Saturday, June 27, 2009

"Ode to Sampson: I Type At You, My Vigor Diminished"

Do not even ask me to hold a kettle ball for you right now, much less to swing it around and jack up my triceps.

As long as we're on the point, incidentally, how come you're always asking me to hold your kettle balls?

At any rate, I couldn't heft even the lightest of your ubiquitous kettle balls, for I am vewwwwy weak, and all my muscles are shrively.

You see, the source of my strength underwent a heat-induced chopping today, and, no, I am not referring to hot flashes, although I understand that particular pleasure loiters just around a very dark corner and down a long, menacing alley.

Rather, it's been, like, a kajillion degrees here during the hours of ye olde daytime, and the humidity has been at ninety-seventy-twelve percent. With such conditions in force, what sweaty, limp, and crabby redhead wouldn't trot in to see a perky stylist named Rosie at the nearest air-conditioned Aveda salon?

...all of which (em, right about here, please do a little smeary motion with your hands in front of your face, and also make a little "woo-dee-woo-hoo" noise down in your larynx, the effect of which is time transport, back to the year 1997 or so) reminds me of a story about my bestie girlpal named Pamm.

See, back in 1997, Pammy had some ovarian cyst problems. And it wasn't even humid then.

Her ovary was cystic to the point where mean doctors with anger issues planned to attack her with three-foot needles and lance the boil.

In a certain way, and thanks to laproscopy, it was to be a fairly non-invasive surgery.

However, since Pammy's body manages to turn everything from bee stings to dairy ingestion into cause for high drama, she was justified in worrying about complications.

Once you anticipate complications, even before you get to see Doc Lancelot, you get a leeetle bit, um, nervous. Anxiety-ridden. Barfy in the mouth.

Pal that I am, my solution to Pamm's emotional angst the day of her surgery was the time-honored technique known as "I am distracting you now, so look at these dancing puppets!"

Specifically, my distraction before the surgery was to tap into another body-based angst, one termed in the medical books Eff-All If I Wasn't Born With No Metabolism. Indeed, Pammy and I had always been able to bond over the fact that someone in a Honda Accord could drive by, eating a cake donut, and we'd gain four pounds.

So here's the puppet I trotted out for her during her pre-surgery anxiety: knowing she had to drink a gallon of vile bowel cleanser before the lancing (in case her intestines suffered a nick), I urged her to weigh herself first...drink the a lot of reading of The New Yorker whilst on the toilet...and then weigh herself right before the surgery. "Nothing," I hollered at her, "will ever again give you such rapid and dramatic weight-loss results, even if it's hawked to you on a late-night infomercial by one of the trainers from THE BIGGEST LOSER, a show that isn't even on tv yet because it's only 1997! Empty your bowels, Love, and then take those numbers from the scale into the operating room with you!! Do it!! Glory in the power of those pounds peeling, flushing away!!!"

Damn if she didn't lose six pounds that afternoon. The poo came out, and Pammy went supermodel, moved to Brazil, and married a soccer player.

Okay, now do the smeary hand thing in front of your face again, and make those woo-dee-doodle sounds in your throat, 'cause we're flashing forward to the epoch known as Right Now.

HI! How are you? Dizzy? Choose a focal point on the wall, and stare at it to center yourself. It's 2009 now and, most importantly, Bush is out of the White House. Isn't it nice here?

Back in 1997, my buddy Pamm lost weight from her innards. Sort of like that--but not--today I lost some weight, too; it didn't happen because I had a cyst but because my entire self was spontaneously combusting thanks to that tart named Summer. Check out my "hell, but I need to cool down before I strangle the innocents" rapid weight loss technique, which I believe the French call Une Chop de la Tete:

Yup. Lost two pounds.

From my head.

Point of pride: only one of the dropped pounds was from poo (it squozed out of my ear when I laughed too hard at a passing clown).

The other lost pound? Entirely follicular.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"If Imagination Were Actually Given Full Rein"

By jinkies and holy Marco Polo, but I'm tired.

We got back from our two weeks of travel the other night, and as of today, I almost feel hydrated and centered again. Mos' def, travels full of weddings and college reunions are hot-doggoliciously fun, but coming home from them requires a state-licensed detox program: detoxing from, yes, a progression of drinks, but even more, detox from public love, intense conversations, sleeping in a new place every night or two, and, during all that, teaching two classes online (surreal moment: answering questions about the newly-updated Modern Language Association's research citation guidelines while sitting in a McDonald's Playplace in New Hampton, Iowa).

Compounding my sense of "Who am I?" and "Mommy, won't you just hug The Jocey, for she is tapped out?" these last couple of days is the fact that we came home to a deconstructed kitchen (ooh, yes, there will be photos or video to follow, as it's amazing to see the bones of one's house and smell the air that's been trapped in that wood since 1913!).

Thus, even though we're home now, the regular flow of our daily living is, quite literally, being redirected, with us doing dishes in the bathtub and cooking dinner on the front steps on a camp stove. The fridge is next to the piano for the duration of the remodel, so everytime I take out the jug of milk, I also tickle out a wee bit of "Heart and Soul" on them ivories.

Speaking of heart, soul, and things I've fallen in love with, I have to share one of the fifty-thwillion highlights of our trip. Our last day in St. Louis, we went to The City Museum, a place so awesome that, as one of my friends noted, "Half of this stuff is normally illegal in the United States." Quite simply, I would say it's a place for both kids and adults, but it is absolutely on my list of the Top Five Things I've Ever Dragged My Kids To.

This is me, now, holding out a beckoning finger, inviting you to save the $12 entry fee and come on inside:

Sorry if the background noise overwhelms my voice. I am generally a wilting violet, you know, the sound of whose speech barely reaches beyond her own lips, so it was difficult for me to crank up my personal decibels, lest I collapse in a waifish faint.

For me, the best thing about this little snippet is that Groomeo is holding a magic wand (the glue had yet to dry) during the whole thing. Certainly, he has always held me sway with his magic, but to see him darting in there like some Mystical Fairy hired by Butt Pushers, Inc., brings out his charm for the entire viewing public.

Ostensibly, I'm showing you the outside of the museum here. But my hidden agenda was to make you yack. Didja? Huh? Didja barf? If so, what did you clean it up with?

These questions, along with memories of museums and imagination gone wild and hugs and laughter, will sustain me as I crouch beside the bathtub tonight, scouring a skillet that I've lathered up with Pantene.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

"This Gives Me Even Greater License to Drink, Right?"

I'm at my 20-year college reunion right now, so typing time is tight. I'll simply say the beauty of attending such an event is this: I am assured I'm not the only one my age with a paunch and thinning hair. However, to my credit, and unlike many of my peers, I have not chosen to grow facial hair as a counterbalance to the loss of head-top hair.

In other news: the contractors working on the kitchen remodel have lost the plans--you know, the ones that were full of hand-written notes about small changes; as well, even though they filed for a building permit three weeks ago, it hasn't come through yet, so they've been working without one now for two weeks. Any steps of the process that require inspection, such as some work on the heating pipes they did, cannot happen until the permit comes through; thus, progress has slowed. Also, the architect feels pretty sure the bathroom he designed is fine (we're adding in a half-bath, too), but he'd feel even better if it were measured one more in the interim, that means the cabinet-maker can't start making the cabinets, as any change in bathroom size will affect cabinet size.

In short, the remodel, with its various derailments, seems right on track, ja?

And all of this means I should drink a whole lot of Surly Beer at the class of 1989's social hour tonight, right?

Help me with my rationalizations here, people.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"June 2009: St. Louis, Missouri: A Wedding So Lovely I Sometimes Was Able to Ignore the Humidity"

Back in 1993-1994, Groom worked as a student naturalist at an environmental learning center in Northern Minnesota; during that year, he accrued a passle of friends who have hung together over the years.

One of them, John, got married last weekend in St. Louis. Groom's first memories of John, back at the environmental ed center in the early 1990's, were of John trying to teach himself how to play the banjo--specifically, that Kermit the Frog song called "The Rainbow Connection." For weeks, John worked on a few notes...then would stumble...mutter a curse, and start the #^%#@@# song over again. Rather than throttle John for playing the first measure of "The Rainbow Connection" exactly one kabillion times in a row for three weeks straight, the group of student naturalists decided, through gritted teeth, to view these efforts as part of his eccentric charm.

It's not clear if John ever mastered a fluent run through of that song--perhaps because he also decided that year to learn to dye yarn and weave so's he could make a Navajo blanket...which then was relegated to the closet when he decided to learn to tan a deer hide using its own brains.

You get the picture. The point, though, is not that John is all about starts; the point is that John has unending enthusiasm and curiosity and passion and energy. In anything that matters, such as friendship and love, he has consistency and follow-through in tumbling heaps.

For me, personally, one of my favorite memories of John has to do with my own wedding, which took place in 1999 at the very environmental learning center where he and my Groom first met. After the ceremony and a little bingo and some ginormous plates of roast pork, Groom and I danced our way through the reception. Towards the end of the night, when I was a fair bit tired of all the socializing, shoeless because my feet hurt so much, Johnny grabbed me off a chair and turned me slowly around the now-empty dance floor. As we spun, he whispered to me about how awe-inspiring love made public was; he eased me out of my own wedding with a feeling of joy.

It was, therefore, a karmic pleasure to share in John's own joy this past weekend, when he--now in his early 40's--celebrated his own wedding. I don't know his new wife, Jan, very well, but I can say she's worthy of every bit of John's delights, and, by God, if he ever starts a Navajo blanket in her presence, she'll make sure he finishes the thing.

Here's a little pictorial tour of our wedding-related days in St. Louis:

The student naturalists have grown up and reproduced and now hang out at farmer's markets. Here Paco, who dotes on little guys, feeds Baby Forest (the son of another student naturalist from back when).

What I really like about this photo is that it illustrates how Groom, some years back, mastered dandling babies on his knee while simultaneously spacing out entirely.

Baby Forest, Mama Ella, and Paco cool off in the wading pool, taking a moment to stare at the sky and wonder if it's a bird, a plane, or a piece of St. Louis' gooey butter cake flying overhead.

Dudes, if you ever go to St. Louis, go to Gus' Pretzel Shop, where you can get a bag of 25 pretzels the size of your palm for $10.00. Yea, I KNOW.

John spies his bride as she walks down the aisle towards him. The look in his eyes of naked adoration and absolute rightness gives me hope for a whole lot of things in the world.

Every ceremony needs a little musical breather in the middle. Them vows can get heavym so it's good to have some moments when the couple can stand quietly in a clutch.

Baby Forest's daddy (he has a name, and it is Michael) played and sang, just as he has for nearly all of the crew of original student naturalists when they've married.

As with the moment when the groom spies the bride, this picture also encapsulates the best of what a marriage can be--that business of having someone to walk down the path with you, slowly, in dreamy step, while all else falls away.

Even when we've made an effort (the kids saw an iron the day of the wedding for the first time in their lives and clamored to know what this new technology was called), we're pretty much a raggle-taggle family. I like to think it keeps us "approachable."

Note to everyone: if you're having a reception, and there are going to be kids there, get about 15 hula hoops. By the way, isn't Girl's new St. Louis haircut all cutie-pie on her? We actually took her to an upscale Aveda salon, as a special treat; so imagine my gasp when I went to pay for the cut and was told "Nine dollars, please. Yup. Our kids' cuts are nine dollars." GOODBYE, Great Clips, you big, dumb cheez-whiz of a place that charges $15! I'm totally driving back to St. Louis next time Girl needs a trim!!

John's brother made this cake. AND THREE OTHERS. I'm planning on writing in to the Food Network to get him on one of their cake challenge shows. Like he couldn't make Pluto out of buttercream for the Disney challenge?

Love this picture. See what I mean that Jan's a worthy mate?

John took a moment to address all those who had gathered at the reception. There were thanks. There was some speechifying about how he and Jan, some months back, had started focusing on the project of planning their wedding, on the day they visited the park and the gazebo and decided to hold it right there. Then John speechified some more about other projects they'd undertaken a few months back.

Like conceiving a baby.

Just when you've thrown a hella good wedding, you realize what will really make the crowd go wild, and it's called "the reveal of a baby braising inside the bride's cream-clad oven."

Okay, MOST of the crowd went wild at their announcment. Paco looks skeptical, doesn't he? I think he's worried his Pokemon trading card hours might take a hit if he has yet another baby to follow around and feed.

John was too busy hugging a hundred people to make this photo-op. But here's part of the original crew of student naturalists (and a few hangers-on),




a living rainbow connection.

Friday, June 12, 2009

"Home, Trashed Home"

As the countdown to the demolition of our kitchen ticked away, we continued our own initial destruction, tearing out cabinets and removing ceiling tiles; it got to the point where little in the room needed to be kept functional or pristine, and then Groom really cut loose. He hung bowling pins from the rafters and gave Paco a baseball bat. "Hit stuff" was the order.

Yea, everyone needs a daddy like that.

Then, this past Tuesday morning, with the kindergarten crew having done its best with a bat, the actual demolition crew came in and started working out their own anger issues on our kitchen.

"This is fun," swore the foreman to me, wiping sweat off his forehead. Hell yea. We filled his thermos with coffee and then pulled away in our mini-van, leaving them to their fun as we headed south.

The demolition dovetailed nicely with a two-week road trip we'd planned, first to St. Louis (where I am right now, as I type) and then back up to Minnesota next week for my 20-year college reunion (which is really odd, since I'm only 24). We're viewing camping as training for the rest of our summer, once we get back home, when we won't have a kitchen for at least 8 weeks. Groom will flip pancakes on the camp stove, and I'll be all about pork chops in the crock pot (one time I messed up and made crock in the pork pot, and let me tell you, that required extra scouring).

This looks so peaceful, but I've decided "tent" should actually be called "place that is simultaneously hot and cold, where my hips hurt and my arms fall asleep all night--and that's before the garbage trucks, inexplicably run by a Christian organization, come and empty the dumpsters near our campsite at 5:45 a.m."

We're in St. Louis now and today attended the rehearsal of a wedding that will be held this Sunday. Don't fear: we were invited to both.

As I think about the restricted eating that awaits us once we get back to Duluth, I am outrageously happy that the reception meal after the wedding will be barbeque. I plan to cram enough into to get me through the summer without having to restock my stomach.

Monday, June 08, 2009

"Not Occurring in Nature"

A convergence of events led to the following string of photos.

First, my city is revamping its entire school system (in a really logical fashion that is entirely in the best interests of the children because its end result will be at least 32 kids in EVERY classroom and not just in most of them), and the immediate effect of that revamping on my kids' particular school was that their school year finished a day earlier than other schools in the district so as to begin the remodeling pronto.

Secondly, my sister had long ago planned a trip to visit us during the last week of school, once her own teaching year was finished, so that she could come to Duluth and go to school with her niece and nephew. For her, this experience would be entitled Inner City Bilingual Teacher Observes Upper Middle Class Nordic Children At Play.

Thirdly, my sister asked, before her visit, what her niece and nephew (aka Girl and Paco Niblet) might want to do, in terms of experiences, that would cement her status as The Auntie of All Time.

Fourthly, the demolition of our kitchen begins tomorrow, which means we have needed to pack up that entire room (along with moving the furniture in other rooms to compensate for walls coming down/being moved). Packing up an entire kitchen while still living in it is The Suck with Sprinkles on Top.

All of these things taken together meant we had a bit of extra non-school-day time during my sister's visit with which to do Auntie of All Time activities...along with a strong need to clear the house and make some time for kitchen packing.

The plan was this: Auntie and Jocelyn would take the kids--for the first time ever--to The Mall of America and The Waterpark of America. We committed ourselves to two days of artifical lights, recycled air, and being surrounded by plastic objects in primary colors.

Auntie and Girl wonder what just happened to them

Niblet lives out a superhero a world where superheroes have tubes in their ears and therefore wear swim caps...and in which all water depths are just above the superhero's nostrils, resulting in a life vest costume

Speaking of Paco living out a fantasy, there was also this one, thanks to Mall of America having a Lego Store. Interesting sidenote: this Bobo Fett (or whoever the hell he me out here, 38-year-old white guys!) then picked up Niblet and tossed him straight into the Pretzel Time stand

Once he recovered from the pretzel toss, Niblet went back in time, to The Land of the Lost, where Chaka no like fire and Paco do like Legos

Mall of America has an amusement park in its middle. The Mama of All Time rides the swings with Girl. That's my back, in the greenish/bluish shirt. Some of the rest of me was in that shirt, too, like my arms and collar bone

Getting an ice cream float at the cafe in The American Girl Place was way big fun. Dolls Molly and Emily enjoyed their pink lemonade, especially because they are the WWII dolls, and so, what with rationing, they hadn't had sweets in ever-so-long. Girl REALLY enjoyed her float once she spilled it all over herself, causing Auntie to declare, "I guess I'm just going to need to buy you a new shirt"

Shortly after buying Girl a new shirt, Auntie also declared that the Molly doll needed a matching outfit. Yea, it's a particular kind of mental illness that The American Girl Place engenders. I totally get it at the same time that I'm kind of horrified by it

Oh, but Auntie was only getting started. The Mall of America also features a Build-a-Bear Workshop, something else Paco and Girl had never experienced. They both swear the Build-a-Bear store was the best part of the whole trip. Paco created a monkey named Chico Bon Bon who has a karate suit and a Batman costume; Girl created a puppy named Scruffy who wears capris and a frog shirt. Jocelyn created a monster, complete with bolts on his neck and a lightning strike that brought him to life. I call him Jeeves

This is what a trip to Mall of America looks like when Auntie of All Time gets back home and holds the fist full of receipts. She only cried for a minute

Later that night, after wiping away Auntie's tears, we remembered that you can always just make your own fun

And for those of you who love an O. Henry-like twist at the end: Her brain forever altered by the Legos and floats and stuffed animals, Jocelyn found herself compelled to smash all symbols of rampant consumerism. Slowly, slowly she raised the sledgehammer.

Just don't ask where Auntie is now.

Wait! What's that I hear from under the floor boards?

Thu-thump. Thu-thump. Thu-thump.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

"If You Like This, You Should Read the One About The Time My Bra Fell Out of My Ear at a Bat Mitzvah. That's 'My Ear,' Not 'My Rear

Mostly, I’m glad my antics didn’t break her water.

I have a friend in the neighborhood, you see, who is in her 28th week of pregnancy; part of her MO when pregnant is to have the baby early because she only has half a uterus (somehow, her uterus is bisected and, thus, has only half the capacity of a normal one; however, I'll be danged if uterine tissue isn’t crazy-stretchy, kind of like those weird spiky hair balls you can hold in your hand or stretch over your head, and if the image of a spiky hairball as an internal organ isn’t the mental image of your day, then, pray tell, what possibly has topped it?).

Because it’s starting to get a bit tight inside Neighbor Big Bump--even with the stretchy spike ball that is her uterus--and because she has a history of going into labor early, no one takes it lightly when she has an afternoon of Braxton-Hicks contractions, as she did last week. Once she stopped cleaning the garage, though, and lay down for awhile, the contractions stopped, which was quite fortuitous since our baby shower for her was to be held two days later,

and nothing’s more of a downer at a baby shower than the appearance of the actual baby. Hell, PeeWee, at the neighborhood shower we all just wanted to eat scones and watch Neighbor Big Bump open gifts. We didn’t sign up for placental extraction as part of the gig—although I must admit that the spoon from the fruit salad could have done a bang-up job at curetting that half-a-uterus, after the baby landed in the taco dip and added vernix to the sour cream.

So it was cool those contractions stopped, and we could eat without fear of meconium in the muffins.

You may have noticed that I refer to Neighbor Big Bump’s pregnancies and how predictably they unfold as though I’m drawing upon a fair amount of evidence. I mean, it’s kind of unusual to have a labor MO.

For clarification, here is Neighbor Big Bump’s current family configuration:

What you don’t see in this photo are the two miscarriages, or the embryo conceived in a fertility clinic that ended up testing positive for a form of trisomy before implantation…not that this neighbor couple has trouble conceiving naturally, but you may have noticed that what they conceive are boys. And Neighbor Big Bump—perhaps due to her own father leaving her family when she was young and being raised by a single mother, perhaps due to having only brothers herself, perhaps due to getting through the toughest moments of her life encircled by fierce girlfriends—has always felt deeply in her soul that she is meant to have a daughter. After looking into adoption and feeling that its risks and costs weren’t for their family, Neighbor Big Bump had drawn upon an inheritance, as well as maxing out a credit card, and used a fertility clinic in an attempt at gender manipulation.

The embryo that was conceived there, the one that ended up with the trisomy issue?


(how they knew that, I have no idea)

At this point in their lives, this family is just happy they’re all healthy and smart and glad that the contractions last week stopped so that they weren’t suddenly dealing with the unimaginable result of a labor at 28 weeks. It was time to celebrate. The baby shower did just that.

I like to think that I upped the entertainment when the shower was drawing to a close. As I worked at cleaning up the community center during wind-down chat and goodbyes, I suddenly had a surreal moment, witnessed only by Neighbor Big Bump, who happened to glance away from her conversation at just the moment when I looked down at the ground in front of me and thought, ”Bwahh? What just fell out of the leg of my pants? It looks like…it is…my underwear…?”

Then, a nanosecond later, I thought, “But, strangely, it’s not the underwear I’m wearing today. I remember I put green lady lacies on today, so how can it be that a very distinct pair of my pink undies is now on the floor at my feet?”

At the moment I sussed out that the pink undies must have been lying in wait inside my jeans since the last time they went through the wash together, and that they had gradually been working their way out of my pants leg for the previous three hours, I also looked up and saw Neighbor Big Bump’s incredulous look.

“Is that a headband, and did it actually just fall out of your pants?” she called across the room.

“Er, no. It’s my underwear.” I have always veered towards headbandish underwear, and if that’s my only fault (“if” being the operative word here), then I’m doing okay, I thought defensively.

“YOUR UNDERWEAR?” she yelled, starting to laugh in a potentially-water-breaking manner.

Her laughter continued, especially as she had me recap for the entire crowd what had just happened—all while I stood there, holding my pink smalls. And I do love telling a story with props:

It was fitting that my rogue undies were pink,

a harbinger of things to come.

You see, this time, with her seventh pregnancy and eighth conception,

she’s having a girl.