3.30.2011

Good Morning!

Today is grandma's funeral, so this will be short.

C and I were awoken from our slumber this morning by our two darling nieces.  There was rustling and running and hopping and scurrying.   It sounded like this.




Only they were both giggling maniacally.  If my alarm could do what they did, I'd wake up laughing every day.

3.29.2011

Fight or Flight

Each Halloween when we were kids, my sister and I, along with millions of fellow gremlins, would stage our annual burn-and-pillage of the neighborhood candy-supply.  Most children seemed to return home with their bounty splitting the seams of a king size pillowcases, but not us.  She and I would barrel in the door with our loot swishing around at the halfway mark of a department store jack-o-lantern pail.  And those were the good years.  Don’t begin to let yourself feel sorry for our miniature plunder; it was more than enough to feed the fires of a benign preadolescent buzz. Like our juvenile counterparts around the country, the hit we got from those eyeball jawbreakers and rainbow Skittles was strong enough to sustain our excitement during the 162 days it would take to reach Easter. 

www.bodyshockprogram.com

I know I shouldn’t be using up a Halloween tale in March, but this story is funny, and really – you only live once, right? 

Unlike some kids, my sister and I didn’t usually start the costume process until around the day of, at 3pm, and in general, our final products betrayed our lack of planning.   I think, because of where we grew up, we lacked the competition that would make us better trick-or-treaters. Our staples were the following:  
  1. Gymnast / Dancer – Both my sister and I had taken dance lessons for a while, and had moved on to gymnastics.  These costumes were the easiest and fastest to produce, thus the most frequent.
  2. Egyptian Princess – I’m not sure why, but for some reason, if we put on one of our mom’s silky nightshirts, a big belt, some necklaces, a scarf and a lot of eye shadow, we transformed from two awkward preteens into Cleopatra and Bathsheba. 
  3. Hobo – As socially and politically incorrect as it is, we did it, wearing flannel shirts and carrying stuffed bandanas on a stick.  I probably also ate a can of pinto beans before setting out, just to - you know - be in character.
  4. Japanese Princess – Mom had this gorgeous navy and white kimono that we would swaddle ourselves in.  It made you feel perfectly regal.  But you had to get pulled in a wagon, because walking was just not an option.
  5. African Princess – Mom also had a Liberian dress we’d steal.  This outfit as a costume seems particularly wrong to me in hindsight, but don’t throw stones until you’ve done it. 

Other costumes would make an appearance on occasion.  One year I was a cow.  Another, a ghost.  During college I was a German yodeler/Minnie Mouse.  But the highlight of my collective Halloween memory took place when I was probably 7 and my sister 9.  She had decided to wear my dad’s flight suit from his days in the Air Force.  Imagine a 50-inch fourth grader wearing a jumpsuit sized for an average male in his mid twenties, helmet and breathing hose included.  No tailor could have made this work.

But the results were awesome.

So on this particular holiday, she and I were wrapping up our 10 house circuit culminating with our godparents’ home, which traditionally came last, probably because they had been out earlier with their kids [filling actual pillowcases].  We didn’t live in an area where you could trick or treat by foot, unless you wanted to start early that morning and pack tuna salad sandwiches for lunch and dinner.  So we get to our friends’ door, ring the bell and recite our line in an enthusiastic off-key singsong.  They reward our efforts with caramel-apple lollipops (a longstanding personal favorite) and Sugardaddies (my sister’s golden goose), and we say our goodbyes.  We start off down their walkway toward the car.  I hopped in the seat behind my Dad and shut the door behind me, pawing in the darkness at my treasure, running my fingers through the crisp wrappers, lost in a gluttonous trance and paying no attention to my surroundings.  As we are rolling down the long driveway, I break concentration and suddenly realize that I’m alone in the backseat.  And I shouldn’t be.  The car door to my right is half open, and I can see the olive green of my father’s flight suit flickering as my sister’s arms flail at the car door.  What is she doing?!!

We probably made it halfway down the dirt driveway with my sister dragging beside the car, air hose and all.  It took me a second after seeing her for me to start howling for Dad to stop the car, that she wasn’t technically riding with us.  She must have had a hard time finding the seat with that visor over her eyes.  Regardless, she turned out fine, and even more disappointing at the time was the fact that she was indeed going to be alive to maintain ownership of her jack-o-lantern.  Maybe next year. 


www.costume-place.com
What my sister should have worn.

via the Aerospace Museum of California
It was a dragging thing of beauty.

You might think I’m a monster for highlighting this story as the pinnacle of my entire Halloween repertoire.  But if it were you in my seat, with your hand in your bucket and your eyes on that helmet clanging on the car door, you’d be no different. 

3.28.2011

City Slickers


C and I are on the road this week, traveling to visit family in the area of the east coast that surrounds New York City.  We are going to attend a funeral for C’s grandma, and while this is a sad event indeed, it is always interesting to see too, what kind of family communion and deep connection can take place during life events like this.  So on we go. 

As we drive near NYC, it gets me considering the vast differences between my world in the north and the one that exists in metro-America.  There are  some similarities as well, namely the possibility of living much of life within a square mile, and the quantity of hot dogs sold daily. 

But the differences, they are vast and wide, and joyously entertaining. 



NYC
Way Up Noth
Underground Gaming
Texas Hold ‘Em
Pass the Pigs (I’ve got a leaning jowler over here!!)
Fall Apparel
Leather boots and sweater dresses
Snowpants and Muck boots
Spring Apparel
Bright colored ties and dresses; open-toed shoes
Snowpants and Muck boots
Wildlife
Horses, squirrels, rats
Moose, squirrels, cats
Cuisine
Pan-seared Chilean sea bass with leeks and truffle broth
Moosemeat.
Date Night
Fine dining and a show
Making the drive to the Black Frog (please read the menu)
Vehicle Safety
Locked doors; car alarm; possibly the Boot
Unlocked doors; keys in; engine running (Leave it running, or it will die. Remember, it’s -20* outside.)
Illegal Activity
Drug running
Drug running (Canada’s our neighbor, eh)

Well, we’re more similar than I thought, which is still not very.  Being this close to the city makes me long a little bit for some Thai food and a musical, but simultaneously it reminds me of our piney mountains and stunning sunsets, and the fact that skyscrapers, though incredible, are no competition for a mighty river.  So, New York, you can keep your truffle broth and your open-toed shoes this spring.  I’ll be busy taking on mud-season with hip boots and a snorkel.

www.lostdutchmanblog.com

3.25.2011

March Marvels

Here are the top three things that make my heart sing this month:

www.advrider.com

1.  Beer bread.  At the recommendation of a friend in Dublin, I made my first batch of this sweet, yeasty bread about a week ago.  I like to make bread in general; I enjoy working with flour and making a huge mess, but I love – love – kneading.  I’m not sure why, except for the fact that this was a part of the process that I, as a child, was invited into.  It’s impossible to screw up.

Kneading aside (because in this recipe, there is none), this beer bread is absolutely the easiest food item I think I’ve ever made.  You just mix the batter and pour it into a loaf pan – you could even make it in the pan if you want.  The recipe doesn’t call for yeast, but the bread still rises in the oven, which makes it a wonderful beer science experiment (the best kind).    Check it out, and let me know if you get a crunchy but supermoist loaf like I did.  Feel free to not use the full stick of butter, but if you swallow hard and accept that you can make up for it by eating salads all week, you’ll be thankful you did.  It’s worth it.  I ate half the loaf while it was still warm, and should still be munching lettuce, but life is short and I have no regrets.

2.  The Good Men Project.  I found this book project via another blog awhile back and finally ordered it on Amazon.  I’m only a couple of entries in, but I am already wowed.  It is a collection of stories told by guys, for the good of other guys.  I’m obviously not the target audience, but I am struck by the nature of what these men have experienced simply by being men.  I am of the opinion that we live in a world driven by lunatic women, so I appreciate this effort at balancing the scales.  Here’s an excerpt written by Perry Glasser, a writer and father who had recently taken custody of his young daughter.  It’s titled Iowa Black Dirt.
I’d planned hot breakfasts against the Iowa winters.  I’d stocked up on oatmeal.  I’d bought a washer and dryer within days of moving into the house so that Jessica’s clothing would be washed spotless.  I practiced ironing.  Jessica’s complexion would be creamy, she’d never, ever, catch cold, and her hair, her glorious hair, would always be lustrous.
But my idylls of perfect parenthood are wrecked by a hairbrush.  Knotted about two inches from her scalp above her ear, it rests five inches from the tangled ends of her hair and a light-year from all I had imagined.  I recall my mother telling my sister it took a little pain to be beautiful, but pulling Jessica’s hair by the roots from her scalp seems too great a price to pay. 
I give up and carefully scissor out the brush.  Within days, her head resembles a bird’s nest in molting season.  She looks like a perfectly happy child raised by wolves. 

3.  The iPhone.  I don’t really want to toot a horn about this, because that’s irritating and it’s a very expensive bobble, but I just can’t help it.  This small wonder has enabled me to do a myriad of things, most importantly, access the internet and communicate with the larger world.  Granted, I graduated to this Ferrari from a flip phone with a ringtone of chicken squawks (I’m not kidding), so as you can imagine, the adjustment has been a little overwhelming.

Remember, I live outside of access to any internet provider except for satellite, and the weather conditions up here would almost guarantee that we'd never get a solid signal.  In a strange twist of fate however, we do have cable in our cabin (which we've never had before), and initially were hoping to get DSL through that service, but – get this – our cable provider doesn’t have a website.  Clearly, they were not our solution.  Thus my iPhone has become an important part of village life.  I pay my bills with it, use it as a hotspot, take pictures with its camera, play a gingerbread man game on it (here's Oven Break, being reviewed by a six year-old), and watch Netflix.  It’s spectacular.

Another awesome fact is that when I first used the phone, I had to call to be sure that my closest cell tower was actually still in the United States and that international data service wasn’t going to show up charged on my bill.  Initially, the customer service lady didn't know -  she’d never seen this problem.

Regardless of how wonderful it is, if I ever lose it, I’m not getting another.  As a Verizon customer, I got it during their promotion, but unless they start making them with the ability to dress me and make breakfast, I’m not paying $700 for one.  I’d rather lose my mind.

I'm sure someone is convinced.  www.badcell.wordpress.com

These are the items that have made my heart go pitter-patter of late. After reading my top three, what are yours?  Your village might look pretty different from mine, or perhaps it's the same village, so I’d love to know what turns your frown upside-down. 

Have a happy weekend, and as a friend of mine says, “Make good choices!”.  So when you ride that shopping cart backwards into a light pole, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

3.24.2011

Shop Like There's No Tomorrow

My parents are remarkable people.  For a whole host of reasons, I love and admire them.  Dad is disciplined, hilarious and incredibly giving. He has spent at least a quarter of his time in the last five or so years doing things for C and I, or for my sister and her husband.  Or for almost anyone, for that matter.  Mom is more or less what I hope to grow into someday.  She acts as familial to the cashier at Wal-Mart as she does to me when we go out to breakfast.   She’s unmatched in her compassion, and the tiniest bit crazy.  So while I reference them today, I do so with a deep sense of joy and admiration.

On to the show.

My parents are prepared for disaster.  I don’t mean that they had a Y2K shelter built in the ‘90s (though I do know someone who did), but I am convinced that they could and would survive if every commercial source of food were to suddenly drop into the earth into a selective sinkhole.  I’ve spent the last three years unlearning how to store food.  I have tried to restrict myself to using the canned goods in my cupboard before I go stacking them with more yams and baked beans.

www.preparednesspro.com

Mom and dad have a basement pantry and a standing chest freezer, along with the normal fridge and cupboards in the kitchen.  These are all generally pretty full.  The upside to all of this is that when my sister and I drop everything and decide to show up at their house for dinner, they have no problem (and no complaints, bless them) feeding us a dazzling spread.  It's wonderful.

During the last month and a half, C and I have found ourselves faced with the classic food challenge of the north.  Most people up here have chest freezers and pantries like my parents.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with this on it’s own.  Some people only grocery shop one day a month, which to me means that they are vastly more intelligent and organized than I.  Think of how together you have to be to shop once a month.  That is not me. 

So, like I said, I’ve spent the last three years learning how not to shop like food stores are going to suddenly beam up into outer space.  And now, living where mass-shopping is the norm, I easily become exasperated with the idea of buying pasta and frozen peas like a squirrel gathering nuts.  I have made grocery trips about once every two weeks, which has led to a pretty successful food to meal ratio.  It’s working for us, and I think I’ll stick with it.

This issue is a bit like the snowmobile: it drives me to disproportionate panic and despair. Have you ever seen the television show Hoarders?  I know that this to is like comparing apples and oranges, but my fears stem from this kind of stockpiling.  If you haven’t seen the show, let me give you a snapshot.  Picture your house or flat.  We’ll start with the closets.  Picture each space filled with your normal hanging apparel or folded linens, but then imagine every other square inch crammed with plastic Target bags and shoeboxes, reaching to the ceiling.  Now, picture your worst nightmare of a college dorm room.  See yourself in this bedroom, kicking towels and socks and soda cans out of the way to get to the set of drawers against the wall.  In reality, these are probably empty.  Or stuffed with tortilla chips.

The hallways hardly have enough room to pass between the stacks of boxes, books and magazines.  The bathrooms look like the bedroom did, only it’s hand towels and used perfume bottles on the floor.  Enter the kitchen, where all turns sinister.  Picture the junk in the other rooms.  Here, the floor is covered in bags and opened boxes of food, as well as used paper towels.  There is rotting cabbage on the table and moldy onions in the cupboard.  You may have accidentally made kimchi.  There is a moist, sweet funk in the air.  And inside the fridge?  No way.  We’re not even going there. 

www.blog.wfmu.org

Now, on top of all that, add 85 cats.  Fifteen more are dead and decomposing on the jungle floor. 

This is my fear.

In my mind, there is a direct connection between hoarding and keeping a pantry.  I know that this is ridiculous, but I can’t seem to get past it.  All of you organized folk out there, give me your stories of success.  I need to feed the fires of reason before they go out.

Mom, dad, I’m sorry.  You have a very organized pantry.  Something went wrong when I went to visit your other daughter at college.  I haven’t been able to escape the image since.

Oh, and I’ll be over for dinner tomorrow night.

3.23.2011

Make Like an Opossum and Die

I want to take the opportunity this morning to revel in the fact that where I used to live, aka “down south” they are getting snow today.  And I, in the frozen, quasi-Canadian tundra, am not.  Not.  Not.  Not. HA.

The view outside my window this morning is glorious.  There is fluffy snow still resting on the pine boughs since it fell yesterday, and it is shimmering from the reflection of a bright, beautiful sun.  It’s really something.  Here, I’ll show you. 

As I walked out to take this picture, I startled at least 3 woodpeckers busy probing the birch trees surrounding the cabin.  They quickly resumed the daily grind after they realized that I’m, well… me.  I’m only a threat to myself – a reality that is apparently clear, even to wildlife.

Speaking of threats, yesterday I was driving back to our cabin when I did what C and I do about 75% of the time.  I passed our street.  I don’t know what makes it so easy to do, but it seems increasingly pathetic when you consider that there can’t be more than five streets on the southern side that intersect with our main road. 

For another 30 miles.

Alas, I have done my service to lower the general IQ by missing our road again yesterday.  But, because I did so, I was able to have a nice run-in with the local law enforcement.  No, not the police.  A moose.  He was not too old, and was probably going through his first winter up here, just like me.   He was standing parallel to the double yellows, which means that I almost didn’t see his scrawny haunches, but luckily, the car driving opposite of me had their flashers on.  So our friend stands awkwardly in the road for a while and does some circles.  Then, things get a little more interesting.  He starts to walk to my car.   Awkward, clumsy, lumbering – moose do not seem intellectually formidable, however - I caution you -  they are still massive animals.  This young fellow was the size of a horse.  A horse who was coming to visit.  He got probably fifteen to twenty feet away from the car, with his ears buzzing around like antennae, then he finally jaunted off into the woods, post-holing the entire way.  Poor thing.

Anyway, I want to share with you some guidelines for fending off a moose attack.  Clearly, I was not in danger yesterday, but should you find yourself taking pictures of a trophy male on the highway or walking the woods during mating season, this could be very valuable information.

Here’s how you know that you are facing an aggressing moose:

Is it walking toward you?  Is it stomping it’s feet and pulling those antennae ears back?  What noise is it making?  Grunting?  (Bad news for you.)  Is it throwing its head back and forth?

If you answered yes, you better get right with God.   And in your car.

Now what?  Like you would if you faced many other wild animals, authorities say that you should back away slowly and put something large between yourself and the moose.  Moose will charge like a bear or a mountain goat (I’m guessing), so shielding yourself is the first essential move.  If you’re still in your car, get the heck out of the way or call your auto body to schedule a new paint job.  You’re going to need it.

But here are my two favorite pieces of information.  If you are faced with a near ¾ ton, seven-foot moose with a five-foot rack, the best way to defend yourself is to speak softly to it, like you would your 3 year-old niece.  That’s right - babytalk it out of maiming you.  Also, you should fake death by curling your body into a tiny (or not so tiny) ball, and become what common sense would tell you is an animal plaything. Try and be wearing a backpack for extra cushion, and cover your head if you have the wherewithal to remember.  You’ve become a human soccer ball with a Tammy-talks-a-lot voice.  And this is supposed to save you.

Knowing myself, if I were faced with this danger, I would only panic.  Remembering something about feigning death and fooling the animal, I’d roll over onto the ground and make like an opossum – mouth open, tongue out, eyes rolled back, limbs flailed – and be slaughtered by a vegetarian.  What a miserable way to go. 

www.theoffside.com

When you decide to visit, please bring this information with you, preferably on a cue card nestled on your dashboard.  You may come to need it, and when you do, I don’t want to have to drive out on the new snowmobile and drag your carcass off the road.  I’m not ready to ride that thing yet. 


And sister, please enjoy the snow today. 


I’m pretty sure it will be here tomorrow.

3.22.2011

You Can't Make Me

C bought a snowmobile on Sunday.  Instantly, part of me died.

Somehow, the concept of sled-ownership (and yes, friends from the south, they are not called “snowmobiles” in everyday conversation.  They are sleds.) strikes fear and icy dismay into the depths of my heart.  I feel as if, as a family, we have just crossed a Rubicon that there is no returning from.  It is horrible and terrifying and really, really sad.  Feel for me.  Please.

When I was a kid, I grew up in a rural area of the Northeast and went to a small school.  Naturally, because we were in a wintery part of the country, some of my friends were avid snowmobilers.  Each year we would go on a youth retreat that was a 90-minute drive north, and these friends would choose to spend the miles riding up on their sleds rather than on the bus, so long as there was white stuff on the ground.  I thought that this was terribly strange.  Who, in full presence of mind, would choose to ride on this machine that seemed to resemble a toboggan strapped over tank tracks when given the option of a valid mode of human transportation?  

What if they hit a deer?  

I have a friend who hit a deer while riding his bicycle, and I imagine that this could be much worse.

www.blog.ivman.com

Little did I know at the time that snowmobiles are like any other motorsport hobby or vehicle acquisition.  They can come from a neighbor’s junk pile, and cost next to nothing,
OR

You can buy the new Yamaha Apex XTX model, and easily spend fifteen thousand dollars.  These things can be pricey.

I'd hate to get all soap boxy on you, but if you’re really feeling bold, you could take that fifteen thousand dollars and buy seventeen camels from Heifer International, and send them to seventeen communities in need within the developing world.  You’d be giving them long-term transportation and income, as well as a source of dietary nourishment.

Or you could get the Apex.       Go ahead, you choose.

Anyhow, lots of what I’ve been learning during this move has to do with the nature of my perceptions, and how off-base they have generally been.  My husband has had so much fun with his sled since he’s purchased it (I haven’t even been around), and it has enabled him to enjoy some male-bonding time that he would not have otherwise had.  This has really become a precious thing since we moved north. 

So the next step is to buy him a helmet.  I think that because I’ve had such a wretchedly bad attitude about this whole purchase-process, I should go out and find the best helmet on the market, and buy it as a way of passing the peace pipe.  But, on the other hand, I could just go find this thing, and my inner monster will feel fed.

www.oobject.com

Speaking of inner monsters: if he doesn't have one already, he won't need one after trying this on.


So please, inundate me with your holy-mecca snowmobiling stories.  Tell me about the day your 6 year-old drove on the lake for the first time or about how this sport has made the world a better place for your community.  Sing me a song about the sled’s value to family relations in the frozen north. 

Then go buy me a camel.    

I will not let you win this argument.  Not now.  Not ever.  Not even if you’re nice. 

But maybe I’ll get to a place where I can appreciate the simple pleasure of a much cheaper, less diabolical winter vehicle than our fifteen thousand dollar white whale.

Today though, I'm standing at the ship's bow with a spear ready.  Don't push me.


3.21.2011

The O.S. : It Was the Night Before the Day After Easter...


Another post from the Other Sister:

www.zanyholidays.com

I passed the seasonal aisle the other night in my rush through the grocery store.  Right now it is a pastel-colored, candy wonderland.  Jellybeans abound in so many varieties it makes your eyes hurt.  It reminded me that we are quickly approaching one of my favorite holidays.  Wait for it....... that’s right, the day after Easter. (Insert a mental picture of me jumping up and down squealing like a piglet with a baby monkey trying to ride on its back.  Yes, I'm that excited.)  Its uglier, more awkward cousin, the day after Halloween, comes in at a close second.  Unfortunately, chocolate doesn't really do it for me, but if it weren't for that, both of these day-after-holiday holidays would run hand in hand over the finish line to my heart.  Or my hips.  You choose.

Why do I consider these as holidays, you ask?  This is a silly question, but I’ll indulge you.  

                                          Half.  
                                                          Price.  
                                                                            Candy.  

Have you ever witnessed a grocery store right before a news-hyped weather catastrophe?  Mass chaos, right?  People run around like headless chickens, glaring over their carefully guarded carts full of precariously balanced gallon jugs of water.  Because this will definitely be the time we run out of water......forever.  The people who, on any other day, you would happily carry on small talk with are now viewed like Sauron, not after the One Ring, but after your Precious [water].  It’s very primal, really.

Well, picture that random psycho, only with my face and a cart full of sugary goodness. Add some Peeps, which are sugary but not goodness, for my favorite sister.  (And, yes.  I only have one sister.)  How can one go wrong with Nerds Bumpy jellybeans or the Sour Patch Kid variety.  I have not seen the latter yet, but please do be so kind as to tell me if any of you have seen them in your travels.  


Have wheels, will drive.  

www.ihasafunny.com


If they stopped making my precious jellybeans, I just might cry or throw a tantrum in the middle of the candy aisle.  Trust me, you do NOT want to see that.  Though, now that I think of it, I do have a friend who manages a grocery store, and I would love to see how the administration would react to this kind of  behavior.  I may do it just for fun.  I'll report back later.

If you too are out to celebrate this hidden holiday, I suggest that you might want to wait until two days after Easter, lest you encounter me in the aisle and I start throwing chocolate bunnies and Cadbury Creme Eggs at you in an attempt to scare you off.  I may not eat those things, but they sure do make a fantastic weapon, and the eggs make an even greater mess.

So saddle up your pig, preferably backwards, and get excited.  The day after Easter only comes once a year, and you don’t want to miss it.  But remember, watch your back.  I may be lurking in the next aisle.

----------

For anyone looking to get the O.S. Lurker a holiday gift, here's some gold. You're welcome.  -M

3.18.2011

Life-change & Lemmings

Here’s a list of things we do not have in our northern neighborhood:
  • Full size grocery store or farmer’s market
  • Salon 
  • Dunkin’ Donuts/Starbucks/Seattle's Best (Not even a Tim Hortons, and they serve possibly the worst coffee I’ve ever experienced. They may not appear militant, but I swear Canada is killing us one disgusting cup at a time.)
www.mediabistro.com
  • Car Wash
  • Drugstore
  • Fast food (unless you’re actually referring to live speed)
  • Goat Cheese – This is one of my absolute favorite food items, thus making it’s loss one of the greatest tragedies of being so remote. I will gleefully spread it on almost any food or even eat it with a spoon. It’s an hour’s drive to the closest grocer that carries it, and I will create ridiculous excuses to take that trip.
  • Bowling Alley
Life priorities are pretty different here. For example, C and I have spent significantly less money since moving north. This is generally a very good thing. Much of it has less to do with the high rolling social life we were leading (you know, renting movies and playing mini-golf), and more to do with the way that we‘d eat. While we weren’t out eating prix fixe dinners at Michelin-rated restaurants, we were ingesting sushi and lamb curry with a world-will-end-tomorrow intensity, as well as consuming an astounding amount of excellent coffee. While we are still drinking copious amounts, the Machine only puts out a brew that’s in accordance with U.S. federal prison guidelines. It's probably like the kind you have at work.

After it simmers on the burner all weekend long.

Along with losing our money to slices of marinated eel and steaming cups of Sumatran Roast, we also used to have access to the above list of amenities, and we all know how quickly fifty bucks can fly out of your hand at Target or Trader Joes. Dollar bills are like lemmings, and when the water’s nice, they dribble out of your palm and off that cliff, one right after the other. Up here where the lake's frozen over and there’s hardly a retailer in sight, they pull up their skirts, slowly waddle to the edge, then shriek in horror at the sight of that much ice and climb back up into your sleeve. So we’ve got some extra lemmings - I mean dollars - rolling around these days.

www.borealforest.org

Which means we can pay for your gas so you can finally come visit.

*ahem*

You know who you are.

Despite not having any of these things within 50 miles or so, there is one thing I’m learning that we have in plenty: great people.  I’ve been amazed lately at how much I’ve enjoyed getting to know the neighbors that live alongside us up here. I don’t know what on earth brought them this far north, and I’ve wondered out loud what’s kept them here, but I don’t care anymore. In fact, I don’t want them to leave. People here live differently than most of the country, and while that was always obvious, I originally thought the difference had solely to do with dentistry, rusting trucks, and farm animals. I understand now that these people simply chose something different out of life. And I’m starting to buy into it.

Don’t think that I’ll quit having an emotional breakdown when I think about a good Thai dish or “running out to get a prescription”, but perhaps my episodes will occur less frequently. If you want to try and get a whiff of the mountain air and escape the madness for a little while, come stay with us. We’ll all be essentially sleeping in the same room, but we’ve got two bunk beds and a pull out sofa with your names written all over them (really). And whether it’s a five or forty-hour drive to get here, once you stop seeing commercial life and start seeing signs in French, you’ll know you’re close. So come on by. We’ll have the fire going and the lemmings leashed.

We’re ready for you.

3.17.2011

Show Me The Money

It’s hard to know which of the following make today an exceptional day:  the real beginning of March Madness, or St. Patrick’s Day. 

Call me naive, but I didn’t entirely realize that gambling is illegal until my husband informed me this morning (I blame my sister.  Why?  No reason).  All this NCAA bracket business, and you can’t actually put money on it??  Where’s the fun in that?  I’ve bet on March Madness before, while working in a youth detention facility, within the United States, knowing nothing about the teams.  Which is the real crime here? 

Anyway, for those of you like me who didn’t know yet, gambling is in fact, illegal. So, act fast and put away that five bucks you’re about to add to the office pool – the CIA’s coming to take you down.

Since we've covered gambling, here is a list of other laws I find suprising:
  • Shotguns must be taken to church in the event of a Native American attack.  This law comes from Maine, and therefore should surprise no one.
  • In Utah, no person may have “relations” in the back of an ambulance if it is responding to an emergency.  So it’s ok as long as you’re going to McDonald’s?
  • When using interstate 95, every container truck is required to occasionally carry miniature watercraft.  This is not actually true, but I took the photo below on Tuesday.  The boat measured under ten inches, and it totally made my day.  


My, what tiny cargo you have.

  • If you're in Alderson, West Virginia, you may not walk your lion, tiger, or leopard, even if it’s on a leash.
  • It is illegal to push a live moose out of an airplane if you're flying over Alaska. 
  • In Blairstown, New Jersey, no street sign may be staked that could “obscure the air”.  This from the state that doesn’t let you pump your own gas.  If the regional I.Q. was in question before, this certainly cleared that up.

And finally, my personal favorite, also from the great state of Maine: After January 14th, you must have removed your Christmas decorations, or you will face a fine.

Uh.

You must be joking.  Enforcing this law would be like trying to block a charging rhino using oven mitts. 

You're never

going

to stop it. 

 www.namibian.org

And you're never going to collect those fines either - you can kiss that budget surplus goodbye.

So fill out your bracket and throw 10 bucks in the pool.  Then put on a green shirt and go take your leopard for a walk in West Virginia.  

Take advantage of the holiday and live a little.


3.16.2011

Workin' On Our Night Moves



Originally, I was going to take today to instruct you on how to survive a moose attack.  Up north, where these lumbering creatures outnumber us, there is a realistic fear of being found alone in the woods staring at the ugly mug of a half-ton car wreck.  But also on my list was “how to survive a night terror ”, which instantly overtook the moose thing as today’s subject, because a certain someone in my family woke me up last night by launching himself out of bed, screaming fanatically, and pointing at the ceiling with a look of mental chaos in his eyes.  This immediately became the frontrunner. 

When C and I were in college together, I heard stories about how he’d wake up in bed screaming, and how his roommate would run for his phone to call 911.  I should have known that this wasn't normal, but I managed to overlook it.   What can I say - love is blind.  If you’ve never experienced night terrors yourself, or have never slept in the same bed with someone who does, consider yourself lucky.  I really mean it. 

There are a variety of things beyond genetics that can contribute to the likelihood of a person having night terrors.  For example, how sleep deprived are you?  Are you stressed out?  Do you take any medications? 

Have you eaten a heart-stopping plate of chili nachos right before bed? 

Sigh.

These factors trigger a chemical reaction that causes a misfire in the brain and can bring on episodes like ours last night.  These occur during stage 4, or non rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep, which is defined as your first 60 minutes after drifting off.  Night terrors are not nightmares, and can last from five to twenty minutes, during which the sleeper’s eyes may (and in our case do) remain OPEN.  Think on this for a second.   

The longer someone’s body is in non-REM sleep, the more intense the night terror will become.  (Not that I’m going to stay up clocking C’s episodes, but my money’s on them being about as far out as you can possibly get before hitting REM.)   Your partner may surge up in bed crying, moaning or screaming.  I’ve only experienced the screaming wake-up, so those of you out there who’ve done the crying/moaning thing, leave a comment and let me know how that is.  Personally, I’d give up the fear of man-eating alien soldiers crashing through my windows in exchange for a few crocodile tears any day.  But please, educate me.  

www.tvtropes.com

Maybe a little whimper is worse than I think.


Resources say that a good way to calm someone down from night terror riggor mortis is to gently ease them back into the bed using a soothing voice.  I don’t know who they have to wrangle at night, but there has never been a time that C has melted into my arms and drifted sweetly back to Neverland.  I practically have to go into the kitchen and come back sprinting, arms raised and belly out, like an defensive lineman tackling the quarterback.  My goal during these episodes is not to comfort his dream-induced lunacy, but to slam him back into bed hard enough that he'll let me fall asleep again.  Thankfully, it’s never happened twice in one night, or he'd be in the ER and I'd be explaining some questionable bruising.

My advice for those couples out there who haven’t acquired this life experience yet: buy a pair of brass knuckles and some earplugs and keep them in the bedside table.  Or better yet, go with twin beds.

3.15.2011

Facial Reconstruction


This past Saturday morning, my friend and I were getting ready to head out to the children’s museum I told you about yesterday.  Her two year-old daughter was keeping me company as I tidied up my bedroom.  She was helping me pull the comforter up on my bed, wiping down the bathroom sink with me, and generally doing all the work.  Along with the normal stuff, our real estate agent had scheduled a showing for later that morning, so we had to get the place clean as well as replenish all of our bribe money, which really takes some time.

So my little sidekick and I finish cleaning up, and since it’s getting close to the time we’d decided to head out for the day, I return to the bathroom to start “doing my face”. 

Doing 
my 
face.

Now, I don’t know where that phrase came from – I don’t even like using it – but I also don’t feel like I wear enough product to warrant saying that I’m “doing my makeup”, so really, there isn’t a more pleasant alternative.  I apologize.   

So I begin doing my face - putting my face on, taking my face off – whatever it is that involves washing and covering up the zits that have sprouted during the night.  And as I perform each step of my routine, my little friend is asking me, “what’s that thing”, or “what are you doing”.  It started innocently, with me explaining why we wash our faces, but we were quickly in sinister territory. 

It all started when I pulled a set of tweezers out of my bag.  If there was ever an instrument that looked hazardous to your face, this was it.  She looked horrified.  What are you doing?!”, she asked, in that sweet but appalled voice that only children posses.  She looked like I’d just shown her where the vet sticks the cat thermometer for the most accurate reading, and was thinking that perhaps that was how one got the most accurate human reading, too.  In that moment I realized that what I was doing seemed totally absurd.  Here I was, telling a two year old that I was using sticky black paint to make my eyelashes long and pretty like hers.  I was using foundation to cover any spots on my face.  (Spots?  Don't animals have spots?)  I tried to whip through the lipstain phase so she wouldn’t ask why I was doing it.  The only answer I could think of had to do with clowns and strawberries.  It was better to stay quiet.

Back when I was in high school, I went on this youth retreat with my church.  One evening we played a game.  We were told to find a partner, and each set was given a bag of supplies.  The object of the game was to use the supplies in your bag as makeup for your partner’s face, and that the best job done in the allotted time would win.  I, of course, became the canvas, and as soon as the game began, my partner cracked open our first supply: tomato ketchup.  Now, I don’t know when it became a good idea to take something with vinegar as a key ingredient and smear it all over your face, but we were doing it, and we were going to win.  Next, she screwed the top off a jar of marshmallow fluff.  I can’t even remember where that went.  Mustard followed that.  Yes, what graces your Hebrew National in July was now giving my eyelids the nice sheen that accompanies chemical burns.  Thank goodness we didn’t have any combs - it could have been mascara.  Lastly, I got hit with a dollop of peanut butter lipstick.

For the sake of retelling, I really wish I had a peanut allergy, but I don’t.  I also have a photo of this, but it's at the other house.  Regrets.

So there I am, sitting on the carpet, covered in lunch condiments.  And in the time it takes for everyone to be judged and the winners announced, I’ve developed two pink, semi-permanent, soda-can sized circles on my cheeks.  It took at least 12 hours for the ketchup stain to fade, and I’m pretty sure my face stung for at least the next day.

We did win the game, though.

I'm hoping that my friend's daughter doesn't take Saturday's makeup lesson to heart.  As I was applying what I consider normal tools of maintenance, all she probably saw were the makings of a good hot dog. So please, next time you guys are at a ball game, get her a pretzel.  No cheese, no mustard.  Just salt.  Or better yet, dry.

3.14.2011

Run for Cover

I spent a day this weekend down south at a children’s museum with a friend of mine and her two kids.  The place was in this wonderful historic building, and the area itself was done up in clean, bright colors, not unlike a cafĂ© or an art gallery.  There were stations for a large pirate ship, a pizzeria, “mission control”, a veterinary office, and a variety of other structures that would appeal to the average three year-old boy or girl. And really, if I’d been there alone, you would have caught me swinging from the ship’s anchor and jamming random objects into the rocket launcher.   With such a high level of maturity, I’m sure you’re shocked to know that I don’t have any children of my own.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m very satisfied without kids – but sometimes they're just too cute, you know?

And MAN,  
these two are like a double shot of cuteness with a giggle on top.


They also look even better when they’re surrounded by monsters. 

Ninety-nine percent of the children clawing around the play areas that day were incredibly well behaved – it was astounding – but there was still that one percent out there in the madness that were, how do I put this…. exceptional.  These strong few make the idea of parenthood look both extremely challenging and veeeerrrry unattractive.  Yes, I imagine that nursing one of these tiny disasters into a success story could be deeply satisfying, and pretty miraculous too.  Nonetheless, I can’t shake the feeling that this perfect storm of emotions is exactly the same kind that could convince you to do the Badwater ultramarathon because just surviving the thing would be an achievement.  You respect the race, but fail to comprehend the real chance that your body might break down in the desert. 

And they won’t find you underneath all that sand.


photo credit: www.badwater.com
This is Al Arnold, the race's pioneer, running in his what seem to be his underpants.  



Now, I know that at any given point, under any and all circumstances, every child, no matter how angelic or beastly they normally are, has the power to instantly become a cheerio-throwing weapon of mass destruction.  Predicting a child’s temper must be like speculating the trade price of unicorn meat or trying to spot a gumball in a sea of marbles.  

Parents out there – two things: 1) I am awed by your skill and steady presence of mind, and 2) Please do not misunderstand me as describing your specific child as this kind of special phenomenon.  I’m positive that you have ample stories to both confirm and deny the benevolence of their miniature intellect.  I am only reaffirming the truth that every child is an embodiment of all that is good and pure and beautiful in this world.  And it is probably equally true that every child simultaneously has the potential to wield unmatched terror and bring about irreparable damage. 

Thinking of these particular museum children in action makes parenting look like a gratuitously unsafe obstacle course with rusty, swinging axes and rivers of boiling hot lava.  And if scalding your body wasn't enough - when you finish the race, you don’t even get a medal.  You get tetanus.

But there is still hope.  Tomorrow will bring a new course to run, a new challenge to embrace, and this could be the one that wins it all.  So to my good friends out there who are about to welcome their first tiny teardrop of heaven, or are on their third – don’t let my words upset you, or my images overwhelm you.  After all, I’m still that woman cramming crayons into the rocket launcher. 

And twenty-five years ago, I was just a smaller woman doing the same thing.

3.11.2011

The Other Sister


Please enjoy this blog entry from my sister, the older sibling in our strange-but-true family.  I'm sure it will become obvious which one of us was the good child.  
I'll expect your full support later.

--------

I miss M.  Some of you who knew us back in the day may find this shocking.  We weren’t always close or similar - at all.  Every time our Dad informed us that we were “friends” we’d look at him like he was stealing milk from newborn kittens.  How could you?!

Can’t Live With ‘Em



Let me start with a little background for those who haven’t known M and I for our respective 27 and 29 (gasp) years.  Yes, I gave you our ages, and yes, we’re ok with it.  Well, M is anyway.  I think. 
M, are you ok with it?
(Who cares?  She isn’t months from her next milestone.)

The two of us have a roller coaster of a past.  I was stubborn, driven, and hyperactive, with little to no imagination, and loved nothing more than playing in the woods and getting A’s.  M was the artistic, pensive type who cared about everyone and everything (spiders and mosquitoes - yes), and was shockingly adept at pushing my buttons.  Have you ever tried to study while someone was singing in the shower using a nails-on-the-chalkboard, barely audible voice because Mom told her to quiet down and stop bothering you?  Ever rearranged your shared bedroom only to find that someone changed it back as soon as you were gone?  Ever had your sibling thank you for going away to college because the house is civil now that you’re not there?  Developed a gypsy moth caterpillar phobia because your sister kept them in jars everywhere and named them all Lisa?! 

At different points in my childhood I tried, allegedly, to kill my sister.  Can you blame me?  I tried to beat her with a xylophone (“sharing”), poison her with a couple bottles of cough syrup (playing doctor isn’t totally safe, admit it), let her fall off the foundation of the garage while doing gymnastics (4, schmore), break her shins, and generally put her in a continual state of emotional turmoil as I tried to cause constant environmental change despite her incessant protest and horror.  Somehow, we managed to make it to adulthood without killing each another.

Can’t Live Without ‘Em.

After college, M married C, and they moved around the Northeast for a few years.  Then she moved within 15 minutes of me.  Exciting?  I think so.  Granted, 15 minutes really translates into half an hour because you have to spot M at least 15 minutes under perfect conditions.  C generally shakes his head in disbelief whenever the two of us are together.  I’m pretty sure he wants to run screaming like a little girl into the woods on occasion or, more likely, on all occasions.  And really, can you blame him?  Have you ever watched the PSA from eons ago about getting your period?  Don’t do it.  (Now you’re curious?  Really – DON'T do it - we won't even give you the link).  Or spend hours taking pictures of yourselves with a webcam, using every special effect and composing ridiculous captions?  All we need is each other for constant entertainment.  


No, we don't do kids' parties.


M’s blog reads like our email dialogues, so enjoy this peek into our world.  We are most inspired as a pair, so watch out – one of these days we may team-write a post.  And yes, you should be a little nervous.  With our combined efforts, we’ll convince the world that in cases like ours, one child is definitely enough.

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