Monday, December 29, 2008

Just what exactly... a broaster chicken slushee? Must be something you make out of Christmas dinner leftovers, I guess.

Friday, December 26, 2008

One way to spend a weekend

My aunt and her sisters and my cousin spent a weekend making cookies to share. The end total was 497 dozen. Yes, you read that correctly. 497 dozen. That's 5,964 cookies. And that's only counting the ones that turned out, not the rejects or samples. Thirty-two different varieties. I'm gonna go try some now.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas Eve

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A long-lost cousin, perhaps?

I was wondering why this new nutcracker stamp looked familiar.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Love triangle

Here's a little story for Three Word Wednesday. This is for my grandma, who gets fed up with romance novels because the men are always filthy rich, the women always weigh ninety pounds and their hair always falls in “tendrils.” The words are hesitate, jealous, and neglect.

Bertelina heard the flowered arm of the couch creak underneath her weight as she peered out the smudged window of the double-wide, wondering if Felix would return. He’d left hours before in a rage, jealous of the attention she lavished on her apricot toy poodle, Hector. But before left, she thought she saw Felix hesitate, like he didn’t mean it, like maybe he could make room in his life for Hector, too. She'd left the storm door open, as if only having a screen between them would make the distance easier to navigate.

In the glass, she could see that her cropped gray hair was thin and messy with neglect. Hector’s curly blonde coat was fluffy and clean with the effects of a special grooming from Marna’s Pet Palace, which cost Bertelina what she had left in the Folgers can she kept underneath the quilted toaster cozy her Aunt Agrapine had made on her secondhand Singer before she died. That toaster cozy meant the world to Bertelina.

But it meant nothing compared with how she felt about Felix. But Hector had come into her life first and she had an obligation to him. She was his mother, after all. How could she give him up? How could Felix think she would? She’d taken Hector to Marna’s to make him presentable in the hopes that he’d charm Felix with his adorableness. But instead Hector had nipped at Felix’s ankle and that’s what had led to the argument.

What really irked Bertelina is that Felix had acted like she was losing the catch of the century. She owned her double-wide, after all, and Felix rented one at the other end of Silver Haven Trailer Ranch. She was retired and lived off more than her Social Security; Felix claimed to be retired but had really been out of work since he lost his job at the packing plant where they met three years ago. Bertelina liked to play the nickel slots now and then; Felix treated gambling like an Olympic sport. He’d asked to borrow money from her more than once.

Hector nuzzled Bertelina’s chunky ankle and whimpered. She reached down with some effort, rubbed Hector’s head, and, with a last glance out the screen, closed and locked the storm door.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Deja Vu

Hunkering down in a theater with smuggled candy, giggling over vampires with my friends.

Sleeping in my old bedroom. Eating dinner every night with my parents. Driving a pickup that slides around every snowy corner, just like before.

Catching up with high school friends. Feeling giddy about the future. The stories I'm working on keep me up at night, make me forget to eat lunch. Sort of like being in love.

What year is this again?

Except it's different. Better.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Words I Made Up While Doing Schoolwork in a Hurry #14

I can't believe there were no takers on "frevolutionary." It's someone who launches a frivolous revolution, of course. Here's a new one: "impoxxible."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Road trip

Here’s a fiction tidbit for Three Word Wednesday. (I made it a one-sentence Wednesday.) The words are shatter, enemy, vague.

He set the empty drink glass down in the slippery ring and scooped his wet keys from the bar, tripping a little on the lounge's patterned carpet, shattering any vague sense that he wasn’t his own worst enemy.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Zoning out

Been thinking about a lot of things lately. In a good way.

Had enough distance from the weight of things now that clarity is replacing the mind clutter. I’m being flooded instead of drowned.

It’s so cool.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Good morning, snow

Monday, December 1, 2008

Words I Made Up While Doing Schoolwork in a Hurry #13

Please define "frevolutionary."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Save travels, everyone.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I didn't have to make this one up

I found a good typo. Someone please define "vegilant."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I'm totally freaking out

How long can this last?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Distorted viewpoints

I have a scene in my MFA creative project in which people try to obtain information from a newscast but the digital reception is poor. I describe the distortion of the newscasters' faces as resembling rotting corpses or burn victims, which is what it looks like to me. Late one night this week I was trying to watch Charlie Rose and I decided to try to capture some of the lovely images with my camera. The result is sort of a "Night of the Living Talking Heads." Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

That sinking feeling

Here's today's fiction entry for Three Word Wednesday, inspired by the space shuttle Endeavor's wayward toolbox. Here's another article about it. Today's words are tension, corrupt and intellect.

Also, please visit Purple Houses again tomorrow. I'll be posting a new minigallery of photographs. Something different.

They were adrift in the airless maw of space and the only way they were going to get home is if they repaired the drive and restored power to the ship.

Michaels hated spacewalks. In the endless eternity he always felt incongruously claustrophobic, like the heavy blackness around him would envelop him like a sea monster and crush the life out of him. He prayed the corrupt leaders who had funded the mission had not used the lowest bidder for his life support equipment.

He reached behind him to pull the tether holding the toolbox, but there was no tension on the line. He turned slowly in the airless space and saw that the toolbox was floating away from the ship.

His intellect told him that the toolbox was out of reach. He desperately rationalized, though, that there was a way to retrieve it – that he could reenter the ship and find something to snag it. Or that there was some other way to open the hatch that protected the crippled drive.

There wasn’t.

Soon the toolbox would be invisible, just another white gleam in the eye of the monster.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Strange interlude

An anchovy puppet reads Thomas Pynchon.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Words I Made Up While Doing Schoolwork in a Hurry #12

Someone please define "sisconcerted."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Things you can do when you quit your job #11

Wonder if you did the right thing.

I don't, really.

Just sometimes I think, what if this doesn't work? What if all I end up with is a good-sized student loan and no way to pay it off?

This, only a week after I was all inspired.

Doubt's a powerful beast.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Grandma Betty and the Underground Bake Sale

Here's my fiction for Three Word Wednesday, inspired by California's bake sale ban. The words are blush, quiver and tenderness.

Thank God that Ralph the janitor was on their side.

Every Thursday night Ralph left the key to the school at the pick-up/drop-off point and set up the folding tables in the dank basement room. If it wasn't for him the kids wouldn't have that new set of Fancy Nancy books, nor would they know the crumbly goodness of a fat-filled treat.

Grandma Betty and Aunt Myrtle set out the plates of merchandise -- chocolate chip bars, coconut bars, pumpkin bars, peanut butter cookies, apple bars.

Aunt Myrtle looked over the goods. "This is quite a stash."

Grandma Betty’s cheeks flamed. “You’re making me blush!”

A knock at the door. They shut up.

Aunt Myrtle went to the peephole. “What’s the secret ingredient?”

A middle-aged female voice whispered, “Molasses.”

“Let her in,” Grandma Betty said. “Get that barricade away from the door. Hurry, hurry. Did anyone follow you?”

“I don’t think so,” Henrietta said.

“Did you bring the stuff?”

“Yeah, yeah.” Henrietta pulled a bag of freshly baked cinnamon rolls out of her quilted bandanna-print purse. The rolls promised to melt with tenderness.

“Good,” Grandma Betty said, taking the rolls from Henrietta. She bumped the corner of the folding table, causing her enormous polyester-clad thigh to quiver. “This is better than the stuff you brought last time.”

“Yeah, and I been handing out free samples so we’ll sell more this week!”

Grandma Betty slapped Henrietta in the mouth. “You dumb bitch! You’re gonna get us caught!”

Henrietta touched her fingers to her mouth and they came away bloody. She spat on the floor. “Relax, Grandma. I got it under control.”

Suddenly, the door burst open. Three federal agents in black suits jumped through the doorway, guns drawn.

“Everyone down on the floor!” One of the feds yelled. “Drop the spatula, lady!”

“Here they are,” Agent One said. “Cinnamon rolls! The fat content's got to be near 100 percent!”

“Let go of my buns, you sick bastard!”

Aunt Myrtle began to cry. “Those aren’t ours! We’re holding on to them for someone! We didn’t know what they were!”

Agent Two wrestled Grandma Betty to the linoleum floor. “What’s this, huh?” He pulled a butter knife out of her apron pocket.

“Well, I don’t know how that got in there.”

"Come with us, Grandma. You're not gonna be baking anything for quite a while."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Things you can do when you quit your job #10

See Croatian guitarist Robert Belinic at the Fox Valley Symphony. Thanks for the tix, J.E.

Friday, November 7, 2008

And today...

I've been waiting to write about the election because nothing I wanted to say seemed adequate, or it seemed too idealistic. But here's the thing: It's suddenly okay to be an idealist again. A word aptly used on NPR and elsewhere on Wednesday: euphoria. Suddenly the world looks different.

Because so many people, including myself, finally were voting for someone instead of against someone. Because the democratic process actually worked the way it was supposed to. Because we've been hearing speeches meant to motivate and unify rather than to frighten. Because civility and cooperation are valuable again. Because we have a chance to repair how America is viewed from the outside, and yes, it does matter, because ultimately that makes us safer. Because we've already changed how America is viewed from the inside, in a historically and monumentally transforming way. Not only for one group of people -- for everyone.

And strangely today I feel like doing better: Taking care of myself better, doing something good, doing things well. Pride. This is the America that I know, the one I've been missing. Tuesday was one of the greatest days ever in American history, a history which is full of courage, perseverance, triumph, sorrow, wounds and scars. Our history has shown us what we want our future to be. Look at what the nation can do in 140 years, in 40 years, in 4 years.

What can we do tomorrow?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Friday, October 31, 2008

Things you can do when you quit your job #9

Carve jack-o-lanterns with your mom and dad. Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Nancy runs the bookmobile

Here's a little fiction for 3WW inspired by a book I found today on the free table at the library. (Apologies to Enid Johnson.) The words are corpse, damage and knife.

Nancy runs the bookmobile.

Drive, Nancy, drive.

Nancy feels a little woozy from her date with Fred last night. Fred makes very strong highballs.

Bad, Fred, bad.

Nancy is distracted. Did she sleep with Fred or not? Nancy is so distracted that she fails to notice the pedestrian in the walkway.

Oh, no, Nancy!

The bookmobile goes thump.

Nancy stops the bookmobile quickly. A copy of "Curious George Visits a Police Station" tumbles to the floor.

Nancy gets out and checks the bookmobile for damage. The library doesn't know that Nancy forgot to pay her insurance bill.

Nancy sees that the pedestrian is now a corpse. Do you know what corpse means? Nancy does.

Nancy is relieved that she is on a rural road and no one has seen her hit the pedestrian with the bookmobile.

Nancy grabs the corpse by its feet, drags it into the bookmobile and closes the door.

Nancy drives. She is lucky she knows this area. She knows where to find good places to hide things. What do you think Nancy will hide today?

Nancy turns the bookmobile down a gravel road. She stops in a place that has many trees and lots of soft, loose soil.

Nancy opens the bookmobile door and drags the corpse into the woods. She forgot her purse. Nancy returns to the bookmobile for her purse and opens it. She finds the big hunting knife she keeps in her purse for protection.

Nancy uses the knife to dig a shallow grave.

Dig, Nancy, dig!

Nancy goes through the corpse's pockets before dragging him into the shallow grave. The credit cards are useless to her but she pockets the thirty-nine bucks and some-odd change the corpse had in his pockets. Nancy thinks it's too bad she killed the pedestrian because he is better looking than Fred.

Nancy kicks some dirt and leaves over the corpse and returns to the bookmobile. The library will wonder where the bookmobile has gone!

Drive, Nancy, drive.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Words I Made Up While Doing Schoolwork in a Hurry #12

Someone give me a definition for "digigal."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Anywhere else

Here's a little fiction for 3WW. The words are ache, difference, suffer.

She glanced at the wall clock again and took another sip of watered-down coffee that tasted partially like the Styrofoam cup in which it languished. Fifty minutes left. The better part of an hour. Longer than her favorite TV show, sans commercial breaks. Longer than a decent nap. Longer than she’d be able to stay awake if she kept listening to the suited man at the front of the room drone about Initiatives in Customer Service.

He was enjoying this too much. She nodded and smiled like she was engaged in his presentation, but the difference between her and him was that she hadn’t morphed into some inhuman corporate devil beast. She just worked here.

Over her shoulder, the double doors remained firmly closed, blocking any sound from escaping the room. Would anyone passing know she was trapped in here? The man at the front of the room giddily displayed a pie chart. She thought about pie and ached for a banana cream. She couldn’t make up her mind whether she’d throw it or eat it. What was in banana cream, anyway? Maybe she could pick one up on the way home. Maybe she'd bump into this guy at the grocery store. What would he have in his cart? Antihistamines, probably. Root beer schnapps.

If she’d known this morning that she’d have to suffer through another mandatory cheerfest, she would have spiked her coffee. Or called in sick. Or ran away to Mexico.


Mexico sounded great.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


This month my mom was on her weekly raw milk foray when this happened: A kid ran into the milk house and yelled for everyone to get out, the silo was falling down.

Everyone ran out, and the silo fell down.

If it had tipped over onto the barn... well, it didn’t. It crumbled apart and fell in the other direction, leaving a $30,000 pile of silage, old cement and sparking power lines. Leaving a bunch of health nuts standing around rethinking the whole raw milk idea.

Weird that it happens during the one hour in a week when people stop by to pick up the milk. Weird that it happened at all. And another weird: My mom showed me the place in her Eckhart Tolle book where she’d stopped reading just before she went to get the milk.

All structures are unstable, it read.


That night my mom went to the funeral of a friend who’d been a year younger. She’d had cancer but recovered; it was a viral something or other in the end.

Friends in school and elsewhere have reported difficulties recently. Dealing with death, illness, money, home sales, moving. While working on a graduate degree. It’s the usual human stuff but it seems compounded of late; lots of people dealing with lots of things.


Silos. Bridges. Towers. The economy. The stock market. The workplace. Families. The human body.

Everything is off-kilter, and it’s seemed that way for a while now.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Things you can do when you quit your job #8

Watch turkeys walk through the yard. Sorry, hunters.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Here's another installment for Three Word Wednesday. Today's words are delicate, night and jaded.

The day was lived for the time when she could finally settle into the wide armchair that faced the couch. Every night she stared across the room at those flowered cushions that sagged like old boobs, sipping the drink, listening to ice tinkling in the glass while the Flesh Lump was kept alive by the methodical piss of an oxygen tank.

The amber-colored photograph on the wall showed a different woman, one who had married a soldier filled with promises and big dreams that didn’t include becoming a Flesh Lump. The woman in the picture hadn’t known she’d get pregnant three times or that the third would be lost to a back-alley doctor because she couldn’t bear the thought of another. Nor did the woman know later in life she’d lose the first child to cancer and the second to meth and the third child might have still been. But after the loss of the second, her life had fallen into jaded numbness and she knew the third was better off as it was.

She pushed herself out of the armchair long enough to check on the Flesh Lump, then stopped by the gaping door of the spare room on her way back to the living room. A silvery shadow cut the darkness. She pushed the door a little wider and hallway light fell across the extra oxygen tank.

The valve twisted too easily and the delicate whisper of oxygen escaping followed her into the living room, where she settled into the sagging boob couch and dug through her purse, pulled out a new pack of cigarettes and a lighter. She tore off the crackling cellophane, pinched a filter in her mouth, lit the smoke. Waited.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hey, look at this!

It's under three bucks a gallon.

Books to write

Someone please give me a one-sentence synopsis for "The Gramps of Wrath."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Six random things

Last month I was tagged by my friend over at Greg's Plate to tell you six random things about me and then tag some other bloggers. Well, better late than "Screw you! I'm not doing it!" So here goes.

1. I've never lived in a purple house, but my grandmother had a purple kitchen and her house was surrounded by lilacs.

2. Once when I was a kid and my family and I were vacationing on a lake I noticed a group of boys chasing a snake down the beach. I thought they were trying to catch the snake, so being the helpful little girl I was, I ran ahead of them, grabbed the snake and said "Here!" which caused the boys to scream and run in the other direction. A scene which has repeated itself since in one form or another.

3. I've been to Paris, Cairo, and Samarkand. (Why yes, I do think I'm something special.)

4. I spent last Friday night watching "Gidget" with my parents. (Proving once again that cool is ephemeral.)

5. I once modeled for a snowmobile suit catalog. (I rest my case.)

6. My first car was a truck. The paint peeled off in patches and it started rusting where the paint used to be. So I had a blue, silver and rust-colored truck. Then pieces of it started falling off -- one of the back panels, part of the floorboard. When it rained my feet got wet. I'm driving a truck again but it's in much better condition.

Let's see... I'll tag Nita, Candace, Constance,
Christina, Teri, and Jakob.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Who cares about the economy...

...when you've got one of these! Only 700 billion grams of fat.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


My arm's been twisted to try Three Word Wednesday courtesy of Thom G. The words are: effortless, thrash, vindictive. Since I didn't get to it last week, I'll use those words, too: deliberate, intervene, nourish. Here we go.

The crumbling farmhouse stood at the end of the driveway where she parked the minivan, and the old guy standing on the gravel flicked a wave toward a garden in his front yard. That's where the owl had taken refuge.

A barred owl, cousin to the kind loggers out west said they liked to eat for dinner. A vindictive beak, built for shredding. A satellite-shaped face surrounding dark eyes. One quiet wing dragging.

She opened the back of the minivan, pulled out a ragged gray bath towel, left the door open. The owl hopped up on a stump, snapped its beak.

The old guy watched with his hands on his hips, shaking his head like it was foolish to intervene. But instead he was recalling the time when he was ten and his brother was twelve and they'd found a nest of what turned out to be falcons. They spent weeks caring for them in the barn, taking turns feeding them nourishing pieces of rabbit.

Her deliberate approach telegraphed an impending struggle -- a thrashing mass of human limbs, terrycloth, feathers, dirt, possibly blood -- but the action was almost effortless. She wrapped the towel around the bird as if it had just stepped out of the shower, waiting to be dried off. More snapping. She held the warm package to her chest, carried it to the minivan, dropped it in a cardboard box.

It looked up at her with a moon face before she folded the top, enveloping the owl in a temporary cocoon.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Things you can do when you quit your job #7

Play Canasta with your grandma.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Crab salad

1. Why do I bother to bring my own mat to yoga class when other people walk on it with their bare feet? I don't want your fungus, people.

2. To the troglodyte in traffic who called my mother a 'bitch': I realize she delayed you by five seconds, which must have cut into your evening of watching "America's Funniest Home Videos," downing a couple of forty-ouncers and chucking the empties at your kids. However, aside from the word's obvious vulgarity, the editor in me must point out that it's simply incorrect. This is, after all, a woman who recently bought me a box of chocolates because I gave her a stamp. A woman who cared for orphaned squirrels and raccoons, despite the fact that one day they would wind up on your dinner table.

3. To the museum nazi at Ten Chimneys: Yes, that is really water in our water bottles. And thank you for informing us that your sister is an alcoholic and you "know that trick." And no, we weren't planning on opening the bottles inside the estate. We thought it was okay to open them on the shuttle bus, which was a regular shuttle bus and not a shuttle bus belonging to the Queen of England. By the way, you can't expect us to keep listening to you when you tell us that "these chairs were made in the 17th century, just about the time Columbus discovered America."

4. To the corporate goon who decided to change Hershey's chocolate to save money: You are one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. I hate you.

5. Sarah Palin. The $700 billion bailout plan. McMansions, McShopping, McCulture, McMorons.

6. It's Monday -- a good day for crabbing. Add your own in the comments section.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Things you can do when you quit your job #6

Meet some alpacas.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Drop and give me 20 paragraphs

Sleep deprivation does strange things to the mind. It strips it of its armor, removes the protective layers built up by ego, experience, false connection to identity. It exposes raw, sometimes dangerous emotion. Innocuous events can trigger floods of memory buried and unremembered, or remembered and filed under "over that." Vulnerability. Suddenly, your environment is everything; there is nothing else. It's probably why new military recruits, young doctors and subjects of interrogation are deprived of sleep.

Graduate students, too.

I started writing this entry back in July, when I was in the middle of one of the twice-annual residencies for my MFA program, on the edge of whatever's on the other side of the edge.

It's not that the program is designed to deprive us of sleep -- it just seems to happen that way. Eight days of digging deep, workshop after workshop, the collective psychic buzz of lots of strong, hopeful, energetic minds together. It could be the place itself -- it's haunted, they say, and each residency someone has something to tell: Footsteps on the back stairs, a window opens after it's been closed, violent dreams. These events could be read as allegorical -- hidden reaches of the psyche, subconscious opening up and whatnot. But when you're there, it's just damned spooky.

Of course, so is the mind and what can be pulled out of it. Writing is exploration, which for an artist exposes possibilities, and exploration is both external and internal. Writing also is psychology, and the residencies are boot camp for the brain. (Doesn't help that the residencies are held at a former military base.)

Peel away the layers. What's really under there? Forget about what you want to be there or what you think should be there -- what's there? How does it relate to what's going on in your world, or the world in general? How might another person relate, given her experiences, her tragedies and her joys? How might the differences between these reactions cause conflict?

There's a story in there somewhere.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Just something kinda cool

My dad shot this video of a flower kaleidoscope at the Green Bay Botanical Garden. There's a pot of flowers underneath the kaleidoscope which is rotated by hand as you look through the lens. Below is a photo of the contraption.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Things you can do when you quit your job #5

Go for a walk and find an itty bitty snapping turtle.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Words I Made Up While Doing Schoolwork in a Hurry #11

What is "poopulation?"

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Things you can do when you quit your job #4

See the cat show.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


In one direction, a forgotten railroad carries bikes, horses and runners. In another, the railroad survives and a massive freight train covered with graffiti rumbles through twenty-three times a day.

At this point stands a crumbling switch house that's become a monument to destruction, self and otherwise. Angry words sprayed on the pavement. Broken green glass and empty cigarette boxes. A man's tennis shoe that once was white but is browning with age. Bullet holes in the remaining plywood over the windows, a spray-painted message pointing them out in case you hadn't noticed. A toppled Victrola, smashed, the music gone. Burned places on the cement floor. Among the debris, the bleached jawbone of a deer. It seems both out of place and not.

I emerge from the octagonal bunker disoriented.

Which track? Which direction?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Things you can do when you quit your job #3

Hang out at the local cafe.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Why I love retro TV

From the popular 80s detective show, "Simon & Simon":

Rick Simon searches through a suitcase for clues, tears away a liner to find a hidden pocket. He pulls out a small object.

A.J. Simon: It's a data disk!

Rick, A.J. and Downtown Brown marvel over it.

A.J. Simon: Can we borrow this for an hour?

Downtown Brown: But where will you find a machine to read it?

Imaginary ending: Cut to the future, where we see Bill Gates lounging on a 50-foot pile of money, laughing his ass off.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Words I Made Up While Doing Schoolwork in a Hurry #10

Please define "goodle."

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Movie previews will never be the same

Voice-over king Don Lafontaine died Monday at age 68.

Sunday, August 31, 2008