Wednesday, January 25, 2012

This is it; this is winter

Just as the summer season has its own singular flavor to it, so too does winter have a unique feel. And although the dead of winter does not always inspire the same euphoria that a mid-summer evening might, it still merits a few words of tribute. Growing up in Denver, I was somehow under the impression that it snowed a lot there and I found the snow and cold to be somewhat limiting to my ability to enjoy life. I guess I should point out, I was not a skier. So I thought going to college in Los Angeles seemed like a fabulous solution for my snow aversion. Then of course, my mom moved to Minnesota, and eventually I would move here, too. Only then did I discover the true meaning of winter.

The Minnesota winter is like nothing I have ever experienced. Other cities I've called home, like Denver or Boston, get snow and cold weather, it’s true, but nothing arctic like the North Star state. And it’s not just the cold that makes it winter. It’s the duration, the gray, the bitterness of a sub-zero night that really sinks into your heart and reminds you, this is it, this is winter.

This winter has been funny in that it almost seems like it has been completely snow-free up until a few days ago. There have been a few passing storms but it seems they’ve all been followed up by warm weather that actually melts all the snow. That, in itself, is highly unusual. Many winters I’ve spent here seem to start in November with a big snow storm and I swear I can still recognize the same snow in March that I first saw in November. I spray paint a small patch after the first snowfall to be sure I’ll still recognize the same snowflakes 4 months later. But even without the snow this year, I find that many of the same emotional elements of winter persist in spite of the difference in scenery.

Many days pass without any appearance of the sun but defy the simple description of merely “cloudy.” The atmosphere and the landscape seem to meld in a misty nether region between sky and earth that acts as a vacuum for any stray light or color that finds its way outside. It often feels depressing but sometimes you welcome it as an opportunity to stop all activity, as if your mind regenerates during these days in the same way the dormant plant life is storing up new energy for spring.

After an evening out in the middle of winter, the return to one’s car in the cold is like the dark, mind-numbing opposite of a summer night spent outside, enjoying a breeze and a cold drink. In June, when dusk holds off until later, it almost lets you believe you are more alive during the summer. But in the winter, the challenge is to feel alive in spite of the temperature. Even with layers of fleece and thinsulate and your hands, neck and face wrapped up against the wind, you can still feel the cold deep inside you, stiffening your limbs. The car holds no comfort as even the skin on your head seems to be frozen with goosebumps and you huddle in front of the useless heating vents. Midway home, the car’s heat kicks in and you briefly know a little comfort but your windows are frosted over, encasing you in the chill. My favorite is when there is a full moon on a night of sub-zero temperatures and its icy white glow freezes even the light shining down on you. The coldness is absolute.

Last winter, my daughter entertained a brief obsession with The Decembrists’ album The King is Dead. Her favorite song was Dear Avery and she’d ask to play it repeatedly during dinner time. It’s got a fairly melancholy feel to it anyway, but listening to it over and over again while staring at the grayness outside would often threaten to send me over some ambiguous edge, making me want to just lay sprawled on the ground, staring out the window at the sky until some shred of sunshine and color returned to the world.

It’s easy to succumb to this kind of desolation during the winter here, but the weird thing is that spring just wouldn’t be spring unless you endured the cold and darkness. And even though December 21st is the shortest day of the year with the fewest hours of daylight, it seems to me that it’s not until the bone-chilling days of late January that you really start to realize… winter is here. Winter is finally, undeniably here. Once we get some sledding in, the year will be complete.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

2011 bubble lights retrospective

You know how when your favorite sitcom passes some big milestone, like the 100th show or some anniversary or something, and they make the 30-minute montage of the show's funnier moments, so instead of getting to watch a new episode of your beloved show you are forced to sit through countless clips that you have already seen because, duh, it's your favorite show and you are a faithful viewer? Well, imagine my blog is your most favorite (and mega-hilarious) sitcom. I'm taking a look back at 2011 and pointing out the highs and the lows, blog-wise.

Let's get this party started...

January blog (January 18, 2011)
It doesn't say a whole lot, just that I decided to start a blog and that I hoped to tell some funny stories along the way. Also, I was under the impression that last January was particularly difficult because we were inundated with snow. However, I'd like to update that now and say that January sucks just as much without snow.

A little intro... (January 19, 2011)
Since it was the early days of the blog, I provide this introductory piece. It's more a brief look at the formative years of my writing career (or lack thereof).

State of the fam (January 26, 2011)
I wasn't crazy about this one after I wrote it but a few people really liked it. It appeared that I was being extremely clever since that was the evening of the State of the Union address (in case you didn't figure that one out). The truth is, I blatantly ripped off this clever idea from another blogger who had been featured on NPR's web page that day. If you want to read something laugh-out-loud funny, read the Suburban Kamikaze. Then come back and read my blog, too. SK, many thanks from this novice blogger.

The f-word ***RATED R*** (February 3, 2011)
This is a favorite of mine, simply because it was so much fucking fun to write. Looking back at it now, I feel I have really let myself down by not swearing more in my blog. One person who would not agree with this is my father who, if you can imagine it, seems to find this language "vulgar." Well, what the fuck is wrong with vulgar? I'm not the fucking Queen of England here.

I used to have a real thing for John Elway (February 6, 2011)
Obviously, this was the Super Bowl edition. I'm not sure how well-liked it was, but I can tell you I was sure highly amused with myself when I wrote this. I find as I compose this retrospective that many posts fall into that category. Oh well, at least I know one person liked it. I'm particularly fond of the photo of myself, sporting my Bronco gear. Good times.

A few words about Autism (February 10, 2011)
Here is the point at which I introduce my daughter and the fact that she is on the Autism spectrum. I have always wanted to write more about my daughter and autism. I think I am afraid that once I get started, though, I won't be able to stop. The topic overwhelms me. But fortunately for us, it is not all trials and tribulations. Mostly my daughter is a source of joy and, without question, the best thing that ever happened to me.

I am the funniest person in the world (February 11, 2011)
This one just kind of came to me all at once. It's probably another one that falls into self-amusement category. My favorite part is the photo of Don Rickles.

Anything goes (February 19, 2011)
This one is fairly random. I wrote it in response to a conversation I had with my brother-in-law. It's sort of for him, although it doesn't really say a whole lot.

I really think I could see Lindsay Lohan see the error of her ways... (February 25, 2011)
This post is really just an excuse to tell you the story of my shoplifting days from high school. And why wouldn't I want to share that story? It was a real highlight of my 15th year. Or thereabouts.

Soap scum abatement (March 6, 2011)
At this point in my blog-writing career I was starting to ponder just how to come up with new and interesting topics. Ok, I am still pondering that. But spending hours scrubbing a bathtub? For better or worse, that qualified as a major activity for the day, so I tried to spin it into a blog post.

How to outsmart your not-very-smart dog (March 9, 2011)
Most definitely, this post was one I found hilarious. Whether or not it is hilarious to anyone else, I cannot say. It doesn't really matter. I do know, however, that my neice was really impressed by this piece of writing. I love that girl.

me me me so dumbfounded by the unadulterated sucky-ness of this song (March 18, 2011)
Um, this is probably the one post I've considered actually deleting. It's pure idiocy. But so is Rebecca Black's song about Friday, so what do you expect?

A trip to the serious side... (March 21, 2011)
I don't really remember what this one actually says and I am avoiding re-reading it. I do know that I was depressed at the time. It was a harsh winter.

But wait, there's more! (April 13, 2011)
Probably the long winter and my unpleasant disposition explain the long break between the last post and this one. I just wanted to let everyone know I wasn't giving up. I should write more about Charles Dickens. I bet he was a fun guy.

Why I hate being an adult (April 14, 2011)
This post is essentially just about the need to call my health insurance company because they wouldn't pay for certain services and I fully expected that my inquiries and pleas for assistance would be met with ignorance and spite. Personally, I really like the way I disclose my regular appointments with a mental health professional.

Lunch from hell (April 15, 2011)
This one is about the Oscar Mayer Lunchable™, plain and simple. My daughter pines for these as a lunch option. I hate them. End of story.

(untitled) (April 17, 2011)
I forgot to name this one. It's chit-chat, stories about my daughter. I was trying to write every day for a week but I just couldn't come up with enough material. The anecdote about Martha's joy over a dandelion she pulled out with the weed popper, however, is priceless. I do love my Martha.

Daughter Words (April 21, 2011)
This post is my very favorite. It is a perfect description of the connection between my daughter and me.

Happy Birthday, Sweet 13 (May 3, 2011)
I wrote this for one of my nieces, whose birthday is May 3rd. I see a lot of myself in her and I hope she doesn't mind that.

Dating Sucks (May 14, 2011)
This title was designed to fool people into thinking I was really going to talk about dating, as in social engagements with a person in whom one is romantically interested. It's not. It's about play dates and how bad I am at arranging them. I hope my daughter's social development is not damaged by my aversion to the play date.

Haiku For a Rainy Day? (May 20, 2011)
Here's a little poetry about me riding my bike in the rain. I didn't say it was good poetry. But it is little.

Post failed-rapture Musings (May 22, 2011)
This one was written very spontaneously. It, too, qualifies for the self-amusement category.

Cyclist or Bike-Rider? (May 31, 2011)
I liked this one. It was just a reflection of what was on my mind as I tried desperately to get comfortable on my new road bike. In retrospect, I'm more of a bike-rider than an avid cyclist.

Benny and the Jets (June 3, 2011)
Purely written for my own amusement, I tell a story about an incident on the Denver city bus when I was 16. I happen to think it's a pretty good story, but maybe you had to be there.

Trying out for the part of Wonder Woman (June 18, 2011)
More self-amusement, written after I moved the piano across the basement by myself.

June 27, 2002 (June 26, 2011)
June 27th is my daughter's birthday so, in honor of that big day, I wrote about the day she was born. What a freaky, mind-blowing, wonderful day!

I probably shouldn't do this but... (June 28, 2011)
This takes the cake for posts that I found highly amusing to write. However, it was not well-received by some family members who worried it was aimed at them. It really blew me away that what felt like pure folly to me was taken so seriously by someone else. It was so interesting to me to realize my words had power.

Corrections, retractions, and expressions of concern (June 29, 2011)
This post is sort of, but not really, an apology for the previous one, but only if you insist on it.

Searching for Zen (July 5, 2011)
On July 9th last year I participated in a triathlon and this post is about my intense desire to sleep in the morning of the race and just skip to the pancake breakfast. I never did figure out the reason for my intense aversion to doing the race, but since I didn't end up skipping it, I guess it's a moot point.

Race Report from a Mere Mortal, part 1 (July 14, 2011)
Sort of self-explanatory, wouldn't you say? I'm not really clamoring to do another triathlon this year, but you never know.

Race Report, part 2 (July 15, 2011)
Post-triathlon, I think I was sort of grappling with my identity as an athlete and a mom and after fantasizing for months about proving I was an athlete, in the end, I felt happier about being a mom. Go figure.

Nothing so satisfying as home-ownership... (July 17, 2011)
Another one for the self-amusement file. This post did not get many "pageviews" but it served it's purpose as an outlet for my frustration while I waited for something to happen with my vast array of home repair issues.

"This is it, this is summer..." (July 28, 2011)
I don't know if this post came out quite as I intended. I really wanted to capture that feeling you get in the middle of the summer when you realize the world is beautiful and your life is beautiful just because the weather is nice and everything is alive and thriving and it's 9:30 at night and you are just watching the sun go down. It's a very illusive sensation. But mostly, I just wanted to say summer is grand, even though most people already know this to be true.

Reflections on language and re-gatherings... (August 19, 2011)
I went to my 25th high school reunion this summer and this was my attempt to capture some of the thoughts I had about going back to Denver and seeing many old faces.

Occupation (August 21, 2011)
This post is essentially about the weird compulsion we have to identify ourselves by what we "do" for employment and how, not having paid employment, I often feel at a loss to describe who I am.

End of summer blues (August 30, 2011)
With this piece I am trying to capture that particular angst that one experiences as summer obviously draws to a close and school and/or "real life" starts back up again. The transition from summer to fall seems to me to be such a poignant reminder that time is passing and we can't hold on to the past even when we want to.

"Mom, sometimes I just think the world is a scary place..." (August 31, 2011)
My daughter has a lot of anxiety and at the time I wrote this she was going through a particularly anxious period, thinking about school starting back up again, but also, more consciously, thinking about dead bugs (which are everywhere at this time of the year). I suspect there is something in here, too, about my own anxieties.

The joys of family fitness (September 5, 2011)
This was written after an agonizing effort to get all three members of our family out to a local lake for some biking and running. Even as you present it as a fun and attractive option you know full well that there is potential for a lot of dischord. And that is the joy of family fitness!

Home organization and mental disorder... same or different? (September 8, 2011)
I love home organization. I love tiny containers. I love categorizing things, any things. I am filing this post, like many others, in the self-amusement file.

September 11th (September 11, 2011)
My father-in-law was in the North tower of the World Trade Center on September 11th. I was feeling torn about re-telling his story and in the end, I don't think this post says a whole lot. I could have skipped this one.

Sammy (September 21, 2011)
I witnessed a dog getting hit by a car this fall and it just about broke my heart. I wanted to share my story with someone, even though it's such a sad story.

A Spontaneous Ode to R.E.M. (September 23, 2011)
Music can be such a powerful source of memories. R.E.M. was one of my favorite bands for a long time and I identify so much of their music with my youth. This post details a few of my favorite R.E.M.-oriented memories.

Buried treasures or how far should I dig before I decide I need to seek help (October 4, 2011)
This was another favorite post of mine, mainly because the whole incident of the dreadful sewer line replacement and the subsequent discovery of the mysterious old bottles was such a fun, unique experience. In the end, I am glad I decided to just fill the hole and get new concrete instead of taking my gardening trowel down into a pit to find some more old trash.

Rule of Life #343: A play date is a fine time to showcase one's skills (October 13, 2011)
Written while Martha enjoyed a rare play date in our basement, I was mostly just so amused and tickled by the interaction between my socially awkward daughter and her friend that I had to try to capture some of that.

Road trip (October 21, 2011)
In October we took a trip to Chicago for a long weekend. I really just wanted to be able to say I was "blogging from the road." The rest of what followed was a little bit of free association.

When good hard drives go bad (October 26, 2011)
The hard drive on my laptop crashed. I was subsequently horrified by my feelings of loss and frustration afteward. I didn't expect anyone else to care, but I wrote about it anyway.

Doing the dirty work (October 29, 2011)
This one is about who does what around our house in the way of chores. I found that a vaguely sexy image of Madonna in lingerie scrubbing the floor will bring more readers to my blog. So clever...

Spooktacular Halloween edition (October 31, 2011)
Admittedly, this post is ridiculous. It's a photo of one of my favorite halloween decorations but, if I do say so myself, I thought the caption was pretty damn good.

Lunch from hell, part II (November 3, 2011)
Here's a littel update on my efforts to get Martha to eat our homemade substitute for the Oscar Mayer Lunchable™. The photos are really the highlight, if you ask me.

When bad parenting comes back to bite you in the ass (November 6, 2011)
This was a complicated post for me, inspired by two stories of abuse and neglect I had read recently, but also about my own anxieties about being a "good" parent. I was able to reach Hillary Adams, the abuse victims from one of the news stories I wrote about and she passed it on via Twitter. I got an overwhelming number of readers and responses from total strangers. (Overwhelming relative to my other posts.) It was a very interesting experience.

Self-expression (November 10, 2011)
In this post I'm just trying to process the response I got to the previous post. I'm not sure this one came out as I intended.

Poetry by Martha... a light interlude (November 12, 2011)
I just wanted to share Martha's work and also lighten things up a bit.

7 Habits of Highly Irritable People (November 16, 2011)
One thing I'd like to work on during year two of the blog is how to move beyond the emotions that are on the very surface of my mind and write something that isn't just a pure reflection of my mood. Yes, I am moody, that is obvious from all these posts, but I'd like to try accessing other thoughts and emotions in spite of my mood. This post is an attempt to be humorous about my own irritability.

Gone to the dogs (December 6, 2011)
And finally, my last post of 2011 is about one of my foster dogs. My experiment with being a foster care home for rescue dogs turned out to be so incredibly consuming that I was unable to keep up with much of anything else in my life. It was a weird month. But Lacey, the dog in this post, was so very sweet and I did love her to pieces. She found a wonderful home and I'm so glad I got to be part of that process.

That was it for 2011. 54 posts seems like a nice collection of writing for my first year of blogging, especially considering I have never felt very certain about the future of this experiment. All in all, I'm quite happy with my effort. Yes, there's a lot of silliness in here, but there's a lot of other stuff, too. Thank you for reading! Let's try another 12 months and see what I can come up with.

Friday, January 20, 2012

To be or not to be...


"stop with the existential angst about your blog"

This is a direct quote from a friend, and just like that, the future of bubble lights the blog will be solidified; time to leave that question and move on to more important issues. Like, does William Shakespeare look like he's wearing an earring in this picture?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Birthday blog

It's not my birthday. It's my blog's birthday. Ok, technically yesterday was the one year anniversary of my first post, but I have been crabby lately. Really crabby. So crabby that many days I think "I hate this stupid blog. I should just delete it and be done with it." Of course, there is no logical connection between my crabby mood and the necessity to delete this blog, my little writing forum that I have, for the most part, really enjoyed over the last year. But I am rarely logical, often moody, and very, very fond of obsessing over what I "should" do. Thus, in the middle of wallowing in my crabbiness I will remember that I "should" write something and then the crabiness intensifies ever so slightly and if I delete the blog then maybe I can remove one source of crabby production and then voilá, instantly I will be less crabby. What would Spock think of my logic? What would Spock think of this whole blog? It's fitting, isn't it, that I should make a Star Trek reference in my one-year commemorative blog post, since my very first post also included a Star Trek reference?

Anyway, when I began writing these posts a year ago, I didn't really have a clear vision of what I wanted it to be all about. The phrase "a mental dumping ground" really seems to sum it up best. I thought I would write more about books I've read, as an occasional "feature," or maybe write more about my garden, which is a huge interest of mine during the warmer months. But books and gardening never seemed to fit with the mental dumping I did in so many other posts. Motherhood and my daughter's quirky autism spectrum-y behaviors could take up a lot of this, too, but there are days when my thoughts don't really converge with that part of my life either. So I've never bothered limiting myself to a specific focus and I have been wondering lately if I should change that. I was thinking about re-naming the blog (again) but wonder if that just gets annoying. And I am quite fond of the little bubbles floating up above. Anyone out there with kids ever watch the Teletubbies? Anyone out there without kids ever watch the Teletubbies? If so, that's kind of strange. The grassy hill in the bubble image above reminds me of Teletubbie land, which always struck me as a really pleasant locale, except for maybe the resident Teletubbies who I could see kind of wearing on you after a while with all that hugging and soft, gentle cooing they do. But Teletubbie land is always sunny, the grass is green, flowers are blooming and cute, little, fuzzy bunnies are hanging around nibbling on the vegetation. It looks very serene. No traffic, no pollution, the noo noo cleans up after you. Nice! Anyway, major digression, but that is another reason I've grown attached to the image of the bubbles floating above a grassy hill. I can always use a little serenity.

This is all just me taking stock in where the bubble lights are at right now. I am open to feedback. I'll even share with you the new name I was entertaining: mad chronicles. My daughter's initials are MAD, and yes, I was aware of that when I chose her name. Mad is also another term for crazy, which I generally characterize myself as, although I am also aware that I am not technically clinically mentally ill. I mean, I'm sure someone somewhere could diagnose me with something, but so, too, could just about anyone else out there be "diagnosable." In which case, we are all nuts, and isn't that nice that we are not alone? And mad, of course, also just means angry, which is not an unusual emotion for me to be feeling. So what do you think? One problem could be that there is already a blog out there in cyberspace called "Mad Chronicles" but don't ask me what it's about because most of it (other than the words "mad chronicles") is in another language, as well as another alphabet, and which one that is I haven't the foggiest idea.

So this is where I find myself and my "online writing" (which sounds better than blog) one year after the snowy, dark winter evening that produced the january blog. More will follow, no doubt. Maybe I will tell you all about my haircut, which makes me look like a child. A child with an oddly aged-looking complexion. Or maybe not.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Crazy lady may require more help than just the adoration of dogs...

You want to love me.
Over the last year I have written a bunch of different stuff for this blog. Normally, I’d sit here trying to compose a slightly more eloquent or sophisticated sentence than that, but in this case, I really think “a bunch of different stuff” is about as descriptive as I can be  about my collection of blog posts. When I started the blog, I didn’t intend to write about dogs but this is where my life has taken me and so it seems appropriate that my writing reflect what is important to me. And this post is about something that has become extremely important to me in an extremely short period of time. Her name is Esme.

My previous post about Lacey tells the brief story about how I found Secondhand Hounds and became enamored with the face of every dog they rescue. My first foster dog, Lacey, was adopted a few weeks ago by an incredibly sweet couple who I feel confident are showering her with love right this very moment, so even though it was a lot of work having Lacey, I’m happy I could help connect the dog to the humans. It will be an amazing relationship for both species, I’m sure!

Two days ago I brought Esme home and I have fallen head over heels in love with her, just like I did with Lacey. Esme is some sort of wire-haired terrier mix, but I haven’t a clue what she is mixed with. She has the cute, scruffy terrier face but a funny long body and furry, curlicue tail. She reminds me of a wild animal the way she slinks down the stairs like she’s getting ready to pounce on something, as opposed to the double-legged gallop that my Jack Russell Terrier employs. Her hair is a sandy mix of tan and rust colors and, as the name indicates of course, is wiry in some spots but smooth and soft underneath. She’s got big pointy ears that she can rotate like little sonar discs, picking up important signals like the sound of food being unwrapped. There are few noises that seem quite so important to a dog.

Esme came to the Twin Cities from Joplin, MO where she had been spending time in an overcrowded shelter. I don’t know a single thing about her past life beyond this. There are two little white marks on her nose that make me wonder if they are scars from some run in with claws or teeth of another critter, which in turn makes me wonder about mistreatment. She seems very frightened of the world but still has an incredibly sweet disposition in spite of her fear. In the past 36 hours, she has discovered one thing that makes her feel better, though, and that thing is me. And that is the whole reason I wanted to try fostering rescue dogs. Is it totally narcissistic and self-centered to crave the love and adoration of a frightened animal? I don’t know. What I do know is that it is so easy to love this dog, as it would be easy to love probably any dog that came into my home.

I can’t keep Esme, as much as I love her, just as I knew I couldn’t keep Lacey. My dog, my family, my life is just not the best fit for this girl. But it is at least adequate to give her a temporary layover between her previous life and the Joplin shelter and a potentially fabulous future home full of love and soft blankies to curl up on. Have you ever thought about owning a dog? Have you ever wanted a furry, four-legged child to love more than life, one who will never learn to talk and argue and beg you for stuff and then get mad and tell you “it’s not fair?” Do you know anyone who does want this? Because if you do, I have the girl for you. She will learn to love you in no time flat, she will put her fuzzy little paws on you and look into your face with more sincerity than any human being could possibly muster. She will learn quickly just what you want from her and she will be happy to perform.

She needs a little work on the potty training front, but shows no signs of not being able to grasp this concept. But mostly all she needs is love and time to get comfortable, time to learn that the world is not so scary, and time to trust you. She is not a yappy dog and seems to like my curmudgeonly pooch Carson despite Carson’s unprovoked sniping. She seems like she has a lot of energy if you are looking for a playful dog, but she is also cool with the relaxing and snuggling. She might even learn to bring you your slippers.

Have I sold you yet? Think about it, because I know she could make the right potential dog-owner a very happy human being. I wouldn’t normally resort to a blog post advertising my foster dog, but I’d like to get back to writing, which has been sparse since my foster care started and I’d like to help out my family (dog, child and husband) who are all a little stressed out by our latest visitor, not because of who Esme is but because of who we are as a family. We’re high maintenance, I admit it, and maybe this is part of the reason I want my foster dog to adore me in spite of my shortcomings. But who wouldn’t like that, right? Like I said before, sometimes we all need a little rescuing and we most definitely need to be loved.

Find Esme and tons of other cute, deserving pups at Secondhand Hounds!