Wednesday, May 13, 2015


NOTE TO SELF:  Do not send an email detailing your latest freakish fall/injury to your sister thinking she'll find it funny.  Instead she will call at one in the morning insisting she's taking you to the emergency room because she has no sense of humor.

I honestly thought she'd roll her eyes at my continued clumsiness when she read this:

Subject:  Ugh!  I did it again...

Actually, this wasn’t MY fault exactly, but I had another weird fall/injury.  Do you guys remember when I was a senior in high school and one day after school I got this weird pain in my chest and fainted?  I was on my way into the kitchen and grabbed the side of the doorway and the next thing I knew I was on the floor?  (And Ginger the dog was there in my face looking all concerned?)  Well, I did THAT again.  I came out to the kitchen between innings of the ballgame.  I took a sip of pop and then got this horrible pain in my chest.  I’ve had that happen before, but it’s usually just very brief pain, almost feeling like an air bubble or something.  Anyway, this time the pain was excruciating and wasn’t letting up and I put my hand on the refrigerator to steady myself, kind of doubled over because of the pain.  Next thing I knew I woke up on the floor, with my head right in front of the sink.  I sort of flailed around at first because I was completely disoriented and couldn’t figure out if I was dreaming or was really looking at the kitchen ceiling or what.  I pulled myself up, but I had horrible pain all through my neck and upper back and I was dizzy.  Daisy came running in so I don’t know if I landed with a loud thump or if I was making noise passed out or what.  I got to my feet and all I could think was that I needed ibuprofen for my  neck.  I wasn’t sure if I hit my head or just landed on my back.  I kind of staggered over and got the meds, but I was half out of it and not really steady on my feet.  I swallowed the pills and was kind of leaning on the counter when I realized my teeth were out of whack, with my lower ones thrust forward like a bull dog.  I felt them and they all felt loose on the bottom.  I got to the bathroom and in the mirror they were visibly loose and a little bloody.  I’ve slightly chipped one of the front teeth (more just made it kind of uneven on the bottom, not like a big piece out or anything) and a couple of the top front teeth are all rough on the inside.  For the next half hour I kept spitting out little pieces of my teeth like grains of sand.  The only thing we can figure is I fainted and went face first into the fridge, maybe snapping my neck forward in the process.  (A couple of the magnets were on the floor.)  Not sure how I fell since I ended up flat on my back.  Wish I had video footage of it just so I could know what the hell I did.   I guess it’s also possible I snapped my neck when my head hit the floor and my teeth jammed into each other, but I don’t seem to have any pain or lumps on the head itself.

The Vulcan said he’d work from home tomorrow and take me to the dentist if I can get an appointment since I doubt I’m going to be able to turn my head in the morning with the way this feels right now.  He also wants me to go to the regular doctor, but I’m afraid he’ll send me for a couple thousand dollars’ worth of tests.  He was Googling around and thinks maybe this is what I have:

Apparently a lot of people on Reddit complain about it.  I’ve certainly had that catch in my chest before, but this is only the second time I’ve ever passed out from it.  He kept quizzing me on other symptoms to make sure it isn’t heart-related, but there really wasn’t anything.  Just that really sharp pain in one spot. 

I should have known better.  My sister was hysterical and insisting you don't screw around with heart pain and she was coming over.  I don't know if you've ever seen the episode of The Andy Griffith Show where Andy and Barney are trying to forcibly remove Ernest T. Bass from Mrs. Wiley's house, but if you have, that's what it would have resembled (see it here at the 21:25 mark).  I would not have gone and sore neck or no I would have put up a kicking fight.  (Ten years ago when I went I was stuck there for eight hours and swore I'd never go again unless I was missing a limb.)  I finally had to put my husband on the phone to reassure her he was confident it wasn't my heart.  Then I couldn't fall asleep, so I'd like to publicly thank her for ensuring a woman with a busted neck and busted teeth was also going to be getting her kids out the door on three hours of sleep.

I did indeed go to the dentist next day and the x-rays showed no severe damage.  My four front lower teeth are all loose, which means lots of ice cream for me for a few days, and next week I go back to have things rechecked and my chipped teeth sanded smooth.  I also went to the doctor, who immediately knew what I was describing.  He used lots of medical terms, but then said "essentially an air pocket forms" and causes pain and if the pain is intense enough it can make you pass out.  He was confident it had nothing to do with the heart, but he did an EKG just to satisfy my sister who was lurking in the waiting room.  All along I was sure it was nothing serious and was far more concerned about the state of my teeth.  I kept waiting for a couple of those lower suckers to suddenly flop out of my mouth and into my bowl of gelato.  Then, like Ernest T. Bass, I could get a gold one put right in the middle with space on each side so it would stand out better, especially when I'm dancing...

Sunday, May 10, 2015


She started off so cute.
It takes a special kind of sociopath to be upset when her mother likes the Mother's Day gift she picked out instead of hating it.  Foghorn was certain I'd loathe her gift of a skein of powder blue yarn.  Are you kidding?  Yarn?  Me?  Just to taunt her I laid it on thick, saying I'll make a beautiful bear with a blue sweater and hoodie for a little boy in Africa and  she had picked the perfect gift.  That made her so mad she hit me with her tablet.  She was equally disgusted at my reaction to my birthday gift a couple months ago.  She had chosen a sporty headband in what she thought was a particularly ugly shade of blue.  I loved it.  Hey, I was logging lots of miles on the treadmill and this was actually a very useful gift.  She was furious. I told my own mother this past Friday, "You're lucky.  You have me as a daughter.  Look what I'm stuck with." 

Goodies from The Inmates and The Vulcan.
My son, The Professor, put in a little more effort.  Uncle Chester had taken them shopping and, as usual, he wanted to go to JoAnn's.  He started looking at the jewelry-making supplies and then decided I'd like beads, but he looked carefully to find those hideously beautiful 70s colors I love - avocado, tangerine, marigold.  He found ones he thought fit the bill, then handed them over to Chester to actually make into something.  (Luckily she makes jewelry for her own Etsy shop, so this wasn't a daunting prospect for her.)  He also went out with his father the night before and purchased flowers, again in colors that perfectly match my Brady Bunch family room decor.  My husband surprised me with a Steam gift card so I could pick out some games for myself.  My son even reluctantly let me give him a hug, a good day all around.  (Of course, he didn't hug me back, but we can't ask for too much here.)

It's the story of a lovely lady...

Lunch was at my mother's -- roast beef with the trimmings and the traditional Mother's Day strawberry rhubarb pie (with apple pie for the gentlemen).  I gifted my mother five episodes of The Andy Griffith Show for her iPod and two tiny cooling racks, purchased after she made an offhand comment a couple months ago about wishing she had some more of them.  Earlier in the year we both read When Books Went to War about the Armed Services Edition books that were produced during World War II.  These tiny paperbacks, almost like miniature magazines, were distributed to troops all over the world, with new titles printed on a regular basis.  We both enjoyed reading about them and I thought she'd get a kick out of actually owning one.  I'm having a little trouble imagining a 20 year old guy curled up reading Meet Me in St. Louis, but I was surprised by other similar books that were popular among the soldiers.

I liked it so much I made my husband get me one with
Satchel Paige's "how old would you be if you didn't
know how old you were?"
For a good decade and a half now I've been giving my mother baseball-related gifts for Mother's Day.  Many times they're something I've made, such as a felted knit baseball purse or baseball-shaped afghan.  This is one of the few years when handmade wasn't in the mix.  Instead I opted for a new book by Mike Shannon, editor of Spitball magazine, with gorgeous paintings of famous Reds players.   I also read an article a few months ago about a couple of local sisters who started a small business making bracelets out of baseball glove laces.  These Baseball Lacelets are engraved with inspirational words of your choosing and come in a variety of sizes.  I debated several good baseball quotes and finally settled on Yogi Berra's "when you come to a fork in the road, take it."  I knew that line made her chuckle.  My son tried to say he understood what Berra meant, that this was something deep and profound.  I told him Berra was just a little bit dim.  Then he said, "You definitely have to have a fork when you go to the woods with your pic-a-nic basket."  Smartass.

Happy Mother's Day to all!

Friday, May 8, 2015


I often go around saying I do a lot of knitting for charity because my desire to knit is disproportionate to the number of folks who actually want to wear my stuff.  Besides the people who have enough hats/scarves/mittens, there are those (like my husband) who don't understand why you'd bother to knit a pair of socks when a six-pack of Hanes costs less than the skeins of yarn.  I consider him a man with a complete lack of culture.  And his son adores my knit wool socks and has to be forced to stop wearing them when the weather tops 80 degrees.  I also try to make him understand that striped knee socks don't go with shorts.  But I digress...

About a year ago I got involved with The Mother Bear Project.  This group sends hand-knit or hand-crocheted bears primarily to kids affected by HIV/AIDS in developing countries.  (You can read more about this group and the horrors of the AIDS crisis in Africa for these children here.)  Since some of these kids literally do not have one toy to call their own, The Mother Bear Project was formed to put lovingly made bears into their hands.  Sometimes I wonder how much good I'm really doing.  Obviously these kids' problems are not going to be solved by one grizzly in a skirt, but then I also think that if it can bring them a little joy, give just a trace of comfort, then it's worth doing.

I've donated twenty bears so far and have another six or seven ready to go in the next shipment of ten.  The pattern, which is purchased through The Mother Bear Project website, is based on a WWII-era pattern.  It's a simple design, originally used to make toys for English children being evacuated from areas most at risk for bombing during the war.  The wonderful thing about it is that it's basic enough that any mildly proficient knitter/crocheter can make one.  However, it can also be modified with hats, skirts, hoodies, headbands, flowered embellishments.  If you want to be bowled over, check out some of the pictures in the Ravelry group here. There are some amazingly creative women there.  My donations tend to be a little more basic:

I'm wild about the hoodie! 
Directions on Ravelry here.

I've written previously about my relationship with a once-abused dog named Tristan and his rescuer mommy, Lori.  I've been sending him handmade toys on holidays for three years or so and according to Lori he loves them.  The problem has always been that I hate to make them.  I found knitting dolls to be beyond painful and crocheting them was only slightly better.  Still, I slogged along every holiday because they made him so happy.  When I discovered Mother Bear I was suddenly blessed with a pattern that did not make me twitchy to knit and could be adapted to any theme or season or reason.  He may never get another pattern again.  And I think that's alright with him.  Some recent examples:

The vampire for Halloween.

An Easter ducky

Tristan's brother, Tully, had a recent
medical emergency, so he needed
his own home health aide.

Christmas bear gets the taffy-pull treatment.

If you're interested in crafting for The Mother Bear Project (or making a monetary donation), you can check out the website here.  If you'd like to know about Tristan and Lori, you can check out her dog-lbs. blog here

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Today is the first of the semiannual weep fests known as my children's birthdays.  The Professor turns sixteen today.  For one day at least I'm able to see past the pimples and 5'10" frame, ignore his constant jokes about genitalia, and put from my mind the fact that he's now legally allowed to drive a car.  For 24 hours I remember the little boy obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine, dinosaurs, and aliens.  The kid who compulsively watched Jurassic Fight Club, Monster Quest, and Primeval.  I remember his various short-lived obsessions like being a spy, collecting paintings from antique stores, and wanting to start a Patridge Family-style band (even though none of us can play anything except the recorder and then nothing more complex than "Hot Cross Buns").  

With Grandma-made Jedi robe.
Photo albums in lap, I took a trip down memory lane to some of his past birthday parties.  There were bears and trains and James Bond-themed soirees.  We did Star Wars and U.F.O.'s and Scooby Doo.  This year's theme was "Give Me Cash and Leave Me Alone."  Okay, maybe it wasn't that bad, but it's definitely been low key.  Friday evening Uncle Chester took him for his traditional gift of a rib dinner at Montgomery Inn.  Saturday was lunch at Applebee's.  In the evening was carry-out Dewey's Pizza with homemade cake and presents and no decorations.  His grandmother gave him cash.  We gave him cash and a dvd he picked out -- a double feature of the B horror movies Psycho Santa and Satan Claus, plus a new hard drive for his computer so he has room for all the videos he downloads.  (I pray they're not porn.  Probably are.)

A chic fedora and a briefcase full of spy gear.
 This morning I'm baking another cake for his actual birthday and he'll be taken out for a steak dinner.  I have one surprise gift.  He loves the song 99 Luftballons and I found a t-shirt at Threadless with the same name that literally has 99 red balloons pictured on it.  Thought he might get a kick out of it.  Or, like many other shirts, he'll never wear it and I'll end up stealing it for myself.

What happened to getting videos
of The Wiggles?
I try not to think about how close we are to high school graduation or dwell on the question of how many years are left when I'll see him on his birthday at all.  How soon before he's too busy with some girl to even show up for his cash or his cake?  Sniff, sniff...  Okay, time to go torture myself with some home videos of a baby in an Exersaucer....

Seems like a week ago.

Monday, May 4, 2015


Should I be embarrassed to say that the main reason I registered for the Flying Pig's 10K race is because of the logo?  Cincinnati is hosting this year's All Star Game and as soon as I saw the adorable little piggy in the baseball cap I knew I had to have a medal of that.

The all-powerful Shrinky Dink charm.
I did not go into Saturday's 6.2 mile race with any great expectations.  In the back of my mind had always been the goal of finishing just under an hour and 30 minutes.  That would require a pace of a little better than four m.p.h. the whole way.  I can walk that fast, but not necessarily for six miles.  And Cincinnati has some hills.  Quite a few hills.  This was not like walking loops around a high school track.  As of Friday evening my personal best time had been one hour, 33 minutes or roughly a 15:06 per mile pace.  To finish in goal time, by the skin of my teeth, I need to average no more than 14:30 per mile.  Ugh...  Yeah, I couldn't do that.  I'd never done that.  Still, Friday night I kept thinking about it.  I even made a tiny Shrinky Dink tag for my shoelace.

I honored my Earthathon team on my racing bib.
My cheering section for the 10K consisted of my sister (the Inmates' beloved Uncle Chester) and my husband.  For some reason my children turned down the chance to get up at six a.m. on a Saturday so we could get downtown and in position for the eight a.m. race.  In fact, my sister regularly stays up until three or four in the morning, so she wasn't running on all eight cylinders, either.  (Even on her best day she's lucky to be running on six.) 

The race's corrals were lined up on Joe Nuxhall Way next to Great American Ballpark.  I was in corral F, reserved for those of us who thought it would take us longer than 1:30:00 to finish the race.  Yeah, we were literally the end of the line.  But we were festive!  There were piggy hats and piggy tails and sparkly tutus, my favorite on a burly 30-something man.  What we lacked in speed we made up for in attitude.  Fearing footage of me plodding along the course would turn up on YouTube, I made myself as inconspicuous as possible in capri pants and the Flying Pig t-shirt.  I have this phobia about going viral on the Internet...  At one point my sister suddenly glared up at a window above the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum before realizing the man looking down on her was actually a poster of Pete Rose sliding into third base.  (Later at lunch she said she felt like she was having a "flaccid assback".  She'd meant to say "acid flashback."  Yeah, she needed some sleep.)

I handed my jacket off to the Vulcan and my purse to Uncle Chester.  They both wanted off the course before the race officially started and they got trampled by a woman wearing a pig nose and sequined pink headband.  As the 4500 participants slowly moved as one toward the starting line, I plugged in my earphones and got my Green Day-heavy playlist ready.  While the handy Flying Pig app allows family and friends to track folks in the real races (i.e., full and half marathons), my cheering section was stuck with the lower tech version of me texting my husband at each mile marker.  As we went over the starting line, I clicked the chronograph feature on my watch and set out to the tune "500 Miles" by The Proclaimers.  So I wasn't really going to walk 500 miles, but at that moment it kinda felt that way.  (Anyone familiar with Cincinnati and interested can see the course map here.)

I walked along for about a quarter of a mile, my legs gradually warming up and getting looser.  Then I did the strangest thing.  I started to jog.  I had sworn I was not going to do my basset hound trot in public, but there is power in the combination of adrenaline and a slight competitiveness.  I began to pass people.  And every time I passed some boney-ass looking cute and perky in her Lycra jogging shorts, I felt a shot of energy go through me and I went just a little faster.  I know, I know.  It's petty and bitchy and juvenile.  Damn, it was fun. 

I crossed that bridge at some point...I think...
We crossed the bridge into Newport, Kentucky.  I glanced at my watch at the first mile marker as I fumbled to pull my phone out of its case and text The Vulcan.  It read 13 minutes and change.  Wow, that was well under the pace I needed.  I continued to walk, tossing in a jog about a third of the time.  At the second marker I was still well under pace.  I felt the energy shoot up again.  Could I do it?  Could I actually get in under 1:30:00?  I tried to do mental arithmetic and figure how much my pace could slow and still make the goal.  I gave up as I slurped water at the 2.5 mile station, spilling more on my shirt than I got in my mouth.  My notorious lack of a sense of direction left me wondering why nothing in Cincinnati was looking familiar.  We had crossed the bridge back into Ohio, yet my surroundings still looked like northern Kentucky.  It wasn't until I got to the three mile mark and we started to cross the big bridge that I realized that other bridge had been over the Licking River and we were still in Kentucky.  Yeah, this is why I never leave home without my phone and MapQuest app. 

As we crossed we were saluted with honks and waves from a guy in a cement mixer and the driver of the train going the opposite direction.  Once over the bridge into Ohio I knew I was past the halfway mark.  I glanced at my watch and the time was under 41 minutes.  Holy crap!  I was still on pace.  A little more Green Day, a little more jogging, a little more adrenaline when I lumbered past the skinny bitch in the pink jogging skirt.  Okay, she may have been a perfectly nice lady, but she was thin and had nice legs and probably would have made fun of me in high school, so I used my bitterness to my advantage. 

By mile four we were back near the stadium and the spectators had increased significantly.  So did my anxiety.  I slowed down to a walk again and tried to figure out if I could reach my goal without any canine cavorting.  Then I thought, "To hell with it."  I caught my breath, then went back to my ungainly gallop.  At mile five I texted my husband for the last time.  All that fiddling with the phone and its case and trying to type was slowing me down even more and I needed all the seconds I could get.  I shoved the phone case in my pocket and checked my watch.  It read an hour and six minutes.  A few quick calculations and I realized I could walk the last 1.2 miles at a very moderate 3.2 m.p.h. and still come in under 1:30:00.  I couldn't believe it.  I could make it.

As "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred blared in my ears I started to get worried.  What if I suddenly hit the wall?  What if some muscle decided to pop and I could only limp the rest of the way?  I had visions of me crawling to the finish line as all the skinny bitches ran past me and my goal slipped away.  I started to jog again.  By that point I probably looked like I was wearing ankle weights, my feet fighting gravity with each step.  I chugged up the tiny incline on Pete Rose Way that now felt as steep as Mt. Everest.  The six mile marker was in sight.  I could make it.  I think I can, I think I can...  OK, only two-tenths of a mile.  I inhaled deeply and slowed down to a walk.

Up ahead I could see the "Finish Swine".  I was gonna do it!  I looked to my left and could see my cheering section.  I waved my arms at them and then saw their looks of recognition as they picked me out of the crowd.  I gave them two thumbs-up as I walked past and there are few times in my life when I've been quite that happy.  I intended to just walk across the line, but in my peripheral vision I caught one last bouncing Barbie coming up on the inside.  With a final jolt of adrenaline, I scuttled away from her and across the line.

I tried to catch my breath as a teenage boy put the medal around my neck and another guy handed me a Mylar blanket.  I'm sure I looked like an idiot, smiling to myself as I wandered into the recovery area practically jumping up and down.  I slurped a cup of Gatorade and grabbed a bottle of water.  My cheerleaders were to meet me outside this participants-only area.  I didn't see them, so I took the opportunity to email my mommy.  My official time, I found out later, was 1:21:41.  I honest to God didn't think it was possible.  I didn't think I could move that well if I had a zombie on my ass and a donut truck in front of me.

So, do I consider myself a great athlete now?  Not hardly.  The real athletes were crossing the finish line before I hit the first water station.  It never was about me being fast or good compared to anyone else.  It was me compared to a past me, By-Default-Girl.  I remember trying to do Jane Fonda's workout tape when I was in high school, her second one that had an aerobic section about three minutes long.  I couldn't do it.  I had no stamina whatsoever.  That certainly didn't improve as I got older.  My joy isn't because I did something no one else could do.  It's because I did something I didn't think I could do.  And there's magic in that, I tell you.  Magic.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Remember that kid in grade school who was always picked last for teams in gym class?  That wasn't me.  I was the other kid.  You know, there are two kids left and one is picked last for a team and the other goes to the second team by default?  And then the team groans because they're stuck with that loser?  Yeah, that was me, By-Default-Girl.  I was a lousy athlete, I freely admit it.  I sucked at catching and throwing and kicking.  I had no arm strength and no aim and was completely uncoordinated.  I was also the fat kid, a double whammy.  I still feel intense resentment over that damn rope they tried to make us climb.  Combine lack of strength and coordination with an over-sized body and you can imagine that little bit of humiliation.

I mention all this because I'm doing the 10K at Cincinnati's Flying Pig Marathon this weekend.  No, I'm not running it.  I'm simply walking, but hopefully at a fast enough pace that I finish just ahead of the last place finishers, probably a group from the local elder care center slowed down by their canes.  My husband asks why I don't jog part of it.  I do jog in short bursts on the treadmill, little one-lap intervals between various walking paces.  The problem is I steadfastly refuse to run in public.  This meme came through as a Tweet from a member of my virtual running group and sums it up perfectly:

The Vulcan assures me I do not look like that.  I'm convinced I do.  I once saw slow motion video of a basset hound running, jowls flapping and flab undulating and I just know that's what I'd look like if I broke into a trot.  And since there may very well be news cameras in the vicinity, I'm not taking any chances.  Just finishing will be enough.  Well, let's say finishing and not being dead last.

My mommy was very proud.
I did the Flying Pig's 5K last year and I still marvel at it.  Not because I had some earth-shattering pace, but just because I did it.  Me.  By-Default-Girl.  In an organized athletic event.  If you had told that rotund kid in phys ed that some day she'd walk 3.1 miles and get a medal for it she would have thought you were nuttier than the ice cream Drumstick she had every day at lunch.  And if you'd said the next year she was going to walk 6.2 miles?  Forget about it.

 To motivate me to walk 25 miles or so on the treadmill every week, I joined the Earthathon.  It's a virtual relay race in which ten teams are running the circumference of the earth.  As a group we are going to put in the mileage equivalent to circling the earth ten times, roughly 250,000.  It's only slightly competitive.  When the first team finishes running the circumference, those members then will help another team reach that milestone and so on until there's one big team finishing the last lap.  When I signed up I said to put me on whichever team needed me.  I could have been on a team like Legs of Passion or Stars on the Run.  My team?  United Snails.  At first I was slightly bummed.  Not exactly a name to inspire.  Then I got to know my teammates through Twitter and they turned out to be so enthusiastic and supportive and fun that I realized I was on the PERFECT team for me.  And, let's face it, the name totally fits.  I embraced my inner snail.  I found a piece of clip art (here) and made it my own personal logo.  I had my sister put it on a shirt for me.  Last week I got out the Shrinky Dinks and made myself a necklace and a charm for one of the 5,017 Rainbow Loom bracelets my daughter made me and a tiny snail for my gym shoe.  Call it snail mania, but for my birthday I got a little silver snail pendant and I bought myself a stuffed snail to put on the shelf over my treadmill.  And I may have a Littlest Pet Shop snail on my desk.  Maybe...

So, at age 45 am I an athlete?  Not even close.  I still can't throw a ball (or catch one).  I'm totally uncoordinated and fall down regularly.  In the summertime I do little in the pool but tread water and the best I can manage on a bike is to stay upright.  Having said all that I can also say that, at age 45, I'm in the best shape of my life.  That's not saying much.  I've always been overweight and out of shape and compared to a real runner, I'm a pathetic mess.  But compared to the me of the past, By-Default-Girl, I'm at the top of my game.  I can't help but feel slightly proud of that, even if my children do tell me I'm past my expiration date.

Monday, April 27, 2015


My daughter, Foghorn, is eleven.  She'll be twelve this summer.  In reality she's thirteen no matter what the calendar says.  This is an infuriating interesting age and is accompanied by mood swings, a fresh mouth, and the unwillingness to wear any clothing picked out by her mother.  It is also wreaking havoc with my smartphone. 

At least once a week I try to take a photo or add an audio book to my phone, only to find there's no room.  In the past this would leave me perplexed and scrambling for an explanation.  Now I know to just go to the photos.  If I'm stupid enough to leave my phone unattended it will inevitably be filled with lovely shots like these:

Then there are the texts.  My husband suddenly finds himself on the receiving end of a barrage of texts allegedly from me.  They are invariably nonsensical, insulting, or are giving permission for Foghorn to do something/buy something that in reality is out of the question.  An example from this weekend:

The Vulcan and I have a secret code word we use whenever there is any uncertainty as to the writer of a text, for obvious reasons.

Foghorn also has a butt obsession.  She thinks Kim Kardashian is the queen of all things because of her larger-than-life derriere, as well as her ability to be rich while having no visible talent.  Since I have contempt for all things Kardashian (Kim and her entire extended family), this causes some mother-daughter conflict.  Foghorn twerks compulsively and talks butts compulsively and I continually find obnoxious things written on my to do lists, chalkboard grocery list, or Post-Its.  This little baby was on my laptop to remind me of where I left off reading on a certain blog and Foghorn decided to add her own touch:

And then there are the times she manages to combine two or more of her favorite annoying habits into one text.  This one to her father...from my account, of course:

Yeah, Foghorn as a real thirteen year old ought to be one big thrill fest.  I can't wait.  Sigh...

Saturday, April 25, 2015


The Cubs came to town to play the Cincinnati Reds last night, so naturally I had to go.  Thanks to lingering rush hour traffic, we were slightly late and missed the top of the first inning.  We raced to our seats, first row of a balcony section and the two seats on the end, and found a guy already lounging in seat number two.  Apparently thinking the occupants of the end seats weren't going to arrive, he and the three females in his group had decided to spread out.  He was nice and quickly gathered his beer and moved down a spot.  He then took his correct seat...and half of mine.  Now, I'm not exactly a lightweight myself, so don't think I'm making fun of this guy.  I'm simply noting that he was tall and hefty and just big.  He was very, very big.  He was Sasquatch big.  He sat with his knees apart, putting his right thigh where my left one should have been.  His ham hock arm dangled over me and nearly rested on top of my scorecard.  His massive shoulder jutted into my space and I was left pinned between him and my husband, trying to make myself as narrow as possible.  The Vulcan thought I was getting all cuddly with him.  In reality I was leaning into him to try to get a breath.  It was like wearing a corset.

Sasquatch had several beers and a bag of peanuts, filling his empty beer cup with the vacant shells.  It was a chilly night and The Vulcan kept asking if I wanted my jacket, but I informed him that I was quite warm.  Sasquatch was generating so much body heat it was like being curled up next to a polar bear.  Plus he was a very effective wind break for the biting late evening breezes.  He topped off his peanuts and beer with cotton candy, putting the empty cone in the cup holder, completely blocking my view of home plate.  My sister's reply to my email of the pic was, "He'd be wearing that cone up his fat ass about then," but he was actually a nice guy and he would have removed it if I'd asked.  Instead, I just leaned forward for a better view.  I had to do that often during the evening anyway.  Whenever he talked to the ladies on his left, he bent his torso forward and effectively obscured the entire infield.  Fortunately for me, he and his companions got up frequently and disappeared for an inning, returning reeking of cigarette smoke.  Sadly, based on his size and habits, I don't think this guy is long for this world.  The highlight of the evening was when Sasquatch decided to take part in the wave going around the stadium (which, I might state emphatically here, I loathe and think should be banned from the ballpark).  He stood and waved his arms and tried to flop back into his seat...and missed.  He hadn't noticed his chair seat had sprung into the upright position.  Towards the end of what turned out to be an extra inning game (but a Cubs win), two of his companions stayed in whatever smoker's paradise they'd found and Sasquatch left an empty seat between us.  He departed for good before the final out and as we stood for the 10th time to let him by, he excused himself again and said, "Thanks for being cool about this."  That's okay, Satchy.   Just watch your ticker.

Besides the inability to take a deep breath, my visit to Great American Ballpark was also cursed with the oh-so-familiar patron -- The Big Mouth.  You can pretty much guarantee that at every game there will be one person, usually a guy, who talks frequently and, naturally, at a volume five levels higher than everyone else.  Last night The Big Mouth was sitting right behind me with his wife and two other folks.  This particular Big Mouth had a Kentucky accent as thick as sausage gravy and he was the expert on all things baseball.  Just to add to his pontificating was his amusement in himself.  Most of his comments were punctuated with a loud guffaw that came out something like "hue-HUH" and sounded for the world like laughter I heard on an old cartoon with hillbilly bears.  Besides his nonstop commentary on everything from the game itself to the ballplayers' ages to Brandon Phillips' teeth, he munched peanuts and in flicking the empty shells managed to hit me in the back of the neck several dozen times.  Whenever Sasquatch and his pals went for their smoke break, the other gentleman in Big Mouth's entourage draped his feet over the empty seats in front of him and I got to sit with dirty boots caked with mud and peanut shells a foot away from my face.  There's a deal with a local pizzeria chain that if the Reds' pitchers strikeout 11 during a game, everyone with a ticket gets a free small pizza.  That was reason enough for Big Mouth to give us, with each hitter, an update on the pizza quest.  "Eight more strikeouts for pizza, hue-HUH!"  "Only need five more for pizza, hue-HUH!" 

In all fairness to Big Mouth, I will say he was the baseball expert within his group of four, as I have never heard so many idiotic things said at one ball game in my life. Those of you who don't like baseball and know little about it can maybe forgive them their ignorance.  For someone like me they were fingernails on the blackboard of my soul.  The best lines of the evening:

Jon Lester, Cubs pitcher, came up to bat.  Like many pitchers, he has yet to get a hit early in this season and thus has no batting average, hits, RBI, or OPS.

Friend of Big Mouth:  What's with all them zeroes on that guy?


Mrs. Big Mouth:  Are all the bases the same distance apart?

Mr. Big Mouth:  Yup.

Mrs. Big Mouth:  Huh.  It always looks a lot shorter from second to third.


With Reds runner on third:

Mrs. Big Mouth (shouting):  Steal home!

Big Mouth:  Naw, he don't wanna do that now.

Friend of Big Mouth:  Is he ALLOWED to steal home?!?

Big Mouth:  Yeah, he can steal home.

Friend of Big Mouth:  Can he steal from first to second? 

The runner was on third as a result of a single followed by two stolen bases.


During the sixth inning:

Friend of Big Mouth:  Do they have half time?

Big Mouth:  No, there ain't no half time.  They got the seventh inning stretch.

Friend of Big Mouth:  Do they switch players?

Big Mouth:  They got guys on the bench they can bring into play if they want.

Friend of Big Mouth:  What do they do when they ain't playing?

Big Mouth:  They watch the game.

My children often hurt my heart with their lack of interest in baseball and some of their questions make me cry.  I now console myself that I could be mother to these folks.  And I leave Friend of Big Mouth with this parting shot, my favorite Foghorn Leghorn moment.  Hue-HUH!

Thursday, April 23, 2015


Laura's statue in the downtown Mansfield
The sister and I safely made the trip to Mansfield, Missouri and back.  My daughter only emerged from her room upon my return when I yelled up that I'd bought her caramel creams at the Cracker Barrel.  My son at least appeared, although a hug was out of the question.  As always I could count on my dogs to welcome me back enthusiastically.  They were loud and boisterous and all over me when I got down on the floor by the couch.  Each got annoyed that the other was hogging the attention of her mother and they started getting nasty with each other.  I noticed various large colored stains on my living room carpet caused by the dogs chewing up markers.  I asked my husband why he didn't clean them and he said he didn't know how and my son yelled, "You know where the carpet cleaner is!"  Smart boy.  The Vulcan said he missed me, but it's always hard to tell if he really missed me or was just glad to have someone take over the household again.

View of Laura's farmhouse from the road.
The trip involved way more driving than I like in much too short a period of time, but it was totally worth it.  Let me say loud and clear if you love the Little House books and/or their authorn the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and Museum is an absolute must-see.  I had high hopes going in, but it actually surpassed my expectations.  Located on (what else?) The Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Highway, the home site has Laura and Almanzo's farmhouse, a museum building, book store, and the Rock House, a retirement home their daughter built them in the 1920s with all the modern conveniences.  (They didn't like it.)

Unfortunately pictures inside the buildings weren't allowed.  That's a pity since the museum was chock-full of wonderful Ingalls mementos that those familiar with the books would salivate over.  There was a school bus full of kids present and normally a bunch of runts running around a museum would drive me insane.  In this case I had trouble loathing them since they would run up to display cases and holler, "There's Pa's fiddle!" or "Look!  It's Mary's quilt."  I heard one say to another, "This is the best museum ever."  He had a point.

I actually kind of envied those kids who knew the stories well and could point out book-related bits to each other. My sister has only read Farmer Boy and we listened to the last two books in the van on the drive, so I looked at most of the stuff alone, lingering over items that I had pictured in my mind so many times.  There were the name cards so new and fashionable in Little Town on the Prairie, including one belonging to Nellie Owens, one of the real life girls who inspired Nellie Oleson.  There was Laura's lap desk which hid a $100 bill on the trip from De Smet, South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri, money to be used as the down payment on the new farm.  There was Mary's Braille slate and the bit of hand-knit lace Ida Brown gave Laura on her wedding day.  There was the bread plate Laura and Almanzo had bought in their first year of marriage and was one of the few things to survive a fire that destroyed their home a few years later.  There were dishes and handmade quilts and photographs and dresses.  There was a case of Alamanzo's effects, including his shoe-making supplies, pocket watch, and wallet.  There was a section devoted to their daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, a famous author in her own right.  There were two of her desks and typewriters, examples of her needlework, and souvenirs from her trips around the world.  One boy exclaimed to another, "Hey!  There's Rose's Russian tea set!"

Hanging on Laura's front porch.
The farmhouse was a surprise, although I had read beforehand that visitors were often shocked at how small it is.  Laura was 4'11" and Almanzo about 5'4" and their house was built to size.  The kitchen ceiling was low and the height of the counter by the window where she would knead bread was only about 30" from the floor.  My 4'10" sister thought it was perfect.  The house overall was much smaller than I picture when I hear "farmhouse."  I imagine the big, rambling places like on The Walton's.  The rooms here were relatively small and even the living room, which had looked like a huge open space in books, turned out to be just slightly bigger than my family room.  I always say it's people's little bits and pieces that touch me and this house was no exception.  On their bedroom walls were Currier & Ives prints that Laura had ripped from a calendar and framed.  Next to Almanzo's bed was a little wooden box full of his balms and salves, left there by Laura when he died.  My sister asked about some of the beautiful needlework in the living room.  Most was made by Laura or Rose, but it turns out Almanzo liked to do rug-hooking in the winter.  And next to the fireplace was a container full of his handmade canes.  (After a bout of diphtheria in his early 30s, Almanzo was left temporarily paralyzed and limped the rest of his life.)

The Rock House was built by Rose for her aging parents to live in ease and comfort.  After moving her parents into their new home with electricity, indoor bathroom, etc., she plopped herself in their farmhouse and had an indoor bathroom installed off the bedroom.  After about a decade, she left and her parents zipped back up to their farmhouse where they wanted to be in the first place.  What shocked me about The Rock House is that it is based on a Sears Catalog Home plan -- The Mitchell.  I have an obsession interest in Sears homes and my sister and I whipped our heads around to look at each other with open mouths when we heard this was one.  (You can see the original ad for The Mitchell here.)  Rose made some changes, the most obvious involving the exterior.  She wanted local stones used instead of the Sears-designed wood and she paid local teenagers to dig up the rocks.  From the outside it's a darling English cottage and I loved it.  Inside it wasn't my style.  It had some lovely niches that I adore, but it reminded me a lot of the Spanish-influenced style in California and it's not my cup of tea.  Anyway, Rose designed it with all new furniture.  I could see if Laura's dream house was that cute farm building, this house she would loathe.  It's not good or bad, it's just different and apparently not really what her parents longed for.  The most impressive part, to me, is that she began writing the Little House books while living there, so I tried to soak up any literary juice that might still be lingering.

We couldn't leave Mansfield without visiting the graves, which are in a cemetery at the end of Lincoln Street just outside of the downtown square. 

The Inmates' Uncle Chester in the cabin.

We spent the night at Mansfield Woods, just down the road from Laura's house.  We had a cute little cabin, very clean and with all the modern appliances (I'm not into roughing it).  The only downer, and I knew about this going in,  is that they had no wifi and no television.  Ack!  Definitely not a place to take my children.  I'm not much of an outdoorsy person, so sitting on the deck staring at a pond was not gonna do it.  I ended up propping my iPad on a chair and watching downloaded shows on J.F.K. assassination conspiracy theories while knitting.  My sister decided to write about me in verse on her blog here.  I would be offended if it wasn't, you know, true.  In my defense, I'm extremely allergic to poison ivy and had to be on steroids last time I wandered through a patch (15 years ago).  And I don't like bugs and I swear I swallowed a bug during a nature walk in Cooperstown two decades ago.  And I don't like when it's hot.  And I have really bad sinuses, so sue me for being on alert for pollen-shedding trees...

REVENGE!  My sister had fun managing
the staircase down from our cabin door.

And what would a trip be without a few souvenirs?  I also brought my mother home a little kit for making a quilted wall hanging with red work embroidery of Laura-related pictures. 

An Ozarks Public Television special on dvd
and lotsa postcards (for me).

No, I don't really intend to cook anything, but this
book had wonderful pictures and anecdotes about Laura
and the farm.  On the right is a thin volume
on Almanzo's sister.

My favorite!  An actual piece of a
pecan tree they planed in 1900.
Got to bring a little piece of the
farm home.