put it up there for me.

It was a good ending. But it was an ending.

And I'm sad, although satisfied.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Peg Bundy

I got my hair cut this afternoon. I haven't had it cut since August. It was getting long. The hair on the back of my head is thick and wavy. I like it. The hair on the front of my head is thin and fine. I hate it.

So I considered just getting it cut cut cut. Short. Very short, like an inch short for that tousled, short, stylish hair that looks great on other people. But I figured with my hair so thin in front and not highlighted or lowlighted to death, it would just look like I enlisted.

I considered canceling the appointment. Nah. It needed to go.

The "senior design stylist" asked what I liked and didn't about my hair. She suggested bangs and layering. Fine.

Modern mullet? Yeah.

21st-century Peg Bundy? Yeah.

Kelsey laughed. She said it doesn't look like something I would choose, and that it's a middle-aged hair style. Joy.

No, no pictures. Let me keep what little self-esteem I can manage to sweep up with the clippings.

I see it's Tuesday. Fat Tuesday. I haven't been posting updates because nothing has changed. I have to actually try to lose weight, not just hope the fat away.

I did buy three new bras over the weekend, thanks to my fat. My old ones just didn't fit. A tight elastic band attached to flaps over the boobs is so uncomfortable. But the real kicker came when I couldn't look in the "average figure" section.

I have gotten so piggy that I am now in the "full figure" department. And I'm just a B cup. Barely a B cup, in fact, because I can hardly fill the B. There's nothing full about that. Just wide.

I go without a bra often. I can get away with it because my lovely lady lumps are, in fact, lumps. But today I saw an amply endowed woman, and I wondered if she was wearing a bra. Her breasts were possibly the largest I've ever seen, and that's saying something because my mom is a 52J. This woman's jugs were the size of a healthy preschooler. I wonder how much they weigh? Good heavens. Can you imagine lugging that around? Her poor back. How could she possibly find a brassiere that large? No wonder I saw no straps. I wanted to stare. I wanted to feel them, to heft them.

I'm glad I wasn't saddled with those.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Hot off the presses

Cool – I had my first Sunday article today. It wasn't the centerpiece, but it had a couple of photos and ran on the first page of the local section. It's pretty PR-ish, but it was a fun one to do.

I went to the children's hospital, which opened last year and is totally awesome in every way. They have a center for kids who've lost their hair or have scars from surgeries where they can choose wigs, hats, bandannas, makeup, nail polish, get their hair cut, all that kind of crap. It's all free. So I talked with a couple kids who'd used the services and with the hospital people. It was kinda dyno, I must say.

When I was writing it, I kind of struggled with that PR aspect. I also couldn't figure out where to start. So I wrote "FABULOUS LEDE GOES HERE." And then I forgot all about it, did a quick scan, and advanced it. As I headed off to get a Diet Pepsi, I stopped by the editor's desk to say it was coming her way. So she popped it open quick.

"I like your lede!" she said. She was so convincing and so unusually spirited that I thought I must have done a good job. "Fabulous lede DOES go here," she said. "Why don't you go get your soda, I'll read through the rest, and you can work on a fabulous lede."

I felt like a total dork. When I got down to the cafeteria, I told the old pros about it. They laughed but seemed concerned. I guess if someone making more than $25 a week sent that in, they'd get chewed a new one. Seems a little extreme.

Anyway, you can read it here, if you so desire.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Crap Answer

You Are a Colon

You are very orderly and fact driven.

You aren't concerned much with theories or dreams... only what's true or untrue.

You are brilliant and incredibly learned. Anything you know is well researched.

You like to make lists and sort through things step by step. You aren't subject to whim or emotions.

Your friends see you as a constant source of knowledge and advice.

(But they are a little sick of you being right all of the time!)

You excel in: Leadership positions

You get along best with: The Semi-Colon

The only way I am even remotely like a colon is that I am full of shit.