A mere slip of the pen


Our wedding

Our Wedding -- April 8, 2000

Hey, look. It’s an artist’s sketch of a wedding day.
There on the left is the groom, all dashing and dapper in his tuxedo. He’s smiling with that faraway look in his eyes of a man in love. Maybe he’s thinking about the honeymoon.
Firmly planted in the middle is Flower Girl Extraordinaire, also known as the real star of this show. After all, this is HER day.
See her crown of flowers? The beautiful blue dress that coordinates with the bride and attendants? See the basket of rose petals?

A psychological analysis of this drawing would probably suggest that Flower Girl is creating an alliance with her new stepfather rather than with her clearly psychotic mother. Or maybe secretly she was glad her mother was getting married again — even if she’d never say it aloud. 
Which brings us to the curious figure on the right.
Dr. Phil, what say you? Where to begin?
The artist insists it was a slip of the pen that caused the bride to have a wonky eye, a twisted grin, an askew headpiece, streaks of red spilling down the center of her bodice. Nothing passive-aggressive going on here, right?

Of course, anyone who knows this wedded pair, this blended family, does not question the depiction of the bride. Not a one.
Even the bride herself laughed when she first saw this rendering of the day. You’d just have to know this bride to understand.

How did that ceremony go? Why, it was a fine and simple service that carried on while snow and sleet swirled outside,  high winds howled and knocked out power, and  airports closed leaving guests at the gate.

Love’s hypnotic power kept both the bride’s and groom’s eyes locked. Neither looked out the window at the meteorological meltdown. Neither saw the dramatic impressions from Flower Girl.  NOTHING could stop these two lovebirds from tying the knot. And so they did, in spite of being upstaged at every turn by the weather and Flower Girl Extraordinaire.

Nine years later, the bride  still has a few tics. Flower Girl has retired her crown and rose petals. And the husband? I think he still has that look once in a while, especially when there’s a glass of sauvignon blanc in his hand.

Assembly Line Concert


I love my little city. It’s one of those inner-ring suburbs revitalized in the last decade by the arts community  and the gay community. We have a little inside joke around the ‘hood that goes something like this: Watch out for those damn heterosexuals, they’re bringing down the property values. 

Seriously, though, my little town is fueled by a creative, can-do spirit. If there’s a different way of doing it, a different way of thinking, you’ll find it here, where adhering to the cookie-cutter standard dictated by Madison Avenue, Fifth Avenue and Wall Street is largely eschewed.

My little town is one of those older ‘burbs that has its own little entertainment district. It’s a walkable community. I like to think that if you march to the beat of a different drummer, you can find a home here.


Round-the-clock recording of event to follow Guinness rules

It’s no surprise to me that my little town is home to the Assembly Line Concert, in its 166th straight hour at 3 p.m. Friday when I stop in with Girl from the East. The 240-hour event is being staged at AJ’s Music Cafe, a nifty little indie coffee house/performance space nestled in the downtown.

The event serves as a reminder to support local business and American-made products including, most importantly, the Big Three auto companies. It asks attendees to sign a pledge that their next car purchase will be an American-made vehicle. It’s a little oasis of hope rising as a beacon over a sea of worry, fear and despair surrounding our metropolitan area. It also seeks to break the Guinness Book of World Records for longest concert by multiple artists.


Grafitti wall: My First Car Will Be/Was


This guy has an awesome voice.

On an otherwise overcast day bearing not much in the way of good news, Girl from the West and I decide to head into town for a mood boost. We stop by Pinwheel Bakery for cookies and then step into AJs, a buzzing hive of activity on this Friday afternoon.
We order juice and seat ourselves in wooden chairs near the stage, where Michael Grajek’s fierce vocals are shaking this old building’s foundation. Accompanist Kent Marcum isn’t too shabby on the keyboards, either.

We stay only an hour. While Girl from the East enjoys a live music set as much as anyone, her attention span is lacking. It felt good to be among people who aren’t satisfied to sit back and fret, who seek to do something positive about this not-so-positive situation. Who doesn’t like a little dose of sunshine on an otherwise gray day?



Watch and listen to the live feed: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/the-assembly-line-concert

If you’re nearby, sign up for a set, or learn other ways to support your local economyhttp://www.assemblylineconcert.com/help.php

Take the pledge at: http://www.ipromiseamerica.com

–In the interest of fairness and disclosure I should admit that I own one American-made car and one foreign car, the only one I’ve ever purchased. I did so nearly a year ago with insurance money after our other American-made car was totaled in a car accident. I like my car but I have never-ending guilt about the purchase, especially in light of recent events.

The one where I have a temper tantrum

I’ve tried out our new digital edition of the Detroit Free Press, which will be the primary way to view the daily paper beginning Monday. Only on three days — Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays — will hard copies of the paper be delivered to my doorstep. The rest of the week involves placing my laptop on the table, amid coffee cups, cereal bowls and small children with sticky fingers.
The rest of my week looks like this:
It is user friendly, I’ll give it that. You just move the cursor over the face of the page to what story or feature you want to read, click, and the entire item is available on the right side of the screen.
Easy. Yes. No more jump pages. True.
However, I’m not really excited about this new technology. I’m not excited about having my laptop on the table.
What? Don’t read the paper at breakfast?
I have news for you, if I don’t get the news with my coffee and cereal, I’m not getting it until the sun sets. I am a stay at home mother. Do I need to put a finer point on it?
Laptops don’t fold, at least not into tidy rectangles or squares, so as not to offend other breakfasters gathered around the table. Laptops don’t dry in the sun or by a heating vent. Keyboards don’t work well with Rice Krispies jammed under the keys.
I’ve bitched about this before, when I learned the fate of my beloved Freep.

Won’t you allow me a quick, powerful, soul cleansing tantrum?



One more thing? If this somehow saves the paper and keeps folks employed, then it’s worth it.

OK. Bring on the news.

I want the window seat, but I'll settle for Google Earth



I love the window seat. Whether it’s on a bus, car or airplane, I have to have the window seat.

Whether I’m 3 feet or 30,000 feet from the ground, I love to peer out at the world.

Know why? On a clear day, the world seems so still and manageable, especially  from above.*

Everything is reduced to form and function. Details are omitted. Histories obscured. A farm is a farm. A field is a field. A road stretches from one compass point to the next. A river meanders on its path to the ocean. 

On our flight to Arizona, we are blessed with a cloudless view nearly the whole distance. The heartland of America looks like a big patchwork quilt of greens, ambers and browns. Roads are childlike scribbles scratched across a sheet of paper stretching from East to West, writing the story of our country’s development. Perhaps because I was hungry, the mighty Rocky Mountains become row upon row of chocolate chunks topped with powdered sugar. I want to reach down with my index finger and run it through that sparkling frosting.

Google Earth

Google Earth

As I look at the world below in miniature, I realize the  how connected everyone and everything really is. I’ve been hearing a lot about this lately and have had trouble wrapping my mind around it. It’s so obvious when you see the effort put into creating cities and road systems. The shape and size of a farm reflects not only the farmer’s labor but also the output that supports all us consumers. What one person does on his patch of earth does affect neighbors near and far.

Google Earth image of my home

Google Earth image of my home

It’s all perspective. Some days I want to gain altitude, grab a corner of the complicated quilt that is my life and shake it with all my strength. What is good and right will stick. What is bad will project out of my sight and reach.

I’ll try to remember all this when I can’t see beyond my walls.

Oh, and downloading Google Earth helps, too.

Google Earth image of family land

Google Earth image of family land


*All bets are off when flying around or through a storm system.

Long-distance relationship


I was flashed today.

It happened as I pulled back the curtains on my hotel room window. I was startled to find  a set of  voluptuous mountains popping out of the horizon. I stared, speechless. The rocky mounds flanked by swaying palms shimmied like some kind of hula dancer performing a show only I could understand.

Yesterday, outside the hotel I found a gathering of well-muscled, phallic cacti strutting around in the rock gardens. I could almost swear one of them whispered something dirty to me.

I’m nine years into a marriage. But I get weak in the knees when warm sun begins to massage my winterized flesh and achy blue sky winks at me wherever I turn. How can a girl stay faithful to her northern roots?

These trips out west, they’re almost like porn.

This latest tryst finds me pulling back the covers on a part-time lover named Arizona. He moves around a lot, changes his name. Sometimes he’s New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming or Montana. Always though, when we reunite, I melt into his broad shoulders, inhale his sage-scented coat of many colors and whisper promises of “someday.”

The torch was lighted in my childhood on a road trip to the Badlands and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, and Devil’s Tower Monument in Wyoming. Throughout my youth, my family covered many miles of road stretching to all points on the compass. But it was the western sojourn that lodged itself in my psyche. Thirty some years later, the grip has not loosened.

It begs the question: Why haven’t I left Michigan? Can’t I divorce this Great Lakes relationship and run away with my Western lover?

The answer is always the same: The time is not yet right. I’ve had offers. I’ve had chances. But, I’m needed here — for now. I’m slowly preparing for my departure, saying my good-byes, biding my time.

Until then, I get my thrills any way I can.


Great moments in parenting …

… to overshadow all the lame ones.

 Lame: Putting a portable DVD player in the pack and play with my then-15-month-old girl to keep her occupied while I took a shower.

Logic: While she’s watching Elmo, I can wash my hair.

Reality: Before I can uncap the shower gel, I hear the sound of something big and heavy hitting the tile floor. 

Result: Broken DVD player.

Lesson: You don’t place expensive equipment within reach of a toddler, especially when they are at the throw-it-to-see-what-happens phase of development.

Great moment in parenting: Deciding to reinvent the broken DVD player into the brand-new Preschooler’s Personal Laptop — just like mommy and daddy use.  So far, it’s working. It’s nothing more than a prop, but it fits into the Dora backpack and buys a few minutes of peace. Priceless.


Lame: Taking your 3 year old along to shop for her new shoes.

Logic: I need to know her shoe size.

Reality: See this post.

Result: Shoelessness, despair, excessive drinking.

Lesson: Leave the child home when shopping, for god’s sake. Well, make sure there’s a responsible adult watching her. Then run for the car and don’t look back.

Great moment in parenting: Getting a few hours to yourself to shop, stopping at shoe store without a goal in mind, finding THE PERFECT PAIR OF CONVERSE ONE STARS. And look: no licensed characters, no flashing lights, no glitter, appliques or neon shades. Tasteful. Simple. Done. And no one got hurt.


Lame: Trying to put an overly tired child to sleep by reading classic books.

Logic: Reading is fundamental.

Reality: Child’s love for treasured tale actually fuels energy in the form of requests for re-reads, use of “funny voices,” searches for the rest of the books in the series, and endless bedtime delays. 

Result: Hyper child jumping on couch like a chimp on speed.

Lesson: Save the good books for nights with time to kill.

Great moment in parenting: Cracking open the laptop, logging on to the personal blog, reading a few of your recent posts to overly stimulated child. Within moments, the eyes droop, the jaw slackens and what’s that? Drool! Success. Transport child to bed. Log out. Pour glass of wine.

Change of scenery on the way

There are probably 50 reasons why I shouldn’t go on a vacation right now. The biggest one being practicality.

To that I say, pfft!

I’ve had it with practicality. Where has it gotten me in the last few years? We did most everything by the book, played by the rules, and where did it get us? Right in this big stinking heap of trouble with just about everyone else — including all the rule-breakers.

Who the heck ever had fun being practical?

The opportunity to tag along on another one of husband’s business trips presented itself to me earlier this year and I said: “I’m going along, whatever it takes. I am not sitting home watching snow melt while you lounge by the pool sipping fancy drinks and watching cactus silhouettes weave against the western sunset.”

I think I had him at “weaving cactus.” We made it work. We are going to Scottsdale, Arizona, for five days.

So I’m trading this view:



for this:




Is there really any debate? It will be so easy to get away from all that is dragging down this rustbelt utopia. The city council will continue its circus act without my audience. The auto companies will either bounce or crash, taking our future along with them.

It will be so easy to just let it all slip away as the plane ascends and heads west. Some day we will make this journey and we will not look back. Some day soon.

The one about shoes


Image from www.pattiewhack.com

Image from www.pattiewhack.com

So, yesterday I took my preschooler shoe shopping.
It would have been easier to climb a wall of razor blades. Naked. In a blizzard.
Whatever made me think I could place a 3-year-old girl around shelves lined with pink, purple, glitter and licensed characters beckoning from every box and expect her to pick out something conservative?

What made me think she’d pull one box at a time from the shelves? What made me think we could do this in 15 minutes?

Is it asking too much to find presentable, reasonable, dyed in a hue occurring in nature, spare of any licensed characters and flashing lights footwear?
If you’re willing to shell out some bucks, then it’s possible. If you’re looking for bargains, it’s going to be painful — razor blade painful.

Let’s point out right now that I don’t own a “Born to Shop” T-shirt. I like to get in and get out when it comes to shopping, particularly when it involves people with short fuses, small bladders and Dora the Explorer obsessions.


image from www.fashionwindows.com

As I struggled to pull the neon purple, blue, pink and red disco shoes off Girl from the East’s  feet, I looked lovingly at the display of baby shoes. So cute and sweet. One pair had little cupcake appliques. Another, a simple Mary Jane with a bright red button. But these designs don’t carry over to the toddler side of the aisle.

Want to know why? The baby shoes are sweet and attractive because the mothers, fathers and grandparents are selecting them. The toddler shoes suck because the manufacturers know that the kids with this size feet are aware and making choices.

They are old enough to manipulate and be manipulated with licensed characters. Put Dora or SpongeBob on the shoe and the kids will scream for them until their parents’ ears bleed. They’ll make life so miserable that buying $12 Hannah Montana Croc rip-offs will seem like a day at the spa.

These down- and-dirty marketing tactics reduce parents to our own most desperate measures. Here are my three favorites:

There’s the bait and switch: Allow the shoe to be tried on. Then, when it’s safely off the foot, distract the child’s attention and pitch the shoes into the next aisle. When you arrive at the checkout line, declare the shoes as lost, having fallen out of the cart never to be found again.  Ever wonder why you see ugly shoes tucked into bread displays? 
Next is the  inventory shortage: This is where you say: “Sorry, honey. They don’t have it in your size.” I am using the tactic as long as I can because she’s learning those numbers at a fast clip.
Finally, there is the delayed gratification: With this strategy, you bank on short-term memory failure.  “We’ll get it another time,” you promise,  knowing you’ll either win this one or live to deeply regret your words.

Your parents pulled one of these on you, didn’t they?

Heck, I’m still waiting for my first car.