Category Archives: Parenting

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

The War with Dishwashing

I hate doing the dishes.  I really hate it.  Kriner hates it too.  We would have been divorced a long time ago if it weren’t for our dishwasher.  (Not hyperbole)

My abhorrence for doing dishes has actually kept me from cooking certain meals.  If it takes more than two pots to prepare, forget about it.  Seriously.  I love good food, but I hate doing dishes more.  “That recipe calls for a sauce?  Hmmm, maybe pizza tonight.”  “Wait, pasta with sautéed veggies AND caramelized onions?  Prego is fine.”  Also, it is verboten in my house to eat oatmeal.  Ever.  The pots are impossible to clean.  Frosted Flakes were good enough for me, they’re good enough for my kid.  (However, using that logic, playing with mercury from a broken thermometer, jumping off the roof into a pool, and sneaking beer and stealing cigarettes from my parents are also good enough for my kid…might need to rethink the Frosted Flakes.)

It’s a funny thing to hate.  I don’t hate laundry, or vacuuming (even though Kriner handles that) or even washing the floor.  I just hate doing dishes.  I have been ruminating on this for a while and I think I have come up with a reason why.

A few weeks ago, we went to my sister’s for Thanksgiving.  Every year the women do the dishes after the meal, usually because Steve, my brother-in-law does all the cooking.  That activity is actually better than tolerable because my sisters and my mom join in to help.  We drink or sing or gossip…it’s time well spent.  Also, their sink is located in the island of the kitchen, so people can sit and chat while you are washing up.

However, when I do dishes in my home, it is a solitary and lonely exercise.  I feel as though doing dishes in my small kitchen, looking out the small window in my small life should be portrayed in some dark, depressing Russian short story by Tolstoy.  Maybe I need a sound track of “Laura’s Theme” after dinner when I wash up.

My sink is located on a wall, so when I do the dishes, I turn my back on the whole kitchen, and ultimately, the house.  It’s like I’m back in Mrs. Stannel’s 4th grade class at Wilson Elementary, and I (once again) need to be disciplined.  “You’ve been laughing at inappropriate times again, Liz.  Go stand in the corner and do dishes!”

Washing dishes would be more fun if it were a team sport.  Of course I could ask Kriner to help, but even though it is difficult for me to comprehend, his revulsion of doing dishes is even greater than mine.  So, even though he wants to be a good guy, and wants to help, he is in such a foul mood after the dishes are done, that I regret asking him in the first place.  Why make two people miserable when only one has to suffer?  Dumbledore drank all that poison himself to get to the horcrux; he didn’t ask Harry to have a shell-full, did he?

I think someone needs to introduce a sink on wheels.  That way, I could roll into the living room while scouring a pot and see what’s going on.  “Are you two in here having fun without me?  Well, not anymore!”  Or maybe at the least roll it into the dining room, and rinse the plates right then and there before they go into the dishwasher.  (And can we please give a moment to roll our collective eyes at THAT?  What brainiac created a dishwasher that is so piss-poor that you have to rinse, and sometimes actually wash the dishes before they get washed.  Could someone please invent a dishwasher that does just that?  That washes dishes?  Seriously?  Like, now?)

Years ago, I was bitching about how much I hated doing dishes (because it’s that big of a thing for me – that apparently I have carried this vengeful attitude toward dishes for decades because everything else in my life is so freaking fabulous that this is the only thing I have to bitch about…) and my friend Anne said, “I love doing dishes.  I like putting my hands in warm water, and it is a moment of quiet after a busy day.”  I envied her in that moment.  The thought of my hand in warm water harkens back to poorly executed sleep-over pranks (did that work on ANYONE?) and quiet for me is difficult; it always has been.

Tomorrow night we are having friends over for a pot luck.  We will be using paper plates.  (Don’t judge, we got the nice kind…with like designs and crap.)  Also, pot luck means guests will be taking their dirty dishes home with them.  Now THAT’s a party I can get behind.

 

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Filed under Family, Feminism, Humor, Parenting

Sleeping

Sleeping is that wonderful thing you take for granted in your 20’s and 30’s.  I remember when I used to sleep; it was awesome.  For all the women out there in their 40’s and 50’s, you know what I’m talking about.

Before I became a mother, I used to sleep at least ten hours a night.  Seriously.  I would teach a full day, work with drama kids after school, have a little dinner, and I would crash by 8:30 or 9:00 and sleep all the way through to the alarm at 7:00.  I would roll out of bed, grab a shower and be out of the house in 20 minutes, dressed and ready to go.  I didn’t have to get anyone up or dressed, didn’t have to feed anyone, or make any lunches; it really was all about me.  I didn’t realize what I had.  Back then, people used to ask me, “how do you do it?” and I would respond “I sleep; I sleep a lot.”

Now, all of that is a distant, fuzzy memory, made fuzzier due to lack of sleep.  When people ask me now, “how do you do it?” I pause and try to remember the question.

Once we got Em, my sleeping patterns changed.  I was no longer a sound sleeper.  I used to wake when she rolled over or breathed heavy, and she even had her own room.  I was nervous and over-protective, as I believe most new moms are.  She would wake around midnight for a bottle and a diaper change.  Of course, I would wake with her and love those moments when everything was quiet; I would rock her with a bottle and she and I would just make eye contact for 30 minutes straight.  No sound, just the sucking on a bottle or some cooing.  It makes me smile just thinking about it.

Now, things are very, very different.  Emily is 10 and sleeps through the night; my husband is 41 and sleeps through the night.  I, however, do not.  From talking to my friends, it appears this is an all-too-common phenomenon that happens to (sigh) middle-aged women.  Somewhere between 2:30 and 4:00 a.m., we wake up for no reason at all, and stay awake for at least an hour, if not two.  We try to go back to sleep, but it is pointless.  We lay there, thinking of all the important things that absolutely need to be taken care immediately.  We worry, we run numbers, we make lists, we do all this thinking.   Then, if by some miracle, we fall asleep around 5:00 a.m., we wake an hour later, only to realize everything we were worrying about was absolutely non-essential minutia.  Turns out, cleaning the lint trap in the dryer could wait until the weekend.  Go figure.

Also, it is now absolutely impossible for me to sleep-in.  I could be totally exhausted, but at 6:30, I am up and awake.  I need no reverie or rooster; my body is all too ready to torture me with long-term sleep deprivation.  It’s like a Scientologist moved into my brain when I turned 40.

I have read of some remedies to this sleep deprivation issue, but they seem medieval and cruel.  One involves removing caffeine from one’s diet.  Right.  Another advises cutting out alcohol.  Seriously?  One even suggests working out.  Clearly, these are not for me.

(Fun Fact – I bumped into a friend who asked if I used melatonin.  I explained that I don’t have trouble falling asleep, only staying asleep.  She then went on to extol the benefits of it, and how she gives it to her children for long car rides.  I am sure I looked horrified, as I think my mouth dropped; she said defensively, “well, my parents used it on me so it must be safe.”  I told her I played with mercury as a kid, but it didn’t mean I was going to let my daughter do the same.  I think I pissed her off…)

Men don’t seem to have this problem.  The fact that my husband sleeps soundly through the night is only one more thing on my “It is absolutely unfair being female” list I started a few years ago.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being a girl, however there are a few things that tend to get under my skin after 46 years.

LIST OF UNFAIR THINGS ABOUT BEING FEMALE

Number 1 – Height Advantage.  My husband has at least 10 inches on me, and it pisses me off.  I sound like such a freaking stereotype when I ask, “Honey, could you reach that jar for me?” or “Kriner, can you get that off the shelf?”  I keep thinking I should be in heels and an apron, stirring something.

Number 2 – Strength.  Again, sounding like a helpless little fawn when I ask him to open jars or lift things.  It doesn’t help that he is so willing to do it; he actually smiles and says, “There you go, hon.”  What a jerk, right?

Number 3 – Periods.  I don’t expect that men should have a lifetime of them, or even a decade, but just one period.  I think men should have one menstrual cycle in their lives just to see how…just to know how…well, I’ll leave it at that.

Number 4 – Pay.  Like that’s ever gonna change, right?  Thank you RNC, may I have another?

Number 5 – Sleeping.

My mother says that it will get better when I hit my 60’s, but by then, I’ll be going to bed at 7:00 and getting up at the crack of 4:00 to hit the Early Bird Special so really, what’s so different?  I suppose it could be worse.  I mean, I do have hot flashes to look forward to.  I bet that will make the list at some point.  Alright, please excuse me because I have to go and clean out the lint trap.

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Filed under Adoption, Humor, Parenting, Sleeping

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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My Father’s Firetruck

My father was that guy, or at least he was to me.  He was tall, magnanimous, handsome and funny.  My great-uncle Dana called him “a prince among men.”

Heads turned when he walked into a room, particularly with my mother on his arm.  He had huge hands, but they never landed on me in anger.  He was often restrained when I expected him to be furious, and he found joy in the everyday mundane.  He loved to paint the house; he said it was relaxing.  (That’s not to say he never lost his temper; I learned many 4-letter words while he watched the Packers.)

Perhaps his best attribute was his sense of humor.  He was incredibly and effortlessly funny.  Not only could he generate humor, but he really appreciated it.  He loved to laugh, and he did it often.  He lived a lively, happy and abundant life.

My parents threw epic parties.  They had a merry band of friends who knew how to have a good time.  This was when folks drank Old Fashions and Manhattans.  Men would wear jackets, and the ladies would get their hair done.  Inevitably, around midnight, someone (usually Vinnie Crane) would push some unsuspecting bystander into the pool and much like a line of dominoes, so went the rest of the guests.  My sister and I would peek through our bedroom window and laugh along with the guests.

Among other things, my father was a patriot (he felt espionage should be the only capital offense) so naturally, he bought a boatload of fireworks in Mexico and smuggled them back to the states for the Bi-Centennial of these United States of America.  I don’t know how he did it, but I’m fairly certain if he tried it today, TSA might have something to say about it.

After a ridiculous lead-up of bunting, potato salad, invitations and fanfare, Frank D. Woodworth celebrated the Bi-Centennial with his very own fireworks display.  He somehow managed to get a permit from the city that allowed us to shoot off m-80s all afternoon, only to follow it up a full-blown, private fireworks display at night on the beach.  The weather was perfect, the burgers were grilled to perfection and he was surrounded by his close friends and family.  The smile never left his face; it was a glorious day.

Later in life, my parents traveled quite a bit.  My dad was pretty crappy when it came to languages, so he never really tried to fit in, but he always managed to learn one phrase in the native tongue of wherever he visited, “Hold my cheese sandwich, I’ve just been struck by lightning.”  He would write it down on a 3×5 card and he would use it on waiters and the Maitre’d.  He loved to make people laugh.

One of the coolest things my father ever did was to buy a 1935 Seagrave Fire Engine.  I secretly believed he bought it so he could finagle himself into parades. He loved parades a lot and would drag us around to catch as many as we could.  He loved the bands, the floats, but mostly, he loved the show.

Every once in a while, in between parades, he would get out his fire engine and drive it around the neighborhood, asking kids if they, “smelled smoke.”  He would also drive it to the edge of the lake, and check if the hoses still worked.  (It had working pumpers that allowed him to suck up lake water and spray it into the air.  He was in heaven, as was every dog and kid in the neighborhood.)

It was always in my plans to involve the fire truck in my wedding, but unfortunately by the time Kriner and I hooked up, the truck had been sold, and my father had passed away from a brain tumor.  His two best buddies walked me down the aisle and we released a balloon in his honor.  Not quite a parade, but I think he liked the gesture, just the same.

When I turned 40, I half-jokingly told my husband that instead of a present, I wanted a parade.  On the night of my birthday, we had a glorious party, and sure enough, Kriner had parceled together enough friends who played instruments, and even found a baton-twirler.  We marched around the block, and called it a parade.  Back at the restaurant, there was a band, decorations, food and booze.

    

I was surrounded by friends and family and had one of the best nights in my entire life.  It was a glorious affair.  Later, I realized how incredibly lucky I have been in my life, in so many different ways.  I love my lively, happy and abundant life.  But after all, I had a great role model.

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Why I love the musical Oklahoma!

I come from a musical family.  I am fortunate in that.  Both of my parents sang; my mother played piano, and my siblings and I were forced to do the same.  In spite of our grumbling and complaining, we all grew up to be musicians of a sort and are grateful for it.

The piano was the heart of our house.  It was played daily.  My mother was a firm believer in practicing, which we all did plenty of, but she also played for pleasure.  It was necessary for her sanity.  She was a stay-at-home-mom with quiet aspirations to do more.  (She had been a nurse, but gave it up to raise kids.)  Music was her balm, her meditation, her sanctuary.

After practicing Bach or Debussy, inevitably my mother would start a familiar show tune, and my father would put down his paper, bound up from the couch, put his hand on her shoulder and sing along.  He had a beautiful and distinctive tenor voice.  My father was a tad “larger than life,” especially in my eyes, but his singing voice was warm and inviting.  Often my mother would harmonize with him.  As I kid, I thought this was normal, that everyone’s parents would leap into song in a moment’s notice; only later did I realize this wasn’t necessarily the case.

Their favorite songs were from American musicals.  Hymns were for church, rock was for the radio, but show tunes were for fun and their melodies filled our family room.  My parents had never been to Broadway, but you wouldn’t know it from the stacks of scores and librettos piled on the top of the upright.  I grew up listening to the music from The Sound of Music, Guys and Dolls, Mame, Kismet, The King and I, West Side Story, I Do, I Do, The Unsinkable Molly Brown and of course Oklahoma!

As I entered my teens, I remember thinking these songs were cheesy and dated.  I never understood why my mother (and sometimes my father) would tear up and get emotional when they reached certain lines like, “for here you are, standing there loving me, whether or not you should” or “don’t cry young lovers, whatever you do, don’t cry because I’m alone; all of my memories are happy tonight, I’ve had a love of my own” or “open your angel’s arms, to this stranger in paradise, and tell him that he need be a stranger no more.”  After the song was finished, they would kiss and I would roll my eyes.

 – My father and mother singing, with my sister Mary.

As an adult, I get it.  Now I understand that lyrics like, “your hand feels so grand in mine” and “out of my dreams and into your arms I long to fly, I will come as evening comes to woo a waiting sky” are close to perfection in that they have both depth and simplicity.  Now those same lyrics make me weep.

There are a lot of reasons to love this show.  Sure, Oklahoma! was the first collaboration between Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein.  Sure, it was groundbreaking in that Agnes DeMille (in her first Broadway appearance) created the iconic dream ballet.  Sure, it received stunning reviews, and yes, it has withstood the test of time to remain one of America’s favorite musicals.

However, for me, I will always associate this show with my parent’s love of music, and their love for each other.  Even in the midst of a busy rehearsal, with a million little problems that somehow need to be solved yesterday, I stop in my tracks when I hear “I’ve got a beautiful feeling, everything’s going my way” because I swear I can hear that clear and distinctive tenor voice singing along.

*Liz Woodworth is current directing a version of Oklahoma! presented at Stagenorth and opening (gulp) April 26th.  Make your reservations now.

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Filed under Humor, Music, Parenting, Theater