Category Archives: Fall

This Thing You Call “American Football”

As summer winds down to a slow, hot, steamy grind, I am reminded that the inevitable is around the corner.  No, I’m not talking about the start of school, even though I can feel it breathing it’s stinky, garlic breath down the back my neck, and I’m not talking about the cooler temperatures of autumn, which frankly, I love and welcome.  I’m talking about the start of the football season.

My first memories of football are good ones, although at times they were somewhat startling as well.  My very first memories of football are of my father watching the Green Bay Packers on the television set.  That’s what it was back in the 60’s and 70’s.  It was a television set.  And no, there weren’t two of them, just one.  One television would, in fact, be a set on its own, because they were that important.  Nowadays, people don’t have television sets; they don’t even have TVs.  They have flat screens.  “Honey, wanna rent a movie on the flat screen?”  “What on-demand show are you watching on the flat screen?”  (We are so spoiled it is horrid.)  And frankly, cool people don’t even have those flat screens.  Cool people watch television on their computers, because they have the technology and know-how.  I don’t have those.

My father would watch the Packers on “the set” on Sundays while he polished his shoes.  He would sit in his Lazyboy with a Miller High Life, the champagne of beers.  Newspapers would be placed on the floor, and tins of polish and brushes would surround him.  (Side note, the smell of shoe polish always brings me instantly and magically back to Sunday afternoons.  It’s too bad people don’t polish shoes anymore.  Now, if shoes get scuffed, we throw them away.  Our generation sucks.) During these afternoons, it would be inevitable that we Woodworth children would be startled out our game of Operation not from that freakishly annoying buzzer (the wishbone…always the wishbone!!!) but rather from my father either cheering/clapping, or stomping his feet/cursing.  This would happen throughout the game.  From, “Go!  Run!  Yeah!!!!” to, “Goddamn it!  Come on Ref!” his emotions would run the gamut.  I understand this is not necessarily that uncommon in most households of television sports fans, especially homes that followed the Packers during the past five decades.  (Lots of cheering in the 60’s, then swearing in the 70’s, then more swearing in the 80’s and more cheering in the 90’s etc.)

Currently my home is one of a television sports fan, so my daughter is used to her father cheering and/or cursing at the television.  (She has figured out to not play Operation during these times.  She’s smarter than I am.)  It is always fun to watch her friend’s reactions however.  Yesterday her buddy Meghan was over; the girls were painting fingernails on the deck and Kriner was watching the Brewers on the flat screen.  Meg was startled (and most likely had to redo that particular nail) when Kriner started clapping loudly and shouting “YA!  YA!  GO!”  and then, 8 minutes later “BOO!!!!!  BOO!!!!!  Why did you DO that?  WHAT were you THINKING?!!!”  It’s clear that Meghan doesn’t come from a sports television home.  Her face, full of astonishment and amusement, was adorable, as if she couldn’t believe that a grown-man could care that much about something on TV.

My first real football game I ever went to was a Badger game, which kind of set me up for a lifetime of football disappointment because it was so incredibly awesome and fun!  No other football game can live up to a Badger game, especially if you aren’t a big fan of football.  Why?  Because it isn’t just a football game – it’s a spectacle.  Marching bands, student rituals, stadium chants, booze getting passed around, tubas walking through the stadium, there are sing-alongs for Pete’s sake!  Seriously, I could write a blog post just on Badger Football games, they are so fun, this coming from a gal who doesn’t really love football.  So yeah, for a 12 year old girl, sitting dangerously close to the student section, it was mind-blowing.  I don’t remember anything about the football game itself, but my big take away was that Section O sucks.  I know this because it was chanted throughout the game.  I won’t fill you in on what O had to say to section Q.  It would be too rude to type, but for a pre-pubescent girl trying desperately to be cool, it was heaven.

I went through a phase in the late 90’s when I too jumped on the Packer bandwagon and watched them religiously with my husband who was insane and cared WAY TOO MUCH about the Favre era.  He was known as a die-hard Packer fan.  In fact, after a particularly painful and heart-breaking loss, a reporter from the local newspaper called him to get a reaction.  Seriously.  He was quoted in the paper.  “’Well, that was a tough defeat, but you know what?  I’m already looking forward to a good draft pick.’ said Packer Fan Jeff Kriner.”  He was identified in the paper as a Packer Fan.  Seriously.

Kriner isn’t an insane Packer fan anymore.  Mike McCarthy ruined that.  He ruined it good.  See, the one thing about Kriner is that he is (to a fault) ridiculously loyal to those he loves.  If you make your way into his inner circle, it’s for life.  He doesn’t have a lot of people in his circle.  There are just a handful of us: me, Emily, Jeremy O., a few band mates and Brett Favre.  That’s it.  So you can imagine how Kriner felt when Favre wasn’t allowed back into the Packers.  Remember, Favre retired, then admitted he made a mistake, and wanted to come back.  He wasn’t allowed to.  Kriner was torn.  He loved the Packers, but Favre was in the circle.  It nearly broke him.  To make matters worse, the Packers organization hired Ari Fleischer (White house Press Secretary for George Bush) as a “PR consultant” (a.k.a. spin doctor) to make Favre look evil with a nasty smear campaign that unfortunately worked really well.  Kriner also loves an underdog, so this move just sealed the deal.   Don’t get me wrong, I adore Aaron Rogers, in fact I have a mighty crush on that young man, but Ari Fleischer?  Really?  Was that necessary?

Since then, Kriner has cared a bit less about football and the Packers.  It’s a bit sad to tell you the truth.  It’s as if Mike McCarthy spat in his beer.  If a game is blacked out, he’ll shrug.  He might go to Jeremy O’s to watch a game in the “Packershack” but he might not.  (And yes, Jeremy O. has a separate building on his property devoted to the Packers.  It’s decorated in yellow and green, full of Packer memorabilia and even has AstroTurf instead of carpet.)

Recently, the Packers announced they would be retiring Favre’s number.  At least that’s a bit of closure.  Who knows, maybe one day Kriner might buy a Rodger’s jersey.  But I can tell you one thing for sure, Mike McCarthy will never be invited over for dinner, and if, by some miracle he is and shows up, Kriner might spit in his beer.

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Filed under Fall, Family, Humor, Parenting, Wisconsin

Man Hands

I have man hands. More precisely, I have a particular man’s hands – my father’s hands. My father had big, broad, strong, meaty hands, which is fine if you are a guy, but I am not a guy. I am a gal. Gals usually don’t want big, meaty paws for hands. We want long, slender hands with lean, graceful fingers and at the end, long fabulous nails.  Those aren’t my hands. Those aren’t my fingers. My fingers are more akin to pork sausages. My hands are so big that I’ve never had a problem reaching an octave on the piano – even when I was 7. My hands are also fairly strong. I suppose that has advantages, and yet I still somehow struggle with pickle jars…

Sometimes I try to disguise my man hands by growing my nails and painting them feminine colors, but that never works. It’s like lipstick on a pig. There is something ridiculously inauthentic and artificial when I wear polish on my nails. They look like a bad drag queen’s hands, and yet I still continue to try it.  Undaunted in the face of a challenge, that’s me.

To make matters worse I am a hand talker. I erratically wave them about when I speak, especially when I get excited, which is frankly, all the time. I think it is safe to say I have body issues with my hands. I have issues with other parts of my body too – I mean, come on, I am female, but unlike other parts of my body, hands are tough to hide.  I might have done well living in the Victorian Age, where women wore gloves, but after consideration, I doubt they would have had them in my size. However, I live in the here and now, and while I might be able to hide or enhance other aspects of my body, big hands are tough to augment. It’s not like they make Spanx for fingers, or make-up to hide hand wrinkles.

That’s another thing. My hands are much older looking than I would like them to be. Not only do I have man hands, I have old man hands. They are so wrinkly they look like crepe paper; I could wrap fancy presents with the skin on the back of my hands. Give me a ribbon and it’s Christmas!  This condition is not because I never use lotion. I use lotion all the time. I use so much lotion in the winter that I can never leave the house, because I can’t get the door open. I could be stuck in my living room for hours, alone, with my moisturized hands up in the air like a surgeon.

You could say I wasn’t a fan of my man hands, however all that changed with a photograph. I experienced a moment, or rather an image which led me to absolutely love my man hands. My friend Don Albrecht (an absolutely amazing photographer – you can buy his book here http://www.blurb.com/b/391238-bayfield-lake-superior) took a photo of my daughter Em at Applefest. (If you don’t know, Applefest is the big festival in town, and can, over the course of a weekend, transform this little town of 400 to a mass of anywhere from 40,000 to 70,000 people.) It can be overwhelming and scary for a 4-year-old. Em was hiding behind my leg when Don took the photo. My hand was placed on top of her head. I was talking to someone at the time, and didn’t even know Don was taking our picture.

The next day, Don emailed me the photo and as soon as I saw the image, I started to love my hands, because they are my father’s hands. I knew exactly what Em was feeling, because my father used to cover my head with his large hands when I was her age. It made me feel safe.  His warm, strong hands made me feel a little bit taller and a little bit more secure in a big and sometimes scary world. So now, I love my big, strong hands, because they are full of a parent’s big, strong love.

 

applefest hands

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Filed under Fall, Family, Feminism, Humor, Parenting

This Particular Winter

I have to admit that so far, this has been one of my most favorite winters of my life.  Not because anything spectacular has happened, or for that matter anything remotely out of the order, but just because it has been so pretty.  I often take pretty for granted, and I have to remind myself that I am a lucky so-and-so because I get to live in this gorgeous part of the world.  I live next to the largest lake in the world; when she freezes up, it is glorious.  At first she steams, then ice chunks form, then the ferry stops running and soon, if the islanders are lucky, an ice road arrives.  That’s pretty cool.  And that’s just the lake!  To have my morning commute littered with beautiful trees, decked out in a layer of snow is fairly fabulous.  Think lovely actresses at the Oscars wearing diamonds.  No…it’s actually nothing like that, but it is pretty stunning.  I live in what the beer commercials call God’s Country; although, I think God could lay claim to the whole planet if asked, so there you go.  This winter, I have really enjoyed my wood stove, the snow on the trees, the lake freezing up and the big clear night skies.  It has been glorious and really, really pretty.

I haven’t even been the least bit bummed at the latest ridiculously large snow accumulations.   I actually got giddy this part weekend thinking we would get another 10 inches on the ground.  Why not?  I prefer pretty white to the muddy, brown yuk of Spring.  After a strong, solid, snow storm, it’s as if some nurse from the 1950’s (you know the one – all dressed in white, wearing the nurse hat, and squeaky white shoes) came through town with a bucket of bleach and purified everything.  Apparently, my version is Mother Nature is more of a Nurse Ratchet.

When I was a kid, there was a whopper of a snow storm.  I was around 10 and my sister was 14.   We were home alone, and my parents were driving back from Milwaukee.  Like I said, it was a bad storm, and they had gotten into an accident; they were fine, but it meant we were to be left alone overnight.  Due to the blizzard, my parent’s friends couldn’t even drive across town to check on us.  We were absolutely alone for at least 24 hours.  I remember being really excited about this prospect.  I immediately had visions of Laura Ingalls and wondered if we should make a fire, although we didn’t have any wood…  Maybe we should break up a chair with a hatchet and spark it up in the fire-place!  I saw that in a movie once!  My sister quickly put the kibosh on that.  Instead, she made Mac and Cheese and made sure to be close to the phone, as my mother was calling every hour, on the hour to make sure we were OK.  I could tell my sister was getting worried, and silently prayed for my parent’s speedy return, but I remember thinking it was pretty awesome.

We lived close to the lake, so the strong wind was pushing the snow up over the windows on the first floor.  It was as if we were in our own snow fort, if snow forts had a furnace, television and pong.  We couldn’t see out of the house at all, at least on the first floor.  However, funny thing, the light still seemed to find its way through all the snow.  Our family room wasn’t dark at all, but lovely.  Everything seemed to have a magical glow about it.

The next afternoon, my parents came home, exhausted and emotionally thin.  My father started shoveling us out, but before he did, I opened a window to touch the snow wall that had accumulated on the glass.  I held my hands out and touched the snow.  My hand started to melt it, and left a print of it there in the snow.  It was nothing special, and yet it was.

Yesterday, I got caught in some bad weather while picking up Em from a sleepover.  By the time she got in the car, there was about a quarter of an inch of ice on the windows.   After scraping and cursing, I hopped in the car, only to see I missed the windows in back.  In hopes of a lazy miracle, I rolled the windows down, hoping the ice and snow would magically fall off.  It didn’t.  In fact, the ice stayed glued in the same spot as where the window was.  It looked like some sort of modern, hip stained glass one would see in a trendy, uptown bar.  You couldn’t see out of it, but it allowed light into the car.  Slowly, Emily put her hands up and touched the ice and smiled. “Mom!  Check this out!  This is so cool!”   Nothing special, and yet it was.

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Filed under Bayfield, Environment, Fall, Holiday, Summer, Winter

Autumn

I was made for autumn; there’s no doubt about it.  In literature, the seasons can often represent a lifespan: spring=birth, summer=youth, fall=maturity, winter=death.  However, for me, that doesn’t really ring true.  When I am smack dab in the middle of fall, I am transported back to my childhood in lovely, rich, golden tones of memory.

Flashes of jumping into leaves, trick or treating, wool sweaters, football games and high school kisses jump into my mind.  My first kiss, my first real kiss was in the fall, on a bridge, over a river, under a full moon.  How’s that for heady?  He was tall, blonde and handsome.  Too bad he later came out of the closet.  He now owns a lovely salon in Palm Springs, but that’s beside the point.

I really, really love this time of year.  I’m going to tell you why, but first, let me start with telling you why I don’t love the other seasons as much.

I don’t like spring.  This is because where we live, there is no spring.  We live in the most northern point of the state of Wisconsin, right on Lake Superior.  I tend to get spring envy when it comes to states south of us. We get two weeks of mud in May.   That’s it.

 

(This is Emily and our friend Linda.  It was Easter Sunday.  Seriously.)

My friend Steve Dunker wrote a short poem which I think captures the magic and beauty of our two weeks of mud.

SPRING – Steve Dunker

Drip, drip

Dog shit. 

Even in April we still have banks of dirty snow on the ground, or if by some miracle the dirty piles of snow have melted, we are left with cold, cloudy, rainy days and some brown grass for color.  During these few weeks, the locals are absolutely insane because they’ve just finished their 6 month sentence of winter.  They have a look of desperation about them, particularly around the eyes, along with very pasty, if not translucent skin.  If I can’t get out of Bayfield County for a few days during March or April, then I try really hard to stay very busy, in order to keep from stabbing my face with a fork repeatedly.  I find directing a play does the trick.  (Fun Fact, the “low” tourist season time in Bayfield is during March and April and now you know why.  One might bump into a dangerous, crazed local while trying to enjoy the lovely, brown terrain.)  So much for spring.

Summer is way too hot for me, as I am a pretty, pretty princess who doesn’t like to sweat.  I would normally jump in a lake to cool off, but Superior will maybe get up to 60 degrees in the summer, and as I am a pretty, pretty princess, there will be none of that.  I have friends who love summer.  They do things like deliberately get on a boat, sail to one of the Apostle Islands with their families, and camp for at least a week.  Are you  freaking kidding me?  There is so much wrong with that, I can’t even begin to diagram it out, but for the sake of humor, I will try.  I guess it comes down to 3 words:  Sailing, Camping, Beach.

1)Sailing.  Not for me.  Sure, the boats are pretty when they’re out in the bay and the tourists who own sailboats tend to drop major cash in Bayfield’s lap, but I get seasick something fierce.  Casually lollygagging around the Apostles in a boat for a day or two might actually make me more interested in swimming in Lake Superior.  Frankly, I don’t want to put that much trust in the wind.  One time, this thing called “wind” put a tree on my house, so I don’t think it’s necessarily that trustworthy.  I’ll take a motor, please.  In a pinch, I’ll take the ferry.

2) Camping.  Seriously?  With family?  Do I need to go on?  Who does that shit?  No running water, no refrigerators, no wi-fi – get me a free hotel upgrade and we’ll start talking vacation.  No fun ever came of a woman peeing in the woods.  Ever.

3)  Beach.  To be fair, I don’t mind beaches per se.  They are lovely and I have had some wonderful moments on beaches, so I should clarify – sitting on the beach.  I have friends who just sit at the beach and do nothing.  Then I automatically think Stepford Wives.  Seriously, who can do that?  Who just sits at the beach all day?  Sitting in general is tough for me.  Unless I am watching a performance of some kind, I don’t really just sit.  I suck at sitting.  If sitting were a sport, I wouldn’t have made the Jamaican Bobsled Team, even just the guy in the middle who sits.  I’m a mover.  I was once referred to as “a fart in a windstorm” which I agreed with whole-heartedly, although, now that I think about it, it really depends on what the wind is doing, as I hear it can be untrustworthy and capricious.  Second problem with this messed up “beach” idea is sun.  That implies heat and I don’t like to sweat.  At all.  I hate it. There are times in life when one has to sweat; it can’t be avoided.  Doesn’t mean I have to like it.  Sun also means, for me, sunburned.  (Remember?  Pretty, pretty, princess.)  Finally, beaches also have this thing called sand.  It gets places it shouldn’t, and it isn’t comfortable.  At all.  This is made even more offensive when one is sweating.  Sand blows.  Sure, it can scrape off the callouses on my heels, but that means I am walking, not sitting.  Oh yeah, just one more beach bitch, beaches often have flies.  Beach flies are more than just a nuisance, as they tend to bite, especially if one is sweating.  I think I’m making my point.  I’ll stop myself now.

Winter is fine, but it lasts at least 6 months up here, so by May, I’m really ready for those 2 weeks of mud.  I don’t mind winter, but the length of it can do a girl in.  I do like being cozy, and making fires, hopefully in the fireplace, and cooking things with booze.  That is kind of a winter thing, isn’t it?  Nobody uses rum in a ham glaze in the summer.  Nobody pours a little whiskey over their pork loin in the fall.  No one puts an entire bottle grain alcohol in mashed potatoes in spring…

My family LOVES winter.  A lot.  They have been talking about winter since July.  Why?  They ski.  They love to ski.  They do it a lot, they talk about it a lot, they smile when they do it a lot.  I tried to like skiing, I really did, but it didn’t take.  I even took lessons.  I own really cool skis and really cool boots, but I bet I go down that tiny hill once this winter, and that will be it.  I don’t like to be cold, I don’t like to go fast and I have a fear of heights.  When I used to really try to ski, my legs would shake the whole way down the hill, not because I was out of shape, but because I was trembling with fear.  So, I gave up trying to be a skier, with Kriner’s blessing.  Now, when my family skis, I bring my laptop into the lodge, and pretend to get some writing done, but really, I’m sipping vodka and checking facebook.

That leaves fall as the big winner!  Fall!  October is the C.E.O. of my yearly calendar of awesome.  It is the crowning jewel in my tiara of fun.  Autumn is large and in charge, packed to the brim with opportunities for merriment, mischief, glory and abundance.

First weekend in October means one thing around here.  Applefest.  Some people don’t like Applefest, but you know what I say to that?  Maybe Applefest doesn’t like them either.  I FREAKING LOVE IT.  I love the crowds, the music, the food, the events, the silliness, the parade, the smells…I love it all.  I love that friends come and park in my yard.  I love that you can carry booze around for that weekend.  I love that there is sometimes controversy concerning who is king and queen.  I love the apples, the gyros, the corndogs, and the rides.  I think you get the picture.  Another good thing about that weekend is that it usually falls on Kriner’s birthday.  My fabulous husband has his fabulous birthday in early October.  You might think Kriner gets a little cheated, as we rarely celebrate it as we should, only due to Applefest, but he’s actually cool with that.  He is not a “pay attention to me” kind of guy.  If I make his favorite meal, get him some cool work out stuff, he’s usually pretty happy.

There is also a fairly, fabulous reunion of sorts toward the end of the month, lovingly referred to Floyd E. Queeb.  It always happens on 10/28 and it changes locations every year.

I won’t share too much of the folklore, as the words of Gandolf are ringing in my head; “Keep it secret, keep it safe.”  Suffice it to say, it has happened every year for the past 30 years, and centers around Northland College students and alumni.  I have been to my fair share, usually as a musician, and I am always treated with a wealth of outlandish fun.  It’s kind of our own little Burning Man, but it lasts only one night.  I think Joseph Campbell would absolutely love it, as every year, the myth of it grows and takes on a life of its own.

Then we get into the BEST holiday EVER.  Halloween.

Need I say more?  What is not to love?  We get to dress up, pretend to be something/someone else and eat candy.  Puh-leeze.

These events are fun to look forward to, but frankly, I think the month of October can stand on its own even without the social stuff.  The foliage alone becomes a glorious quilt that the earth seems to pull up over her chilly shoulders.  The reds, oranges, browns and yellows are in such a striking contrast to the almost denim blue of the lake.  Lake Superior tends to change colors (albeit subtly) throughout the year, and that autumn blue is something to see.  Lighter than the darker, almost black water in winter, and much prettier than the muddy spring melt, the lake in fall seems more clear, more crystal, more full of light.  She is in her glory.  She won’t let those trees take all her thunder.  She can give a show too, after all.

Here’s to falling in love with fall.

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Filed under Bayfield, Environment, Fall, Humor, Summer, Winter

Where the Hell did Summer go?

I haven’t blogged for a while, so I am back on that not-so-gravy-train of literary fun. Let me fill you in what has been keeping me busy this summer, or at least in June.

A few years ago, Kriner and I started a tradition of taking the last 2 weeks of June after school is out and taking a trip, usually out east. Aside from seeing family, we like to plan little adventures and side excursions, which is exactly what we did this year. Did I mention this is a car trip? Yup.

My parents took a long car trip once with kids and another family, and frankly, that infamous trip to Texas is deserving of it’s own blog, so I won’t go into it here, but suffice to say, they did it once. That was how wise and insightful my parents were. They took a long family car trip once. This makes number three for us. Kriner and I have a problem with martyrdom but admitting it is half the problem, right? That being said, Kriner is an amazing vacation planner (please see Disney blog…) so he planned our trip around….amusement parks! I don’t necessarily like amusement parks, but I like my husband and my kid, and I really like seeing them happy, so I agreed.

If you haven’t met him, Kriner is a cynic. Not a “bit of a cynic” who may point out the price of a gift, but just a straight up, the world is pretty messed up, people kind of suck, Capitalism is awful, kind of cynic. Here’s the awesome thing about cynics. When they find something they really love, they really, really love it. They’re a tough crowd in general, so when something wins them over, it’s a huge boon. I love him for that. I tend to be a bit easy with loving stuff (he says I use the word “awesome” too much) and he tends to be a bit tougher audience member for that sort of thing. We’re a great balance. Anyway, anytime I can see him in a state of joy I will go for it. Skiing brings him joy, football gives him joy, playing drums gives him joy, watching his daughter do pretty much anything brings him joy, and roller coasters bring him joy. A lot of joy. This blog will recount our trip, and the roller coasters Kriner and Em road along the way.

APPLETON, WI to Lawrence University, for my 24th reunion. That is not a typo. I was friends with a lot of folks a year older than me, which made for a pretty lonely senior year. When I was a freshmen, my room was placed in the middle of a group of Delta Gamma sophomores who loved me and took me under their wing immediately. Needless to say, I soaked up said love, and it made me do something I never (in a million years) thought I would do; I joined a sorority. Yes, I am a “DG” and no, I will not show you the secret handshake. The reunion was a lovely affair, made only more lovely because another 24ther showed up, my friend Liz. Liz and I were more acquaintances in college, but in the past few years, we have become good friends over the internet, with shared experiences, most including lazy students and breast cancer, not necessarily in that order. Here are some important things I learned at my 24th reunion at Lawrence University.

1) Former professors are as arrogant and douche-baggy as you remember.

2) Even though I was the youngest in the room, I managed to look the oldest.

3) People’s belly laughs don’t change with age, thankfully.

4) People who you thought would be incredibly happy may not be, and people who look bored may actually be at peace and pretty cool with the world.

5) I really haven’t necessarily done that well for myself considering the education I received.

 

ROLLER COASTER COUNT

-On Saturday, Kriner and Em went to Green Bay (about a 20 minute drive) and explored the “Zippin’ Pippin” which is located on the edge of Lake Michigan. It is a city-run park (a plus for my commie husband) and the coaster is a replica of Elvis Presley’s favorite coaster. Totally serious. For some reason, the city of Green Bay decided to build a replica of a dead music icon’s favorite ride. After that, they went to the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame. (Aside from the roller coasters, he worked in some sports too…)

NEXT STOP – CEDAR POINT, SANDUSKY, OHIO

There is no reason to go to Sandusky, save going to Cedar Point Amusement Park. I know that now, because we went there. Seriously, if you love roller coasters, then you already know about Cedar Point. If you’re like me, and don’t love them, then Sandusky is not for you. Cedar Point has the largest number of roller coasters of any park in the United States. There really aren’t a whole lot of other rides. Just coasters. This meant I got a lot of reading done on my kindle. Emily and Kriner rode 12 roller coasters in one day. Seriously. I don’t think the AMA supports that kind of nonsense, but they did it. The only reason they stopped, was because Kriner pulled his left chest muscle on a wooden roller coaster (they apparently are more jerky and he was trying to hold himself steady) and he didn’t want park officials thinking he was having a heart attack, as he was forced to clutch his chest when on the rides. Seriously.

NEXT STOP – WILKES-BARRE, PA

Kriner’s family lives there. His mom recently sold her home and moved into an apartment, for which, we are all happy. (She was smack in the middle of flood country. Now she gets a pool.) We were out there for her birthday, and had a lovely time. We spent a day in NYC, as Wilkes-Barre is less than 2 hours away. We saw Spiderman. Kriner and Em were the ones who braved the 1/2 price line.  Now, I must admit that Spiderman wasn’t on my list of shows I wanted to see, ever.  But, I immediately did a “look for the rainbow” check of my disappointment. “Hey, I’m in New York, going to see a Broadway show…you’re going to love it…look how happy – dare I say ‘joyful’ my husband looks! Shut up and enjoy the damn show.” You know what? I totally enjoyed it.

The script sucked, the music was..well, you know that one U2 song you know? Go ahead and get it in your head for a minute…Yeah, it sounds like that. But the technical aspects of this show were staggeringly good. It was like they picked up the gauntlet that “Wicked” threw down and ran with it around the track a few times. The set never stopped moving, they had more intelligent lights than I could count and the acrobatics were stunning. It was easy to see how a few actors had to be sacrificed for it. (If you didn’t know, it had a very rough opening, and more than 1 hospitalization…I get it now.) However, the night we saw it, no one got hurt, and Spiderman and Julie Taymore (one of my favorite directors ever) saved the day.

COASTER COUNT – We also spent a day at one of my favorite amusement parks, Knobbel’s. I actually like this park a lot. It is owned by a family, and has that kind of feel to it. There is no booze allowed, which, for those who know me, may be shocked, but it really makes it all the more fun. Tons of happy kids, tons of sunburned, laughing parents and tons of rides. One thing they have at the park is a really, really old and beautifully restored Merry-Go-Round with the “ring” feature. You know that saying “catch the brass ring?” Well, it came from old rides like this. The Merry-Go-Round has a metal arm that pushes out when the ride starts, and iron rings that pop out; you grab them as you go. In that line of iron rings, is one brass ring, and if you get the brass ring, then you get to ride again for free. I really, really love that. How great that a catch phrase came from a ride? I love the metaphor of it all. It makes me happy and actually, brings me joy.

This was the first year Emily could reach the rings. I cried. They actually sell brass rings in the gift shop, and every year, I buy too many and give them as gifts. Again, the perfect metaphor. “Here you go, here’s your brass ring. You’ve got it all.” I see them time to time on my friend’s key chains. Still makes me happy. Oh yeah, Emily and Kriner rode on 6 coasters that day.

NEXT STOP WASHINGTON D.C.

I had never been to our Nation’s Capitol and I thought it was high time we introduced our little American to it. I had been warned the city causes a pretty serious patriotic reaction, bordering on jingoistic. It’s true. We were about a seven minute walk from the White House and when I spotted it over the trees, my eyes filled immediately. The one thing about that trip was we walked a ton. We saw as much as we could and walked almost everywhere. We took the subway once, and took a cab once. Other than that, we hoofed it. We went to three of the Smithsonian Museums: Space, American and Native American. Screw the art, right? I saw space shuttles and the Hope Diamond. I saw Marvin Defoe’s birchbark canoe. (He’s a local Red Cliff resident, pretty cool!) We toured Congress and even met the First Lady. OK, not really, but we had to be re-routed twice as motorcades came and went. That was pretty cool. The food in D.C. is easy for a vegan, and we stayed in a fabulous hotel. (Note to self – when asked “would you like the free upgrade to the suite?” always answer “yes, please.”)

No roller coasters, but my heart rose and sank just the same when I saw the Lincoln Memorial and the Martin Luther King statue. We toured the Ford’s Theater, and had a fabulous lunch with our friend Timothy who is a local girl done good, as she now is a curator for the new African-American Smithsonian Museum they are building. The lawn was ripped up and the reflecting pool was empty (metaphor?) but we didn’t care. It was a great trip.

 

COASTER COUNT – 0

NEXT STOP – CINCINNATI

Turns out, one of my all-time best friends from high school, and all-around fabulous guy, Joe Rigotti lives in Cincinnati. Also, it is a logical place to stay given the drive and (gasp) turns out the Brewer’s were playing the Reds while we were there. Kriner and Em caught a few games.

I spent time in the hotel by myself, a new-found hobby. I am not the type of person who enjoys being alone; I find it exhausting. I also feel bad for doing “nothing.” If I am home alone, I tend to do laundry or dishes or find something to do. However, in a hotel room, I can’t do that, I just lay around and watch HBO. No guilt, no “to do” list, no nothing, just me and the bed and the remote. Luxury.

At one point I dig drag myself up and out to go meet with Joe for a coffee and later dinner.  He looks fabulous (again, I am amazed that these people look so much younger than I) and seems happy. He is an event coordinator, and everyone in town knows and likes him, or at least it seems that way. He may be outgrowing Cincinnati…he’s that awesome.

Cinncinati is a pretty cool town. Right on a river, it has a lot going for it. We went up the Rod Carew Tower, although we were trying to figure out why it is called that, since he wasn’t from there and wasn’t really known for playing with the Reds; it was a nice view nonetheless. It’s very tall; tall enough to make me nervous in the rickety old elevator that holds 4 at a time, but a lovely view.

Coaster Count – 0 (but that tower was really tall)

LAST STOP BEFORE HOME – MACKINAW.

This was the first time we kind of explored the city of Mackinaw, and it was a fun tourist trap for sure. There are lots of restaurants and stores, ice cream, fudge and moccasins, but they present it in a very pretty package. Unknowingly, we trespassed into a closed fort, and walked around. We were so surprised to see everything was open, and we just kind of sauntered around, peeking in buildings and checking stuff out. On our way out, I noticed the gate, and the lock, and the signs…oops. When you’re walking on the beach, well, sometimes you miss stuff.

Mackinaw is pretty cool, especially under the bridge.  I  like dipping my toe into one Great Lake and then take a few steps and dipping it into another.

COASTER COUNT – 0 but driving over the bridge should totally count.

FINALLY TALLY:

Coasters ridden – 19

Great Lakes stepped in – 4

Miles walked – 1,793,967,355,298,089,786,766,102,800.

Amazing Things Seen – too many to remember them all, but hopefully enough to make some great memories.

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Filed under Bayfield, Fabulous luxury, Fall, Family, Holiday, Humor, Parenting, Roller Coasters, Summer, Theater

Ticks

I need to fess up.  I have lived in Northern Wisconsin for 23 years, and I have never had a tick embedded into my skin. Never, which is freakishly rare for someone who lives where I live. Kriner and I can take a walk together and he will have 37 ticks crawling on him but somehow, I come off clean. I once read they are attracted to heat and my body temp runs low, so I assume they go after my hot-blooded man.

Ticks are gross, disgusting, and at times dangerous, but I’m not going to talk about Deer Ticks.  They’re the ones that carry Lyme disease, and yeah, it’s singular; this is something you learn when all of your friends, co-workers, acquaintances, students, former students and enemies get Lyme disease. They will correct you and you know what?  They get to, because they had Lyme disease.

“It’s not Lyme’s, it’s just Lyme.”

“I’m so sorry that you know that.”

That would be a downer to talk about and I want to keep these blog entries fun, so, I’m just going to talk about the ticks that are disgusting rather than dangerous. Those would be the Wood Ticks. (*Note, if you are squeamish about ticks, or bugs in general, please stop reading now.  It’s going to get really, really gross fairly quickly.  Also, I am sure my paramedic friends would point out you can catch bad stuff from Wood Ticks too…)

If you have never seen a Wood Tick (and I doubt there is anyone in an English-speaking country who has never seen one, since they are so common that I frequently see them pushing grocery carts at the local IGA and driving cars up and down main street) they are flat, tear-dropped shaped, brown insects with 8 legs and 2 big pincers coming out of their head. They are as thin as a thumbnail, that is, until they find a host.

The tick has the “awesome” ability to squirt a numbing chemical into your skin before it starts sucking you dry, so you really don’t feel it once it is in you. You may feel them crawling on your leg or arm, but if you don’t catch them early, they will find a nice, warm, quiet spot on your body (think gated community in Florida) before they proceed to dig in. They will stay there until they’re found or until they have satiated themselves and drop off, which can be a very long time.   (Have you checked the back of your neck while reading this?  I have.)

If you’re a dog owner in the northern part of Wisconsin, you are well-versed in ticks.  Dogs aren’t able to find and remove ticks as affectively as humans (you know, opposable thumbs and all) and most humans don’t find them on their dogs until they can feel them under fur, which means the tick has gotten bigger and more bloated.  You pray at this point your dog doesn’t bite them off and yes, I too just threw up in my mouth a little bit.  Most dog-owners have their own special rituals for dealing with the ticks they find on their beloved animals. We’ve all heard of the scotch tape trick, and if you haven’t, it’s time to leave the city.  Other tricks are the “toilet dump”, the “fingernail squish” (very difficult to execute but most impressive and final) and of course, the “burn.”  However, perhaps the most intriguing yet repulsive tick containment/elimination technique is the “tick jar.”  That’s right; sometimes there are so many ticks on a dog, that you need a jar when you check your animal.  And here’s the best part, sometimes people don’t get rid of the ticks right away; they keep them in the jar for fun.

This great little craft can be enjoyed by the entire family.  It’s easy, fun and educational!  Here’s how you do it.  You will need a jar or can, some cooking spray, and lots and lots of ticks.  When attempting to make your own tick jar, it’s important to spray the aerosol cooking spray on the inside of the jar, preferably one without ridges. You want to make it impossible for the ticks to climb out.  Since the top of the jar is open, you get to see the ticks, in all of their disgusting glory, in a not-so-natural habitat. You may think this is horrid and gross and only a select few humans would opt for this method, and you’d be right.

Among some of my friends, there seems to be a competition to see who can have the most lively tick jar. When I first moved here, Brian Grube had a tick jar he  never emptied and we all found it fascinating, albeit disgusting.  To this day I have never seen a tick jar that even comes close to his, but to be fair, he had 4 hairy dogs in one house.

I feel at this point, I should spend a little time describing the occupants of the jar, because based on diet, these ticks can range greatly in appearance.

On the bottom of the food chain are the newer, or “probationary” ticks.  They are small, lively and thin. When a dog’s owner finds them, these ticks are most likely only crawling on the dog, and not yet embedded.

Then you have the “less than a day” suckers; they still look like ticks, but they are thicker, maybe the depth of a quarter. They are “all that” in the tick world, because they have just recently fed. That’s really what it comes down to with ticks. If they’re hungry, they’re nothing, but if they’re fed, the world is their oyster, so to speak.

Now we get into the “John Gotti” tick. They have sucked blood for days, and have lived the good life at the expense of others.  They have lived under the radar, and in spite of petting, scratching and brushing your dog, they have remained unfound. They’re sneaky and smart.  If they got pulled over, I’m sure they would tell the officer that the blood just “fell off a truck.” These ticks look like little balls; they have so much blood in them you would think they would start to roll downhill, but they are still brown in color and still look like ticks, much like Violet Beauregarde when she got all plumped up on blueberries. They have trouble moving around in the tick jar.  They’re pretty damn gross.

(SPOILER ALERT – Now we move into the “no longer look like a tick but still a tick” arena. We are moving into the really, really disgusting aspect of ticks.  Feel free to drop out here.)

Unless you live where I live and have animals, you will not have experienced the “Grape tick” and you should be grateful for it.  A funny thing happens to ticks that feed for more than four days. They get big, much like a grape, and they no longer look like a tick. They turn into a sick, gray-purple color and their legs seem to disappear, under their bloated bellies.  They look like a raisin that has plumped itself back up by soaking in bleach.

Here’s what happens when you drop one of those vile, revolting plumped up, over-fed ticks into the tick jar. Remember the hungry newbie ticks?  They are so hungry and little, and the grape ticks are so big and slow, that the newbie ticks attach themselves to grey grape ticks’ bellies. So in the ultimate act of parasitic disgusting “ish”, we see ticks sucking on other ticks.  It’s like eating by proxy.

So, during this very special time of year, let this serve as a reminder to be sure to tuck your jeans into your socks, wear a hat, check yourself at night, get out the Frontline for your pets, and be careful when you scratch under your dog’s collar.  You never know what you’re going to find.

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Filed under Bayfield, Environment, Fall, Family, Humor, Parenting, Wisconsin