Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ho, Ho (Really?), Ho

The 2010 holidays find the Universe, in Her infinite, unfathomable wisdom, sorely testing my will to optimism.

First, ¾ of our kids were away for Christmas. I frequently joke about how much I adore the “empty nest,” but I must fess up--I missed the Christmas morning chaos. There’s something just so wrong about a quiet Christmas. If I’m half the domineering, controlling, guilt-dishing mother I think I am, this will never happen again.

Then, on Christmas day, my back went out. No, I don’t think it was a psychosomatic attempt to rally the troops. I think it was the culmination of physical self-abuse that started with careless interpretive dance at my friend’s October wedding that resulted in a slipped hip, then a complete lack of exercise and the internalizing of mountains of end-of-semester stress, then a marathon 5 days hunched over a table grading final papers, then 2 days of leaning over the dining room table with a hot iron pressing haiku transfers onto t-shirts for Christmas presents. So by early this week, I was no longer able to pick the dog dishes up off the floor. And I have a healthy new appreciation for the muscle groups involved in wiping one’s own arse. I made it in to the chiropractor yesterday, and I had her give me acupuncture for anxiety & stress, just for good measure. I expect to be flexible and euphoric any minute now…
Early this week, because I wasn’t having ENOUGH fun, our kitchen drains stopped draining. Ray spent two days on plungers & Drano, and $40 on various length snakes, all to no avail. So today we gave in and called the plumber, who, after several hours, declared the problem a “mystery” and said he’d have to consult his boss. He assured me a fix was possible but would likely involve tearing stuff up, re-routing, cutting into old pipes, installing new pipes, etc. It was, of course, impossible to estimate the costs, he said. So I’ve been doing dishes all day (because dishwashers/drains only stop working once every dish in the house is dirty), one bowlful at a time, then I shuffle, stooped over like some old Grimm Brothers hag, to the bathroom to dump the used dishwater in the toilet (which IS still draining, because the Universe knows better than to REALLY test me).

Did I mention the ice maker stopped working? And I was so counting on the medicinal properties of Bailey’s & eggnog to help straighten up my spine and my sense of humour...

And now Jack Blizzard threatens to blast us with another round of ice, snow and gale-force winds--our third blizzard of the winter so far. If I get snowed in, disrupting my plans to celebrate New Year’s Eve listening to Ray’s band & kissing this foul year good riddance with a pint of Guinness, things could get ugly. But for now, I’m still my usual effervescent Pollyanna self, still filled to brimming with holiday cheer & good will, dammit.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Blizzard Survival Kit

Jack Blizzard had his first major tantrum of the season yesterday. It hit South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska. It’s a gen-you-whine snow-in on the Row, with an impossible 7’ drift running the length of our long driveway. While we’re waiting for a kind-hearted tractor neighbor and/or county road crew, I thought I’d offer my essential Blizzard Survival Kit…
1. Coffee. You’ll need a couple pounds stored in an opaque, airtight container in the fridge. Then you’ll need another couple pounds stored in airtight bags in the freezer. You might consider ½-decaf if you’ll be snowed in with another human; you wouldn’t want to be too jumpy. But even worse—for all concerned—would be running out.

2. A larder. Out here on the prairie, you want a fully-stocked pantry at all times. Some people, I won’t mention names, have a pantry full of rice noodles, canned oysters, maple syrup, palm fruit pulp, pad thai sauce, canned tomatoes, refried beans, six kinds of crackers, microwave popcorn, and enough pickled jalapenos to stock every Taco Bell in the U.S. So maybe they don’t think in practical, menu-driven terms, but don’t judge; have you ever tried rice noodles with maple syrup and jalapenos? Yeah, I didn’t think so. They might also have a roasting hen, 5 lbs of tilapia, two boxes of henna, a bazillion wonton skins, a dozen candles, half a carrot cake, 3 lbs of coffee (see #1), an old bag of tater tots, 25 lbs of parrot food, a pound of dried parsley and 25 lbs of venison in the freezer.

3. Woolies. You may think you’re too cool for long underwear, but when the snow blows horizontally in a 50 mph wind, you’ll think again. Without the woolies, pale pink prairie skin looks like red cellophane after a 3-minute walk to the loafing shed.

4. A loafing shed. This is for your peacocks. They’ll want somewhere to roost out of the wind, preferably with a snow-free dirt floor below, where you can leave them cat food and black oil sunflower seeds, daily, at 10 a.m. sharp. A flock of 18 hungry peacocks marching toward your back door at 10:05 is a scary sight. Imagine the Skeksies in Dark Crystal, only leaner & meaner.

5. Chocolate. Four kinds of dark chocolate – with ginger, panko breadcrumbs, sea salt, and cayenne. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine, which causes the brain to release dopamine and oxytocin – chemicals involved in falling in love, relaxation, nurturing and orgasm. Avoid chocolate if you’re snowed in with relatives and/or ex’es.

6. Empty carbs. You’ll need Doritos, mashed potatoes, white bread with butter & sugar, and plenty of pasta with butter and parmie. These become especially important from Day 3 on in the event of a snow-in. The semi-comatose carb sedation will help prevent domestic unrest once the chocolate runs out.

7. Layered outerwear. You’ll want flannel-lined jeans and a sweatshirt, insulated coveralls, parka with a fur-lined hood, knee-high snow boots, a wool hat, insulated waterproof gloves, and a wool scarf to wrap around your face. You won’t be able to breathe, see or move, so you may as well stay inside…skip #7.

8. Dish TV. In the midst of a blizzard, all of your self-righteous pontificating about the evils of Bridezillas, Hell’s Kitchen, the golf channel and Nick Jr. goes out the window along with your heat. Trust me – you’ll be happy to stumble across that Petticoat Junction marathon.

9. Paper books and flashlights with fresh batteries. Your power WILL eventually go out. Books will help you survive the TV/Internet DT’s, which set in about 20 minutes after your power goes out.

10. Knitting. A good yarn stash and a 4-day snow-in could net you at least half a dozen adorable Christmas presents. Search the Web for fast, easy knitting patterns on Day 1, before you lose power. Remember, knitting needles are NOT weapons.

11. A wood stove. Have an ample supply of cut wood, dry and in the house. Have a folding Army cot or two near the stove. When the power goes out, pretend you’re camping in the Himalayas, on your way to meet the Dalai Lama. Chanting ohm nama shivaya ohm helps with the shivering.

12. Wine & Bailey’s. Ditto the importance of the semi-coma mentioned in #6.

13. Board/Bored games. On Days 1-2, these will help pass the time and create the illusion of an old-fashioned farm holiday season. On Days 3-4, they come in handy as non-lethal projectiles.

14. Binoculars. From Day 3 on, you’ll need these in order to stare longingly at the Interstate traffic ½-mile away. This will remind you to keep bathing, shaving your legs, and getting dressed in the morning—life is going on somewhere, and someday, you’ll be part of it again.

15. A comfy bed (if the heat is still on). If you’re not dug out by Day 4, take to your bed. Load up with carbs first for heavy, uninterrupted sleep. Pile on the down quilts. Know that when they dig you out, a kindly social worker will arrive to do a “well person” check called in by your mother. She will wake you to make sure you’re still breathing. Tell her you’ll get up as soon as the coffee’s ready.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Slow Slide into Winter

It’s early December on the Row, which means I’ve been sucked into the Cluster of Doom—that convergence of Winter’s onset, the end of the semester at Little Town U, and the holidays.

I’m currently mired in the grading swamp—60+ literary research essays, Icy Hot neck patches, avoidance blogging, and a bottomless pot of French Roast. It’s a special level of Dante’s Hell for people who won’t give up the delusion that teaching is “noble.”

Meanwhile, the landscape has taken on an unbroken beige pallor, the prairie wind and morning frost turn prayer flags into ice sculptures, and the peas honk at the back porch for She Who Brings Corn. We know it’s coming, but it still takes us by surprise. For a while, we walk around with a stunned raccoon-in-the-headlights look, mouths agape, hauling in pots of basil or geraniums that only froze “a little” in the bone-chilling 20-below wind chill. Some of us, in spite of massive Vitamin D supplements, slide into a blue funk we won’t pull out of until late March. We watch CNN, wear Snuggies, drink too much eggnog and brandy, sleep a lot, and hoard Puffs tissues. Some of us lose our summer freckles and binge on empty carbs, until cheeks inflate around dark, beady eyes. By mid-December, we look like Stay-Puft Marshmallow men.

There are occasional reprieves from the oppression, though. Ray’s 1970’s band, Little Henry, played in the Big City in November, so I got in a much-needed dose of vibrational healing—relaxing with good friends and doing some “chick-singer” therapy.

We had a pre-Thanksgiving gathering with Ray’s family, always a warm, welcome treat, with a bonus visit from old family friends and the arrival of Ray’s sister & BIL from Tennessee.

Then, we were absolutely blessed to host my extended family of 21+ at the Row on Thanksgiving day: Mom, all 4 siblings and 4 sib-spouses (coming from Kansas, Texas, and Mexico), all 4 of our kids, 2 kid-spouses, 3 grandkids, a niece & nephew, a good friend, and 4 dogs. It was a grand potluck buffet, including a turkey finished with a coffee-ginger glaze. I adore our frenetic, loud, laughing, yelling family gatherings, and at this one, we also celebrated 5 December birthdays, including the new baby grandson’s 1st. The next night, Ray’s band played at our fave Little Town watering hole, so many of us from both families went out for a night of exceptional music, more chick-singer therapy, and hip-slipping interpretive dance.

On Friday this week, our family welcomed its newest member, Khloe. She's my niece's first, making my baby bro a first-time grandpa. We're calling him Grandpa Thunder after his "Trailer-Trash Jell-O Salad" shopping debacle over Thanksgiving (Dr. Thunder is NOT the same as Dr. Pepper).

Today, as Winter cracks the tree branches outside, I’m headed back to the greenhouse for another round of grading. But it’s okay. I have my full-spectrum lamp, my space heater, and a bottle of Bailey’s for my bottomless cup ‘o joe.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Why I Bite & Snap

The weather is dreary in eastern South Dakota this week. It’s not bad for November, I guess—40-degree days, 20-degree nights. But after a bright, mild beginning to November, the last couple days have been grey and drizzly. There’s a damp chill in air that smells a lot like winter. Our neighbors are almost done harvesting, which means the landscape is mostly brown & beige. Toss stupid daylight savings time into the mix, and my circadian rhythms are playing “Wipe Out.”

Seriously. I crawl out at 5:30 a.m. in total darkness, desperate for coffee. I drag myself through the day, staying conscious with various combinations of more coffee, dark chocolate, jumping jacks (yes, sometimes in the middle of a class) and FOX news (my incredulity at the stuff they say keeps my heart pounding). Then, around 5:30 p.m., when the peacocks head for their backyard roosting tree because it’s already dark again, I’m either drifting off in my Lazy Girl, slumped over & drooling on a stack of essays I should be grading, or waking with a start to the thud of my Kindle on the floor. These cold, wet, dark-to-dark days are like half all gas-lampy Little House on the Prairie, and half 30 Days of Night. I’m sprouting fangs…and a bonnet.

I hauled the houseplants back in for the winter, and the greenhouse is packed to the gills. I’m hoping the extra oxygen will keep me from slipping into a two-shallow-breaths-a-minute coma. When I can stay awake, I’ve been knitting cowls, comforted by the idea of pulling something warm & fuzzy up over my face to shield my pasty skin and pale Gollum eyes from the light.
The pheasant hunters are out in force, which means the peaflock (final count this year is 18) sticks close to the house and whines for corn. I regularly stop hunters to explain how similar peafowl and wild turkeys can look from a distance. And in spite of our attempts at aversion therapy, the flock has decided that yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa Clause, and he came early to leave a lovely new pergola perch.

I’ve been working like a dawg this semester (maybe it only SEEMS harder due to my autumnal lethargy), and I'm a little overwhelmed by the upcoming convergence of the end of the semester and the holidays. The prospect makes me even more desperate to fatten up on blueberries, floured honey biscuits and bison jerky and “take to my bed” until spring. I’ll gladly be a front-runner in the evolutionary adaptation for human hibernation in climates with changing seasons; I’m pretty sure living off fat stores for a couple months would be totally worth the deep, peaceful, sensory-deprived sleep.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween & Housebound

It’s Halloween on the Row. The peacocks are dressed as Oriental fan dancers, the dogs are dressed as lazy wolf cubs, the cat is a ferocious jungle panther, and the parrots are caged birds (that sing). Ray’s costume this year is hermit musicologist/archivist (he’s STILL transferring his entire, very impressive album collection to CD then to iTunes, and he’s doing some musical archiving for our friend Ina, whose brain is in fine shape after her recent fall & surgery, praise Shiva. Ina’s payments of mouthwatering banana bread are helping us lay on some pre-winter fat

My oldest brother, The Suave Southern Host, was home from Mexico this month. We had good family visits, and my brother got to introduce baby Clyde to his first taste of apple pie. Then Ray and I went with TSSH to Omaha, where he played a 25th-anniversary reunion gig with the Omaha ska/NE range/reggae/dance band, the Linoma Mashers. It was pretty amazing watching those old farts (he’s two years older than me) kick some musical arse, and even more amazing to watch the packed house scream in unison on “Surfin’ Lake McConaughy.”

Then last weekend, my friend Linda Orbatch and I road-tripped to MN State U to read poems, along with another Little U. colleague, at the 29th annual Women and Spirituality Conference. Akasha Hull delivered a stunning keynote address on the intersection of spirituality and sexuality to 300-ish women and a few brave men, and there were 25-30 simultaneous panels running during each of four sessions. We could choose from topics like Eastern religions, shamanism, tarot, drum circles, spontaneous singing, kabbalah, laughter yoga and much more. The highlight for me was having my aura photographed because, well, you just gotta. According to the aura reader, I’m completely relaxed and not at all stressed. It must be true, right?
The Row is settling now under a thick blanket of leaves. Ray cleaned up the garden, and the mums are slumped over with morning frost. After planning it in his head for a couple of years, Ray took a weekend recently and built a pergola over the back sidewalk. We’re trying to convince the peas it’s not a giant pea-perch, and next spring we’ll plant hearty wisteria on both sides. It, like practically everything else on the Row, is draped in blue solar lights. Out here on the dark prairie, we have our own little solar system at night.
My Halloween costume this year is harried, housebound, decaying schoolmarm. Once again, as the days grow longer and I spend increasing periods bent over piles and piles and piles of essays and midterm exams, I’m losing my summer freckles and donning my winter Casper-white glow, nicely accented by big dark circles under my eyes, a coffee mustache, and a ring of Doritos cheese around my mouth. My new essential foundation garment is an Icy Hot patch on the back of my neck. (Note to students: Bless you for trying, but “LMAO” and “Even a total tool knows that…” isn’t really objective academic writing.) A couple of colleagues and I chuckled a while back over our collective wish to be just sick enough to be hospitalized for a few days so we could (a) sleep and (2) get caught up with our grading. Maybe an exotic, non-lethal parasite would be nice...and I could scarf down even more Doritos and banana bread…

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Then & Now: Weddings Edition

My friend got married recently, and halfway through the reception, as I was trying desperately to breathe while mopping sweat off my forehead and trying to find the sandals I'd kicked off before hitting the dance floor, it occured to me that weddings in midlife are nothing like the weddings of our youth. So I've put together this retrospective, an amalgamation of all the weddings I've been to (and a few I've been in) over the years...

Then: You get married at 17 because you’re bored and there’s nothing on TV.
Now: You get married at 54 because you’ve miraculously found someone whose emotional sensibilities complement yours and whose only goal in life is to be your life partner.

Then: You’ve been planning every teensy detail of your wedding since you were 13. You have it cataloged in several 3-ring binders.
Now: A couple weeks before the big day, you find a place to get married and a bigger place to have a party. You’re pretty sure you have something in the back of your closet you can wear.

Then: Your mom sells a car to pay for your invitations, engraved with fluttering doves and an excerpt from Jonathan Livingston Seagull. You send the invitations out to everyone you’ve ever known, six months before the wedding.
Now: You make 50 invitations in Word on your home computer a month before the wedding, then you forget them in a grocery bag in the back seat of your car, thinking you’ve already mailed them.

Then: You compose a set of 8 linked sonnets as your wedding vows, and you ask the minister for a homily on fidelity, marital effort & trust, which he’s to keep under an hour.
Now: You compose your 8-line vows from your favorite self-help book, and you ask the minister for any homily with the word “love” that stays under 5 minutes.

Then: You get married in the Cathedral.
Now: You get married in a small university chapel that doubles as a classroom.

Then: You have a string quartet play background music before the processional, which is played—majestically, triumphantly—on the Cathedral’s floor-to-ceiling pipe organ. The recessional is played by a small brass ensemble.
Now: Three chicks with guitars sing an old rock & roll song for your processional, and an old married couple with guitars sings another old rock & roll song for your recessional. The groom’s toddler granddaughter dances in the aisle and claps.

Then: You have a champagne reception in an art museum gallery, with petit fours, imported liver pate, and ricotta cheesecake bites with candied raspberry sauce.
Now: You have an open-bar hootenanny in a barn converted into a dance hall. You serve roast pork, green beans, potatoes and carrot cake.

Then: You have a sweet little folk band playing at the reception.
Now: You have a kick-ass country swing band at the reception, with incredibly hot chick singers, and you shove all the front tables back to get at the dance floor.
Then: Your new husband kneels at your feet as you sit in a brocade and ribbon-covered throne on a small gallery stage. He carefully takes off your $100 beaded silk garter with his teeth.

Now: Your garter, an old blue bandanna strapped to your thigh, comes untied and falls off somewhere between the chapel and the dance hall.

Then: All through the reception, your friend babysits the stoic Presbyterian minister’s three small children.
Now: All through the reception, your friend dances like a whirling dervish with the gregarious ex-Catholic-priest minister.

Then: You do the chicken dance, the alligator, the hokey-pokey, and a dollar dance that goes on for 127 minutes.
Now: You do a couple waltzes and a slow dance with the groom, but mostly you do Laugh-In-ish interpretive go-go dancing with your girlfriends. Your friend’s hip goes out.

Then: You get toasters, crystal, china, hand-embroidered linens, and casserole dishes.
Now: You get money and wine. And wine glasses. And more wine. And good coffee.

Then: The groomsmen outfit the wedding limo with streamers, dried flowers and bells in your theme colors.
Now: Your daughter and her friends wrap your new husband's car with crime scene tape.

Then: You slip out of the reception at 10:30 to make your midnight flight to Fiji.
Now: You slip out of the reception at midnight, because you’re exhausted and you have to work tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ina's Clever Trick: Mobilizing the Village

It’s been a while. And it’s been an action-packed month. The new school year is underway at Little Town U, and this always means an unpredictable schedule and long hours. For me, it also means a fairly predictable temporary funk – anxiety about being ready for classes, grief for the waning summer, frustration as I try and bounce too many balls at once, and a hint of dread for the inevitable South Dakota winter. Eventually, I buck up, and everything’s fine again.

(I’m almost there.)

One of the last big events of the summer was the August Sisters of Perpetual Disorder dinner. We were 21 women this time, with an astounding spread of potluck dishes and plenty of wine. What made this particular gathering so memorable, though, was Ina’s clever trick. Ina is the Grand Matriarch and originator of the SOPD dinners (who doesn’t drink – ‘cause you would have been wondering in a minute…). As the dinner wrapped up, Ina was walking down a few small back steps carrying a light but awkward cardboard box, when she tripped and went straight down. That would have been bad enough, but she hit her head on the corner of a brick on her way down.

The ensuing scene was, in some ways completely surreal, and in other ways like a bad TV movie. But mostly, it was a testament to the incredible power of women. So there was Ina, lying on the sidewalk between the garden and steps, disoriented, maybe momentarily unconscious, and moaning in pain. And from under her head, a small pool of blood oozed into a steadily growing pool (hence, the bad TV movie). This all happened in a split second, followed by maybe one or two more split seconds of stunned silence.

But then, a fascinating thing happened. Twenty-one women moved swiftly into Full Rescue Mode. No panick. No confusion. Just considered, deliberate, quiet action. Several women told Ina not to move, and she obeyed. One woman called 911. Another carefully slid a damp washcloth under Ina’s head to stem the bleeding. Another put a bit of bug spray on her hands, then carefully dabbed the unhurt parts of Ina’s face to ward off the vicious mosquitos. Several moved parked cars to make room for the ambulance. One woman scolded a first-on-the-scene policeman when he looked like he would try and move Ina’s head to get a curious look at her head wound. Except for that first brief disorientation, Ina was alert and responsive throughout.

Once the ambulance loaded Ina up and left the scene, several women went on to the hospital, and we even barged into the exam room and circled Ina’s gurney to keep her awake & talking while she waited for the MRI machine (that’s us in the picture – we’ve shoved the ER medical personnel out of our way, and we’re fussing around Ina). One of us went back to the hostess house and helped with clean-up. One eventually drove up to the Big City and spent the night there when Ina’s MRI looked fishy and she was life-flighted to a larger hospital.

Ina was in the hospital for the next few days, following surgery to remove several small bone fragments from her skull. Rescue Mode continued even then. We took turns visiting the hospital in two’s or three’s, while people brought food to Ina’s son, who had come from western South Dakota to stay near his mother. A couple of women took turns making sure Ina’s dog was let in & out.

One day, while Ina was still in the hospital, a contingent of women spent a day doing yard work at her house, tending to overgrown raspberries and her sprawling tomato garden, so she’d have clear paths and little outside work to do once she got back home. And when she did come home, Rescue Mode continued with a two-week schedule of food deliveries to Ina and her other son, who’d come from Florida.

Ina’s okay now – praise be. What little memory gaps she had about the accident have filled in. And, with typical Ina humor, she says it will be hard for us to top the entertainment value of her mishap at future SOPD dinners. She sees the resulting lighter workload (she’s a baker) as a positive outcome of the fall. And at our favorite Little Town watering hole not long ago, with Ina making her first post-accident appearance and grinning from ear to ear, the boys in the band sang, “Ina…is there anyone finah…in the state of Carolina…” to wild cheers & applause.

I am completely, unspeakably grateful to be part of this amazing community of women. In the very best sense of the word, the Sisters of Perpetual Disorder are a beautiful village. Hillary was right – it really does take a village. And you'd better hope your village has a bunch of level-headed women in it.

(Okay, I think I’m there now.)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Aversion Therapy & Home Industry

I’m easing into my post-fun summer penance now (and avoiding my new school year prep) by catching up on some home industry. I built a cage around my hearty wisteria, because the peacocks recently discovered it’s a delightful pea-dessert, and they ate the bottom half of the vine down to sticks in a single day. I remind the flock daily now that in Indonesia, peacocks are FOOD.

I’m doing a little aversion therapy with the peas, too. Peacocks mostly eat grasses and vegetation, but what they really love is cat food. So it didn’t take them long to discover that our adopted outside cat, Rickie Lee, has food on the back porch ledge. In fact, Zorro, our only black peacock and a flock hoodlum, is obsessed with Rickie’s food. He’s taken to hanging out on the back patio, and I’ve caught him several times on the ledge, polishing off the food in Rickie’s dish. I tried a billowy prayer flag pea-barricade, but the darn birds realized they could fly. So now when I feed Rickie, I stand by with a squirt bottle of water and zap Zorro (or the wayward girls he influences) whenever he makes a move for the cat food. This is what I’ve come to…shooing peacocks off my back porch. Who’d’a thunk…

In spite of serious, persistent spring and summer flooding in South Dakota (two main thoroughfares between our house and Little Town are still closed & under water), and the resulting constant buzzing clouds of bazillions of mosquitoes the likes of which I’ve never seen in all my years here, I’ve been picking, cooking and preserving our garden bounty: gooseberries, acorn squash, yellow squash, cucumbers, tomatoes and the sweet corn a friend gave us. I’ve stocked the freezer with whole grain blueberry muffins and bison mini-meatloaves, and we’ll have apples and wild plums to deal with soon.

Have I mentioned before that I love red wine? So Ray got me a winemaking kit last Christmas, and early this summer I turned the lower level of the greenhouse into my own little winery. I have my second batch of wine going now, a Chilean Malbec. I was encouraged to make another batch when I discovered (at our family reunion) that my first batch, The Damn Merlot (have you not seen Sideways yet?!?), is AWESOME!

I’ve also been knitting up a storm in accordance with a basic mathematical principle: Knitting + Discovery Channel = I’m not a slacker. I think I have several felted bags and 5 pairs of fingerless gloves now (not to spill the beans about what all my kids will be getting for Christmas).

I can also allay my slacker guilt knowing that I worked all summer doing freelance copywriting for the ad agency where I worked a few years back. Creative writing and copywriting are two extremes on the writing spectrum, so it was good exercise for me to strip things down to “Your Community Partner.” I wrote a couple video scripts, a few 30-second TV spots, some poster/banner copy, and lots of ads. Best of all, I got to hang with my old friends, who are a light-hearted, zany bunch of mad[wo]men.

Today I’m baking blueberry scones and blueberry buckle in preparation for a wild women’s weekend. I’m having a Row henna party Saturday, then when we’re all henna’d up, we’ll head to Little Town for another night of dancing when Ray’s band plays at our fave watering hole. Then on Sunday, I’m off to another Sisters of Perpetual Disorder women’s dinner, with a “picnic” theme this time.

Then I promise I’ll get to that school prep. Right after I organize my PEZ dispenser collection and re-grout the tub…

Monday, August 9, 2010

Play Now, Pay Later

I’ve had waaaaay too much fun this summer. In June, my friend Gail and I went to a Buddhist meditation retreat in CO. It was a transformative event, resulting in my current daily meditation practice, a new meditation blog (, and a much improved sense of Self (or non-Self).

Then in late July my two oldest grandkids, Syd, 10, and Alia, 12, came sans parents to spend a week at the Row. It’s tough entertaining e-generation kids, but we kept them busy with help from Gigi (great-grandma), trail-hiking, a family BBQ, skateboarding, duck feeding, a day with their aunt at a motel pool, and, of course, a trip to Barnes & Noble - Alia and I each read The Golden Compass at bedtime. Both kids have cell phones, and I swear, their parents (who’ve never spent a night away from the kids) called them 15 times a day. And I now know everything there is to know about Sponge Bob and iCarly. Welcome to life totally plugged in.

As soon as the kids left, Mom and I drove to Longville MN for a family reunion. It’s held annually at a lake cabin my paternal grandparents bought in the 1950’s. There are two cabins now, a tent city, and a week of swimming, boating, jet-skiing, tubing, eating, catching up, s’moring, laughing, and drinking. We're a boisterous Bohemian bunch, and this year there were 39 of us – 4 generations – plus 9 dogs, 2 potbelly pigs and a cockatoo. We even had a mosquito cake (my daughter's artistry). The highlight was the surprise dock wedding of my cousin’s son to his sweet Chilean girlfriend, with my minister cousin presiding. The dock was decorated with streamers, balloons, wildflowers and – yep – peacock feathers. We all wore our white 2010 family reunion t-shirts (thanks to my brother). It was a beautiful, happy ceremony and a joyous reunion.
The fun continued when Ray’s band played a benefit last weekend at our favorite Little Town watering hole for our friend, Ed, who had a stroke recently. It was so good to see, once again, the way our little community rallies when someone needs a hand. All the wild women (and plenty of wild men) were there, and I'm still feeling the aftereffects of our raucous interpretive dancing.

Some people think fun & recreation are their reward for hard work. Maybe it’s my Presbyterian/Catholic indoctrination, but I'm a glutton for festivities, friendship & fun, and I tend to see hard work as my penance for it. So with only 3 weeks left before the new semester, I know I'll have to pay dearly for this Summer of Love. I know I’d better get busy. Yeah. And I will, honest. Right after our trip to the Cities next weekend to see a Saints game and the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit…