Wednesday, September 30, 2009

WT5 – Ways to Survive a Family Photo Shoot

The thought of doing a family portrait fills my husband with anti-joy. It’s not exactly my bag either. The posing, the bad jokes, the sales pitch – all of it operates against our much more candid style. Something must be done to keep us entertained, unless we want to appear forever in the church directory as people who just ate sour persimmons.

These were our top 5 survival strategies:

5) Using our child’s propensity to imitate for our own amusement. My dear husband taught our little girl that the most appropriate pose for pictures is the Cat’s Eye dance from Pulp Fiction. Now don’t call CPS – we didn’t let her watch Pulp Fiction. Paul just did it once or twice for her before we left, and then let her go.

4) Adopting bizarre terms as new monikers (part 1). Based on the term repeatedly used to direct our oldest son, we have assigned him a new nickname: ‘Back Row’.

3) New monikers (part 2). We applied the same principal to our younger son. Sadly for him, he is now labeled ‘Sister’. We are hoping therapy will be cheaper than an Italian acrylic finish on our portrait. Perhaps he’ll write a tell-all book, with the Great Photo Shoot of 2009 as the inciting incident, and make enough money to pay for it himself.

2) Shooting the ‘what did he just say’ look at each other. The photographer continually strived for our attention by shaking a teddy bear and repeating the phrase ‘look at my pickle’. I shot Paul the look. He returned serve and mentally noted the squeaky toy in our photographer’s pants pocket. I took a deep breath, suppressing both my outer creeped-out parent and inner eighth-grader. With some effort, I decided ‘Pickle’ must be the name of the stuffed animal. Then I realized he was pointing at his nose. Whew.

1) Pondering the guarantee. The sales pitch included a 100-year guarantee against fading, and we wondered: when our great-grandchildren come a-complainin’ in year eighty-seven, what will happen? Will they perform a voodoo ritual involving the bear, the squeaky toy and a pickle, reanimate us for retakes and then make us sit through the sales pitch again? Maybe it’s all part of a bold marketing strategy.

“Remember to upsell: retouching is a felt need for most zombies.”

Monday, September 28, 2009

true anniversary

Today my husband and I are celebrating 18 years of marriage. In honor of that, I've declared Paul as co-author of this blog post. The idea came to me after he called this morning:

"I just called to wish you a happy anniversary," he said.
"Aww," I said. "Happy anniversary to you."
"Thanks," he said. "Can I have my spine back?"

Here are our favorite comebacks:

"I ground it to a fine powder and made it into bread. Enjoy your pb&j."

"I've never seen it. Call your mother."

"That old thing? Useless. I threw it out with your baseball cards, moron."

This truly reflects the nature of our wedding day. In brief, 18 years ago, the handoff from parents to groom resulted in my floor length veil, hanging from a crown of flowers, sailing off of my head. I picked it up and Paul slapped it back on like he was slam-dunking a basketball. The pastor called Paul my wife, the groomsmen hung a Michigan banner in the back of the church and later, at the head table, watched their beloved Wolverines lose (ha, ha - I've been a 'noles fan ever since). Pizza was delivered, the garter was caught by a 12-year old, and the afternoon ended with Paul and I, still in wedding finery, riding a Model A fire truck around town.

We laughed and laughed and somehow, even through challenges, kept it together and kept laughing. Skip the porcelain: make me laugh.

P.S. Paul is, right now, making a porcelain bus joke.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Foodie Friday - Hot Fudge Cake

Sometimes, as we transition from the busyness of the day to the quiet of night, I feel a yearning, a stirring, a longing, a need. It is the siren song of my  ancestors, crying out from the marrow of my bones.

"We need ice cream. And chocolate."

Tonight, I choose to honor the traditions of my people - the people who cast their cholesterol cares to the wind and eat ice cream before bed. And what better to accompany my delicious scoop of dreamy dairy goodness than this old time classic, which makes its own sauce, right in the pan:

Hot Fudge Cake

3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
4 oz. dark chocolate (coarsely chopped, or use semi-sweet chocolate chips)
1 1/4 cups hot water

Preheat oven to 350ยบ F. Be sure and have some ice cream in the freezer. Combine white sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa, baking powder and salt. Stir in milk, butter and vanilla; beat until smooth. Pour batter into ungreased 9" square baking pan. Crumble brown sugar over the top of the batter. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup cocoa over that. Top with the chocolate, then pour the hot water over the top. Do not stir. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until center is almost set. Let stand 15 minutes. Spoon into serving dishes and taste. Aren't you glad you have ice cream to go with this?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wednesday Top 5: Most self-centered songs

Just read a recent article on the our worsening narcissism and decided to post this again, originally from September 2009. Enjoy!

I've been thinking about some of the concerns with the Twitter and the Facebook. Is this self-centeredness unique to this generation, or are they just new ways to express an old truth?

For your consideration, here are my top 5 self-centered songs of all time:

5) Easy to be Hard by Three Dog Night (1969): Things seem alright at the beginning. 'How can people be so heartless?' the singer asks. 'How can people be so cruel?' But when we get into the 'splainin part, we realize that the heartless and cruel activities include caring about strangers and evil and social injustice. Maybe in context (the song is from the musical Hair), the lament makes more sense. In the context of Three Dog Night, it comes off like a guy trying to manipulate his date from the front of the protest line to the back of his van.
4) What About Me? by Moving Pictures (1982): Again, the song starts out reasonably, with the songwriter pointing to the needs of others. The big old chorus is the cry of the boy waiting at the corner shop, or the girl working there. The bridge asks us to consider the little people. But the neediness gets personal in verse three, and it is the singer himself crying out for more than he's got: 'What about me? It isn't fair. I've had enough now I want my share. Can't you see? I want to live, but you just take more than you give.' So much for the little people.
3) I Wanna Talk About Me! by Toby Keith (2001): My husband taught my kids this chorus when I went away for a week. That is a special present - kids proclaiming their need to be the center of the universe to their mother. But even if that awful scene had never happened, this song about a self-centered woman and her irritated, self-centered man would've made the list. To the characters involved: you two deserve each other.
2) Looking Out for Number 1 by BTO (1975): The song appears to predate the book of the same name by 2-3 years (but coming after the delightfully titled Winning Through Intimidation). Regardless of who came first, the sentiment was embraced by the period, an important thing to note as we wring our hands and worry about our children being raised in this time. I was in elementary school when this song came out, and it mixed an interesting musical style with these awful lyrics about success centering on self-preservation, John Sebastian conquered by Robert Ringer. Don't remember it? Lucky you.
1) Lightnin’ Strikes by Lou Christie (a #1 hit from 1966): Check the facts, all you cause-and-effect types - the National Organization for Women was founded in the same year. So, blame or credit Lou Christie as your politics dictate. This song is so much more than selfish, it is a pervasive evil. Every time it's played, a misogynist gets his wings - and an STD.

To be fair and balanced, a 'Hot Stuff' honorable mention t-shirt for Charlene, the purveyor of the 1977/1982 travesty, (I’ve Been to Paradise, but I’ve) Never Been to MeAnd a '#1' belt buckle goes out to Mac Davis. Naww, not for It's Hard to Be Humble - we're not going to hold tongue in cheek bravado against him. The 1970 hit Baby, Don't Get Hooked On Me, on the other hand ...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Multitasking 6500

Me and multitasking have an unholy relationship.

Late at night, multitasking enters into my room through some unknown window, dark wings aflutter. It hovers at the foot of my bed and waits. When I open my eyes, it takes semi-human form and speaks.

It promises full articles and a clean house and well rounded children and food put up for the winter and executable marketing strategy and a balanced budget and improved relationships with people old and new.

"Yeeew cahn ave it ahll," it says, in its creepy Transylvanian accent. It comes closer. Closer. Its cape begins to engulf me, surround me, I can’t breathe … In an instant, it sucks the energy right out of me, and instead of one thing, I have a bunch of nothings. It laughs, returns to bat form, and flies away.

It's time I admit it. Take away my woman card: I can't do multitasking. I’m tracking down that window and putting up a screen, I’m done with it. And if it tries to come back to me, making promises it can't keep, I’m going all Bugs Bunny on it.

Abracapocus, baby.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Foodie Friday - Joe's Gizzard City

After 18 months of discussion, my husband and our friend Dean finally got their wish and dined at Joe's Gizzard City in Potterville, MI.

Helpful hints if you decide to visit this, umm, joint featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives:

1) Go with a gaggle of people. You're going to want to try a whole bunch of things, but this ain't no haute cuisine place. The portions are substantial, and the choices are vast. Why choose between deep-fried pickles and a plate of gizzards when you can have both?
2) If you don't see it deep-fried on the menu, ask. One of our pals had a vision - deep fried potato skins. The staff was happy to oblige, and we were happy to eat this ultimate bar food creation.
3) If you're not sure what to eat for dinner, skip it. Seriously. There's plenty of appetizers, and you need to save room for desserts (yep, plural - see below). But remember - you'll be missing out on the Guy Fieri-created Triple D burger, the only burger I've ever seen deep-fried in its entirety. That's right. Bun and all.
4) Did I mention you should go with a bunch of people? Desserts rule at this place - and trying deep-fried twinkies, nutter-butters, oreos, chocolate chip cookie dough and ice cream sandwiches was the best part of the whole trip, for me.
5) The best drink to go with dessert? Ice-cold milk.
6) Pack your antacid for the ride home. You don't want to know how much the Flying J charges for Maalox.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wednesday Top 5

Check out my first Wednesday Top 5 - ways to express extreme disdain that start with the letter 'A'.

  • abysmal
  • appalling
  • asinine
  • atrocity
  • awesome

Do you have a word to add (that I'd let my kids use)?

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Mom's Burden - fictional dialogue

 “I can’t take a shower,” she said.
“Why not?” said her husband, from the other room.
“Something might happen to him,” she replied. She meant the baby.
“But it’s been 3 months,” said her husband.
“I know, and he’s still here, right. He’s still alive, right? So,” she said rationally, “it’s working.”
Her husband took a deep breath. “Honey, you need to take care of yourself.”
“What? No. My children come first.”
The look on her face told him that this should have been obvious.
“We just have the one,” he said.
“Well, I hope to have more,” she replied. Her expression didn’t change.
He grinned. “Not going to happen if you smell like that.”
Nothing. He tried another tactic.
“I’ll tell you what, I’ll watch him, you go get cleaned up.”
She stared deep in his eyes with a bemused contempt.
“What?” he said.
“Well,” she began, “how often will you hold him?”
“How often?” She paused, then answered herself. “17 minutes. That’s what the book says. 17 minutes is the optimal gap in between holdings. I pick up the baby every 17 minutes.”
“What if you have something else to do?”
Her hair shook. “I set it aside for the good of my baby.”
A timer on her watch went off. She pushed the button, and gave her husband a little nod. She picked up the baby, counted to 20 and set the baby back down.
 “Next time, I have to say the alphabet. The time after that I will sing Twinkle Twinkle. Good for geometry skills later.”
He was speechless.
“Because that’s Mozart, you know." She picked up THE parenting book and waved it. "There’s a way to do things John.” 
“Let me see that.”
“Sure. If you’d like, I could buy you a copy, and you could start reading it. Like I asked. Six months ago.”
“I just saw this, but with a different cover,” he said
“Marketing ploy.”
“I’m not so sure,” he said.
“Yeah, whatever.”
He pulled out his iPhone. “Oh, look, there’s a new edition of the book. Hmm – ‘one of the more surprising changes is the new optimal time for babies to be held. It has gone from 17 minutes to 13 minutes.’”
“I guess the world’s moving faster now, so …”
She began to pace, nearly tripping over the baby. She didn't even notice. John picked him up. “Oh no, John, what am I going to do? I’m behind! Now he’s going to be a serial killer, I just know it. He’s going to be the bully, and pull wings off of flies and fry ants with magnifying glasses and -"
He rolled his eyes. “I did that.”
“Great – now he’ll be genetically AND environmentally predisposed to psychopathy …”
His eyes got bigger. “Honey, I was just …”
There was no stopping her. “Or worse, he’ll become a socialist!”
“You’re being ridiculous.”
She started rubbing her hands together to keep from twirling her hair. “Oh, I’m not being ridiculous, John, we can’t let him become a socialist." She looked down, and the baby was gone. "See - it's already started! He's gone." 
“What? He's right here."
“Ahh! What are you doing? Give him to me. NOW!”
“What? Why?”
“I’m going to make up for lost time . . . let’s see, he’s three months and 6 days, and every seventeen minutes compared to every thirteen minutes in a 12 hour period would be . . . Oh John, help me.”
“You’re on your own, sister.”
The timer went off.
“I’ve fallen short again. Will I ever get anything right? I’m doomed,” she cried.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


I appreciate the older lady who smiled at me yesterday as we watched my four-year old in the dairy aisle, sporting a crooked flower in her hair, a dirty pink sweatshirt, denim skorts and raggedy cowboy boots.
Her own daughter, she remembered, had a pair of red boots. Donned them with everything. The woman’s very own sister gave her a hard time about it, the old, ‘if that were my kid, she wouldn’t be doing that’.
I laughed. Then the lady told me that the boots were nothing. Her daughter also wanted long hair, but it wouldn’t grow in right. So this woman made her little girl yarn hair, and her daughter wore  the wig everywhere - to the store, wherever. The daughter had even acquired the habit of nonchalantly flipping the strands out of her face as she shopped.
There’s so much more to worry about in the world, the grandma-type said. People are dying.
It reminded me of what my very own sister, a nurse, always says. To paraphrase, if it’s life or death, then there ought to be protocol. The rest of the time, relax.
Lately, I’ve been talking with lots of friends about what we can glean about God from our experience as parents.
One of the things we shouldn’t put on a kid is our own worth. An important boundary, I think. It puts an inappropriate pressure on the child to perform. I’ve seen children crumble under the weight of their parents, under a parent’s need. Kids need to understand that we have expectations, but our value is not wrapped up in their meeting of our expectations.
So it is with God – God’s value and worth is not wrapped up in me, or my ability to do what’s right. He IS. I think that is another facet of the story of the Canaanite woman who comes to Jesus on behalf of her demon-possessed daughter (Matthew 15:21-28 – a part of the sermon I heard this Sunday). Jesus uses words that might lead people to believe that the woman is nothing, a dog. Why does she take the term and embrace it, using it to continue to ask for help?
She believes that Jesus can and will save her child – He declares her faith great. But alongside this faith, I can’t help but think about her love. Being called a name was apparently of no consequence compared to freedom for her child.
The value of every person in this world is set at the same price: worth dying for. To grab my worth from anything else cheapens me, burdens others and worst, defrauds God.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Happy Labor Day

Mike Rowe (of Dirty Jobs) TEDtalk

Coming soon - a chance to dialogue regarding our cultural view of work, and ask: what might God's view be?

Hope you are one of the many who are enjoying a day off - if not, may you be satisfied with your work today.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mike Farris at The Ark

This is a happy happy day. Last night I saw Mike Farris with the Roseland Rhythm Revue and the McCrary Sisters perform at The Ark.

I bought Farris' CD Salvation in Lights almost two years ago at the end of an anniversary getaway weekend. We had the luxury of time, and we went to a music store for my honey and a bookstore for me. Somebody at the bookstore had the good sense to feature this disc at one of their listening stations. I put the headphones on, and was grabbed by Farris' voice from the moment he started singing 'oh no no no no'. The back up singers answered, 'sit down' and I thought, oh boy. When the band came in after that, I cast off my cheapness and grabbed back - snatched the last disc off of the shelf. When we took a listen in the truck, Paul looked at me and said, whoa, this is you.

It's blues and old time soul and New Orleans and spirituals and singer-songwriter with power vocals and right-on backup singers. I've had this disc for nearly two years and have not grown tired of it. I've been waiting to see him live all this time.

That is a lot of pressure to put on a performance.

All week I tried to keep my enthusiasm in check, but I couldn't help it and it didn't matter. The man and the band delivered to a small, loud and rollickingly happy house. At about the halfway point, I had the urge to go out onto the street and drag people out of their al fresco dining experiences and into the show. I love food, but this was better. Big sound, intimate space, great arrangements. I did not think 'Devil Don't Sleep Tonight' could be better than it is on the disc. Wrong. And how's about 'Soon I Will Be Done' as a part of the encore set showing off the great voices of the McCrary sisters? Oh oh oh. Incredible versions of 'A Change is Gonna Come' and 'I'll Take You There'.

A full-on, hand clappin', stompin'-swingin'-singin' good time. Mike Farris. Check him out!