Putting the "MO" in MOFO since 2004

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Thursday, June 29, 2006


The fourth of July week in numbers

I am taking off in my minivan with my sister Betsy, and my 22 month old daughter for a journey through Wisconsin to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

You think that’s crazy? OH I haven’t even STARTED with the crazy.

Behold the crazy:

Number of estimated hours in car with 22 month old: 5.5 hours each way

The year the cabin was built by my great grandfather: 1914

Amenities offered at the cabin: plumbing: 0, electricity: 0, phone:0. The cabin does offer 1 roof, 1 3-seater outhouse (also built in 1913, and yes, this is still the one we use), a wood burning stove, approximately 12 kerosene lanterns, and 1 propane powered refrigerator that works 42% of the time.

Things on which Miss Madge may maim herself: 11

These include, but are not limited to the following:
A wood-burning stove
A lake
An exposed fireplace
Kerosene lanterns
Mosquitoes large enough to carry her off
Long wooden stairway (christened by my cousin Kerry who tumbled down them bum-over-head as a tot)
A two-lane highway within wandering-off distance (just ask my sister Betsy, who was once toddled off when my [ahem] father was supposed to be watching her. She was returned by a nice man on a motorcycle shortly thereafter).

Number of bedrooms: 1 large dorm like area on the second floor.

Number of relatives sharing the two room cabin: 15

Number of said relatives who snore: 10 (myself included)

Number of dogs: 2 (we are leaving good dog and bad dog home)

Number of potential outfits required for a week in a place where the weather can range from 39 degrees to 104 degrees: 273

Number of hours of sleep I am likely to average per night: 1.2

Percentage of my being willing the weather Gods to smile upon us: 100

Entertainment options on a rainy day at the cabin: 1.
This options goes as follows: Crowd 15 people in the cabin to stare at one another. Follow Maggie from hazard to hazard in an effort to prevent her from burning her hands down to stumps and / or burning the cabin down with all 15 inhabitants trapped inside, while tripping over the feet of said 15 inhabitants.

Number of birthdays taking place up at the cabin: 1 (mine. July 1. Same as Princess Diana)

Number of years that makes me: 34

Ratio of women to men at the cabin (our people kill off Y sperm): 87% women, 13% men.

Number of times the screen door will slam shut LOUDLY: 4,392

Average temperature of the water in Lake Gogebic: 59 degrees

Decibel level of shrieks emitted after submerging onesself in lake Gogebic: HIGH

Amount of sheer joy created by the simple act of taking a hot shower, watching television, and sleeping in my own bed upon my return home: infinite and priceless.

I will post pictures when I return. Wish me luck. I think I am going to need it

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Pearls of wisdom

I promised a few weeks back to share with you the story of the godforsaken pearls.

As you may or may not know, I have three sisters. In an uncanny twist of blessed coincidence, we also have four cousins who are all girls as well. Our years of birth are proportionately staggered so that each cousin has a doppelganger cousin about the same age, except for the oldest and the youngest, who don’t have cousin-twins. But we still let them hang out with us.

All eight of us grew up in the same neighborhood and saw each-other often. The gaggle, in its entirety adds up to a total of eight grand-daughters bestowed upon the Grand lady herself, my grandmother, Margaret. In chronological order we go as follows: Julie, Meghan, Tiffany, Kerry, Molly, Shanna, Betsy, and Colleen. Let me emphasize that I am the SECOND OLDEST GRANDDAUGHTER.

Being the second granddaughter, one would assume that any coming-of-age gifts bestowed upon all eight granddaughters would come to me second. It is only right and just that it be so.

In the 1980’s, my grandmother Margaret went to China. When she returned she told us that she had picked up eight strings of pearls on her journey, and that in due time, we would each receive of one of them.

My sister Julie, the oldest granddaughter, received her pearls on her 16th Birthday. In fact, she was also taken to an extravagant lunch at the Woman’s Club (which was essentially a fancy sorority for old ladies who lunch). It was a big deal, apparently, to turn sixteen. I looked forward to my turn.

Two and a half years went by, and I eagerly awaited my sweet sixteen and the special days subsequent bestowal of the great and mysterious coming-of-age jewelry. My sixteenth birthday came and went with no mention of the pearls. I failed my drivers test. I had cake. We went up to the cabin. I was a bit disappointed, but I thought that maybe, just maybe, Grandma had a plan. I knew after all, that she had a necklace with my name on it. I was next in line. It was only a matter of time.

Or so I thought. Next came high school graduation. No Pearls. Not even a mention of them. I began to wonder if I had done something to offend Grandma.

I knew my parents had expressed concern on occasion, that they were raising a lost cause partying underachiever. I was pigeonholed as the family troublemaker at a very young age. My mother once asked me, point blank, if I did cocaine. COCAINE. I may have been a mainstay at our high school keggers, but a coke-head I was not. In fact, my friends would pass the little one-ie dugout pot smoking contraption right over me in the back seat when we drove around, skipping classes. I was sufficiently righteously indignant of the accusation.

Then I got to thinking. Had my parents misled Grandma into thinking I was some kind of a coke-snorting tramp? A coke-snorting tramp who didn’t deserve to have real pearls from China? I tried not to take the oversight personally, but try as I did, I couldn’t help but feel marginalized and judged unworthy. I plodded on into the college years. Pearl-less.

Time went by, and I grew to believe that my grandmother really did like me. In fact, she often seemed to like me a lot. Wasn’t I the one she jiggled her empty wine glass at? I can still hear her charm bracelet and silver bangles clanging as she wiggled her glass above her head, indicating it was time for me to fetch her a refill of white.

When we were on the dock, up at the cabin, wasn’t I the one she would prompt to go make her a sandwich? She sat on the end of the dock with her short legs swinging. Her small feet dangled just above the water, pants rolled up, and she would say: “Meggity. How would you like to go up and make me a nice roast beef sandwich on some of that good bread”. This was always issued as a statement, without the slightest lilt of a question at the end. The woman knew how to get things done, or rather, to get them done for her by peons.

I knew in my heart my grandmother Margaret liked me. She would say things like: “Meggity. You and I majored in the same thing in college: Having a good time.” Grandma knew how to have a good time. And being the kind of person who knew how to have a good time, she was good at recognizing the same quality in others. Grandma was also good at recognizing not only who made a good sandwich, but who was sucker enough to drop what they were doing and hop to it ASAP at her beck and call.

So my grandmother liked me. Yet, I was necklace-less.

Time rambled on, my younger cousin Kerry got her pearls for some milestone or another. And after that was Shanna. Then I think Molly got them on her 18th birthday. I can’t remember specifically how each presentation of the pearls went down, but I recall a Christmas incident in which the youngest grandkids got their pearls.

That left me. I had been overlooked, bypassed and snubbed.

I finally mustered up the nerve to ask what the frigging deal with the pearls was. It was at this point that I was given an ultimatum. You graduate from college, and you will get your pearls.


Let me get this straight. Every other granddaughter in the family had to do nothing but either turn sixteen or graduate from high school (which, by this time, I had done 6 years prior). What was with the strings attached?

And then it occurred to me. No one thought I was going to graduate from college. Insult, meet injury. Get to know one another, because you are going to be spending lots of time together.

I have a chronic history of disorganization. I have left many a task unfinished. Several of my teachers had my hearing tested in elementary school because they suspected I was deaf. My hearing was, and is, perfect. I just tune out a lot, and to this day, I spend lots of quality time knocking around in my own head and staring off into space. You might say I have a touch of the ADD. I have always earned high test score, but I was chronically inconsistent when it came to assignments and papers. These qualities made my schooling a bit of a challenge, as did my waitressing job and the hours I spent at the bars with my friends.

Apparently my parents and my grandmother felt that if I couldn’t muster up the chutzpah to finish those pesky last few classes at the “U” myself, that the string of pearls already bequeathed to every sister and cousin on the planet might be just the carrot I needed to get my bachelors degree.

They thought wrong.

I did, eventually obtain my degree. A Bachelors of Science in Child Psychology and Business and Industry Education, in fact.

Contrary to the opinions of several family members, I did not complete my coursework so that I could finally get the godforsaken pearl necklace. By the time I finally finished college, I wanted to take that stupid freaking necklace my entire family seemed to be flinging around like some masochistic version of “pickle in the middle” and stomp on it with all my might. I completed my coursework because I wanted to a piece of paper to show for the 6 years I spent in college. I wanted my bachelor’s degree because I worked hard. I wanted something to show for it.

I did not tell anyone I had finished school for a long time. I did not walk through the graduation ceremony. I stewed in silence for a month or two, and cursed the pearl necklace and all it represented.

My grandmother, who I loved dearly despite the pearl debacle, got wind somehow that I had gotten my degree. She gave me the pearls, and I have since blocked from memory the likely awkward manner in which I received them. It’s difficult to feel gracious when receiving a gift that is tarnished with disappointment and misjudgment. I am certain I faked it pretty politely. And I was always crazy about her regardless.

Am I still bitter? Moi? Umm, yes….er….No…Okay, yes. I am bitter.

The only moral I can see in my sad story, is that if you want something, go out and get it for yourself. This is good advice, which I exercise often. A person can waste a lot of time waiting around for things to happen for them. In this case waiting = bitter, and bitter = BAD. Very Bad.

Life is short, and nothing sucks the joy out of receiving a gift more than waiting around too long for it. So go out and buy that pair of shoes. Hell, get the handbag too. You deserve it. Tell the sales clerk Margaret sent you. And while you’re up, think about gettingsomeone to make a sandwich for you on some of that good bread.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


A long overdue letter to Miss Madge.

Dear Maggie,

In lieu of a second birthday letter, I am writing you a 22 months and 15 days letter. Because I am a non-conformist conformist who read Mary’s article, and decided it was high time I wrote about you for a change, because I really need to do more documenting of what the heck you are up to.

I often wonder if it’s normal to feel as separate from your own child as I do from you. I mean that in a good way. You are not an extension of me or your father. You are your entire own little person. You came into this world as your own Maggie, and every day I learn more and more about what you are all about. This is by far, the best adventure I have ever been on. You are proving to be a better child than I ever dreamed of. You are better because you are real, and you are you, and you are full of surprises and sweetness and wailing willfulness and cranky toddler irrationality. I am certain that I ended up with the best kid in the whole entire world.

Maggie, you have single-handedly taught me that life is best when you slow down and just enjoy the regular old pedestrian moments. Like when we wiggle under the sprinkler and shout “It’s WAINING!”, and sing songs, and get silly and goofy and dirty, and play “heart and soul” on the piano with your feet. Like this morning when I strapped you into your car-seat and you beamed and shouted “YAY! BUCKLES”! These are all moments well-spent. These are the scenes I will look back on when I am old, and on death’s doorstep, and wondering if I really lived my life well. I am storing these freeze-frames away in my mind so that I can play them over at the end of my life and remind myself that Hell yes, I really did live right. Thank you for setting me straight, Miss Madge.

Being your Mom is so much more than the picture I carried around in my head all those years before we finally became a team. It’s better because it’s real. On one hand it is flat-out hard work. Some days I admit that I feel isolated, and I want some time for me, with grown-ups, and that I need some peace and quiet, and perhaps a little more sleep. On the other hand, when I do get away, I end up missing you. When I walk through the door at home, I just want to see your sweet brown eyes and apple-juice cheeks and your exuberant welcome-wagon greeting followed by your signature abrupt rejection. You are all “YAY! MOMMY’S HOME! Okay that’s great, would let me get back to playing already? It’s not all about YOU, lady. Sheesh.” You literally push my face away from you with your hand. But I will not be deterred, little lady. No Sir-ee.

Every night when I put you to bed, we have to say goodnight to daddy, and goodnight to the fishies, and goodnight to the doggies, and good night to the ducks. Then I finally get you into bed, and lean in for a kiss and teeter on the edge of your crib with my feet dangling in the air. Next, we start the charade of me leaving your room. As I approach the door, you let out a big “MMMMMM!” which indicates you are ready for another kiss, so I hop like a bunny, back to you, and give you another one. We repeat this three times, with a few different moves tossed in for fun (like pirouetting from the door to your crib… that one is a real crowd pleaser).

I check in on you every night before I go to sleep, and each time I am alarmed by how big you are. It’s as though you grow an inch every time I lay you down to sleep. You are a giant Amazon of a toddler. I worry that you will end up to be 6 foot 5 and have to shop at special big-girl stores, and have size 14 shoes specially cobbled just for you and your giant feet, but then I think it won’t matter. It won’t matter because you are Maggie, and Maggie, you are the funniest, smartest, most beautiful girl I have ever known. Anyone worth their salt will agree with me.

Just last night you approached my open closet door with an eager, wide-eyed “OH WOW!” and proceeded to rummage through my shoes until you found the right pair to place your feet in. Then you clomp-clomped around the house in them, like you had been doing that your whole life. It was the first time I have ever seen you do that, and it struck me as the most quintessential kind of daughter-emulating-mother behavior. It reminds me that I need to be very VERY mindful of what kind of model I am for you.

You are obsessed with your aunts and your grandparents every dog and kitty you have ever laid eyes on.

You are in tireless, relentless pursuit of the contents of the drawer in the bathroom. It is your mission in life to un-cap any liquid-holding container from this drawer, and dump its contents onto the white carpet in your room. The other week, I noticed the house had grown eerily silent. I went room to room, looking for you. Upon my second trip to your bedroom, I discovered you had cunningly hidden yourself from view behind your crib so that you could suck on a tube of aqua-fresh toothpaste. As I approached you, you simply handed me the tube without protest or upward glance, as though in guilty acknowledgement of your busted covert toothpaste-sucking mission. I couldn’t help but laugh.

You also can count up to twenty and you know the entire alphabet, but I don’t want to tell people about that because I don’t want to brag about your accomplishments, because they are your accomplishments, and not mine. That, plus I don’t want anyone worrying that their child is not cutting the mustard in comparison to your obvious intellectual superiority and blinding beauty and charm. Those things will just be our little secret, okay?

Life is so much better with you in it, Maggie. I am so enthralled by the thought of watching you grow up. Thanks for being 22 months old. Thanks for being perfectly imperfectly perfect. Thanks for being Maggie.

Love, Mommy