Sunday, December 25, 2011

I'll be Home for Christmas and in a Mental Hospital by New Years

Welcome to my messed up holiday season. Seriously. There has never been a Christmas that I can recall where everything has gone so terribly wrong.

It started out like every other year. Right after Halloween, I started buying gifts and making preparations. Then, suddenly, I was caught up in a tornado of orchestra concerts, choir concerts, classroom parties, my son's birthday party, etc., and found myself with two weeks until Christmas. Even then, I couldn't get my act together enough to completely decorate the house.

I knitted a lot of presents this year which was wonderful but very time consuming. I let the kids decorate the tree and my ornament box got completely messed up. There are very few things in life that I am completely obsessive about, and my ornament boxes are those very few things. Several ornaments went missing, and so did the rest of my holiday and my sanity.

In the middle of this winter of my discontent, I am mindful of the real reason for the season. I hold my loved ones close. I cherish the Christmas cards from my friends and family. I understand that it is not how many times we fall down in life, but how many times we get back up. Life goes on.

Perhaps the reason I go through periods like this is to make me appreciate the wonderful life I lead. And while I'll soon put away the Christmas gifts and decorations and regret that I didn't have my picture perfect holiday this year, I know that (God willing) I'll have another chance at it next year. Life goes on.

Until then, there will be so many things to look forward to: birthday celebrations, the other yearly holidays, a summer filled with baseball and softball, planting flowers, kids moving on to the next grade in school, football season, and all the ups and downs on that rollercoaster ride that is my life.

But in my basement, there will be boxes of ornaments just waiting . . .

Merry Christmas everyone.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For (For 37 Years)

I may have mentioned that I have a "bucket list", and I've had one before they were popular or even referred to as "bucket lists". I accomplished one of the things on my bucket list today.

My list is very prosaic compared to one of my friend's lists. She wants to do things like live in another country. I want to do things like learn to swim (which I tried - unsuccessfully - in my 20s); learn to skate backward (which I tried last year but have not quite perfected); learn to play piano; learn a foreign language; and I've always wanted to learn to ride a horse.

When I was a young girl, there was a neighbor girl who had been riding her horse (a beautiful white horse named Wendy) when a crop dusting plane spooked the horse and dragged and killed her. That incident gave my parents all the ammunition they needed to shoot down my requests for riding lessons.

Flash forward 37 years. I had mentioned to my husband that I had always wanted riding lessons. So, my darling husband bought the kids and I two lessons each at a local horse stable. I made the appointment for the first lessons, and the kids and I arrived at the horse arena this afternoon. I was so excited, I was almost giddy. I watched the lessons before us, and I was beside myself with excitement when it came our turn for lessons.

The kids had very gentle smaller young ponies. I had Nick. The trainer had pulled Nick into the arena just for me. He was not happy. He kept jerking his head back and forth. He refused the trainer's peppermint treats. He had a wild look in his eyes. By the grace of God, I was able to get him saddled and get on him just fine. The problem was that Nick refused to move when I would cluck and nudge him gently in his sides. He wanted to put his head down and make a "whinny" sound. I got him to walk around the arena. I worked on my posture, my place in the hunt saddle, the position of my feet and where I was looking. Nick did nothing but fight me the entire way. I tried to get him to trot. He trotted up to a mirror on the side of the arena and stopped and looked at himself. The second time I got him up to a trot, he started to take off, and I lurched forward before remembering that I had to sit back to keep my balance. I hated Nick. He kept trying to bend his head down to the ground, and I pulled back on the reins. That made him walk backward. I was so frustrated. I couldn't even get this horse to walk around the area without having problems.

At long last, the class was over, and I was able to get off Nick without any problems. The trainer helped my kids take their horses out of the arena, and I was supposed to stand in the arena with Nick. The minute the trainer was out of sight, Nick nudged me with his head. I tried to pet his head, and he almost knocked me over. I started to walk away from him, and he reached over and bit my shirt and pulled on it. I hated Nick even more.

Finally, my daughter came back in the arena and led Nick away. He followed her gently glancing back at me every once in awhile to give me a dirty look. Nick hated me right back.

We have one more lesson at the horse farm. I'm hoping to get any other horse but Nick. He should have been named Satan. I have to admire the intelligence of this horse though. He was able to see right through me and show me who has the upper hand. He stands way taller than me, and he weighs over 1,200 pounds. No doubt about it, he has the upper hand.

So, the moral of this story is not really "be careful what you wish for", but rather "try not to anticipate things so much". It's too easy to get disappointed. The other moral is that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Yet another moral is that there is almost always some SOB ready to stand between you and your dreams, and you have to learn to deal with them. I guess I got more out of these lessons than how to make a horse walk, stop and trot.

I know I have to get back in that arena and get back on that horse. I'm just hoping it's a different horse next time. If not, I'll be prepared this time.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Just Another Wednesday - a Tale of Rabid Raccoons and Cheetos

There is just no controlling the course of a typical day in the summer around our house. Most of the time, I feel like a cartoon that I once saw of a woman who was hanging onto something for dear life, and she was going so fast that the rest of her body was waving in the air like a flag. You just have to hang on and go with the flow around here.

Late in the afternoon last Wednesday, my son came in the house and announced that our neighbors across the street had a raccoon in their garage. Their teenage girls were getting it out of the garage with a baseball bat. I told my son not to go near the raccoon, and I didn't think anything else of it. About ten minutes later, I heard a commotion in my front yard. I opened the front door to see kids from all over the neighborhood all looking at a raccoon in my driveway.

In a great moment of insanity, the neighborhood kids (mine included) decided that the raccoon looked like he needed something to eat. Someone had strewn Cheetos all over my driveway, and there in the middle of the onlookers, surrounded by Cheetos was Mr. Raccoon.

I noticed something odd immediately. The raccoon was off balance when he would try walking. He would walk toward the kids, who would immediately run away. He sat and looked at me, and white foam was dripping from his jaw. I told the kids to immediately get away and stop feeding it and that it was rabid. The kids just stood there transfixed and not moving. I got the phone and dialed the non-emergency police number for our city. I explained the situation to the dispatcher and was told that I would receive a call back and to stay put. About four minutes later, an officer called. Again, I explained that I was staring at what I believed to be a rabid raccoon who had now sat himself down right in front of the door to my van in my driveway and was staring at the Cheetos. The officer explained that if he came by, the raccoon would likely run away. He couldn't shoot it in the residential neighborhood. And he asked me if my husband had traps or a bow and arrow. I inquired about animal control, and was told that we had no one in charge of animal control, only a small humane society. I explained that I wasn't looking for anyone to adopt the rabid raccoon in large part because it was a danger to a great many children in the area. He laughed.


This was annoying. The small town I grew up in in Central Wisconsin had animal control. Men would come with poles that had nooses on the ends and they would dispose of unwanted critters in cages. No one was ever hurt to my knowledge. You called them and they did their job.

I reiterated to the officer that I was standing in my driveway surrounded by children and across the street from a city park with even more children, and we were in close proximity to a rabid raccoon. I thought surely that would prompt him to get his rear over here and deal with this problem.

He proceeded to tell me how I could buy a trap at Fleet Farm. Then I got annoyed. Through gritted teeth, I explained how I would not be buying a trap. We did not have a bow and arrow. We live in a city, and there is a rabid raccoon in my driveway. The guy was cavalier. He was joking. I hung up on him.

The neighbor across the street came home, got out of his car and assessed the situation. I was standing there with the phone, the kids were standing around with sticks, and there was the raccoon still surrounded by Cheetos. I saw the neighbor blink. He said, "Hey you kids, you should get away from that raccoon." I looked at him and said, "It's foaming at the mouth. It's rabid." He walked in his house. I stayed, surrounded by kids who weren't listening, and no one on the way.

My husband was home. We were getting ready for our son's baseball game. We arranged to have the neighbor across the street take our son along with his own son to the game while we dealt with the raccoon.

What happened next is the stuff that great slapstick comedy is made of. Our daughter became upset and was crying and screaming about the raccoon. The other kids left because it ceased being fun when the raccoon wouldn't eat the Cheetos, I guess. We had to get the raccoon out of our yard. My husband made noise and it would waddle around and try and walk toward him. I was in the yard, and it tried to walk toward me. My hub managed to get in my van and honk the horn, and the raccoon went around to the back of our house. It waddled around while I picked up all the Cheetos that were left in the driveway. I went inside our house and accidentally locked my husband outside with the rabid raccoon. He didn't appreciate that.

I decided I had to contact the neighbors. The next-door neighbors weren't home, so I called and left them a message to keep their kids inside. I called the neighbor in the back, and he got his grandsons in his house. Our other neighbor drove up, and my husband explained the situation. We went to leave for the baseball game, and the raccoon was lying in the middle of the road in front of the park. I told some mothers with small children about it. Then I left for the game. I looked, and I saw Mr. Raccoon heading through my back yard into another neighbor's yard, and then he was gone.

For a split second, I thought about trying to run it over with my van. With my luck, no city workers would come to clean up what would surely be a horrible mess, and I really didn't know if I could kill this poor creature - rabid or not.

The raccoon was the topic of conversation at the ball game that night. The next day, the neighbor in back called and explained how the police had finally come by and shot it twice. Goodnight Mr. Raccoon. My neighbors had received my phone messages about the rabid raccoon and confessed to me that they thought I must have been drinking. Funny stuff.

I feel that I brought this excitement on myself. I believe that you find what you are looking for in the universe. Just that morning, I had been wandering around the grocery store, in the meat department, listening to The Commodores over the store's music system. And suddenly, I felt so blue. It seems like I am always wandering around the grocery store listening to a Commodores song. Aimless and blue. So, I wished for some excitement. Stupid me.

And just as the saying goes, "There's an app for that". There is a Beatles' song for this situation. I'll leave you now with the song "Rocky Raccoon" performed by Jack Johnson. Jack Johnson's music is very soothing which must be why I love him so much.

And, Mr. Raccoon, I'm sorry that your last days were so rotten. Rabies doesn't look like fun. At least you don't have to put up with those kids anymore. And wherever you are now, I hope the food is better than Cheetos. Peace.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Monday, June 6, 2011


Summer is almost upon us. There will be no smooth transition this year. I've been sick for the last week with a sore throat, coughing and wheezing. This week is going to be frenzied. Record high heat and humidity. Class field trips. Dance dress rehearsals and recital. And a fifth grade farewell.

My daughter is entering adolescence and is taking us all along with her on that roller coaster ride. Tears one minute and laughing the next. She is quite emotional about leaving her elementary school. She's had the good fortune to attend the same school for the last six years. Leaving is going to be hard for her but also for me.

She was given the assignment of writing a memoir about her years at school. Her memoir was so good, that she (and two other students) were asked to read them on the morning announcements. I've heard from four people about what a wonderful memoir Kate wrote. So, I asked her to read it to me. She wrote about being scared on the first day of Kindergarten and then about all of the wonderful things she has gotten to do and the wonderful teachers that she has had over the years. And then, the last paragraph was a little something about each teacher that she had: how her kindergarten teacher's smile, her first grade teacher's laugh, her second grade teacher's hugs, her third grade teacher's soft voice, her fourth grade teacher's encouragement and her fifth grade teacher's strength would all be things that she would lock away in her heart forever so that they would always be with her wherever she went. Memories are pictures that we take with our heart.

I am so proud of that memoir. I know that this will be an emotional week, and I'm dreading it.

As sorry as I am feeling for myself this week, there is one thing that I think about to give myself some perspective. I remember a ten-year-old boy who lived in our town and had an incurable form of cancer which started to take a turn for the worse in the spring of 2007. I followed his Caring Bridge website and read the journal entries of his parents while they were fighting a courageous battle with cancer. They had pulled him out of school at the beginning of 2007 because of seizures. On the very last day of the 2006-2007 school year, the boy wanted to ride the school bus to school and participate in an awards day. His mother rode with him on the bus that morning and she wrote about it in the journal entry for that day. She wrote about the joy on his face and the energy of all the kids on the last day of school. And she wrote about all the conflicting emotions she had and how she knew that this would be the very last time her son would be riding a school bus. Her son continued saying good bye to all the things he loved in this world - he would watch the farm equipment on his family's farm, and he tried to play baseball with his little brother in the outfield right beside him. All of the normal, everyday things that fill our time and that we sometimes complain about were the things that he loved so much.

This journey that I'm on this week with all the craziness and all the transitions are nothing compared to what that boy's mother has gone through. I often think about that little boy. At the local community park there is a climbing ladder that bears his name and is called the "ladder of hope and courage." I sit at the park and watch the little ones climb all over it, enjoying a normal, ordinary day at that park.

I read that the boy's classmates sang the song "Go the Distance" from the movie Hercules at his funeral. There was farm equipment in his funeral procession. And I've never forgotten that family and the journal that documented the strength they had on their journey.

Instead of being tearful and sad this week, I'm going to try my best to celebrate and enjoy this journey and hold on tight to the pictures in my heart.

"But I won't lose hope till I go the distance and my journey is complete. But to look beyond the glory is the hardest part. For a hero's strength is measured by his heart." Lyrics from "Go the Distance" from the Disney movie "Hercules"

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Drill Sergeant Jill

Last month, I joined a health club. This particular club is a wonderful place that I love. It is a women-only place, small but beautifully painted and clean. I have met so many nice women there. Everyone is friendly and happy and there to seriously work out at our own pace.

I had completed a month on a beginning program of lifting weights, cardio and toning exercises. At this particular club, you are monitored quite often. There are usually two or three trainers on the floor at all times checking your progress and form. At the end of four weeks on a program, your progress is checked, and you are taught a new program for the next month. I arrived bright and early last Thursday to go through my new program. I wasn't aware that my trainer would be Drill Sergeant Jill.

No one really calls her "Drill Sergeant". But she sure does resemble one. Jill is a no-nonsense kind of gal. I have never seen her smile. She is cordial, but she stops just short of pleasant. She will ask you a question, and when you give her the answer, she sets her jaw, narrows her eyes and changes the subject leaving you to believe that the question itself was rhetorical, and she really didn't want you to answer it at all.

So, last Thursday I arrived ready for a new program. I tried my best to follow all instructions, tried to memorize where to put my hands and the proper form for each machine. The program ends with floor work. I made the mistake of complaining about a particular exercise involving a large inflated ball. Jill walked around to stand directly in front of me. Her dark brown eyes looked like little bits of flint were shooting off of them.

"You don't like the exercises on the ball?" she asked.

"Yeah, is there an alternate because I'm going to have a hard time with it." I said and smiled.

"You just bought yourself another exercise on the ball." Jill said matter-of-factly.

There was an awkward minute where I was thinking "Did she really just say that?" She walked around me and started to demonstrate another exercise on the ball that the Flying Wallendas at the height of their career would have had a hard time doing. I started biting the skin on the inside of my lower lip. I thought about the Maya Angelou quote, "The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them."

"Is there a problem?" Jill asked. I shut up and kept my poker face on because I have met my match in this woman. She's tiny but in phenomenal shape, and she could kick my a$$. So, I said nothing more and did the exercises as instructed.

Two days later, I returned to work out and was going through my program. There was a different trainer there who is a very sweet and nice person. It crossed my mind to ask about alternative exercises to the ball, but I decided to stick it out. When I was on my second set of exercises, Jill arrived at the gym. She and the other trainer came over to where I was exercising. Jill asked the other trainer, "So, has she asked for different exercises because these are too hard?" Jill was impressed when the other trainer confirmed that I had not complained at all. Jill laughed because she had left a big post-it note for the other trainer warning her that my program was not to be changed. Guess I showed her that I'm not the princess she thought I was.

Jill was a little nicer to me the last time I was there. She correct my form on a machine. I know she's always watching - even when she isn't there. Toward the end of my workout, I saw her take issue with another woman who was there and was talking on her cell phone as she was exercising. Jill asked the woman, "What motivates you? You need to want to be here." And then Jill took her into the office for what I can only assume was a real "Come to Jesus" meeting about her attitude.

And I thought about those words "what motivates you?" I am surrounded by motivation at that gym. I see women of every shape and size working hard. I see the very fit women that I always envied because they make looking good appear to be effortless. And I see them working out with personal trainers at 6:30 am. Turns out they work hard to look like they do. I see tiny little old ladies who have never lifted a weight in their lives, and they are working hard to get back some flexibility. I see a couple young teen girls who are working to be better at competitive swimming or gymnastics. Each and every woman is an inspiration.

So, this video is for all the ladies. I saw it when I was on the treadmill at the gym, and it inspired me to run faster - who wouldn't want to run toward the guys from Duran Duran? They still look and sound great after all these years. Enjoy.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Let it Be

When I find myself in times of trouble, the Beatles come to me. Speaking words of wisdom - "Let it be."

What a horrible few weeks it has been. Such hatred in Wisconsin right now. Hatred in the comments made on online news articles. Hatred on the television. Hatred in the streets of my city.

And now the images from Japan. My heart feels like lead.

This morning, I volunteered as a reading tutor at my kids' school. My two little students are making such wonderful progress. They are so smart. My first little girl wanted to help me make the word flash cards, so I let her. She told me she wanted to be a teacher one day. My second little girl was talking about how she got a puppy over spring break. I asked her if she wanted to be a veterinarian when she grows up, and she smiled and tipped her head to the side and said, "I want to be a teacher . . . or a helper, just like you." I smiled and got her busy reading aloud to me, and then I put my hand to my face so she couldn't see me crying silent tears.

God bless these little ones on their way. How could I ever keep hatred in my heart when I look at their hopeful faces.

"And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me. Shine until tomorrow. Let it be."

Friday, March 11, 2011


This is a good day to say a prayer if that is something your tradition and beliefs deem suitable.

Monday, March 7, 2011

They Shoot Fat Women, Don't They?

I've become fat. I never used to be fat, but even when I wasn't fat, I thought I was fat, so I never enjoyed being thin. This struggle goes back as far as I can remember - probably first grade or so. I was in fifth grade when my teacher asked me to deliver something to a teacher in the upper grade hallway. I was a bit chunky in those days, and I wore smock tops which were a staple in the '70s. An obnoxious boy a few years older got in my face and said, "What are you doing here fatty?" I pretended that I didn't see him and went back to my classroom. I sat at my desk trying to concentrate on my phonics assignment and trying to hold back hot, stinging tears.

That summer, I went on an 800 calorie a day diet using these little calorie counters that were sold in the supermarket check out lanes. I lost 15 pounds that summer. A little weight crept back on the next two years, and then I lost another 10 pounds the summer between seventh and eighth grade. I was neither fat nor thin during my high school years. I do remember buying diet pills and using them to keep from getting hungry in high school.

Being thin was always a struggle for me. I weighed myself every day. I would join health clubs from time to time and get in shape. I would join weight loss programs and lose quite a bit of weight. After I got married and moved away from my friends and a job I loved, I started to put on a bit of weight. Two pregnancies, an underactive thyroid and a miserable job later, I found myself overweight.

It is amazing how I can live in total denial. I do not have a full-length mirror in this house. I did not weigh myself in over three years. A few years ago, my daughter had a little friend whose father was very rude to me. He would shoot me dirty looks and be very curt despite my attempt at friendly conversation. Kate picked up on it, and I just offhandedly mentioned that I thought he probably didn't like me very much. She asked if that bothered me, and I said no because I thought he was just a person who wasn't very happy. About a month later, Kate stayed over at that friend's house, and when she came home, she said, "Mom, Anna's father said something very nice about you. And YOU thought he didn't like you." I asked what he had said, and she said, "He said you look like you had been very pretty at one time." I almost fell over. It didn't surprise me. I let on to Kate like it was a compliment because, well, from this guy it was probably the closest thing to a compliment that I was ever going to get. Kate never stayed at their house again. I ignore him when I see him which isn't often thank goodness.

A couple of weeks ago, my hair stylist asked to cut my hair shorter because, "It will make you look so much younger." I got home and asked my husband how he liked it and that my stylist said it made me look younger. He looked at me and said, "Well, it's a good cut, but I wouldn't say it makes you look younger." The final straw was when I found my second grade school photo and showed it to a friend. My friend mentioned how much Kate and I look alike. Kate, bless her, said, "I don't want to look like you." I know she didn't mean it the way it sounded. She apologized, and, of course, I would never hold anything against my ten-year-old daughter like that. But, it spurred something inside me.

So, last week, I joined a wonderful women-only health club. I am lifting weights, doing lots of cardio, and I feel fantastic. I've lost four pounds in the first week. And I'm not really trying, just exercising and eating healthier.

And I would like to take this opportunity to tell the boy from grade school, the manufacturers of diet pills, and my daughter's friend's a**hole father to kiss my fat a**.

This little fat girl has a big fat attitude. And I'm pretty freaking perfect just the way I am. And I'm getting better every day.

Check it out - I'm thinner than the apple! Yea me!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

We Are Wisconsin

I am at Ground Zero here in Wisconsin. Billions of dollars were given to corporations, and now my children's education is on the line. Watch carefully. It could happen where you live.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Healing Power of Knitting

I'm back after five days of having a broken keyboard. One of my darling children spilled something on it, and I was unable to space, use parentheses or the letter "p". Needless to say, my emails during that five days read like haikus since I had to put a period between each word because I couldn't space. Strange days indeed.

I ran across this video by American Idol runner-up Crystal Bowersox. I have always been a fan of hers, and now that I saw her video for "Farmer's Daughter", well, she is a woman after my own heart. I had no idea she was a knitter.

The video is very emotional. It is heartbreaking how she "unravels" herself from her mother throughout the song. But the ending is beautiful. She has knit together her own life as a very caring mother.

Knitting definitely is a form of meditation for me. If you've never tried it, you should.

Enjoy the video.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Linky Loos

This is the funniest thing I've read in a long time.

And this must've been written about me.

Keep warm wherever you are!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Fine Art of Aging Gracefully and Attracting Psychos

Today I made that trip we all dread every eight years. I renewed my driver's license and had my photo taken. I remember this day eight years ago. I had a two-month-old baby boy and my daughter was two. Don't ask me how, but on that day eight years ago, I took the hottest photo I've ever taken in my entire life. For eight years I've enjoyed having that photo on my driver's license. I once showed it to a guy for ID when I got some take-out from a Chinese restaurant in the Minneapolis skyway for lunch. The young guy looked at the photo then looked at me, then looked at the photo and back at me. Finally, he said, "This isn't you." I assured him that it was me. He looked at the photo again and said, "Wow, this is a really hot picture of you." By that time, I was getting rather annoyed at him, and I asked him if he would like to take the photo in the back room of the restaurant for say, five or ten minutes. He had no clue what I was alluding to. I have a very vicious sense of humor when I'm angry.

So, today I took about an hour doing my hair and makeup, getting everything "just so" and hoping in vain that lighting would strike twice and I'd manage to take another great photo. I drove out to the DMV and noticed by the signage that it now shared space with the Department of Corrections Probation and Parole Offices. People were herded like cattle inside. I couldn't tell where I should be for a license renewal, so I went to a counter and took my documents out of my purse and looked around for some clue as to where I should be. Finally, I went to the end of a long line of people and tried to figure out what was going on.

I had been in line less than a minute when the guy in front of me turned around and said, "You look lost." He was exceptionally good looking. I smiled and said, "Well, that's the look I was going for." He smiled back and we moved forward in line. He turned around again. I looked down at the paperwork in my hand. We moved forward in line. He turned around. I looked up and noticed him staring at my chest. He caught me looking right at him, grinned and turned forward again. This guy was starting to give me a very creepy feeling. Uggghhhh . . . all the driver's license facilities in the state of Wisconsin, and I get this one at this particular time with this guy.

Then he was at the head of the line and went to the counter. He was explaining something about needing to get a Wisconsin driver's license, but he had no ID. They were doing a search for his social security number, and they had him waiting at the counter. I went to the counter next and explained why I was there. The woman congratulated me on being the first person all day to have all their paperwork completed correctly. I smiled and mentioned that I have to get on my kids all the time to have their stuff in order, and how I'm a stickler for being prepared. She told me to stand for the photo. There was no mirror. There was no time to take off my winter coat. She must've seen me tense up because she kept saying, "I'm going to take the photo on the count of three." I smiled. Click. She told me to wait until my number was called. I asked her what number - and she motioned to the piece of paper in my hand that she had given to me a minute earlier. I was having a senior moment.

I sat down in a row of chairs against the wall across from an elderly couple. I was looking around taking in all that was going on in that DMV office - driver's ed written tests, parents there with their 16-year-olds for their "behind the wheel" test, people with paperwork and people looking as lost as I had been when I walked in. As I was observing everything going on, I hear this voice say, "How many?" I turned to my right, and in the chair right next to me was the creepy guy from the line. "Excuse me? How many what?" I said. "How many kids do you have?" I just stared at him. "I heard you at the counter talking about your kids." Just at that time, the elderly lady across from me said, "Excuse me, dear, do you have a mirror?" I dug my compact mirror out of my purse and gave it to her. And then they called the creepy guy up to the counter. The lady handed my mirror back and asked, "Do you know him?" I whispered, "No" and she pressed her lips together in a straight line and gave me a concerned look. It wasn't my imagination, the guy was officially creepy.

I was called to the counter next to take the vision test (I was admonished for having my hair in my face - flashback to grade school). The woman looked at me and asked, "Is everything in the description accurate . . . enough?" I imagine she was looking at me and the weight I refused to change to accurate reflect what I currently weigh. I was told to take a seat again. And I got to keep the old driver's license with the hot photo on it. Sweet.

As I sat down, I saw two men come in and start to talk to the creepy guy at the counter. Something was wrong with his documentation or lack thereof. Another minute of waiting, and they called me back to get the license and proof it for any mistakes. I took out my pink leopard print reading glasses and made sure everything was accurate.

And that was when I saw it. The photo. Somehow, it was an older woman that stared back at me from the photo. Her hair and makeup looked good, but you could see crow's feet around her eyes. Her face is a little heavier, but she has a familiar smile. I stared at the photo for a minute. No one will be telling me that this is a hot photo. I sighed. I've taken worse. Overall I'm pleased with it.

I put the license in my wallet and my reading glasses in my purse and walked out to my van. There is a Michael Buble CD in the stereo that used to play mainly Van Halen. I sighed again and drove off. I hope I don't have to go back there for another eight years. At that time, I'll have an 18-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old son. I wonder what the photo will look like then.

Here's a clip about driver's license photos from Ellen Degeneres's old sitcom. It is hilarious. I once took a Sam's Club photo that was so bad, when I showed it to a cashier, she looked at me then got a confused look on her face and said, "You don't have a gap in your teeth, but it looks like you do in this photo!" So, I can relate to Ellen in this clip. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

America's Team

Growing up in the heart of Wisconsin, it is a given that I am a Green Bay Packer fan through and through. I bleed green and gold. I have seen Lambeau Field and the Packer Hall of Fame. I've had my photo taken with a cheesy (pardon the pun) cardboard cut-out of Brett Favre (that was awhile ago). I've walked through the same tunnel as the players. I've crossed over the hallowed bits of concrete from the old tunnel where Vince Lombardi and his Packers walked. I've seen Ray Nitschke's helmet and Vince Lombardi's bronzed baby shoes. I've seen their three Super Bowl trophies. I've teared up only once - at Reggie White's Packer Hall of Fame display - I love the Minister of Defense. But this video put tears in my eyes. The music is from the movie "The Last of the Mohicans" and it is beautiful.

Beyond their history, there are many reasons that I love the Green Bay Packers. They are owned by their fans - the true America's Team. They share their touchdowns with their fans when they do the Lambeau Leap. And every summer when they have a practice, they greet kids outside the stadium and ride their bikes to the practice field with the kids running alongside them carrying their helmets. It is tradition.

I admire these athletes. So much hard work goes into being a professional football player. I've watched them practice, and they make a sound like Clydesdales going down the field. It gives me goosebumps to watch them.

If you're not from here, it might be hard to understand why Packers fans love their team so much. Maybe this video with its outstanding photography that gives such clear insight into the strength and beauty of this team can explain it better than I can. Enjoy.

Go Packers!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Zuzu's Petals

My Dad left us 22 years ago today.

Looking back, the one thing I know for sure is that for 24 years I had the incredible gift of, quite simply, the most wonderful father ever.

I must confess that I have written and rewritten this blog post half a dozen times over the last few days. There are so many things I want the world to know about my father.

I wrote and rewrote stories from my past. Tales of memories that I have of him that I think of as "standout moments" in time. Moments when my father's true character came shining through bright as the sun. Simple, everyday minutes that carried important messages. Stories of times when it was apparent that my father had lived a hard life when he was young. Things that I know of his brave military service in World War II. Stories of my father's generous soul. How my father took every opportunity to help others. If the Lord loves a cheerful giver, then he loved my father very much.

I typed each story out and then deleted them. There were just too many.

I think the times I miss most are the ordinary moments we spent together. Watching cartoons and laughing. Taking his pickup truck to the local dump and singing along to a Marty Robins eight-track tape all the way there and all the way back. Picking out gifts for my mother. For any occasion, he always bought her the largest Hallmark card he could find. I guess the larger the card was, the more love it could hold.

My father was a common man. He never amassed great wealth. He was not famous. He had a hard childhood with an abusive father. He fought in a war and saw terrible things. He was human and imperfect. But he was a man of steadfast faith. A man who did everything that was asked of him if it was possible. A man who worked hard and chose to live in a positive way. A man who taught me to help others and to do everything the very best way that I could.

I still have gifts that my father gave me - a Hummel music box, a tiny pin that is shaped like a fighting lion, among other things. They are my "Zuzu's petals". They hold memories of a different time - my former life when my father was alive. For me, these things are symbols of what is really important in life - what really matters. My father's success was not in accomplishing great things, but in the people whom he impacted. Loving and cherishing the little things are what mattered. And his success was simply that he impacted others for good.

His memory is with me always. And on this day and every day of every year to come, I will miss the man whose laugh I can still hear and who never leaves my heart.

"Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?" Clarence the angel to George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life".