Leaves of wrath

I spent the better part of yesterday outside raking/scraping/digging fallen leaves encrusted in snow and ice from my lawn to the curbside for pickup.

I do not appreciate this mixing of the winter into the autumn. Snow is not supposed to fall until all the autumn clean-up is done. Did someone not get the memo? Hmmm? It’s like throwing a party before you clean the house, before you shop for food and drinks.

But leaf raking/scraping/digging proved to be the grueling physical chore I needed yesterday to clear my head, which was buzzing with scary information and worry.

I’m worried and scared about the fallout of the auto companies in distress. If they don’t get the help they need — which I think should only come with very specific conditions that would both bolster the economy and move auto companies away from their outdated ways of operating and producing.

If the Big Three don’t get any help and fall, the ripple effect here and elsewhere is going to be profound. Knowing that something big and bad is about to happen is scary enough. It’s when you don’t know what that bad thing is that makes it all the worse.

As the daughter of a skilled tradesman, I grew up knowing of economic ups and downs. There were times we went on vacation and had a new car in the driveway. There were times we were living on hot dogs and dad had to leave the state to work. But I can’t recall a time in my life when it seemed the entire foundation of everything was teetering on collapse.

Toss in more bad news: I learned from a former co-worker that our employer is poised to belly-up at year’s end. I guess the ax fell really hard and most everyone is out of a job. Add these folks to the growing line of unemployed populated by people at all education and experience levels.

Oh, hey, did I mention I’m supposed to be looking for a job?

I can’t help but think about the fictional Joad family packing up their stake truck and heading down the dirt road toward the green valleys of opportunity that were “just around the next bend” or maybe  “over the next hill.”  Will be soon we watching a procession of Joads heading West out of Michigan?

We’re tiptoeing on thin ice here, dreading that a sudden move will open a fissure and suck us all under.

Somehow, getting grouchy about an early winter, about having to rake/scrape/chop snow-encrusted leaves seems manageable, solvable, trivial.

The deer hunter


It’s been 13 years since my father’s premature death. 

I think of him often. On his birthday. On his death day. And on opening day of firearms deer hunting season.

It’s a big deal here in Michigan. It was a big deal to my dad. He always set aside vacation days to spend in the woods stalking his prey. It’s ritual and tradition and it’s something I’ll never understand. 

Growing up as the daughter of an outdoorsman meant I posed with every dead thing my dad brought home. Every fish, rabbit, bird or mammal he snared, trapped or shot. And in each picture I have the same expression on my face: a forced smile in response to some off-camera plea-turned-threat.

My dad took his outdoors skills seriously. We had property in the north woods. A rugged plot of land without modern amenities. We were supposed to get in touch with nature and learn how to survive without creature comforts. One of those ways was to get our own food. I think my father fancied himself as a sort of Jeremiah Johnson, just one step ahead of the Indians and starvation. My childhood memories are peppered with experiences of hunting for mushrooms and cattail roots and berries.  One year we even tapped maple trees and made our own syrup.  

There is a story my father told me years ago that may have foreshadowed later events in his life. It goes like this: A man gets to be an expert on survival in the wilderness. He gets a little cocky. He makes a fatal mistake.  Nature wins.

My father had a selective memory. He also made executive decisions about how much information his family needed to know. Like the wilderness man in the cautionary tale, these things led to his demise.

Being an outdoorsman appealed to my father because he loved nature. He also liked the role of provider. He wasn’t really in it for the glory. Our home didn’t feature mounted animal heads or stuffed carcasses. I’m guessing that when my dad hauled in that big stiff dead deer to the butcher, he may have been asked about the head. I’m imagining that he declined the offer all those years but one.

In that particular year he must have given in, imagining for one small moment some use for a deer head. But that moment passed quickly. So fast, in fact,  that when he pulled a cardboard box out of his trunk later that day and placed it on a high shelf in the garage, he must have imagined it was hunting gear or some other seasonal item that could be tucked away and forgotten.

The ghost of that year’s deer would haunt us for quite some time. The last person to ever guess it was my father.

The following spring we began to detect a faint odor outside. Thinking a small animal had died on our property, we began a search in earnest. Several investigations later produced nothing. This prompted spurts of frantic cleaning and clearing and some small amounts of digging in the dirt as the season advanced and the temperature climbed.

Odor turned to unbearable stench and with that came flies in swarms. This made it easier to narrow down the source: somewhere near the garage.  Still, without a corpse, a crime scene, we were stumped.

Finally one sweltering July afternoon, when some errand drove me up a ladder and onto a storage platform in our garage, I accidentally overturned a cardboard box.

The box tumbled to the concrete floor below. The momentum of the fall forced the contents out. Splattered below me was a decomposing deer head inundated with maggots in such large quantity that the whole arrangement looked like a rice stir fry platter smothered in brown sauce. The smell was unbearable.  I managed to scoop up the whole mess and quickly haul it to the curb for trash pickup.

Later that evening, when we told the story to my father, he looked over the newspaper at us with squinted eyes, pursed lips and shook his head as if we were making it all up. A deer head? In the garage? It had simply escaped his memory. 

Dad was like that about some things: He could name very Roman emperor in chronological order, all the U.S. presidents, too. But remembering something like a deer head in a box or that he had a life threatening medical condition, those things were niggling details that took up valuable brain space.

Later, I will tell of his undoing.

How low can you go?

Welcome to the November edition of Glamorous In Real Life, hosted by Marcy over at the Glamorous Life Association.

Today we will tour my glamorous basement. Please make sure to grab a pair of goggles, slip on some latex gloves and step into your sturdy boots. Do not breathe until the tour is over.

We’ll start by admiring the lovely windows:

Notice how the glass blocks diffuse the light, casting artful shadows on the mold/mildew/fungal garden blooming on the sill? This is our feng shui room. We’ve had both wind and water in this room, which has contributed to the natural landscaping.
Please resist the temptation to touch the plant life.
Is the aromatherapy kicking in yet? Eau de cat poop? Essence of sewer gas? Both are naturally occuring and not the result of a special soy candle.  Here are the culprits:

Pay attention to the old-world detailing on the floor. This is the result of several sewer backups as well as liberal doses of bleach, which effectively ate away at the gunmetal gray painted surface. Try to tear your eyes away from that sexy drain cover if you can. I know, the rust gets me every time.

I have decided to divert the tour away from cat litter box row. While it is an interesting exhibit, it is a touch too graphic for some of our more sensitive viewers.

Say, here’s a classic example of  “shabby chic” wall decor. I particularly admire the texturizing. I think it adds depth and character to the room, don’t you?

Finally we close the tour with a peek into what we call a “mystery” spot in our basement. A cozy little nook for overnight guests or long-term visitors. Imagine curling up with a good book and a cup of tea on a snowy afternoon.

Thanks for touring our glamorous basement. We are proud of our accomplishments,  which are the direct result of both intense neglect and crushing ignorance. Please return eye wear, masks and gloves before leaving the building. Have a nice day!

More TV kvetching

Read this post using the voice of Dana Carvey’s grumpy old man character from Saturday Night Live:

“In my day, we didn’t have all this fancy satellite TV and DVR. We had regular television. A box on the floor. It had knobs that you turned to change the channels. There were about four channels and we liked them.
Those four channels broadcast for about eight hours a day. We didn’t cry like little babies when the test pattern came on. We went to bed and we liked it. We didn’t have these silly little remote controls either. We got up off our duffs and turned the knob with our hands. We turned the knob until our fingers bled. We didn’t care. 

And we had a thing called a TV guide that came with the Sunday paper. It listed the shows on the four channels on our TV, which was a box on the floor that had knobs. We thumbed through the TV guide with our bleeding fingers until they were covered in papercuts and bled even more. We didn’t complain. 
Now there is all this hocus pocus of cable and satellite and a mandatory switchover to digital television. I’ll give you digits, you con artists.  
Hundreds of thousands of channels of junk. 
And what happened to the TV guide, huh?
I’ll tell you what: The newspaper dropped it a few years ago, those cheapskates.
Then they decided it took up too much space in the daily paper to run any listings. I suppose they needed more room for their precious advertising.
And those crooks over at the local cable company dropped its scrolling TV listings. It’s a conspiracy!
Where in the ding dang dong is a guy supposed to go to find out what’s on the boob tube? Huh?
Don’t tell me I’m supposed to go out and get some fancy computer and surf the Web. I’m living on a fixed income.
I’ve just given up on the whole flim-flam operation.
I figure, if all those big shots out there don’t want me to know what’s on all their fancy channels about cookin’ and wallpaperin’ and back hair waxin’, then I ain’t gonna care one lick.

I’m just going to wrap my bleeding fingers in yesterday’s newspaper and go to bed. Harumph!”

TV bad; computer good?

This just in: unhappy people watch more TV according to this report.
Well, heck. I must be so happy I orbit the earth.
Here are my TV viewing habits:

“Ghosthunters”: one hour on Wednesday nights. This will be replaced by “LOST” when it ever returns from it’s 5-year hiatus. Also one hour.
Maybe one hour of sorta watching CNN or some other news show while exercising at the gym. That’s another three hours a week. 

Maybe another three hours while riding the exercise bike at home.

Total: Seven hours.

About once a month we rent some DVDs to watch. I don’t know if that counts in this study. To be fair we can add another four hours to the total, making it 11 hours.

Before you go thinking I’m all high and mighty here, consider what I’m doing instead of watching TV. Do not ask me about my computer hours. Do not.

He's all that

Rarely does one syndicated columnist prompt me to get out the scissors and clip his or her work and stick it on the refrigerator for further examination and discussion. But with Leonard Pitts Jr., it’s a weekly affair. I love, love, love this guy. 

Check him out. You may agree with me. You may not. You don’t have to, it’s America. We still have a Constitution, I think. It may be ripped, stained and blowing in the wind, but I have hope it will be restored at some point.

Either way, I give the guy major props for telling it like it is with eloquence and reason.

Attention fellow NaBloPoMo-ers: Yeah! We reached the halfway point today. See you at the finish line.

Skip this if you like Sarah P.

Associated Press

I don’t mean to be rude,  Ms. Palin, but last I checked, it was Nov. 14, that’s exactly 10 days after the election. Please be a good sport and go home. You have children who need you, including a special needs baby.  You have a state to run. You have to plot your course for world domination. Best you do that in Alaska where the air is cold and pure. You need to get out of those stuffy TV studios.

Once again, the election is over. There will not be a recount. Please stop with the campaign talking points. Stop saying “Bill Ayers” and “Joe the Plumber.” Stop defending yourself and replaying every offensive and defensive move over the last two months.  Whatever about the clothes. You’ve said your piece. Take a cue from John McCain and lay low.

I’m trying to be neutral about you. To not dislike you. But you are overexposed. Does the name Kato Kaelin mean anything to you?

I’m done.

How many wake-up calls does it take?

Who knew? Drinking excessive amounts of coffee, popping OTC cold pills and getting five hours of sleep aren’t a recipe for good health.

Sounds stupid, but it’s what I did to myself last month. It began with a simple request from the husband for me to look for work. It ended with a phone call from my doctor telling me I had pneumonia.

In between all that I stressed, panicked and over scheduled my life. And when you over schedule your life, it has way of getting the last laugh. Such as: Two days before a planned vacation, one of kids gets really sick, like emergency room sick.

My carefully planned itinerary for the next few days to prepare for this trip was thrown to the wind. We barely made it to the airport for our flight. For the next few days of our vacation, I felt so tired I drank excessive amounts of coffee to stay alert and active. Then I felt a cold coming on, so I loaded up on OTC medication to dull the symptoms. I didn’t want to ruin our trip so I didn’t rest. I willed myself to keep going, to play along with the plan and not be a buzz kill.

When it was time to head to the airport for our return flight, I was full-out sick and could barely put one foot in front of the other. I spent the whole flight home curled up in a ball of misery.

This cascade of events has led me to today: In a bit of a worry about my future and consciously applying the brakes to my high-speed/going nowhere life.

A week after my doctor’s visit, the doctor called me to see how I was doing. She said they’d looked at my chest X-ray again and decided there was a spot on my left lung that needed to be watched. Could I come back in a few weeks for a follow-up X-ray?

I contemplated this. I’m a former smoker; I quit 15 years ago. It sounds weird to say but I’m hoping the spot is pneumonia and not something else.

I’m not job hunting right now. I’m not finishing that painting project. I’m not cleaning the basement. 

I am taking it easy. I am hugging my girls a little bit longer. I’m trying not to worry. Really, I’m trying to just  appreciate each moment. Two scares in one year are too many.

Blogging killed dear diary

Dear Diary:
I’m sorry I haven’t opened you in a while. I’ve been a little distracted in the last year with a modern version of you. I still think of you fondly.
Do you consider me a cheater or a deserter for abandoning you for a high-tech trophy?

It’s not you. It’s me. I’ve gone public. Gone are my private musings and wanton ramblings. Now I put it all out there for the whole world two people to read. I flailed around in the deep waters of blogging for a while, before some nice people invited me onto their raft. Since then, I’ve connected with a lot of wonderful and talented writers and creative people. This is not something I could do with you, alone. I hope you understand.

See this thing called My Daytime TV? This is my blogroll. It is a list of writers I consider tops in the blogging game. I admire them for their talent, creativity, insight and candor. This is the good side of leaving you for the Internets.

But diary, there are some downsides, too. I’ve learned that a diary will never send mean replies to entries, or talk back or take my material and spread it around in a vicious manner like some Internet monsters will. The world outside your bound pages can be strange, dangerous and freaky.

Also, dear diary, you won’t leave me. But blogger friends come and go. I lost one last month when her online material caused trouble on the homefront. I hope she returns one day after reaching a compromise with her family. Just this week another special friend had to close up shop due to time constraints and other matters I am not privy to. I am sad about this, diary. But I must persevere in this new realm.

I just need to work harder. Get smart about this and justify the amount of time I spend online. Just as it was easy to curl up under a tree, on a couch, or by the shore with you diary, I’ve gotten comfortable with online circles, which have dimished lately.

I read recently on Wired  (courtesy of a visit to DharmaBum) that like you dear diary, blogging is dead. Isn’t it just like me to be on the dull side of cutting edge? I suppose you think this is my just desserts for up and leaving you. But I will not give up. Just as you and I have been a pair since I wore my grade school jumper and knee socks, I’m sure I won’t give up my online affair that easily.

So, while we are not an item anymore, I will always have a place in my heart for you, dear diary.
Thanks for understanding.


Mr. Spock, where are you?

When I tangle with my toddler, I can always seek refuge in Dr. Benjamin Spock’s sage advice.

That Doc Spock rocks! He knows his stuff. I’ve been referring to the same dog-eared volume of “Baby and Child Care” on my nightstand since the early ’90s, when I faced the uncertain future of life with newborn Girl from the West. Although this well-read book addresses the issues of adolescence in a general manner, even the late-physician admitted much of it is up to the parents’ discretion.

I have a library of books on baby care, early childhood matters and illness. There is another slew of tomes on adoption-related matters. But nothing is worth its weight in advice on the wrangling of teens. Why is this?
Teens have a special radar I call PBS — parental bullshit sensor –that kicks in whenever adults approach them with newfangled, warm-fuzzy techniques of communication. This I know being a child of the ’70s, when such methods were thrown around like rice at a wedding. None of it stuck. All those so-called “mod” adults who wanted to sit around on woven rugs and have “rap sessions” with us teens really just made us want to gag. We didn’t want to hear any of their hippie nonsense.

The closest thing to an effective tool may have been those “Scared Straight” assemblies in high school. You know, the one where the ex-con, former herion addict stands before an auditorium full of bored adolescents telling sordid tales of collapsed veins, hepatitis and jail time. It scared me, a little. I don’t know about its overall success rate.

I’ve decided there’s only one way to go. What we need here is Mr. Spock.

You don’t mess with this guy. He is half Vulcan. He has pointed ears and inquisitive eyebrows.  He is all about business and logic. There is no warm. There is no fuzzy. You will not find yourself rappin’ with this guy on a hemp rug. Try to a finagle your way out of taking the trash out with this guy. It’s not going to fly. If you push him too far — you face a mind meld or worse, the Vulcan Nerve Pinch.

This is what I need to learn. I’m looking through our city’s continuing education brochures, the local enrichment catalogs. So far, I’m not finding these classes offered. Is it more of an underground thing? Do I need to know a code word? Is there an unmarked door down a dark alley I have to knock on three times to gain access to this world? If anyone knows, send me an e-mail. I’m desperate for a solution.

In the meantime, beam me up.