Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012



It wasn’t the “Mom” part—it was the preceding “uh.” It’s something he says when he has bad news. And in this case, there was a tone to his voice that was worrisome indeed. Then he added, “Don’t freak out or anything, ‘kay?”

This ranks right up there under THINGS YOU DON’T WANT YOUR CHILD TO SAY TO YOU. Even if said child is old enough to attend college and vote and fight in armies and legally drink. In fact, maybe especially if he’s that old.

I looked up from my computer and stared at him. In retrospect, I bet I know what my face looked like, because my dad used to give me that same blank stare whenever I dropped a bombshell on him. He’d look up from his reading, his face completely impassive, and then his eyes would go: Blink. And then: Blink.

I now know that those two blinks represent a sort of slip into Matrix mode, where time slows so much that hundreds of possible kinds of bad news flit through the brain like bullets that can be plucked out of the air, Neo-style.

Then he said, “It’s my laundry.”

At first I was relieved. Laundry! And then those bullets again: My son’s laundry…! My son’s laundry. Oh. And…oh. It could be pretty bad, after all.

And it was. At least, in a sort of curious, almost scientific way. Neither of which should ever be said about laundry.

Turned out he’d bought a new pair of shorts and worn them jogging. I know you’re supposed to wash new clothes before wearing them, and I bet he knows this too. But. He does, in fact, do his own laundry, so I am not about to rock that boat by offering helpful laundering suggestions. So he had dumped the shorts along with a shirt on the floor of his old room as if the room is a big empty laundry basket.

His “new” room is the entire basement, which he’s staked claim upon little by little, squatter-style, until he’s converted it into his own apartment that he takes over when he’s home from college along with the garage and the pantry. He tries to take over the kitchen too by marking it with his flip flops the way astronauts leave their footprints on the moon—and to be left there about as long—but my daughter and I throw them down the basement steps lest we get home one day and find the whole house littered with video games and cereal bowls with blue milk in the bottom and Dorito bags and a stray sock or two.

So sitting on top of the shorts (along with a shirt) in the middle of his upstairs room was—urk—a pile of ant eggs, along with some adults running around and apparently trying to bury them down in the pockets and folds of my son’s laundry.

I hesitated telling you this because I don’t want you to think I have bugs. I really don’t get ants in this house much. Used to see a few every spring when it rained, but since the exterminator who was clearly the Walter Mitty of exterminators—the one with a personal vendetta against bugs who I think fantasized that he was more terminator than exterminator—there’s been nothing but the occasional basement spider. Even the crickets we used to get every fall have been noticeably scarce. But there was no ant trail whatsoever and no sign of ants anywhere but in that one spot perched on top of the shorts.

How did that happen? We don’t know. We’ve been Googling ants to see if it’s possible that a stray queen just flew into his shorts while he was jogging, or if she could have set up housekeeping before he bought the shorts, or what. And we still don’t know. The good thing was that they were very easy to scoop up and flush, sitting in a neat little pile like that.

Come to think of it, was it a ploy to get me to do his laundry? Because I did wash the heck out of those shorts. I don’t think so, honestly. He knows my payoff is that I will forever get to tease him about the time he had ants in the pants.

My daughter: Elizabeth will be here soon for the “service.” 
Me: Everyone should have a best friend who is willing to drop everything and come over to help you have a funeral over your toilet. Am I dressed appropriately for a fish memorial? 
Daughter (assessing my shorts): I think she would have wanted us to be comfortable.
 ~Conversation this morning after my daughter’s beta died

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Improper Poll: Gone with the Whim

Ahner's Greenhouse in its Former Glory
It’s been a summer of disappointments. The heat and lack of rain meant it was hard to go to festivals and outdoor concerts. Most of the Fourth of July fireworks were cancelled.

Then I found out two of my favorite summer products have been discontinued. The horror! Harry and David’s Strawberry Green tea is absolutely delightful iced. Why would they get rid of it? Especially when no one else I know of has a strawberry green tea?

And Clean Sweet Layer was my absolute favorite of all the Clean fragrances by D’lish and one of my favorite summer perfumes. Sure, I can still get it online, but someday those supplies too will dwindle. Besides, fragrances don’t have the shelf lives that companies pretend they do. Stale is stale.

But one of the worst is that I keep finding out more beloved places around town have closed. The one that absolutely broke my heart was Ahner’s greenhouse and gift shop. I had no idea it had closed until I drove by it. What a shock! It was not only closed, but going through some kind of deconstruction process that had it all hollowed out like a monstrous carcass on the side of the road. Brought tears to my eyes.

Have you lost a beloved product or store recently?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hooray for Awards for Weirdness!

Many, many thanks to Linda O’Connell—very talented and oft-published writer, fellow WWWP, truly gracious and fun human being, editor of Not Your Mother’s Book…on Family, and blogger at Write from the Heart—for the honor of a blog award! It’s my understanding that I am supposed to tell you three weird things I do, so here they are:

1. I have an interest in perfumes and have been known to sniff out strangers—literally—and ask what fragrance they’re wearing. Most people are wonderful about it and often tell interesting little stories about how they discovered the scent themselves. One lovely older woman from the frozen food section of the grocery store couldn’t remember the name, so she took my name and number and later called to tell me. (“Hello? Uh…this is…uh…Gloria? From the grocery store?”). Turned out to be Clinique’s “Aromatics Elixir,” which is funny because, even though I love the “Happys,” I’ve long thought of Aromatics as smelling weird and chemically on me. On Gloria it smelled like a spa in the south of France after a rain.

2. I took tap, ballet and jazz for years, not because I was a good dancer (like my sister who used to dance until her feet bled), but because I love it. Still dance around the house every chance I get.

3. Since August of 2010, I’ve been taking a virtual trip around the United States via the internet, computer wallpaper and Google Earth. I am currently in my last continental state and only have Hawaii and Alaska left. I’ve learned some interesting things, such as the fact that Minnesota has a Spam Museum. I am extremely sad to report that the equally interesting-sounding Museum of Questionable Medical Devices, also located in Minnesota, has closed. At least according to my tour guide, Google. But please don’t change your Minnesota plans just because Wally World is closed! It looks like the Spam Museum is still going strong. Seriously, though, I’ve learned that every state in this amazing nation has its own beauty and history and interest. Will probably go to Canada next. Life is an adventure.

Please consider yourself chosen if you’d like to participate and pass this along!

If it’s not fun, you’re not doing it right. ~Bob Basso

Monday, July 16, 2012

Improper Poll: Summer on a Shelf

Val the Victorian recently mentioned the books we read every summer. This, and Ray Bradbury’s recent death, reminded me I haven’t recently read the book that is to me the consummate book of summer, Dandelion Wine. In fact, it’s quite possibly my all-time favorite book. What’s odd is that I can never remember exactly what it’s about—just the feeling it gives me, the taste of it. Each time, I get something new. To me that book is as magical as summer itself.

I had no idea there was a film in the making until I looked for pictures. A movie could be wonderful, but the true beauty of this book is in the poetic writing.

The dandelion wine is truly a taste of bottled summer, “…the balm of sun and idle August afternoons, the faintly heard sounds of ice wagons passing on brick avenues, the rush of silver skyrockets and the fountaining of lawn mowers moving through ant countries, all these, all these in a glass.”

The yearly dandelion wine is “summer caught and stoppered” to be put on shelves “…row upon row, with the soft gleam of flowers opened at morning, with the light of this June sun glowing through a faint skin of dust” so that in the winter, “…snow melted to grass, the trees were reinhabitated with bird, leaf, and blossoms like a continent of butterflies breathing on the wind.”

Alas, the book was over far too quickly.  I might just take it out again in winter. To be read in little sips. What’s your favorite summer read?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ten Things I’ve Learned from My Critique Group

1. Dickeys belong on more than one body part.
2. Silverware can be beautifully inspiring…or rather bawdy.
3. Critique group members can be beautifully inspiring…or rather bawdy.
4. Washing your hair at work may be hazardous to your health.
5. What happens in critique group…gets written about. So beware!
6. Put five women in a room together, and there will be chocolate. And laughter.
7. WWWPs give the best gifts.  And sometimes they help each other shop.
8. Critique group members are incredibly talented. You never know when one will pull out the life-sized statue of David she papier-mâchéd out of recycled coffee filters while penning her novel with a child or grandchild on her knee (after work, of course). Or she’ll casually mention the replica of the world map that she needlepointed for a charity event just before entering the triathlon. Or she’ll hand you little personalized gifts she whipped up in between speeches and conferences and side-jobs and writing and submitting and receiving awards for said writing….
9. That’s okay, because there is almost nothing better in this world than a group of wise, wicked, witty, warm women. In spite of their many talents, critique group members are incredibly kind, generous and inspiring. Not to mention a whole lot of fun.
10. We adore the art of words, all of us. But I often think these women can have no idea just how precious their words are to me. The ones they’ve written astound and amaze and delight and teach me. The compliments are like an arm extended on a battlefield to rescue me from the endless war with the infamous, art-killing self-doubt. And their criticisms, offered with such honest and wise and tender hands, is in a very real sense the other arm that extends on that same battlefield and lets me know if I grasp hold, they will not release me. They are heroes who help the precious words survive another day. A sincere thank you to the WWWPs—the Wild Women Wielding Pens: Lynn Obermoeller, Linda O’Connell, Sioux Roslawski, and Beth Wood.

Writers do not let friends write crap.~Sioux Roslawski 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Improper Poll: Those Summer Superheroes

 I have loved Spiderman ever since college, when I found a discounted air mattress for under a dollar emblazoned with the word, “Spidey” in a drugstore sale bin. It was sickly yellow and grew on me the way certain hideously ugly things do, and it never seemed to give out—as certain hideously ugly things don’t. I took it to the beach with me for years, and it was always a conversation piece. I could swim for ages and know that it would be there when I returned.

I used to read the newspaper comic and have always loved the way it was drawn. Spiderman is so visual. The thing that makes him a figure drawer’s dream is the same thing that gives any movie about him an automatic appeal: he puts the “A” in “action hero.” Because of course Spidey is acrobat, gymnast...and yogi. Who can resist that contemplative, upside down Buddha-on-a-string look?

I love that he started out as human, but becomes spider-like against his will—and then evolves into defending others as a response to his own tragedy and loss. And he sacrifices his own happiness in order to protect his true love, at least for a whle. Yet she chooses him in spite of the risks. Now that’s love.

Most of all, I am drawn to the recurring theme that if we have the power to do good in the world, we also have the responsibility to do good. What we choose in life, whether good or bad, creates a ripple effect.

So—in spite of the horrifying fact that I have always seemed to attract spiders, Spiderman is my favorite superhero. Who’s yours?

Friday, July 6, 2012

It was a Sign

I owe it all to Sioux. Or should I say, “blame?” Well, Sioux and Mrs. Buffa. Because I did think of Sioux’s endearing story, “Trained by the Best,” that appeared in Sasee magazine a few months ago, when I stopped at the corner stop sign while leaving my subdivision and accidentally made eye contact with the two little boys who were selling something.

 The eye contact, of course, was my first mistake. But it was a hot day, and I was looking around for the lemonade, and there was none. Instead, there was a box. That, and an elaborately decorated cardboard sign I couldn’t read. I positively couldn’t resist wanting to know what two boys—maybe nine years old—were selling out of that box. Animal? Vegetable? Mineral?

I strained so much that they had to bring the sign over to me so I could read it. Then I had to roll down my window so they could tell me what the sign said, because it was really bad handwriting. Then they had to show me, because I still couldn’t understand them.

Sometimes innocence is genius itself. Because by that point, of course, I pretty much had to buy whatever it was. Even if it was hissing cockroaches in that box.

Which thankfully it wasn’t. It was Shrunken Head Dude here, with his unibrow and devil-may-care whiskers, a bargain at $1. Do you know what he is? Because I had no idea. I had to ask them several times. Stress balls. He is delightfully squishy. Is he dead? My daughter surmised that he is sleeping. Whew. I’d hate to think the stress killed him.

Anyway, thanks to Sioux and Mrs. Buffa, I had coincidentally been feeling very stressed indeed. By the way, his face was much clearer when I bought him a few weeks ago. I left him on the center island where my kids and their friends play with him every time they gather. Thanks, Sioux. And thanks, Mrs. Buffa. Some purchases are worth a lot more than their price tag.

Children are our most valuable resource. ~Herbert Hoover

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Improper Poll: Gellin’ Like a One-Legged Felon

The other day I got home and discovered one of my gel insoles, made specifically for sandals, was gone. Just…gone. It was an outsole.

My sole had fled to The Great Yonder. Where did it go? Thanks to the 100°+ weather we’ve been having, I can only assume my sole went to someplace hot as…well, you know.

To solve this mystery, I suppose one must follow the footprint. But right now, the only thing I can say for certain is that it could not have escaped on foot.

So naturally I am not only wondering where it ended up, but how. I had been all over the place. Did it flap considerably beforehand as if to wave bon voyage? Why did I not feel this? And perhaps most important, is my foot displayed on a website somewhere erupting what is sort of the foot equivalent of an incontinence pad? And would a better title for this post have been “Gellin’ Like Mount St. Helen?”

Has someone found my gel insole lying in the street like a gelatinous road kill foot?

And which is worse, the fact that I am going around losing my foot underwear, or the fact that I am taking pictures of the remaining one?

Have you ever lost items of clothing right off your body, or am I the only one who does these things?