New Year's Resolutions for 2009

I read once in Runner's World that, to motivate yourself to run up a large hill, it's best to run up it backwards. That way, you only see what you have accomplished already, and are undaunted by the climb to come. I tried this once and I ran into a tree. Nevertheless, I think the theory behind it is sound.

In that spirit, I will now write my New Year's Resolutions for 2009. That's right: 2009. I already wrote them last year and broke them, but now I'm going to re-write them and only write resolutions that I have already kept. Here they are:

1. Lose twelve pounds and gain three back.
3. Sort of almost potty train a child through constant positive reinforcement. I can't say when one might say, "She's potty trained," but my gut feeling is she's just really really close. Today, there are two spots drying on the rug and four stars on the calendar.
4. Oversee the conversion of a pretty nice farmhouse into an excellently eco-friendly farmhouse.
5. Keep it together 99% of the time.
6. Do the first ten lessons of "Coffee Break Spanish"!
7. Do an ethereal recording of my favorite Uncle Dennis/ Aunt Lou song: "Blue Baret".
8. Write a few awful songs of my own.
9. Entertain a one-year-old all the way to South Carolina and back, in a car.
9. Learn the chords of A, D, E, G, Em, C, F, and Dm on the guitar.
10. Give blood three times.
11. Keep a blog!

That's about the most of it. Of course, number five covers a lot. I encourage you all to do this! It's quite satisfying. See you next year, as they say.

-Your Mindless Minion

Safety First!

There's a room in our house where we keep things we haven't unpacked yet, poisonous plants, various electronics and things dangerous to Little Z. (This will be your room, Dad, when you come and visit.)

We put this child safety gate on the doorway to that room. Yesterday, I was in the next room, and I heard Little Z yell,

"Oh, no! Teddy on da other side! Teddy on da other side!" Her teddy bear had fallen into that room, beyond her reach.

I got to her just in time to see her pick up the child safety gate and move it to the hallway. Then she retrieved her teddy, gave him a hug, and tried to put the gate back roughly in the same place it was before.

"Oh my gosh!" I exclaimed.

"Yeah," she said with a knowing nod, "Teddy on da other side!"

I put the safety gate back in place. We went on with our day.

Let it be

Like most of my "friends" on Facebook, my "friend" Selma (not her real name, because she's actually slightly famous in some circles [so awesome]) was my friend in high school and I actually haven't met her in person since then. However, we two have a better reason than most: she lives in Sweden and I live in the U.S. Very far away.

I read all her posts and try to keep up on my Swedish. The other day, she was listing all the things she was making for Christmas. Christmas sort of lasts three weeks in Sweden. They start eating on Santa Lucia Day (December 13) and stop eating sometime after New Year's. Then they starve themselves the rest of January, and remain the sexy kittens we all envy so much, but I digress...

Selma was posting what she was cooking and it did include some pork. A friend of hers commented something like,

"If humans were treated the way we treat some pigs, would you eat humans?"

and Selma responded,

"I don't eat humans. I eat pigs."

(I'm horrible at translating, thus the "something like". The way I understand languages is, I just think in that language, and I understand. This makes translation very difficult. But I can approximate. God bless the translators.)

This little exchange made me slightly angry, because I know Selma, and she is a good person, and I also have believed that meat is murder, myself, but I believe very strongly that accusing people is no way to get your point across. Ever. No matter what you believe. Pushing your beliefs on people just never, ever works.

This little exchange also transported me, momentarily, to a moment in 1992, when I was on the phone with Selma one cold Sunday morning,

"You should come over!" she said. "I want to show you something."

This was no small request. Visiting her meant riding my bike in the freezing cold to the train station, getting on the train and requesting that the train conductor actually stop the train where she lived, and then trusting that she would be there to meet me.

Truthfully, though, I never thought twice. I would do anything for her. She was just the coolest person I knew.

So, I rode the bike in the freezing cold. I took the train. I made the request to the conductor. He stopped the train. I got off, feeling very conspicuous. And there she was! Waiting to meet me. Standing in a field of snow, in the middle of nowhere.

We walked to her house.

After some coffee and an interesting tour of her home, (there was a toilet right in plain view of the front door, at the bottom of the stairs- very worthy of Lovely Listing!) she showed me what it was she wanted to show me. It was out in the barn.

"Look!" she said, all flushed and excited. I looked, and there they were. A mamma pig and five or six tiny piglets suckling on her, laying there in the straw. "Aren't they beautiful?" I felt so ridiculous. I didn't even know she raised pigs.

The Best Holiday Gift

A few days ago, Little Z was sitting on my lap, and we were reading The Nightgown of the Sullen Moon together. Right in the middle of it, Little Z says, "I gotta go potty." She jumps off my lap and runs to the bathroom, stripping off all of her clothes (including her diaper) along the way. (She has never really gone to the bathroom of her own accord before- it's always been my idea.) She likes very much to be naked, so I didn't really think anything was going on. And then she just, you know, does it. The number one. Right where it ought to go, in the ol' commode, just like that!

"Help! I need some help here!" she yells. Then she points to the toilet paper, "Paper!" (It's beyond her reach.)

And, you know, she just does everything you do in the bathroom. Washing hands and all that. My little girl.

For those of you who aren't parents, this potty training thing is so huge- and so bizarre. You have this little creature who just seems to get wilder and smarter as she grows and you're supposed to teach her what now? How to use the what? And do what with the what? Holy crap. What was I thinking when I went off the pill?

And then they go and surprise you one day. (It wasn't completely random. We had checked out a box of books at the library labeled "Potty Training Board Books"- and she made me read a few of them to her, earlier in the day.)

Not that I haven't tried to teach her before, mind you. Really. A lot has come before this. Things you really don't want to know about.

Lest you think this will be a one time occurrence (that's what I thought) she did it again the next morning! And by tonight, we were having a most bizarre argument,

"We're going on a long drive tonight, honey, and I think maybe you should wear a diaper."
"No! Me do self!" (She grabs her pair of panties from me and starts eating them, inexplicably.)
"You shouldn't eat your panties!" (She takes them out of her mouth.) "But why don't you wear a diaper? There's no potty in the car."
"No!" (She starts putting her panties on- totally wrong, and I help her.)
"Maybe you could wear a diaper over your panties?"
"How about these panties?" I hold up a pair of panties with a plastic lining- really just a cloth diaper.
And then I realize, I'm being really stupid here. Why should I try and convince her not to be potty trained? We ended up putting a towel under her in the car seat, but it turned out not to be necessary. She was just fine.

So, I've decided that, if she continues in this manner (which I have a feeling she will), this will be absolutely the best holiday present ever. I know it wasn't technically supposed to be a gift, but I'll take it. I mean, it did start during Hanukkah (Chanukkah?) and I'm technically half Jewish (in spite of my mother's giant velour painting of "The Last Supper") so it counts.

What has been your best holiday gift ever?

Clear Kool-Aid

In cooking class at the high school where I taught a few years ago, budget restrictions led to the supply of Red Flavor Kool-Aid completely running out. So, my coworker, who shall remain nameless even though she is freakin' awesome, had one of the students fill a jug with water and call it, "Kool-Aid, Clear Flavor" - because, you know, the flavors are really just the colors, aren't they?

Clear Flavor Kool-Aid was a surprisingly big hit with the students. Many of them even preferred it to Red Flavor. Of course, the main joy in it was talking about how much you enjoyed it, and referring to it repeatedly as "Clear Flavor Kool-Aid".

"Jeanette, would you like a glass of Clear Flavor Kool-Aid?"
"Yes, please. I do enjoy the Clear Flavor Kool-Aid."
"I think Clear might just be my most favorite flavor of Kool-Aid."
"It's a clean flavor, the Clear Flavor Kool-Aid."

(Don't you love the sound of the kids playing in the background of this song?)

The things we believe about ourselves

When I was a kid, Grandma Ruth used to tell her friends (while I was within earshot),
"She's a peacemaker." Being religious, she would then quote from the Bible, "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."

After a while, I did start to think of myself as a peacemaker.

I wonder how my life would have turned out differently if she had told all of her friends (while I was within earshot),
"She's a troublemaker." And if, being religious, she would have quoted from the Bible, "whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of hell fire."

It's very un-Grandma Ruthy, that last bit.

Other People's Stories, Part 8 of ?: In the spirit of giving*

I have this friend, let's call her Amanda. (She's the same one who thinks picking up chics at Barnes and Nobles is as easy as buying a loaf of bread, but already, I digress...)

Amanda once "learned" to quilt. I have no idea why. I quilt, myself, but I take one look at Amanda and I think, no way in a million years could this woman come up with a decent quilt. Don't ask me why. I just know.

Amanda took some sort of a class or something and made this "quilt". The quilt she made, although I have never seen it, was an abomination to all things quilting. It was ugly. Unseemly. Horrific. So, instead of throwing it away, she gave it to a charity for blind children. (Thinking, I suppose, that they wouldn't have to look at it.)

Fellow minions, was this actually a charitable act? I'm really on the fence about it.

Let's judge! (Poll at right, or express yourself in comments.)

*Christina has a good gift giving story here.

Total is for Tigers, revisited

Remember how Grandma Ruth (pictured with me and Meatball the dog behind the title of this blog) sent Little Z a stuffed cheetah and two little boxes of Total cereal for her birthday? And I was wondering about her logic? (Grandma Ruth's logic, not Little Z's, though I honestly wonder about both of them fairly often.) Well, Aunt Lou suggested, at the time, that I save the two boxes of Total cereal, and then wrap them up for Grandma Ruth's birthday and re-gift them back to her. Grandma Ruth's birthday is this week-end (I think she's the big 8-0) and I did indeed wrap up those two little boxes of Total and send them to her for her birthday. I also wrapped up a little gold cross necklace that I've been meaning to give to her for five years.

There's actually going to be a
surprise party for the little lady Grandma Ruth this week-end, and I will not be attending. Though I was invited. And sent driving directions. For something 800 miles away, happening in December in Pennsylvania. The map was sort of like, "Drive 800 miles, then turn left, and you're there!" The map did not include Chicago or Pittsburgh, although it's impossible to get there without driving through both Chicago and Pittsburgh. Very funny. Thanks, Aunt Laurie.

But mostly I'm not going just because I had this horrible feeling about it, as soon as I got the invite, like something awful would happen to me or Little Z or my Tender Lovin' Banjo Player if we went. It may be that some members of the Lee Clan are a bit hostile toward banjo players. There's also the fact that it's winter. That could be an issue. There just isn't anywhere between here and Western Pennsylvania that's really nice in winter. Then there's also that, during the actual party time this Saturday, I will be receiving a R1N1 vaccine. If I went to the party, I would not get the vaccine, and I would get the R1N1 in Pittsburgh, and Little Z wouldn't be able to drive me to the hospital, because driving is impossible in Pittsburgh, and she's two and her little Fred Flintstone Car would take too long.

So, Happy Birthday Grandma Ruth! I love you. And your wacky gifts of Total cereal.


We were snowed in today, so I paid no attention to my appearance, but it was later pointed out to me that I dressed like an elf:

We went for a walk (I walked, Little Z road in a little sleigh that I towed behind me). We disturbed a flock of giant birds. What were they? Turkeys? Pheasants? I tried to take their picture, but all I got was snow:

The National Weather Service called it a blizzard, and I would agree. Snow was the theme of the day.

The geothermal heat kept it a balmy 72 degrees inside.

Out with the Old, in with the New

We said we wouldn't paint over the dark wood in the farmhouse kitchen, and I like the wallpaper- although I am told it is out of fashion.

Today, TLBP and I both suddenly thought, at the exact same time, that the handles on the cabinets and the drawer pulls were just ugly. Replacing them isn't too expensive, and it's easy as pie, so we went ahead and did it.

Here's before:

And after:





And then here's all the old hardware, eleven drawer pulls and eighteen cabinet handles:

Would anyone like to have these? They might look good painted, or even just on something different.

Next weekend, perhaps we will tackle the cottage cheese balls that pose as light fixtures in the mud room.

The Different Parents

Little Z is at an age (2) when she can interact with people on her own, but she needs to have someone with her. I take her out and about a lot and we meet people and it's fun, for the most part. I end up having short conversations with many parents as we watch our children play together or put on our coats after a music class or story time or whatever. It always amazes me all the different types of parents you meet. Parents are as different as people, of course.

This guy I met a week or two ago, for instance. He was a stay-at-home dad with twin boys, Tim and Jacob. I'm pretty down with stay-at-home dads. I think it's awesome if a woman can land a job that pays enough for her husband to stay at home with the kids- and pay for tuition to this lovely music class we do. Wonderful! So, I was talking with this guy after class as we were putting our shoes and coats on. (This is always a comical process, as toddlers never understand that you should not stand in front of the door. No one can ever leave or come in or reach a shoe. The place is set up all wrong, and I find it hilarious to watch, but I digress.) I was trying to steer the conversation away from our kids a bit, and we got on the topic of names... blah blah blah... he was still talking about other people's kids, and Tim and Jacob, and the YMCA and he couldn't stop talking about kids, kids, kids, and I had told him my name and everything and the guy never told me his own name, so I just asked him, and he said,
"Oh, I'm Eric, but most people just call me Tim and Jacob's Dad."
"You're Eric!" I exclaimed. "That's a good name!" (We had been talking about names.)
"Yeah, but you can just call me 'Tim and Jacob's Dad'. Like it says on the shirt."
I looked more closely at his black tee shirt, and sure enough, on the back of his shirt, it said, "Tim and Jacob's Dad."

I'm sure that, somewhere, someone is blogging about what a freakin' weirdo I am. But, man. That's weird! He didn't even want me to call him by his own name. He was just Tim and Jacob's dad. That's it. It made me a little sad inside.

There was one parent that made me really happy, too, one day. She was this real butch lady, talked like a man, with this sweet little one year old girl at the playground at the mall. Pretty much the second I started talking with her, as our kids played next to each other and completely ignored each other (as kids that age do) she was rattling off her daughter's benchmarks,
"She started feeding herself at eight months. Her hand-eye coordination is extraordinary. She was walking at ten months, turning pages of books. She can hang on to a bar and hold her own weight for fifteen seconds..." And on and on. Just statistical data, all of it extraordinary. She talked with just the utmost, complete love and admiration for her child. It was amazing. I was so happy for her. But, also, I was so refreshed by her blatant belief that her child was superior to all others. That's how everyone feels, right? My child is the best! But you never actually say so. You don't just walk up to complete strangers and tell them how great your kid is! (You leave that to the grandparents.) Man, that lady was refreshing. I'll never forget her.

First Snow

Friday Farm Functionals: The Schmoosher from Space

See, here's the problem:

That's our yard. Not the farming part, the "pretty" part. It's clay. Real clay, like you would sculpt with in pottery class. And there is some sort of spring underneath, and the integrity of the drainage has just been completely curplumaged by that geothermal, and the puddles are over a foot deep and I don't want Little Z to drown there and it used to be such pretty grass and-

What we need is a giant, flat object, preferably free and from out space, to come down and schmoosh it all flat for us, so we can plant some pretty things.

Ah. That would be so nice.

Why we write

My friend Jen has this horror blog and we were actually talking on the phone last night, really talking like with our voices and stuff- not just commenting on each others' blogs. It was amazing.

Apparently, her blog has a huge following, even though she gets very few comments. Kudos to Jen! She's always been a living encyclopedia of film, and yet still somehow had a personality. (If her personality was a film, it would be a darkly ironic comedy, I think. Probably it would be in Italian, too. Not that she speaks Italian or is Italian, but it would be in Italian, nevertheless. With subtitles and long silences.) She says that, even though she has like a billion or so readers, she just writes for herself.

That's why I write this one, too. I just write for myself. It makes me happy to let my freak flag fly high.

So, fellow bloggers, why do you blog?

And if your personality were a film, what genre would you be found under?

(I guess I should answer the second question for myself. I would be a low budget musical with a few decorative transvestites- transvestites in non-central roles, I mean. And there would be tubas.)

The two year old view

We let Little Z try using the camera today. Here are a few of her pictures.

Norwegian Wood

Musicals are so unrealistic. When, in real life, do people just spontaneously burst into song and sing harmonies together? It has happened to me only once.

When I was seventeen and I lived in Malung, Sweden for a year, I was part of a vocal ensemble called, very descriptively, "malungs vokalensemble". We were a hodgepodge group of wacky folks, including a weird blind guy who one night grabbed me and gave me a big wet kiss on the mouth. Ew! Most of the group was women, though. There was one woman in particular I remember, a skinny lady with auburn hair who always had some sort of drama going on her life. There were twelve of us, three for each four parts, or maybe it was four for each three parts- I forget. We sang, though, and what we lacked in talent, we didn't really make up for in anything. We sang a lot of folk songs and did small performances every couple of months. We were sort of like the feel good movie of the year, with our eclectic group of people of varied singing ability, but hearts of gold (the blind guy, for instance, seemed to be completely tone deaf, but we were so lacking in men that we kept him on) but they never made a movie out of us, because we never did that great thing that would make you feel good.

I was the only native English speaker in the group. This didn't really matter, except for when we found a nice, three part (or was it four part?) arrangement of "Norwegian Wood" in English. Since everyone else was singing with a Swedish accent, I had to sing like them to blend in, "Eesent eet gud, Norveegian Wud?" This was actually a bit difficult. It's hard to do something wrong on purpose. I secretly thought our performances of that song were absolutely terrible. Because they were.

In the spring of 1992, I took a bus trip to Norway. It was a three hour drive to Oslo. As we were boarding the bus, I noticed someone from Malungs Vokalensemble loading six flower-print suitcases onto the bus. (It was going to be a four day trip.) It was none other than the auburn haired drama queen. Always very enthusiastic, she was ecstatic to see me.

A few days later, we were in Oslo, taking a guided tour of the Norwegian Parliament, Stortinget. The tour guide was pointing out all of the different types of beautiful wood used in the interior. "All of these woods," she explained, "are from Norway."

The Drama Queen and I turned to each other. Our eyes met. We each took in a deep breath, and, in spite of the ten other people on the tour and the very business oriented guide, we broke out spontaneously into two-part harmony,

"Eesent eet gud, Norveegian Wud?"

Friday Farm Functionals: National Seating High Performance Suspension Truck Seat

Now that I'm a commuter, I think I might need to upgrade my car seat. According to the Northern Tool Catalogue, "This National Seating high performance suspension truck seat is an ideal choice for OTR drivers."

Yeah. I don't know exactly what an OTR driver is, but I'm sure I am one. And it's from a catalog, so it must be really great, especially because it costs $749, and weighs 95 lbs. I might have to cut a small hole in the roof of my car for my head to fit through, but that is surely a small price to pay for the ease and comfort that this truck seat will bring me. What more could one ever ask for? I had one when I was a bus driver, and it really bounced going down those dips in the road in Pueblo West. Boingy boingy boingy. Those kids were never happy unless they hit their heads on the roof at least once on the way home.

A link to make you feel better

I had a dream once that had a message, sort of like a fable. The message was: Don't despair. There's always someone worse than you.

A variation on this message might be: Don't despair. There's always someone who's got it worse than you.

The people who received this letter definitely had it worse than I.

Our Kitchen- but with underwear!

To those of you who ever visited us and sat in our kitchen in Pueblo, isn't this uncanny?

To the rest of you: this looks exactly like our old kitchen in Pueblo, Colorado. We actually looked up the listing, because we were certain that it was just someone selling our old house in Pueblo- very poorly, with underwear. I expected to see Mr. Kitty walking through the doorway. The floor is the same, the cabinets, same sink, the doorway there, the window behind the doorway, barely visible- our stove had clock. That's the only thing. Our stove had a clock.

It was very odd indeed to click on the old Lovely Listing and feel that I had come home again, and someone was drying his underwear in my kitchen. Then also very odd to think that someone else is now living with the same exact underwear- I mean, kitchen. Kitchen. Same exact kitchen.

If you've ever been to Pittsburgh....

My dad sent me this link about driving in Pittsburgh. It would be funny if it weren't 100% true!

Well, it's still pretty funny.

Friday Farm Functionals: Geothermal Heat, Part II

Yay! We have heat! As of last night. Yep. Last night.

Original estimated time to get geothermal up and running: 2-3 days, total.
Actual time: 15 days.

In addition to hitting massive amounts of rock (they actually thought there might have been the foundation of an old house right where they decided to drill) and getting a giant drill stuck in our yard, the geothermal tubes then sprung a leak when they filled them with water. Here's a picture of them going around the yard, trying to find the leak (Note that this part of the yard was not drilled up like the rest until then!):

They actually found the leak pretty quickly. What really held things up with the well company was that they just left us for a week and went and drilled other people's wells. This I never heard of. How do you start something and not finish it?

What the?

Meanwhile, we had thirty-seven gallons of heating oil left, and one can, they say, burn up to a gallon an hour when the heater is on. The smallest quantity of heating oil you can order is 150 gallons. So, we conserved. If we hadn't have conserved, and we had bought 150 gallons, we would possibly have had to dispose of 147 gallons the next day. All of this would have been extremely expensive. So, we made fires (in the fireplace). We bundled up the toddler and piled blankets on her at night. Luckily, the weather was on our side this year. When they finally did take the old heater out, we still had thirty gallons left- although we did not know that, because this old furnace had no monitor. In order to figure out how much oil you had, you had to call the coop. Crazy!

Anyway, where was I?

They found the leak, and the heating guy came two days after that, with his team. They were really swell. I liked them. But still- the new furnace they tried to install did not work! So, a night without any heater at all for us, and then the next day, another heater installed and- wow! It works! They couldn't get the old oil tank out, either. It's laying on its side in the basement right now. The heater guy, Tracy, asked if the ground here were cursed in some way,

"You sure this isn't an indian burial ground or somethin'?"

Well, who knows. I've always felt lucky.

I do know one thing: Central heating is wonderful! I've never appreciated it so much in all my life!

Other People's Stories, Part 7 of ?: The Great Earthquake

This is a picture of Corbett Ave, San Francisco, 1923:

My Grandma Amy was not a great talker. In fact, although I spent loads and loads of quantity time with her over the course of twenty-eight years, I think she only told me about five stories, total. And most of them only once. Each of them lasted less than five minutes. (Grandma Amy was married to Grandpa Alvin, and he talked a lot.) This is a combination of two of Amy's stories, one of which was an "other people's stories" for her, too. She might have called them, "My Childhood on Twin Peaks," and "The Great Earthquake of 1906".

Grandma Amy grew up on Corbett Avenue, Twin Peaks, San Francisco. When she was a child, Twin Peaks was not the posh neighborhood it is today. No one wanted to walk up that hill to get home, and according to my second cousin Marsha, "No one ever looked at the view." It was a little like living in the country, but still a short walk to the city. The house was on top of a steep, grassy hill, and little Amy would slide down the hill on a sled sometimes when the dew collected on the long grass, which was often. The hill was foggy. Whenever the sun came out, Amy's mother would quickly start washing clothes, singing out, "It's a good drying day!"

Amy's mother, herself, grew up on Twin Peaks, and she remembered the 1906 Earthquake. The earthquake itself was not so memorable. It was early in the morning. Their house on Corbett was not damaged significantly. As the day wore on, though, people started trickling up the hill. The city became more and more dangerous, because people were panicking, buildings were collapsing, and worst of all, everything was catching fire. As people came up the hill and sat to rest, my great-great grandmother made them tea and gave them food to eat. By evening, a small crowd of tired, bewildered people were resting on the hill. They sat there, on future Grandma Amy's sledding hill, late into the night, drinking my great-great grandmother's tea, and they watched the city burn.

Friday Farm Functionals: Unloading the Town House

I know we need to sell the town house. I just have questions about the methodology. Specifically, I wonder, do you think one needs to rent a few choice pieces of nice furniture and tasteful artwork to "stage" a house for sale? I know that, five years ago, the answer would have been, "Hell, no! Just vacuum real well and put a sign out front." The times, though, they are a changin'.

We've hired this real estate agent. She's really hard core. She does everything in the world to make a sale. Also, I like her. That goes a ways, too, I think.

So, she suggested this "stager".

"You don't have to go with her, necessarily, but I think it would be in your best interest to at least have her go in and take a look, see what suggestions she might have." Well, okay.

We met at the house this morning. Oh my god. I have the worst taste in the world, I've found. At least, I have the least generic taste possible. Non-salable taste in home furnishings. That's me. About halfway through our hour and a half walk through our home, as The Stager was giving more hints and tips, I just wanted to crawl into a little ball and rock a bit, you know? Or maybe deal with thirty or so really belligerent teens or participate in a car wreck or, you know, something more pleasant that discussing drape colors. The thing that really blew my mind was that, somehow, at some point in time, I just became so completely out of it. Apparently, for instance, wallpaper went out of fashion when I was still in college.

Anyway, this lady, "The Stager," doesn't do the remodeling work herself, but she has a son-in-law who does. And, also, she rents out the furniture and tasteful art, buys the paint colors oh-so-carefully, etc. And our wonderful real estate agent thinks The Stager is a miracle worker.

The Miracle Worker and the Wonderful Real Estate Agent left me in front of the house with a list of twenty or more things, feeling terribly overwhelmed.

I don't like the Miracle Worker. It's probably just my "shoot the messenger" instinct, but I don't like her. She wears so much make-up. I'm suspicious of women who wear too much make-up (but not men who do). What are they trying to hide? (Men who wear too much make-up are clearly hiding that they are men, right? So I can trust them.)

So, I went to my dear friend and neighbor who, conveniently, loves to remodel. (Dear Friend does not wear make-up, but he should! He would look so hot.) I vented a little, I asked him to help me, and he said,

"I could be a stager. I should be a stager." Truthfully, I had only called on him to beg him to remodel my kitchen. Yet I was intrigued.

"Okay. Let's go over and tell me what you would do."

He then walked through our house and, amazingly, said pretty much all of the exact same twenty odd things- the painting, the new light fixtures, the cabinets, that wall that nobody can stand- that the Miracle Worker had said, and then he added a few. But then, here's the kicker: he offered to do all of the work himself for an absurdly low price. I've seen his work, and he is every bit as good as a professional, and best of all, he apparently has taste that's really in style right now. He knew all about the horrors of wallpaper, for instance.

Wow. Friends are great, aren't they? We've hired Dear Friend to do the "updates" as people so fashionably call them in the twenty-first century. (I live in the nineteenth century, I think. You can tell from my blog.)

The only real difference between Dear Friend's ideas and Miracle Worker's ideas is that Dear Friend does not at all believe in putting pretty furniture and drapes, etc. into the house. He thinks you should leave it empty (but beautiful) and the buyers can then picture their belongings in the house easier. (I should note here that Dear Friend does have a little experience in selling homes, though not a lot.) The Miracle Worker, on the other hand, believes people can't picture themselves living there without a few "hints," as she calls them: art, furniture, flowers, drapes, etc. She offers these things for rent. She also charges for other services, which I can't quite figure out- because she seems to have given us all of her advice for free. What else is there? She charges for a written estimate, but I'm not sure what she's estimating ... it's awkward, this money issue with the Miracle Worker.

Dear readers, who is correct? Is a house better empty or a little bit full? Is the Miracle Worker just trying to rent out furniture, or is it really necessary? Is Dear Friend just being "a guy," as they say, and casting away flowers because they are flowers? I just don't know. I just don't know. Help!

Save the Turtles! Save the Frogs!

I like to keep an open mind- supposedly- but some things still just blow my mind. Like turtle and frog season.

Look at Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources web site and you shall find this:

Frogs: Open frog season runs from the Saturday nearest May 1 through December 31. There is no open season for bullfrogs, Rana catesbeiana, in Jefferson County.

Turtles: Open turtle season runs from July 15 through November 30. Turtles or turtle eggs may not be taken during the closed season.

Is this for collection as pets or for eating or for frog licking or for... what? I don't understand. Apparently, it's important to regulate. Frogs. And turtles.

I may just be a lay person, a mere mindless minion, but I say, Leave them alone, for the love of god!

They're just frogs and turtles, going about their sweet little lives.


I found this in my car today. It's mostly empty.

I really had no idea it was there.

It's a good thing I didn't get pulled over.

Officer, I have no idea where that came from. Really. But, hey- could I keep that? I mean, we don't have a drop of gin in the house- it's not much, but it will help... you know how it is, officer... officer? Hey, isn't that an overreaction? I was merely suggesting... hey, why are you pouring that out? That was good gin!... Well, yeah, that's my daughter in back... She's two... I should be ashamed? Ashamed of what? I merely requested you... Oh, never mind. Thank you, officer. Yes, I will stop driving for all of eternity. So sorry. Good day.

Geothermal Heat: A Landscaper's Nightmare

Our back stoop, cast aside!

This is the view from our back door today. Don't step out!

Yep, That's my dad!

I just discovered the web site for my Dad's current band The Burnside Scramblers. Go ahead and click on their name and then watch their video and you'll find they're pretty good! But that's not surprising. Click on the link for Bobby Lee, you also get a little synopsis which includes this sentence:

"Inspired by the steel guitar styles of Jerry Garcia (with The Grateful Dead) and Don Helms (with Hank Williams), Bobby Lee took up the steel guitar in 1972."

Yeah, that's him, Jerry Garcia meets Don Helms.

Now, I can't resist ripping off a blog I truly love. Just looking at this publicity photo for The Burnside Scramblers,

who do you think the band leader is? Base your answer solely on the photo, not on any prior knowledge you might have.

Grandma Moses Farm

This farm always reminds me of a Grandma Moses painting. Unfortunately, there weren't a lot of cows out on the day I took the picture, because the more cows, the more silly it looks. The pasture is so steep, it's almost a cliff, so that the cows all look to be about the same distance from the road, like a painting with limited perspective.

The shiny, pretty thing and Names

This is the new heater, not connected yet. I think that, if it were smaller, TLBP and I would fight over who gets to put it in their pocket and call it "My Precioussssss".

"Precious", by the way, is a red flag name for substitute teachers. When I see Precious on a class list, I am always wary. There are certain names to be wary of, and I think Precious is the worst. I've never met a well-behaved little girl named "Precious".

I don't know of any names that are always associated with good children. "Zelma", maybe. Yeah, that's the best kid name. I'm completely unbiased.

While I'm rambling on unrelated themes: There seem to be a lot of men around here named, "Tracy". I've never in my life met a male named "Tracy", until we moved here, and now there are two of them- one who is installing the heater, and another whom I've only heard tell of- a mechanic. Both are in very manly professions. I wonder if, when you have a not-so-manly name, you automatically go with a really manly profession? How many male hairdressers are there named Tracy?

There's probably a hairdressing co-op here with a male hairdresser named Tracy, and a troll out front.

Warm Day Today

Sometimes, it's hard to dislike global warming.


Does someone live there? Is it possible? Perhaps it's a summer cabin.

Friday Farm Functionals: Geothermal Heat

Long time readers know that I am a big fan of geothermal heat. It's cheap, efficient heat from the center of the Earth- bah ha ha ha ha! (I don't know what just happened...)

Anyway, we've already pretty much decided to get it. In fact, we've already got them drilling outside. I don't want to bore you with the details, but it has been so complicated. We ended up working with two different companies: one that drills wells, for the drilling, and one that does heating, for the inside of the house stuff. Oh, my. Anywho, after a month of us calling around and getting estimates and figuring things out, they're doing it. Now.

Tuesday: 6 AM, some dude with a fancy truck is putting out flags where power lines are underground and spraying and all sorts of stuff. I can't help wonder, why so early?

Wednesday: At a decent hour, the drillers come to drill. (I keep thinking of that crazy dumb movie with Bruce Willis and Ben the Afflicted, about the drillers who have to drill to the center of the comet. What the heck is that?) Yay! They come to drill, and drill all morning. Then, around nap time, as I am walking back from the Organic Machine House, one of the guys asks me if I have any more hose on hand because it's such a bitch to open one of those giant spools and things are NOT going well and... no, I don't have any more hose to lend. Sorry. A few minutes later, from way across the field, I hear the "F" word used in ways I have never dreamed possible. It is a verb. It is an adjective, it is a noun, it is a preposition... it's South Park out there. Apparently, they've hit ROCK!

Thursday: Drilling again, all morning. After nap time, Little Z and I wander down to the swing set (acquired via the yahoo group "freecycle"- highly recommended) and, on the way, one of the guys informs us, once again, that things are NOT GOING WELL! The drill (which is the size of a tractor) is STUCK! So, as Z and I pretend to be playing- but really we're just gawking- they hook up this giant truck- (think dump truck size truck-) to the giant drill, completely blocking the road, and they turn on the truck and they pull. And four of the trucks wheels go off the ground and the drill doesn't budge. And they do it again. And again. And again. And it comes out, finally, and the wheels go down one by one- it's sort of like how we got the mattress up the stairs-- with a lot of effort and very slow progress. Luckily, our road has very little traffic, and no one gets miffed by the road being blocked for fifteen minutes.

Friday: Oh, my.

Nan, Katie's mom, from up the road

When I woke up this morning, it was still dark. I walked down the hall and nearly fell over a dark lump which turned out to be a person. She introduced herself,

"Hi! I'm Nan, Katie's mom, from up the road? I watch TV here at night."

As we went downstairs together, I started wondering just how she watched TV here at night, since we don't actually have a TV. Then I saw that someone had moved the old TV from my childhood into my new livingroom. There was also a small, kitchen style TV sitting right next to it. Both of them were turned on with the volume low and set to different stations.

We sat in the kitchen to chat. She seemed a very gregarious character, although it was odd how she had been crouched in my hallway, just outside the bedroom door.

"I guess I don't understand," I began, "why you don't just watch TV at your house?"

"It's what I do," she said with a smile, "I watch TV here at night." Was this one of those grandfathered in things, like the corn that was already planted in the field? Then I noticed here eyes,

"Are those contact lenses with spiders on them?" I asked her. Just where her irises should have been sat two non-identical spiders, one on each eye. It was disturbing that they didn't match.

"I don't know what you're talking about," answered Nan. As she spoke, the two spiders crawled up into her eyelids. For a moment, she had no irises at all, just pale blue marbles staring up at me from her chair, with that silly smile on her face. Then, she blinked, and her eyes were so normal that I wondered if I had imagined the whole thing. It was pretty early in the morning.

My husband came downstairs, asking what in the world was going on.

Then I woke up, for real this time. Maybe. One never knows.

I was hesitant to walk down the hall, but when I finally did, there was no one there.

Friday Farm Functionals: Trolls Revisited

I didn't have as much disposable income as I would like (though I know that none of my readers can relate to that). So, to satisfy my troll cravings, I ended up buying two little garden gnomes on ebay. They are really adorable. I'm having a very difficult time figuring out where the camera batteries are stashed in the new house, so I'll just have to describe them as quite adorable, five inches tall, and very beardy. The one, whom I have named, "Suspicious Dude," is smiling really big, but also looking sideways at the other, adorably unaffected garden gnome.

Someday, my giant troll will come

*10/31 edit: got a picture!

The Ukrainian Mr. Bean

Miss Tamika had the flue today, and Miss Ruthie with the Gold Tooth fell down the stairs and sprained her ankle, and the old house just must be cleaned up for sale, and that just couldn't be done with Little Z around, so that was how I ended up calling Nataliya and asking if her mother could babysit.

Nataliya's mother does daycare as her main occupation, but there are a few reasons why she is last on our list:

1. She lives too far away.
2. She charges an arm and a leg.
3. She speaks Ukrainian, Russian, Italian, and French, but no English.

Other than that, she's the most fabulous babysitter who ever lived. Just ask her daughter,

"Mom, she is so wonderful, you would not believe it. You truly would not believe! She gets them to eat the vegetables, we have people who say 'my son has never eaten a vegetable' and she gets them to, you wouldn't believe it... and the potty, she gets them to go on the potty... and the-"

"But she speaks no English? Doesn't that make it hard to communicate with the children?"

"Oh, she is so good with them. They understand her, she understands them. We have Russian speaking children, English speaking children, they all understand each other. She is just so wonderful with children! She loves the children."

So, today, we rang her up. I dropped her off with a few instructions, given through Nataliya, who was home and speaks English. When I left her, Little Z was happily playing with Nataliya's son and mother. All appeared well.

I called half-way through the day. Again, Nataliya was home, and all was well.

When I went to pick her up, Nataliya was not home anymore.

Now, when I used to read my spy stories, and the two spies from different countries didn't speak each others' native languages, but they both spoke French, their conversations went like this,

"The drop-off protocol has been changed. The entourage will now correlate with delta code 335-2."
"The drop-off has been delayed. Can we locate the target?"

The conversation between me and Nataliya's mom went a little differently. It was a bit more Me Talk Pretty One Day by Dave Sedaris than, well, like anyone who could actually speak French. I can't really re-create our conversation in English. To sum up our problem: both of us mix up French with other languages- I mostly with Spanish and she with I have no idea what. I did find out, however, that Little Z did not nap, did not poop, ate lots of apples from the apple tree out back, and that she is a very good girl.

Then, Nataliya's mom handed me a digital camera, and said, "Zelma photo." I looked at the pictures on the camera, and there were about thirty of Little Z having the freakin time of her life in the back yard there, playing with Nataliya's son. She was so happy in the pictures that I worried for a moment she would not ever let me take her home again.

Satisfied that I had looked at the photos, Nataliya's mom went back to playing with Little Z, and I found out that Nataliya wasn't kidding; the children really do understand everything she wants them to do. This is because Nataliya's mom is a female, Ukrainian version of Mr. Bean. She gestured, she made funny faces, she grunted, and Little Z understood her perfectly. Little Z pointed to a farm toy on the floor, "farm".

"Farm," Nataliya's mom repeated after Little Z, as she pointed to the plastic toy farm animals.
"Farm," said Little Z again.
"Farm," said Nataliya's mom.

I don't know who was teaching whom. They both looked quite pleased with themselves.

Nature's first green is gold...

... and so is her last.

"Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Robert Frost is the only poem I have unintentionally memorized. I just loved it so much and read it so many times that I don't have to see the print anymore. I also have a recording of Robert Frost reading it, which I listen to sometimes.

I love fall. It's my favorite season. It's all about death, isn't it? and what's not to love about that?

"The bridge is out!"

It's Sunday morning, Little Z and I are upstairs getting dressed, and I hear this frantic,

"The bridge is out!" from TLBP, just before he runs out the door.

Holy crap! The bridge is out? How does he know this? Where is he going? Is he going to fix it?

I look out the window as I hustle Z down the stairs- the bridge is fine.

Damn. I'm so unobservant. There must be another bridge. I can't believe this crap. Images of TLBP and neighbors (there are two houses up the drive) fixing a bridge, frantically, before our house floats away come into my mind.

Z is taking her time, as usual.

"We have to put our shoes and coats on!" I entreat her, "The bridge is out! We have to go help Daddy!" She smiles lazily,

"Sweater? Boots? Boots! Boots!" and tries to put on my boots.

We finally make it out the door, with proper boots and coats on for helping to mend a bridge that's out. TLBP is outside, raking rocks. The sun is shining. He is smiling the smile of happy farm livin'.

"Which bridge is out?" I ask him.

"Bridge? What bridge?"

"You said, 'the bridge is out,' and then you ran out the door!"

"No, no! I said, 'It's gorgeous out!' Isn't it gorgeous out? The weatherman said it would be rainy and cold today, but it's just gorgeous out! So sunny! Not a cloud in the sky."

More Possible Farm Names- some serious, some silly

Immobile Valley [Started out as "Wandering Valley," but TLBP said, "It's not going anywhere."]

Hidden Valley Ranch [A true description of the place but, sadly, I believe I have heard that name before.]

Land of Lilliput

Robot Ranch

The Old Sutter Place [This is its true name, at the moment, as in, "you bought the old Sutter place, didn't you?" and "This is the old Sutter place, isn't it?]

Pueblo East [But it's not actually a town.]

Angry Acres

Sprouting Acres II (not affiliated with Sprouting Acres)


Blind Bend

Mediocre Meadows

Mucky Meadows [another accurate description]

Dead Beetle Valley [still another accurate description]

Mine [Little Z's contribution]

Helmet Helm

Vila Lite

At this point in the evening, I started reading Shel Silverstein's A Light in the Attic, which I noticed was actually dedicated to me- this may have influenced a few names-

Hiccup Farm

Whatif Farm

Endless Songs

Strange Wind [I can hear the flatulence jokes already]


Wild Barbazzoop

Moon Catch

Feel free to add to the list!

Good Cake

My *great-grandparents on my dad's side, 1966.

Some cakes don't lie.

* This is the Swedish grandmother of, "Ve moste fatten you up!" fame, I think- or was that her mother?

The Witch's Broom


I've recently figured out (like, in the past two years) that I don't see grays and browns like other people do. I seem to be gray/ brown color blind, if you will.

It makes me kind of wonder, what else don't I see the same as other people?

And then I came across this XKCD comic, which says exactly what I was thinking:

(Click to make it BIG.)

Which, if you think about it a little bit too much, actually illustrates exactly the opposite of my point, because if someone else out there was thinking the exact same thing about the world as I was, then maybe I really don't see the world all that differently.

And I thought, for just a moment there, that I was so special. (sigh)