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.