Aug 31, 2009

You'll know you're there when you get there

Every Friday during the summer here in Michigan, the roads leading north are crowded with people making their way “UP NORTH”. They are headed to their cabins, or to a rental on the lake, or camping. They carry bicycles, canoes and ATV’s. They haul boats and campers. They leave right after work on Friday and come home again late Sunday night.

Up North travel doesn’t end after summer is over. Campers and boaters pass the baton to hunters in the fall and to the snowmobilers for our 5 months of winter. The weekly trek up I75 never ends. The hunters don’t carry anything visible on the way up but if they are successful they proudly tie the poor, dead deer to their vehicle for all to see. It’s a grisly sight, but if the population wasn’t controlled by hunting, the deer would become a hazard to themselves and to motorists. There just aren’t any predators left to hunt them.

There’s some debate over where the “Up North” border lies. It’s hard to define but you can feel it when you are Up North. The air is not as heavy, the smells of pine and cedar fill the air, the landscape looks more wild. My tell-tale sign is the sudden feeling of freedom, as if somebody has lifted a huge burden off my shoulders.

The worst two weekends for traveling Up North are Memorial Day (we made it through another winter) and Labor Day (we’d better enjoy it before it’s over). If you don’t time it right your travel time can be doubled.

So here we are in the dwindling days of summer. Between Mom’s surgery and all the visitors, we haven’t done any trips Up North this year. This is our last chance. We have a pop-up camper and if my husband hadn’t hurt his leg we would be taking that Up North this Labor Day weekend. Instead we are going to have to settle for a small rental at KOA, they call them Kamping Kabins. (I never noticed before but they need to be careful about abbreviating that.)

I’m looking forward to sitting around the campfire, walking along the lakeshore and hiking. Well, a leisurely stroll through the woods anyway. I don’t think you get to call it hiking if you wear your flip flops. Going to take my lounge chair and a good book and enjoy summer while I can.

Aug 27, 2009

Highway Robbery

Speaking of groceries … since when did you have to either take out a second mortgage or pawn the jewelry you inherited from your grandmother in order to buy a few weeks worth of food? Yesterday’s excursion to our local chain grocery store cost us $282 and we barely bought any meat. If you subtract the beer and my little air freshener gadget it still came to $255.

I think I haven’t noticed because lately we only pick up a few things here and there. But we were low on quite a few things and with the faint hint of an autumn nip in the air, a person gets the urge to fill the larder for winter. In an effort to save some money we bought some stuff from Sam’s Club but having an 18 year old son in the house defeats the purpose of bulk buying. He sees 20 boxes of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese as a personal challenge not as a long term food buying strategy.

One thing that bothers me about groceries is the healthier options cost more money. If the words "Low Fat" or "Fat Free" or "Organic" are anywhere on the package, you will pay a premium. Shouldn't it be less expensive if you leave the sugar and fat out of it?

To create the illusion of savings I don’t give the clerk my “Savings Card” until everything is rung up. My bill magically went from $318 to $282. False satisfaction, I know, because their real purpose is to track all my purchases for their marketing geniuses to analyze and devise new ways to entice me to spend even more money. I feel like such a pawn.

*Disclaimer in the interest of full disclosure. In no way did the contents of my basket resemble the healthy assortment of food in the picture included in this post. My defense is that it's hard to find a picture of a grocery cart containing Little Debbie Nutty Bars, Doritos, Diet Coke and Cocoa Krispies cereal.

Aug 24, 2009

Hangin' up the Glove

My dear husband’s muscles, ligaments and tendons seem to be turning to silly putty. He is not taking it well, either. He is (was) very athletic. This is a man who played baseball, basketball and football in high school. When you are the oldest of three brothers you have to work hard to establish and maintain your superiority.

He was a roofer for 20 years, climbing up and down ladders with bundles of shingles. The only reason he gave that up was his knees were starting to get to him. He still has an athlete’s build. Every few months he develops a little belly pooch but it bothers him. He diets and exercises for bit and then loses it. He is an active, fit man.

I never would have suggested he participate in the company softball tournament if I had known what was going to happen. I admit to wanting to show off, via my husband’s athletic prowess. And from all accounts, he was on his way to being the star of the team. My co-workers tell me they already had him slotted in the power batting position and all agreed he was the strongest player that showed up for the first practice.

So, what happened? Well, while running and stretching to catch a groundball he tore his calf muscle, his Achilles tendon and has a hairline fracture. Nobody bumped him, he didn’t fall, twist or do anything out of the ordinary. It’s really bizarre.

He will get the results of his MRI tomorrow. Until then we don't know if he will need surgery, (thank goodness we're insured <-------- health care reform plug). Physically he will recover, but mentally he is taking it hard. It's a wake up call that from here on out his body will continue to be in a far different place than his mind. Because in his mind he is still young, energetic and invincible. His muscles, ligaments and tendons beg to differ.

Aug 18, 2009

Pretty Boy

I grew up during the 60’s and 70’s. I don’t have anything against long hair. But, little boys should have little boy hair. There, I said it. A little bit of length is OK but this is ridiculous.

I doubt that the sons of Kate Hudson, Celine Dion, Cindy Crawford and Elle McPhereson are trying to make some sort of social statement with their hair. Either their parents are too wimpy to give the kids haircuts against their wishes or they are using their children as some sort of living canvas to prove what unconventional parents they are.

What does Celine have to say about her son’s hair? “Rene Charles makes his own decisions most of the time. My son makes his own decisions about his hair. I've asked him about 25 times, if not five million, 'Do you want mommy to open your face a little bit... Do you want me to trim a little bit?' No. When he's ready, I'll cut it. Anyway, my husband has no hair - so it balances out."

Well, letting your son make his own decisions may lead to trouble some day. I think. Maybe. Will you let him enter school only when he says he is ready? Does he decide what he will eat every day? Is he consulted on everything? That’s no way to parent, you nitwit. Quit asking him and start telling him he’s getting a hair cut.

Oh and Kate… if you’re going to make the kid wear long hair, at least run a comb through it. Unless you are trying to go for that cavekid look. If so, mission accomplished. You should have named him “Oog”.

I wager these boys will come home begging for haircuts once the schoolyard bullies get a hold of them. There’s something to be said for the normalizing influence of one’s peers.

I feel the same way about piercing the ears of little baby girls. Mothers who do this are treating their daughters like little dress up dolls to accessorize as they like, even if it means permanently altering their bodies.

Aug 16, 2009

Dress Update

For those of you (two, maybe three readers) who are interested. I have narrowed my MOB dress choices down to the following dresses that I tried on yesterday.

Checked with my daughter and she is OK with me wearing ivory. Apparently there are no rules anymore regarding how one dresses.... no black, only the bride in white, etc.

Let me just say this about bridal shops.... lacy see-through curtains on the dressing room doors... hello? whose bright idea was that? and secondly, a word of advice to bridal shop girls.... if I take my sister into the dressing room with me I don't need your help and I don't appreciate you barging in to see how I'm doing. I'll let you know if I need you. About face and head your cute little behind out of my dressing room.

Aug 13, 2009

Any Five Words

My hit counter tells me a little bit about the people who visit my site. Some of it is boring stuff that I really don’t care about, like what OS and Browser the visitor is using. Over time, I have been able to learn the unique combos of several of my regular visitors. Nothing really useful in that, other than it feels nice to see the same people coming back. My blog must not be too terribly boring.

I do get some interesting information from my hit counter though, like the geographic location of my visitors. I am fascinated at how the boundaries of our world are shrinking. Everybody shows up as a nice little circle on a map of the world. It may sound corny, but I think the whole social networking thing may make us more tolerant of others in the long run. Or that could just be my eternal optimism.

I have had visitors from every continent, except Antarctica. I’m not even really sure about Antarctica because it doesn’t show up on my hit counter map. The exclusion is reasonable since not many penguins surf the net. But still I like to imagine that some research station down there stumbled across my blog during a google search. It could happen.

I can also see from my hit counter the web-sites that directed a visitor to my blog. The most common ways people get here from another web-site are:

1) From my Blogger profile. Usually because I left a comment on somebody’s blog and they want to see who I am.
2) From another Blogger’s blog roll. I get so excited and feel so honored whenever I see I am included in somebody’s blog roll.
3) From a Google search that hits some phrase in one of my blogs.

A google search is by far the most frequent way strangers get to my blog. The most common search that brings them to me is “good blog names”. My blog is usually in the first few pages of results. I regret that I have no answers for them as to “Why are all the good blog names taken?” It’s just a blog name I came up with when I got tired of all my ideas being shot down because somebody beat me to the punch.

It stands to reason that the more words you throw into cyber space, the more google hits you will get. I’ve gotten a few hits from “Kim & Henry”, a blog I wrote about text messaging. I’ve also had hits from “on a ventilator” and quite a few from “Phil the Woodchuck”. Although I suspect that last one came from a family member who hadn’t bookmarked my blog yet.

The strangest google search string to date came today, from Puerto Rico. Somebody did a google search on “kung fu pine tree shoes”. Besides being slightly amused that this search leads to yesterday’s blog post, I am very curious about what this person was trying to find. Any martial artists out there have a clue?

Perhaps they are doing an experiment on how long a string of random words has to be before it won’t lead you to a blog. I’m going to go search “pencil cup banana ape parfait” and “lipstick confetti compartment disease spelunking”. I bet I get a blog within the first three pages.

Aug 12, 2009

Irreconcilable Differences

Top ten things that may cause my divorce.

1. Kitchen towels on the counter. How hard is it to hang the towel back where it belongs? We hang our kitchen towels on the bar of the oven door. Well, I hang them there anyway. He tosses them on the closest flat surface. Sometimes even the stovetop.

2. Trees. Last year he started a landscaping project. Step one,cut down trees. A few of them needed to go because of tree blight..... sounds biblical doesn't it? But he also cut down some perfectly good shade trees. He didn't like them because they were both fruit bearing. One was a beautiful apple tree that shaded the deck out back. Every day, after the fruit started to fall, our dog Chance would bring an apple in that he had found laying on the ground outside. I found it amusing. My husband found it annoying. End of apple tree. We are now on phase two of the tree project which is to move three HUGE pine trees from one side of the house to fill in the bare spots left by the trees he cut down last year. I want my backyard back.

3. Not putting my car keys back in my purse. This is never discovered until I am rushing to get to work in the morning. He knows what's coming when he hears me stomping up the stairs. "Ummm, where are my keys?" I feel no sympathy for him having to jump out of bed and search the whole house for my keys. I don't even feel bad about the few times they ended up actually being in my purse.

4. Not cleaning out the cottage cheese container from his lunch box. He just tosses it into the sink. I hate the smell and look of cottage cheese. Even the word "curd" freaks me out a little. Perhaps I have some repressed trauma involving cottage cheese.

5. Mis-pronouncing words on purpose. It's turned into sort of a game for him now. Names are the worst. I just pretend I don't know what or who he is talking about and keep repeating it back to him in a questioning voice. He is forced to eventually tell me what he really means. Only a matter of time til he gets a work-around for my current strategy.

To be fair I am giving him equal time on this list. Items 6-10 are all my fault.

6. Shoes everywhere. I tend to take my shoes off in different places all over the house and just leave them there. I really don't notice them until it's time to clean house and then I have to get a laundry basket and fill it with shoes to take to the closet.

7. I play a lot of World of Warcraft. Three nights a week raiding, three hours per night and at least a little bit of time each day to do my daily quests, check my mail, level my alt. WOW has 11 million subscribers because it is a never ending pursuit of multiple objectives. No one person could do them all and they keep adding more. Plus it is a social game so you make friends with the people you play with. He doesn't understand because he hasn't played an electronic game since "Pong" in the 70's.

8. I buy a lot of books. As a result I have stacks and stacks of books throughout the house. What with all my WOW playing my stack of unread books is growing faster than I have time to read them.

9. Milk in the cereal bowl left on the counter. I don't know why I don't rinse it out. I can't drink it, yuck, too sweet, but I can't bring myself to pour it down the drain. So I just leave it. Well, the cat likes milk and is perfectly happy to take care of it for me. Problem is my husband hates the cat being on the counter.

10. I don't save leftovers. His mother was a firm believer in never wasting any food. My family usually gave the dog the leftovers or just threw them away. There were exceptions, but we certainly never saved mashed potatoes. And now that I mention it I have to turn this into a "top eleven" things list.

11. A fridge full of leftovers. His leftover containers pile up with old ones getting pushed to the back of the fridge. There they sit until I need room for some newly purchased groceries. I have to empty all the moldy, rotten food down the garbage disposal and clean the containers.

Aug 10, 2009

4 Birthday BBQ

This year we celebrated four family birthdays together. We have quite a few summer birthdays in our family so this seemed like the most efficient way to do it. We all agreed that from now on this is how we will do it.

As an extra special bonus for the celebration, my cousins son and daughter are here from Germany visiting for a few weeks. They are actually here visiting my kids and my sister's kids, not us boring adults. They have all gotten to be close even though they live on different continents and usually only see each other every five years at the big "Trans-continental Family Reunion".

Did a "Q" at my house for 18 people.

BBQ Chicken <----- husband thinks he is a Grill Master Extraordinaire, probably most men think that.
Baked Beans <----- secret ingredient - horse radish.
Asian Cole Slaw <--- not as good as usual because of the modification for my vegetarian daughter.
Hawaiian Rolls <----- mmmmm..... bread is good.

My sister baked four cakes, one for each birthday boy or girl.

Then headed off to the local kneipe to have a few drinks, shoot some pool and throw a few darts. Back room was closed though for UFC pay-per-view so we had to play cards instead.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY JIM (Dear, dear husband)
HAPPY BIRHTDAY MICHAEL (Couldn't ask for a better brother-in-law)
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MISS ERICA (Sweetest daughter a mother could ever have)
HAPPY BIRTHDAY SABRINA (Best sister and best friend)

*** Also went to see the Harry Potter movie this weekend. I read the first three books with ease but gave up on number four. It took too long to get a story line going. Missed a few of the movies along the way too. I was disappointed in the movie. It ended poorly, like an old time TV cliff hanger to get you to tune in next week. And to make matters worse they killed off Dumbledore.

Aug 5, 2009

Cutest Rodents on Earth

I’ve been thinking about squirrels today because one of them has taken up residence in an oak tree right outside my window at work.

I grew up in a neighborhood with huge, green, leafy trees: oaks, elms, maples and ash trees for the most part. Before the insidious “Emerald Ash Borer” killed it a few years ago, my parents had a huge ash tree in their backyard. Many creatures called that tree home, including a long line of squirrels.

Large tree populations mean large squirrel populations. There were always squirrels running around, jumping from fence to tree, then a high wire walk across the power line to another tree. At one point, we had the squirrels taking peanuts, oh so gingerly, from our out-stretched hands. Prey animals are so skittish.

The picture above shows a red, grey and black squirrel. The reds are common in Europe. Here in North America we have mostly grey squirrels. But there are several pockets in the Northern US and in Canada, where populations of black squirrels dominate.

The first black squirrel I saw in our neighborhood was about 30 years ago. He stood out because he was unique. There was just one, on Elm Street, down by Elizabeth Street. Every time I spotted him I would wonder where the heck he had come from. I guess it is sort of sexist of me to think of the squirrel as a him, but I always did. Like some sort of rodent Christopher Columbus, moving into unexplored territories.

The little explorer was wildly successful. These days, everywhere you look in the neighborhood you see black squirrels. The population has spread from Elm Street onto Chestnut and Ash Streets and all the way from Elizabeth Street, across Wayne Road to Fourth. Probably even further, but these days, that’s the extent of my roaming in the City of Wayne. Quite a successful migration for that one little black squirrel.

One more squirrel story. One summer day a few years ago I left my car window open a little bit when I came back from lunch. After work I went back to my car and opened the car door as usual. I was confronted with a small, brown creature scrambling madly from front to back, banging into the windshield. A squirrel had climbed into the car and couldn’t figure out how to get back out again. I slammed the door shut in a panic. Eventually, I opened the door as wide as it could go and ran. I watched from a distance until the squirrel finally ran out of the car. I'm not sure who was more relieved the squirrel or me.

OK, just one more squirrel story, I promise. Once while golfing, a friend and I watched a squirrel bury a nut in the woods, just off the fairway. We decided to mess with him a little bit. We drove the golf cart over there, dug up his nut and drove off. The squirrel watched us do this from a neighboring tree. After we drove off he ran to the spot and checked for his nut. I swear he was shaking his head and muttering to himself as he walked away from his empty nut hole.

Aug 3, 2009

Best Time of My Life

I’ve never understood women who are sensitive about others knowing their age. Whether somebody knows I am 46 or not does not change the fact that I am 46. I really don’t care who knows it. Although I do admit the time somebody thought I was my sister’s Mom was a little traumatic. There’s only four years difference between us. My sister will say five years difference, but I was four when she was born. Partial years don’t count, end of story.

Every age comes with its pluses and minuses. I think back to the stages of my kids’ lives. Each age brought new wonders and delights as well as new challenges. Snuggling newborn babies is the most awesome thing in the world. Every day brings some new and amazing thing they can do. But then there are the dirty diapers and all the paraphernalia you have to cart around, including them.

As they became toddlers you watched them discover the world and marveled at how they must be the most brilliant child in the world. Toddlerhood also brought more mobility and independence. But, being not so easy to confine meant they could get into more trouble. They also started to develop their own ideas about what they want and don’t want. It’s the start of the power struggle.

Young children are transformed, seemingly overnight, into teenagers and nothing in your world is ever the same. They seem so adult like one moment, surprising you with their keen insight or the character you see deep inside them. Then the very next moment they get overtaken by their hormones and you just want to smack them for being so emotional or so brainless. They do make some bad decisions once in awhile. Guess it’s good they still have us to guide them, as unobtrusively as possible, lest you bring the teenage wrath down upon your head.

Adulthood is no different. I look back on each stage of my life and think about the good things and the hardships. 46 is not old, by any means, but I am hearing things from my Doctor like “Well, at your age, it’s a good idea to get that checked out.” My age? When did I qualify for that phrase? I don’t recover quite as quickly from physical exertion as I used to and when I’m tired, I am ready for bed tired. I also am starting to get age spots… I’m not kidding.

But for all of that I wouldn’t go back (well maybe back to my 20s, but only if I could take some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way with me). Right now I am in a good place. Kids are grown and we are totally independent and free. We are looking forward to being grandparents in the next few years. After three more years of college for the youngest, we should be able to travel a little bit more.

I look forward to the future, whatever it may bring. I am 46 and proud of it.