Tuesday, December 31, 2013

One Year

I'm patting myself on the back. Why? Because I've kept this blog up and going for a whole year. I'm a bit amazed by that. Growing up, I had many, many diaries, journals, etc. They all lasted a month or two, then I'd get bored. I had originally intended for this blog to chronicle a year of dating. I got bored with the dating, but kept blogging. Who knew I had it in me?

As I reflect on the last year, I have more joys than regrets, laughed more than I cried (barely), and had experiences that still resonate with things for me to learn. It was a good year. It was a hard year. It's a year that I'm happy to say good-bye to - not out of malice, but out of a sense of completeness.

I have always believed that life should be lived with no regrets. That even mistakes we make have lessons we should learn. So in these few hours between this year and the next, with reflection and anticipation, I thank 2013 and welcome 2014. I can't help but wonder what adventure it will hold . . .

Friday, December 27, 2013

Home Town

Being back in my home town is always a bit surreal. I grew up here, in this tiny town of 1200 in NW Ohio. With it's railroad tracks and 2 stop lights, it could easily be any tiny town you see in the movies. Everyone knows everyone and everything about everyone. I find that comforting, and yet, a bit creepy.

Mum and I went to my nephews basketball game tonight. Sitting in the stands with classmates who I graduated with, watching their kids play ball, made me realize just how much I've changed since leaving this small town shortly after college. I could look around and see the boy I had a crush on all through high school, yet he no longer made me blush. I could see the women who made up the group of "popular girls" when I was in high school, and could see lines of life etched in their faces and, sometimes, still brittle demeanor. As I sat with my mum and sister, I could hear snippets of conversation around me: plans for New Year's Eve being made, talk of a pregnancy, gossip of whether or not a marriage would survive. Conversations so important to those involved in them, but so far removed from me.

I now call Wisconsin "home." Yet Ohio will always be "home." Confused yet? When I'm in Wisconsin, I will sometimes really miss being home. But when I'm in Ohio, the small-town mindset grates on me after a while. I know my mum and dad would love for me to live closer, but I'm not sure that would be healthy for me. I have beliefs and values and attitudes that don't fit well in this small, conservative town. I think I would get exhausted constantly defending my point of view or trying to understand an opposing point of view.

I think I will just enjoy the times I am home in Ohio, knowing that there is another home I can go to in Wisconsin. And when the stress of life in my Wisconsin home gets to me, I know I can decompress in my Ohio home. Both nurture my soul in different ways. Both homes have family, one by blood, the other by my choosing.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


I wish I knew which combination of words to use. You see, I want to be able to express what Christmas means to me, but there aren't enough words. Or I don't know the right words. Or the right combination of words. It's frustrating.

Christmas is a long drive to my mum's house in Ohio. A drive that lets me decompress from the stress of the semester and mentally plan out my short visit.

Christmas is eating too much chex mix, and too many cookies, and just not caring.

Christmas is hugging my dad, who is now shorter than me because he is stooped over with age and spine deterioration.

Christmas is following my mum's orders that occasionally we need a "rest period" - which means, lets take a nap. I love "rest periods."

Christmas is going to Christmas Eve service with my mum, and holding her hand through the closing prayer because I'm so grateful she is standing there with me

Christmas is a rag-tag gathering of relatives on Christmas Day, some who drive me nuts and some who I'm so excited to see again!

Christmas is the evening quiet, when mum and I are tucked in with cozy blankets, watching a CSI marathon.

Christmas is remembering that all this celebration is because a miracle occurred. The date may not be exact. Some of the minor details may have been empathized to make the miracle more memorable. But I believe in the miracle that is the birth of Jesus.

I wish I had the right words. . .

Monday, December 23, 2013


Finished posting grades this morning so the semester is officially done and in the books. BAM! Excited and relieved.

The drive to Ohio was good. Hit a tiny bit of snow in Madison, fog in Chicago and drizzle/rain in Indiana - but luckily I beat the "bad" weather. Unfortunately, the roads were PACKED with travelers, some who insisted on driving like complete maniacs. I'm pretty sure some of them will be getting coal for Christmas.

Yesterday, mum and I lit the advent candle at church. Later in the day my siblings and I gathered for dinner with my dad and step-mum. It was lovely, relaxing and joyous. With lots of food. So. Much. Food.

I have some cool pictures I'd like to post, but - UFDAH - my mum's internet is so freakin slow, they won't load.

Today my niece and her fiance are coming for lunch (my mum's homemade pizza!) and this evening I'm going over to my sister's house to wrap some of her presents.

Oh, I just love being home for the holidays!!!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Over the river and through the woods

Today has been crazy. This morning, I got to have breakfast with one of my alumni who never fails to lighten my soul!
Then I had a doctor's appointment with my GP, who firmly and strongly recommended some therapy to help me process my anxiety from the accident. So, back to the shrink. I then headed home to finish packing and cleaning the house. These two know that something is up.
Then it was back to school to give one final exam so I can say 2013 Fall Semester is DONE. Except for the exam grading and grade posting that needs finished - it's done. I have to submit grades by 5pm on December 26th. Once again (because I swear it happens EVERY semester) I had to give an exam during the very last exam time - 3pm on Friday. The students bitch and moan, but since I've gotten about 34,792 emails that we are Not! Allowed! To! Change! Exam! Times! and we Must! Meet! During! the Scheduled! Exam! Time! Well, I'm not going to change it because I'm a peon and don't want to be fired. So, I made them cupcakes and they took the exam and then it was DONE.

Home to load my car up and make sure everything is ready to go for a 6am leave time. Just a short 9 hour drive between me and my family! I'm so very excited to be in Ohio, surrounded by family.

These decorations were my mum's when she was a little girl.
I cherish them! They are the only holiday decorations I have out. Which is another reason I'm excited to see my mum and her 500 Christmas trees :-)

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Today is my birthday. I'm 48. Writing that is weird, because it's an age I always thought was "old." But it doesn't feel old.
I'm not sure what 48 looks like, but I don't think I look 48 either. Maybe that's just wishful thinking? By the way, the cats got me the tiara for my birthday, officially recognizing me as queen of the house. Ok, that's a lie. The cats would never name me queen. I bought it for myself because I've always wanted a tiara and it was on sale for $4.99 at the K-Mart.

I started the day with a mammogram. Seriously. Happy Birthday to ME! Then it was off to Caribou coffee for my free birthday latte. I had to give an exam at 1pm, and brought birthday cupcakes for class. I had about 10 extra cupcakes, so I wandered the halls, handing them out to exam weary students. It was kind of fun.

After my exam, I headed to Dickie's BBQ for my FREE BBQ pork sandwich. So yummy. Then home to bake more cupcakes for tomorrow's exam. I also got an AMAZING birthday present from my mum, that included one of her brownie-cookies. I would have taken a picture, but I gobbled down half of it before I thought of it.

This evening, I participated in Volume One's "Grown-Up Storytelling" series. I performed in front of a crowd of about 50 that included friends and students. I told the "vomit" story, and people laughed at the funny parts and nodded their heads at the serious parts, so I was happy. It was terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time. It made me realize how much I miss performing!

All in all, it was a really good birthday. It is a bit intimidating to realize that in just 2 years I'll be 50. And I've been thinking about how quickly time passes and how many things I have on my "bucket" list and how will I make some of those things happen . . . Inspired by a friend of mine who had a list of "30 before 30," I've come up with a list of "50 before 50." These are 50 things I want to accomplish before I turn 50. I know, it's 2 years away, but 50 is a lot of things!! So, I need to start now! Actually, I started today. "Perform in public" is #5 - which I did tonight, so I get to check it off the list!

#50 is blank because I just know there is something I will think of in the next year that I want on the list, and I want some space for it. Heck, I'll even take suggestions. So, without further ado, here's my list!

50 before 50

1. Go to Cedar Point

2. Shoot a handgun

3. Shoot a shotgun

4. Learn to make a pie crust

5. Perform in public 12/19/2013

6. Hit on a guy in the grocery store

7. Sell my house

8. Visit "The House on the Rock"

9. Lose 50 pounds

10. Get another tattoo

11. Tour Lambeau field

12. Have my legs waxed

13. Stay in a fancy hotel for just one night

14. Learn to make a decent chicken curry

15. Change a car tire

16. See the Nutcracker

17. Learn to scale a fish

18. Visit the Chicago Museum of Art

19. Visit Taliesen

20. Go to a Brewers game

21. Visit the Minneapolis Sculpture garden

22.  Bake treats for the local fire dept/EMTs/police officers

23. Officiate a wedding

24. Shoot a bow & arrow

25. 50 mile bike ride

26. Host a fancy dinner party

27. Go 1 month with no soda or artificial sweetener in what I drink

28. Watch every movie that won the Oscar for "Best Movie"

29. Learn to tat

30. Make a rug

31. Write a fan letter

32. Convince Justin Vernon to come speak in my pop culture class

33. See a baby be born

34. Write a short story and submit it for publication

35. Try spaghetti squash

36. Get a passport

37. Use my passport

38. Visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

39. Put together a 1000 piece puzzle

40. Sing the national anthem for a local ball game

41. Get my teeth whitened

42. Canoe the Chippewa River

43. Learn to make Risotto

44. Crochet myself a sweater DONE! April 2014

45. Ice Skate

46. Learn to make lemon crepes

47. Grow something from a seed

48. Memorize one of Shakespeare's sonnets

49. Learn to read an illustrated crochet pattern


Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Warning: This post contains pictures of toes.

Because yesterday, I bonked my toe on something and it hurts like a sonofabitch right now. I'm pretty sure it's not broken, just jammed. Here's what it looked like last night:

And here's what it looks like today:

It's kind of hard to tell, but it's pretty swollen and ouchy. Actually, this picture is kind of dumb, because it doesn't begin to convey how weird my toe looks.

Good that the only really important thing on my agenda is to give a final at 7pm tonight. Between now and then, I think I'm going to finally see Catching Fire. Public school is still in session, so I should be able to catch a noon showing sans stupid high school and middle school kids.

In other weird body news, I've had shoulder issues for a while, but now I'm having problems with my hand/fingers going numb. Of course I googled this and came away convinced I have a tumor causing pressure on a nerve and I'm probably going to die in 3 months. Good thing I have an appointment with my GP on Friday, so he can confirm my diagnosis.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Finals, Day 1

I started finals week in the best way possible . . . I slept in!! Until 9am!! Which is super late for me. Usually Tonks starts walking on my head around 6am. Since I have no finals today, I'm working my way through my "to-do" list.

Yesterday, I did a ton of baking, so today, I needed to make some yummy deliveries. First stop, I dropped off Maple-Bacon caramel rolls to my department chair. (I have to note that she is one of the most amazing women I know!)

Then, it was on to deliver cookies to the place I work in the summer.

I baked and decorated cookies yesterday, and most of them are for my night class final tomorrow. But, I had some extra and since I miss seeing all the awesome people from my summer job, I decided to take them some cookies. It was awesome to see everyone.

That was two things checked off my list. I made a phone call to my insurance company, who say they aren't covering my chiropractic care after my accident because they don't have evidence it was "medically necessary." I had to leave a message, so I'm waiting for a call back. I guess this task is half-checked off my list.

Next up, I needed to clean my kitchen after the baking marathon of yesterday. I'm curious - am I the only person left in the world who wears those yellow dish-washing gloves? And how about aprons? Am I the only person left in the world who actually wears an apron when cooking or cleaning in the kitchen? Anyway - check mark for a clean kitchen.

After cleaning the kitchen, I put together the buffalo-chicken dip that I'm taking to the forensics holiday gathering tonight. Another checked-off task.

Now I'm sitting here, procrastinating going through my crazy mess of yarn, trying to decide what to take with me to Ohio. There's nothing better than watching TV with my mum, crocheting and chatting and napping. Once this task is done, I just have "Go to holiday party" left on my list. I could jump ahead and start on tomorrow's list, but I think I like the idea of watching Lost re-runs and crocheting more. And I might just have to eat a cookie.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


I can't believe it's been a year since the Sandy Hook shootings. I can remember watching the news and feeling helpless and heartbroken. Ann Curry started a movement on Twitter called #26acts. She challenged everyone to do 26 random acts of kindness, one for every student and teacher killed. I couldn't do anything to bring those students and teachers back, or bring the community any comfort, but I could promote kindness in my community. When Ann Curry challenged the Twitter universe, she asked "#26acts, Are you in?" I was in.

My little acts of kindness ranged from letting a person cut in front of me at the grocery store to leaving notes with candy bars or Starbucks cards on random car windshields. As I counted my way through the #26acts, I found that the tiny bit of kindness I passed to others had an effect on my heart. It was kind of like that scene in "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" where the Grinch's heart grows.
I wasn't "Grinchy" before I started #26acts, but my joy grew as I completed each act of kindness. A quotation (attributed to Ghandi, who never actually said it) that I love is "Be the change you want to see in the world." And I would like a world with more kindness. I have continued acts of kindness through this year, and this month, have been tweeting my #26acts once again. Last week I was going through the Starbucks drive-through. When I got to the window, I told the cashier I wanted to pay for the car behind me. He informed me that the car in front of me had paid for mine already. I got a little teary.

On this sad anniversary of Sandy Hook, in the wake of another school shooting yesterday, with the stress of the holiday season threatening to overtake the joy - I challenge everyone to a random act of kindness. It doesn't have to be big. It doesn't even have to cost money or take a lot of time. But I promise, your heart will grow in size.

#26acts . . . Are you in?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My papa

My papa.
My pa.
My dad.
It's his birthday today. He's 71. But I don't know how he is 71 and I'm 47 (almost 48) because this:
seems like it just happened yesterday. It was the year my brother Curt wanted a reindeer for Christmas. I don't know how my parents found this blow-up version.

For years, my dad was Edgerton Ohio's town Santa. I'm only a year old in this picture, but I'm sure, even then, I suspected it was my dad underneath the beard.

This is a picture from around 1970. Most pictures from my childhood have my mum in them, because my dad was behind the camera.
I'm pretty sure his patience was running thin - just look at the ornery looks on us kid's faces!

The thing I remember the most about dad from my childhood was that he could fix absolutely anything. He still can. I'd like to think I inherited this determination from him, but if I'm honest - it's his stubbornness I've inherited!!

I also get my sense of humor from him. I swear, if there was a contest to determine who could tell the most stories, crack the most jokes, and sing the most songs - my dad would win. He loves making people laugh. So do I.
And he has this terrible habit of sticking his finger up his nose in pictures. Be glad I'm only posting one of them here.

He is a pretty amazing cook - a master at grilling and smoking meat. Growing up, there was always a can of bacon grease in the refrigerator, saved from mornings when he would cook breakfast. There is nothing better than eggs and hash browns cooked in bacon grease.

And his wife, Shirley, puts up with his shenanigans. She deserves a medal. I love her for loving him!

One of my favorite qualities of my dad is his generosity. If you are in need, he is there. Back in the 1970's, he was part of a small group of people who started the volunteer EMS in my hometown. He was also a volunteer fireman. If you were his neighbor, he would shovel your walk. If you needed help fixing something, he was there. If you needed someone to move you from New Mexico to Ohio after grad school was over, he had your back. I remember calling him on 9/11. Along with the rest of the country, I was sad and freaking out. My dad told me he was going to drive to Wisconsin and bring me home. We were both so scared. I talked him out of the trip, but just knowing he would come if I needed him made me feel better.

And in case you hadn't noticed, he looks like Wilfred Brimley (diabeetus!) Happy Birthday, Papa.

Monday, December 9, 2013


I was pulling out ingredients to make brownies for my Tuesday night class, and found a forgotten bag of marshmallows. This meant I was required, BY LAW, to make hot chocolate and fill the mug to the brim with marshmallows. It was deliciously magical and put me in the mood to wrap Christmas presents.

Have I mentioned how much I love Love LOVE wrapping Christmas presents? I would seriously love to have a job as a professional package wrapper. I may have to consider how to get such a job after I retire in 20 years.

I also think it would be really fun to have a job putting together toys/gifts that are "some assembly required." I know this is something parents freak out about, but I love the challenge of following directions. Perhaps I should advertise on Craig's list? Maybe next year.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


Flipping through my phone today, I was shocked at how many pictures I took during my visit to Ohio. Like a turkey sandwich the day after Thanksgiving, these picture "leftovers" were a satisfying find.
Clockwise from upper left: Aunt Winnie, Mum, Aunt Sue, Aunt Marge
My family is so very ordinary and so very extraordinary, at the same time. Does everyone ponder this conundrum? Or just me?
Clockwise from upper left, cousin Carla, Sis Leslie, me (duh), cousin Karen and cousin Kim
Leslie and Curt are twins. Curt always looks "special." He's not special - he's a hilarious idiot.
I was so excited to help mum put up one of her Christmas trees. And yes, we were in our pajamas most of the day.

My beautiful niece, Emma. That's her "cheer" smile.
In my home town, my cousin is the local barber. I think this looks like a movie set rather than an actual barber shop.

Being able to meet family for breakfast at the one restaurant in town is quaint, comfortable and the perfect stereotype of small town USA.
Dad (who looks like Wilfred Brimley, right?) and step-mum Shirley
Individually, their expressions are hilarious. But together, they look a bit psychotic
Sis Leslie, brother Heath and mum
Had to take a picture of the menu that includes a Fried Bologna sandwich. YUM!
Two weeks and I'll be back in Ohio, provided mother nature doesn't drop a blizzard on my travel plans.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

To-Do List

When I got back home last Sunday, I made a daily list of everything I need to accomplish in the next 3 weeks. If I slack off, I'm screwed. In theory, this is great! I love lists! I love making lists! I love crossing things off of lists!

The problem? I need the weather to cooperate in order to finish each daily list. Yes, it's been snowing. Yes, we've gotten freezing rain. Yes, it's cold. Whatever - I would be fine with all that if it weren't for the fact that this weather completely pisses off every joint in my body. I have projects I need to complete. I have present wrapping that needs to occur. I have shit to type and dishes to wash and kittens to pet. All of those things require the co-operation of my hands. And my hands Don't. Want. To. Work. (For the record, I'm pecking this post out with the two fingers I have that don't hurt. Both are on my left hand, which is awkward.)

On top of that, I had to shovel wet snow and ice off my walk and drive. Not a big deal, except my hips and ankles and spine are now pissed off. Actually, my spine is fucking irritated beyond description.

I couldn't wear heels today because my freaking toes wouldn't bend.

Any normal person would take some Advil to help with the stiffness & pain. Not me. I can't take nsaids, which means no Advil, aspirin or Alieve. I can take Tylenol, which doesn't do jack shit for arthritis pain. I discovered last night that I forgot to refill my Vicodin. And now the rx is out of date. So I called my doc's office, and he's not in until tomorrow. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I am having a painful pity-party.

I am now going to cross "having a pity-party" off my to-do list.