Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Big Minne

My dad calls the lake here in West Lake Woebegone "The Big Minne." He and my mother find this hilarious. Want to know how I got so kooky? Meet my parents.

Anyway . . . I do believe the ice is going to go out on the The Big Minne (Minnesota's 13th largest lake, if you're keeping track) any moment now. This is always a sure sign of spring.

No, I take that back. Sometimes it still snows even after the lake has gone out, but I am optimistic this year.

In years past, community organizers have tied an old car to a tree (to assist with getting it out of the water) and left it on the ice. Then you buy a raffle ticket with the date you think the car will go in. I don't think they have done this since I have been an adult because I would be all over that. My mom always bought Cyberspace Sarah's birthday and mine. Cyberspace's birthday is next week, so the odds were way in her favor over mine at the end of April. I used to find this unfair, but now I am glad that the ice has gone by the end of April.

It's all in perspective.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Stand up, Miss Jean Louise

I know that it's Tuesday and we should be enjoying a poem, but I happened upon the last half hour of To Kill a Mockingbird (TKAM) this morning and I just sobbed as though I had never seen the movie before in my life -- much less the hundred times that I have. I suspect I have gone on about my love for TKAM before, but here I go again.

If you have not read TKAM before or if it has been a long time, get up right this instant and power yourself to the library. If you do not do the library, click on over to Amazon and buy yourself a well-loved used copy. If you do not have the time or patience to read a book, then you may watch the movie, but -- I am telling you -- you will enjoy it more if you have read the book.

I am serious now. I worked for a year at an alternative school in Minneapolis for kids who were just getting out of juvenile detention. Most of them went straight back. It was easier. These kids were big and seen more nasty things in life than my sorry college educated white bread butt would see for a long time. I probably still haven't. One day their social studies instructor Kevin said they could have a movie day with popcorn, but they had to watch the movie he picked.

It was To Kill a Mockingbird -- an old black and white movie about old times. They were not happy. They grumbled. They complained. If they had known it was going to be this way they would have chosen to have class instead.

"Come up and watch with us," the instructor urged me. "Let's see what happens."

I went to watch the movie with them and I thought there was going to be a riot. Kevin told them they had to watch half and then if they wanted, he'd shut it off.

Halfway through the movie, Kevin shut it off. A great chorus of "Hey, man, what do you think you're doing?!" went up. The movie went back on.

I was working two jobs at the time, so as soon as the movie was ending I stood up to run to my next thing. I turned to say good-bye and these inner city boys -- big boys, tough boys, gang members, thieves, drug dealers and worse -- were crying over the fate of a fictional little white girl in a story written in 1960.

I'm just saying you better go get a copy . . . and maybe a tissue. As true maybe more so in 2010 than in 1960, we need to be reminded that "some men in this world are born to do our unpleasant jobs for us."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Post- Spring Break

We didn't quite have to drag Colin kicking and screaming to the bus this morning, but he wasn't happy either. I have carefully counted out the days left of school to show him. There will only be 46 when he gets home today. I remember fifth grade, and I've no doubt 46 days is 46 too many.

Here at home Preschooler D and I are getting on each other's nerves but good. He looked at me a few minutes ago, "I'm sorry, Mommy."

Why are you sorry, Pumpkin?

"You're mad."

No, I'm not mad.

"Can you make a happy face?"

Well, I did . . . but it wasn't easy.

We should all be cheering up. Spring has come early to Minnesota. The ice is going to go off the lakes any day. It's supposed to be 75 degrees tomorrow and 73 on Wednesday. (It won't stay that way for a while.)

Maybe it's just Monday. Maybe there wasn't enough coffee today . . . or chocolate milk . . . or whatever you're drinking.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Where Have I Been?

Honestly, what have I been doing all week? I do not know.

Do you remember how when the wind blows too hard I get a little confused, a little out of focus? It may sound silly to you, but it's the truth for me. The wind has been blowing and I . . . just have no idea what I've been up to. The kids seem clean and fed. Brent continues to come home after work, so I must not be doing anything too dramatic, but it's all a little foggy.

We went to the Mall of America for a Spring Break outing yesterday. I remember that. It was pretty funny. Preschooler D wanted to go on every ride, but he's not tall enough yet to go on much. Colin is mostly interested in the bumper cars but he doesn't want to offend anyone by running into them.

Mother MADE him drive.

Nice tonsils.

Monday, March 22, 2010


I don't know if it's spring or what, but I have been cleaning things that don't normally warrant my attention -- my car for example. Several months of spilled lattes, broken goldfish crackers, muddy boots and missing movies got my attention yesterday. I even took window cleaner to the inside of the front windshield. I mean this is serious.

I cleaned out the toothpaste drawer and threw all those mostly empty boxes of floss.

I cleaned another bathroom shelf when I discovered sunless tanner had been leaking all over. (I don't use the tanner, by the way, because it smells. That's probably why it was leaking.)

I go through these little episodes. Ten months of dust won't really bother me, and then one day the sun comes out and I set to scrubbing.

Don't worry. I'm sure it won't last.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Emily Says it Best

I feel another poem coming on in honor of the day. Here's our friend Emily D.

Emily Dickinson
Part Three: Love


I HAVE no life but this,
To lead it here;
Nor any death, but lest
Dispelled from there;

Nor tie to earths to come,
Nor action new,
Except through this extent,
The realm of you.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Poem for Tuesday on Thursday

The sun came out yesterday and it made me think of the one and only Beach Boys song I have ever liked.

God Only Knows
Brian Wilson, producer -Tony Asher, lyrics

I may not always love you
But long as there are stars above you
You never need to doubt it
I'll make you so sure about it

God only knows what I'd be without you

If you should ever leave me
Though life would still go on, believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would livin' do me
God only knows what I'd be without you

God only knows what I'd be without you

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Turnabout is fair

My goodness, yesterday was such a busy day, I didn't get to our poem. Maybe we'll have double next week.

So, on Monday I was worried about going to playgroup and I had two things happen which really didn't help:

1. There's a wee pregnant person in my Bible Study small group. She is cute as a stinkin' bug and very petite. Well, someone had the nerve to ask how old she was (which I found inappropriate) and she said 20. That's right 20. I could be her mother -- not technically -- legitimately. I am -- legitimately -- old enough to be grandma. Grrr.

2. After playgroup today, Preschooler D and I headed to our favorite Caribou and I was talking with our Caribou-Employee friends about our high school class sizes. I mentioned that I had gone to my senior prom with the only boy of a small class in a nearby town and I said his name. Mid-20s Caribou employee said, "You mean Senor H--, my high school Spanish teacher?"

Yes. I mean my senior prom date was your teacher, you grown up person.

Well, anywho, playgroup went just fine, but I was thinking in all fairness since I knew the things I should avoid saying to them, perhaps I should write out a few conversation starters for them should they find themselves with my peer group.

Michelle, are you keeping all your retirement funds in that 401k or are you starting something more aggressive?

I was watching Purple Rain on TV the other night, Shelly. I can't believe my parents let me go to that.

Mitchi, do you think they still make Aquanet?

Oh, please, Mischele. I started taking menopause vitamins already and I am not ashamed.

I hope that helps.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Remember when, kids?

I was once in an exercise class with a woman who kept mentioning how old she was. "I'm old enough to be your mother!" She wasn't really, and it became tiresome after a while. She certainly kept up in class. It wasn't that big of a deal.

I mention this story because Preschooler D and I have been invited to a play group where I will be the oldest mommy . . . by 10-15 years. It's making me nervous. Technically -- now I'd be young, I know, but -- technically, I could be somebody's grandmother. Do you think the young mommies are drawing straws to see who has to talk to Grandma Mommy?

I try to remember they wouldn't have had to invite me at all. I'll probably be okay if I avoid saying things like:

Nice phone, Brittany! My first cell phone came in a bag. How did we get along without them?

Love your stainless steel microwave, Megan. Do you remember when microwaves had dials? No?

Gosh, the last movie I saw in the theater was Purple Rain! (not true, by the way)

Well, my printer was down, Jessica, so I just got out the ol' Smith-Corona . . . Oh, it's a typewriter. . . Oh, well, you used to put paper in and then manually type out what you wanted to say.

Thanks, Nicole. I love these tennis shoes, too. I wear them all the time. My hip just hasn't been right since Preschooler D. I think it's a little arthritic now.

Oh, dear.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Basement Watch: Con't

I do hate to disappoint Jeremy J, but the basement is still dry, and so I will not be calling out "All hands on deck or ye'll dance the hempen jig!" today.

It is still raining and melting and yesterday at lunch Brent did call out in an excited voice, "I see the top of the sand box!" Yes, friends and loved ones, there is that much snow in Minnesota in winter. We are really that pumped to see the sight of the old turtle sand box.

Don't get too excited yet, though. It's supposed to snow next week.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Basement Watch: Part 2

Once again my flair for the dramatic has made things sound worse than they are. Not the first time, is it, friends and loved ones? Dearest blogger-friend Catherine has had a vision of water rushing down the street a la Fargo-Moorhead, where they must sandbag the river every spring.

No, it's not like that. I just mean to say we live in a big crater and water tends to pool in our basements if the ground has not thawed. (Mine is still dry this morning. Hooray!) We do have marvelous water pressure, though, because the water tanks are on top of the hill.

I have a tendency to make stories sound bigger than they actually are. One day when I was in junior high the toaster plug shorted out and started on fire. I called my mother and told her the toaster had exploded. She freaked out thinking the toaster had exploded when it was only the plug and wasn't very happy with me when she got home.

I will try not to dramatize.

Okay, no. I will try not to dramatize too much.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Basement Watch 2010

As I have stated West lake Woebegone sits in a valley created when a large glacier melted. Many things in my community are named "Glacial" -- the hospital, the vet, the eye doctor, an excavator, a computer repair shop, the state park, etc, etc. If you live in town, chances are you deal with basement water to some extent or another because all the water runs down hill.

My mother offered to come over and move the things around in my basement, so they wouldn't get wet, but so far, so good. Even though it's been raining for 24 hours or so, it still looks pretty good down there. It would probably be a good idea to move things before it gets wet down there, but, I am a surprisingly optimistic person and don't want to expend unnecessary energy.

When we bought this house, we were very excited about the finished basement. Sure it was finished sometime in the 70s complete with built in LP cabinet, but we felt that the 70s carpet was a good sign it didn't get wet down there. Alas, our second spring in the house, it flooded so badly the 70s carpet was torn out and the basement became the large storage facility it is today. That year the ground had not yet thawed when it started to rain in torrents. Water came down the walls like one of those fancy faucets that looks like a waterfall. This was not fancy. Because he's older and a male or whatever, Brent usually takes the lead in home emergencies such as this, but as the evening wore on and I realized that holding a wet/dry vac to the wall was futile, I shut the vacuum off and said, "This is silly, Brent. Let's stop and deal with it when it's done."

There was a lake in our basement the next day. You would have thought that would have been the incentive I needed to really clean up down there.

Yes . . . well . . .

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Poem for Tuesday

And here is the first part of Mr. Eliot's poem in which he incorrectly asserts that April is the cruelest month.

The Waste Land
T.S. Eliot


APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the archduke's,
My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
Frisch weht der Wind
Der Heimat zu.
Mein Irisch Kind,
Wo weilest du?
'You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;
'They called me the hyacinth girl.'
—Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
Od' und leer das Meer.

Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante,
Had a bad cold, nevertheless
Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe,
With a wicked pack of cards. Here, said she,
Is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor,
(Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!)
Here is Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks,
The lady of situations.
Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,
And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,
Which is blank, is something he carries on his back,
Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find
The Hanged Man. Fear death by water.
I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring.
Thank you. If you see dear Mrs. Equitone,
Tell her I bring the horoscope myself:
One must be so careful these days.

Unreal City,
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.
There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying 'Stetson!
'You who were with me in the ships at Mylae!
'That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
'Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?
'Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?
'Oh keep the Dog far hence, that's friend to men,
'Or with his nails he'll dig it up again!
'You! hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frère!'

Monday, March 8, 2010


T. S. Eliot wrote that "April is the cruellest month." Clearly, dear Mr. Eliot never lived in Minnesota. If he had, he would know that March -- March is the cruelest month.

It sort of feels like spring today. I think the high is 38. The snow is melting. It's sort of grey and foggy out. I don't like to get my hopes too far up, though, because next week it could snow two feet and all that uncovered ground could once again be covered in snow. Back to square one.

We don't want it to be too spring, too fast here in West Lake Woebegone because we live in a little valley left by a giant melting glacier. Everything runs downhill and into our basements and since we established the other day that my basement is not the tidiest, it would be better if spring came slowly. Certainly it would be nice if we had a Camelot spring and we just woke up tomorrow and the snow was gone and the sky was blue and the grass was green, but I don't really think that's going to happen.

Later on in his poem Eliot writes "Datta, dayadhvam, damyata" which means give, sympathize, control in Sanskrit. If I had my English major hat on, I would tell you what I think he means. Since I am more likely to analyze "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" these days, I will just say I think it's my motto for March -- the cruelest month.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Preschooler D Quote O' the Day

The other day D and I were in the bathroom. D got into the empty bathtub and walked around. He got out and came over to me.

Mommy, I want to get in the bathtub.

He glanced over to the tub and in case I was confused about his intent added:

With water.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hot Water

I am well aware in the world's Big Picture, I live pretty high on the hog. In the world, one out of five people does not have access to fresh drinking water. 15 percent of the world's population does not have running water. 42 percent do not have flushing toilets.

So it its with great humility that I say I am a little irritated that we had to buy a new water heater this week.

It was just one of those things. There was a puddle underneath our old heater and it was only a matter of time. Better to replace it on our schedule than to have a basement full of burst water heater water. But, I mean, what a dull way to spend money out of the vacation fund.

If the TV exploded or something, we could get a fun, new HD TV and gather the friends and loved ones around to say, "Look at our groovy new TV," but I have to really love you a lot to let you into my stuff-filled basement. In fact, if I do love you a lot, I probably want to spare you the dangerous quest through the piles of gift bags, holiday decorations, clothes I'm sure will fit again, clothes too small for Colin but too big for D, Brent's sound equipment, photo albums, CD we don't listen to any more, Shelby storage, Jeremy storage and piles of laundry I just never catch up on. We are not going to go down to the basement to "Oooh" and "Ahhhh" over my new water heater.

It is nice, though.

It's bigger. Insulated better, I guess.

Okay. Just this once. Follow me. Don't hit your head and don't trip on that pile of suitcases.

Shiny, huh?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Poem for Tuesday

Oh. My. Stars. The Internet was down. I almost had to do housework. Thank goodness I am back in business. The layer of petrified dust in the corners of the kitchen will have to wait.

I was looking for a good housework poem when I came across this which spoke to me as Colin (my own personal jazz pianist) was at piano contests last week. A superior rating there was certainly worth six months of "Majestic Mountain" every day, but it was touch and go for a while.

And let me just say, Colin's piano teacher does not favor floral print dresses.

Well, You Needn't
William Matthews

Rather than hold his hands properly
arched off the keys, like cats
with their backs up,
Monk, playing block chords,
hit the keys with his fingertips well
above his wrists,

shoulders up, wrists down, scarce
room for the pencil, ground
freshly to a point,
piano teachers love to poke
into the palms of junior
pianists with lazy hands.

What easy villains these robotic
dullards are in their floral-
print teaching dresses
(can those mauve blurs be
peonies?). The teachers’ plucky,
make-do wardrobes suggest, like the wan

bloom of dust the couch exhaled
when I scrunched down to wait
for Mrs. Oxley, just how we value
them. She’d launch my predecessor
home and drink some lemonade,
then free me from the couch.

The wisdom in Rocky Mount,
North Carolina, where Monk grew up,
is that those names, Thelonious
Sphere, came later, but nobody’s
sure: he made his escape
by turning himself into a genius

in broad daylight while nobody
watched. Just a weird little black
kid one day and next thing anybody
knew he was inexplicable
and gone. We don’t give lessons
in that. In fact it’s to stave off

such desertions that we pay
for lessons. It works for a while.
Think of all the time we spend
thinking about our kids.
It’s Mrs. Oxley, the frump
with a metronome, and Mr. Mote,

the bad teacher and secret weeper,
we might think on, and everyone
we pay to tend our young, opaque
and truculent and terrified,
not yet ready to replace us,
or escape us, if that be the work.

William Matthews, “Well, You Needn’t” from Time and Money: New Poems. Copyright © 1995 by William Matthews. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved,

Monday, March 1, 2010

Olympic Withdrawal

It's sort of bittersweet, the Olympics being over, isn't it?

I mean on the one hand I will be able to give my early morning Lenten vow another shot. No, it didn't go so well this morning, thank you for asking. When I got up Colin was insisting he was not going to school. Preschooler D was not satisfied with his breakfast choices, and Brent had not taken a shower. (Note to self: MUST rise and shine.)

On the other hand, the Olympics are just so fun -- all that shooshing and flipping and skiing and skating and international getting along drug-free. (Excuse me, Jeremy J, while I reach for my second cup of coffee.)

I was sort of an Olympic snow bunny this weekend. I went on my first snowmobile ride! (Yes, I know that's not an Olympic sport, but work with me here.) How have I lived in the Great North Country and managed not to snowmobile? I have no idea. My parents are very cerebral. We went cross country skiing, which is sort of the thinking person's winter sport. You know -- out in the woods silently absorbing nature. Snowmobiles are loud and fast. It's just the sort of thing you'd think a kid -- like Colin -- who doesn't like loud noises, fast rides and sudden stops would like, right?

You'd be wrong.