Monday, July 28, 2008


Nobody ever warned me that I'd turn into a blathering idiot when I hit 50. I can't remember shit (sorry, Mom, that's your word, I know). I repeat myself, repeat myself, repeat myself; swear I brought things home but instead left them elsewhere (yes, Nicole, my favorite cooler was still at the cabin), look for clothes I sent to the Goodwill long ago, have imaginary friends and can't remember quite significant things I did 20 years ago. I get back from vacation and can't remember my e-mail PIN. Thank God I wrote it down before I left. So far I haven't left my keys in the refrigerator, but I know that could be coming sooner than I expected.

I thought only truly old people did this. Heck, my mom didn't start getting "scattered" like this until she hit 70-something. And instead of letting this frustrate her, she just bought more PostItTM notes.

So far this isn't all that debilitating, luckily. I don't usually get lost in the car, embarrass people or myself unintentionally or act legally insane. I probably annoy my children and my husband more than I do myself -- they already know I'm kind of OCD anyway. But when I try to lighten up a bit and am not compulsively tidying my house/workspace/dresser drawers, this is what happens. Promise me: If I get dangerously forgetful, hide the keys in the fridge. That would scare me into submission.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

And the rockets' red glare ...

Sorry for the blog lag here, but we escaped to Cedar Lake for a blissful 10 days that went by in a blink. The days began with some of the best babyback ribs I've ever tasted in my life, courtesy of friend Seth Roxberg, whose parents, Dick and Ellie, have a place in Isle and invited us for a yummy Fourth of July picnic. Seth rubbed and sauced and smoked those ribs lovingly all day, then we fought the mosquitoes for them until we were stuffed. The next night, the Roxberg womenfolk joined us for our traditional Cedar Lake fireworks display.

Our neighbors on the bay, Ken and Jaci Gangl and their family, began the tradition when all of our kids were little. One of their friends, a pyrotechnician par excellance, got us all hooked on shooting mortars high in the sky over the lake. We had the only yard open enough not to burn up our cabins or our boats, so our yard has been the fireworks' stage ever since. Ken begins shopping early in the spring, then a few weeks before the fourth he wires and packs and sets all of these fuses and God knows what else. This year he had back surgery on June 30, so he got everything set before he went under. That's dedication.

It's probably illegal or something, but our lake association kicks in a good $500 or so for the fireworks, and everybody gets a half-hour of beauty and booms that rivals any professional display. Boats bob out in the center of the lake and honk their horns with appreciation. We hear "oohs" and "ahhs" and whoops and whistles after each launch. We all get a kick out of that. It's the highlight of the summer. Our kids still act like they're 10, planning their calendars around the fireworks, except now they pencil in the kind of beer they'll serve at this blessed event.

Before anybody gets all "you'll blow your hand off" over this post, know this: Ken wires the whole thing for remote control. It beats the days when he and a cadre of brave 40-something men (including my fire-obsessed husband) used to run around in the dark with blow torches to set these things off. (Rule of thumb: Never stand over a mortar to see if it's lit.) That really set my heart aflutter. All I could see was the headline: "Twin Cities father maimed in stupid fireworks display that he helped to orchestrate." Now the same 50-something guys can safely flip a few switches. And we do move the boats away from our dock. Maybe next year we'll set the thing to music. Or maybe we'll play some Sousa on an old boom box. We have to retain the event's "amateur" ambience; that's part of its charm.

This is one of those crazy traditions that make memories for children, just like the Fourth of July kiddie parade in Virginia, where I grew up. We used to dress up in costumes and decorate our bikes and parade the entire length of the main drag, Chestnut Street (from the mine pit all the way to Silver Lake, which seemed like miles when I was four feet tall) -- and at the end, people from the Chamber of Commerce or something gave each participant a quarter. For that quarter in 1964 or thereabouts, I marched down Chestnut in a hula skirt and a Hawaiian print bra when it was 36 degrees at parade time. Then I headed right to the Pic 'n' Pay and spent it all on candy. Which costs a lot less than Coors.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

OK, I'll bite

Emilie and a bunch of other women posted this on their blogs, and I can't resist. Besides, it's a reader-grabber. It's the NEA's "Big Read" list; they guess the average adult has read six of these illustrious titles. How sad is that?

We're instructed to: "1.) Look at the list and bold those you have read. 2) Italicize those you intend to read. 3) Underline (or mark in a different color) the books you LOVE.4) Reprint this list in your blog so we can try and track down these people who've read 6 and force books upon them."

  1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

  2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien

  3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

  4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling

  5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

  6. The Bible (but, of course, I'll never finish it)

  7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

  8. 1984 - George Orwell

  9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

  10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

  11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

  12. Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

  13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

  14. Complete Works of Shakespeare

  15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

  16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

  17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks

  18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

  19. The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

  20. Middlemarch - George Eliot

  21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell (twice!)

  22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald (once in high school, once in college, twice in grad school ... let me tell you about all the incidents of golden imagery in this book ... oh, my. This is the perfect American novel.)

  23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens

  24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

  25. The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

  26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh

  27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

  28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

  29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

  30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

  31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

  32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

  33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis

  34. Emma - Jane Austen

  35. Persuasion - Jane Austen

  36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis

  37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

  38. Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres

  39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

  40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne

  41. Animal Farm - George Orwell

  42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

  43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

  44. A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving

  45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

  46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

  47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

  48. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

  49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding

  50. Atonement - Ian McEwan

  51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel

  52. Dune - Frank Herbert

  53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

  54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

  55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

  56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

  57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

  58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

  59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

  60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

  61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

  62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

  63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt

  64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

  65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

  66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac

  67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

  68. Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
  69. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie

  70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville

  71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

  72. Dracula - Bram Stoker

  73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

  74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

  75. Ulysses - James Joyce

  76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath (several times)

  77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome

  78. Germinal - Emile Zola

  79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

  80. Possession - AS Byatt

  81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

  82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

  83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker

  84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

  85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

  86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

  87. Charlotte's Web - EB White

  88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom

  89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

  90. The Faraway Tree Collection

  91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

  92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery (en francais!)

  93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

  94. Watership Down - Richard Adams

  95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

  96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

  97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

  98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare

  99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

  100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo