Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Joy to the World

We were driving to Minnesota the weekend before Thanksgiving, and the Christmas songs were already all over the place. Some radio stations were playing ONLY Christmas music. Granted, there are a lot of holiday songs, but you get into the obscure when that's all you play.

I prefer the traditional(actually about Christmas) kinds of songs, like "The First Noel," and my personal favorite, "O Holy Night." Then there are the fun ones that you love to sing when you're a kid, "Rudolph" and "Jingle Bells." Of course, you have to throw in the songs that are only played during the holiday season, but don't ever allude to Christmas, songs such as "Let it Snow" and "Winter Wonderland." Seriously, you have to wonder what people are on when they build a snowman and expect him to walk into town to perform a wedding ceremony.

I like country music, have listened to it since I was a kid when my mother had control of the radio. But country music has turned out some of the sappiest Christmas songs ever. I won't mention names, you know who you are.

My children were thoroughly grossed out with the original version of Santa Baby, because, well, it's kinda kinky sounding. Not to mention that the singer asks for a '54 convertible, a sable (uncool), a yacht, a Rolex, checks (blank, I'm assuming), and a platinum mine, what is THAT about? Nothing like making Christmas totally materialistic.

My daughter and I love to sing this song, which used to drive my son crazy when he was stuck in the car listening to us.

"I want a hippopotamus for Christmas. Only a hippopotamus will do. No crocodiles, no rhinoceroses, I only like hippopotamuses. And hippopotamuses like me too!"

Then there is the classic "All I Want for Christmas is You," which is perfect for belting out in the shower or the car, especially when you really can't sing but like to anyway. My kids liked this song, but then I showed them a picture of Vince Vance and scarred them for life.

The best non-traditional song ever, though, has to be "Snoopy's Christmas," by the Royal Guardsmen. The Red Baron forces Snoopy to land behind enemy lines, but then wishes him a Merry Christmas, and they share a holiday toast, which probably means some really good German beer. Or Rhine wine maybe. At any rate, something they should not drink if they are going to continue flying.

"Christmas bells, those Christmas bells, ringing through the land, bringing peace to all the world, and good will to man."


Monday, November 27, 2006

Take Off . . . to the Great White North

Take off, it's a beauty way to go. We had a great week in Minnesota. It always starts with a 12 hour drive, which is kind of a pain in the rear, literally. Visiting our son, other family and friends, and Thanksgiving, is the motivation for the trip. But I will hit on some of the other highlights here.

Jessica and I drove to Duluth, to visit our best ever neighbors and go to some favorite haunts. On the way, we picked up a hitchhiker. He seemed nice enough, but Bill said he'd picked him up before and he didn't recommend it. Said he talked too much and you couldn't get a word in. He had nice hair, though.

We did get to visit with Bill and Lois for awhile. Got to see Bill's computer, some really old post cards (which were way cool, by the way), and Lois gave us coffee, cinnamon rolls and, best of all, Lois hugs!

(Bill, please put in a comment the reason you are wearing that hat. It's really great, and you can explain it better than I can.)

Then we went to Canal Park to take a gander at Lake Superior and the famous aerial lift bridge.

From there, up to Gooseberry Falls, Split Rock Lighthouse and Pebble Beach, where we amused ourselves trying to skip stones and tossing ever larger rocks into the drink to see what kind of noise they would make. You can amuse yourself for quite awhile with rocks and water. That's Jessica's teeny self on the rocks left of the falls.

On the way back to The Cities, Jess wanted to stop at a casino. She is trying out "now that I'm 18" stuff. We got a couple of rolls of quarters, did slots and "machine" poker for about an hour, and came out with a few more dollars than when we went in, which we put into a Salvation Army pot at the grocery the next day.

Thanksgiving was very special, a 50 year tradition that will be the subject of an upcoming post. After that, I got my son's cold and spent the next few days watching, as my daughter puts it, senseless television (okay, she's right, six hours of a "Faith and Hope" marathon is pretty stupid, but I had my tea and chicken noodle stuff and I just didn't care). Our last night, we ate some wonderful salmon that my FIL and nephew caught on their Alaskan cruise in August (and my MIL cooked to perfection). Yum-O. Then we got to drive 12 hours home, which is a pain in the rear. This evening, my daughter and her friends put up Christmas lights. And we were under a tornado warning. Later this week, we are supposedly in for a winter storm. Gotta love Oklahoma.

Monday, November 20, 2006


When my husband's parents were first married, and stationed far from home, they spent Thanksgiving with another couple in the same situation. Later, they all ended up in the Minneapolis area. Long story short, 9 children and 21 grandchildren later, they are still celebrating the day together. The kids (and now grandkids) grow up and scatter, but the event is generally attended by 30-35 people annually. What's impressive is that this is now a fifty year tradition. So, in honor of that fact, I am posting a list of fifty things for which I am grateful.

1. My husband

2. My son

3. My daughter (I am not lumping them together, because to list them separately would diminish how crazy I am about each of them and what a blessing each is to me)

4. Extended family, moms, dads, grandparents, neices, nephews, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters (I lump them together so I will have room for 46 other blessings)

5. A safe and warm home

6. Food on the table

7. Enough abundance to share with those who have not enough

8. Living in a free country

9. Having the right to vote

10. Friends

11. Babies (human babies are the best, but most other babies are just as precious)

12. Cameras

13. The first snowfall of winter (if it goes on for 38 inches, it negates itself as gratitude worthy)

14. Blue jeans

15. Books, books, books

16. Music, music, music

17. The laughter of children

18. Vacations

19. Sunsets

20. Sunrises

21. Hugs

22. Kisses

23. The first cup of morning coffee

24. A fireplace when it's cold outside

25. Knowing I am married to my best friend

26. Working out

27. Being healthy enough to work out

28. Watching my children figure out life stuff

29. Crossword puzzles

30. Writing

31. People who care about what I write

32. The squirrel who amuses me while I'm writing by tiptoeing along the top of the pointy fence

33. Golf

34. Getting to play golf with my best friend

35. Clear lakes

36. Thunderstorms

37. Faith

38. Hope

39. Love

40. Autumn leaves

41. The first flower of spring

42. Art

43. Cultural diversity

44. A good conversation

45. A spirited disagreement

46. Children who sell lemonade on the sidewalk

47. Children with dreams

48. Adults who help them achieve their dreams

49. A day to remind me to reflect every day on my blessings

50. Bloggers

Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate, and many blessings to those who don't! When I get home, I will post a Minnesota vacation, complete with pictures, so ya'll come back now, ya hear?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Where Did My Comfort Zone Go?

Aside from preparing for our annual Thanksgiving pilgrimage to the Great White North, which is nothing new, this week held some interesting firsts for me.

On Tuesday, for the first time ever, I birdied a hole playing golf. That's one under par. I was on the green off the tee, and made a truly bodacious putt on a tricky green. Tiger would have been impressed.

On Wednesday, I had to go to court because, two months ago, I was stopped with . . . DUN DUN DUN! Expired tags. Seems to be a glut of this particular crime. They had been expired since December of last year, and I really had no idea. We usually get notification in the mail and pay them right away. Didn't happen. We paid up, and paid the late fee, the day of the stop. My husband did a very nice spreadsheet kind of thing, showing how vigilant we have been when it comes to updating the tags on our numerous vehicles over the years. Thinking it might impress the judge, I bore it like a shield and went to county court. I'm a novice. Not only did the judge mispronounce my name, the only thing he cared about was getting me a trial date or getting me to pay the fine and getting me out of his face. So I paid the $173.90. And I got an itemized receipt. I guess I never thought about where money from traffic citations goes. So you can imagine my shock.

Sheriff's Service & Incarceration Fee (I mercifully was not incarcerated.)

Law Library Fee (Yeah, I'm sure the prosecutor spent hours on this case.)

Patrol Vehicle Revolving Fund (My arresting officer went to the car wash. Probably had a pop on my dime.)

CLEET Assessment for A.F.I.S. (That actually means Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training Assessment for Automated Fingerprint Identification System. I mercifully was not fingerprinted during this incident.)

Anyway, you get the picture.

To wrap up my week of firsts, yesterday I went to the dermatologist with my daughter. She had something on her neck that she wanted off. The doc said it was out of control blood vessels that had formed what looked like a red mole. It bugged her because it had a tendency to bleed. Simple procedure to remove it. Numb her neck, scape the thing off, burn it so it wouldn't come back. Needle, scraping sound, the smell of burning flesh and smoke rising from it. I think she took it better than I did, really. But the real horror was the bill.

I'm ready for normal.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

What You Say Can and Will Be Used

From the time they were small, my kids knew. We'd be in a public setting, usually a restaurant, and they would take one look at me and say, "Mom, you're doing it, aren't you?" I always was. I am a shameless eavesdropper. No, not to my kids' phone conversations, not standing with my ear to a cup against a wall. But I am a writer in my soul, and the reality is, people talking in public are telling stories.

I possess the ability to sit in an eating establishment, listen to every conversation at every table around me, and still manage to converse with my family. It's an art, really. You just have to keep your ears pricked for interesting words, then hone in on that particular exchange until it ceases to be useful and/or engrossing. My husband will sometimes even nod to people across the room, whose dialogue can't be detected, and ask "What's their story?" Then I will have to resort to lip reading and body language to figure it out. If I can't decipher, I'll make up something. My powers are not limiting to dining. I am also quite adept at malls.

Sometimes it's easy. People will speak loudly and you can't avoid hearing. I was checking out at a video store. A cell phone rang at the back, then a woman was yelling, apparently at a soon to be ex-somebody. She strode to the front of the store during this time. When she was near the exit, I (and everyone else, including my young daughter) heard: "What the (bad word) did you expect? What the (bad word) would you do if you (worse word) walked in on me (unmentionable word) your best friend?" She slammed out the door. The woman who was checking me out never missed a beat, kept scanning movies, didn't look or even raise her eyebrows. As soon as the betrayed girlfriend left, the clerk said, deadpan, "That's why those things should be stuck to the wall."

We were sitting at IHOP after Florida got hit with three hurricanes. Four college age kids were in the booth next to us. One of them asked if Orlando was on the Atlantic or Pacific side of the state. Well, let's see, Orlando isn't on a coast. If you are in Florida, there is the Atlantic Ocean, Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, a couple thousand miles of land, and THEN the Pacific Ocean. Not much you can do with that discourse, other than use it in a blog post or write a dissertation on the abject inadequacy of our education system.

In closing, the inspiration for this post came tonight when we were dining at our favorite Mexican eatery. To paraphrase Lewis Black, if you think about this very long, your head will explode. Okay, ready? "Do you want your cat's ashes back in the box?" Don't say I didn't warn you.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I Thought the Major Was a Lady Suffragette

If my daughter had been born many decades earlier than she was, I have no doubt she would have been a suffragette. Would have marched down the street shoulder to shoulder with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton. Instead, she arrived in an era when women have the luxury of taking their right to vote for granted.

Jessica turned 18 a couple of months ago, and one of the first things she did as a legal adult was register to vote. We had talked about the candidates (beyond how annoying the campaign ads were) and where they stood on the issues. She had expressed dismay at how boring politics can be. I explained that politics is not the same as "the issues." The day to day realities of your life, your family, your community, your country . . . the world. Things that you don't have to worry about when you are eighteen years old and your future is so bright you have to wear shades.

My children grew up in a world without war and mostly without fear. There were no duck and cover drills, no looming communist threats, no cold war, no Viet Nam, not even a Berlin Wall. Unfortunately, their children will likely be raised on a planet that is scarier than the one on which they were raised. So I am happy that my daughter is taking an interest in the direction our society will go, despite the boringness (and boorishness) of it all. I believe that, if she has children one day, she will appreciate the fact that she does have a say in how the world turns out.

After we voted, I asked one of the volunteers if she had a sticker. She said she had run out, but I could have hers, and she pulled it off her sweater and handed it to me. I stuck it to my daughter's jacket and said, "It's her first time. I'm so proud!" Thanks, Susan.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Remembering Dad

Three years ago today, my dad was out on a four wheeler scouting hunting spots, had a massive heart attack, and was gone. I still have a hard time wrapping my brain around it. Something will happen, or I'll read something, and think I need to call Dad and tell him about that, and it's like a bad surprise all over again.

My father and I had a rather unusual relationship, given that I did not grow up knowing him. He and my mother divorced when I was a baby. Circumstances were what they were (I get stories from both sides, so I've had to piece together what I think probably happened), and I was raised with a stepfather instead of my father.

Shortly after I married, a cousin on my dad's side asked if I would like to contact him. I sent him a letter, he sent one back, and my husband and I made arrangements to meet him. He was living in Las Vegas. We got tickets for Labor Day weekend. There were some glitches with the flight, and we ended up taking an earlier one. Meanwhile, the flight we were supposed to be on had been delayed. So Dad was at the airport thinking he had another hour and a half to wait, and he was already nervous. The airport was packed because of the three day weekend and all the people who had flown in eager to lose their money. But hubby spotted my dad, who was on the way to the pay phone to call a buddy to come help him wait. (Did I mention he was nervous?) We hadn't seen pictures of him, but I'd sent him pictures of us, and he had told me to look for someone who resembled my brother. I wasn't sure it was him, so I asked hubby to sneak up behind and see if it said "Dave" on his belt. Sure enough, his belt ratted him out. He hadn't told me he had a belt with his name on it, but somehow, I knew it.

I missed out on growing up with my dad, but when we did meet, we didn't have all the growing up baggage, teenage angst, the "I hate you" fights, so we just got to be friends. He was there when my kids were born, we went to family reunions together, I was there when he married my wicked stepmother (no, she's not really, that's actually a term of endearment). He cracked up my kids with his grandpa-isms. We had fun.

Three years ago, I walked into the chapel holding his cowboy boots and said goodbye. I will never stop missing him. But I know for sure that the last thing I said to him was, "I love you, Dad." Damn straight.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Deliver us from Evil

I am counting down the hours until next Tuesday's election in much the same way that children count down the days until Christmas. No, I don't love election day. I'm just sick to death of political ads. These snarky, whining, mud-slinging politicians behave like sugared-up two year olds and expect our vote? How arrogant. So, in honor of November 7th, 2006, here are some of the more ridiculous ads in my neck of the woods.

"He's a perennial candidate. Our candidate gets things done. The other guy will do or say anything just to get elected to something!" It named off about six offices he had run for in the past and it confused me to the point that I don't even know what he's running for now.

"He represented a prostitute, a drug dealer and a convicted rapist. He represents them. We can't let him represent us." A defense attorney running for state representative.

"Too liberal for Oklahoma." Thanks. Way to stereotype an entire state.

"Are you tired of a Labor Commissioner who won't go to work?" Accompanied by pictures of a sign that says "Ghost Commissioner" and video of a woman who keeps hitting the snooze button on her alarm.

"He's not even a CPA. He majored in P.E." Running for State Auditor. Probably running because, after all, he majored in P.E.

"If you can't count to ten, you shouldn't win." The other guy running for State Auditor.

Our governor has a non- negative ad about how we are "Best in the Nation," in which he cleverly rhymes nation with innovation, administration and education.

A woman discussing why we should not vote for the defense attorney mentioned above: "Our grandson was violated at school by a teacher. The teacher was a pervert." Duh.

And to top it all off, we now get to hear Kerry and Bush fighting it out yet again. Thought we were done with that.

I had to go to this site (http://www.dontvote.com/map.html) to get the scoop, because I pretty much can't believe anything any of these guys say. I'll just be glad when it's over. Until 2008.

I'd be interested in hearing interesting ads from other parts of the country.

I wouldn't be surprised to see an ad like this (with nods to Curtis and Eric): "Nice hair. Too bad about the face."

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


When I was a kid, we lived in a fairly remote small town in the mountains of New Mexico. The residents were pretty well scattered over a couple of canyons and some random hills, so trick or treating was a non-option. Instead, the school would host a Halloween carnival every year. Of course there was candy, but also a cake walk, lots of games and bobbing for apples (germfest - oh, the humanity!). One of our teachers would turn the library into a haunted house, complete with peeled grapes (eyeballs, doncha know) and slimy cold spaghetti (brains). We fell for it every time.

My kids probably don't remember Halloweens much until DUN, DUN, DUN!!! We moved to Duluth. The snow began mid-afternoon. By trick or treat time, there were many inches. We put the costumes on over snow pants, mittens, boots and hats. Grandma was there to stay with the kids the following day while my husband underwent outpatient surgery. That was Friday morning. By Friday afternoon, it was clear his stay in the hospital (and mine) would be extended. I think the snow stopped sometime late (very late) Friday night, but I have blocked some of this experience, so I can't be sure. All I know is that it dumped about 38 inches of white stuff on us and pretty much shut down the town. My mother-in-law was home with the kids and they were literally house bound because the snow had piled up so that the doors were useless. Fortunately, Bill rallied the neighbors and a team of snowblowers came to dig out the trio. My hubby and I finally got to go home Sunday afternoon. The other Duluth Halloweens were not so adventurous, for which I am grateful.

Last night I was handing out candy to all the little monsters. Hubby had gone to the store to get more, because I had underestimated how many visitors we would have. I was down to three Reeses and some Dum Dums. A group of four came to the door. I put Reeses in three bags and two Dum Dums in the last. The kid looked disgusted, pulled them out, threw them back in my bowl and said, "You can have these back, I want Reeses." I had just discovered a hidden Hershey piece and was holding it out for him, but stopped in my tracks at his rudeness. As I was standing there with my mouth hanging open, he reached out, took it and put it in his bag. It crossed my mind how cool it would be if the sky opened up and dumped 38 inches of snow on his head. Good thing I'm not a witch.