Words….Witticisms…Whimsy…Whatever!

Today is the anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Don’t worry, I didn’t know that either, but a couple of friends posted about it on Facebook, including one who posted a link to the Gordon Lightfoot song, which I have always loved in some morbid way. So after I listened to that, I went looking to see if my Gordon Lightfoot cd had made it into my iTunes library at some point, which it had. Gordon is easy to listen to. If you like one of his songs, you probably would like them all, which is a nice way of saying there is a certain sameness to his music. And that made me think about when I first got it.

A million years ago, back when I was married, Mike & I took a vacation in South Haven, renting a little cottage type thing right on Lake Michigan. We spent time on the beach of course, but also making day trips to all the fun surrounding communities. We were in Holland one afternoon checking out their cute downtown, and we discovered a shop having a going out of business sale. It was late in the game – they were down to selling fixtures. In fact, now that I think about it, that’s where I got the big white crate that we used for a TV stand for a while and now serves as my nightstand by my bed. They also had a stack of CDs from their in-store music, which were selling for a buck apiece, back in the day when people still bought CDs. They had some Christmas music, some county, and a Gordon Lightfoot greatest hits collection. I think I might’ve bought the entire stack for five or ten dollars.

Later in the week, we had a rainy afternoon so we spent it inside reading and playing cards and listening to music, including our new-to-us Gordon Lightfoot album. After a while Mike said, “Didn’t we already hear this song?” Pause, cock head, consider. “Nope, I don’t think so.” We returned to our respective books. Twenty or thirty minutes passed, when Mike exclaimed, “Ok look, this is THE SAME SONG!” At which point we discovered why yes, we had accidentally hit the repeat button, and it had been playing the same track over and over again. Which surely we would have noticed sooner had we not been engrossed in whatever we were reading. But did I mention the sameness?

Apparently the other problem I have is forgetting that his name isn’t Edmund Fitzgerald, since I just googled that instead of Gordon Lightfoot when I was trying to find you the link for the song I’m going to share, which is NOT “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”. Instead, I’m going to share “Song for a Winter’s Night”. Are you familiar with the Sarah McLachlan version? Did you know it was a cover of this one? I didn’t, until my friend Mikem pointed it out. Could it be more different? I don’t think so. (Because hers sounds NOTHING like a Gordon Lightfoot song, and his, naturally, sounds like every other Gordon Lightfoot song.)

Here you go. Enjoy! :)

I am a big fan of Halloween. In fact, it is my favorite holiday. Why my favorite, you ask? Because it’s all about playing dress up and eating candy, and you don’t have to go to church/synagogue/etc., and there are no family obligations. (No offense, family.) And its accent color is purple, which coincidentally is my accent color as well. I decorate my house with sparkly-creepy things. I have a costume closet. Some years I throw parties. I am completely envious of my friends with Halloween birthdays – I would rock that shit. And I am always home for trick-or-treaters.

As part of the trick-or-treating social contract let me assure you that I more than hold up my end of the deal. I dress up. Some years it’s just my glow-in-the-dark “COSTUME” t-shirt and my sparkly horns, but that totally counts. My porch light is always on. I never run out of treats. I never give out shitty candy. (True, I don’t always give out candy, but when I do it’s the good stuff. Fun size, but brand-name. None of those foul orange & black wrapped peanut butter things in Wonkaland!) Some years (like this one) I do give out pencils instead of candy, but that is not lame. They are FUN pencils, and as we will discuss later, they are legit treats.

In exchange I have a few rules that I propose we implement. I think most people are abiding by these already, but every year there are some blatant offenders, so clearly we need to spell things out. I do give treats to everyone, even the lame-os, but I would like to have the option to banish someone from my porch, treatless, for not living up to the agreed upon expectations.

Let’s start with a fundamental reminder: I do not owe you anything. I choose to participate, but this should be fun for both of us. If you abuse the situation too much, it might take the fun out of it for me. I noticed there weren’t very many porch lights on along my street; maybe too many people have lost the fun already. Here’s your chance to save Halloween!

Rule one: You. Must. Say “trick-or-treat”. You may not just stand there and stare at me until I put treats in your bag. It’s ok if someone needs to prompt you, or if your big brother says it for the both of you. If you do not, I will stand there and stare back at you.

Rule two: Say thank you. Tons and tons and tons of kids do, which is awesome. Even if you think my pencils are stupid (which they are not), say thank you. It could be worse, I could be giving out those little two-packs of Sweetarts. Also, chaperoning parents, I think it’s awesome when you say thanks too. It’s not mandatory, but it’s a lovely touch to acknowledge that we’ve shelled out some bucks and set aside some time to do something nice for your kid.

Rule three: You have to wear something that could be considered a costume. Or even just elements of a costume. Put on a funny hat and a weird jacket – I don’t have to be able to identify what you’re dressed up as, just that you tried. Hint: I’ll probably give you extra treats if you have an awesome costume. If your costume is covered up with a coat and other weather-appropriate garb, I am totally understanding of that – no worries. But if you have made zero effort and you’re just wearing a hoodie and jeans, you aren’t trick-or-treating, you’re going door to door begging. If you can’t be bothered to put on SOMETHING resembling a costume, you shouldn’t be out there. Have some pride, some creativity, don’t be lame. I don’t care if teenagers who are kind of too old to trick-or-treat come around as long as they put in good faith effort. Also, side note, because this rule really is for the older kids, make eye contact. I don’t care if you’re an awkward teen. Look me in the eye when you say thank you. It won’t kill you, I promise!

Rule four: Parents, we are moving on to you now. This is something I’ve noticed more and more of the last few years, and it bothers me more than anything else in this list. Quit taking your baby trick-or-treating. I’m not a parent, but I’m guessing that if the kid can’t walk and the kid can’t talk, the kid shouldn’t be eating candy either. You’re not fooling anyone, you’re using your baby to get free candy for yourself. I’m sure you’re excited for Baby’s First Halloween. Go ahead, buy an overpriced costume. Take a billion pictures. Go “trick-or-treating” at the grandparents’ houses. Get some candy to have at home. But don’t drag your baby all over the neighborhood under the guise that this experience is somehow for her.

Rule five: Don’t carry a bag for a baby in a stroller (see rule four), or the sick kid at home, or anyone not present. Trick-or-treating is definitely a “you must be present to win” situation. Being sick on Halloween is the worst. Parents should definitely do something to make up for it. But that’s your job, not mine. Share the candy collected. Buy candy. But the second bag smacks of fake.

Rule six: And parents, you again. Don’t carry your own bag. I give you props for being honest about your intentions, and if someone offers you something, awesome, take it. But trick-or-treating alongside your kids? Seriously?

Geez…reviewing this, it kind of seems like parents are the ones fucking it up the most, doesn’t it? The kids actually do pretty awesome for the most part. Don’t freak out and get all defensive now, I’m not talking about all parents.

The pencil treats were actually a pretty good gauge of who should and shouldn’t be trick-or-treating. The really little kids totally didn’t get it, and mostly seemed to be eyeballing me to see where the actual candy was. The big kids gave mumbled thank yous. But the kids in the middle, six to twelvish, were full of “cool, pencils!” True story. Glad they liked them, too, because I have enough for probably three more Halloweens. :D

So what do you think about the rules? Can we all get on board with this? Did I miss anything? I’m happy to add to the list before the implementation phase.

And because it IS my favorite holiday and I don’t want to sound like a big grump, let’s end on a high note, with one of my Halloween traditions: the sharing of the Muppets!

The Muppets: Cårven Der Pümpkîn

Of all the kinds of asshole there are in the world, I have decided that the worst kind are the fucking crazy kind.

Tonight my dad and I had just set off for a bike ride, enjoying the unseasonably cool July weather. The local trail system goes right past his neighborhood, so we jumped on and headed off, riding through a nearby park ready to cruise toward downtown. We had to cross a major road, but they have done a pretty decent job trying to make the crossing as safe as possible. The light was red when we got there. We waited for the walk signal, and then set off in the crosswalk. Unfortunately, the jackwagon in the monster truck also waiting at the light decided not to yield the right of way, and came alarmingly close to running me down in his impatience to turn the corner. I shouted and stopped; he stopped. When I realized it was safe to cross, I started up again. As he turned behind us, he yelled at us. The car behind him yelled at us also. When the driver of the truck yelled “fuck you” at us, my dad yelled it back. We had the right of way, asshole.

What happened next was truly frightening. Mr. Crazy Asshole drove across a four-lane road, off the road, across the grass, to cut us off on the trail, where he got out of his truck and approached my dad (who was ahead of me) yelling profanities. Are you fucking kidding me? I don’t remember what he called my dad…an old fucker, maybe? So, yeah, nice job respecting your elders (or just other humans). He definitely called me a fucking cunt. That’s an unspeakable word in my world, so to casually toss that off at a stranger, I’m thinking you have some issues. And perhaps the most insane part was one of the things he screamed at us was that it had been a mistake and what did we want him to do about it now? Um…how about not go completely insane and threaten us? At some point he decided he’d accomplished whatever he set out to do and got back in his truck and drove off.

I’ve had people yell at me on my bike before, but never anything like this. I just don’t understand why people get so angry at the mere presence of bicycles. We weren’t even riding IN the road, just wanted to cross it to ride on the goddamn trail. And unbelievably, when we were riding home and crossing at that same intersection, the oncoming turning car did yield the right of way (thank you, person!) and the car behind her leaned on the horn. What. The. Actual. Fuck. Fortunately everything in between was uneventful and fun.

I told some friends about it when I got home and one shared that she carries pepper spray when she rides. That’s really not my style, but neither is getting verbally assaulted by nutbags.

And I will say this: adrenaline makes me pedal fast.

Share-Road-Sign-K-4296

My dad defies the mold

Happy Father’s Day!

What a swell day. :-) I just spent the afternoon with my dad, which isn’t particularly unusual for us, but it was Father’s Day and it was just the two of us and it was lovely.

Even though Father’s Day isn’t for my dad. Or rather, my dad doesn’t fit the dad stereotypes.

I thought about taking him out for brunch at a newish place near me, but I read their menu for today and it was very meat-oriented. Dads love bacon! And meat! With meat! And bacon! Except my dad quit eating meat when I was about four. So instead I made a caramel French toast that he loves, and it yields lots of leftovers, so he can enjoy it for a few more days. Yum!

Perusing ads and Hallmark stores, Father’s Day seems to be about meat and beer and tools and golf and sports and grilling (meat). And maybe neckties and wristwatches. Oh, and cigars. And shaving. (WTF? Who is giving her dad shaving paraphernalia for a present??)

I did manage to find a Father’s Day card that talked about memories of puking on road trips, and that definitely speaks to my relationship with my dad. He has a favorite story to tell about my getting carsick on a road trip home from Canada, in the rain, right before we approached customs. And another version on an airplane. Good times. :-)

I realized earlier this week that I didn’t have a gift for him – yikes! What to do? None of the above would do for my pops. I mentioned the veggie lifestyle. No tobacco either. He has a beard. He works from home, sans neckties. He doesn’t play golf. Doesn’t really like beer. (He also has an annoying habit of just buying things he wants, although I mostly have him broken of doing things like that around holidays.) I would have to go Father’s Day rogue.

Fortunately, I tidied up my desk Friday afternoon and found, buried in a pile of crap, a page I had torn out of a magazine, reminding me of something I knew would be perfect: a memoir in cartoons by the longtime cartoon editor of The New Yorker. Not only would he love it (and he did), it too seemed representative of our relationship. We have a long history of my dad loving New Yorker cartoons and me not getting them. (Sometimes I get them. Sometimes they’re funny. But sometimes, seriously, what the fuck?)

After brunch and presents we went bike shopping, which morphed into bike clean up and repairing. Us, fix bikes? Don’t be ridiculous! I know dads are supposed to fix things, but my dad taught me the value of having an expert address the situation, whatever that situation may be. Dad gave me the phone number of whom to call when my tree died and needed to be removed, and when the bats became too big a problem and had to be eliminated. And today we packed up our bikes and carted them to the bike shop to get them tuned up, and some tweaks made. We’re a little late in the game this year, but we’ve been busy, and better late than never. Plenty of good riding days ahead of us this summer.

All in all, a pretty good day. I’ve always enjoyed my dad’s company, but since his heart attack last fall I tend to cherish it even more, even though I don’t use words like “cherish”, and today was no exception. I have a number of good friends who have lost their fathers already, and I appreciate how lucky I am that he’s still here.

Happy Father’s Day to all, and to all a good night! Or something like that. :-) Hope your day was as nice as ours!

Ooh, and because the recipe is so good and so easy, here’s that, too. It’s one of those perfect recipes you prepare the night before and just throw in the oven to bake in the morning.

Caramel French Toast

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar (although I only had dark on hand and it was just as tasty)
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 6 Tbls. light corn syrup
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 1/2 cups half and half (except I don’t use half & half for anything so I buy a pint and make up the remaining half cup with milk)
  • 1 Tbls. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 12 slices french bread – 1 1/2″ thick slices (But I end up using more like 15)
  • 3 Tbls. sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

In saucepan combine brown sugar, butter and corn syrup. Cook over medium heat. Stir until mixture comes to a boil. pour syrup into a greased 13 x 9 pan. Arrange bread slices on top of syrup. Mix together eggs, half and half, vanilla and salt. Pour over bread slices. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Mix 3 Tbls. sugar with cinnamon. Sprinkle over bread. Melt 1/4 cup butter and drizzle on top. Bake 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Eat. Say “yum!”. :)

It’s Friday night. I’m on the couch in pajamas, eating pizza, alone, catching up on my DVR backlog.

If time-traveling 20-something Wendy were to appear right now, she would die. Oh, the horror! Friday night. At home. Alone.

Current Wendy could not be more content.

I used to consider it a failed weekend if I didn’t have something fun to do both nights. “Fun” = going out, unless I were having a party or some kind of social gathering at my abode. Now that would kill me. Or at least leave me exhausted and in need of a weekend. Today a quiet weekend at home with Ruby Dogwonkafonka is one of my favorite things, and if I go too long without one I get twitchy.

What a difference 10 or 20 years makes.

It’s convenient that I’m happy staying in, since at the moment I don’t have a lot of extra dough for going out. 20-something Wendy, I blame you – if you had stayed in a little more, maybe we’d have more cash reserves now – see, this is all your fault!

I’ve been contemplating age and aging and the giant hamster wheel of life for a while now. I feel like somewhere in my early 40s (which is where I still reside) I reached a point of clarity or something. I’m not young anymore, in spite of what people think. This is not a bad thing, even though when I refer to myself as “middle-aged” people recoil and assure me that I’m not. Hi, yes I am. In the US the average lifespan for women is something like 81 years, and I can do math. I’m also not old – I recognize this. The math thing, plus I have a 97-year-old grandma. She is old. She also reads my blog, so hopefully she isn’t offended by that statement. She shouldn’t be. Oldness has nothing to do with awesomeness, and the timing of this rambling contemplation could not be more fortuitous, seeing as tomorrow she is receiving an honorary doctorate from University of St. Francis. She is not your grandmother’s grandmother. (That makes me giggle.)

This awareness of what is and is not old seems to be one of the universal stupidities of young people. I remember saying things like, “I’m sooooooooooooo olllllldddddddd” when I was 25. Or 27. Or 32. And I hear/see on Facebook people in their 20s and 30s say things in this vein all the time. And now, I realize how stupid they sound. They’re not old. They’re aware of the passage of time for maybe the first time ever, but they’re obviously not old. And there’s no getting this message through, because they think they know everything.

Now that I’m in the middle and looking both directions, I don’t at all assume I know everything – that is one thing I have learned. You think you do, and then you get older, and you realize how stupid you were when you thought that. There seems to be a lot of realizing how stupid I was. It’s amazing that our parents don’t roll their eyes at us more often than they do. I can’t wait to see what I’m doing now that makes me laugh at 40-something Wendy ten or twenty years from now.

One pattern we seem to repeat is in thinking that our generation has it sooooooo much harder than any previous generation, and nobody understands our experience, and we are so maligned by the generation ahead of us. And then we get older and turn on the generation behind us because they’re whiny and they feel maligned and misunderstood. Except you’re not actually anti-the generation behind you, you just wish they understood all the things they could be learning from the benefit of your experience and hindsight instead of waiting 20 years for their own hindsight, but hi, they’re young and know everything. Hamster wheel.

I was reading a thread on Facebook last week with some millennials talking about how maligned they are by older generations (I really need to find another word for “maligned”) and it prompted me to send this note to another Gen X friend who I knew was also reading along:

Dear Millennials,

Here’s the thing…

It’s not about the label.

All young people are stupid. And not in their own way. In EXACTLY THE SAME WAY EVERYBODY ELSE WAS, BUT JUST A LITTLE BIT WORSE, because internet.

And someday you will get really, really, really old (like, 42) and you will realize what an idiot you were in your 20s, and you will see it in all the people who will currently be in their 20s, and you will laugh, and you will understand your parents better, and everything will be fine.

Love,

Gen X and the Boomers

 

I have a lot of friends who are younger than I am, and I hope you know that I love you, and I look forward to you pushing me around in my wheelchair someday. I truly don’t think you’re stupid except when you’re talking about being old. ;) And this isn’t supposed to be a “young people are idiots” post. It’s intended to be about how great it actually is being in that dreaded over-40 zone. Or how funny the passage of time is. Or who knows. It’s possible I lack focus tonight. It’s possible this is because I’m also watching Say Yes to the Dress while writing this. It is Friday night, after all. (20-something Wendy is dying of shame right now.)

But my 40s are great. So far, anyway. Another cliché proves itself to be true: so far every decade is better than the one before. I’m not so hung up on stuff like what do people think or what everyone else is doing. I’m less concerned about “should”; I’m more interested in what makes me happy. I remember clearly the night that happened, too. I had been invited to a going away party for some casual friends who were moving. The time had come to get myself together and as I was walking upstairs to change clothes, I realized I didn’t feel like going, and then it clicked that I didn’t have to. So I didn’t. I stayed home, and it was so nice that I started refusing invitations more often. I got way more selective about whom I spend time with. If I spend time with you now it’s because I really want to. I’m not sure why it took me so long to catch onto that one.

I thought I had a funny cartoon set aside about aging or clichés or something along those lines to accompany this, but I can’t find anything in my “hold” folder. What I did find is this picture of snuggling lions. I have no idea what I saved it for, but it’s adorable, so what the hell. When I find the cartoon, I’ll save it for the lion post that clearly I intend to write some day.

cuddling lions

In honor of Sylvia Day

I just had my annual little cry for Sylvia Day, when I pay special tribute to my first fur baby. (It’s not as though her memory is neglected the other 364 days of the year – I have pictures of her all around my house and her ashes are on my mantle in a lovely little purple piece of pottery.) I recognize that I get super attached to my dogs, and not everyone can relate, but they are my family, and I’m glad I decided to make a little holiday to remember Syl-beast. I read through all the emails and notes people sent me when she died, and it makes me sad, but also happy, to go back in time and remember her funny little quirks and what an awesome friend she was to so many. And I wear the necklace Kristin gave me as a token of healing.  I even got a card in the mail today from Ann Trina. I can’t believe it’s been six years. Bittersweet traditions.

 
I always post pictures of Sylvia on Facebook on her day, and it’s funny to me to see who mistakes her for Ruby, my current companion, but I get it. I don’t have a lot of pictures of Sylvia, at least not compared to camera-savvy Ruby who is a social media icon. But I do have a handful of lovely portraits of Syl and me from a fortuitous event right before it was too late, and it’s one of the memories I always pause on.

 
My then-husband had an opportunity through work for us to pose for a portrait photography class. It was an interesting deal in that they needed test models to practice on, so it was free and you got all the pictures and some of them were great and some were not. We had a time in the future we were scheduled for, and then Sylvia got sick and one of his coworkers asked if we wanted to swap dates with her (thank you, Carol!) so we could go sooner and take Sylvia (which was good for them too – opportunities to practice with kids and dogs were important). At first I thought maybe it was silly, and then I was uncertain if I wanted to subject her to it – I wanted things to be easy for my dog, and I wasn’t sure if it would stress her out. In the end we went, and I’m so thankful for that, because we got some beautiful pictures and it was a lovely moment captured.

 
And it was a nice respite, too. I was devoting pretty much all my energy to caring for and worrying over my dog, and this was a family outing where nobody knew anything was amiss. The students and instructor were great and Sylvia worked her charms on everyone as usual. Sometimes she cooperated and posed, but at one point she got up and walked around the room and greeted all her paparazzi one by one. They loved it. I found out after the fact that I was wrong, they did know she was dying, they just had the kindness and grace not to say anything to us, and for some reason that moves me every time I think about it. They gave us some normal.

 
One week to the day after our session, she was gone. Gone, but not forgotten. Never forgotten, sweet Sylvie-girl. You and our other furry friends live on forever in our hearts. And I’m so grateful that I have some pictures of my beautiful, wily girl.

 

2008-03-18 18.36.19-1

 

SONY DSC

 

Ah yes, the art of trying to get your dog to hold still, look up, and act casual. :)

 

2008-03-18 19.31.14

 

Dad and I went to see Crosby, Stills and Nash the other night at the Embassy. I got tickets for his birthday; he’s been a big fan forever, and a little of it rubbed off on me – I like the greatest hits album in my collection. And, you know, it seemed like it would be fun. How can you not enjoy some good, live music?

Lately (and by “lately” I mean for the last five or ten years), going to concerts has made me feel old. (Drunken hipsters annoy me.) (So do drunken other people, and not-drunken hipsters. But I digress.) This concert, pretty much the opposite: I was the youngest person for miles. Or at least rows. I know some of my contemporaries were there, but we were definitely in the minority.

And you know what’s awesome? Older people sit down at concerts. Maybe because they’re tired or standing for long periods of time is uncomfortable, but I think it’s because they’re more experienced and they’ve learned that standing at concerts is just plain stupid. Honestly, most of us can see better when we’re sitting.

This doesn’t mean it was some staid, subdued affair. To the contrary, people were rocking out. Just, politely, from a seated position, leaping to their feet to whoop and holler their appreciation after every song, then wisely sitting down to enjoy the next number. They were into it, man. It’s always great to see something here that is a) sold out and b) full of enthusiasm.

And the fellas on stage – they aren’t spring chickens, obviously. Crosby & Nash are 72. Stills is 69. Um, hi. That’s impressive. Even more so when I tell you that they played for about three hours. No opening act (perfect!) just them, killing it, with a short intermission (yay, pee break!).

And don’t worry, everybody stood up for Suite: Judy Blue Eyes for the encore, singing along joyfully. They definitely knew how to bring it home.

Of course, musing about the generational differences in concert-going also leads me to some universal truths:

  • There will always be two (probably drunk) chicks off to the side of the stage or in the aisle, dancing, even when the song isn’t remotely danceable.
  • Likewise, there will be some person near the front waving at the band. Stop it. They can’t see you. They don’t know you. Just stop.
  • The line for the bathroom will be stupidly long. At least this time the men’s line was at least as long as the women’s. Yay, equality! :D
  • Someone in your vicinity will be doing something annoying. This week I had two. The man next to me was the LOUDEST snapper in the world. I seriously could not possibly snap my fingers that loudly, and he was doing it for hours. Stop it, Dad! Oops, just kidding, it was the man on my other side. Oh, and he was just a tiny bit offbeat. GAH. Also, the woman across the aisle was screwing around with her phone the entire time. Texting, taking pictures, texting, answering at least three phone calls, texting, taking pictures – oh my god, just stop already!

Which brings us to tonight’s public service announcement. Anytime you hold your phone up above the heads of the people in front of you to take a picture (or, god forbid, record some craptastic video – who are you kidding?), you are interfering with the experience of the people behind you. Your pictures are probably going to suck anyway. And there’s no need to take so many of them. And as the person behind all of you, seeing lots of phones sticking up at any given moment is obnoxious. I was watching security; they were trying their damndest to get you to stop, but they couldn’t keep up. And this is something we think is a problem with kids, but clearly we older people are just as culpable. Be in the moment. Be in the moment. BE IN THE MOMENT!

Geez, it’s hard to imagine that I feel old when I go to concerts! Get off my lawn, you stupid kids!

Anyway, I feel like I took kind of an accidental hiatus in my concert-going a few years ago, and I’m glad to be back in circulation. I’ve had the opportunity to see some good stuff the last year or two. Here’s hoping I can keep that streak going.

Rock on, my friends.

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