Road Trip through the Dirty South

Winter in Northeast Ohio had taken its toll on me, as I knew it would. Though this winter was, in hindsight, considered mild, it still left me feeling unmotivated, closed in, and cold. Always cold. Luckily I had the forethought to plan a trip to Florida during spring break.

My daughter and I left early on a Friday morning and didn’t return until two Sundays later. In those nine days I drove through Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. And that was just one way. Coming home, we added Maryland and Pennsylvania to the list. Nine states in nine days. It was as exhausting as it sounds.

What was really great about this trip was that I had never made this particular drive before. I had never been through southern Ohio, and it was my first time in West Virginia. Every highway, every vista, every overlook was new to me, at least until we reached Charlotte, North Carolina. Then, as one would expect, I was home. Still hundreds of miles from my actual home, but home in the sense that I didn’t have to wear a coat in the middle of March, and sweet tea is a restaurant staple. I saw a palm tree. I needed nothing more.

In Charlotte, we visited with one of my best friends and her daughter, to whom I inadvertently spilled the beans that Santa isn’t real. (Shit. Sorry, D.) Another friend and his family stopped by our hotel room for a few hours. I hadn’t seen him in at least six years, and I finally met his wife and children. The little ones played in the hotel pool while we grownups snitched to hotel management on a group of reckless teenagers. (Boy, have the times changed. It feels like not too long ago that group of reckless teenagers used to be us. And then I became hotel management.)

In Jacksonville, we spent time with the entire family, including my parents, my brothers, and the dogs. There are always dogs. Nick flew in from New Hampshire. Brian drove up from Orlando. We met the girlfriend, watched Hell or High Water, reunited with friends from the neighborhood, got sunburned at the zoo, and spent a day at the beach. The water was freezing, but I didn’t mind. I only needed the sun and the sound of the waves.

In Charlottesville, I purposely booked a hotel designed after the German Tudor style. We spent the entire afternoon with one of my oldest friends and his wife touring Monticello and Jefferson’s gardens. (I purchased seed packets from the Monticello garden and, at this very moment, my nasturtium is starting to come through the soil. Minicello may be on hold, but my desire to grow Jefferson-approved flowers will not be quashed.) My intention while in Charlottesville was to visit James Madison’s house, as well, and maybe take a foot tour of University of Virginia, but by this point I was exhausted. That we stayed up sharing stories until well past our bedtimes (ahem…10pm) only made things worse. But, oh…the stories. And my daughter learned so much about me over dinner. Ha!

In Harper’s Ferry, our last stop before heading back to Cleveland, we spent the night with another of my closest friends at her parents’ home in the mountains. Again, I had every intention on visiting downtown, or at least taking in some of the historic sites around Harper’s Ferry, but I could barely muster the energy to stay awake at this point. I even had to insist we stay in to eat dinner because another minute in the car would have been the end of me! I’m so glad I made this stop, though, and I feel like my road trip would have been incomplete without seeing them. And now our kids are the same age we were when we met. What?

How does time fly so quickly? Where did it go? This trip, for me, was more about the people than the places. I know time cannot be reclaimed, but please…let’s not wait too long before we do it all over again. In new cities. In new places. Just like we always do. Just like we did. To see my family and my oldest friends –  sometimes I need nothing more.

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New Beginnings

It is springtime, finally. My clematis is beginning to bloom and all the trees are filling out with leaves. So far we’ve had two nighttime thunderstorms roll through the city. All the parts of the state that were experiencing drought are now experiencing flash flooding. The wind keeps bringing down tree limbs that have been barely hanging on since last year’s ice storm. No tornadoes yet, though we usually save those up for the month of May. I think I’ve lived here long enough to recognize humidity. It is still a thing I smell before I feel.

My husband was laid off from his long-term job a few months ago. For years we had discussed this possibility, seeing as the oil and gas industry has been schizophrenic as of late. It was to be our ticket out of Oklahoma, this layoff. A way to start over somewhere else, maybe, but without the responsibility of having to decide to quit a stable job for something that was a big, big risk. When you don’t have a job, you don’t have the risk. Or so I thought.

Any change is still a big risk. The kid is finally happy here. Ridiculously happy, I might add. A move to any part of the country will, for her, be dramatic, traumatic, devastating, etc. My husband is fairly easygoing, but as the sole provider of the family for the last four years, he carries a lot of stress these days. He has had to consider moving to a city that he would never live in otherwise, if he has a choice. Which, hopefully, we still have for a while longer. What are the pet laws in other cities? We are not separating our family, dogs included. It is something we didn’t think about before. We never had to. And I have decided to put graduate school on hold. When you are calculating your savings into how many months your mortgage can be paid on time, a master’s degree isn’t a priority.

Yet, I am ready to go. Somewhere. (Almost) Anywhere. It is exciting, and a bit terrifying, to see what happens next. Where will it be? Are we staying? Are we going? Will it be different? Will it be the same? Will everyone be okay?

Until then, we have been going on with our lives as though we will be staying in Oklahoma City. Elle has submitted her high school electives for 9th grade (this fall – can you believe it!?). I planted tomatoes and eggplant and multi-colored bell peppers that I hope to be able to enjoy.  There are no plans for a summer vacation. Maybe a weekend visit to Hot Springs, Arkansas, or Dallas. But a vacation anywhere else seems irresponsible, frivolous.

The writing cabin is mostly finished. There are just a few things that need to be done – namely the ceiling panel boards. I spend about 3-5 hours a day in here doing reading assignments and writing short essays. I am currently finishing up a research paper and looking forward to only one more week of school. Since October I have been steady working on Russian trauma, Nazi atrocities, and the black experience in America. It’s all been very depressing, but I’m more than halfway through my degree work.

I have watched baseball games, gymnastics championships, and a show about alien abductions in my cabin. I have also read novels in here, for fun. I have fallen asleep with the windows open and woken up to birds and squirrels chattering away. It’s my favorite place, this cabin. And, if we end up moving, it is definitely coming with us. That’s the only thing we are certain about right now.

I love this little cabin. And I've already had a sparrow family move in to my petunia basket! They're quiet neighbor's, so far, until the kids get hungry. #Scissortail #cabin #tinyhouse #sheshed #writingstudio//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

A Tour of the Midwest: Part Two

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Our first night at Little Cedar Lake started late. We pulled in around 9:30 Wednesday evening, said hello to our hosts for the week (my cousin Debbie and her fiance, Mike), and went to unpacking the van straight away so we could get to the business of sleeping. For months I had been looking forward to “glamping” in one of my cousin’s two glampers. Oh, the fresh air, and the sounds of nighttime! Who was I kidding? I gave up after a few hours and went inside to take over the couch.

I woke up refreshed, as if I’d slept a full 8 hours (which NEVER happens). And with the sun shining so brightly outside, I actually wondered if I had slept in too late. When I checked the time it wasn’t yet 6 o’clock. IN THE MORNING. Northern latitudes – you play mean tricks! I immediately thought of all those nights as a kid in Upper Michigan when I could play outside until it was 10 o’clock at night. The sun comes up at four a.m. during some parts of the year. Then a delightful thought sprang into my mind – GO BACK TO BED. IT’S TOO EARLY. Before I fell back to sleep, I took this photograph so I could remember not only the view I had each day, but also what early morning looks like up north.

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We spent most of our days on the lake. There was fishing. There was boating. There were July Fourth fireworks coming from every direction. There was family reunion-ing. I finally met my cousin’s son, born only two months after my own daughter. He is autistic but he held my hand when we said goodbye to each other. I’ll remember that forever.

Little Cedar Lake

Little Cedar Lake

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I took some time to introvert in the glamper – to read, to nap, to listen to the birds.

Little Cedar Lake

Little Cedar Lake

Little Cedar Lake

The weather was near-perfect everyday. Having adapted to Oklahoma’s dry heat from Florida’s humidity, I worried Wisconsin would chill me to the bone. I believed in this fact so hard that I actually packed winter clothing. Silly of me, really. It turns out the heaviest thing I ever wore was a flannel, so quick was I to tap into my once-northern blood.

Though I’d never been to Little Cedar Lake before this, the surrounding towns played a huge part in my growing up. My parents brought us to visit this side of the family often – we only lived five hours away when I was a kid – and we’d established traditions. My childhood is here. At the farmhouse, at the Jackson Motel, at the Everly House, at Jim’s Bakery (now Jim’s Place), in the cornfield where, decades ago, my cousin and his friends showed me where they stashed their booze.

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Sometimes we ventured away from Little Cedar Lake. There were day trips to see the old Pabst Brewery in Milwaukee and other drives north to Port Washington and Green Bay. But we always returned to Little Cedar Lake in time for the sunset.

We can’t wait to get back.

Little Cedar Lake

Little Cedar Lake

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Next stop: Port Washington and Milwaukee. Or, as I like to call it, Milwhoa (like Joey from Blossom – I can’t help it).

The Soul is Very Human

my lovely Libby

This lovely girl has been on my mind all day. My Bee. My precious, beautiful Bee. I don’t know if our family ever agreed on what Bee what short for. Her name was Libby, so Bee was an obvious nickname. But was her name always Libby? Didn’t we once consider naming her Liberty because we brought her home around the Fourth of July?

I’ve only just now remembered that we brought her home around the Fourth of July. How did that become forgotten? Then fourteen years later, only two days before the Fourth, we had to let her go. She was sick. She was hurting. We knew right away that morning that it was time.

It was a horrible way to spend a holiday. That evening my brother and I tried to enjoy something! Hell, anything.  We cheered on the Jacksonville Suns like a home run was the only thing that mattered. Later we sat in the stadium and watched nighttime fireworks over the city, all the time wishing I could just have my dog back. Screw the fireworks. I just wanted to go home to my dog and give her a kiss goodnight.

Two other families had adopted Bee before we did. Both of them ended up returning her to the shelter dropoff. I don’t know why. Maybe I once did, but after fourteen years with her I don’t. I can’t. My family thanks both of them, though.  Bee was happy with us. In her early years with our family, Bee was often taken to a nearby lake for a swim and enjoyed lots of time outside. In her later years, she helped teach my Elle how to walk on her own even as she was slowly losing her ability to move around agilely. But oh, how she tolerated the grabby hands of a toddler.

Libby and Elle

*****

I don’t believe in heaven, nor do I believe in animal heaven. It’s a lovely concept – the Rainbow Bridge and all – and I wish I could hold so strongly it. Instead, I like to think we all come back to each other, even if it’s in other ways. Have you ever read The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein? It’ll kill you. If you’ve ever lost a pet, you’ll feel the seams of your heart rip themselves to shreds at the end when Enzo…well, you need to read the book. Decide for yourself which conclusion I’m referring to. Some people might think there is only one ending, but I’m not one of those people…

I want to believe that I’ll be reacquainted with my Bee once again somehow. I don’t think we are all just random spirits colliding with one another as we go from one moment in life to the next. There is something behind the sixth sense we all possess, those immediate connections we make with some people that we don’t make with others. That moment when you say to a person you’ve only just met and instantly liked, “You remind me of someone I used to know…”. Maybe that person remains a stranger having only been introduced to you once, but they stick with you. You know what I mean? There was just something about them.

Bee

Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps that is my own way of refusing to believe there is nothing after we die. Yet heaven is an acceptable destination?

No. For me, it’s all related – the people in my life, the dogs in my life, the world as a whole. No end. No single conclusion. No colliding spirits.

Says Garth Stein’s Enzo, “I’ve always felt almost human. I’ve always known that there’s something about me that’s different than other dogs. Sure, I’m stuffed into a dog’s body, but that’s just the shell. It’s what’s inside that’s important. The soul. And my soul is very human.”

Tell me, how can you argue with a dog?

 

One More Year

Below is a blog post I wrote before Christmas in 2009, when my daughter was just 8-years old. It’s been hanging out on a now-defunct blog I started almost six years ago. A friend of mine asked me about this post yesterday, as it’s one of her favorites, and I decided to share it here. Back then, I was a single mother working full-time and going to school full-time. We lived paycheck to paycheck so money was hard to come by. Christmas was the only time I could justify spending money on unnecessary things. This time of year was always very stressful.

That Christmas when she was 8 was the last Christmas she believed in Santa wholeheartedly. These days Elle is 12 going on 25 and slow to believe in anything unless you can prove it to her.  That’s part of growing up, though.  I knew the day was coming (parents: it’s inevitable), but at the time I wanted to help her to believe in other things, like the kindness of friends and strangers alike, or even the good fortunes that intersect with unforeseen circumstances. I want her to believe in a lot of things, for a lot of reasons, but one thing I don’t want her to believe in is coincidence. Nothing happens by coincidence.

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(2009)

Elle’s at that age when she’s beginning to question Santa’s existence. She is asking if he’s a real person or a spirit, if he brings gifts to little girls who backtalk their moms, and if he might have a tummy ache from all the cookies he eats before he gets to her house. She has even written him a Christmas list with a P.S. at the end explaining that her friends think he’s a “fakey” but that she still thinks he’s real.

I think this is our last year of Santa. Or of believing in a child’s Santa, at least. And it makes me a little sad. Our children have to grow up so quickly these days and it’s just not fair. To them or to us.

They can’t rides their bikes around the neighborhood alone anymore. They can’t play dodgeball at school anymore. They can’t go to music class, or art class, or P.E. anymore. They can’t even watch Cookie Monster anymore because Cookie Monster teaches them bad eating habits that will make them fat. They can’t go to the toy section alone in a department store anymore while their parents shop for barbecue grills, bathroom towels, or something else equally boring. They can’t come directly home from school anymore because both of their parents work (if they’re lucky enough to have two parents). They can’t listen to the radio anymore without hearing “ass“, “crap“, or “damn“. They can’t watch a television show with their parents anymore without being reminded that an erection lasting more than 4 hours requires emergency medical intervention.

STOP IT. Just stop it. Can’t they just be kids, for cryin’ out loud?

And this is why it makes me a little bit sad. I was into the whole Santa thing for a long time and would have continued to be had my older brother not shown me the stash in Mom and Dad’s closet. And it probably happened at a reasonable age…eleven or twelve. An age when I had yet to learn about birth control (or even birth, for that matter) and had probably just seen my first boob on TV.

Mommy, do you believe in Santa?”

And I told her the story, a very true story, of when I was in a panic about not being able to get her what she really wanted for Christmas one year: The Disney Princess Vanity Table.

“Would you believe that I didn’t have enough money to buy you that gift? That I was around $50 short of being able to afford it? And that a very generous man I worked with handed out gift cards to our entire staff? That my gift card was worth $50?”

She smiled…”So, what happened?”

Of course, I got you that vanity table!”

I remember that!”

And just a few days ago, I got an unexpected bill in the mail. But I also received an unexpected gift yesterday that included a $100 bill.”

She put two and two together. “Santa did that?”

I think so.”

And so she believes. I do, too. It’s hard for me not to look at each coincidence as of late. The fact that financial aid paid for my APA Manual. The fact that Elle’s school daycare waived the December fees. The fact that my lawyer didn’t ask for a $5000 (yes, folks – five thousand dollars) re-hire fee. The fact that so many of my co-workers were kind enough to send me home with gifts for myself and my daughter.

My obvious issue is money. But around this time of year, it’s not the money, or lack of money, that bothers me. I live year-round with very little of it, as it is. It’s the stress that having no money puts on me by forcing me to choose between two gifts I know she really wants and can only be justified by wrapping it in Christmas paper and ribbon. It’s that time of year when I can give her all the things that she wants because she already has everything she needs. It’s the joy I see on her face when she opens the box and looks at me with a smile and talks to me with her eyes…”I’ve waited all year for this. Thank you, Mommy.”

That is what Santa gave me this year. A worry-free Christmas.

So, yes. She still believes. And even decades after being shown the stash in Mom and Dad’s closet, I still believe, too.

Drakkar Oseberg

Drakkar = Dragon

A recent text to my brother (I love how we use ethnicities as adjectives…ethnictives?):

Me: “In all of your family studies, would you say we’re Viking Normans or French Normandy Normans?”

Him: “I think we have a line that connects us to William of Normandy, so I’m pretty sure we’re French Normandy Normans.”

For some reason, receiving that news was a strange kind of disappointment. I was really hoping we were Viking Normans (Norman being our family name). While the French Normandy Normans can still trace their lineage back to the same Scandinavian beginnings as the Vikings, there is such a cultural disconnect. The Norman language laid the foundation for what we know today as French, but these days the two are very separately their own traditional groups. Sigh…and I was certain my bloodline would be the answer as to why I am so fascinated with Vikings, Norse myths, and Icelandic elves and ponies (although, in a small way, it is).

To be clear, I know nothing about any of those things. At least not in the same way I can explain to you the Disney Effect on Florida’s natural resources or, even, algebra. But I’m working on it. I recently bought a book about Celtic and Norse goddesses and their relationships to the seasons. Another book on Norse myths and culture is on my Christmas list.

In the beginning of the year, I asked my husband to build me a Viking ship. I wasn’t picky; one of these would have been sufficient to sail and row about in nearby Lake Hefner. I was so reasonable about the whole project, in fact, that I would have been happy with a Viking-ship-slash-picnic-table (because, hello? THAT WOULD BE AWESOME!).

And then he surprised me on Mother’s Day with this, my very own Drakkar Oseberg! It currently resides near the television in the living room so I get to see it ALL THE TIME:

my mother's day Viking ship

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There is such a magical history behind the Oseberg, but I find the story of its discovery even more interesting. What many of the locals believed was a burial mound filled with bodies of those who’d died of plague turned out to be the resting place of the original Oseberg Viking ship. The excavation began and everyone involved was pretty much blown away by what was found.

This is a very recently discovered interest of mine, all this Viking business. But what I love about it all is how so many people are dedicating years of their lives to preserving their findings and to building an Oseberg replica. In the meantime, I dedicated Tuesday to writing up the bulk of my Christmas list and  “picnic table” is still at the top. My husband is not expected to build me a Viking-ship-slash-picnic-table, as my Mother’s Day gift got him off the hook, but could you just imagine…

Elle: “Matt, where’s Mom?”

Matt: “She’s probably outside having lunch in her Viking ship.”

Oh, to dream…

Those dreams

My grandfather was sitting on the floor of someone’s living room, dressed in his usual white t-shirt and khakis. The top of his head was exposed and I thought it was odd that he wasn’t wearing his Green Bay Packers hat. I also thought it was odd that he was sitting on the floor. He’d always been a big guy, well over 6 foot, a towering gentle giant whose bear hugs were enough to make your ribs feel close to cracking. But that gentle giant’s knees were no good after years of bricklaying. He’s going to have a hard time getting up from the floor, I thought.

There was a glass-top coffee table that had been placed over a dark brown area rug. Surrounding it were a small couch and a smaller plush chair, each seat occupied by somebody from my extended family. Who they were, I couldn’t say. I only paid attention to him.

I noticed magazines on the coffee table – spread out like a fan, the way you see in a doctor’s office. We weren’t in a doctor’s office, though. We were in someone’s house and it was time for me to leave. My coat was already on me and I had a bag packed, light enough to carry in my right hand. When I walked past my grandfather, who was seemingly comfortable on the floor, I used my left hand to touch him lightly on his back. He turned around and it was the first time I’d seen his face throughout this entire dream.

“I have to go now,” I told him.

If you knew my grandfather, then you knew his voice. He was born on a farm in Wisconsin and the region’s German and Polish history was thick in his accent. It was unmistakable. And endearing.

“Tell me, Dena. Do you miss it?” I teared up when he asked me this. Deep down, I know what he meant.

“Yes, Grandpa,” I said. “I do miss it.”

“No. DO YOU MISS IT?” There were tears in his eyes this time. I bent down to him and kissed his head, grateful that his damn Green Bay Packers hat was missing. My left hand was still on his back and my right hand still held my bag. No bear hug, no crushed ribs. Not this time.

“Yes, Grandpa. Yes.”

I noticed his big hands were busy closing up a brown package, the top flaps covered in addresses. My daughter’s initials I.C.N. scrawled across the middle like the box was meant to go to her. I asked him if he wanted me to take it to her.

“No. I’ll borrow $20,000 from somebody and ship it out tomorrow,” he said.

“$20,000? GRANDPA!”

And then he laughed. He laughed in that way grandfathers laugh when they’ve been caught telling jokes to their grandkids. I walked out of that house with my chest feeling heavy, sad at the realization that he would never live long enough to send that box. My mother was sitting on the porch swing right by the front door watching a bunch of my cousin’s kids playing soccer in a nearby field with a flat ball.

I looked at her and said, “I have to go now.”

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I wasn’t sad this morning when I woke up from this dream. I was actually kind of grateful to have had a few extra minutes with him. Extra minutes I never got in real life. My grandfather passed away last summer. His funeral was held on the same day I left with Matt and Elle for Oklahoma. Leaving Florida that weekend was hard but not nearly as hard as knowing I couldn’t be there to say goodbye to him. I feel like after last night, I finally did.

Birthday Season

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October is a busy, busy month full of birthdays (and it just got busier with the birth of my cousin’s little girl last night). A few weeks ago, Matt and I agreed to have a cookout here at our house to celebrate Elle’s 12th birthday. It fell perfectly in the beginning of the month and took place this past Saturday, just after a cold front blew through and turned summer into autumn, literally overnight. We had the hot tub bubbling, string lights glowing, the fire pit roaring, and a yard full of friends.

What we failed to do a few weeks ago was plan for my birthday, which falls only four days after Elle’s. Seeing as another friend is having her own birthday brunch in two weeks and I’m hosting a Food/Craft Swap the following weekend, it seemed the only sensible thing would be to combine my birthday party with Elle’s. Besides, we would have just invited the same people over to celebrate.

When I was pregnant with her back in 2001 my doctors went back and forth for months trying to determine her due date. We ended up with “any day between October 5th and October 12th – BE READY!” I didn’t want my daughter to have to share her birthday with me, although now I think it would have been kind of cool. This is the first time we have ever celebrated our birthdays together and we have overwhelmed ourselves with an abundance of leftover cake. Such problems we have…

Favorite quote from the evening:

Elle: “I think this is the best time I have had since moving to Oklahoma!”

festive!

Tare Panda

Elle’s Tare Panda birthday cake, which she designed and my neighbor baked.

Italian cream cake (wedding cake) from Ingrid's

Italian wedding cake from Ingrid’s, a nearby German restaurant/bakery.

birthday flowers!

Ella's artwork

Oh, hey! There’s a photograph of my dad celebrating his birthday this past June.

Sunday was a day of slow moving, emphasized by the fact that our dogs didn’t even bother to wake us up until well after their usual feeding time. My husband and I have hosted quite a few gatherings at our house over the last year or so and I’m beginning to notice the physical symptoms that come with being my age and staying up way past my bedtime. When social interaction gets thrown into the mix, I am completely useless the following day.

Is there such a thing as a social hangover?

It would probably serve me well to document all the wonderful things that happened on Friday, but I truly believe some days are just unforgettable. Just as my daughter proclaimed her birthday party to be the most fun she’s had in Oklahoma, I feel the same about Friday. It was one of those days during which everything fell into place. There was a non-eventful stop at the vet with Teddy, a lunch date with my husband, shopping with him at Target for birthday decorations, readying the “Party Room” with Elle, scrubbing the hell out of my bathtub so that it could finally be used, and enjoying my clean tub surrounded by candles and swimming in blackberry scented bubbles. I sipped red wine and read historical fiction. Basically,  I RELAXED.

When is the last time…? Seriously.

Happy birthday to all you October babies out there.

Recent Happenings

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Our mornings come early these days. The alarm goes off at 5:30 and in an hour we’re all out the door (Matt to work, Elle and I to the bus). Because the weather has been so nice in the mornings, I have been taking the dogs for walks to the bus stop. One at a time, of course. By the time I get back home from my morning walk it’s barely 7 o’clock (which is what time I was waking up last year to get Elle ready for school).

6th grade is fantastic, so far. Elle is having none of the problems she experienced last year. Three very good reasons why:

  • She was more liked by her 5th grade classmates than she believed
  • Her middle school is a blending of five area elementary schools which, to me, means more kids to choose to be your friends
  • She has learned her lesson – guns, politics, and God are very touchy topics of discussion no matter which age group you belong to

Elle is finally confident enough in herself to wear black & white polka-dotted skinny jeans and blue streaks in her hair. She even shared with her teacher how badly she wants to be a medical examiner when she grows up. Her English teacher, whom we met last night, just loved how unique Elle’s career goals are. “You wouldn’t believe how every kid writes down the same thing!” When I asked Elle later what that same thing was, she replied, “Vet. Everybody writes down that they want to be a vet!” I had to laugh at this. I, as well as many of my childhood friends, wrote this down once as a career goal. I also once wanted to be an Olympic gymnast, a children’s book writer, and Jon Bon Jovi’s wife. But, alas…

Elle  is on her way to becoming the only person in our family who can play an instrument. She didn’t get assigned the instrument she thought she would like best (clarinet or the flute), but was instead assigned the trumpet. I was thrilled! She claims my excitement over this is because of the band Beirut. Probably. But Cake, Dave Matthews Band, and Paul Simon also use trumpets, so there. For the record, she’s pretty thrilled, too. The flute and clarinet were too difficult for her to get just right due to her braces so she’s eagerly awaiting the arrival of her 1963 King 602 cornet next week. That is on top of the basic school supplies and the fabric I have to purchase for her sewing assignment in Personal Development class…

Who knew middle school was so freakin’ expensive?

As far as my schooling goes, I CAN’T BELIEVE I AM ALMOST DONE. I’ve been in and out of colleges since 1994, but I only just got serious and hunkered down in 2008. The only things that stand between me and my bachelor’s degree are a Level II Spanish course and a 30-page thesis on the American narrative. It’s a topic of my own choosing and I am really enjoying it so far. The professor who was assigned to me to help guide me through this process is one I have had before. She taught a narrative writing course that I took over the summer and she really likes my writing style. I’m feeling pretty lucky when it comes to my thesis.

On the other hand, Spanish…I have no words. In English or in Spanish. Even the Spanish-speaking have difficulty speaking Spanish, as evidenced in the video below (which was provided to me by my Spanish-speaking friend from Puerto Rico). If you have ever tried to learn Spanish, you’ll get a laugh out of this.

 

In other news:

  • Winter is coming. The Farmer’s Almanac is threatening my region with being “unusually wet and frosty”. Today it will be 97 degrees. I’ve got some time and I want to enjoy it while I can.
  • Our tickets for the Gentlemen of the Road stopover arrived a few days ago. I’m looking forward to enjoying good music in the historic town of Guthrie. And it’s only 30 minutes away so I get to come home each night and sleep in my own bed!
  • Speaking of music, I shared a few of my favorite 80s rock videos with my daughter last night. Def Leppard, you rock my world. STILL.
  • I think I purchased the wrong kind of cucumber seedlings from the Farmer’s Market in the spring. A few have come around, but they taste like shit. Bitter, all rind, no meat.
  • Purple okra is less slimy than green okra, but it turns green when you grill it. I really wanted to eat purple okra, though. It’s my favorite color.
  • I don’t normally get nervous about political maneuvers, but this whole business with Syria makes me nervous. I recently watched a documentary from 2008 called The Listening Project. If you can’t watch the film, at least watch this trailer. It might make you think a little differently about the United States’ involvement in just about anything. The Tanzanian gentleman hits the nail on the head (around the 6:00 mark).

 

Dog Love

On our way to the dog park (I think he's smiling). #teddarcheese #teddy #doglove #family #summer

The wind made his big ol’ ears flap in every direction. He closed his eyes and made his teeth show in a way I’ve never seen before. I could swear Teddy was smiling.

Teddy is the only one of our three dogs who enjoys the dog park. Chimay, I’ve been told, chases the dogs that are chasing balls. Abbey just sits there and watches the world go by, which I can agree is a relaxing way to spend time in a park. Teddy, though, seems to carry around with him the same excitement as a little boy. He is still young (turning 4 soon), just now coming out of his puppy phase, so it’s nice to see him have fun splashing around in the lake.

We weren’t at the park too long this last time before Teddy showed signs of tuckering out. It was over 90 degrees and the sun was out. Fifteen minutes? Maybe twenty? A couple dips in the lake, a few awkward introductions to a group of dogs who made him very nervous, and he was done. After we got home he plopped himself on the cool wood floor and decided he was too tired to eat dinner. He tried, eating only half of it before opting to go back to sleep. We call this his Dead Teddy mode. Nothing will make Dead Teddy budge.

This morning he is back to his normal self. After eating his breakfast, he waited for Abbey to finish up in another room so they could go squirrel hunting together in the backyard. The two often end each morning with a nap in the living room – Abbey takes the floor by the front door and Teddy claims his perch on the back of the couch.

teddy1

Chimay, the oldest and the most crotchety of the three, often has an impatient look on her face. It’s one of exasperation, sometimes of disbelief, like she can’t understand why she has to live with the other two dogs or, sometimes, even us. At times I think she only tolerates us because I feed her doggie prescription pills laced with peanut butter or rolled in cheese.

But, you guys, sometimes we get this face.

Mooey