24 May 2008


Yesterday was my birthday. I find birthdays really compelling…about 3 years into working at the University where I was before the one before this, I discovered I shared a birthday with the department patriarch. Immediately, there was this strange connection between us: I realized that when he was a child, May 23 was his most favorite day in the world, a day that seemed magically connected to him. And I had the feeling about the same day! (Yes, I know that with 6 billion people on the planet, 16,438,356 on average share any given birthday. So apparently I have a magical connection to 16.4 million people. But I’ve only met about 4 of them so far, so shut up.)

At any rate, we had a busy, lovely day, with morning shopping, lunch out with dear friends, a nap, supper out with family, and a Northern League baseball game to end the evening. Shaun caught me a foul ball, and after the game there were fireworks. A pretty good way to start the slide into the late-30s, I’d say.

To follow in a bloggy tradition of sorts, 35 things about me.
1. I dream of having a fancy, overgrown garden with high walls and wrought iron furniture and lots of vines.
2. Instead of #1, I have a chain-link fence and a lot of dandelions.
3. My favorite fruit? Strawberries. Or maybe kiwis.
4. I’m leaving for Vegas on Monday. Whoo!
5. My dad had a massive stroke when I was 12. My childhood effectively ended that day. He died in 2002, and I miss him everyday still.
6. When I was 8, I decided I wanted to be a poet when I grew up.
7. I like to play croquet sometimes.
8. I bite my fingernails, especially when I’m nervous. I wish I didn’t.
9. Nine is my favorite number.
10. I once bowled a 27.
11. I have carpal tunnel and sleep with braces on my hands. They are not very sexy.
12. My favorite drink is sweet white wine, or Southern Comfort. Depends on the day…
13. I would love to have a standard poodle join our family, particularly if someone else trained her for me. Or a miniature poodle. It has to be a poodle, though, because I’m allergic to everything else, which sucks.
14. My dad used to bring me home animal bones for my birthday. I have 3 deer jaws and a small-ish animal skull. This was my reward for having a birthday during spring planting, when all sorts of treasures got unearthed. My mother was not especially amused by this.
15. I love lefse with butter and sugar. There is nothing better than fresh homemade lefse.
16. I’m a horrible packrat. Not the “save every old newspaper and empty egg carton” kind, but just the general “heaps of stuff all around me” kind. This is a constant battle.
17. When I was 4 my cousins and I were playing cops and robbers and I slipped and fell on broken glass. A small piece got imbedded in the palm of my right hand, and it stayed there until I was 15 and my body decided it wanted the glass out. We had a doctor cut it out just before it pushed its way through (gross, right?).
18. I am a devoted coca-cola drinker, and I wish I wasn’t. But oh, sweet elixir of life….
19. I care for Swiss Chocolate Milk a great deal.
20. My favorite color is red. I like orange and yellow a great deal, too.
21. The redwing blackbird is my favorite bird.
22. It drives Shaun crazy that I have a favorite everything.
23. I am afraid of squirrels. Very afraid.
24. I like to take pictures of fireworks. It's more difficult than it seems.
25. My family still prays in Swedish on special occasions.
26. Shaun sometimes talks like the Muppets’ Swedish chef after we say our family prayer.
27. The trees that held my childhood tire swing were both cut down a few weeks ago.
28. I’m very sentimental about things like #27
29. My two favorite animals are the turtle and peacock. And standard poodles.
30. My favorite kind of pizza is pepperoni and mushroom. Especially fresh mushroom.
31. I sometimes dream I can fly, and when I do I wake up very very happy.
32. Despite #31, I have only flown in an airplane 3 times (well, 6, because each was a round trip). Monday will be my fourth time. Whoo, Vegas!
33. I love my job. I mean, I really love it.
34. The best sign I’ve ever seen was a hand-written one in the bathroom at Ralph’s Corner Bar. On one of those orange and black signs, someone had written in the blank center:
Remember: No Drugs in Your ‘Gina.
35. I try to live by #34, and so far, it’s served me well.

Hope your Memorial Day is full of sunshine and soothing memorially things. Did I mention I leave for Vegas on Monday?

13 May 2008

Farmer's daughter

My sister and I grew up in a small town, as mentioned yesterday, with both sets of grandparents within two blocks of us. On our street alone (a whole 3 blocks long) four houses not counting us were direct relations. So, you know, that explains why I liked to hang out in cemeteries for excitement (and privacy). But in many ways our youth was kinda idyllic, and having my own daughter has made me nostalgic even more than usual for my girlhood.

On Sunday, I took some photos of equipment that now belongs to my uncle. Until I was 12, though, it was also my father's, and I spent a lot of time on tractors, in combines, and sliding across the bench seat of a sugarbeet, grain or pick up truck.

I have not been in or on these vehicles for over twenty years, but when I opened the truck door, I was right back at grain harvest alongside my dad, bouncing in the truck across the field all afternoon. That old-truck-cracked-leather-pipe-tobacco-farmer smell lingers, I tell you.

When I was about 8, I devised a plan. I knew we were not wealthy farmers, and I knew that tax season made my dad really, really cranky, and I knew the president made $200,000 a year. So I decided to write to President Reagan, and explain that the newest truck my family had for our farm was already almost 30 years old. One of the trucks was older than my mom. If he could just see fit to pass some laws that would help us, I was sure we could afford a better truck and Dad would be less cranky, and if Mr. Reagan really wanted to, he could just send us a check.

The truck bed on the GMC truck didn't look this bad back then, though it was already showing signs of decay. One of my favorite daydreams was the idea of taking a big long trip in the back of the GMC (because it had a wooden bed, as opposed to the Ford's hot, unforgiving [albeit less sliver-y] metal) with Jeanie and Dixie and Lauri and Shannon and me. I figured we could put the tail gate on, throw in a bunch of blankets and pillows, and let my dad take us all the way to Minneapolis while we ate sandwiches and sang songs and laughed and stuff.

Dad never went for it, and in retrospect, I guess he was right. But man, I wanted that kind of adventure. (Clearly I had not spent much time riding in the back of the grain truck, blankets or no...)
The dash of the Ford. Looking at it now, those two knobs on the bottom look a lot like doorknobs. Hm. I mean, I don't know much about driving a truck, but somehow I doubt those are factory issued parts.
Speaking of which, here's a lovely example of my dad's favorite tool. If our family had a crest, it would certainly involve at least two vice grips: he used them for everything. This is the inside driver's door of the GMC truck. As long as I can remember, it's been missing both the door handle and the window handle, and the practical solution was to just attach a vice grip and leave it there. Twice. He also used vice grips to control the garage door and do some basic dentistry*.

Almost a year ago now, when I was replacing our toilet, (scroll down if you wanna know more about the toilet), I had to ask my sister for advice. The first thing she said was "Where's your vice grip?" Um, I dunno. I don't think I have one. "WHAT?" I mean, here. I found one. Here.

I think she was about to erase my name from the family bible. Whew.

*just kidding about the dentistry. for the most part.

11 May 2008

Mother's Day in Eight Photographs

We went to Myra's, where Jess and Will and Mary and David and four dogs all convened for a beautiful day together. Yesterday it snowed enough to accumulate, so the plan to have a picnic in our backyard was scrapped by my mother ("Jen, it's BLIZZARDING" she insisted yesterday). So we went to her house, ate the easiest dinner I've ever provided...we bought 3 rotisserie chickens, 1 lb each of 2 different salads, Mom made jello, and Jess cleaned strawberries for shortcake. Then we spent the rest of the day chasing toddlers and dogs all over the place.

We had sliding (the cousins are so sweet together. They are just starting to pay close attention to each other, and today they kept saying "My turn! Now your turn!" to each other).

Then we had a little banjo

And Shaun won the croquet game. He was so excited and classy he showed his belly. And I'm so excited and classy I put it on the blog.

We walked to The Station (yeah, Myra lives in a town where each business/location is just called "The [insert noun here]" The Church, The School, The Station, The Bank, The Park, The Bar...) where they had free sundaes for moms, and we bought ice cream for the dads and kids too (because we're such generous moms). I adore the picture of Will because 1. He's just filthy, which illustrates the excitement of the day, and 2. He looks so much like my sister. I love the picture of V because 1. she just has this look of adoration on her face, gazing on her ice cream cone, and 2. it's also obvious by the background that we're at The Station.
We walked home across the field that, when I was a child, held our family's lumberyard. Well, it had been a lumberyard (we pronounced it "lumbry-yard," by the way) but my grandfather, dad, and uncle had bought it and had been using it as a giant garage when we were born. It's a lot prettier (and safer and less rat-infested) now that the lumbry yard's gone.

When we got home, Shaun went out shopping for gifts (because he usually plans ahead like that), and said V had told hm what she wanted to get me on two separate occassions, so he was confident in his excursion. I thought maybe there would be Coca-Cola, or a Backyardigans Video, but V felt strongly that for Mother's Day, I should have Birthday Cake. So Shaun had the DQ write "Happy Birthday Mom" on my cake, and V and I each enjoyed a piece. At first I thought he'd just bought a cake on sale, since my birthday is 2 weeks away, but he explained that V had been very specific that I should have not just cake but birthday cake.

Best present ever.

Second best present ever? Shaun got me the book Bonk by Mary Roach. A few years ago for my birthday he bought me Stiff, and I adored it...Bonk is her latest venture. I love Mary Roach: she has a way of writing that is fascinating, informative but not dry, and laugh-out-loud funny. My only complaint about Stiff was that it was not comprehensive enough, because apparently I want to read more about death than just over 200 pages. I'm just starting the foreword on Bonk, but already I'm so excited to read it I can barely imagine having to still grade for the next week before I can really sink into this book.

So there's our day. We are so lucky to get to spend a whole day with both my Mama and Shaun's parents, not to mention my sister and her son and four crazy dogs. And birthday cake.

And a banjo.

Hope your day was swell too.

08 May 2008

Oh, baby, where art thou?

I wanna have another baby. I wanna pee on a stick and feel my palms get all sweaty while I wait for that excruciating two minutes. I wanna drink ginger ale for three months because I’m too queasy to consider anything else. I wanna feel the quickening, this time sooner because I know what it feels like. I wanna have to haul my giant body over the edge of the bed and hate every stitch of clothes I own because none of it fits. I wanna go to the hospital with my dear man with that anticipation of meeting a whole new creature that we made. I wanna smell that magic baby smell; I wanna feel my breasts get heavy with milk and be all a little life needs, at least for a moment.

But I don’t know if we will. All the excruciating debate before we ever decided to have children is fundamentally different now: we’ve got one. Why would we tempt fate and try for a second? She’s fabulous, funny, empathetic, silly, musical…she teaches me something new every day, and just when I think I've figured her out, she totally reverses course and keeps me from complacency. She plays the harmonica and dances in circles and loves hopscotch beyond reason.

While I love V beyond what I ever expected, beyond anything I have ever known in my whole life, and I know I could love another child like that, too, I’m not sure we should have another baby. I turn 35 this month, and I know we’re not ready yet. If fertility and life expectancy were not issues, we’d have another baby in maybe 4 or 5 years. But by then I’ll be 40, and…I know lots of women have healthy babies at 40, and there are fertility treatments and adoption and…I don’t know if we were meant to parent two babies. I thought we were (or at least that I was); I had always imagined I’d have two or three babies. (Of course, until I had a newborn I thought twins would be fun, too, and clearly I was a moron). It was just how I’d imagined things for eons.

I’m not sure of anything. It’s a new idea to get my brain around, this possibility that we are three and we will stay three. I feel a little like, if I’d known, I would’ve spent more time loving all the sensations of pregnancy and nursing and newborn baby smells. I would’ve complained less about the lack of sleep and just savored more, if I’d known she was my last chance.

Maybe this fall we’ll get a wild hair and start a new baby. Or maybe I’ll just learn to savor the smell of a near-three year old, all pineapple and dirt and carrot sticks and farts and pudding and finger paints. She can play her harmonica for me, and maybe I’ll dance around in a circle with her tomorrow until we both get dizzy and fall down. I never imagined anything like her before she was born. Heck, that’s half the fun.

03 May 2008

Now for the darker side

So yesterday's post was all happy shiny parenting/crafty places. Today, a couple from the other direction.

These dolls inspired my own voodoo-esque rag dolls. I gotta take pictures of those. Until then, enjoy these. http://www.flickr.com/photos/mamayaga/sets/72157594564134429/with/2021961111/

Do you think the neighbors would notice if I did this in our yard? http://www.flickr.com/photos/mymsie/sets/1144128/with/2035397558/

I know it's not right. I don't care.

02 May 2008

Blogs in which I enjoy partaking

I know the last post was kinda cryptic, but that's how it will stand for sometime. Sorry. I will tell you this: when fear permeates every single cell of your body, you get really tired.

So there you go.

Since I can't say more on that, I thought I'd distract you with shiny objects. Here's a list of my top 9 favorite blogs, in no particular order.

1. Soulemama. I have talked about her before, but seriously, folks, if you haven't checked her out yet, you oughta. Unless you don't have kids and/or hate nature. She has a daughter just 4 days younger than mine (plus two sons) and is the author of The Creative Family, a book I whole heartedly recommend. (In the interest of full disclosure, she is also one of the reasons I took a break from the blogosphere, because her life appears too perfect sometimes.)

2. Garden Rant. Because it is spring, and I need inspiration, I sought out gardening blogs, and this was one that I found that I really enjoy. It is not area specific, which isn't so cool since I am on the border between zone 3 & 4 (i.e. 45 day growing season, practically), but it is anti-all kinds of ucky things, like pesticides and too-perfect gardens and stuff that makes me crabby. So I like it.

3. WantNot. Mercy, I almost forgot WantNot. This is a blog that leads me into temptation, but I'm learning to resist. Mir (the author) brought me to V's birthday pedal car last fall, so she's got a guaranteed place in my heart forever.

4. Inside a Black Apple: though she hasn't been posting quite so often lately, Emily Martin has my dream job, if I could paint or was at all self-motivated.

5. Doll: To a woman who aspires to be a doll maker someday, Mimi Kirchner is a tremendous inspiration. Check out her tattooed men.

6. My Handbound Books: As with #5, to a woman who aspires to be a professional bookbinder someday, these books totally make me feel like a giant slacker.

7. Sweet Juniper: Sweet Juniper is written largely by one of my favorite Stay at Home Dads. He lives with his kids and lovely wife in Detroit, and takes pictures, and writes really effectively about the joys/challenges/disgustingness of parenthood. I wish he would come here and hang out with me for awhile.

8. Sew Liberated: A Montessori teacher living in Mexico who is crafty and has an eye & ear for the poetic.

9. Wee Wonderfuls: Though her posting has been more sporadic since the birth of her second child, Hillary still stands as one of the most creative, consistent, and amazing soft toy designers I've ever found online. I heart Wee Wonderfuls.

So there you have it, my top 9 blogs. These are the ones I will miss the most if armegeddon should come and we lose the internet. What are your favorites?

PS: I'll also tell you this, those of you who have asked about an occasional commenter here: Sam is a former student of mine, one of a handful who have turned into friends. A small handful, actually, now that I think of it. He's in grad school in London right now, and yes, I take full credit for that. Wouldn't you?