Friday, October 28, 2005

The Smell of Winter

The palatable smell of winter is in the air lately.

You know what I mean – the abrasive biting quality that you sometimes catch a whiff of when you dig into the deep freezer for an ice cream bar – but less synthetic. As recognizable as the scent of rain, but not as comforting.

The all-too-short fall season is rapidly winding down. The end of October signals the bright splashes of color in the trees to begin to fade and sprinkle to the earth, leaving shaggy bare fingers raking the sky. Dry crinkly leaves rustle and whisper as the late autumn wind rudely nudges them on their way. The scent of wood fires and fuel oil permeates the air. Sculptured frost encrusts windshields, lawn furniture, and pumpkins, and squeaks under my feet.

It’s been a long time since I truly enjoyed winter. I thrive on balminess, color, and activity – winter holds very little of these characteristics for me. Many years ago, though, winter was an exciting time. There was much more snow here then, and friends and I would stay out, making forts and snowmen and angels and having snowball fights until we could no longer feel our extremities. We would look like snowmen ourselves, with the mess of winter caked into our hats, gloves, clothes and hair. I can remember my mom hustling me downstairs to the laundry room to get out of my wet things and into dry warm clothes. I remember my corduroys standing up by themselves, flared legs frozen into stiff frosty bells. And the pain of thawing out! Sharp, prickly stabs in quick progression, like a sewing machine with a scrillion needles.

Recalling it now, it was such a sweet pain.

I’m on the other side now. Soon I’ll be wanting rather to curl up in a pile of quilts by the fireplace than to run out and explore the frozen world. I’ll be fretting over whether everyone is dressed warmly enough, and will be chasing little wet feet and sloppy paws with the old towels. But I’m also expecting that things will come full circle. The Hub and I will be reliving what it was which made this dreadful time of year fun through the eyes and antics of Incrediboy. We’ll pass on the skills needed for creating a flawless snow angel, and compacting and launching a perfectly aerodynamic snowball. And have you ever noticed how without the muffling leaves, those bare, gray branches create the perfect acoustics for echoing laughter?

Twenty-five years is long enough to go without building a snowman. :)

Thursday, October 20, 2005


"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out-handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a very long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "But when you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have been carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

-- Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

He was made of some sort of chenille material, which I'm sure was white at one time. My grandmother made him for my brother, and my brother never took to him. So he was passed down to me. My Bunny. He went with me everywhere, he was always by my side. I loved him limp and threadbare. Mom had to sneak him away from me to wash, usually through the night as I slept, when he got too filthy, sour and rancid for anyone but me to stand.

When I was around five, he was in such a worn state that Mom commissioned Grandma to make a new coat for Bunny. I don't know how she got the toy out of my clutches but I remember waiting for my Bunny to come back with mad anticipation. I missed him so! When Grandma brought him back to me, he looked brand spanking new. The matted, motheaten, dingy coat I had known was replaced with velvety chocolate brown velour. She had embroidered a cute pink face, crocheted an adorable Quaker-style neck bowtie for him, and stitched my intital over his heart. On his bottom was a poofy handmade pink pompom yarn tail.

I was not pleased. This wasn't the Bunny I knew.

My Mom and my Grandma, two wise and wonderful women, had a talk with me that day. They told me that though Bunny looked different on the outside, he was the same on the inside. He still loved me, he missed me and was happy to be with me again. It would hurt him if I didn't love him anymore.

That was all I needed to hear. I'd never want to hurt my Bunny.

He was such a simple thing. Some scraps of cloth and yarn. Old nylons for his stuffings. Rather old fashioned looking, actually. But never a thing in my little life was treasured more. Something about the whole of those elements of his being were more than the sum of his parts. Somewhere in there resided a heart and soul. My friend, my comfort, my keeper of secrets, my protector from the closet monster. I slept with him well into my teens, truth be told. And when I moved away, he went with me. Over the years of my life, the road has often proven more rocky and potholed than I could have foreseen. There are few items I have kept with me from the beginning, but those that I have are most powerful to me. God. My family. A few good friends. And Bunny.

As I grew into an adult, I let go of the belief in the talisman-like power of Bunny. I didn't sleep with him anymore, and oftentimes he spent his days quietly waiting for my attention in a box or drawer. But having him close to me gave me that same feeling of comfort - some spidersilk line back to simpler days when merely having him in my arms healed the troubles afflicting me.

I am in my mid-thirties now, and my own little boy has selected a big floppy Elmo, nearly as tall as he, in which to bestow this special gift of a child's love and affection. I watch him interact with Elmo, and reflect fondly on the special place Bunny had in my childhood.

I still have Bunny - he resides atop my wardrobe, watching over our bedroom. Ever present as he has always been, and within arms reach at a moment's notice, should I ever be inclined to regress. The fuzz of the velour has been nearly worn off. The pink yarn has faded to a dull beige with years of kisses and cuddles and travels. The tail is mashed flat and resembles more of a sea urchin than anything else. But to me, he is beautiful.

He is Real. He always was.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Quiet Erosion of Memory

I am treating myself to a Me-Day this Saturday by attending an all-day scrapbook gathering. 12 hours in a room full of fellow scrappers – creating, communing, and sharing inspiration while hopefully catching up on overdue preservation of family history. I’ve been spending the evenings this week organizing and preparing the things for the project I’ll be taking with me. I’m roughly three years behind on my projects, so I have a wide variety of options for what I could take, but have decided to continue on with the vacation book I started at – and haven’t touched since – the last scrap-a-thon I attended in May.

Vacation books are my favorite. Preserving a vacation in this medium lends so well to capturing the atmosphere and the feeling of being carefree, without schedule, and bursting with wonder and discovery. Photos, small souvenirs, ephemera, paper and embellishments of riotous color and loads journaling can recapture memories that may otherwise quietly slip away from recollection just as the bold brushstrokes of sunset melt into the dusk. In less time-constrained days, I would plant myself amongst my scrapping wares as soon as the photos came back from developing, and would compose our visual treasures into an elaborate oversized book. Feverishly. Joyously. Before the tiny details faded.

Nearly three years have already skittered away since we took the cruise for which I am currently creating a book. I came home from this trip pregnant, which explains a lot about the delay. But as I sorted the crisp, bright fragments by island and event, I realized how much I’d already begun to forget. Much was brought back simply by seeing the photos once more. The intensity of the rainbow off our balcony, arching gracefully over the St. Thomas Harbor. The vibrant, eye-piercing teal of the St. Maarten water. The lush, succulent jungle of Barbados that you can nearly feel soaking in beneath your skin. The taste of raw sugarcane, coconut milk, and pineapple straight from the plant. Photos are powerful tools of recollection.

Sadly, though, other things have already slipped away. I can’t remember the name of the guide whom with we spent our entire day on St. Lucia. While the photo itself is still charming, I don’t recall why the cluster of chickens congregating beneath the lemon grass was so funny to us. The significance of many of the sites and landmarks has become blurry now. I’ve forgotten the names of half the staff who took care of us on the boat – young men and women who seemed almost like family by the time we left.

Ultimately, does it matter? No, I suppose not. I have more than a bounty of captured memories from our trip with which to work. But it’s the little details that make life sweet – it’s a shame to lose any of them.

On a revisited topic, I talked to my mom yesterday and asked her about LeeAnne’s kids. My mom is a Sunday School teacher, and the boys have been filtering through her class over the past few years since it all happened. They are still living with LeeAnne’s parents – after the murder-suicide, there was a threat from his parents of a custody battle. Apparently that had somehow been resolved and settled. The boys are doing all right, all things considered. The youngest has been blessed with the forgetfulness of a small child, and doesn’t seem to recall much – growing up relatively undisturbed and unaffected by the tragic loss of his parents. The middle boy likewise seems to have decently adjusted. The oldest remembers. He is sometimes all right. Other times, disturbed and haunted by what had transpired between the two most important people in his young life. Only time will reveal the consequences of the ripples.

Sometimes, to forget is a blessing.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Woo Hoo! Someone's having a Birthday!

Hey, it's this woman's birthday today! She's the greatest and bestest friend ever, so please go over and give her a shout out! :D

Now, on another topic, I heard on the radio this morning that Madonna, Great Kaballah Prophetess, is calling for people to turn from their wicked ways of materialism, debauchery, and greed, lest we all go to hell. *SNORT!* Like I need Madonna as the pin in my moral compass?

Monday, October 17, 2005

My Eternal Self-Doubt

Incrediboy has a cold. When I went to get him from his crib Saturday, he greeted me in his customary way by excitedly calling out “Mamma!”– but with his nose stuffed up, it just came out as a slightly listless, “Bahbah!”

It was the most pitiful thing. And it made my heart practically bubble over like a root beer float.

Not long ago, I didn’t think I wanted children. Not because I disliked them – but because I didn’t want to sacrifice the years and tears required for raising them. I had things to do, places to be, and miles to go – none of which allowed for the albatross of parenthood.

A busy, flitting butterfly –
Always moving, that was I.

Okay, so it’s no mystery why I’m not a poet by profession. (shrug).

The hub has always wanted children, when the time would be right. That time never arrived until I did – but the time for me trailed further behind. I pulled out every excuse I could. First, I exclaimed we couldn’t take a little baby out on a 70 mph, skipping like a flat rock speedboat. So he sold the speedboat and bought a family style sport cruiser. (Not in that order – a man needs time to let go of such a powerful symbol of his glorious, hair-on-fire youth). Then I insisted that we needed to be more financially stable. We both worked hard, switched jobs, advanced, doubled our income. Drats. Then I claimed that I wouldn’t be ready until I was thirty. The hub patiently waited, and in time I reached the big 3-Oh.

Which rhymes with “D’OH!”

I was out of excuses. But that’s all right, because by that time I’d sort of warmed up to the idea.

I’ve already mentioned the turbulent journey we had weathered in our quest to have a baby. Months of disappointment, followed by several miscarriages. It drained us both to the point of exhaustion, not to mention exasperation.

Along this rugged path, I joined a miscarriage support group, where I found comfort and solace with other women who had suffered the loss of a pregnancy. Together we mourned, and healed. And here I met a woman who would be my best friend ever. Except for the fact that she had already had two beautiful children previously, we were so much alike. It seemed as if we’d known each other our whole lives and were now just getting around to meeting.

We met after only a few losses, but would bear many more, not just collectively but individually.

After so many blows, I reached a breaking point. I felt that I couldn’t bear another loss. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be for us. My friend, however, though having much more invasive and traumatic situations to process in her quest, never lost hope. Never lost the desire for a baby.

I admired her deeply. I couldn’t wrap my head around how she could continue to draw the strength to never give up, when I could barely draw strength to think about it anymore.

In so many words, it was simple. I didn’t know what I was missing.

Incrediboy came along literally as we were giving up for good. The day of his arrival was the happiest, scariest, strangest, most surreal day of my life.

But I’ll be honest with you. The months that followed were less than happy.

I am not saying I didn’t love my little baby. I did, more than I could have ever fathomed. But pregnancy and childbirth and breastfeeding play a game of atomic ricochet with your chemistry and emotions and thought patterns in ways for which you can never prepare. I was an absolute wreck for months. The hub didn’t know what to do with me. I was terrified of every decision, every situation. There were times I wondered if I’d made a huge mistake – not wishing the boy never existed, but pitying him for being cursed with a completely inadequate mother, and wracked with guilt that I couldn’t seem to do better.

I don’t know how or why I thought what I was doing and how I was handling could have been improved. Babies don’t come with an owner’s manual, and in hindsight everything and everyone has turned out all right. He's a sweet, bright, funny little boy. I couldn't have asked for more. Still, I have been worn from the stress. I have never been so consistently wrecked for so long, and grace under pressure was not my middle name. On the outside, yes - but on the inside - far, far from it.

The Hub wants more children. I have always seen myself with two if I would have them, but I don’t think that will be the case. I doubt my capacities. I barely could handle the stress of managing one baby – could I handle another on top of a busy toddler? They say the second one is easier, as you know more what you’re doing. But I’m not comfortable with the challenge.

I worry about the decision, though. Especially with our life in the boonies. Shouldn’t he have a sibling? Someone to grow up with and bond with? Won’t he be lonely?

Ultimately I have to come to the conclusion that any choice I make will have its pros and cons. The best I can do is try to make the decision I feel is best for all of us. For now that means Incrediboy will be an only child. I have people in my life tell me I’m selfish for this. I also have people who are well enough off to afford to live on one income look down on me for continuing to work. (Actually, we could, if we'd give up a few luxuries. But we enjoy a few finer things, and must pay the subsequent bills. For this I'm selfish too). It’s easy to make decisions for others when everything’s so simple for you. But I am not out to impress anyone, or care what anyone but my son thinks of me. Kids manage to make friends no matter what the circumstances are – the Blessed Lord will bring peers into his life in good time. And while he may not know the special relationship that can only be created and felt with a sibling, his father and I won’t miss a single moment of his incredible magical life at the hands of being spread too thin, wanting for sleep or time.

There is nothing more important to me than being all I can be for him, and not letting one single one-of-a-kind moment slip by.

Friday, October 14, 2005


Not long after the night of the summer mountain flurry, we found ourselves standing on Independence Pass. The Pass is located on the Continental Divide, the geographical point where theoretically all rain falling to the west will run to the Pacific, and all rain falling to the east will run to the Atlantic and the Gulf. At a little over 12,000 feet above sea level, this was a remarkable place for lowlanders to be standing, and we asked a woman to take our picture by the elevation sign.

Afterwards, we began chatting idly as we shared the scenery. Her name was Louise. She was a soft-spoken woman, about our age. She was taller than I. Taller than the hub. She wore no makeup and her hair fell in casual buckskin waves around her shoulders. She spoke with a British accent.

In our chatting, we learned that she was on 4 month “holiday”. She told us that she had no plan of course, but was simply sojourning as the wind carried her, in the general direction of north – planning to follow the Rockies up through Wyoming, Montana, and into Canada. She would then wander over Banff way, back down the western seaboard, and eventually rendezvous with some friends in Northern California sometime in the fall. Her time in between then and now she left to the guidance of the gods of wanderlust.

My husband inquired, with the entire world to explore, what was it that would bring her to the States for essentially the entire trip. She told us that she’d done a lot of traveling. She’d been all over Europe and into Asia and Africa. She’d heard so much about America’s natural wonders, though, that she wanted to also come here. And that in all her travels, she had found an especially uncommon beauty and majesty in this place. She professed in earnest to us, that she loved the Rockies more than anywhere else she’d been.

I’ve thought upon our British traveling friend many times since we met her. I’ve wondered what other treasures she found after going on after our meeting. The hub and I love to travel, and before the arrival of Incrediboy we’d take several far-from-home trips a year. While our travels have kept us in the vicinity of the northwestern hemisphere, we’ve experienced a lot of extraordinary places and things. Since meeting Louise, I’ve thought about, if I could spend 4 uninterrupted months traveling anywhere, would I go abroad to places in far distant lands, or stay right here in our own country - a place which seems to have been crafted with an extra helping of the exceptional love and attention of God’s hands?

Before parting, we recruited another passer-by to take our picture with Louise. The picture came out fuzzy, and we appear as little more than blurred impressions. Our faces are not much more than smeared colors and shades, but there is one feature that is distinguishable.

We are all smiling.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Casual Observances

My old college roomie called me last night and asked me to help her with something. She wants me to help her design a tattoo. She says she’s always admired my work and would love to get some ideas from me. Naturally, I’m very flattered, and agreed to work with her.

Here’s the thing, though. Frankly, I’m more than a little nervous about it. I have always been artistic, and have designed many things for many people, including a few tattoos. But it’s been eons since I designed anything. I got out of art and into accounting more than ten years ago because the “starving” part of “starving artist” wasn’t working for me. Hence, I only do creative stuff for fun anymore, and there are often large spans of time in which I’ve done nothing creative. I’m a bit rusty.

Still, we’ll be getting together to noodle around with some ideas. I love her, she’s one of the few people I would call a life-friend. I just hope I will not disappoint.

In cuter news, Incrediboy did something a few days ago that just killed me. He’s approaching two, and hasn’t had much opportunity to see the night sky. He goes to bed at eight, and in the fair weather months the sun is rising as we leave for our day. Now that winter is creeping up, it’s still pitch black when we head off in the mornings. He’s been learning shapes and objects at a rapid pace while we indulge his love of books, and he’s taken a liking to celestial objects (just like mom). He gets very excited when he sees a moon and stars in a book and will always holler it out. MOON! TAWS!

The other morning we were leaving for the day and the predawn sky was very clear. The stars gleamed on the coal black blanket of night, and the boy tipped his head back and took them in. This time last year he was still a baby and didn’t really notice the stars, but now as a toddler, he notices EVERYTHING.

He pointed up and made his noise which means, “What’s that?” While he recognizes the moon, as it is sometimes out during the day, it occurred to me he’d probably never noticed real stars, just the ones in his books. So I said, “Those are stars!”

He looked at me with those gorgeous big blue eyes of his. “Taws?”, he repeated. “Yes, stars!”, I confirmed.

He tipped his head back again, gazing up at the sky - and in the sweetest, breathy dreamy voice, he sighed, “Wwwwowww.”

Maybe you had to be there, or maybe it’s just a mom thing. But it was the cutest thing ever, and I’m still grinning like a fool about it - hearts popping out of my head like Sally on Peanuts.

This last observance is in honor of my blog friend, Stephen. Stephen posts brilliant and poignant observations about race and culture in his blog. My following cultural anecdote is neither brilliant nor poignant, really – but it is kind of amusing.

The hub called me yesterday and asked me, “What’s a cracker?”

“You mean, as in, ‘You’re a cracker’?”, I asked. “Yes!” he said emphatically, obviously relieved that I could enlighten him.

The hub’s not a stupid man, but he just didn’t know the term. I explained to him that it was slang for a white boy – kind of the new - er, replacement phrase for? - “honky” (he was a teenager in the seventies). Apparently he had to stop by the store on his way to the office yesterday to pick up coffee creamer. While he stared at the multitude of choices in the coffee aisle, he accidentally bumped into an elderly black man. When he turned to apologize, the man groused, “Watch where you’re going, you dumb cracker.”

The hub didn’t even know what he meant by that.

Poor hub. He was the victim of a driveby slurring. Luckily, he didn’t feel a thing.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Writer's Block

Lately I’ve been feeling remarkably unremarkable.

As far as my writing goes, anyway. I’ve gotten off-track from what I really wanted to do with it – though I don’t know if that’s even an accurate statement, being that I simply wanted to write about whatever was inside at the moment. Which I do. It just seems to be a little “scraping the barrel” when I review what I’ve posted lately.

In late August, I wrote about what I’ve dubbed Lord Byron Syndrome. When you respond to the call of creativity (in this case, writing), you will find peace from the purge. If you do not heed, the calls of sirens become the shrieks of banshees and given enough time unrequited will drive you mad. I observed that I needed to learn how to not only listen, but to respond. To channel. Something that in the busy-ness of being an adult I’d let atrophy and had forgotten how to do. In writing regularly in my blog, and making the wonderful blog friends I’ve made and continue to make, I’ve found happiness and contentment in this little world of words. It’s something I like to visit, as well as add to, every day.

The thing is, I think I’ve started to run into writer’s block. While not long ago, topics and words flowed out of me so quickly I often posted twice a day, I am now sometimes struggling for a good idea. While previously I indulged myself in painting with words, I feel I now only offer silly anecdotes and shallow observances. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose. It’s just not what I like the meat of my blog to be, as it has been of late.

I wonder if I’m making too big of a deal about it, as this is merely my hobby – this writing thing. But it doesn’t negate the fact that I recently seem to be forcing it. Once in a while I forget that inspiration can play flirty games of tag with you. Sometimes the more you chase after it, the more it considers itself engaged in a serious round of hide and seek. An accomplished hider it can be, too.

At the same time, inspiration is a jealous lover. If I give my attention to other matters, in time it realizes I’m no longer looking and takes it upon itself to find me. And like a spoiled brat, will start raising cain if I don’t turn my thoughts and energies back to it a bit. It has always been this way, yet I seem to forget that continually.

So, I’m going to experiment a little for a while. I may post a little less frequently (though not TOO infrequently!) in attempt to lure the muse out of hiding. I may post some totally off the wall stuff, just to try something different. I don't really know. But I’m onto this game. For now, anyway. Sometimes, like a fine batch of chili (smile), brewing is the key ~ and there’s no subsitute for time.

Maybe this is my cue to haul out the scrapping digs. Let’s see what happens.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

False Sense of Security

I grew up with a girl named LeeAnne. We went to the same church. Her mom sat me in the summertime one year while school was out. LeeAnne was a tomboy as a kid and never really outgrew it – even when dressing formally, preferring business-type fashion above fancy frocks and lace. She was an honor student, was athletic and had an earthy beauty. She was passionate about her faith. God’s love shone through her and everyone liked her.

She married a man who planned to go to seminary after a stint in the military. They started a family.

But something went wrong somewhere. As time went on, he became abusive in their marriage. It started out small, as it usually does, but in time he was grossly mistreating her. Her friends and family tried to convince her to leave. LeeAnne stayed, feeling it was her duty to hold her family together and if she prayed earnestly enough, God would heal her marriage and calm the trouble in her husband. Her family and friends continued to plead. Her husband moved them out of state in attempt to squelch the voices against him.

After one particularly bad episode of abuse, LeeAnne finally decided it was time to leave. She made arrangements to live with her church pastor’s family for the time being and filed a restraining order. Then she took her children and left their house forever.

LeeAnne began putting her life back together. Some time passed and she and the children began to gain a little normalcy without her stronghanded husband around.

One morning the pastor and his wife left the house to tend to errands. LeeAnne enjoyed a few moments of quiet contemplation over coffee as her boys played upstairs. And then suddenly, she was ambushed. Her husband, who had been casing the house for weeks, had broken in and snuck up on her. He grabbed her and led her through the house by her throat. He sent the boys outside. The older boy later said that he heard his dad say something to his mom about if she wouldn’t live with him, she wouldn’t live with anyone.

He took LeeAnne into the bedroom and shot her in the head. He then shot himself.

A restraining order is little more than a piece of paper. The biggest false sense of security there is. A lot can happen in the time between the order violation and the time that the law arrives to escort the offender away.

Women who suffer domestic violence aren’t always stupid or weak. They aren’t always poor or without education or prospects. They’re just trying to hold their commitments made and keep their lives and the lives of their children together. Trying to do what’s right and trying to determine when splitting up their family is better than trying to make it work. Trying to hear God’s voice amid the chaos.

Harder than it seems when you're in the thick of it.

It’s a terrible shame that such a strong and gifted woman had to die like a dog and have her children orphaned at the hands of a crazy man she once trusted – a man who vowed to God to love and protect her.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Chilly Days = Chili Days!

Several months back, I wrote about my Grandma’s homemade noodles. How she taught my mom to make them, and my mom taught me. We all make them the same way, yet they all taste a little different from one another. Being such a simple recipe, I have wondered if the distinctive ingredient is the unique love and care of the creator of the batch.

This weekend, in honor of the change in the air from toasty Indian Summer to crisp and sobering autumn chill, not to mention that football season is really underway (is it just me or does it not really seem like football season till it drops below 60 or so?), I made a big batch of chili. It’s a tradition in my life – the first cold weekend is rung in with the zippy, body-and-soul-warming spice of homemade chili. Yum! But unlike Grandma’s noodles, I don’t strive to duplicate, nor even refer to a recipe card. I’ve made chili so many times that I just concoct the base (an impressionist version of Mom’s with my own alterations) from memory now – and will then additionally hocus pocus atop my official chili-cookin’ pot as mood strikes, causing each batch to be a little different than any other. This particular time I added a pinch extra spice and topped it with pepper-jack cheese, hoping to chase the oncoming bug out of my system. As I’m feeling much better today than yesterday, maybe it worked.

The hub likes to come in the kitchen and supervise here and there, giving me tips on how to make a perfect batch. It makes him happy to contribute. I will admit, I started adding a jar of medium or hot salsa to my base recipe per his suggestion. It does add a nice infused zing. He always insists that I use Chi-Chi’s salsa, but I get whatever I get (usually Sam’s Choice). I sort of white-lie about it (“Did you get the good kind”? ~ “Yes, dear”) and he seems just as happy.

Chili on the first cold weekend is in league with a ball park dog on opening day. A funnel cake on a sultry evening at the county fair. A Cadbury Egg when Easter comes around again. It’s the essential culinary part of the experience, and without it things wouldn’t be quite complete. Like each new first-cold-weekend, each batch is similar, but has its own distinct charming characteristics.

And we enjoy each bite, of the batch and of the day, savoring until it’s gone.



This weekend, it arrived - and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

Yes, it was very chilly. The sky was slate gray and the air smelled of oncoming winter. The thermometer didn’t even get above the low 50’s. But that’s not what I’m talking about.

The hub spent the day winterizing the boat, which is always symbolically the nail in the coffin of summer. But that’s not it either.

What I’m talking about is that itching in the eyes that makes you want to claw them out. Then the rib-busting sneezing fits. Then the feeling that your brain vacated your skull in order to make room for all the snot. The body aches and shivers, even though you’ve put two layers of sweats on. And the insufferable scratchy heat all over the underside of your face.

My first cold of the season. Curses!

My downward spiral commenced all day, and by the time I got Incrediboy in bed at 8, I was ready to die. My eyes were so puffy I looked like I’d been in a fight. The Hub announced that I looked like hell and should go to bed.

So I did.

Know what the worst part is? I can’t even take anything because I’m on these ultra-powerful antibiotics for a separate problem with a tooth, so I’m not supposed to take any cold medicine – so no relief for me.

Somebody kill me, please.

Actually that’s the second worst part. The worst part is I fell asleep before 9 and missed Breaking Bonaduce. CURSES!!!

Did anybody tape it? Can I come over? I’ll wear my breathing mask …

Saturday, October 08, 2005

A GREAT Recipe for Your Halloween Gig

I caught a little sidebar discussion on a friend's blog comment page about fun Halloween menu items, and thought we'd have a little holiday fun today! This is a great gross-out recipe for Halloween parties that I ran across last year. Hope you have fun with it!



1 (18 oz.) box German Chocolate Cake mix
1 (18 oz.) box white cake mix
1 pkg. white sandwich cookies
1 large box vanilla instant pudding mix
12 small Tootsie Rolls
1 litter box (a NEW one!)
1 plastic cat box scoop (a NEW one!)
green food coloring

Prepare cake mixes and bake according to directions (any size pans). Prepare pudding mix and chill until ready to assemble. Crumble white sandwich cookies in small batches in blender. (or just smash them up in a big baggie with a rolling pin). Set aside all but about 1/4 cup. To the 1/4 cup cookie crumbs, add a few drops green food coloring and mix using a fork or shake in a jar.

When cakes are cooled to room temperature, crumble into a large bowl. Toss with half the remaining white cookie crumbs and the chilled pudding. NOTE: You probably won't need all of the pudding, mix with the cake and 'feel' it, you don't want it soggy, just moist; gently combine. Put mixture into clean new litter box.

Put three unwrapped Tootsie rolls in a microwave safe dish and heat until soft and pliable. Shape ends so they are no longer blunt, curving slightly (I'll just say it - so they resemble poop). Repeat with 3 more Tootsie rolls and bury in mixture. Sprinkle the other half of cookie crumbs over top. Scatter the green cookie crumbs lightly over the top, this is supposed to look like the chlorophyll in kitty litter. Heat remaining Tootsie Rolls, three at a time in the microwave until almost melted. Scrape them on top of the cake and sprinkle with cookie crumbs.

Place the box on a newspaper and sprinkle a few of the cookie crumbs around. Serve with a clean new pooper scooper.

If you can actually get people to try it, it tastes great. Either way though, it's sure to be a hit and talked about for ages to come.

Enjoy!!! :)

Friday, October 07, 2005

FIN - A Remembrance

I first posted this in August. This week once again marks the anniversary of this moment in my life. I repost to commemorate.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

All is quiet and still, so I'm not sure what woke me up on this morning. I get up from the same position I fell asleep in and cast a long gaze out the window. The sun is just beginning to tint the sky above the clouds lazing on the horizon line - the last remnants of some tropical storm or another, passing by the peninsula a few hundred miles to the east.

I watch the surf wander in and out, sliding over the shore. Bits of seaweed trace the contour of where high tide had stretched in earlier hours. The dunes have been smoothed by wind and sea during the night.

I had come here, thousands of miles from anything familiar, to try and forget you - though I knew that wasn't possible. Particularly when I take you everywhere with me. Not literally, of course. But you are nonetheless ever-present. Your memeory, and "memories" of what could have been and what will never be, a perpetual constriction on my heart. The hole left in my world by your absence ever gaping.

I get dressed, having as little interest in what I put on as I do with anything else in life right now. I pad downstairs, grab a cup of coffee and wander out on to the silky sand.

I spend a lot of time lost in my own thoughts these days. I gather with friends, try to drown out the deafening silence with deafening noise. It works for a while, sometimes. But it doesn't last long. My friends hate to see me so sad. Cheer up! they say, and offer some philosophical self-help quip about how holding on to something that will not return can only hinder your own progression. No one seems to understand that I simply can't act as if nothing happened, that you never existed. That I never really loved you because you were here too briefly. No one understands that just because I cannot hold you in my arms, that you cannot still hold my heart.

Seemingly now that you are gone more than ever before.

Everyone seems to know what's best for you when they have no idea what it's like to love someone so much, that you nearly forget how to breathe when they leave you.

The sand is different here than anywhere else. It feels as if I'm walking on tiny pearls, and clings to my feet in white slippers. The perpetual breeze coming in from the sea runs invisible fingers through my hair. The waves are bigger by the shore than they appeared to be from my window, but oddly slow of pace. They rumble in and massage the shore. I close my eyes and let the sound rinse my aching soul. I breathe deep the sweet salty air and feel all other thoughts fall away but the ones which never do - the thoughts of you.

The sun is rising, and it glints at me over the wandering clouds. I ponder the dawn of my new life, what its purpose and meaning is, to have lost so much and lived to tell. I wonder if I will ever be happy again. If I will ever laugh once more, and truly mean it.

I've been praying to God for a long time now, calling out to Him for help in managing my heartache. Sometimes I feel Him with me. Times like this morning. We communicate without words - more with feelings and impressions - and He soaks into me much as the sea vanishes below the surface of the sands as it draws back into itself. I know that the best thing I can do is lay my burdens in His hands. But I just haven't been ready.

I think of you always. I can almost feel your skin, and smell your scent. I imagine your hands in mine. I imagine that you are walking the water's edge with me rather than I alone on this peaceful morning. I wish I knew why you had to go.

The morning sky is bright with color now. Down the beach a man is combing up the seaweed. In the other direction, a couple is combing for treasures brought in from the waves sent by that distant storm. Seagulls scream overhead. The surf carries on its continuous song.

Though I could swear I just took a sip only a moment ago, my coffee is now cold and bitter in my cup.

I look at the large dollup of fucshia and indigo cloud that is cradling the morning sun. I suddenly feel the time is right.

And so, I let you go.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Dare I Open My Eyes

If there’s anything can be said about me, it’s that I love ghost stories.

One October when I was in college, my boyfriend got tickets for a haunted tour of our city. The tour, taken by bus, visited spots around the downtown area, known or considered to be haunted. We would all get out in order to more closely feel the location, as the guide would fill us in on the corresponding lore of the site. We visited well-known places, such as the city’s oldest and largest graveyard, the downtown hospital where a ghostly nurse had been reported several times walking through the courtyard at night, and the old abandoned state penitentiary (now gone to make room for the NHL expansion arena), where many a rotten-souled offender had met his end.

We also stopped at lesser-known places. Small shops, historical buildings and residences. The one I remember most vividly was a Victorian home just east of downtown. I could have walked there from where I was living at the time. It had since been converted to an attorney’s office, but many years ago as a residence, it sat on the market for a long time. It was reportedly haunted, and people were more superstitious and easily scared away from such rumored places. Eventually a man, finding himself to be clever as he was unphased by such stories, finally bought it for a fraction of its worth. He moved in.

Not long after settling, he awoke from a deep sleep one night, feeling all was not well. He rolled over in bed and looked up at the ceiling. Suspended above him was an illuminated disembodied head. It faced him, wide black eyes fixated upon his, hair and ethereal gauzy strips of clothing floating wreathlike as if in water. The mouth was frozen in a strained and panicked silent scream.

The man was so terrified he couldn’t move. The two stared at each other until dawn, when the ghost face slowly faded away with the light of morning. Once he could manage to move, he got out and never returned to the house outside of daylight hours.

To this day, there are times when I will wake up at night feeling as though I am being watched. I will take a moment to brace myself for what I might see hovering above me if I open my eyes.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


The boy and the dog and I were playing in the yard last night as the hub was building shelves in the barn. We shot a few hoops, walked back to see the retired racehorse who lives behind us, explored the mysteries of the mini-thicket separating our property from his pasture as huffy goldfinches flitted over our heads and gave us what-for. We studied an iridescent garden spider that has taken residence in the window well. We played keep-away within the graceful bowing branches of the willows. We chased, played ball, tumbled in the cool dew of the grass. The streaks of early autumn clouds above us changed from white to golden, cantaloupe, papaya, and plum in the denim sky. As I threw the slobber-soaked tennis ball in a game of fetch during a downtime spell, the boy interrupted his own bark-picking and bug-studying to run over and give me a tackling hug and deliciously sweet kiss on my cheek.

Not long ago I had an interstate backing up to my yard, and the din of motors, sirens, and jake-brakes went unnoticed. We lived in a typical suburban neighborhood, similar houses placed 30 feet apart, convenient to shopping, banking, and entertainment. We lived in the court part of a court-style street, and chatted with neighbors from our porches. We all watched each others’ backs. Up the road lived my mother-in-law, in the house where my husband grew up. Further up the road were once high-end apartments that had since gone Section Eight. Addresses from that block were regular features in the Police Report section of the suburban newspaper. There is now a brand new Walgreens on the corner where that nice night club used to be. We used to go there for drinks and dancing on 80’s Night when we were first married. Someone was murdered there a few years ago, and six months later it closed down.

The hub and I both had lived in the city our whole lives. I myself had lived in various points of the suburbs, on the campus of our Big 10 university, and in the virtual heart of downtown, and felt comfortable and at home in each. The urban racket surrounding me was soothing, and a part of who I was. I liked it.

I now often see more deer than I do people. I walk an acre to get my mail rather than simply reaching out the front door, and in addition to just a driveway, neighboring houses are separated by alfalfa, soybean, and cornfields. The sound of a motorized vehicle whizzing by out front is an oddity, except during the fall harvest when farm equipment regularly lumbers back and forth. The dog has been sprayed by a passing-through skunk in our back yard. Twice.

I wasn’t sure if I’d adjust well to country living, but I now can’t see myself ever returning to the city to live. The hub and I are cozily content. The boy is growing up in a clean, safe, big sky, close to nature, close to God place.

I love country life.

Except for the de-skunking part.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Idle Musings on Time

I’m not sure what brought this on – maybe pondering the Mayans yesterday, as they were masters of time tracking and calendars – but an abstract thought has clattered around in my head sporadically throughout my life (cue the sound effect of the Yahtzee cup). Exactly what is time, as a thing? How is it structured? Where does it come from, and where does it go?

Is it in a straight line? Or is it … layered?

Have you ever been driving along in your car, and you go under a bridge or past a transmitter tower or move from one broadcasting range into another, and for a few moments you kind of pick up two stations at once? Or for you old folks/kids deprived of cable in their youth like me, remember the days before cable, when you had to tune in UHF stations? There could be several stations on that same UHF channel, but you had to twist the knobby around and wrangle the antenna to find them. What if time is layered in frequencies like that? What if different points in time or different dimensions all kind of occupy the same space, but on different levels? What if the beings we call ghosts or the experiences we call premonitions or visions, are just glimpses of another “program” or “station” that we get by accident?

Maybe time is organized like the pages in a book. Different points in time are actually lying very closely together, but are separated by the thin opaqueness of the page. But think back on, say, the encyclopedias in the school library. Remember sometimes there would be transparencies in there? Like the invisible guy where you could lay his nervous system and his muscular system and his vital organs over top of his skeleton and see all the layers simultaneously?

Could a setup like this explain déjà vu?

Or, maybe time does just go in an endless line in both directions, and I simply spend way too much of it conjuring up such nonsense in my head. But it’s just kind of fun to think about weird stuff.

Monday, October 03, 2005

CLEANSED - A Brief Reflection

The cool clean water enveloped me, and every cell in my body let out a nearly audible sigh. It was just so incredibly hot up above.

Moments before I had descended the stone staircase from the ground above to enter the naturally formed cathedral. The walls were draped in veils of ivy and moss, and long dreadlocky vines poured down from the skylight a hundred feet above, disappearing below the surface. Waterfalls wept from the rock, trickled and splattered on all faces. Small, inky black catfish swam in lazy circular samba.

Imagine, if you will, what velvet may feel like if it were liquid. Picture in your mind the deepest, richest color between cornflower and jade. You will then get an idea of the water there. They say the bottom has never been detected. It’s just as well, probably, as the sinkhole was once used for human sacrifices.

We’d spent the day exploring Chichen Itza, the long abandoned mecca of the Mayan empire. We’d stood in the center of the acoustically perfected ball field. We’d seen the observatory from where ancient eyes and minds contemplated the heavens. We paid quiet homage beside temples adorned with the serpent god Kukulcan and a sea of stone skulls. Skulls representing the lives of those sacrificed to the gods. We had climbed to the top of the great sun pyramid to survey the site from above. Ninety-one steps on each side of the great pyramid. Times four sides, plus the top platform made for 365 steps. The same number of days in a calendar year.

We’d spent an unparalleled day communing with a long-gone race as brilliant as they were brutal.

I climbed from the sinkhole feeling baptized.

Perhaps the wisdom of the Mayans had somehow penetrated my fibers. Perhaps their souls had somehow fused with mine. All I can tell you is that when I left Chichen Itza, I was changed.


Back in my early twenties I worked at this really cool store. They used to call them head shops. It smelled like leather and incense and wax, and sold stuff like windchimes, weird looking candles, bootchains, t-shirts, black light posters, and tobacco pipes. I had a couple buddies there, they were brothers. We worked together all the time and hung out together when we weren't working. We shared a lot of laughs and I have carried many fond memories of them throughout my life.

We have some neighbors down the road with an unusual last name - the same name as the brothers. We got to chatting with them when we first met than and it turns out they are their parents. Such a small world!

Long story short, she invited me to a Southern Living party this weekend. She is a quintessential Southern Living decorator woman, and though I am not, I thought it would be fun to go and meet some new people. The younger brother's girlfriend also attended, and he came to pick her up after the party. He'd aged, of course, and his hair was much, much shorter - but certainly I'd have remembered who he was. I struck up a conversation with him.

He didn't remember me. "At all", as he put it.

The hub later suggested that maybe he was only saying that so his girlfriend wouldn't get jealous or something. But I sure felt like a fool. Nothing boosts your mood like being completely forgotten by someone.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Urgent Care

I had to run to Urgent Care yesterday afternoon. While I was helping the hub lower the ramp on the utility trailer, I gashed the side of my finger open. It wasn't serious enough to need stitches, but I haven't had a tetanus shot since I was 13. Safe to say that was much longer than 10 years ago, so I thought it best to go get a tetanus shot.

I'd not been to this Urgent Care, so I had to fill out all the obligatory paperwork. Family medical history, drug allergies, all that stuff. Then I sat in an empty reception area for 15 or 20 minutes. It wasn't too bad, considering they had a TV and there was a game on.

A nurse who sounded like she had a 2-pack-of-Pall-Malls-a-day habit called me back. She weighed me (always my favorite part), took me into a tiny exam room, and asked me all the questions I'd already answered on my paperwork. She then told me, with a smile, that the doctor would be in in just a few minutes.

I waited.

I waited some more.

No TV in this room, so after a while it really started to suck.

I helped myself to the only reading material in the room, and read it twice. I now feel very in the know about middle ear infections. I sang a few songs to myself, in my head. I thought about singing them out loud - really loud - to remind everyone I was still back there.

I studied the floor and wondered idly if the black scuff mark in the center was from my shoe or someone else's. I noticed that the cabinets looked like they were made out of chipboard, which led to another idea. The best way to get someone to appear is to start doing something you shouldn't be doing. So I started peeking in drawers and cabinets. I familiarized myself with the locations of the paper gowns, latex gloves, microscope slides, iodine, and something that looked like miniature jumper cables. I tried to imagine what those were supposed to be for, and then decided I'd rather not know.

Still, no one came.

My back was getting tired from sitting on the exam table so I moved to the chair. There I dozed off.

The doctor came in and woke me up I don't know how long after. He asked me all the questions that the paperwork and the nurse asked me before, and then agreed I needed a tetanus shot. Thank goodness, I never would have thought of that. He told me the nurse would be back in to administer and it was nice to meet me.

More waiting.

Finally the nurse and my shot came. It didn't hurt too badly. She told me she'd be back in just a minute with my discharge paperwork.

More waiting. I finally left the exam room and found them all loitering around a counter, chatting. I said, "I'm sorry, was I supposed to come out here?" The nurse said, "No, honey, I'll bring your paperwork back in a minute."

Back to the exam room. More waiting.

Finally I got my paperwork, which just said I'd been assessed and given a tetanus shot, and I was free to go. I looked at my cell phone clock. It only took two hours of my Saturday and thrity-five bucks out of my checking account. Suh-weet! Better than getting lock-jaw though, I guess.

If you ever need to know anything about middle ear infections, just let me know.