Archive for March, 2010

Zero tolerance

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

It was 1992 and we were in Florida and we headed out to the beach with the beach urchins and The Beautiful Aunt Susie. We pulled into a parking place right in front of a big “ZERO TOLERANCE” sign. I think that’s the first time I had ever encountered the term “zero tolerance”. In this case, it meant no alcohol. None. This was kind of a drag. We couldn’t even have one beer with our picnic lunch. Or one small thermos of salty dogs to share between three adults. I’m sure that there were some good reasons for this. It was a pretty crowded public beach and probably the park staff and the police et al had had their fill of dealing with drunks. Fishing drunk people out of the ocean, cleaning up vomit, hauling drunk drivers off to the pokey (or worse), cleaning up vomit. You know the drill. It’s too bad that the extreme actions of a few irresponsible people ruin the fun for everyone but it was okay. We would survive without alcohol and so we staked out a spot on the beach and settled in for an afternoon of fun in the sun.

In that situation, I rather grudgingly agreed that zero tolerance might be necessary. What bothers me is how zero tolerance has increasingly been applied to situations where I believe there should be a little wiggle room. Like with children taking knives to school. I forget what the exact rules are in our district but any kid who brings a knife to school is suspended for at least six months, maybe longer, maybe it varies a bit by age. Okay. Do I think that it is okay for children to take weapons to school? NO, of course I don’t! But what about Mouse’s first day in the first grade? I walked her into the classroom and she took off her little pink backpack and opened it up and found a knife! Her own tiny pink long-forgotten jack knife, with the dulled blade and the little pair of scissors. “Moom, maybe you should take this home,” she said. Um, yes. I guess so. (I have no doubt made some kind of error in this story that I’m sure Mouse will correct.) And what about all the kids who were sent to school with parent-packed bag lunches that included a little paring knife to cut up their apple with. My friend Jane, who worked in the lunch room, quietly confiscated those and returned them to the parents so the kid wouldn’t get suspended. Because really, there is a difference between a kid who takes a knife to school and brandishes it around or brags about it to his/her peers and a kid who has had a tiny pink jack knife in her backpack all summer and has totally forgotten it is in there or a kid whose *parent* has packed a knife in his lunch. Following the letter of the law would have amounted to a suspension in both situations and thank god that there are some rational people working for the schools who can recognize an innocent mistake and not follow the letter of the zero tolerance law.

And then there are all those parenting rules and decisions. Rules about food. Rules about clothing. Rules about activities and school and homework and friends and and and… I stumbled and bumbled and scrabbled my way through motherhood. I would try to make rules and be consistent and almost always I would totally fail. Oh, what the heck, have another cookie. Drink another coke. Watch another worthless TV show. Whatever. I was very strict about some things. Life and death things like swimming in Lake Superior (or anywhere, actually). Do NOT go swimming without an adult watching you! And, yes, my kids will say I was strict about homework and going to college. Those are not life and death issues but I believe that for *most* people, they are one of the keys to being successful enough to pay your own rent. And, no, I was usually not successful at getting them to do their homework until the last possible nano-second but they both successfully graduated from college and who knows what I had to do with that.

All in all, I think that making excessive rules and operating on zero tolerance policies just makes kids (or whoever) lie or find ways to circumvent the rules. Back to Florida. We were hanging out on the beach and we were having a great booze-free time, thank you very much. In between swimming, the beach urchins were reading and playing in the sand and I was checking out potential boyfriends for The Beautiful Aunt Susie (which was probably driving her nuts). Where was the GG? Hmmm… We looked around and saw him skulking around near the concession stand. What was he doing? Well. We found out a bit later when he returned with a big paper cup of sprite with ice. And bourbon. Where there is a will, there is a way and the GG had purchased a Sprite at the concession stand. He then skulked over to our old red minivan and surreptitiously spiked it from a bottle of bourbon that was rattling around the back of that vee-hickle.

Yes, I have posted this photooo recently. I have other pics from that trip to the Sunshine State but I’ll be darned if I’m gonna try to dredge them up and scan them tonight. This one shows the beach urchins and The Beautiful Aunt Susie. Who is not looking for a boyfriend, btw, because her husband of quite a few years now is the Wonderful Edmond.

Hell in a hand-basket

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Good god, what an awful night. Why? Because the [beautiful] full moon was shining in the window and that makes the GG restless and that means that I have to keep waking up too. So I was sleeping fitfully and I fell into REM sleep or whatever and I had this dream where I was at a Christmas dinner in some oddly arranged house and a whole bunch of friends and relatives who are, you know, on the other side, were there but they were alive and well and talking away just like they did twenty-five years ago or whenever. And The Commander (who is *not* on the other side) kept telling me what to do and what not to do and how to cook spaghetti sauce, yada yada yada. And there were about a billion dishes to wash. And Uber Kayak Woman (who is also not on the other side) was teaching me some kind of Celtic dance in a little utility-type room with a janitor’s closet off to the side that she kept darting in and out of. Cut. To a bunch of driving, ending with the GG and I driving down a two lane highway in the Dogha. It was really windy and he was going too fast. At least I thought so. And then. A little bronze-colored sports car coming the other direction scooted out into OUR LANE to pass somebody. I almost thought we were going to miss it but we sort of sideswiped it and then our vee-hickle turned into the old blue POC and it was starting to flip up in the air and then turn over… And then I woke up! Terrified!!! And couldn’t go back to sleep. Until just before it was time to get up. And then I had to force myself to get up.

And why did I write about this dream in my blahg? Well. Isn’t there an old adage about “don’t tell your dreams if you want them to come true?” I don’t really believe in old adages or wives’ tales or whatever but this is one dream I do NOT want to come true!!! So, just for good measure, I’m telling it, even though y’all are probably bored to tears. I don’t actually think it was a prescient dream. I think I was replaying an incident that happened on the way to a party we went to on Sunday. It was at a friend’s house off Geddes on the other side of Ypsilanti and I have only been there once and I couldn’t remember exactly where the entrance to the sub was so, although I was going close to the speed limit (50), I kept slowing down a bit to look at street signs. Alas, I had a tailgater. Suddenly, as I slowed down a bit, my tailgater pulled out to pass me. Right into the path of an oncoming vee-hickle. Yikes. I hit the brakes and prepared to hit the shoulder but fortunately she pulled back in behind me unharmed. And then I slowed down a *lot* just because I was ticked off and wanted to tick her off too. Yes, a little road rage on a Sunday afternoon. And then we missed the entrance and had to turn around and backtrack. Fun.

Kiddos, be careful driving!! And I think if the full moon is not obscured by clouds tonight, I will sleep on one of the Landfill couches and use my iPhone for an clock. Good morning, have a good day, and once again, be careful driving!!!

Blaaaaaaaaaaaaagggggggghhhhhhhh

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Yes, I have been boring lately. When you do a daily blahg, it can be a challenge to figger (*definitely* intentionally misspelled) out what to talk about. So, why do I do it every day? Because it is a challenge, of course! And I know that a whole bunch of people my mother reads my blather.

When I started this post, I had nothing to say, at least nothing to say that wouldn’t embarrass someone (aka, the GG or mom or kids) and that is not my focus here. And then there was an NPR story about preparing high school kids for dealing with finding jobs. How to dress for a job interview. What to say to the interviewer. Yada yada yada. They were focusing on inner-city type kids whose parents don’t always have the wherewithal to help their kids with this stuff. Oftentimes their mooms have cleaned toilets to make money to help their kids get ahead. Although I have a college education and ton of up-to-date job skills, I always have a hard time in job interviews. I struggle mightily with what to say and what to wear, even though I grew up being taught how to dress properly. I know that I can probably do the work. It’s learning the particular systems that apply to the particular situation that I need to learn. Can you say “budaah budaah budaah?”

I thought the NPR article was good. I think that there are plenty of kids who have no idea about how to approach a job interview and they need to know, at a minimum, what clothing to wear, etc. Where I diverge from the whole thing is that I wonder if we are educating our young children in the right ways. Mouse, who is almost 23 now, has expressed the opinion that middle school kids should spend those years working on a farm. Where work has to be done or living beings might die. The kids would learn responsibility in a real way that didn’t involve the often byzantine rules for handing in homework and maybe the ridiculous social structures that start in grade school and get accelerated in middle school would get knocked down.

Oh, and I have cleaned a lot of toilets in my life and I think toilet-cleaning is a skill that everyone should know how to do and one that no one on this earth should feel like they are above doing. That is about all.

If I could stop time.

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

I wanted to stop it today. Why? Because it was raining cats and dogs for most of the day. I love heavy rain and we needed it. The GG has been sick yet again with a cold-type virus. He went to work yesterday (yes it was a Saturday) and he looked like death warmed over when he came home. He isn’t back at 100% today but he did wake up without a fever this morning.

Today. First, I walked over to the Plum Market this morning, just when it opened. I walked down my block and there, big as life, was the Bread and Puppet bus. I had no idea what that was all about but I did get a photooo. I continued on to the Plum and there were NO vee-hickles on N. Maple. I wanted to stop time at this point. But time went on.

I drove the GG (no fever today but still not 100%) out along the river and into the county back roads. I wanted to stop time out on those back roads and slowly drive along in the country forever. Alas, we had to get back into reality. And so, a sloggy day at home and then a party at Vicki’s house. Easter eggs and chocolate and food and booze and friends old and new and…

G’night. Work tomorrow. Onward.

Stickers, box macaroni and cheese, and cherry limeade (oh yeah, and spaghettios too)

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

Rewind. 1987 or thereabouts. I’m not sure if I ever actually wrote “stickers” on my grokkery list in those days. I don’t think I had to because Lizard Breath wouldn’t let me pass the sticker aisle over at the Westgate Kroger. We had to buy two (count ’em) packages of stickers every time we went there. No, I don’t remember what she did with all those stickers. Yes, they were expensive but I was a pushover. Whaddya mean, your grokkery store didn’t have a sticker aisle?

Forward just a bit. 1992 maybe? It was summer and the Rotgutski kids (no, of COURSE that’s not their real name) were staying with their grandparents next door and all the kids were running back and forth between houses. At lunchtime, they all trooped in my back door. Max was wielding a box of that orange fluorescent macaroni and cheese. I hated that stuff even when I was a kid back in the Jurassic Age, therefore, my kids had not encountered it yet. I had been thinking that peanut butter sandwiches would make a fine lunch and I told the kids I wouldn’t cook that box. That was okay with them. They took the box over to “Papa” next door and he cooked it for them. After that, fluorescent orange macaroni and cheese was definitely on my grokkery list. I have *never* eaten any of that stuff but I spent plenty of time cooking it. Oh, by the way, I love “Papa” anyway.

Fast forward just a bit. I am one of those nuts who actually likes to do bookkeeping work and I had happily taken on the elementary school PTO’s mess. It was worse than I could ever have believed. The checkbook hadn’t been balanced in something like five years and both the IRS and the school principal were breathing down my neck. I spent about a week submerged in untangling the mess. Disengaged parenting? Getting to a breathing point, I emerged into the Landfill Chitchen and realized that somebody had cooked spaghettios. Who? I was the only adult home and I didn’t do it. Okay, I guess a 10-year-old who’ll be starting middle school in a couple weeks can cook spaghettios. Or shy-shows, as she used to call them.

Fast forward more. College and high school kids. I don’t know what got me onto cherry limeade (also known as Frog Juice around here). I actually think I first thought that my brother would like it. I don’t remember if he did or didn’t but it sure took off with the teenage set. One morning after Mouse had friends over, I got up and went into the Landfill Chitchen and found TWO empty half-gallons of that stuff. Heck, at least they weren’t drinkin’ our Kaintucky bourbon, roight?

I was at the Jackson Road Meijer grokkery store early this morning and I didn’t have a list so I was trawling along through the aisles hoping in vain that all the things I needed would jump off the shelves into my cart. I was passing the frog juice (cherry limeade) and my memories just about melted me down. It wasn’t so much that I wish my kids were still small or that I could go back to those days exactly. It was more that I can’t believe how fast time has gone. You have your first baby and you don’t know doodly-squat about raising children. I didn’t, anyway. Other peoples’ mileage may vary on that. You reinvent the wheel over and over again and you have some success. You make mistakes too. I certainly did. Some of the typical mistakes that most parents make and some unique Kayak Woman mistakes too. And then about the time you think you have it figured out, they are grown up and gone and you aren’t making fluorescent orange macaroni and cheese any more. Your one chance to bring up your children is over and sometimes they are even telling you what to do. And sometimes they are actually right! And yes, I did re-write this and yes, it’s a lame ending but I think it is a wee bit less lame than the drivel I wrote last night.

Oh, I did buy some Easter candy, now that the Halloween candy is finally gone. Should I send some to Cali?

Glub glub glub

Friday, March 26th, 2010

I am sorry but I am not one of those wunderkind who can manage to text message somebody from an iPhone while driving, even if I am driving an automatic tranny like I was today and especially if I am on westbound I94 going around the south end of The Planet Ann Arbor with about a brazillion trucks and what have you surrounding me. Tight WWII-style cloverleaf entrances anyone? Heading home, clunkity clunkity clunk along the crumbling I94 18-wheel Slogway. Clunkity ka-whomp. Finally. A crash landing in the Landfill driveway. (Don’t worry, no real crash (-: )

I sat there for a minute, reading the text messages that the GG sent while I was on the freeway, and called him. He was waiting for me downtown. This was not exactly a surprise. Last Friday we did meet downtown for dinner. He walked to work and then downtown and I came home from work and walked downtown. It was a beautiful warm day and I had great fun and even acted like a tourist here on the Planet that’s been my main home for 30 years. Last night we talked about doing it again tonight. I think it was even my idea. I do not think we made a firm plan but maybe I’m delusional. Or maybe he was delusional. Whatever. We’ve been married for a pretty long time and he also has an identical twin and sometimes I think he gets us mixed up and thinks he can actually read my mind. Not.

This afternoon, after five miles of walking and a whole day of work including a presentation, I sat there in my driveway and I thought to myself something like, “He’s downtown waiting for me and the last thing I feel like doing is jumping out of the Dogha, scrambling into the Landfill, changing my clothes and galumphing hucklety-buck all the way downtown.” Physically? I could probably have walked 10 miles. Psychologically? Glub glub glub. I felt like I needed at least a half hour to chill. Wash whatever dishes were around (Mouse beat me to it, thank you Mouse). Wash my face. Tink around with cosmic debris. Run my Roomba. Take the compost out. Blahg. Whatever. Bottom line? After much *intense* cat-herding, we’re going to Knight’s aka the neighborhood pub/steakhouse. We are even meeting friends there. It’ll be fun. It is Friday! TGIF!!!

There are developers and then there are developers.

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

I don’t normally do work blahgs. I think it is dangereuse to blahg about your work. If you say all kinds of awful things about it, you might just get faarrred if someone finds yer blahg. Roight.

As y’all have heard before, I love my job. And I have no complaints about the company. It is pretty dern good to me and so is my boss. I am not sucking up here. I don’t have to.

So today. Our company tried to set aside a day of fun for all of us. Except that we are computer people. We enjoy our work. It can be hard for us to stop working and have, well, you know, fun… In this phase of my life, my job title is Business Systems Analyst. I write functional specifications that tell developers how stuff is supposed to function. They take my specs and turn them into code. I actually like this job. It combines writing, spreadsheet work, flowcharts and other diagrams, and coding web pages. Our day of fun. A couple of developers arrived over in our area asking for “guidance” on what they were supposed to do on our corporate fun day. After we got done rolling around on the floor laughing, we wondered if we needed to write a functional specification on how to have fun? Oh, probably not. But…

I love computer/web software developers. Even when I don’t. I hate *real estate developers*. There’s a difference there. I remember talking at lunch one day about sprinkling a few of my brother’s ashes on the seat of a real estate developer’s bulldozer. Heck, we had sprinkled them just about everywhere else, including the Pickle Finger. Why not sprinkle a few on that blasted bulldozer? I did the honors on that little task. I don’t know how the conversation started but I suddenly realized that I was using the dreaded word “developer” in front of some of our wonderful web developers. I immediately tried to back-pedal and describe the difference between software developers and real estate developers. Yiiy! It was okay and a female developer around my age joked that she’d know who to blame if she found ashes on her keyboard.

Fun.

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Tomorrow is scheduled to be a special day at my work. We are celebrating a recent merger and there will be a presentation and a barbecue lunch and lots of activities in the afternoon. These were supposed to be outdoor activities but it is March and this is the Great White North and our long-suffering weatherman is sitting in the corner with a dunce hat on because he is not exactly predicting beautiful warm spring-like weather for tomorrow. Well. And then there’s me. And the team I am on. We are the geriatric team. We don’t like to have fun. Oh, that’s not exactly accurate. We do like to have fun and we like to have fun at work. But, for the most part, we are at work to *work* and when work is over we don’t, for example, meet a bunch of people at the bar for a technical staff meeting.

I am not complaining about this scheduled day of celebration. I think it’s great that corporations schedule events like this.

I am thinking back to my old job back in the Dark Ages of the computer world. I was just a kid then and so were some of the (beloved) folks I worked with. We did our jobs but we were constantly harassing each other and I was probably one of the worst perpetrators of the harassment. Rubber band fights? Yes. Paper airplanes? Yes. What else? Well. There was the day when I walked into the “computer room” and my friend Jim Carpenter was telling my friend Manuel, “I like ’em old but I don’t like ’em black.” I stopped in my tracks for a moment until I realized they were talking about BANANAS!!! Kee-reist!

By the end of my time there, I was finally starting to be an adult or whatever it is that I am now. We still had fun there but we had all grown up. We didn’t (usually) shoot rubber bands or fly paper airplanes any more and nobody called anybody else “Monkey Head” or “Igloo Face” any more or pulled chairs out from under someone else as they were trying to sit down. Yes, we were growing up. In the last year I worked there (1994), we had just about the most multi-cultural office I could imagine at the time. We collaborated to run a tight ship. That year was a hard year, one in which we were losing our contract. We kept on track even though some of us ended up losing our jobs and I think we did good work!

I will have fun tomorrow. I probably won’t enter the paper airplane contest. Actually, I think I only know how to make one paper airplane design. Er, maybe I should at least watch that contest… Or bring my roomba in…

Rating: Superior

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

The Old Coot, aka Grandroobly, aka my dad, was in college during World War II. His dad, my granddaddy, was on the Chippewa County draft board. My Granddaddy was having a hard time sending other people’s boys off to war while his were home safe getting the higher educations that my grandfather could afford to pay for and so many other people couldn’t. He told his boys they had to enlist. My dad chose the Army Air Corps. Mouse once interviewed him by telephone for a high school history project and he said something like, “You had to enlist if you wanted to choose the job you wanted to do.” His chosen job was pilot and he went on to tell Mouse about “the B29, biggest bomber in the world.” He said that a couple of times, if I remember. He was a flight instructor in WWII and so spent the duration of the war in the American southwest. I think that he was trained as a B29 flight engineer but I’m not sure if he ever actually flew one of those himself. He was just about to get sent to fly missions in the south Pacific when the A-bomb was dropped.

He married the Commander during the war and, after the war, they lived for a short time in her parents’ house in the Daytwa area. The Commander worked at the downtown Hudsons department store and my dad did factory work. The plan was that the factory work would finance his college degree. Allergies or whatever intervened and he and the Commander moved north to Sault Ste. Siberia and (eventually) had me and The Engineer.

For a few years, he worked in a factory up there, the tannery, and apparently he had a great time working with his co-workers there. Eventually, he went to work for the First National Bank. His dad was the president of that bank and he made my dad climb up from the bottom rung of the ladder. He started as a teller, if I have it right. Eventually, long after my grandfather died, my dad became the president of that bank.

My dad died before the big bank meltdown of 2008. He was an old-school banker. Toward the end of his career in the early 1980s, he made a deal with a bank holding company to take over “his” bank. He got along very well with those folks when they came to town but they did tell him that it wasn’t “bankerly” to take a peanut butter sandwich lunch to work every day. I dunno. If the occasion called for it, my dad could do the legendary three martini lunch as well as anyone but it was not an every-day thing. Peanut butter? Yes.

The last couple years of dad’s life, he repeated a story. Sometimes the old folks repeat a story because they forget they have told it before. But I think my dad repeated this story as a kind of parable. When he was a young banker and his dad was the bank president, his dad dragged him off on a collection one day. They drove down to the Sugar Island ferry dock and parked. They walked onto the ferry and, when they got onto Sugar Island, they walked up the road for a mile or so. They collected a cow. They walked the cow down the road and took it onto the ferry and somebody with a truck was waiting for them on the other side. My dad always ended this story with, “When you are in the banking business, you can get into all kinds of shit.”

My dad could’ve been an airline pilot or a forester or an engineer [or a writer, even] or whatever he wanted to do. He was successful at what he did do, which was banker.

I think he knew that he didn’t exactly reach the potential that he could have. In his later years, when he was sitting in his cabin looking out at Lake Superior and asking for another eighth of a drink, he would sometimes say that he was a “successful failure”. I know exactly what he was saying but I don’t think he was a failure at all.

My dad was a pretty humble person for the most part. The Army Air Corps rated him as SUPERIOR! The Commander found this amongst his papers.

My dad died four years ago today. We are okay with this. He had a peaceful passing. I am just remembering him here.

Just when you thought it was safe to make a cup of coffee on a dreary Monday afternoon…

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

I thought that my post from yesterday was just about the clumsiest post I have ever written, all that crap about Asperger’s, which I don’t really know anything about. Today started out as a very drab day and I was going to try to clarify some of that. But that will have to wait. Because in the middle of the afternoon, I received a rather alarming text message that the front right burner on my stove had “blown up”. Now. I have had a few experiences with various stove burners “blowing up” and your mileage can vary on that kind of thing. It sounded like things were basically okay at the Landfill. There was nothing about “fire engines are here” or anything. So, with some trepidation, I phoned home. Yiiy! My Mouse was heating water to make a cup of coffee with her French press. She was standing at the sink, which is a couple feet to the right of the right front burner on the stove. The burner started making a buzzing noise and then began shooting sparks. Lots of sparks. Bright sparks. My Mouse snaked her arm over from where she was standing at the sink and managed to turn the burner off. That turned off the whole mess. Fortunately none of this started a fire. So. Was it just that burner or was it the whole blasted stove? She called the GG, aka Mr. Fix-it. He thought burner. She turned on the back left burner (same size as the front right). There was a little waft of smoke. She *thought* it was from food residue on the burner pan. *I* thought it was from food residue on the burner pan. She was spooked. I wasn’t there. I was spooked. Was my stove dead or not? I didn’t know. After I got off the phone, my cube neighbors, who were on tenterhooks hearing me talk about sparks and burners and smoke very tentatively asked, “Okay, we don’t want to be nosy, but…?” I totally cracked up.

My stove was not new when we bought the Landfill and that was 25 years ago. But I have always liked my stove. It’s predictable (until today!) and I get along with it. I think we have replaced burners before but we have never had a big spectacular blowout like this. I am pretty sure that my Mouse was calmer about dealing with it than I would’ve been but I know it was scary. My immediate thought was something like, “oh crap, yesterday I pre-cooked a whole bunch of stuff for this week and now I don’t have a stove and I’ll end up having to throw it all out”. Like CPP (chicken pot pie) for tonight.

And another thought… We are about to remodel our kitchen. I know I keep talking about that and, no, we haven’t made a lot of progress lately. But we will and when we do, we will buy a new stove. As much as I like this one, it is time. And after today, it is really time. I know that during the remodeling process there will be a period of time when I don’t have a stove or much of anything else in the space formerly known as the Landfill Chitchen. I do *not* think I will have a good time with that. I *know* I will argue and fight with the GG about that. We are married, after all. Just saying. What I don’t want to have to deal with is being without a stove from *now* until we manage to get the remodeling prodject (intentionally misspelled) going.

It’s all okay. For now. The back left burner did indeed waft up some smoke because there was food residue on the burner pan below it. It works and so do all of the other burners. Including the oven burner. (Er, knock on wood for all of this.) And we are going to try to get a new burner for the front right from Mastertech. With luck, we’ll make it with this loverly old stove until the Landfill Chitchen gets sledgehammered.

She who dies with the most toys wins.

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

Pooh left a very interesting comment on my scrabbled-together blahg post of late last night. Like later than I usually stay awake. She was talking about casting kids with diagnosed disorders like Asperger’s Syndrome. I have to disclaim here that I do not really think that Asperger’s (and maybe even ADHD) is a disorder. I think that the kids who have these “disorders” just do not fit in to today’s model of education. And that would be a whole ‘nother blahg or a hundred or so. Except that…

I will bet that, if I hadn’t grown up in a small town where my parents and grandparents were well respected and some wonderful cousins had already gone through the schools, that I may have had more trouble with school than I did. I don’t really think I have Aspergers but I was socially awkward and usually so bored with school that I could’ve easily started making trouble like so many kids who are nowadays diagnosed with that “disease”. I didn’t make trouble. I always tried to fit in. It wasn’t easy then but I sort of managed it and I actually do pretty okay as an adult. I can be social but I don’t tend to talk incessantly about my kids or my parents or whatever. That’s all my business.

The Ann Arbor Young Actors Guild is the organization where Mouse began her acting career at the age of eight. The YAG organization has always tried to include any child who showed any interest at all. I will never forget the morning that I walked a rather reluctant young Mouse over to the schoolyard behind our house and dropped her off with the wonderful British woman who runs YAG. I think that the YAG director has as much to do with my childrens’ upbringing as I do but I’m not going to go there tonight. The YAG vision was, in part, that anyone and everyone has talent and it is worth it to try to develop that for everyone and create a community in the process.

*Pooh is one of my uber cousins, that is the gals who share my birth year. She is not in the photo but I would bet dollars that she’s only a few feet away. Uber Kayak Woman is the dark-haired kid and I am the towhead. I do not remember that inner-tube so I can only guess that I managed to grab it away from UKW.

Why yes indeed, those were old Kayak Woman clothes up there on the stage

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

Tonight I finally got to see Mouse/Prudence in her latest play, Beyond Therapy (scroll down for a promotional video and yes, I posted it last week too).

Many friends and a sizable contingent of relatives showed up for the last performance tonight. That was greatly appreciated and this obnoxious, baggy old stage moom got the change to answer a few questions, which I will paraphrase and answer tonight, mainly because I am too fried to write about anything else. All I did was cook and clean today and you do *not* want to read (again) about me dancing around with my Roomba.

Question: Do you ever get nervous that she’ll flub her lines? Answer: No. I do not. She is a well-trained actress who disciplines herself about learning lines and all of the other details involved in acting. I don’t think I have been nervous about this since she was about 10.

Question: How many plays has she been in? Answer: I have long lost count. She has been acting since she was eight. I had to bribe her to participate the first time. That is too long a story for tonight and one I’ve told before. She has also directed, stage-managed, and costumed various shows.

Question: Will she be in this organization’s next play? Answer: I have no idea. The process for participating in a play involves finding out about the auditions, deciding whether or not to audition (are there interesting roles/opportunities, etc.), auditioning, aaaannnnnd… getting cast in the play! I don’t know when the organization’s next play is but there’s a good chance that the auditions have already taken place, so probably the answer is no. And, by the way, Mouse is good but that doesn’t guarantee her a role in any given play. That’s the breaks.

Question: Did she get paid? Answer: No. This is community theatre. Most community theatre organizations run on a shoe-string budget. I know, I used to help manage one. Support them if you can. And are interested. I mean, maybe you’re more interested in fly-fishing or something. (“Ifya wanta find a good-lookin’ man, go find a fly-fisherman,” to quote a sister-in-law of mine.)

My favorite question, although it was really not so much a question as a thoughtful observation: But how can this talented actress be the same person as the quiet little mouse child I’ve always known? Answer(s): Describing someone’s personality takes about a billion words. Mouse can seem quiet at times but, trust me, she is not. Also, when she is on-stage as an actress, she is portraying a character, not herself. That’s why, in the best of circumstances, actors take their costumes and makeup off before they greet the public after the performance. The character belongs in the theatre, on the stage, not in the real world. This question interests me in general because I sometimes wonder what people who know me only from the Internet would think if they met me in person. I am not anywhere near as exciting as I sometimes portray myself on my blahg.

Finally, the question I wish someone *had* asked because I would’ve cracked up: Where did she get all those crazy costumes? Answer(s): The play was set in the 1980s and, for this play, the actors largely had to come up with their own costumes. I don’t have many dresses and things left from that era. What the heck, I was having babies then (er, including Mouse herself, 1987)! So, for her main wardrobe, she trawled Value World and adapted some of her own stuff. But the glittery black shawl and the sequined purses and the flashy gold belt? Those were mine!

Ann Arbor hippie

Friday, March 19th, 2010

The first time I was mistaken for an “Ann Arbor Hippie”, I was practically a kid and didn’t even live on the Planet Ann Arbor. Of course, I mistook the person who mistook me for an Ann Arbor Hippie for one of those dreaded frat boys. Sheesh. He was from Bolivia and I was from Sault Ste. Siberia. Frat boy? Not. Hippie? Not. Although I can’t say that I didn’t think it would be cool to be a hippie back when hippies were doing all kinds of cool things and I was a totally uncool teenager stuck in a snowbank up there in Siberia.

Years later, I was mistaken for a “hippie” again. We were with our then elementary school age beach urchins at the Log Slide near Grand Marais in the good old Yoop. We were at the top of the log slide, high above Lake Superior. All four of us had tie-dyed t-shirts on, and we were kind of wandering around at the top of the slide. Some obnoxious divorced woman with kids (and believe me, we knew she was divorced only because she proclaimed it loudly to anyone within earshot) was babbling about dragging her school-aged kids down the log-slide. Something like, “we’ll have accomplished so much when we have walked back up.” You know the kind. Here’s a short video of someone else going down the logslide. The last thing I wanted to do was walk all the way down that log slide and back up in deep sand with little kids. I could see tears in that future, most likely mine. Yiiy. Anyway, she glommed onto our t-shirts and asked us where we were from. That’s always a complicated question for me to answer but the short answer is “Ann Arbor”. “Ohhhh, you are old hippies,” she said. Er, well, not so much, uh he is a computer scientist and I am a systems analyst. We own a rather typical ticky-tacky-type house, some furniture, and a few automotive vee-hickles, including a minivan in those days. We do like tie-dyed t-shirts. Yes.

Tonight. I got home from work and walked downtown to meet the GG for dinner. He had walked to work today and then to downtown. This was all my idea. We used to walk downtown all the time. The last few years, I have been a stick-in-the-mud. I can’t exactly explain why. A facet of my own personal grieving process in part and also ramping up into full-time employment after years of beach-slugging and whatever. We weren’t out late tonight. We ate at the Old Town and then walked around for a while and then the GG dragged me kicking and screaming into the martini bar (beware, site plays music) on the way home. And guess what? I *loved* it in there! I’m not sure what is with me sometimes. Click here or on the pic for a few photos of my A-squared city on Flickr.

G’night, yer wanna-be-once-but-not-quite-hippie kayak woman signing off from the back room of her loverly Landfill home on the Planet Ann Arbor. With the doors open because it is warm but it’ll prob’ly snow tomorrow. It is March and this is the Great Lake State, blah blah blah.

Lightbulb fairy needed at the top of the Landfill Dungeon steps!

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Yaknow, if you come home so early in the afternoon that yer wife has only been home for 15 minutes or so, you get tasked with things to do. I mean, I work too and I greatly enjoy a bit of alone time when I get home in the afternoon and being greeted with “LUUUUCY, I’M HOME!!!” while I am washing my feet is a bit disconcerting. Yes, I know that washing your feet just for the heck of it is a luxury for most people in the world. Living near abundant sources of fresh water may be one of the few perks of living in the god-forsaken Great Lake State and I will take advantage of it for now, thank you very much for asking. If the great lakes ever shrink so much that I have to walk out to Round Island to find a bit of water, we will be in trouble…

That old black Ford vee-hickle in the photooo was my baby car. I actually remember it. I think that the shape in the back seat is me. I remember us driving to St. Ignace in that vee-hickle to watch the Mackinac Bridge being built. The bridge that I cross frequently enough now that I have a commuter card to get through the toll booth.

Anyway, the light above the landing on top of the Landfill Dungeon stairs has been burned out since I came home from the Great White North. I hate to change light bulbs in general and I *really* hate to change light bulbs when I have to get up on a stool with the stairs to the dungeon right next to me. I hate those little screws that are in most traditional ceiling light fixtures. What blasted engineer designed those??? Women of the world, let’s change that!!!

[Grand]mommy blahgger

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

This beautiful woman did not have a blahg. I don’t think she even kept a diary although she was an intelligent, literate woman with a high school diploma and maybe a year of business college? Somebody keep me honest here! At any rate, she was well educated for someone born in the late 19th century in some little town in Ontario to parents who were probably scrabbling their way to a good life in the new world. I never met my great grandparents but Grandma Margaret created a good life for herself, as you can see by the smile in the pic.

I remember her picking blueberries but I am guessing that picking berries was not her favorite activity. I think she did like being out in the woods with her grandchildren. Her husband aka Grandberry was well known within the family as a berry-picker. I have many other more prominent memories of grandma as a busy moom of four and grandma of 11. Active church circle member and I don’t know what else. Busy, busy, busy. If I went to the grokkery store with her, she would buy me whatever I wanted. Pretzels? Candy? Barbie Dream House? Yes. I went to the grokkery store (the old A&P, now SuperValu) with her many times when the Engineer and I stayed with her and Grandberry when our parents were out of town. It was pretty cool staying there. Not only because we were doted on but because we could walk to our own elementary school from her house. It was a longer walk, much more interesting than red-queening across the street. We could play with different classroom friends, the ones who lived in my grandparents’ part of the neighborhood. Nowadays when I walk on the south side of Sault Ste. Siberia, it takes me maybe 10 minutes to walk between my old house and my grandparents’ old house but it seemed a lot farther away as an 8-year-old.

Anyway, this is my grandma and she is gamely wielding a berry-picking box and giving her trademark smile for the camera but she is probably thinking about ten thousand things other than picking berries. I’m just guessing here. How could I know? I think there is a hint of Uber Kayak Woman in her expression. That’s a little weird because I always think of UKW as looking more like her dad, who was an outlaw. A much beloved outlaw but still. I have seen photos of Grandma that showed flashes of Pengo Janetto too. And others and, well, meeeee.

And so, the precession of the generations goes on…

Noso Lisi Tors

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

I stole this image from Mouse’s facebook, with her permission. It’s taped to my front door, after all. The weather gets a little warm here on the Planet Ann Arbor and the door-to-door folks come out of the woodworks. Replacement windows folks. Bathtub liner folks. Jehovah’s Witnesses. I have a beloved childhood friend who is happily involved in that sect and I am pretty sure he knows enough not to try to proselytize to me but he doesn’t operate on The Planet Ann Arbor that I know of.

I don’t really mind the Jehovah’s Witnesses at my door. I don’t believe in the stuff that they believe in but they are real people and when I say “no thanks”, they are polite and go away. It’s some of the others that infuriate me. There was one time when a rowdy college-age nitwit asked me to “sponsor” him in some “young American” contest or whatever. By buying candy. Roight. I had two tiny children in my house then and he made me a little nervous. So, I said, “no thanks!” and then I shut the big wooden door. I could hear the nitwit saying, “she just slammed the door on me” and laughing as he left my porch. And then, a few years ago, some guys DROVE into my driveway and got out of their vee-hickle with what kind of looked like cleaning supplies but I wasn’t quite sure. They were *really* weird and I was home alone and I was wishing my kids were *not* in college/high school then because three women can certainly be better at getting rid of an unwanted person at the door than one. But they left and they got in their vee-hickle and drove slowly down the street and around the corner before they pulled up into someone else’s driveway.

Mouse posted this sign over the weekend. The GG and I were both out of town but, even though Mouse is a competent adult, I kicked into Moom mode when I heard that there were solicitors in the neighborhood. Lock the door! Do not let those people in! I once made a sign similar to the one that Mouse made. If you are a girl scout or a boy scout or a student at one of the neighborhood schools, I will probably buy something from you. Religious folks? I won’t be rude to you but do not come here. Others? Stay out, please. And you magazine sales folks who are victimizing college students in the summer. Do not come here!!!! Blechhh!

Triangulating through the Twilight Zone

Monday, March 15th, 2010

Ouch! Crash-landed on the Planet Ann Arbor this afternoon following a non-stop drive down the I75 SUV Speedway from the Yoop. Well, I did stop long enough to hand the Mackinac Bridge tollbooth guy my commuter card. That was it. No, I did not get deep vein thrombosis just in case you’re wondering. It was not what I would call a good day and we won’t say anything much more about that. Y’all just do not want to know. I did not hit a deer today. That was good. I saw one at the side of the road in the Yoop but it was running along parallel to the road and not interested in jumping out in front of me. Clarification: No accident. Smooth drive home, dry roads, light traffic. Crash landing = back to the reality of work and chores, etc.

Grandroobly (aka my dad) had exactly two automotive accidents in his life. As a WWII flight instructor, he was rated as a superior airplane pilot. He was pretty good with automobiles too. Both of his automotive accidents involved a deer jumping out in front of him on M28. If I have it right, both accidents happened in the same location, just after he crossed a certain bridge. I can’t remember which bridge though! The first time this happened, the parents were driving to Munising (or maybe Marquette) to attend a banking function. They took the “bank car”, a vee-hickle that spent a lot of time parked at our house. The second time was when they were driving over to Houghton to attend my brother’s wedding. I think Grandroobly was probably driving his big old “banker green” Buick that time. We used to tease the old man that he always bought dark green vee-hickles. I own one now too. Anyway, no one was injured in either accident except maybe the deer.

I had long been looking forward to a long weekend in the Yoop with Uber Kayak Woman and others. When I first got there, it felt like we had forever. Like it always does. It’s over. I am back down here on the Planet. Ka-whomp. I am actually looking forward to being in my cube tomorrow. I wonder what I was working on last week. Actually, I do know what to get started on in the morning. I’ll still miss crashing out in my sleeping bag on the Commander’s couch.

Architecturals. Whammity whammity whammity.

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

The plan was to schedule a french toast breakfast at 8:30 AM EDT. Yes, EDT. Because for some reason the clock wizards convened a couple years ago and decided to push daylight savings time up into mid-March. I had forgotten this little factoid and when The Commander reminded me about it a couple weeks ago, I thought she was delusional. Anyway, even losing an hour, I was figuring that an 8:30 breakfast would give us plenty of time to get ready. It’s *breakfast* right? It happens in the *morning*, fer kee-reist. I was ready for daylight time, I thought. I have been waking up reliably at five o’clock AM the last few days and I did that this morning too. The problem was that, with daylight time, five o’clock was six o’clock. And so our breakfast guest arrived just about the time I was returning from my not-as-0-dark-30-as-usual walk this morning. That was okay because our guest was the Grinch and he and other folks entertained themselves with a rollicking conversation that I didn’t totally catch but it touched on UFOs and falling down black holes, among other things.

From there? An inspection tour and waterfront drive. Then out to the beach. We didn’t have snowshoes and didn’t feel like walking postholing down the beach, so we walked down the old road to the old Doelle lighthouse-keeper’s house (which, by the way, is apparently being restored or renovated). We veered off onto deer trails part of the time to avoid the remaining drifts of rotting snow on the road. Back for a visit and walk to the beach with our northern correspondent Paulette, who created the art in the photo. And then on to the Dancing Crane Coffeehouse for some chili that totally hit the spot. It was on the way to the coffeehouse that I realized I hadn’t changed the Ninja’s clock and that I’d been relying on that clock for the official time for most of the day, never mind that I have a cell phone that changes time automatically.

Back to reality after that, Glen’s, The Commander’s house and TECH SUPPORT!!! On a Sunday afternoon, no less. The Houghton Lake webcam was down. Usually, this is a matter of the GG fiddly-doodling around with switches and things. Not today. The password into the server on which the webcam photos are stored went bad. Why? Because that host, where I have my “business” website (click at your own risk and beware of link rot, etc.) that I don’t use because I have a, you know, “real” job, decided that all of its customers needed to change their passwords to something more secure. Today. Who knew? They had not informed me.

The process for doing this involved logging in with the old pw and then they would email me with a temporary pw and that would take 10-15 minutes and then I could log in with the temp pw and change my pw blah-de-blah-de-blah-de. Except that the email didn’t arrive and didn’t arrive and didn’t arrive and the GG was at Houghton Lake waiting for news… I called the tech support number and (of course) was on hold forever and that was okay because when I put my iPhone down, I could hear the music and “thanks for your patience” messages, dum-de-dum-de-dum. I began a chat session at the same time and was greeted by “Jason K” and he gave me the typical responses that their system was working so the problem must be on my end. *Finally* the temporary password came through and, after a number of other gyrations, I was able to log on and change my password to a more “secure” password.

I was not impressed by this whole unplanned Sunday afternoon exercise. I don’t know. Maybe my host service was hit by a particularly awful hacker and this was an emergency and, if so, they are forgiven. But if this was a planned exercise, I think they need to hire a few decent business/systems analysts who can write functional specifications for changes like this, thinking through all of the ifs, whats, and buts of the potential user experience.

Now. Uber Kayak Woman is playing the mbira in the living room and leftover lasagna is in the oven and there is a fantastic pie cooling and salad and the Grinch will be along soon and the garbage doesn’t have to go out until tomorrow night and so I won’t be involved in that argument because tomorrow morning I will be putting my troll costume on again and heading back down to Megalopolis.

Time traveling with a lime juice hangover

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

I posted this loverly snowpile photooo on Twitter and Facebook this morning. This is what the cities of the Great White North look like at the end of the long northern winter. That snow was probably plowed/dumped into a huge mountain back in December, when Siberia got most of its snow this winter. If I had posted a photo of the snowpile then, it would have been beautiful. A towering mountain of sparkling white snow, perfect for little Sault Ste. Siberian street urchins, like I once was, to sled on. Right into the street. Yes. Now? A pile of snow laced with dirt and the scat of whatever aminal (intentionally misspelled) happened along. Heck, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a few of the fine folks visiting the Gin Mill a couple doors down had “watered” that hill. Er, is the Gin Mill still there? I know it burned a few years ago. I was actually *in* town *at* Kenny’s Pitchen, with Uber Kayak Woman no less, when it burned and we watched it from across the canal.

A couple of Facebook friends commented about those snowpiles and how long the winters were/are up here and how ugly spring can be with all of that crappy snow. Nowadays, I don’t spend long periods of time here in the winter, so it’s all fun and interesting but I remember one April when I was a junior in high school, and I was hanging out the window in my parents’ second floor bedroom looking over deep snow everywhere. It was warm that day and the snow was starting to melt but I was thinking, “when the heck will winter ever end.” Yes, April. And then a Lincoln School friend reminisced about playing marbles on the way to/from school through big mud puddles with dirty old boilerplate ice to make things interesting. Whomp. Time travel! I was never all that good at marbles myself and I don’t remember the rules we played by. I do remember playing marbles, boulders and puries and marbles going into mud puddles and underneath cornices of boilerplate ice, never to be seen again.

Today I walked down onto the south side. I walked south from The Commander’s house and ran like heck across Ashmun and picked my way down Cotey’s Hill and there I was. It was like it used to be. Mostly small houses, some bigger than others, some better maintained than others. Families outside doing things in the 60-degree March weather. No huge mud puddles or ice cornices like there often are at this time of year. This year. I am, uh, meeeee, and I was thinking what will I say if someone asks me what the heck I am doing there? Really, my brain was going hucklety-buck and I was convinced that if anyone asked me anything, like what the heck are you doin’ here, ya ol’ bag, I was gonna say, “I am a time traveler.” Of course, most people totally ignored me. Finally, some middle school age kids *very* tentatively approached me. “Have you seen a dog?” I hadn’t and I told them that and I was sad about it. I was remembering the week when I was six and my loverly dog Tigger was lost. I said that I hoped they found their dog and very sincerely wished them luck. I am a time traveler but I don’t have any dog-finding super powers.

We are all here now and the lasagna is out and settling a bit. Can you go home? What is it like in your old house or neighborhood? When I walked by my childhood house today, on the sidewalk, thinking about where the lilac bushes used to be, I wondered if the folks who live there now felt my quiet footsteps. Sandals in the snow through the ages of time.

Beach Haunting and Bridge Finding and Crane Dancing

Friday, March 12th, 2010

I have been in Michigan’s UP in March when there were huge piles of snow and the temperature was below zero. Fahrenheit, that is. I have been in Michigan’s UP when there were huge piles of snow and the temperature was in the 50s and there was running water everywhere and I was walking down the Green Tunnel Road with the beach urchins and there were four-foot snowbanks on either side of the road. Unbelievably, a small white insect of the species lepidoptera flew up out of one of those huge snowbanks. We didn’t have any skis or snowshoes with us that day so about all we did was walk down the road to Radical Betty’s and hang out there for a while. But that was years ago…

This March? It has been a mild winter up here this year. There was some fairly serious snow back in December but it all sort of petered out after that and that’s a good thing for older folk who need to get out of the house but maybe not so much for the ski and sno-mo industry. There is almost no snow up here this year and it is warm. In the 40s. I was able to drive the Ninja down the hill and park it behind the cabin. Performance tires (whatever they are) and all. We could walk *down* to the beach in just our boots. The beach? Snowshoes were absolutely required. Neither Uber Kayak Woman or I are particularly experienced with snowshoes. We both ski (she does extreme skiing, I am a decent x-c skier on a good day). Snowshoes? We did okay. I had a little trouble with my big bulky snowboots sliding out of the toe-piece of my snowshoes.

So, we haunted the beach today. We also found the old Fort Street bridge, thank you very much, Mac. We danced (or at least had coffee) at the Dancing Crane Coffeehouse and bought maple syrup in Rudyard and scanned photoooos and I am outta steam now and I forget what else because I am now outta steam. Yes. Lather, rinse, repeat. Tired. Goodnight. Click here or on the pic for Spring Break at the Beach 2010.