Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Makes More Sense

I have found, if I just turn on the local sports station for any and all Tigers' games, it makes the yelling and screaming and occasional cheers from my neighbors make more sense.

It doesn't decrease my disdain for apartment living, nor does it drown out the noise, it just gives it a reference point that at the very least gives some reason for the commotion.

For now, I guess that's the best I can do.

(Although I admit, watching the beat the Yankees this week has been a perk in and of itself!)

So Brave, Young and Handsome - Enger

Stacy allerted me to a new book by the author of Peace Like a River. I found it on the HotPicks list at our library and brought it home eager to dive in. Within a few days I set it back down again remarkably disappointed. Remembering Peace Like a River as a fantastic novel, I returned to the library to return So Brave and checked out Peace once again. Three days later, I am remember why I loved Peace so very much and wondering how on earth did Enger follow up a novel like this one with So Brave?

While I highly recommend Peace Like a River to anyone who hasn't read it, and even to those who have, trust me, it's as great the second and third time as the first, I equally suggest restraint for those rushing out to buy So Brave. Check it out of the library first. Save your money.

So Brave tells the story of a writer, who by strange circumstances ends up on a journey to Mexico with an outlaw of sorts. Neither character was profoundly interesting to me. Their partnership was a bizarre arrangement at best and I never felt compelled enough to understand the purpose of the journey to begin with. It was a slow moving tale the likes of which even the wonderful story telling voice of Enger could not redeem.

But again, even a lousy second novel cannot diminish the wonderful tale Enger created in Peace Like a River. I'm not sure when I sold and gave away my books how it slipped through the cracks as I don't own Peace any longer, but I'll cherish my days of borrowing it from the library.

I might even persuade LM to give it a read. I suspect he might enjoy it, too.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Perk a late Michigan frost... from my sisters yard that were going to perish tonight. Instead she let me take them home and enjoy their beauty for a few more days.

Thanks, Sis. (And while I won't say it often, I'm actually thankful for the cold spell tonight.)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Only in Michigan Part II

Only in Michigan will you have an 11 year old girl choose maize and azure blue for her BRACES. And to think she's even related to me. I present to you, Birdy - the new metal-mouthed Wolverine!

(Oh, and don't mind the dirt on her face. That's just part of her costuming for performing arts. I'll have to blog about that later, too.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Just in case you were feeling youthful and full of life this spring, we turned on the tele tonight to find a 25th Anniversary showing of "War Games" on AMC.

Of course, LM has seen it before (I'm a good mom that way) but he's totally engrossed all over again.

Now, if only he would stop asking me what all the military acronyms stand for...(doesn't he know, NORAD wasn't on the teacher's exam?)

Chair Massage

I have subbed in George's first grade classroom several times. As is often the case in the early grades, this teacher has set aside a time of the day to read aloud to her students. It's almost always a Boxcar Children adventure, right at the end of the day.

From the first day I was in her classroom and every time since, each time I sit in the rocker to read out loud, the kids swarm around the chair begging me to let them scratch my back. I was initially shocked and responded perhaps too adamantly when I said, "No. Thank you." From the look on the one girl's face, I realized she needed further explanation and I went on to share that I really don't enjoy having my back scratched. She then happily sat at my feet and rubbed my leg the entire time I read.

I'll admit, it was disconcerting.

You see, people don't touch me. I have a 12 year old boy who was never much of a snuggler. Every now and then he'll take a hug, or will sit on the opposite end of the couch, but all in all, we could go several days without really touching. Other than the very occasional hug by a friend, or a familiar student, that's about all the physical contact I have in my life.

Today, on about the tenth time of being in her classroom, I gave up the battle of trying to fight these kids off during the read aloud. If I've explained it once, I've explained it each and every time I'm there that no, I really don't need to have my back scratched and yes, I know she even has a special back scratcher thingy for that exact purpose. Today, I just let them be.

And I had five sets of little hands rubbing my arms, my shoulders, one was even playing with my hair until I just had to ask her (very nicely) to please stop.

And as delighted as they all were, I have to admit how difficult it was for me. I had goosebumps the entire time. It was the strangest feeling. Almost creepy.

Two things are clear: One: It's been way too long since someone touched me, even in the most casual of ways. Two: I have to figure out how to wear six layers of clothing before Thursday, when I'm back in George's touchy-feely classroom.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Secrets of a Fire King - Edwards

This compilation of short stories was written by the author of "The Memory Keeper's Daughter" and given to me to read recently by my second mom with the caution that only a few of the stories were actually any good, but it was worth a read nontheless.

I couldn't agree more. For the most part, I didn't enjoy the stories. For some, the topics were just so distant from my life that I couldn't find a way to relate to the characters or the point or the environment. But there were a couple that seemed to provoke my interest and held my attention through the few short pages.

All in all, I wouldn't run out and buy this book, but if you had the chance to flip through it and browse a few of her stories, you might find one or two that struck your fancy.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Happiness Is...

Having enough quarters to do all the laundry.

Balancing the checkbook post-vacation and not crying.

Taking advantage of a lack of sub jobs by going for a walk with the dog.

Not needing so much as a sweatshirt on the walk.

Having the patio door open all day.

Watching the cat attack leaves on the patio through the patio door.

Fresh berries for lunch.

Calling to clarify the requirement rules after receiving notice that LM did not qualify for the gifted program only to learn that he actually did, they just sent out the wrong letter. (He qualifies for English, but not quite for Math. Now to just figure out how he's going to GET to the program at 1:30 in the afternoon every Tuesday...)

Having a good friend lend an ear when you need it most.

Steam Fresh veggie bags. OOh the simplicity!

Doing the right thing, even when it's very very hard.

Actually having something thawed for dinner.

Watching the Cheerios box be tossed into the recycling 5 days before grocery day, knowing that you still have 4 boxes of Jiffy mix muffins to carry you through.

Finding a charity that welcomes your 12 year old son as well as yourself.

A day filled with sunshine. Lots and lots of sunshine.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Spring in Tennessee

All That I Am Grateful For

Three kids who rode like angels for over ten hours in the car. (No, they didn't spend the entire ride all crammed together in the back, this picture was taken while they were all enjoying the portable DVD player.)

Realizing that even Jesus is a football fan.

Help in the woodshop. I returned home with a beautiful walnut jewelry box made from wood taken from a tree from the land my dad lived on when he was little.

The joy Birdy found when G's girlfriend introduced her to beading.

Watching the kids play washers - better than I did most times!

Playing catch with Dad. (And not getting hit!)

A field trip instigated by G'ma Judy that turned out to be not only fun but educational.

The look on LM's face when the soldier asked if anyone was interested in hearing and seeing the musket fire.

Finding the proper implements (and learning how to use them!) to extract LM's stubborn teeth.

Realizing how tall LM is getting (he's officially taller than his aunt now!)

A visit from the cardinal couple.

For three kids who are used to boating and swimming nearly every day while at Papa's house, they were remarkably understanding and flexible about the weather not being warm enough for either. But a dip in the rec center pool was eagerly enjoyed!

A smile!


Trumpet skills put to use on vacation.

All the great sights in the south.

Getting in a game of pool - even if I did get my butt kicked by my brother.

Passing along the Jane-family love for the great game of Yahtzee!!

That it is somehow logical for kids to drive and dogs to ride at Papa's house.

That no child was injured during the filming of this crime scene.

A view I will never grow tired of.

Thanks, Dad and Judy for another incredible vacation. We are so grateful for your hospitality, generosity, love, support and laughter.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Retelling of the Story

G brought a girlfriend to Tennessee. In an attempt to explain why George is "George" and Bird is "Bird" and why on earth there are children running through the house calling me "Aunt Fred", we end up retelling the story of how the nicknames came to be. In particular, we retell the story of how I became "Aunt Fred."

I tell her about how George was very little and how I hadn't seen him in a year. I was already at the house with LM when my sister and her family arrived. Bird was quick to come in and give me a hug, but having been so long since he had seen me, George was admittedly a little shy. He latched on to his dad and would not for the life of him come to see me and give me a long over-due hug. In an effort to get him talking and more comfortable with me, I pretend I couldn't remember his name. I start making guesses, "Is it Ben?" I asked him. "Noooo!" comes a little giggle. "Is it Sam?" I tried again. "Noooo!!" And on the game went for quite some time. Finally deciding he is never going to tell me his name, I simply declare his name MUST be George and proceed to call him that at every turn. "George, do you want some milk like Bird is having?" "George, do you want to go out on the boat?" "George, let's get your shoes on!"

Although George is now talking to me and has overcome his initial shyness, he doesn't think much of this new name but is still too stubborn to tell me his real one. He runs to his mother and tells her that I am being mean to him by calling him 'George'.

Always the teaser, I tell him and the rest of my listening audience, "And your mom, always the smart one, told you to SUCK IT UP."

George thought this new version of the story was hysterical and nearly fell off the patio furniture laughing.

I tell G's girlfriend that no, actually, George's mom explained that I was teasing him and that what he needed to do was to think of a crazy name for me and tease me back. Which is when George came bounding up the stairs and declared that I was now officially, "Aunt Fred!"

Sitting there, all together today, I looked at George and pointed out that I didn't call him some girl name and I didn't see how THIS name was at all fair, even after all these years, because it's a BOY name and surely I didn't deserve to be stuck with an ewwy gross BOY name for all of time. And as I teasingly moaned and groaned about the nickname I have always embraced from my favorite neice and nephew, George, without skipping a single beat, looked me right in the eye and said, "Aunt Fred, SUCK IT UP!"

Friday, April 04, 2008

Father God

Sometimes, God, I lose my way. I think I can make good choices on my own; I forget that I am but human, with a sinful and fallible nature. My confidence, at times, exceeds my abilities. There are times, Father, when I know the decision I make may not be significant on myself and those around me. At other times, like today, Father, when I fear I have once again allowed myself the delusion that I can not only handle things on my own but I attempt to in such confidence that it may be of detriment to those around me.

Father God, you know that several weeks ago I voluntarily suggested that I not only drive LM to Tennessee to meet up with his dad for a few days of vacation, but that I also take along Bird and George so that we all might visit Papa and G'ma Judy while we are in the area. Father, as the only adult, the only driver on an eleven hour journey, as the owner of a sedan without a DVD player attached to the roof, as the woman who wants to remain the fun aunt and not "the woman who tried to sell us at an ebay store in Cincinatti", all I can say is:


Help us, God. Help us all.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Neighborly Way

I've had a piano since 1995 or so. Since we've lived in a townhouse/townhouse/rental house/apartment/condo, I've rarely played it out of consideration for my neighbors. I just think it's rude to subject ANYONE to my pounding on the ivories.

Since LM was 4, and up until 6 months ago, we always lived in an upstairs unit. I have spent half of that time telling him NOT to stomp on the floor. To slow down, don't run. Don't bang your toys on the carpet. And so on and so forth, always conscious of the folks down below.

Now we live in a downstairs apartment with concrete walls. Nothing can penetrate these walls (unfortunately not even a neighbor's broadband). Sound is rarely as issue, although I can clearly hear the upstairs neighbor's alarm clock when it goes off at 10:30, 10:35, 10:40, 10:45, etc. every single night when I'm trying to fall asleep (she works the late shift).

It would seem, however, that our neighbor across the parking lot didn't get the "be kind to your fellow apartment-dwellers" memo when they moved in. Hanging from their balcony is a windchime longer than I am tall (I may exaggerate just a smidge). The thing is HUGE. I can hear it all night long. I can hear it while I'm watching TV. I can hear it when we're eating dinner. AND I DON'T HAVE ANY WINDOWS OPEN.

The blasted thing is chiming right now when it's still too dark out to even consider being awake.

I put in a nice call to the office. I'd speak to the people directly, but we have security doors in our buildings, so the best I could do is just shout from the ground to their third floor unit and hope they could hear me over the racket of the chimes. I'm hoping management asks them to take it down. I cannot imagine how it must sound to oh, say, the people right below them?! But, if it's still hanging there next week, I may just have to climb up three balconies in the middle of the night and remove the darn thing myself.

File under: What are people thinking??!