Worst Gifts

What's the worst gift you've ever received? And also, what did you do with it?

I used to feel really guilty about getting rid of gifts that I didn't like. I don't really, anymore. Maybe that's why people don't give me as much these days! Who knows?

I'm not sure who all actually reads this blog, so I hesitate to actually mention what the worst gifts I've ever received were. Let me just say that a bad gift is one that:

a. is incredibly unsuited to my belief system
b. is incredibly unsuited to my personal style, or
c. is completely and utterly worthless.

I'm sure I have, myself, given my share of these.

We have a tradition of gag gifts in my family, and I remember one year, Aunt Donna (rest her soul- I hate writing that, but she's gone) gave me her old wallet. I'm talking a really old wallet. I didn't know it was a gag, and I did my best to pretend to like it. She, of course, laughed at me for an hour or so. "The look on your face!" she said.

Also, (just to share some family peculiarities,) for a while, there was a pair of old men's shoes going around as a gag gift. And I think- those who know, correct me if I'm wrong- I think someone spray painted them silver one year, and gave them to Duncle Ennis, and he liked them! He wore them. Duncle Ennis, in turn, gave everyone a box of candy corn one year for Christmas, the kind that has "a prize in each box". Another year, he gave us each a Debbie Gibson single (in the days of vinyl records), got out a golf ball, and suggested we all play golf with him (the large holes in the middle of the records were supposed to be the golf holes). And I think there was one year he gave kazoos. And one year, quite mysteriously, he actually gave me a hundred dollar bill. I felt it to make sure it wasn't counterfeit. I rather miss Christmas with Duncle Ennis.

That's not what I'm talking about, though. I'm talking about things you really, really don't know what to say about. How do you deal with such calamities?

So, what's the catch (curse)?

Brian and I are both intrigued by this house. It's on a fairly busy street, and we've always noticed it, because it's so incredibly rectangular. Driving by it always sparks a conversation between us about whether it's cool, or whether this design is just too weird:


We were both a bit surprised to notice a "for sale" sign in front of it a few days ago, because it seems like it was just for sale a year ago. What's the deal? Is it haunted? Is it too weird? It's in a really good neighborhood. The street it's on is busy, but the house is set back far from the street, and all of the windows face the woods out back. I wonder if it's just creepy to live there. I adore this kitchen (at least, from the picture):

That straight line!

The really strange thing is the price, $239,800. It looks huge, and it's in a good neighborhood. It's by a wonderful, large park, the kind where you hike through the woods. Also, very close to Taco Bell, which may not be a selling point for most, but I confess it is for me. Our house is probably worth $200,000, so we could almost afford to live there. I think we would, except... there's something wrong with it, isn't there? What is it?

Oh, and there's this note: "Home being ???SOLD AS IS??? "

They couldn't get the blood stains out of the wood flooring, could they?

The Zombie Doll, Final Look- Lock up the kids

I didn't want to post this before Christmas and spoil the surprise for Jen, so here it is now, in all its glory, the finished zombie doll:

Christmasy, isn't she? The head is removable (velcro) and attached with a bit of pink elastic, for that head-hanging-by-a-tendon look.

I really got into this. I don't know what that says about me.

सेलिब्रेटिंग थें एंड Now

Every Christmas gift was perfectly wrapped, when I was a child, mostly courtesy of Jean, my stepmother. Jean is really the queen of wrapping. I think she even wrapped some boxes one year and sold them at work. People actually bought them to put gifts in, they were so beautiful. Even if we were shipping something, everything was wrapped beautifully and then packaged into the box. To this day, she has more wrapping supplies than God* in her garage.

I've always loved wrapping presents, too. But anymore, I think that wrapping paper is kind of a waste. You only buy it to basically rip it up and throw it away. Lately, I've been trying to use recycled products to wrap gifts: old paper from presents I got from Jean (or other people, conceivably), paper that I get (ironically) for free from environmental organizations I donate to, or outdated maps. This gift has all three:

The map is 1997 Kansas. I think there's a detail of Topeka there, on top.

I'm fully expecting my Christmas gift from my husband to be wrapped in a National Geographic Map of the Ancient Middle East, because that's what I gave him to wrap it in.

I also have a different idea about the tree. When I was a kid, we would cut one down, usually, from a Christmas tree farm, and I just thought that was a blast, going to get the tree. So primitive. I got to watch some disgruntled adult use a saw and try to pretend he/she was having fun! It smelled great, too.

Of course, I can't do that now. I mean, why kill a damn tree every year? I guess it's just a crop, but whatever. I got this little live Norfolk Pine in a pot ten or more years ago at the grocery store. It's been growing, and growing, and growing...

I love this tree. The best part is, you don't have to get a tree every year. It's already there! It used to stand in the living room, but lately it migrated to the spare bedroom, to keep it out of harm's way. I sort of half-heartedly decorated it this year, but I still love it. It smells good all year, and its branches are so soft. I think it likes to be touched. I run my fingers over the pine needles, now and again. Yeah, I know. Tree hugger! That's me.

*Do I mean that God does not live in the garage, or do I mean that God does not have as much wrapping paper as Jean? I don't know. Both ideas have merit.

P.S. I don't know what happened to the title, there. Blogger did something, but I kind of like it. The original title sucked.

Welcome to Winter!

Today, when I got up, the temperature on the porch was minus 3 f. and it was super windy! And there were a few inches of snow on the ground to clean up. I got to use the new snowblower, though. It's fun.

I took this picture with my cell phone today. Yes, we did leave the house. The inside of the car windshield was frozen.

Ah, winter.

You'll find better pictures here.

What I Want for Solstice This Year

Charity is tough.

I have the most bizarre problem. I belong to this group on yahoo called "Madison Freecycle," where you can give things away or get stuff for free. I've had these snow tires sitting around for a couple of years, since I sold my Mazda to Gina. They're just taking up space. They have lots of tread left on them, so I thought I'd give them away on Madison Freecycle.

You'd think it would be really easy to give away a set of snow tires, with the weather we've been having, and there has been no shortage of interest in them, for sure. The problem is that I decided to just go with the first people who needed them, and I don't know what their deal is, really, but we've been emailing back and forth for a week now. They've been trying to get transportation here and having a hard time. Okay. Whatever. They say they need them because their car is not functional, the tires are so bald. Okay. That makes sense. Here's the clincher, though: They came here this morning. They emailed me they were coming, and then they came, an hour's drive for them, and of course as luck would have it, I wasn't home and didn't check my email and didn't put these tires out because I had no clue they were coming. We've been emailing for a week. They had my phone number, mind you. They even called from outside the house (while they were out there). They just didn't think to call me before they came. They emailed. So now, I feel bad for them not having their tires, but... what the heck? If it was so hard to get here, why didn't they call me on the phone first? Or even wait for an email response?

Oh, goodness.

I think it was John Waters who once said that the biggest benefit to being rich is that you don't have to deal with people if you don't want to. If only I had a butler to give away my possessions for me. Then I could feel charitable without actually having a charitable attitude.

Snow Day!

Brian got to try out his new snow blower.

It was supposed to be the last day of school before break, but Mother Nature had other plans for us.

Visiting the Terrorist or Santa and the Art of Being in the Moment

I took Zelma to get her picture taken on Santa's lap today.

It was already going badly on the way there, when Zelma started crying because she couldn't get her tights off. She had one boot off, and had gotten some substantial parts of her white tights blackened in the process, and her hat was off, and it was ten degrees out, snowing, but never mind all that. We get there, finally, to the upscale mall where you don't have to pay to sit on Santa, you just snap your own picture, and Santa was late. The sign said he was off feeding his reindeer, back by ten, and we were still waiting at 10:15, waiting in front of this enormous gingerbread man, stolen from the set of "Yoshimi Battles the Giant Gingerbread." This little two year old boy, wearing a Christmas sweater than only a two year old boy can pull off, asked me, "Are you Santa?"
I try my best to always take children seriously, or at least a little bit more seriously than I take adults.
"No," I said, "I am not Santa." He then looked at Zelma.
"Are you Santa?" he asked her.
Zelma considered this seriously. Perhaps she was Santa. Perhaps she was not. She couldn't say.
"She's not Santa," I said. "Santa isn't here."
"Santa is parking his sleigh," said the woman I presumed to be his mother. "He'll be here soon." Or, I thought, he's committing sodomy in the dressing room at Macy's. I saw "Bad Santa." I know how these things work.

Santa then came. He was dressed in this red suit and wearing a disturbingly bushy beard, like a terrorist who doesn't want to be recognized. Perhaps he was hiding fangs. He held children in his lap. "Smile," said a father as he took the picture.
"It doesn't matter if I smile," said Santa. "No one can see my mouth, anyway."
It was true. It was impossible to make out his mouth.
Our turn came. Zelma rather reluctantly approached the small stairway to Santa's gingerbread vinyl couch. He called her, "princess." This is the first time anyone has ever called Zelma "princess". I think it was a red flag for her. I put her on Santa's lap, and she screamed. I took out my camera, and she screamed even louder.
"Maybe if she sits on my lap, next to you, she would be okay?" I said to Santa. Santa was up for it. I was a little embarassed- I didn't feel dressed properly for having my picture taken, but oh well. I asked a random man behind us to take the picture, and he did.

Perhaps he took the picture from a distance to disguise the terror in Zelma's eyes. My favorite part is the lady walking by. It's good he caught that, random man behind us in line. Thank you for that.
"Well, anyway, this is a moment in time," said Santa. I understood then that we were capturing the moment, good or bad. He was a very Zen Santa. I wonder what he was doing when he was twenty minutes late?

Local News

I don't pay much attention to the news here in Wisconsin, but I've noticed that whenever I do, if only for a moment, there's always something a little bit... Wisconsin to it.

This guy wanted to do something for the children in his community, so, like anyone else anywhere would do, he grew a 750 pound pumpkin in his garden, hallowed it out, filled it with rations, and paddled it 150 miles down the Wisconsin River. You could argue, I think, that this is much less crazy than running a marathon.

Substitute Teaching: A Place for Endless Entertainment

My favorite quote of the day:

"You're not listening to me! Anteaters! Where is their habitat!?" This question was directed towards me. As though I were some sort of, I don't know, anteater specialist? I love how kids think teachers know everything. He really thought I was holding out on crucial knowledge. Like anteater hideouts were top secret.

My second favorite:

"This shape is a rectal trapezoid." (Written down on a white board. I was behind the student, but had to go around and look when I saw the look on other teacher's face and the way she turned her back from the class and hid for a minute, shaking slightly.)

This is ripe for a pun. I am not a master, but I know you're out there.

Yes, We Can!

Whenever I read her "Bob the Builder" book to Zelma, I wonder if Barack Obama borrowed his campaign slogan from Bob. Obama's children were quite young when he began his campaign.

Personally, I like to change the words when I'm reading it, depending on my state of mind.

"Can we do it?"
"I don't know. Let's try. Maybe."

"Can we do it?"
"Um... What was that, Bob? I wasn't listening."

"Can we do it?"
"No, Bob, I'm afraid we can't. Not this time."

Happy Birthday

Happy birthday to Grandma Ruth today (lady in the picture at the top of the page. I'm the little one there. The dog behind her legs is Meatball, and the town in the background is Irwin, PA). Grandma Ruth was born on Friday the Thirteenth. Whenever a Friday the Thirteenth rolls around, she wakes up in the morning and says, "My lucky day!" Or, at least, she once said it was her lucky day on one Friday the Thirteenth, and I will forevermore picture her saying this.

She also believes that "cellar door" is the most beautiful word (phrase?) in the English language. Thus my blog's original title, "grandma's cellar door".

Not the Plague, after all

It turns out that I have Strep Throat. I felt kind of weird going to the Urgent Care this morning for a sore throat, but it was a really really sore throat, and now that I know I have Strep, I feel vindicated, as the final symptom of Strep (if not treated) is death. When Brian was reading me the symptoms, however, I was more concerned with "food odor". At least that wasn't me! It was the strep!

Not to worry, though. I've got my antibiotics. Foot odor will soon disappear (this is a most pressing issue for those of you who have never met me in person, I'm sure).

We had planned on recording our annual Christmas album this week-end, but I don't think that is going to happen this year. I can't muster any creativity or (obviously) sing right now, although Brian is getting very good at "We Three Kings" on the banjo. Too bad. Maybe we will do something on a much smaller scale, like record one song. And save it. For the second coming.

Plague Revisited

Somehow caught the plague again. Poopy. I love my husband (husband stayed home and took care of sick me and sick baby yesterday). I had a fever of 101.6.

Thought a lot of random thoughts while sick. For example, at one of my weight watchers meetings once (I don't attend anymore), a lady lost 100 pounds and was telling us about it. She was telling us about her "weight loss journey" (which is what you do once you "meet goal" in weight watchers) and about how she wanted to live to be 100 years old, and had suddenly realized that her joints wouldn't last that long if she were 100 pounds overweight, so she had lost all of this weight. Interesting. But the really interesting thing about this woman was that, after explaining her reasoning to us, she suddenly broke into song,

"OH! IIIIII! Lost one hundred pounds!
I lost one hundred pounds!
I want to live to be one hundred and eight,
so I lost one hundred and two! Yes,
it could happen to you! To lose one hundred and two"...

Or something like that.

Everyone just stared at her, as she stood there and rocked and clapped her hands and sang to us. Sitting with mouths agape, we looked on. And then we clapped, of course, because you do that, you know. Everyone filed out in silence. No chit chat about that one.

She was pretty cool.


I don't know about you, but I so relate to Animal in this one.

A Story of Questionable Origin

Jen wrote about her love of the film "Night of the Living Dead," and it reminded me of something.

When I was about twelve years old, my Uncle Rick drove me out to see the town where "Night of the Living Dead" was filmed. For all I know, he completely made it up, as he was generally full of shit*, but he also took me to a place nearby which was a reservoir that had been built over a town. The town had a river running through it, and the powers that be decided to damn the river and flood the town, so that everyone else in the area could have water or something. I don't know. Everyone had to give up their homes, move to a new town, and let them flood the old town until it was completely under water. Anyway, FDR's presidential train was riding the rails over the damn, and the president saw dead bodies floating by! Apparently, they were supposed to move the cemetery, but they must have left a few bodies, and when the soil became completely satiated, the dead bodies floated up to the surface. It was a great scandal of the time, supposedly. "Night of the Living Dead" was filmed in the new town, where all the people moved to when they flooded out their houses. I really and truly don't know if he made all this stuff up, but it scared the crap out of me when I was 12, and I've loved that movie ever since. He ended our freaky road trip day (I'm pretty sure we were driving around in circles) with a six pack for himself and KFC for the both of us. It's strange the details that stick in your head.

*He isn't full of shit, now. I think he just liked messing with me because I was twelve.

An inside joke for family: Rick and I were looking at all of this creepy stuff, talking about dead bodies floating around and stuff, nonchalant, like, when we saw a sign that said we were on the road to Saltsburg. We both screamed! "Turn the car around! Turn it around, Rick! Quick! Quick!!!!" Rick made a u-turn Dukes of Hazard style and we didn't breathe a big sigh of relief until we were ten miles up the road.

I be makin' puppets!

Freaky freaky zebra penguin ghost puppet.

Hellraiser or alternately sweet brown sea mammal puppet.

Zebra head with big lips puppet. Yes, that is a Miller Light next to him. I keep telling him to cut back on his drinking.

I'm a fan of Homosexuals and Butter...

... or at least that's what my facebook home page says! Nothing else, just homosexuals and butter. In that spirit, check out this video:

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

I'm always a sucker for personal appearances by Jesus.


Forgive me, I'm not sure if this is really worthy of a post, but there is a truck around here that I see driving around a lot, with the personalized license, "MAD VET." This being Madison, I assumed at first that the person driving the truck was a Madison veteran. But then, of course, there are many possibilities, aren't there?

1. Madison Veteran
2. Angry Veteran
3. Insane Veteran
4. Madison Veterinarian
5. Angry Veterinarian
6. Insane Veterinarian
7. Other Possibilities?

Are there any people in your area with noteworthy plates? Do personalized plates even exist in, say, London? Just wondering.

A Game for Us

Here are the rules:
* Grab the book nearest you. Right now. Don't hunt on a book shelf for something to impress us, but it has to be a real book!
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence and reference the book in the comments.

I stole this from Meg. Remember, Meg, that plagiarism is the greatest of compliments!

Why won't you let Santa be my friend?

I tried to become friends with Santa Claus on Facebook, today, and it said, "Claus, Santa already has too many friends."


Brian made breakfast.

It was some sort of exotic pancake. Yum. Although, admittedly, it looks like a giant tumor, it was most delicious, extraordinarily yummy, fantastic, delectable, mouthwateringly tasty, succulent, palatable, delish, nummy, finger-licking, yummy, melt-in-your-mouth, exquisitely good!

The Nurse Who Couldn't Complete Her Sneeze

I made this silly video. I had to copy Deadpaninc. He is so amusing. I am but a mere shadow. Anyway, here's my video:

The Tofurkey is in the oven...

The Tofurkey is in the oven, and now it is time to talk about the history of giving thanks in America. It just so happens that I am currently reading a book entitled, "Lies My Teacher Told Me, Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong" [I can't get my computer to italicize in these posts. Sorry!]. It's a really fascinating book. I highly recommend it. A few days ago, I read the passages about Thanksgiving, and I'll quote my favorite parts here:

"Thanksgiving dinner is a ritual, with all the characteristics that Mircea Eliade assigns to the ritual observances of origin myths:
1. It constitutes the history of the acts of the founders, the Supernaturals.
2. It is considered to be true.
3. It tells how an institution came into existence.
4. In performing the ritual associated with the myth, one "experiences knowledge of the origin" and claims one's patriarchy.
5. Thus one "lives" the myth, as religion."


"The civil ritual we practice marginalizes Native Americans. Our archetypal image of the first Thanksgiving portrays the groaning boards in the woods, with the Pilgrims in their starched Sunday best next to their almost naked Indian guests. As a holiday greeting card puts it, 'I is for the Indians we invited to share our food.' The silliness of this reaches its zenith in the handouts that schoolchildren have carried home for decades, complete with the captions such as, 'They served pumpkins and turkeys and corn and squash. The Indians had never seen such a feast!' When Native American novelist Michael Dorris's son brought home this 'information' from his New Hampshire elementary school, Dorris pointed out that 'the Pilgrims had literally never seen "such a feast," since all foods mention are exclusively indigenous to the Americas and had been provided by [or with the aid of] the local tribe.'"


"The true history of Thanksgiving reveals embarrassing facts. The Pilgrims did not introduce the tradition; Eastern Indians had observed autumnal harvest celebrations for centuries. Although George Washington did set aside days for national thanksgiving, our modern celebrations date back only to 1863. During the Civil War, when the Union needed all the patriotism that such an observance might muster, Abraham Lincolm proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday. The Pilgrims had nothing to do with it; not until the 1890's did they even get included in the tradition. For that matter, they were not commonly known as 'the Pilgrims' until the 1870's."

pp. 89-90,
"Lies My Teacher Told Me" by James W. Loewen

Although, it's still nice to give thanks once a year. The Eastern Indians were definitely onto something.

I'm making a doll.

So far, it's looking creepy. Maybe getting a body will help.

Alternately, I could always make a zombie doll. I know at least one person who might like something like that.

The Missing Pieces

When our light in the kitchen died a slow and unusual death, giving a little less light each day, we decided to replace it with this one. It took three tries to get it up right, and I can't say I recommend this activity for a long and happy marriage, but we did, in the end, install it, and I think it looks okay.

And yet, we have all of these little parts left. Why is that?

This happens to me all the time, whenever I install anything. I have little jars in the basement full of left over (or, perhaps, missing) pieces of things. I don't understand. Are these "just in case" parts, thrown in by a company worker "for good measure"? Or, is there something more sinister going on here, like, "I'll throw in some specifically useful looking parts that don't go with this item, just to make the consumer feel as though she has done something wrong and the light fixture will surely burn the house down someday, because of those little electrical looking things that never actually went into it."


Just drive, already!

Most of you know that this is not a phrase I would normally utter. It takes a special circumstance. The circumstance is this: the auto makers' CEO's went to Washington to plead with congress to give them 25 billion dollars to keep their businesses afloat, but lawmakers are unimpressed, because all of these Mo'fo's hired private jets to get there!

So, the problem, as I see it, is two fold:

1. This is not a prudent use of finances.

2. Car manufacturers should drive cars.

I don't go to dentists on a liquid diet, I don't go to a bald hairdresser, and I don't think we should drive cars if the manufacturers won't drive them from Detroit to Washington! It's a nine hour drive, according to Maps.google.com, and you can stop for lunch in Pittsburgh! What could be better?

Okay, I've stopped for lunch in Pittsburgh before (on the way to London, no less) and I guess some things are better, but still. Take a minivan and carpool, why don't chya? Car manufacturers. Geese.

Things that make you go, "hm..."

I was just out hanging my nifty new LED Christmas lights. A gentle snow was falling. I wanted to get them hung before it accumulated. Across the street, my neighbor was making a racket, mowing his lawn, turning white to green in neat twenty-two inch strips as the lawnmower bag filled with snow. I've never seen anyone mow snow before.

The Mini-Xylophone

Just last night, I replaced the keys on this xylophone with the ones you see in the picture. This is an antique xylophone built for a toddler to play. It's really cool. A good friend of mine got it for me when I was pregnant with Zelma. The only problem with it was that the metal keys had rusted, and turned so grossly out of tune that it was a little bit horrifying. (This good friend says she is tone deaf.) Initially, I replaced the keys with more metal keys, but then the parts that held the keys in place looked really dangerous when Zelma played it. They were these little rusted pieces of metal sticking straight up from the top. Zelma really likes to play it, though, so I was hesitant to just take it away. Also, I wanted to keep it in use, because it was a gift. Finally, I decided to just somehow get rid of those rusty metal pieces on it and put some nicer sounding, wooden keys on it from my dad's old xylophone (sorry, dad!) which has been sitting out back on the porch since we got the piano. I didn't want to ruin the keys, though, in case we ever want to play the regular, big xylophone again, so it is lucky for me that each key has two holes in it, which you can run a string through and attach to a different box. That's what I ended up doing. I ran some hemp jewelry making thread through the keys, bent those horrible pieces of rusty metal down inside the box (where they won't poke Zelma's eyes out), and then attached the string between each key to the rusty metal thing, to keep each key in place. Zelma played it today, delightfully. It sounded good!

It's got no sharps or flats, just G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. The hard wooden mallets came with it. They work really well with the wooden keys.

I like meddling with instruments.

R.I.P. Sweetie the Cat

I guess I could say a lot about her, but mostly I just think she was the perfect pet. She was the perfect combination of sweet and cruel (only cat lovers can understand this comment). She spent most of her life looking cute and purring, but I also remember her amazing love of Miller Moths. We had a regular infestation of them in Pueblo, and Sweetie would jump up and catch them between her paws, mid-air, and then eat them as soon as she hit the ground. She would have black Miller dust on the white fur around her whiskers. In true cat fashion, she would then go about her business, strutting over to the couch for a nap as though nothing at all had just happened, but she would have the evidence there, all too clear on her furry face.

The other thing that was funny about her was that she had a spot over one eye, and she would spy on people. She would only open the eye that was camouflaged by that spot, and that one only just a slit. She would pretend she had her eyes closed, but she was watching. Here's a picture of her, about a month ago, doing that eye thing:

Sweetie died this morning. She was sixteen.

Barack O'Bama

One of these two is the feel good video of the week, but I can't decide which, the produced one or the pub version?

This next one is also wonderful because it was filmed at the Starry Plough in Berkeley! (Aunt Lou used to play there.)

Innuendo Madness

This claims to be from an actual children's program, but I don't believe it!

One of Us*

A few days ago, I had this lingering despair, and the funny thing is, I didn't even realize it was there. It was like a house guest who was there so long, I thought it was part of the family. But like fish after three days, it was stinking, and the smell, too, had lingered so long, I didn't even realize it was there. Now that despair is gone, though, the air smells so fresh. It's like I can breathe again.

I didn't vote for him because he's black, and I'd wager that you didn't, either. We voted for him because we thought he'd actually do a better job, right? He'd be a better president. He will be a better president than the alternative.

But it's so much more than that, isn't it? If you're black, you can say, "It's so nice that one of us with soon be president. Finally! Four hundred years is so long to wait! And it finally happened, it's happening now." And you're right! It's wonderful!

But the other thing is, he's one of us, too. The white folks, I mean. I don't mean that because he's half white. I mean that he's one of us who is sick of this crap from the White House. I mean that he's one of us who talks plainly, who thinks things through, who doesn't want to be ashamed of what he does each day or to hide it in a sea of ridiculous, hypocritical banter about religion and patriotism. I mean he's a Midwesterner, he's a child of divorced parents, he's a parent himself who reads Harry Potter books to his kids, and he's an optimist, and he says things that I, personally, me, understand perfectly clear. He owns less than five houses. That sort of thing.

He's one of us.

I found myself worrying because his grandmother, who raised him, died a day and a half before election day. Died! Before she saw him elected! I thought of Grandma Amy and how she never met her great-grandchild. And then I realized: Holy crap! I'm thinking about a politician like a real, honest to God person.

He's one of us.

I used to think like it was only "the issues" that mattered. Part of that was just that "the religious right" relied so much on "character" ( like in the Bush Jr. campaign! Seriously?) that I didn't want to have anything to do with all of that. The issues. Stick to the issues.

Now, I don't know. Now I think I've changed my mind. Maybe we should look at the whole person. Maybe it matters what you do in your personal relations in life. A lot. Maybe humanity is just precisely what we need. We don't know exactly what issues will actually come up in the presidency, do we? What we need to know is that we've hired a good person. One of us. One of the caring human beings of this world.

Obama has done something for me that I didn't think would happen, ever. I'm convinced we've elected one of us to the presidency. A caring person. I've lost despair, for a moment. Perhaps it will return someday, and like a destitute old friend, show up begging at the front door for a place to stay. But for now, it's gone. The guest bed has dirty sheets, recently vacated. The windows are open, and we're airing things out. The smell of despair will be gone, soon. And that's a very, very good thing.

* Yes, there's always the chance that things will later fall apart. But "all we have is now," to quote the Flaming Lips. I like now.

Wilma the Whale

May favorite little person is going to get a home-made stuffed whale from Mommy for Christmas this year. I clipped the pattern from one of those 1960's women's magazines that I was reading in Pueblo. The pattern did not specify that the bow in the hair (hair? on a whale?) that the bow would be a Wisconsin Badger bow; that was my own, personal touch. Think she'll like it?

That Unreasonable Guy

Has anyone ever asked Ralph Nader why he runs for President of the United States every four years? Or, really, more interestingly, why doesn't he run for one of the following positions, which he might actually win:

* County Alderman?
* Mayor?
* PTA President?
* Neighborhood Association President?
* School Board Member?
* State Senator?
* Community Organizer?

Think small, Ralph.

Seriously. I wonder. Why not start with something smaller, and work your way up?



I don't really think Mr. Obama is the Messiah or anything, but the music expresses my feelings at the moment.

Everything looks a little bit prettier today, somehow.

Later edit: The "he shall reign for ever and ever" part of this somehow makes it seem a completely inappropriate choice! Yes, I know about the two term limit on the presidency! Again, the song is about the Messiah, I just enjoy the joyful expression of emotion in it. I feel like a dork having posted it. It's a beautiful song, though, so I'm leaving it!

Old School

At the school where I substituted on Monday, there was a phone like this by the door in every room:

I tried to use it. No dial tone. Somebody then directed me to a modern telephone, back in the corner. Phew.

I'm predicting that one of these people will win.

Edit: I guess a lot of people don't recognize Ralph Nader in this picture. He's on vacation. I always look a lot better (and different) when I'm on vacation, too.

Some Election Humor

No joke, though: don't wear an Obama t-shirt to the voting booth! They won't let you vote. Or a pin. Don't wear a pin. You can't have any ads on you for a candidate. They won't let you vote. They can legally keep you from voting if you are wearing paraphernalia. I'm sure all you minions knew that, though, right?

I love Autumn

I love spooky trees...

old bridges...

us, of course...

and squashes from the garden.

Sad bike accident

Sorry, but you'll have to turn the volume up really loud to hear this one proper, like:

That's one big sweet potato!

Marsha brought us this sweet potato from down in New Orleans. It's sharing a bowl with an acorn squash from her mother's garden in Wisconsin.

I think they're in love.

The Plague

You might not have noticed, but I have been quite sick these past few days. I think I caught the Plague from Jen over the Internets Tubes. Although, I can't be sure, what with all the things going around. I did read some postings by Richard, as well (also ill recently with unexplained infection), and I ended up taking this picture:

I guess another explanation might be the cheese that I recently added back into my diet. Some people believe that all animal products should be avoided, for optimal health.

Whatever the cause, I'm happy to say that I'm feeling better again. In the future, I will be sure to use proper protection when surfing the Internets.

Out of Place

I have this issue with being out of place in my own life. I don't fit in, somehow. This is most apparent when I am at playgrounds with Zelma, who is 14 months old.

I just don't know what the etiquette is at playgrounds. We go to a playground almost every day. She loves playgrounds. Generally, at a playground, where I go is dictated by where Zelma wants to go- especially since she still has to hold my hand to walk. Zelma likes to walk up close to people and stare at them (or trees, or dogs, but that's not really the problem). I guess the problem is, what do you say to people?

I thought I had it figured out a few weeks ago, when I resolved to just compliment other people's children. Who doesn't mind a compliment to their offspring? Everyone loves their own children (well, at least everyone who takes their kids to playgrounds, I think). The problem then became (and maybe, if you know me a little too well, you'll see where this is going) I can't always think of a compliment for every kid. In fact, I mostly think of insults, or semi-insulting ruminations, like,

"So, you were once this cute, too, eh? It's amazing how time distorts the features, isn't it?"


"What a good little walker your child is! And at such an early age! You know, I've heard that the children who walk before a year have trouble learning to read, later."

And so on. I don't think kind, normal thoughts. I'm not a bad person, really. I just don't fit in. But, I'm not Joseph Biden or anything. I mean, I don't actually say these things out loud (usually). Most often, I just stand there with a slight smile on my face, looking like an idiot, thinking, "compliment, compliment, think of a compliment compliment!" I mean, all the kids are cute, but somehow, "cute kid" just doesn't seem sufficient.

My favorite adults at the playground come in two varieties. My first favorites are the constant talkers. You know her whole life story, as well as that of her child or children, within the time it takes to push your kid on the swing for five minutes. I just love people who talk a lot. I don't have to say anything! It's great.

My second favorite people are the ones who misbehave. Like the two women today who climbed on top of a play structure and drank giant coffees while their one-year-old ran around (future poor reader, I'm sure) and hit toddlers on the head. Another mother, of twins, eyed everyone suspiciously. When the one year old girl came up and bopped Zelma in the head, I figured it was time for Zelma to learn a little reality in the world, anyway. When she ran up and tried to hit her again, I readied myself for a little defense, but she fell just before she got to Zelma. Zelma looked at her on the ground and tilted her head slightly, while the young mother on top of the play structure yelled at her daughter, "Good! You deserved that!" The mother of twins laughed.

People like this make a smiling idiot like me look great.

The Pueblo Series: The Starbuck's where we got married

Yeah, okay, I know what you're thinking. I did not get married in a Starbuck's. I got married in The Center for Inner Peace of Pueblo, Colorado, which was recently torn down, and they built a Starbuck's there. I'm sure there is a lot of symbolism about American values, there, if you care to speculate.

The Pueblo Series: Spaghetti eating requires a bib

At Casa Pueblo, spaghetti eaters of all ages wear bibs. I will refrain from showing pictures of everyone in their bibs and opening it up for comments, but to give you an idea, here am I with my bib; behind me is Zelma with hers.

The Pueblo Series: How to set the table

This was in a basket on a bureau next to the dinette table, in plain view. As you have probably guessed, the table was laid perfectly.

I spent much of my week reading thirty or forty year old magazines. Mumsey has lived in the same house for fifty years, and things collect. They are now in a state of purging and getting rid of things. The old magazines were being read for the last time, presumably. You'd be surprised how many hard liquor ads there were in a typical 1970's Family Circle. I really liked the patterns and room decorating ideas (for the entertainment value, only. For example, there was an article on how to decorate using mattress pads).

I did take an especially easy looking pattern for a whale pillow. I think I'll make it for Zelma for Christmas.

I'll post a picture here when I'm done.

I don't know if the place setting card came from an old magazine, but I'm guessing it did.

The Pueblo Series: Columbus Day Protest

In front of the Pueblo Library, in the middle of the street, stands a statue of Christopher Columbus, which goes largely ignored for 363 days of the year. Columbus Day, however, is the Columbus statue's time to shine. Every year at this time, a protest takes place in front of the statue, presumably mostly by Native Americans who believe that it is stupid to have a holiday celebrating some jerk "discovering" a place where they already lived, and then killing a bunch of people in horrible ways.

I'm totally with them- in spirit. I just drove by the protest, as you can see in the pictures. I'm not completely devoted to the cause. Any day off is good, right? But not to celebrate an asshole. Maybe they could rename it for someone else?

The Pueblo Series: Lake San Isabel

A Fantastic Web Experience

I would just like to take a moment, fellow minions, to direct you to a most excellent site, a web site which covers all of your needs, interests, experiences, and ideas*. This web site is, of course, none other than the Steel Guitar Forum, also known to some as The Pedal Steel Pages. It is so great that it is, indeed, Dear Minions, considered to be a Proper Noun, and should, as such, be Capitalized as all Proper Nouns are. Hats off to you, Steel Guitar Forum a.k.a. The Pedal Steel Pages.

*as long as they have to do with steel guitars or steel guitar related things or off topic ideas that some steel guitar player somewhere cares about.