29 January 2011

Anniversary passing

25 years ago yesterday, my dad was in a rehab center in Grand Forks. I recall it as the day he moved there from St. Ansgar's, but that memory is questionable: I do know it was 18 days after the massive stroke that would change us all forever. I remember January 28 because it's the day the space shuttle blew up, and though that day holds memories for many people around my age, for me it is inextricably connected to my father's stroke, and the early days of that journey for my family.

Mr. Carlson, our 7th grade science teacher, brought a television into his classroom and set it on one of the orange counters, and then he wept. He wept while a roomful of twelve year olds watched the shuttle explode over and over and over again, and he told us we would always remember this day, as he remembered Kennedy's assassination. Most of us thought he was crazy. I knew he was right.

I called my sister on January 10, and said "Dad's stroke is old enough to rent a car."
She said "We should've bought it a drink 4 years ago."

I realized in college that, given the power to go back and change things, I don't know that I would. Without my father's crippling stroke, I would be a different person, and my whole town would be a different town. You can't screw with history like that, as Michael J. Fox showed us. And we all loved the parts of him the stroke left behind, and he thankfully lived another 16 years.

When he died, the stroke was old enough to drive.


28 January 2011

List #14: Animals I would tend if I had the resources/wherewithall*

9. Octopus (octopi?) They are the coolest invertebrates.
8. Peacocks. Duh.
7. Turkey vultures. I don't know why. I just like them.
6. Tortoises. True story: my dad once brought home a rather large snapping turtle for my sister and I and the neighborhood kids to play with. For a little while. Then we let him go. What kind of a parent lets their kids play with a snapping turtle? That's right. Mine.
5. Sugar gliders: ohfercute. SERIOUSLY.
4. Penguins. I picked the Argentinian penguins because I just watched The Motorcycle Diaries not too long ago (it has nothing to do with penguins...). And March of the Penguins made me cry.
3. A murder of crows, oh, harbingers of death, oh feathered apes. What's not to love?
2. Koi. Did you know they can live OVER 200 YEARS? Jesus. Really, you shouldn't get a pet that several generations of your family will be obligated to care for long after you die. Or should you? Hm...
1. Tasmanian devils. A carnivorous marsupial that can crush its enemy's skull? Yes please.

* despite recently watching episode 40 of Hoarders. Sweet holy moses.

27 January 2011

Ejection Fraction, What's Your Function?

Echo cardiogram #2 showed that Shaun's gigantic heart has improved since six months ago. He went from 15% ejection fraction (which I thought was 20%, as per earlier posts, but which everyone around me insisted I misheard) to 30%, an impressive gain, in my opinion. I had been reading all these terrible online testimonials (I know, I told you not to do that, gentle readers, but here I am not heeding my own advice) about people who were natural athletes, who only ate bark and berries and ran 5 miles a day, and in 4 years their ejection fraction had just steadily declined. So I was extremely relieved with these results.

(For those of you unfamiliar with Shaun, um, he's a natural sports fan. Who likes to sit and watch games. While eating hot dogs and nachos. At the same time.) Shaun's lost 50 pounds, and is doing fairly well at keeping his sodium to a minimum, though these last few months of chaos and frustration and non-stop illness have been wearing on all of us (Shaun's massive anxiety episode in December may have been glossed over here, but it was far from glossy back at home). He found the results okay, but they did make him determined to exercise more, and watch his diet more carefully.

Frankly, when you tell your nursing friends that Shaun's ejection fraction is 30%, they'll probably still look around discreetly for the nearest AED. Lord knows, I do that every time we go out in public. And he may end up with an internal defibrillator (though I have some misgivings about that, mostly because he hasn't had any recorded arrhythmias, that I know of, though I am attracted to the idea of implanting superpowers in one's body). But given the shit storm that was 2010 for us? I will take a 30% ejection fraction and run gleefully around the room. Provided there's an AED & some salt-free nuts.

26 January 2011

List #13

How unlucky! It's list #13! I could write a witty post on luck, but that's too predictable.

These are the top things in which I feel knowledgeable/skillful enough to teach a class. At least, a basic class.

1. Sewing clothes for kids
2. Journal keeping
3. Catching plagiarists
4. Throwing a party
5. The Addams Family TV show
7. Doll making
8. Circus freaks
9. Poetry writing (but please don't ask me to teach reading poetry. It's among my least favorite things to teach)

I realize this is a bit close to a previous list, involving my hobbies. Back off. It's a new year.

16 January 2011


On Friday, I found out my application for sabbatical for this Fall 2011 had been accepted. Those of you not in academia may not be properly impressed: this means I get 3 1/2 months to work on a project of my own design, and get full pay and benefits during that time.  And I don't have to teach a single class or grade a single paper. It's fantastic, and I'm so excited I might throw up.

I know some non-fans of academia find sabbaticals offensive: the state, which pays much of my salary, is giving me paid time to do this work. I understand this concern. I welcome those people to come in and take my job for a semester, juggle the lies and cheating and broken hearts and addictions of my students, and put in 60 hour work weeks. In fact, they should do that for six years, and then see if maybe a semester to work on something else doesn't seem a little...um...necessary.

All right, mild bitterness aside, my project is to begin development on an articulation agreement with MSUM's Women Studies department. Essentially, though we don't really offer minors at our community college, the articulation agreement would help students achieve a  minor in Women's Studies that would easily transfer to MSUM. Isn't that cool? Plus it shows we're committed to Women's Studies, and will hopefully help us someday open a Women's Center on campus.

Whew. Too technical? Anyhoo, I'm especially excited about this because, though I'm an English nerd at heart, when it comes down to it, Women's Studies courses impacted me more than almost any other classes. I love the idea of helping to offer that kind of stuff to students.

And I love the idea of a whole semester away from the classroom, mostly because it will be so fun to come back afterwards.

Who's up for a road trip with me this fall? I've got some sabbaticalizing to do.

14 January 2011

Nice house.

After the success of the crayons, I went all out and decided that since we were still technically on Christmas (holiday) break on Sunday, we could in good conscience decorate ourselves a gingerbread house. So we did.

 We cheated a little and bought a pre-made house that came with 6 packets of candy and pre-made frosting. Okay, now that I write that, it feels like we cheated a lot. Don't judge me. And please try not to compare our house with the house on the box there. We did the best we could.
Though I would've chosen more chocolate-based candies, and homemade frosting is more delicious, we still really had fun with this, and because it was all premade, there was minimal frustration and maximum satisfaction. PLUS, since we did this on January 9, I was able to purchase the kit at Target for 75% off, so it only cost us $2.48. (this is all part of my plan to convince my whole family to celebrate every holiday 3-5 days late, so as to maximize Target clearance opportunities). It was totally worth every dang penny, and afterwards, V said "Wow; we've been really crafty this weekend!"


11 January 2011

You crafty thing, you.

For our last weekend of winter vacation, V and I got all ambitious and worked on Valentine's Day presents. Last year, I forgot about Valentine's Day until I dropped her off at school, and then ran to Target to buy crappy pixie stix for 24 unsuspecting classmates. This year, I'm gonna be prepared. Dammit.

I read this post on Frugal Family Fun blog (which is a spectacular blog that you really should be reading instead of this one). Hm, I said. Interesting. But I don't have a heart muffin tin, and I'm not about to pay $5.99 for a new one that I'll only use to melt down crayons.

So we went to the newest Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, and lo and behold, there was a heart-shaped baking tin of some sort. It says "Wilton 1992" on it, so I don't know where you can get your own. Try your local thrift store. Ours was 99 cents.

Now that we had our tin, we peeled all the worn-down, deadbeat crayons we could find. Then we broke them into little-ish pieces. Then we sorted them by color. Then Barbie farted on them.
 V liked putting them into the tins. She liked picking color combos, and found this exercise totally engrossing. I preheated the oven to 275 degrees, and ten minutes later, wala!
 Hot wax! Aren't they pretty? If you look at the link to Martha's on Frugal Family's blog, she suggests setting the oven to 150 for 20 minutes or so, but I'm not patient enough, so I went with the hotter shorter time. Just be careful taking these things out of the oven. A spill would be...waxy, I'm afraid.
 After they cooled for about 10 minutes on the counter, we popped them in the fridge and then V took a bath. When she was done, these babies easily popped out of the baking sheet (with a few well-placed whacks). The crayon marks above are from us trying to figure out what color the little broken bits were (those dark blues and purples all look alike...) before baking.
Here, for scale, are V's blurry, excited hands, lining up some of the 48 new chunky heart crayons we've made. I figure 2 for each kid, with some sort of card that indicates these are not for eating, but for coloring.

What do you think? Is this better than last minute pixie stix? I sure hope so. Now I just need to remember to get them ready in the next month, and not wait until the morning of the 14th, as is my lazy, lazy way.