Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Scenes from a Wedding...

Well then what's to be the reason for becoming man and wife?
Is it love that brings you here or love that brings you life?
And if loving is the answer, then who's the giving for?
Do you believe in something that you've never seen before?

Oh there is Love, there is Love.

It's been raining in Dallas for what seems like WEEKS, and Sunday was no exception: when we awoke, the skies were heavy and overcast. Kath and Brenden set to work erecting two gazebos on A's deck, to keep everyone dry, as I set about bedding rosy periwinkle, potting gerbera daisies,
and hanging baskets of bougainvillea and golden eye. When Jimmy the Bagpiper arrived, albeit 30 minutes early, Kath was busy (and muddy), putting down the last of the dozen pavers for which we'd just made an emergency run to Home Depot.

"Uh, is this the right house?"
Jimmy asked, looking around nervously at the obvious lack of guests and the numerous last minute preparations still being feverishly attended to. I wiped a muddy hand on my jeans before extending it to him to shake and assured him it was, introducing myself as the Mother of the Bride. I told him to make himself at home and said (confidently, I hoped), "We'll be back in 30 minutes! C'mon Kath!" and with that we were off to my house to shower and get cleaned up for the ceremony.

As it was, I needn't have worried. Back at my house, I'd just stepped out of the shower when I received a frantic phone call from Alex...seems The Groom to Be had literally lost his pants...yes, his wedding pants...and so a frantic Search for Chris' Pants was on. Alex and Chris had been staying at my house from the time they flew in from Chicago on Tuesday until Saturday, when they checked into The Westin for a couple of nights for some privacy. Apparently, in walking from their car to the hotel lobby, Chris's wedding pants had slipped off the hangar and thus were nowhere to be found, either in their room at The Westin or in the guestroom upstairs in my house. Within about 10 minutes of receiving the phone call, though, Chris found his pants, none the worse for wear (i.e., no one had run over them). They were simply lying, folded neatly, on a sidewalk outside the hotel, where someone had thoughtfully placed them.
That emergency over and done with, my son Chris came running up to the house in white shirt, double breasted blue blazer, family plaid tie, new shoes and...blue jeans! Seems he'd lost his pants as well (I don't even wanna KNOW)...however, the khakis that he'd worn at the rehearsal dinner the night before were more easily found, hanging neatly on a hangar in a downstairs closet at my house.

The mystery of both the Chris's missing pants solved, we drove fast over to A's, where someone who hadn't bothered with pants was playing festively...

and that would of course be Jimmy the Bagpiper, shown here playing a rousing rendition of The Clumsy Lover...

Here are the guys, lined up after the ceremony, and I think it's fair to say they cleaned up pretty well: Brad (brother of) Chris (The Groom), then da boys (my twin sons) Mike and Chris.

And here are Mike and Chris with Chris' sweetheart, Stephanie...

And here are Chris, Anthony (who graciously hosted the ceremony and reception afterward) and Mike. Note the clan ties, and that's a family clan sash (traditional at Scots weddings) wrapped around Alex's shoulders in the first pic.

Kath also cleaned up well for the ceremony...although admittedly, this was taken after the ceremony, when she was drinking a well-earned Corona...

As were her brothers (yeah, they're 21)...

And Jimmy wasn't above hoisting a cold one, too...

Then it was time for some sibling shenanigans...here are my fabulous four doing their rendition of the Can-Can...

And then time for some quiet reflection...Kath, Xander and Brenden...

And finally, here are we tired oldsters, without whom none of this fanfare would have been possible...Chris' parents, Rose and Manny, and moi and Anthony.

It was a terrific wedding.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Talk Nerdy to Me....

NOTE: Between getting ready for Ali's wedding and trying to catch up on the backlog that I've inherited at work, I'm burning the midnight oil entirely too much these days. Accordingly, I'm going to post a few of my old posts, most of which have never seen these pages, because I wrote them for a Canadian singles site. However, if you've read 'em, I apologize. I'll be back as usual soon.


“The brain is the most important sex organ in your body. It’s your brain’s reaction to ideas, fantasies, images, smell and touch that triggers arousal and desire.”

That’s a quote from Dr. Rosalina Abboud, an obstetrician and gynecologist at the Mayo Clinic, in my home state of Minnesota. I agree with her (and not just because she’s a Minnesotan).

Some women are attracted to a fat wallet, or eye candy. Although I can certainly appreciate those attributes, the thing that excites me, always, is intelligence. I like bright guys. Politics aside, Bill Clinton is sexy because he’s bright, vs. Dubya (who’s not because he’s NOT), and it’s the light of intelligence in his eyes that makes Matt Damon sexy in a way that Ben Affleck will never be. Intelligence is, and always has been, WAY sexier than brawn to me. Because of my moth to the flame attraction to raw intelligence, I’ve dated a number of very bright guys in my life. But often, I haven’t enjoyed their company. All people are complex and multi-faceted, and I’ve learned that it’s a mistake, always, to allow oneself to be seduced by a single aspect of anyone, even when that aspect is intelligence. But until recently, I frequently allowed myself to be seduced by intelligence alone, and so I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on the meaning of the phrase, “fools rush in”…

A great deal of the time that I’ve spent reflecting on that phrase has occurred in nice restaurants, while I was sitting across the table from any of a number of the interesting, bright guys I’ve dated. Inevitably, on those occasions, I was manicured, pedicured, and spritzed with Chanel 22 for the evening. My hair was usually pulled back into a tidy chignon, and I was wearing a de rigeur chic little black dress or some variation thereof, complete with sexy heels and pearl earrings…but for all the effect any of that had on most of those bright guys, I might as well have been devoid of make-up and scent, barefoot, and wearing a muumuu. Because as we sat there, waiting to order, glasses of wine and a bowl of fresh bread on the immaculate table before us…rather than flirting, gazing into each other’s eyes, and enjoying each other’s company, as couples all around us always seemed to be doing, australopithecus robustus’ head was inevitably bent intently over his dinner napkin, where he was graphing something for my benefit. Sometimes I’d say, “Please! If you must draw, at least use a pencil on that linen!” The response was always a variation of, “But I’m trying to show you something, and this is important!” Then, as my eyes glazed over and I felt my heart sinking in my chest, I’d think, “Shoot! Not again! When will I ever learn?” Sometimes I’d realize that in addition to drawing a graph for me, he was speaking, and I’d try to sit up straighter, and pay attention, as I heard him uttering seemingly random multi-syllabic words and phrases like “sub-galactic” or “quarks” or “stratospheric phenomena”…or sometimes “cardiomyopathy” or “tort reform”, depending on his profession. And I’d nod and smile, envious of the couples around us, whose snippets of conversations contained words like “weekend” and “beach” and “tortellini”. Fantasizing about, and longing for, some friendly banter, I’d plan my escape, and I’d vow to curl up alone with a good book, come next Saturday night.

Eventually, I did just that. I took a break from dating. I spent a lot of Saturday nights curled up, alone, with a good book.

It was good to do that. I’ve learned a lot about myself, and about who I’m attracted to and what I want. I’ll always be drawn to bright guys, but I’ve learned that I want much more than just brightness. I want compassion and generosity and especially, because it’s delicious to me, I want humor. Life is good, and funny, and I’ve learned that I’m OK by myself…but I admit I’d love to have a co-conspirator…a bright, funny guy, who can not only carry on an intelligent conversation and make me laugh, but who can look into my eyes while he’s doing it…because Crosby, Stills & Nash had it right in Suite Judy Blue Eyes: Fear is the lock, and laughter the key, to my heart…

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I Remember Mom

She was the most gentle person I’ve ever known. She was 38 when I was born, the 6th of her 7 children. Infinitely patient, in my entire life I never heard her swear, or even raise her voice. English was her second language, Norwegian being her first. To the end of her life, she always rolled her "r’s".

"Say THREE, Grandma!" Alex and Kath used to demand.

"Thdree" Mom would say, smiling with amusement at their obvious delight in her pronunciation.

She was bright, the star pupil in the little one-room country school she attended. She was a reader, and by the time she was 14 she’d read every book in the school library. She wanted to become a librarian, but my grandfather didn’t believe in education for women (or for men, for that matter) and he pulled her out of school as soon as she’d finished 8th grade, so she could be at home on the farm to help her mother with her 5 younger siblings.

When she was 22, she married my Dad. She had an even harder life with Dad than she’d had with my grandfather, but I never heard her complain. Dad drank, so there was never enough money, and instead of becoming a librarian, Mom took whatever jobs she could find. For most of her life this bright woman worked long hours at various low-paying, mind-numbing factory jobs. She also worked as a nurse’s aid, as a maid in a motel, and as a cleaning lady. Life was always lean, and she didn’t live in a house with indoor plumbing until she was 46 years old.

Still, there were pleasures. She loved every one of us kids, and eventually her grandchildren, and always seemed to enjoy the pleasure of our company. When I was 8 and Dave was 5 we moved to town, and every Saturday night in the summertime, after we’d had our baths, Mom would take us by the hand and we’d walk down the street to the Dairy Queen for nickel cones (vanilla for Mom, chocolate for Dave, banana for me). She loved books and wanted us to love them too, so she often read to us in the evenings. Sometimes we’d sit nicely at her feet, but usually Dave and I crowded into the old, battered, oversized armchair in the living room with her. We’d snuggle up against her and listen to her as she read to us: Box Car Children; Where the Red Fern Grows; Old Yeller; and The Yearling, to name a few.

Reticent and shy by nature, Mom was extremely law abiding...unless she thought a law (or rule) was ridiculous. In that case, she’d quietly but stubbornly ignore it. I first became aware of this rather surprising aspect of her personality when I was 10, and encountered our town’s Carnegie Library’s rule that children under the age of 12 couldn’t check out books from the upstairs section of the library. At 10, I’d worked my way through everything that I found interesting in the downstairs (children’s) part of the library, and I longed for the thicker books on the upstairs shelves. Frustrated, I complained bitterly to Mom about the unfairness of the rule, not really expecting her to be able to do anything about it. She surprised me, though.

"Just go upstairs and check out whatever you want," she said.

"But how can I do that?" I asked. Small for my age, at 10 I was still regularly mistaken for an 8 year old.

"Just use my card," Mom said, "and if anyone challenges you, just say that you’re getting books for ME!"

I was shocked but thrilled to realize that my shy, soft-spoken mother was completely with me in circumventing that silly, rigid rule. She had a similar reaction several years later when, as a junior in high school, I had the unpleasant task of telling her that I’d received a detention.

"For what?" Mom asked.

"For going off campus at lunch," I replied. I explained that a group of us took turns making noontime runs to Louie’s Hamburger Stand, preferring Louie’s greasy cheeseburgers to anything the school cafeteria had to offer. The school, resenting the competition, promptly enacted a Closed Campus rule for the lunch period. That day, it had been my turn to make the run for the group, and I’d gotten caught.

"Oh for heaven’s sake!" Mom said. "Of course I’ll sign the detention slip, but really, don’t they have anything better to do?"

In 1986, a few weeks before she died, I flew north to see Mom. Our last afternoon together, she reminisced a little about her childhood, and specifically about leaving school at age 14. Not wanting to disappoint her teacher, she’d told her why she wouldn’t be going on to high school: that her Dad had simply forbidden it. Her teacher was so upset to learn this that she came out to the farm to ask my grandfather to reconsider. Embarrassed and no doubt furious at being confronted by a woman, my grandfather simply lied.

"But it wasn’t my decision," he said, and then he called Mom into the kitchen, and said, "Whose decision was it to leave school? The teacher here says you told her I made you do it! Whose decision was it? Tell her the truth!"

Mom didn’t dare tell her the truth. Humiliated, she looked at the floor as she lied to her teacher to save her father’s face and said yes, it was her decision to leave school. I doubt that her teacher was fooled, but seeing what Mom was up against, she left quietly.

A stoic, Mom didn’t tolerate whining, and when I complained about most things I could always count on her to say, "Just remember: the same fire that melts butter forges steel!" As a kid, I never really knew what that meant, and thought it was literally something that had been lost in translation, but as I sat there with her that afternoon, I had one of those aha! moments. Suddenly, I realized why that saying held such meaning for mom: the shy 14-year-old who’d stood hesitantly in her parent’s kitchen, denying what she wanted because she didn’t dare speak up for herself had grown into the woman who gave me her library card and told me to use it, to ignore ridiculous rules and go after what I wanted in life.

Thanks, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Hello, my name is Judi, and I’m a turophile...

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. I admit I love a certain type of dark chocolate with chipotle, and I love dark chocolate covered orange peel...but other than occasionally craving dark chocolate in one of those manifestations, I seldom crave sweets. I love salty things, and that said, it’s no surprise that I love cheese. Kath loves cheese too, and has from the get go: at age 2, one sunny fall afternoon, she helped me devour half a wheel of Stilton, brought back to me from England by my father-in-law. We downed that crumbly, sharp, blue-veined cheese with slices of crisp, Granny Smith apples. We’ve shared a love of cheese ever since.

A couple of weeks ago, Kath told me that she took a survey on My Space in which one of the questions was, “What do you like best about the place you’re living now?” She said, “I answered honestly: the thing I like best is all the great cheeses I get to eat”.

It’s true; there are nights that I’ve come home and we’ve happily, mutually, spontaneously decided that a small wheel of Cravanzina, with a little sourdough or some Bremner wafers, a bunch of grapes, and a glass of wine is the absolutely perfect meal.

I’ve been thinking that my love of cheese was a good thing, from a medical standpoint (because of the calcium). However, my doctor didn’t share my rosy view of the importance of cheese. Last visit, as I sat on the table waiting for her to make an appearance, I admit I may have been sort of smiling to myself, thinking of the block of white stilton with lemon that sat in my refrigerator even as I sat in my doctor’s office. Dr. G stormed into the room, her face almost apoplectic with anger. “WHAT have you been eating?!?!?!” she asked.

“Nothing, those were fasting labs, and I fasted!” I stammered, defensively.

She waved a piece of paper with my lab results in my face. “Look at your cholesterol!” she snapped. “It’s off the charts! Unless you can lower this dramatically in the next 6 weeks, we’ll be talking meds!” she threatened.

“Must be all that great cheese,” I muttered.

“No more cheese!” she ordered. “From now on, start each day with OATMEAL,” she commanded. In response to my less than enthusiastic look, she said, “Well, you can add some raisins...”

I shuddered at the thought. I don’t like raisins in most things, and certainly not in my oatmeal. However, I ate oatmeal (McCann's steel cut oats, slow cooked), religiously for 6 weeks. It did the trick, and lowered my cholesterol dramatically, after which I happily reverted to my old cheese eating ways. In the past few weeks, in addition to the Cravanzina (with which Kath and I have indulged ourselves regularly), we’ve had hard Pecorinos, soft Bries, smooth, sharp cheddars, creamy swisses...these are only a few. I’m 6 weeks away from having my cholesterol measured again, and frankly Scarlett, I don’t give a damn...

Or thought I didn’t...

This morning, driving to work at the crack of dawn and flipping stations on the radio, I almost spewed my cappuccino and had a stroke when I heard the announcer say, in the stained glass voice of early morning talk show hosts: “Ted, some tragic news today from North Dallas, where two more people have died after eating Cheese...” This sober announcement was followed by wildly incongruous music, after which a voice said cheerily: “That story and more after these messages from our sponsors...”

I felt my heart racing. What did he mean, two MORE people have died after eating cheese? Have people been dropping like flies from cheese and I didn’t know about it? I thought my doctor was nuts: a brainy, driven woman who happens to have no taste in food, but maybe I underestimated her. Was it the Cravanzina? Oh, PLEASE don’t let it be the Cravanzina, I thought, listening intently, waiting breathlessly for the announcer to come back on with the whole story...which he did...

Uh-huh. Seems there’s now a recreational drug called...you guessed it...cheese.


They shouldn’t be allowed to call it that.

Oh well. As RosannaRosanna-Danna used to say...Nevermind!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Inquiring Minds Want to Know...

Today, having volunteered to participate in a meme that's making the rounds, I’ve agreed to answer 5 questions asked by one of my favorite bloggers, Chris, of Inane Thoughts and Insane Ramblings. Chris was one of the first people to comment on my old AOL blog, and I've been reading him ever since.

Here are Chris’ questions:

1. Other than family members, who has had a major impact on forming who you are today? My ex (who is one of my best friends) has had a major impact on forming who I am today. I was just 19 when I met him, and we were from disparate backgrounds, so it was probably pretty much inevitable that he would have a major impact.

2. You have done a lot so far in your life. What are some things that you want to do but haven’t done yet? I haven't traveled much, but I'd like to. I love adventure travel, and I'd like to travel the
Nicaragua Route, covering the 110 miles from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean across Nicaragua on the Rio San Juan, like Mark Twain (and 10,000 other passengers each year) did during the height of the California gold rush. And I want to go to Machu Picchu, and to trek Annapurna...and when I'm in my dotage, like Miss Lillian, I’d love to do a stint in the Peace Corps...

3. You have four kids, which makes for tons of wonderful memories. There are the obvious ones such as births, graduations, and marriages, but for each child, name a random memory, such as a field trip or just a funny moment.

ALEX: When Alex was little, we lived in a largely gay neighborhood in Chicago. I very much believe that a person’s sexuality is their own business, and I did my best to raise my kids with that attitude. Nevertheless, I admit I was rather taken aback one afternoon when Alex was 4 to realize, as we came out of our local Woolworth’s on Clark Street, that we’d walked smack dab into the middle of Chicago’s Annual Gay Pride Parade. I got a glimpse of two rather large, hirsute men, naked except for heavy chains wrapped strategically around themselves, before I realized this was no parade for a 4 year old (or for me, for that matter). I quickly turned Alex around and assured her that today, I was up for more time in the toy aisle.

“Wait, Mom, WAIT!” Alex said, trying to look over my shoulder as I scooped her up, “I think that’s a parade, and I LIKE parades!”

I bribed her with a Coke, and thought that was the end of it, until a couple of weeks later. A worked downtown, and sometimes he’d call us just before he was getting on the bus, and I’d take the girls downstairs to the front steps, to wait for him. That day, as we waited on the stoop, Alex had an array of Barbies and Kens spread out around her. A bossy little 8 year-old neighbor, Mona, who loved to try to tell Alex what to do, came over to sit with us.

As Alex tried to pull one of Barbie’s frilly fou-frou half-slips over Ken’s manly hips, Mona said sarcastically, “Alex! What are you doing?!?!?! Boys don’t wear skirts!”

Alex’s cheeks were pink with concentration at her effort, but she never wavered as I heard her say solemnly but firmly to Mona,
“Some boys DO, Mona, some boys DO...”

KATHARINE: Mother’s Day, 1982. I was pretending to be asleep, enjoying the luxury of lying abed on a Sunday morning, listening to A and the girls (Alex, age 6, Katharine, age 3) busy making Mother's Day Breakfast in the kitchen. Eventually, the girls came bounding into the bedroom with a bouquet of flowers and a tray of food.

“Mom, LOOK! We cooked breakfast for you!” Katharine exclaimed as she climbed up onto the bed and plopped herself down beside me. I looked at the tray, and was touched by what I saw: Coffee, orange juice, scrambled eggs, bacon, buttered toast with jam...but before I could say a word of thanks, Katharine had grabbed the fork. She grinned up at me as she said, just before digging in,
“Yeah, Mom, not only did we COOK it for you, it’s so GOOD, we’re gonna EAT it for you!”

MIKE: Christmas Eve, 2005. Punked at Christmas. This is the ESSENCE of my family, and of my (twisted) relationship with my kids...a joint effort, to be sure, but Mike came through with those tickets, that he designed...you can read all about it

CHRIS: When Mike and Chris were 3, I was trying to teach them to remember to say please and thank you. Chris loved pickles, and one day he came running into the kitchen and asked for a pickle. I opened the refrigerator and removed a pickle from the jar, but before handing it to him, I asked, “Now Chris, what do you say?”

Chris looked blank for a fraction of a second; then he grinned, pointed at the pickle, and exclaimed triumphantly:
“That’s my pickle!”

4. Where have you lived other than Dallas? Rural Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois (Chicago), and Colorado (Aspen).

5. What is the best thing that happened to you in 2006? For so many reasons, accepting the contract job that led to permanent employment is definitely the best thing that happened to me last year.

OK, if you’d like to play, leave a comment asking me to interview you. I'll respond by asking you five questions: I get to pick the questions. You'll update your weblog with the answers to the questions, and you'll include this explanation with an offer to interview someone else in the same post. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you'll ask them five questions.