Friday, March 26, 2010

Spring break

I wish there were blossoms in Madison but not yet

My friends and neighbors have all fled for warm climates, the traitorous lot.  Chip and Olivia will visit a few colleges in the next few days but Ally and I are hanging out at home without a plan, although the reality is she has a swinging social life and gets offers to do stuff last minute all the time so I think it just might be me hanging out without the plan.

Steve and Minnie 

I have had a few years to process and grieve the dissolution of the family spring break.  Unimaginable back in the Disney Princess Easter dresses era of our lives, my beloved book club made up of women a half step ahead of me in the parenting biz gave me all sorts of heads up about how life changes with teenagers.  They would report, not even complain, that their kids would barely get out of bed over spring break let alone get into a car or on a plane to do anything.  It seemed so distant in my future, but something said “pay attention to these crazy b*tches for in their wine fueled musings there lies great wisdom.”  From “accidentally” getting onto porn web sites to “forgetting” to call one's parents until well after 1am for a ride on a Saturday night to spending spring break like vampires, the book club lady predictions about life with good and normal teenagers have been resignedly accurate. And here we are. It’s been incredibly helpful foreseeing the future and I do my best to gently pay it forward to my friends a half step behind me.  They probably think I’m a crazy b*tch too…and that’s ok because I actually am.

Da Bruce

I predict Ally will be content this week to sleep in and sleep often, finish watching the last season of The O.C. on DVD and go to softball practice.  Liv and Chip will only be gone a few days and then she’ll be back and firmly entrenched in Farmville before finally cracking a textbook on Easter Sunday with her basket of chocolate in the bed with her.  And it’s all good because it’s all been foretold.  So good in fact that Chip and I are considering our options for late next week.  Teen slackerdom is a boring spectator sport after awhile and we kind of think a museum in Chicago might be more interesting.  I’m trying to rediscover free time for myself and how to make a plan.   I have lots of actual free time but I squander it mostly wandering and wondering where everyone is…. in parking lots, at the mall, the orthodontist’s office, etc.  Although honestly I’m going to require some deprogramming or a rebirthing or whatever that thing is that NASA does to the astronauts when they come back from space. 

Minnie the moocher

All I can post are pictures of very lazy pets that sort of exemplify our vibe over spring break.  Very chill. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Standing at a crossroads

As Chip is my witness, there are a few things in life that I’m not naturally cut out to be, however desperately I wish them to be so.  An early riser is one and a runner is the other.  Never was a person more ill prepared structurally or emotionally for running.  My legs are short and my mind is weak.  Still, every few years I give it a try.  A call to action.  Being unemployed is no excuse for making the slow slide into stretch-waisted pants.

The row of treadmills at the YMCA overlooks a multitude of crossroads at the Beltline and Whitney Way and from my perch I watched hundreds of people moving about their day while I ran in place.  And no, that irony was not lost on me.  Above my head on a muted CNN, Obama stood at the ideological crossroads of history making health care legislation.

I have worked with many families over the years dealing with the lightning strike of an unexpected illness and the inevitable financial strain and drain that comes from mystery out-of-pocket expenses and repeated denials of hospitalization days, necessary equipment and treatments; all sorts of obscure and surprise exclusionary tactics used by insurance companies to reclaim profits on the backs of those too unwitting to question or fight back.  I’m so grateful for health care reform and hope next on the President’s agenda is creating a job for this mama.

As for the people who yell “faggot” at Barney Frank and make traitorous rallying cries against our country and our President while wrapping themselves in the flag, their poorly cloaked racist rhetoric will hopefully continue to alienate most people and remain irrelevant to a younger, browner and gayer voting bloc growing bigger every day.

a recycled picture that never gets old for me

Obama methodically signed the bill one stroke at a time, each letter made with a new pen held in his lefty-hooked grip and a little boy patiently waited for his pen, watching history being made too late to help his mom.  My iPod flipped over to Bruce Springsteen’s Radio Nowhere and I took one last look at the Beltline for signs of revolution or apocalypse.  Everything looked normal and I finished my run and walked outside into a new America.  Still chilly.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Everybody's Irish this week

Rarely in Madison is there a dilution in the sea of crowd Badger Red but I'm going to venture that one of those exceptions is the St. Patty's Day parade. I've been revealed as majorly Irish over the years after learning that more than a couple key Irish ancestors kept their Irish roots on the down low like many immigrants in the early 20th century.  "We sailed from England," was the party line of my maternal grandfather and his siblings.  Yeah, after sailing from Dublin to Liverpool first, they did not add.  And on my dad's side, the Irish Catholicness slid into WASPishness sometime mid-century with the second wave of kids in his family who attended Quaker schools and Presbyterian churches.  

After our trip to Ireland last year, Olivia and I are renewed in our Irish pride especially for an excuse to celebrate.  And although this parade is more of a family event and I never did find a street beer, we felt one with our people. Chip and Allison prefer to keep their Irish roots to themselves I guess.    

Here in 'Sconnie Nation, the Germans, Norwegians and Swedes block out the sun at all events from those of us born to smaller tribes.  Olivia and I stood tall among the crowd around the Capitol on this day. 

A beautiful mild day as it often is for this parade and the UW Marching band kicked it off in happy form.

These kids were wild with anticipation of the parade, more so than the kids around them and I wondered if culturally this was an exciting event for them (mom, that's racist) or if it was just the buzz from the green cotton candy they were eating before the parade.

Olivia and I were fondly reminded of her brief stint as an Irish dancer.  I wasn't sure of her commitment long term at the time so I never bought the expensive dress and accompanying wig.  We were left, however, with two valuable lifeskills from our time as an Irish dance family.  Liv can still do a reel and I can roll this bad boy hairstyle from scratch, learned in a mandatory hair rolling class for Liv's one and only feis, pronounced "fesh".  Wigs are for slackers.

I hate to even joke because families who have an Irish dancer do little else.  It's a rigorous and demanding sport for a kid and an unGodly time commitment.  Wasn't for us, the dabblers.  

It's not a parade without Elvis and there were actually two.  And a Patsy Cline.

Lady Forward yells for candy and beads.

The delight on this kid's face was pretty representative of the feeling at the parade.  Mostly just families having fun and very few drunks which I know is different from New Orleans, New York and Philadelphia.  Still, I could have used one green beer.

My Irish daughter proudly displayed her claddagh ring, positioned on the correct finger flipped in the correct direction to indicate she is on the market for a nice Irish guy.

Like I said, everybody's Irish this week.

Stilts a very big thing in Madison parades.    Stiltwalkers, to me, an overly exuberant and cultish group.

I think this guy is a real leprechaun.  Or is he like the guy in Philadelphia who looked so much like Benjamin Franklin that he could make a living all year long?  Can one be a leprechaun year round?  Is there a call for that?

So a weekend initially full of dashed expectations with a long awaited ski trip cancelled due to five days of rain.  Chip's weekend full of softball so I was relegated to making my own fun with daughters one at a time as it turned out.  Saturday in Milwaukee with Allison shopping and dining, Sunday with Olivia at the St. Patty's Day parade.  I'm not a lemonade out of lemons kind of girl....preferring to just suck on the lemons and make everyone around me miserable.  But this weekend I do believe we made it work in the end.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The great reveal

I hesitate to even say this for fear of Mother Nature's cruel reprisal but I'm preoccupied with it maybe being winter's end.  I'm obsessed in fact.  The Oscars on Sunday night hailed the beginning of a new season.  The girls and I celebrated with Cosmos sans the vodka.  As is customary, I drank six or eight of them but this time with no ill effects.  Will I learn?  Sadly, no.

As I drove along the road by the high school today I saw a woman carrying a large green trash bag and picking up all the litter that has either been laying under or frozen in 20 inches of snow for the past four months.  I'm not sure if she was a high school employee or a concerned citizen, but either way bravo to her for making a dent in the mess that has been unveiled this week.   Every fast food chain's trash is well represented in the gutters and along the sidewalks of school after months in deep freeze and coupled with the primordial ooze of melting snow, mud, salt and sand seeping everywhere, it looks like the Monday after Woodstock.


With the official big thaw happening, there's a sense of archaeologic dawning and proof that a civilization existed here at one that had a Sun and supported human life outside.  I think I blogged about this last year, watching day by day as flip flops and beach toys and bikes and wiffle bats and cell phones and shopping carts begin to poke through the snow banks and across lawns all over Madison as the glacier recedes.  I call it the great reveal and the artifacts, while maybe not nearly as important as say, a baby woolly mammoth, are much more relevant to understanding the hominids of this region.  Beer cans, bathing suits, wine bottles, kids' shoes...truly a backwards species.

Christmas decorations still hanging around the garage...but there were three

In April and May when I'm prepping the garden for its grand debut with the energy and full-on determination of a mad woman, I know that by late August I'll be kind of sick of the whole thing and ready for the garden to die off so I can just buy some pumpkins and take a break from the watering and weeding and the ponderous placement of my plants.  Cyclically, I feel my spring seasonal self waking up from its deep sleep as I'm sitting here now looking out onto all that dirty melting snow, more and more craters of yellow-green grass emerging by the minute, thinking about April and May when the mud is gone, the trees and bushes are blooming, the bulbs are pushing green shoots through all that slimy winter decay and the peonies are crawling with ants while the turgid buds sit tightfisted as if they'll never open only to punk me one morning when I least expect it.  Just when I think I can't take winter anymore, it throws me a bone.


Monday, March 1, 2010


As the concrete fist that holds me in its wintry grip loosens gently this week with icicles dripping and trickling streams of dirty water flowing beneath the icebergs at the end of the driveway, my thoughts wander dangerously toward warm weather destinations. Above freezing at this time of year is but a cruel tease, unlikely to stay mild for very long before latitude pulls the rug out from under my fantasies with a late winter blast of some sort.  For months, even on sunny days there is no melt here.  This drip on my eave is the drip of hope, of life.  The drips that will wash away my seasonal depression if I can only hold on.

As we always do, and to our psychological detriment I might add, Chip and I let our thoughts wander toward last minute spring-breakish-type plans that once uttered we realize heartbreakingly are just fool's gold.  We see them in the water, we pan them and they do look real until we take 'em into town.

Softball practice like many spring sports works out over spring break leaving us three paltry days to play with at the end of the week. I hop on Google Maps, as if I don’t know how far away things are (maybe there’s a little island I don’t know about near Indianapolis) to find a driving destination for three days that might be warmer than here.

"Kentucky!" I say hopefully.
Chip says, “Great. We can leave Wednesday night after her practice and we have to be back Sunday.”

Forget it. It’s a 9 hour drive. Two days driving and two days playing isn’t quite the ratio I’m looking for, especially when said destination had snow yesterday. Punta Cana for two days, yes. Lexington for two days, no. I have long known there was no spring break for us this year and yet I let myself become childishly vulnerable to the notion with this thaw, a rookie mistake. Now I’m just really pissed off, also in a childish way that involves swearing, being mean to puppies and stomping my foot.

Like the ice in my heart.

I’ve stolen a word from a few teachers I know who are also hitting the wall this time of year…and that word is Farch. It’s a little bit February, a little bit March and a little bit of another word that starts with F. Landlocked Midwestern Hell. I ponder Chicago and Lake Michigan and even Lake Superior for a mini-break as the English call it. A half day’s drive. I’m neither enthused nor amused by Farch.  Chip wants to send me away, probably like Ted Hughes wanted Sylvia to have a break.

Me and the tree reach for the sun