Sunday, July 31, 2011

Vacation: Can You Really Deprogram?

Hm. So we went on vacation this past week to the U.P. Vacations are a completely different animal with a two year old. It's a lot of fun, but it is also a lot more work.

Pre-Will vacation scenario: do nothing, read a book, swim for long stretches of time, nap, eat and drink late, get sun burnt.

Will vacation reality: wake up way too early by getting rapped in the head with a sippy cup, pluck boy off winding staircase, fish roll of toilet paper out of toilet, feed peanut butter sandwich, brush sand off sandwich, wriggle boy into his swimsuit, keep eagle eye on now naked boy on beach, put boy down for nap, put boy back in pen for nap, repeat, repeat, repeat, clean up broken glass of lemonade, keep curious hands off hot grill, keep curious hands from turning on stove or getting coffee pot, take bag of popcorn away after eating half the bag, take wriggling boy out of stroller, retrieve child before going off the side of pier, tell boy to "look with his eyes" at curio shop, repeat, repeat, repeat.

That's not to say we didn't have fun. Highlights for me:

A near-private beach. The neighbors were out 3 times a day to let the dogs run, and one other time, another couple brought their dogs to the beach for a run. Otherwise, it was all ours. Beautiful, clear water with one cold spring to the west, and one warm spring to the east.

Our cottage was very cute, a wood chalet interior with scalloped gingerbread detail, barrel furniture with argyle leather upholstery, winding staircase that led to a darling master loft bedroom, gaslight sconces, stained glass lights, wraparound deck.

A day trip to Tahquamenon Falls on Tuesday was pleasant, from the road trip to the walks. We stopped in Trout Lake for snacks and we learned all we needed to learn about hunting bear, fowl and deer. Will got the second of his Great Lakes at a roadside park, dipping his feet into the tannin-stained waters of Lake Superior. We had perfect weather for a walk to both the Upper and Lower Falls. Linner (was it lunch or dinner? It was both!) at the T. Falls Brewery was fantastic, and I found a stout I like, a blend of beer, coffee and chocolate. And the rolling farmland of central U.P. was picturesque.

Live music. Wednesday it was Catholic Girls Gone Bad on the pier in St. Ignace. Thursday was jazz in Cadillac and bluegrass in Reed City. My favorite was by far the bluegrass band.

My kind of souvenir shopping. The Hope Chest in St. Ignace is a pay what you want thrift store. I scored a purple Mossimo top, a midnight blue military top with fantastic buttons, a fitted lime green button down for me, a bear cookie cutter for Will to play with on the beach, and a pinewood derby medal for Dave. $1.60.

McDonald's. Cheap on the go eats for the trip up. An oasis to let Will run off some energy after being cooped up in a car seat. Don't judge.

Fish. Good on the grill, in a dip, on a sandwich, yanked off a carcass.

Time. I think Dave and I spoke a handful of times on Wednesday afternoon, mostly about nothing. It was fantastic.

Tranquility. Even though it was the end of July, St. Ignace wasn't packed with fudgies.

Made up car games. Dave "collected" clever names to pet grooming businesses.

Fudge. Mint chocolate chip. Maple walnut. Peanut butter chocolate.

Surf, the ultimate white noise.

Stars, the ultimate night light.

The crabbies:

The weather didn't cooperate, to the point we cut vacation short by a day. Nights were cool and damp, and we woke up soaked with dew, even with the windows shut. Thursday there was no line on the horizon, so at noon when it hadn't burnt off, we decided to head south.

The beds were full, too small for us to slumber together comfortably. Even then, the beds were NOT soft, and my room smelled faintly of mildew.

Bad sun tea. There was enough minerals in the water that my tea was cloudy and tasted bad.

Trinkets and trash. Probably the result of growing up or my current purge mentality. Oversized pencils, plastic Indian dolls, thimbles, moccasins, keychains, t-shirts and more don't hold the same appeal anymore. I was more than happy to pick up for Will a 10 cent bear shaped cookie cutter and a free bear poster from the DNR - that is what I gifted to my child for vacation.

Cut off. Being in the U.P. means no TV, no internet, only radio. That's nice for when you definitely want to be on the down low, but when it starts raining and you want to settle in and watch some TV or a movie or at least find out what is going on in the world, well you are SOL.

Too much tranquility. It was sad to drive through St. Ignace and see one business after another closed. No crowds to add to the excitement. And really, for a week in July, there was no activities scheduled to retain our interest in staying in St. Ignace for the full week.

Friday was a good day to unwind from the trip, and we took a motorcycle ride to Grand Haven with some of Dave's riding buddies, noshed at Tip A Few, and made it to Lake Michigan on the boat to enjoy the sunset.

The whole week was bookended by not one, but TWO garage sales. Never again.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Why Art Matters - Friday Night Lights

Coach Taylor!

Why do I love this show?

1. Storylines. It's a show about a high school without the typical high school story arcs. Instead of geeks v. jocks, we got Jason Street's struggle with paralysis. The stories told never veered towards cliche, and gave us people instead of characters.

Favorites: I was skeptical of the move from Dillon to East Dillon, but I was amazed. I went to a "Dillon" type high school, where no expense was spared for football, but knew enough kids from "East Dillon" high schools, where booster money was scarce and there was no such thing as going all the way to state.

I love that Matt and Julie found their way back to each other.

The enduring story of the Taylor marriage.

Least favorite: the DJ McCoy + stage dad story arc. Necessary story to tell, and well done since every sport has stage parents dreaming of glory for their kids. But you wish that it didn't have to be that way.

Tara and Landry's "murder".

2. Characters. This was an amazing ensemble of actors that gave us more than one dimension to the person they were portraying. Buddy Garrity, at first a sleazy, cheatin', football obsessed alumni booster evolved into a brave man facing down his town to defend his children and the honor of a man he grew to admire. I actually felt sorry for Buddy as this season opened, and cameras rolled by his empty, failed car lot.

Tim Riggins, not the typical bad boy, but a man-child struggling to do the right thing in a world where he had no parental guidance outside of his football coach. And strippers with more common sense and heart than your PTA mother.

Favorites: I come back to the nuclear family of Eric, Tami and Julie Taylor.


Becky seemed so sweet, confused, rudderless desperate to fall in love. Been there, done that.

Jessie and Vince. Teenagers forced to be adults who retain their youthfulness.

Ornette, Vince's dad. Not your typical villian, and the finale gave you a glimmer of hope that in ficional Dillon, he may have turned things around after all.

Least favorite: Epyck served no purpose other than to break ours and Tami's hearts. I think my dislike of her was the fact that she simply disappeared. Again, with troubled kids, just mimicking real life.

The McCoys were one-dimensional villians that breezed into town to break up our lovely Dillon Panther party.

Julie's English teacher, for steering rudderless Julie in various bad directions. Again, a necessary character in Julie's development and a catalyst for her returning to Matt, which was awesome. But what's annoying is having the stereotypical TA behavior shown, having seen it and experienced it myself some many odd years ago. I guess TA's bedding students has not changed from generation to generation.

Poor Gracie Bell, had nothing to do with the goings on whatsoever.

3. Timing. One of the things I hated about Ugly Betty was the frenetic pacing, stories were introduced and dismissed in a matter of weeks or dropped all together. FNL allowed the pacing of their stories to unfold in real time so the way scenarios unfolded happened naturally.

4. Camerawork. The documentary style has been getting overused on NBC, it's the premise behind why cameras would be in an office on The Office, same goes for Parks and Rec. But it really worked for FNL because it allowed for intimacy between the town of Dillon and the viewer.

5. The Town of Dillon. Dillon was a character just as much as Lyla Garrity. The Landing Strip, Grandma' Scarecen's house, the BBQ place, the schools, the ice cream place, even Buddy's car dealership were central to creating an atomosphere of small town life. You'd recognize this place on a road trip, stopping for gas of a piece of pie.

6. Football! There is something about high school football that universally resonates with Americans. Even though I wasn't in with the in crowd during my high school years, I hardly ever missed a game and recall fondly hanging out with friends in the stands then going out for pizza, a dance or cruising the ave. What is it about high school football? Is it community? Is it a great night out on a crisp fall night? Is it seeing children become heroes before your eyes? The opportunity to reminisce about your own high school days? The actual game itself?

The series finale was on this past Friday, and I mourn the loss of my hour in Dillon with the Taylors.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Typing Out Loud: That Pesky Pretty Issue

Be my queen if you know what I mean...

Ugh - I'm 41 years old, and given the task of thinking myself pretty has given me a complex akin to a 14 year old. Why, why, WHY - I'm too many years removed from Mr. Koeningschkindt's Honors English class (7th period) to be angsty about this crap again.

And yet, here I am, peering into mirrors to discover an angle that flatters, critiquing a chance image reflected back to me from a random shiny surface.

I've spent a lifetime downplaying the importance of pretty, a defense mechanism. I based my self-worth on being intelligent, clever, funny, artistic, a good friend. All good qualities to be sure. All reasons for being nominated as a woman of the year. But behold the power of pretty, you can't be a WOTY in Glamour or Cosmo without a serious makeover. Can't be a remarkable everyday guest on Rachel Ray or Oprah without the host screeching "maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaake oveeeeeeeeer!"

Ugh. Again.

So how to I come to terms with the fact I live in a superficial society, a society I knowingly and annoyingly wish would see me as "pretty"? How do I discover the pretty in me, building confidence and self-esteem WITHOUT losing what makes me complete?

Well, let's start with this resistance TO a makeover. I must like something about who I am, what I am, the idea of staying true to myself without being pestered to change my clothes, my hair, my face.

Top down? I am so grateful to my son for the miracle of his birth that took me away from the hot irons and allowed my natural curls to bounce. I've had more good hair days in the last two years than I had the previous 39 years.

Eyes. I've been told my eyes are a remarkable color.

Just so you know, it has taken me 7 hours to type this much.

I love pretty things, and enjoy acquiring, wearing and admiring pretty things. Does that, by extension, rub off on me?

People tell me I'm funny, which means I share a fellowship of joy with people. Does that help make me pretty?

Watching the ESPYs during this and it only makes me feel kind of ugly. I'm not growing any taller. My hair is getting blonder by way of getting grayer. I'm certainly not getting any skinnier. And I can't recall every wearing any dresses as small as the athletes or actresses were wearing.

This is torture to type from someone who bought a special machine to help pluck her chin hairs.

More later tomorrow.

The Betty Ford funeral has helped put some things into perspective, as well as recalling a quote from crazy Canadian Toller Cranston.

The Toller quote is in reference to an early ice dance champion from the USSR. He said she wasn't much in the looks department, but when she danced, she sparkled and her love of art and sport radiated across the ice. This gives me hope that I have it in me to do this.

Then there is the case of our former First Lady, who was buried today. She lived a remarkable life, tackling issues with candor, grace, courage and respect. Yes, she was a model and dancer, but her ACTIONS are what formed her character and in turn, what made her so beloved by the nation. Her life as a model pales in comparison to her advocacy for breast cancer awareness, mental health, addictions, and women's rights.

That, more than ever, proves pretty is as pretty does.

In conculsion, while I may continue to work on the physical package and improve my performance, the other half, which is determined by character and good works. It's just making sure my inner pretty shines through.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

July Playlist - Sweet Melissa and the Walter Mitty Band

One of my favorite board games when I was a kid was Fantasy Island. Premise of the game was to pick a dream life, move around the board collecting love, money and adventure cards, then Mr. Rourke grants you your fantasy back at the house.

The most popular game card was "rock star" - and who wouldn't want the life? Adoring fans, millions of dollars, travel the world - SINGING! Rocking out!

So in homage to my favorite board game, and a literary nod to another dreamer, I dub my dream band Sweet Melissa and the Walter Mitty Band. It's a sweet gig, make sure to tip your waitress.

Melissa, Allman Brothers Band - self explanitory

Gloria, various artists - the song has turned into quite the improv rock song that has expanded in breadth from a quick 3 minute into 20+ minutes of groupie tales. A fine example is Tom Patty live in San Diego.

Ain't Even Done with the Night, John Mellencamp - husky and seductive. "You say that I'm the boy who can make it all come true, well I'm tellin' ya that I don't know if I know what to do."

Tusk and Hold Me, Fleetwood Mac - a little Stevie, a little Christine, and a little Lindsey.

Never Let You Down, The Verve Pipe - throaty vocals on the verge of shouty from the underrated Underneath album.

How Can I Refuse, Heart - millions of girls singing into hairbrushes either do or should want to be Ann Wilson.

Anything Lone Justice - Maria McKee. Nuff said.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Finding My Pretty

What up Adam Clayton?

So I haven't passed the silver free skate test yet. It's not for lack of training, but the opportunity hasn't been there. Still, I've been practicing my heart out, and... the music is getting stale. Granted, I'm skating to the awesome track "Flamethrower" by the J. Geils Band, which gives it a bit more longevity than the standard track, but when a skater gets bored with a piece, it's time to move on. When I finally pass the test, I will bid this one a fond adieu.

This farewell was nudged along by coach Michelle's desire that since the group of us decided not to compete at National Showcase, we look foward to the next competitive season. Seeing old youtube footage of Debi Thomas and her amazing layback struck in my heart the desire to "be pretty" this year.

Phase I of "pretty": picking music. It needed to be something that I feel emotionally connected to and piques my imagination. It also has to have movement, meaning not to be monotone or too slow.

My initial list had lots of rock songs on it, and good ones, including Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here and The Verve's Bittersweet Symphony. Not wishing to limit myself to just rock songs and fall into the "I'm a rocker through and through!" rut, I sat down with a portable CD player and a stack of classical CDs.

I also enlisted the help of a few others: I posted the question at and asked my mother-in-law to think about it.

So I created a playlist from all the suggestions and loaded it onto the iPhone. At skating yesterday, asked the girls what they thought. I didn't get past the first song, one which got unanimous gasps of admiration and the comment from Becky who said, "If you don't skate to it, I will."

So next year my competitive silver free will be to U2's "All I Want is You."

Part II: being pretty. I'm like most women out there, and don't see myself as pretty. I need to find definitions of myself that work within the context of pretty in order to come back around to the idea that I can pull pretty off:

I'm passionate.
I'm expressive.
I have pretty eyes.
...nice legs?

That's not much of a list. Looks like I have some work to do.

Phase III: pretty moves. I can't just stand there looking pretty, I have to work it. The bad news is *currently* I'm a not-quite-ready-for-silver skater, so whatever I put out there is going to place low. It took me 5 years to rise nationally to the middle of bronze ladies pack, how long will it take me to get out of the silver cellar?

The good news is this last place with dignity scenario gives me amazing freedom to try some new things without the fear that it "might" cost me a placement.

So what pretty do I want in the new program?
Debi Thomas-style layback
a flying back sit
a spiral sequence with lunges and spread eagles
reintroduce the lutz in combination
deep, lingering edges
footwork that is elegant and not awkward.

It's a big challenge, the class clown is going for her teen movie makeover.