Monday, February 28, 2011

Sick Day

If you've watched "Full House," you'll recognize this shot.

My daughter is home sick with a stomachache today, so we'll be watching a marathon of "Full House" episodes.

It could be worse: she could be vomiting, and we could be watching "Suite Life on Deck."

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oui, ich spreche Francais, no probleme!

Ooh, la la!

My husband and I are learning conversational French by listening to CD's when we're in the car together. (Which isn't all that often, we've discovered.) We think we're doing well, and then all of a sudden the voice on the CD asks us to put together a sentence in French. Words and phrases we learned in high school come flooding back. The problem is, he took Spanish and I took German. Neither one of us took French. So we piece together sentences using all three languages and are thankful that the Parisians undoubtedly speak better English than we do any of the foreign languages we attempt.

We are Ugly Americans. :(
Ja ja, c'est terrible. Ay yi yi.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

My Un-informed Diagnosis of 'The Black Swan'

This is a ballerina. This is not the 'Black Swan.'

I'm probably one of the last people to see "Black Swan," and wish I hadn't waited so long. I loved it! Natalie Portman deserves every award she gets. I was riveted by her performance and her character, which many people have simply described as "crazy", "nuts", or "psycho." But I can't leave it at that. Those terms are too vague. Instead I feel compelled to play amateur psychologist and diagnosis her mental condition.

My diagnosis: Nina had Borderline Personality Disorder.

What leads me to determine that?
1. She wants to be "perfect." She says so on more than one occasion.
2. I think her imagined physical mutations are body dysmorphia. Plus, she has an eating disorder. (Think back to the cake scene and vomiting in the bathroom scenes.)
3. She suppresses her emotions until they rage out of control. She's either a good little girl, or wild child.
4. She engages in self-mutilation (she she pulls off her skin).
5. She is self-destructive.

***SPOILER ALERT!!*** Don't read on if you haven't seen the movie!

But, I can't explain why her own face flashes before her at various times. And I can't explain away the hallucination/delusion that she has killed someone. Those symptoms don't fit into my contrived diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. (I should have taken more Psychology classes!) Maybe she really was just "crazy."

Friday, February 25, 2011

Ohio Fun Facts

Mural on the side of a building in Franklin, Ohio

  • The first ambulance service and the first professional fire department were established in Cincinnati.
  • Ohio’s official rock song is “Hang On, Sloopy.”
  • America’s first traffic light began blinking in Cleveland, Ohio on August 5, 1914.
  • The Christmas song “Up on the Housetop” was composed by Benjamin Hanby in Westerville, Ohio.
  • Ohio’s state fossil is the trilobite.
  • 50% of the United States population lives within a 500 mile radius of Columbus, Ohio.
  • The creator of Silly Bandz—silicone bracelets shaped like animals, letters and other objects—is Robert Croak of Toledo.
  • Ohio has the only pennant-shaped state flag in the U.S.
  • The pop-top can was invented by Ermal Fraze in Kettering, Ohio.
  • The Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio caught fire in 1936 and again in 1952.
  • Cincinnati was the first American city in which greeting cards were published at Gibson Greeting Card Company.
  • Tara Leigh Patrick, better known as Carmen Electra, was born in Cincinnati and went to high school at Princeton High School in Springdale, Ohio.
  • The designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., Maya Ying Lin, was born in Athens, Ohio.
  • Miami University in Oxford, Ohio houses the 1833 home of William Holmes McGuffey, who wrote the first edition of the McGuffey Readers.
  • In 2007, the world record for largest Irish dance was set in Dublin, Ohio.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Food as Art

On a cruise ship, no one tells you not to play with your food.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Big Night

Sara felt a swarm of buzzing wasps in her stomach. These were no mere butterfly flutters. This was her big night. She watched ladies in evening dress with faux fur capes and black velvet pumps enter the building. Men wore coats and ties. She choked on the image of them in tuxedos. Were they really all here to hear her? She tried to smooth the front of her own dress, but was afraid that her shaking hands and sweaty palms would mar the red satin.

Jenna Whittaker met her at the door. "Sara, you look wonderful!"

"Thanks." Sara's eyes scanned the crowd milling in the ornate lobby. They all looked so rich, drinking champagne and mingling in small groups.

"Are you nervous?" Jenna asked as she led Sara into the closed ballroom. Sara took in the linened tables, the hurricane lamps elegantly protecting tapered candles, and the flower arrangements that hugged the glass. The lighting in the room was dim, save for the spotlight up on stage. That's where she would stand. She gulped.

Jenna must have spotted the terror in her eyes because she clasped Sara's hands in hers. "Don't be nervous. Just be yourself. These people want to help. Just tell them your story, like you told me."

Sara nodded, but she couldn't imagine standing in front of these people and explaining how bad her home life had become. Was she supposed to tell them about not having any food for her or her baby? Was she supposed to tell them how her boyfriend left one night and called the electric company and had her electricity cut off so he could have the deposit money? Was she supposed to say how cold and scared she was, sitting there in the dark, wondering what to do? Frightened that he would come back?

She glanced over at Jenna. That was exactly what she was supposed to do. She was supposed to tug on their heartstrings and have them open their wallets to donate to the Helping Mothers fund. Jenna said she was one of their success stories and that by telling her story, she could help other young mothers who were in as desperate need as she was. Sara gulped and felt tears well in her eyes. She was grateful for all the help they'd given her. She even had a job now, and free daycare for little Tyler while she took night classes and got her GED. But how could she explain what life was really like to these people? They could never understand.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Green Acres

My mother lives alone in the country on a 55-acre farm. Since her husband died two years ago, she has been presented with situations that she has bravely conquered. We help when we can, but she often takes action before telling any of us. She worries me later, as she tells her tales of country life and I sit in my suburban home listening on the phone as images of calamity flood my mind.

Today's surprise was no different. She called me laughing about how she'd spent her morning, but I found little humor in her story as I thought about alternate outcomes. It was pouring rain and she ran outside to trap a dying (possibly rabid?) raccoon before her three dogs could get to it. She laughed about how she must have appeared, running around in the rain, corralling the raccoon into a garbage can. All I could think about was, what if she'd been bitten or attacked? This does not sound like something she should have tackled by herself!

But the bigger question in her mind was whether the raccoon would find its way out of her garbage can, and whether she was in any danger if she looked inside and it was still alive. I nearly screamed a resounding "YES!" into the phone and begged her to call one of my brothers-in-law to come and shoot it. She thought they were probably too busy, so I started rattling off names of people on her street who I was sure also had guns and could take care of this for her. It turns out, we could name everyone on her street. It is the country, after all. So she debated calling one of them, and then it dawned on us that she could call animal control. Or pest control. Really, she had dozens of people she could call.

But she didn't.

When we went to the farm later, the raccoon was still alive, but barely. By this time, it was dark and my mother decided to wait until morning to call someone to come take the raccoon away. I don't care who does it, as long as it's not her. I still can't believe she chased it around her yard and trapped it. I know she's capable of taking care of these things herself, but I wish she wouldn't. More than that, I wish she didn't have to. I know she does, too.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hat Heads

"That pink cowgirl hat is darling on you."

"The kids at school will make fun of me."

"No, they won't! Why would they make fun of you when you look absolutely beautiful in it?"

Hannah shrugged. Her grandmother tightened the strings and kissed her granddaughter's cheek. She watched Hannah stare at herself in the mirror, and couldn't miss the smile of delight as she touched the fake rhinestones that adorned the hat.

"I might have to get one of those for myself," her grandmother continued. She placed a too-small cowgirl hat on her head and pulled the string tight. She admired herself in the mirror, turning to look at herself from different angles. Hannah laughed.

"What do you think?"

Hannah laughed again. "It's too little." She pulled a sombrero from the shelf. "Wear this one."

Grandma obliged and turned to the mirror again. "How does it look?"

Hannah giggled. Her grandmother continued to stare into the mirror, though the sombrero covered her eyes and she could only see her granddaughter's smile as she held her close.

"Should we get them?"

Hannah nodded and Grandma pulled out her wallet. Twenty dollars on hats was a bargain. They would be the perfect souvenir to remind her of this day.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bird Song

I need to hear birds today. I was lulled into a false sense of Spring and was dismayed to see a dusting of icy sleet on the ground and cars this morning. I won't have my windows open today. I won't hear the birds sing. I feel somehow cheated, as they must, too, huddled in their makeshift nests, dismayed that they came back early and it isn't Spring yet after all.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Big Chairs

I find it a little odd that I have now come across 3 big chairs in my lifetime, though this is the only one I have a picture of.
The first was at a kitschy restaurant in N. Wildwood, New Jersey called Ed Zaberer’s. The place was huge; the “Zaberized” drinks were gigantic; and there was a big chair that restaurant patrons could sit in. I don’t believe there was any meaning attached to the chair, but it was a fun novelty, as was roaming around the restaurant which resembled a yard sale gone mad.
The second big chair I saw was at the Amish & Mennonite Cultural Center in Berlin, Ohio. I didn’t sit in this chair. It was created by “White” Jonas Stutzman for Christ to sit in when he returns. (You’re not allowed to take pictures of it.) Stutzman’s  large wooden chair is larger than ordinary because the Bible says we should always “hold Christ above us.”
Then I saw my third big chair: this Pampers bench. Its purpose is to give anyone who sits there a sense of what it’s like to be little. I don’t think people actually sit on it, but if they did, their feet would dangle off and they could see the world from a child’s perspective.
So, three big chairs already. I wonder how many more my future holds?

Friday, February 18, 2011

You're Not In Germany Anymore

My son took this picture when he went to stay with Thomas' family in Germany.
 A few years ago we hosted a German exchange student named Thomas. It went so well, in fact, that we hosted him again the next year, too. Here I thought I'd share a few of his first impressions of America as we initiated him into our culture.

Thomas arrived at the Cincinnati airport and was quite fluent in English. My son and I talked with him the whole way home from the airport and pointed out sights along the way. We probably enunciated well and made sure Thomas understood us. But when we got home, my husband greeted him with a slur of words:  howshurflight? That threw Thomas for a loop.

We grilled out hamburgers for dinner and introduced Thomas to ketchup. Do any of us really realize how much ketchup we use? Thankfully, he liked it. He liked Taco Bell even better.

We drove him to Dayton to visit the Wright-Pat Air Force Base Museum. On the way we passed the Solid Rock Church's gigantic "Touchdown Jesus" statue. We didn't even have to point that out to Thomas. We asked him whether they had anything like that in Germany. He quickly answered, "No." Proving (in my opinion) that Germans really are superior.

It happened that Thomas was here on his birthday, so we took him to a traditional German restaurant for dinner. He politely answered our questions about whether the food on the menu was authentic. He nodded. Then polka music started to play and a horrified expression crossed Thomas' face. He looked a little more carefully around the room at all the Bavarian decoration, steins, posters of castles, and lederhosen. Then he blurted out, "Is this what Americans think Germany is like?!" Well, yes. I thought we were going to make the German boy cry on his birthday. But to him, that was probably like German hosts taking Americans to a Texas roadhouse and thinking that it embodied what America is like.

But, like I said, Thomas chose to come back and stay with us again the next year, so we consider his stay with us a success.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


There's a lot to be said
for following a course;
staying on track, and knowing
you're going.
But sometimes,
don't you just have to veer off the path
and see where it leads?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Venus Week

The Venus Week is described as the 5 to 7-day cycle, or week after a woman's period, when she feels at her most energetic, sharp and interested in sex. Her hormones are at their optimum; she feels more attractive, more productive, energized and focused. Doctor and author of The Venus Week, Rebecca Booth, says, "it is Mother Nature's gift to us as women: when we are most likely to conceive, we look and feel our best."

The Venus Week is an ideal time to tackle projects or do things that take courage, like ask for a raise. I can't help but feel a little cheated that I didn't know this sooner. I wish I could go back and see whether I was in a Venus Week when I did some of the monumental things in my life like sending my book off to an agent, asking my husband out on our first date, buying a house during my lunch break, or planning huge vacations. Do I write more when I'm in my Venus Week? Am I more creative and energetic? I know I've experienced bursts of energy and creativity, but never correlated it to anything in particular. Now I'll have to pay attention.

The Venus Week, huh? Who knew?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Home Invasion

I don’t know whether I’m grateful
Or angry
That the person calling has let the phone ring five times
While I tried to wipe the meatloaf mixture off my hands
And get to the phone.
A harried, “Hello?”
Met by an authoritative and commanding “Mrs. Thompson?”
Sgt. Somebody from the United States Army,
Asking to speak to Mac.
“He’s not here, but I’ll tell him you called.”
Unacceptable. The US Army wants to speak with him
And they want to know when to call back.
The pre-heating timer is beeping; my meatloaf needs to go into the oven
Before the dog jumps all the way up to the counter and gets a mouthful.
But I don’t care who is correcting me.
“Mac plans to join the Marines,” I say dismissively
with a little bit of pride,
and relief.
I don’t want him on the front lines
And I don’t want him in the Army.
“I’ve spoken to Mac already. Have him call me.”
I dragged the phone over to the counter where I shooed away the dog
 Hung up,
Stuck my meatloaf in the oven
And banged the door shut.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dinner Reservations

“Is this some kind of joke?”
Ray stood poised with his hand on the cold metal of the door handle. “What do you mean?”
Lisa waved her hands up and down her body. “Do I look like I’m dressed for White Castle?”
Ray’s eyes wandered down Lisa’s black cocktail dress. His eyes skimmed down the sheer black stockings covering her legs, and rested on her black suede stilettos.  He shrugged. “You look fine.”
Lisa’s mouth fell open. “I look fine?” She swung her head around to see whether anyone else had heard this. A couple of guys were headed back to their pick-up truck, but didn’t acknowledge the couple by the door.
“Are you seriously taking me to White Castle for Valentine’s Day?”
Sure that this was his cue, Ray tugged the door open. “Yeah. Happy Valentine’s Day.”
Lisa stood rooted to the spot. She planted her arms across her chest, her small black pocketbook banging abruptly across her stomach. She bit the inside of her cheek to keep her chin from trembling. She’d bragged to all her friends that Ray was taking her somewhere special for Valentine’s Day. It was the one time they’d been envious of her. None of her friends had dates and planned to go out for margaritas and a movie – an “Un-Valentine’s Day” of sorts. And now it seemed that their evening plans were better than her own.
“What’s wrong?” Ray asked. “You like White Castle.”
“But not on Valentine’s Day!” Lisa blurted out as a sob escaped her.
Ray shook his head and let the heavy glass door shut. “You’re never happy, are you, Lisa? You know I don’t have a lot of money. My truck needs work and I spent a lot of money on that little dolphin thingy I got you. Maybe you should find some rich guy who can take you to Longhorn.”
Lisa wiped the tears from beneath her eyes. She just knew the mascara smears were ruining her make-up job.
“Just take me home,” she cried.
“Happy to.” Ray stomped off toward his truck. Lisa trailed after him on her 4-inch heels. “Last time I’ll try to do something nice,” he muttered as the truck door slammed on his relationship.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


My husband and I got such a kick out of these
"FREE SAND" signs on our drive along Lake Michigan.

"Weatherman predicts these gale-like winds will last another 48 hours."

"We should be fine, right? I stocked up on water, batteries, candles, and canned food. We've really got to put in a back door, Hank. I keep telling you that."

"I know, Joyce. You act like I don't do anything but sit here all day. I work, you know."

"That's not what I said, Hank. But may I remind you of the storm of '99? We were stuck in here for a week before someone came and shovelled us out. I just don't want to get stuck in here again. That sand blows right off the water and piles up."

"Do you think I'm an idiot? I know it piles up. I'm the one that had to shovel our entire yard once the city dug us out enough to crawl through the window."

"Which is why I thought you'd get around to putting in a back door."

"I will." Hank stomped off and turned on the television. "Power's out." Stir crazy, he wandered over to the window and peered over the mountain of sand that was already piled in drifts against the windows and door. They were pinned inside their own home.

Joyce stood next to him and wrung her hands. What had ever possessed them to move along the Lake Michigan shore? Though, who'd have ever guessed that they'd be buried in sand, not snow?

Joyce drew in a quick breath. "Oh my God, Hank. Did you put out the sign?"

Hank ran his hand through his head. "Yeah, I put it out," he said, though he wasn't entirely sure.

Joyce exhaled. "Hopefully someone will see it and come dig us out soon."

Hank nodded and headed toward the basement. He hoped he wouldn't find the sign still stuck behind his tool cabinet, but just in case, he'd have enough time to hide it before Joyce went down for emergency supplies.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Observations at the Book Fair

I volunteered at my daughters' school book fair yesterday. It's been a while since I've worked a book fair, but many of my observations were the same as what I observed at book fairs past.
  • Children are generous. Many will spend every dime they have (which is why Scholastic is smart enough to put out $0.50 bookmarks, erasers, and pencils). But those children who do have a little left-over cash often share it with their friends. That's great news for the school. This is a fundraiser, after all.
  • Very few children actually pick up the books and read the back covers. Only the hardcore readers seem to do that. The others either pick up a book in a series they're familiar with, choose a book that the teacher has already read to them, or buy what their friends are buying. This observation always dismays me a little. But I'm one of those people who could spend hours in a book store reading the blurbs on a million different books before I decide what to buy.
  • Up through 5th grade, buying books is cool. Then, at 6th grade, something seems to shift. The 6th graders crowd around the kitschy pens, journals, and posters. We didn't sell many books during their shopping period.
  • If you're working a book fair, count each child's money before you ring up the sale. I didn't have to void many sales, but I was hesitant to ring up sales that went above $20 before I checked to make sure those children could pay. They could. That made me smile. Those were the hardcore readers I mentioned earlier.
  • Last but not least, there will be a run on whatever the most popular kid in the class buys. If he/she buys a certain book, everyone else wants that book, too. Be ready to take orders, because you probably haven't stocked up on that book/pen/poster/journal. If you're a parent wondering why your child bought an item that doesn't seem like something that would interest him or her at all, that's why.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Valentine Do-Over

'Mike Loves Debbie' was etched into a rock at
Natural Bridge State Park in Kentucky. I guess this picture
would have been more appropriate if Mike had
had a crush on Debbie instead of me.

When I was in 2nd grade, a boy named Mike Kline made me a valentine. It was beautiful. He had drawn the two of us on the front of the card and wrote inside, “Valentine, sometimes you just can’t help love.” 
I’d noticed a small crowd huddled around his desk as he drew it. I may have even seen them looking over at me. But that didn’t change the surprise I felt when my little friend Debbie walked the card over to me and said it was from Mike. Everyone was watching me. I was mortified.
I glanced at the card and then stuck it in my desk and pretended it never happened. My face was red. I felt near tears. It was the worst thing that could have happened to a painfully shy girl like me. As soon as I had the chance, I tore the card in half and threw it away. It wasn’t that I didn’t like Mike; I’d never really given him much thought, period. But I couldn’t get past the embarrassment of having the entire class witness this event.
If I had a Valentine Do-Over, I’d go back to that day. Of course I’m older and wiser now, and can appreciate the courage it took for Mike to make a special valentine for me. I wonder if he ever took a chance like that again? On my Valentine Do-Over, I’d thank him, consider whether I liked him back, and be flattered. Then I’d save that Valentine card as a fond memento of my childhood.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

They're Not Chicken

I had to stop my car and get a picture of these people camping out all night for the grand opening of our local Chick-fil-A. It is freezing outside - 20 degrees, with a low tonight of 11. The air is bitterly cold, and yet, they've turned this into an event. People camped out for 24 hours, with another 12 hours to go as I write this. Then the restaurant opens and the first 100 people who registered (that quota was filled by 8:00am yesterday morning) will get free meals for a year. That's a lot of chicken...or is it?

If you price the average Chick-fil-A meal at $6.00 and each registrant gets coupons for 52 meals over the next year, that only amounts to $312 worth of chicken sandwiches. If it were a warm, sunny day it might be worth the wait. But to suffer through the frigid winter weather? I'm too chicken.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tales Of Drug Addiction

Ironically, I snapped this picture in San Francisco, which is where
much of Nic's drug use occurs.

About six months ago, I read Tweak, 21-year-old Nic Sheff's memoir about his meth addiction. It horrified and frightened me. I've never understood what possesses someone to try drugs, especially hard drugs like heroin, cocaine, and meth. It seems so desperate to me; even the premise itself -- try drugs. Why? In case you'll like them? And then want more? I don't understand it. And yet, I am drawn to stories of addiction again and again. Probably because I can't understand it.

So I read Tweak, and felt nothing but anger. Though I can mentally understand that addiction is a disease, I cannot move past my stumbling block that it is self-inflicted. I had little sympathy for Nic. Sadness, yes. Hope, yes. But compassion, no. The compassion came into play as I listened to the audio version of his father David's memoir, Beautiful Boy this week. My heart went out to him.

I listened to the CD's every day as I drove to work and almost couldn't get out of my car to go inside. I was riveted, horrified, frightened, heartbroken, and angry as I listened to a father recount losing his son to drugs. After the commutes home, I couldn't help but go inside and rant about Nic's addiction to my husband. He invariably asked me why I even listen to and read books like this. They do nothing but upset me, every single time. So I thought about that. Why do I?

It will sound irrational and melodramatic to say that I read these books to try to understand what it would be like to love someone with an addiction. Or maybe I think that I'll finally understand how someone succumbs to addiction. Maybe I'll know what cues to pick up on and what red flags are raised. Maybe I'll know how to prevent my children from ever falling into this type of abyss. Maybe I'll learn how to save them if they do.
I feel like I might somehow prepare myself in case it ever (God forbid) happens to our family. It's ridiculous (I hope). My son is grown. I like to fool myself into thinking that we made it through his teen years safely and I won't have to face this. I do worry that my daughter could "try" drugs, and then what would I do? I'd be terrified, angry, and ill-equipped to deal with it. Maybe that's why I read these books; to figure out how I'd handle things if it happened to me.

I'm being melodramatic, I know, but listen to David Sheff's memoir. He never expected it would happen to his family, either.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Drive Through Haiti

I held my camera out the window and snapped pictures as we drove through Haiti.

Here I'll share some of my initial thoughts during the six-hour bus ride from Port-au-Prince airport to northwest Haiti, as I recorded them in my journal in 2008.

We're at the mission compound, tired, grimy, and achy. We had a six-hour bus ride through the countryside. I think we saw most of Haiti. We went through dusty deserts with cactus, tropical areas with mangoes and coconuts, and small brush fields of sugar cane. We went up mountains and drove through streams. We saw many towns and experienced Haiti.

At first, the drive was nerve-wracking. Apparently, whoever blows his horn has the right-of-way IF he has the bigger automobile. There were lots of buses and trucks crammed with people. Our driver went as fast as he could over potholed, rocky roads. We bounced so much we're bruised. He squeezed our bus between vehicles and people, running both off the road. It was harrowing going through the crowded towns where the driver still didn't slow down despite the pedestrians milling next to the road. There were a few times we had to maneuver around or stop for cattle, donkey and horses. There were also a lot of goats, but we didn't stop for goats. Are they Haiti's equivalent of squirrels?

Along the way I saw:
  • Huge pigs eating piles of garbage
  • New Orleans style cemeteries
  • Huge piles of rock in the road
  • Broken-glass topped cement walls to keep out trespassers
  • Turquoise blue Caribbean water
  • Women carrying everything on their heads
  • Watermelon markets
  • 4 people on a motorcycle
  • a canvas wall with cellphones attached for sale
What I didn't see: McDonald's, Walmart, Subway, or Starbucks. Thank God!

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Problem With Girl Scout Cookies

I think I was duped into being the Cookie Mother for the entire troop.
This is just the first truckload. :(

The problem with Girl Scout Cookies
begins with the ring of the doorbell
and a cute little blonde-haired girl in a decorated brown vest
screwing up her gumption and her voice
so that she can remember her practiced lines.

“Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?”

And though I search for an excuse to say ‘no’,
what I see is her mother standing at the end of my driveway,
waiting to walk her to the next house
and silently pleading with me not to break her daughter’s heart.

“Of course I’d like some Girl Scout Cookies.”

The back of her little brown vest
as she skips down my driveway
is just as sweet as a Caramel Delight
and I wish I’d bought more than 2 boxes.

My chance comes again –
every time I stop at the grocery in March.
where the Brownies, Daisies and Cadets
come in all shapes and sizes,
with their delicious varieties
stacked right there on the table.

Ponytails bouncing, they ask me shyly, if I’d
“like to buy a box of Girl Scout cookies?”

It isn’t just calories and cavities at stake.
Self-esteem is on the line,
not to mention all the great camaraderie that the troop surely shares.
I dig in my purse for a few dollar bills.

While I hunt, they close the sale,
“Did you know you can freeze the cookies?”

Aren't they cute.
As if the cookies ever make it beyond the front seat of my car.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Dear Crabbie (not to be confused with Abby)

This is not my husband. This is a man who walked in front of my camera
while I was taking a picture of an ice sculpture.

Dear Crabbie,
My husband constantly wears the most hideous plaid jacket I've ever seen. I hate it! And he knows it. And yet, he insists on wearing it everywhere: weddings, parties, family pictures, etc.. It drives me crazy! I've done everything to get rid of that jacket. I spilled soup on it when we went out to dinner. (But you can barely see the stain since the jacket is so busy.) I wadded it up and put it in the garbage can when he wasn't looking, but he just pulled it back out and wore it WITHOUT EVEN CLEANING IT FIRST! I let the dog have her babies on it. I even cleaned the toilet with it. He still insists on wearing it. I'm at the end of my rope, Crabbie. He wears it just to spite me. I'm starting to hate him as much as I hate his jacket. What can I do?

Plaid Makes Me Puke

Dear Plaid,
I have not encountered a bigger battle of wills since my Kindergarten days. You two need to grow up. You will have to accept that you can't control your husband, and to be honest, I don't know why you want to. Personally, I'd let him wander off into the sunset in that tacky jacket and be done with him. Anyone that goes so far as to wear a jacket out of a garbage can just to make his wife mad is as childish as the woman who threw a tantrum about a jacket in the first place. Let the jacket, the battle, and the bull-headed man go.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Jorge Wojtas

Jorge Wojtas performs at First United Methodist Church
February 4, 2011

I had the pleasure of listening to Flamenco guitarist Jorge Wojtas perform in concert yesterday, but it was all wrong. His music carried us to the sunny countryside of Spain, where the souls of gypsies linger. If I closed my eyes, I could imagine that the slight sliver of sunlight filtering through the window was the bright intensity of a Spanish day. I could imagine hearing the rhythmic melody of flamenco music fluttering and strumming through the sultry air of Spain. I wore a skirt. My skin was sun-kissed. My hair blew in a balmy breeze. I felt transported.

Then I opened my eyes. Reality was jarring. I wasn't a wandering soul, lost among lemon trees in Andaluca. I was sitting with my coat on, among a hundred other dreary, cold midwesterners in a Methodist church in Middletown, Ohio. The caption of a foreign film flickered through my mind. My skirted, sun-kissed, windblown self asked me in Spanish: What are you doing here?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Engineering Airplanes

If you look closely, you can see that the man on the left is holding his airplane.

I was in a room full of scientists and engineers who were tasked with constructing a paper airplane that would fly across the room. They all folded their papers, then flew their planes. Some crashed right away. A few made it past the tables and landed near the back wall. But all I could think about was my son. When he was a boy, he made a million different paper airplanes and could have beat them all.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hansel and Gretel's Revenge

Once upon a time a little boy named Hansel and his sister Gretel were tricked into a gingerbread house by a sneaky old witch. Or so she thought.

Hansel and Gretel wandered around the outside of the witch's gingerbread house, oohing and ahhing over all the scrumptious details. Gretel couldn't help herself. She swiped a gentle finger across a row of raspberry frosting and stuck her finger in her mouth. She bounced a little on her toes with joy and excitement as she tasted the sugary sweet.

Hansel plucked gumdrops from the edge of the windows and plopped them into his mouth whole. The two children circled the house, again and again, sampling the goodies that adorned the colorful gingerbread walls until they were startled by the sound of an old woman's voice.

"Eat! Eat!" she called out gleefully.

Hansel and Gretel stopped chewing for a moment and then smiled at the old woman.

"Eat all you want, Dearies!" she encouraged them as she pulled lollipop flowers from her garden.

Hansel and Gretel eagerly devoured them, though Gretel politely protested. "Oh, we shouldn't be eating all these sweets. We'll turn into cookies and candies ourselves if we don't stop."

The old witch cackled and covered her smile with her hands. "Nonsense! You children must eat!" And so they did.

After they'd gorged themselves on sugary treats, the witch invited them inside. "You must be tired. Sleep! Sleep! I'll wake you for dinner."

Hansel rubbed his stomach. "Oh, I couldn't eat another bite. I feel like I'm nothing but a big gingerbread man myself."

The witch clapped her hands. "Oh, but I insist on having you for dinner." Then she cackled and chuckled and went outside to collect herbs to add to her meal.

When she came back inside, the children were nowhere to be found. Instead, she spied two gingerbread figures on the table with a note from Hansel and Gretel:  We ate so much gingerbread, we've turned into gingerbread children ourselves!

The witch was aghast. Her dinner was ruined! She'd so looked forward to devouring these sweet, plump children. Now all she had left of them were cookies. She slumped at the table, but gobbled them up. When she finished, she rubbed her aching belly and laid down on the cot for a nap.

Imagine her surprise when she awoke to find herself being pushed into an oven. Hansel's strong arms forced her into the fiery pit.

"Wh-h-aa-t-t?? You!" she spat as she identified the children she'd planned to have for dinner.

"Hurry up, Hansel," Gretel said. "I'm hungry."

"It's not easy. We really fattened her up with those gingerbread cookies." Hansel pushed once more and thrust the witch all the way into the oven. "But I think dinner will be delicious."

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Flat Stanleys

I doctored this photo to look like this gnome (think "Amelie")
is ready to board a cable car in San Francisco. A variation of Flat Stanley.

Flat Stanley arrived in my mailbox the other day. What is Flat Stanley, you ask? That depends. There are many variations on the idea, but basically, it’s a travelling figure that helps the originator connect with other places in the world. It’s usually a project done with school-aged children. They send “Flat Stanley” off into the world and learn a little more about the places he travels as the project progresses.
The Flat Stanley that arrived in my mailbox was a little different than other Flat Stanley projects we’ve participated in at my house. This one was a flat cut-out cartoon boy figure sent by the originator, a boy named Ben who lives in California. Ben collected the names of people around the world (sometimes these are limited to the U.S.) who are willing to participate. Then, Ben mailed out Flat Stanley with a mailing list of the participants. He asked that when each of us received Flat Stanley in the mail, we’d send a postcard of our town to his Elementary school class and then mail Flat Stanley onto the next person.
In other Flat Stanley projects, participants have been asked to take pictures of Flat Stanley in and around town, and then mail those pictures back to the originator, or school. The idea is for the kids in the class to learn more about different parts of the world. It’s usually tied into a geography lesson. It’s definitely a fun way to learn.
So Flat Stanley arrived at my house and is ready to move on. He’s travelling to Japan as soon as I can get to the post office. While he’s in Asia, Ben’s class should receive my postcard from Cincinnati, Ohio.  I’m sure they’ll all be excited about that! J

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

We Missed Elephant Appreciation Day!

I think I took this picture at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

We missed Elephant Appreciation Day! It was on September 22nd. But here's an elephant trivia quiz so we can all prepare to honor them this year, if those of us with memories like elephants can remember...

1.       Where would you find a “knuckle” on an elephant?
a.       Foot
b.      Mouth
c.       Ear
d.      Knee
2.       Elephants spend approximately how much time eating each day?
a.       2 hours
b.      16 hours              
c.       8 hours
d.      45 minutes
3.       How long is the gestation period for an elephant?
a.       22 months
b.      5 months
c.       9 months
d.      12 months

4.       To the Hindu way of thought, the elephant is found in the form of Ganesha who is the god of what?
a.       Eternal life         
b.      Weather
c.       Love
d.      Luck

5.       Which of these can an elephant do?
a.       Jump
b.      Swim
c.       Fly
d.      Run

Fun facts:
·         Elephant trainers use their feet to steer elephants via the knuckle at the back of the ears.
·         Elephants may eat as much as 300-495 pounds of food per day.
·         September 22nd is Elephant Appreciation Day

Answers:  1c, 2b, 3a, 4d, 5b