27 July 2008

And my one regret is leaving you behind...

I had all these good intentions to have a blog post on Friday about my dad. Friday marked 6 years since he died, and I wrote an article for the paper version of Languishing detailing that day in 2002. I figured I’d reprint that, with a small preface, and call it good.

Except my organizational skills are nonexistent, and I can’t find that article for the life of me. The only years of Languishing that didn’t translate to this new laptop from the old files were 2002-2003; I have paper copies of every issue ever published, except from those years (I’m starting to feel a little paranoid, frankly). And because I was sure I would have no trouble finding this heartfelt, fairly decently written account, I didn’t prepare anything else.


It’s a weird thing my family does, I guess, keeping track of death dates (do other people do this?) and there are many dates of memorial through the year. Every November 19, for example, I’m pretty sure at least a few of my aunts, uncles, and cousins are thinking along with me of my grandfather, who died in 1979. And though we had other things on our mind this Friday, my mind was drawn back to that day 6 years ago many times.

I am not going to attempt to recreate the article: I know I’ll find it eventually, after all, and I’ll print it again then. But I did want to mention that he was a good man, and smart and hilarious, and loved his family and friends deeply. He would have adored his grandchildren. I miss him every day.

23 July 2008

Skol, Mr. President.

Mr. President: "Excuse me, sir. May I please borrow your hatchet? My father has this pesky cherry tree that I feel compelled to chop down."

Ragnar (in Norweigan): "What? Hatchet? This is no hatchet, man! This is a battle axe! For maiming and so forth! Not for cherry trees!"

Mr. President: "I cannot tell a lie. I thought it was a hatchet.

Mr. President: "So can I borrow it or what?"

Yes, our mystery president is none other than the original George W. His hangtag indicates he is one of a series of presidents, including (but not limited to) Nixon, Clinton, GW Bush, Kennedy, Jefferson, and Grant. I want to work at the company that looks around the brainstorming table and says, okay, guys, we need a new stuffed toy. Bunnies? Puppies? Ah, Presidents.

The Viking is Ragnar, per his hangtag. It doesn't say "Minnesota" on his tag, but the purple plastic battle axe makes it clear that he is pro-football material. FYI: Historic Ragnar; Today's Ragnar. Unlike Washington, Ragnar is not entirely child-friendly, because when your child decides it's time to throw a toy across the room, you don't want to be on the receiving end of the battle axe. I just love his little fur-lined boots, so he's staying.

Didja all see Megan's comment regarding Velma and Washington's dialogue? Hi-larious. Megan already quit her day job, so I'm gonna have to quit mine and we'll write hilarious children's books. About presidents and vikings and 1970s characters. You'd buy one, wouldn't you?

22 July 2008

Doll introductions

I've had some luck (or, as Tenessa and Shaun would call it, compulsive episodes) at the thrift stores lately.
Here, a beautiful case for a hair dryer. The dryer was actually inside, brand new with instructions ("portable, so you can go about your chores while your hair dries!" ca. 1968), but since I own a nice hand-held model, I left it at Savers and just took the case. It is so shiny and unmarred that I am tempted to just put it on a shelf. I have too much crap, though, to just put this kind of thing on a shelf. It will be filled by tonight, likely with zippers and/or binding tapes. Or I could let V use it for overnight trips. Just kidding. It's mine, mine, MINE!

For some reason, I cannot resist dolls of real people or of characters that are not normally thought of in doll form. The two newest additions to V's collection:

"Jinkies! I'm so pleased to meet you, Mr. President!" (Can you tell which president it is?)

Since my official school vacation (aka summer) begins on Thursday, I am tempted to start a series of photos with captions (aka stories) with some of V's more memorable toys. I'm inspired by Dare Wright, but with less class. Obviously. Send story suggestions/ideas of what this president might say back to Velma. I need help here, people.


Death to plagiarists

I've mentioned Kate of sweet/salty here before, and encountered her blog when she first had given birth to her twins sons, prematurely, about a year ago. Her honest writing, willingness to share profound pain, and clear and present words kept me reading, and I came to care about her and her family. Today, she posted about her writing being stolen from her, and I am sickened by it. I mean, I am a veteran of plagiarism. As a college English instructor for the last ten years, I have encountered dozens, maybe a hundred, examples of blatant plagiarism, and hundreds more of so close to plagiarism I can smell it (if not prove it). Each time I catch a cheater, I'm furious and feel betrayed and disgusted, and I never look at the student the same way again.

But what Kate describes in today's post? I can't even fathom it. Shaun's stance is generally "What did you expect? The internet's a big place, and people are assholes." Which, okay, it's true, but seriously? What is wrong with people? In the time it takes this Nico guy to alter her words, he could have written about his own life. The same is true of my students. For me, though, this stealing seems worse even the stuff my students pull.

Ugh. What do you think? Is this worse than academic cheating? What should this guy's punishment be? I mean, I'd like to brand him with a "P" on his forehead, but I suppose that's a bit extreme...


Don't steal words. It sucks.

I mean, it makes me think of this story, which ends with the words "The key in this thing is you've got to lock your doors when you go to bed at night."

20 July 2008

What do you want on your tombstone?

My cousin Deron asked about funeral plannings on his blog today, and because I am happy to think such thoughts, I thought I'd make a post of it as well. I have never been afraid of my own death, partly because I used to hang out in cemeteries and my dad always had a rather matter-of-fact approach to the idea. Deron's planning is much more moving, as his health wavers.

Location: This is a tough one, actually. Immanuel Lutheran Church in my hometown was always where I pictured my funeral would take place. My parents were baptized, confirmed, and married there, and all 4 grandparents' funerals took place there...but it seems somewhat hypocritical. We (Shaun and I and V) do not attend this church, even on holidays, for a variety of personal reasons. My mother is still active there, though. I guess it is still the place I would chose for my funeral, though it is not without qualms.

Music: I love me some good funeral music. At the beginning, I'd like Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash's version of "Far Side Banks of Jordan" to be played. It was at my dad's funeral, and I love that song beyond reason. "Amazing Grace" should be a congregational hymn, because it's so old school. My sister and I sang this for our grandmother and our Uncle John's funerals. I'd like someone to sing "Close Your Eyes," a lullaby by James Taylor. It is the song I sing to V when she is very tired or inconsolable, and the song I sang to my dear friend Kari when we learned she would not wake up from her coma. For the processional out of the church, I would like a small jazz band to play "When the Saints Go Marching In," though barring that, a recording would suffice. It's not that I think I'm headed for sainthood, but playing this song in New Orleans remains one of the most spine-tingling moments of my life.

Readers: This is tough, too. I like it when dear friends and family can read/speak at funerals, but having to perform on such a day is so difficult when you loved the deceased. My cousin Jonathan would be my first nominee, if he feels up to it. He can read whatever he wants. As for Bible verses, Psalm 121 ("I lift up mine eyes to the hills...") is the only one I can think of right now. Oh, and "My Mother's Lullaby," a poem by Margaret Hasse, and also "One Home" by William Stafford. If anyone feels strongly that one of my poems should be read, be my guest.

Homily: Um, with all those readings, I think we're out of time for preaching. I've sat though several funerals that were infuriating, where the minister decided to present his or her own agenda rather than what the deceased and their family would have wanted. My mother still talks about her father's funeral, where the minister, who had been at our church for nearly 20 years and known the family all that time, only said my grandfather's name once during the whole service. She sat there, furious, thinking "Say his name! Say it!" I'd like to avoid that sort of thing.

I want to be cremated, with some of my ashes buried with or near my dad's at Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery, and some spread in the Red River, and some spread on my in-laws lake. Those are my favorite places (except for Vegas, but I'm not sure anyone wants to haul me to Vegas. If so, go for it).

Well, now that I've planned that out, how about you? What do you want your funeral to look like?

15 July 2008

V goes to the zoo

Our local zoo is nice and small. It took us about an hour yesterday to see everything, including a carosel ride. This may be partly due to the fact that V isn't all that interested in most of the exhibits, or, occasionally, she's downright afraid of some of them. (Then again, so am I...)
Case in point: the horse. This horse generally scares me, and at 6 I was a founding member of our Horse Club in my hometown, where we mostly sat around and drew pictures of horses. It's just he's enormous. I realize there is nothing for scale in this photo, but I believe he is taller than me at his shoulder. He's more like a short giraffe. I should mention that he's very gentle, and when he's not eating he enjoys nose pats from all kinds of people. He's just frighteningly huge. There were koi, too. V mostly likes fish these days, so these were a minor hit. Minor because there is no Disney movie starring koi, I think.
As a lover of all things peacock, this peahen and her chicks made me ridiculously excited. Peafowl roam free about the zoo, and I have pictured peacocks here before. But I know some folks in this area who have had trouble getting their peafowl to make babies, so this made me remarkably happy.
Here are the ducks. When I was a little girl, we would have a family reunion every year at Chahinkapa park, and they have a lovely zoo there. They also have lots of ducks and geese, and my favorite part of the reunion (aside from the swimming and the food) was feeding the ducks. V does not share my fondness, though, and walked by quickly: we think it's because they were a pretty loud bunch, and V's really not into noisy birds. This smart deer-type-critter was swimming up close to the fence, where there was shade. I love his chin whiskers.
Chameleon. Insert Karma joke here.

There is a lovely restored carousel, and I got to ride with V this time. She doesn't care for moving carousel horses, either, so we rode in a bench. Shaun, who is usually the parent rider, got better and better at taking pictures as the ride went on.
It looks like we're going super fast, doesn't it?

Here is the star of the zoo for V. If I worked at the zoo, I would tend to get really annoyed at kids coming in, seeing the aquarium, and screaming "NEMO!!!" I would be tempted to cough loudly and say "That is no more Nemo than you are Paris Hilton. It is a clown fish. You are a female human. Get over it." This is probably why I don't work at the zoo...

Here's Dory, in case you were wondering...

Look at that gaze full of love! I can't very well begrudge Disney for that. Much.

14 July 2008

Emmy, part deux

So I know I've rambled on about other things, but of course the big news continues to be the newest member of the family, Emerson Claire. As my sister's daughter, she is my first (and so far only) niece. Because I'm dorky this way, I thought all we Johnson women should take a picture together. Here is Myra, her daughters, and her daughter's daughters.
Here's Emmy ready for her public debut, her online nursery photo through the hospital. We all agreed that she looks lovely in turquoise. Her dolly is from our dear family friend, Carla T. Isn't it amazing how much more real a baby looks in real clothes? Here, Emmy gets to meet Uncle Shaun for the first time. Aside from V, almost every other child who has met Shaun tends to either run in fear or cry, or both. Emmy did neither, and I love this series of pictures capturing that moment. Here's my interpretation of her thought process.

"Oh, jeez. Who's this joker?"
"Oh, hello."
"What the heck was that?"

13 July 2008

The beauty yet to come is here.

And I don't just mean my new niece, either (though she is beautiful). I mean my asiatic lily garden hauled off and bloomed while I was chillin' at the hospital with the newest Johnson girl. So I took some pictures.

I swear V posed for this without prompting. She's just naturally corny, people!
The first, third, and fifth pictures of this post are all shots of my favorite lily in the garden, whose name I do not know. I bought clearanced Martha Stewart bulbs from K-Mart 6 years ago and planted them in the fall...when they didn't come up the next year, I ordered a mix of asiatic lilies from some mail-order catalog, and planted those. That year, I had a gazillion different lilies...dang latent Martha Stewart bulbs. So I don't remember which is which. I just like this one, because it's the closest thing I have to the famous Stargazer Lily. It's only famous to me because I once had an elaborate dream about my cousin Connie, about how she was climbing a wall covered in the most amazing pink lilies I'd ever seen. So amazing, in fact, that I was sure I just made them up. The next day, I went to work (at a college with a solid Horticultral Department) and they had THOSE VERY LILIES for sale. Creepy, huh? I brought one home for my cousin, and have been strangely drawn to them ever since. Drawn to them=freaked out by them, that is.
My mom has this belief that her flowers are changing color, particularly her columbines, because she swears she planted blue and white ones but now hers are all that "average" pink. My horticultural friend insists that that's impossible, and it's more likely that the pink one expand and the blue and white ones just died. The pink one is the original, afterall, and the others are variations.
At any rate, I'm sure I used to have yellow lilies, but they are nowhere to be seen this year. Hm. Maybe they just died. Or maybe Myra's columbine ate them. Anyone have any thoughts on this? Did you come to my backyard and steal my lilies? If so, can I have them back please? I'll trade you a pseudo-stargazer. Seriously.

10 July 2008

Emerson Claire

7:15pm--I show up at the hospital bearing Taco John's for Uncle Brad.

Auntie Jess looks on, calmly (the epidural is doing its job).

7:30--the on-call doctor comes in and breaks Jess' waters. She's at about 4.5 centimeters.

8:00--Jess' epidural is no longer doing its job: she is contracting strongly.

8:15--Jess feels pressure and we call the nurse, who checks and finds Jess at 8cm (I think she was bluffing, though, and Jess was at the full 10). They call for the doctor to come back.

8:27pm: Emerson Claire comes into the world, refusing to wait for any high-falutin' doctor.

6lbs, 6oz., 19.8 inches.

10 fingers, 10 toes...lots of dark hair.

Proud Auntie Jen.

Mama, Daddy, and baby are all fine.

Welcome, Baby Emmy. We're so glad to meet you!

08 July 2008


Uncle Steve is outdoorsy and rugged and whatnot....
Uncle Chris rockin' on the beach...

Jake loves V loves Alix...
Unca Shaun is soooo funny.
Jake's hairdo, with Prospective Aunt Joanna in the background with V ...
and Aunt Beth is a fox.

Big holiday weekend at the lake....Shaun's brother and sister were both there, with their lovely families...so much food and swimming and sand....must...nap...

...and the livin' is easy....

03 July 2008

How does your garden grow?

I have perhaps the saddest garden in North America, but when I take close up shots of bits and pieces, things look a whole lot prettier.

And there is beauty yet to come.

I love summer.