This and That

Clarence Joseph DuBois

1 October 2012

September 13, 1922 to September 29, 2012

Saying goodbye to my grandfather, Clarence DuBois. He was 90, he had been ill, it has been a long hard 5 months. He always said he’d never wanted to live to 90. I will miss him terribly. He was one of my favorite people. We didn’t always agree, but our conversations were always thought-provoking. Told me I looked sharp, but only when I did. Taught me so much about storytelling, joke timing, card playing, listening, even how to walk in the woods (“get your hands out of your damn pockets, Sarah”)

Grandpa, you’ll be missed.

morning light

4 January 2011
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Wow, I missed December entirely. Let’s see. We shopped. We wrapped gifts.We played in the snow. We adored Uncle Nate’s dog Mac. Wash, rinse, repeat. We also played dreidl with Bubbe Fran. Had a delightful visit from Santa and a nice gathering with my mom’s family. We had friend’s over for New Year’s. 6 month olds are so precious – I’d believe they are a plot to make you think your 2 year old is a giant and you wish you could have another baby. WE ARE NOT HAVING ANOTHER BABY.

Since the shortest day of the year, I have been enjoying the morning light. It seems ridiculous to notice the (extra, brighter) light. How can it be different? – it didn’t feel that different as the days grew shorter and shorter. But the light feels like a Hopper painting. The morning ones, not the indoor nighttime ones.

I’ve always been glad that the Mill Rd. (Milwaukee) Public Library had a nice book of Hopper prints when I was assigned to find an artist to copy in art class in high school. I fell in love with the ways America looks in Hopper paintings. I nearly always choose a Hopper image for my desktop wallpaper and usually have a Hopper calendar on the wall. My attempts at imitation were only flattering in the sense of the saying. But seeing how hard it is to capture light – to understand how revolutionary those seventeenth Dutch masters really were.

This year, I feel like I am seeing something new. The important part is that I am seeing it, not that it is new. The winter morning light.  I’ve always though summer was the season of light. The lush greens, the bright blues – made for Kodachrome and Paul Simon. Our wedding day is a happy memory, not just because I was ecstatically happy to marry Rob, but because the summer light was gorgeous. But this winter is challenging me to think beyond the grayness of December, and the heavy darkness of the fading light in November. January has had wide skies, cool light, pastel colors that don’t seem muted. And February will be gray again, I’m sure, as the snow gets old and dirty and winter gets (even more) tiring. Until then, I am enjoying the long light in the mornings. And wondering if heading to the western deserts in winter isn’t just smart for the temperature, but for the mirage.

car wash blues

12 October 2010
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Rob has been singing a lot of Jim Croce to the children. In turn, they have been singing, mangling and mumbling a lot of Jim Croce. The trick, they tell me, is to not breathe. All in one breath – suddenly depressing, low-down mind messing working at the car wash blues. It really doesn’t matter if I have that right.

I am in post-vacation letdown. Six months of prep. Six days of vacation. And now, home. I am trying my hardest not to turn my brain into mush. I need to pick out, then create or buy Halloween costumes for Henry and me. And maybe Bella. Probably not Bella. She can be a cat (from Miranda’s stash) or a lion (from Henry’s stash) . Two is a feline sort of year. We are doing three outdoor activities for Halloween, I hope. I want a warm costume suitable for a 30-something mother. And somehow being an Eskimo’s honey just sounds like it might be a bit racist.

We had a great trip to Texas.  I am not sure if we would have ever visited Texas if we didn’t have friends there. So much America, so little vacation time and money. But seeing as we have gone and will go again, I like Texas. I like how it is big and proud of it. I like how it is in on the joke and yet, still the joke, to nearly any punchline you can imagine. My vowels get just a little longer and I enjoy being called “ma’am” and my children called “baby.” The food was good, even when we didn’t have Tex-Mex.

We visited Ft Worth, Waco, and Austin. Austin made me think of the grown up child of Madison and San Francisco. Still hippie, but bold and bright and business too. I am supremely bad at timing vacations – the kids had school and I thought they’d have a day off.  The Austin City Limits Festival was being held. Which would have been awesome if we didn’t have kids, had tickets and didn’t want to stay in a hotel. The breakfast tacos were very good. An army and a family of 5 travel on their stomachs. That and time at the swimming pool.

The closest we came to dying (the hallmark of some people’s scale of a good time) was the flight out. The plane went up. And then banked sharply over Lake Michigan as the cabin filled with smoke. The smoke then cleared and we headed back to the airport. No idea how bad it really was. Incredibly grateful the older children could not see either my or their father’s face. We deplaned. Waited a bit and got on a new plane. No news.

This trip used up our Midwest frequent flyer miles. The flight itself, except for the smoking part, was fine. The staff was kind. The ride was smooth. The baggage arrived. But the reservation process was a nightmare. Frontier changed our flight number and then our flight arrival time twice. I called, sat on hold, politely pleaded to keep our seats together. in June, July and August, with a “just checking” call in September.  We bought the seats in April. The plane was nearly empty until September. And it didn’t matter. The calls didn’t help. I had to use the great power of Twitter on Tuesday to have one seat changed so we could ride as two twosomes and one single seat in adjacent rows. My two phone calls for help did nothing. But the twitter person @flyfrontier had superior spatial reasoning and found a good solution for us. On the way home we had two seats together and three seats in three different rows. And the phone staff, even the gate agents on the flight out, couldn’t help us. We got the DFW ticket counter 3 hours early and the wonderful woman there did get us all in 1 row, with Rob behind us.

I suppose I could say all is well that ends well. But this is my internet soap box. It was aggravating and a huge hassle. I’ll certainly consider Frontier again, but it isn’t my #1 anymore. And so ends an era. Maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow and be inspired for Halloween.

love letter to Monica Ferris

12 September 2010
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I was sad to read the last/latest Betsy Devonshire needlecraft mystery book by Monica Ferris. I found a slew of them at the Saukville Library and checked out the first 5 books for our Door County vacation. And I loved them. they were well-written, well-plotted, well-paced, nicely developed characters. As believable as any other cozy series (so not really, I mean who the hell would even want to be so close to so many murders. But I respect how Ms. Ferris has made Betsy uneasy about the same thing.)

I woke up on vacation, already with that strange sensation of where am I? and I wondered if I was in Excelsior. As much as it would pain the Door. Co. tourism bureau to hear, I wondered if I had ended up in Minnesota.  I have been craving needlecraft. The last time I sewed was Halloween costumes. And the last time I need any needlework, I was making Bella’s Christmas stocking. And now I wonder if maybe I should just give counted cross stitch another try. After all, Betsy improved. I like Betsy’s mind and her maturing as a character.  she would be fun to know. I want to hang out with Godwin, who skates a careful line of not just being your stereotypical gay best friend of pop lit, but is a fleshed out through and trough. Struth!

I was hooked. I scurried around. I checked out the other 8 or so books from three other libraries in our area. Annoying that Cedarburg had none of them. And I read them in order.

And tonight I finished the last one I have. I love how the secondary and tertiary characters slide in and out. Jill and Lars and I can picture Emma and Erik growing. Aww. And Doris went from being a small bit character (although didn’t she have a brother somewhere nearby?) and now she’s one of the gang. And Phil and Alice and Bersheda and Irene and Leona… And even Patricia, that daffy would be murderer who we get to see in redemption. I’ve read some series where all of the side-talking gets in the way of the plot. The mystery is either told as slight of hand and not clever deduction, all luck or random. And crossing my finger, Ms. Ferris has managed to keep the plots on target.

Now I just have to wait until the library gets the new release in December.  Find an independent needlecraft store and pick up a canvas and get to sewing. And stop seeing clever plots that Betsy could solve if there were a murder nearby.


just a thought

8 September 2010
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When we lived in Chicago, I was always impressed by the efficiency of Mr. Daley (and the stories of his father) as mayor of Chicago. I am not necessarily convinced those efficiencies were fair or kind or best. But things got done. I used to joke after we moved back to Milwaukee that we needed Mr. Daley to take a term up here, just get some things done.

And now I wonder if he was thinking the same thing. Tom Barrett wins the governorship, leaving open the mayoral position in Milwaukee. Rich Daley moves north, wins the mayoral election and we’ll have rail or water powered buses or bike trails or wrought iron fencing around every park by spring.  And nothing’s going to stop him.

EDITED TO ADD: And Now Mayor Daley suggests they re-reverse the river that flows to the Mississippi when it should flow to Lake Michigan. That doesn’t seem like an idea that would be very popular in Chicago. But it seems like one that would be heart warming in Milwaukee. Hmmm?


11 July 2010

I can’t wait for English to catch up with teh Interwebs. In another era I could say I read a magazine or a book or even an article. I started to type I read words. Well, yes, that is what we usually do. Rather than reading numbers. It is so much better when I can patronize myself.

I digress, which would be an awesome name for a blog, I bet. I have read posts and articles and words expressing such love for people’s loved ones. And it made me feel awww in my heart. The secret language of marriage, which I found by way of Sarah Brown‘s guest post at Dooce, which is only worth mentioning because the guests posts have made me very happy. The shorthand of inside jokes and memories is a glue of not just marriage but friendship. And despite knowing that Rob and I have enough shorthand to develop our own sign language, I can’t think of a single example. I was reading words somewhere else , about the sweet things husbands have done for their wives. And I aww’d. And I don’t feel bereft for my lack of examples, I’m more embarrassed  for not writing down / noticing / treasuring the sweet things Rob does do.

Especially if you read Tara Parker Pope in the NYTimes and her divorce book and stats. Scary stuff. The eye roll as the sign  of contempt.*** The idea of creating annual checkups for your marriage. And as much as I get the analogy that we (should) have annual checkups for our bodies. And tune-ups our car. I pause. And my belief in the analogy fails, because who hasn’t felt like they felt fine until the doctor poked and prodded something. Or diagnosed you with PCOS and you go off birth control to see if you’re suffering from infertility. (Let’s say not really) Or that your car was fine as you drove into the 90,000 mile checkup and now they want you to replace the struts. On Rob’s car, the dealer actually told me I shouldn’t drive his car because the struts were so bad. And the independent mechanic couldn’t decide who was nuttier – them or me. Because the muffler was practically dragging on the ground. But the struts? they were fine.

Did I drop the connector thought? Just that if I don’t notice the sweet things, perhaps I am missing the big picture. Or the bad things.

In any case, I have been feeling fuzzy and warm with love. But my memory is weak. I have wondered f that is the key to a long marriage. Poor recall. Ba-dum-dum. No really. Cold Play’s Viva La Vida was on a CD in the minivan, a leftover CD that I’m sure I burned months (years?) ago.  And I like that song. But I can’t sing along to it at all – not as a crititque of my admittedly poor singing voice but because I can’t remember the lyrics. It took me forever to find what song it even was. I could hum it, but that does not enter into Google very well. Viva La Vida is like my love right now.

There are worse things. Right? I hope.

***OK the words are not cooperating. If you’d click that link, you’ll find an WSJ archive story from when TPP worked at the WSJ. And I loved her there and was delighted when she switched to the NYT because the NYT is more freely accessible. Besides the point, Sarah. This contempt in an eye roll story is from 2002. But I have read those words somewhere recently.

Happy July 5th

5 July 2010
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In the mid afternoon lull, when making dinner sounds like a ludicrous idea, I suggested we go out to dinner. To celebrate July 5th. My mom and Rob heard my suggestion. Liked my suggestion.

A real dive bar, I suggested. Somewhere to congratulate them.

By now, Rob and my mom are no longer on the same page as me. Rob had some good news at work and congratulations for him are in order, but why a bar? How would that make Rob feel loved?

July 5th? I repeat. You know, the smoking ban begins today! Yay!

And not cooking was alluring, but t-ball had to be played tonight at 5:30. It rained, but not enough to cancel the game, not that there was anyone at town hall to cancel it officially in any case.

I guess we’ll have to celebrate another night. I am quite delighted that I can take the kids bowling. Pick whatever wacky hole in the wall my dad thinks we should try for dinner. And yes, if those businesses wanted my business they should have banned smoking voluntarily years ago. Isn’t that the flip side to the let the business owner decide? The customers (me) won’t give you money ($) if you let people smoke by me. And now, I am delighted to have so many more choices. I can start worrying about whether the food is any good. And maybe whether I remember how to bowl.

perfectly good

21 June 2010
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I could say that my thoughts on the perfect (the enemy of the good) were keeping me from writing. I may have to file this under good enough, the enemy of the perfect, but really life has just been sort of busy and boring. We’re on the lazy river, y’all.

But it was the Pig that has drawn me back to the computer. I’ve utterly failed at my assignment to take a photo of Rob with each of the children for Father’s Day. Sorry sweetie!

Today at the grocery store the bagger didn’t come over and bag my groceries. And the cashier kept jamming stuff down the lane, smooshing my produce and even the boxes.  This annoys me to no end. When I was younger, PnS offered full service or self-bagging lanes. And I always choose self-bagging. I like bagging my groceries. When I am paying adequate attention, I would group things as I put them on the conveyor belt to be rung up, just so they’d be grouped for me to bag. Living in Chicago and specifically Dominick’s broke me. They insisted on bagging. And then never took advantage of my carefully selected boxes that fit just so in the paper bag. They would put 4 things in a bag and then declare it too heavy to add more. So I gave up. Pick N Save usually insists on bagging too. And when I am with small small children and the bagger is reasonably quick, I have gotten used to it – the random assortment of cleaning supplies and fruit. The frozen meat and bread.  After our move to the northern burbs, I accepted that all of the grocery stores bags, even when I don’t really want them to. The Pig and Sendiks are both reasonably good at it. I’ve even gone so far as to used parcel pickup!

Which brings me to today. I had a half full cart. I noticed my food being pushed into each other. I leaned around the cart and started bagging. Just the frozen stuff. When I have dared start bagging in the past, I have always been interrupted and then return to my place at credit card processing stand. And I was, for 1 bag load. Then he disappeared and never came back.  The cashier didn’t start bagging. I finished up. I signed my name. I almost complained to the manager as I left. But I remembered that I actually like bagging, so I didn’t.

But I do wonder what I did wrong. Was I just supposed to wait for him to take his own darn time to walk over, ask me what sort o bags I want, then start filling 22 bags?  The me from 10 years ago would have felt like I got away with something today. The me now feels like I’ve upset some weird social construct. Darn soft living!

Since I am already mulling my own  insanity… I am stuck on electric consumption. I don’t want to suck my children’s future world away with vampire appliances wasting electricity. But I think the change has to come from the appliance makers. These are my two biggies:

Laptop power versus backup. OK, I love the earth. I spend too much time on my laptop. I should put my laptop to sleep when I am not using it. Yes? But I love my data or I wouldn’t be using a computer at all. I have had a catastrophic hard drive failure, at least once. I have a backup hard drive. (I know, still not enough if the house burns down). The backup is set to run every night at 11:30. I’d set it earlier, but I am a still working at 11 often enough to make that annoying. And while the backup is running, my computer is dog slow. I want it to run updates from Microsoft and backup when I don’t want to use it. And I’d like it to sleep all of the other times I am not using it. And there is no such setting in the power management center. I reduced the time at which it puts the laptop to sleep when not in use (screen shut) and every morning it would have to run the backup when  am trying to check my email quickly before the day begins. And not having a backup sucks too.  And worse. And whether an internet backup service will slow me down while I am working is my fear for that well. And I don’t see how that could work while it is asleep, if a local connection can’t work.

The DVR on the television is the same issue again. We’re supposed to unplug our television to prevent it from using power when no one is watching TV. Except that the few hours I do watch TV, I’d like to watch a show I actually like, one not on at that time. A DVR is a fabulous thing. I don’t think anyone should watch TV without one. The DVR should be able to spread its goodness and happiness with low electricity appetites.

I hate these choices. They pit the immediate responsible choice against a nebulous and potential global gain. A hard sell even on a liberal like me.

Thinking warm

8 June 2010

It rained all day today. A steady wet rain. It was miserable. I have been reading Mary Daheim mystery novels and they are all set in the Pacific Northwest, specifically Seattle, I think. Just after I read the Miss Zukas’s librarian novels also set in Washington state. And I tried the new Death by Sudoku with Liza K in Oregon. My questions:

1. What’s up Pacific Northwest? a hotbed of genre crime?

2. If the characters really like the rain so much, why do they talk about it so much? The wet weather has started to feel like a character.

3. Do all new mystery novels have to have a gimmick? The home design tips, the recipes, the scrapbooking, the sudoku? Miss Marple’s knitting never really intruded. Or did the 1950s editions come with patterns?

I digress. The weather was rainy. But no more, I say. I think. I hope. To tide me over, let me remember just a few short weeks ago. We got a dog. A floppy blow up sprinkler dog.

I just love the faint rainbow in the shot below.

And again. I think his tail, tongue and ears were all supposed to wave around. Alas.

Ah summer

The only plus to this day of rain is that when it gets warm and summery again, everything will be green and lush.

Auld Lang Syne

31 May 2010
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It should be that we have more songs for the summer holidays. I don’t remember song lyrics without singing them 9 millions times. Christmas carols are lodged in my brain, mostly. Memorial Day is such a good day, a good holiday. But thinking about what it means for veterans, for Americans, for families – it is harder to remember the purpose and not just thinking 3 day weekend! Woohoo! Oh, look, they have a sale on summer gear. Let’s go! Shiny.

Everyone had a whiny day here. It probably would have been better if we had woken up early, gone to a parade, visited a cemetery.  All of our beloved dead are not buried anywhere around here. And maybe it would be just as meaningful to pay homage in the abstract to the honored dead who made our casual freedom boring and soft. Isn’t that we all want, the boring freedom, when you worry about jobs and grocery sales and good schools?  When I read a book about the start of a war, I hate the idea of losing that carefree freedom. The horror of war sound, well, horrible, but having to narrow life’s focus to merely surviving.  Keeping your children safe, quiet, fed, dry. The agonies. The incredible agonies.

This long view should make our day of whining and crying and grumpiness more bearable? Less possible? Who am I fooling? I do hope today was a blip and not a view of summer boredom. I filled out the calendar, trying to sketch in all of the places we’ve agreed to be for the next 3 months. First, I have to say Rob knows how to fill in Saturday after Saturday. Second of all, we’ve made the children the Disney deal – if we walk the 1228 miles it takes to go Orlando (over the next 2 years) we can fly there. And the only way we’ll get there in the 2 mile increments the children walk is if we don’t just walk on Sundays. I should take the kids nearly every day. And the bright and outrageous early summer we had complete with 90 degree weather makes me not want to. I spent all winter truly lamenting living in the frozen tundra. I don’t like it that cold. And this warm spell makes me say I don’t like it this hot.  Seeking tepid mild temperatures. I suppose then I’d miss fall or some darn fool thing.

Soon it will be June. June is pretty jam-packed. July is pretty full with the options to make it more full. August is blank slate.  A week of swimming for Miranda. A week in Door County for all of us. And that’s it. No t-ball, no summer classes. We’ll have to break out the museums and zoos.  And visit the local pool.

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