Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Space Alien by Willem

So we don't have to keep looking at the gross photo from the previous post.

Wild Kingdom

Not long ago Shaun and I were rudely awakened in the wee hours by the most unholy noise I have ever heard in my life. Next to whatever was going on outside, the most obscene cat fight would sound like the Vienna Boys' Choir.

I've watched enough public television to have seen my share of lions gnawing on a gazelle, but I realized that most of the time the visuals of the food chain in action are not accompanied by the audio. It was downright scary. I half expected to come out of the house the next morning to find black scorch marks on the grass and wisps of faintly sulfurous smoke rising from the shredded remains of a little demon.

But I actually didn't see anything the next day. I wondered for about five days, until I happened across this on our front yard...complete with buzzing flies:

This morning there was a kid hanging out near our bus stop, waiting for his mom to take him to school. He was kind of bouncing around in the middle of the street.

"I saw a wolf! Right there!" he said, pointing to a nearby house. I noted Nels's alarmed look.

"That would have been a coyote."

"Yeah, something like that."

Then the neighbor came out with his briefcase and confirmed that there was indeed a coyote in his yard.

"Cool, huh? Mangy-looking thing," was his take.

I don't know if it's cool. But I'll take a coyote over the devilish fiend of my imagination any day.

Monday, October 19, 2009

My Snap Judgement Gets a Pie In the Face

I was in the check-out line at Whole Foods. The cashier was in the middle of ringing up my order when an elderly lady entered the store and started walking towards us. The woman was trim and petite, and her expensive clothes fit her perfectly. She wore white capris and a boxy three-quarter-sleeve jacket with a mandarin collar; white paisley on a ground of navy blue. With her navy and white wedge flip-flops, she looked like she was just about to board a cruise ship. Her perfectly coiffed hair was fake pale blond, but not brassy. She was carrying a cardboard box.

She could have been in her fifties from behind, but the deep wrinkles underneath her carefully applied make-up gave away her age as well into her seventies. At least. She looked privileged and I assumed she was used to getting her way. To me, she looked like the kind of person who would interrupt a busy cashier rather than wait her turn, so I wasn't surprised when she did so.

I was surprised when she set her box down right next to my groceries and pulled from it a homemade pie.

"Here you go," she said to the checker. "I hope you like berry. That's what it is in there." She chattered on for a few more minutes, but I missed most of what she said. I was experiencing cognitive dissonance over the thought of this woman doing anything as domestic as making a pie. "I'll be back in a few days for the pan," she concluded. Then, "I made cinnamon rolls too, but I can't get rid of them. Nobody will take them. Do you want some cinnamon rolls?" she seemed to ask the air as she turned and walked out.

"I'll put this in the break room," said the checker, regarding the fate of the pie. Worried, perhaps, that I thought she was going to eat the entire thing herself. I was still staring at the pie, its crust carefully crimped and brown around the edges. "Do you want a piece?"

"Oh--no thanks. I'm good." I collected myself and left.

My next stop was Fred Meyer, where I spotted the very same lady waiting just ahead of me in the check-out line. She was not carrying any baked goods.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Fun

If more newspapers carried stories like this, they wouldn't be going out of business.

Awesome. And I learned a new word to boot.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


When Nels had emergency surgery for a hernia when he was four weeks old, I couldn't help but consider what it would be like to lose him. What struck me most was that I didn't know him yet, and I wanted so much to have that opportunity.

Before he was born I wondered what he would be like. Shy? Outgoing? Reckless? Would he like sports? Books? Music? Never in all my wondering did I come close to considering even a fraction of the qualities that I've discovered about Nels in the six years I've known him.

At six, Nels is conscientious, cautious to a fault, deeply philosophical, and a total goofball. He is frustrated to the point of tears by the necessity of doing mundane tasks like getting dressed in the morning.

He is a whiz with Lego and loves to figure out how things work. He recently asked me why the birds don't get shocked when they land on telephone wires. His favorite books are all non-fiction; space, shipwrecks, sea creatures, army tanks and the human body are some of his favorite topics.

He loves to ride his bike like a maniac.

His favorite colors are orange and "sparkle."

I will never forget the first time we watched Star Wars with Nels. As the theme blasted over the rolling credits at the end, he cried and cried. From happiness. He'd never been so moved. Until we saw the movie Iron Giant, that is. At one point the boy Hogarth is having a talk with the Iron Giant (SPOILER ALERT) right after some hunters kill the deer the giant was petting.

"It's bad to kill," says Hogarth, "but it's OK to die." Nels began to sob and then shook his head.

"I'm not crying because I'm sad. I'm crying because it's so happy." It was their intimate friendship that he found so touching.

Later he proclaimed, "Mom, Iron Giant is a better movie than Star Wars. In Star Wars I cried at the end but in Iron Giant I already cried in the middle."

The jury's still out on whether or not he likes sports.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Labor Day

We had a very nice time over the Labor Day weekend visiting with the Macks and meeting our newest niece. And we have the photos to prove it.

Here's Heidi Caroline! She's changed a lot in a month (as they do) but this is what she looked like when we met her.

Do I really need three pictures of Willem shucking corn? Why yes, I do. Be sure to click on the second one so you can see him giving that ear of corn the ol' pirate-eye of effort.

This doesn't look like a relaxing way to watch TV to me, but to each his own.

One of Nels's favorite things to do is pound nails into a stump. I'm hoping Shaun told Nels to move his thumb right after he took this photo. This might look alarming to you, but at this age Shaun was gutting fish with a sharp knife. So Nels is actually behind when it comes to digit-endangering activities.

He was very proud of this frame he made. He'd want me to show you.

Playing with kitchen utensils in a sink full of water. Doesn't this make you wish you lived in a log house?

Cousin Henry leads the dimple brigade.

Willem is four months older than Henry and tries to teach him at least one new bad habit every time they get together. Here they're just playing.

Family portrait for those of you who haven't already been treated to it on Facebook.

That's all, folks.

Friday, October 9, 2009

And Now For Something Completely Different

My interesting sister Hillary has interesting friends who do interesting things, like putting on a short story contest just for the fun of it.

I enjoyed participating, even though my story barely followed the theme; you can find the theme, along with the stories, right here.

You may -ahem- recognize some of the characters in my story (bonus!) but keep in mind that it is indeed fiction. Barely.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I Already Drank the Champagne

Back in the early days of my writing group (when it was more of a class), we did an exercise in which we were to take a character we'd invented in a previous exercise, put the character in a setting, and make something happen. You have twenty minutes. Go!

About a month ago I got the exercise out, polished it up, and read it to the class on a night when I didn't have anything new to read. The teacher ( leader? mentor? coach?) suggested I send it to a publication looking for some flash fiction.

With nothing to lose, I hopped on duotrope and found an Ezine looking for flash fiction submissions. I sent it, they took it, and today I am published for the first time!

While I was feeling brave enough to send things out, I also sent a poem to First Things. Within three weeks of mailing off my envelope I had received a lovely handwritten rejection letter from the poetry editor in reply. It was so gracious that I didn't feel bad at all.

It feels good just to do something. And while I'm practicing, practicing, practicing (I'm giving myself at least ten years to be any good--isn't that generous of me?), I can enjoy the little thrill that comes from putting my work out there. Plus it's good for cultivating humility and thickening the skin.

In other publishing news, Shaun was interviewed by a freelance writer he works with for this publication. You can find Shaun's mug and sage advice (or blather, as he called it) on page 39 of the linked pdf.

In news that is totally unrelated:

-My new haircut is just not working out and I may have to go in for the dreaded "fix" appointment.

-Willem is being an absolute troll these days. He's never hit or pushed or scratched another kid, but it's open season when it comes to his brother.

-Nels is just about to lose his first baby tooth. This is a very good thing, because the new tooth is already up-and-at-'em right behind it. Sometimes kids look weird with their new adult-sized teeth, but in Nels's case, bigger teeth will be better. His baby teeth look like tic-tacs.

Well, that ought to do it for today.