You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2007.

She was hunched over a worn diner plate at the Country Kitchen, tearing apart pancakes with her fingers, dipping them into syrup, then hurriedly stuffing the pieces into her mouth.

She was about 17, the age when most people are fairly self-conscious. But she held my gaze when she caught me staring, mouth agape, at her ripping into her short stack.

Her gray Arctic Cat sweatshirt hung loosely over her slightly padded body and she twittered excitedly, with her mouth stuffed full, to her elderly companions about the black stocking cap she wore. “Big Rigs” screamed out in blood red letters from its front. It was clearly a Christmas gift, and it made her happy. Her bovine eyes shone behind outdated wire-rimmed glasses as she spoke of it.

Let me heinously misquote Diablo Cody — I’m in the motherland and don’t have the book with me:
“I have what’s been called a ‘staring problem.’”
(from Candy Girl)

 ***

“Hello, Chippewa County 911.”

“Hi, I’m on Highway 29 headed east, near …”

“Near Frazier Road?”

“I dunno … I guess.”

“If you’re calling about the car in the ditch, we’re on our way.”

Click.

Are you a lyrics person or a music person?

I’m such a sucker for poetry – for words that burn an image into my brain. If that happens once, I’m hooked. Of course, if the music sucks, none of that matters.

“If I could through myself set your spirit free, I’d lead your heart away. See you break, break away, into the light and to the day.”

— U2 

“Daddy, do you know what my score is?”

“No.”

“29,775.”

“Wow.”

“Are we even close to Grandma and Grandpa’s?”

“NO. And you asking that every five minutes doesn’t get us any closer.”

Ed shows me his watch. It’s 3:58 p.m.

“What?” I say.

“Couple minutes till my mom calls.” 

“Did you tell her to call at 4?”

“Nope. I’m just expecting a 4:00 call.”

RINNNNGGGGG!!!!!

We’re off to the dairy state for family Christmas celebrations, and to have a fabulous meal at the restaurant of a fabulous friend. With my in-laws. On New Year’s Eve.

If you would have told me 10 years ago that I’d be willingly spending New Year’s with family in Sheboygan County, I would have laughed you straight out of the room. But shit changes, and now most of my favorite people are family members.

Happy holidays to everyone. Have a glass of (good) champagne (or two or three). I know I will.

I said once that I never buy my kids noisy gifts.

Well, Santa defied me and brought Pinkie Pie for Clare.

She sings. She dances. She NEVER SHUTS UP. A moment after she finishes her excruciatingly long dance number, she starts asking questions.

“Do you like lemonade?” She waits for an answer.

“I LOVE lemonade. PINK lemonade!”

“What’s your favorite color?” Pause.

“I like pink!”

The worst thing about her is that number 3 is also obsessed. He can’t get enough of her pink rubber motor mouth and massive, blinking eyes. She’s singing, dancing and cajoling my kids into answering the same inane questions all. day. long.

At this rate, it’s going to be just a matter of days before that little pony is taken hostage or finds herself under the tire of a minivan.

It pours, straight through the roof. (Or more accurately, when
the snow melts …)

And where does it pour? Straight into my television — the vehicle whereby cheesy soap operas, late-night talk hosts, sitcoms and juicy reality television shows occupy my wine-addled brain when I finish work.

So for Christmas, Ed and I get to buy each other a new boob tube. (Let’s just skip the part about how we need a new roof.)

And now we have to buy an overpriced HDTV. I would have been fine watching my analog piece of shit for another 20 years. I prefer my TV a bit fuzzy, to tell the truth. I don’t care to see every wrinkle on Deidre Hall‘s face (Botox takes care of most of them, I know …). And I certainly don’t need to see the mold and grease in the grossest restaurants in the country any more clearly than I already do.

And how in the hell am I supposed to get a Sesame Street nap when there’s no TV? Who will Simon point at and say “boos coos”? (That’s Blues Clues for those of you without kids.)

Frankly, I think we’re going to have to take action tomorrow. I’m starting to panic. And to all of you uptight literary types who don’t even have cable (I know some of you read this), I say you try having three kids and not plunking them in front of the good old electronic babysitter for a break. And you try reading mind-numbing city council stories for eight hours and then coming home and tackling a novel.

I prefer to read on the treadmill and fry the day out of my brain when I’m done working. Judge me if you must, just don’t take away my TV.

If I were to go along with these suggestions for holiday tipping, I’d be dishing out $555.

Does anyone spend that much on holiday tips? Seriously?

I tip my hairdresser (not the price of a haircut, either — I can barely afford her in the first place), I’ll tip the nanny (also not as much as suggested) and probably my newspaper deliveryman since he puts it inside my door, which is killer.

Someone in the story suggests giving the garbage men a plate of cookies. Um, yeah, I plan to leave a nice plate of goodies right on top of my GARBAGE CAN. I bet they’d appreciate that! And the whole thing about buying a gift for your mailman is funny, too. They’re not allowed to accept cash, so I’m supposed to go find a thoughtful gift (less than $20!) for the guy who drops off my mail. I’m afraid I sound like a curmudgeon, but please. I have better things to do.

Like bitch about Christmas on my blog.  

xmas-022blog4.jpg

Tis the season to spend money.

Our kids have way too much stuff already, but we’re plotting which toys to add to the clutter. Our relatives have everything they need — so much so that coming up with gifts for some of them is next to impossible — but we’re spending our savings to buy them more! Stuff!

As usual, I have done very little shopping, and it’s the week before the dreaded holiday.

And as usual, I’m asking myself why we can’t all just bake some cookies, sing some carols and call it a day. A nice day we spend with people we love. Instead, I’m stressing over how I’m going to finish buying all the things no one needs and that will be forgotten weeks after a day that involves the kids ripping open too many gifts.

This year, we’re trying to be sure they don’t get too many gifts, but between us picking up a few things we know they really want and the relatives spoiling the hell out of them, it feels like a losing battle.

That said, I love the tree, the cookies and my family. So I’m going to do my best to do away with my misgivings — some spicy red wine and a pile of sweets oughta help with that.

Saturday night, four cop cars. It is, to coin a phrase from a good neighbor, like watching Cops, except you don’t have to turn on the TV.

Ed was outside sawing off the trunk of our Christmas tree when a woman in a U of M sweatshirt walked up the driveway. She said, “Do you have my truck keys?”

He said no, he had no idea what she was talking about. So she dialed someone on her cell phone and figured out it was the house next door she was looking for.

She tried the front door. No one answered. So she went around back, where Ed saw her again and asked what was up.

Apparently, her truck was stolen. Someone text messaged her and told her it was parked in front of my house and she could get the keys next door.

Ed asked, and she said she wasn’t going to call the police. But I guess she changed her mind, because four cars showed up a few minutes later, along with the woman.

After a period of cops going in and out of the house and rooting around in the woman’s truck, they all left. Just after the last cop car had pulled away from the curb, two men in huge, black hooded winter coats came walking across the street (from the side opposite the neighbors’ house) and got into a car parked in front of ghettosville. They drove away. Suspicious, I tucked the car’s description into my spotty short-term memory.

A few minutes later, headlights floated up the street. The same car parked across the street, and the same two guys got out.

And guess where they went? Yep, into the house of ill-repute.

So I called the cops. As I was talking to an officer, he drove by and took the license plate of the car. He said he’d forward it to the detective working on a case related to the house. I told him I have three little kids and I don’t want gang members hiding in my back yard or those of my neighbors. I told him I’m tired of it and I want them gone.

He said I shouldn’t hesitate to call anytime I see something suspicious.

I don’t think he realizes he gave me permission to burn up their phone lines.

I think the local PD and I are gonna get to know each other quite well.

Unexpectedly, Clare decided yesterday to take a nap. She crawled into her bunk bed, covered herself up with a Dora sheet and three blankets and told me to go downstairs. When I checked on her five minutes later, she was out cold, her spaghetti noodle arms splayed above her head. It’s been nearly two years since she took a nap if you don’t count falling asleep in the car or passing out on the couch for a few minutes while watching TV. And I don’t.

So, what did I do with the time to myself? Covered up with my favorite afghan and headed for dreamland. It’s rare for me to get a real, uninterrupted nap, but whenever I do, my subconscious kicks into overdrive.

The dream starts out nice enough. It is summer. I am napping on the couch and awake to an engine revving outside. I get up, stretch, and walk to the living room window. Outside, a low-riding, cherry red pickup truck with wicked geometric decals on the side doors is parked on the curb. It seems menacingly close to the house.

A bald man with biceps the size of footballs and a tattoo on the back of his nonexistent neck is leaning into the truck’s open door. There is a woman with frizzy brown hair standing next to him, waiting. He turns around (In slow motion! My dreams are cinematic like a bad soap opera.) and he is holding a huge pair of nunchuks. He looks pissed off.

They barrel through my yard and into the neighbors’ (not necessary to get there, but hey, this is a dream). I get a good look at him — he’s wearing a wife-beater (I can’t help it if my subconscious harbors stereotypes about clothing.) and some dark jeans.

They burst into the crack house with all the crash and rattle of comic book thugs. I move to the dining room for a better look. I can see through the window that the bald man is attacking someone, wrapping the chain of the nunchuks around his neck.

I drop to the floor, terrified they’ll see me, and crawl into the kitchen to grab the phone. Shaking almost uncontrollably, I dial 911. Click, click, click. Buzz. Nothing. I dial again. Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring. I remember there’s a post-it with the number of the local police on it. I dial the number.

“Dispatch.”

I’m whispering. “I can see into my neighbor’s window and there’s a guy, I think he might be killing someone. But I’m afraid to look again.”

Dial tone. We’re cut off.  I hit redial. Ring, ring, ring.

The haze of afternoon sleep hanging over me, I slowly realize my real phone is ringing.

It’s just a dream.

If you have an hour to kill and you don’t mind being freaked out by all their stories, this multimedia graphic on the Star Tribune’s Web site is absolutely stunning. I’m guessing hundreds of hours of work went into it.

Shootings, baby abuse, rape — I read about it all every day and am pretty jaded. Usually horrible things kind of slide right past me (or I make a tasteless joke about them). But the bridge collapse was on par with 9/11 for me. I couldn’t get the images out of my head for months.

It’s Friday night. 1:20 a.m. I should be sleeping.

It was a late night at work, but usually, by now, I’d be sleeping.

However, I’m obsessed with looking out my dining room window at the manic activity in the basement of the house next door. There’s a blanket over the window, but the top part sags down so I can see in through a slit about 5 inches deep.

They are doing something. What, I can’t tell for sure. There’s lots of heated discussion and I think the stove is right where they are congregating and urgently moving about.

I could have sworn during my last 30 second commercial break from Grey’s Anatomy that a woman was measuring something in a syringe. But I only saw a flash. And I’m beating myself up because I was not planted at the window.

Every time a car drives down the street, I’m inspecting it. Just now, a squad car drove by. Nice, I guess. But it still doesn’t quell my paranoia.

Tonight, Ed was certain he saw the mother of a little girl who lived in that house for a little while driving this way on our street. He said he could see the bags under her eyes from his car to hers. Those are some pretty hefty bags. Probably reserved for the most strung-out among us. Not surprising. This is the same woman whose child used to come to our house to play. She’s 6. She knocked on our door at 1 p.m. one day this fall.

“Aren’t you supposed to be in school?” I asked.

“I didn’t go today.”

“Why not?”

“Because I tried and tried and tried, but I couldn’t wake my mommy up.”

“Is she awake now?”

“Yeah, she’s awake.”

Then her mother called her home.