Thursday, July 30, 2015

Set adrift on memory bliss.

I was trying to be cool, working on my laptop at Starbucks. But I'm pretty sure I blew my own cover when I started belting En Vogue's "My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)."

Call it a hunch.

See, Big Doodle had his cancer treatment today, or as I like to think of it, BLADDERRAMA!. And BLADDERRAMA! takes place at the holistic vet office that's a solid 45 minutes from our house. Last week, I dropped him off, drove home, then turned around and picked him up, then drove home through rush hour. It was not efficient, unless my goal was to get all road ragey.

So, today, I packed up 57 pounds of laptop, notebooks, and printouts, and camped out at Starbucks near BLADDERRAMA!. I am not typically a work-in-Starbucks kinda gal. I don't drink coffee, and it's so easy to just people watch. So, I guess I was out of practice and ill-prepared.

I just wasn't ready for Starbucks to be blasting the music of my youth, the tunes of my peoples. Instead playing some horrible CD they were hawking, they had some sort of Pandora station set to the 90s. Oh, the 90s - when I graduated from high school and college. When I wore flannel shirts, body suits, and high-waisted jeans and considered Bud Light the ultimate classy beverage.

In the grand scheme of things, I feel like the 90s weren't that great of a time to come of age. The one time in my life I had a rockin' bod, the style was oversized everything. I weighed less than 100 pounds and wore XL sweatshirts. It was just morally wrong. Plus, I didn't remember the music being that great.

Until today.

I was trying to write a website about Medicare. But then, I was all bopping along to Jamiroquai. And trying not to sing along to Big Head Todd or Deee-Lite or New Radicals. I realized there were probably a gajillion girls who lost the big V to Mazzy Star's "Fade Into You" - although I wasn't one of them. And whatever happened to Lisa Loeb?

I really was trying to write about Medicare. But writing that website was a concern of Adult Becky. And Adult Becky had left the building. In her place was College Becky, who rocked those high-waisted jeans and hoped she could find a date to hayride. College Becky was really into "Counting Blue Cars" and knew on some level that these were good times that she'd look back on with fierce affection.

The thing about musical memories is that trying to share them is like forcing someone to listen to your dreams. It just doesn't translate. Musical memories are intimate, yours and yours alone.

Although I will tell you that "Counting Blue Cars" makes me want to stick my hands out of a sunroof and sing at the top of my lungs. Like you do when you've just turned 21 and everything is great and will be indefinitely.

What song triggers memories of your youth?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

I got a lot of problems with you people.

My dad joined Facebook and didn't accept my friend request.

He became friends with my mom and my brother and my husband a bunch of other people. But me, his firstborn? Naw.

My Guy kept casually mentioning it. "Oh, did you see I have a new Facebook friend? I don't think you're friends with him, but he's a really cool guy."

Sometimes it's OK to punch your husband, right?

Later, Dad claimed it was a computer glitch, and boy wasn't it easy to mess things up on the Internet? I think he was afraid that things might devolve into fisticuffs - we were meeting up at a family reunion. And it would be kind of a downer if we had a brawl in front of all the cousins.

But instead, we got along just fine, as is our custom. And we hung out with everyone from his side of the family - and I do mean everyone. His 2 siblings, us 8 cousins, the 13 kids of the cousins, all the various and sundry spouses. It was the first time we'd all been together since my grandma's funeral in 2002, and man, was it good for my soul.

My brother organized the whole shebang, and each night had a program. One night, the siblings talked about their childhoods. The other nights, us cousins answered questions about our memories of family times. I had forgotten about reenacting "The Towering Inferno" in Grandma's basement ... and no, I'm not sure what to think of my cousin's lingering fondness for O.J. Simpson based on that movie. But he's kind of embarrassed about it, and it's all just fine.

It's lovely to have shared experiences, and it's such a gift to have family that really is just that: family. The people who are important to you, whom you love in ways you can't describe - even if you don't see them for 10 years or you think they're mildly (or moderately) insane.

I'm blessed.

And I was blessed today to take another family member, Big Doodle, to the holistic vet who has helped Lil' Frankfurter. My giant dog who has been peeing blood like it's an Olympic sport and he's training to be a gold medalist?

Yeah. We're now treating it like bladder cancer.

But because he is family, we are pulling out the big guns with vitamin infusions and herbal remedies. And because Big Doodle is love covered in fur, he was quite happy to get yet another catheter, to let the techs shave his ankle and give him an I.V. It was OK - he had trust.

I trust that we're going to do right by this dog. I know I am blessed to have him - and all those other crazy jokers - in my family. We're all just trying to do right by each other, even if it means accidentally not being Facebook friends or some such nonsense. We've got the important stuff covered.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Book review: The Unlikely Pilgramage of Harold Fry

Another Wednesday, another book report!

If anyone would like to come over to my house and join me as I beat the hell out of my modem, that would be super-cool. You know what slowly but surely robs you of grace and dignity? An entire day of dial-up-esque Internet speeds.

But you know what book moves at a slow yet lovely pace?

That would be The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel. (How was that for a fancy segue?)

Harold is a retiree, a nobody who gets a letter in the mail from someone he used to work with. His former coworker is in hospice, and was just saying goodbye. Harold sets off to mail his reply ... and then becomes convinced that if he delivers the letter in person, he can keep his friend alive.

And so, Harold walks. Hundreds of miles in yachting shoes, with no cell phone. His wife is beside herself. What sort of crazypants idea is this?

The book unfolds slowly, carefully - like getting to know and appreciate an introverted person.

I don't want to share too much, as the beauty of this book is in how the story unfurls. I had a little trouble getting into it, because, after all? On the surface, it's just a lot of walking. But Harold's life, and his history with his coworker, the relationships with his wife and son - they are all told with love and brutal honesty.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is just a lovely little book. I give it 4 sauntering labradoodles.
Huge thanks to reader Karen for recommending this book about 17 years ago. My to-read pile is now only slightly taller than me. What great books should I add to it?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Book review: The Sisters.

This morning, I actually found myself saying, "You didn't eat the poopie - good job!"

Yeah, we're setting the bar really low.

I really am a literate, sort of educated person. And, I'm way behind on book reviews. So, today is as good a day as any to launch a new feature here at Noodleroux: Wordy Wednesdays. Each Wednesday, a new book review for your reading pleasure. Sometimes I recommend fab books. Other times, I read a horrible book so you don't have to. You're welcome.

In light of the dog poo comments this morning, today's book review is an attempt to get back any Klassy Lady cred I might have ever had. Obviously, this means reviewing a book about real life classy ladies.
The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family by Mary S. Lovell was on my list for a while. My pal Liza, who loves smart books, smart women, and a good, gossipy tale, raved about it. It just took me about 4 years to get to reading it.

Here's the scoop: the Mitfords were fancypants English aristocrats who had 7 kids right around the time of WWI. Six girls and 1 boy. The boy was everybody's darling, but the sisters? Whoa, the sisters. One ended up being a duchess, one was a communist, one wrote tell-all books based on her family, one left her husband for the head of the Fascists in Britain ... oh, and then there was the sister who became obsessed with Hitler. And then the quiet sister. But all of these women were troublemakers.

This book is well-written, carefully researched, and quite detailed. If you're interested in British history or WWII, you'll like it. Me? Well ... I mostly thought it highlighted that school is important. I just kept thinking that these obviously very intelligent girls would have had better outlets than, you know, becoming obsessed with Hitler if they'd been allowed to go to school.

That's right. Their mom thought educating girls made them pedestrian, and school wasn't proper for a society girl. The sisters begged to go to school and were consistently turned down.

Excuse me while my brain explodes.

I found most of the characters exhausting. Interesting, but not people you'd want to spend a lot of time with. But, then again, I spend my time with a dachshund who did a good job by not eating poop. Take my review with a grain of kibble.

My review: two of five dachshunds.
What have you been reading lately?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

I have a placemat for my VCR. If I still had a VCR.

The new phone book's here! The new phone book's here!
Or, rather, my new issue of Uppercase magazine. You know, the issue that features a piece by me? Yeah, I'm published. Whatevs.

Except it's kind of a big deal. It makes me happy, and is a gentle prod to keep keep keep writing.

You can see the issue here. However, the resolution isn't so hot, so here's my article for your viewing pleasure.


My grandma created many beautiful items. She crocheted baby blankets and tatted Christmas ornaments. Those of us lucky enough to be in her family have potholders and afghans crafted as her slim fingers flew, needle and thread in hand.

Grandma filled her home with lovely things, items that were arranged just so. She loved to have people over, and took pride in providing a comfortable, gracious home. That house on Lacey Drive was always spotless. Grandma took care of business.

So, when the kids encouraged “the folks” to get a VCR, preparations needed to be made. You couldn’t just plop the machine on top of the console TV – it might scratch the wood. And so, the VCR sat on the carpet until Grandma could crochet a placemat.

The placemat was perfectly sized and made of the same creamy yarn she used for countless blankets. It protected the TV from whatever evil was lurking underneath the VCR. We grandkids giggled as we reprogrammed the VCR’s clock for the umpteenth time, but we accepted that grandmas were just wired to crochet placemats for their electronics.

The placemat was in a box of linens that I’ve toted around since we emptied the house Grandma and Grandpa called home for 40 years. Now, I realize this is no ordinary placemat.

This placemat is a work of art. Even though it was created to hide under a VCR, spending its life in the dark, the placemat has a series of intricate patterns. Instead of row after row of plain stitches, it has ribs and meticulous designs. The patterns were thoughtfully laid out to create a perfectly VCR-sized end product. It was created with care.

Grandma loved handicrafts, and the way she and Grandpa lived their lives showed they believed a job worth doing was worth doing well. Discovering that the VCR placemat was no exception was not a huge surprise.

Grandma been gone for 14 years, Grandpa for 9. They were married for 69 years. I miss them every day.

But little things like the VCR placemat remind me that they’re here, that I have a history. And a little OCD isn’t a bad thing. And even work that will be hidden should still be beautiful.