Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Year's Half-Promises

This is what I mean to get to in 2008:

  • Shop my novel around and get a 13 million dollar advance
  • Reading more
  • Smaller clothes
  • Firm bedtimes for the kids
  • A rock band
  • Travelling

How about you?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Lou Holtz and the Christmas Miracle


I was at Wally and Snap’s house a couple of weeks ago waiting for my kids to get their shoes on or something. Wally was watching college basketball, which usually causes my eyes to roll back in my head and my legs to crumple with boredom. It was soon halftime and who should appear? This little old man who proceeded to deliver a locker room speech to the team that was behind.

At first, I thought, how annoying is this. I mean why would anyone want to hear a locker room dressing down? Certainly, the people who could benefit most, i.e. the losing team, would be occupied by the rantings of their own coach. Wally and I continued to small talk, but it began to trail off as we both became captivated by this little firecracker of a gnome. Some of what he was saying was chock full of sports cliché, but what he was saying was right on the money. It made me want to go out there and be a better part of the team and I couldn’t care less about basketball, college or otherwise.

And then he captured my heart forever with his closing line to the losing team. He said directly to the TV, “Just remember: The only thing between Chump and Champ is yoU!” and he pointed right at us. Wally and I both stepped back in astonishment, looked at each other and laughed, amazed.

“That was awesome! Who is that guy?” I asked.

“That’s Lou Holtz, the greatest coach ever and a phenomenal motivational speaker,” he explained.

“Oh my God, that was a great line!” I said, always looking for new gems of wisdom in small packages. “I’m going to have to remember that one!”

“I know! I’m going to post that line on my door at work,” he said.

Wally’s works in sales. He’s a huge Notre Dame fan and a former linebacker. It’s funny that we are such good friends because Wally is not the kind of person I’m usually drawn to when looking to make friends. He’s loud. He’s conservative. He hunts. He’s very masculine. He’s got a healthy ego. When I first met him, he made a crack about how Doc, who was a stay-at-home dad at the time, had found his “sugar mama.” I was offended immediately.

But one summer evening, Wally, Snap, Frank, Doc, John, Michelle and Mark were hanging out at the Tiki. I was talking with Michelle, but I kept catching snatches of Wally’s conversation. I heard keywords, like: Jacksonville, Uniontown, pageant dresses, Tammy, website…

Michelle and I had wound things up and I turned to Wally and said, “Did you say you were from Uniontown and you have a friend in Jacksonville? I have friends down there too, who are from Uniontown.”

“Yeah, my sister and her family live there. She makes pageant dresses and I helped her set up a website to start selling them,” he replied.

“Do you know someone named Tammy…I can’t think of her last name…she’s from Uniontown and lives in Jacksonville…maybe her last name was Jones?” I said, racking my brain for her maiden name.

“Was her last name Banks?” he asked.

“That’s it!” I said, pointing at him.

“Dude,” he replied, “That’s my sister!”

“Oh my God!” I said, “I dated her husband, Hot Lemon!”

“No way!” he said.

“Yes!” I said.

We both got goose bumps and marveled at how small the world is. Suddenly we had a lot in common and a lot to discuss. Ever since then we’ve been super awesome buddies.

But I digress…

Shortly after I was introduced to the amazing Lou Holtz, through Chris and ESPN-8, The Ocho, I learned that I was Wally’s Secret Santa for the Tiki Christmas party. Awesome, I thought. I can’t give up the word awesome. I have tried to eradicate it from my vocabulary numerous times, with no success. It’s more addictive than heroin, I presume, having never had heroin, but I see movies…I know how it works. I wouldn’t dive down a nasty toilet to retrieve “awesome” but, I can’t seem to give it up.

I planned my trip to Borders to pick up the book, Wins, Losses, and Lessons, Lou Holtz’s autobiography. I wasn’t able to get to get there until the night of the party. I stopped first at Old Navy and bought myself some metallic jeans, which are awesome, and some fleece tops so I could have something special to wear to the party. To me, metallic jeans = special. I was listening to my iPod so I didn’t have to hear one Christmas song. I was by myself and Christmas shopping…it was heaven.

I made my way down to Borders and opened the door for my fellow shoppers. I stepped inside to a hive of activity. As usual, I must stop and take things in when I find myself in a store. I need to orient myself, go over my list mentally, take a deep breath, swear I won’t by anything off the list, and let the anxiety rise and lift out of the top of my head. As I scanned the horizon, I saw the sports section and made my way over to the football shelf.

The books were supposedly alphabetically by author and I wasn’t having any luck finding it. Besides, this older gentleman was standing in front of my scanning the shelves himself. Annoyed, I made the short trip over to the customer service desk, where a Santa-hatted youth was standing trying to look busy.

I asked her for help and she led me right back to where I was. That guy was still there too. Finally she spoke into her headset and inquired if there were any of Lou’s books out on any of the display tables. I don’t think her headset actually worked, it’s window dressing for seasonal help to make them look like they can really help you.

Eventually I gave up waiting for her to contact someone who gave a crap and said, “Well, maybe I’ll find something else.”

“Do you want me to order it for you?” she asked

“No,” I replied, “I need it for tonight.”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t find it,” she said.

“It’s OK,” I’m sure I’ll find something else.

My guts sank. Wally and I are friends, yes. But we are vastly different individuals. We really have very little in common other than our weird arrangement of family and friend connections. I had a sure-fire gift idea and it fizzled out like a wet bottle rocket. Damn. I started to make my way over to the music section, where I intended to by a CD for Doc’s Secret Santa gift, when the older gentleman stopped me.

“Hey,” he said, bemused, “I’m looking for that book too!”

“Really?” I said, finally realizing why he was in my way.

“I’m going to go look over in business and management for it,” he said, determined.

I followed him over there and we had no luck. Who knew this was such a popular book? We shared stories about who we were buying the gift for. He groused that he came all the way up here from New Philly to come up with nothing. We wished each other luck and went our separate ways.

I went over to the music section and found what I was looking for no problem for Doc’s Secret Santa, of course. I began to feel a bit disgruntled. I looked at the games, the CD’s. Nothing was striking a chord with me. I was attached to finding that book for Wally. It represented one of the few moments where our differences disappeared and we enjoyed a common moment. Damn.

It was getting late and my stress level began to rise. I started scanning everything and anything. Cook books, no…investment strategies…no…ya-ya sisterhood of the traveling pants…no. And there it was: Lou Holtz’s miniature face looking up from me from some random table. One copy of Wins, Losses, and Lessons! “It’s mine, mine, all mine!” I thought to myself as I snatched it off the table and tucked it in my arm. Giddy with the joy of finding a needle in a fucking haystack, I made my way toward the cash register. I passed by the business section and saw a nice add-on for Wally’s gift: A desk set containing a pen, paper clip and something else, that all fit together as a shiny airplane. It was really cool and I was done shopping.

“Excuse me, miss?” someone said.

I looked up to see New Philly walking briskly toward me with something in his hand.

“I found it!” he exclaimed, joyful, “Would you like to have it?”

I wilted inside, overwhelmed by his generosity and ashamed of my Daffy Duck reaction to finding what I thought was the last copy. No way was I handing mine over.

“Oh, no thank you,” I said, reaching for my copy, “I found it too! See?”

“Oh that’s great,” he said, “I knew you were looking for it and I was going to give you this one.”

“Well, now we can each have a copy,” I said, “It’s a Christmas Miracle!”

“Yes it is,” he said.

“Merry Christmas,” I said.

“You too,” he said.

We smiled at each other and went our separate ways. I made my way to the cash register warm with the Christmas Spirit.

Thank you, Lou Holtz, for joining friends and strangers together as teammates and causing one of many Christmas Miracles this season and beyond. To paraphrase you, Lou, It is a fine thing to have Christmas Spirit, but the ability to discover Christmas Spirit in others is the true gift.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Riley Blogs: The Golden Star

As I gazed out the window, there was lots of snow. i couldn't go out because I was really sick. So out I went and when i got out the door, there was a strange thing outside. And I said, "What is that?"

So, I looked closer and then I knew what it was. It was a golden star! And then I touched it. So, I found it and I brought it inside and I put it in my room. I turned on the light and the then the star went on it was so bright, I fell onto my bed!

And then, I couldn't breath since it was so shiny and big. I had to run out with the star and I had to build a rocket ship to zoop it up to space. But when I got there and I put the star in space, it fell out of outer space!

I had to get back to earth and put it back where I found it. It just followed my like Mary Had a Little Lamb. So I went outside, and then I couldn't see the star anymore. I turned around and the star was following me! I just hopped of that cozy place, out of my home to look all around to see what it was. It was a very cozy house. And then I saw another cozy house when i reached a very nice place. I ran to the nice place and when right in it.

I hopped in it and I was so warm, I wanted to go fishing, but the lake was frozen. So I hopped out the door and I just squeezed.

I made my own house out of snow and by summer the house melted because it was made out of snow. So I went home through Caterpillar Lane and to my own home.

The End.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

God Bless Lightning McQueen!


For the past I don't know how long, Lucy has refused to sleep in her bed. She doesn't like it, she says. It is a twin bed with a rather firm mattress on my great grandmother's old bed frame. I admit, I can't sleep on it either. It's like sleeping on a mounded rock.
Her alternative? To sleep in our room. We've tried everything to get her to sleep in her room short of locking her in, which I'm opposed to. I never liked the idea of locking a kid up. I didn't even use a playpen very much for my kids. I'd rather they be free and deal with the consequences. We've tried letting her fall asleep on our bed or the couch and moving her to her own bed, but she'd always get up and join us anyway.
So, I had a brain wave. I took down that antique bier and put her toddler bed back in her room. We were at Walmart today and I bought her a Lightning McQueen bedding set, which includes sheets, a comforter and a pillow case. I also got a TV/VCR from my Dad, who had about 8 to spare. The sheets are light blue with little Lightning McQueens and checkered flags. The top sheet is connected to the fitted sheet at the bottom, so it won't come loose. The comforter has a giant LM on it and the pillow case features Lightning on one side and Lightning and Mater on the other. Lucy loves it.
As I write this, it's 6:21 p.m. Both of the girls are in their jammies and snuggled up in Lucy's room watching Kipper. If I play my cards right, they will be out by 7:30! This after months of 9:30...10:00...11:00 bedtimes. Maybe now, Doc and I will have some quality time together after he gets home from work at 8:30. Maybe, too, I'll be able to get some writing in.
Phew. It was worth every penny. I hope.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Egad! A Week!

I'm sorry, I haven't posted much. My timing has been off. By the time I've gotten anywhere near the computer, I've been too zapped to write. I'm going through a bit of a dry spell at the moment. Maybe tomorrow...

Thursday, December 06, 2007

It's Been Ages Since I've Been Tagged

Some Guy did it. With any tag, there are rules; here they are:


If you are one of the carriers of this story virus (i.e. you have been tagged and choose to contribute to it), you will have one responsibility, in addition to contributing your own piece of the story: you will have to tag at least one person that continues your story thread. So, say you tag five people. If four people decide to not participate, it's okay, as long as the fifth one does. And if all five participate, well that's five interesting threads the story spins off into.So, here goes:

I woke up hungry. I pulled my bedroom curtain to the side and looked out on a hazy morning. I dragged myself into the kitchen, in search of something to eat. I reached for a jar of applesauce sitting next to the sink, and found it very cold to the touch. I opened the jar and realized it was frozen. (Splotchy)

My first idea was to put the applesauce in the microwave. Hey, I was still tired. Could I scoop some out and put whipped cream on it? No, too solid. Why was it so damn cold in here? I walked over to the thermostat and saw that the heat hadn't clicked on all night and the temperature had dropped substantially overnight. Now, tired and hungry, I opened the access panel on the heater. There's the problem: why was someone cooking a duck in here? (SamuraiFrog)

I bent down and scooped up the uncooked duck carcass. There was no way I was going to let it go to waste, especially considering I had applesauce on hand. I placed it in a roasting pot and went back to reset the heater. As I continued to wake up, I realized that my roommate had spent the night at his girlfriend's place and couldn't have put the duck there. "How the hell did it get there?" I wondered. Just then, an already odd situation became even stranger. The lifeless duck animated, flapped its featherless wings, and began to speak. (Some Guy)

"So," he quacked, "What's with the Spiderman p.j.'s? What are you, 12? God, this place is a dump."

The duck looked around, apprising the place like he was being filmed for Flip this House.

"See," he indicated the ceiling with his scorched wing, "There's water spots on the ceiling! You've got a leak...and your vinyl flooring is warped...and your furnace is shot." The duck shook his head and folded his wings in front of his chest. "We've got a lot of work to do in six weeks."

I rubbed my eyes and blinked, "What?"

"Get yourself some coffee, throw that damn applesauce out and grab you're keys...we're going to Lowes." (Flannery Alden)


I tag:
Doc
Evil Genius
Hot Lemon
Kristi
Frank

The Next American Idol Single

If they run the songwriting contest again, I have a winner for the winner. Picture a teary-eyed/sweaty youth singing this baby:

My future was uncertain,
Too many things in my way
I didn’t dare to dream for fear
Of scaring my dreams away

But now the light shines down on me
And I can find the way to go
Love has made me see
That I can have forever today

[Chorus]

Forever today
We’ll chase our dreams together
Our fears no longer matter
Nothing stands in our way
Forever today

Every sunset, every dawn
And the moments in between
Stretch out before my eyes
Better than any dream

Take my hand and walk with me
See all the beauty on the way
Of dreams come true
Forever today

[Chorus x2] and fade out


By the way, if anyone wants to write the music, I'd appreciate it. Make sure it's sweeping, grand, full of strings and chimes and that it has lots of room for glory notes.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Gifts

I'm sitting here looking at the Christmas tree. The tree sits in the corner of the living room, near the bookshelf. It's a little crooked, but it makes the angel on top look straight. There are ornament's missing and the tree skirt is behaving very immodestly. I scowl a moment, readjusting the ornaments in my mind.

The kids have done this. They love to sit in the corner, read books, and whisper to each other. A breeze of frustration furrows my brow. But then I look down and see, among the board books and picture books, is the big red Dictionary I've had since college. And I realized: I may not be able to afford to get them the latest and greatest gadgets and toys. But I can give them this: a memory. I started to see our future: They will be in college (Harvard) and too serious about their studies to date, so no boyfriends. They will be home for the holidays and we'd be sitting around the fireplace and one of them would get lost in thought while looking at the Christmas tree.

"Hey, Sister," Lucy might say, "Do you remember when we used to sit behind the Christmas tree?"

We'd all have a laugh and feel very warm. I'm pulled back into the present and begin to reapprise the Christmas Tree Situation. Let it lean.

Holiday Quiz

Christmas is a time when you get homesick - even when you’re home. Carol Nelson

Is this true for you? If so, why?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Proud Moment In Parenting


The kids were playing with the manger set. They each wanted to play one of the characters. Christopher wanted to be God.

"Where is God?" Taylor asked, looking for a miniature representative among the manger action figures.

"Is this God?" asked Christopher, holding up one of the three kings.

"No," said Riley, "That's God's evil minion."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

An Immigrant's Song

My spiritual cup and Christmas Spirit flask seem to contain only dregs, leftovers from years past. I've only been what you might call a practicing Christian for about 13 years. I wasn't born to it; I chose it.

I was lucky to run into the right people at the right time as well as the wrong people at the right time. My initiation into the faith was dramatic; I experienced full submersion baptism at a Baptist Church in front of a thousand people. But by the time they were ragging on my slacks for being "clothes made for a man" and scorning my lack of femininity, I made my escape.

I went to college and met Elizabeth who impressed me with her quiet and steady faith. Her knowledge of the Bible combined well with her shrewd judgement. She was the first person who sold me on Christianity without selling it to me. For that, she earned her place at the heavenly banquet.

I left college and went to an episcopal church with my Mom. We went through the catechism process together. I joined the choir and the organ committee. The priest was a converted Jew and a ph.d. His sermons were deep, memorized, delivered among the congregation. I learned how to get forgiveness and stop kicking myself.

When I married Doc, I had found a home church: wherever it was we were together. We prayed together before meals. I prayed every night before dropping off to sleep listening to the frogs chirruping or the frost crackling on the roof, depending on the season. If I listened hard enough, I could almost hear the creek.

Then we fled the countryside; having children changed our life beyond what we could have imagined, just like everyone said it would. In the city we were alone, but we had each other. Our time there contained the snowiest April in recorded history. Knee deep in the urban plight, I clung to my faith and took the first train out of there.

Now, we have a manageable house, we are close to family, we have a great neighborhood, and the children are out of diapers. It's the result of several well-laid plans that were designed with the help of prayer and good council. I should sigh a sigh of relief and rev up to soak up the season.

But I was feeling kind of empty and detached. Doc and I are ships passing in the night most evenings. We aren't sharing many meals, therefore we aren't praying much. I was feeling kind of sorry for myself, like maybe I was wrong to latch my wagon up to this particular fairy tale. After all, if God was loving and kind, why are all these people dying before their time? And why are people dumb enough to say things like, "It's all part of God's plan."? These are questions I am forced to consider daily, thanks to my pal, Hot Lemon.

After awhile, I ran out of reasons. I stood on the brink of kissing the whole idea of God goodbye. And I was granted a minor miracle: a few minutes alone with solitaire and iTunes. Getting time alone is a rare gift these days and I enjoy a good few games of solitaire; it puts me in a contemplative move. I turned on iTunes; I needed to hear some Dolly.




Love is in the water
Love is in the air
Show me where to go
Tell me will love be there ( love be there )
Teach me how to speak
Teach me how to share
Teach me where to go
Tell me will love be there ( love be there )

Yeah.


And then I heard this:



Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother,
and in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise his holy name.

I bowed my head, humbled. This was my Grandma's favorite Christmas carol. I didn't know her very well; she emmigrated to Canada when I was very young. I remember very vividly sitting in a food court in a mall in Ottawa when I went to see her in 1994. We had gone shopping and we were breaking for lunch. Her husband Peter, was fetching napkins and Grandma and I had just settled into our seats.

O Holy Night began to float over our heads and my Grandma inhaled deeply. "This is my favorite Christmas song...'fall on your knees!' Isn't it wonderful?" She asked me breathlessly. She was a died in the wool Anglican and had a real joy around her faith. I was surprised by the simple happiness she shared with me. Often, when people talk about faith, they are trying to either convince you to join them or they have some other not so hidden agendas. This was either a moment purely lacking hidden agenda or my Grandma was one fine actress. I'll tell you, I'm not really sure to this day which it is, but I hope it's the former.

But the verse I quoted above, about being brothers to slaves I was reminded about what I really dig about Jesus: Righteousness, goodness. And why I chose the path I did, why I chose to believe. I received a reminder to fall on my knees and my cup and flask began to runneth over. I could blame Hot Lemon for this recent hot funk. Afterall, he is constantly questioning God and His existance. And like I said, I've run out of rebuttals. But he's done me a favor: he made me think about God, seriously, like I did when I was on the run.

I glanced into the abyss that is the universe and thought, I'll never understand, but I'd like to know for sure: Are you there God? I think I got my answer.

So I will kick off my holiday season believing again. I will keep asking how to speak, where to go, and will I find love. If you need me, I'll be out breaking chains.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Jus' Killin' Time 'til Bedtime

It's 9:45. I presume Riley is asleep but my little night owl just outwitted me. She snookered her way out here on the couch. Sigh. I'm tired. I had a long boring day at work and a long, rainy boring drive home. I've been draggin' ass all day.

I get home and Doc's stands up long enough to say that he is crashing. A headache hit him, I guess. The girls and I had a nice evening. They had a bath. But damned if they won't settle down. I've removed all stimuli and gave grave warnings of their fate should the get out of bed.

Lucy moments ago, came out and said she didn't want to sleep in sister's room. I mistakenly said, "Go to bed...I don't care where."

Two beats passed and she decided to sleep here on the couch next to me. Crap. Outsmarted by a three-year-old. So far, though, the signs of pending sleep are here. She is sucking on her bottom lip and rubbing her ears. She's got dark circles. She's not talking. All good signs that I will soon be able to put her to bed, climb into my "spoil me" jammies, spoon in with Doc, and cross this Monday off my calendar.

Here's to a night of dreams that aren't about work and a hope for better biorhythms tomorrow.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Celebrities Who Have Appeared In My Dreams: Grant Miller and Tom Petty

I was trying to get home from some midwestern city and the guy who was my ride said he needed to stop and meet up with some reporter.

"His name is Miller...someone Miller...Grant?" he said

"Grant Miller?" I asked.

"Yeah, that's him," he replied as he verified this on his notepad.

"I know him," I said.

"You do?"

"Yeah...sort of."

We were making our way into a pub in the middle of suburbia and I started to worry. I had hours of road on me and I wasn't at my best. I knew I would be judged by that eyebrow.

The bar was panelled in timber and rafters and there were two rooms. The front room had a bar on one end and a stage at the other with tables in between and a buffet. We moved toward the back room which was separated off with a 1/4 height wall, and we found a table. I was partly annoyed because I wanted to keep driving and get home and I was partly worried that Grant Miller would discover I was a phoney.

We waited and the barman came around and told us that the Wing Buffet was ready and we could help ourselves. He turned and left and around the corner came Grant Miller, clad in a long leather jacket and baggy jeans. He was traveling with another anonymous guy and they joined us at our table. I considered not mentioning who I was and just keeping my mouth shut and remaining anonymous to him. But, if you know me at all, you know I eschew anonimity.

As the introductions were being made, I commented, "We've already met, so to speak."

There went the eyebrow. After a moment or two and a few hints from me the other eyebrow joined the first one and his face broke into a smile. We hugged and exchanged pleasantries. He turned out to be a very nice guy. At this point I realized I must be dreaming. I offered to fix a plate for everyone while they conducted their meeting.

I made my way over to the "Wing Buffet" and took a look. There was a large bin filled with chicken wings and many other smaller bins filled with different sauces to dip them in, plus a variety of veggies. I was a little apprehensive as the incomplete chicken wings looked a bit unsavory. But I took a few of them and some veggies and made my way back to the table. Grant Miller and his companion were gone. I looked out of the window and saw him pimp walk down the sidewalk.

I set the plate down and my companion announced he was going to "mail a package". Harrumph, I thought. After a while the bar began to fill up and I realized I'd been abandoned. I made my way over to the front room and toward the bar and sat down, trying to figure out how I was going to get home. I looked toward the stage and my view was obscured by a man wearing a Mad Hatter's top hat. When I leaned forward, I saw roadies setting up for a concert and I caught sight of the top-hatted man and realized it was Tom Petty.

"Hey," I said to one of his companions; he was flanked on either side by band members (I knew this because they were wearing long velvet jackets), "Are you guys playing here today?"

"Yes, but we have to make sure Tom Stays sober."

"Ah," I replied.

I tried to call Elizabeth and tell her she should meet me here.

"Where are you?" she asked.

"I don't know," I said and went outside. It didn't really clear things up any. I started walking through this anonymous suburb. I made my way through a family reunion in someone's back yard. I passed garage sales and church picnics and found my way back to a house that looked like mine. And then I woke up.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving, Y'all!


It's time once again for us all to count our blessings. I'll show you mine if you show me yours:



  • I have a local job working with people I like very much

  • I have a lovely reading audience

  • We're healthy

  • We're flea-free

  • It's not too cold yet

  • I don't have to fret too much over gas prices

  • Election year is coming

  • It's raining and I have a roof over my head

  • We found our Wallace & Gromit DVD

  • I know where my camera is

  • I don't have any homework to do

  • I have four days off

  • My neighbors are as awesome as ever

  • I've been invited to two Christmas parties

  • The kids are asleep

  • My family are recovering from great losses

  • I laugh daily (thanks to many of you)

  • Marie Osmond is in the finals

  • Doc has tomorrow and Saturday off

  • My friends are taking hardships in stride

  • I know where my keys are

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I Need Advice

How do you tell a friend that a staple of his wardrobe does him no favors. This particular item does no one favors, in fact. It is an old turtleck with the neck part not folded down, but standing up. Also, all of his t-necks are very old, so the neck is stretched out and stands away from his neck, encircling it like an upside down hoop skirt. He's a good looking fellow, but his turtleneck is standing in his way of finding true love, I think.

And speaking of necks, the turtleneck does no favors to one with a short neck, and I say this because I have a short neck and you won't catch me in any top that meets my ears. Besides, when you have a larger chest, like both he and I do, it looks like the girls are hanging from your chin. I want to tell him to wear open collared shirts, to layer. His collar bone should be showing, otherwise, his head just sits right on his shoulders. But he never asked my opinion. And I don't think I can explain this unbidden. What do you think? I should probably mind my own business and pray to Princess Diana to intervene.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Vintage Flannery: The ABC Book of Stars and Singers

I found some stuff I wrote in high school and I thought I'd share...


A is for Adam Ant (singer)
B is for Barry Manilow (singer)
C is for Christopher Cross (singer)
D is for Dom Deluise (star)
E is for Elton John (singer)
F is for Foriener (singers - group)
G is for Greg Kihn (singer)
H is for Huey Lewis and the News (group)
I is for Ingrid Bergman (star)
J is for Juice Newton (singer)
K is for Kim Carnes (singer)
L is for Loverboy (group)
M is for Mike Reno (singer)
N is for Nancy McKeon (star)
O is for Olivia Newton-John (singer/star)
P is for Paul McCartney (singer)
Q is for Queen (singers/group)
R is for Rick Springfield (singer/star)
S is for Scott Smith (singer)
T is for Tim Conway (star)
U is for Utopia (singers/group)
V is for the Vapors (singers/group)
W is for Wings (group)
X is for XTC (singers/group)
Y is for Yes (singers/group)
Z is for Fank and Moon Unit Zappa (singers)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Life Sucks


How's that for a turnaround. I went to bed at 9:00 p.m. last night, having faced the scatalogical (I'm trying to raise the reading level around here, so look out for the big words) one too many times yesterday. Coming off of the worst week of getting very little sleep, I cried uncle. I woke up this morning feeling the worst I had since I took my new job. I couldn't figure out why, but I was determined to ask for help.

After taking a shower, where Doc was kind enough to wash my back and feet, fixing my hair, putting on my make up, and donning my punk rock pants, I'm feeling much better. I took a moment to reflect on the last couple of months and realised that I've been through the shit, both literally and figuratively. I had a good reason for feeling bummed out.

So, I made some plans to get out of the house. I am highly succeptable to cabin fever, and I knew that staying around here would only make things worse. So I called my parents and made plans to see them this evening. In the meantime, I'm going to take the kids to the library and see if Elizabeth and Genn6 are up for seeing Fred Claus with us. The laundry is not done, the house needs tidying, but I've got enough clothes for the upcoming short week and there's not poop or puke anywhere. Good Housekeeping might ding me, but Parent magazine will applaud me for finding a way to enjoy life with my kids.

Perhaps having a few days off this week will trip my reset button and I'll be good to go for the duration of the holiday season. Doc has agreed to help with the Christmas shopping and Mom and Dad are planning on sending a little extra cash our way. I am a bit alarmed at my looming sense of humbuggery, but I think I'll be able to conquer it.

I know I promised a new chapter in my novel by today, but it's not going to happen. I'll get to it when I get to it. Until then, I'm going to soak up the Christmas music that is playing and watch my girls' faces light up as they look in wonder at the decorations and miles of toys.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Life Is Good



  • It's payday

  • It's Friday

  • We've got beer and Doritos

  • We've got a babysitter

  • Genn6 is coming to town

  • Tiki is on.

What more could a girl ask for?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Brain Blast!


Last night I finished writing my novel...in my head. The remaining chapters unfurled before me. Look for a new chapter Sunday.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

It's Tuesday!

I won at poker tonight. My uncle Bob is in town and he's a bit of a wild player; it really shakes the game up. I walked away with 20 bucks. I had the cards tonight. It's sweet reward two days before payday, let me tell you. But I'm knackered. I must hit the hay. But I'm going to write everyday from now on, even if it kills me.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Where The Hell Is Flannery At?

I've been blasted away from the center of the blogosphere. I've been hanging on to a tail of a kite that connects me to you. I keep trying to pull myself back in but the gale force wind of time blasts me in the face and I lose all ground and am back where I started from. So here I sit, frustrated by the Chevron Relief Stitch I'm trying to conjure on my sampler afghan that has me occupied, nay, obsessed.

I spent the weekend running behind; I intended to post on Friday and here it is Sunday and I'm days late and dollars short. Saturday I had to get three birthday presents for a party that night and a baby shower gift for the next day. I made the grave mistake of going to the mall with my kids. Talk about flying loose from sanity and reality! I was sadly mistaken that my finding a great parking spot was a good omen.

I usually try to avoid the mall; it's way more expensive than Walmart and equally stuffed with weirdos. But I thought, hey, I've got some coupons for stores at the mall and I'll be able to spend what I would at Walmart and walk away with some good stuff. This was a rookie mistake. At first I was sucked in to the Piercing Pagoda. All of the sparkling things made me forget that "buy one get one half off" was a good deal. It's not, really. But I did end up finding two of the gifts and got my left ear pierced on the cartilage, which I've been intending to do for a while now. The problem with the Piercing Pagoda is that it's right outside of the Disney Store and Build-A-Bear, which my girls had ample time to salivate over as I dithered back and forth over what to buy.

So I got my gifts and my ear pierced and we wandered into the Disney Store where the kids found an overpriced toy I promised to buy them. It was wandering around this plush paradise that I realized I had my ear pierced on the side of my head opposite where my part is, so no one can see it. I decided to go back and get the other one pierced on the way out. The girls decided they were hungry and we made our way to hell. I mean the food court for some Chick-fil-a. We finished eating and went to the ATM to get more money I didn't need to spend.

I decided to forgo finding the third birthday gift and the shower gift and opted to give the ever popular, one-size-fits-all cash and headed back to the Piercing Pagoda. On the way, Riley became obsessed with building a bear. No, I replied. She melted away in tears when I began to redo the piles of paperwork it takes to get one's ears pierced. I think I had to avow that I was not a terrorist at one point. At this point, I look over at the other customers around the kiosk and noticed a fairly normal looking mom-type. Normal, except for the gang style tattoo along her jawline that read "BITCH". Her drunken companion, also somewhat normal started to harass one of the pagoda ladies and she told him to shove off.

"I'm sorry about that," she apologized to me.

"Don't worry about it," I said brushing her apology away, "It is the mall, after all." I immediately felt bad, remembering that this was her workplace. It was not my intention to slag her, just her clientele.

Riley continued to cry, which is not like her, and I decided I'd relent. Another rookie mistake. We went over to Build-A-Bear and build a rabbit for Riley and a cat for Lucy. When we were next in line, one of the two friendly bear-builders decided to disappear and we had to wait and wait and wait. I kept checking my watch; the party was to start at 6 and it was 5:15. We had arrived at the mall at about 2:30. And I snapped. I needed to be anywhere but there. My ears were throbbing and my heart was racing with the anxiety of being late and having spent more than I intended.

At last, our fate was in my hands and it was time to type in the details of the "birth certificate". I kept hitting the wrong button and going back five steps in the process. The screen kept saying "push the green button". The green button was enter, but there was also a green button that had a diamond on it and sent me back to the start. It was lunacy. By the time I got to the register, my veins at my jawline were popped out and beginning to spell out "bitch."

"Do you want to sign up for coupons?" the sweetheart behind the counter asked me.

"Sure," I said.

"What's your address?" She inquired. And the next ten minutes whirled out in front of me and I had a moment of prophecy. I'd be giving her my personal information, which I had just put into the stupid birth certificate computers, again.

"You know what?" I said, trying not to turn purple, "I think I'll pass on the coupons; I'm running late."

She quickly packed up my stuff, like the nice person she was (at least until Black Friday hits) and we made our way out the door.

"OK, ladies," I proclaimed in my best drill sargent voice, "We've got to hustle if we're going to make it to the party on time."

I had told my Mom that I'd be at her house at six, just in case, she, Dad, Grandma, Bobby and Vernice (my uncle and aunt) didn't make it back in time. It was 5: 30. We got to a little seating area and the girls decided to take a rest.

"Let's go!" I said, "We've got to get to the party!"

"I peed," Lucy said and I began to unravel.

I quickly called my Mom and checked to see if she was home yet. Thankfully, she's got her shit together and they had made it home in plenty of time. I asked if she had any of Lucy's clothes at her house. She didn't. I told her I'd be a little bit late and I tried to figure out what to do next. Should I go home get the kids out of the car, get them into the house, get Lucy cleaned up and changed, and drag them back out again and then stop at Target or Walgreens and get cards? Or should I just give myself up completely to the demon of consumerism and dash into Target, get her some new undies and clothes as well as the birthday cards I had failed to get in my 3 hour tour of the mall? I took option b and gathered the girls together for one more stop.

We were able to run into Target and get everything, excluding the baby shower card and made it to my parent's house about 20 minutes late. I zealously hold to the rule set forth by Dirk Gentley that it's better to be 4 hours and a few minutes late and be put together than four hours late and a complete mess, so I asked the girls to sit tight as I applied my lipstick. I heard Riley messing with the door and I told her to stay put. I finished off my lipstick and a woman in a mini van pulled by us slowly and gave me a death glare. I wondered what her problem was as I gathered up the gifts and got out of the car, only to find Riley standing with her back to the car and looking like she'd seen a ghost. Here she had disobeyed me and got out of the car. It probably looked to mini-van woman like I'd left my daughter out in the middle of the street on her on. Well, there went looking like I was put together. I was sure that lady was already dialing children's services on me.

I was able to calm down for a moment in my parent's foyer, until I saw my cousin, Tracey, with whom I share some bad blood and things disolved from there. I made my apologies to my parents and went to their basement to sign cards and put the gifts together while my Mom changed Lucy.

We ended up having a lovely time in my parent's new house. My cousins behaved themselves, as far as I know. I hid out in the basement with the men and watched Roadhouse, a true 80's classic film. I have never seen it all the way through, but I began to understand its appeal.

Today was like the movie version of the novel I had lived yesterday. I was late for the baby shower, having had to stop to get another damn card and I was once again faced with being cordial to a person I'd rather not run into again in my life. And Lucy had diarhea...twice...in her pants. So we left and came home, where Lucy slept and I ignored the piles of laundry and clutter while Riley and I played Scooby-Doo on the Playstation.

So, if you're wondering where I've been recently, you now may have some understanding. I am battling the forces of chaos. Here's to a quieter week with more writing and less poop.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

November

It’s been one year and two days since I started writing my novel. It’s weird: I know what happened to everyone, yet I haven’t recorded it. Any suggestions from you on how to finally nail that sucker down?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Mind Vacations: Terry


Everynow and then, I run into fascinating people, often times right here. And I think to myself, "Self, I wonder what it would be like to live in that person's head for just one day." Terry is one of those fascinating people and, lucky for me, he's a dear friend of mine.


I met Terry one day in college. I had recently declared my major in Classical and Medieval Studies and I had made my way to our very own student lounge. Sitting there was a bearded fellow, who was sipping a cup of joe from a Dr. Who mug. We immediately hit it off when we discovered our mutual love for low-budget BBC sci-fi.


We spent several years together, struggling to translate Latin together and to understand the causes and effects of moves made by the ancients. Everyday, he'd reveal some facet of his giant brain and I'd be knocked over in wonderment. Terry has a wonderful speaking voice. He can recite the poem Gunga Din in its entirety and with dramatic flourish. He speaks several languages and can quote the greats in their original tongue.


We drank together, studied together, shared each other's heartbreaks and heart joys. I don't think I've ever met such a passionate man. He is an all or nothing kind of guy. He spends hours reading the obscure and listening to beautiful music. He dotes on his huskies and his wife. He is a true friend who has wise counsel at his finger tips.


Back in the day, he proudly drove a Yugo. He gave me my first real job teaching computers to disabled veterans. We spent a weekend with our CLAM friends at a renaissance festival, where there was no greater lord or gentleman than good sir Terry, or Christian. His roots are Appalachian, but he's a renaissance man through and through.


I would like to spend a day in his mind, thinking eriudite thoughts...in the original ancient Greek, Old Norse, or Old English. I would like to experience his great passions and share my heart as he does. I would like to sit in his easy chair and read Robert Blake poems while sipping a fine wine.


While I have been struggling to master telepathy, I don't think I'll be successful in our lifetime, but a girl can dream, right? So I'll spend some time over the next few days, thinking Terry thoughts and living life to the fullest. I will let the words of Catullus float in my brain (in English...I can barely remember my Latin) and smile sagely as I do so. I will savor Tolkein's never-ending prose and finally admit that The Lord of the Rings Saga's every word is important. And when I make an obvious blunder in understanding the complex or abstract words of someone else, I will say, in my best valley girl voice (as he is prone to do): Awesome! Can I have a beer?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Happy Birthday, Doc!

Let's all lift a glass to this pie-throwing, story-telling, puppet-making, target-shooting, cheap-bastarding sweet heart of a guy!

xoxox

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Thursday, October 25, 2007

When The Moon Hits Your Eye Like A Lemon Merangue Pie, That's Amore!


I believe Doc was moved by Sammy Davis, Jr. (and an overt message from me) to provide a memorable gesture for our 10 year anniversary. It was a little more Sammy than it was Flannery, but I'll take it.


There were many memorable things that happened today. For instance, Lucy, when she got out of the tub, wanted to be Super Lucy and insisted in the way only a three-year-old could, and I obliged. I loosely tied a blanket around her neck and she was transformed.


I told the girls I needed two super heros to help me on my mission: To find the DVD remote. They gamely agreed to help me in my quest. Lucy even went to get friends. She ran into the bathroom and said in the mirror, "Mommy needs some super heros to find the remote...do you want to help? [pause] Good! Let's go!" And she raced back into the bedroom.


I told the girls to check under the bed while I stripped it of its sheets. "Not here!" I said.


"Not here!" said Riley popping back up from under the bed.


"Now I need you to help me remake this bed!"


"Yay!" they yelled as Riley jumped on the bed. We had some fun flapping the sheets around and then we decided to straighten the covers. By this time, Lucy was on the bed too, jumping and superheroing. Riley and I got the sheet and one blanket on and Riley lost interest. I straightened my side up and looked at Lucy.


"Ok?" I said.


"NO!" she yelled and started stumbling around.


"Are you caught in your cape?" I asked, looking at her feet.


"No, no, no, no, no!" she said and then pointed to the covers, "It's not straight!"


"Well, why don't you straighten it?" I asked.


"Super heros don't do that," she said and leapt off the bed.


*****


After the girls went to sleep, I came out to the garage to see how Doc was doing.


"I've been thinking about that gesture," he said.


"Oh?" I asked, "What is it?"


"Well, I want to make sure the kids are asleep first."


"Hmmm...they're out," I said.


"Ok," he said, "Follow me."


He lead me outside and into the driveway, under the nearly full moon. He walked me clear out to the spotlight of the lampost at the end of the drive and said the following:


Tonight is our tenth anniversary. I want you to stop and think back and call up all the memories of every time I've been late or screwed up or forgotten anniversaries and hold that image in your mind. Got it? OK. Now wait here.


He walked back to his Jeep and started shuffling things around. Oh, God, I thought, He's going to shoot me. But the thought passed as he finally got everything how he wanted it. He turned and started walking toward me with a pie in one hand and the other hand behind his back.


He leaned into me in that way he does when he really wants to make sure you're listening and said the following over a lemon merangue pie: "Now, I want you to take this pie and shove it in my face."


"No," I said, "I won't do that."


"Come on," he prodded.


"No..."


"You can do it."


So I stuck my finger in the cream on top and wiped it on his chin.


"There," I said.


And he got this look in his eye and his right shoulder dipped. In a half second I caught sight of a second pie.


"Oh no you don't, you bitch!" I yelled and ducked as I brought the pie up and over and hit him square in the face. My duck saved me (ducks will usually do that for you), all but the right side of my head.


"I can't believe you did that!" I yelled as he laughed, wiping pie off his face.


I started walking into the house pissed and amazed. Who does that? I wondered. He followed me in and we went into the kitchen and started to rinse off. He's laughing and I'm still trying to recover.


"I can't believe you did that; you're such a little bitch!"


After we were nearly cleaned of, the joy of it started to wash over me. God, that was fun. And you know what? I think I kind of liked landing a pie in his face. We talked later about how ten years is a long time and we've both driven each other nearly crackers and we decided that we both deserved what we got.


Phase two of Operation Gesture was much more Flannery. Doc went back to the Jeep and fetched a dozen beatiful roses and a cool bottle of Asti, my favorite.


"Now," he said, "I want to tell you: the pies were reduced, but I paid full price for those roses."


And my heart melted.



Monday, October 22, 2007

Unexpected Exile

I'm sitting in my parent's basement, watching MASH with Lucy and Doc. The Orkin man came to day to give the fleas the business. You'd think two giant aerosol cans of flea killer would pretty much take care of the problem. Nope. Jesus H. Tap-Dancin' Christ, you should hear the list of things we have to do:

  • Buy a dog sized flea collar and cut it up; put it in the sweeper canister
  • Vacuum the house 3 to 4 times a day for at least the next two weeks
  • Scrub the linoleum and basement floor with hot water and bleach

I'm exhausted just thinking about it all. It's a good thing I quit school or I'd be dangling out a window about now. Doc thinks we need to stay at Mom & Dad's at least one more night to make sure all the chemicals are gone and to start the vacuuming rituals. We've been here since Saturday night and I miss my bed. I don't miss the fleas though.

I'm trying to look on the bright side of all this. Maybe all the vacuuming will be like swinging two bats on the on-deck circle...it will just get us warmed up to the idea of vacuuming more often. I hate to vacuum. It's noisy and monotonous, like an AC/DC concert. I'd much rather dust, personally, but dusting ain't gonna kill any fleas. Also, all this flea business might mean that I will soon have some brand new carpet in my bedroom to replace the teal green plush from the Emerald City collection that currently lurks under my bed.

I worked so hard this weekend. Friday night: I finished the paper below. Well, it's not really finished. There are plenty of errors, as I noticed when I read it for the podcast. But it was done enough for government work. Saturday, my Mom and Grandma came over while Dad took the girls to his house to play. Mom, Grandma and I swept, picked up, dusted (whee!), packed up and gathered all the laundry we could find and headed off to the laundromat.

We stopped on the way at Milk & Honey, a Canton institution that serves steak burgers and sundaes. We fortified ourselves and started in on the laundry at about 2:30. By 5:45, we had finished nearly 30 loads of laundry.

Oh, by the way, a cute little Asian guy tried to pick me up at the laundromat. At first, I couldn't figure out that he wanted a date. He kept asking if I would be his friend.

"Sure," I said, "I can be your friend."

He mumbled something unintelligible that included street names I recognized. Then he asked me for my number and then offered me his number. I had a flash-forward of him calling me constantly and telling me about his problems with an accent so thick that I'd want to scratch my ears out as my better nature did battle with my bitch nature over whether to stay his friend or ditch him like a sack of rotten bananas.

"Um," I said, looking around for my Mom, "I don't have my phone."

I was able to tear myself away and get back to the task at hand, pumping quarters into greedy washing machines. Later on, as I went to my car to get some baskets, he cornered me.

"Do you want to have dinner tonight?" he asked me, plain as day.

"Uh," I stammered, "Well...I'm married...I've got kids."

"You're married?" he asked, surprised.

"Yes," I said, feeling like I may be out of the woods.

"Oh," he said, "I don't mind."

"Well," I said, "I think my husband would. Thanks anyway though," and I walked away.

He made himself scarce, while he waited for his laundry to finish, talking on his cell phone. I think he might have been a bit of a con artist.

Sunday, I worked on the house, colored my hair (finally) and crashed out on the couch. I was late for work this morning; I couldn't find my keys. Someone had hidden them in my purse. Imagine that! But work was good and I got my hair cut, so I look fabulous. I had a leisurely dinner on my own and finished reading my book. Riley's out cold and Lucy, well, who knows when she'll crash out. She seems to be a bit manic right now. But she's got to sleep sometime, right?

So what, I'm faced with one more night without my bed. At least it's not in a hotel, but rather Mom and Pop's Comfy Couch Inn. And Doc is going to handle a lot of the to-do list this week. Hopefully by the weekend we'll have a new routine that includes vacuuming until our fingers fall off. Dirty deeds...done dirt cheap and all that rot. Wish us luck and send us a post card.

Until then, fleas be not with you.

Friday, October 19, 2007

It's Not Like I Ain't Been Writin'...

Hear all about it to the left...

Or read it here...


1979-1984: A Failure of Accountability

“A new year is not really new if we live the same old life,”[1] The Plain Dealer quotes from a “sage observer”. One could even say that about a new decade or a new century when talking about Cleveland. Politicians are continuing to make promises to help those who need it most and fail to follow through or set up check points to make sure plans are enacted as intended. More interested in protecting their power base than pulling together and finding ways to serve the greater good, politicians, including school superintendents, continue to drop the ball and those who suffer are the ones who need the most to survive. The year 1979 opens with proclamations of doom and gloom. Inflation and unemployment are out of control and the politicians seem to lack the skills to bring people out of it all. According to the front page of The Plain Dealer on the first day of 1979, “the city is broke and the politicians sometimes act like monkeys or as if their New Year’s Eve party was occurring every day.”[2]

In the neighborhoods, people suffer as landlords and contractors fail live up to promises to repair homes in Garfield Heights. The county has given two women, for example, grants of $10,000 each to fix up their crumbling houses. Once again the best intentions of urban renewal falter as contractors cut corners and politicians turned a deaf ear, claiming the women shouldn’t complain about inexperienced workers conducting haphazard repairs because it is free. In the end, the beneficiaries could end up paying the price for shoddy workmanship in fines for code violations. [3]

The director of the program, Vincent J. Lombardi, was sympathetic to the women and explained that new workers would be hired to complete the work. However, the contractor scoffed at the women’s complaints and called the ladies “foolish”. The women and the contractors were left to arbitrate the work on their own, without county oversight and intervention. The county has offered many promises, but has failed to follow through. A pattern that has appeared over and over throughout the early twentieth century with regard to urban renewal is perpetuated in 1979: Politicians promise and don’t follow through. The county selected the contractor, forced the homeowners to accept and deal with him, and then overloaded him with work, all the while sincere in their expectations that the job would be done. No accountability measures were in place and no investigations were allowed into the contractor due to state privacy laws.[4] Fortunately, a few days after this article ran, the powers that be were forced to examine the situation closely. Commissioner Robert E. Sweeny ordered an investigation.[5]

In 1982, there seemed to be little improvement in the housing situation. Public housing projects are worse than what was available before. Since the state gave tax breaks through depreciation. “Why should a landowner, especially an absentee landlord or real estate investment company renovate or rebuild when it will only serve to increase one’s taxes?” wondered the editor of the Call & Post. He recommended that the state adopt a site-value system that would encourage improvements. [6]

Housing was also becoming more segregated as real estate practices that encourage resegregation were “threatening some integrated areas. The Call & Post recommended affirmative marketing efforts” to slow the process of resegreation. The Report on Population and Race, based on the 1980 census, revealed that integrated areas were expected to “undergo more racial change over the next three years than less-integrated tracks.”[7]

At the county level, there has been a high level of turnover on four different boards of county commissioners within three weeks’ time. [8] Coming off of a year of fiscal failure, having defaulted on its debts in 1978, The Plain Dealer tries to put a positive spin on the hopes for the new year, recommending that everyone just forget about 1978 all together.[9] It’s not that bad, claim the editors. Let’s just forget last year and hope for the best. This attitude is pure Cleveland: just ask any Browns fan. But a city that refuses to conduct a post-mortem on its failures, will never learn how to do it right. Relying on luck seems to be a common practice for Cleveland politicians, who neglect to examine their missteps and correct them. Over and over, they seem convinced that things will work themselves out on their own, and they move on to plan their next run for office.

Having lost the race for Mayor to Kucinich, Edward Feighan was sworn into office as County Commissioner, returning the commission to the hands of democrats after three years in republican control. Feighan swore to work responsibly and maturely to straighten out the problems in Cuyahoga County during the “most turbulent political period in our history.” His focus will be on welfare reform, treatment for alcoholism and programs for battered wives.[10] He was also poised to take on City Hall and Kucinich head on as the battle between the two organizations was sure to continue.[11]

The battle continued between City Hall and City Council. Having won the mayoral election based on appealing to voters rather than relying on political connections, Dennis Kucinich entered office with few debts to other politicians and the freedom to follow his ideals. But it also left him as an outsider with very few allies in the city government.[12] On January 5th, the courts blocked the Mayor’s proposed lay-offs of 400 city workers. An order to stall the lay-offs was presented to the city administration in order to give the City Council time to find the money to bolster the payroll. A land deal and a proposal for early pay-off of an RTA debt needed time to be passed through. Meanwhile the city personnel, while dreading the effects of loss of human resources, were realistic in understanding that they could not afford to wait on hope to pay off. [13]

While City Council and the Mayor’s Office tried to work a deal, the Fraternal Order of Police chimed in, mocking the Mayor for his fool-hardy plans to lay off hundreds of police officers. William D. Gallagher claimed that there was money enough to postpone lay-offs until late February when they could be reconsidered after the land deals went through.[14] However, the planned lay-offs would save the city $600,000 a month, but would end if voters would approve a .5% income tax hike.[15]

The city’s financial woes were decried in the January 3rd issue of The Plain Dealer. The editor noted that city has had warning of its troubles since at least 1974 but the government and the people have fooled themselves into thinking that things would work out, due to lack of understanding or political reasons. Politicians had been pointing blame at each other for years without sincerely researching the problems. At least at this point the negative national attention has been forcing the city to seriously examine what’s wrong.

But the political fighting didn’t only go on between City Council and the Mayor’s Office, but also among City Council itself. In 1982, the Call & Post reported about the way Council President George Forbes indiscriminate use of the gag order. Because certain legislation about the deduction of union dues, the police unions were fighting amongst each other. The Council, who were tired of long Council meetings, refused to discuss the issues of snow-removal and blight removal. Those issues were not on the agenda so, according to Forbes, no one had the right to talk about it. This infuriated several council members who planned an investigation. [16] At least these politicians were good at enforcing their own rules for their meetings, they certainly weren’t seeing through anything else.

On the national front, in 1979, the minimum wage had been raised by 9.4% to $2.65 percent. However, lack of follow-through is evidenced by the observation made by economists that “as the minimum wage increases, compliance diminishes.”[17] Without accountability measures in place, what’s the point of trying to enact any law? With a city facing lay-offs and tax hikes, the unenforced minimum wage hike seemed pointless.

In the letters to the editor on January 2, 1979, it is interesting to note that a reader from the city of Cleveland suggests that the city and the suburbs join forces and become one. She recommends that if the suburbs want access to their profit-generating water resources, they should share their recreation facilities and snow plows. She complains that the suburbs want to keep their own resources and take Cleveland’s as well.[18] Other Clevelanders complain about the arrogance of the few in the near-west side of Cleveland wanting to secede. A few wealthy people moved there, tidied up a bit and immediately wanted to separate from the problems of Cleveland, they even threatened to put up toll booths at their border. All of these actions were led by a politician, William Sullivan, claiming to represent the entire ward, when in actuality he was representing the interests of a privileged few.

In October of 1979, Kucinich faced George Voinovich in the mayoral race. Kucinich was in a tight spot due to his confrontational style. Because he was unwilling to pay party politics, even just a little, he couldn’t make deals and move forward from the default. As Swantstrom notes, “Default…was a serious blow to the administration. Unable to borrow money, the Kucinich administration was forced to rely on a depleted tax base to make ends meet. Default was essentially an economic boycott of the city for political reasons.” Business leaders refused to help Cleveland until Kucinich was gone.[19]

Kucinich’s refusal to compromise and his frontal political assaults on banks, in particular, for not investing in the city, caused a hostile reaction in the bankers. They took their “attempt to bribe an entire city…” public in the form of default. Default was possible because the banks had financial power over the city; it could issue municipal credit. The banks wielded this power over a mayor who wouldn’t bend, even when default was imminent. [20]

Voinovich ran a smooth campaign for mayor in November of 1979, and held a nonpartisan stance as Kucinich ran around trying to attack, claiming that Voinovich was in the pockets of the wealthy business owners or “Fat Cats,” While many Clevelanders didn’t care for fat cats and appreciated the way Kucinich stood up to them, voters knew they needed the fat cats for the city to survive. The people of Cleveland started to blame Kucinich for the lack of “business confidence.” [21] Voinovich seemed willing to carry forward with the current administrations plans of hanging on to Muny Light and rejecting tax abatements, but he took umbrage with the “chaos and confrontation at City Hall, which, he claimed, was holding back civic progress.” [22]
Suburbanites continued to exploit the city in the form participating in prostitution.

Councilwoman Artha Woods started a campaign to fight prostitution in Ward 18 on Cedar Avenue and discovered that most of the customers drove in from the suburbs. She hoped her new law to prosecute both prostitutes and their customers would bring an end to the unhealthy practice. While the benefits to ending prostitution are obvious, she was immediately criticized by the ACLU, who presumably were opposed to exposing the identities of the suburban customers.[23] Who knows where her hope comes from, as she explains that many laws are not enforced in her ward, especially with regard to housing.[24]

By 1982, some of the housing woes seemed to have been eased. E. 55th Street neighborhoods were booming with local business and friendly home-owners. Though there were crime and drug issues, and some businesses were leaving, residents and business owners had a plan for growth: renovation of structures, more sales and services, improve parking, acquire new equipment, and significantly increase employment. [25]

In 1984 other neighborhoods were gaining momentum in finding was to improve their situation. The Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland was spending time getting to know ethnic communities and finding out about their employment needs. By providing communities with supplies and equipment appropriate to their skills and culture, ethnic community members were able to make enough money to put food on the table.[26]
The Office of School Monitoring and Community Relations criticized a student rights and responsibilities code in 1979, claiming that it was confusing and worse than no code at all. The OSMCR explained that this kind of code should be upheld at the school level to protect all students from arbitrary discipline during this period of desegregation. The code is described as being inconsistent.[27] Meanwhile, even if there were a suitable code in place, the Cleveland Schools lacked sufficient staff to enforce it. The Assistant State Superintendent put the school system on warning, threatening to withdraw over $800,000 in state aid if the number of teachers failed to meet the standard of 40 teachers to every 1000 students. There was a huge teacher loss at the beginning of the year due to a six-week strike and administrators were scrambling to fill jobs.[28]

Staffing seemed to be one of many problems facing Cleveland Schools. Complaints were growing about East Side schools. Students were unmonitored and allowed to loiter and play games rather than given instructional activities. Teachers were there more for security reasons than educational ones. Stanley Tolliver decried the inequity of services offered at the East and West side schools. “…how could there be such a difference between the schools on the East Side and West Side? I don’t think it’s a coincidence…These kids are getting ripped off. There are hundreds of millions of dollars going down a rathole every year, and I think it’s high time…for a wall-to-wall audit of the school system.” [29]

High school and junior high school attendance dropped 2.8% and 2.3% respectively in the beginning of the 1984-85 school year, contradicting the claims of Supt. Frederick D. Holiday’s claims of successfully fighting absenteeism. Attendance steering committee members noted that their recommendations for raising attendance had been followed, as long as they didn’t cost any money. Once again, lack of enforcement drains the life out of good ideas.

By 1982, the Editor of the Call & Post was decrying the lack of compliance in Cleveland with desegregation rules. They called the federal government’s policy “putrid” and cried foul when the federal court denyied tax-exempt status to private schools who discriminated, yet let discriminatory practices continue in Cleveland Schools. “The federal government is no longer going to enforce those laws aimed at correcting the racial injustice that has been the dark side of America’s greatness.”[30]

In 1982, Dr. Frederick Holliday became Cleveland School’s first black superintendent who was facing a huge task: School closing, administrative in-fighting, low standards, and red tape. His hopes were to raise achievement and improve the system’s standing as the leader in suspensions in the nation. By taking a firm stand and a hatchet to the budget, it seemed accountability was about to return to Cleveland schools.[31]

During this time it seems like the only accountability measures in action were the spotlights of the national and local media. Politicians drunk with power and thirsting for popularity enact program after program all with the hopes that something would stick. Each effort to improve the city seemed doomed due to the lack of enforcement measures. Nothing can succeed without appropriate follow-through. And how could it with the many branches of the city government (the City Council, City Hall, the police force and schools) constantly fighting with each other and name calling? Meanwhile, the citizens suffer the loss of adequate services and reliable resources such as livable housing and adequate education. Throughout the 20th century the citizenry suffered as the politicians played games with money entrusted to them for the public good.
In November of 1984, Cleveland’s infrastructure was crumbling and suffering from neglect. In the race for County Commissioner, State Rep. Mary O. Boyle was challenging the incumbent Vincent C. Campenella and accused him of working too hard on tax hikes and not working hard enough to get federal funds for improvements.[32]

It seems that our best hope for the future of our city is taking time to find out what we are about and what we are good at and poring resources and accountability measures to foster growth rather than force it or allow it to trickle down. “Most important to the city’s recovery is a new realism about the city’s problems.”[33] Let’s stop building Conference Centers, while they may bring in artificial communities, born to serve a market, their cotton candy foundation will not last a Cleveland Winter. Better we pull together, decide what we’re good at and do that. Haven’t we learned by now that the best thing about Cleveland is us?

[1] The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 1, 1979, p. 26-A
[2] The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 1, 1979, p. 1.
[3] The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 1, 1979, p. 1.
[4] The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 1, 1979, p. 6-A.
[5] The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 5, 1979, p. 14-B.
[6] The Call & Post, January 23, 1982, p. 8-A.
[7] The Call & Post, January 23, 1982, p. 16-A.
[8] The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 1, 1979, p. 4-A.
[9] The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 1, 1979, p. 22-A.
[10] The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 1, 1979, p. 30-A.
[11] The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 1, 1979, p. 1-B.
[12] Swanstrom, T. (1985). The Crisis of Growth Politics, p. 9.
[13] The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 5, 1979, p. 1-A.
[14] The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 5, 1979, p. 12-A.
[15] The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 3, 1979, p. 1-A.
[16] The Call & Post, January 23, 1982, p. 18-A.
[17] The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 1, 1979, p. 36-A.
[18] The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 2, 1979, p. 20-A.
[19] Swanstrom, T. (1985). The Crisis of Growth Politics, p. 213.
[20] Swanstrom, T. (1985). The Crisis of Growth Politics, p. 230.
[21] Swanstrom, T. (1985). The Crisis of Growth Politics, p. 217.
[22] Swanstrom, T. (1985). The Crisis of Growth Politics, p. 219.
[23] The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 5, 1979, p. 1-D.
[24] The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 5, 1979, p. 2-D.
[25] The Call & Post, January 8, 1982, p. 14-A.
[26] The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 2, 1984, p. 1-B.
[27] The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 3, 1979, p. 1-A.
[28] The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 3, 1979, p. 3-A.
[29] The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 3, 1979, p. 3-A.
[30] The Call & Post, January 16, 1982, p. 8-A.
[31] The Call & Post, January 1, 1983, p. 7-B.
[32] The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 1, 1984, p. 20-A.
[33] Campbell, Thomas E., “Cleveland: The Struggle for Stability.” p. 131.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hear It Here

Dale inspired it. Blame him. I've posted the first chapter of my novel and it's loooooong. Enjoy!

Proud Moments In Parenting.

Not only can Riley say the Pledge of Allegiance like a champ, she can also say it in a way that sounds like she's saying it under water.

Sniffle. We're so proud.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

You're All Wonderful Humanitarians!




I'm am so happy right now. Sure, I've got a good job that's close to home. I'm looking forward to spending the weekend with Doc. We've made it to our 10 year anniversary, almost. That's a lot to be happy for. But I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge a group of people that helped me pull through the dark times. Namely: You.


Sitting here at the computer, I've found a lovely group of friends who make me laugh, think, wonder and marvel. My life has been in a whirlwind for a good while now: but I knew I could count on signing in and hooking up to some wonderful stuff. The many kind words of encourage meant and the healthy doses of righteous anger you expensed on my behalf are what helped me beat this mess by a nose. I look forward to hanging with you without also hanging by my finger nails.


I wanted to thank you all from the bottom of my heart. And to show my appreciation I've designed a limited edition, lifetime Humanitarian Award (see above). If you like, you can snag it and post it on your blog to show the world what ginormous sweethearts you all are.
xoxox

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dreams

"A bit beyone perception's reach
I sometimes believe I see
that life is two locked boxes,
each containing the other's key.

Piet Hein, as quoted in PopCo by Scarlett Thomas

"Mommy!" Lucy yelled, "Watch me pee!"

"OK," I said. It really is exciting, after three plus years of diapers. She plops herself on the seat and I gasp to myself, remembering the time I fell in the toilet when I was a little bit older than her, but whenever I threw myself on the seat with anything resembling gusto. This happens to me everytime I am called to bear witness to my youngest daughter's WC adventures.

Lucy finishes up and I help her sort out her clothes. I make my way out of my parent's master bathroom and into their wonderful sitting room with Lucy in tow. I wander into their bedroom where my Dad is loading up the last quarter of his music collection. He's only up to hundreds of gigs so far.

We both turned around to watch Lucy come into the room and proceed to be sweet. She went over to the bed and gave Riley a kiss. My Dad and I both melted.

"She's so sweet," I said.

"Yeah, she wears her heart on her sleeve."

"And she's such a snuggler." I remarked.

"Hey," he said turning toward me, "I had the strangest dream this morning."

"Oh?" I said. I was standing in the doorway by this point and I could see my Grandma sitting in a wooden chair against the far wall, reading.

"Yeah, it was early in the morning and I had woken up briefly, but I fell back asleep and had this dream that was more like a movie. Like, I wasn't in it but I was watching it."

"Ok" I said.

"It was in color, too, which is unusual."

I never understood my Dad's claim that most people dreamed in color. It seems impossible to me. How can we, i.e. human beings, dream in black and white if we've been seeing everything in color up until the early 20th century when silent pictures were first seen. I mean, how would you even know black and white without knowing Buster Keaton? I never questioned him about this. I just took it as his rule and made my mind up later on. It doesn't seem worth arguing over anyway; it's not easy to really know what's going on in someone else's head, even if you know them well.

"There was a crane that was outside our house and it burst into flames. I remember picking up Lucy and holding her."

"Oh, weird," I said. "Shall I interpret it for you?"

"Huh?" he looked at me, "Oh, I read your dream on your blog on Friday. I just couldn't work anymore."

Just so you know: Yes, my parents read my blog...and I've apologized for every F-bomb I've dropped over here.

Anyway, he said, "Ah, no...I just remembered holding Lucy and how sweet it was."

"That's nice," I said.

"How did you interpret that dream?" my Grandma asks from the living room, "Did you have a book from the library? Can I borrow it?"

"Well, I use an online Dream Dictionary at Dreammoods.com." I explain.

"Oh," she said.

I walked over and plopped into the love seat next to her.

"What do you want to know?" I asked.

"What does it mean when you dream about dead people all the time?"

"What?" I'm surprised, but recover after a few beats, "Who are you dreaming about, Grandma?"

"Oh, your Grandpa," she said. She rested her elbows on her knees and her head in her hands.

"Oh?" I prodded.

"Yes, he's always fighting with me."

"Fighting? Why?"

"He's made at me for moving his stuff."

I paused and looked away. I remembered my feelings of forboding about touching his stuf a few months ago.

"Grandma, do you remember when I volunteered to clean out his workroom?"

"Yes..."

"Well, let's just say I could feel his anger when I went down there. I didn't want to touch anything and make him mad at me. I mean his coffee mug is still there like he just went upstairs!"

"Oh, I know!" my Grandma laughs, "He's mad about that!"

"I dream about him sometimes," I offer.

"Oh?" she asked.

"Yeah, but he doesn't say anything. He just gives me a hug and a kiss."

"That's nice," she said.

I felt a bit guilty. Granpa should be hugging and kissing her. Maybe I'll tell him to lighten up the next time I see him.

I was telling this story to Doc the other night after we were chatting about the recent heaviness of the stubble left behind since the moustache growing contest ended.

"I was standing in the bathroom at work when I noticed that I had a 5 o'clock shadow. Of course it was 7:30. But I was thinking about growing it back into a pencil-thin moustache like Granpa C.I. I was looking in the mirror considering this when his image floated up in front of mine on the mirror. I could see my face through his."

"Weird," I said.

"Yeah," he said.

"So, is the moustache coming back?"

"No," he said. "I'm going to wait until I'm 60. Then I'm growing a moustache again."

"Oh, good," I said, "Then we'll both have one."