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Monday, November 7, 2011

Gail’s delicious no-sugar baked oatmeal

I had a jones for baked oatmeal & worked for a couple of months to perfect this high-fiber recipe. It packs a punch, is good hot or cold, and may provide breakfast for a week. It's an already-doubled recipe. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

iPhone Zombies

So. I’m at a party and meet a young man who’s a student at Marquette University. I tell him I went there too. He seems interested; we have a nice connection. Then suddenly he looks down at his iPhone.

He’s lost to me. I don’t exist.

I’ve had it.

The best day of Chuckie’s life

Oliver, Chuckie, and Elana visited me a couple of weeks ago. Oliver and Chuckie are six; Elana is nine. We bundled up and went exploring the pathless woods across from my house. Eventually we wandered out of the woods and into a farmer’s field that was brimming with buff-colored cornstalks. The stalks were taller than I am, and still held corn (feed corn I’m guessing). As the late autumn sun set, we wandered down the long narrow rows of corn, cutting across them willy nilly and checking out new rows.

Chuckie ran ahead of me, free and wild, and hollered back, “This is the best day of my life.”

He meant it.

Kids need nature.  


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Thinking about Amy Winehouse makes me sad

             The medical people determined finally that Amy Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning, or as the article in the paper said, "She drank herself to death."

Tony Bennett and Amy Winehouse
              Right after I read that, I heard an interview on NPR with Tony Bennett. He is grieving her loss. They sang together for his recent duet record. He said he's been waiting since The Beatles' invasion for someone to carry on the legacy of Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, and the other phenomenonal American women singers. Amy was the one, he said. She had it.

               He's in his 80s. She was 27. I could hear the pain in his voice.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Positive Feeling in the Family

Last night, my husband and my brother and I had dinner with an old friend, “Bob,” and his girlfriend. Bob and my brother have been pals since kindergarten. Our family and Bob’s family occupied twin tri-level houses a block apart. There were five kids and two parents in our family, four kids and two parents in Bob’s.

We reminisced for three hours over chili, cornbread, and pumpkin-flavored frozen custard. (If you don’t know what frozen custard is, weep because you don’t live in Wisconsin.) Right at the end of the evening, Bob told us how much he enjoyed visiting our home when he was growing up. He said there was a positive feeling in our house. Our parents talked to him like he was a person. They talked to him with respect. Even our pesky little brother George was polite, never disrespectful.

Bob said his own family lacked all of these attributes.

Friends have told me they enjoyed coming over to my parents’ house in the old days, but I’ve never heard it put the way Bob did: “A positive feeling.”

That doesn’t mean our family didn’t have our share of problems. It means that in spite of any problems we had, there was a positive feeling overall.

Bob’s remembrance is one of the most beautiful compliments I’ve ever heard for my family of origin. I like to imagine that wherever George and my parents are now, they heard Bob’s words and smiled.

My own home is long empty of my young children and their friends. I hope that those friends remember the same thing about visiting our home: “A positive feeling.”

There is a way to get through November

November in the North is bleak. Leaden sky. Cold air. Whipping wind. Icy rain.

We grumble. This transition from autumn to winter is hard on us.  Once we’re settled into full winter, we gain courage. We become strong. We deal with cumbersome layers of clothing, cold car seats, and chipping ice off windshields.

But November is The Locking: transition time, neither fall nor winter. Mother Nature needs time to lock up for her long sleep to come.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Trifecta of Trouble in Tidewater

Years ago, Mike & I lived in Norfolk, Virginia. We became friends with another Mike & Gail, natives of the Tidewater area. We moved back home to Wisconsin in 1975, but have stayed in contact with them, yo, all these many years. They are retired, eccentric old hippies.

A few days ago, an earthquake hit Virginia. My Mike called to see how our friends were doing, but all the phone circuits were busy.

Now, we hear that Hurricane Irene is headed their way. The Outer Banks are being evacuated, and Mike and Gail have a second home there on the water.

Finally my Mike got through last night on the phone.

Yup, our friends felt the earthquake ("I was rolling one and it fell right out of my hand"). And their son was at the beach house yesterday but he was getting the heck out as of this morning.

Last, our friend Mike added, "Have you heard about the fire?"

"What fire?"

"The Dismal Swamp in North Carolina caught on fire. The peat has been burning for a couple of weeks. It's twelve miles from our house."

Maybe it helps to be eccentric at a time like this.  Good luck, Mike & Gail!

Monday, August 22, 2011

They taught us to live

August 22, 2011. On this day thirty-three years ago, I was 27 years old and I got the worst news I ever had: my father, mother, and brother had been killed in an automobile accident in Ontonagon, Michigan. They’d been enjoying a camping and fishing trip. Pop was 51, Mum was 48, and George was 13.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Argh! Need traffic!

So, I’ve been on a writing retreat at our house trailer on Little Green Lake for two weeks. Fabulous scenery, fabulous quiet, fabulous writing progress. I should be fine, right?

I sure thought so. But I realized today that something was wrong.  The problem became clear to me when I discovered that I had two rolls of film to take in for developing (stifle the sniggers). It occurred to me that in order to get the pictures printed, I’d have to drive from Little Green Lake to the bustling (not) burg of Ripon, Wisconsin, to get to a Walgreens photo department.

I felt elated! Elated to drive 25 minutes to Ripon!


That was when I realized that I craved a shot of “big city.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"Up Nort"

I'm "Up North" now on a writing retreat. My goal is to finish my new script and then convert it to a novel. I had good luck doing that last August with my first script.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Beware of secondary ticket sellers!

Before I go on a rant, I have to say that “Jersey Boys” was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. The singing was beautiful – the actor portraying Frankie Valli sang like an angel. And the staging was ingenious, sparkling, fast, fun, fantastic. Best of all was the WAY THE GUYS DANCED as they sang. We tried to duplicate it after the show – impossible. Pretty good for a bunch of white guys.

However, I am so mad. I got royally ripped-off by a secondary market ticket website. I paid $109 for a $25 ticket. And so did my husband, Mike; my friend Lynn; and her friend, Beth.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What is good taste in music anyway?

Sunday night Mike & I went to Falls Fest, a little annual street festival in our village of Menomonee Falls. When we got there, we saw a nine-piece "show band" playing in the biggest tent. Four of the players were on horns, doing the exact horn-man dance you used to see musicians doing in bands like Sam and Dave's back in the Sixties. These guys were so energetic in their dancing that I wondered how they still had breath left over to blow their horns. Oh yeah, two of them looked young enough to be in high school. Youth helps.

All the musicians wore shorts and tee shirts, except for the female singer - surprise, surprise. She looked foxy. I did miss the matching outfits we used to see in the old soul groups - they were dressed to impress.

I'd give you more description of the band, but I couldn't get close enough for a really good look. They were LOUD. I was mesmerized by the horn dancers, though, so kept watching from a distance.

They played some really excellent blues and soul music from the old days. I asked Mike, "How do these young kids even know those tunes?"

Monday, July 11, 2011

Just back from vacay - now I need one!

Just spent 11 days at our trailer on Little Green Lake. It's 1:30 pm on Monday and I still haven't washed up. I'm avoiding my own armpits. Thank God I don't teach until tomorrow.

When you return from vacation, it's a grand victory just to:

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Don't tell her when she's gonna die

My friend Nancy has been fighting terminal pancreatic cancer for more than a year. She's had the requisite rounds of chemo that weakened her tremendously. She lost a ton of weight and often her blood count wasn't good enough for her to undergo chemo.

I started visiting her once a week about a half-year ago. During that time, her doctor gave her a timeline for her life that would have had her dying this July 2011. July is two days away.

A place to bust open the world

Today Chucky & Elana, my "adopted" grandchilden, used their very own library cards for the very first time. They kept repeating the question: "Everything in the library is FREE?" I thought they might be blasé about the experience, but their excitement level kept growing.

I helped them sign up for the summer reading program, which I thought was a bit cumbersome and kind of odd this year. But they're INTO IT. They got a "passport" where each page features a different continent. They have to complete squares on each page to earn a prize. Today we completed squares with questions about South America. Both kids won a whistle (sounded like wounded water buffalo) and a free ticket. Elana chose a free zoo pass and Chucky chose a free pass to a bull-riding show. Won't his dad be thrilled to learn he's supposed to take his son there?!?

Chucky gobbled up books as if they were candy. Subjects: dinosaurs, rocks & minerals, "Star Wars," and tornadoes. I never knew he loved science. The librarian helped Elana find a mystery chapter book. Both kids were ELATED.

When I was nine like Elana, my library was the City of Milwaukee BOOKMOBILE. I can still feel the feeling I got when I stepped inside its rarefied atmosphere. I can see the books on the shelves. I can remember the tingle when I looked at the spines of the adult books, which I was NOT allowed to check out. It was the beginning of an adventure that opened worlds to me.

May the adventure live on.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Happy Sixtieth, Marlyce & Jerry!

My Uncle Jerry and Aunt Marlyce on their 60th wedding anniversary
Saturday night Mike & I attended a sixtieth wedding anniversary party for my aunt and uncle, Marlyce & Jerry Hoerig. The party began with a Mass at which they were recognized by the priest, along with another couple celebrating (only) fifty years. During the Mass I sat behind my aunt and uncle, and at one point I noticed my cousin Linda, their daughter, gently stroking her mother's back.

I felt a pang. I haven't been able to give my mom a touch or  hug or even a glance for 33 years. She died at age 48, along with my dad and brother, in a car accident. Jerry & Marlyce were great friends with my folks. After Mass, at the party, Marlyce told me that she had started to tear up at Mass thinking about my folks. She said that Linda told her those were "happy tears."

They weren't. I had them, too.

Friday, June 24, 2011

"The Help" - Anachronisms??

I enjoyed reading "The Help." However, being an old broad, I noticed some anachronisms.  At least I THINK they're anachronisms for the years 1962 - 1964:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Life Will Out

Image of a baby bird from the Web
Last night Mike was mowing the grass & there was a baby bird sitting there. Mike mowed around the bird. This morning, the bird was still there: a baby robin, round like a little ball. I picked it up & put it in an old nest I keep on the front porch. The bird was lively, but had only one eye & a beak that didn't close properly. Some of its pin feathers were missing. I figured it was a goner. I left the bird in the nest on the front porch & soon there were several full-grown robins responding to its tweets. They were shook up. One finally dug a worm & deposited it in the baby bird's wide-open mouth.

I called my neighbor kids & explained the situation. No hope for this bird. Did they want to care for it anyway or should I euthanize the little thing? Katrina, 14, decided to care for it.

An hour later, my friend Sandy called me. She's been struggling for years with 2 different types of cancers & has been laid low recently by one that revisited, & the surgery that followed. She told me she biked to Holy Hill early this morning, through fog. "It's only 20 miles there," she said. "It was a beautiful ride."

The baby bird & my friend made it clear what I should do. I got on my bike, even though it was raining.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Luddite no more

In June of 2011, I joined the 21st Century. I published a book on Kindle and I started a blog. I think this means I can no longer be considered a Luddite.

In the early 1800s, a band of English workmen organized themselves in order to destroy manufacturing machinery under the belief that its use diminished employment. Ned Ludd, a Leicestershire worker, originated this idea.

I got those Luddite facts from my fat, hardcover Random House dictionary, published in 1967. It has an old-paper smell. I didn't get those facts from Wikipedia, although I could have. I like the handiness of Wikipedia, even though you can't trust it completely, and it will  never have an old-paper smell.

I plan to start a Twitter account as soon as possible. This is a lot of un-Luddite activity for a non-techno-person like me. I'm starting to shake just a little.