Saturday, February 28, 2009

We're Not Going to Guam, Are We?

Does anyone else watch "Lost"?  I had resisted up until last season, and my husband finally brought me up-to-date with this really weirdly addictive show.  Now that the Oceanic 6 are making their way back to the island, I'm thinking that Kate is probably pregnant and will have to leave the island since we all know that, unless a pregnancy is very far along (like Claire's was), no woman can carry a pregnancy to term on the island.  They'll spend all next season trying to get off the island again.  Anyway, when the pilot spoke the line that is the caption for this blog post, I got a chuckle out of it.  The show has some excellent writers.  I like the way they can be very subtly humorous.   

I never used to have very much time for TV.  However, I have always been a fan of "American Idol" (Go Kris Allen!) and "Grey's Anatomy" - though I'm getting very frustrated with the writing on that show.  I may have to start watching Patrick Dempsey with the sound off.  There is "Desperate Housewives", naturally.  And I'm very fond of two shows on the Biography channel.  First, "Shatner's Raw Nerve" is a talk show hosted by none other than William Shatner.  The man is my idol.  He's so unintentionally amusing.  And, I still love him because he was Captain Kirk - my very first crush.  I waive my geek flag proudly.  The second show is "The Chris Isaak Hour" and just debuted last Thursday.  Chris Isaak, who is funny as hell, interviews a different music performer each week.  He goes into how they got started in the music business and unearths all kinds of things about them.  They perform with Chris, and I find the whole thing very interesting.  

Blogging about TV shows is sad, but there's just not a lot to do here in the dead of winter.  And Tivo is an enabler.  You can watch anything you want at any time you want, and you don't have to waste time with commercials.  

Anyone else like these shows?  Represent and leave a comment.  

Friday, February 27, 2009


Yesterday, we experienced a rare phenomenon known as "thundersnow" where I live.  We couldn't hear the thunder part of it - reports said that it could be heard two to three kilometers outside of the city.  However, what occurred was something so incredibly beautiful and rare that I couldn't take myself away from the front window of my house.  The day had dawned dark and overcast.  A storm was imminent.  

At about noon, it started to snow a bit.  By 1:30 pm, it looked like I was encased in a snow globe.  I will never forget the insane beauty of it.  I walked outside in the swirling snow and lifted my face to the sky.  I felt like I was surrounded by sparkling diamonds.  It was truly heavenly.  

I found a song by the incredible Thomas Newman from the soundtrack to the movie "Road to Perdition".  The song is "Road to Chicago," and it is sweet and sad and has the same swirling movement of the thundersnow.  

I'm posting it here.  Enjoy.  I hope you can all experience thundersnow someday.  

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy!

My hubby is home.  I was late picking him up from the airport, but he didn't mind.  He is tired.  

The suitcases are unpacked and put away.  He stayed awake as long as he could, but the jet lag has won, and he is sleeping now.  

I didn't like what he brought back with him . . . laundry.  Piles and piles.  It looks like clothes bombs went off in our house and left piles of clothing everywhere.  

I don't care about that right now.  The sun is shining.  My world is complete again.  He's home.  

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Like Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the Titanic

"My second favorite household chore is ironing.  My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint."  
Erma Bombeck

If you ever want to see just how strong your will to live is, I would recommend staying inside a house all day with two children who are 6 and 8 years old.  

I woke up with a sore throat and a head cold this morning.  So, we scrapped our plans for the day, and we stayed home.  The dear daughter filled her time by calling friends, rearranging the stuff in her room, reading, playing on the computer and then calling more friends.  My son isn't feeling very well either.  His cold has turned into a cough.  He amused himself with Star Wars Legos, Playmobil pirates, toy weapons and some board games.  Needless to say, the floors of the house are littered with toys.  It is useless to pick them up before bedtime because they are constantly being played with.  But I don't really care about the floors because I've learned a few things about my kids on our day "in".  

My son and I were watching the Charlie Brown Valentine special - the one where Charlie Brown doesn't get any Valentines.  My son said, "Mom, our bus driver didn't get any Valentines, so I gave him one of mine - one with a red heart-shaped sucker."  I didn't know what to say.  I knew he was the very last one to get off the bus on Friday.  I pictured him giving his bus driver this Valentine.  Their new bus driver is a large man - about 6' 7" tall and built like a brick wall.  He is a volunteer fireman as well as a bus driver.  He shaves his head and has a goatee.  Not someone you would mess with or ever think of giving a Valentine to.  But it was very important to my son that the bus driver not be left out.  I am so proud of that kid.  

This is not out-of-character for my son, but he is normally on the "naughty side", so I never really see that he is very tenderhearted.  This is the boy who sat in Sunday School and listened to the story of how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and then turned to me and whispered, "You mean Lazarus was a zombie?!"  This is the boy who plays with several other little boys in the dance studio where their sisters take dance lessons each week.  Last week we arrived a few minutes late, and his friends were waiting for him, relieved that he was finally there.  I told one of the younger boys that I was happy that he liked playing with my son.  The boy looked at me, smiled and said, "He's an evil genius!"  And then they all ran off together.  

My daughter and I have hit a rough patch in our relationship.  She is studying math facts (they are no longer referred to as math "problems" because the word "problems" give the whole thing a negative connotation.)  She always puts up a fuss about studying them.  She is quizzed on Tuesdays and Fridays, and she has to retake any tests that she doesn't pass until she passes them.  She is such a smart girl, but she really needs to concentrate and apply herself now that she is in third grade.  Lately, she just wants to flit around and goof off most of the time.  She gets a major attitude when I make her sit down and study.  Then she starts getting frustrated over nothing.  Then she starts crying.  My husband has blamed me for this behavior in the past.  Evidently, he feels I pass a "can't-do" attitude onto her.  Whatever.  

Today, she was in her room for a very long time and was very quiet.  When I went to investigate what she was doing, I found her sitting and drawing.  She had a book with a mouse and a flower on the cover.  She was copying it freehand, and doing a beautiful job.  She is an amazing artist.  I need to get that girl some art lessons.  

Our day inside has consisted of good times and bad moments.  Happiness and sadness.  My realization that I will probably not have a completely tidy house until the kids are a bit older.  My fascination that my kids are very talented and caring people.  And my discovery that the years are flying by so quickly - I need to enjoy the time I have with them while they are little.  The good times, the bad moments and every second in between.  

"There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt."  Erma Bombeck 

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day! (A Valentine quiz for you)

Your Candy Heart Says "Hug Me"

A total sweetheart, you always have a lot of love to give out.

Your heart is open to where ever love takes you!

Your ideal Valentine's Day date: a surprise romantic evening that you've planned out

Your flirting style: lots of listening and talking

What turns you off: fighting and conflict

Why you're hot: you're fearless about falling in love

Friday, February 13, 2009

Ageism in the Suburbs

"A woman's age is like the speedometer on a used car - we both know they've been set back, we just don't know how far."  Something I once saw typed on an old typewriter in my Grandpa's antique shop.  

I coordinated my son's classroom Valentine party today.  It is the last classroom party of the year.  It went well, though I always feel like I could've done a better job after these things are over.  Perfectionism sucks.  

As the official "Coordinator", I performed the due diligence of the role by calling each of the other mothers who had signed up to help, reminded them of the date and time of the party and solicited ideas from them.  We were a small but diverse group.  I, myself, had two handwritten legal-pad sheets of paper filled with ideas gleaned off the internet.  One other mother insisted that she do the food/snack station.  One mother told me that she would help with whatever I wanted to do.  One mother told me she had scheduled a family vacation the day of the party and couldn't make it.  (Um, yeah, her kid was in school today.)  The last mother didn't return my call.  I ran into this Mom at our school's "Wendy's night", and she told me that she would talk to me later.  The next day, I ran into her at Target.  (It's a small town we live in.)  We discussed the party, and then she said she had to go get a friend a baby shower gift.  Then she said, "This friend of mine is 37 years old and having her first baby.  Can you imagine just starting to raise kids at our age?"  I smiled.  I started to have children at the ripe old age of 36.  So, I volunteered the fact that I am also an "elderly Mom", and that it isn't the end of the world.  There are, in fact, quite a few of us out there now.  

The other Mom said, "You're not over FORTY, are you?"  I smiled again.  

And then she said, "Wow, you don't look THAT old."  I smiled again, but my teeth were clenching.  

I could see her examining my face - most likely for telltale age signs:  crow's feet, age spots, dentures . . . 

"Wow . . . " she said, and then there was an awkward silence.  

"Yeah, wow." I said getting thoroughly annoyed.  

At today's party, she offered to help me carry some boxes into the classroom.  She helped me carry stuff back out to my van after the party.  I could see her giving me sideways glances all afternoon.  

I'm going to make myself feel better by telling myself that I just look so damn good that she couldn't believe that I was over the dreaded age of 40.  I'm going to tell myself this until I actually believe it.  

"I guess what I be saying is there ain't no better reason, To rid yourself of vanities and just go with the seasons.  It's what we aim to do, our name is our virtue."  Lyrics from "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I Can't See Bruce Lee

"You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star."  Nietzsche

When my husband is away, I can't sleep.  Part of it could be because two little space invaders and a cat insist on cuddling with me all night.  It could be because my mental "safety net" leaves whenever he is gone.  

Whatever the reason, I usually find myself up all night sitting and watching late-night TV.  Late last night, one of the channels broadcast The Ellen DeGeneres Show.  When I turned it on, I saw that my music crush Jason Mraz was going to be performing, so I sat and watched it.  The first thing I saw was a young Asian woman who had won a beauty pageant.  Her talent was painting while dancing and doing all kinds of contortions with her body.  Rather than explain it, I'll link it here.  

This fascinated me on so many levels.  My first thought was, "I wonder if I could do this?"  (The painting part, not the dancing or contortions).  I am ever the optimist.  But wouldn't it be cool if I could, say, paint Elvis while knitting or something?  I could even peel and chop an onion or pack a school lunch on the side.  The possibilities are endless.  Then it dawned on me that no one would really care unless it was a young, beautiful beauty pageant winner actually doing the painting.  

I watched Jason Mraz perform, and then I started channel surfing.  I stumbled across one of my old favorites, "The Twilight Zone".  I know better than to watch those types of shows when my husband is gone, because I find them truly terrifying.  I mean, what if there really is a parallel universe to ours, and what would happen if our double in the parallel universe wanted to take over our lives?  What if a milkman that no one ever saw would grant wishes if you simply wrote them on a piece of paper and left them with the milk bottles?  What if the seemingly-innocent six-year-old next door had the power to banish whatever displeased him into a cornfield?  (Actually, I would kind of like to have that power.)  There is usually a moral in every Twilight Zone episode - be careful what you wish for; be careful how you treat others; be careful how you live your life.  They are stories of everyday people in everyday situations who somehow find themselves in the Twilight Zone.  The stories could happen to any one of us.  

The last couple of days here have been bad ones.  It has been rainy and dreary which doesn't help my mood.  I feel like I'm slogging through a fog.  I desperately want to feel creative.  I want to be the one throwing paint on a canvas and then casually flip it over to reveal a masterpiece.  Instead, I find myself slipping into the Twilight Zone - obsessing over little things; getting upset over nothing; thinking that people must not like me for some reason.  Ridiculous behavior.  Moods that come and go with no rhyme or reason.  I think this is the result of very little sleep and bad weather.  

So, today, I made up my mind to get myself out of this blue funk.  I've been straightening up the house.  I've been thinking of creative things to do here.  But all of my ideas lack the pizazz I'm searching for.  When I look at them, I don't see Bruce Lee or even Elvis.  Maybe I need to take a step back.  If you look at Lisa Wong's painting up close, it doesn't resemble anything but a mess.  It is only when you step back and look at it in a different way that it all comes together.  

I think I need to take myself out of my surroundings for awhile today.  Maybe I'll get a different perspective on things.  Maybe the things I'm creating right now - two beautiful, intelligent children, a happy family and a home will slowly come into view.  

Or maybe I could start working on that Elvis painting/onion chopping thing.  It would definitely have to be the black leather-clad hot Elvis from his comeback special.  No white jumpsuits here.  What if I painted with my feet while knitting?  Ah . . . Twilight Zone, here I come.  

Sorry for my rambling, my sense of humor is my salvation in times like these.  I thank God for it.  

"The creative is the place where no one else has ever been.  You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition.  What you'll discover will be wonderful.  What you'll discover is yourself."  Alan Alda 

Monday, February 9, 2009

At Loose Ends

"At Loose Ends" - idiom - Not knowing what to do especially because of some upsetting change.

My husband is overseas.  He is in Paris, France, with the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe.  The sad part is that he is working and traveling to five different countries in twelve days and will have virtually no time for sightseeing.  Not exactly the way to tour Europe.  The co-worker that he is traveling with is sick with the flu.  

I am here with two young children who seem to have devoted their lives to irritating me in every way possible.  I am buried in Valentine party plans, Valentine boxes, and third grade math study guides which explain quadrangles that are parallelograms and quadrangles that are not parallelograms.  I got lost somewhere between the rhombuses and trapezoids.  

I have two sheets of a legal pad filled with things I need to do.  I was writing out this list this morning and drinking a cup of tea and looking out the window at the rain.  Before I knew it, I had been staring out the window in a daydream so long that the tea was cold.  40 minutes had passed by, and I didn't even realize it.  

I got up this morning with the intentions of getting right back into my daily routine:  laundry, treadmill, shower, cleaning, errands.  But all day long I felt like I was in one of those bad dreams where you're trying to run, and you can't.  I feel tired.  

Last weekend was filled with a flurry of activity getting my husband ready for his trip.  In our usual form, we were ironing and packing right up until it was time to leave for the airport.  I dropped my husband off at the curb and gave him a kiss and hug goodbye.  The one word I hate more than any other in the universe is "goodbye".  I walked back to the car, worried about navigating my way home from the airport at dusk on unfamiliar highways.  

When I went to get into the car, I turned back to look at my husband, and it was all I could do not to run after him and grab onto his feet to keep him here.  I watched as he walked away from me into the airport.  This was my husband.  Someone so familiar to me.  His hair and beard are getting a bit gray now.  He stood near the airport door, in a dress coat, all of his luggage and laptop stacked beside him.  

I remember when we were both in our early 20s.  He was going to school and working in a lighting store, and I was a legal secretary barely making ends meet.  His hair was longer.  I can still see him sitting on my couch in my apartment.  We had decided to pool our money and get something to eat.  We were between paydays, and we came up with a dollar.  We bought four macaroni and cheese dinners with the money.  

I can still see him working on his old brown pickup truck in the garage of the ramshackle duplex we lived in when we first moved in together.  When the wind would blow outside, you could stand in front of the living room window in that duplex, light a match, and the wind would blow the match out.  

I see him looking out the window of his apartment building in Madison during his senior year of college - watching me leave.  We would spend every other weekend together, going out to eat, shopping, cooking.  I would iron out a week's worth of shirts for him before I would leave on Sunday afternoon.  We were crazy in love.  

I remember him getting down on one knee and proposing marriage.  We scraped together the money for a small but lovely wedding.  Several times during the wedding ceremony, I nervously reached out for his hand.  It was always there.  

I can still feel his hand holding mine during the births of our children.  Speaking words of encouragement in my ear.  Trying to hide the worried look on his face.  I see him awkwardly holding our new baby daughter and promising her that he would never let anything bad ever happen to her.  

I can see him in the park with each of our kids teaching them to ride a bicycle, and in the back yard, teaching them to throw and catch a baseball.  The kids always make him smile.  He is such a great Dad.  

And I remember a defining moment in our relationship in 1993.  That was the year his best friend was hospitalized after a brain tumor burst and left him a quadriplegic.  We made the trip from Wausau to the University of Wisconsin Hospitals in Madison on the weekends to see him.  The visits were incredibly difficult.  We stood by helpless as we watched this very active and athletic young man adjust to being without the use of his arms and legs.  For awhile, his friend couldn't speak, and we tried to read his lips.  Sometimes the visits went fairly well, and sometimes they were horrible for all of us.  Through it all, we tried to be there for him and lend our support any way we could.  

During one visit, I turned and looked at my husband.  I caught his eye, and my heart made a sound.  It was the moment I realized that not only did I love this man, but I knew that I always wanted to be with him.  I wanted to hear that sound for the rest of my life.  

And sometimes, amid the piles of laundry and stacks of school papers, during simple everyday moments, I look at him and realize that he is the one who makes me happy.  I still hear the heart sounds.  

"I'm lucky I'm in love with my best friend.  Lucky to have been where I have been.  Lucky to be coming home again.  

I'm lucky we're in love in every way.  Lucky to have stayed where we have stayed.  Lucky to be coming home someday."  

Lyrics from "Lucky" by Jason Mraz  

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Obituary Keeper

I am a quirky person.  Not a totally strange quirky, but the very quaint and a bit odd type of quirky.  I have a collection of newspaper obituaries and memorial cards that I keep in a dresser drawer.  I have done this for about 24 years now.  It all started when I was in my early 20s and worked in a law firm.  Elderly people would come in to prepare their Last Wills and Testaments.  Every once in awhile, the elderly person would come in by themselves.  In one case, it was a very elderly lady who lived in an apartment building in downtown Wausau.  Her name was Minerva.  She would call once a week with a question about having a will drawn up, but very quickly she would start to talk about her family and all kinds of things.  Before I knew it, 20 minutes would have passed by.  Minerva needed someone to talk to.  And I wanted her to be able to talk to someone.  I loved talking to her.  Maybe I helped her feel a little less lonely.  

Over time, the clients we prepared the wills for would pass away.  I always felt terrible when that happened.  I would always cut their obituary out of the newspaper and keep it in a Bible.  Many times it would have their picture, and I could always look at it and remember them.  

In 2001, an obituary caught my eye in our local newspaper.  A 96-year-old lady died.  She had lived her entire life in Baldwin, Wisconsin.  Born in 1905.  Married in 1926.  She started a 4-H Club and a school for the disabled in St. Croix County.  She was crowned the Lefse Queen of Woodville at one time.  She was a lifelong member of her Lutheran church.  She and her husband owned a Dairy Queen, and she also worked for many years as a cook in a care center.  While retired, she and her husband traveled around Europe.  She had 15 children, 45 grandchildren, 71 great-grandchildren and 2 great-great-grandchildren.  An honor guard was provided by the Legion Auxiliary at her funeral.  Her grandsons were pallbearers with the rest of her grandchildren as "honorary pallbearers".  

I cut out the obituary and kept it.  It has a beautiful picture of her all dressed up and smiling.  What a well-lived life.  I picture her at the "Pearly Gates", if there is such a thing, meeting St. Peter and telling him all about raising 15 children, working and traveling.  She made good use of those 96 years she had on earth.  

On January 11th of this year, a third grade teacher in the Hudson School District died of breast cancer.  She was 46.  I looked at the picture of her with her husband and daughter.  Arms around each other.  Smiling.  Her daughter looks just like her.  She had beaten breast cancer before, but last year it came back.  Her goal, she said, through this latest battle with the cancer was to be a strong role model for her daughter.  There was an article in the local newspaper which published letters of remembrance from her friends and colleagues and students.  The letters stated how the world is a better place because of her, and how she was a beautiful example of what it means to be a teacher.  The final letter was from a young student at the elementary school where she taught.  The girl said, "She was simply the heart of our school."  I blinked, and a tear fell on the newspaper.  This lady taught for more than 20 years, and she was the teacher that everyone would remember as their favorite.  Another well-lived life.  I pictured her at the Pearly Gates, free from the cancer that plagued her, smiling her beautiful smile and telling St. Peter about her love of teaching and all the people whose lives she touched.  I like to think that she is teaching in Heaven.  Maybe caring for little angels who, for whatever reason, didn't get to live very long on Earth.  

At the bottom of her obituary, there is a photo of her with her dog, Riley.  She is wearing a t-shirt that says "There's Hope" with a pink ribbon on the front.  On the back, it says, "When the world says give up, hope whispers, 'Try it one more time.'"  Another obituary to put in my drawer.  

I picture myself at the Pearly Gates from time to time.  Not much to tell St. Peter.  Sometimes, I imagine telling him how I deserve to go to Heaven because I've spent my time in Hell when I worked for attorneys.  Sometimes, I plead my case by telling him how I always tried to be a good person.  However, there is always one constant in the dream.  Each time St. Peter sees me, he always says, "What a surprise!"  I guess I could always try and win him over by offering to knit him something.  Maybe I could knit the little angels some sweaters.  

I will keep tucking away obituaries in my drawer.  Tales of lives - some short and some long - pictures of smiling faces, each one holds a lesson for those of us left behind.  We haven't yet accomplished what we need to here on Earth.  We haven't learned every lesson we should.  We are the living, and we need to get to the task of living each day to the fullest extent possible.  

And I'd like to end this post with an old Irish blessing for the 96 year old lady and the 46 year old teacher who have passed on from this life.  Thank you both for being shining examples of lives well-lived.  

"May the longtime sun shine upon you,
All love surround you.  
And the pure, pure light that's within you, 
Guide your way home."