Thursday, July 28, 2005


I can’t write anything today. I’m about to head into day three of a three-day work meeting (the kind that happens in a big 'ole hotel meeting room), and there’s nothing in my head but bullet points and three-letter abbreviations.

Because the OAC and the COAC have all convened to discuss how to best allocate the NAF toward the most impactful TRPs and LRM (including CMN) in each of the DAAs, to try and maximize our ROI and thereby continue increasing SRS in Q3 and Q4, with the help of the FMMs, the RCs and the ROs in each area.

I’m trapped in a PowerPoint nightmare, and I can’t understand a thing anyone is saying.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Foods that Nature Never Intended

I found something interesting in my refrigerator last night. It appeared to be a partially-eaten blueberry bagel, which had been sliced through the middle and spread with… something.

I said to Demigoddess the Younger, “Is this a blueberry bagel with chocolate frosting?”

“Yeah,” she said.

“Why? Why would you think that would taste good?”

“Um, there’s cream cheese on it, too.”


“Yeah. It was pretty disgusting.”

“I can imagine that it was.”

The obvious next question was why, once she had established that a blueberry bagel with chocolate frosting and cream cheese is, in fact, disgusting, why had she bothered to put the uneaten half into a Ziploc bag, and then into the refrigerator? Was she thinking she’d give it another try later? Was she thinking that maybe someone else would want to eat it?

Logic in the mind of an 11-year-old is a strange and mysterious thing.

And speaking of strange and mysterious things, her bagel sandwich was not the only surprise I found in my fridge last night. The second one had been deposited there by my Ho, who came over for dinner and had generously brought along a few contributions for the evening meal.

You know those doughnut-shaped plastic containers that they sell in the deli section of the grocery store, the ones that contain that rainbow-colored Jell-O fluff stuff?

Yup. In my fridge.

At first I thought it must be a joke. Only, what if it wasn’t? A million wise cracks about nuclear waste and trailer parks were fighting for position on the tip of my tongue, but what if this stuff is one of his favorite foods? To make fun of a person's favorite food would be mean. But… can I really date a man who could love… rainbow parfait?

“What is that?” Demigoddess the Elder asked as I put it on the table.

“It’s… some kind of Jell-O stuff.”

“Is it good?”

"I don’t know. I’ve never actually eaten it before.”

I’ve seen it before, of course. It’s hard to miss, what with being all rainbow colored and everything. I’ve seen it there in the refrigerated deli case and thought to myself, “Ugh. Who buys that stuff?”

It’s the same thought I have when I see Hamburger Helper and purple ketchup and that Kool-Aid that is supposed to taste cold when it isn’t (tingly!).

Well, I now know who buys the fluff, anyway. My Ho does.

As it turns out, the red part is not so bad. I draw the line at the green, though. I’m not going there. Not even for love.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

But No Scurvy

Apparently the gauntlet has been thrown down. My Ho has taken issue with my recent assertion that I would have won our Trivioke challenge if not for the distractions of Demigoddess the Younger. That question will apparently remain unanswered until our next visit to Buffalo Wild Wings.

Easier to disprove is his claim that he, too, knows all about the Little House on the Prairie TV show.

“Walnut Grove…” he said, as if knowing the name of the town on the show proves anything. Then he added, “Scurvy.”

Oh, no, smart guy. There was no scurvy on Little House.

There were: broken ribs, rabies, a tragic typhus outbreak, lots of alcoholism, frostbite, scarlet fever, appendicitis, a mysterious ailment called “mountain fever,” anthrax, leukemia, several cases of morphine addiction, smallpox, an unnamed blood disease, stroke, influenza, a variety injuries caused by falling off of or being kicked by horses, illiteracy, racism, rape, greed, deadly fires, blindness, one incident of falling in a well (Carrie), and a whole episode’s worth of bizarre and undiagnosed schizophrenic hallucinations (also Carrie: “A-lysssss-aaaaah!”)…


Look it up.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Things are Good and It's Freaking Me Out

I just made a reservation to board my dog because I am taking a trip.

A real trip.

A trip that requires taking an airplane to a city I’ve never visited before and staying in a hotel for five days (five days!).

Airplane rides and corresponding hotel stays have happened only four times previously in my entire life, and the last time was five years ago. That time I went east. This time I am going west.

As of right now, the farthest west I have ever been is Waconia, Minnesota, and since I live in Minneapolis, that is not really very far west at all. But in two weeks my Ho and I will be taking a trip to Seattle, and THAT is about as far west as a person can go and still be in the country.

My fabulous cousin Tiffany (the eldest of my sister-cousins) lives in Seattle, and we will be seeing her while we are there. Tiffany happens to have a friend who works for the Seattle Mariners, who happen to be hosting my kinda stinky but nonetheless beloved Minnesota Twins in a three-game series at the VERY SAME TIME that we will be there. What an amazing coincidence.

Mmmmmm. Outdoor baseball.

Now Tiff will be able to stop complaining that no one in the family ever comes to visit her.

While I am touring the space needle and smiling at the harbor seals on Puget sound, the Demigoddesses will be at sleep-away camp, thanks to their grandma (the one who is not my mother, and who is much, MUCH nicer than her son). She not only volunteered to pay for the Demis to go to camp, where they will have such a wonderful time swimming and riding horses that they won't even notice that I am on the other side of the continent, but she also will be handling the two-hour round trip that will deliver my children to said camp. She is an exceptionally kind ex-mother-in-law.

Even knowing all of this good stuff, however, up until Saturday afternoon, I was having some anxiety because money is still a little bit tight. The agreement that my ex and I recently came to has not been signed and filed yet, so I was not counting on anything from him until everything was officially in place. And even though there are frequent flyer miles being used, and my Ho appears to have magical powers when it comes to finding bargain travel arrangements, I was worried about fitting such a flagrant extravagance into my budget. But when I came home from my shift at Old Navy on Saturday, there was a check from the ex in my mailbox. I had to read it three times to comprehend what I was seeing.

I went directly to the bank and deposited that check. Then I went to Costco and bought new glasses for Demigoddess the Elder, who has been wearing broken frames for over a year. After that, we went to my Ho’s house to watch the baseball game, during which I told him about the check, and about the glasses, and while I was telling him that now, not only will I be able to take our Seattle trip without guilt, but I will also be able to give Demigoddess the Younger a nice birthday next month, out of NOWHERE I broke down and started to bawl.

Sometimes the relief just sneaks up on you like that.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Two Fer

Last night my Ho and his Youngster invited the Demigoddesses and me to meet them at a sports bar/restaurant for dinner, where I discovered these delightful little morsels known as “Buffalo Wings.” Oh, my delectable boneless honey barbecue lovelies, why-oh-why did I not find you sooner?

I realize I’m way behind the curve on this one, but I’ve never been much of hanger-outer in sports bars. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Luckily for my scale, I had gone for a run earlier (and yes, it went much better this time), so, while there is some residual food guilt, it is minor. And BTW, whoever it was who said that exercise makes you less hungry was a damn liar.

In addition to having dinner, we were there to watch the Twins game, but it seemed that every time I glanced at the giant screen my beloveds were another three—no, six—runs behind Detroit (Detroit! Holy Mary blessed mother of all sucky-ass baseball, have mercy on our poor Twins fan souls), and I instead turned my attention to the second of the evening’s happy discoveries—a little thing called Trivioke, which is an insidious on-screen electronic trivia game.

It is unfortunately true that this Goddess does, on occasion, get the teensiest, tiniest bit competitive. And although my Ho insists that he finds it quite attractive, most days I try not to inflict this particular aspect of my personality on people I actually like and would prefer not to inflict psychological damage upon. Which is why I will no longer play Monopoly with the Demigoddess, and try to limit myself to computer games. The computer does not end up with damaged self-esteem when I completely crush its feeble pixels and then laugh—HA HA HA!

But people, they sometimes do, and then I feel remorse, and that just sucks all the fun out of gloating over a glorious victory.

I should have known better, but I was still a little giddy over my culinary discovery (all that spicy honey barbecue had gone straight to my head). And then there were these cunning little keypad controllers that the players were using to electronically enter their answers as the trivia questions appeared on screen. And the scores were on screen, too, for everyone to see. And the song that Dr. Bricker on the Love Boat played in his cabin when he had a woman in there was TOTALLY Bolero! Somebody! Get me one of those buttony things!!

My Ho and the Youngster each had their own controller. The Demis and I were a team. Each of us won at least one round, while the Youngster ended up winning the overall game. But that was only because I missed a few questions while I was distracted by yelling at Demigoddess the Younger for touching me and/or the controller while I was TRYING TO PLAY THE GAME!!

I decided that the fun is really over when one begins snapping at the children. So in the end, I turned the controller over to her.

If not for that, I SO would have won.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Crayola Bombs

"Maybe we should develop a Crayola bomb as our next secret weapon. A happiness weapon. A beauty bomb. And every time a crisis developed, we would launch one. It would explode high in the air - explode softly - and send thousands, millions, of little parachutes into the air. Floating down to earth - boxes of Crayolas. And we wouldn't go cheap, either - not little boxes of eight. Boxes of sixty-four, with the sharpener built right in. With silver and gold and copper, magenta and peach and lime, amber and umber and all the rest. And people would smile and get a little funny look on their faces and cover the world with imagination."
~Robert Fulghum

Here are some of my Crayola Bombs, in the form of bears for the Mother Bear Project:

Do something nice for somebody this weekend. Do something kind for somebody you don't know, who doesn't know you. It doesn't have to be a big thing. Just do something.

"One little person, giving all of her time to peace, makes news. Many people, giving some of their time, can make history."
~Peace Pilgrim

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Sweat and Loathing in the Suburbs

I was feeling a little bit cocky after Monday’s run. The air temperature on that day had cooled to about 78 degrees, and after two off days (because last weekend I worked both days at Old Navy, which so counts as a cardio workout), on Monday my run had gone well and I felt strong. When I left the house last night, I thought I might even be able to up my distance a little.

Well, the temperature and the humidity were both back up there yesterday. At first it wasn’t bad, because there was a breeze, and my delusions held me aloft for a little while. Before long, though, it started to feel like I was running through pea soup. Halfway through, I was soaked head to foot and having trouble seeing because the salt was stinging my eyes. The air was too heavy to breathe. My run had become a war, and I was losing.

While I waited at an intersection to cross the street, a woman and her daughter on bikes paused to ask if the trail we were on would cross the highway soon. I said there was a bridge just up ahead. As the two of them took off on their bikes again, the woman turned around to ask me over her shoulder, “Are you drinking plenty of water?” I showed her my water bottle to prove that I wasn’t really about to collapse in a sweaty heap. It only looked that way.

I tried to continue running, but by then it was all over. I hated this soggy bulk of a body. I could not shake the infuriating weight of the ground off my feet. It wouldn’t let me go, and I hated it, too.

Toward the end of my “run,” which had turned into more of a “swamped plodding,” a tiny brown bird was hopping along the sidewalk in front of me. I wanted its weightless little body. Or, at the very least, I wanted to crush its weightless little body under my leaden foot.

Of course, actually pulling that off would have required a measure of quickness on my part, and at that point, the swamped plodding was the best I was going to muster.

Maybe one of the neighborhood cats will get the little mocking bastard.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Reason #931 That There Will Be Lots of Expensive Therapy

4:27 a.m.
My Bed

Me: Hey.

Demigoddess The Younger: What?

Me: Why are you in my bed and why are you kicking me?

DGY: The dog. She’s too wiggly.

Me: Well then put her in her kennel and let me sleep. Jee-zus.




Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Close Encounters of the Ex Kind

The heat around these parts has been as relentlessly oppressive as the Twins’ prolonged period of suckage. Sunday started out stiflingly hot once again, but by dinnertime the sky had clouded over and a light rain was sprinkling as my Ho and I sat outside on the deck behind his house, cooking brats on the grill and talking about relationships and money and other grown-up stuff.

Last Friday was a momentous day for my Ho, as he and his ex signed their final divorce papers that day. His moniker for her has officially changed from “The Soon-to-Be” to “Ex-ina.” (I think I have heard him use her actual name a total of twice.)

For those of you who are a little slow on the uptake, yes, technically my Ho and I started dating before he was 100% divorced. Believe me, I have experienced a great deal of psychic distress over that fact. By the time he and I met, I had seen so many men dive into astonishingly inappropriate relationships on the heels of their marriages breaking up (my own ex enthusiastically included), and I had been so very outspoken on the subject of “those women”--the ones the men in question had hooked up with--that the thought of becoming one of “those women” myself was intolerable to me. This guy was a walking red flag and I totally wasn’t going there.

…Except that he came highly recommended by a friend whose opinion I trust a great deal, and there was clearly no chance for reconciliation in his marriage, and then there was that whole Google thing. Apparently I needed a little more proof that God has a sense of humor, and really enjoys having the last laugh.

So, in spite of my better judgment, I went ahead and got emotionally involved. And, although I would still advise any friend against making the same choice, I have not been sorry.

Not that I haven’t had my sketchy moments. Most recently, I freaked out after finding a bottle of Nair in my Ho’s bathroom. For some reason, I could forgive the lavender-scented aromatherapy spray that had been in a basket on the back of the toilet since my first visit to his house, but that Nair bottle inexplicably sent me over the edge. I let loose with a rant about how it was totally appropriate that he still have things around the house that were hers, since he was, legally, still married, and that I knew I was going to have to find a way to deal with these items since that is part of the package when one makes the choice to date an almost-but-not-quite-divorced man, but that I was really having a hard time at that particular moment. Then I went home. On my next visit, the Nair and the aromatherapy spray had both disappeared.

My Ho is happy that it’s finally over, but, aside from the cake (“Divorce Torte.” Hyuk. Hyuk.), we haven’t been overly celebratory. Divorce is a painful process. The end of a marriage is a sad thing, even if it truly is better for all involved. So our conversation on the deck on Sunday evening was hopeful but subdued.

I was aware that “Ex-ina” would be bringing their son by to drop off something, but I assumed they’d come to the front of the house. I was tending the grill when her car pulled into the driveway behind me, and for a moment, I froze.

There I was, barbecuing on the deck of this woman’s house with this woman’s husband on a Sunday evening like I was some kind of Harriet to his Ozzie, and what the hell right did I have? I was overwhelmed by an urge to run into the house and hide.

Then I remembered that the papers have been signed and filed, ten months to the day after she made it clear exactly how she felt about both the house and the marriage by packing up and moving out.

I also remembered that I know a thing or two about how it feels the first time you come face-to-face with the fact that the person you used to be married to is happily in love with someone who isn’t you.

And I remembered that I have learned a great deal about how not to behave, thanks to the universally hated Step-Psycho.

That’s when I knew I could be cordial. I could be respectful. I could look her in the eyes and say hi. So, I turned around.

Thankfully, she never got out of the car. And the driveway is far enough away from the house that I couldn’t even see her face behind the windshield.

I hate how much she hurt my Ho, and she and I will never be friends. But at the same time, I’m sort of grateful to her, too. The consensus among those who knew them as a couple appears to be that he is better off without her. And, aside from the occasional Nair-induced breakdown, I think it’s working out pretty well for me, too. So I’ll take a raincheck on the cordial thing. Maybe next time she’ll be ready to get out of the car.

Monday, July 18, 2005

People are SO Interesting

And the world of blogging has taken voyerism to a whole new dimension.

I find THIS fascinating.

Fair Warning for the Boy Toys

It’s not that you guys aren’t super cute and everything. I mean, I appreciate a little eye candy as much as the next Goddess. And I’m sure your Lexus and BMW and Acura and Cadillac would do wonders for my house’s curb appeal, if not for the beer cans and cigarette butts and golf balls that keep finding their way into my yard. But the thing is, I really did not move to the suburbs so that I could live next door to a frat house.

Your midnight barbecues sound like heaps of fun, and as entertaining as it is to watch your little girlfriends skank out of the house in the mornings, here’s a little heads up for y’all: If you wake me up at 3:00 a.m. again, I am going to turn your deck into a flaming inferno.

Oh, and I’ll be very careful to make it look like an alcohol-related barbecue accident, which means you totally won’t get your damage deposit back, so why don’t you go ahead and save me a match and some lighter fluid and CUT IT THE F*CK OUT, ‘kay?


Thursday, July 14, 2005

Baby's Got A New Pair of Shoes

My Ho and the Demis helped me pick these out last night. I don't love the color, but they were by far the most comfortable, and they didn't have my size in blue. So, I guess I'll just pretend I'm Blossom from the PowerPuff Girls.

This purchase happened after I went for my first run in over a year. Yeah, it sucked. I went in my old shoes, and it was 90 degrees outside, and by the time I got back, I was pretty sure I was gonna whoopsie. But I didn't.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Like Lambs to the Slaughter

The Demis are both at the junior high this morning. Demigoddess the Younger, who will be entering 7th grade this fall, is having orientation, and Demigoddess the Elder, having attended the junior high last year, will be a sort of student helper, introducing the younger kids to the school, showing them how to open their lockers, where to buy the good pot, how to sneak firearms past the metal detectors, etc.

Demigoddess the Elder’s entry into junior high last fall was a milestone that was much more traumatic for me than it was for her. I think this was mainly because I, having been to junior high, knew what she was in for. She, on the other hand, being tender and innocent, couldn’t possibly imagine the hell that is seventh grade, even without Dipity-Doo, Smurfs, and an album of the year that includes Toto’s timeless hit, “Rosanna.”

Early in the school year last year, in a naive attempt to be a "good parent," I volunteered to help chaperone an event at the junior high. The event was for kids who had sold a certain number of fund-raising magazine subscriptions, and their reward was to be a limousine ride/pizza lunch. Demigoddess the Elder had sold the required number of magazine subscriptions, and I thought it would be fun to go with her. Plus, since I am still bitter that my high school boyfriend made me ride to prom in his mom’s brown Civic hatchback, I figured this was my chance to finally ride in style. Silly, silly me.

Eight or nine limos, of various makes and colors, were lined up in front of the school at lunchtime. Each held a good fifteen kids and two chaperones. As it happened, the one my daughter and her friends ended up in already had chaperones, so I was assigned to a sparkly purple Hummer limo, in which I was immediately pounced on by a mob of pre-teens who apparently had not eaten solid food in days and were willing to kill me to get at the pizza box I was carrying. Overwhelmed, I let the box go without a fight. I never even saw the actual pizza.

The driver took us on a tour through downtown Minneapolis, and then around the lakes, and other places too, but everything sort went black after a while, so I can't remember exactly. The rear of the vehicle had one small window on each side that opened, and there was sort of an upholstered island thing in between them. The majority of the kids—mostly girls wearing tiny clothes, too much makeup, and flip-flops—all piled onto this spot so they could roll down the windows and wave at people and yell at the top of their lungs the lyrics to the hip hop music that seemed to be blaring from every corner of my sparkly purple chariot through hell. These children, they reeked of hormones, and looked like a pile of hyperactive puppies on crack, squirming and screaming and kicking at each other.

A few kids hung back from this hogpile and sat awkwardly in their seats, talking to each other and looking out the windows. This latter group was much more appealing to me, obviously, but they were clearly the minority. From what I can tell, both my kids and most of their friends seem to be of the quieter variety, which, although they probably don't see it as such, I think is a good thing. I remember very clearly being 13 and tormented by the fact that I was not more like those screeching hogpile girls. Although the thought of it now still fills me with pubescent angst, I have learned since then that it’s the quiet kids sitting awkwardly by the windows who will eventually grow up into the most interesting adults.

That night I went home and told Demigoddess the Elder that I had developed an all-new appreciation for the world she lives in every day, and I was very, very sorry. She actually ended up having a great year, full of activities and new friends, and was surprisingly happy for the most part. So, while I’m much less afraid for Demigoddes the Younger than I was for her sister, I don’t believe I’ll be volunteering at the junior high again any time soon. I think I still have some residual brain damage.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

How Can I Keep From Singing?

Two summers ago at this time, my sister Meghan was a few weeks away from getting married. In preparation for the whole bridesmaid thing, at the beginning of the year I had started a get-in-shape routine in earnest. Meghan, who has run the Twin Cities Marathon about six times now, had somehow talked me into signing up to run a half marathon, in spite of the fact that when I registered for the race in March, I literally could not run around the block. But I was committed to doing it, and by July 2003, I could run around Lake Calhoun three times in a row.

I had joined an online diet support group that proved to be the keystone of my new fitness regimen, and as a result had dropped from the plus-size department to the “normal” size women’s department. I was taking writing classes. I wasn’t dating anybody, and I actually kind of liked it that way. My financial situation was beginning to get a little sketchy, but I was optimistic that things would improve soon. I completed the half marathon (verrrrry slowly), and the wedding, it was just beautiful. When I look back on that summer, what I remember most is how great it felt to be outside in the sunshine, running around the lake, seeing the people and the dogs and the sun on the water, feeling strong and amazed that I was actually pulling it off. Who knew?

A year later, everything had changed. The ex had stopped paying child support and had made it clear he wouldn’t be paying any time soon. I gave up the writing classes, and then the online support group when I could no longer afford the dues, or even Internet access, for that matter. My running shoes needed replacing, but the $100 it would cost to buy new ones was absolutely out of the question. So I gave up running, too.

I held on as long as I possibly could, but in the end it came down to a choice between two extremely unattractive options. Either I could sell my house, give away my dogs and move my kids into a rental unit, or I could file chapter 7 bankruptcy. I chose to keep the house, which, a lot of the time, felt like I had chosen to stick my head in a noose and was now standing there waiting for the chair to be kicked out from under me. What I remember about last July is the relentless feeling of desperation that I lived with 24/7. The summer before seemed like a different lifetime. I was on the verge of total surrender. A half-step from hopeless.

So in September I bit the bullet and started working at Old Navy. In October I changed positions at my full-time job to one with much more opportunity, if not more money. By Christmas, my Ho and I had become surprisingly tight, and when he and I toasted the new year, I was not unhappy to kiss 2004 on the ass on its way out. The Demigoddesses had proved to be much more self-sufficient than I had given them credit for. I had a lawyer and a court date, and I had learned a few things about getting by.

When spring arrived, I was working both jobs and shuttling the Demigoddesses to and from wherever their various activities required them to be. My ex had moved away with his new wife, so my girls were seeing their dad only sporadically (and when they did, they frequently came home upset and crying, but don't get me started). Breaks for me were few and far between, and although I still had to be very careful about money, overall, things had come a hell of a long way toward better. I could have afforded to buy a new pair of running shoes, and thought about it. But there was simply no time. My days were fuller than full, and anyway, my left foot had been giving me some painful trouble.

By the time I wrote this post, I didn’t really even need the child support any more. Relations with my ex had changed from desperation to a matter of principle. My kids are entitled to support from their father—financial and emotional. The unfortunate awareness that I can’t do a thing about his deficits in the emotional department had made me that much more dedicated to making damn sure that the financial piece, at least, would happen. Which is why I declined the “deal” he came up with after I wrote that post. He was fairly annoyed about that. He balked at the counter-offer I proposed. And then, just when I thought we were finally headed for court once and for all, yesterday afternoon we reached a compromise. The papers are being drawn up right this minute.

Rather than feeling relieved, though, I spent most of last evening feeling anxious. Had I done the best I could do? Were my kids really getting everything they were entitled to? Should I have fought harder and held out longer? Even the happy thought of submitting my two-week notice at Old Navy didn’t help, and I went to bed feeling unsure.

But last night, I dreamed I was running. I woke up this morning feeling at peace. And now it appears that the problems I was having with my foot are gone. I think it’s really over.

No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that rock I'm clinging...
Since love is lord of heaven and Earth,
How can I keep from singing?

I think I'm going shoe shopping.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Cancer is the New Black

Everyone has a few people in their lives whom they can’t imagine the world without. I am lucky enough to have a lot of them. Obviously, my kids are on the list, as are my parents, my three sisters, and my sister’s baby and, lately, My Ho.

Also on the list are four cousins who are like sisters to me. We grew up together, had sleepovers at each other’s houses, took family vacations together. When one of the four, Shanna, first arrived at college, her new dorm mates played one of those dopey getting to know you games in which each person was to tell the rest of the group two things about themselves that were true, and one thing that was a lie. Everyone was supposed to try and guess which statement was the untruth. Shanna told the group that she had seven sisters, and she gave the names of each of us—her three actual sisters, and my three sisters and me—in such rapid succession that all of her dorm-mates were fooled. Personally, I think she kind of cheated, since it wasn't exactly a LIE, but whatever.

Another person who certainly qualifies is the mother of my four sister-cousins, my aunt Karen. She is probably the most capable woman I know. She can fix just about anything. She gardens like a pro. She can always be counted on for stellar Christmas gifts, and she tirelessly served as my occasionally high-maintenance grandma’s on-call assistant for years. And she did it all on her own terms, without any fanfare.

I have been doing the single parent thing with the Demigoddesses for about four years now, and there have been days when the strain of trying to keep it all together has nearly killed me. Literally. Karen pulled it off for ten years after my uncle passed away, with twice as many children, and if she ever broke a sweat, none of us ever saw it. In fact, Karen has been such a steadfast presence in my life that when she was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, it took a while for me to comprehend the possibility that she could ever be anything other than the fiercely independent, self-sufficient person that she has always been.

She had surgery not too long ago, and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. Throughout this ordeal, she has been incredibly honest about her struggles, both physical and emotional, which, frankly, has surprised me a little bit. But her openness during this crisis has given me an all-new appreciation for the quiet fortitude that I have taken for granted until now.

Last week at the lake, Karen spent most of the trip inside, resting and reading. She has acquired an assortment of attractive bandanas and scarves that she has been wearing over her disappearing hair, and at one point I commented that the one she was wearing that day was especially pretty. She shrugged off the comment, saying that they were just dumb old bandanas, but she can’t bring herself to put on a wig just yet. I suggested that she go natural like Melissa Etheridge at the Grammy Awards show, because, after all, between her and Lance Armstrong, Cancer is almost cool these days.

I don’t think she was sold.

Karen, I don’t care what you see when you look in the mirror lately. You are beautiful and I admire you very much.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

God Bless the USA

The Fourth of July parade in Marenisco, Michigan (population 1,051), is an annual spectacular that consists mostly of classic cars, firetrucks from the volunteer fire department, and the marching band from the high school two towns over (the school in Marenisco--home of the Marenisco Milltowners, not to be confused with the Watersmeet Nimrods, who hail from about 30 miles farther east down Highway 2--closed a couple of years ago).

When I was little, the highlight of this parade, aside from the candy that was flung by the handful from the posterior ends of the firetrucks, was Smokey the Bear, who always stood, steadfast and waving, in the bed of a pickup truck for the length of the four-block parade route. For many years, I was convinced he was waving at me personally. Sadly, Smokey disappeared a while ago, but the candy-flinging continues to this day.

This was my Ho’s first experience with my family’s traditional Fourth of July festivities. He wanted to change his shirt before going to town, but I assured him that, having most of his own teeth and a shirt with actual sleeves, he would already be well ahead of most of the locals in terms of fashion. So he went ahead with the one he had on.

It all played out just as I told him it would. Our caravan of cars parked in the same spot as always. My dad went across the street to Dutch’s bar to purchase a can of Old Style to go, which they sold him with no questions asked, even though it was 10:45 a.m. The remains of the local VFW wobbled past with their wooden guns. Only one child toppled off of her streamered bicycle. We received a theological lesson in the form of a bible verse (Corinthians, I believe) hand-lettered onto glittery posterboard. Candy was flung, flags were waved, and the whole thing was over in about fifteen minutes. Then we all headed to the town hall for lemonade and free ice cream cones. As my grandma used to like to say, "‘twas ever thus."

Grandma also used to steal our free ice cream cones, but that’s another story.

At dusk we returned to town to watch the fireworks. This involves driving our car onto the football field behind what used to be the Marenisco school, parking on the grass with the rest of the town, and then watching a bunch of guys of questionable sobriety fire pyrotechnics into the sky over our heads from the top of a hill about 100 yards away. By some miracle, to my knowledge, no one has ever been killed during this endeavor. Not yet, anyway.

As she has done in the past, my irreverent and oh-so-witty sister Betsy had brought along her Neil Diamond’s Greatest Hits CD especially for the occasion, and as the fireworks began, we set my boombox on top of my car and fired up "They're Coming to America" (Today! Today!). There were moments when it seemed as if the fireworks were choreographed in time with the music. It was... strangely beautiful. And highly amusing, because, as everyone knows, Neil Diamond is ALWAYS funny.

This year, however, there was a new twist. A search through the bowels of my mom’s PT Cruiser had produced a post 9-11 relief CD full of additional patriotic delights, including the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing the Star Spangled Banner, Celine Dion’s interpretation of "God Bless America" (I know, she’s Canadian, but America made her rich, so it’s really quite appropriate if you think about it) and, of course, the scourge of the seventh inning stretch, Lee Greenwood’s anthem for every armchair warrior uber-patriot in middle America, "God Bless the USA." Please pass the tissue.

Cousin Donna, who was clearly confused, came to me said, "Do you REALLY like this song?" I reassured her that, no, I hate that song with every fiber of my being. We were being IRONIC.

But it seems that she wasn’t the only one who didn’t get the joke. When the show was over, several locals stopped by our car and thanked us for the wonderful music.

We didn’t bother trying to explain it to them.

Friday, July 08, 2005


I received this e-mail just now from a cousin who lives just outside of London. I sent her a note this morning to confirm that she and her family are all right, which, thankfully, they are.

“Lovely to hear from you. Yes it is so sad. What a wicked waste of life.

I feel so badly for those with loved ones missing and just not knowing whether they are in hospital or dead.

The atmosphere is very subdued but sadly, even at school there were racial comments made today about arabs that I haven't heard before.

I feel so badly for the muslim community who now feel ill at ease. It's awful but then so are the daily bombings in Iraq.

When will we ever learn?

The area where it all happened is the area where I lived as a student for 1 year so the images were very vivid for me. Russell Square tube station is one of those accessed by an ancient elevator because it is so deep underground and that is where bodies still have to be recovered.

Every now and then I just whell up with emotion.”

Personally, I woke up at 4:00 a.m. our time yesterday morning, which is very unusual for me. I turned on the T.V., thinking I'd find something boring to watch for a little while, and that's when I saw what happened. Needless to say, I didn't ever get back to sleep. There are no words.

The hardest part of all is resisting the powerful temptation to hate them right back.

Please. Please.


Words of Wisdom for Demigoddess The Elder

Yes, honey, I agree that it sucks.

In fact, nothing will make you feel like a deformed freak faster than shopping for bras.

Welcome to womanhood, my love.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Please Step Away From the Poodle

We’re back from our annual Fourth of July trip to the cabin. I’ll share about the actual trip later. At the moment, I’m still traumatized by what happened on the way home yesterday.

The Demigoddesses and I had just finished our traditional halfway-point lunch, and were stopped for gas at a Holiday station outside of Duluth. While I filled the tank for the remainder of the drive home, the Demis were inside the station hunting for Tangy Taffy, and EmmyLou, my much-loved pointer, was in the front passenger seat.

Before I go any further, I must point out that Lou is a very sweet, friendly, affectionate dog. She is wonderful with the Demis, and had just spent five days at the lake playing with my parents’ sheltie without any incident. But Lou loves to run, especially after rabbits and squirrels, and has, on occasion, been known to catch small rodents and… er… liquidate them. She also has a tendency to escape, so to ensure that she stayed put during our road trip, she was wearing her Gentle Leader, which was attached to her extension leash, which I had secured to the car by fastening the passenger-side seatbelt through the handle. And just to be safe, when she was buckled in securely, I even locked the leash's extension function.

By the time we arrived in Duluth and I could pick it up on the radio, the Twins game was in its third inning. The fuel was filling, and as I started cleaning the dead bugs off the windshield, I noticed that I couldn’t hear the play-by-play because I had left the power windows rolled all the way up. Not wanting to re-start the car to lower the windows, I opened the driver’s side door a crack, so I could listen while I squeegeed. For a few minutes, everything was fine. The Twins were ahead by two runs, Santana was on the mound, traffic was light, the weather was good, and we would be home in a couple of hours.

I wish I could view a surveillance video of what happened next, because it all went down so fast that I’m not even sure exactly what happened. I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye, and then a woman was screaming, and I spun around to see my dog, two pumps over, muzzle to the ground, with a bitty, yelping poodle head sticking out one side, and eensy poodle hind legs wiggling out the other side. Of my dog's MOUTH.

Lou was still attached to my car’s seatbelt via the leash, which was apparently not so much locked after all. I dropped the squeegee and yanked the leash as hard as I could with both hands, yelling at the dog at the same time. She immediately backed off, leaving a tiny, wounded mass of grayish poodle flopping around on the pavement.

After an initial bit of yelling, everyone calmed down fairly quickly as we tried to assess the damage. It turned out that the poodle did not even belong to no-longer-screaming lady, she was only taking care of it, and although her remarkably calm male companion insisted that the wet stuff in the poodle’s fur was only drool from Lou’s mouth (or, froth from her rabid maw, whichever you prefer...), I could see that it was, in fact, blood. Not a lot of blood, but definitely some, and the poor little dog was so terrified that it wouldn’t let me or anyone else touch it to see how deep the wounds were. It was all in a rage now, snapping at the man’s hands as he picked it up and tried to calm it down.

A super-helpful bystander came over and said that the poodle was definitely going to need antibiotics. "Because the only thing dirtier than an animal mouth is a human mouth." Thanks for sharing, super-helpful bystander. Now please shut up before I send Cujo after you, too.

No-longer-screaming lady and her man friend were also on their way back to Minneapolis. She talked about trying to find an emergency vet in Duluth, and although I kept quiet, I silently prayed that I wasn’t going to end up stuck with a multiple-hundred-dollar emergency vet bill. She finally decided to wait and bring the poodle home, and then take it to its regular vet. So we exchanged phone numbers and went on our respective ways.

My hands shook on the steering wheel for most of the rest of the drive home. In my mind, I went over and over every event of the day up to that point, considering all the variables that had to be in place for that moment to have happened exactly the way it did. I wished we had left the cabin just a few minutes earlier, or had taken just a few minutes longer to eat lunch. I wished I had left the car door closed, or had double-checked that the extension leash was, in fact, locked. But, like most regrettable events, it’s hard to pinpoint a single moment at which the poodle’s fate was sealed.

Even after we got home and unpacked the car, I couldn’t get out of my head the image of my cheerful, lovable dog crouched on the ground with an entire poodle writhing in her foaming jaws of death. For a few desperate moments, I even tried to come up with ways in which that poodle had somehow earned it--reasons why it wasn’t really my dog’s fault, and, by extension, my fault. But in the end, the best explanation I could come up with was that the little dog, it simply looked a bit too much like a bunny. Or, maybe a squirrel.

I know I should call and find out if the poodle is all right. But at the moment, the thought of it still makes me nauseous. So, for now, we’re going to be purchasing an old-fashioned, non-extension leash very soon. And, in the future, we’ll be steering the foaming jaws of death way clear of tiny dogs who look like rodents.

(And the baseball game went into the crapper shortly after this all happened, too. Naturally.)