A Confession

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I started watching Game of Thrones on Netflix, and so far so good.  Lots of sex and violence, it’s my kind of series. However, everyone I talk to about it asks, “Did you read the books?  OMG, you have to read the books.”  They mean well, but really, are they kidding me?  There are hours and hours of episodes to get through.  Why on earth would I read the books?  I barely have time to watch them, let alone read them.  There is laundry to do, toenails to paint and Facebook to troll.

I have a confession to make.  Truth is, I hate to read.  There, I said it.  Wow, that was a weight lifted!  I feel so much lighter.  No.  I don’t read.  Anything.  Ever.  I hate reading.  The last book I finished was never.

People like to stereotype me as a “reader” just because I teach high school English.  I think that’s grossly unfair.  Just because I teach Pride and Prejudice doesn’t mean I’ve read it.  Please!  Although I have seen both the BBC mini-series with Colin Firth and the movie with Keira Knightly so I do feel competent and quite an expert on the topic.

Why on earth would I voluntarily read a book when I can just watch the movie?  Seriously?  All that back and forth with the eyes…so monotonous.  Get me a remote and a vodka and I can happily knock through a classic in two hours.

I know it’s “cool” to read.  Apparently, it has been for a while.  Some of my smarter, erudite friends who assume I read are always offering suggestions for new titles I should check out.  I always feign some excitement.  I can usually fake my way around that conversation with, “Not yet, but I ordered it.  I can’t wait.”  Or if someone starts down the plot path, and are expecting some feedback, I can answer with, “Nope – stop  it!  Don’t ruin it for me, I haven’t gotten there yet.  Spoilers!”

The worst is when they reference previous novels the author has written, as if I had read it or am even familiar with the author.  “Did you read Rachel Kushner’s new one?  I can’t wait to get my hands on it.  You’ve read her first novel, right?”  That is a sticky question, because not only have I not read it, I don’t even know the title.  They haven’t made the movie yet.  Come on Hollywood!  Catch up!

When I had knee surgery, my “friend” Michelle gave me a copy of “Cleopatra’s Memoir” and I almost slapped her.  Some friend.  That thing has like thousands of pages.  As if I would ever have the time, inclination or wherewithal to actually read it.  Also, turns out the movie starring Elizabeth Taylor was from a completely different book.  I had to totally tap dance my way around that conversation.  Weeks later, when she asked about it, I used words like “profound” and “epic” and, for a brief moment, I thought I saw a flash of doubt in her eyes.

When I absolutely have to read a book, I usually read the first chapter, the last chapter and then a random chapter in the middle.  That is the most important one, because then you can reference random plot points in conversation.  That’s what’s cool about literature.  You can always B.S. your way around metaphor and meaning.   For example, “Yeah, sure, the green light at the end of the dock was important, but what about when Gatsby shows Daisy all the custom-made shirts in his closet?  I thought that was profound and epic.  Think about it – not only is it his costume, like he’s pretending/acting to be someone he’s not, but it’s like his armor too.  Right?”   Also, on a side note, I liked the movie with Redford more than the DiCaprio.

As a high school English teacher, I assign a novel each quarter that students have to read outside of class.  Four books a year.  That’s more than I have read in my entire life.  (At the end of every quarter, I have them do a power point on the novel, so I don’t have to read any of papers.  Also, I give them a list of books that I probably should have read by now, so I can get more familiar with the plots.  I consider it great time management – a teacher’s best tool.)  I also have many, many, many, many, many students who blow off reading the book and just watch the movie.  They have a special place in my heart.  While other teachers may bitch and moan about those kids, I embrace them.  When they look me in the eye, boldly lying to my face, I smile with pride.  You go little slacker!  You go!  I love these kids so much, that often, on tests, I will write questions just for them, things that the “smart” kids wouldn’t know because they read the book – questions like “What color was Gatsby’s car?”  The kids who saw the movie would know that.  I would know that too, because I never read the book.  When the smart kids ask me about the validity of the question, I can shoot back with something about it being profound and epic and that it clearly represents his desire to better his life.  They lurk off feeling stupid, and I wink at one of the kids who got it right, as if to say “I know, right?”

Sometimes the movies of books are dull and seem pointless.  I always assume it was because the book was dull and pointless.  When asked what I thought of “Beloved“or  “Life of Pi,” I can honestly say, “I thought it was kind of flat.”  Half the time, people seem relieved that I have been so honest and brave to share that opinion, and sometimes friends whisper, “I thought so too – I didn’t get half of it.”  While I’m on the topic, can someone who actually read “The Life of Pi” tell me what was up with the flowers and the teeth on the island? Because in the movie, it seems like something that was really profound and epic, but still left me wanting more…

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Filed under Books, Humor, Movies, Oprah

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

My Almost Obsession

In my basement, lurks an old and well-kept secret.  Folks who knew me 20 years ago knew that I collected something, something rather silly, and that it got a little out of hand.  I had to stop.  They know, I know, we don’t speak of it.

More recent acquaintances don’t know about my one-time almost obsession.  I had a problem, I faced it, I moved on.  However, I still have the proof, the evidence, the menagerie, the collection.  I can’t get rid of it.  I kid myself they will be worth something some day, and you know what?  I think they totally will.  In my basement are over 170 Barbie dolls; they are in mint condition and most have never been out of the box.  That’s right, I’m a recovering Barbie girl.

I go through months forgetting about them.  I don’t often think of my little blonde friends packed away safely.  I’m not sure how I can walk pass 16 extra-large plastic bins stacked in my basement, right next to the washing machine, but I do.  I blithely waltz by with a load of whites, not stopping to pay homage to the amazing, colorful beauties packed away in giant Tupperware.  In my own defense, the crates tend to blend in.

A few weeks ago, I had a friend over for dinner and somehow it came up in conversation.  This man I have known for years and years didn’t know anything about the dolls.  He was a bit incredulous until I took him to the basement and opened just one of many plastic tubs.  There, neatly packed in extra-large ziplock bags (to prevent the damp) still in their boxes, were about 20 colorful, flamboyant and somewhat garish Barbie dolls.   He just laughed.  I spent the rest of the evening justifying them because “some of them will be worth something…someday.”

My collection started innocently enough.  Back in 1992, I was writing a comedy sketch for Old Last Night for Big Top Chautauqua.  It was a piece I wrote for Sally Kessler and Tom Mitchell, two well-respected actors.  I thought it would be funny for adults to hold Barbie and Ken dolls, kind of like puppets and do a bit.  It was funny enough – Ken was trying to pick up Barbie, and Barbie was bored, that is until another Barbie walked in.  Then Barbie started admiring Barbie and they ended up leaving together…”Who else could Barbie love but Barbie?”  The kicker?  I needed dolls.

I went out and bought 2 relatively cheap Barbie dolls (One was fairly generic, but the other was a Totally Hair Barbie, one of the all-time best sellers during the 90’s.  I also bought a generic Ken doll – as if there is any other kind, right?) TotallyHairBarbie

It was a funny sketch, although I remember feeling it didn’t get the props it deserved.  It was placed during a big break, so no one was really in the tent when it was performed.  Also, this was before the wireless mic system, so no one could really hear the jokes but other than no one seeing or hearing it, I thought it was a huge success.

As a joke, I kept the dolls on display in our very tiny, small, petite house.  Because the house was so diminutive, the dolls kind of stuck out.  Friends would comment on them, make jokes and put the dolls in compromising positions.  I would kid I was going to start a collection and make it my nest egg for retirement.  It was all in good fun.

Then a week later, my friend Mary showed up with a Wal-mart bag.  She was beaming from ear to ear.  She had something special for me.  As she handed me the bag, she was giddy with excitement.  It was clear she was pretty impressed with herself.  There, in the bag, was a box with that tell-all pink top with the cursive writing in white.  Mary had bought me a Barbie.  This wasn’t just any old “Malibu Barbie” or “Masquarade Barbie” or even “Birthday Barbie. ” Mary bought me a “Troll Barbie.”

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Yes, there is such a thing.  The Troll Barbie had a little Troll doll toy with it in the box.  However, the fun doesn’t stop there; the hair on the Troll doll was removable, it also worked in Barbie’s hair as a fashion accessory!  When Mr. Troll was wearing green or blue hair, Barbie could stash the hot pink little wig in her hair!  (Oh, for cute!)  You know why?  Because it had Velcro on it.  What gal wouldn’t want a piece of hot pink polyester and Velcro in her hair?  I loved the kitsch of it; that was the beginning.

After that, friends and family kept an eagle’s eye out for crazy, loony and unique Barbie dolls, and let me tell you, they were out there.  Barbie for President, Astronaut Barbie, Rollerblading Barbie (sparks come out of her blades) and even a Harley Davidson Barbie.   They loved getting me the crazy doll, and I loved getting them.

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After acquiring 5 or 6 dolls, I too started to buy my own dolls.  The first “real” Barbie I bought was the Holiday Barbie in 1993.  See, Mattel is really, really good at selling dolls, and making buyers think they are “investing.”  Sure they have the cheaper, flashy dolls for girls, but then they make really stunning and beautiful dolls for women (and some men) to collect.  The boxes are larger, so the full dress can be seen, and the dresses are glamorous and beautiful.  The face molds they use are more rare, and the makeup (i.e. paint) is special and not your everyday pink and blue.  Every year, Mattel releases a Holiday Barbie in November.  I am loath to type how many I actually own.  Suffice to say they are very pretty and I was usually tempted year to year to take her out of the box and put her top of our Christmas tree.  (I didn’t.)

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After that, I went on an eight year binge.  I would buy full collections at a time: Gone With the Wind, My Fair Lady, The Wizard of Oz, you get the idea.

(Side note, I quit buying dolls long before the Twilight and Hunger Games dolls came out but I felt that old twinge when I passed the Barbie display case in a Toys-R-Us last Christmas.  Old Liz would have gobbled those up.)

There are tons and tons of series.  Like I said, Mattel knows what it’s doing.  They put out collector series like a tramp, you know, puts out.

imagesOne of the biggest collections is the Dolls of the World series, because there are just so many countries!  This is a perfect doll for the mom who struggles with her daughter playing with such a stereotype as Barbie, but she can swallow it a little easier if she can learn something about another culture.  (Oh, alright!)  All the better if the child is actually seen in public playing with a darker skinned Barbie.  That makes the mother look multi-cultural and hip.  $(KGrHqZHJFUFC,pYm2uwBQpJC2jD2w~~60_1

There are also the amazing TV series dolls.  Those are particularly difficult for me to avoid, as I am a child who was raised on and by television.  Star Trek, Bewitched, Batgirl, That Girl, I Love Lucy,  and the list goes on and on and on.   I own way, way, way too many of these types of dolls.

My mother-in-law and her family are respectable doll collectors.  Kriner’s aunt Libby has a room just for her dolls.  They are all porcelain and fabulous.  When they heard that I was collecting Barbie Dolls, it was like manna from heaven for them AND for me.

No longer did they have to bother Kriner with “what size is she” and “does she have a Sears poncho?”  After that they relished in picking out dolls for me.  With their help, I am the proud owner of some pretty spectacular dolls.

Did you know Bob Mackey designs for Barbie?  Yup.  They are porcelain.  (He refuses to dress plastic.)  I have a few.   I have some other Designer Collector’s editions from other folks, too.  (Armani, Vera Wang, Louboutin…just sayin’)

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My problem reached a point where I realized I was spending more on dolls than say, groceries and bills.  That wasn’t good.  Stopping was simple, because frankly, we didn’t have the space to keep them.

It has been over 15 years since I bought myself a doll, and over 10 since someone bought me one.  The last Barbie I got, and really treasured was when we adopted Em.  Everyone who adopts a girl from China, stays in this one particular hotel, called The White Swan.  That’s because, aside from Western amenities and an abundance of English speakers, it is across the street is the American Consulate, where some of the paperwork is done.  When adoptive parents stay at the White Swan, they get a gift bag, filled with some baby things, some knickknacks and some other lucky baubles.

$(KGrHqUOKj8E342NF85+BOB-rWcV!Q~~_1But, in the bottom of the bag was a box with that tell-all pink top and those white letters in cursive.  Sure enough, there is Barbie holding a little Chinese baby.  I laughed and laughed.  The box got a little smushed in the luggage on the way home, but I figure she may be worth someone on Ebay when Em is ready for college.

 

 

 

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Filed under Barbie, Humor

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

Schwan’s

Our Schwan’s man isn’t – he is a she.  She’s really cute and perky and blonde and wears blue eye shadow.  I like her.  She’s hard to say “no” to.  Well, for me, any Schwan’s sales person is hard to say “no” to.  This person, this hard working person, drives most of the day in a lonely, big truck, comes to your door and asks you if you need anything.  They are standing at your door, looking you in the eye, holding a catalogue that has absolutely every bad food item under the sun, and they are literally inches away from you, close enough for a hug.  There isn’t even a sales counter to separate you.  How could you say “no?”  I can’t.  Kriner has taken over the Schwan’s sales, because I am way too soft.  Now, under Kriner’s guidance, we’re usually good for a rainbow sherbet every two weeks.

One time, back when we had a Schwan’s man, I ended up with a case of Cordon Bleus and another case of Chicken Kievs.  Seriously.  How the hell did that happen?  What the hell was I thinking? Well, our Schwan’s man at the time was missing a few teeth, and he looked a little down on his luck.  (Note to future Schwan’s reps…go ahead and skimp on the dental work, because it could really pay off.)  It was absolutely impossible for me to say “no” to him, and he totally had my number.

The fact that I ordered all this meaty, cheesy food is made even more ridiculous when you realize/remember my husband is vegan and we don’t eat meat in our house.  Here I was, with 48 pre-packaged dinners that we would never in a million years eat, or even let into our microwave for fear of contamination.  Do you know what kind of meat is in the Schwan’s Cordon Bleu and Chicken Kiev?  Rib meat.  That’s what is says on the ingredients.  Rib meat.  It doesn’t say what animal the rib meat came from, just rib meat.  It could be dog rib meat for all I know.  Maybe even human.  Say it a few times, I bet you giggle.  Rib meat.  Rib meat.

Get this, I tried to give them away.  Turns out, there aren’t a lot of takers for Schwan’s Chicken Kiev or Cordon Bleu.  I think I slapped a ribbon on the boxes, dropped them off on my friend Michelle’s porch, rang the door bell and ran away.  (Merry Christmas, Michelle!  Hope you enjoyed them!)

One time, in the dead of winter, we were having a cozy night at home.  Em was asleep,  Kriner was in his pajamas, and we were chilling in front of the fire.   It was really cold out, and we were snug in our little house as the wind whipped.  Then we heard it…the truck down the street.

Liz- “Sh*t…it’s the Schwan’s man.”

Kriner – “You are NOT buying anything.  Seriously, what’s next?  Sirloins?  Ham?  We don’t need anything.”

Liz – “But he’s missing teeth!  You do it.  You answer the door.”

Kriner – “Forget it, I’m in my pajamas.  Just say ‘no.’”

Liz “Kriner, come on.  It’s so cold out.  What if we got a bread bowl or something?  They carry those now.”

Kriner – “Liz, it’s bad food.  Besides, we don’t need anything.  Just tell him that.”

Liz – “I don’t think I can.”

Kriner – “Fine, turn off the lights.”

We turned off the lights and the tv and stared at each other, in shame, as we heard the truck pull up.  That’s the kind of person I had become; I was hiding from the Schwan’s man.  The sound of the truck door opening and slamming shut could barely be heard through the sound of the wind.  “I’m a bad person…” I thought to myself.  The knock on our door followed.  Instinctively, I dropped to a squatting position with my arms out, as if I was expecting to fight off an attack.  Kriner rolled his eyes and whispered, “Just don’t answer it.  It’ll be fine.”   We sat there, for what seemed like hours, waiting for him to drive off.  After an eternity, we heard him climb back in the truck, and I breathed a sigh of relief.  However, my fears returned when the truck failed to start.  Yeah, that’s right.  He sat there in his truck, waiting for us.  There we were, in the dark, sans lights or tv for over 15 minutes while that son-of-a-bitch waited us out.  At one point Kriner stated “this is ridiculous” and moved to turn on the lights.  “Noooo!” I cried, knowing that if we turned on the lights, we would be found out.  Stupid guilt.  Look where it leads!  Eventually, he drove off.  However, what should have felt like a victory was hollow.  I was ashamed.  We certainly could have managed one bread bowl.

I was at a writer’s meeting for a show Big Top Chautauqua was putting together with some folks who are way, way, funnier and smarter than I am.  Not to name drop, but Michael Perry (you know, New York Times bestselling author and humorist Michael Perry?  Yeah, him) and Jimmy Kaplan (he wrote the music for a little show called Guys On Ice) were at the table, literally and figuratively.  “Out of my league” pops into my head at this moment.  So what did I do?  What every insecure idiot would do!  I started pitching any funny thing I had ever thought of throughout my entire life.  At the time, I thought I was amazing; looking back on it, not so much.  Michael was quiet, kind and patient and Jimmy thought I was on drugs.  At one point I pitched “what about a Schwan’s sketch?”  Michael perked up.  We started brainstorming… Jimmy found an actual Schwan’s ap on his phone which I still find amusing.  I had gained a little respect from the men in the room.  That’s right…the chick can represent.  At the end of the brainstorm, Michael Perry, the guy who wrote Coop, Truck: A Love Story, and Population 485 asked me if he could write the Schwan’s sketch.  Normally, I get selfish with my ideas and like to flesh sketches out myself, but in this case, I was honored.  Not only did he write them, but they were great.  I’m kind of proud of that, proud of the work I didn’t do.

Last night the Schwan’s lady drove up, but we had to dash to a soccer game.  She handed me a catalogue, and with her usual smile said “I’ll see you in a few weeks!”  As I was flipping through it in the car, my eyes spied that bread bowl.  Hmmmm.

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Filed under Humor

I am a Soccer Mom; I Have Arrived

I am not an athlete, nor have I ever been one.  I got in shape once to see if I could do it.  My parents were more athletic than their children.  My dad got a scholarship to the U.W. for track and field, and played racquetball and swam his whole life.  My parents also “jogged.”  Remember jogging?  That’s what “the Greatest Generation” did.  They jogged.  They were humble about it; they jogged without fanfare, without fancy shoes and usually in a grey sweatshirt.  “Liz, your mom and I are going for a jog.”  They would go for 2 miles and were back in half an hour. Gen Xer’s don’t jog.  They run.  They go out for runs, in spite of the fact it may take them 30 minutes to move their bodies one mile.  And they make a big deal about it.  “What did you do this morning?”  “Went for a run…then got an iced coffee.”  God, we’re arrogant.

So yeah, I wasn’t athletic.  I was more into music and drama.  The whole team sport thing eluded me.  The reason I am explaining my ignorance and bewilderment with team sports is because I am now caught smack dab in the middle of it.  Much to my shock and dismay, I have become a soccer mom.

Our daughter Emily started soccer when she was 5.  I don’t know what led me to sign her up.  I guess I thought it would be cute.  And it was!  Those little post-toddlers chasing a tiny soccer ball, trying not to use their hands, drawing in the dirt, picking dandelions, now that was my kind of sport!

Then there was this phenomenon called “British Soccer Camp.”  These adorable and charming boys from England come over during the summer and coach soccer camps for kids.  I swear to God, the first year I did it because I am such an anglophile, I figured it would be cool to hear their accents.  And it was!  They played silly games with the kids, and worked on foot control, etc. etc. fish and chips, bloody hell, bangers and mash and all that lot.

You know what happens when a kid does a sport for 5 years in a row?  They get good at it.  You know what happens when you send that kid to British soccer camp for a few years?  They get really good.  This was not in the plan.  What the hell was I thinking?  What the hell did I sign up for?

Now, Emily loves soccer.  A lot.  She plays offense and is usually the top goal scorer of the game.  Her foot skills are quite good.  And this isn’t just her mom talking either.  She’s currently being scouted by Manchester United.  (Just the fact I can make that joke makes me cringe.  I should be listening to show tunes, not wasting time knowing who Mia Hamm is.  Honestly, David Beckham should only be Posh’s husband in my world.  Period.  Look what I have become!)

My daughter plays for the Bayfield U-10 girl’s soccer team.  Let me fill you in on Bayfield soccer.  We don’t have uniforms, we don’t have matching socks, we don’t have bleachers or clubs or anything like that.  We sometimes have grass on the field.  We’re scrappy.  If we’re lucky, our kids play in matching t-shirts.  The coach hopes they show up in black shorts and not jean cut-offs.  Bayfield is a town of little over 300 people.  Some of the girls on the team are from Red Cliff Indian Reservation just outside of town, but even so, it’s a small team.  Really small.  We’re lucky if we play a game with a sub, let alone two.  When we play a team from Ashland, it feels a bit like David and Goliath.   Ashland has uniforms, bleachers, larger teams, grass fields, parent booster clubs and even a traveling team – for U-10 girls.  I am completely serious.

Here’s why this is important.  Currently, Bayfield’s U-10 girls are undefeated.  Last year, this scrappy, little team from Bayfield didn’t win a game all regular season; it was brutal. But this year, watch out, they are on fire!  Because of this, I have turned into the most obnoxious, loud, insane soccer mom EVER.  Turns out, I love this game.  I am usually hoarse the morning after a game.  I love all the girls on the team!  I know their names and know their positions and I love each and every one of them.  There is Greta, the tiniest girl on the team, and by far the most aggressive.  She got her 2nd bloody nose of the season last night and wore that blood with a big grin.  “Put me in, coach!  I’m fine.”  She said after she got head butted.  I love that kid.  She never gives up.  Then there is Andrea, the tallest 9-year-old on the planet, who never seems to get excited about anything, unless there is a ball coming toward her.  She is so tall, all the opponents are intimidated by her.  It’s awesome.  Then there is Brianne, who can kick that ball farther than any adult I know.  Harley smiles when she runs, it’s absolutely glorious.  I love these girls.  Brianne’s grandma, Greta’s mom and I have gotten shouted down from the parents of other teams; that’s how obnoxious we are.  “Hey ladies, calm down, it’s just a goal!”  I want to smack those parents.  They should be cheering as much for their kids.  I don’t chastise them for not cheering enough.  Live and let live, dude.

Tonight is their last regular season game.   I really hope they win.  (This coming from the girl who feels that football serves as the pre and post-show for the marching band.)  Then there is the “jamboree” on Saturday.  Personally, I think the jamboree should actually be renamed “hell.”  Even insane soccer moms like myself hate the soccer jamboree.  4 to 6 games in a day, every u-15 team in the area swarms to the fields and parking is horrendous.  Oh yeah, it’s also supposed to rain.  The whole day will be filled with waiting, cheering, porta-poties, wet clothes and hot chocolate sans peppermint schnapps.   Wish me luck.  Maybe beforehand, I should get out some of my anxiety, and go for a run.  Go Trollers!

*Sidenote – Yes, Bayfield’s actual mascot is a troller.  Pretty intimidating, right?  A guy, slowly moving his motorboat, waiting to catch a defenseless little fish in an inland lake.  Strikes fear into the hearts of opposing teams.

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Filed under Bayfield, Feminism, fitness, Humor, Soccer

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