Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I drove out to Elyria today to spend some time with my dad and brother, and I had a great time. We talked and talked. My brother, Bill, cooked out burgers on the grill for us, and we had some of his home-grown tomatoes, as well. He also made his (deservedly) famous pasta salad. (Thanks, Bill!) Man, was it tasty! It will be Slimfast for dinner tonight for sure!

What I really want to talk about, however, is that while we were sitting in the living room talking, I thought I heard the marching band. My dad lives a few blocks away from the elementary school that Tom and Julie attended, and it occurred to me that it might be the annual mini-parade around the neighborhood for Halloween. The sound faded away, but it came back, and it was definitely the percussion section of the marching band. They still haven't banished Halloween from McKinley Elementary School, by god! I was thrilled! Later, as I drove out of the neighborhood, I saw a few stragglers walking home from school wearing their Halloween costumes. I was really just delighted. Good old Elyria - still not P.C.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

good luck with that

I wanted to verify a rumor before I shared it, and I was able to do that yesterday when I stopped in at the office to deliver my gift of Halloween mix. (The visit went very well, but that's not what I want to talk about right now.) Anyway.

When I left my job over three months ago, the position was duly posted, applicants were interviewed, and the position was offered to one of the applicants - who refused it. Hm-m-m... Why would someone apply for a job, interview for it, then refuse it, you ask. Well, maybe because the job sucks. So, back to the drawing board. I found out yesterday that the position was re-configured, given a new title, and re-posted. What is the difference between the two postings? Well, the new title offers more money. Isn't that ironic, dont'cha think?

I'm not saying that I would have stayed if they would have offered me a promotion, but it sure would have made me feel appreciated. Now I just feel vindicated.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

the mix

I first tasted the mix years ago when one of my co-workers at the library brought it in. "Try this," she told me. "It tastes just like a Payday, but doesn't stick to your teeth." Sure enough, the mixture of candy corn and peanuts did taste just like one of my favorite candy bars, and it didn't stick to my teeth. It was great. Everyone on the library staff loved it. I knew my family would love it, as well, but it just seemed so unhealthy. Then I had a brilliant idea. I will add some raisins to the mix, I thought. Then it will be healthy. My own personalized version of the mix was born.

I think I must have taken it in to work the very first October that I worked at the university. I bought a big, old-fasioned glass jar with a screw-on lid, and filled it to the top with the mix. My co-workers loved it. When they weren't munching on handfuls of it, they were talking about it; what peanut to candy corn ratio was the tastiest or how healthy the raisins made it. Frequently, we talked about it and ate it at the same time. I made several batches that year, and in subsequent Octobers, as well. I even bought some inexpensive little black and orange plastic cups so we could take some back to our desks. (How disillusioned I was the year one of the cups was never returned. One of my co-workers had stolen it from me.)

Last year Vince kept asking me, "isn't it about time to bring in the mix?" All I could say to him was, "I'm just not feeling it, Vince." Because I wasn't feeling it. And I never did. Today, however, I bought all the ingredients for the mix and put them together. I will take it in to them one day this next week. I am looking forward to it.

If you want to make the mix yourself, the ratio is totally up to you. This will get you started.

3 or 4 - 11 oz. bags Brach's candy corn (I prefer all candy corn, but if you like those big pumpkins and blobby shapes as well, why, include them.)

1 lb. can cocktail peanuts (not dry-roasted)

2 or 3 cups raisins

Pour everything in a big bowl, get your hands in there and mix it all up, and it's ready to eat. I like it in my clear glass jar, as I think it looks festive and attractive. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

time to say good-bye to Chief Wahoo

I feel that I gave the Chief one last chance. Maybe he really is a good luck charm, I thought. The Indians have done so well this year. Well, the series with Boston put paid to that theory, and I can no longer think of a single good reason to continue with a mascot who doesn't bring good luck and who offends so many people.

I used to belong to that group of people who thought that Native Americans should just lighten up about Chief Wahoo and not be so easily offended. I don't feel that way anymore. I don't get to decide what offends other people or other groups. If they find it offensive, then it is offensive.

You've probably heard this example used before, but look at it this way. What if the Brooklyn Dodgers had decided to re-name their team the Brooklyn Negroes to honor the great Jackie Robinson, the first African-American major league baseball player? As their mascot, say they adopted lovable old Uncle Remus, a clever and harmless character made famous in the stories of Joel Chandler Harris.

Now, fast-forward fifty years or so and observe the now-Los Angeles Negroes, I suppose, in the play-offs. Rabid fans with their faces corked black like Al Jolson to resemble Uncle Remus are cheering on their team in the stands. They are broadcast live on national television. This idea is so unacceptable that it is ludicrous to even consider it. As Chief Wahoo should be.

So, good-bye, Chief Wahoo. Your time has come and gone. Perhaps a new mascot will bring the beleaguered Tribe better luck. I sincerely hope so.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

the death of Halloween?

I read in the truly wretched local newspaper this morning that the celebration of Halloween in Portage County elementary schools is being phased out. In fact, according to this article, most area schools have already substituted "fall festivals" or "harvest parties" for the traditional Halloween party. Children are no longer allowed to wear their Halloween costumes to school nor are their classrooms decorated with ghosts and witches, but with corn shocks and bales of hay instead. Pardon my French, but what a crock of shit.

Although the reporter dances around the real causes of this phenomenon, for the most part it seems to be parents who are members of the rabid religious right complaining about celebrating the occult and the devil and witches and really bad things like that. It's the same old story of a handful of people ruining things for everyone else. I truly hope this is merely a local ignorant redneck trend, but I fear that it is not. Chalk this up as just one more reason I am glad that I am not trying to raise young children today. What a world.

Monday, October 22, 2007

random thoughts on Tom's birthday

Today is my son's 27th birthday.

He is named Thomas for his uncle and he shares the middle name Joseph with his father and grandfather.

Ben was working the night shift the week Tom was born, so I was home alone when my water broke in the middle of the night. I jumped out of bed, and stripped the sodden sheets off the mattress before I called him.

Some time in the middle of my seven-hour labor, I told Ben, quite sincerely, "I changed my mind. I don't want to do this right now. Let's go home." He dissuaded me.

Although my labor and delivery were quite normal, Tommy (as he was called then) and I stayed in the hospital for five days after he was born, which was standard for that time.

When Ben's parents came to visit us in the hospital, his father looked at our three-day-old son and told us, quite solemnly, "Before you know it, he'll be in college." We laughed at the time, but now I would amend that to, "Before you know it, he'll be a married adult living in a big city far away."

My own father was out of town on business when Tom was born, so was unable to visit us in the hospital. He did, however, bring our infant son a souvenir of his trip.

Since Ben and I are both eldest children and we were the first in our circle of friends to get married and have a child, we pretty much raised Tom in a vacuum. We really knew no other children to compare with Tom, and although we thought he was quite amazing, we didn't realize how far above the norm he was for some time.

We kept waiting for Tom's remarkable blue eyes to turn brown like ours, but they never did. He still gets comments on how beautiful his eyes are.

Tom's first year was one of the best years of my life. I felt as though I grew and changed almost as much as he did. I loved being a mom. I still do.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Tom! I love you very much.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

let's go peek in the windows*

Even though Rufus and I hurry out every night as soon as I clean up after dinner, it is inexorably darker each night than the one before. We usually leave the house around 7:00 and are back before 7:30. Of course I know by December it will be quite dark out at that time, but hopefully we will be used to it by then. I am trying to memorize where all the uneven places in the sidewalk are now so that I don't trip, as our neighborhood is surprisingly poorly-lit. People don't walk much, I guess, particularly after dark.

One of the things I love about being out and about in a neighborhood at that time of day is that I can peek in the lighted windows of the houses as we walk by them. I have always been fascinated by that magical time late in the day after people turn the lights on in their houses but before they pull the drapes. The small town where I grew up had a well-known gay man who, surprisingly, was well-liked by the community. If I walked by his house in the early evening, I would always see him and his partner seated at a table by the front window, having dinner together. They were the picture of normalcy, and I learned something from that even at an early age.

I also learned a lot about how to decorate a home from observing how other people had decorated theirs. There was no attempt at an attractive decor in the house where I grew up, and as a child I was fascinated by the tableaux I saw through lighted windows as we walked downtown in the evening or as I accompanied my dad on a walk to the neighborhood carry-out for a six-pack. I particularly loved to see a small lit lamp on a table in front of a window or an overstuffed chair with a gooseneck lamp for reading right next to it. I loved the striped wallpaper in dining rooms and the cheery curtains framing bright kitchen windows - all the things we never had when I was growing up. I wonder if children from happy families peer so yearningly at other people's lives.

I still love to peek in at prints over mantelpieces and dimly-lit stairways leading up into darkness, but I also enjoy turning up our own driveway and seeing a comfortable-looking room bright with color and full of books and pottery and prints on the walls, and lit by a lamp in the front window. I don't have to keep walking past this home. It's mine.

*This may be such an inside reference that no one gets it anymore but me. I don't know if that's sad or just pathetic.

Monday, October 15, 2007

5 good things

I think it is important for me to remember (and share) good things in my daily life. This may be a recurring feature on my blog - depends on how many good things I can think of, I guess.

1. the beautiful fall weather when I took Rufus for a walk this morning.

2. the fact that I am home to take Rufus on walks on beautiful fall mornings.

3. the (almost) week that Julie and Andrew spent with us.

4. the upcoming weekend when Tom and Kristy will be here to celebrate Tom's birthday.

5. the fact that our children and their significant others like us and enjoy spending time with us.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

you're as young as you feel

I think we all tend to grow more reflective as an impending birthday draws closer. I had an interesting conversation with Tom last night on that subject, and I hope he won't mind if I share it. (If you hate this, T, just tell me and I will delete it.)

Tom was telling me that on his birthday last year, he realized that he had become the age that Ben was when he was born. I think it freaked him out a bit, and he told me that he felt totally unprepared to become a parent even now, a year later. "I'm still a kid myself," he said, "I have so much growing up to do yet." I hastened to agree with him - heck, yes, he is still a kid. My kid. And Kristy is a kid and Julie and Andrew and all their other same-aged friends are still just kids. That is my emotional response to the thought of any of them becoming parents.

When I look at it rationally, however, they are all at least in their mid-20s heading into their late 20s now. The same ages Ben and I were when they were born. None of them are emotionally-stunted or immature, but they seem so much younger to me than we did at the same age. Why is that? I think one reason is that my generation has consciously or unconsciously (or perhaps a bit of both) tried to keep their generation feeling like children.

I don't think it was done maliciously. Like much of our generation, Ben and I always wanted to raise our children differently, better, than we were raised. Although my dad never made me feel as though he resented spending money on me, Ben had a different experience. As he was growing up, his father made it abundantly clear to him that as soon as Ben turned eighteen and became an adult in the eyes of the law, all of his father's support and obligations to him, legal and otherwise, came to an end. We never set a use-before date for the love and support we offer Tom and Julie. It is endless.

However, this loving attitude has a bonus, if you will, for my generation which I think must be acknowledged. As long as they stay children, we stay young. If we are forced to recognize this generation as adults, parents even, what does that make us? Well, grandparents, of course, and, let's face it, older rather than younger.

I have a feeling this new way of looking at things was invented by us bounteous baby boomers, but I could be wrong about that. This is certainly the first time I have ever been this age, and I suppose it's possible that each generation feels this way about the subsequent one. Some further research in this area may be required. I've been thinking about driving out to see my dad, anyway. Stay tuned for updates.

Note: I suspect this post assumes way more responsibility for the way our children think than we actually have. But, hey, it's my blog, and the opinions expressed herein are mine and this is where I express them. See?

a stray irritation

When Rufus and I take our daily walks, at one point we pass four or five locust trees planted in a row. As we walked along there yesterday morning, yellow locust leaves rained down all around us when a sudden gust of wind blew. The falling leaves were a golden shower in the morning light against the blue, blue autumn sky. As I thought that, I was instantly irritated that I can never use that phrase without a vulgar, sexual connotation being attached to it.

In fact, it irritates me every time I think about it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

at summer's end

It looks like yesterday may have been our last day of temperatures in the upper 80s. Our protracted summer is finally drawing to a close in the second week of October. I generally don't care for late summer - too hot, too humid, too many bugs - but this year I have enjoyed it. It has been strange, though, out walking Rufus in shorts and a sleeveless top while brown leaves fall all around us.

I know in the past (before we lived in a house with central air) I would have absolutely hated this weather. I always felt that once October had arrived, I could expect to sleep comfortably at night. For me, that means sleeping temperatures in the 60s and no humidity. I now have that luxury year-round, so it just doesn't matter as much to me what it's like outside.

The dogs have been enjoying the weather, and I like the fact that it is easy to get them to go outside and stay there for more than a minute. I love it when Lucie finally lets down her defenses, and stretches out on her side in the sunlit grass. She lies there like rumpled laundry, and looks like she doesn't have a bone in her body. Rufus, being a black dog, wisely rests in the shade.

I think, for the most part, the reason I am enjoying the seasons so much this year is because I am actually experiencing them instead of sitting in a windowless cubicle all day, every day. I relish this unexpected opportunity to heal and to think and to observe.

Friday, October 5, 2007

lack of progress report

So now I have a big blister on my right heel because my shoe has a worn spot, almost like a hole, on the inside part of the shoe where my heel rubs. Now, I would think that because there is a "hole" there, it would be more comfortable for my foot instead of less, but that doesn't seem to be the case. The blister hurt too much to wear the shoe last night, so I wasn't able to use the treadmill. I showed the shoe to Ben, and he said it can be repaired with that good old American fix-all, duct tape, so I may try to do that today.

I couldn't find any nice green grapes when I went to the grocery store yesterday, so the only fresh fruit I currently have in the house is apples. That doesn't seem like enough (any) variety to me. There wasn't enough low-fat granola left for me to have for breakfast this morning.

I made the mistake of weighing myself again after only three days on the treadmill, and instead of losing weight, I had gained .5 pounds. I tried on the next smaller size of my jeans, and they still don't fit me.

This is the type of minutiae I get bogged down in when I try to focus on my healthier lifestyle. But I will persevere. What choice do I have?

Monday, October 1, 2007

day 1

I have known all along that as much as I hate the thought of it, the day would come when I would have to get back on the treadmill in the basement. My twice-daily walks with Rufus will only take me so far on my journey back to a healthy lifestyle. Yesterday was that day.

I thought that after our morning walk would be a good time to check out whether the treadmill would even work or not. It has been almost two years since I used it on a regular basis, and when Julie tried to use it this summer, she reported it as non-operational and "smelling bad". So I wasn't real optimistic as I turned it on and climbed aboard. I only walked for three minutes, but it seemed okay. There was some "slippage", as I reported to Ben, and he said it might be because he had adjusted after Julie tried to use it last.

Ben and I made sure everything else was just the way I like it down there - the neon clocks synchronized, the little oscillating fan operational, and my Neil Young CD in the boombox. Next I had to find the clothes I prefer to work out in. That's not easy to do. My dresser is in perennial need of a good clean-out, and the clothes I don't wear for a while get buried under the layers of stuff that I do wear. At last - biking shorts and a sports bra and a light-weight, loose-fitting cotton t-shirt. Comfortable walking shoes and socks, and I was all set.

After our evening walk, I changed my clothes, grabbed my water bottle and headed for the basement. The first thing I always do before I get on the treadmill is weigh myself, and last night was no exception. I was not really that surprised at how much I currently weigh, but I had hoped it wouldn't be quite that bad. I am too embarrassed to say how much it is, but suffice it to say that I need to lose a minimum of thirty pounds to even get close to a healthy weight.

Neil Young started to sing, and I was off. I walked for a half hour, which is my normal walking time. The slippage was quite alarming, but tailed off the more I walked. I did notice a slight "burning smell" at about two minutes, but kept walking, and it didn't seem to get worse. The biggest problem was the noise. That treadmill is so noisy! I am hoping that once I start walking on a regular basis, it will run more smoothly (and quietly). I am sure it could do with a tune-up, but that's not something I can afford right now.

Neil and I sang, he wailed on his guitar, then it was time for me to do my cooling-down and stretching exercises. I hate this part way worse than the treadmill part, so I figure it must be good for me. Fifteen minutes of that, and I was done. I took big gulps of cold water as I powered everything down: clocks, fan, and boombox.

I turned to head back up the basement steps, and the last piece fell into place: Rufus was waiting for me at the top of the stairs, just like Bobo always did. That was one of the reasons I had to stop before. Bobo had just died, and he wasn't there anymore. When I saw my little black dog waiting for me last night, I knew this was going to work out all right.

Day 2 Update: Ben adjusted the belt so it doesn't slip anymore, and there was no "burning smell." He also made some critical adjustment that made it less noisy. Just about an optimum experience if I truly have to do this.