Showing posts from December, 2009

Say you want a resolution...

Aries (3/21 – 4/19): Have you ever seen those new hand dryers in the bathroom? You know the old loud kind, where you’d put your hands under there for a while, and then eventually wipe them on your pants? Well the new kind is even louder, but they totally dry your hands, like a carwash. Seriously, beads of water flow uphill, and then just disappear. Find one of those things and try it out.
They’re really cool.

Taurus (4/20 – 5/20): I’m thinking of having a little science fair. Help me think up some experiments. Oh, and back to you: grow your hair, or wear a hat. The most deadly form of melanoma is found on the scalp, and that’s a fact.

Gemini (5/21 – 6/21): Did you read about Carmen Herrera, who suddenly became a famous artist at age 94? Seriously! Don’t give up! You have years and years ahead of you. She’s winning all kinds of awards. This year, just stay focused on your art, every. single. day.

Cancer 6/22 – 7/21: The first part of this year is going to be a little ro…

Each night...

It’s a religious holiday, and I wonder if I’m religious. I don’t seem to have the capacity to believe anything that science can’t prove. I don’t believe that Jesus was the son of god; I don’t believe in god. Maybe I’m wrong about all that, who knows. Maybe I don’t believe because I’ve been incredibly lucky and haven’t had to, so far.

When M. came back from Sierra Leone, she told me that the mothers and fathers believe that for the first few weeks (or was it months?) after birth, a baby is really still the property of god, who may decide to take the baby back at any time. I can imagine how comforting that would be in a land where 15 percent of infants die before their first birthday.

So it’s really not my point to foist my beliefs on you, but rather to share this one: as a Unitarian, at Christmas I celebrate that each night that a child is born is a holy night. That every child is born full of wonder and hope, and changes the world in unimaginably good ways, and if we’re lucky enou…


Yesterday I decided to really start getting ready for Christmas. Generate a few more ideas, settle on a list, and begin shopping. But first, on my way to work, JJ the G called, and I did a little u-turn and met him for coffee at the crack of dawn, which was an excellent way to begin the day, especially when he told me about the part in Julie & Julia where the woman is all excited because she got her first comment on her blog, and it turns out to be from her mother, something like, "Why are you still doing this stupid thing?" That could be me.

At work we had our annual White Trash Christmas lunch at a nearby casino, where I won $28.50 playing blackjack. It must sound like my work is all about these freaky parties with lutefisk and gambling, but there's lots of unmentionable boring parts in between. The origin of WTX: one year, maybe a decade ago, G. & I were doing field work the day before Christmas and saw a man exiting a casino by himself. It seemed really …

chill, Garrison

Garrison Keillor was rather hard on the Unitarians recently, name-calling due to an ever-so-slightly revised version of the hymn, “Silent Night”, which Garrison says, “is more about the silence and night and not so much about God.” Um, right, I can see why you’d get pretty worked up about that! [In the second chorus, rather than sing, “Christ the savior is born”, the Unitarians have re-used the lyrics from the first verse, and sing, “Sleep in heavenly peace”. For some reason, this change provoked a nasty tirade about how Unitarians are arrogant, unlovable people. He says, “If you don't believe Jesus was God, OK, go write your own damn "Silent Night" and leave ours alone. This is spiritual piracy and cultural elitism, and we Christians have stood for it long enough.”

There’s been a ton of response to this already – people agreeing, disagreeing, and making excellent points all around. But all I want to say is sheesh, Garrison, lighten up. Is that really the kind of g…

Coming up...

Aries (3/21 – 4/19): Jupiter is in Aquarius. I know! Need I say more? The implications are pretty clear, but in case you forgot your glasses, be especially kind to your people this week, stay off the internet, eat lots of cookies.

Taurus (4/20 – 5/20): You do have cats. Am I jealous? Maybe just a little. But I have rats in the attic, does that count for anything? I know, and I'm going up there in a few minutes to check on things. Do you know anyone with problems? is super lonely, if you have any advice needs.

Gemini (5/21 – 6/21): It’s so not your fault. Everyone else should just step up a little, don’t you think? If everyone were like you, the world would run a little bit smoother. But there’s this freaky holiday tradition in my little town, a sort of live nativity with actual animals and so on (there’s a dispute amongst us about whether it’s a camel or an alpaca, but at any rate, you get the idea: plastic babies, the last supper, etc.) There’s al…

thumbs neutral

Dear N'3lvra,
Hubby and I will be attending a neighbor's holiday party, folks we may have met once or never, we don't remember.  Astonishingly, we BOTH want to go equally much, AND that "much" is at a sort of neutral, thumbs-horizontal level.  I am at a loss how to explain to myself how this unusual-for-us convergence has come about.  Could it be something to do with the phase of the moon?  Or are we getting onto the same (and apparently apathetic) wavelength after yearzzzzzz of rabid straining in the opposite direction?  Should I read ANYTHING into this?
Anne Awnimis

Dear Annie
(may I call you that?),
Hmm, is agreeing on thumbs-neutral the way you want to go with this thing, after all these years? Order out for some vanilla ice cream? Microwave cream of wheat in the morning? I don’t think so. This strange turn of events is nothing to celebrate.

Khortnee doesn’t have much experience with relationships, but it does seem like rabid straining would be way m…

Reptile Man

So back to the boring thing at the coffee shop. (I know! One of my favorite readers suggested, in the kindest way possible, that I stop writing about being boring, but, well, they always say to write what you know… ) So these two men at the next table, maybe about 50 years old-ish, were talking about their pets.

At first it seemed like an actual conversation, and like they were talking about dogs. But upon closer inspection, it turned out that one person was doing all of the talking, and the other person was doing all the head nodding and all the saying “uh huh”. Which was fine for a while, especially when it seemed like the one guy was talking about a dog. Saying things like, “He was a little shy when I first rescued him, but he got used me. But then the little guy took a good bite out of me, went clear to the bone, ripped the flesh pretty good. [Don’t you hate it when people say pretty good for things that are really not good at all?] He was just teaching me a lesson, I…

Yes, as predicted.

The holiday breakfast went as predicted, with three unexpected twists:
1) no one did the "oh, shoot, I forgot my wallet" thing this year, which was a rather pleasant surprise.

2) one of the great mysteries of the workplace was resolved. The foul odor on our floor comes from the leather pants of a woman who has lots of cats that spray on the pants. When you smell that smell (every day), you know it's bad, but can't name it. But once you hear what it is, stale sweaty leather with old and new cat pee, you're like, Eureka! That's it! So in a strange way, that was a happy thing.

3) One member of our party sat as far as possible from the other participants while still technically being at the same table. If each person's spot at the table were outlined with a placemat-shaped rectangle, her rectangle would not have touched any of the others. I completely did not see that coming, but once it happened, it was like, duh. That was written in the stars, shou…

day 3

Last week, our dysfunctional section at work discussed our holiday party over e-mail, which is way better than discussing anything in person. When you work for the private sector, there might be a holiday dinner hosted by your company that you’d dress up for, and maybe bring your spouse to. What we do at Dot Gov is this: during the work day, we go out to breakfast at a restaurant that rhymes with pennies (think Moons over My Hammy), pay our own way, bicker for an hour, get separate checks (to the annoyance of the server), and have awkward conversation about permits. Someone always forgets their wallet, and someone else always has to leave before the checks arrive.

Depending on who the supervisor d’jour is, we sometimes get a little speech, something like, “Well, you guys didn’t eff up too badly this year, trained monkeys could do your jobs, let’s get back to work”. Then everyone stands around for a few minutes asking each other how to bill the time, and asking if we need to reco…

blog anxiety

I’ve been having blog anxiety lately.  I feel the need to update this frequently, but I don't want it to  be lame or boring, and um, well, let's not explore that too much. Even though the average person spends about 90 seconds on a blog, and it seems like it shouldn't be too hard to not be boring for 90 seconds a day, well, I dunno. I've been trying to stop worrying about it all when this happened: I put up a link to, and the other day got a note from them that they only want to connect with funny blogs.  Fair enough, but ouch. I like to think it’s just not a very funny time of year, which it is definitely not.

In the midst of this, I was in a coffee shop over the weekend with C., and overheard a conversation that at first was interesting, but after a bit, I was struck by how boring it is, reminding me of just how annoyed I get by that, and adding to the blog anxiety.  I do not want to be that person.  I have these people who come in to a cubicle at …

More days of christmas

I guess I like the oddball little fun things that I wasn't expecting best.  On Saturday, I went on a long hike in the woods behind my house, and when I got back to the lake, one of my neighbors was ice skating and his dogs were sliding all over chasing him. It looked so fun, and i must have seemed a little, oh, I don't know what the word is, but at any rate, he skated over and offered to let me use his skates, which were way too big, but still, I got to do a few laps around the lake, and only fell once when I was trying to demo warrior 3 for him, so I totally deserved that. I guess I was seeming pathetic enough that he invited me for fish tacos, which were yummy, but my question for you is this: when you get invited to a neighbors house for dinner, do they usually greet you at the door with a shot of tequila? Is that just a Lake M. thing?

Small talk

Yesterday I went to a little holiday party in my neighborhood, the kind you feel like you should go to. When I arrived, I saw a bunch of those big red sweaters decorated with sequin snowmen and santas. When I see them in the store, I always think, oh, I must be in the kindergarten teacher section (who else would dress like that?). But it turns out my neighbors dress like that. This is where the sweaters were all gathering, and there was a sweetness to the collection of them, all milling about together, each attached to a woman making small talk, and a man in a sport coat. I started feeling a bit subdued in my black shirt.

But I was struck again by how, oh, I’m not sure how to say this, but, when people gather, we tend to be boring. I know. It makes me so sad, because there’s no bigger fan of good conversation than I, but truly. I was cornered by one woman for a while who told me, in excruciating detail, about her life. I don’t mean to be unkind, but really, she managed to w…

The week ahead, sort of

Aries (3/21 – 4/19): I know. You hate this time of year, and end up feeling disappointed. Take a walk or light a candle. Maybe you have more control than you think.

Taurus (4/20 – 5/20): Does it bug you that your sign is named after a car that people make fun of? I would have at least named this sign “Sable.” But those animal rights people would be all over it. Your forecast this week includes watching Broken Flowers, which hopefully will make you laugh aloud. After the last few months, that’s just what you need.

Gemini (5/21 – 6/21): Oh, the sweet little twins. It is such a tender, shaky time of year, just succumb, don’t judge yourself for it. Carry Kleenex, alas, I’m sad to say you’ll need it. But each week will get easier.

Cancer 6/22 – 7/21: You don’t need to worry so much. Use your wonderful imagination for good, rather than thinking up weird, bad possibilities. This week, round up. Drop a few significant digits, no one is watching. (I know, it makes you cringe to even…

The bracelet from Joey


Part 2

Monday, I attended the annual Lutefisk Lunch with some of my favorite co-workers, which is awesome if you like fish jello and aquavit. I bravely ate two bites of the coagulated fish, and learned a lot of its history. If you don’t know about it, imagine the marriage of St. Francis of Assisi (he’s the one who put ashes on everything, right?) and the Hannukah story (think famine, oil, and miracles.) After lunch there was a festive tailgate party in the Ikea parking lot that involved a tiny shot of line aquavit, which I learned means aquavit that has crossed back and forth across the equator in its oak cask. I guess that's the best aquavit, the stuff that has crossed the equator, but I didn't learn why.

Twelve days, part 1

I'm not a huge fan of Christmas for the normal reasons (too commercial, too religious in a way that doesn’t suit me, too much shopping, too many tired miserable mothers trying to please everyone), plus it’s just so dark at this time of year. Truly, it is light-ish for a short short while between about 9 am and 3 pm. I know, we score in June, when, if you put on your raingear and are able to stay up late enough, the lights on my tree will be even more stunning than pictured below, if you can fathom that.

But I thought I’d try to celebrate the season better than I did last year, when my only nod to Christmas was to pick a branch up from the side of the road where it fell in a windstorm, and decorate it with tinsel and lights. This year, I’m trying to be more festive, beginning right now, by celebrating all of the gifts, real and imagined.

It turns out I have a bit of catching up to do. I’ll try to do 12 days; we’ll see if that pans out.

On Sunday, which I think will turn out to be…

Fa la la

What do you think, the tasteful solar LED display, or the neighbors rather garish electric lights? (Oh, was that leading the witness?) I'll let you figure out which is which.

The week ahead, ish.


Okay, I got a comment about last weeks’ horoscopes from one of my faithful readers that I would ever so hate to disappoint. The comment was that there was too much focus on the waxing gibbous. Um, okay, but this information comes from the stars, so if you don’t want mention of the sky, you should probably read something else. And speaking of the moon, we sure did see a lot of it last week, and it was especially lurky, don’t you think? Which is the one good thing of how we’re all stumbling around in the dark this time of year. And not to distract too much from the timely predictions that follow, but I’d like to say that my pathetic solar lights twinkle very, very dimly for about 20 minutes each evening before they exhaust the tiny bit of charge they get from their placebo solar panels. It is a very subtle, tasteful display that I will try to capture on film. And now, the predictions:

Aries (3/21 – 4/19): You should help me with these horoscopes. Oh wait, it’s astronomy…

Why a blog?

I’ve been asked by a few people why I have a blog, which is a fair question. It's because I like to write. I like to write, but I also want to be read. Writing little stories privately isn’t as satisfying as writing with the idea that someone will read the words.

There’s a beautiful quote from Natalie Goldberg, “The deepest secret in our heart of hearts is that we are writing because we love the world.”

That sums it up. Writing is a way of savoring the little things that happen that make me laugh, or wake me up from my rut, or remind me of just how great life is, as trite as that sounds. It’s a way of gently breathing life into the mundane, being aware of the amazing stroke of good fortune I’ve had, to be alive when I am, amongst all of the interesting and kind people I know, with the particular children I was lucky enough to get. And sometimes I forget that, but not when I write.

So, thank you all so much for reading.


The other night, R. was talking about how boring his sister M. is. During the conversation, though, he remembered that she’s actually very fun.

“Oh, we should totally record this conversation and e-mail it to her.” He runs upstairs, rummages for about 3 seconds, and comes back with a digital tape recorder that I gave him several years ago. It seemed amazing that he located it, given what he calls his “looking disability”. Example: the other day, I came home and he had a small cut from “cobbling”. (You might want to see the movie, ‘Away We Go’, it’s sweet and quirky and the lead characters are attractive in a normal way, not an over-the-top manufactured way. I don’t want to spoil it, but the relevant bit is that they call whittling “cobbling”, which caused R. to want to be 'the kind of son who’s cobbling on the porch when you get up in the morning’. Um, okay.) At any rate, he has this cut and says, “We should definitely keep band-aids around.”

“We do have band-aids,” I re…


Yesterday, I picked Joey up hitchhiking for the first time in a couple of months. I had started to wonder if something bad had happened, which would have been quite plausible. But he was fine, in fat, he was more coherent than usual.

I met Joey, if you could call it that, on the side of the road a few years ago, but he wasn’t hitchhiking -- I thought he was dead. I was driving home on a hot summer afternoon, and saw a body next to the roadside ditch, positioned exactly like it would be if it had been pushed unconscious from of the back of a pickup truck.  Face down, arms sprawled into the gravel.

I drove past, thinking, no, I didn’t just see that, there really wasn’t a body, hands over eyes singing "la la la", but I turned around anyway, and there really was a body.

I pulled over and stood near him.  “Hey, you okay?” (I know. That’s the dumbest thing ever to say. Like this dead person is gonna say, “yeah, I’m doing great, just relaxing here for a bit with my face in the grav…

If the pants fit.

It’s a little disconcerting, but people keep talking to me about cats. I know. One of my readers wrote to me, “you mean you don’t have cats? I just always assumed you did.” And one of the excellent 14 year olds I know sat down next to me the other day and out of the blue started talking about crazy cat ladies. I did learn some important stuff from her: if you have one cat, you just have a cat. Two cats, still okay, you have a cat, and the cat has a companion. Three cats, and you’re crazy. Okay, got that. But why did she bring this up with me?

A short time later, I had coffee with one of my favorite people, I., who, unprompted, started talking about, yes, cats. The conversation started off to be about procrastination, and we both had a lot to say. But then she said, “for example, I haven’t even been to your blog yet.” I was all, wait, that’s what people do when they are procrastinating. It’s something you find yourself doing when you’re supposed to be doing something else…