Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bring It

Usually, my New Year's resolutions involve me saying something like, "I'm not making any stupid resolutions!  Resolutions are dumb!" and then I pretend nothing about me needs improvement.
For the uninitiated, this is how it is when you're totally full of yourself.
This year, I'm not against resolutions so much, not because I'm not still full of myself, but because the last two years have changed pretty much everything about me that can be changed without surgery, or an exorcism, and I'm STILL full of myself.  I've come to the conclusion that changing something won't end this twisted, inordinately long streak of manic self-confidence, so, what the hell, right?
I mean, seriously....2009 just knocked me on my ass, and knocked me on my ass, and knocked me on my ass, and knocked me on my ass, and knocked me on my ass, and KNOCKED ME ON MY ASS.
All I did this year was pick myself up and brush myself off, just in time to fall on my ass again.
Truth is....I was sooooo gung-ho....not that I've ever really been afraid of poking sleeping dragons before, but I have definitely been operating as if I had something to prove, lately.  I literally got up and LEFT what had been a rather comfortable existence, because I had something to prove.  So sure was I of being right, that I changed my entire life.
Many times, I questioned myself, and decisions I made--so many times, I asked myself "What the hell have I done?" all because my life was so different last year than it was for the previous 10.  So much harder.  But after time in the trenches, I note with some amazement that none of the previous battles fought have killed my spirit thus far.  A million people and events screaming "You're WRONG, Shelly!" did not stop me from believing my own truth--that thing that I believed enough to change everything.  I still believe it.  God help me, I still do.  The difference now is that I am equipped with the knowledge that there's not a damn thing out there that I can't handle.  I mean, sure I got knocked on my ass a lot, but, I did keep getting up, didn't I?
A resolution for 2010 might not be an "action" thing.  In fact, it may be just the opposite.  2010 might just be the year in which I let those dragons sleep--they'll all find me soon enough on their own, without me bothering them anyway, right?  2010 will be a year of celebration of that fact that HolySh*t, I Am One Tough Broad, and with that acknowledgment, an absence of feeling the need to prove that to anyone, especially myself.  After all, I survived 2009....what else have you got?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 Re-Wind

I write a blog.  It is as much therapy as any hobby.  OK, that's a lie--it's way MORE therapy than any other hobby, unless your hobby is, in fact, therapy.  Personally, I could appreciate a hobby like that...go somewhere, kvetch and complain...nobody tells you to stop your whining, or get over it, or anything that isn't constructive and helpful.  Aaaah.....what a great hobby that would be. 
But I don't have that hobby.  I write a blog.
For those of you reading on Facebook, maybe you didn't know the blog was even here.  Maybe you thought I just did this stuff for Facebook.  Nope.
In the four-plus years I have been writing the blog, a lot has happened in my life, and, I'm a big enough person to say that I alone am responsible for almost all of it--the bad as much as the good.  We live, we learn, right?  And a lot of what you read on the blog is just me spewing and sorting things out, out loud.  Some of it is more thought out, but a lot of it is just vent, vent, vent.  Hopefully, the venting is done in an amusing manner.
For those reading on Facebook, I want you to know that I was very, VERY hesitant to push the button that allowed the blog to feed into my FB profile.  It was a huge deal, and I consider reversing that decision, just about every day.  That was the one really, really new thing about 2009, for me--a little Writer Coming Out party.
"Hey, family and friends from high school!  Get a load of this!" 
I have lived a good portion of my life as a public person, and the blog itself is ultimately meant for entertainment in that vein, but just like anyone expressing a strong opinion about anything out loud, to more than just a couple of people, there is always the danger of offending, or just flat-out confusing someone.  Before the blog feed came to Facebook, I had enjoyed being able to rant and rave and have certain people visit because they agreed with what I was saying, and nobody else really knew about it, or didn't make the trip.  I was more than OK with that.  It's not that I was here complaining about people specifically, and it was in no way anonymous, it was just that I knew that the only people who would see it were those who sought it out and could relate to it on some level. 
You people.  They like to drink and cuss and stuff.
On Facebook, we're all here.  It's not just people who found me because of the writing, it's people who have known me forever--some from before I was even born, many from before there ever was a blog, and almost none of whom had ever read it.  That is somewhat scary business to me, because the blog itself follows a rather specific story line, not necessarily related to people I know from various jobs, or, my family, or whatever.  There IS a story in there--a lot of history has been revealed, and after four years, the recurring characters are very well defined.  It is not necessarily a place where one can drop in occasionally--in fact, I'll go so far as to say that if you haven't been reading it a while, you're not going to get all the jokes, or understand all of the references. 
Stick around, though--the drinks are cold, and, we're a hell of a good time. 
I was worried that posting things to Facebook all of a sudden would be like having someone watch just the last ten minutes of a movie--you don't know all of what went on beforehand, you're a bit lost on the plot, and you haven't had all of the necessary lead-in to make you care about whatever crazy thing the hero is going through at the moment.
That being said, we all have to start somewhere. 
When I hear a musical artist that I like and have never heard before, I make it a point to dig in to the "back story".  I buy a bunch of their older albums--really anything I can get my hands on--and check them out chronologically.  For me, that is the best way to honor what they are doing now--by learning how they got here.  And if I am lucky enough to catch someone early on, like Indigo Girls, for example, there is literally NOTHING as a fan that brings me more delight than having that front row seat, album to album, to witness their continuing growth as artists.  Some of the subject matter is intimate and might be about some scary or uncomfortable things, but all of the songs are triumphs.  It's like watching your children learn how to walk, and I find myself being so proud of them for every bold musical step forward. 
And so it has been with the bloggy-blog--consider it documentation of me learning to walk.  And also, learning to write.  And it's not for everyone, just like maybe Indigo Girls are not for everyone.  There are elements that not everyone will like or agree with.  For over four years, I haven't cared one iota about what anybody thinks of the blog, or my vision, or whatever essay or other written product that vision might create..  It was a product that I created, just like weaving a rug, and I was proud enough of it to put it out there.  That has not, and will not change, or be muted in any way.  There is always the danger of someone on Facebook saying, "Gee, I used to think she was so nice, when we went to school together/worked together (or whatever) but after reading that..." and they suddenly think you're a psycho.  News flash:  I AM nice!  I'm very nice.  And, I'm also a psycho.  And I'm also smart and insightful, and funny.  And I have boundless energy.  Sometimes, I might have a drink or two  I am also a writer, and, this is what I write.  And as long as it's my name on the header, and not yours, don't you worry about it...
Here are a few of the finer points from Barely Contained for 2009... (links will connect to the blog, not the Facebook notes...)
Deep and Weird.  The highest compliment.
Pic McPicNess (Sam, Sam, Sam, Sam, Sam...I had forgotten about this one...the raving cuteness...he's pretty much the best thing I've ever looked at.  In fact, part of the reason 2009 sucked at times is because there was no Look At Sam time.)
Mother Mother (Mother's Day)
KLF!  Uh-huh, Uh-huh... (I dunno...every time I think of "KLF" I think of that song.  This is actually about a Dave Matthews concert at 10KLF.  Actually, it's about some junk not entirely related to Dave Matthews, but Dave just happened to be there.) 
And as for 2010, well, what can I say?  Game on, bitches!  Game on...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

For 2010, Let's Try "Less Bitchy," Mmm-Kay?

I am plenty guilty of over-doing the conversational one-upsmanship attempts. gets bad sometimes. You can barely talk to me without me thinking of a funny story only slightly related to the thing you were talking about, that, in my mind, is so much more funny and interesting than the thing you said, that of course, I HAVE to tell it. It's compulsive, and it's gotta be so annoying to talk to me.

"HA-HA, you're soooo funny, Shelly. Sooooo funny...," And then they retreat to some other part of the room where there is a less compulsive person they can talk to (someone who has no funny stories of their own...), so they can be funny without someone trying to out-Amusing Story them.

I've actually written letters to people I have NEVER MET before, to tell them some AMAZING story only slightly related to them. And the first line of the letter was "You're always telling stories, get a load of THIS..." or some variation there-of, because even people I have never met before are not SAFE from the COMPULSIVE FREAK.

I'm sure that person thought it was an amazing story, too. Sure they did. Sure.

Another thing? I catch myself ANSWERING celebrity tweets, when they say something funny that reminds me of something else I thought was funny.

Because I'm soooo funny...

I'm soooo funny that among the million crazed fans and slutty groupies tweeting their heart's (loin's) desire to that person at that moment that I believe, just for a second, that I alone will be acknowledged. Oh yes! That's how f*cking amusing I am...((insert eye roll...))

Competitive Amusing has always been my thing, and it has served me well--got a few free meals out of it, anyway, but now, of course, it is a much different playing field. Brings to mind a quote I heard a few months ago...

"You're a local band until you get a record contract, then all of a suddenly Bruce Springsteen is your competition."--Sam Llanas

Consider Twitter, message boards and The Internet et al, your record contract. Now that everybody can hear you....what have you got?


Well....I'm still kind of amusing.

I mean, I'm not UN-amusing. In the big arena, I'm not head gladiator or anything, but I'm not getting killed by tigers, either. For the purposes of this exercise, we'll say, "Hasn't died yet" is good enough. Nobody has gone out of their way to say, "You suck" or publicly out me as a Damned Un-Funny person. I mean, nobody that I give a shit about, so...that'll do, pig.

I think that the worst part of our shiny new arena is not all the people crowding around, trying to out-funny each other. There's no harm in that. Even if you are not THE funniest person, or you don't luck into a large number of people actually seeing that semi-amusing 140 characters, or funny comment, you're probably not hurting anybody with your class-clown "Oooo! Pick me! Pick me!" stuff. Maybe you brought somebody a smile, and that was a nice thing for them. Personally, I see all kinds of funny things on Twitter and other places that I never acknowledge. I've seen some things that made my day, and I didn't bother to say "Thank you..." My bad....there's just so much of it out there. You run out of time. I'll try harder in 2010. Perhaps there will be less of me trying to be funnier than everybody else, and more of me just LMAO-ing to the people who are funnier than me. I mean, I do a lot of LMAO-ing in real life, after all, so why not share?

The thing that pains me about our slick little "record contracts" is not the millions of people trying to make other people laugh or smile, and it's not the boring people who talk about mundane things, it's the millions of people using their newly discovered live microphones to spew loads of ugly all over their audience. Life has always been full of these people, and you could choose whether or not you wanted to be near them, if you were willing to accept them in small doses, or butt heads with them. You can still do that, it's just that now that judgmental jack-ass is one of your friend's friends on Facebook, and you're not quite sure if you should just quietly walk away and let them be the idiot bitches they are, OR, give them the artfully crafted "STFU" that they so richly deserve. And the only reason you wouldn't tell them where to go is because you don't want to offend your friend, who also happens to be their friend.

It's complicated.

And it makes you not want to say anything into your little live microphone, because there is always some troll waiting to be a dick about it.

To them I say....Really? This is ALL you've got going on? Your life is THAT pathetic that you just go around trying to make people feel bad by leaving some comment, anonymous or otherwise?

Wow. I am so, so, sorry. You make my lame "I Can Be Funnier!" attempts seem almost Rock Star by comparison. I feel like Mother Theresa compared to you! So, thanks for that. Come back when you've got something nice to say, or tell a joke that doesn't tear someone else down in the process and we'll get back to the business of me feeling inadequate and unworthy, mmm-kay?.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Few Of My Favorite Things

Pajama Night. That's Christmas Eve, by the way. Everybody gets pajamas on Christmas Eve. Well, they do if they live in my house... This pic is from last year's Pajama Night. If we open no other presents on Christmas Eve, we always open the very important soft and snuggly ones. The rest can wait.

Cocoa with Buttershots. Oh yes. And for MAXIMUM COCOA INSANITY, make it Bailey's AND Buttershots. Little bit of heaven, is all I'm sayin'...

Roast beef. Yum. I'm talkin' deli slices on crackers and such. That's what I'm looking forward to this evening. And those pickle spears smeared with cream cheese and wrapped in ham. And olives. That's Pajama night food, to me.

Speaking of Bailey...the cats you see in that picture? Bailey and Jack--a couple of the most hilarious dudes, ever. They both have Santa Suits, by the way...

What!?!?!?! They need something to wear on Pajama Night!

The fact that my children like to put clothes on the cats is just too funny. Also hilarious? Most of the other things they do. Those girls make me laugh and smile so much. If there no laughter in all of this hustling, it would hardly be worth it.

The Dalai Lama said: "We can live without religion and meditation, but we cannot survive without human affection." These are the words that ring truest to me, so thank God for small blessings. Even in this time in which it feels like all kindness has left the party--when the dog bites, when the bees sting--there is refuge in these and other things. I'm not sure I remember any year in my life that was ever so difficult as this one. I wasn't kidding when I said I was ready for One Big Wonderful. That doesn't mean I'm not glad that I have all the "little" wonderfuls--they keep me alive.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I Was Veering Dangerously Close To Pitiful, But I Snapped Out Of It Due To A Technical Error

I had written the saddest, sobbiest, "I'm so effing miserable", "Goodbye cruel world" post, ever.

And I pushed "send".

Then I went to Blogger, to take the extra step to disallow any "buck up, little camper" comments on the thing. Because I was so determined to stay miserable.

Well, actually, I wanted to block the "quit yer whinin'" and "What a loser" comments. Either/Or. (My misery must not be questioned! For it is the most miserable misery of all time! It is not open for discussion!)

Then I noticed that for some reason, the formatting was all messed up on the post, and half of the paragraphs ran together and half of it was in a different font and font size than the other half. So I started to fix it (Oh, HTML....what joy you bring).

So driven, was I, to preserve the misery in it's intended, I Hope You All Cry Like I'm Crying, You Bastards! form, that I pulled it off the published list, and began the piddly process of going through the thing line by line (Dear Blogger: Please add Find/Replace. Thank you.)

Then I couldn't get it to work.

But not to worry! The tear-soaked manifesto was all in one piece, right there in the Sent box of my gmail! I know! I'll just copy and paste it!

Aaaand then I couldn't get THAT to work.

So I took a break.

While I was outside, smoking, I logged on to Facebook on my phone, and what was the first thing I saw?

Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.

And it suddenly occurred to me why this thing was being such a pain, and why it would never be published.. First of all, don't worry, it wasn't a suicide note or anything--really more of a Greta Garbo, "I want to be alone" statement. Because I was miserable. Truth be told, I'm not UN-miserable now, I just realized that Miserable + Whiny = Blech

There is a fair amount of "Fake it til you make it" going on in any happy person. You have to convince yourself, first, that you're going to have a good attitude whenever possible, This morning, a good attitude was the last thing I wanted to have. I don't particularly want to have a good one now, either. I mean, you don't go from sobbing directly to "Yay Wednesday!". But you CAN go from sobbing to "I think I'll stop sobbing now". It's a start.

Monday, December 21, 2009

One Big Wonderful

I'm reminded, today, of a Chinese proverb that I've been seeing a lot lately...

Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.

It has a lot of meaning to me, for numerous reasons, some of which give my friends a good laugh in the "Oh, Shelly, what are we ever going to do with you?" vein. Singing bird....uh-huh. Not too tough to figure that one out.

But, never mind the bird my friends give me crap about...

There are many days in which I think, "WHY am I tending to this stupid tree, anyway? Those branches are empty--been empty for a long time. This so-called 'singing bird' appears to be extinct or something..."

That is to say, I get tired of being diligent, sometimes. I get tired of being supportive. I get tired of being conscientious and thoughtful when I see no return on the investment. And it can be over the most ridiculous of things, like, I get tired of how I always make the effort to park carefully at my brownstone so others can find a spot, while every day, I come home to Johnny-Rude-Boy (new neighbor! YAY!) who likes to space each of his two cars very broadly over as much real estate as he can claim. Then I have to park down the street and trudge through the snow in my nice shoes. See what I mean? That kind of thing.

And lots of other things, too.

What? You thought this whole thing was going to be about parking? Nah...don't you worry about the parking. If he gets bad enough, I have ways of making him suffer. That's right...Pollyanna with a generous dash of Cruella at the core. I'm nice and all, but Karma is my very, very, very good friend.

It becomes a case of Am I A Complete Doormat? vs. No, You're Fine, That Guy Is Just a Stupid, Thoughtless Prick, with one problem: I never really allow myself to believe that That Guy Is Just a Stupid, Thoughtless Prick. I'd rather believe that, given the opportunity, they'd prefer to be "nice"--they would think and act with "kindness" if they knew it mattered. I don't believe that people are bad, but I do believe that people are quite capable of doing "bad" things when they are not armed with enough information. I'd like to think that if Johnny-Rude-Boy actually witnessed me hauling 20 bags of groceries to my house from half a block away, he'd think, "You know...if I just moved my car up three feet closer to that driveway, she could fit her car in, right in front of the building." Maybe he'd picture his mother hauling 20 bags of groceries from a half a block away, and it would get him to thinking. But it's not something I worry about. Karma, remember? He might not get up just then and move his car or anything, but, maybe next time her drove up to the house, he'd think about the possibility of being labeled a space-sucking jerk.

Or not.

But that's something we'll leave up to Karma. If that happens, I predict car trouble. For him, not me.


Obviously, that's the Pollyanna.

I don't dislike that girl, Pollyanna, but I must tell you that lately, she's been killing me. Disappointment. I'm tending to the tree, and that tree is beautiful, but, no singing bird. No birds of any kind. No squirrels, either. That beautiful tree seems like little more than a fool's folly, and the worst feeling I could ever have is to think myself a fool. "If you build it, they will come", has gone right out the window. A few times. I stopped worrying about whether I was being a doormat, when I became overwhelmed with evidence that I was being a complete idiot. I'd take "doormat", over that, any day. I would also be satisfied with any evidence of You're Fine, That Guy Is Just a Stupid, Thoughtless Prick. Either of those are workable.

I wonder sometimes--today, for example--how long is one expected to maintain that space in their heart, while they wait for something wonderful to happen? How long?

Or is it simply a matter of defining "wonderful"? Because a lot of nice things do happen in a day...just, not the nice thing you had in mind when you created that beautiful space.

Well...sorry. Sorry, all you tiny little nice things. Sorry. I'm tired. I'm tired of years of sifting the universe for little nuggets of nice, that I then have to melt down to make one big "wonderful". Today, I am going to very selfishly ask for that one big wonderful to arrive in one piece. No assembly required. Not some little wonderful, like somebody shoveled the walk and it wasn't me. I want a gigantic, knock-me-over-the-head, OMG-I-Didn't-See-That-Coming, AMAZING wonderful. Just one. And I promise not to get drunk on the wonderfulness and ask for another. One big wonderful would last me a looooooong time. Like at least 10 years What do you say, universe? How 'bout it?

And I wish you ALL one big wonderful. It's been incredibly tough lately...people dying and before they're even in the ground, they and their families become food for the wolves, people being really, REALLY harsh to one another, acting like it's their right to judge, call people names, and dismiss them--People just feeling like it's their JOB, somehow, that they are entitled, to be the mouthpiece of "right" and "wrong" for the whole world, and failing to act with anything other than selfishness. (Yeah, yeah...I know...Twitter, etc., means talking, but seriously? STFU and listen. Not to me--to yourselves. Now picture what it would feel like if somebody said that sh*t to/about YOU. Not so nice, is it? it is possible to be funny and interesting without tearing somebody else down....try it. Like the saying goes, "Kindness is like a boomerang...")

I can't help but think that one big wonderful might just cure all of that...we're nearing the end of a decade--it would be a perfect time to have it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

All Is Calm

I had the opportunity to watch the sun come up this morning, and took it.  Just as most people are being gripped with holiday stress, I'm feeling fairly relaxed.
It's not that I have all my shopping done.  Not even close.
It's not that I know what I'll be serving for any holiday stuff I may be hosting--haven't even thought about it, much less bought the groceries.  Never mind the fact that I don't know what holiday stuff I might be hosting--nothing is set in stone.
It's not that I even know where my children are going to be on any particular day for the next two weeks, as the "Hang With Dad" time has not yet been decided.
It's just knowing that whatever I buy or don't buy, whatever we eat, and where-ever we eat it or when, it's enough.  We are safe and alive. 
I spend most of my life duking it out with somebody over something, and tend to think that if I'm not hustling, I'm failing somehow.  I put a lot of pressure on myself.  What's important?  In my head, EVERYTHING.  It comes down to where the proof is in the pudding, as they say--results, results, results.  If I don't see significant progress, I figure I'm not busting my ass enough.  And it's easy, at this time of year, for a lot of people feel the pressure--the kind that I put on myself during every other time of year--regarding how this holiday is going to be.  Tradition.  They are driven by "Christmas MUST be ______," and "If I don't buy _____ for (insert person), they won't love me anymore," and "We MUST eat _____ for Christmas Eve and _____ for Christmas Day, and we must do this in the company of Blood Relatives X, Y, and Z..."
...Or it just isn't Christmas.
Consider, if you will, a few scenarios:  What if you were a soldier overseas, and you won't be anywhere near Blood Relatives X, Y, and Z, not only for Christmas, but for months before and after it?  What if you are that soldier's spouse?  What if Blood Relative Y passed away in 2009, and this is the first time in your entire life that you're not sitting next to them at the holiday table?  What if you lost your job and are glad that there's food of any kind on the table?  What if a hot meal or a warm embrace is the only gift you can afford to give?
A lot of things can happen in a year, and no Christmas will be like the last.  More importantly, no Christmas will be like the one in your head, where nothing bad ever happens.  Still, so many of us struggle to make things "just so..."  We get an image in our brains, forged when we were children, of.a very specific set of Who, What, When, and Where's, and we run ourselves ragged on the How.  While I am a fan of Always Make It Better Than Ever, I feel as if I should caution people against it at this time of year--there are so many elements at play that there is just no way to control it all, and you'll make yourself crazy trying, or wishing you could.  Just let it be what it's going to be.  The sun still rises and the sun still sets, and these days will go by as they will, whether or not you found time to bake 27 dozen cookies, finished putting your Christmas decorations up, or got to enjoy just one more meal in the company of somebody who has left this Earth.  Don't let this time of year be about wishful thinking, or expend all of your energy trying to make a perfect holiday--there's no such thing.  As long as we are alive, know that the challenges of tomorrow will require your full attention so be sure you remember to rest and enjoy, today.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I'm Sure There Must Be An Essay In All Those Questions

I would talk about blog neglect, but I don't want to be one of those people that starts every post by saying "Sorry I haven't written in a while", which is kind of how I used to start pretty much every handwritten letter I ever produced.
Anyway....I have some questions.  Ready?
The chick at the Jiffy Lube put a smiley face on the little sticker that tells me when I need the next oil change.  Was she hitting on me?  Cuz she seemed to be into me, a little.  Like, when telling me that ALL of the light bulbs on the back of my truck were burnt out (can't believe I was driving around like that...) and replacements would be 10 bucks apiece...I dunno...I got a vibe.  Just wondering.  File that under "If Only I Was Into Girls...".  She was cute, by the way, so if you're lookin', let me know and I'll email you the details.  If you're wealthy, you could just unscrew all the light bulbs on the back of your vehicle before you go in, pretend you had NO IDEA all those lights were out, and let her replace them for you, for 10 bucks apiece--apparently she finds being mechanically hapless charming.
Next question:  If the mechanically hapless act works so well on lesbian mechanics (sorry, making an assumption there, but I'm not saying she's a lesbian because she's a mechanic, I'm saying that because she was hitting on me with her little winky-wink smiley face thing.  It is equally likely that she's just a nice person who likes to make smiley faces and went home to her hot boyfriend, with whom she had a good laugh about the crazy lady with NO WORKING LIGHTS on the back of her car.) what secret, Helpless Female ploy can I use on the heterosexual male population?  Just curious, as the whole, Be Your Happy, Confident, Easy-Going Self bit is getting me nowhere.  I mean, clearly, I'm frightening, and not just in the looks department.  Lots of ugly chicks have dates, but those with dates appear to have the advantage of also being chronic nit-pickers who have guys, but do nothing except complain about them.  How am I supposed to compete with that?
And Another Question!
This morning, we left the house about 10 minutes later than we should have, and the 15-minute drive to the high school ran about 25-30 minutes and all I could think, for the entire drive, was how if my kid wasn't in the car, I'd be chain smoking and cursing at other drivers.  Instead, I remained relatively calm, and did not smoke.  The question is, who am I kidding?  Not that I would have smoked in the car with her in it, for that is an exceedingly rare occurrence, there an age when we start to return to some level of pre-parent or non-parental behavior in front of people we have given birth to?  Or do I have to maintain my decorum and spew forth life lessons until I die?  Just curious.
Pregunta Final:  Wouldn't it be cool if the Magic Kitchen Fairy showed up and *Poof!* made it so you could see the sink?  Or the counter tops?  My kids keep asking me what I want for Christmas.  Really?  Am I that hard to figure out?  Do I not make an audible "OhJeeezusThisEffingKitchen!" noise every time I walk in there?  I realize that the clues are subtle, but they're smart kids....I figured they would have picked up on that by now...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Eat! You're Wasting Away!

I opened the fridge this morning to find one half of one pomegranate, two pickle jars (one pickle in one, no pickles in the other), a jar of pumpkin butter, an un-opened container of spicy brown mustard (I'm sure I had to have it), half a bag of tortillas, some left-over gravy, one bottle each of both malt vinegar and soy sauce, 6 eggs, and a tub of sourdough starter (which, to the uninitiated, doesn't look like something you'd ever want to eat.  Ever.).
And then I felt one of those Parental Fail moments, because that might have been the barest I've ever seen that particular chill chest since we moved in a year ago.  What the hell have I been thinking?  I mean, sure, there was a gallon of milk and some fresh fruit for the children, but....DAMN!  When you look in your fridge and the most prominent thing you see is a month-old 12-pack of Spaten (with only three left in the box), you begin to wonder about yourself, a little.
We live to eat another startled was I by the state of my refrigerator that I immediately grabbed the sourdough starter and began making bread dough.  Then I emptied half of the contents of the freezer into the crock pot (chicken and spinach), added some navy beans and onions, and turned it on.
Please let the house smell like food when I get home.
I'm remembering a time, many years ago, when my mother came to my house to babysit and the cupboards were bare, but when I got home from work, she had concocted a hotdish from a half a bag of egg noodles and a frozen venison steak.  It was probably the most stick-to-your-ribs thing I had eaten in a month.
One of the surest things about me when I'm not all coupled up is that I will forget to eat, even though I love to cook.  Eating is the number one social thing to do with a mate.  Maybe you go out to eat together, or maybe, like me, you enjoy cooking for your mate.  Both women and men gain weight when they are married.  You eat.  Me?  Last night I scrounged enough stuff to make one kid a grilled cheese sandwich with a side of green beans, while the other assured me she wasn't hungry, which left me relieved because there was actually only enough cheese for one sandwich.  (Strange abundance of frozen vegetables and peanut butter, however, so, go nuts.'ll have to build that PB&J with two crusts of bread, however...) 
And I did not eat.  I had a cup of cocoa.  With a shot of Vanilla Stoli in it.
As a total contrast to that, for lunch today, I cooked.  I cooked AT the office.  True, it was microwave cooking, but cooking none the less.  None of those re-heated leftovers for me!  No cold sandwiches, either!  I started with raw ingredients, and had a delicious salmon fillet and steamed vegetables, and everything was smothered in butter and deliciously seasoned.  Why?  Because there were no leftovers, and that's the other half of what was left in the freezer.  Oh, and I had already put peanut butter on the two bread crusts and ate them while driving to work.  Cuz I forgot to eat breakfast.
It would be so much easier if we didn't need to eat at all...I mean, I LIKE eating, but more often than not, I'm "fueling".  Obviously, there are benefits to "fueling", as long as you're eating good food, because the pounds just drop off of you.  If more people ate that way and disregarded the eating ceremonies that our society has come to accept, we'd all be slimmer, because we wouldn't just eat when the clock tells us to.  At the same time, I shudder to think what I'm going to be like when there is nobody but me to cook for around here.  From baby to adulthood, a kid will always let you know that they are hungry, and I've kept up pretty well for the last 16 years.  For the most part, when they ate, I ate.  After they've moved away, it could get downright ugly.  Maybe a better way to look at it is that after my kids move out, I'll revert to my pre-baby weight, without all that pesky exercise.  Whatever I can do to annoy my doctor, I'm all for it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wednesday Of The Random Mind

  • Tony Bourdain. At the State Theatre. April 23rd. I soooo want to go. Of course, tickets go on sale this weekend, and I am decidedly broke until sometime next year, by which time there will likely be no tickets left. Hate to start Random on a bummer note, it's just that the same thing happened to me when BoDeans tickets went on sale in October and *POOF* two shows were sold out before I even had time to dig in the couch cushions for change. The moral of the story is a simple one: Stop being broke, ya nut!
  • A child is born, and, he's a honey of a boy, he is. Babies are awesome, and my brother is over the moon with his new baby, born yesterday evening. We were talking this morning about how different the experience is for men and women (besides the obvious physical experience of child birth) and my office full of women decided that men's reaction to their child being born is..."so cute". I mean...guys are astonished by the miracle of it all, while women are more matter of fact, because it's just a thing we did. Am I right, or am I right? Not that we don't goob all over our new babies when they put them in our arms for the first time, but when we meet them, it's usually more of a case of, "So YOU'RE the little so-and-so" that's made my body go haywire for the last nine months! Uh-huh...we're gonna have some fun together, you and I..."
  • Winter has arrived, and despite the lack of Snow Day for my children and Cursing Mama, it's all good. No, I mean it! Nothing says "Wake up and smell the coffee!" like snow mixed with high winds. I feel like Joe from Family Guy..."Let's DO It!" See me in March after the inevitable Spring blizzard, when my attitude will surely have changed to "Why is this still happening...?"
  • You know those people that talk to you like you're 5? You know how embarrassing and offensive that is, when people treat you like you're stupid? Yeah. Got one of those, again. At work. And they're in a position where I can't completely blow them off, as they so richly deserve. And I'm about to strangle somebody. Tell you what....the new motto will be, You keep nit-picking, and I'll just keep kicking ass and saying "whatever". It's all you can do, right? Yes, yes...I do plan to ever-so-innocently point out their every flaw in my very special "Oops! Was that YOU who did that?" kinda way. Because I'm a bitch, that's why. But I'm innocent, as far as you know...
  • But never mind the annoyances...Life continues to be an interesting adventure! The people that cruise in and out of my life are intriguing and keep me excited to get up and go, every day. You all ROCK! "Let's DO It!"

Monday, December 7, 2009

I'm Not Gonna Lie...

I'm only writing to keep myself from shopping for a new phone.  It's a momentary diversion, and it won't occupy me for long.
They're all so pretty, and cool.  It's kinda like my thing with shoes, only, I don't have to go to the store. I can just say the word and the fine folks at (insert wireless provider) will say, "YES, Ms Payne, we can get you that fabulous thing for FREE, just sign right here..." and they put a 27-year contract in front of you, which seems scary for a moment, until you realize that by next summer they'll be blowing it off to entice me with yet another cool device.
*sigh* I love cell phones.  I love how when you get a new phone, and you've had it for a couple of months, that they've already come out with something more awesome, and they wave it in front of you and tell you it's free/cheap until you relent.  I got a new phone at the end of May and was sick of it by October...It's sales and marketing at it's finest!  You must have a cool phone, always.  That thing you're carrying?  Obsolete, dude...they don't even MAKE those anymore!  Get with the now!
Anyway...Santa likes those Christmas mornings spent dinging around with new gadgets.  Santa thinks that that space under the tree needs more of those...I'm just sayin'.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Couple of Quick Orders of Business...

First, here is a link to , specifically the Lion Brand Yarn projects underway there, for teachers who are using fiber arts as a teaching tool, and also creating useful finished products.  If you can donate a buck or two, whatever you can afford, you can help them buy materials, such as yarn and needles for their kids.

Second, I do want to give more than a comment notation on the Holiday Train, because Canadian Pacific Railroad has done a lot of good things with this for the last decade, raising something like 4 million dollars and 2 million pounds of food for area food shelves in the markets they service.  Not to mention the fact that IT'S COMING RIGHT FOR US! 

So, here is the dealio on that....ready?


The Holiday Train travels through the northern part of the US and southern Canada.'s an actual train.  And it moves.  But it stops long enough for some talented and giving people to get their groove on, and for you to have a reason to put on your coat and mitts and get out of the house.  Entertainers on the train this year include Prescott and Adam Puddington, and special guests Shaun Verreault and Willy Porter (I believe it will be Willy and not Shaun at the Minnesota/North Dakota stops), and it works like this--they pull into town, play about a half-hour show (Right On The Train!  Cuz you're standing in a rail yard, baby!), you hand over your non-perishable food item and/or money to help local food shelves, they say "Thank You!" and then they roll on down the track to the next town.'re outside in the cold December chill, but, you're helping someone and, there's great live music.  One of those schnapps-laced cocoa opportunities we spoke of...remember?  Schedule below!  (And here is their Facebook info...) Get there about 15 minutes early, because train schedules are, well, train schedules, so they might find themselves sneaking into town a bit earlier than planned, and you don't want to miss anything!

Saturday, December 5 
Gurnee – 5:15 p.m. to 5:45 p.m., Viking Middle School Park, 4460 Old Grand Ave. 

Saturday, December 5 
Sturtevant – 7:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., new Amtrak Depot, 9900 E. Exploration Ct. 
Hartland – 9:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., parking lot adjacent to Cottonwood Ave. and Pawling Ave. 

Sunday, December 6 
Portage – 1:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m., Amtrak Station, 400 West Oneida St. 
Wisconsin Dells – 3:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., Amtrak Depot, 100 La Crosse St. 
Mauston – 4:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Division Street Railroad Crossing 
Sparta – 7:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Corner of S. Water St. and Milwaukee St. (South side of the CP tracks) 
La Crosse – 9:15 p.m. to 9:45 p.m., Amtrak Station, 601 Saint Andrew St. 

Monday, December 7 
Rochester – 12:45 p.m. to 1:15 p.m., end of 16th Ave. N.W., behind Mickey's Irish Pub, next to the Barlow Hy-Vee grocery store 
Owatonna – 4:45 p.m. to 5:15 p.m., 1145 Park Drive at the rail crossing (Near Owatonna Bus Company) 
Waseca – 7:15 p.m. to 7:45 p.m., 308 South State St. and Highway 13 
Janesville – 9:15 p.m. to 9:45 p.m., 236 Front St. at Veteran's Memorial Park, between Main St. and Craig St. 

Tuesday, December 8 
Tracy – 1:15 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., 131 Fourth St. at the DM&E Rail Depot near South St. 
South Dakota 
Tuesday, December 8 
Brookings – 5:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., 534 South 22nd Ave., along Orchard Drive 
Huron – 9:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Gate 13 of the State Fairgrounds at the State Fair Race Track 

Wednesday, December 9 
Springfield – 5:45 p.m. to 6:15 p.m., Springfield Community Center parking lot, 33 South Cass Ave. 
New Ulm – 7:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m., 224 Third St. North, Public Utilities empty lot between German Park and the railroad tracks 

Thursday, December 10 
Austin – 11:15 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., Eighth Avenue Rail crossing (west of the county recycling center) 

Thursday, December 10 
Mason City – 2:45 p.m. to 3:15 p.m., 1200 S. Kentucky Ave. Parking available at the Temple Baptist Church - 1211 S. Kentucky Ave. 
Marquette – 9:45 p.m. to 10:15 p.m., Marina parking lot, north of Lady Luck Casino at Water St. and Highway 76 

Friday, December 11 
La Crescent – 2:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., The Commodore Food & Spirit parking lot, 215 South Chestnut St. 
Winona – 5:15 p.m. to 5:45 p.m., Amtrak Station, 65 East Mark St. 
Wabasha – 7:15 p.m. to 7:45 p.m., Gambie Avenue railroad crossing near Bruegger Park 
Lake City – 9:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Hearth & Home Technologies, 800 West Jefferson St. 

Saturday, December 12 
Hastings – 4:15 p.m. to 4:45 p.m., CP Depot, 500 East Second St. 
Cottage Grove – 5:45 p.m. to 6:15 p.m., West Point Douglas Road, South of Seiben Bridge in front of the Youth Service Bureau 
St. Paul – 7:15 p.m. to 7:45 p.m., Upper level ramp of Central Parking System at Kellogg & Broadway in Lowertown 
Minneapolis (Shoreham) – 9:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., CP Shoreham Yard, 2800 Central Ave. NE 

Monday, December 14 
Loretto – 4:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Hennepin County Road 19 railroad crossing/Chippewa Trail 
Buffalo – 6:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., 612 NE Third Ave., behind McDonald's on Highway 55 
Annandale – 7:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., West side of downtown park over Oak Avenue railroad crossing 
Eden Valley – 9:15 p.m. to 9:45 p.m., Main St. railroad crossing, State Highway 22 
Tuesday, December 15 
Alexandria – 1:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., Eighth Ave. East railroad crossing by Hubbard Feed Mill at 8th & Nokomis 
Detroit Lakes – 4:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Holmes St. railroad crossing near the Holmes Community Center, 826 Summit 
Thief River Falls – 8:15 p.m. to 8:45 p.m., CP Depot/City Hall, 2017 Highway 59 SE 

Wednesday, December 16 
Elbow Lake – 4:45 p.m. to 5:15 p.m., Main Street railroad crossing 

North Dakota 
Wednesday, December 16 
Hankinson – 7:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., American Legion parking lot, 122 1st St. (Main St. railroad crossing north side of track) 
Enderlin – 9:45 p.m. to 10:15 p.m., CP Depot, 101 Harvest Lane 

Thursday, December 17 
Harvey – 4:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., CP Depot, 600 Lincoln Ave. 
Minot – 7:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Main Street railroad crossing 
Carpio – 9:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Main Street railroad crossing

Friday, December 4, 2009

By Popular Demand...The Story About Me Horrifying My Child In The Middle Of Her Orchestra Concert

One of my daughters plays the violin and the other plays guitar, so in our house, it's not unusual for one to hear questions like, "How loud can I be?" in reference to whether the amp gets turned up or whether or not you can set up to practice right there in the living room.  After all, we have neighbors.
Correction: The guitarist has declared that anyone who moved into our four-plex AFTER we did is "on their own".  We made no attempt to be especially quiet if we knew that potential tenants were looking at the other apartments, so, they knew what they were getting into.  Besides, she rationalizes that the neighbor's crying baby is far more annoying than she could ever be with a guitar, plugged in or not, and she is correct about that.
Last night, I went to my daughter's orchestra concert, and though I have been to several of those, I've never really given any kind of in-depth reports about them, in part because the funny bits all have to do with other people's children and/or spouses and I don't exactly know the local school district tolerance for my particular brand of Point and Laugh humor.  I thought about and realized that ultimately, I mean no harm, and funny is funny, so, here ya go...
When Punky was attending school in Duluth, orchestra was a formal thing.  The musicians wore black, filed into the auditorium in a specific order, then first violin came out, then conductor, blah, blah, blah.  I was quite comfortable with it--Applaud for the orchestra, applaud for first violin, applaud for conductor, etc.  That's just how orchestra is--it's formal.  There is a certain order to things, set by years of tradition.  My own musical training was equally stringent in the formalities.  Our director was tough as HELL.  She was famous for making you wear chewing gum on your nose if you happened to get caught with it in her class, and she pounded lessons into us like she was slinging a sledgehammer.  She was an intense person.  I'll be damned if it didn't do the trick, though--miracles happened.  She put pieces of music in front of us that, at first glance, made us absolutely shudder.  Very, very difficult stuff.  I could never tell if she had that much confidence in us, or she was just so sure of herself that she knew she could knock Grade A performance out of anybody, no matter how incompetent we might have been.  Probably the latter.  But we learned those pieces, and, we won awards and recognition.  Like I said...miracles happened.
To my mind, Strict Works--or at least it works if you want to really, really learn what you and your instrument are truly capable of, and in my humble opinion, it's important to have an intense person as one of your mentors, at least somewhere in the mix.  You want something to aspire to, and somebody who has made it their life's work and focus is always going to be better than you (they practice more) and more daring (because they practice more) and more confident with it than you are.  Because they practice more.  And they tend to be, well, intense, at least about that one thing.
Meet my daughter's orchestra conductor/instructor.
He is, quite possibly, the single most relaxed human being I have ever seen in my life.  I mean...he is an extraordinary musician and composer and music historian, but, he's soooooo chill.  Chill, like, he calls the kids in the orchestra "dudes".
Chill, like, if a kid walks up to him and says they have a string they can't get in tune, his first response is to kinda nod and say, "cool...".  Then pause (for the laugh?).  Then he fixes it.
Chill, like, he refers to every composition, every movement, every song, every melody, as a "tune".  He writes little scripts for the kids to read to the audience, about each song and composer before they play it, and even the scripts refer to them as tunes.  He writes songs and can't think of what to call them, so names them "_____ Tune."  As in, "Tuesday Tune", or, "Rain Tune".
All of them.
But...he's no slouch.  "_____ Tune", all of them, are really good.  The kids enjoy playing them, and we enjoy hearing them played.  And the guy knows a LOT of stuff, about music, and composers, both classical and contemporary.  You can tell that he is a big, big fan of...everybody.  (I always say, it you can't be a big fan of somebody, or admire somebody else's work, you'll never be any good as a musician.  Just my opinion, anyway.)  Also, he really feels all of the little bits going on in a song--the different parts and instruments--and he LOVES it ALL.  Big love.  No question.
You can imagine that because he is such a relaxed guy that his concerts are relaxed, too.  You would be correct in that assessment.  Where my instructor used to do everything short of smack us with a baton to assure that we were as serious as possible about the whole concert experience (OK, I think she actual did smack somebody with that baton, but I'm a little foggy on the details), this conductor is kinda, " worries.".  Where we used to spend a half day practicing WALKING IN to the stage area, this guy is not all that concerned about how everybody gets there.  You know...just get's cool...
All of this relaxation is what led to the dumb thing happening, by the way, in case you were wondering where I was going with this.
So, it's Spring-time, and there we were, at a middle school orchestra concert.  One daughter IN the concert, the other sitting next to me, having survived the orchestras of kids in the lower grades, which, quite frankly are always a bit brutal no matter who is conducting.  They're new.  Anyway, it comes time for my daughter's group to go onstage and a big bunch of children in various forms of the same outfit (white top, black pant or skirt) begin to wander onto the stage from both sides, in no particular order, no rhyme or reason.  They're moving chairs around and chit-chatting a little--very INformal--and, because almost the entire violin section is girls and middle school girls are FREAKS about everybody wearing the same styles and having the same hair, they all pretty much look exactly alike. 
For this reason, I did not panic when I couldn't see my kid, even after the conductor came out and the orchestra started playing.  So what if they didn't all walk out single file, past the sea of Grandma's taking pictures?  So what?  They were all there.  Probably.  I mean, most of the seats had kids sitting in them.  My kid is probably up there.  Right?
But then something happened:  My daughter leaned over to me and asked, "Where's ______?" (her sister).  I was a bit startled by this because La Diva is very good at spotting things--better than me, anyway.  And she asked me this just as I was about to ask her if she could see her sister!  Weird! 
All of a sudden, it occurred to me that Punky had not been feeling well earlier in the evening, soooo....
...maybe, she's NOT up there!  Maybe, the reason I didn't see her walk in is because she DIDN'T walk in!  Maybe she in the orchestra room, barfing into her violin case!  Oh. My. Gaawd!  What should I do?  Get up and go look?  No...can't do that, because I'm sitting in the middle or a row, and the music has started!  Crap!  Where is she?
So, I whipped out my phone.  I figured that if she WAS on the stage that surely she would not have brought her cell phone with her.  I mean, who does that?  And what teacher would allow that?  My instructor would have thrown a cell phone off a tall building before letting it anywhere near her stage!  OF COURSE she doesn't have it with her!  She couldn't have her cell phone with her on stage.  So...thinking harm, no fowl to send a text to her phone, just in case she is on death's door and needs Super Mom to take her home, or, to Dairy Queen, or some other important place.  By sending a text, I could solve the mystery of the missing violinist.  If she didn't answer, that meant she was up there somewhere, and if she did answer, I could excuse myself and go rescue her.
Straight thinking, right?
I had peeled off two texts (no harm, no fowl, remember?) when my daughter suddenly found her sister on the stage.  Whew!  There she is!  OK!  No Worries!  Back to the show!
Well, as it happens, Invisible Child did indeed have her cell phone with her.  Right there in the back pocket of her pants.  Right where she was sitting, there on the metal chair.  She had taken the step to turn the ringer off, but, not the vibrate feature.
And that, my friends, is some funny, funny stuff.
We somehow managed not to disrupt the entire concert with the sound of a phone rumbling against a metal chair, so that was all good, but apparently some young violinist just about jumped out of her skin when her butt started vibrating in the middle of a song.
Uh-huh.  Funny, right?
When Punky got out of the car last night, to go in and prep for her concert, the last thing she said to me was "Do NOT send me a text!"  Gee....who knew this would be a problem?  Who knew this was something I would have to be scolded for?  She did take the extra step of adjusting her phone all the way to silent before taking the stage, however.  She needn't have--this time, I saw her walk in.  ;-)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Just Cuz...

I dunno why I feel the need to post this picture, I just like it. Wouldn't it be cool if the V on the building actually stood for "Verreault" instead of "Vogue"? ( far as you know, it does.)

Anyway--Shaun Verreault. Insanely good guitarist, and singer and stuff. Don't worry, he only looks 12, so nobody has to have any "Too Young to be an Insanely Good Guitarist" envy, or anything. I'm sure he's....uh...30ish, or something.

He's on a train at this very moment, doing some holiday shows--if you are in the Chicago area, the info is below, so by all means, hit it up.

Here's his Twitter (that's where I stole the pic).

Here's the Wide Mouth Mason Twitter.

And here's their web site. Hopefully, you can find everything your little heart needs in the Wide Mouth Mason world from there...really a stellar band. I mean it.

(You see how I justify stealing and posting pictures? "C'Mon, man! I lnked to you! I called you "stellar! See? Nothing but love...")

When: Saturday, December 5, 2009 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm (train arrival approx. 5:15 pm)

Where: Viking Park- 4460 Old Grand Ave. Gurnee, IL.Benefitting: Northern Illinois Food Bank

How to Help: Bring a non-perishable food item or cash donation to help battle hunger in Lake County

This has been a public service announcement...we now return you to your regularly scheduled programming...

Why Did I Even Question...?

By the end of the day yesterday, I was sooooo annoyed with the world.  It was one of those days where you think, "Is that all there is?  Really?  That's IT?"
And it sucked.
My stupid bank (ongoing, seething hatred, thanks for asking), with my esteemed assistance, completely effed up my account, and that was so enjoyable!  Hey!  When the stupid chick bounces a transaction, you don't transfer the ENTIRE overdraft protection balance to checking, OK?  I'm not THAT much of a fuck-up.  And, of course, when I attempted to withdraw from the other account, they let me, without mentioning, "oh, by the way, we took ALL the money out of that one..." and followed that by charging me a whopping fee for withdrawing money from an account they had emptied, hours prior.  Seriously.  It's insane.  But anyway...
Top that off with one too many mornings waking up alone (yet another self-inflicted wound...), and a couple of other dumb things (why is my car making that noise again?  I thought we dealt with the noise...) and I was in a mood.  A pissy, pissy mood.  I had myself a blubbering, weepy, Talk To God drive home.  Too bad my commute is so short now--the 45 minute blubbering, weepy, Talk To God drives home were just about right--the 15 minute thing is not quite long enough.  That's still not enough of a reason to drive to Plymouth every day, however.
Then, like clockwork, it all de-kinked itself.  This is, after all, the purpose of all blubbering, weepy, Talk To God drives home.  You spend 40 minutes (...uh...15 minutes...) wailing about how hard everything is, and how you don't know if you can keep on doing this alone, and isn't somebody supposed to freaking CATCH you when you take a leap of faith?  Then all of a sudden, from various sources, you get pummelled with information that distracts you while simultaneously letting you know that all is right with the world.
No, I mean it--it is truly amazing how the universe speaks to you if you just pay attention.  I went from "OH.MY.GOD!" all the way to "Rent's paid and Christmas is saved" in a matter of a half an hour.  It's what you might call a miracle, and, miracles are my very favorite thing.  Of course, if it wasn't for the All Hope Is Lost moments, miracles would be much more difficult to spot when they happen, so I'm grateful for those, too.
I'm also glad I didn't waste my time shrieking at some Stage Coach Bank idiot who would a) Not fix the sh*t and b) Take it upon themselves to tell me how wrong I am, then follow that up by mailing me a copy of their very hefty (hardcover) fee schedule.  I've read it--I'd like to say it's a yawner, but in truth it pissed me off more than Eclipse, which I threw across a room when Bella kissed Jacob.  Don't get me started.  This morning, I wrote the saddest of speeches...the one I'll be giving to some low-level bank employee when I close my account.  Goes like this: (me, with a tear rolling down my face) "I don't want to close my account...I really don't.  I mean...we've been together for such a long time, and...(*whimper*) I don't want to throw it all way, I just...(*SOB*)....I..can' be friends any more... (*Much Sobbing, Pretending I Didn't Want to Cry, and Faking Like I'm Trying Not To*).  I mean....I even went out and got a better job so I would have more money,'s just not working...(*Loudly Blow Nose*)" 
Of course, this emotional outburst will likely be met with a shrug and maybe a "bummer", but I'll be damned if I'm going out without a show.  Ya gotta play the girl card once in a while--you never know what you're gonna get, but it's worth a try.
Happy Miraculous Thursday.  The snow is flying because the snow-globe we call the universe got a bit of a shaking up, and things have returned to "Interesting....very interesting...", just like they're supposed to.  Can't wait to see how it all settles!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pregnant Pause

Just crossing fingers and hanging by the phone...I might be an auntie today, but maybe not.  Here's hoping. stuff.  When I was of the age when having babies seemed to make the most sense, I was never even remotely excited about the possibility of getting pregnant or having kids.  Even when I was married and pregnant, I spent a lot of time thinking, "Are we there yet?".  It took a while for me to grow into the idea, and I very nearly completely screwed it up, but lucked into meeting a guy who kept me from ultimately ruining my children.
Funny what the universe sends you...
The truth is, parenting is not a thing you want to do alone, at any stage.  So many things about our adult relationships seems so disposable--"that guy was a jerk, so I left", or, "My wife was insane, so I left".  It's easy to do these things, and even when it is not all that easy, it's still easier than being a single parent.  I say this with full awareness that I am the ultimate bad guy, having walked away from not one, but two marriages, each time with my two daughters in tow.  Stupid.  I mean, being afraid for them, as I was the second time, when we found ourselves living in a house with a teenage sex offender in the making, is a perfectly legitimate reason, and I have no regrets.  It was the right thing to do, even if that were the only reason.  As it happens, that was just the "wake up and be a parent" reason.
The truth is, and, I've said it before, these two young ladies saved my life--more than once.  Or maybe, rather, saved my soul.  I probably would have gone on living, doing the same stupid crap, awash in a sea of booze and god-only-knows what else, if I hadn't been given the job of bringing them up in the world.  Let's face is the toughest job ever, and a certain level of attention to detail is required in order to be successful.  There are jobs in which it's a good idea to keep your head about you because you might lose a limb in a horrible accident with an auger or something--this is not like that.  It's about thinking of all of the tools that you have, and the things you were taught, what worked and what didn't, and the things you wish you had known, and plugging all of that information into action that will hopefully keep someone else from losing a both a literal and figurative sense.
18+ years of "It's Not About You".  What better remedy for an aggressively egocentric person like me?  We interrupt this program to bring you...20 years of something else, entirely!  Wooo!
Yeah, yeah...not everyone is built to withstand a pregnant pause like that one.
Do I think I could have done it better?  Yeah.  What parent doesn't?  And I think that might be a big part of the baby lust that women start to feel when their kids are nearly grown--wow, if they could just do it one more time, how different it would be.
It is highly unlikely that I'll have any more children upon which to practice my developing parenting skills.  At the same time, I'm not so sure I've earned my retirement, but, I'll take it when it comes.  Bummer there are no gold watches, retirement parties or pensions to go with that, but those jobs are few and far between anyway, aren't they?  "Job Well Done" acknowledgements only come much later, if they come at all, from anyone other than yourself or maybe the other parent.  I suppose that's why nature has made it so it takes two humans to make a baby, so maybe during those times when you screw up, someone can swoop in and save your kid from losing a limb--literally or figuratively.  Hopefully, even if you disagree about everything else, you can always agree that in matters of children, it truly isn't about either of you.
By my estimation, it is a lot more fun to wait for babies that I'm not giving birth to, so, I'll enjoy all things baby from a distance and hook up with the little Junior Mint later (can't BELIEVE that he had the audacity to not be born when I was there, visiting...Jeeez....babies...they're so self-involved!).  Maybe later this week, I'll post a picture of Winston Churchill and tell you it's him.  In the mean time, good thoughts, everybody!  Good thoughts!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Because Fantasy Is So Much Better Than Reality

I wrote this big, huge, long thing about how I came to be a person who doesn't subscribe to the "Life Sucks, Then You Die" bit, and how I only go for those bits of information that promote my lovely, rose-colored glasses point of view, when I realized that what I was doing was essentially "re-arrange your thoughts" writing and that I was taking the long way around to get to a simple conclusion:
What some people call "fantasy", and what I call a level of certainty of a really, really great outcome, no matter the odds, is so much better than the "reality" that a lot of people accept as "this is just the way it is".  Heaven help you if you don't have a dream.
It doesn't matter how I came to this conclusion, or what insanity I have wandered into because of it--I'm sticking to it.  And I say this, even though my fantasy life has been kicked repeatedly in the shins and knocked on it's ass a few times, too, in the last year.  For me, it's weird to not get what I want.  It literally goes against everything I know.  Not that I grew up a spoiled kid or anything--I just somehow grew up not believing anyone who ever told me "you can't".
Anyway, I had one of those maudlin (stealing that word from Crazy Aunt Purl, because I love it), weepy mornings today, and I wondered if maybe I just have my sights set too high, because in my head I'm not getting what I think I'm supposed to be getting--one thing in particular.  I decided, after writing the big, huge, long thing, that sights can never be set too high, and that while not getting what I want every time really sucks, these setbacks are only temporary things.  We live to chip away, another day.  It shall be mine.  No wall can hold forever.  One day, my day.  And when it happens?  I'm totally getting a tattoo...don't care if I'm 90...
You need to hold on to hope.  Hold on tight.  Think of the thing you want, and think of yourself with it.  Yes, disappointment sucks, but it does that to teach you yet another way how to NOT achieve what you are trying to achieve.  Slowly but surely, you will eliminate all but the correct course of action.  Keep trying.  Never quit.  Never.

Important Pumpkin Business...

Ask me how much Pumpkin Roll I ate last weekend.

Go ahead, ask me....

My mother made this. It's insanely good. I literally ate some every day for three days in a row. Actually, four days in a row--my brother had a slice left in the fridge, and I ate it for breakfast Sunday morning. Yum. Punky made sure to snake the recipe off of one of her pumpkin cans before we left, so as a public service, I thought I would share. I recommend making a double batch. :-)


  • CAKE
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar (to sprinkle on towel)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup Pumpkin (this is a Libby's pumpkin recipe, by the way...)
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
  • 1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 6 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar (optional for decoration)


oven to 375° F. Grease 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan; line with wax paper. Grease and flour paper.

COMBINE flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in small bowl. Beat eggs and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until thick. Beat in pumpkin. Stir in flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared pan. Sprinkle with nuts.

BAKE for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. (If using a dark-colored pan, begin checking for doneness at 11 minutes.) Immediately loosen and turn cake onto prepared towel. Carefully peel off paper. Sprinkle a thin, cotton kitchen towel with powdered sugar. Roll up cake and towel together, starting with narrow end. Cool on wire rack.

cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, butter and vanilla extract in small mixer bowl until smooth. Carefully unroll cake. Spread cream cheese mixture over cake. Reroll cake. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.

Be sure to put enough powdered sugar on the towel when rolling up the cake so it will not stick.

Monday, November 30, 2009

It's Cyber Monday, Have You Bought Anything Yet?

Me neither.
I'm sure I could eliminate all talk of numerous gifts if Santa would just bring a puppy, but I'm not there yet on the dog thing, so I'm gonna have to go it alone.
It seems that this year, more than ever, retailers are FREAKED OUT about where you're going to spend your money.  I get it, I understand--last year was tough, and this year, somebody claimed that the American people have more money to spend, so, we're getting badgered left and right to buy heaping piles of stuff for Christmas, with all that extra dough we supposedly have, so we can rescue those retailers from last year's nastiness.
So, how are YOU doing?  Feeling any richer?  I do, a little, but that's because I gave myself a raise by switching jobs, while simultaneously cutting my commute in half.  Doesn't mean the cable guy isn't wondering where this month's payment is (yeah, yeah...I got it...calm down...), but, it's coming around.
It's coming around just in time for many someones to try to coerce me into spending it all on unnecessary crap.  And, like with the dog thing, I'm not quite there, yet.  I just can't picture dropping the kind of cash that retailers seem to think I have.  Who does this?  Who puts themselves into serious debt at Christmas?  Clearly, somebody must, or the people trying to sell us things wouldn't be trying so hard.
My children have been asking me what I want for Christmas, and I tell them that I don't know, which is not unusual for me--"I don't know" is my stock answer for anything relating to gifts that I would receive, because when I want a thing, I go out and get it myself. 
Apparently, this is annoying to potential gift-givers.
Sorry, but I just think that asking for a specific thing, or shopping for a specific thing for someone because they asked for a specific  Sucks huge.  It eliminates all thought, and makes it not about giving someone something because you thought of them, but because they wanted a certain thing, and heaven help you if you got something slightly different from that certain thing, because it's not the thing they wanted.
And this is what we have become.  Freaked out and panicked about THINGS.  We worry that if someone is going to buy us something, it will be dumb, and not the thing we want, and if we buy something for someone, we worry that they'll think it's dumb.  Every time you buy anything, the store asks you if you want a gift receipt, assuming that anything anybody buys is not what the receiver wanted, and it will need to be returned or exchanged.
How screwed up is that?  I mean, really....did you ever stop to think about that?  You buy things under the assumption that it will need to be returned or exchanged...Why bother buying it?  That's just stupid.  I'm so ANTI "gift-receipt", I can't even talk about it without getting grouchy.
So I just want to warn everybody up front, as we head into December, that, even though I love you all, I'm probably not getting you what you want.  Actually, I'm not even going to ask you what you want--how do you like that?  I'm just giving everybody the same thing this year--an invitation.  Because "stuff" needs dusting--experiences do not.  Instead of buying some things, I would rather do some things--grab a meal with friends, at a place we've never been, or maybe someplace we all enjoy--either/or.  Try out some new recipe on some unsuspecting recipient (food is always the best holiday gift, seriously--anything the other person doesn't have to prepare is all good).  Or maybe take a thermos full of schnapps-laced cocoa to a parade, or skating, or...out to the back yard.  Whatever.
And so this is Christmas...let's de-stress and have some fun out there!  Decorate, and Celebrate!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Chillin' On The Road

300 Miles of straight and flat road ahead, and The Diva is behind the wheel. This is some funny stuff...

Last night, as we neared my friend's rural home, on a two-lane strip of pavement only lit by our headlights, she spent the entire 11 miles driving 40 mph, because the scene reminded her of Jeepers Creepers, and she was waiting for some psycho-killer to pop up in the middle of the road.

I'm giving her the day shift today. We'll see what monsters pop up.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Random Wednesday!!!

  • Lady at Walgreens?  You made my morning.  It's 6AM, some half-asleep woman (me) wanders in to buy concealer and mascara, looking very much like she is OUT of concealer and mascara, and you were the bubbliest, sweetest thing.  Thanks for the blessing, and have fun cooking for your family!
  • The day before Thanksgiving, and I'm craving ham.  Ham.  Like a ham sandwich would be the very greatest thing right now.  Guess what's in my cooler for the road trip?  Uh-huh.
  • Also bringing the Spaten, because I hate for the beer to be left home alone.  Not that I will be able to enjoy it during the actual road trip, but there are beer stops built in to the schedule.
  • I get off work three hours earlier than usual today, and yet...working today is the biggest DRAG!  Seriously...I'm trapped in an office and compelled to look at traffic maps and weather reports.  this can't be a good thing.  Remember the days before online traffic maps?  When you just winged it?  I'm going back to that.  After I get out of town, I mean. 
  • By the way, what brainiac decided that it would be a good time to close the 35W/Crosstown exit?  Thanksgiving?  The most traveled holiday of the year?  All of Southwest Minneapolis, Richfield and Edina would like to give you a good swift kick.  Where do you want it?
  • *exhale*  It's just'll get there when you get there.....breathe....
  • I know it's supposed to be "vacation", and at some point I'll probably stop worrying about all the stuff that needs to get done before I can enjoy "vacation".  I'll be sure to let you know when that is.
  • OK, it's now.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Didn't Think I Needed That Until Just This Second...

Online, isn't it?
Never mind the fact that we're all freaking out on the Buy Sh*t You Don't Need Train To Holiday Insanity.  What's super-fun is that when you go online to compare prices on things, and you get the other suggestions, like, shopping for a Wii somehow makes me an interested party in a Stationary Band Saw, for example.
I....didn't know I wanted that....but now I totally DO!
Kidding!  Juuuust kidding....!  Where the hell would I put it?
Anyway....I'm doing my online plinking around a bit early, because A) I don't leave my house on Black Friday, usually, and certainly don't get up early to do so, if I do, and B) I do hit up some online shopping on Black Friday, but this year, we"ll be away from home, so I want to be sure of exactly where it is that I am going online, beforehand, to make it quick and easy.
Lucky for me (I guess) there is no place out there, online or otherwise, that appears to be shooting out any significant deals on Wii systems, so, it doesn't appear to matter where it comes's $199.  Period.  I think I like that. Not that I would get up early if someone was selling them for 20 bucks somewhere--I would not.  Besides...I'm going to be miles away from retail this Friday.  I noticed a short window of time this week in which I can drive out to see the family, so, I'm gonna jump at it, and head West.
Here is what going to my parents home means...and, for those of you familiar with the high plains of Western North Dakota, please feel free to skip this part.
If you look at my cell phone coverage map, and find my hometown, you will note that there is only roaming coverage for a couple of hundred miles in all directions, and in the very center of the "Could Be VERY Sketchy" coverage my hometown.
Uh-huh.  Phone-addicted me, in forced recovery.  For the record, I would likely be roundly chastised by parent and sibling alike if they saw how much usage that bad boy gets in a day--Internet, email, text, Twitter, FB.  I mean, my father once made a comment about my using a freaking HAIR DRYER, OK?  And if he thinks THAT was techno-addicted scary, well...need I say more?
I'm going to be a bit twitchy.  Roaming doesn't scare me, but, the possibility of ZIP coverage is cause for concern.  I've already warned the children.  They are steeling themselves as we speak.  These are little people who have scarcely known life without texting...I'm just sayin'.
The second item of concern, which I was very used to when living out there, but totally NOT used to anymore, is the part how you MUST plan ahead any purchases you need to make, because the corner store?  It's not there.  And if it is there, it is very unlikely to be open on Thursday.  When you "do" a trip across the state of North Dakota, especially on a holiday, you plan accordingly, thank your lucky stars for Pay At The Pump Gas (which can STILL be as far as 50 miles apart), and you pack a cooler.  Towns big enough for fast food (or any) restaurants are fairly widely spread apart.  If you happen to break down anywhere, well, you're alone, at least for a while.
Those are the cons.  The pro's?  It's beautiful.  You can see the sky for miles and miles.  And it's dead-silent.  You've likely never heard this kind of quiet before, which is probably one of the reasons why extraneous noise is so annoying to me now, all these years later.  And if you do happen to break down anywhere, it doesn't matter who finds you first, you're in good hands. (Ahem...Qualifier:  I'M in good hands because I'm a girl and can feign helplessness, which has a much more receptive audience in the middle of nowhere than it does in a city.)
Yes, there are more people living on my city block than live within a 40 mile radius of where I grew up.  There are more people in the city where I live than there are in the entire state where I grew up.  Hell, there are more CARS in Minneapolis than there are people in North Dakota.
Different world.  Really different.  It's not something I am very good at explaining.  On the one hand, everybody is super-nice, and at the same time, they're all pretty happy that the desolation keeps the "riff-raff" out.  Life there means commitment--keeping a tiny town, or a farm, or anything like that, alive means all hands on deck.  You do because you must.  Everybody does.  And in a major population center like Minneapolis, you're not personally called upon so very often.  Not that we're all "riff-raff"...just that in a time of need, opting out is more of an option here, and you feel like less of a jerk if you do.
I often say that, in the future crazy days, when tsunami's wipe out large chunks of both coasts and all level of insanity hits the major population centers, that the survivors will all find their way to the Dakotas.  The land that was so unlivable will suddenly seem pretty attractive.  Just remember...everyone in both states owns a gun, so, be nice.
We'll be heading that way on Wednesday night, and, this trip really wasn't planned--just popped into my head on Friday morning.  I must say, I really didn't think I needed it until somebody brought it up.  But I do.  And unlike the stationary band saw, I'll take it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Like I Said...

...The headstone better read "Saint Raychele" or something...because I'm taking the martyr road, that's why...
Just kidding.
You can't let life keep you from doing things, or stay flat on your back for every little ache and pain.  You need to get up, and go to your job, and get yelled at by some angry physician's assistant in Milwaukee (it's like people there are either jolly as hell or they just want to jump up and down on your head.  WTF?  I'm just sayin'... I see that "414" pop up on my work phone and I never know what I'm gonna get...)  People who do this miss out on a lot of life--trust me on this--I know a lot of these people.
Also, when you have a weird diagnosis like a Chiari Malformation, which some people have from cradle to grave with no symptoms whatsoever, and some people, uh, don't, there appears to be a vast and open space in which people with the diagnosis roam, free to be as affected by it as they choose.  And some of them are REALLY affected.  Like, life stops, affected.  Most unfortunate. don't want to say anything to people who are handling it differently than you.  Questioning whether or not someone is actually experiencing pain is very, very, tricky business.  I mean, I can tell you what I think (I think you should BUCK UP AND STOP YER WHININ' is what I think) but, you don't want to accuse anyone of over-stating the effect of pain on their lives, because then you sound like a complete bitch. 
Ahem...yeah, I'm a complete bitch.  But I'm OK with that!  I really am!
I blipped through a few articles about Chiari this morning, because I am curious if there is anything new happening in the medical world, and was both amazed and disheartened by post after post on message boards and comments, from people who hear a diagnosis and immediately turn it into a pity-party.  One lady lamented how "once again", her family went out to do an activity, and she had to stay at home because of Chiari. 
Um...what the hell kind of activity was it?  Were they getting shot out of cannons?  You couldn't go along and watch?  Or maybe more importantly...what kind of assholes do you have in your family who can't think of a way to include you in things? 
"I'm gonna sit on my ass and complain about the pain, online" seems incredibly stupid to me.  I say (and I say this because sitting at a computer is NOT a good thing to do all day if you have any kind of spinal or muscle issues, weakness, etc--you should be WORKING that shit...) that if the pain is bad enough that you have to sit still, but you can still manage to get yourself in front of the internet, then why can't you manage to get yourself to a seated position someplace else?
See, this is why I come off as a complete bitch.  Sorry.  Sort of.  I know that trying to maintain a decent weight, and doing some yoga or meditating is not for everyone.  That stuff is just for the people who don't use pain as an excuse. 
Yeah, I said it.
Anyway....I'm working.  And stretching.  And drinking 27 bottles of water.  And all the other stuff I do to make myself feel better. 
All so I can get bitched at by the 414.  Because when I'm not being a complete bitch, I'm a martyr, that's why...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Gonna Be Really, Really Old For A Little While

So if you don't hear a lot from me, sorry.  Gosh, and I was doing so well, in November!  hehe...

It's one of those things you don't think about much, until there's some kind of shortage...uh-huh.  That's right.  Talkin' 'bout spinal fluid.  Whacky's kinda like Dura-Lube, only, for your body.  You start to notice the system shorting out when things like your right forearm, or your left ring finger start to hurt, for no particular reason.  Like, you feel dried out on the inside.  Weird.  Small wonder my body is not craving the cigarettes lately.  Wanna know the other weird thing?  I haven't had one since yesterday, and I haven't had any withdrawal symptoms.  At all.  THAT's how busy my body is, being miserable with other shit right now.

Though it's not something that immobilizes me completely--moving doesn't hurt much more than not moving, and stretching feels like the most wonderful, wonderful, wonderful thing in the world--I find that the exact, perfect, propped up (or  propped down) position feels pretty good, and sitting at a computer for any length of time feels like hell.  Spice must flow, as they say, and, sitting at a computer tends to make spinal fluid circulation issues worse, for me, anyway.  

So there you go.  See you in a couple of days.  Or, maybe tomorrow.  Chiari.  Tons of only slightly predictable neurological fun.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Closing In

Getting very close...inch by inch.
I can feel my body telling me that smoking time is drawing to a close.  Just about there.  It's one of those things where the action no longer serves it's purpose, so it's likely to change soon.
Along with that, I have a strong desire to run a marathon.
HA!  Had you going for a second there, didn't I?   So NOT running a marathon...
But here's the job, new body.  Can't help it, it's just happening.  At my old job, I was at my desk a lot.  At my new job, I'm at my desk.....MORE. 
I mean, "Crap".
Every inch of my body can feel the "sitting around", because we're not terribly busy at the moment, so we quite literally Sit Around.  A Lot.  I'm all crinked up like a ball of paper. and my Everything hurts.  On my breaks, I crave movement much more than nicotine.  (Listen to your bodies, people...I think that a lot of people who have aches and pains a lot of the time, have them because of lack of movement.  There are things for which you take a pill, and things for which you take a walk.  I'm just sayin'.).
So, I might accidentally quit smoking.  If I keep replacing my lunch time with a stroll around the parking ramp, it could happen.  I know...don't carve that in stone or anything...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thing 1

She's been photographed approximately 872 kajillion times.
(Yes, there ARE pictures of Day One. No, we will not be sharing them.)
She didn't start to get hilarious for a few months after that, anyway.
Sometimes posed.
Sometimes wanting very much not to be posed.
Sometimes saying, "OK, Grandma, can we give it a break?"
Through it all, so much laughter.
And so many chickens.

And other random things to pose with.

And like us all, the self-portraits are the most telling.
I've seen her look like everything you could imagine. My blog name for her is "Diva", but, she wouldn't have become one without 16 years of nudging, by those of us who find her amazing, fascinating, aggravating, short-tempered, funny as hell, driven, creative, and somehow still pretty easy going. Look out, world...she's coming your way.
Posted by Picasa