Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Looking for inspiration in the bottom of my blog

Clearly, I've been neglecting blogging.

Go read my prison series. Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Check out grass jelly drink, one of my first posts. Marvel how much thinner I was and realize how fat I thought I was.

Some of my travel posts are cool. Or maybe it's just the photos I like. Whatever. The links are in the sidebar.

The ones relating to my brother I like a lot. Coca Cola Glass Lung cancer awareness We set up his fishing village under the Christmas tree today. I miss him.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Eastwick" gets hanged

ABC is burning "Eastwick" at the stake. The only prime time show I watch, "Eastwick" was just canceled after seven episodes. The show was cursed from the beginning.

First, I watch it. I watch it. I cancel things. "Eastwick" is only the latest casualty. I tuned in for silly reasons, namely Jaime Ray Newman, Paul Gross, and sex.

Jaime Ray Newman played Kristina Cassadine on "General Hospital." If it weren't for fan loyalty, I would never have watched "Eastwick" in the first place. I only started watching GH a few months ago, actually, after spending the last year or so watching clips of Newman's former GH costar Nancy Lee Grahn. I loved Nancy on "Santa Barbara" when I was a teen, and reconnected last year when I needed some distraction from the nightmares of school and general insanity.

Paul Gross is a god. Americans might remember him from "Due South," a show about a Canadian mounty in Chicago. I liked him best in "Slings and Arrows," a Canadian show so close to perfect my face is getting hot just thinking about it. He played Geoffrey Tennant, a nut job stage actor-turned artistic director who communicates with the ghost of his mentor/rival. The writing and acting absolutely crackled. Loved it.

And then there's the sex. "Eastwick" was the latest iteration of "The Witches of Eastwick." The book came first, and there was a rather successful movie, as well. Any time you put witches and demons together, you're probably going to get some sex. And I like sex. So I wanted to watch because I like to watch. And the show, in fact, had some fun and sexy moments.

A pleasant surprise was the humor. Well done. I was expecting more drama and fewer chortles. I'm sort of stingy with my laughter, but this show got me.

Also a nice surprise were the actors. Paul Gross and Jaime Ray Newman were known quantities for me, but I'd never seen Rebecca Romijn in anything before. She's pretty amazing. Also amazing was Lindsay Price, who I'd never heard of before. I'll definitely be on the watch for them, as well as Sara Rue, who isn't one of the witches, but the BFF for Lindsay's character.

So what killed this show besides me? There are a number of cliches we could blame, such as the line-up. It followed an entirely new comedy line-up on Wednesday. Maybe "Cougar Town" attracts a similar audience as "Eastwick," but I'm not convinced. I'm not watching "Cougar Town," a half-hour sit com about a forty-something woman lusting after much younger men, including high-schoolers. It's not funny to watch older guys have impure thoughts about young girls; it's equally unfunny when a woman is the lustful one. High school kids are just that – kids. Gross. Leave them alone. No, this show needed to follow something like "Desperate Housewives," which had a similar spunky, dramedic tone. And it definitely needed to follow an established series, preferably on a weekend, not be the last prime time offering on a mid-week night of all new shows.

Another problem is that "Eastwick" needed to leave the gates running, and it started at more of a meander. It's cool to do that in a book and let characters and story arcs develop. But on television, there's no time. You've got an hour to hook an audience and give them a reason to return. After the first episode, it was apparent this show would not make it. There was not enough punch, not enough to make me invest in those characters, and I really wanted to invest in them. I wanted to, so I did, and came back for every episode. But without that pre-existing investment, there was little reason to tune back in, unfortunately. After a few episodes, the show was starting to find its stride, and although it's not quite there yet, the potential exists for some really good stuff. There's drama, mystery, humor, all wrapped in and around a pretty quirky idea for network TV – that is, these three surprise witches summon the devil.

At least it's not another crime drama or hospital show. Or maybe that's why it didn't make it. Whatever the reason, I'll be sorry to see it go.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month

This is my brother Clint. Clint died two years ago after a shockingly short battle with lung cancer.

November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Lung cancer kills more people every year than breast, prostate, colon, liver, kidney, and melanoma cancers combined, yet it receives a fraction of the research funding. October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink ribbons were ubiquitous, from the corrugated insulator on my coffee cup at Caribou to specially marked packages of M&Ms, with proceeds going to fund research and outreach. Public awareness, screening programs and research funding have helped contribute to huge strides in treatment and survival of breast cancer, and that is fantastic. Now it’s time to focus more attention and money on lung cancer, a disease that affects so many people, either themselves or someone they love.

Like my brother. Clint was diagnosed in August 2007 and died that December. Although I shouldn’t have been shocked, I was. Only a week before he died, his doctors told my sister-in-law, Lee, they expected him to recover.

He was not a smoker, not that it should matter. But some people seem to think that people with lung cancer deserve it because they smoked. That attitude surely contributes to a lack of funding for lung cancer research. According to the Lung Cancer Alliance, total research funding for lung cancer in the U.S. in 2009 is projected to be $199 million, down one-third since 2005. Compare this figure to breast cancer research funding: a projected $1.1 billion for 2009, up $50 million from 2005.

Perhaps the lack of funding also stems from projected outcomes. Lung cancer is considered a death sentence, with 5-year survival rates just under 16 percent, compared to 89 percent and almost 100 percent 5-year survival rates for breast and prostate cancers respectively. Doctors don’t want to board a sinking ship, and the government doesn’t want to buy a boat with a hole in the hull.

Clint and Lee had four kids. He will never see his children get married, never know his grandchildren, never gaze lovingly at his wife again. He will never tease me again, never show me how to be a patient, loving parent again. My mother had to bury her first-born child.

I miss my brother. I think about him every day. His photo is on my hutch. His Coca Cola glass is on my dresser. His love is in my heart.

Lung cancer needs to be talked about, and it needs to be eradicated. Check out these sites for more information or to get involved.

Lung Cancer Alliance
National Cancer Institute
Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Come on, get happy

I've started this post four times. Everything I write sounds so crabby and self-important I don't want to publish it. So, here are some happies instead. It's still self-important because it's all about me, but what the hell. I'll cap it at 20.

1. Apple pie. OK, any kind of pie. But if it's apple, mine, because mine is better.
2. Roses
3. Sprite with ice
4. Lit candles in every room
5. Finding a clip of a favorite old TV show on YouTube
6. Butt rubs
7. Diamonds
8. Black pearls
9. Real hot chocolate
10. Puppies, dogs
11. Kittens, cats
12. Girl rats, even with giant, horrible tumors
13. Eagles
14. Fresh bread
15. Art fairs
16. My mother laughing so hard she coughs
17. Kelsey dancing
18. Kayleigh talking
19. Eric holding me
20. The four of us playing a board game by the fireplace

How about you? What are some of your happies?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Student Assignment Report

It's progress report time at the high school, and my inbox is filling with files from Kayleigh's teachers. That she can get as low as 21 percent in Effort and still get in the 90s and 100s in the Knowledge and Skills portion of her grades is a testament to what a tremendous waste of time much of the homework assigned really is and makes me wonder what she would be doing if they actually challenged her. Good thing she challenges herself with other things.

My favorite part about these reports is the label on the little icon that accompanies the email attachment: "Student Ass."

Smokin'. What exactly is my daughter being graded on at this school? And do the teachers feel this way about all their students?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Afternoon Wood

Pulling up the hill, I stopped short of my house and parked my little car in front of the neighbors' perfectly kept home and yard. My ragged yard was especially tatty with the pile of branches and leaves growing taller and wider at the curb as Paul and Michael took down our teetering honey locust tree limb by limb. They'd gotten pretty far in only a few hours, down to only a few large bare, branches.

Michael scampered around the tree, cutting, and Paul kept his feet on the ground, holding hard on the ropes tied to the branches Michael had trimmed bit by bit, guiding the wood to the ground, away from our house, away from the maple tree, the ash tree, the ginkgo tree, away from the power lines.

Kayleigh and I glanced up at Michael as we walked up the driveway. He stood on a solid branch, surveying his next move, his next cut.

"You're crazy!" Paul hollered up to him. "You're not walking out on that."

"I'll have to straddle it," he shouted back.

Paul looked at me and smiled. I handed him two water bottles and 65 cents, his change. The water in my house is perfectly fine, as is my bathroom. They prefer to stay outside.

"Straddle it?" I peered up at Michael. "I've never had that much wood between my legs."

I smiled and headed inside.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Odds and ends

New siding and windows tomorrow. We've moved everything away from the windows so they are accessible. My, I like my rooms with less stuff. Not that I didn't already know that.

I am in the throes of a deadline. Two stories, due the same day. I've had ample opportunity to write. I try. I just really suck at focus. I've tried caffeine, but it hasn't helped. I've tried allowing myself to be distracted in order to get the distractions out of my system. That hasn't helped, either. I think I just need a lot of pressure. Too much pressure.

Kelsey contracted her back-to-school illness already. She is a living, almost-breathing snot factory. She jammed her index finger up her nose and stretched her left nostril to the point where silver dollars could surely have had spare room. I said, "Could you please use a tissue to do that?" She continued her sinus diving and said, "I can't find the boogers when I use a Kleenex. ... Oh, there's one."

So, the siding. When the guy tore the yellow aluminum off, underneath was dark green cedar. It's one of those old colors that seems to be coming back in style. The kids love it. I must say, I don't mind it. It's better than the yellow aluminum. But tomorrow I will have light yellow vinyl instead. And it will match my garage. Cool. I wanted a light color rather than a dark one, and I didn't want to re-side the garage, which was already light yellow. So, light yellow it was. They call it cream. I tell you, if anyone ever presented me with cream that color, I would have to mention being on a diet or something, because that is not a healthy color for cream.

The windows are triple pane, also vinyl, with a wood grain interior. I'm happy about those. They are better looking than white, much cheaper than wood, and will hopefully make the house a lot warmer. Kelsey's room is in the northeast corner, and it is about 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the house in winter. Poor kid. You can feel the breeze in there. Kayleigh would like that, actually. What Kayleigh is not liking at the moment is having to clear a path to her windows. She has been a pack rat since she could grasp objects. I try not to object too much anymore because it's pretty pointless. I'd have to turn on the bitch-wolf mama me in order for anything to change, and I really don't have the energy, nor do I think it's very important. She'll clean her crap up someday in the next few years. That'll do. In the meantime, she just closes the door.

So, back to my deadlines. Oh, I found a T-shirt that says, "Not now. I'm on deadline." Perfect.

What are your odds and ends these days?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My Van is a Vampire, a traveling tale of synchronicity

Sometimes everything fits, like pieces of a puzzle. Sometimes things just go together, like bread and butter. Sometimes timing is everything, and the past and the present fuse in a way that makes futuresense.

And sometimes the puzzle is a few pieces short of a box, the bread is moldy and the butter is frozen, and the only sense made out of the past, present and future is that you have always been and will continue to be a great big dork.

I’ve just returned from a short trip to Traverse City, Michigan, and all of the above applied.

To begin: My van is a vampire.

There’s something about travel that causes menstruation. The last thing I want to think about when tooling around the country is what state my uterus is in. Believe me, I wish I could leave it home. I suppose that day is coming given that my moon time has lately caused more blood loss than childbirth. But it’s not just perimenopausal, whisker-sprouting broads like me who are afflicted. My poor teenager, who has enough stress simply as a result of her age and interests (or disinterests, as would be more likely), has to carry around period baggage. Going anywhere? Guaranteed to bleed. It’s one of our rules to live by. I just hope my jeans (Totally rockin’ Lucky deep dark blues that I got on clearance at Macy’s because, seriously, I’m never in style and I’d never pay full price for some scraps of denim. Think of my African daughter! The guilt….) wash out as nicely as the motel bedspread.

I’ve been wanting to see Traverse City since I was a little girl. My grandfather was born in Traverse City, and my mom talked about it with such fondness and pride that the city has always held a regal spot in my heart. My great-grandfather, Quincy Edward Boughey I, was apparently a man of prominence in the city, and a street and a hill are named after the family – or after him, I’m not actually sure.

The girls and I visited Boughey Street on Boughey Hill. I laughed out loud when I saw the yellow houses on the corner. I grew up in a yellow house. I bought two yellow houses. We are re-siding our house and guess what color we picked? Yellow. Not that I love yellow. It's that we are too cheap to re-side the garage, too, and since we are re-siding, we want the house and garage to match. Right now, the house is a ghastly yellow six-inch aluminum siding. The garage is a less-ghastly, four-inch, light yellow vinyl.

Anyway, this particular trip came about because Eric, my ever-loving husband, decided to attend a seminar at Interlochen College of Creative Arts, about half an hour from TC. When I met Eric in 1990, he had this plastic board called a Chapman Stick that when he tapped he made music. Not much later, he quit. But a few years ago, when our lives blew up, he grabbed hold of his Stick again. This summer, Interlochen held a Stick seminar taught by Emmett Chapman, inventor of the Chapman Stick, and Greg Howard, Stickist extraordinaire. Eric couldn’t pass up this opportunity, and neither could I.

Eric packed his Sticks (yes, he has more than one now) and his amps. He forgot a sweatshirt. He always forgets a sweatshirt. And why would you really think of a sweatshirt in August, right? I packed sunscreen and swimming suits and beach towels (and supermegavortex tampons and onlyslightlysmallerthandiapers pads). Northern Michigan missed the memo that it’s summer. Eric bought a sweatshirt to add to his collection of sweatshirts purchased on summer vacations. I drank a lot of hot drinks, unsuccessfully dodged rain drops and finally just holed up in our chilly, humid motel room reading Harley Jane Kozak’s second Wollie Shelley mystery, Dating is Murder. Saturday night, having finished the book, I flipped on the TV after hunkering under the blankets and who should appear on my screen but the lovely (and hilarious) Ms. Kozak herself. She has such fine features and exquisite hair. And she was hugging Scott Bakula. What could be better? Now I can say I’ve seen the last five minutes of “Necessary Roughness.” But I’d still like to see the whole thing for Harley’s sake.

My grandfather, Stoepel Boughey, son of the aforementioned Quincy Edward I, was visiting from Florida that awful day in 1986 when Harley's "Santa Barbara" character Mary was tragically killed by a poorly tethered neon C. My grandfather and I were finishing up a rollicking game of cribbage when the poor, fallen, crushed nun Mary said, “God’s here,” and I bawled my eyes out while my grandpa laughed at my anguish. "Santa Barbara" was a funny, crazy, well-crafted (for a while) soap opera. They even did one episode in iambic pentameter, but that was well after Harley's unfortunate departure.

So, tragic deaths and Traverse City: In poking around Traverse City history through the magic of the Internet, I discovered my great-uncle Quincy Edward Boughey II, my grandfather’s brother and nemesis, was a telephone man who died as a result of electrocuting himself installing a phone in his own home. My brother Doug is a telephone man.

See? Past and present. Things go together. Just not the way you might expect.

Next time: Peaches, porn, grinders, bars and brown people – Wisconsin and Michigan really are miles apart.

Check out Harley Jane Kozak's blog, The Lipstick Chronicles, which she shares with the rest of the Book Tarts, a group of women who write mysteries and blog about life and its many accompanying mysteries.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Let's get some shoes

Eric bought new shoes today. I love shoes. I guess I really am a girl.

(Eric got some fancy Nikes on megasale at Kohl's. Apparently they can even communicate with his iPhone. That's a little scary. And what are they saying? "Slow down! Wait for your wife!" "No, move faster – she's PMSing!" I don't know. I don't want shoes calculating my steps and calories burned and likely mapping where I've been and sending it to my insurance company so they can deny my claims for being a lard-ass, or worse, to the government for being a liberal. Wait, that's OK again. For now. Babbling – shutting up.)

When I was little, before I was in school, I had a pair of hiking boots. You know the ones that everybody wore in the '70s? The suede, round-toed clodhoppers with black, very marking soles, heavy as a broken heart. Loved 'em. My brother Doug had a pair just like them. Of course. Anything that Doug had I had to have, too. He was Jesus. And he had a Jeep that he apparently thought could walk on water because he was always getting it stuck in the muddy bottoms of a mucky river.

I had some other boots, too, when I was even younger. Rain boots. Someone took a picture of me wearing nothing but my boots. And when my Kelsey was little, I took a picture of her wearing nothing but her boots. I thought it would be cute to put the two photos next to each other – like mother, like daughter. The psycho at Walgreen's who developed the film called the police, fearing my little naked 2-year-old might be the victim of some variety of sexual abuse. How you can look at a picture of a child, scarcely past a baby, and even have sexual thoughts cross your mind is beyond me. I hope the police investigated the lunatic.

It's funny how many of my shoes I remember. I had an ugly blue pair of knock off All-Stars in kindergarten. My first-grade shoes were remarkably similar. My mother told me to write my name on them, so I took a magic marker and wrote absolutely everywhere. I was perfectly content, but she had a fit about me ruining them and she should have known better than to give a magic marker to a child (yes, she should have) and I'd have to wear them anyway. Well, then I was ashamed of them, embarrassed, and I absolutely did not wear them. She had bought me another pair a couple sizes up, and I wouldn't wear those either when I finally grew into them, even though I hadn't marred them with even one black dot.

Many of my shoes didn't fit well. My mom wanted me to get a lot of wear out of my shoes so she didn't have to keep buying them. So, I got them too big and wore them until they were way too small. When my toe pushed out the end of one particular pair I was quite fond of, overtaking the sole, my dad declared my feet had been damaged because of my ill-fitting footwear. I think he might have been right, actually. My big toes point the wrong way, as though I've been wearing high heels since birth, and I certainly haven't. He was always in my corner after that, getting me comfortable shoes I liked, even if they cost more than $4.99.

I wasn't at all brand conscious until about 5th grade when Nike waffles started appearing on the feet of my friends. Even though I thought they were weird and ugly, they were making quite a splash, and I didn't want to be left out. I fondled and sniffed a pair of blue ones with a daring yellow swoosh at Athlete's Foot one day at the mall. How I pined for them. Sometime in middle school I talked my mother into getting me a pair of Nikes, but not the nice blue and yellow waffles, just a pair of light blue ones with a plain sole and a white swoosh. Very subdued, and much cheaper. But it was still a hard-earned accomplishment. They weren't really any more comfortable and they didn't wear any better, and that disappointed me a bit. I didn't insist on name-brand shoes ever after, but my mom still didn't like spending more than $8 on my feet. Unless the shoes were leather. Bring on the GASS. Ugh. I had to wear those big clunkers forever.

These days, well, I'm not exactly sexy in my selections, but my feet feel good, crooked toes and all. And I'm willing to drop decent money on a pair of running shoes, but you'll never find me at a boutique shelling out for couture. (Unless I drop about 30 pounds and decide to get some thigh-high black leather boots. I'll definitely blog about that and include pictures. Please don't call Walgreen's or the police.) I do have a pretty cool collection of Chuck Taylors, though. My latest: light blue oxfords with fuzzy clouds and farm animals and little silver lightning strikes.

Eventually I'll have a photo of my sweet Chucks. Kelsey took my picture, but it's been sitting on her camera, and now I can't find it. And I wrote this so long ago, that the photos I popped in there from around the web (with full credit and links, of course) have gone the way of ether.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Who's that kid with the Oreo cookie

Oreo limited edition Strawberry Milkshake creme: edible, nothing I'd ever buy again.

Of the non-ordinary Oreos, I like the mint and the peanut butter. I seem to recall a mocha flavor, but it might be my mind's wishful thinking.

Speaking of mocha: Nestle's Mocha Crunch – eew. I don't think they're making it anymore because, you know, eew. Awful color, funky consistency, chemical flavor. nass-tee

I do like it when candy companies do limited-edition flavors. Some are fantastic, like Kit Kat's dark, mint and orange flavors. Yum. I wish I'd stockpiled those darks. Apparently they have dark minis in multiflavor bags, but they're in there with those awful white chocolate ones. So not worth the money. Spew.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Things We Keep

My diploma arrived on Thursday. Very nice. Now I can slip it into a drawer with other stuff I want to keep but don't really want to look at very often.

It's funny the things we keep. My Girl Scout sash. Little slips of paper with things the kids have said. My softball T-shirt from 8th grade. A Kelsey doll in a wedding gown that I'm saving for Kelsey's bridal shower, should she ever have one. A clay ash tray I made in second grade art class. Cards and letters and papers and awards and more diplomas – and I thought I wasn't into stuff.

But I keep those things because they mean something to me, because they take me back to a particular time in my life, because the people involved mean something to me, because the people involved mean everything to me.

Now my big red diploma folder will nestle among my pink, wind-up bunny that I've had since birth; a brand-new Twitter T-shirt that Nancy Lee Grahn signed because I was playing celebrity whore; my dad's Army pouch containing some foreign coins from his wartime travels, if you want to call them travels; and a host of other things too numerous to mention or even remember without peeking.

But sometimes I peek, and I remember the things I keep.

Monday, July 13, 2009

California dreamin' on such a summer's day

When I was a kid, I was hopelessly smitten with the Little Rascals. I loved their adventures, their ingenuity, their perseverance. I loved that the good guys won, even if they got shamed on occasion, and friends stayed friends even after misunderstandings, quarrels and outright betrayal. I loved that adults were usually buffoons. One thing I didn't notice as a kid, because it seemed normal to me in the era in which I grew up, was that Our Gang was an integrated group; white kids and Black kids played together and thought nothing of it.

The Little Rascals made me feel connected to my parents. They grew up in the '20s, '30s and '40s. I imagined my mom building firetruck go-karts out of junk she found after scrapping around in dirt lots. I imagined my dad camping in a cave with his brothers and buddies, literally scaring them shitless with his graphic and spirited storytelling and particular flair for practical jokes. I imagined my parents happy and engaged and busy with the joys of childhood during a time when people were hungry, when men left their families in search of work, any work, anywhere; when penicillin, had it been available, would have knocked out my dad's scarlet fever, which forever damaged his heart, and my mom's strep, which took her out of all but two weeks of third grade and took nearly all the body fat and muscle her little body had.

Those kids – Spanky, Afalfa, Darla, Butch, Scott, Stymie, Buckwheat, Jackie, Chubby – were so real to me. One night I dreamed about them. We were friends, and I knew all their last names, which was a big deal to me, I remember. It was awfully disappointing to wake up and realize I didn't know those incredible children, that we weren't going to have one exciting adventure after another, that we never had, and I still didn't know their last names.

At one point I asked my mom where movies and TV shows were made, and she told me California. Hollywood. Well, I had to go there.

I talked about California all the time. I looked at pictures of California. I imagined standing atop the Hollywood sign. I pictured myself hobnobbing with Mike Douglas, my favorite talk show host. Every time my mom and I sat in the car waiting for my dad to run into some store, I climbed into the driver's seat and pretended we were driving. My mother would ask where we were going, and I would say, "California!" and she would laugh at my youthful obsession.

When I was 16, I had a layover at LAX. It was my first California experience. By then, I had given up my California dreamin' for the most part. I still hoped to move to San Diego, establish residency and go to college there. But I knew it was pretty unlikely. Still, a little part of me was glad I finally made it out there.

My next trip to CA was one where, two months before we were married, I tagged along with Eric on a week-long business trip to Apple in Cupertino. We arranged to get out there early and leave late so we'd have time for fun stuff, and we had the most fabulous hotel room, only because they hosed our reservation and didn't have any other rooms. It was bigger than our apartment! Loved it. The plan was, he'd go to Apple all day and I'd bum around all day and we'd do whatever at night. We had a rental car, so I could head to San Francisco or meet up with my friend Brian who was living with his parents in Los Gatos while working for Mac Week magazine for the summer. Brian had friends up at Berkeley who would love to hang and do martial arts, and it all sounded perfectly perfect to me.

I stayed a day.

My dad had dropped us off at the airport (It was Eric's first time being driven by my dad. I warned him, but his knuckles were pretty white by the time we arrived.) then picked up my mom for a little country drive before the NBA finals came on TV. They got out to the micropolis of Token Creek, which consists of a bar and a ball field, when my dad said, "Honey, I don't feel well." Then he fucking died.

Never fear, fair reader. He was approaching a stop sign in front of the aforementioned bar and ball field when he went into defib, so the car wasn't going very fast. My mom reached over and tried to cut the ignition, but her arthritis was too painful, and she couldn't do it. As they sailed through the stop sign, she knocked his leg off the accelerator and steered their jaunty little Ford away from a parked car.

Someone at the ball field noticed and yelled for others. He ran alongside the car, opened the door, and got his foot on the brake. After he turned the car off, he dragged my breathless, pulseless, lifeless father, whose skin was already peeling away from his fingernails, out of the car and onto the ground and started CPR. A young woman approached and offered to do the breathing. A man came up and said he was a doctor.

My mother stood by and cried. She had never believed in CPR. She thought people should just be left to die and stay dead. She worked in a hospital and saw a lot of people resuscitated only to live a brain-damaged, burdensome life. She didn't want that. But she didn't stop anyone trying to save her husband. Nor did she believe it was going to work. But it did.

"I have a pulse," the doctor shouted. The pulse came and went, and these strangers pressed my father's chest and breathed their air into his lungs until an ambulance arrived. It had been rerouted from a nearby fire and arrived quickly, no small miracle given their rural location.

They cut his shirt off him, got paddles on him and a board under him and sped away to Madison. Someone helped my mother to the hospital and returned my parents' car its rightful driveway. My mother hasn't driven since, probably, 1939.

So, anyway, there I was in sunny California, plotting my adventures. My mother had a helluva time finding us. We hadn't thought about telling anyone our specific whereabouts. Duh. And cell phones were known as car phones and were the size of a brick. They came complete with lots of cords and a Monte Carlo-sized magnetic antenna to adhere to the car's roof, and we obviously did not have one with us. But we had a message at the front desk: Emergency at Amy's house.

We arranged for my return trip, spent a day wandering Muir Woods, miserably, and that was it for me in California.

My dad came through pretty well. He was weak and confused for a couple days, and couldn't remember what happened. He had an automatic internal defibrillator put in when he was strong enough, which went off 13 times before he finally died three and a half years later.

Eric's been back to CA for lots of business trips, but I haven't accompanied him.

This week, though, I am going. The girls and I are heading to LA on Thursday, my mother's 84th (or 85th, depending who's asking) birthday. Yes, LA is a smog-laden traffic nightmare. I don't care. I'm going to sink my toes into the sand. I'm going to watch the sun set over the Pacific. I'm going to eat too much. I'm going to take a picture of the Hollywood sign. And I'm going to look for Spanky's star on the Walk of Fame.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Old Stuff

Good Will kicks ass. I went in for a small jar or cup or bowl or plate or something to put my pot shards in.

Did I write about my shards? I don't remember. I guess not. When I was in Santa Fe, Jackie and Dorothy took me to their friends' house for a picnic. Isn't it pretty?

The house is built on an old midden and shards just spring up out of the ground. Every time there's rain or good wind, they wander the yard and find something that hasn't seen the light of day for roughly 1,000 years. They have a huge bowl full of them – gorgeous things. Some have paint, some you can see where the coils were pressed together, some show the rims of bowls or handles of pitchers. They also have a giant velociraptor bone they found. Anyway, it was a very fun time searching their land. This is their front yard, where I found most of the shards.

The ones I found are small but so, so cool. Since it was private property and I had permission of the owner to keep them, my shards are totally legal. Apparently, you can't keep any artifacts found on public land.

Shard hunting is something I've always wanted to do, and it was such an unexpected treat to be able to do so. The shards are between 800 and 1,200 years old, according to the property owners, Joan and George, who did some research and asked some scholarly types about them, as well.

I wanted something to put the shards in so we could see them and take them out and touch them. And I'm cheap, so Eric and I went to Good Will. I love the stuff you find there.

A toast to the bride and groom.

Water bottle, water bong, water bongle – dude, whatever.

Eric got a new case for his glasses. It is hard plastic, closes solidly and has a nice, felt-lined interior. It also says NBA on it, but what do you want for 39 cents? He says he's going to put a sticker over the NBA logo.

Here are my shards in their new home.

I'm not sure I like them in a glass. A plate might be better. They'd be easier to see and pick up on a plate. But if I change my mind, then my 69-cent glass will be put to use in the kitchen and I'll head back to Good Will for something more suitable.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Squirrelly Girl

So, I had this self-revelation over the weekend: I am squirrelly. When I can't work out my squirrellies through physical activity, I work my squirrellies out by eating. What a bass-ackwards way to live. And I've been doing it so long! You'd think I'd've figured it out a long time ago. I suppose I did, but I ignored it, invoking the Wagner family motto.*

I'm a squirmer. I've known that forever, and I've been driving people crazy forever. I need to wiggle, jump, run, kick, punch (Pads! I kick and punch pads!) spin, stand on my head, bounce on the bed and any number of equally boisterous things.

Being squirrelly doesn't lend itself to grade school, middle school or high school. Or college, for that matter, but at least in college, your classes are a mile apart and you have to haul ass to get there on time.

It's not demure or polite for a grown woman to bounce her leg up and down through boring budget meetings or tap her pencil during yet another PowerPoint presentation. At least at the paper, I got to stand and pace (sometimes on the table) when I ran the meetings.

Anyway, my little moment of self-understanding feels so liberating. Isn't it silly? I feel like I should toss my hat in the air and grin like Mary Tyler Moore, who really could turn the world on with her smile. (But that statue is creepy.)

Now – I'm hungry. Heh, heh.

*The Wagner motto is "Fuck it." For the record, the Knapp family motto is "Clear off a seat anywhere."

Monday, June 22, 2009

Music Meme

This meme comes from Daniel.

Take your iPod or alternative, cheap, unfashionable, non-Apple MP3
player or even your music collection on your computer.

Pick a song, maybe one you like at the moment, doesn't really matter which one.

Using the alphabetic list of songs in your iPod/player/computer, list
that song and the following nine in alphabetical order. What do you get?

If I Didn't Know Any Better, by Alison Krauss & Union Station, from the album Lonely Runs Both Ways. I love this song. Kelsey likes it, too.

If I Ever Lose My Faith in You, by Sting, from the cheap collection Very Best of Sting. Eric popped this one onto a disk of other songs he thought I might like. That was an eclectic disk.

If I Had a Hammer, by The Weavers, from another collection, Greatest Hits. I swiped this album from Jackie & Dorothy when I was in Santa Fe. I haven't actually played this song yet.

If It Makes You Happy
, by Cheryl Crow, from the album Cheryl Crow. Good song. I wish it popped up more often.

If You Were Gay, original cast, from the album Avenue Q. I love this album. I love this show.

Iko Iko, by Od Tapo Imi, from the album Panstyle. Od Tapo Imi are a steel drum band from Madison. For a time, they were my favorite Madison band. Eric's friend Dave Gochberg played on some of their songs. Dave died suddenly last year. Those heart attacks are nasty. Makes me want to go running. Well, makes me think of running, anyway.

Illegal Alien, by Genesis, from the album Genesis. Weird song, but it's got a good beat and you can dance to it.

In And Out of Love
, by Bon Jovi, from the album Cross Road. Gotta say, this isn't one of my favorites. But Kelsey is a big Bon Jovi fan.

In Heaven There Is No Beer
, by Clean Living, from the album Dr. Demento's 25th Anniversary Collection. This one usually gets skipped over, too.

In The Dark, by Vika and Linda, from the Live and Acoustic album. I like Vika and Linda in small doses. I'm usually not much for live stuff, but their Grandpa's Song live is exceptional.

How about your random 10?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Breakfast on the Farm

Always looking for cheap and novel things to do with the kids, I was pleased when, milling among the masses at the Dane County Farmers' Market's Cows on the Concourse, someone handed me a flier for Breakfast on the Farm.

I've looked into Breakfast on the Farm before. For a small fee, attendees visit a local farm and poke around and eat breakfast. We haven't gone before because the menus I've seen offered something like 12 kinds of meat washed down with whole milk. Yuck.

But this year, the menu appeared to offer enough that we would eat, although it had nary a fruit or a vegetable on it. (Not true, as I think about it – frozen strawberries came with the ice cream. Frozen strawberries at the height of strawberry season. Tragic.) It was quite dairy heavy, in fact, which could be expected in Wisconsin. Being dairy crazy, we went. Well, we three chicks went; Eric was in San Francisco being a geek at Apple's WWDC.

The farm, Hinchley's in Cambridge, was about a 25-minute drive through the rolling hills of southern Wisconsin. It was a cold, drippy morning, but by the time we got there, the skies had begun to clear.

I envisioned a quiet wander among the barns and a chilly breakfast with a few dozen blue-hairs and a handful of neo-hippies. My quaint (and naive) notions of a locavore experience were shot to hell when I saw the lines of people walking down the highway and county police directing traffic outside the farm. It would be me, my kids, and oh, thousands of other people eating eggs and warming our hands with coffee.

I steered the car over the muddy field that served as the parking lot that morning. Hayrides to the farm were available, and Kelsey wanted a hayride. The trailers came in many sizes, as did the tractors pulling them. Only one was horse-drawn. We had to wait for three to fill and leave before we got our turn, but the wait was less than 10 minutes, which only goes to show what a huge operation this was.

The hay bales were surprisingly soft. Usually hay bales are like bricks with slivers.

So we got our tickets and stood in the food line. We were getting pretty hungry, and the lines were really long. But we were in the line right next to where they cooked the food. They had two enormous pans of scrambled eggs going, and apparently they were boiling sausages in some milk cans. Three egg scramblers stood over the pans of eggs, mixing and turning them with huge spatulas, chatting and smiling as they worked.

A miserable-looking little dog wandered into the food prep area and was promptly shooed away. He looked even more miserable then, the sad bastard. I can just hear him, whimpering about all these people in his territory. It must have been completely overwhelming.

So, we sat at a Holstein-painted table and ate our cheesy scrambled eggs, which were actually very good, our cheese cubes (Farmer's rope and mascarpone), cheese danish coffee cake, and milk. I went with the full-fat chocolate milk from Sassy Cow. God. That stuff is too good. I made the mistake of looking at the calorie content – 230 per cup. Whoa. Usually I drink skim, at 80-90 calories per cup, depending on whose nutrition information you choose to believe.

Alice in Dairyland was passing out stickers to some small children at the next table. You know what I like about Alice in Dairyland? Her thighs. She's a real Wisconsin girl, not some twiggy, model wannabe with more face paint than Bozo.

After we ate, we started to wander. The farm was really very pretty. The barns were all well kept and they had a small area to walk through that had different pens of animals. There were the stinky pigs, goats, three or four kinds of geese, loads of many different kinds of chickens, baby chicks, pheasant, rabbits, and of course, cows. We all held the bunnies and marveled at how weird goats are and how huge goose eggs are and how cute chicks are. Cows are cows. They eat. A lot. And they're not the brightest animals around. But it's fun to get lickin' close to them and watch the younger set feed them out of their hands. Eew – spit.

It made for a pleasant morning, and I'm glad we went. Kelsey loved it so much, she wants to go to another one next weekend. We'll see about that. I'm just wondering how many eggs they cooked that day. Kayleigh figures a whole building full of them. She may be right about that.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Fifteen years

Kayleigh turned 15 today! Yea! Happy birthday, Kayleigh! I love you!

Saturday, May 30, 2009


Estoy en Nueva Mexico visitando mis hermanas y comiendo demasiado. Hace sol, pero las noches hacen frias y duermo en el portico. (No se usar los acentos, obviamente.) Las montaƱas son bellas, y hay mucho mas vegetacion que esperaba.

Hoy fuimos al centro para ir de compras. En el Palacio de los Gobiernos los indigenos venden joyeria que hacen – y que preciosa! No compre nada alla, pero compre un cafe y unos postres. Jaja.

Ya es la hora de siesta. Voy a poner unas fotos mas tarde. Hasta.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Do you know the way to Santa Fe?

Tomorrow morning before the break of dawn, I head off to lovely Santa Fe, NM, for a long weekend. On the Dallas-SF leg of my flight, I have a seat with removable arm rests for the advantage of the disabled or exceedingly large. Cool.

This will be quite the chicksperience, except for Lawrence, the lone holder of the Y chromosome. We will have me, whose XX status is pretty weak anyway, Jackie, Dorothy, Lee, Melva, Ruth, and Lawrence. Tana arrives after I depart.

Jackie is in the throes of chemo and so pretty tired and a little loopy, although she says her pain isn't as bad as it was last week.

I'm not sure how much I'll be doing as far as seeing the sights because Jackie is so tired, but I will be happy to be there with my family and friends. These wonderful people have brought me in as a sister, and I love them all.

So, see you all next week. Kayleigh turns 15 next Wednesday! Her quinceaƱera. Wow. Have some sangria for her, cuz she ain't gettin' any here.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Now I just wonder why

Kelsey climbed into my bed this morning, all lean and long and beautiful.

"You're so pretty," I said. "Sometimes I wonder how I made you."

She smiled and rubbed my arm.

"You used to be pretty," she said.

– Wait, it gets better. –

"Used to be?" I winced.

"How can you be pretty when you have bags under your eyes and you’re all wrinkly and pimply and you can see your big pores and your hair’s gray and all messed up?"

I no longer wonder how I made her. Now I just wonder why.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Meteorologists attribute recent strange weather patterns to a monumental sigh of relief believed to be heaved from the raspy lungs of a recent college graduate. Storm trackers and weather spotters have traced the center of these disturbances to a woman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison whose graduation and first annual 39th birthday nearly coincided with Mother's Day. The resulting forces have stressed the capacity of local officials to contain the mix of glee and contentment swirling around the flagship campus and surrounding area.

"Joy and relief are literally suspended in the air," said a source at the university who wished to remain anonymous because he did not have authority to speak officially. "We've been unable to locate the woman in question because she's apparently so happy she's bouncing all over town in a state of giddiness. I tell you, if she doesn't calm down, she's going to gulp all the air out of the city."

He suggested a job might be useful in bringing her down, but he worried that finding gainful employment would only exacerbate her excitement.

"I'd hate to see what would happen if someone hired her in this economy," he said, rubbing his forehead. "She might actually explode, and then where would we be?"

Madison weather gods Charlie Shortino and Gary Cannalte have combined resources to create the Super-mega-my-Doppler-is-bigger-than-yours3.15 to pinpoint the exact whereabouts of the woman in question in an effort to restore weather patterns to normal. Shortino anticipates the sophisticated instrument will be activated by Monday morning.

"We'll have her found in no time, and then we'll settle her down," Shortino said.

Cannalte explained between laughing and high-fiving Shortino: "We're going to read to her from one of her unread textbooks the book store wouldn't buy back. That'll snap her out of it."


Psst! I'M DONE! And I couldn't be happier.

Thanks to my professors and advisers who've encouraged me and taught me so much. You've shown me possibilities I never knew existed and pushed and dragged and cajoled and held me up so I could see.

Thanks to my friends who told me to get my head and fingers out of my ass. You guys rock!

Thanks to my family for sticking by me these last four years. I appreciate all the support you've given me and the sacrifices you've made for me. The ride hasn't always been a smooth one, but I'm glad you took it with me. I love you.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


I find that whenever I am feeling a little down or worn out, looking at this T-shirt gives me a rise.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Kelsey's Cream Puffs

Kelsey made cream puffs today. I have never been a big cream puff fan, but she thinks they're wonderful. She wiggled into my bed after breakfast, saying she wanted to make something yummy. I told her to go ahead. When she said she wanted to make cream puffs, I did an internal eye-roll and then told her to get The Joy of Cooking, that book would have the best recipe. She said she'd already bookmarked it in January. Figures.

She looked through the recipe. The ingredients were simple enough. She declared she was not going to sift the flour because she hates sifting and it never makes any difference. Whatevs, chickie. She also decided to make half a recipe since a full recipe was 24 cream puffs, and, for some wild reason, she thought 24 was too many. Of course, halving the recipe brought questions.

"How am I going to add two to two-and-a-half eggs? I'm just going to use two." Fine.

"How much butter is a sixth of a cup?" I took a break from folding laundry and showed her how to measure it.

Her arm got a bit tired stirring, but she did fine. They puffed up wonderfully, and she was quite pleased with the outcome.

We bought a can of whipped cream (because the cans are fun and "they remind me of spray cheese," she says) and vanilla pudding since she's the only one who actually wanted cream in her cream puffs.

Often I don't care much for that kind of pastry. It's always hard and tasteless or so thin that it falls apart in your hand and tasteless. Yuck.

Kelsey is, naturally, spectacular. And her cream puffs were, naturally, spectacular. They were moist and sweet, delicate without being flimsy, firm without being hard. I actually liked them and could definitely have eaten my share of the 24 had she made the full recipe.

It is her goal to open a bakery when she grows up. She wants to put her art on the walls and have poetry nights. My little bohemian. I think she's well on her way.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter is for Bunnies

We've spent the last week building a new rabbit cage. Ours was just too small for two big bunnies, and I always felt so guilty stuffing them inside at night. We'd looked around at bigger homes for rabbits, but we weren't impressed. They were horribly expensive (starting at $300) and not very nice, so we just built one ourselves.

We bought three boxes of white wire Organize It cubes from Target for $14.99 each and a couple bags of cable ties from Farm & Fleet (cheap). Kelsey and I started slapping the thing together, figuring out how big to make it and where to put stairs and ramps as we went along. At first we weren't sure what to do for flooring, but in talking it through we decided on a scrubable bathroom panel ($9) laid on a piece of chipboard we already had in the garage. Eric cut them to size and put some cheap casters on the bottom. We put down some carpet we had left over after last year's basement fiasco and a few towels, bought a couple of new litter boxes, a cushy bed and a couple of toys for a total cost of about $100.

It's three stories, 42 inches tall, 56 inches wide and 28 inches deep. There's a door at the bottom and one at the top so we can reach them up there.

And the dudes love it. They were in there nosing around before it was even done. Once it was finished, they didn't even get out with the door gaping open. They have lots of room to stretch, stand, flop and hop. They can stay close if they want to snuggle or they can get out of each other's fur if they so desire.

We feel better about having caged animals. We can't always pay attention to them, so on days they have to stay inside their cage, we're glad they have a nicer place to be. I think they're glad, too.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Back at it

Have you missed me? I didn't think so. But I've been busy on the Web, searching for the latest in awesome goodness. Behold: Squeez Bacon.

Leave it to those crazy Swedes, who also bring us Plopp candy bars, to invent the marvel of bacon-flavored goo in a plastic jug. Now you can add that delicious porcine zing to all your favorite dishes: potato salad, BLT sandwiches, apple slices, ice cream sundaes, trifle. Use it in place of ketchup, A1 steak sauce or Vermont's finest maple syrup.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My brilliant child

So, as you've likely forgotten, Kayleigh is taking a class at MATC this semester. This class is in addition to her high school classes, not in lieu of them.

Last week, she came down with a horrific cold. She slept about 40 out of 48 hours early in the week. Still, she really had to go to her MATC class. It meets only once a week for four hours, so to miss one night is to miss a lot. We kept her home from school on Wednesday so she could rest up for her long evening.

On the drive to MATC, Eric said, "Wait, don't you have an exam tonight?" He only knew this because he'd talked to her teacher, Eric's colleague Bill, a couple days prior, and Bill had mentioned it.

Kayleigh emerged from the fog and replied, "Yeah, I think I do, actually."

Joy. So she was insanely sick and she had a test – a college test – she hadn't studied for at all.

She got a perfect score.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Quiet, absent

Eric says I'm quiet. Kayleigh says I'm quiet. My mom says I'm quiet. I have nothing to add.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Fourth Estate

More layoffs at the paper today. They want to get rid of 12 FTEs this time. The new editor emailed a list of five people whose last day was today. Another reporter quit last week. Boy, I can't wait to graduate.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Snap, crackle, knuckle

Oh my god.

I am up to my eyeballs in research. I did not expect this little job to be so consuming. I spend my day on the phone, trying to coax corporate executives into spilling their guts about sales figures, trying to find a list of women-owned businesses in the state, trying to confirm a business really is owned by a woman or a group of women, trying not to trip over my tongue after hours of repeating myself.

I told my editor to prepare the noose, but apparently they can't afford one.

And now I've just jammed my ring finger and darling pinky trying to block a kick to the back from Kelsey. We get a little rowdy when we're cooking sometimes, and Kelsey and I practice kicks, punches and blocks. I have a tremendous size advantage, naturally. Nevertheless, poor technique coupled with distraction resulted in a delicate *snap* and the swelling of my phalanges.

Ah, well. It's my show night. "MI-5" (known as "Spooks" everywhere else in the world) started last week. The first episode was good, so I'll give it another try. I've only been watching one other show, "Doc Martin," which I watch with my mom on Saturday nights. Someone (Hi, Judie!) sent me the DVDs ages ago, but I'm watching it on TV with my mom instead. It's good to have an excuse to get together.

And by the way--it's not nearly as cold as it's been predicted to be. I bet the kids will be back in school tomorrow, unfortunately. I like having them around.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I just want to know...

Are all receptionists named Nancy?

I've called about a bajillion places for this fact-checking job I'm doing, asking the same question over and over. Ugh. I swear I'm talking to the same person every time. Does Nancy work at a call center? Is that who I'm really getting? I think maybe so....

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Last week, we had a little ice storm. Kelsey and I played soccer with some firewood, which was pretty cool to watch slide across the ice. Some of the pieces were completely encased in ice. We didn't get the wood split and stacked before the snow came early and deep. The snow you see in the video is what was left after our recent melt. Our snow blower is seeing a lot of action this year.

Here is Kelsey skating on our driveway. Eric has since removed the big pile of firewood and leaves and the accompanying shredded tarp.

Judas, these videos take FOREVER to upload.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Sure saves money on grocery bills

I expected a quiet week at home with everyone back in school but me. I had a list of things I wanted to do before I went back to school, and by some curious happenstance, I was getting some of them done. (Not all of them, of course. I mean, let's be realistic about who exactly is writing this.) And it has been a quiet week, aside from the occasional sounds of weeping and retching coming out of my children's bedrooms.

Yes, my kids have gone back to school for the post-holiday virus exchange. Kayleigh was stricken first, coming into our room at 4 a.m. Wednesday saying she didn't feel well. Kelsey returned from school today and headed straight for the toilet. Both are snug in their beds. Kayleigh has visions of rockets and bananas in her head. I guess she's growing into her mother's girl, at least in her wild, illness-induced dreams.

I just got a decent freelance job, too. I was finally settling in, my computer dutifully open, my distracting tabs closed, ready to work. But it looks like another couple days of stressing. I do fret about puke. And given the odd twist in my gut right now, I may be doing more than fretting soon.

But I hope not.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Looking in

My life has changed a lot in the last few years. Some of these changes were anticipated and welcome; others were complete surprises, some pleasant, some not. Sounds like life, doesn't it?

I haven't blogged much lately. It's not that I have nothing to say; it's that I have too much to say. That being the case, I've chosen to keep my mouth shut in the hopes that I won't have to extricate my toenails from my tonsils. I do tend to go on like nobody's business sometimes, and some things are just nobody's business.

Still, here's a safe topic: the new year. I'm not big on resolutions because I suck at following through on much of anything. But here are a few things I'd like to work on this year.

• Get a website up and running. I have some ideas for subjects. I just need to think a bit more about feasibility.

• Get a job. A real job.

• Shrink fat, grow muscle, and increase flexibility and cardiovascular endurance

• Paint the living room and the stairwell.

• Be more patient and gentle.

• Help my mom more. She's not doing so well.

• Stop being such a sarcastic pansy ass.

We'll see how that goes. I graduate in May, so there will be more changes ahead for me and my family. Trying to balance their needs with my own is always a challenge. Figuring out exactly what my needs are is the biggest challenge of all.