Again with the birthdays! My two favorite childhood authors were both born on this day. Madeleine L'Engle and C.S. Lewis. You can pretty much sum up what I thought and dreamed about when I was growing up to what they wrote. This preoccupation persists into adulthood, as I find myself returning to A Wrinkle in Time, written by L'Engle after being inspired by the writings of Albert Einstein, on pretty much an annual basis. I don't know why I love this story so much! Maybe because it's sci-fi with a little girl as the heroine. A little girl who is pretty much considered an outcast and a freak. Then she saves the world. Okay, what's not to love! Which brings us to The Chronicles of Narnia. A series I have read at least a half dozen times. Fanciful yet frightening at times, Narnia was where I wanted to escape to from my own life. A familiar place to go when I was once again the new kid in a new school in a different town. Sci-fi and fantasy, the seeds get planted early it seems, at least in my case. And when planted by a couple of masterful writers like L'Engle and Lewis, how could you possibly go wrong. A pair of Sagittarians who found a mystical path into the imaginations of young readers. Almost makes you think there's something to astrology.
My maternal grandmother, Esther Bleken Ruud, was born on this day in 1907. I thought it would be fun to post some photos of her. Above I believe is a group shot of her confirmation class. Esther is seated second from the left in the front row. She is probably twelve or thirteen years old.
I'm not certain of the reason for this studio portrait, but I think it may have been taken for the occasion of her engagement to my grandfather, Knut Oleson Ruud. If so, this is fall of 1929 and she is 22 years old.
Looks like all the ladies had fresh perms for this photo! I'm guessing my mother, in the back to the right, is around the age of eleven, making the year 1941-42. What a handsome family!
Sometimes in my holiday decorating frenzy, my desire to have a tree in every single room in the house can lead to dubious results. Witness the above photo from somewhere in the very late 90's. Armed with a string of green lights, a hot glue gun, damaged cd's that I couldn't throw away because I was convinced that someday there would be a clever craft use for them, a few feet of festive ribbon, pushpins and a bow, this is what I created, and I use the word loosely, on the home office bulletin board. Somebody stop me.
It's not Cyber Monday yet, but Cyber Sunday works just fine for me. I was just perusing the Barnes & Noble website. Looking at books, music, movies. Three of my favorite things. The first time I clicked on the Holiday Music link, I not only got over three hundred pages of assorted Christmas music cd's, but included in the sort was pretty much every album Billie Holiday had anything to do with. Essentially her entire discography. Holiday Music. Sure. I mistakenly closed that tab while checking something else and had to open it up again. And this is where it gets weird. This time when I click on the Holiday Music link, Lady Day has disappeared and in her place are various holiday cards and wrapping paper. Hmm. No weirder I suppose than the fact that Lynyrd Skynyrd has a Christmas album. Bugs Bunny and Friends have one, too. Some artists have two or three or a whole series of holiday music collections. At this rate, I expect someone who lives on my block has recorded a Christmas album. It's possible, I only had the patience for the first thirty-six pages.
Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and get out there to put up the holiday decorations. I know, the extension cords take away from the magic just a bit. Much prettier once it's completely dark.
Pay no attention to those piles of leaves! Really, I'm not a raking slob, I'm more of a raking minimalist. What I do is heap the leaves over the perennials in the front yard. While a little unsightly, the leaves provide a mulch layer that protects the plants from the cold. We really do need a cosmetic layer of snow.
The animated, light-up pink flamingo and palm tree are back this year. Please, South Dakota wind, treat this tree kindly. It is held together with florist wire, dental floss, electrical tape and some tiny bungee cords. Note how jealous the flamingos in the background are feeling. They don't light up, they don't move their little heads, they don't have adorable little Santa hats.
Last night I dreamed I was pregnant. Which would have required at least thirty-five or so separate miracles occurring at the same time. But it was a dream, so let's just go with it. I was trying to figure out how to fit a baby into my current life and sitting in on a lot of meetings at some office where it seemed that I worked. Then suddenly I had all this extra skin and flab where the baby bump had been and I neatly rolled it up and tucked it into my pants and pulled my shirt down over it. Slick! Just like that I had a pre-preggo body once more. I woke up without having met my newborn child and felt just a little disappointed. Later when I checked in with the Facebook world, there was a request from Kara to list me as her mother! Sweet. Instant daughter. When I further considered that I had actually done that thing that's necessary to make a baby pretty much exactly nine months ago, it all began to make sense. This explains why I've been bloated and cranky and hormonal for so long. I have to say it was worth it.
Who woulda thunk that George Clooney could be funny. He wears a hair net when he sleeps to keep his dapper, carefully arranged coif in place. In my ongoing quest to expose Reid to movie comedies, earlier this evening we took in a viewing of Joel and Ethan Coen's reworking of Homer's epic, The Odyssey. More funny lines than you could fit in a bag of hammers. Just when you thought you remembered nothing of classic literature, the Sirens show up. Or John Goodman wearing an eyepatch doing business as the Cyclops. Beautifully filmed using a process that renders all colors muted to match the look and feel of Depression-era Mississippi. Makes me long to be bona fide and toss on a long linen dress in a soft focus pastel. I love how practically everyone wears a hat. Even the characters' names are hilarious. I dare you not to laugh when you hear Pete Hogwallop. Vernon T. Waldrip. I do agree with the blind prophet's warning, the treasure you seek is not the treasure you will find. True in the time of the ancient Greeks, true in 1930s America, true now wherever you happen to be.
It's just a little excessive. Normally on Thanksgiving Eve you're lucky if you get a grilled cheese or some nuked leftovers around here. Because I become obsessed with tomorrow's dinner preparations. I started out with the idea of just quickly throwing together burgers for supper. Then there was that absolutely perfectly ripe avocado shouting at me from the bowl on the island. If you're already carmelizing an onion in butter with a dash of sea salt, why not chop up those last few neglected mushrooms and toss those in the pan, too. Bacon. Sharp cheddar cheese. And I don't know what you do in your kitchen, but I love a toasted bun surrounding my burger. Spread with garlic butter, they go under the broiler just long enough to become golden and crispy. If I am destined to die early from eating red meat, this is how it ought to be. Lovely paired with a Shiner bock. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have stuffing bread to dice.
I can be counted on. For instance, I sometimes blurt things out. Just little observations or idle thoughts. It's only when others nearby turn their heads and stare at me with eyebrows raised that I realize that I did, indeed, say it out loud. Really. I'm the mostly unintentional life of the party. Something like that, anyway. When I'm asked a question and I have the choice of giving a clear and succinct answer like any reasonable person would do or saying something completely inappropriate and ribald, I can't resist going for option number two. My dear sister Martine has remarked in the past that I can say pretty much anything and make it sound dirty. It's a gift. So. Let's move on to Weston's Twinkie. Weston was a co-worker. A college student. He was, and I expect still is, your basic tall, dark, handsome yet wholesome midwestern farm boy. He caused any female within a ten yard radius to swoon when he walked by. He was also polite, raised right, and nice, nice, nice. At lunch one day, he gave me a Twinkie. Pushed it across the table toward me and grinned. I picked it up as if it were the most precious and lovely thing I had ever been proffered. I admired it through its crinkly cellophane wrapper and thanked him. I tucked it into my lunch box for later. All the other ladies at the table were jealous. They coveted my Twinkie. Mostly because gorgeous Weston had given it to me. I was special. Later that day I heard we were engaged. Enter my reliability for the blurting out of the inappropriate. First of all, Deb should have known better than to ask. But she did anyway. She said to me, and I quote, I heard Weston gave you a Twinkie! Then she did a little elbow poke at my ribs and gave me a sidelong, knowing grin. Did that cream filling just explode into your mouth when you ate it? I smiled demurely and answered sweetly. Actually, no. I had to coax it out with my tongue. Deb froze in her tracks as if my super hero power was some kind of catatonic death ray evil stare that I had mercilessly blasted her with. She also turned twenty shades of red. Then laughter burst from the very walls. I had an audience. Apparently word of the Twinkie gifting had spread rapidly and was being discussed just before I walked through the room. I curtsied, thanked them, and did a little happy dance down the hall. I wondered if they had dared Deb to bait me with her naughty comment. Or if she had done it on her own. In any case, the verbal gauntlet had been dropped and I had gleefully picked it up. Laughter is healthy. A good, solid belly laugh is good for you and ought to be on your agenda every day. It's a public service I am happy to provide. You're welcome. I'll do my best to try to keep it clean. Or at least read the room first. That is, if I do say it out loud. I've been told there is medication that might help me. But what's the fun in that.
Internet surfing, soup eating, conversing with son, texting, wondering if I should wash my hair today or go with the ponytail, and listening to A Prairie Home Companion. At the same time. Resulting in the News From Lake Wobegon being distilled down to these three phrases: *older people in their thirties and forties *it was a short sermon *the miracle of the meatballs The first phrase seems to pretty clearly indicate that moi is at death's door. The second phrase is almost always a good thing, unless it happens to cut short your nap. A miracle involving meatballs brings to mind the miracle of the frybread. But that's due to the fact that I was giving my full attention to a recent viewing of the movie Smoke Signals. Which makes me grateful for writers like Sherman Alexie. And that there will be two more encore presentations of APHC today. Giving me, even if I must resort to the podcast, many opportunities to learn just what Mr. Keillor was talking about. Finally, if I'm wondering if I ought to wash my hair, I probably should.
I love pound cake. I whipped up a batch yesterday. The winter version has a lemon glaze drizzled over it. If you want to get all fancy-schmancy, you can make a raspberry glaze as well and make it ridiculously delicious and pretty. The summer version is topped with whipped cream and strawberries. Did I mention that I love pound cake? When I asked my mother for her recipe, she responded with the following, neatly typed onto my birthday card that year: Pound Cake 1 pound flour 1 pound sugar 1 pound butter 1 pound milk 1 pound salt 1 pound baking powder 1 pound lemon juice 1 pound eggs without shells Throw in a bowl. Mix thoroughly. Place in a pan and bake at 300 for a couple of days. Enjoy. Do not try this at home. My mom did have an excellent sense of humor. She also shared the actual recipe. Which I have shared below. Do try this one at home. Pound Cake 2/3 cup butter 1-1/4 cups sugar Cream together thoroughly, then add... 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, fresh squeezed, please 1/2 cup milk Stir together and add... 2-1/4 cups unbleached flour 1-1/4 teaspoons salt 1 teaspoon baking powder Mix til all the dry ingredients are, well, no longer dry 3 eggs Add eggs one at a time while mixer is running, beat one full minute after the first two, and two minutes after the third. Divide batter evenly between four small loaf pans. Bake for one hour at 300. Lemon Glaze 1 Tablespoon lemon juice 1 Tablespoon milk 1 cup powdered sugar Whisk together till smooth. Raspberry Glaze Okay, so I get lazy here. I take about a quarter cup of Smucker's seedless raspberry jam and whisk in a little water until it's about the same consistency as the lemon glaze. Never fails. Also beats the crap out of starting with fresh raspberries and trying to remove all those pesky little seeds. Which are decorative and all but clog up the teensy nozzle of the drizzling device. Do garnish with fresh raspberries and mint leaves to make up for using the jam as a shortcut. If you're feeling really wild, do what I did once. I thinned the jam with a little champagne. It was lovely.
I am lazing about in bed. An ill wind is howling outside. I have music. I have my Chromebook and my phone. I have a cat. Newt would prefer that I get my ass up and give him his morning treats, but he's willing to stick around and give me not quite a cuddle just to keep an eye on me. Treats are, at this point, approximately two hours overdue. Theoretically, I could remain here all day. But I haven't had coffee. Want coooofffffeeeee! Which means I will have to get up after all. Twice in my life I have been fortunate enough to be with a man who brought me coffee in bed. In the hierarchy of virtues, this is the entire pyramid as far as I am concerned. So until the charmed number three man comes along to fill this niche I remain on coffee duty. Applications are currently being accepted. Previous professional barista experience preferred but not necessary. Scone baking and foot massage skills guarantee a quarterly bonus. No gum chewing in line, please.
I've been known to write a poem or two. I've also been known to post them here on occasion. What audacity, you might be thinking. Particularly on the birthday of two writers that I adore. Astrid Lindgren and William Steig, born on this day in 1907. Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking made me believe I could be sassy and strong and independent. And Steig's whimsical drawings and quirky cleverness in The Bad Speller reinforced my own quirkiness and inspired me to strive toward clever. So if I am an audacious upstart, it's their fault. And I am forever grateful.
I have posted this diagram before. Venn? You might ask. June of 2011. When I felt like a dork. You will note that in June of last year as well as yesterday, Colleen has expressed the opinion that I am more of a geek. Now that I study the diagram, I would have to say that I agree. When dorkiness descended seventeen months ago it was due to a specific social situation. For everyday purposes I expect I'm more of a geek. But just in the area of movie trivia. And music minutiae. And how to bake the perfect pie. Occasionally a crossword puzzle. Is once a week, particularly Sunday, occasional? Sounds suspiciously regular to me. Okay, fine. Just click over to my profile and look at my interests. Geek, geek, geek. Check, check, check. But there I go obsessing again. I wanted to title this post Geek Chic because I'm a sucker for an oddball rhyme. But then I would have had to write about something entirely different. I'm funny that way, how I like the title to have something to do with the content. Even if it only makes sense to me. 11-15-2012
I'm not one to push the season, boys and girls, but Holiday Jam, Brookings edition, is but one month from today. If this date and location don't work in or out with your personal holiday plans, these incredibly talented people will be jamming in three states and ten cities on eleven dates for your musical enjoyment. Buy your ticket. Now. Thank you. You won't regret it. I now return you to a Thanksgiving state of mind.
Some movies are perfect. They get it right the first time. Please do not remake them! When some Hollywood upstart decides to update a favorite film of mine, I hesitate to view it. Sometimes I find a dvd of the updated effort in a bargain bin. Then I stare disdainfully at it in its shrink wrap that I hesitate to release it from. When I can't stand it any longer, I open it up, and settle in expecting to be disappointed. Why do I punish myself like this, you might ask. I'm sure the source lies somewhere in the fact that I'm half Norwegian and was raised Lutheran. But sometimes my carefully made plans fail. I love the 1995 Sydney Pollack take on the 1954 classic Sabrina, directed by the masterful Billy Wilder. Then a few days later I adored the 1999 version of The Thomas Crown Affair even more than the original. I know. Blasphemy. John McTiernan messing with Norman Jewison. These two wonderful remakes have another interesting thing in common. Anyone who has watched a movie with me knows I'm a credit junkie. I remain glued to every word that crawls by to the bitter end. Makes it even better when a great song plays over the seemingly never-ending credit crawl, and this is where it gets interesting. If you've read this far, clearly you're interested, too. Gotcha! Anyway. When the action is over at the end of The Thomas Crown Affair, the theme song from the original movie is reprised, The Windmills of Your Mind. And I can't figure out who is singing! I'm really good at this! When the music credits finally arrive, there it is. Who else but Sting can croon that smooth and sexy? Doh. Of course! Then, over the closing credits of Sabrina, once more I am puzzling over who is singing Moonlight. And it's Sting. Again. All I have to say is, if there had been a third incidence of one of my fave films re-imagined into an updated version that I miraculously enjoy where Sting serenades me over the closing credits and I don't recognize his voice, that would have constituted a conspiracy. Twice is merely a coincidence, thrice a conspiracy makes.
Welcome to Broome, Texas. Population unknown. The entirety of the city is captured in the lower photo. My friend Erik was reminded of me when he passed through Broome on a road trip years ago. For those of you who do not know, Broome is my maiden name. And I have a town. In Texas. Drop by sometime.
ges-hun-ditenoun /ges-hoon-dite/ 1. In geology, the mineral geshundite. Typically found in the elbow pit area of a sleeve where a sneeze has been directed. 2. The particulate matter resulting from a sneeze once the liquid portion has evaporated. 3. The sedimentary rock geshundite. Dust from the mining of geshundite is known to make people sneeze. Why in the world this stuff is mined is beyond me. People engage in so many inexplicable activities.
Rachel from cardholder services. I want to slap her. She calls my land line, she calls my cell. From Atlanta, Seattle, New York, Oklahoma City. This bitch gets around. She invites me to press "3" if I wish to no longer receive these annoying calls. So I do. But it doesn't work. I have stayed on the line to tell the person who answers that this number is on the Do Not Call List and to please refrain from ringing up again. That doesn't work either. There is a Facebook page devoted to shutting down Rachel. The FTC has made repeated attempts to shut her down to no avail. Just this week the five primary operations behind these robocalls were shut down, but Rachel the robocaller persists. Let's lock her in a room with a comfy chair and a blankey and a phone. Just when she begins to doze off, ring that phone! Rachel will be required to pick up. Around as many times as she has annoyed each and every one of us. I'm gleeful without doing the math.
It was very late. I was waiting up to hear President Obama speak. So there were local news bits inserted to fill the time. Despite my blurried state, I'm reasonably certain that the good people of South Dakota have elected a woman to the Public Utilities Commission who does not understand the difference between Calvary and cavalry. The first of which is a Mount, outside Jerusalem's walls, where according to Christian belief is the site of the crucifixion of Jesus. Cavalry, on the other hand, is a military term that describes the part of an army composed of mounted troops. These are very different things. I know this shouldn't bother me, but I was an English major. It should bother me more that she has vowed to fight on behalf of the citizens of this state against the tyrannical rule of the FCC and EPA. My concern is that if she doesn't grasp the difference between Mount and mounted, can she possibly grok federal regulations? The FCC has certainly done some questionable things, but I am firmly on the side of the EPA. I am, after all, a pagan tree-hugger. Who knows very well that cavalry and Calvary are not interchangeable.
Look, Mom! Shouted an excited kindergarten age Michael as he climbed into the van. When you hold your hands up like this, the capital L is your left hand! Isn't that amazing? Yes, it is. Especially for those of us who are afflicted with right/left confusion. Speaking as the only person in her eighth grade earth science class who raised her hand to incorrectly identify a slip strike fault as being right when it was actually left, or left when it was actually right, I don't remember when I wasn't so afflicted. But for a number of years now I have possessed this secret weapon. If you should ever observe me doing this out in public, now you know the rest of the story. But maybe you shouldn't ask me for directions to the bathroom.
You posted this nearly a month ago. I've gone back and read it several times and meant to leave a comment. But didn't. I stared at the blinking cursor in the upper left hand corner of the comment box, thinking only of how overwhelming your life feels to me. You are a caregiver and nurturer of the highest degree. You share your home with multiple generations of family. You are generous in heart, mind, and spirit. And with all of that running around in my brain, I lost track of why I was leaving a comment, just what was it I wanted to say. Now that I'm less distracted and have had some time to think, I have discovered that when I feel most loved is really very simple. I find that feeling in the quiet. In the comfortable, intimate silence between two people. When words are not necessary. When your eyes meet and you smile. Then you go back to reading your book. Or tuck your child into bed. Or wave goodbye from the other side of the window. Kiss a cheek in passing or wipe away a tear. Hug like you really mean it. Love. It lives in the quiet spaces.
I love the many varieties of cake that appear at funeral lunches. I opted for the lemon. Which is my default flavor. I am suspicious of any that contain colorful confetti-like thingys within the body of the cake. I am never suspicious of sprinkles. So I was mildly disappointed when the lemon cake had no sprinkles. It seldom does. I'll be fine.
A funeral is the oddest sort of family reunion that could possibly be. Particularly when you're the middle wife. Although the first wife wasn't there. In fact, I have just now decided that The Middle Wife shall be the title of my next novel. Shades of being the middle child. But without the rivalry. At least as far as I was concerned. But, hey, this is fiction so I can rivalry the crap out of the wives if I want. Like this actual published writer told me years ago, when I asked him about character development and if his friends and family members recognized themselves in his books. He laughed. A fellow author who was speaking along with him is often featured as a very minor character in his books, and vice versa. They enjoy reading each other's crime novels just to see what sort of smarmy low life they have cast each other as. On a more serious note, he said that if writers waited for everyone to die who has inspired them character-wise, no one would ever get around to getting published. He considers the people that he knows or strangers he observes plus his imagination to be the starter dough. Kept in the fridge in the dark to stew and recombine. The resultant bread that is rendered from this starter dough is his own, a very different creature indeed. Rarely do people possess the insight and level of self awareness to recognize themselves anyway, so you're usually safe. Aside from that, I figure everyone fancies themselves the tragic hero or femme fatale. At least I do. If you don't get to be the leading lady or the main man in your own head, what's the point. Pardon me while I get ready for my close-up.
You have a right to your opinion but you have no right to judge me. You have a right to your opinion but you have no right to judge me. You have a right to your opinion but you have no right to judge me. This has been my mantra at times when I have had to face a difficult situation. Sometimes with a single person, often when I have found myself in the midst of the unfriendly. Those, for better or worse, who have been more than willing to opine about me, though seldom to my face. So where is this fine line drawn? When someone speaks ill of you it really doesn't matter if the words are judgement or opinion. Negativity is negativity no matter what you call it. I suppose I'm left with the feeling that the definition resides in the heart and mind of the recipient of the opinion/judgement. This is a mantra of protection. A suit of emotional armor to wear in hostile social territory. You can only guess the spirit in which the words are offered, even if the words are unspoken and conveyed only in a facial expression or other physical gesture. Enter the mantra. You choose opinion. Because that's all they have a right to. Because someday they might know the whole story. Because the event inspiring the rise of bad blood might eventually be lost to the passage of time and the failure of memory. And because it leaves room for forgiveness.
It was one of those mornings yesterday. The phone rings. And without consulting the caller id, you know the news isn't good. Consulting the caller id confirms the feeling of foreboding, though. It's Allen, my ex-husband. I attempt to disconnect the charge cord from my phone and inadvertently answer in my struggle. I hear him saying, hello?, hello? while my cranky hands fumble with this simplest of tasks. Finally I prevail and have the phone to my ear and respond. Just as I thought, his mother, my mother-in-law, had passed earlier that morning. All three of his sisters had been with her. He sounded tired and drained. This has been a year long vigil while her health and mobility declined. For most of that year his sisters have rotated residence in the apartment she would never return to. Spending time with Audrey and dealing with bills and arrangements, medical and otherwise, that required attention. I've gone back and forth with my decision to attend the funeral. It's not a group of people that accepts me with open arms. Many of them I'm comfortable with, but when I think about it, the ones I'm not so looking forward to seeing are the same ones I didn't particularly gel with when Allen and I were married. The point of the day on Saturday, after all, is honoring the departed matriarch of the family, not dwelling on petty differences between surviving members of the family. And while Audrey and I were never close, she was my mother-in-law for twenty years. She was grandmother to my two sons. And I will feel honored to be there, for her, this one last time.