Thursday, March 31, 2011

what is that sucking sound I hear?

I expected ennui. I did not expect to be so sad.

The sucking sound of my imminent departure and the energy rushing to fill the void is oppressive.

Regis says this is to be expected and will probably pass quickly as the warm weather arrives and we’re able to start grilling on the patio again. I think he is most likely right about that.

To that end, we’re planning a party to celebrate the 78th anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition. On the 7th day of April, in the year 1933, our wise government decreed beer to be legal once again.  December 5, 1933 is another commonly celebrated day because that is when ALL alcohol was made legal. Neither Regis or I drink beer anymore but we do appreciate it’s many virtues.

So, it is ironic that I have the kind of day I had today. It makes me feel less sadness and blast it, even less ennui about leaving my job. I feel damn near euphoric right now.
I was in the lunch room nuking my meatballs and I heard someone say, "My son got in trouble in kindergarten for being abstinent." When the other person was puzzled, she said, "You know...stubborn." I think she meant obstinate. Hahaha! It was exactly the kind of laugh I needed today.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

the purple pants club

You may remember that I almost punched a guy in the nose for suggesting that I might be a member of the red hat club because I was wearing a red hat. Not really, but I thought about it. I am thinking now, of starting a purple pants club. I have a pair of shiny purple leggings that look like something you might wear to dance around a pole. Funny, no?

I went to a conference last week and it occurred to me this morning that the toilets at MSU flush so suddenly and so ferociously that you are lucky to have all your body parts and your clothing in tact when you emerge from the stall. Better not accidentally drop a scarf end or a shirt tail into the toilet or you could find yourself with an insider’s view of MSU’s plumbing system. I laughed out loud when I thought of this.

We went on Friday to visit my mom in Canby. We had beautiful weather for travel. The roads were dry, the skies were blue, and the sun was shining. Lovely. We did see massive amounts of water…creeks overflowing their banks, fields that look more like lakes, and ditches filled to the top. On the way home, we saw 17 hawks between Marshall and Morgan.

Friday night, we stayed home and had a glass of wine and told stories. Mom is a lot of fun and has a great outlook on life. I want to be just like her when I grow up.

Saturday morning, we toured the local shops and I bought some things, most of which I don’t need but it was fun. I bought a great red belt that I have since decided is too skanky to wear outside of the house. Regis, my fashion advisor, confirmed this with a photo.

We went to one shop (boutique) that had great stuff but really? A t-shirt for 200 dollars? A little rich for my taste. I did get a scarf and a pair of earrings for reasonable prices.

Saturday night, we went to the Rock Room at Buffalo Ridge for dinner. It’s the old School for the Blind in Gary, South Dakota that has been renovated into a lovely resort and convention center. Good food but kind of a loud and stark ambience. Mom’s right, they need to warm the place up somehow.

Apparently, the fashion for men in South Dakota is plaid, western-style shirts. I have never seen so many plaid shirts in my life.

I decided that some of the things that have been languishing on my to-do list for months needed to get done this week. Fits and starts. That’s how I operate. It’s my modus operandi. My MO.

Therefore, Karl is starting our patio addition on Friday. I had forgotten that we called him last fall. He sometimes comes over to scope out a job when we aren’t home so when I called him yesterday, I talked like it was my first contact and he already had the brick and a date to start. Hurray! We thought we might have to wait until July and we could be done in two weeks.

We have an appointment to talk to the banker about refinancing our house, someone should be coming today to repair the garage door, and I’m on the trail of someone to put in a new front door for us and someone else to give me decorating advice. Mom thought I could to the latter by myself but if I ever had any of that kind of sense, I have lost it somewhere along the way. And Regis reminded me that all of this costs money, very little of which we have.

Funny thing I am realizing about retirement. It’s a little bit like a planned death. People start picking up the things you do and talking about things that will happen after you’re gone, kind of looking past you. Somebody yesterday said, “Well, this will happen until…” and then they stopped. It’s ok to say it and you don’t have to avert your eyes. Until I retire. It’s a weird, but not unpleasant feeling. I have started to click off my brain when the conversations turn to next year. I don’t have to burn brain cells on that notion and we all know I have precious few to spare.

I am reading one of Jim Harrison’s novels in book form at home and by Kindle at the Pulse. I don’t mind being in two different places as I appreciate his writing so much that it’s wonderful to read the same words again. I might just decide that he is the only author I will read for a while.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

found the check

I drove two friends of mine to a conference today. When I took the car seats out of the back seat, I found the lost 300 dollar check on the floor. Whew. It must have slipped out of my jacket pocket. Lesson learned and note to self.

The conference was interesting. At first, I thought I might be too cynical for it to be productive. I sat in the front row which is a good thing for a person as easily distracted as I am. I like to spread out and stretch my legs and it helps me pay attention. I learned a lot. I'll try to disseminate the information before I exit stage left on June 30.

The lunch, one of the highlights for me, was amazing. A lovely salad, a nice piece of rare beef with crab and Hollandaise sauce on top, and the most beautiful broccoli ever. The desert, which I did not eat, came with some kind of orchid-like flower on top. Pretty fancy for school teacher types.

Contrary to my expectations, the sun shone brightly today and we did not experience any precipitation or untoward weather events. This was a very good thing as many of us were being driven to homicide or at least to a state of distraction by the gloom and lingering winter weather. A guy can only stand so much.

Driven to a state of distraction. Not sure what that means. If you know, don't tell me.

Regis and I are spending a quiet evening listening to Willie Dixon blues and having a glass of wine. I'm tapping the keys here and he's reading an article criticizing the new USDA dietary guidelines. We've been hashing them (the guidelines) over for weeks.

Last night, we had dinner at the Cedar's Grille. Such a nice atmosphere. I had salmon and then some of the left-overs for dinner tonight. I love eating fish but not preparing it at home so much. Much better to have it out somewhere. Pappageorge = ahi tuna.

I had another bad kindle experience yesterday. I had been reading a book that was only marginal at best but I was 3/4 of the way through it. When I opened the damn kindle and turned it on, I was back to page 1. I tried syncing to the last page luck. So now, as I see it, the only option is to next page through the whole damn book. It isn't a good enough read to bother with that so I will probably abandon it.

If I start something I really love, my first instinct is to buy the real book. The Road Home by Jim Harrison. I had to have the book in my hands. I have the book in my hands now.

I seem to have run out of inspiration so I will sign off for now. Have a wonderful Friday and as they say on the Moth, make it a story-worthy day!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

random notes on brain suck

We had a wonderful time with Elliot this weekend. Also got to spend some time with Ella. She came for the afternoon Saturday and helped with her cousin. She went to Mankato with us Monday afternoon so I could get a haircut. We stopped in Penney's and bought her an Easter hat, a little sun dress, and a pretty purse.

Elliot's mama finally made it back to Minnesota from Florida. It was a stressful journey that involved a missed flight, an overnight in Chicago, and several frantic phone calls. Elliot is happy to be back in his own nest.

The Board accepted my letter of retirement. What else would they do? Insist that I keep working? Ha!

Monday night, we had huge thunder and spectacular lightening. In the morning, we had ice pellets and torrential rain. All day the wind was horrific. The forecast threatens snow and the floodwaters are encroaching. Spring will come eventually, right? We feel like every day we have to grit our teeth and just get through it. This has been the longest winter.

We watched The Fighter last night. I feel like such a dope about current movies and television. I have completely lost touch with what's new and who's who. I don't even bother looking at People magazine anymore (such a loss...) because I can't identify one person. Anyway...we loved this movie. I was reluctant to watch because I knew, since it was about boxing, there would be some violence and I have an aversion. There were only a few scenes where I had to look away. Mostly it was about the relationships.

Regis looked out the door and he says the snow is coming down pretty good. Damn.

Not sure I can do snow today. Yesterday, I tried to wear shoes instead of boots and my feet froze. Back to winter gear today.

We're going to see Mom this weekend. If we can get there, that is. Mom is always a good time and it might be fun to get out of town. I wish they had a Trader Joe's in Canby.

Yesterday, I lost a three hundred dollar check. I remember tucking into a jacket pocket which is never a good idea. I had a very absent-minded day. I just couldn't focus on anything and spent all day digging for things, looking for things, trying to remember things.

We haven't seen the sun for days and I think the gray skies are sucking my brain energy.

Trying very hard to work up some positive energy here this morning.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

a two-year old visits nana and popop

Elliot and I went to visit our friends Gabriel and Joanne in LeSueur this morning where he shot a few hoops in the living room.  After we played with Gabe's toys, we went for a walk in the cold sunshine. We stopped at the Friendly Confines on our way out of town. I'm out of practice with wrestling a two-year old, a large purse, and a bag of cheese.

Friday, March 18, 2011

the day after

I’m going to post a slideshow from the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. You can see it is the usual madness. What fun. We always hang out in from of Patrick’s (where everybody knows your name…). You can also see that it’s hard to tell when the parade ends and the audience starts! It was a hoot.

Emily, Ella, and Alex came down. Ella loved my get-up but Alex was scared of me and would not even look at my face without the glasses. I think it was disconcerting for him to see his Popop with a redhead.

We stood next to a bunch of crazy young people. They were attired in all manner of green wigs and green face paint and green whatevers. Every time a band or float would pass by, one of them would jump out in front of it and be the drum major only using a beer glass for a baton. Hilarious.

We traveled to Mankato for the LepreCON. I was a little disappointed but I think I had built this up in my head to be the lollapalooza of all time and it just wasn’t. And for people who work at a costume company, they were decidedly unimaginative in their costumes. It looked like they grabbed something on their way out the door. I was over-dressed. Ah, well.

I went to the bar and ordered a glass of pinot grigio. Oh, the party was at the chicken wing place downtown. Won’t be going back there anytime soon, believe me. So, the bartender brings me the glass of pinot grigio and asks if this is some kind of French drink. WTF. I don’t get it. He explains that obviously I am Irish (really?) and he can’t understand why I am drinking French wine. I can’t even begin to sort out what the heck he was thinking.

The service in this place is horrendous. It’s located downtown amongst the college bars so I don’t know if their philosophy is that the servers just wander around until you tackle them, but we had a young woman who did not bring us anything. We always ordered at the bar and brought our own drinks and food back to the table. It was like McDonald’s.

Regis went back to the car to get his phone and found two people rummaging in a dumpster. He gave them five dollars. He said he thought about us sitting in a nice warm restaurant eating whatever our hearts desire and here these poor folks were hoping for some dumpster find for dinner. Oh, my. Life can be hard.

An online friend of mine lost her job Tuesday, on her birthday. She works in a corporate environment which I don’t know very well, but I know job suckage when I see it. It doesn’t matter what the reasons are, this blows. Someone tried to tell her it’s all about the bottom line. If we have reached a point where human beings don’t matter and money is the only thing that matters, I wonder what kind of society we have created. When some people make millions and others have to dig in garbage dumpsters to eat, what kind of society have we created?

There are many reasons to be cynical and I have to fight them every day.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I am frantically searching for an old address book. I had the phone number for a Japanese student from Gustavus we were the host family for many years ago. I have lost touch with her so have no email address. I don't know how to search for a phone number in Japan because the webpages for that are all in Japanese.

Maybe this is fruitless, but I want to tell her if she needs to leave Tokyo, she is welcome to come here. I feel like I need to do something and Regis says people are leaving Tokyo in droves. How long would it take to evacuate a city of six million people and where would they all go?

I find myself looking for things. Looking for crazy things. Not just this address and phone number but this morning, I was so determined to find an essay by Thomas Lynch about his cat Grimalkin, that I was almost late for work. I just would not stop. I may have given the book to someone to read (Bodies at Rest, Bodies in Motion...I think) and I had to stop myself from buying it again rather than searching like a mad woman for it.

Yesterday, I stopped at Kwik Trip. Two old goofy hillbillies followed me in and then the one really weird one muttered under his breath at me while giving me the stink eye about how I had parked by a yellow curb and what did I think, could anybody park by a yellow curb? What the hell. I glanced over my shoulder and all the curbs surrounding Kwik Trip are painted yellow, I assume so you don’t trip over them. Hell, HE was parked by a yellow curb. Goofy old bastard. He’s lucky I’m a docile school teacher and not someone likely to rip him a new one. Frankly, he scared the hell out of me so I didn’t even make eye contact.

Mean people scare me. I could make a list from the front pages of recent newspapers and I’m not talking criminals either. I’m talking garden variety mean sons-of-bitches who don’t seem to care about anybody but themselves.

As I was leaving a meeting this morning, I heard, then saw a cardinal in a tall tree. That is the first one I have heard this spring. When I got back to work, I had a message from Jane. She had heard a cardinal, too, and took it as a sign of hope and a sign from her mother who loved cardinals. I got goosebumps when I heard the message.

She said she stood up after hearing the cardinal and walked to the door. There was my package. Another hopeful sign.

time for some levity

Here is my St. Patrick's Day costume for the costume company pub crawl. Get a load of the heels on those shoes. Wine consumption with be kept to a minimum or Regis will be hauling my sorry ass around town on a two-wheel cart. That would not be good for my school marm reputation.

I emailed the photo to friends (David and Marilyn, AKA Bob and Betty) yesterday at their request and they sent this in response:

(To be spoken with an Irish accent, of course.)

May the Irish eyes be smilin' upon yeh!
May the beer be the same color as your shoes!
May the red of your hair match the blush of your cheeks!
May the stripes in your stockin's always be parallel to the ground!
May your glass always be half-full!
May the end of the rainbow be within your reach!
May the pot of gold be there, too!
May your smile brighten every dark corner!

Your friends,
Bob and Betty

I love the line about the stripes in my stockin's always being parallel to the ground! What a hoot.

So, go about your almost-spring business today. Walk in the sunshine. Point out where the snow is melting. Pay attention to the sound of birds and other hopeful signs. Hold the hand of someone you love. Be thankful for this day and your place in it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

from jane

Thank you. I love you. I find comfort in visualizing Regis right there beside you. The dermatologist folks just returned my call...finally. The medical assistant who called was very comforting. She acted as if she had all day to talk to just me. In a nutshell...allergic reaction to the medication, stress of the illness, stress of the circumstances...all combined to result in trauma, hair loss. She talked of how common a reaction this is...said the skin should cycle...said that I need to do everything I can do to relieve the stressers. So. I intended to start walking again, so here we go. Sense of humor, please stop by. Write, Read. Write to Devin and Hiroe every day. Send them things. Hold baby Brogan. Hold Riley's hand. Remember how lucky I am. Thank you.


Oh, God, Jane. I'm not sure there is a good perspective. It's a terrible, awful, horrific tragedy but Devin and Hiroe and Grace are all safe for today. For that you can be thankful. You have to have hope that they will continue to be safe or you will fall apart, my friend. You have to be strong so when they call, your voice is strong and they know that you have hope. You are going to be an important lifeline for them.
One thing I always do in times like this, is look for words that help me. Go back to your poetry and your books. Find things that touched you and read them again. Write them down and share them with Devin and Hiroe and with the rest of us who are worrying with you. Your writing yesterday was beautiful and poignant. Keep doing that...putting your heart on the paper. It will keep you sane.
You are in my heart every minute.

out of order

Dear, dear friend, your card today and your words now are balm to a sad and weary soul. Thank you for loving me, us, mine. I am numb. I just wrote to Paul and told him that I think that Devin and Hiroe and Gracie need to just pack their bags and come home. They can have the little house. Grandma and Gracie will sit in the porch swing and sing a little song, tell a little story of once upon a time. I will get back to you soon.



It's been a a terrible few days. I talked to Jane Friday morning but I was afraid to call as I didn't remember exactly where Devin and Hiroe lived. What if it was one of the places washed away by the tsunami? This morning, I had an email that said her hair was falling out from stress and she wanted me to help her get some perspective. How is that possible?  I have called almost every day...she sounded so good today and so much better than yesterday. She was going for a walk in the sunshine, sleeping better at night, making lists of hopeful things. I feel helpless. I can't imagine having a child, a sweet daughter-in-law, and a grandbaby living there now. They live about 150 miles from the Fukishima reactor. I'm not sure I spelled it right. I didn't ask today if they are able to go to work. Hiroe's mom and brother are with them. This is a long-awaited baby...they have wanted a baby for years and both Devin and Hiroe are in their mid-forties which only adds some poignant irony. Jane wants them to come back to Iowa but how do they leave their relatives and their home and their little dog and their jobs? It's so sad. I looked at the Tribune today with the picture of the young Japanese mom and the baby who looked like Tiffany and I had to go into my office and shut the door with the lights off. It's too awful to even read about. I told Jane to stop reading the news. It can't help. It can't give her any information that will help. It's only constant babble and repeated sensational headlines.

I've tried to think of things I can do but it's impossible. What can you do? Send money? I sent a box of lotion, chocolate, coffee, funny poems, pictures, and bags of St. Patrick's Day buttons. I have them in my heart every minute. There is nothing more to say.

Monday, March 14, 2011


I’m not sure what this should be called. Paradox is probably not it.

I’ve been thinking about happiness and not chasing happiness. I am excited about St. Patrick’s Day and have my leprechaun costume ready for the parade in St. Peter and the pub crawl in Mankato.

The news from Japan is absolutely horrifying. I can’t even look at the front page of the paper today. I had to turn mpr off on Sunday because the stories are so sad I cried. I tried to read some about it but almost choked it was so horrible. There aren’t words.

Jane’s son, Devin and his wife and new baby are living in Togichi, just north of Tokyo. They are fine for now, have water, power, and gas for cooking. Devin’s wife’s mother and brother are with them. Devin sent an email that sounded almost upbeat and contained a few funny stories.

I wonder if they can’t fathom yet the magnitude of what has happened. I wonder if that’s what you do in situations like this.

Jane wants them to come back to live in Iowa where it’s flat and the threat of earthquake is much smaller. Not non-existent…but smaller.

I only know I would have a hard time coping if it were my child there. I would be drawn to the news like a moth to a flame, but it would break my heart. Every beautiful face, every sad story.

Jane says she is numb. When we talked on Friday, she knew that they were safe from the shaking earth and safe from the water. Now there is the threat of radiation and nuclear plants exploding. She just sent something she wrote over the last few days and I will post it here.

Son in Japan

     As I write this on Sunday night, March 13, CNN reports the devastation in Japan,  the overwhelming, terrifying threat of a nuclear disaster, the after-shocks, the death count rising. I look away from the screen and write. The sirens wail.

My bedside telephone rang at 7:00 a.m. Friday morning. I was surprised. No one calls me at 7:00 in the morning.  I am retired. I picked up the phone and my brother, Glenn, said, “Jane, Michael just called.” This would be my nephew Michael calling from Idaho, glued to the television, checking detail on the Internet. Michael’s first words had been, “Dad, you’ve got to call Aunt Jane right away. Something terrible has happened in Japan.”

I knew that. I had sat, propped up in bed, watching CNN all night. I gripped the remote, I’m not sure why. I wasn’t going to change channels. The horror unfolding before me was not real. It couldn’t be real. Devin and Hiroe and our new baby Grace were at the end of the beam that connected me, the beam I controlled somehow by gripping the remote. Like a robot, every half-hour or so I picked up the telephone and punched the number, programmed in for me by Devin’s baby brother, that has always taken me into the comforting realm of Devin’s existence. No such comfort was forthcoming. “All systems to this country are busy.” Every half hour I hit the number again.

I made coffee.  I took my granddaughter to school. I came home. I sat in the car in the driveway. I sat. Finally, I pulled myself out of the car and came into the house.
The phone was ringing when I came through the door. Finding the cordless where I had just dropped it was agony. I hit the “talk” button and then I heard his voice. “Mom, it’s Devin. We’re fine.”

What followed was not a conversation. Devin talked. He said that he was in his classroom in Utsunomya when the earthquake hit. Everything flew off his desk. Books flew off the shelves. Children were terrified. This, in an area of Japan north of Tokyo, not on a coast, considered to be one of the safest areas of Japan. Devin could not made contact with his wife, Hiroe, some twenty miles away, and he raced toward home. All power was out. He told me that he fought back panic as he met, at every railroad crossing, crossing arms locked down. He, and untold others, turned around, sought other routes, trying to get home. There were no traffic lights. All drove courteously, trying to get home, trying to locate loved ones. Devin made it home, found Hiroe and baby Grace safe.

When Devin called about 9:00 Friday morning, it was midnight there. There was no power in their city of Oyama, roughly the size of Iowa City. No power. No water. No heat. The stores in the area had somehow stayed open so that people could get emergency supplies. Devin said they had enough food and many bottles of water. Enough. For now. I asked the important question. Did they have any beer? Devin spoke to his brother-in-law Yoshi across the room and I heard them laugh. Devin told me they each had a bottle of beer in hand. Thank you for asking.

As we spoke, Devin suddenly shouted, “Hold on, Mom. Just hold on!” I heard my daughter-in-law cry out and then I heard the voice of my baby granddaughter cry out an echoing whimper. This would not have been the way I would have chosen to first hear her voice. But I was thankful beyond words. The cries were in reaction to an aftershock. This happened twice during our conversation. The terror they felt insinuated itself across the Pacific Ocean and landed, cold and real, in my lap.

My throat began to tighten as we neared the end of our call.  Then, finally Devin said, “I love you, Mom. I’ll try to call tomorrow. Don’t be afraid if I don’t. It will just mean I can’t get through.” Silence. “We’re fine, Mom.”

I sat holding the phone for a very long time, staring out at nothing, staring out a window in a little town in the Midwest at a spot in Japan where a village used to be. I sat with the phone in my hand, having just heard those words that thousands are longing to hear. “We’re fine.”

I continued to stare at nothing and then there it was…the image of a little red-haired boy, his face pressed against the cold glass window of a long-ago December day, craning to watch his big brother Devin back out of the drive and move on up the street on his way to meet up with old friends, also home from college for the holidays. Devin would be back later. But how did Nick know that for sure? He finally turned his face from the window, his expression sad, his eyes imploring me, and said in a tight little voice, “You should notta let ‘im go.” Indeed. Out of the mouths of babes.

Jane Kelso
Mt. Vernon, Iowa

Sunday, March 13, 2011

waiting for light

What the hell. I hate this darkness in the morning. I can get dark at 8 o'clock for all I care but I want it light in the morning.

We're going to buy groceries but I refuse to leave the house in the dark.

On the menu this week: jambalaya, pot roast, corned beef and cabbage, fajitas.That will take us through next Sunday.

I think my St. Patrick's Day outfit is complete. I didn't find the right scarf but the one I found will have to do. If I have been thinking, I could have ordered something. But I wasn't and I didn't.

We had such a lovely Saturday. I spent the morning in the kitchen and went to the basement to exercise early afternoon. Regis hooked up a new wireless printer (amazing). We headed to Mankato about 3.

I dropped a book off for Tiffany at Sam's Club. What a zoo. I haven't been in there for years because really, why does a person need a bag of cheese curls the size of a five-year old?

I stopped at Shopko. My friends think I need to dress like a leprechaun and bring my pot o' gold to school on Thursday. I was thinking those gold wrapped chocolate coins but couldn't find them.

We had dinner at Mazatlan. So good and so inexpensive. We stopped at Pappageorge for a glass of wine on the way home. It's gotten to be a favorite spot. They only have one television and if it were me, I would get rid of that one. There is always some awful news on and it just draws your brain. I always try to sit with my back to it. Who needs to see Mel Gibson or Charlie Sheen when they're trying to have a nice glass of malbec? We were home by 7.

I was reading one of my old posts the other day and I had used the wrong there. I used they're instead of their. Good grief. Go ahead, poke fun at me. I had to edit it and make it right but you can see how easily it happens.

Getting up and moving on to enjoy Sunday.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

saturday cooking

I worked on my menu for the week and my grocery list this morning. Cooking sort of fell apart this last week so I needed to get in the kitchen, clean out the refrigerator, and start fresh. I like to cook on the weekends so we have good, healthy food for the week.

This is an egg bake made with cottage cheese and shredded cheese. I put a little bacon in it this time, too, and some fresh salsa so it has a bite.

These are pancakes made with oatmeal and cottage cheese and lots of eggs. I don't know why they turn out differently each time I make them, but they do. They're really dense this time so I will probably cut them into quarters and package them like that. I like to take them to work for a mid-morning snack.

These are muffins I make with almond meal, flax meal, and oatmeal. They also have dried blueberries, walnuts, eggs, and yogurt in them. The recipe calls for artificial sweetener but I don't like the taste of that so I leave it out.

I'll never get a job as a food photographer!

The wind is howling today. Wind is my least favorite weather event. I can understand why people who lived in log cabins went crazy in the winter when the wind blew. I can hardly stand it.

I got an email from my cousin, Cindy, this morning. She is a flight attendant for Delta and was in the airport at Narita when the earthquake struck Japan. They were done loading the plane so after a bit of a delay they were allowed to leave since they wouldn't even be able to get back into the airport. There was a lot of what she described as violent turbulence and they were jostled mightily but an airplane is built to withstand a lot of shaking. She said that people were not upset because they had no way of knowing how awful the destruction was yet.

Regis is trying to make a wireless printer work. Good luck with that.

I'm going to do dishes and then take a nap. I'd like to exercise this afternoon but we'll see how that goes.

happiness in the midst of disaster and signs of spring

Regis and I were having a conversation about happiness last night. He read me this quote:

There are lots of ways of being miserable, but there's only one way of being comfortable, and that is to stop running round after happiness. If you make up your mind to not be happy, there's no reason why you shouldn't have a fairly good time. Edith Wharton (1862-19040

I said that I think I have always been a pleasure seeker. I said it as if it was a confession for a sin but I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing.

Then, this morning, I was talking to my friend Joanne. Another friend of hers is having some significant problems with a young adult child and she herself is very ill. She stopped writing Christmas letters a few years back because she just could not think of what to say about any of it.

My thinking on that is this: Even in the midst of life’s tough times, we have to find joy or what is the point of life? We’re just swirling around the drain in dark and murky water if we can’t find pleasure somewhere.

I called Jane to make sure Devin and Heroe and baby Grace are safe. They live just north of Tokyo and I was terrified for them in light of the awful news of the earthquake and tsunami. They have no lights or power and they are experiencing after-shocks but they are safe for now.

Jane also shared other tragic news, the death by suicide of a beloved aunt and uncle, the sudden death of a nephew, her illness. One of the things I have always loved about our friendship is that she has always been able to find the joy in simple things: a favorite wine glass, a new nightgown, a funny card, a bouquet of wild flowers from a ditch. So, by the end of the conversation, we were laughing about the Sutliff Bridge and the crazy things we’ll do when she and Dick come for a visit.

The Sutliff Bridge is going to be rebuilt. It was washed away in the flood two years ago and even though it’s historic, it was privately owned and the cost for rebuilding a bridge is, well, prohibitive for the average guy. The ownership has been transferred and now there are funds for rebuilding it. Jane’s dream was always that her wake would include bundling her into the back seat of someone’s car and driving over the Sutliff Bridge. That was years ago when we were young so not sure how she feels about it now.

The bunny's face is finally visible. The snow is starting to shrink back from the edges of the sidewalks and driveways. There are muddy puddles on the streets. Signs of spring!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

the dog days of winter

I wrote the title for this post, then put it in google. Technically, the dog days are in the summer, the hottest , most sultry days of summer. Clearly, not accurate. Then I put doldrums in google. Doldrums are a state of inactivity or stagnation. Yes, that fits.

I was in the blackest mood yesterday for no particular reason. Well, a few sort of lame reasons. Steve said something to me Monday night that sent me into orbit, then haunted me all day yesterday. I think I've swept it from my head now. I woke up and the weather was bleak, bleak, bleak. No color. No sun. No warmth. I bought myself roses at noon. It helped.

I went into the flower shop intending to buy tulips or something springy. The red roses were just too gorgeous and I couldn't pass them up for $3 each. So, if you're floundering in the doldrums, get thee to a flower shop and buy yourself some spring!

I keep threatening to stop posting the updates on the bunny in the yard but if I skip a day, I get Facebook messages and email asking where he is. His fans adore him and look for him. Oh, good grief. Yesterday, Ginger threatened to come over and dig the little bastard out herself! How's that for enthusiasm? It snowed again overnight so I hardly dare look out there this morning.

I have a 7 a.m. meeting and if school were to be delayed, it would be cancelled. I would interpret that unlikely event to have great meaning for the universe. This is a meeting, held quarterly, for which I have been responsible for about five years. To say that I am out of energy for it is a huge understatement. I spent two hours yesterday scraping for agenda items and what I came up with is pitiful indeed. Ah, well.

Regis and I watched a movie over the last two nights called The Lives of Others. Here's what IMBD says: In 1984 East Berlin, an agent of the secret police, conducting surveillance on a writer and his lover, finds himself becoming increasingly absorbed by their lives. It's quite dark, as you can imagine, but not violent and there is such sweet redemption in the end that I can recommend it highly. We loved it.

I took the afternoon off today and I'm going to meet Tiffany in Mankato for lunch after her work and then we're going shopping for her birthday. She turns 26 next Friday. How can that be? I have a good Kohl's coupon so you can hardly afford not to shop. Right?

I have 16 Mondays left to work, counting Memorial Day, which I won't work but it will still be a week. If I don't count memorial Day, it gives a false sense of shortness. I'm not good at math and there a few variables but I think that's less than a hundred days.

I'm going to be happier today. We aren't going to get as much snow as they first predicted. There's a reason to celebrate, right there.

Have a happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

tuesday morning cold and dark

Regis and I were sitting in the living room last night and I said it was nice to see that it's still light out at 6:00 but it would be nice if there weren't two feet of snow yet. Seriously, isn't this getting to be a bit of a pain in the ass? Let me just rant for a minute. I'm tired of heavy coats and heavy sweaters and boots (not the hot kind) and mittens. I'm tired of starting the car. I'm tired of being inside.

I want to sit on the patio in the evening and watch the birds. If they all haven't starved or frozen to death, that is. I can't get to the can that holds our bird feed so the poor things, I hope they have been eating at John's. He probably puts out a better spread anyway.

Two scruffy squirrels have been foraging in our flat feeder. I don't know if they're old or just looking ratty from the end of winter, like the rest of us. Their tails look a little thin and their ears are white. I think when I go to Mankato, I'll buy some corn to put on the snow for them. Poor things.

I just looked at my google calendar and re-scheduled a couple things. I have been running a lot already this week and it's only Tuesday. It's time to dial it back a notch. Friday, I made this note: DON'T SCHEDULE ANYTHING THIS DAY! Ha!

I love google images. I just did a search for "old squirrel" hoping that I could find a picture close to the patriarch in my yard. It's just amazing what some people will photograph. I didn't find a picture of an old squirrel (surprising) but there were pictures of squirrels in Superman costumes, dead squirrels next to guns (really?), and lots of pictures of baby squirrels when they look like mice. I don't get the gun thing at all. This must be some ancient hunter brain thing...pride in the kill. But a squirrel? Did they pop them as they sat on the bird feeder eating sunflower seeds?

I think I will stop at Mary's Flowers on my way from one school to the other today. I see a shamrock plant, a few tulips, and maybe a bouquet of daffodils. A guy needs a splash of color on a day like this.

Monday, March 07, 2011

a poem


Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook, not
the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication, not
the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punch line, the door or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don't regret those.
Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the living room couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
You've walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
You've traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the window.
Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied of expectation.
Relax. Don't bother remembering any of it. Let's stop here,
under the lit sign on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.

"Antilamentation" by Dorianne Laux, from The Book of Men. © W. W. Norton & Company, 2011. 

Sunday, March 06, 2011

now that i've said it, i can let it go

I had to write what I wrote in that last post. It keeps coming up in my conversations, in my dreams, in my rants after a glass of wine. I had to write it. I told Regis the other night that I really want to let it go. Letting that much poison live in your head is not healthy. I am letting it go now.

ah, sunday and the weekend winds down

We had a nice dinner last night with Jim and Kay at the Cedar's Grille. I had the Mediterranean platter from the appetizer menu and it was delicious. We decided to stop at Patrick's for a drink after dinner but when we walked in, it was packed with revelers from the Bockfest in New Ulm. At least we surmised that's where they had been as they were mostly in their cups. There was a waiting list which upon which we did not want to be. While I went to the restroom, Regis invited Jim and Kay back to our house. When he told me this, I'm quite sure I looked like a deer in the headlights.

Some people keep their homes in a way that company could come any time and they would not suffer mortification. I am not one of them. Our house is clean, thanks to Jan, but we tend to leave a trail of stuff everywhere we go. We had disrupted the living room in the afternoon to take some pictures of me in my St. Patrick's Day garb so it looked like the place had been looted.

Ah, well. If your friends can't come into your mess, then what the hell. We had a fine time. I had the table set for St. Patrick's Day so that part looked lovely.

I'm gearing up for St. Patrick's Day partly because I am nuts for holidays. I like special food, table settings, party lights, and now costumes. So part of my enthusiasm is typical for me but part of it is my campaign to be employed by the Halloween costume company after my retirement and they're having a party on the 17th, a pub crawl in Mankato. I figure after they see my bodacious costume, they will be convinced of my hire-worthiness.

Mom suggested that I get a costume for every holiday and start picking Regis up from work in them. Not a bad idea.

Regis says they are sending costumes all over like mad for Fat Tuesday and Mardi Gras parties. Wild. Check out their website.

Here is the St. Patty's tree.

We'll probably take it down after St. Patrick's Day. It gets a little dusty looking after three months. Back to the basement.

I don't have plans to do much today. I would love to take a walk in the sunshine but not the ten degree sunshine.

I woke up in the middle of the night writing this in my head:

I've worked for this district for more than 30 years. I started in 1979 as a teacher at the forensic hospital for people who were mentally ill and dangerous. I went to a program for adolescent sex offenders in 1981. Years go by and eventually I am a coordinator of this and that.

I go back to school to get an administrative license to be a principal. I apply for lots of jobs but don't get one. Even in my own district, I can't get a job as an assistant principal in the middle school. The interview process is scientific (involving grids and scoring systems) and grueling. I don't get this job. It's emotionally and professionally devastating.

I go back to school and get a license to be a director of special education. This has cost me $10,000 and several years of school while I am working full-time.

There is an opening for a special education director. Again, there is a grueling interview process. I go. I do a good job. They can't decide. They want me to do more and more and finally, I withdraw. I'm tired and I can't fight anymore.

Meanwhile, people get jobs without so much as a letter of interest. They are moved into jobs. They are identified as the intended one and suddenly their name appears on an agenda as the new whatever.

Last year, I am offered an administrative three-year contract. Nothing changes. Not my title, not my job, not my salary. I get more life insurance, I think. It seems like a solid thing, so I accept it.

For 31 years, I am on a teacher's contract. This year, I am on an administrative contract.

In January, when I consider retirement, I get an email from the union president saying that the board will negotiate with teacher's individually regarding their retirement incentive.

I ask my supervisor if this applies to me. I am told no, that I am on an administrative contract and when they hire someone to replace me, they will likely have to pay them more than they pay me.

Seriously. This is the bullshit I am told.

Of course, I know this won't happen. My job will be parceled out to four people. Nobody will be hired to replace me.

I am told that the retirement incentive is not a reward for service but I know that's how it is perceived. There aren't 20 people in my district in my same situation so there is no danger of precedent setting. I know that they could pay me a retirement incentive if they wanted to. I know this isn't morally right.

I think that my service has been valued and I think I am perceived by everyone to be competent. How I can be treated this way if those things are true? It's creating major cognitive dissonance.

I had considered working two days a week next year but after this most recent hosing, I won't consider doing that. I have a gutload of anger and resentment and bitterness. I am not leaving with happy feelings about my career.

I have to walk away completely to find peace.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

bunny update

Here's a bunny update for my blog fans who are not Facebook fans. Ah, I have such a web presence for an old gal.

A friend of mine on Facebook, who does not read the blog, wrote this about my green shoes:
Did you know the all female Krewe of Muses throws "tarted up shoes" during their Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans? When I'm there next year I'll try to catch one for you. I love that description "tarted up shoes".

So, here are my tarted up shoes...again. This afternoon, I'm going to try on my complete St. Patrick's Day get-up but the pictures won't be released to the public quite yet.

one small rant this morning

I mailed in my TRA application about February 25th because for some reason, I had it in my head that it had to be there by March 1st. Today I got a big envelope back from them with a blank application and a letter saying that I had applied too early and had to reapply after March 2nd. What the hell. So what did they do with the other application? They didn't send it back so I have to create this damn thing again. Holy hell. Does this make sense?

Same thing with an application I have to do for school. Every year, it has to be sent in after July 1st. One year, I sent it a day or two early and they sent it back and told me to resubmit it after July 1st. They couldn't let it sit on the desk for two days? To say nothing of the fact that each year, it is exactly the same application, just with a different date. Bureaucrats, I tell ya. They deserve some fresh kind of hell.

I decided not to go to the Pulse at 7 this morning. I have been there four days this week at 5 a.m. and I'm tired to leaving the house in the cold and dark. I could go for a walk outside today, I might use the treadmill in the basement, or I might do some tai chi or yoga in the living room. I feel the need to stretch.

They discontinued the coffee at Aldi's that we've been drinking for two years. It was a mild, German-roasted coffee and we really liked it. Aldi's is not my favorite store...ever since I saw the guy with the really bad mullet heating a cold wiener as he put his groceries in his truck. Bad visual.

I need some flowers in the house. I need to see green stuff. I guess it's time to put the Guinness bottle lights on the tree!

Happy Saturday!

Friday, March 04, 2011

omg this is us on the patio

the nuts and bolts of my life with mom's corrections and additions

I was telling stories last night and Tom suggested I write a post and call it the nuts and bolts of my life. Good title, I thought.

It comes from a story about a character I remember from my hometown. Peculiar people were not held in such suspicion in those days. They were just allowed to do their odd things and nobody bothered them too much.

Doris wore a fur coat all summer long. She rolled her nylons around her knees and marched rapidly down the sidewalks, puffing a cigarette. She swore under her breath in a most scandalous manner and of course, this fascinated us, so we walked discreetly behind her, trying to catch every son-of-a-bitch and god-damn. She lived in a huge old house with flapping shutters and chipping paint. This is my memory, of course, and we all know it's not too reliable. I exaggerate for effect.

Mom's memory of the above story is that Doris was naked beneath the fur coat. I either never knew or had forgotten that part. Maybe she wasn't into flashing middle school kids.

Donny wore big pants with pockets. He ran a string down one leg of his pants with a magnet attached to the end. He strolled the sidewalks looking for nuts and bolts. When he spotted one, he walked over and used the magnet to pick it up and hoist it up to his pocket. I'm not sure of the logistics of getting it from the magnet to the pocket. I'm also not sure what he did with all the nuts and bolts.

Mom's correction to this story is that Donny was not picking nuts and bolts up off the street but off the lower shelves at the hardware store. He must have had quite a collection of nuts and bolts. Apparently he fixed crescent wrenches with them. Don't ask me.

August was a tiny man who wore a huge trench coat with only boxer briefs underneath it. He went into the bank on Monday and borrowed five dollars, always paying it back on Friday. I don't believe this involved any paperwork. The ladies in the bank objected to the boxer briefs but only asked that he turn them around so the fly was in the back. He also marched up and down the streets in a terrible rush, muttering and cursing.

One other character was a guy named Shorty who ran the local jewelry store. He was a tiny man who always wore his white shirt sleeves rolled up, a black vest, and a jeweler's loupe. He had a penciled in moustache...hardly any hair, just a thin line of black over his lip.

There are a few people like this in the town where I live now but I don't think they are appreciated like they were then. Odd people are mostly feared rather than tolerated. We like to hang labels on them and segregate them instead of thinking of them as interesting. Too bad for us.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

winter comes back or maybe it never left

It was just a little bit above zero when I got up this morning. It barely got above ten degrees this afternoon. And we thought spring was coming. Paul Douglas says this March will not be like last March. No kidding. Here's the bunny update:

Regis is reading me the forecast which sounds grim, indeed. An inch of moisture and high winds next week. An inch of moisture translates to an obscene amount of you-know-what.

I made chicken parmesan for dinner. Very simple Rachel Ray recipe except that I didn't know what a chicken cutlet was. Regis knew, having experienced this dish in the past. I don't know how it slipped by me. He says it's an Italian dish so there you go. No wonder. I'm not much for ordering chicken out in any kind of cuisine.

I made myself some seared ahi tuna which was delicious and enough to make lunch for the next two days. Regis has a bad Catholic history with fish of any kind but tuna especially. I buy a better quality of canned tuna now than I did in my old days but I have fond memories of tuna. Tuna casserole, tuna sandwiches, Tuna Helper. Kidding about the last one. Tuna Helper comes out of the same culinary hell as Jello and faux meatballs.

My kids always loved box macaroni and cheese. I tried to sever them home-made mac and cheese once and they objected because it wasn't yellow like the real stuff. They still prefer box cake mixes and Tiffany prefers Stove Top stuffing. I can sort of understand that. I haven't eaten a frozen pizza for a long time but I do get a hankering for them. It's like a completely different food than real pizza but still good once in a while.

I used to teach a class for Community Education called Kitchen Writing. One of the pieces I wrote was about the Jeno's Pizza of my youth. There was a little bag that you made the dough from, a tiny can of sauce, and a wax packet of parmesan cheese. I swear my mom cut wieners into slim slices in place of pepperoni. She says this is not an accurate memory and she could be right, but really, where you find pepperoni in Canby in the 60's? We thought the pizza was wonderful, with or without wieners, and it's one of my predominant food memories. (Mom was a good cook. This pizza memory is no reflection on her!)

The Kitchen Writing class was a real kick. One of the things I had people do was to choose a kitchen from their past and draw a map of it, a bird's eye view. Amazing things came out of the maps...things they didn't even know they remembered, hidden in their minds, waiting to come to the surface. I don't teach any writing classes anymore and I miss it.

Maybe after I retire, I'll gather all those little pieces of writing that I did with students over the years and publish them here. I lost a lot of my writing when I changed computers a few years ago. I didn't know much about PCs and as I was moving things onto an external hard drive, they disappeared. Poof. Ah, well. Such is life.

I finally mailed a package to Nicole and Jason's new baby today. I wanted to shop for him at the new gift shop downtown but I went there 4 (FOUR!) times and it was never open. Had to shop in a different place, then it took a week to get the stuff in a box, then another week to address the box and go to the PO. Am I the only person who takes this long to get something done? Good grief.

Off to bed. I managed to stay up until 7:15. That's it.