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Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde

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Friday, August 29, 2008

It's Alaska Governor Sarah Palin!

I simply couldn't be happier with McCain's Vice Presidential choice. Just from what I've learned about her over the last few months, I have a tremendous amount of respect for her. She supports the right to bare arms, what she has done with the energy policy is admirable, and her stance on abortion is supported by her personal decisions, even if I don't wholly agree with her views.

While I support a woman's right to chose, I can sympathize with those who are adamantly opposed to abortion. Just from what I heard after the announcement, she is pro life. In fact, she has five children, one of whom has Down Syndrome.

There is much, much more I want to write about this, but I will do so after hearing her speak. The more I hear about her, the more I like.


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Sunday, August 24, 2008

"The Incubus Files"

"The Incubus Files" was a improv Halloween performance put on during October 2002 in Austin, Texas. For whatever reason, I thought about it the other night. Quite simply, it was one of the most chilling theatrical experiences of my life. While it was supposed to be lighthearted Halloween fun, the fact that it dealt with real life horrors such as the murders supposedly committed by Lizzy Borden, as well as the impossibly dark visions of Aldolf Hitler, made it something else.

Before I go any further, you have to realize that Cheryl (my best friend while I lived in Austin) and I were always up for strange, unique theatrical or musical performances. While Andy was usually willing to go along, he thought that this just seemed a little too off-beat for him. Indeed, there are some very good reasons why "Keep Austin Weird" is a popular movement there (and the off-beat gives the city a lot of its appeal).

Well, "The Incubus Files" was held in an old warehouse in a relatively seemy part of Austin. Actually, the setting was perfect. The premise of the show was that certain items from horrific crimes in the 19th and 20th centuries hold a certain fascination with the public. The question remains whether the objects held power over the killers or whether the killers imposed their will on the objects. For example, the entire building was set up as a "museum" to showcase items such as Hitler's pillow and Lizzy Borden's ax (there were several others as well, but those were the most famous). In other words, it was a shrine to the macabre.

The warehouse and audience was divided into three or four different "rooms" or "scenes." Each room contained a different macabre item showcased in an elaborate set. Actors would then come and tell various tales surrounding the items and interact with the audience. The actual show depended on the audience, and if one were so inclined, he or she would have had a different experience each time they saw the show. In order to keep audiences and actors moving along, a chilling buzzer would sound. Audiences would then move on to the next horror.

Actually, the fact that the horrors touched upon in "The Incubus Files" were real, along with the creepy buzzer, was what truly terrified me. In fact, the buzzer reminded me of a strange experience I had in a hostel in the Costa del Sol, Spain (after my experiences studying abroad, the movie "Hostel" particularly disturbed me; it simply made me realize just how easily it could happen). In the end, Cheryl and I spent an evening getting downright scared.

True lovers of the macabre, Cheryl and I went on a "ghost tour" of Austin during the fall of 2004 (after I moved to Houston in 2004, I visited her one weekend in Austin, and she then came to visit me in Houston one weekend). It was pretty predictable and not very scary, but there are a few things that stand out from that night. First of all, the tour was tied up with an exhibit on the supernatural at the downtown arts center. The exhibit was actually much better than the "ghost tour." In fact, there was a tribute to those who died on September 11, 2001 that I will never forget. It was titled "September 12, 2001." It started out with a moving panel showing a busy, lively New York street scene with many, many people. Then, it changes and the panel then just shows shadows of the people who were in the original piece. The implication was that New York City had thousands of new ghosts on September 12, 2001. It was moving and chilling all at the same time.

In addition, there were personal testimonies of paranormal. One of the most chilling was an audio recording of someone telling of their experience of seeing a ghost van (as in a van similar to that used in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre"). Supposedly "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" was filmed in north Austin (north Austin is actually now a mecca for those wishing to make low-budget films). According to the audio recording, the ghost van was seen on what is now a relatively well-traveled north Austin road. At the time, there wasn't much development there at all (late 70s, early 80s). For whatever reason, the telling of this tale was incredibly terrifying. I happened to know the exact area he was talking about. That fact, along with my all too active imagination, sent chills down my spine.

It is true that you can find horror, terror, and ghosts in any city, but for whatever reason, Austin has more than its share (not to mention Texas itself). The history of Texas and Austin (as well as San Antonio) are passionate and filled with hope, despair, and reinvention. Every group that has claimed Texas as its own has left an indelible mark on its history and culture.


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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

You Just Have to Read This to Believe It

Michelle Malkin » Hollyweird tantrum of the day

UGH! The article mentioned here pretty much dredges up everything I hate about Hollywood. There used to be a couple of redeeming things about the "Roseanne" TV show (most of which still aren't appreciated by most people), but there are no redeeming qualities to Roseanne's personality.

Like someone said earlier, at least now there is a reason to support Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Denver should be fun to watch.


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Thursday, August 14, 2008

All About Austin

For whatever reason, Austin has been on my mind a lot lately. I look back on my six months in Austin, Texas (from June to December 2002) as one of the best times of my life, but it is important for me to remember (especially right now) that it didn't start out that way.

As strange as it sounds, things didn't start going right for me in Austin until after my car accident on July 24, 2002. The car accident, which occurred on my way to work, wasn't my fault (a large moving truck made a left hand turn in front of me while I had a green light) . I easily could have been severely injured or even could have died; instead, I broke my big toe from slamming on the brakes so hard. I also had bad bruises from the seat belt and a cut behind my ear (the molding of my car somehow struck me there). If I had had a passenger, he or she probably would have been severely injured or dead (all I could think of was my little brother, whom I used to cart around a lot).

After the emergency room visit and the visit from my Mom (she flew out to Texas to help me get a lawyer and a new car), I was banged up, but OK. Then, and only then, did the University of Texas college students who were my roommates inform me that my sublease was only for two months. I had to find another place to live. Quick. It didn't help that I still didn't know many people or that I had a walking cast (doctors were worried about the metatarsal, the larger bone in my foot).

In the end, the weekend before I had to move, I found the perfect roommate. I utilized the internal classifieds at Applied Materials and met Karen. Karen literally graduated from high school the year I was born, 1980. She is a single mom (her son was three at the time) who was feeling lots of financial pressure at the time, despite her good job at Applied Materials. She happened to have an extra room and bathroom. We hit it off right away. She never seemed that much older than me, and it was as if I lived with a fun aunt for four months. Better yet, it was only eight minutes from work.

Around the time I moved, my personal life got much, much better. During my initial training, I befriended a woman who used to work at Motorola. As we got to know each other during that week, she became determined to set me up with a former coworker of hers. The problem was that he had taken an extended vacation in Peru, and after I got to know him, I realized just how busy he was.

Well, it was through Melissa that I met Andy. I still had a walking cast on our "blind date," but I will never forget it. We went to a place call Flipnotics in a trendy part of Austin. On the bottom floor, there was a clothing store (closed at night), and above, there was coffee/traditional bar with a nice patio. I was incredibly embarrassed having to slowly walk up the stairs in my walking cast. I think that Andy felt bad about it. Flipnotics served as a small venue for local musicians, which is exactly why Andy and I were there. Ever the pragmatist, he not only was meeting me for a drink or two, he was checking out a new act for his community radio show - ATX Live. If I only had known the role that that show would play during my time in Austin.

That was the thing about Andy. He was and is an enigma. Professionally, he is an engineer, but his real passion was radio and music. He later became the president of Austin Community Radio - KOOP. It was through the co-op that he met Cheryl. Cheryl was a good friend of his who was incredibly fun. In fact, she became my best friend while we were there. She wanted Andy and I to get together (i.e. really date) badly, but it wasn't meant to be. Andy saw me as a kind of little sister (he is seven years older than me), and the three of us ended up having a lot of fun together.

That fall, Andy had laser eye surgery, and it didn't end up going well - at all. He was functionally blind for a week or longer. When he could finally truly see again, Cheryl and I decided to throw him a "dress to be seen" party (it happened to be close to his birthday too). I have so many outrageous pictures and memories from that party at his house. Cheryl, the eternal match-maker and optimist, made excuse upon excuse for me to head to Andy's house alone to help set up. I was spending the weekend with her in San Marcos, and she purposely didn't show up at Andy's until much later.

Well, it was strange being there alone with Andy getting things set up. It was homey, domestic, and felt all too natural. Not long before the party started, a bunch of his friends from work showed up (one happened to have graduated from Michigan State too). Anyway, everyone seemed to think that I was Andy's new girlfriend. At the time, it broke my heart that I wasn't. As I said earlier, I have many memories from that fall. That night during the party, Andy and I ended up dancing drunkenly around his kitchen. Andy, Cheryl, and I cemented our friendship that night.

Towards the end of the summer, the First Annual Austin City Limits Festival was held. I love to describe it as a techie Woodstock, and in many respects, it was. Not many people realize this, but Austin, Texas has a strong hippie contingent that never really grew up or left. I was treated to people older than my parents acting as though they still lived in the 1960s. You also had many, many young professionals in the technology industry (Samsung, Applied Materials, Motorola, and of course, Dell are all huge employers in Austin) in their 20s and 30s (people like Andy, Cheryl, and I) who loved music. Of course, Andy and Cheryl wanted to go in order to promote ATX Live too.

Well, Cheryl was at it again. She decided that she was only going to go one of the two days. I ended up spending the night in Andy's guest room and spending the last day of the festival with him - alone. It was funny. All it did was reinforce the idea that he looked upon me as a little sister. In fact, he insisted that I get a cowgirl hat so that I didn't get sunburned. As we sat on the grass waiting for the next performance (it might have been Shawn Colvin), we were treated to the lively conversations of young soldiers from Fort Hood. They were angry that they couldn't enjoy a cold beer, but it was very likely that they would serve in Iraq. Remember, this was during the summer of 2002. It was not long before those 18 - 20 year olds (not much younger than me at the time) were sent to Iraq. Every time I hear of someone from Fort Hood becoming a casualty or dying, I always think back to that summer before the war in Iraq.

Andy, Cheryl, and I went on to have a lot of fun that fall. I ended up going to a Halloween Party with Andy. It turns out that it was at the house of a friend of his, Chelle Murray. Like many in Austin, she is/was a musician. I ended up buying her CD. Her Midwestern roots showed through on the CD (she is from Ohio), and it quickly became my favorite. By the time Karen and I planned my going-away slash birthday slash Christmas party, I didn't want to go back to East Lansing. In theory, I had to go to complete my education. Yet, there was a very large part of me that wanted to STAY in Austin permanently.

As I drove away that foggy December morning, I cried listening to Chelle's CD. By the time I arrived home for Christmas, I was a different woman. I wasn't the same college kid who had left six months before. I was older, wiser, had had my heart broken, almost died, and for one of the first times in my life, had found my place. Things happened fast once I was back on campus at Michigan State, and before you know it, I was looking for a full-time job.

Naturally, I was drawn to Dell and Applied Materials. I was devastated when I didn't get those jobs after two rounds of interviews. I even got an opportunity to travel back to Austin on Applied Material's dime. Of course, I saw Andy, Cheryl, and Karen once again. When I found out that I didn't get the job, I felt as though my life was falling apart.

In the end, I started a relationship with Brian and ended up moving to Houston. While there were reasons for me living in Houston, it was a serious mistake. Houston will never be Austin. As much as I love Bay City and Michigan, Austin will always hold a very special place in my heart, as will Andy, Cheryl, and Karen. In my mind, Bay City has the potential to be another Austin (just smaller), but people would have to embrace progress, the arts, technology, and Saginaw Valley State University.

You may wonder why I've been going on and on about my experiences. It is relative to what is going on in my life right now as most of the great things that happened in Austin were born out of personal crises. It wouldn't take much for my life here in Bay City to completely change for the better; I just need to go after exactly what I want. Things have not been easy since Brian and I moved back to Michigan in 2005, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy.


PS - Prior to my relationship with Brian, I finally got up the nerve to tell Andy how I felt about him. He basically reconfirmed what I thought all along - that he looked at me as a little sister of sorts. He essentially told me that the age difference was too much, and that I'd understand someday. Well, he was right. Now that I'm pushing 30, I understand what he meant. It isn't the difference in age so much as it is stage of life. There are big differences between a 21 year old and a 28 year old.

Austin Calling

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Last week, I had an incredibly interesting experience. Someone who seems to know me started posting anonymously, and intelligently, on my blog. I enjoyed the nearly week-long conversation so much that I compiled it into its own static page.

I'd love to know what others think about the conversation. I have a strong inclination as to whom posted these comments anonymously, but I'd rather NOT know. I love the mystery of it all.



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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Interesting Developments

I received some interesting news today. In my inbox this morning, I received an e-mail from a gentleman compiling an anthology of myths and legends surrounding the mid-Michigan area. He thinks that my little piece on the Witchy Wolves of the Omer Plains would work well. I sent him a reply and am anxious to hear back. I'll post what becomes of the little piece I put together as soon as I know.

You can find it here and here.


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Driving Individualism

As I mentioned earlier, I've been reading way too much lately (as Brian can attest), but it can be surprising where books can take you intellectually (for me, that is where their power lies). Anyway, I'm currently in the middle of Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism. As one would imagine, it is a relatively conservative book. I say relatively conservative due to the fact that I was expecting it to be much more partisan that it actually is. It was a pleasant surprise that the book is so well-grounded in research and historical fact.

Well, I'm becoming much more aware that the central fault line in American politics today is collectivism versus individualism. I believe that both are needed, though I tend to favor individualism. I was thinking about this when something occurred to me. If a set of preconceived notions are placed upon individuals, as it was during classical fascism and to a lesser extent in liberal fascism, where is the will to overcome personal obstacles or become more educated?

For example, most women with Turner Syndrome do not receive their driver's license as soon as allowable by law. Many women with Turner Syndrome have issues with depth perception that make driving more difficult. While I grew up knowing issues surrounding depth perception were a real possibility for me as a result of my diagnosis of Turner Syndrome, I was somehow relatively unaware that that may affect my quest to receive my driver's license at age 16.

While it isn't that uncommon for people who grow up and live in large cities (where good public transportation options are available) to delay obtaining a driver's license until their 20s, that just isn't the case in most of rural America. Growing up in Omer, Michigan, a driver's license means one thing: Independence. It is that simple. Any delay in obtaining a driver's license or vehicle is agony for most teenagers in the area. It simply wasn't something that I thought about. I just assumed that I would be able to get my driver's license on my 16th birthday. In preparation, I even spent hours getting my car ready (it was my Mom's old vehicle, which my parents stored for a year).

For a variety of reasons, I did not enjoy driver's ed. In the end, I needed more time behind the wheel, and even after obtaining my driver's license on my 16th birthday, I was a very timid driver. It didn't have anything to do with Turner Syndrome; it had everything to do with the fact that my older cousin (who is only ten months older than me) was almost killed by a drunk driver the very day I started driver's ed. It would take years for me to feel entirely comfortable behind the wheel, but that is exactly what happened in the end.

During a doctor's visit after my 16th birthday, the nurse practitioner was incredibly surprised that I had obtained my license on my 16th birthday. She told me that it was almost unheard of among teenagers with Turner Syndrome. In fact, I have friends with Turner Syndrome who are approximately my age (27) who still do not have their licenses. What if she had told me that at age 13 or 14? Would I have been too timid to even try?

My Dad has always told me that I have a tendency to do things the hard way. Brian is noticing it too. My question is this: Does it really matter as long as everything comes out all right in the end? I learned some incredibly valuable lessons from doing things "the hard way." Nothing worth having is easy per se. I learned a lot while overcoming my fear of driving (again, it was almost exclusively driven by my cousin's brush with death).

If collectivism is to be pursued exclusively without any regard to individualism, it is my opinion that humanity would be selling itself short. I doubt that we would have had Einstein, Darwin, Freud, Ford, or Michael Jordan. There is normally a purpose to struggle, and collectivism doesn't seem to acknowledge it.

I'm sorry that this post was so deep, but it is something that has been bugging me for a while now. It seems all the more pertinent in light of the upcoming election. It truly scares me that classical liberalism is getting such a bad rap (by the way, we would call classical liberals conservatives today).


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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Political Extremism

I've been reading too many political books lately, and as a result, it is inevitable that it would spill onto my blog. The books seem to have a common basis and have greatly helped me understand the intellectual basis of both liberals and conservatives.

Why does this matter? Unfortunately for me, all of this reading made me realize just how deep the schism is in this current national election. It isn't pretty, and I can't see much good coming from it. It is becoming ever more clear that there is indeed nothing new under the sun.


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Thursday, August 07, 2008


The first time I realized just how geography affects a person's frame of reference, or world view, had to be in late December 2001. My parents had just picked me up from the Detroit Metro Airport; I had just completed a semester studying abroad in Quito, Ecuador at La Universidad de San Francisco del Quito (a small, private university). The story of my trip traveling back to Michigan from Ecuador that December is a story unto itself, but that will have to wait.

As my parents and I were traveling north on I-75, it struck me just how flat the landscape was. I even made the comment to my Mom, who then made an obvious comment of her own, "I suppose that is why they call us flatlanders." Still, the contrast of the Andes Mountains and the flat terrain of the Saginaw Valley can't be overstated. Inevitably it changes how people who live there view the world.

For whatever reason, the inherent flatness of mid-Michigan struck me again last Saturday. Brian and I were traveling along US 10 from Bay City to Midland in his truck. It was a beautiful summer day with only a few puffy white clouds in the sky. I don't know why the flatness stuck me then, but it did. There was nothing to break the horizon besides trees and grass, along with the occasional house or overpass.

So what does this have to do with how people view the world? I can only answer that by sharing how the geography of where I grew up shaped how I viewed my world. Growing up between Standish, Sterling, and Omer, it was always almost exactly six miles to the nearest small town in various directions from our home. If you traveled along US-23, there were always approximately seven miles between small towns. There are seven miles between Pinconning, Standish, Omer, and AuGres. As a child, if I wanted to see a movie, do any kind of shopping, or eat at a chain restaurant (other than fast food), I had to travel roughly thirty miles either north or south to either West Branch or Bay City. Growing up, Bay City was my idea of perfection. Imagine - a mall and movie theater nearby! Now that I'm older and have lived in suburbia for nearly a decade, I don't enjoy malls much anymore and never have the desire to go to movies (we have Netflix). Even though my priorities have changed, I now love Bay City for other reasons, namely Saginaw Bay and the Saginaw River (not to mention the people, the sense of community, and its history).

In Ecuador, it was quite a different story. While everything is spread out here in mid-Michigan, that just isn't the case in Quito, Ecuador. In Quito, houses and businesses are closed behind walls. Everything is created to make you feel enclosed, secure. Even in small towns, buildings are clustered together in European style. The effects of colonialism are everywhere. Yet, when you get get beyond the cities, drive the mountain roads, and visit the open haciendas, you feel as though you are transferred to a mountainous Texas. There are truly wide open spaces so wide that you feel as though you are about to travel to the end of the Earth. The mountains are in the background and its foothills serve to open up the space before you. There is no human need for enclosure in mid-Michigan, but there certainly is in the Andes. Most people want to experience mountains from a safe vantage point (that, however, does not explain the nature of the mountain roads).

If you study the geography of Ecuador, you quickly realize that it is one of the most geographically diverse countries in Latin America. It contains wide plains, the Andes Mountains, tropical rain forests, and the Galapagos Islands, not to mention Pacific beaches. I experienced it all to some extent while I was there, but I was especially drawn to water. Growing up along the banks of the Rifle River and near Saginaw Bay, I suppose I've always been drawn to water. As a child, some of my favorite memories were of family dinners at restaurants along Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay, namely the Point AuGres Hotel (great pizza) and the Bear Track Inn, both of which have long since closed. As I grew up and moved away, I don't think that it was a coincidence that I chose to study at Michigan State University. While the Red Cedar isn't all that spectacular, it does a lot to add to the park-like feel of campus. During my time in Austin, Texas, I gravitated towards Lake Travis (a river by Michigan standards). In the back of my mind, I partially attribute my dislike of Houston to a lack of water. Brian and I drove to Galveston a few times during our year in Houston, but it just didn't seem close enough. Neither of us could get enough of Galveston.

Like many others, I often wonder if our geographic preferences are imprinted upon us from birth. No matter where I go or where I live, I will always gravitate towards lakes, rivers, and flat land. I'm beginning to think that I'm becoming too influenced by what I read. Is that really such a bad thing?


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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Bruises, Dead Cats, Friendly Campers, and Old Friends

I haven't posted in a few days for a few very good reasons. I knew that I wouldn't be home much this week due to the fact that I agreed to essentially run my parents' campground and canoe livery business while they went to their cabin in Canada with one of my aunts and uncles, my brother Garrett, and his girlfriend Arika. It was supposed to be easy. I wasn't having to fully run it, just supervise a relatively seasoned staff, watch my parent's house (and the campground), etc.

Somewhere along the line, it all changed. As I was taking care of a few last-minute things on Sunday (I was trying to get a few personal things out of the way), I received a frantic call from my Grandmother, the Grandma With Whom I Lunch (my Dad's Mom). She had had a bad attack of vertigo and needed my help right away. I had never heard her that talk way, ever. I panicked and fought the urge to speed while heading north on I-75. I had no idea what I'd find.

It turns out that she became so dizzy that she fell and hit her cheek on her kitchen chair. It happened during the middle of the night, and she ended up spending the rest of the night on the floor. She wasn't able to call me until 12 PM the next day (she had made her way to her bed and called me when she woke up several hours later). In the end, she was extremely lucky and is now doing much better. I ended up spending the night with her Sunday night, just to make sure that it wouldn't happen again soon (the best I could, I suppose). That set up things for the next round on Monday.

Monday morning I called my other Grandma, who lives nearby, and went to help her with some errands, etc. She fell almost a week ago, breaking her nose, blacking both eyes, and hurting her knee. Well, we went through her ER discharge paper and it stated that she needed to get her wounds rechecked. She finally did that today, but it doesn't sound good. Her knee is one of the most painful things I've ever seen. I'm going to help her much more tomorrow. Of course, each Grandmother was worried about the other.

Also, the eight year old cat of an elderly family friend of Brian's died recently. It is hard enough to lose a pet, but doing so when that cat was a direct tie to your deceased husband, not to mention your one constant companion after he passed away, has to be infinitely harder. Over the last few years, I have grown to know this woman and her cat well. Brian and I paid her a visit, but what can you say?

All of this took place against the backdrop of dealing with the day to day business of the campgrounds and canoe livery. I swear, my parent have some of the best customers. Most of the business is built on groups of people who come year after year. Many have come for decades. This was the case with a group I dealt with this morning. The woman who organizes this particular group looks no older than her mid-40s, but she informed me that she has camped with us for 19 years. After she found out that I was Bob and Leslie's daughter, she insisted that I must have been one of the little kids running around when she first started coming. Quite frankly, it made me feel old, even at 27.

As if I didn't feel old enough already, I headed to the main location in Omer to see just how things were going and to see an old friend. A childhood friend of mine, who is now 26, now comes camping not only with her parents, but her infant daughter as well. We became good friends (indeed, at one time I considered her my best friend) through the canoe livery. Her family camped with us every year pretty much from the time she was born. As we sat, reminisced, played with her daughter and the baby girl of one of the canoe rental employees (also in her mid-20s), etc., I couldn't help but wonder, exactly when did we became the adults? When did it happen? The mothers shared stories of birth, labor, and future baby plans (and/or lack thereof). I sat in awe. At 27, I am nowhere near ready to have kids, as much as I love and want babies. It amazes me that my Mom already had two kids by the time she was 27; both of my Grandmas had had three by age 27.

All of a sudden my childhood friend started talking about all the things we did as kids. We swapped baseball and football cards (she still has the ones I gave her), she was there when I got my braces off, and she once snuck out of my bedroom (she once spent a week at our house one summer) to hang out with older boys in the campground. We used to tube, canoe, and sit around campfires. I was hurt when she and her family stopped coming for a while, and she changed into a moody teenager (to put it mildly).

I now realize that she was hurting too. She lost her best friend back in Windsor under extremely tragic circumstances. In many ways, it still affects her. Today, however, what struck me was just how selective memory can be. I don't remember ditching my little sister or playing in the display case in Omer (we had to be all of five years old). She probably doesn't want to remember sneaking out and defying her parents. She found it strange that "baby" Garrett (my now 6'3 17 year-old little brother) is now the one taking her canoeing.

There is so much to take away from all of this, but I have to admit, I'll be glad when my parents come home.


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Friday, August 01, 2008

A Few Relatively Political Mentions

On the White House - The Political Revival of George Herbert Walker Bush

Tim Russert’s Son to Cover Conventions for NBC News - America’s Election HQ

I realize that just the other day I stated that I would leave politics alone for a while. Well, I'm already backtracking, in a way. The two pieces included above are not overtly political, but they do involve politics. I thought that they were both interesting and worth a mention. Of course, Tim Russert is greatly missed.


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Germany and Poland At It Again!

You have to read this to believe it. VERY funny stuff indeed. Maybe I should start a blog on things that Brian sends me. He always sends funny, funny stuff.

Beach Border War


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Lunch with Grandma - Again

Long time readers may know that I often go out to lunch with my Grandma and/or head north to Standish to see both of my Grandmothers. The Grandma with whom I lunch is one of the most important people in my life. It isn't that I don't have a great relationship with my other Grandmother - I do, and we have rituals of our own. It is simply that my Dad's Mom and I have such history.

When I was in preschool, she would often pick me from school and take me with her on the road. For nearly 40 years she sold women's clothes door-to-door. Well, not really door-to-door. She had repeat customers upon repeat customers. Often, her customers would be the wives and daughters of farmers and small business owners. It was always an adventure to go with her to see her customers. It wasn't that my parents even needed someone to pick me up from preschool or a babysitter. She wanted to be with me and I loved being with her; I still do.

Add the fact that she and my Grandpa (my Dad's step-Dad; my Dad's Father passed away in his 40s) spent nearly everyday during the summer working at my parent's business, and it becomes apparent why I was always so close to them. During my high school years, I spent hours upon hours during the summer working with my Grandma. Many times when I would spend the night at her house, my Grandpa would have long since gone to bed. He'd always leave a note for us and often called us "his gypsies." It was true too. She was always going somewhere and I was never too far behind. In the years since he passed away, I've missed him terribly, and I know that my Grandma does too.

There are times during my lunches with my Grandma when I get a glimpse of the active, busy woman I have known most of my life. Truth be told, she is still very active at age 83. That said, she has slowed considerably in the last five years or so. For example, I thought that she would be in a great mood yesterday. She just had had a very full weekend of company and a family wedding, among other social engagements. Unfortunately, she just seemed lonely and tired. Then again, I suppose I would be too if I lived on my own at 83, spent the weekend entertaining family and friends, and then had an empty house at the end of it all.

During my childhood and well into my college years, it seemed as though she'd entertain various members of her family (she comes from a very large Ukrainian farm family) every other weekend during the summer. As a result, I got to know my Dad's extended family very well. I imagine that she misses it now that great nieces and nephews have moved away and started families of their own.

Despite my worries about her health and the inevitable, I deeply cherish the time we spend together. I might just have to write down some of those unforgettable conversations, many of which have taken place this past summer.

All in all, I'm glad that I will get to see her quite a bit next week.

Much more later, as always.


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Wife in the North by Judith O'Reilly

I meant to post this yesterday evening, but I ended up getting sucked into yet another great book. I'm beginning to think that my idea of heaven is a beautiful beach with a comfortable lounge chair and endless piles of great books. Of course, Brian and all of our family would be there too. I just wish that I could trade sleep for reading. That way I could get thing done during the day and read all through the night. Anyway, the review is included below. You can find it here. The author, Judith O'Reilly, has a blog of her own, which features prominently in the book. You can find it here.

Early Reviewer Program - Wife in the North by Judith O'Reilly

Even though I'm not a mother, I could identify with the author in innumerable ways (sometimes a little too closely). I, too, have been a fish out of water and can understand why she had difficulty adjusting to her new environment; I also understand why she moved in the first place. Quite frankly, this was one of the more nuanced books I've read lately. There is a depth to her memoirs that let her humanity shine through; unfortunately, I find that rare in similar books. For me, the book built and further developed Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones. No, this book isn't about Miss Jones, but I have a feeling that Mrs. O'Reilly might have gotten along well with her (a more grown-up version) if Bridget wasn't a work of fiction.

I particularly liked her frank discussions on bullying, making friends, and the chaos that is (or was?) her life. These are private issues that are rarely discussed in public. If there was more candid discussion of such subjects, especially in early childhood, I believe that the world would be a much kinder place. I give her credit from not backing down from her blog.

The one difficulty I had with the book was language at times. Yes, it is English, but the British have many different terms that aren't used often in the United States. Many I knew from popular culture and travel to the United Kingdom; yet, there were a few that eluded me. Overall, a highly recommended book IF you like reading about the daily struggles of ordinary people.

Much more to come later. You can find my library here.


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